Tag Archives: gecko

Things I’ve Learned This Week (May 4 – May 8, 2015)

How to convert an NSString to a Gecko nsAString

I actually discovered this during my most recent Joy of Coding episode – there is a static utility method to convert between native Cocoa NSStrings and Gecko nsAStrings – nsCocoaUtils::GetStringForNSString. Very handy, and works exactly as advertised.

An “Attach to Process by pid” Keyboard Shortcut for XCode

I actually have colleague Garvan Keeley to thank for this one, and technically I learned this on April 24th. It was only this week that I remembered I had learned it!

When I’m debugging Firefox on OS X, I tend to use XCode, and I usually attach to Firefox after it has started running. I have to navigate some menus in order to bring up the dialog to attach to a process by pid, and I was getting tired of doing that over and over again.

So, as usual, I tweeted my frustration:


It seems small, but the savings in time for something that I do so frequently quickly adds up. And it always feels good to go faster!

2 people like this post.

Things I’ve Learned This Week (April 27 – May 1, 2015)

Another short one this week.

You can pass DOM Promises back through XPIDL

XPIDL is what we use to define XPCOM interfaces in Gecko. I think we’re trying to avoid XPCOM where we can, but sometimes you have to work with pre-existing XPCOM interfaces, and, well, you’re just stuck using it unless you want to rewrite what you’re working on.

What I’m working on lately is nsIProfiler, which is the interface to “SPS”, AKA the Gecko Profiler. nsIProfiler allows me to turn profiling on and off with various features, and then retrieve those profiles to send to a file, or to Cleopatra1.

What I’ve been working on recently is Bug 1116188 – [e10s] Stop using sync messages for Gecko profiler, which will probably have me adding new methods to nsIProfiler for async retrieval of profiles.

In the past, doing async stuff through XPCOM / XPIDL has meant using (or defining a new) callback interface which can be passed as an argument to the async method.

I was just about to go down that road, when ehsan (or was it jrmuizel? One of them, anyhow) suggested that I just pass a DOM Promise back.

I find that Promises are excellent. I really like them, and if I could pass a Promise back, that’d be incredible. But I had no idea how to do it.

It turns out that if I can ensure that the async methods are called such that there is a JS context on the stack, I can generate a DOM Promise, and pass it back to the caller as an “nsISupports”. According to ehsan, XPConnect will do the necessary magic so that the caller, upon receiving the return value, doesn’t just get this opaque nsISupports thing, but an actual DOM Promise. This is because, I believe, that DOM Promise is something that is defined via WebIDL. I think. I can’t say I fully understand the mechanics of XPConnect2, but this all sounded wonderful.

I even found an example in our new Service Worker code:

From dom/workers/ServiceWorkerManager.cpp (I’ve edited the method to highlight the Promise stuff):

// If we return an error code here, the ServiceWorkerContainer will
// automatically reject the Promise.
ServiceWorkerManager::Register(nsIDOMWindow* aWindow,
                               nsIURI* aScopeURI,
                               nsIURI* aScriptURI,
                               nsISupports** aPromise)

  // XXXnsm Don't allow chrome callers for now, we don't support chrome
  // ServiceWorkers.

  nsCOMPtr<nsPIDOMWindow> window = do_QueryInterface(aWindow);

  // ...

  nsCOMPtr<nsIGlobalObject> sgo = do_QueryInterface(window);
  ErrorResult result;
  nsRefPtr<Promise> promise = Promise::Create(sgo, result);
  if (result.Failed()) {
    return result.StealNSResult();

  // ...

  nsRefPtr<ServiceWorkerResolveWindowPromiseOnUpdateCallback> cb =
    new ServiceWorkerResolveWindowPromiseOnUpdateCallback(window, promise);

  nsRefPtr<ServiceWorkerRegisterJob> job =
    new ServiceWorkerRegisterJob(queue, cleanedScope, spec, cb, documentPrincipal);

  return NS_OK;

Notice that the outparam aPromise is an nsISupports**, and yet, I do believe the caller will end up handling a DOM Promise. Wicked!

Be the first to like.

  1. Cleopatra is the web application that can be used to browse a profile retrieved via nsIProfiler 

  2. Like being able to read the black speech of Mordor, there are few who can. 

Things I’ve Learned This Week (April 20 – April 24, 2015)

Short one this week. I must not have learned much! 😀

If you’re using Sublime Text to hack on Firefox or Gecko, make sure it’s not indexing your objdir.

Sublime has this wicked cool feature that lets you quickly search for files within your project folders. On my MBP, the shortcut is Cmd-P. It’s probably something like Ctrl-P on Windows and Linux.

That feature is awesome, because when I need to get to a file, instead of searching the folder hierarchy, I just hit Cmd-P, jam in a few of the characters (they can even be out of order – Sublime does fuzzy matching), and then as soon as my desired file is the top entry, just hit Enter, and BLAM – opened file. It really saves time!

At least, it saves time in theory. I noticed that sometimes, I’d hit Cmd-P, and the UI to enter my search string would take ages to show up. I had no idea why.

Then I noticed that this slowness seemed to show up after I had done a build. My objdir resides beneath my srcdir (as is the defaults with a mozilla-central checkout), so I figured perhaps Sublime was trying to index all of those binaries and choking on them.

I went to Project > Edit Project, and added this to the configuration file that opened:

            "path": "/Users/mikeconley/Projects/mozilla-central",
      "folder_exclude_patterns": ["*.sublime-workspace", "obj-*"]

I added the workspace thing too1, because I figure it’s unlikely I’ll ever want to open that thing.

Anyhow, after setting that, I restarted Sublime, and everything was crazy-fast. \o/

If you’re using Sublime, and your objdir is under your srcdir, maybe consider adding the same thing. Even if you’re not using Cmd-P, it’ll probably save your machine from needlessly burning cycles indexing stuff.

3 people like this post.

  1. That’s where Sublime holds my session state for my project. 

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. 

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.

3 people like this post.

  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