Friday, October 30, 2015

TenFourFox 38.4.0 available

TenFourFox 38.4.0 is now available for testing (release notes, downloads, hashes), just in time for you to surf on your iBook G4 while you aim your water cannon loaded with Tabasco sauce at juvenile delinquents craving candy. You know, as you do. Along with fixes for two crashes (most notoriously issue 308) and miscellaneous, this version, as promised, includes complete HTML5 MP3 audio support. To try it out, turn tenfourfox.mp3.enabled to true. If there are no major issues, it will be the default in 38.5.

As always, barring major issues, the browser will be released officially late Monday Pacific time, along with unveiling the new El Spoofistan design for the main page.

In other ecosystem news, I am incredibly delighted to see Tenfourbird 38.3 from our anonymous builder in the land of the Rising Sun, and it works great -- I use it for (appropriately enough) reading Try it. You'll like it.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

And now for something completely different: El Crapitan sucks (or why SIP will make me go Linux if they keep this crap up)

ObTenFourFox news: 38.4 goes to build next week when Mozilla drops build tags on ESR with a couple more fixes too. Watch for it. Recommended.

Yes, I confess I actually do own two Intel Macs, an old 2007 Core 2 Duo Mac mini running 10.6 which mostly serves as a test machine, and a 2014 i7 MacBook Air which I use for taxes and Master's program homework. The MBA reminds me regularly of why I preferred the New World Power Mac days, and why my daily drivers are still all Tiger PowerPC. Lately every year when Apple issues their annual update I get a bit nervous because their quality assurance seems to have gone right down the pot -- I think the beta testers just twiddle a couple buttons and call it good for golden master, and never mind when everyone's machines explode because they might actually have customized it a bit, or something similarly empowering that Apple doesn't want you doing with your overpriced appliances. (More on that when we get to my overall gripe at the end.)

Part of what makes my trepidation more acute is that I actually do write software that can run on a current Intel Mac from time to time, despite my reputation as a Power Mac-clinging troglodyte. Now, this software is still truly Universal in the strictest sense of the term -- I build on my G5 against the 10.4 universal SDK to make applications that generally run on any Mac OS from 10.4 till now, on any Power Mac and on any Intel Mac, and I even found a version of SDL 1.2 (1.2.14) that happily runs in the same environments on all systems without tripping any deprecation warnings so far. I'll be talking about one particular app in the very near future because not only is it Universal ppc/i386, it also includes AltiVec support, so it's actually 750/7400/i386. Keep an eye out for that column. Fortunately El Capitan didn't break the ones I write based on that environment.

Next, I turned to GopherVR and Mosaic-CK, my rebuilds of two venerable Motif-based X11 applications (the GopherVR client, allowing you to view gopherspace graphically, and an updated port of NCSA Mosaic that doesn't immediately barf on newer pages). These use a special launcher program to install a Dock icon and transfer control to the binary under X11. They both crashed immediately. I looked in the console and found that they were unable to run OpenMotif, which they should have detected, but I said no problem and got out my installer of IST OpenMotif 10.5+ which worked perfectly in Yosemite. On El Cap, it wouldn't install.

Why? Blame the new System Integrity Protection, which amongst other things blocks write access to certain directories, in this case /usr, even if you're root ("rootless protection"). OpenMotif expects to install itself to (more or less) /usr/OpenMotif. El Crap won't let it.

Now, you can keep your superior security snark out of my comments, thanks. I get why SIP exists, because users are stupid, and SIP saves them (somewhat) from themselves. At least so far, unless some gaping kernel hole is discovered, it looks pretty hard to toast an SIP-locked installation other than via hardware failure, and yes, if you're willing to jump through a couple hoops, you can turn it off. But you don't have to be particularly clairvoyant to realize Apple won't let you do that forever, and even now it's mostly all or nothing unless you turn SIP off and tinker with its configuration file. Frankly, making users go to all that trouble isn't a good way to distribute software.

So the first thing I did was patch OpenMotif to run from /Applications, which isn't protected (yes, /Library might be more appropriate, but I had to patch a couple paths embedded in the libraries in place and the length matched better), by changing all the linkages to the new path with a Perl script I dashed off and doing a couple direct binary changes. It looked sane, so I put it in /Applications/OpenMotif21 and rebuilt the apps on the G5 to link against that. It worked fine on 10.4 and 10.6, but on the 10.11 MBA they still crashed.

This time, the OpenMotif libraries could be found, but they were linking against /usr/X11R6, because that's where the universal X11 libraries are in the 10.4 universal SDK and every version of OS X from 10.5 to 10.10 had a symlink to /usr/X11 so it all just worked. Guess what new version of OS X doesn't? And guess what version prevents you from modifying /usr to add that link because of SIP?

