Monday, 26 March 2012

NetSurf Developer Workshop

NetSurf DevelopersOver the weekend we held the NetSurf developer workshop. The event was kindly hosted by Collabora at their Cambridge offices. The provided facilities were agreed to be excellent and contributed to the success of the event.

Five developers managed to attend from around the UK John-Mark Bell, Vincent Sanders, Michael Drake, Daniel Silverstone and Rob Kendrick. In addition James Shaw, one of the project founders, made a special appearance on Saturday.

Starting from Friday afternoon we each put in over 25 hours of actual useful work and made almost 170 commits changing over 350 files, added 10,000 new lines of code and altered another 18,000.

The main aim of the event was to make the transition from using libxml2 to our own libdom library for the browser DOM tree. This was done to improve the browsers performance and size when manipulating the DOM but also gives us the ability to extend the browsers features to include dynamic rendering and Javascript

We also took the opportunity to discuss and plan other issues including:
  • User interface message handling and translation.
  • User preference handling.
  • Toolchain support.
  • Disc caching.
  • Javascript binding
  • Electronic book content handler.
Rob tackled the first parts of the messages conversion from numerous separate files into a single easy to handle file which will in future allow for easier translation and reduce message proliferation.

We made decisions on the ongoing rework of user preference handling which will be implemented in future.

The decision on the toolchain was slightly changed to be that any core or library code (non frontend/toolkit specific parts) are required to conform to the C99 standard. Frontends are permitted to recommend and use whatever tools their maintainer selects but they cannot enforce those restrictions on core code. This issue is principly because the BeOS maintainer is compiling NetSurf with g++ 2.95 which is missing several important language features we wish to use.

Developers at workThe recurring issue of disc caching was raised again and we have come up with what we hope is a reasonably elegant solution to be implemented over the forthcoming months.

Now there is a suitable DOM to bind against, the existing Javascript engine support will be properly integrated and should result in basic script support before the 3.0 release. This support will remain a build time option so NetSurf can continue to be used on platforms where the interpreter is too resource intensive to be used.

A short discussion about the possibility of integrating a basic page based content handler for epub and mobi type documents was discussed and while the idea was well received no decisions on implementation were made.

Overall the event was a resounding success and we are left with only a small handful of regressions which appear straightforward to solve. We also have a clear set of decisions on what we need to do to improve the browser.

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