A day with the Symbian Bug Squad

In my previous post, I briefly introduced the Symbian Bug Squad project, and alluded to more interesting stuff coming.

During that introductory event, the focus was mostly on testing the improved Active Standby application (AKA the Home Screen) and task switcher that will feature in Symbian^3, using the legacy emulator supplied with PDK 3.0.h (which will hopefully be replaced by the Symbian Virtual Platform soon); although a reasonable amount of light work was done in other areas, too.

Keep in mind that this isn’t supposed to be a review – it’s more of a late-night parsed braindump with an occasional graphical annotation, so it might not have a coherent flow, or even make sense.

Some of the highlights (and lowlights) include:

  • Discovering that ZSH is fully functional under the legacy emulator (although certain commands – e.g. uname are unavailable)
  • Discovering an overall regression in the ability to play audio content – which I filed the first “official” bug against
  • Most of the team verifying that the Active Standby application builds with 0 errors, and minimal warnings for WINSCW (although others are still working on trying to build it with GCCE)
  • Discovering that Web and Internet connectivity didn’t work out of the box (although I wasn’t expecting it to, somehow), but the browser itself works nicely
  • Experiencing the new Active Standby screen and task switcher for the first time, and seeing it flake out in various ways
  • Playing with the kinetic scrolling implementation, which is a nice, subtle enhancement to several aspects of the UI
  • Discovering that installation of the iType font rasteriser from Agfa MonoType also improves overall stability somewhat, in addition to adding fonts with the “Mute” and “Music Note” glyphs, and generally making things look nicer
  • Discovering that installing the Samsung and Objective Systems components either makes no discernible difference to the performance of the Music Player application, or causes it to randomly crash
  • Finding that the Music Player application will sometimes also crash if I select an album corresponding to a track, even without the 2 aforementioned components installed

Of course, no Symbian-related discussion is complete without griping about the legacy emulator (WINSCW/EPOC.exe), so we’ve came up with the following (in addition to those mentioned in my SVP post):

  • It crashes and hangs an awful lot (at least in my case) – especially when using the display orientation switching button
  • It’s extremely voracious with RAM (consuming anything from 120MB to 222MB+)
  • The application window is vertically huge when the default display orientation is utilised – which makes it a pain to use on widescreen displays, and in small VirtualBox display canvas windows
  • There’s a good chance that if the emulator doesn’t crash when using the rotation button, the contents of the display canvas will be in a state of limbo for an indeterminate period of time

Now, let’s have a look at the new task switching feature, which of course supports (sideways!) kinetic scrolling for browsing the contents of the task list:

As a nice touch, it displays previews of each application’s active window, instead of just icons, and it even sort-of works in horizontal orientation mode.

Unfortunately, it also has a habit of refusing to function under the emulator, and bailing out with a random error – usually either “qtn_debug_pe_failed_at_startup” or “Application closed: Task Switcher ViewSrv 11” like so:

It seems that it also sometimes refuses to accept single or double taps to select a task (which is supposed to work), so it becomes necessary to use the “hardware” button that corresponds with the “Options” softkey.

I also attempted to play an MP3 audio file using the Music Player application,  after copying it into “C:\Symbian\S3PDK\epoc32\winscw\c\data\Sounds” on the host; before installing the R&D codec packs from Aricent and RealNetworks, without much success.

It seems that I can persuade Music Player to load the aforementioned MP3 file, and parse the ID3 tags contained within, if I invoke it through the File Manager application – although no audio is passed through into the host OS’s audio stack.  The result of which looks like this, when it works:

When file playback doesn’t work, I either receive a note from MMF or another component, or the Music Player application unceremoniously crashes and returns me to either the Active Standby screen, the parent process, or the Menu application:

Of course, since multimedia playback support is a exemplar use case for Symbian^3,  I consider this to be a regression – especially since it supposedly worked previously on Symbian^2.

It’s possible to scan for audio files within Music Player itself, without issues:

On a lighter note, I’ll close with various screenshots that didn’t fit in elsewhere…

Here’s the good old screensaver, that’s served us well from at least S60 2nd Edition onwards:

Here’s a mysterious “DRMEncryptor” application:

Here’s a brief ZSH session:

Finally, here’s a working Menu application:

At last, but not least, I’d like to thank everyone else involved in the project, and in the community in general. I’ll probably upload the remaining screenshots that I have to Picasa Web Albums later, but for now, I must sleep…

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4 Comments on “A day with the Symbian Bug Squad”

  1. […] Tyson Key's Outpost Just another WordPress.com weblog « A day with the Symbian Bug Squad […]

  2. Nice Tyson!

    I like the screenshots 😉
    and you write good!

    Thanks for your blog posts


    Ferdinand from Berlin 😉

  3. Tyson Key Says:

    A few updates on this subject, since this morning:

    Victor Palau (also involved in the Bug Squad) published a nice post on his blog, shortly after I did.

    Not too long after I announced this post, Brendan Donegan mentioned a potential method for enabling networking support.

    I also received a copy of the complete Product Development Kit, and Product Development Toolkit on DVD via post, thanks to William Roberts today.

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