Saturday, March 25, 2017

45.9.0b1 available

TenFourFox 45.9.0 beta 1 is now available (downloads, hashes). This version continues deploying more of the multiple microoptimizations started with 45.8, including rescheduling xptcall which is the glue used for calling XPCOM functions (use CTR instead of LR for branching, reorder instructions to eliminate register and FXU dependencies), more reduced branches, hoisting call loads earlier in code sequences, optimized arithmetic inline caches for both Baseline and Ion code generation (especially integer operations for division, min/max and absolute value), fixing a stupid bug which used a branchy way of doing logical comparisons on floating point values (this passed tests but was unnecessarily inefficient), and eliminating some irrelevant branches in font runs and graphics. While I was at it I cherrypicked a few other minor perf boosts from 46 and stuck those in as well.

Also, the font blacklist is updated (fixing Apple and Medium) along with new support for blocking ATSUI-incompatible data:font/* URLs, and there is a speculative fix for the long-running issue of making changing the default search engine stick (this is difficult for me to test because none of my systems seem to be affected). The guts for repairing geolocation are in this version too but I'm still dithering over the service; most likely we will use the Mozilla Location Service though I'm open to other suggestions. Remember that the only sensor data Power Macs can provide for geolocation out of the box is the WiFi SSIDs they see (but this is perfectly sufficient for MLS). This should be finalized by the time 45.9 goes to release.

For FPR1, the first feature I'm planning to implement is one that was cancelled for 45 during beta: Brotli compression, which on supported sites can reduce data transfer by 14 to 39 percent with little impact on decompression time. This will involve backporting the current Brotli decompressor from 52ESR and then making necessary changes to Necko to support it, but happily much of the work was already done before it was disabled (for a critical bug that could not be easily worked around at the time) and released in 46. If there is sufficient time, I'd also like to implement the "New Hot NSS" (get it?) and backport the NSS security and encryption library from 52ESR as well, both of which will also reduce the burden of backporting security fixes. That's a bit of a bigger job, though, and might be FPR2 territory. Other major want-to-dos will be some JavaScript ES6 features I predict will be commonly used in the near future like Unicode regexes and changes to function scoping, both of which landed in 46 and should be easy to add to 45.

Only one site has been reported as incompatible with our plan to shut down SHA-1 certificate support with FPR1. As mentioned, it would take a major site failure for me to call this plan off, but I'd still like as much testing as possible beforehand. If you haven't done it already, please go into about:config and switch security.pki.sha1_enforcement_level to 1, and report any sites that fail. This approach of complete decommissioning is essentially the same policy Google Chrome will be taking, and soon no major browser will accept SHA-1 certificates as trusted for TLS, so it's not like we're going out on a limb here. Please note that reversing this change will not be a supported configuration because (the security implications notwithstanding) it may be un-possible to allow doing so after the new NSS library is eventually transplanted in.

Once 45.9 comes out, we will switch to our own Github repository and the source code will be uploaded and maintained from there (no more changeset overlays!). However, pull requests won't be accepted unless they're tied to an issue already accepted on the worklist, and we will still enforce the policy that non-contributor bug reports need to be triaged through Tenderapp first. Watch for the repo's magical population shortly after 45.9's final release on April 18.

Unfortunately, I don't think there will be a Tenfourbird FPR1: it appears that our anonymous colleague in the Land of the Rising Sun has not made any builds since 38.9, and that is a real shame. :(

Friday, March 17, 2017

45.8.1 not available (also: 45.9 and FPR1 progress, and goodbye,

TenFourFox 45.8.1 is not available, because there isn't one, even though Firefox 52.0.1 is available to fix the fallout from Pwn2Own. However, the exploited API in question does not exist in Firefox 45 (against which we are based) and a second attack against Firefox was apparently unsuccessful, so at least right now no urgent TenFourFox chemspill is required. 45.9, the last release we will make at source parity against the Mozilla code base, is still on schedule for April 18th.

45.9 has more microimprovements to JavaScript, including some sections of hand-written assembly code that have been completely overhauled (especially in the inline caches for arithmetic operations) and fixing a stupid bug that caused logical comparisons on floating point operations to always hit a slow code path, some additional microimprovements to hard-coding code flow with xptcall, graphics and text runs, and then bug fixes for geolocation and the font blacklist. The last two should be done by the end of next week or slightly after, and then after I test it internally there will be a beta prior to release.

Today, though, I've been playing with Google's new Guetzli JPEG encoder, which promises higher compression ratios with great quality that any JPEG decoder can view, because you really can have "tastes great" and "less filling" at the same time, apparently. Yes, I was able to get it to compile on the Power Mac and it works pretty well on my G5 from the command line; I'm trying to package it as a drag-and-drop tool which I might release a little later if I have time. If Guetzli takes off, maybe Google will stop it with their stupid WebP fetish since this is a much better solution and far more compatible.

Finally, yesterday was the last day of, fondly called "ADN" by denizens such as myself, Martin, Sevan and Riccardo. It unfairly got tarred as a "pay Twitter clone," which in fairness its operators didn't do enough to dispel, though most of us longtimers think that the service sealed its doom when they moved from a strictly pay model to a freemium model. That then destabilized the service by allowing a tier of user that wasn't really invested in its long-term success (like, say, blog spammers, etc.), and it gradually dropped below profitability because the pay tier didn't offer enough at that point.

But ADN had a real sense of community that just doesn't exist with Facebook, nor Twitter in particular. There were much fewer trolls and mob packs, and those that did engage in that behaviour found themselves ostracised quickly. Furthermore, you didn't have the sense of people breathing down your neck or endlessly searching for victims who might post the wrong thing so they can harass and "out" you for not toeing the party line. I think the smaller surface area and user base really led to that kind of healthier online relating, and I still believe that a social media service that forces a smaller number of people to be invested in the success of that service -- that in turn treats them as customers and not cattle -- is the most effective way to get around the problems the large free social sites have.

Meanwhile, most of us ADN refugees have moved to Pnut, made by another ADN denizen. Pnut is getting around the jerk problem by going invite-only. If you're not a jerk and you're interested in a better community to socially interact online, contact me and I'll get you a code.

Here are the last moments of the ADN global stream, as witnessed by Texapp, my custom ADN client. Thanks, Dalton and Bryan, and all the great ADN staff that participated over the years. It was a good ride while it lasted.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

45.8.0 available

TenFourFox 45.8.0 is now available for testing (downloads, hashes, release notes). As usual it will go live Monday PM, likely when I get to my conference in the Bay Area. This includes everything in the beta plus some additional fontblocked URLs and a last-minute tweak to the font spacing kludge for certain wacky but otherwise valid fixed width webfonts.

For 45.9, there will be some additional performance improvements to xptcall (better scheduling of the PowerPC assembly language glue that links XPCOM calls), additional work on Operation Short Change, better hinting of branches the JavaScript JIT emits, additional marginal improvements to text run generation and more font blacklisting. Chris noticed geolocation has been broken since at least TenFourFox 24, so we'll fix that, and I'm also toying with a concept where a garbage collection cycle is automatically run whenever a tab closes to recover the memory deterministically instead of random pauses later.

After incorporating a number of suggestions from you, there is now a semi-official archive of compatible addons for TenFourFox. This is not to say only these addons are supported; it's just to make convenient finding ones of significance that do work. If you have other recommendations, please advise. I'm still studying the right way to directly install from this folder without opening up a security hole.

Watch for the 45.9 beta in about two or three weeks.