Things I’ve Learned This Week (April 13 – April 17, 2015)

When you send a sync message from a frame script to the parent, the return value is always an array

Example:

// Some contrived code in the browser
let browser = gBrowser.selectedBrowser;
browser.messageManager.addMessageListener("GIMMEFUE,GIMMEFAI", function onMessage(message) {
  return "GIMMEDABAJABAZA";
});

// Frame script that runs in the browser
let result = sendSendMessage("GIMMEFUE,GIMMEFAI");
console.log(result[0]);
// Writes to the console: GIMMEDABAJABAZA

From the documentation:

Because a single message can be received by more than one listener, the return value of sendSyncMessage() is an array of all the values returned from every listener, even if it only contains a single value.

I don’t use sync messages from frame scripts a lot, so this was news to me.

You can use [cocoaEvent hasPreciciseScrollingDeltas] to differentiate between scrollWheel events from a mouse and a trackpad

scrollWheel events can come from a standard mouse or a trackpad1. According to this Stack Overflow post, one potential way of differentiating between the scrollWheel events coming from a mouse, and the scrollWheel events coming from a trackpad is by calling:

bool isTrackpad = [theEvent hasPreciseScrollingDeltas];

since mouse scrollWheel is usually line-scroll, whereas trackpads (and Magic Mouse) are pixel scroll.

The srcdoc attribute for iframes lets you easily load content into an iframe via a string

It’s been a while since I’ve done web development, so I hadn’t heard of srcdoc before. It was introduced as part of the HTML5 standard, and is defined as:

The content of the page that the embedded context is to contain. This attribute
is expected to be used together with the sandbox and seamless attributes. If a
browser supports the srcdoc attribute, it will override the content specified in
the src attribute (if present). If a browser does NOT support the srcdoc
attribute, it will show the file specified in the src attribute instead (if
present).

So that’s an easy way to inject some string-ified HTML content into an iframe.

Primitives on IPDL structs are not initialized automatically

I believe this is true for structs in C and C++ (and probably some other languages) in general, but primitives on IPDL structs do not get initialized automatically when the struct is instantiated. That means that things like booleans carry random memory values in them until they’re set. Having spent most of my time in JavaScript, I found that a bit surprising, but I’ve gotten used to it. I’m slowly getting more comfortable working lower-level.

This was the ultimate cause of this crasher bug that dbaron was running into while exercising the e10s printing code on a debug Nightly build on Linux.

This bug was opened to investigate initializing the primitives on IPDL structs automatically.

Networking is ultimately done in the parent process in multi-process Firefox

All network requests are proxied to the parent, which serializes the results back down to the child. Here’s the IPDL protocol for the proxy.

On bi-directional text and RTL

gw280 and I noticed that in single-process Firefox, a <select> dropdown set with dir=”rtl”, containing an <option> with the value “A)” would render the option as “(A”.

If the value was “A) Something else”, the string would come out unchanged.

We were curious to know why this flipping around was happening. It turned out that this is called “BiDi”, and some documentation for it is here.

If you want to see an interesting demonstration of BiDi, click this link, and then resize the browser window to reflow the text. Interesting to see where the period on that last line goes, no?

It might look strange to someone coming from a LTR language, but apparently it makes sense if you’re used to RTL.

I had not known that.

Some terminal spew

Some terminal spew

Now what’s all this?

My friend and colleague Mike Hoye showed me the above screenshot upon coming into work earlier this week. He had apparently launched Nightly from the terminal, and at some point, all that stuff just showed up.

“What is all of that?”, he had asked me.

I hadn’t the foggiest idea – but a quick DXR showed basic_code_modules.cc inside Breakpad, the tool used to generate crash reports when things go wrong.

I referred him to bsmedberg, since that fellow knows tons about crash reporting.

Later that day, mhoye got back to me, and told me that apparently this was output spew from Firefox’s plugin hang detection code. Mystery solved!

So if you’re running Firefox from the terminal, and suddenly see some basic_code_modules.cc stuff show up… a plugin you’re running probably locked up, and Firefox shanked it.

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  1. And probably a bunch of other peripherals as well 

The Joy of Coding (Ep. 10): The Mystery of the Cache Key

In this episode, I kept my camera off, since I was having some audio-sync issues1.

I was also under some time-pressure, because I had a meeting scheduled for 2:30 ET2, giving me exactly 1.5 hours to do what I needed to do.

And what did I need to do?

