WEBVTT: All the Bugs.

So I’m happy to finally say that Nightly now has initial support for WebVTT! Woot!! To check it out follow these steps:

  1. Download Nightly.
  2. Turn the WebVTT pref on by typing ‘about:config’ into your URL bar, search for webvtt, and double clicking on the result to flip it to true.
  3. Browse to a webpage with WebVTT like this page.

Do all these things and you should see subtitles! It’s been about six months of work on and off now in school and afterwards to get this initial support working on Firefox so it’s pretty amazing to see it working.

What’s Left to Do — Everything

The thing that we have next on our plate is to fix up our current implementation so that we meet the spec requirements. We have a lot left to do to bridge that gap… In regards to this I spent Thursday last week going through the spec, figuring out the outline of what we may need to do to get our implementation up to date, and logged bugs about it. I logged a ton of them and there are still more hiding in the spec, so there really is a lot of work left to do. Hopefully, this will give us more clarity around what needs/may need to happen in implementing the spec. If it turns out we don’t need/want to implement something internally that the spec recommends we should then these bugs will at least serve as a place to discuss and document those decisions.

Just last Friday we had one of these particular incidents. The spec recommends that we use an ‘active flag’ to keep track of which cues are currently active, or showing, on the screen. The problem with this is that it would require us to iterate through the entire cue list and check which cues have the active flag set every time we want to update the rendering of the captions. This isn’t very efficient and it’s an internal detail to the spec i.e. it would never be exposed to the user so we have some leeway to implement this in ways that make sense for Gecko. What we decided on is that we will keep the main cue list of a text track sorted which will make it very easy for us to keep track of the active cues based on the current play back time. I’ve done some work for that here.

Testing

Unfortunately, the main bug for tests along with Caitlin’s new tests for making sure that we don’t display cues that have malformed time stamps still haven’t landed. We’ve had problem after problem with these. The newest of them being that they don’t pass on android for some reason. I suspect the track data isn’t being loaded properly so we keep waiting in the test for this to happen and it eventually times out.

The two problems we had before that have finally been solved.The first of them was that we were using the ‘loadedmetadata’ event to determine when the cues were loaded for a VideoElement. The problem with this was that we don’t implement the necessary steps to inform the VideoElement when the cues are ready, so ‘loadedmetadata’ is dispatched before they are actually ready. To solve this Catilin implemented the HTMLTrackElement::ReadyState, which is in the spec, but wasn’t in our implementation, and we can hook into that to determine when they are ready. The second problem was that the Query Interface implementation for HTMLTrackElement had a bug in it where we weren’t able to cast it to an nsIDOMHTMLElement. This was fine on opt builds, but for debug builds we were getting assertions that the HTMLTrackElement wasn’t a DOMNode or DOMWindow when we tried to check it’s content policy. I landed a patch that solved that just last Friday.

Hopefully, we can have these tests landed by this week… we shall see though. It depends on how quickly this Android debugging goes for me..

Time Flies

The rest of my time these last few weeks has been taken up with relatively small things that build up on each other, like commenting on bugs, reading the spec (which can take forever as it’s fairly complicated), helping out Marcus, giving feedback on patches, planning to figure out what is the best thing to do next, etc. Hopefully, we can get WebVTT in Firefox up to spec soon, we’ll have to see though.

Getting Involved

If you are interested and wanting to get involved I would really encourage you to come out and become a contributor. There really is a ton of work left to do — for the implementation of the track spec as well as for libwebvtt (the C parser). You can get in touch with the current contributors via a number of ways — Mozilla’s dev media mailing list, the #media IRC channel on irc.mozilla.org, or on the mozilla/webvtt GitHub page. Check out the WebVTT wiki page for more information on how to get involved.

Until next time.

WEBVTT: Initial Support Incoming

I have some great news. Bug 833382 and 833386, the last pieces needed to get initial support for WEBVTT into Gecko will be landing for sure next week. That being said, I hope I don’t have to eat my words. It’s looking really good though. Bug 833382 has gotten to the point where Boris (:bz) has conditionally r+’ed it and 833386 has reached the same point with Ralph (:rillian). Now all that’s left to do for 833382 is to spin up some try builds and if it’s all green, hopefully we’ll be good to go. 833386 still needs to go through review with Chris Pearce (:cpearce), but I don’t think that will take that long.

