Firefox by the (wall-clock) numbers

Mozilla released Firefox on Tuesday 18-sep-2007, at 3pm PST. For background on this security firedrill, see here.

This was our first production run using the new automation, so I thought the following wall-clock numbers might be interesting. From “initial report” to “fix available to public” was 6.25 day wall-clock time. Of that, Build&Release took just under 2 days (45 hours).

09:00 Wed: bug reported 9am (or 8.30am?). Dev start working on fix
13:40 Fri: fix landed on 1.8 branch
14:30 Fri: build started
18:30 Fri: linux builds handed to QA
22:30 Fri: mac builds handed to QA
22:30 Fri: win32 unsigned builds handed to QA
11:58 Sat: win32 signed builds handed to QA (1st time)
01:30 Sun: win32 signed builds handed to QA (2nd time, rebuilt on old
12:10 Sun: update snippets pushed to beta update channel
15:00 Tue: update snippets pushed to live update channel; announced

Full disclaimer, while this fast turnaround kept Mike Shaver happy, it was not yet a “human free” release. We hit 4 issues, which required manual intervention:

1) last minute question about possible CVS-cross-branch tagging problem in automation scripts. Problem unconfirmed, but decided to manually tag anyway, just to be safe. Problem still unconfirmed, but test case now designed to clarify for future releases (see bug#396290)

2) l10n builds on win32 had the wrong cr-lf settings in README, EULA. This root cause of this was an internal communications snafu within the Build&Release group. Historically, we build l10n win32 on different machines to win32 en-US machines. As part of automation rollout, some folks thought the l10n win32 builds were now being done on same machines as en-US for 2005+2006, some thought l10n win32 was still being built on different machines. Because these different machines have different cygwin cr-lf settings, this problem first surfaced as a problem where text files like README, EULA had the wrong cr-lf settings. It was caught by a recently added test. Rather the debug/fix the problem, we just built on the old l10n machine and shipped that for win32. This miscommunication has been clarified. Still checking if there’s anything else here we missed.

3) signing still done manually. This is known and expected. Note: as the step-before-signing finished late at night, the automation waited overnight until human woke up and did the signing the next morning.

4) manually copying bits from stage to build-console after each step completed. This was a known issue that we expected to have fixed for the scheduled 2007 release, but was not yet in place when this Firefox2.0.0.7 firedrill started. After each step finished, we had to manually copy files between “stage” and “build-console”, so that the next step would find the files it was expecting. Was intrusive and annoying. On track to be completed before end sept. (see bug#396438)

ps: After the release, we’ve heard a few questions about the new GPG key. The previous key had expired sept2006, and was still being used, until this new key was available in August2007. We used the new key in Firefox3a7, and also in Firefox2007. After the Firefox2007 release, some questions about how to confirm the new public signing key on key servers. We’ve reviewed the keys on key servers, and they seem ok, but are still investigating. (see bug#377781).

A taste of Burning Man 2007

Burning Man 2007 happened in the Nevada desert again this year. While a bunch of my friends, and some work colleagues did go, I ended up not going this year. Instead I stayed at home, working, and living vicariously through video snippets and the occasional news headline. It was interesting to note how easy it is to find street parking, and also commute to work, while Burning Man is going on… and how for days after it ends, the city is packed with absolutely *filthy* cars!

In the news, Arsonist burns The Man early; organisers rebuild on-the-scene

For mechanical inventiveness, there’s a trebuchet for launching burning pianos, Dance Dance Immolation, Spider-walking Transporter, Synchronized flame throwers, and the DMV showing off some art cars.

For large scale, there’s the Oil Derrick being installed, being enjoyed up close, being burnt up close and being burnt from 1 mile away.

…and of course, for spiritual, there is The Last Temple.


BBC TopGear in a Bugatti Veyron

The folks in BBC TopGear do it again. Bugatti claims the Veyron is “the fastest production car in the world”. The basic stats of the car:

  • fastest car in production in the world
  • 1,001 horsepower
  • 8.0L w16 engine (they stuck two v8 engines together!)
  • 4 turbochargers
  • top speed 253mph / 407kph
  • and 10 radiators, to stop it all overheating!
  • more specs on wikipedia

So, of course, the folks from TopGear ask the real question: Does it actually go up to that theoretical top speed? To find the answer, watch this! (its ~9mins video clip). Amazing well put together snippet, good camera work, music. Even if you dont care too much about cars, you should watch this because of the production quality. And, well, if you’re interested in cars, its even better! Just dont try this at home!

UPDATE:TopGear and YouTube are playing “whack-a-mole”, taking down different copies of this video clip, but its being reposted by fans as fast as they take them down. Search for “Top Gear Bugatti Veyron”. Its 7min40sec long and starts with a black Veyron on a rainy road with the voiceover saying “Vlad the Impaler is back”! Dont look at any shorter video, as it will ruin the ending!

UPDATE: BBC’s TopGear stopped playing “whack-a-mole” and now have, as well as an official TopGear channel on, each with great clips from various shows.