I needed to figure out why an nsISHEntry, when passed to nsIWebPageDescriptor’s loadPage, was not enough to get the document out from the HTTP cache in some cases. 1.5 hours to figure it out – the pressure was on!

I don’t recall writing a single line of code. Instead, I spent most of my time inside XCode, walking through various scenarios in the debugger, trying to figure out what was going on. And I eventually figured it out! Read this footnote for the TL;DR:3

Episode Agenda

References

Bug 1025146 – [e10s] Never load the source off of the network when viewing sourceNotes

Be the first to like.

  1. I should have those resolved for Episode 11! 

  2. And when the stream finished, I found out the meeting had been postponed to next week, meaning that next week will also be a short episode. :( 

  3. Basically, the nsIChannel used to retrieve data over the network is implemented by HttpChannelChild in the content process. HttpChannelChild is really just a proxy to a proper nsIChannel on the parent-side. On the child side, HttpChannelChild does not implement nsICachingChannel, which means we cannot get a cache key from it when creating a session history entry. With no cache key, comes no ability to retrieve the document from the network cache via nsIWebDescriptor’s loadPage. 

Things I’ve Learned This Week (April 6 – April 10, 2015)

It’s possible to synthesize native Cocoa events and dispatch them to your own app

For example, here is where we synthesize native mouse events for OS X. I think this is mostly used for testing when we want to simulate mouse activity.

Note that if you attempt to replay a queue of synthesized (or cached) native Cocoa events to trackSwipeEventWithOptions, those events might get coalesced and not behave the way you want. mstange and I ran into this while working on this bug to get some basic gesture support working with Nightly+e10s (Specifically, the history swiping gesture on OS X).

We were able to determine that OS X was coalescing the events because we grabbed the section of code that implements trackSwipeEventWithOptions, and used the Hopper Disassembler to decompile the assembly into some pseudocode. After reading it through, we found some logging messages in there referring to coalescing. We noticed that those log messages were only sent when NSDebugSwipeTrackingLogic was set to true, we executed this:

defaults write org.mozilla.nightlydebug NSDebugSwipeTrackingLogic -bool YES

In the console, and then re-ran our swiping test in a debug build of Nightly to see what messages came out. Sure enough, this is what we saw:

2015-04-09 15:11:55.395 firefox[5203:707] ___trackSwipeWithScrollEvent_block_invoke_0 coalescing scrollevents
2015-04-09 15:11:55.395 firefox[5203:707] ___trackSwipeWithScrollEvent_block_invoke_0 cumulativeDelta:-2.000 progress:-0.002
2015-04-09 15:11:55.395 firefox[5203:707] ___trackSwipeWithScrollEvent_block_invoke_0 cumulativeDelta:-2.000 progress:-0.002 adjusted:-0.002
2015-04-09 15:11:55.396 firefox[5203:707] ___trackSwipeWithScrollEvent_block_invoke_0 call trackingHandler(NSEventPhaseChanged, gestureAmount:-0.002)

This coalescing means that trackSwipeEventWithOptions is only getting a subset of the events that we’re sending, which is not what we had intended. It’s still not clear what triggers the coalescing – I suspect it might have to do with how rapidly we flush our native event queue, but mstange suspects it might be more sophisticated than that. Unfortunately, the pseudocode doesn’t make it too clear.

String templates and toSource might run the risk of higher memory use?

I’m not sure I “learned” this so much, but I saw it in passing this week in this bug. Apparently, there was some section of the Marionette testing framework that was doing request / response logging with toSource and some string templates, and this caused a 20MB regression on AWSY. Doing away with those in favour of old-school string concatenation and JSON.stringify seems to have addressed the issue.

When you change the remote attribute on a <xul:browser> you need to re-add the <xul:browser> to the DOM tree

I think I knew this a while back, but I’d forgotten it. I actually re-figured it out during the last episode of The Joy of Coding. When you change the remoteness of a <xul:browser>, you can’t just flip the remote attribute and call it a day. You actually have to remove it from the DOM and re-add it in order for the change to manifest properly.

You also have to re-add any frame scripts you had specially loaded into the previous incarnation of the browser before you flipped the remoteness attribute.1

Using Mercurial, and want to re-land a patch that got backed out? hg graft is your friend!

Suppose you got backed out, and want to reland your patch(es) with some small changes. Try this:

hg update -r tip
hg graft --force BASEREV:ENDREV

This will re-land your changes on top of tip. Note that you need –force, otherwise Mercurial will skip over changes it notices have already landed in the commit ancestry.

