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NetSurf bags GBP10K investment from Google

Published: 21st Apr 2008, 21:03:12 | Permalink | Printable

Four uni coders lined up to improve web browser

Web giant Google confirmed this evening it will stump up $20,000 to pay for four undergraduate programmers to work on the NetSurf project this summer.

More than two dozen students from around the globe applied to work on the open source web browser after the project was accepted into Google's Summer of Code 2008 scheme. Four were this evening confirmed after the NetSurf developers spent the weekend whittling submissions from students down to a shortlist of six before finally settling on their preferred four programmers to contribute to the software.

Google says it will, on successful completion of the work, pay out $4,500 to each student while four members of the present NetSurf team will get $500 each to act as mentors. The cash grant comes to just over 10,000 quid in real money. The lucky university undergraduates will spend until August 18 working on the following:

• Adam Blokus will work on adding PDF export support to the browser and printing support to the GTK port of NetSurf with the help of mentor John Tytgat.
• Sean Fox will break up the NetSurf core into separate libraries to aid future development with the help of mentor James Bursa.
• William Michael Lester will improve the user interface of the GTK port with the help of mentor Rob Kendrick.
• And Andrew Sidwell will work on a bang up-to-date HTML engine (enabling more reliable processing of bad-written websites among other features) with the help of mentor John-Mark Bell.

It's hoped NetSurf's participation in the Google Summer of Code scheme will massively boost its profile and help it net more contributions from programmers beyond the RISC OS arena. According to Google, its summer coding programme has involved more than 1,500 students in over 130 open source projects, creating millions of lines of code.

The NetSurf project came to life in April 2002 as a native RISC OS web browser and after five years of development, the first stable version of the browser was released at the Wakefield 2007 RISC OS show. The latest version, NetSurf 1.1, was released for RISC OS as well as Debian GNU/Linux in August last year.

John Tytgat said this evening: "This is the first year that NetSurf has participated in GSoC and quite frankly we were amazed by the number submissions from students and by their quality."

Rob Kendrick added: "We had many good applications we would have loved to have accepted but there are only four mentors and all of which in full-time employment or study themselves. It was difficult choosing the final four."


NetSurf website Google Summer of Code 2008 page - the NetSurf projects

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More like over two dozen students applied! Which was way more than any of us were expecting! If $500 comes my way as a mentor, I will put it in NetSurf's pot (used for expenses such as visiting shows, running the website and mailing lists, etc), or donate it to charity.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 21/4/08 9:19PM
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Great news! Congrats to the NetSurf team.

 is a RISC OS Userriscosopen on 21/4/08 9:48PM
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Great news. The NetSurf team have done a fantastic job, and I wish them every success with this marvellous project.

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 21/4/08 9:56PM
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Well Done - and well done to Google for giving their support.

Go NetSurf

Cheers, Dave C

 is a RISC OS UserDaveC on 21/4/08 11:49PM
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This is excellent news, but I was sorry not to see Javascript support amongst the projects being worked on; IMO this is the main lack in an otherwise smooth and fast browsing experience. But all credit to the developers and good luck with the sponsored projects!


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 22/4/08 8:37AM
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bucksboy: We've said time and again that, if NetSurf is to support JavaScript, then a lot of groundwork will need to be done first. There's utterly no point in just hacking JS support in -- then you'll end up with a WXL-style mess. As it happens, one of the projects being undertaken this summer forms part of that groundwork.

In fact, since NetSurf 1.0 was released, approximately 20,000 lines of code have been written with the specific goal of putting NetSurf in a position of being able to support JavaScript. For comparison, the entire NetSurf 1.0 codebase totals about 70,000 lines of code.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 22/4/08 9:38AM
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Well done team I've been a fan of Netsurf for a few years and told the guys such at Wakefield 07.


 is a RISC OS UserBecky on 22/4/08 9:57AM
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Well done and good luck.

Any reason why RISC OS Open couldn't have applied for funding as well?

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 22/4/08 11:25AM
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AW: Yes -- their licence doesn't conform to the OSI definition of "Open Source". Therefore, it's not an eligible organisation. See the ROOL FAQ for details about their licence, and consult the GSoC FAQ for details about eligibility.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 22/4/08 11:28AM
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Comgratulations to the netsurf project, but JMB, was there any need to slag off other people's products when you've just been awarded a large (for a RISC OS project) cash injection? Bucksboy was merely pointing out that despite NetSurf's excellence, the sooner it gets JS capability the better (for the platform).

