Regressions, ah, regressions

There are few things I really hate. One of them is regressions. Regressions are bad because they usually take away things we are used to rely on, and leave us with the idea that perhaps the technical improvements didn’t really improve our lifes as a user, despite putting less burden on the developers. Software is made for users, after all.

As part of my work on WebKitGTK+, I always keep an eye on regressions, both from previous WebKitGTK+ releases, and those imposed on embedding applications on their migration away from Gecko, and try to focus some of my efforts into lowering their numbers, whenever I can.

In recent times I have worked on removing a few very user-visible regressions in Epiphany, which I see as the most demanding WebKitGTK+ user in GNOME, such as save page not working, missing
favicon support, failing to
perform server-pushed downloads (such as GMail attachments), and not being able to view source. An example of a regression from a previous version of WebKit also exists: in 1.1.17 we started advertising more than we should as supported by the HTML5 media player, causing download to be almost completely broken.

All of these are working if you are using WebKit and Epiphany from trunk/master, so should be on the next development versions of WebKitGTK+ and Epiphany. Other people have also fixed many other regressions; a few examples: Xan has reimplemented the Epiphany customization of the context menu, Frederic Peters provided a work-around for mailto: links while we don’t have SoupURILoader yet, and Joanmarie Diggs keeps rocking on the accessibility front!

If you find regressions, keep them coming! If you have a patch, even better! =)

Next week WebKitGTK+ team gets together to work furiously on improving WebKitGTK+ in a hackfest sponsored by Collabora, and Igalia, and hosted/organized by Igalia. While there I should also get my hands on one of these. Can’t wait! =)

You know what, this clutter thing is cool

One of my awesome colleagues from Collabora, Danielle Madeley, has done various improvements to the clutter-gtk project started by the also awesome Alexander Larsson. Reading her blog I was so impressed with this post, that I decided to spend some free time to try out some crazy, experimental stuff using that.

What I did was create a very simple GTK+ widget that derives from GtkClutterEmbed, and works as a somewhat replacement for GtkNotebook, called, proving how bad I am at naming things, GkOverview. Like I said, it’s not really stable or well-done, it doesn’t even free its resources (in fact, it doesn’t even have implementations for finalize and dispose!), it’s really just an experiment.

What GkOverview does is provide a simple API for you to append widgets into it, and it is able to show you one of those widgets, or an overview of all of them. This is quite simple, and yet very powerful. With the help of my significant other, I have got a layout of the widgets in the overview that I really like.

Of course I used WebKitGTK+ to try it out, what else? And since I had effectivelly, at least in my head, created a fairly convincible replacement for GtkNotebook functionality, I decided a second challenge I could take on myself was to make my preferred browser, Epiphany, use that instead of its EphyNotebook widget. Epiphany being quite well-designed, replacing EphyNotebook was quite a breeze, and here’s the result!

Before I go on, let me repeat it: this is all crappy, experimental, curiosity-induced work. It may be that in the future we can use stuff like this to make, say, improving the back/forward mechanism, history navigation, as other browsers do, replacing tabs with a better UI mechanism, and whatnot.

There’s a somewhat big “video”, for your pleasure (I was finally able to create a nice video, using Byzanz =)).

WebKitGTK+ 1.1.14 is here!

1.1.14 is definitely worth blogging about. While I was updating the gtk-doc stuff to update the documentation that is available in our website I was thinking that this is probably the release with the largest amount of API addition I have seen in my time as a contributor to the project! Before I start talking about the new APIs, though, let me talk of something that went under the hood: Xan has patched WebKitGTK+ to override libsoup’s connection limits, so that our limits match those of other modern browsers – we now allow up to 60 connections total, and 6 per host. People have been reporting load performance improvements for some sites!

We have an initial set of APIs to deal with the data that was loaded to render the page, represented by the new DataSource object. This allows you to peek at the source of the HTML that was rendered, for instance. In the near future we will have ways of getting the data and other information for each resource that is downloaded to compose the page. Jan Alonzo has spent quite some time studying, implementing and perfecting this API, with some help from me and Xan.

One initial piece of the larger API to control resource loading is already there, as well. The WebView will use the new resource-request-starting signal to let you know that a request is about to be sent, and allow you to modify headers, or even the URI that is going to be fetched. For some, the greatest news here is that this allows a basic implementation of AD blocking, which is now supported in Epiphany with the WebKit backend, as of version 2.27.92, released today! This is something I have been looking at in my Collabora time for some time now, and working along with Xan and Jan, we finally seem to have figure out the API interactions correctly. There’s more to come regarding resource loading tracking, in the near future.

