10240 Processors!

Slashdot posted a story today about a planned NASA cluster of 20 SGI Altix 3000s, each of which has 512 processor. Thats 10240 processors total, running only 20 system images. Pretty amazing stuff. I get to use one of those 512 processor machines at work sometimes and it is ridiculously fast. Imagine, if you will, “make -j1024 client.mk build”… (no I haven’t actually tried that – yet)

I’m been really busy studying the Linux VM system lately and haven’t had much time for Mozilla.org stuff. I’ll be back to working on that in about a week. A bug in my Camino tooltips patch was found and it has been driving me crazy, so perhaps this break for another project is good.

Better Tooltips, Improved Forum Browsing Experience

I rewrote a bunch of the code we use to display tooltips (e.g. link titles…) within the browser content area (bug #248488). The rewrite makes many web browsing tasks more pleasant – especially browsing forum sites that use link titles to give previews of content and whatnot. Hopefully the patch will make its way into nightly builds within the next couple of days.

Now that that little tangent is done with, back to rewriting the prefs…

Good News About Intimidating Code/Projects

To anyone who has ever thought about writing code for an open-source project but hesitated…

During the relatively short time I’ve been doing any serious hacking (4 years?), I’ve worked quite a bit on two projects that seemed very intimidating at first. The first was Mozilla, and the second was the Linux kernel. Both do very complex things and are made up of a lot of code. Both scared the hell out of me at one point, and at times still do.

The good news is that for the most part neither are actually anywhere near as scary as they might seem at first, and they are two of the biggest, most complex pieces of software out there. Sure, both contain sections of code that would give anybody the chills, but most of the code isn’t too hard to understand if you are willing to sit down and put some effort into it. And there is a huge amount of code in both projects that is very easy to understand.

If you’ve been thinking about contributing code to an open-source project but are intimidated by it, you should know that convincing yourself to actually sit down with the code and try to understand it is probably the hardest step of all.

Once you sit with a copy of the code, look through it and try to find parts that seem easier to understand than others. Build up an understanding of the easier sections of code, and grow your understanding from those points. If you understand what a certain function does, maybe try to understand functions that call it, or try to understand nearby/similar functions. Soon enough you’ll find that you understand things that previously looked like nonsense. And you’ll probably find bugs to fix or think of enhancements that could be made 🙂

Don’t forget that there is a lot of help available too – you don’t have to intuit everything yourself (in some cases it might not even be realistically possible to do so). The bigger the project, the more resources will be available. Help sources I commonly use for both Mozilla.org and the Linux kernel include books, forums, IRC, mailing lists, project websites, and most importantly – Google.

Again – if you’ve been thinking about contributing to an open-source project but you’re worried about not being good enough, the best thing to do is just dive in. The water is warmer than it looks.

That said, its time for the shameless plug (you knew it was coming from the beginning, and I certainly didn’t lie to you for my own purposes!). Camino and Firefox could use your help – even if you don’t want to deal with code.

(if you want to help with Camino, email me directly and I’ll help you get started – otherwise start by reading the Mozilla.org website and joining the IRC channel #mozillazine on the server irc.mozilla.org and asking how you can help there)

Prefs System Rewrite

After months of saying I was going to do it, I have actually started rewriting Camino’s preferences system. I’m reorganizing the panels and also fixing a bunch of bugs along the way. It was pretty difficult to decide how to organize the prefs, but I think I have a reasonable plan. After discussing it to death, it has become quite clear that no perfect organization exists. Well thought-out comments and suggestions are welcome now and after it lands.

Hi, my name is Josh

If my mother was reading this blog (is she?) she would tell me to introduce myself. Here goes, as briefly as possible:

I’m a student at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. I will be a senior in the fall, finishing up a double major in Computer Science and English Literature. I don’t make any connections between the two subjects in case you’re wondering. I just like them both too much to choose one or the other.

I work at Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) in their Linux System Software group. I love my job as I get to work with lots of really smart, fun people and cool technology.

A good amount of my spare time is spent working on Camino and Mozilla.org stuff in general. Working on Camino has been a great experience – I have learned an amazing amount and I get to work with some great people. I’m really happy with the recently released version 0.8, and am looking forward to an awesome 0.9. A big thank-you to Mike Pinkerton and the rest of the Camino dev crew.

In the rest of my spare time I read, cook vegetarian meals, listen to music, try (usually unsuccessfully) to get excercise, and hang out with my friends. I also like to travel when time and money allow for it. I have dual citizenship with Denmark and the U.S., and try to get over to Denmark as much as possible.

If you got here thanks for caring. More interesting things than this to come over the next couple weeks.

Shiny New Blog

Welcome to my shiny new blog, hosted by the wonderful folks at Mozillazine. This blog will be largely about Camino development, but occasionally it will “feature” entries about books, music, and Linux.

I had a difficult time coming up with a name for the blog, so for now it is named after my favorite Murder City Devils song.

I’ll try not to let this stagnate and die like so many others. I am starting with comments on since I’m (usually) an optimist.