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 22/4/08 11:52AM
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Adding JavaScript support to NetSurf is well beyond the scope of a summer project. The projects we have are all feasible within the Google Summer of Code time frame. Remember that the students have no prior knowledge of NetSurf's code or how it works.

arawnsley: I'm certain there was no malice in the comment. The point is that if NetSurf is to get JavaScript support, it needs to work robustly and swiftly for the class of complex web applications which are becoming increasingly common (e.g. Google maps, and even the customisation features of the new BBC homepage). For this to happen, a great deal of careful thought and planning is required and, fundamentally, we need to implement a proper DOM. In short, it's an undertaking that requires lots of time and work. As jmb said, "there's utterly no point in just hacking JS support in". If we did that, we would end up with a browser that can run a few trivial sorts of scripts. It would offer no real advantage over the limited JavaScript support available in the traditional RISC OS browsers; WXL, Fresco and Browse. Ultimately the effort would be wasted anyway, as it would need to be ripped out and replaced with a proper implementation.

 is a RISC OS Usertlsa on 22/4/08 1:47PM
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Note, by "Browse", I suppose I meant "Phoenix" (the version of Browse with JavaScript), and I forgot to list Oregano.

 is a RISC OS Usertlsa on 22/4/08 2:03PM
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Congratulations to the Netsurf team, this is very impressive of yourselves to get noticed like this in the wider world, and with such rewards.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 22/4/08 5:59PM
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This is great to hear! All the best to the students and mentors.

 is a RISC OS Userhutchies on 22/4/08 7:56PM
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Great news.

As for Javascript, I'm itching to see it happen. But I can appreciate the team's approach, even fancy browsers have slight differences in how they interpret the DOM. And Web 2.0 has barely scratched the surface of what is achievable, perhaps in a few years time, the technology would have settled down, and Netsurf will be in a better position to tackle JS.

I'm tackling Web 2.0 for work at present, and it's really hard work!

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 22/4/08 9:51PM
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Great news for this really useful and smart browser. It's also a good opportunity to make people (also outside the RISC OS community) aware of this fine alternative browser. And a brighter attention always can help in later funding and support for keeping this lovely project alive.

 is a RISC OS Usertinopeners on 23/4/08 12:15PM
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I've just noticed NS 1.2 has been released - right on schedule!

According to the progress page, it does contain much of the core DOM functionality with was part of jmb's original plan ([link]) for javascript (I haven't been following to see if that plan was agreed on, and what the current plan looks like though).

If you compare the tasks above to the pdf there, they do align with the plan to get javascript into the browser quite well.

 is a RISC OS Userninja on 23/4/08 3:39PM
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Slightly off topic but what support is there for external style sheets within RISC OS

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 23/4/08 4:22PM
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Sorry- got carried away and hit enter before I'd finished my post:

Was going to add..

I designed a site for my OU course with the CSS styling and positioning within an external style sheet an older version of Netsurf didn't display the styling so was wondering whether other RO browsers were the same.

Thanks in advance. Col

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 23/4/08 4:25PM
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arawnsley: As tlsa has indicated, there was no malice intended. His clarification is exactly right.

ninja: I'm afraid you've misinterpreted the progress page. NetSurf 1.2 is simply a bug fix release. It adds no (major) new features over those present in version 1.0.

Col1: NetSurf has supported externally linked stylesheets since the very beginning. It's likely, therefore, that something else was wrong.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 23/4/08 4:49PM
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NetSurf works fine with external style sheets but not locally (unless this has been fixed more recently). The best way to test files locally, therefore, is to run WebJames and serve them up to yourself that way.

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 23/4/08 4:49PM
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VinceH: NetSurf should work (and should always have worked) perfectly with local external stylesheets. All the documentation pages with NetSurf use a local external style sheet, for example.

 is a RISC OS Usertlsa on 23/4/08 5:07PM
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VinceH: It's always worked with external stylesheets, even if loaded from disc. Perhaps you didn't set the stylesheet's filetype correctly?