That would already be a lot, from my point of view, but there’s a whole lot more. A new contributor, Martin Robinson, has arrived proposing new API pieces for an important HTML5 tool: web databases, which brings with it the concept of SecurityOrigin. Jan has exposed API to put the WebView in “view source” mode, Xan has given us undo/redo support for editable content, and Zan Dobersek has done some overall improvement of our HTML5 media player.

That’s a lot of change for a release, which also goes to show we still have quite a gap to fill, but we are being able to move forward and fill them quite quickly. If you want to help out, pick something in your area of interest, and send us patches!

My first patch to WebKitGTK+ committed!

Well, not really my first patch. But the first thing I tried to mess with when I first started looking at WebKitGTK+ was the WebKitNetworkRequest object, because I was fancing the idea of writing stuff such as HTTP transactions monitoring, and things like that. So I wrote a big patch which exposed the internal WebCore object (ResourceRequest) fully through our own object. That was back in early 2008. We have come a long way since, and through all these months I got a broader perception of what kind of APIs we need, and how WebCore works. We also decided on going soup-only, which had a huge impact on what the final patch actually looks like.

The patch which finally got committed this week is, how can I put it, VERY different from what I had originally written. You can take a look at the long discussions about it in the bug report I used to track progress. I think I should point out that Marco Barisione and Christian Dywan were crucial in helping me get going with my contribution to WebKit at that time.

What this change gives us is basically the fact that a WebKitNetworkRequest now carries more than just the URI for the request (it actually carries with it a reference to the SoupMessage that will be used later in the request processing, which we are planning to expose in the near future), meaning that when WebKit API gives you a request, and you use it to cause a new load (for, say, opening in a new tab), you still get all the headers that were supposed to go with the request, so you don’t lose things such as, for instance, Referer. So, now, after more than 5 years, the bug that complained that Epiphany did not set Referer (and Galeon before that) for new tabs is finally closed.

By the way, this problem has been fixed for Mozilla’s browser back in 2002, but the embedding API is still buggy up to now. There is still hope, since there’s an attached patch that fixes the issue to be reviewed, and landed. If anyone is reading, it might be a good oportunity to get this fixed in there as well, so that users of applications that use Gecko’s embedding API can also benefit!

Epiphany/WebKitGTK+ in Debian unstable

I have prepared an epiphany-webkit source package some time ago, and it has finally got out of NEW, thanks to the work Ganeff did this weekend on processing the queue =).

The good thing about those packages is I have patched them heavily to allow for easy parallel installation with Epiphany/Gecko, so you don’t need to give up your current browser to experiment and test Epiphany with the WebKitGTK+ backend. The gconf tree used for this package is /apps/epiphany-webkit, separate from the normal /apps/epiphany, for extra safety, but notice that your ~/.gnome2/epiphany will be shared between the Gecko and WebKit versions, even though the files used by each of them are different most of the time.

Go ahead and install the epiphany-webkit package, and have fun. Notice that if you have an already running session of Epiphany/Gecko, running epiphany-webkit will not be enough to launch Epiphany/Webkit, since Epiphany will just request that a new window be opened through D-Bus. The easiest way to test, if you just want a quick peek, is to run epiphany-webkit -p; this will run a ‘private’ instance of Epiphany/WebKit, which doesn’t touch your history, bookmarks, and passwords.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to make Epiphany/WebKit your default Epiphany you can do so using the following command, and selecting epiphany-webkit:

# update-alternatives --config epiphany-browser

Epiphany/WebKit advancing

Since late 2008 WebKit/GTK+ has been advancing in a better pace than earlier that year. Patches are being reviewed and committed actively, mostly by Holger Freyther (zecke). This last month, among other goodies such as better keyword searching for the WooHoo bar in Epiphany and enabling WebKit’s Soup backend to upload files, I have been working on getting download support into WebKit/GTK+ so that we can use that API in Epiphany.

Most of the heavy work was done by Marco Barisione and Pierre-Luc Beaudoin for Collabora early last year. I brought the patch up-to-date and modified it with input from various people into something simpler and handling some more use cases. Tonight I finally reached a milestone, being able to download a Debian ISO with Epiphany/WebKit:

Epiphany WebKit downloading

This is work in progress. There are many rough edges to sharpen, still, but this work should be ready for merging very soon. If you want to help take a look at the WebKit bug report we are using to track this work, and the corresponding Epiphany bug report.

Anyway, I’ve been using both Epiphany and WebKit/GTK+ from trunk for about a month now, and the number of things I am missing is going down quickly. Come help us test and get a regressionless Epiphany with WebKit/GTK+ for GNOME 2.28!