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The HeliOS Project is now.....
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Box Has Been Foxxed - Gecko, We Have A Problem

Man, I should have been paying attention...if I wasn't a geek in training, I would be sap paying technical support.

Thanks Firefox.

An update to .13 hosed my box. Unfortunately, it goes deeper than's Gecko as a whole and I will illustrate in a moment.

If you don't believe your browser is the centerpiece of your distro experience, go ahead and switch to Konqueror or Opera for a while. All those cool extensions and tools you've come to count on daily? Talk about environment-shock.

I recently wrote an article lamenting the fact that Firefox/Mozilla just isn't getting it done. Thousands upon thousands of people are fighting mysterious crashes caused by "floating point exceptions", and it seems to be getting worse every day. The trouble is, changing from Firefox to Flock or Iceweasel is like jumping from the Titanic to the USS Maine.

You are still going to be on a sinking ship...and the Gecko engine seems to be the torpedo.

I had re-installed my distro because Firefox got to the point where it was crashing on every fifth page I opened. I jumped through the hoops placed in front of me via the google searches for this particular problem. Even purging every mention or shadow of Firefox and all of it's obscure files rendered me the exact same problems upon re-install. I have been using Opera in the interim. Yes it is proprietary, I realize that, but it's stable...and stable is good.

Stable is what Linux is supposed to be all about, right?

With a new install completed, I cautiously allowed Firefox to be my default browser. With the caution of a trucker hauling frost-laden dynamite, I began installing each of my mission-critical extensions one by one, and there are maybe 6 of them total. It's not like I have dozens of them installed. I made sure via X restarts and entire reboots that each extension I installed passed the "two hour test". I hammer the browser for a full two hours, always loaded via terminal so I can watch the output for any approaching problems.

Tedious...? yeah, but at the end of two days, I had a fully functioning, non-crashing Firefox browser and my on-line world was again productive.

Then I committed digital suicide.

I hit the update button that was blinking in my task bar and walked away to get some coffee and make some business phone calls.

When I got back and rolled over the install log, it was like I was standing in the middle of the train tracks in a bad dream. I was watching the train approach with a demonic Engineer hunched over the throttle, bearing down on me with every intent of making me part of the tracks...and you know how those dreams go.

Your feet are welded in cannot run, you cannot get out of the way.

I saw that my Firefox application had been updated to .13. .12 had been working flawlessly


And so it goes, and this is how it does go for me now. My coveted website? Crashes every time due to a floating point exception. Every friggin' time. As does Fox News,, and about thirty other important websites I use daily. My google search bar? I cannot see the text in the box as I type. The font is the same color as the white background and changing the background or font will not fix it...One always matches the other...always. Same with my url bar. I didn't touch any settings that would have caused this simply manifested itself upon the dreaded and much-cursed update.

Fortunately, I am a touch typist and I don't rely upon visual input to validate my keystrokes. I can change themes, brand of socks; nothing allows me to see what I am typing. To make matters worse, ANY download link I click immediately crashes the browser. Again, all of this after one simple update. No other changes were made. I just opened my browser after the "event" and this is what I get for my trouble. I will ask the question again.


Millions of people have come to depend on this tool for their daily work, and to be honest with you...I was one of the thousands of advocates who got people in Windows to at least switch their browsers if they couldn't switch to Linux. Unfortunately, many of those people are abandoning Firefox, and I get their emails every week. Sometimes only one or two a week, often over a dozen. People are going back to Internet Explorer...and the old adage is pounded against me time and time again.

"You get what you pay for."

And of course, like a good advocate, I ran immediately with my logs and screenshots to file the bug report, only to find that hundreds had been there in front of me. No, I did not add to the cacophony of voices...what's the point?

If a couple thousand complaints about this exact same problem is being ignored by Mozilla, what's the point in adding one more.

Sigh. OK...let's see if Opera is in my current repository.

Get it fixed guys...the people who have faithfully stood behind you are getting covered with something that smells suspiciously like crap.

I've published my terminal output for each browser when it went terminal on me. Every crash was the result of typing the url into the offending browser. Note: Opera, Midori and Konqueror did not crash on these events. I don't have iceweasel in my repository and because this is a mission-critical machine, I will not go outside my repos or compile anything foreign. Take a look and see what you think. I've ghosted this install on two other machines and have reproduced the identical problems on all machines.

All-Righty Then

A gratifying sight. 7 hours after this blog published, an official bug report was not only filed but opened. Now THAT's community.

[helios@helios ~]$ epiphany
** Message: GetValue variable 1 (1)
** Message: GetValue variable 2 (2)
** Message: GetValue variable 1 (1)
** Message: GetValue variable 2 (2)
** Message: GetValue variable 1 (1)
** Message: GetValue variable 2 (2)
** Message: GetValue variable 1 (1)
** Message: GetValue variable 2 (2)
** Message: GetValue variable 1 (1)
** Message: GetValue variable 2 (2)
Floating point exception
[helios@helios ~]$


[helios@helios ~]$ firefox
/usr/lib/firefox- line 131: 4242 Floating point exception/usr/bin/soundwrapper "$prog" ${1+"$@"}
[helios@helios ~]$

AND the error I get anytime I click ANY download link. That in itself is incompetence on a grand level. I have reproduced this problem on 3 machines with identical installs, so there is no "machine specific" issues in play least not with any probability.

