- By Grant Gross -
Michael Spertus says his company's port of its Great Circle software diagnostic tool to Linux could help Open Source developers debug their code and deliver good software to the community faster. Spertus is so sure of Great Circle's usefulness that his company is running a demo for the program debugging the giant Mozilla browser codebase, and new results based on the latest Mozilla code will be released every week.
"Linux is a fantastic operating system -- it's fast, it's stable, people run their Linux boxes for years," Spertus said. "But the applications that run on Linux are not all as fast and stable as the operating system, or so rumor has it. What good is it if your computer runs for a year, if your application crashes twice a day?"
He added: "The really exciting thing is when you combine a good operating like Linux together with a good application like Apache, they become huge successes. Something like this will really help create a lot more really solid, enterprise-strength applications for Linux. We hope that can be a valuable step, when you have your Linux apps be as solid as your OS, and where that's happened, Linux has had huge success."
The Mozilla project -- long derided by critics as buggy, bloated and behind schedule -- might be an easy target for the debugging demo, but Spertus, CTO of Geodesic insists that the ongoing demo is a way for Geodesic to give back to the Open Source community as it releases its Great Circle tool for Linux.
Indeed, the Geodesic demo page quotes Nisheeth Ranjan, principal engineer for XML/DOM/Security at the Netscape Browser Division of AOL Time Warner as saying:
"Great Circle will prove to be a valuable addition to the development arsenal of the Mozilla community."
Mitchell Baker, chief lizard wrangler for the Mozilla project, the Open Source community arm of the Netscape project, didn't immediately respond to an email asking if she minded the project being a guinea pig in the Great Circle demo.
"We wanted to take a very large user-space program with source code available that was well known," Spertus said of the reason the Geodesic picked Mozilla for the demo. "They're working hard to get to being a 1.0 release product ... so we thought it'd be a nice thing for us to do. You can get a [bug] report just by going online.
"We thought [using Mozilla] would really showcase you could use this on a multi-million line program and still get good results. This is meant to help them get to the full release stage, while at the same time, providing us with a good demo."
The demo run on Mozilla shows a memory leak of 34.2 KB, with 856 leaked objects recovered by Great Circle. Users can click on various links to get detailed reports about the bugs listed. Users can choose from a number of reports, including heap statistics, collection statistics, and leaks and allocations.
Spertus said the online demo made sense as opposed to having developers download, install and run an evaluation copy, because during each step, Geodesic would lose potential converts along the way. "We wanted to make it a much easier decision for people do decide if this is the product they want," he said. "You've got a a live eval without a net, as it were, that you could do with literally just a couple of mouse clicks, instead of doing all those steps to see if the product is for you."
Great Circle is available for purchase or download at the Geodesic site, but as of Thursday at 9:45 p.m. EST I was unable to get the download to work with Netscape 4.77 in Linux Mandrake 8.0.
I earlier tried Konqueror 2.1.1 and, ironically, Mozilla 0.9.5, but in each case, the pop-screen that takes you through the download process would crash at some point. The pop-up screen for Netscape 4.76 for Windows appears to work fine. Editor's note: Spertus reports that the download works in Mozilla as of Friday morning.
Spertus said late Wednesday he would check on the download problem. He personally tested the online demo against several Linux browsers, but Geodesic contracts out for its online store services, and that company may not have tested the download process against many Linux browsers, he said.
Geodesic, which has been selling diagnostic tools for Windows and Unix since 1996, also offers the enterprise-level Geodesic Runtime Solutions diagnostic tool in addition to Great Circle. But the company is first pitching Great Bridge to the Linux community, because the Runtime product can actually go into the code and fix errors, and there's potential for license conflicts between the proprietary Runtime fixes and a Free Software license such as the GNU GPL.
"We think there's a lot you could do with a lot of the [Open Source] licenses, maybe even all of them, in Runtime, but there's certainly more of a question there," Spertus said.