I toyed with a couple solutions, but the simplest was to lipo a second i386 binary from the main one (since all Power Macs will run the original binary pointing to /usr/X11R6 fine) at the time the app package is built and rewrite all its linkages to /usr/X11 instead. Then, when the launcher starts, it figures out which binary to run depending if /usr/X11R6 exists or not, and transfers control to that. It's ugly and it bloats the app by about 25%, but it's transparent to the user, at least, and it doesn't require the user to have developer tools installed or I'd just have the launcher do the stripping and rewriting on the fly.

After that, I fixed a couple more bugs (including the original one where I had a short-circuit in the prerequisites detector) and packed everything up for distribution, and now you can use GopherVR and Mosaic-CK once again. Make sure you have X11 or XQuartz installed first, and then grab my patched OpenMotif from SourceForge (choose the 10.4 package for Tiger, or the 10.5 package for Leopard through El Capitan). Just drag the folder to /Applications without changing the name or any of the contents, and then run either GopherVR and Mosaic-CK's launcher app, and it should "just work" on any 10.4+ Mac just as it did before.

Why does SIP annoy me most, though, aside from making my binaries more complex and my headache larger? Simply put, I don't like the feeling I don't own my computer, and I'm getting that feeling more and more from Apple. I feel this much less on my Tiger boxes because I can patch them up manually and improve their security and functionality, or alter the way the OS is laid out to suit my taste and needs and how things are installed and activated, and I'm quite sure Apple has great concerns about allowing that on what they consider to be an "appliance." In fact, the irrepressible cynic in me suspects part of SIP's purpose is not just security -- it also has the (to Apple) desirable side effect of forcing most systems to exist in a specific uniform state so that installations and upgrades are more deterministic instead of allowing a (dangerously?) clueful user to muck about at will. While predictions that Gatekeeper would become locked in stone and unsigned apps would be never be allowed to run even by request have not yet come to pass, a lot fewer people will be inconvenienced by SIP than by Gatekeeper except for nutbag tinkerers and hackers like me, and Apple has little downside to making it permanent in a future version of OS X. That means one day you may not be able to change the OS at all except through those changes Apple authorizes, and that would really suck. It would also drive me to Linux on commodity hardware, because if system limitations mean I can't find a way to run my custom apps on a current Mac that run just fine on my G5 daily driver, then why have a current Mac? As it turns out, I'm not the only one thinking about that. What's Apple going to break next year, my legs?

Geez, Tim.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Waiting for the MP3 to do the tune thing, MP3, MP3, sing!*

I'm pleased to announce complete MP3 audio support for TenFourFox, i.e., HTML5 audio using MP3 (with minimp3 as the decoder since 10.4 AudioToolbox lacks MP3 decoding) -- the last remaining piece was getting intratrack seeking to function and I finished that up over the weekend. So far I've tested it against Soundcloud, Amazon Music and a few other sites as well as my own audio library and it all seems to work properly. Seeking is sequential, so it's a little slow on long tracks, but playback functions pretty much as expected. MP3 support will still ship disabled in 38.4.0 but if all goes well it will be publicly rolled out in 38.5.0 as I previously promised. The QTE will of course still work for playing tracks outside of the browser.

(*apologies to TMBG, "Dinner Bell" from Apollo 18)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

And now for something completely different: The Ricoh Theta m15 panoramic camera and QTVR LIVES!

It's been awhile since I've posted, mostly because I've been in Honolulu/Oahu for over a week with the fiancée and her family, but that doesn't mean I don't love you. Well, maybe it does mean that, but I still like you. Well, most of you. At times. Mood permitting.

Anyway, ObTenFourFox news. The two biggest crash bugs are hopefully repaired, i.e., issues 308 and 309. Issue 308 turned out to be related to a known problem with our native PowerPC irregexp implementation where pretty much anything in the irregexp native macroassembler that makes a OS X ABI-compliant function call goes haywire, craps on stack frames, etc. for reasons I have been unable to determine (our Ion ABI to PowerOpen ABI thunk works fine everywhere else). In this situation, the affected sites uncovered an edge case with checking for backreferences with UTF-16 text that (surprise) makes an ABI-compliant call to an internal irregexp function and stomped over rooted objects on the stack. I've just rewritten it all by hand the same way I did for growing the backtrack stack and that works, and that should be the last such manifestation of this problem. Assuming it sticks, the partial mitigation for this problem that I put in 38.3 will no longer be necessary and will be pulled in 38.5 since it has a memory impact.

Issue 309 was a weird one. This was another Apple Type Services-barfing-on-a-webfont bug that at first blush looked like we just needed to update the font blacklist (issue 261), except it would reliably crash even 10.4 systems which are generally immune. Turns out that null font table blobs were getting into Harfbuzz (our exclusive font shaper) from ATS that we weren't able to detect until it was too late, so I just wallpapered a bit in Harfbuzz to handle the edge case and then added the fonts to the blocklist as well. This doesn't affect Firefox, which has used CoreText exclusively ever since they went 10.6+. Both fixes will be in 38.4.0.