These re-landed changes are in the draft stage, so you can update to them, and assuming you are using the evolve extension2, and commit –amend them before pushing. Voila!

Here’s the documentation for hg graft.

3 people like this post.

  1. We sidestep this with browser tabs by putting those browsers into “groups”, and having any new browsers, remote or otherwise, immediately load a particular set of framescripts. 

  2. And if you’re using Mercurial, you probably should be. 

The Joy of Coding (Ep. 9): More View Source Hacking!

In this episode1, I continued the work we had started in Episode 8, by trying to make it so that we don’t hit the network when viewing the source of a page in multi-process Firefox.

It was a little bit of a slog – after some thinking, I decided to undo some of the work we had done in the previous episode, and then I set up the messaging infrastructure for talking to the remote browser in the view source window.

I also rebased and landed a patch that we had written in the previous episode, after fixing up some nits2.

Then, I (re)-learned that flipping the “remote” attribute of a browser is not enough in order for it to run out-of-process; I have to remove it from the DOM, and then re-add it. And once it’s been re-added, I have to reload any frame scripts that I had loaded in the previous incarnation of the browser.

Anyhow, by the end of the episode, we were able to view the source from a remote browser inside a remote view source browser!3 That’s a pretty big deal!

Episode Agenda

References

Bug 1025146 – [e10s] Never load the source off of the network when viewing sourceNotes

1 person likes this post.

  1. A note that I also tried an experiment where I keep my camera running during the entire session, and place the feed into the bottom right-hand corner of the recording. It looks like there were some synchronization issues between audio and video, which are a bit irritating. Sorry about that! I’ll see what I can do about that. 

  2. and dropping a nit having conversed with :gabor about it 

  3. We were still loading it off the network though, so I need to figure out what’s going on there in the next episode. 

Things I’ve Learned This Week (March 30 – April 3, 2015)

This is my second post in a weekly series, where I attempt to distill my week down into some lessons or facts that I’ve picked up. Let’s get to it!

ES6 – what’s safe to use in browser development?

As of March 27, 2015, ES6 classes are still not yet safe for use in production browser code. There’s code to support them in Firefox, but they’re Nightly-only behind a build-time pref.

Array.prototype.includes and ArrayBuffer.transfer are also Nightly only at this time.

However, any of the rest of the ES6 Harmony work currently implemented by Nightly is fair-game for use, according to jorendorff. The JS team is also working on a Wiki page to tell us Firefox developers what ES6 stuff is safe for use and what is not.

Getting a profile from a hung process

According to mstange, it is possible to get profiles from hung Firefox processes using lldb1.

  1. After the process has hung, attach lldb.
  2. Type in2, :
    p (void)mozilla_sampler_save_profile_to_file("somepath/profile.txt")
  3. Clone mstange’s handy profile analysis repository.
  4. Run:
    python symbolicate_profile.py somepath/profile.txt

    To graft symbols into the profile. mstange’s scripts do some fairly clever things to get those symbols – if your Firefox was built by Mozilla, then it will retrieve the symbols from the Mozilla symbol server. If you built Firefox yourself, it will attempt to use some cleverness3 to grab the symbols from your binary.

    Your profile will now, hopefully, be updated with symbols.

    Then, load up Cleopatra, and upload the profile.

    I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try this, but I hope to next week. I’d be eager to hear people’s experience giving this a go – it might be a great tool in determining what’s going on in Firefox when it’s hung4!

Parameter vs. Argument

I noticed that when I talked about “things that I passed to functions5”, I would use “arguments” and “parameters” interchangeably. I recently learned that there is more to those terms than I had originally thought.

According to this MSDN article, an argument is what is passed in to a function by a caller. To the function, it has received parameters. It’s like two sides of a coin. Or, as the article puts it, like cars and parking spaces:

You can think of the parameter as a parking space and the argument as an automobile. Just as different automobiles can park in a parking space at different times, the calling code can pass a different argument to the same parameter every time that it calls the procedure.6

Not that it really makes much difference, but I like knowing the details.

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  1. Unfortunately, this technique will not work for Windows. :(  

  2. Assuming you’re running a build after this revision landed. 

  3. A binary called dump_syms_mac in mstange’s toolkit, and nm on Linux 

  4. I’m particularly interested in knowing if we can get Javascript stacks via this technique – I can see that being particularly useful with hung content processes. 

  5. Or methods. 

  6. Source