And, we’re back for another semester of poking and prodding the Microsoft Source Server for use with the Mozilla debug symbols.

First order of business is to clean up as much of the symbolstore.py patch as possible and then the next step would be to start writing a pdbstr.exe replacement that can be distributed. Also, there’s the issue of Mozilla 2 and mercurial

Looks like there was an involved process in choosing the next generation VCS for Mozilla 2 and so now I am wondering whether I should be continuing to work on my 0.3 or start working on something that will make source server work with mercurial.

This week I’ll be trying to pull together a solid list of what I hope to accomplish this term for my 1.0 release, i’ll post more soon.


Today was the first class of my BTP600 Design Patterns class. The teacher talked about how there are 3 ways to go about learning to write larger, non-trivial programs.

  1. Try + Fail + Fix
  2. Read the code of other (superstar) coders to see how they did it well
  3. Design Patterns

I like this class. It’s very hard to see how I will ever write something large and non-trivial but I know that’s what we will accomplish by the end of BTS and this course as well. When I look at the mozilla code base, I can’t see how something like this came to be. What do you write first?

The teacher mentioned that Kernighan (sp?) and Richie write really great code and so I’d like to read some. Anyone know of a good example? I welcome tips on code that you may have found exciting to read.

Something that I have come to appreciate about Mozilla is that its chat channels on IRC are incredibly positive, helpful and relevant. As there are so many areas in developing and using Mozilla projects, several channels exist that allow you to join a channel when it is specific to your area of discussion.

Recently I went to the Joomla channel because I am working on a project for a friend in Joomla. Now, this is my first time working with Joomla. I have attended a brief “Hands on” workshop at the Ontario Linux Conference and I’ve read some of Dan Rahmel’s “Professional Joomla”. I was having trouble understanding the way that Joomla uses plug-ins. Basically there’s a plug-in that can recognize a snippet of custom code in an article – ie: {images view|gallery} or something like that. What I wanted to do was to be able to put that code in a module so that I could position it on the page in the way that modules can be positioned. I can’t find a way to position articles.

So I go to the Joomla channel in the hopes that talking with real person will help – much as going to the mozilla channels has helped in the past. I know that the #seneca channel is special because it is targeted at students who are learning, but the Joomla channel said at the top “Be patient, as your question – if no answer, try giving more info” (paraphrasing). I assumed that I could ask my question and get at least one person to talk it out with me.


What I got instead was a big fat nothing. NO response. NO acknowledgement. I asked politely if I should provide more information, and someone (who had been talking away about someone being gay) said “Oh, i didn’t see the question”. So I rephrase it and ask again – then nothing again. What?!

In frustration, I ask “is anyone here knowledgeable about plugins?” and a half hour later, at which point I had moved on to other tasks since there was no reply yet again, I get a private message from someone who says “ya, what you want?”. I didn’t bother responding. I created an html workaround to what I wanted to accomplish and moved on.

Needless to say, this experience was disheartening for a moment. But then I saw the positive side. I am a small part of a channel or two on the mozilla irc that is friendly, helpful and welcoming. So that’s nice to notice and appreciate.

Today was the first day back in the hallowed halls of S@Y. I managed to clear up the conflict signing up for DPS911 and am now officially registered.

I’ve gotten some great feedback on the bug I filed for the source server so there’s lots to get started on. First rewriting the patch better and then the grand task of writing a new pdbstr.exe that we can distribute because the Microsoft version cannot do so.

Anyway, that’s the short, glossy version.

I’m looking forward to getting back in the game. As the last few days of the holiday whip by I’m also working on some websites for friends, training to be a tutor in the Learning Center, helping some friends paint and trying to finish another pair of socks.

Yesterday at a New Year’s brunch I spent some time with a friend who has recently lost a large amount of her vision. She is almost (but not quite) legally blind and her vision will continue to deteriorate at an unknown rate. She’s a visual artist as well as a teacher and we had a lively discussion about software and adaptive technology. I’m determined to find a way to develop simple, well designed, as open source as possible programs for the Mac. This is a challenge since a) I have been informed that there is no money in writing adaptive software and b) apple development is a mystery to me and c) I’m not sure if it’s even possible to write open source programs for Apple.

