Thursday, July 12, 2018

OverbiteNX is now available from Mozilla Add-Ons for beta testing

OverbiteNX, a successor to OverbiteFF which allows Firefox to continue to access legacy resources in Gopher in the brave courageous new world of WebExtensions, is now in public beta. Unlike the alpha test, which required you to download the repo and install the extension using add-on debugging, OverbiteNX is now hosted on Mozilla Add-Ons.

Because WebExtensions still doesn't have a TCP sockets API, nor a spec, OverbiteNX uses its bespoke Onyx native component to do network operations. Onyx is written in open-source portable C with no dependencies and is available in pre-built binaries for macOS 10.12+ and Windows (or get the repo and build it yourself on almost any POSIX system).

To try OverbiteNX, install Onyx from the links above, and then install the extension from Mozilla Add-ons. If you use(d) OverbiteWX, which is the proxy-based strict WebExtensions add-on, please disable it as it may conflict. Copious debugging output is emitted to the browser console for this test version. If you file an issue (or better still a pull request) on Github, please include the output so that we can see the execution trace.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Pro tip: sleep's good for your Power Mac

Now that I'm alternating between two daily drivers (my Quad G5 and my Talos II), the Quad G5 sleeps fairly reliably with the Sonnet USB-FireWire combo card out once I move the KVM focus off it. If I don't do that, the KVM detects the G5 has slept and moves the focus automatically away from it, which the G5 detects as USB activity, and exits sleep. The solution is a little AppleScript that waits a few seconds for me to switch the KVM and then tells the Finder to snooze. The Talos II doesn't sleep yet but I'll be interested to see if later firmware updates support that.

But sleeping the G5 has unquestionably been a good thing. Not only does it prolong its life by reducing heat (another plus in summer) as well as saving a substantial amount of energy (around 20W sleeping versus 200-250W running), but sleeping also can speed up TenFourFox. If you have lots of tabs open and those tabs are refreshing their data or otherwise running active content, then this contributes to a greater need for garbage collection and this will slow down your user experience as this overhead accumulates. (This is why running TenFourFox from a "fresh" start is much faster than when it's been chugging away for awhile.) It's possible to "pause" TenFourFox to a certain extent but the browser really isn't tested this way and may not behave properly when this is done. Sleeping the Power Mac pauses everything, so the cruft in memory that garbage collection has to clean out doesn't pile up while you're not using the machine, and everything comes back up in sync.

A whole lot of stuff has landed for TenFourFox FPR9. More about that when the beta is out, which I'm hoping to do by the middle-end of July.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Another one bites the Rust

And another one gone, and another one gone (capitalization sic):

As Herwig Bauernfeind from Bitwise Works made clear in his presentation he gave at Warpstock 2018 Toronto, Firefox for OS/2 is on its way out for OS/2 after version 52 ESR. The primary reason is because Firefox is switching to RUST. Rust is a general purpose programming language sponsored by Mozilla Research. It is unlikely that RUST will ever be ported to OS/2.

Rust was the primary reason we dropped source parity for TenFourFox also (though there were plenty of other reasons such as changes to the graphics stack, the hard requirement for Skia, Electrolysis and changes to ICU; all of this could have been worked around, but with substantial difficulty, and likely with severe compromises). Now that Firefox 52ESR, the last ESR to not require Rust support, is on its last legs, this marks the final end of "Warpzilla" and Firefox on OS/2. SPARC (and apparently Solaris in general) doesn't have rustc or cargo support either, so this is likely the end of Firefox on any version of Solaris as well. Yes, I use Firefox on my Sun Ultra-3 laptop with Solaris 10. There are probably other minor platforms just hanging on that will wink out and disappear which I haven't yet discovered.

Every platform that dies is a loss to the technical diversity of the Mozilla community, no matter how you choose to put a happy face on it.

If you were trying to get a web browser up on a new platform these days, much as it makes me sick to say it, you'd probably be better off with WebKit rather than wrestle with Rust. Or NetSurf, despite its significant limitations, though I love the fact the project even exists. At least there's Rust for the various forms of PowerPC on Linux, including 64-bit and little-endian, so the Talos II can still run Firefox.

With FPR9 TenFourFox will switch to backporting security updates from Firefox 60ESR, though any last-minute chemspills to 52ESR will of course be reviewed promptly.

UPDATE 7/5: Someone in the discussion on Hacker News found that at least $12,650 was raised by the OS/2 community, and they're going to port a Qt based browser, which means ... WebKit. I told you so.