Monday, June 1, 2015

TenFourFox 38 is GO! (plus: SourceForge gets sleazy)

Wow, it's been awhile -- sorry for the lack of updates, I've just been snowed in with classes and the day job.

First, some good news: TenFourFox 38 successfully compiled and linked, and took its first halting steps last night. There are still some critical bugs in it; among others, there is a glitch with the application menus that Mozilla seems to have regressed on 10.4 between Fx36 and 38, and JIT changes have caused IonPower to fail six tests it used to pass (and needs to pass to run the browser chrome). However, these issues are almost certainly solveable and we should be officially on target for switching from 31ESR to 38ESR after 31.8.0 with another year of Mozilla updates in the bag. Once again Power Mac users will be fully current with Firefox ESR, meaning even the very last G5 to roll off the assembly line in 2006 will have enjoyed at least 10 years of Gecko-powered browsing (and even if Fx38 is the last source-parity TenFourFox, we'll still be doing feature parity releases for a good long while afterwards). Although I will not be able to work much on the browser for the next couple weeks due to my Master's program getting in the way again, I'm still hoping for a beta release by July so that we have enough time for the localizers to work their magic once more.

In the storm clouds department, I continue to monitor the functional state of Electrolysis (multi-process Firefox) closely; I still believe, and some of the code I've had to hack around only confirms this, that Electrolysis will not work correctly on the 10.4 SDK (nor likely, for that matter, faster, since many Power Macs still in use are single core) even if the underlying system functions are implemented in userland. However, Mozilla is now in the midst of developing Fx41, and Electrolysis still has some major issues preventing it from primetime; the current calendar has Electrolysis reaching the release channel no earlier than Fx42, and I'm betting this is probably a release or two behind. If Mozilla still allows the main browser to start single-process in 45ESR, then we have a shot at one more ESR. If it allows the main browser to start single-process only in safe mode, we may be able to hack around that, but add-on compatibility might be impacted. If neither is allowed, we drop source parity with 38.

TenFourFox 38 and derivatives are also the last release(s) that will support gcc 4.6. Mozilla already dropped support for it, but I really didn't want to certify a new compiler and toolchain on top of a new stable release branch, and the support change was late enough in development that most of the browser still builds. The 4.6 changes are being segregated into a single changeset so that they can be quickly discarded when a later compiler comes online, which will be mandatory for any test releases we make beyond 38 (we might use Sevan Janiyan's pkgsrc gcc since MacPorts is kind of a dog's breakfast for PowerPC nowadays -- more on this later). Speaking of, now that the last remnants of our old JaegerMonkey and PPCBC JIT backends are purged from the changeset pack, we've cut our merge overhead by about 30 percent. Now, that's a diet.

G3 owners should also be warned that Mozilla is doing more with SIMD in JavaScript, and our hot new IonPower JavaScript compiler may be required post-38 to support it. SIMD, of course, is implemented in the PowerPC ISA as AltiVec/VMX, but G3 systems don't have AltiVec support, which may mean no JavaScript compilation. That would be a very suboptimal configuration to ship particularly on the lowest spec platforms that need a JIT the very most. Although I would not prevent the browser from being built for G3 without JIT support should someone wish to do so, I may stop offering G3 builds myself if SIMD support became mandatory (G4/7400 builds would still continue), especially as it represents 25% of total buildtime and is consistently our least used configuration. This does not apply to TenFourFox 38 -- G3 folks are still guaranteed at least that much, and if we drop source parity, G3 builds will likely continue since there would be no technical reason to drop them then. But, if you can find a G4 for your Yosemite's ZIF socket, now might be a good time. :)

Finally, the transition off Google Code should be complete by July as well. However, I'm displeased to see that SourceForge has engaged in some fairly questionable behaviour with hosted downloads, admittedly with abandoned Windows-based projects, but definitely without project owner consent. I'm not going to begrudge them a buck for continuing to allow free binary hosting by displaying ads, but I intensely dislike them monkeying with existing binaries without opting into it.

It is highly unlikely we would ever be victimized in that fashion since our now exotic architecture would make it very technically difficult for them to do so, but since it's easy to get things into SourceForge, just not out of it, I'm now considering using Github (despite my Mercurial preference) for tickets and wiki and eventually source code, and just leaving binaries on SourceForge as long as they remain unmolested, since Google Code does offer an export-to-Github option. If Github doesn't work out, we can import to SourceForge from there, if we have to; Classilla will probably transition the same way. But I have to say with sadness tinged with disgust that I'm really disappointed in them. Once upon a time, they were the go-to site for FOSS, and now they're scrabbling around in the muck for a dollar. Lo, how the mighty have fallen.


  1. Thank you so much for your hard work!

  2. I know it's unlikely but will TFF 38 have added Firefox Hello or Save to Pocket?

    1. It's a "definite maybe." On the client side, they're almost all JavaScript, so they should run. The problem is how they talk to the server, which has been a perennial issue with Firefox Sync. Mozilla doesn't block us from these services but they don't test them with us either, and I don't have much ability to fix it if the protocol doesn't work for some reason.

  3. Thank you for all of your work keeping Tenfourfox alive and viable. Your efforts are greatly appreciated and we admire your abilities and dedication.

  4. TenFourFox keeps my eMac a daily driver in my life - I'm ridiculously emotionally attached to this machine, so I can't thank you enough!

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  6. Personally, I don't think changing the plans is worth the effort.

  7. A day job, a Master's thesis and TFF? Seriously, when do you sleep or have a life?
    Thanks for someone said above, it's keeping my 7450 PowerBook relevant and my 3 DP G5s kickin'


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