Assignment 1 (mcparuze)

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Assignment 1 - Building the Fox


Much like everyone else in our course, I have never compiled Firefox. All of my Firefox experience is limited to what I did during the summer, which is not much. Everytime I thought about building firefox, thoughts along these lines started going through my mind:

1. Download Firefox Source
2. ???
3. Profit

But since I was required to build the source in this course, I had to figure out Step 2. And here it is:

Required Software

Here is a list of software that I installed and used during the build. Obviously we need a compiler so Visual Studio 2005 came to mind and also we require some sort of UNIX runtime environment. Putty is required only because we had to tunnel out of the school intranet to the outside, else CVS would not work (more on this later).

  1. Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 (MSVC 8.0)
  2. Cygwin (with make 3.80!!)
  3. Putty

Build Instructions

This is where the fun starts. I basically followed David Humphrey's instructions on his website which outlines, in detail, the steps required to build Firefox. I had to slightly modify his steps to bypass the Seneca firewall, which ill point out later. The build instructions are as follows:

  • The first thing that’s required is to install all the required software listed above.
  • After that is done, load up cygwin and jump into the C:\ and create a directory called proj.
$> cd ../../cygdrive/c/
$> mkdir proj
$> cd proj
  • The proj directory will obviously be empty so we first need to extract the moztools we downloaded. The link is available in Resources Used section.
$> ls
.   ..   moztools
  • Next on the list is to create a file that will automate the creation of our build environment. Using David's tutorial, I created my setup inside a batch file named setupbuild.bat.
$> ls
.   ..   moztools   buildsetup.bat
  • That batch file contained the following code in order to setup the build environment correctly.

rem --- CVS Setup
SET CVSROOT=:pserver:anonymous@localhost:/cvsroot

rem --- Setup the paths to the moztools build libraries
set MOZ_TOOLS=C:\proj\moztools

rem --- Scrub these variables first
SET PATH=C:\;C:\windows\system32;C:\windows\system32\wbem

rem --- Prepend cygwin
SET PATH=C:\cygwin\bin;%PATH%

rem --- Setup VC8 compiler environment vars
CALL "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\VC\vcvarsall.bat" x86

rem --- Add glib/libidl to build environment

rem --- moztools comes last after glib/libIDL
  • Notice that the CVSROOT has been changed to localhost rather then This is done because we are going to use Putty in order to tunnel out of the school intranet.
  • To execute this batch file we have created, the following steps need to be carried out:
$> cmd.exe -c
C:\proj> buildsetup.bat
  • If this worked correctly, the colorful prompt you have created should disappear and you should be in a regular DOS window. Don’t worry, all your UNIX commands still work :).
  • Next you need to load up Putty. In order to tunnel out of the school intranet, you need to select the tunnels option from the Putty connection dialogue box. Here you input the values that you need to tunnel out:
Source Port: 2401
  • Once that is entered in, click the Add button and connect to Matrix as you usually would.
  • At this point, we have a wide open connection to the internet on Port 2401, the port that CVS communicates on. Therefore, you can continue to proceed with pulling the trunk:
C:\proj> cvs login
Logging in to :pserver:anonymous@localhost:2401/cvsroot
CVS password:
  • Enter the password as specified on assignment 1 at the prompt. You know if it worked correctly if no errors appear. In fact, you should be at the prompt without any feedback. Now its time to pull the file:
C:\proj> cvs co mozilla/browser/config mozilla/
  • A bunch of stuff will appear on the screen and it should pull the CVS correctly. If you load up explorer you should see a mozilla directory with a bunch of stuff in it. Traverse into the mozilla directory and create a file named .mozconfig.
C:\proj\mozilla> touch .mozconfig
  • The .mozconfig file doesn’t contain anything at this point, so Open it up with Notepad and add the following lines into it:
# Building Firefox Trunk with Debugging
. $topsrcdir/browser/config/mozconfig

# Put all obj files in one place, not in src tree
mk_add_options MOZ_OBJDIR=@TOPSRCDIR@/firefox-objdir
ac_add_options --disable-static
ac_add_options --enable-shared

# Debug Build Setup Options
ac_add_options --disable-optimize
ac_add_options --enable-debug

# I'm using Canvas for my work
ac_add_options --enable-canvas
ac_add_options --disable-installer
  • I added the line ac_add_options --disable-installer because nsis is not installed on my computer and I do not wish to create an installer.
  • At this point, we basically have all we need setup to pull the Trunk:
C:\proj\mozilla> make -f checkout
  • If successful, you should see a much of files and folders inside the mozilla Directory. By all means, build it!
C:\proj\mozilla> make -f build
  • There you have it. If everything goes right, you should have a working build of Firefox 3 on your computer located in C:\proj\mozilla\firefox-objdir\dist\bin. Woot!Problems:

Problems Encountered & Solutions

The first problem I had was with the school intranet system. The administrators have the school have this place locked up tighter then Fort Knox. Therefore, I was required to do a little bit of tunneling in order to get my signal out of the school. Tunneling is achieved by using Putty and one of our UNIX servers such as Matrix. By doing this, I created a tunnel form my machine through Matrix and into the internet, bypassing all the firewalls and bandwidth prioritizing technologies the administrator’s setup.

The second problem I encountered was with the newer version of make. I started to build Firefox and about an hour into the build make died and gave me an error. I inquired in #developers and they immediately told me that I was using the wrong version of make. I downgraded make to version 3.80 and everything was fine and dandy.

Lastly, during the initial build process, I read an error that make could not find nsis, the installer code that bundles the executable. I decided to immediately ditch the process and add the line ac_add_options --disable-installer to the .mozconfig file.

Resources Used

David Humphrey's site on how to build Firefox
Official Mozilla Instructions on building Firefox


Woohoo, I did it. The build instructions that Dave provides on his website work great but with a minor modification in order to bypass Seneca’s firewall. Other then that, it’s pretty easy but it takes a long, long time. Also, make sure to use make 3.80 and not anything else because it breaks the build. You don’t want to sit there for 2 hours compiling and having it break right before it finishes.


Firefox Build