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Comment: Re:This was no AP. (Score 2) 326

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48250017) Attached to: LAX To London Flight Delayed Over "Al-Quida" Wi-Fi Name

Delaying a flight over this shows how much technical ineptitude is there.

It also shows, however unfortunately, the futility of trying to protect everyone against everything all the time. Who needs to blow themselves up, or even risk the explicit criminal sanctions you'd face for making a bomb threat, when you can just co-opt some unwitting and otherwise innocent traveller's personal device somewhere outside a travel hub or other likely target for an attack?

If our threshold for fear has become so low that some kid's not-so-funny practical joke can now result in several hours of delays to long distance transportation, then apparently in a very literal sense the terrorists have already succeeded. Next you'll be telling me we spend time and money prosecuting angry travellers over tweets sent in frustration when airports are closed.

Comment: Re: Build (Score 1) 106

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48236289) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

Yes, in a sense I am too lazy to compile it. I have several businesses to run, family commitments, and so on. That leaves limited time for helping with volunteer efforts, and I choose to spend it helping projects where I can make what seems like the most valuable contribution in that time.

Sometimes that includes doing things for FOSS projects, but right now Mozilla's projects are not among them. The point is that they might have been if they had a better build process on Windows and/or better documentation about that process. While I probably have been relatively busy in recent years, somehow I doubt I'm the only potential contributor who has been deterred by the barriers to getting started. Writing illiterate, profanity-laden posts at me on Slashdot isn't going to help anyone, but improving the situation I've highlighted might.

Comment: Re:Infomercial for a code coverage tool? (Score 1) 169

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48234167) Attached to: Tetris Is Hard To Test

FWIW, I agree with almost everything you wrote. I have nothing against coverage tools, and I use them occasionally myself. I just think it's important to have a realistic view of the benefits you do and don't receive.

The only thing I disagree with is your final paragraph, where you talk about safety-critical code. If you really were working on systems where a failure would have catastrophic consequences, I would hope you had a QA process a lot more sophisticated than running a test suite and this kind of coverage tool to check for problems! This is precisely because coverage tools don't really provide solid evidence about what has been tested. Like an automated unit test suite, they only provide a rough guide, which can certainly be useful but is far from a robust guarantee of anything.

I would therefore argue that these tools are much more applicable, in the real world, to projects that are not safety critical. Most projects can't accept the overheads that are reasonable for those more demanding environments, but the developers might still want to do the best they can under the more usual time pressures and resource constraints for commercial or FOSS projects.

Comment: Re:Build (Score 1) 106

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48234097) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

No doubt it is possible set it all up and get it working eventually. I've worked on projects with much more complicated set-ups than what you describe that build on a lot more different platforms than Firefox, and once you've figured out the details things generally run OK.

That said, there are quite a few statements even on the page you linked to (which is also the one I'd read last time I looked into this) that suggest requirements and dependencies beyond a single PATH update. An obvious example is that prohibiting spaces in the path to the source directory means some people won't be able to work in the standard user data directory on their Windows system, and installing outside that directory might mean more work to configure back-ups, anti-virus (not scanning build outputs to avoid killing performance), and so on.

The problem here is not what is possible, just the time and risk required to get there. This isn't helped IMHO by the lack of transparency in Mozilla's documentation for contributors; I'm all for having a systematic, one-stop tool like MozillaBuild to automate the process, but you still have to explain what that process is so the developer knows what MozillaBuild is going to do to their system.

If someone wants to become a regular contributor and doesn't have a lot of other constraints on their development PC, all of this might not be a big deal, but if every OSS project came with the same barrier to entry, the OSS world would fall apart tomorrow.

Comment: Re: Build (Score 2) 106

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) 106

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 2) 169

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 2) 106

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) 106

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 3, Interesting) 106

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) 106

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:Great (Score 1) 163

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48220089) Attached to: British Army Looking For Gamers For Their Smart-Tanks

Estimates of civilian casualties from the 2003 Iraq War and its aftermath vary significantly, but many are of the same order of magnitude as the deaths caused at Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the nuclear weapons were used.

I'm not sure modern warfare is as good at avoiding collateral damage as you seem to be suggesting. The causes of those civilian deaths might not be the same mechanically, but it's no less a tragedy if an innocent person dies as a side effect of some military action rather than directly by taking a bullet.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350