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Comment: Re: Build (Score 1) 78

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48232733) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

Fair enough. I would agree that the strategy you're describing could be an option in a software development shop where volume licensing is routine, and that given that ability it could well make sense to set up different standardised VMs for working on different projects.

Unfortunately, the average developer who might contribute to Firefox in their spare time isn't likely to have those kinds of professional-grade agreements in place for their own private projects, so I still don't think VMs are a general solution to the original problem that an onerous build system might discourage contributions from otherwise willing volunteers.

Comment: Re:Build (Score 1) 78

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48232711) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

If it were just one little thing like a path that needed to be customised, obviously it would be trivial to do so. Unfortunately, with the kind of project that has a whole custom build system and wants its exact required version of everything under the sun installed, it is rarely so simple. For example, the consequences of having two different versions of a VCS installed on your system could be horrible if there had been a change in the internal source repository representation from one to the other and you somehow wound up running the wrong one even once.

Comment: Re:Infomercial for a code coverage tool? (Score 1) 89

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48232471) Attached to: Tetris Is Hard To Test

All that code coverage does is let you focus on what has not been touched, then you'll be able to test it somehow.

The trouble is that what you really need to test isn't how much coverage of the code you've got, but how much coverage of the possible input space. More specifically, you ideally want to know that each distinct combination of inputs that will cause a different type of behaviour in the code has been considered.

Of course, this is typically an implausibly difficult problem to solve in real world projects. To see why, consider that this article proudly claimed that finding the special case of clearing 4 lines together twice in a row was easy with their tool, and it also said that there were similar combo special cases for 3, 2 or 1 lines, but it conveniently overlooked the possibility of code that ran in all four cases and took the number of lines as a parameter. Testing for any one of those four cases would count as coverage with most tools, but wouldn't guard against implicit conditionals like overflow/underflow that might be relevant to some cases but not others, nor for behaviours that arose only with certain combinations of multiple explicit conditions.

Coverage tools are useful up to a point, but not nearly the silver bullets that these kinds of article suggest.

Comment: Re:Build (Score 1) 78

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48232413) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

It's your fault for using Windows, the platform where building cross-platform software is always black magic.

Yes, silly me, using the same platform for building and testing as approximately 100% of my customers do.

Sadly, the platforms that we geeks like to use aren't particularly relevant to a discussion about software for a mainstream audience, because that mainstream audience isn't running Linux and most of it isn't running OS X either.

Comment: Re: Build (Score 1) 78

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48232405) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

I'm well aware of the advantages of using VMs for creating a controlled environment. Unfortunately, that doesn't make my previous observations about licensing any less true.

I don't know what you mean by "development only licensing options" as far as Windows is concerned. There are different rules if you use Software Assurance to sort out your licensing, but that's the only exception to the one VM/one licensed copy rule as far as I'm aware. If you know better, please cite accordingly, as I'm sure plenty of us would like to hear about it.

Comment: Re: Build (Score 2) 78

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48231603) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

Maybe, but unless you condone software piracy, that would require either buying a second Windows licence (unless you have one of the SA schemes that covers using Windows as both host and guest OS) or running something like Linux as your guest OS and figuring out the cross-compilation issues (if that's possible).

With today's software and licensing landscape, I just don't think setting up a custom VM for every project you work on is viable, nor that imposing burdens on that kind of level is the way to encourage skilled but casual/irregular contributors to help your project.

Comment: Re:Build (Score 4, Interesting) 78

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48231275) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

Unfortunately, like too many OSS projects, Mozilla seems to think it will have the only cygwin instance on my system. It therefore assumes it's OK for me to just reconfigure the entire universe according to its preferences, redefine all my paths so the MozillaBuild version of everything takes precedence over anything else that's already installed, and so on.

In reality, I have various other tools installed that bridge the Windows and Linux worlds, including things fundamental to using various version control systems and other everyday needs. As much as I'd like to support Mozilla and be willing to contribute a bit here and there, I'm not going to compromise the development machine I also use to earn my pay cheque just to get their esoteric build system to work.

Comment: Re:And so therefor it follows and I quote (Score 2) 275

by squiggleslash (#48231143) Attached to: Italian Supreme Court Bans the 'Microsoft Tax'

If I'm reading this correctly, the logic is that he can demand a refund if using Mac OS means agreeing to a contract post-sale. It has little or nothing to do with third party PCs.

So, technically, Apple could be forced to determine a refund amount to give to people who buy a Mac without wanting to run Mac OS on it given you need to agree to the EULA when you turn on the machine for the first time. But they can also sidestep it in the majority of cases by using the control they have over the Mac sales chain to force sellers of Macs (including the Apple Store itself) to have the buyer accept the EULA at the time of purchase.

Comment: Re:What is the significance here? (Score 2) 78

by hey! (#48231075) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

File it under "stuff that matters".

A lot of arguments for open source are based on things which people outside the project could in principle accomplish, but in practice seldom do. So it's reassuring at least that an experienced developer can build the two most popular browsers from scratch. It means the arguments aren't hollow. I've seen closed source projects that were purchased by companies, only to find out that getting them to build on any computer but the one it was developed on is a serious engineering challenge.

That the process of building these browsers from scratch is somewhat arcane will come as no surprise to any experienced developer. But that it's not so arcane that it's impractical to figure out is good news.

Comment: Re:Is that unreasonable? (Score 1) 242

by hey! (#48230459) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

Is it unreasonable for the average height of a population to grow by 7" in twenty generations? I should think so. But if you changed your initial conditions somewhat, maybe less unreasonable.

There are roughly 400 genes known to influence height. Imagine we have a small, isolated population that does not interbreed with other populations -- say on an isolated island. This population's average male height is, say 175 cm for men -- roughly the same as the average American. However the population contains all the alleles neede to generate individuals approacing 7' in height. We then take our population and put them under evolutionary pressure; let's say we shoot everyone who reaches the age of 16 and is below average height. It wouldn't many generations for that population's average height to become quite tall, as "tall genes" begin to predominate.

Let's change that initial condition by stipulating that there are no "tall genes" in the initial population. It's still average height, but maybe it lacks both "tall genes" and "short genes". It would be surprising if the genetic height potential for a newborn changed very quickly, because you've got to wait for a lot of "lucky" mutations and twenty generations is not that long.

Let's go back to our successful initial conditions and change something else. This time the population has all the necessary alleles to produce super-tall people, but it interbreeds extensively with a large external population which is not subject to our culling protocol. Under these conditions the population's height increase will be slow, or non-existent depending on the rate at which individuals interbreed with populations not under pressure.

The bottom line: it depends.

Air is water with holes in it.