See here: [link]

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 23/4/08 5:08PM
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Here, *mimemap .css returns:

Mime type: text/css, RISC OS filetype: 0xf79

As does *mimemap f79 and *mimemap text/css

My stylesheets are filetyped f79

ADFS::Blonde.$.Websites.softrock_co_uk.site.index/html is typed html, and uploaded as [link] - and contains:

< link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/skin/styles.css" title="Default">

(deliberately spaced because Drobe's preview didn't seem to like it)

ADFS::Blonde.$.Websites.softrock_co_uk.site.skin.styles.css is typed CSS (f79) and uploaded as [link]

Locally, the CSS file isn't used (unless the page is served via WebJames). Remotely, it is.

If I'm doing something stupid, please feel free to make me look like an idiot. :)

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 23/4/08 6:34PM
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In fact, I've now found the problem - and, yes, it was me doing something stupid.

(Well, actually, not doing something stupid, just stupidly not realising something)

The reason I use /skin/styles.css is so that every page on the site can link to the same style sheet using the same link - ie relative to the top level. Which isn't going to work at all unless the site is served, rather than just loaded from disc.

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 23/4/08 6:40PM
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In reply to VinceH:

you link to your style sheet is, more or less, the same as mine. Only difference being I've got <link href... then rel...>

It displays fine in Firefox (pc version) and IE(spit) but not Netsurf. I've not had time to check other browsers and unfortunatly can't upload it anywhere as its an exam piece.

Likewise if anyone has any hints on the best way to link the CSS sheet then please share!

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 23/4/08 6:42PM
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Col1: If Firefox and IE can find it, NetSurf should be able to too. There are two possible problems I can think of:

1. The server is not giving it a content type of text/css. If you visit the CSS file directly in NetSurf, you should see a blank page and Page > Info menu option should show "text/css" for Type. e.g. [link] (The CSS file used by the entire NetSurf web site.) If it doesn't show "text/css", the content type is wrong.

2. If you have an @media { ... } block around all the rules in your CSS file, none of the CSS rules will be processed. @media is an currently unsupported.

VinceH: Yes, that sort of link will be broken if you are working locally and not based in the root directory of the disc. You could put a copy of the CSS file in a temporary skins directory at the root of the disc, while you test the site locally. Or you could copy to a ram disc or something.

 is a RISC OS Usertlsa on 23/4/08 8:13PM
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in replyto tsla:

When droping the css file onto netsurf the styling shows and the type shows as text/plain. I'm guessing thats not right?

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 23/4/08 9:44PM
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In reply to tsla:

O I think I'm going bonkers. If I change the file type to css in RISC OS then netsurf displays the page with is styling. However switching back to the dark side the web page no longer displays in Firefox (all styling is lost)

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 23/4/08 10:03PM
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Yes, text/plain is not right for CSS.

There is little that can be done without more complete imformation on what you're doing. "Switching back to the dark side"? Do you mean you're using an emulator on Windows? If you're doing this on a HostFS mount in VRPC, have you set up HostFS's extension mapping properly?

In Tools > Options, go to the "Hostfs Extensions" tab and add an entry for the RISC OS type "f79", mapping to extension "css".

Anyway, Drobe article comments is inappropriate for this discussion. Please post on the NetSurf users mailing list if you need support for using NetSurf.

 is a RISC OS Usertlsa on 23/4/08 10:41PM
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In reply to tsla:

You right- I didn't mean to go so off topic! (apologies to all!)

Many thanks for the asisstance- will take the matter up in a more appropriate forum.

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 23/04/08 10:57PM
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Good news for Netsurf!

Can I ask though, why PDF export? I'd just print to PDF instead. Just doesn't seem like a priority for me.


 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 27/04/08 11:39AM
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Spriteman: Printing to PDF doesn't get you things such as contents or links. Additionally, if we can emit PDFs, we can emit PostScript reasonably easily, making printing easier on other platforms.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 27/04/08 1:01PM
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How did this go in the end?

 is a RISC OS Userpolas on 24/11/08 2:17PM
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It went pretty well, a lot of work was done to improve NetSurf. See the Google Summer of Code section of our 'thanks' page [link]

The main changes from the point of view of RISC OS users are an HTML parser that is vastly more tolerant of bad HTML, direct PDF export functionality and bug fixes.

 is a RISC OS Usertlsa on 24/11/08 4:19PM
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