Mozilla dragged its collective feetsies on Firefox 8 and didn't finally sign off on it until late this week, which is why this RC is so tardy. However, the G5 jammed all night (which was helpful because we had a winter storm, and it's keeping the office nice and cozy) and coughed out the release candidates for you the beta audience to bang on. As usual, reports of serious bugs appreciated, but most of the bugs I know about should be corrected.
Issue 84, the irritating table malformation bug, turned out to have been caused by one of our AltiVec optimizers (specifically for text fragments). This is a curious manifestation and one we would not have found in testing. We're going to be more cautious about further optimizations on this particular portion of code, but being the rash developers we are, more optimizations are nevertheless in the pipeline for 9. A fixed version of the optimizer is in the release and the parser bandaid can go into the rubbish bin where it belongs (whew!). Note that this means this bug never appeared on G3, because G3 uses the original C code.
Tobias is continuing his work on more AltiVec-specific optimizations and faster ones of what we've got. Many/most of his optimizations will appear in 9. However, priority one remains the methodjit and I'd like to make a public shout-out to Ben Stuhl who polished off the opcode work on it and it actually parses. It doesn't work yet, but this is super awesome stuff and he gets a beer too. I've got feelers out to another heavy POWER user who has expressed interest and if this gets off the ground, we may fork js into our own internal repo to speed collaborative development and merge this back into our usual changesets. The first draft of this will appear in the 9 beta changesets, although I doubt very much I will have it working by then. However, Ben's strong work puts us with a decent chance of having this ready by 10 beta, and Mozilla has given us until 11 before the tracer infrastructure is completely excised (a thank-you to Nick Nethercote and Dave Mandelin). More about that when 9 appears.
8 final still includes Tobias' patches for AltiVec JPEG decoding with ImageIO and faster AltiVec text processing. I also made a small tweak to the tracejit for a marginal performance benefit we weren't getting, and fixed the remaining theme glitches. This should cover all the major bugs. Those of you who hated tab dragging will be relieved to note that Mozilla has bowed to complaints and backed it out, but it will be returning. My estimated timeframe is somewhere around Fx10.
There is a simmering attitude of discontent with 8 (and to a lesser extent 7) that it has periods where it can drag or temporarily grind to a halt. I personally have not experienced this, but a fast G5 covers a multitude of sins and I know some of you have indeed seen issues like that which appear caused by some interaction with the database thread Firefox uses for history. This is not specific to us; it is a Mozilla bug and if you search Bugzilla there are several open and active issues related to it. It's hard to be maintaining a port of the browser and be the lightning rod for criticism of it when a good portion of perceived performance problems is systemic and not port-specific. I point out, for example, this comment (at the bottom); we'll use him as a public example since he has chosen to make his irritation public. Even though TenFourFox is a Firefox port, and does have its own unique issues, it is still overwhelmingly Firefox, and I think people should be willing to voice their concerns about the browser to Mozilla directly if at all possible. I can't be everyone's punching bag for a port where I control very little of the code, and I don't think there's any reasonable response I could make to a guy like that from this position (though I am reminded of this blog post). Unless someone comes up with Chrome for PPC, which has a huge hurdle and I know I've talked to people about that who have asked, you're stuck with Gecko, and Mozilla is already talking about dropping 10.5. Make it your own while ye may.
With that disagreeable topic dispensed with, let's go back to goodies. I've compiled the feedback on the QuickTime Enabler, most of it good -- people love it when it works, but it just doesn't cover enough of what's available. So for alpha 113 (yes, there have been almost 70 revisions between alpha 45 [7.0] and this one), we're concentrating on expanding site support and I've started with the big one, which is YouTube.
Let's talk a little bit about the technology behind the QTE so that the limitations can be understood. QTE works by grabbing video URLs (preferably to H.264 video) and stuffing them into QuickTime playlists which it then hands to QuickTime Player. TenFourFox is not involved in downloading the video or even authenticating to get the video; it's all streamed, played and managed by QuickTime 7. Because of this, videos that require session cookies (Vimeo) or authentication will never work with the QTE because TenFourFox can't tell QuickTime how to send that information -- there is no API to do so. For Vimeo, for example, you will still have to login and download the video, which fortunately you can do for free.
That still leaves many sites that don't require session cookies or the like, and YouTube is fortunately one of them. In this release of the QTE, you can now go to any YouTube video (that has H.264 video available -- most do), right-click on the page, and select SD, HD 720 or HD 1080. HD 1080, btw, will probably chug badly on anything slower than a G5, but a fast G4 should be able to keep up with HD 720. In fact, you can right-click on any YouTube embedded iframe and do the same. It works better if you have the HTML5 trial enabled so that you can see the video instead of a blank box, but it will still work. Try it on this (rather slick) Microsoft video reported by Engadget which has all three resolutions available. Just right-click on the video box at the end of the article, choose your resolution, and Cmd-F to enjoy a full-screen experience in QuickTime Player.
Some videos can't be accessed from YouTube in this manner and you will get an error if you try to. Sorry, I can't do anything about that. I have encountered exactly two in the 50-odd videos I have tested, though. This will also not work for embedded objects -- i.e., those sites that embed the actual Flash applet rather than the iframe, which is the preferred method. I am thinking of a way around this, but it is likely to be convoluted.
This version also corrects an issue with corrupted characters in the destination URL dialogue box and improves performance slightly. Also, the issue with the video not automatically starting on some systems is in fact a QuickTime settings issue. If the video does not play automatically (give it some time to buffer, please!), go into Preferences in QuickTime Player and make sure that Automatically play movies when opened is checked.
To install alpha 113, make sure that alpha 45 is removed (it should be, it's not compatible with 8), and download the .xpi. Drop it on TenFourFox and it will install. No restart is required; you can play videos immediately.
I would like other suggestions about services to add in the comments. These services should be popular, widespread and have known ways to access their video streams. As I mention, some will not be compatible with this method -- Vimeo is the most notorious.
Well, go to it and have fun. TenFourFox 9 beta is probably about two weeks away. Release notes and architectures: