mbrubeck is currently certified at Journeyer level.

Name: Matt Brubeck
Member since: 2001-12-24 06:03:41
Last Login: 2011-01-07 00:31:21

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Homepage: http://limpet.net/mbrubeck/


I work for Mozilla on mobile Firefox; in the past I was a contributor to Debian and to Audacity, a free sound editor and recorder. I live in Seattle, WA, USA.

You can see my home page for more information, or contact me at mbrubeck@limpet.net.


Recent blog entries by mbrubeck

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Better automated detection of Firefox performance regressions

Last spring I spent some of my spare time improving the automated script that detects regressions in Talos and other Firefox performance data. I’m finally writing up some of that work in case it’s useful or interesting to anyone else.

Talos is a system for running performance benchmarks; we use it to run a suite of benchmarks every time a change is pushed to the Firefox source repository. The Talos test harness reports these results to the graph server which stores them and can plot the recorded data to show how it changes over time.

Like most performance measurements, Talos benchmarks can be noisy. We need to use statistics to separate signal from noise. To determine whether a change to the source code caused a change in the benchmark results, an automated script takes multiple datapoints from before and after each push. It computes the average and standard deviation of the “before” datapoints and the “after” datapoints, and uses a Student’s t-test to estimate the likelihood that the datasets are significantly different. If the t-test exceeds a certain threshold, the script sends email to the author(s) of the responsible patches and to the dev-tree-management mailing list.

By nature, these statistical estimates can never be 100% certain. However, we need to make sure that they are correct as often as possible. False negatives mean that real regressions go undetected. But false positives will generate extra work, and may cause developers to ignore future regression alerts. I started inspecting graph server data and regression alerts by hand, recording and investigating any false negatives or false positives I found, and filed bugs to fix the causes of those errors.

Some of these were straightforward implementation bugs, like one where an infinite t-test score (near certain likelihood of regression) was treated as a zero score (no regression at all). Others involved tuning the number of datapoints and the threshold for sending alerts.

Some fixes required more involved changes to the analysis. For example, if one code change actually caused a regression, the pushes right before or after that change will also appear somewhat likely to be responsible for the regression (because they will also have large differences in average score between their “before” and “after” windows). If multiple pushes in a row had t-test scores over the threshold, the script used to send an alert for the first of those pushes, even if it was not the most likely culprit. Now the script blames the push with the highest t-test score, which is almost always the guilty party. This change had the biggest impact in reducing incorrect regression alerts.

After those changes, there was still one common cause of false alarms that I found. The regression analyzer compares the 12 datapoints before each push to the 12 datapoints after it. But these 12-point moving averages could change suddenly not just at the point where a regression happened, but also at an unrelated point that happens to be 12 pushes earlier or later. This caused spooky action at a distance where a regression in one push would cause a false alarm in a completely different push. To fix this, we now compute weighted averages with “triangular” weighting functions that give more weight to the point being analyzed, and fall off gradually with increasing distance from that point. This smooths out changes at the opposite ends of the moving windows.

There are still occasional errors in regression detection, but as far as I can tell most of them are caused by genuinely misleading random noise or bimodal data. If you see any problems with regression emails, please file a bug (and CC :mbrubeck) and we’ll take a look at it.

Syndicated 2013-11-10 19:53:00 from Matt Brubeck

A good time to try Firefox for Metro

“Firefox for Metro” is our project to build a new Firefox user interface designed for touch-screen devices running Windows 8. (“Metro” was Microsoft’s code name for the new, touch-friendly user interface mode in Windows 8.) I’m part of the small team working on this project.

For the past year we’ve been fairly quiet, partly because the browser has been under heavy construction and not really suitable for regular use. It started as a fork of the old Fennec (mobile Firefox) UI, plus a new port of Gecko’s widget layer to Microsoft’s WinRT API. We spent part of that time ripping out and rebuilding old Fennec features to make them work on Windows 8, and finding and fixing bugs in the new widget code. More recently we’ve been focused on reworking the touch input layer. With a ton of help from the graphics team, we replaced Fennec’s old multi-process JavaScript touch support with a new off-main-thread compositing backend for the Windows Direct3D API, and added WinRT support to the async pan/zoom module that implements touch scrolling and zooming on Firefox OS.

All this work is still underway, but in the past week we finally reached a tipping point where I’m able to use Firefox for Metro for most of my everyday browsing. There are still bugs, and we are still actively working on performance and completing the UI work, but I’m now finding very few cases where I need to switch to another browser because of a problem with Firefox for Metro. If you are using Window 8 (especially on a touch-screen PC) and are the type of brave person who uses Firefox nightly builds, this would be a great time to try Metro-style Firefox and let us know what you think!

Looking to the future, here are some of our remaining development priorities for the first release of Firefox for Metro:

  • Improve the installation and first-run experience, to help users figure out how to use the new UI and switch between “Metro” and desktop modes. (Our UX designer has user testing planned to help identify issues here and throughout the product.)

  • Fix any performance and rendering issues with scrolling and zooming, and add support for double-tap to zoom in on a specific page element.

  • Make the Metro and desktop interfaces share a profile, so they can seamlessly use the same bookmarks and other data without connecting to a Firefox Sync account.

And here are some things that I hope we can spend more time on once that work has shipped:

  • Improve the experience on pages with plugins, which currently require the user to switch to the desktop Firefox interface (bug 936907).

  • Implement a “Reader Mode,” like Firefox for Android. (A pair of students have started working on this project, and their work should also be useful for adding Reader Mode to Firefox for desktop.)

  • Add more features, and more ways to customize and tweak the Metro UI.

If you want to contribute to any of this work, please check out our developer documentation and come chat with us in #windev on irc.mozilla.org or on our project mailing list!

Syndicated 2013-11-10 17:20:00 from Matt Brubeck

Congratulating the IE10 team

Back when Firefox 2 was released (six years ago this week!), the Internet Explorer team started a friendly tradition of sending Mozilla a cake as congratulations. This continued for Firefox 3 and Firefox 4. After Firefox switched from major releases once or twice a year to incremental updates every six weeks, they sent us cupcakes for the next few updates instead. :)

Since IE10 for Windows 8 is shipping today, I thought it would be fun to revive the tradition by delivering a cake to congratulate the IE team. Here’s the cake right after I picked it up from Baked Custom Cakes, with the Firefox logo in painted fondant:

Fellow Mozilla developer Eitan Isaacson drove with my wife Sarah and me to Microsoft Building 50 in Redmond, where program manager Jacob Rossi helped us deliver the cake to a group of IE team members:

The IE team posted their thanks through their official Twitter account. (As you can see from their picture, the bottom border of the cake got sligthly restyled in transit, but it still looks quite edible.) Less than 30 minutes later, Microsoftie Michael Bolan tweeted that cake was already gone. (I hear that the sugary Firefox logo was also eaten shortly afterward.)

So congratulations to the Internet Explorer team on your latest release, and we hope you enjoyed the cake!

Syndicated 2012-10-26 21:38:00 from Matt Brubeck

Metro Firefox without Windows 8

A few weeks ago I started working on the Firefox “Metro UI” project, for Windows 8’s Metro (or Modern) touch-screen environment. While we’re still working on getting our first preview builds ready for Windows 8 users to try out, you can already check out the current source code from the elm branch and build it yourself if you want to get involved and help us fix some bugs.

What you might not know is that you can run “Metro” Firefox even if you don’t have Windows 8. It’s been possible for a while to build and run on older versions of Windows using the -metrodesktop flag. Today I landed a patch to make this work on other platforms too. To build the latest elm source code on Linux or Mac OS X, follow these instructions:

  1. Clone the elm repo: hg clone http://hg.mozilla.org/projects/elm/
    (If you have already cloned mozilla-central or some other repo that shares with it, there’s a faster way to do this.)

  2. Create a .mozconfig file with ac_add_options --enable-metro

  3. Build Firefox as you normally would.

  4. From your objdir, run dist/bin/firefox -metrodesktop (Linux)
    or dist/Nightly.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox -metrodesktop (Mac)

  5. You can visit about:config and enable metro.debug.treatmouseastouch (then restart the browser) to simulate touch interaction with the mouse. Right-click to simulate the Windows 8 edge-swipe gesture, which displays the toolbars.

This is still experimental and mostly untested. Elm might accidentally break on non-Windows platforms from time to time (because of course we are doing all our main development and testing on Windows). While it’s not a perfect replacement for running in the real Windows 8 environment, I hope this is a useful option for adventurous Firefox contributors who want to experiment with the Metro code but don’t have convenient access to Windows 8.

Syndicated 2012-09-20 00:42:00 from Matt Brubeck

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