I’ve been pushing really hard on landing these two this last week and I’m ecstatic to see that we’ve gotten to the point where we will be landing them in the next few days. The WebVTTLoadListener in particular I’m very happy about as most of that code is mine and I’ve worked really hard at it. It’ll feel good to land that. In the case of 833386 most of that code is Jordan Raffoul’s (:jbraffoul) and Marcus Nsaad’s (:msaad) and the work I did on it was just to consolidate it and get it through the last couple rounds of review. Marcus had been on vacation for a while and we really wanted to get this landed ASAP as it is blocking quite a few things so I asked Marcus if I could step in and he didn’t have a problem with it (Yay Marcus!).

Tests, Tests

One of the biggest problems I was having with the tests for the HTMLTrackElement and TextTrack* DOM classes (833386) was that we wanted to test everything with the pref set to true and also with it set to false. The thinking here was that we could do it in the same file. The problem was that it wasn’t working… and we all thought that it should be possible to do so I spent about 2~3 days trying to get it to work. At first I suspected that it was due to closures in Javascript and that the ‘state’ or variables were being sustained somehow by this. There was no way to get out of being entangled in closures too as we need to use a particular function, SpecialPowers.pushPrefEnv, that takes a function argument and async calls it after the pref is set. So in order for us to test with true and then false we have to have one pushPrefEnv(true) and one pushPrefEnv(false) with the second embedded in the first so that they are called one after the other and in that way we have a definitive point where we can call SimpleTest.finish().

I finally figured out, when asking the right people (bz and Ms2ger, who woulda’ thunk?), that it’s actually impossible to test with two different prefs in one page as there is one prototype for each element on the page and the pref is only applied to it once, when the element is created for the first time. So once you’ve created an element underneath one pref on a page, that’s it, it will behave like it is preffed that way no matter what you do. After that it was pretty quick to get through the rest of the code needed. One of the really good things about this process too is that it allowed me to find a lot of points where our current implementation is not to spec. I’ve filed a few¬†bugs on those this week. I’ve also closed a few bugs that have been fixed with changes in the last while. I also spun off another bug for tests that we will need to implement when the WEBVTT pref finally gets removed.

Try Server Access

The other really awesome news is that I’ve finally got try server access! Earlier this week Daniel Holbert (:dholbert) suggessted that I should apply for it and that he would vouch for me. I probably should have applied for it sooner then this as I could have used it for sure. The process was fairly easy and I’m glad to say I now have Level 1 commit access. Woot! If your interested in applying as well check out this page that describes what you will need to do.

In accordance with this new awesomeness I also had to learn about the process of pushing to the try server. Check out this good page for more information on how to do that. You’ll also probably want to look at Mercurial Manage Queue extension as it helps with managing a bunch of patches that you can move in and out of your branches easily. This really works well with my workflow of working on git and then just applying patches on my hg repository and pushing to the try server.

Until next time.

CSS Parsing: Writing-mode

One of the things I’ve been working on since I got back from Taipei has been helping with the implementation of vertical-text in Gecko which WEBVTT needs to support. The small way in which I helped out was to implement the “writing-mode” property in the style system. Basically this is just getting the Gecko CSS parser/scanner to understand the new property and be able to process it correctly. This was fairly easy to implement due to Daniel Holbert (:dholbert) giving me an awesome walkthrough of the things that would need to change in order for this to work and also an example bug where he did a similar thing. So after half a day doing the initial code and a few rounds of review it landed in the tree and we’re now one step closer to vertical text!

If you’d like to learn more about how the style system works you can head over to the style section of the Gecko overview page which also has a lot of really good information on how Gecko works in general. I won’t duplicate information here, but I will talk about a couple of the things I found interesting in the style system.

  • CSS property values are stored in a computed form and there are translation mechanisms to go back and forth between the two.
  • The computed values of CSS properties live in structs, namely nsStyleStructs, and CSS properties that tend to be set together live in the same struct. For example — when a user sets the font-family property they are likely to also set the font-size, font-weight, etc, so storing the computed values of these properties together makes sense.
  • Single instances of nsStyleStructs, i.e. one set of related properties, are shared across many different DOM nodes as DOM nodes are more likely to share one set of CSS properties then they are to have different sets of properties. For example, the vast majority of times that a page sets font properties the entire page will share these properties. This cuts down on memory usage. These structs are immutable and when the same CSS property needs to be set differently on another set of DOM nodes a new struct will be created for the new set of properties.
  • Each nsStyleStruct has a CalcDifference() function that gives hints to Gecko about when it needs to update the rendering of the page based on the CSS properties changing, i.e. if it needs to reconstruct the frame or the text needs to be reflowed, etc.