(john; 14nov2009)

Le Dome du Marais, Paris

Even though its mentioned in the latest lonely planet, its an upmarket place, with good food and wine. Make sure to reserve a table, even if you just call ahead that same day. They have enough tourists & non-locals come through that they speak reasonable english. Ask for a table in the dome room, against the wall. Nice scenery and the people watching can be good too.
Like all french restaurants that care about their cooking, they do “extra mini courses” between the official 3 courses on the menu, so when you add up the little snack courses before and between the other courses, it turns into a 6-7 course meal. All very very tasty, and very filling! They have a full time wine somalier who is quite a personality, loves his job, and is good at it. Unless you *really* know what you are doing with wines, just tell him what you do/dont like about wine, and how much you’re willing to spend, enjoy the interaction and follow his advice.
While the food and wine was all good, the desert left me speechless. Something orange-and-lemon, as best as my french understanding could take me. At first glance, it looked like a tumbler glass containing orange segments in foamy orange juice, and a small baked cake with a small dollop of cream on top. However, it turned out to be *way* better then that.

The orange foam had the same consistency you would get by pouring Coke into a glass too quickly… except the foam was orange coloured, not Coke-light-brown. And the instead of the foam collapsing down, like Coke foam does, this foam remained in unchanged shape all the time. If you closed your eyes, and moved a spoon through it, the spoon would meet *no* resisitance and you wouldnt be able to tell when you were moving the spoon through foam or not. It was that light! Then I noticed that the orange segments were not just any old broken chunks of orange. Instead, they were all perfectly formed complete segments, each individually peeled of their skin. And the orange juice was mixed with some sort of orange liquor. The dolop of cream on the side cake also had some orange zest added, so had a mild orange flavour to it. The cake was some variation of a lemon pound cake, and it was sitting in a little white baking dish, and the cake sitting in a few mm of lemon liquor. The transition from light orange foam, to stronger orange to strongest orange juice, to light orange cream, to light lemon cake, to stronger lemon liquor…. was all just awesome. Dont know how else to describe it.

Even now, 2 months later, I still think about that desert… and need to go back again!

Le Dome du Marais
53 bis, rue des Francs Bourgeois
75004 Paris
ph 01-42 74 54 17
open tues-sat

Paris Car Culture

Obviously local environment, and local culture, influence what people look for in car design and car usage. After living in California for 9+ years now, and then arriving in Paris for a couple of weeks, I found the car culture differences between Californian cars and Parisian cars quite amazing. More then I realized from previous trips.

  1. Tiny streets, tiny parking spaces. By tiny, I mean that villages in West of Ireland have bigger roads. Simply fitting your car down these narrow one-way streets, with parked cars lining each side of the road is a challenge in a small car. VW Golf counts as big. Very common here are Smart Cars, small, fast, practical city cars, and the fact that there are some made in France is probably helping too.
  2. Expensive petrol/gasoline – hence an interest in hybrids. So what new, thats all the rage in California too, right? Well, then I spotted this. Turns out that electric cars have reserved spaces throughout Paris, and the parking meter includes a recharging plug for the car!

How to reinstall the Palm desktop and still access pre-existing data

I always organize my applications separately from my data files.

  • All applications go under their default install location (ie: “C:\Program Files”).
  • All data files go under one separate tree (ie: “D:\John”). This allows me to easily migrate from one computer to another, do backups, replace disks, all without worrying if I missed any of my files. So far, so good.

Recently, I had to re-image the C drive on my laptop, and re-install WinXP, which in turn meant reinstalling all the applications. Tedious, but not a worry because all my data was safe on the other D partition, and I had all the original CDs.

For the most part, that worked perfectly. The only gotcha was while re-installing the Palm Desktop (v4.2).

I was concerned that the installer would overwrite my preserved data directory, so I told the installer to use the default user-data directory (ie: put user data under “C:\My Documents and Settings”). Once the installation was complete, I started the Desktop application, went to Tools->Options dialog box, to the “General” tab and tried to change the “Data Directory” to point to my existing “D:\John\PalmPilot” directory. Hitting “OK” failed out saying the directory “cannot be used to store your data because it is being used by another user”. Huh?

Turns out the solution is to:

  1. Shutdown the Palm Desktop application, and close the HotSync task icon in the windows taskbar notification area.
  2. Start “Regedit” (by doing Start->Run, enter “regedit” and click “OK”)
  3. In Regedit, search for the key “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\U.S. Robotics\Pilot Desktop\Core\Path”, and change the data value of this to be the location of your existing data. In my case, I changed the data value to be “D:\John\PalmPilot”.
  4. Save and Exit Regedit
  5. Start Palm Desktop and confirm that it now automatically opens up the data found in D:\John.
  6. Restart hotsync, palm desktop, and verify that you see your data in the Palm Desktop application
  7. Hotsync and verify that changes show up on both your PC and your Palm!
  8. Done!

(Credits: I originally stumbled across this registry hack in a post I can no longer find but I will update this blog if I find it, because they saved my neck. Subsequent searching I also found Both postings were framed around setting up shared access to Palm Pilot calendars. The same registry hack worked for my problem, so I’m posting them here, in case it helps others in the same situation… and so I can find it easily if I need it again in future!)

