Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Monday 4 February 2008

Recap Part 1: California

Phew! I'm finally back at home after ten frantic days, seven in California, two at the Foo (Baa) Camp in Warkworth and about one sacrificed to travel.

The California weather was lousy, especially in comparison to the amazing summer Auckland has been having. My trip to Berkeley was fun but hairy; the drive back to Mountain View down 880, an unfamiliar road, at night, in driving rain, on the wrong side of the road was especially challenging. It was well worthwhile, however, the BBQ at T-Rex was great, but better still were the discussions with Berkeley Par-Lab people. It's good to talk to architecture people once in a while about the shape of things to come.

It sounds like the future will look a lot like the Cell: many "fat cores" (traditional out-of-order multi-issue cores optimized for fastest possible execution of single-threaded code), each surrounded by a cluster of "thin cores" (in-order single-issue, optimized for regular code with big vector units). Unlike Cell all the cores will probably communicate through cache-coherent memory. A good and sobering slogan I heard was, "more transistors than you can afford to turn on". That means application-specific hardware could become a lot more attractive. For example, video decoding hardware that you can only use 5% of the time becomes a lot more attractive when transistors are free and power is the limiting factor.

Over the weekend I did some work, hung out with friends, and on Sunday me and some of the other NZ team went up to San Francisco for a little sightseeing even though the weather was terrible. Walking the Golden Gate Bridge was still fun, albeit in an unusually teeth-gritting manner.

Mozilla was fun, especially with most of the NZ team there. Some of the Berkeley people came down to talk at Mozilla on Monday. I think the talk was good but of the audience didn't understand what research is about --- it's not all supposed to make sense or lead to a product :-).

On Tuesday we froze for Firefox beta 3, which should be a great release. It was fun to be on hand for the freeze although I was too tired to stay up till midnight and then drive back to the hotel safely.

David Baron and I retriaged all the layout blockers. We've started prioritizing the remaining significant layout regressions higher than almost all other bugs to make sure they get fixed. The brutal truth is that obscure crash bugs can be ignored or fixed in a dot release but layout regressions are forever.

I got some virus which hit me pretty hard on Wednesday. Sorry Schrep, I lied when I said I was OK :-). That also happened to be the day I was sheriff although no-one noticed because the tree was very very quiet for beta3 freeze. We had a good graphics-oriented meeting where we identified and prioritized a bunch of post-FF3 projects. For the first time ever, we now actually have staffing for most of the things we want to do :-).

The work week was valuable but I think we probably could have made a bit better use of the face time. I need to reflect on that.

I didn't sleep well on my flight back, probably due to lingering virus effects, but nevertheless on Saturday morning I headed from the airport to home and then straight up to Foo/Baa Camp...