Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 15:26:47 -0500 (EST)
From:"Linux Pipeline Newsletter" <>
Subject: [LXP] Linux Pipeline - 12.14.2005 - Fixing The Fox Linux Pipeline Newsletter | Fixing The Fox | 12.14.2005
Linux Pipeline Newsletter
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

In This Issue:
  • Editor's Note: Fixing The Fox
  • Top Linux News
        - Wikipedia Hoaxer Apologizes For Joke Gone Wrong
        - Massachusetts OpenDoc Backer Cleared In Conflict-Of-Interest Probe
        - Firefox 1.5 Launch Sparks New Gains Against IE
        - More News...
  • Editor's Picks
        - Firefox 1.5: Not Ready For Prime Time?
        - SCO Raises New Funding -- And Experts Raise Questions
        - Taiwan-Based Firm Agrees To Build $100 Linux Laptop
        - More Picks...
  • Voting Booth: Firefox 1.5 - Hot Or Not?
  • Get More Out Of Linux Pipeline
  • Manage Your Newsletter Subscription

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    Editor's Note: Fixing The Fox

    I know what happens when one dares to ass-u-me something . . . yet I did it anyway last week, when I pronounced Mozilla 1.5 a major improvement in its handling of some very old, persistent, and highly annoying memory management bugs.

    Not 12 hours after sending out that newsletter, I found myself staring at the Windows XP Task Manager, gaping at firefox.exe as it blew through 400MB of RAM and another 400MB of virtual memory without so much as a burp. I took the screen shot you'll find in Scot Finnie's article, started to dash off an email to Scot with the shot attached to it, but finally broke off to put Mozilla's mad dog out of its misery before it had a chance to take Windows XP out with it. The final score: just over 1GB of combined memory, including a little more than 500 MB of physical RAM out of the 1GB installed in my system.

    I had assumed that the quick work I did with Mozilla earlier in the week, along with a bit of Web surfing in some of the more popular tech forums, would give me enough information to decide whether Firefox 1.5 had kicked its habit of grabbing enough RAM, given the slightest opportunity, to keep any five normal desktop apps purring like a sack of drunken kittens. Boy, was I wrong.

    If you want to read more about this, check out Scot's article above, or visit my blog entry on the subject. I can also recommend a couple of online discussions that demonstrate the disturbing -- and, it seems to me, rapidly growing -- extent of a problem that is both more obvious and more severe than it was in Firefox 1.0.7.

    Look at these discussions, and you'll also notice that clearly, some Firefox users simply don't have these problems. (You'll also notice a scattering of people who deserve a spanking and some time in the corner wearing a dunce cap, but that's a different rant.) There is no doubt that these bugs -- the memory management issues are just one of at least two or three that Scot covers in his article -- will cripple some systems after a few hours of uptime, yet leave other systems completely, inexplicably, untouched.

    Is the problem platform-specific? No, I've now seen the same memory-hogging behavior on two Linux distros, Windows 2000, and OS X, all of which sucked up between 300 and 700 MB of physical memory before going belly-up in various, highly annoying ways. Are extensions, plug-ins, or Flash somehow involved? Apparently not, since the same behavior will cripple some Firefox 1.5 installs running in safe mode and without access to a Flash player. Other users who see these problems echo my own experiences on both counts.

    This is undeniably ugly stuff, as software bugs go. If you're a developer contributing to an open-source project, this sort of whack-a-mole bug hunting is not what you signed on to do. Fortunately (in a not-so-fortunate ironic way), instead of picking on poor, non-profit Mozilla Foundation, we can pick on Mozilla Corp. -- still poor and still profit-free, but very definitely an entity created to handle exactly these kinds of problems.

    And let's face it: We'll all be snowboarding in hell before a memory-hogging Firefox gets any kind of traction in the corporate market, where snide advice to buy an extra gig or two of RAM won't get you anything except an IT exec's footprint on the seat of your pants.

    I like Firefox. I still use Firefox on every one of my systems, every day of the week. I respect Mozilla, appreciate what it has done and look forward to what it will do. But the day when a desktop application -- any desktop application, under any circumstances -- behaves as if memory management is something the cool kids just don't do, is the day when it's time to start talking about this, as plainly and as bluntly as possible, in the hope that Mozilla deals with this before Microsoft deals with them. I don't want to see Internet Explorer 7 turn Firefox into a wet spot on the Infobahn.