Learning about this will be the sidebar on the to-do list for the winter you know, in my spare time 🙂

Well, the big ball ‘O duct tape that is my hacks on symbolstore.py are complete for now – here is the patch. This project will be carried on in the next term at which point I hope to address some of the current issues, namely – manipulating the directory structure, cleaning up the python code and assembling a unified documentation page.

For now – you may test out the fruits of my labour by downloading this installer of Firefox 3.0b2pre which will install Minefield in your Program Files/Minefield directory (you have no choice for installation dir.) and then copying these symbols into the folder where your Visual Studio (or Windbg) is looking for debug symbols.

The last thing you have to do in order for this to work is to put a path to cvs.exe in your PATH – I personally pointed it to the mozilla-build/mysys/bin/cvs.exe but if you like you can download cvs.exe and put it wherever you want.

Now that you have all you need, open up your debugger (VS or Windbg), attach it to the Minefield process and go!

It will ask you about the cvs calls that gather up the source code, say “OK” or “Run” or whatever is positive. The file should download into the proper /mozilla/whatever structure – on my computer it goes into Program Files/Microsoft Visual Studio 8/Common7/IDE/mozilla/…

That will be a focus in the next round, is manipulating the cvs command so that the source files go to a c:/temp or something. The debugger will automatically want to look for the path that the source file originally came from (in this case, my c:/ff_clean/mozilla/…) – you will have to point your debugger to the correct file the first time and then after that it knows to look in the mozilla folder you selected.

It works for now like what it is; a ball of duct tape that allows you to get the right source code for where you are in the browser without having a build on your computer.

I look forward to feedback about how this works for you, if you use it and if you have any problems arise.

To the wall…

After many nights of tweaking this space, that path, this logic – the symbolstore.py script is now playing nice with pdbstr and the pdb files are getting indexed. So begins the second battle – how to get Visual Studio to pull the code out of CVS and locate that code on the local drive. Right now, when you have the symbols loaded up and you attach to firefox as a process, a window comes up confirming the call that will be made. Calling CVS from VStudio

If I copy and paste this command into my command line (I have CVS in my path from mozilla-build\mysys\bin) then I can pull the file and it goes into the directory structure as it is in the command starting from my current working directory.

When I click on “Run” in Visual Studio however, the code may or may not be getting pulled from CVS – I have no feeback and if I then try to look at something on the call stack, I get a dialog asking me to find the source code file. BUT WHERE IS IT?
look for files
Visual Studio is trying to find it in the hierarchy that my build was based on…that is not going to exist on the remote user’s computer.

I’ve made a few tweaks to symbolstore.py to try and create a %CVS_WORKINGDIR% in the srcsrv data block where the code would then be pulled to. This does not appear to be working, as the directory I am instructing it to create is not getting created.

This is the current symbolstore.py. More tweaking on the horizon.

Many huge thanks to Ted for figuring out the minute details that fixed the call to pdbstr.

The most up to date set of symbols can be found here: http://avnerd.tv/symbols/crashreporter-symbols-firefox-3.0b2pre-WINNT-2007120422.zip

The installer for this indexed version is here: http://avnerd.tv/sharedFiles/ff_SourceServer.exe.zip

I’m not sure where things are going wrong right now so I am hoping that you – faithful readers – will be able to help me out. I have run the “make buildsymbols” and checked with srctool.exe to confirm that the pdb files are source indexed. So following that I made an installer to see if I could attach it in Visual Studio and pull some code. However I am not getting the symbols to load.

Here’s what I have:

  1. A modified symbolstore.py: http://pastebin.mozilla.org/255918
  2. Symbols and source indexed .pdb files here: http://avnerd.tv/symbols/test/crashreporter-symbols-firefox-3.0b2pre-WINNT-2007120422
  3. An installer for the build I was working on when I did this: http://avnerd.tv/sharedFiles/ff_SourceServer.exe.zip

When I point Visual Studio to the symbols I can’t get anything to load up. So this means that I am unable to test if the source indexed code’s cvs commands actually work.

There weren’t any gotchas the last time I uploaded symbols – so I’m not sure where to begin in figuring out why Visual Studio isn’t grabbing them properly.

I have to work all day tomorrow – and I have a big assignment still to work on for my BTS system design class, so anyone who can take a minute to poke at this and give me any feedback would be a hero!