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Monday, January 20, 2003

Giving back...

Today I saw this article, [Is Chimera Dead?], talking about a post on [Mike Pinkerton's blog](Mike is one of the Chimera developers), wondering wether Chimera really has any life left in it. One of the points brought up is that there are only two people actively contributing to Chimera right now.

The subject of Chimera development is one I've been meaning to write about for a few weeks now, ever since seeing this article, [Mozilla hurt by Apple blast], talking about how some people affiliate with the Mozilla project were upset that Apple chose the KHTML rendering engine over Mozilla's Gecko for Safari. Now, the point that some of the Apple developers have made is that KHTML was smaller and easier to work with then Gecko (thought Gecko isn't mentioned by name):
"Not only were they the basis of an excellent, modern and standards-compliant Web browser, they were also less than 140,000 lines of code. The size of your code and ease of development within that code made it a better choice for us than other open-source projects."

Now, I can completely understand Apple's position. Especially after trying a number of times to work with something Gecko-based, including Chimera. Beleive me, I use Chimera constantly, and I would like nothing more than to give back to the project and improve on what is the best browser out there for MacOS X. But so far, I haven't been able to.
Why? Let's look at what it takes to start working on the Chimera source (or any part of Mozilla). Here are the Chimera [build instructions], the starting point for getting the Chimera source and building it inside Project Builder. Let me show you what happened last week, the last time that I tried to build out Chimera.
Step 1. Install Fink
OK, I installed Fink just fine, even though in the past Fink has caused problems for me (it does this funny mirroring of your BSD directory structure thing that is just asking for trouble).
Modify environment variables, etc. Use fink to download and install ORBit...
Last login: Tue Jan 14 15:46:10 on ttyp1
Welcome to Darwin!
[psycho78:~] quellish% apt-get install orbit
E: Could not open lock file /sw/var/lib/dpkg/lock - open (13 Permission denied)
E: Unable to lock the administration directory (/sw/var/lib/dpkg/), are you root?
[psycho78:~] quellish% sudo apt-get install orbit
Reading Package Lists... Done
Building Dependency Tree... Done
E: Couldn't find package orbit
[psycho78:~] quellish%

So not only did I have to run it as root, but fink could not find the required orbit package, and a fairly determined search of various MacOS X development libraries sites didn't find it or libIDL. I did find glib, but without ORBit that would have been moot.
2. Install shared menus framework.
OK, that went fine.
3. Get the mozilla source.
I got the mozilla source tree from CVS, but one thing that used to be laid out beforehand that is a little bit harder to find now is that 1.5 to 2GB of space is required for a build - look at the [Unix Build Instructions]. See why Apple didn't go with Mozilla? Gecko may be a very good rendering engine, but to even build part of it you need to build pretty much all of Mozilla, and that's 2GB.

I've never been able to get Chimera to build, period. Not even the CHBrowserView class, the embedded Gecko-based NSView subclass.
Chimera, unfortunately, is very difficult to work with. If I had more time and resources to just get things going with it, once I was up and running I could probably make some contributions to it that would help. What I think the Mozilla team needs to do is make their code more accessible by making every effort to make it easier for developers to download and work with - and that includes the Chimera team. Maybe a shell script or AppleScript that did all of the above steps, or a Project Builder project that had all the CVS settings built in, anything to make the above process something short of impossible!

1/20/2003 01:36:00 PM ] [  0 comments  ]
A good quick laugh