In the future I’m hoping to help with more layout things. Hopefully, I can do the same kind of bug for the “text-orientation” CSS property, which is also needed for vertical text. I haven’t started as of yet as it’s still kind of up in the air in the spec. Right now I’ve also started work on another easy bug to reorganize the reftests in layout/reftest/form. Hopefully, I can get that done sometime next week. We’ll need reftests for WEBVTT as well so this will be a good bug where I can learn about them.

Web Rendering Week — Recap

So I’m back home now. The flight home was a bit shorter, about two hours, thankfully. Interestingly enough I feel more jet lagged now that I’m home then I was in Taiwan. I’ve heard that going east is worse then going west, so that might be the case for me right now. The rest of the rendering week, after I blogged last Tuesday, was just as awesome as the first part.

How Gecko Does X

I got to sit in on a lot more talks about “How Gecko does X” — like how the graphics engine works, how the layout system works, and my favourite in particular, how cycle collection works. Kyle Huey did an excellent job explaining how the Gecko cycle collector works. He gave us this paper as forward reading about it (it’s a little dense, but definitely worth reading). I’ll try to do a blog post in the future on what I learned/will learn about it.

David Baron and Adam Roach also gave an awesome talk on how the W3C and IETF work. WEBVTT is my first major exposure to open specifications that I’ve had and so I’ve been interested in all the hows/whats/whys of open specifications and the politics behind them.

Initial WEBVTT Support

It wasn’t all fun and games over in Taiwan though. We were also doing a lot of work. We finally got bug 833385 landed near to the end of the week. This means that we have support for all the new DOM elements that WEBVTT introduces such as: HTMLTrackElement, TextTrack, TextTrackList, TextTrackCue, and TextTrackCueList. We ran into a random inexplicable bug when we were doing full tries on the code, just before landing it. Ralph and I went to work debugging it (had to use an ASAN build) and we ended up discovering that it happened in a very rare situation where the cycle collector nulls out the HTMLMediaElement’s TextTrackList member while the HTMLMediaElement is still alive. This results in a situation where HTMLMediaElement::FireTimeUpdate() is called just before it is about to be deleted and since we weren’t doing null checks on the call to TextTrackList::Update() we would crash. After we got that fixed we were all green.

That leaves just bug 833382 left before we get initial support for WEBVTT. It was going well last week and we got an r+ from Chris Pearce. Now we just need an r+ from Boris and we should be good to go. It might take a few more rounds of review before that happens, but I’m optimistic we will be able to get this landed within a week or so.

One of the major problems I was having in Taiwan was trying to get a clean diff for 833382. The problem centered around the fact that up until now, mainly in my previous open-source class, we decided to use a git branch as a main point of ‘integration’. We’ve all been working off this branch for a while. The history of this branch has been so ridiculous and the code necessary for 833382 depends on so many other parts of the code that have been touched by, well everyone, that it was pretty much impossible for me to do a clean diff or even get a good rebase. To rebase this beast I would have had to go through 150+ commits, each having merge conflicts… So I ended up just making a clean branch off master and manually moving all the code that I needed over to the new branch and doing a diff like that. I’ll probably be staying away from these kinds of ‘integration’ branches in the future in order to ensure that my repo history can be more linear. Easier to get diffs that way.

The other thing I’ve been dealing with in the last few days is some code we landed back in February that was spotted to not be up to par by Boris. The issue is with some of the CSS selectors that we are using to style WEBVTT text — namely, we are using slow CSS selectors which is bad. This is the first that I’ve heard about some CSS selectors being slower than others, although that’s not suprising as I’m not super-super knowledgeable about CSS. Mozilla even has a page devoted to this that you can check out here. Ralph and I put together a patch yesterday to deal with this which will land today most likely. I’ll have to update 833382 to reflect those changes today as well.

CSS Parser Hacking

I also sat in on the vertical-text layout meeting as it is of particular interest to WEBVTT. WEBVTT requires the ability to have vertical-text and so far in Gecko we don’t have this. Apparently vertical-text has been kind of a thorn in the side of the layout team for a long time as it’s been particularly hard to implement. However, there is a major push now to get it done, so that’s great. In accordance with this Daniel Holbert asked me if I wanted to do some stuff for vertical-text in the CSS parser, I accepted and got my first layout bug! So I’ll be hacking around in the CSS parser and layout section of Gecko more in the future, hopefully.