The problem with restoring from LZ4-compressed bookmark backups remains (issue 307) and I still don't know what's wrong. It doesn't appear to be an endian problem, at least, which would have been relatively easy to correct. The workaround is to simply not compress the backups (i.e., roll back to 31) until I figure out why it isn't functioning correctly and it will be in 38.4.0 also. I've also been doing some work on seeking within our MP3 audio implementation, which is the last major hurdle before enabling it by default. It won't be enabled in 38.4.0, but there might be enough of it working at the time of release for you to test it before I publicly roll it out (hopefully 38.5).

Also, some of you might have been surprised that I didn't post anything at the time about Mozilla's new plan to pull plugins (TenFourFox has of course been plugin-free since 6.0). I didn't comment on it frankly because I always figured it was inevitable, for many of the same reasons I've laid out before ad nauseam. Use SandboxSafari if you really need them.

Anyway, moving on to today's post, one of my hobbies is weird cameras. For example, I use a Fujifilm Real 3D W3 camera for 3-D images, which is a crummy 2D camera but takes incredible 3D pictures like nothing else. The camera takes both stills and video that I can display on my 3D HDTV, or I can use a custom tool (which I wrote, natch) to break apart its MPO images into right and left JPEGs and merge them into "conventional" anaglyphs with RedGreen (from the author of iCab, as it happens). I haven't figured out yet how to decode its AVI video into L/R channels, but I'm working on it. Post in the comments if you know how.

Panoramas have also been a longtime interest of mine, facilitated by QuickTime VR, another great software technology Apple completely forgot about (QTVR works fine through 10.5 but 10.6+ QuickTime X dropped it as a "legacy" format; you have to install QuickTime 7 to restore support). Most mobile devices still do a pretty crappy job on panos, and even though iOS and Android's respective panorama modes have definitely improved, they could scarcely have gotten worse. My original panorama workflow was to take one of my Nikon cameras and put it on a tripod, march out angles, and labouriously stitch them together with Hugin or QTVR Authoring Studio. QTVR Authoring Studio, by the way, works perfectly in Classic under 10.4, yet another reason I remain on Tiger forever. Unfortunately this process was not fun to shoot or edit, required much fiddling with exposure settings if lighting conditions were variable, usually had some bad merge areas that required many painstaking hours with an airbrush, and generally yielded an up-down field of view as roomy as an overgrown mail slot even though the image quality was quite good.

The best way to do panoramas is to get every single angle at once with a catadioptric camera. These can be added as external optics -- unfortunately with varying levels of compromises -- to an existing camera, or you can do substantially better by getting a camera expressly built for that purpose, which in this case is the Ricoh Theta m15.

The Ricoh Theta cameras are two fisheye lenses glommed together for a 360 degree view in both axes generated as an equirectangular image; the newest member, the Theta S, just came out (but too late for my trip). The m15 comes in four colours, all of them silly, but mine is blue. You can either take free shots with the button, or you can control it with a smartphone (iOS and Android apps available) over Wi-Fi using either the official Ricoh app or the free Android HDR one (tripod strongly advised).

The m15 doesn't take exceptional images in low light, and the resolution is a bit low (6.4 megapixels at 3584x1792, but remember that it's two images that the camera firmware glues together, and there's an awful lot of spherical aberration due to the design). But it does work, and you shouldn't be scared by the reviews and instructions saying you need a current Intel Mac or Windows PC to view your images. That's a damn lie, of course -- connect the camera over USB and Image Capture will happily download them (even 10.4), or have the smartphone apps download the images to your phone and send them over Bluetooth or E-mail them. Either way, the images work perfectly as QTVR panos; you don't need the Ricoh desktop software. When you load the image into QTVR Authoring Studio and make sure it's oriented horizontally, it "just works" with no tweaking necessary:

And here's a frame from the result, in QuickTime 7 (rendered out at 1024x768, high quality, 100% Photo JPEG compression):

Unlike the ugly map-on-a-sphere distortion the Ricoh apps cause, the QTVR pano looks just like "you're there," and you can share it with all your friends without any other software other than QuickTime. You can look all the way up and down, ignoring the camera's limp effort to edit itself and its base out, and there are no stitch lines or agonizing hours of retouching. With just a few seconds of processing, I'm back along the side of Interstate H3, looking over the Kaneohe bay once again. A perfect memory, perfectly captured. Isn't that what you bought the camera for in the first place?

The new Theta S bumps the resolution to 14.4 megapixels (5376x2688), and both the m15 and S are capable of video with the S offering 1080p quality. In fact, I'm so pleased with even the lower resolution of the m15 that I'll be picking up an S very soon, and my suspicion is it will work just as well. It's wonderful to see that an old tool like QTVR Authoring Studio still works flawlessly with current cameras, and given that QTVR-AS was never written for OS X, it's another example of how Classic is the best reason to still own an Power Mac.