Thursday, March 20, 2008

First demo, new Plugin Recorder features and a new core patch

First Demo:

So I had my first demo yesterday, which turned out pretty well I think. Looking back, it does feel like I have come a long way, and doing the demo helped cement that thought; which strangely motivated me to start working on some of PW's more exotic frontiers - namely lack of OSX support and the somewhat shifty Unix compatibility. To that end I started debugging late last night (or early this morning) and managed to find where all that plugin fun happens. Also I owe Mike Shaver (shaver on IRC) a big thank you for helping me make sense of that hairy code. Now I feel closer than ever to being able to implement PW on all platforms uniformly.

Plugin Recorder v0.2:

There have also been some developments in the new Plugin Recorder feature of PW - I have implemented a new option that allows the user to control how the data gets written to the file. Admittedly however, this feature would not be of great use to the large majority of people who might otherwise have interest in using PW's notifications feature. Because of this I will be shifting most of my attention to creating some type of a graphical notification feature using some sort of an existing graphical library. If you happen to know of a good one that would fit this task, don't hesitate to tell me by leaving a comment!

For those of you interested in seeing, I have created a screen capture video of a flash plugin and its run time being charted in real time using LiveGraph. I am working on compositing the two videos together and will post a link here to the uploaded video when its done.

New Core Patch:

In my second review from Robert (roc on IRC), I was instructed to switch some of my code from a MACRO into a helper function. This new PW v0.81 core patch addresses this issue by introducing a new file to the mix - dubbed nsNotifyPluginCall.cpp. This was a slightly more challenging implementation compared with the MACRO solution I came up with initially, but it was a great learning experience - teaching me how to include new files in a patch and enriching my knowledge of the build system in general. I have not yet received any feedback for this patch, but I'm fairly confident Robert would be satisfied with the changes, as they do seem to address most all of the points raised in both his reviews (Update: new review has been posted by Robert, currently working on updating my code). The only point this patch fails to address is the performance testing which still needs to get done. After talking to Dave (humph) and Chris (ctyler) I think I have a more concrete plan as to how to go about this testing. The first thing I would need is to locate (or more likely create) a page that contains a loop with JS calls into a flash object. Once I have that I would need to create a script that opens Firefox, launches the plugin page and closes the browser when the loop is done. Calling this script with the "time" command, both when PW is present and when it is not, should give me an indication if my code affects performance in any significant way.

Monday, March 17, 2008

New patch and new extension feature to assist with benchmarking

So for this 0.8 release I had done two things.

The first thing I did was some major surgery on the C++ code me and Brandon wrote at the end of last semester in OSD600. That code has not changed much since then and although these new changes are still largely cosmetic by nature, I do hope they bring me closer to the final product and ultimately to having the code integrated into FF.

The second thing I had done was add a new feature to the PW extension. This new feature allows you to record a plugin's run time to a file. If I'm correct, this should make benchmark testing of various plugins much easier. I still have to add some functionality for this feature as it is pretty basic right now but I was still able to hook it up with liveGraph (open source real time charting software) to produce a real time graphical representation of the plugin's run time. I'm planning on posting a video depicting this, as soon as I find a good screen video capture software. For now you will have to enjoy this lovely screen shot:

In case you are wondering, this depicts an interactive flash object running for approximately 8 minutes.

If you would like to try the new extension you must also use the new 0.8 patch, otherwise this will not work. You can download the necessary files and read the installation instructions on my wiki page.

As always, your feedback is appreciated, and if you have a plugin that you would like tested leave a comment with the plugin's name and a URL to a page containing it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

0.7 is Out

So for the 0.7 release I decided to concentrate on making the newly created extension useful and usable. I fixed some bugs and added some options to allow the user to control what should constitute a high run time they would like to be notified of. Also in the option dialogue you can now view the actual run time in real time which would be helpful to anyone installing the extension on a non debug build.

Here is a summary for all the new changes and additions:

  • Fixed notification bar bug where the user notifications would collect one on top of the other. The notification will now only appear if no other PW notifications are present.
  • Added option to turn PW on and off in the context and Tools menu.
  • Added a preference panel to the extension where a user can control various settings of PW.
    • Users may turn PW on and off.
    • Users may change the monitoring settings of PW to notify them when a certain run time has occurred, a certain number of times, within a certain period of time.
    • Users may view the current run time directly in the preference panel.
For instructions on how to install the new extension please refer to the project wiki page.