Thursday, 29 March 2012

Failing to avoid the spotlight

I am usually fortunate at conferences and aside from the obligatory "group photo" manage to completely avoid being in photos and videos of the event. However recently I attended the Linaro connect event in San Francisco and somehow got volunteered to be on a panel. 

Now usually such panels are fine and you get a bit of notice and can at least get some basic ideas and no-one bothers to film them. This time though I was not so fortunate and with no notice the overweight greying old fart has been captured on video.

 So here for your viewing pleasure is the panel discussion on "Is the GNU user space dying?". I should warn readers of a sensitive disposition that I appear fully dressed and awake(ish) in this video so viewer discretion is advised.

Monday, 26 March 2012

NetSurf Developer Workshop

NetSurf DevelopersOver the weekend we held the NetSurf developer workshop. The event was kindly hosted by Collabora at their Cambridge offices. The provided facilities were agreed to be excellent and contributed to the success of the event.

Five developers managed to attend from around the UK John-Mark Bell, Vincent Sanders, Michael Drake, Daniel Silverstone and Rob Kendrick. In addition James Shaw, one of the project founders, made a special appearance on Saturday.

Starting from Friday afternoon we each put in over 25 hours of actual useful work and made almost 170 commits changing over 350 files, added 10,000 new lines of code and altered another 18,000.

The main aim of the event was to make the transition from using libxml2 to our own libdom library for the browser DOM tree. This was done to improve the browsers performance and size when manipulating the DOM but also gives us the ability to extend the browsers features to include dynamic rendering and Javascript

We also took the opportunity to discuss and plan other issues including:
  • User interface message handling and translation.
  • User preference handling.
  • Toolchain support.
  • Disc caching.
  • Javascript binding
  • Electronic book content handler.
Rob tackled the first parts of the messages conversion from numerous separate files into a single easy to handle file which will in future allow for easier translation and reduce message proliferation.

We made decisions on the ongoing rework of user preference handling which will be implemented in future.

The decision on the toolchain was slightly changed to be that any core or library code (non frontend/toolkit specific parts) are required to conform to the C99 standard. Frontends are permitted to recommend and use whatever tools their maintainer selects but they cannot enforce those restrictions on core code. This issue is principly because the BeOS maintainer is compiling NetSurf with g++ 2.95 which is missing several important language features we wish to use.

Developers at workThe recurring issue of disc caching was raised again and we have come up with what we hope is a reasonably elegant solution to be implemented over the forthcoming months.

Now there is a suitable DOM to bind against, the existing Javascript engine support will be properly integrated and should result in basic script support before the 3.0 release. This support will remain a build time option so NetSurf can continue to be used on platforms where the interpreter is too resource intensive to be used.

A short discussion about the possibility of integrating a basic page based content handler for epub and mobi type documents was discussed and while the idea was well received no decisions on implementation were made.

Overall the event was a resounding success and we are left with only a small handful of regressions which appear straightforward to solve. We also have a clear set of decisions on what we need to do to improve the browser.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Time flies when you are having fun.

It has been months since I last put something here, so I think that requires a quick catchup.

The family Christmas was a brilliantly restful affair mostly spent doing nothing at home, just slightly tinged with anticipation of starting the new job.

I arranged to rent a room in Cambridge with just a moderate three mile walk to work. This has meant that after a decade of my daily commute being the steps downstairs to my desk I am now walking six miles a day!

Because of this unexpected physical exertion I seem to be slowly loosing weight instead of gaining it. Alas there is still a long way to go before I am my recommended weight (unless I gain three feet in height ;-)

Work has been fabulous, lots of great people doing interesting stuff. I was here only a month before I got sent to San Francisco for the Linaro connect event. Though getting on the outbound plane amidst the worst snowstorm in recent times was both tiring and not a little stressful.

The waking up at 03:00 to get the 04:00 coach from Cambridge to Heathrow would not have been too much of an issue If I had managed to travel down from Leeds and arrive before 02:00. The coach was so much fun that I arrived at 08:40 just as check in was closing for my 09:45 flight.

This was my first experience of San Francisco (although I have been to LA and Portland previously) and while most of the time was spent out in Redwood city at the conference venue Robert did take us for cocktails, comedy and cable cars which was a wonderful night out.

Since my return from the US I have also attended the Debian Bug Squashing Party in Cambridge and had a thoroughly amusing time with many of the usual suspects though I was encouraged to see a few new faces about too.

The commute up and down the country is getting tedious and seems to vary between taking two and four hours depending on traffic. This is encouraging me to consider moving the family as soon as I can. They are all doing great and seem to be thriving despite my absence during weekdays.

I hope to put finger to keyboard here a bit more regularly in the forthcoming weeks though a lot of my personal time is being swallowed with commuting and not being directed towards my open source pursuits.