WebMaker

Dave also told me the other day that he’s figured out an area of WebMaker that I can start contributing to, so I’m excited about that. I’ll be starting in about two weeks on this. I’ll most likely be splitting my time like 70/30 or something like that for WEBVTT and WebMaker. We talked briefly about it and so my understanding isn’t 100%, but what I got from our talk is that I will be implementing a kind of wrapper around an HTML5 video element that will allow Popcorn Maker to be able to work with it. From my understanding Popcorn Maker works with many different video formats/sources and so it needs a uniform interface to work with all these different videos. That’s where the wrapper comes in. It allows Popcorn Maker to work with many different video formats and sources without worrying about the particulars. However, all this might be completely wrong¬† as I might have misunderstood some things from our brief conversation… So don’t take my word for it! At any rate I’ll do another blog post about it when I get more information.

Until next time.

Mozilla Taiwan — Web Rendering Week

After a ridiculously long flight, 24 hours in total including airport time, we finally arrived in Taiwan, met up with Daniel (IRC:dholbert) and Seth (IRC:seth) and were on our way to the hotel in a cab. The plane ride was pretty good. Uneventful… just super long.

Taipei 101 building.

Taipei 101 building

It’s now Wednesday and it’s been an awesome and eventful week. I’ve been meeting tons of Mozilla devs and learning a lot. We’ve also been working hard on landing that initial support for WEBVTT I was talking about in my last blog post.

Sunday I was kind of jet lagged so I took a quick power nap and woke up for dinner which we ate at the Tapei 101 building (formerly the tallest building in the world). Dinner was like 15 courses? Pretty full after that.

After sleeping Sunday night I was pretty much jet lag free… I was kind of surprised as I’ve heard it’s really hard to deal with for some people. My first experience with it was kind of a non-issue. It’s probably because I’m used to sleeping late anyways… so really I just corrected my schedule to what’s normal for most people.

This week is pretty much a week where all the Web Rendering people can get together and work and talk face to face. There’s been a lot of meetings, some of which I’ve sat in on, that are super interesting and informative. Robert (IRC:roc) gave an excellent talk on the working culture at Mozilla which has really reiterated to me again how awesome the Mozilla working culture really is and how different it is from other companies. The talk touched on openness at Mozilla, code review, software quality, and module ownership vs. Mozilla’s managerial structure among many other things.

On the way to the office

On the way to the office

Aside from working on initial WEBVTT support I’ve also been getting reacquainted with the specification as it’s changed a lot since I last looked at it, going over all the bugs that we currently have for WEBVTT in order to get some kind of an idea of what we need to do next, and engaging in a lot of discussions about what we think the WEBVTT spec needs to improve on or change. This is great as when I get back to Toronto I’ll have a better plan of what needs to be done and how we are going to do it.

I’m also learning a ton about different areas Gecko that I didn’t know about before just by listening to and talking to others. Overall I’d say I’ve learnt way more then I could ever hope to do in the same amount of time sitting on IRC chatting with people.

One other thing I’m looking forward to is a talk on the cycle collector that Kyle (khuey) is going to be giving tomorrow. The more I try to work with and use cycle collection the more I want to understand it. Hopefully I can walk away from the talk with a better understanding of how it works.

Here are some assorted pictures of the Mozilla Taiwan office. It’s pretty brand spanking new. The office space they have us working in was actually just finished before we got here and they had to push the contractors to get it done early. It’s right across from the Bloomberg office here in Taipei as well as some other cool places. It’s literally 30 seconds from Taipei 101, so it’s right in the downtown core of the city.

Stinks that I won’t have enough time to check out many other places in Taipei as work is taking up most of my time. Taiwan isn’t the place I thought I would visit first when traveling to Asia, or even a place I would visit, but it’s definitely on my list of places to come back to.

Front sign and entrance

Front sign and entrance

Space for gathering and presntations.

Space for gathering and presntations.

Work Space

Work space that Mozilla Taiwan put aside for us.

Front desk.

Front desk.

View outside the office

View outside the office

Getting Ready For Taiwan

A month back I found out that Caitlin and I were being invited to Mozilla’s Web Rendering Week in Taiwan. Needless to say I was shocked. Ralph Giles, who has been working with us closely on WEBVTT and was/is our main contact with Mozilla for WEBVTT, kindly invited us out — thanks Ralph!!

Therefore, a lot of this week has been spent getting ready for the trip — getting ready to travel and trying to push on some final bugs to get initial support for WEBVTT into Nightly before we leave.

Getting that initial support entailed a few things, all of which haven’t happened yet… Don’t worry though! If we don’t get it finished before Taiwan we will definitely get it finished while we’re in Taiwan. We need(ed) too:

  • Get the WEBVTT library to a state where we felt comfortable tagging 0.5 and landing it in Gecko.
  • Land the DOM implementation of HTMLTrackElement and the TextTrack objects.
  • Land the parser and Gecko integration bug.

