Posted tagged ‘Fun’

Introducing the Symbian Bug Squad

March 16, 2010

For those that have been living under a rock for a while, or at least haven’t been following things in the Symbian community; the Bug Squad are a group of volunteers embarking on a mission to locate and fix bugs in the Symbian Platform, and otherwise make a series of small-yet-meaningful contributions.

That aside, our first meeting (via IRC as a back-channel for general discussion, and Skype for group conference calling) was held today, so that people could introduce themselves to each other, and get acquainted with the collaboration process and tools.

Other than some feedback issues with the generic USB microphone (that shipped with a Wii game, of all things) that I’d been using, this combo proved a success, and things generally worked out nicely.

During the conference call, folks were also encouraged to edit a table on a Symbian Wiki page to informally register their participation –  although there were a few issues along the way related to unfamiliarity with the MediaWiki code syntax that were quickly resolved.

We also planned to use WebEx for screen sharing, although that didn’t go down too well with the participants – initially, some of us couldn’t connect properly, and there were issues surrounding authentication.

I ended up having to use Internet Explorer 6, along with yet another ActiveX control, since the Java client wasn’t working properly with Chrome under the VirtualBox machine running Windows XP that I was using.

Thankfully, everything worked out, although there was some indecision as to whether or not WebEx would be suitable for future meetings.

That aside, a lot of stuff also happened on the technical front, which will be elaborated on in this post.

In the meantime, I invite other interested folks to join me in this effort.

A day with the Symbian Bug Squad

March 16, 2010

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…

Does Anyone Know Noddy?

March 8, 2010

Not too long after the folks at the Symbian Foundation announced the release of the complete Symbian Platform codebase (or at least the parts that weren’t already open), I performed some of the searches that I typically perform on a newly-opened large codebase.

Some of the criteria that I searched for included:

  • References to suppliers and competing organisations (e.g. Sony Ericsson, NTT DoCoMo, Apple and Microsoft)
  • References to previous names of organisations (e.g. Psion and Symbian Software Ltd.)
  • References to project/product internal/code-names (e.g. UIKON, AVKON, Crystal and Quartz)
  • References to cancelled or previous project/product names, especially within a given context (e.g. “EPOC is“- which will locate a prehistoric marketing document extolling the virtues of the old EPOC32 platform that is a progenitor of the current Symbian Platform)
  • References to projects/products that are related to, or derived from the codebase in some way (e.g. MOAP(S), Series 80 and UIQ)
  • The terms “confidential” and/or “proprietary” in various combinations

…and just for kicks – profanity and intra-cultural references.

Which leads on to a little mystery:

Just what is the significance of the Noddy references? (Most of which are enshrined in MIME test case sample files, and are made by folks with a connection to Psion).

According to a friend/contact at the Foundation, “Noddy wasn’t originally a cartoon character” – which makes sense, if a cursory glance at a Wikipedia disambiguation page; and passing familiarity with plush nodding dog ornaments in car windows is anything to go by.

Still, that doesn’t really explain who or what Noddy is in this context; or why Noddy was seemingly disliked by the folks involved in compiling the aforementioned test case files.