Aikido in Paris

Went to a lunchtime class taught by Gerard Blaize, 7th dan. There were just over 25 people training, of which only about 5 including myself were not in hakamas! For me, that felt like a large class, especially for a lunchtime. The very very advanced level of training felt a little daunting at first, especially as a complete new firstime visitor to the dojo. However, everyone was relaxed, friendly, welcoming, and the training was inspiring and educational. Despite the language barrier, it was really wonderful. All in all, quite exhilarating.
They have classes 5 days a week, including various lunchtimes, see their website for details. Additional useful info:

Nearest Metro stop is Gare de l’Est

Phone: or

Fresh Croissants…

So, if life in Paris is all about cafes and bakeries, why am I having breakfast like I was still at home? So…

Fell out of bed this morning, and still half asleep, wandered down the street to the local boulangerie… While standing in line, trying to decide between all the yummy pastries and breads, I noticed lots of people would buy a baguette, and they all did the exact same thing. They’d be quickly handed a narrow paper bag with about 2 ft of baguette sticking out the top, pay, put change in pocket, turn to leave and then *chomp* take a bite out of the top. Now happily chomping, they would march through the crowd to the sidewalk and out to continue their commute, proudly carrying their baguette in front of them. While I was there, not one baguette left the store intact, and they sold a *lot* of baguettes. In London, the sterotype is bowler hats and umbrellas. In the US, the stereotype is jeans and a latte-in-a-paper-cup. Looks like in Paris, it should be baguettes-with-a-bite-out-the-top?!?!

Ambled back to the apartment, through crowds of people carrying baguettes-with-a-bite-out-the-top, to have orange juice, some fresh strong coffee, fresh croissants and pain au chocolat. mmmm…. Great start to the day!

Just found a list of boulangeries to try out: This could take a while!!

Sidewalk cafe, watching commuter traffic in Paris

Commuting back from the office on a brisk winter Monday evening, as we were coming out of the metro, I saw a sign “Commuter special: Belgian beer + plate of chips 5euro”. Interesting retro designed cafe, right there at the very top of the metro steps. How could we resist? Perfect place to sit while we decided what to do for dinner. Two minutes later, we are sitting at an inside table in the cafe, looking out the window at the traffic, sipping our beer, waiting for the fries and contemplating the day at the office.

Looking out the window, I realized that the cafe was on the corner of a couple of streets, with evening rush hour traffic in full swing just the other side of the metro steps. It was all behind us as we came up the metro steps, so I could only see the surface roads now for the first time. Slowly, I realized it was a 7 road intersection. And a complete free-for-all.

There were no lights, no stop signs, no yield signs, no roundabout in the middle, no lines in the road. Just a large empty space where 7 roads meet. So, for example, cars zipping through from R.duTurbigo to R.Beaubourg had to duck-and-weave around cars going from R.Reaumur to R.Bailly. (Click on street view for better perspective). It was all done at a fast pace, with no indicators, no horns, no squealing brakes, and amazingly enough, no accidents! It just looked like a busy smooth flowing intersection, until you looked in detail and realised that there was no stop-and-go in the flow because there were no lights controlling any cars entering the arena. All of the 7 roads seemed to have similarly large volumes of traffic, adding to the whirling dance-of-hubris feel.

In a nod to practical reality, at least the city planners explicitly did not paint any road markings in the center of the intersection. At first, I thought that added to the hazard, but I later changed my mind. Beats me what way they could have painted lines, anyway, even if they wanted to. Honestly, I now think that if they had painted lines in the intersection, that would give people a false sense of security, some sense of “what is right, what is wrong”. Instead, by leaving it completely unmarked, all drivers were equally on edge, equally unsure of his right-of-way status, which is probably the best you could hope for. Each road connecting in/out of the intersection was painted correctly, but when they reached the edge of the intersection, the road-line-painters just stopped.

Once the initial surprise wore off, and I stopped wincing at some of the near misses, I noticed some interesting details:

  • There was a traffic island on the NorthEast corner, so cars going from R.duTurbigo to R.Reaumur had to do a U-turn around the island, all in the middle of the arena. It wasn’t painted, had no signs/bollards, so was easy to miss in all the excitement, yet no-one hit it.
  • There were pedestrian crossings all over the place. Mostly, they were near the edge of the arena, and conveniently blocked from sight by advertising billboards on the sidewalk. This meant that a driving zipping through the intersection had to also be prepared to stop suddenly at the zebra crossing if they turned the corner and found a pedestrian right in front of them. And the car behind had to be prepared for that also!
  • Occasionally, a car would weave through the arena to reach its chosen exit road – only to realize that it was the wrong exit road! At that point, they just stopped and reversed back into the arena, until they had a clear shot at the correct exit road. They would then swing forward to the correct exit road and leave. This happened 6+ times while I watched, and no-one even honked at that.

Despite all the duck-and-weave driving, there were no accidents over the course of the beer-and-chips. Not sure what it says about the standard of driving in Paris, the same situation in Ireland or the US would have been a complete demolition derby disaster. If that cafe ever setup a streaming webcam, it would be well worth watching! I left the cafe, carefully looked both ways before hurrying across the zebra crossing, and vowed to never drive in Paris!