Getting WEBVTT to 0.5 was pretty easy. The only extra thing we wanted to add before 0.5 was support for the new <lang> tag. We needed a new string list pop function for that as well. I implemented that this week, which also exposed a bug that we hadn’t found yet because we didn’t have a proper test for it. The bug happened when we had an <rt> tag that was not enclosed within a <ruby> tag. In these situations the <rt> tag should not be processed. We weren’t handling it correctly and it was crashing the parser. That got landed as well yesterday. We tagged 0.5 and Caitlin is working on the bug to land it in Gecko now. WEBVTT 0.5 contains a lot of good things like sec-critical bug fixes and library usability fixes.

Ralph is very close to landing the DOM implementation. That should be happening within the next few days. The parser integration is getting close as well. I’ve been working on changing the code that converts the C node tree to a DOM tree from a recursive algorithm to an iterative one. It’s been a little tricky as we need to keep track of where we are in the C tree as we iterate over it, as well as where we are in the tree of DOM nodes that we are creating. We also need to keep track of the ‘last branching parent’ so that we’re able to tell when we need to go back up the tree. I have a solution that I put together that will hopefully be able to get an r+. I’ll have it up for review tonight on the bug.

The other major thing I did this week was give a presentation to CDOT about WEBVTT. You can check out the presentation over on my GitHub page. It was recorded so maybe you all can see it at some point when it gets posted! I’ll link at that time.

Until next time.

Jekyll and Hyde

I’ve been fiddling around lately with getting a new blog setup. I’ve asked around a lot and it seems like a super popular option for devs lately has been hosting on GitHub and using Jekyll to build your blog. Dale who worked on WEBVTT with me has a pretty sweet set up using this method.

Going with that I decided to set up my new blog this weekend. It would be easy I told myself, ever the optimist. You think I would learn after programming for as long as I have..

Installing the basic setup that you need to start writing blogs with Jekyll was super easy. Just install Ruby and RubyGems with MacPorts (if your on Mac) and install Jekyll with RubyGems.

sudo port install ruby
sudo port install rb-rubygems
sudo gem install jekyll

My real troubles began when I tried to use Jekyll’s blog import tool to migrate my WordPress posts over to my new blog. To do this you need the jekyll-import command. For the longest time I was having trouble installing this because ‘jekyll-import’ isn’t a full out gem yet (according to official documentation it is…) it’s a beta gem. This means you have to install it using the –pre option.

sudo gem install jekyll-import --pre

Without this it will tell you it “can’t find the gem ‘jekyll-import’”, but that you “may have been looking to install the gem jekyll-import’”… confusing, I know.

Great! Now it could find the gem when I went to install it. However now I had a new problem — it couldn’t find libiconv. This was weird because I had installed libiconv with MacPorts. It was only until I went to check the mkmf.log that the gem had created that I realized what had been happening (previously I had just been relying on what was being spit out on the command line, like a noob). In the log I found out that the libiconv I had wasn’t the architecture that was needed. I had x86_64, but I needed i386. Solving this was super easy. Just install the port variant of the libiconv library that is a universal library, i.e. you can use it when compiling for i386 and x86_64.

sudo port install libiconv +universal

The last problem I had with installing after this was getting the correct kind version of ruby. Jekyll-import needs ruby 2.0, I had 1.92. I had difficulty setting this up as I had multiple versions on my Mac including one that shipped with OS X. What you need to do is to install the ruby 2.0 port and then activate it.

sudo port install ruby20
sudo port select --list ruby (to get all ruby versions)
sudo port select ruby ruby20 (to select ruby 2.0)

Finally, jekyll-import installed and I tried to migrate my WordPress blog posts. I ran into one more problem though and this turned out to be a real bug. The import command was incorrectly trying to interpret the input of the command line arguments as a string instead of as a hash, which was what it needed. I filed the bug on the project’s GitHub page and someone solved it quickly! I haven’t had time to check to see if the gem has been updated yet so I don’t know if it’s completely working yet. Will post back when I find out.

So the moral of the story here is always check the log file when you encounter problems. It’s happened to me before where the log file has the correct information and the command line isn’t very helpful. Doing this will save you tons of time.

After all that I decided to set up my new blog with at least a ‘coming soon’ sign. So it’s up! You can check it out here. All that’s left is to finish my blog migration and add cool things like comment tracking and twitter feeds. I’d also like the user to be able to change the theme in real time. That would be cool. I also got to get some DNS server hosting for my brand spanking new domain http://rickeyre.ca. After that all will be good.

Until next time.