Porting to Intel Macs

I figured I’d explain what went on in getting Firefox running on an Intel Mac.

First off, Apple employees got Firefox running on an Intel Mac for the sake of using it as a demonstration of what it takes to port a complex application. After the demo, they sent me patches.

I never tried to get Firefox running on Intel Macs by just applying their patches. For one thing, they were not worried about cross-platform patches or writing the code in such a way that we could actually land it in our tree. They just wanted it to run. Secondly, the patches were fairly out of date by the time I got them, in particular because of the huge build system improvements Mark Mentovai has been making. However, the Apple patches were extremely valuable because they did a lot of work for us and at least pointed us right to many of the problem areas instead of us having to figure out what we need to do.

Once I had the Apple patches, Mark Mentovai took care of cleaning up the ones related to the build system, David Baron took care of figuring out things related to x86 assembly code, and I cleaned up the rest of the stuff with Simon Fraser. One of the core Fink developers sent me a patch to get Fink to bootstrap on an Intel Mac, so I didn’t have to spend a bunch of time installing required packages by hand. A few days ago we had gotten far enough that in an evening I was able to sit down, check out a fresh cvs tree on the Intel Mac at my desk, apply some of the various patches sitting on bugzilla, and get a build up and running. Great teamwork. I wouldn’t have had time to get it going by now had I had to do all of this myself, so thank you to everyone who helped. Now I just need to get the patches into the tree so we can build out of cvs with no patches, and work out a few runtime bugs.

This kind of thing is really what Mozilla development has been about for me lately. I don’t sit down and write tons of code all the time – I spend a lot of time bringing together the pieces needed to accomplish something, testing them, fixing them, and doing what need to be done to get them merged into our codebase. We have an awesome community, and its great that this kind of teamwork is possible.


14 thoughts on “Porting to Intel Macs

  1. Call me crazy, but that sounds really fun what you’re doing there. It sounds like a big ol’ team. I’m looking forward to getting into this open source stuff some day soon 🙂

  2. “FireFox is pretty worthless for Mac users”

    ick. I can’t stand generalisations like that. I long for the day people realise that they mean something like “Personally, I don’t like the way X works, YMMV” when they instead say “X is worthless!!!111oneomgz” [sic] 😉

    Camino is great, but so is Firefox. Personally, I will keep using Firefox until Camino’s 1.0 development is complete, then I’ll make a comparison.

  3. “Firefox is pretty worthless for Mac Users”

    Wrong — I use it for it’s javascript debugger all the time. It’s
    a great developers tool and I’m thrilled that the Firefox people have taken the time to make it run on Mac.

    But I can’t stand the way the text input form fields look in firefox, the botton and left borders blend too much into a white background.

    So I keep using safari to browse because the forms are so much easier to read.

  4. I love that Mozilla was one of the first projects Apple brought in to the loop on this. It gives me that warm fuzzy feeling.

  5. firefox for mac is pretty bad for scrolling and handling pages w/ numerous flash ads or animations. for developing it may be useful, but FF has pretty much been unused on my system after i experimented w/ a number of sites. in general camino and safari are heads and shoulders above FF for Mac. hopefully it will be different on x86. it is a port however, and camino seems to use cocoa to it’s advantage, much like the OS X native, safari. on my PC however, FF is the way to go. 🙂

  6. Not entirely FF’s fault, as the MacOS X Flash plugin is almost laughably slow and has been for a while.

    Maybe the Adobe buyout will improve things…

  7. I love Firefox, though it seems to run faster on my PC. I use it on my Mini Mac all the time with Safari.

    Keep the good work coming. I’m seriously getting so excited about this Intel stuff coming to OS X.


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