    Have a good week -- and by all means, email me with your thoughts, complaints, screen shots, stories, or whatever else you want to share about your own Firefox experiences.

    Matt McKenzie
    Editor, Linux Pipeline

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    Top Linux News

    Wikipedia Hoaxer Apologizes For Joke Gone Wrong
    A man who posted false information on an online encyclopedia linking a prominent journalist to the Kennedy assassinations steps forward and apologizes, describing the incident as a joke gone "horribly wrong."

    Massachusetts OpenDoc Backer Cleared In Conflict-Of-Interest Probe
    Massachusetts state IT chief Peter J. Quinn, a key supporter of the state's controversial decision to adopt the open-source OpenDocument Format (ODF) rather than proprietary Microsoft Office formats, is cleared of allegations that state-funded trips to open-source software conferences violated conflict-of-interest rules.

    Firefox 1.5 Launch Sparks New Gains Against IE
    Mozilla makes hay out of the hoopla surrounding November's Firefox 1.5 launch, according to a Web measurement firm's market-share numbers, as Firefox builds fresh momentum against Internet Explorer.

    Business Objects, MySQL Expand Partnership
    Business Objects and MySQL announce a new set of bundled tools designed to integrate and support the open-source database within the business-intelligence software vendor's enterprise reporting framework.

    IE7 Slated For Early 2006 Public Beta
    Microsoft's revamped Web browser, which it plans to offer on both Windows XP and Vista, will make its public debut during the "first calendar quarter of 2006," according to a company representative.

    VMware Partners With Mozilla On Virtual-Machine Player
    VMware on Tuesday rolled out the final version of its no-cost VMware Player, which lets Windows and Linux users run pre-generated virtual machines that prevent malware and other potential security threats from taking root within a user's operating system and data files.

    Firefox 1.5 Bug Not A Security Risk, Says Mozilla
    A flaw in the way Firefox handles extremely long file names often looks and acts like a full-scale crash, say Mozilla developers, but the problem does not expose the browser to a rumored buffer overflow exploit or pose any other security threat to users.

    Open-Source SmoothWall Turns Free Foundation Into Corporate-Market Success
    SmoothWall, the U.K. security vendor that turned its free, open-source desktop firewall into a market sensation, is earning an equally warm reception for its new line of commercial open-source security products.

    Microsoft To Stay In Korea, Appeal Antitrust Ruling
    After South Korean antitrust watchdogs issue an unfavorable ruling on Microsoft's business practices, the company buckles down for a long appeals process -- and drops its threats to leave the Korean market for good, rather than cooperate with government investigators.

    Editor's Picks

    Firefox 1.5: Not Ready For Prime Time?
    Scot Finnie puts the latest version of Mozilla's open-source browser in the doghouse -- and recommends that other Firefox users follow suit, until Mozilla fixes some significant bugs that it should never have allowed to remain in Firefox 1.5.

    SCO Raises New Funding -- And Experts Raise Questions
    Experts say a fresh $10 million investment is all about keeping SCO afloat long enough to hear a verdict in its long-shot IBM lawsuit -- and it still may not be enough to fortify the litigious Unix vendor against dwindling revenue and a legal process that could take years to complete.

    Taiwan-Based Firm Agrees To Build $100 Linux Laptop
    The One Laptop Per Child project has chosen Taiwan-based Quanta Computer Inc. to produce its design for a $100 Linux-based laptop PC, which the non-profit organization intends to distribute to millions of students in developing nations.

    SugarCRM Turns Satisfied Customers Into Open-Source Partners
    With a host of new features, including workflow management, campaign management, and the ability to convert E-mails into leads, and a 3,000-plus developer community that includes many of its biggest customers, SugarCRM is giving its customers a lot more than just cheaper enterprise software -- although that certainly doesn't hurt.

    IBM Puts Startups In Fast Lane With Patent Initiative
    IBM says it will give startup companies access to more than 40,000 patents through a new licensing program, intended to provide IT startups with fast, affordable access to Big Blue's massive intellectual property portfolio.

    Voting Booth: Firefox 1.5 -- Hot Or Not?

    Cast Your Vote Now!
    We've got a new poll question this week, and it's self-explanatory. Let us know what you think about Firefox 1.5, and in a few weeks we'll round up your votes and share the results. Cast your vote today!

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