Firefox after hitting any download link

[helios@helios ~]$ firefox
Flash Player: Warning: environment variable G_FILENAME_ENCODING is set and is not UTF-8
Flash Player: Warning: environment variable G_FILENAME_ENCODING is set and is not UTF-8

(gecko:11824): Gtk-CRITICAL **: gtk_widget_get_parent_window: assertion `GTK_IS_WIDGET (widget)' failed

(gecko:11824): Gdk-CRITICAL **: gdk_window_is_viewable: assertion `window != NULL' failed

(gecko:11824): Gtk-CRITICAL **: gtk_widget_get_parent: assertion `GTK_IS_WIDGET (widget)' failed
/usr/lib/firefox- line 131: 11824 Segmentation fault /usr/bin/soundwrapper "$prog" ${1+"$@"}
[helios@helios ~]$


[helios@helios ~]$ seamonkey
Floating point exception
[helios@helios ~]$


[helios@helios ~]$ galeon
Floating point exception
[helios@helios ~]$ galeon
Floating point exception


[helios@helios ~]$ kazehakase

(this message was repeated 77 times in konsole, I've deleted all but 3)
(kazehakase:15588): Gtk-CRITICAL **: gtk_widget_get_pointer: assertion `GTK_IS_WIDGET (widget)' failed

(kazehakase:15588): Gtk-CRITICAL **: gtk_widget_get_pointer: assertion `GTK_IS_WIDGET (widget)' failed

(kazehakase:15588): Gtk-CRITICAL **: gtk_widget_get_pointer: assertion `GTK_IS_WIDGET (widget)' failed

(kazehakase:15588): Gtk-CRITICAL **: gtk_widget_get_pointer: assertion `GTK_IS_WIDGET (widget)' failed
Floating point exception


slayerboy said...

This is strange, because I have had no problems on my work computer (XP, soon to be Vista...boooooooo!), and my home computer running Ubuntu 7.10. I have a ton of extensions I use. The only time I notice problems with Firefox is when I exit World of Warcraft and the Winefix software I have turns desktop effects back on and crashes Firefox every time.

I also use LinuxMint on my laptop have yet to see any problems. Not sure what's going on there.

I do have Ubuntu 64-bit, but I use the 32-bit version of Firefox, otherwise things just don't work in the 64-bit version. Maybe that's the problem?

Peterix said...

Only problems with firefox I have are caused by the adobe flash plugin and java... Maybe you could try downgrading to .12 or upgrading to v3 beta. I've been using the betas for some time and they seem to be quite stable (lots of memory use and stability fixes went into them).

Blog of helios said...

Because I am working from a mission-critical production machine, I cannot try the firefox 3, however I have googled 3 enough to know that this problem is raising its ugly head within it as well. I have backed it down to .12 and the problems now manifest themselves there as well. I realize what you say is probably true, given some of the output from the Konsole but here is my question. To get a stable browsing environment, I have to in effect completely cripple firefox in order to get it to be stable? I must disable some of the most important and content-giving features of the browser in order for it not to crash. I already have a browser like that.

It's called Konqueror.

But thank you for the input...I sincerely appreciate it and I wasn't being pointed toward you above...just trying to make the point.


Drummer said...

Sorry to hear you're having such difficulties w/Firefox. I can't say I've tried 2.13, as I went ahead and "updated" to 3.0b4 a couple of weeks ago on both of my home machines (Linux) and the two PCs (Windows XP) I use at work. I've not had a single problem with any of them. I'm not big on extensions, so I can't say I've got the same issues. But 3.0b4 seems stable for my all-day-on-the-web work.
If there's any argument about the new 3.0, it's the odd positioning of a couple of items. The "back/forward" button would have made more sense between the go-back and the go-forward buttons, and I'd prefer having my home button back where it used to be - next to the navigation entry area. But other than that, I really like it, and like I said, no crashes.
Perhaps it's time for BoH to examine those "mission-critical" extensions. Maybe THEY are the real reason for the crashes.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I've been using the same session for a couple of weeks and currently have 15 tabs open. I can't say that I've noticed any serious problems, but it does seem like it's been acting a little strange. However, I don't remember it ever crashing.

TuxNewbie said...

No problem here, well except for one windows installation of ffox 2 which I cannot remove or reinstall...

sgunhouse said...

Strange that several of the logs specify soudwrapper as the faulting application ... especially strange in the download example.

I myself have been an Opera user for years, and the Firefox 2.0.13 update only came through the openSUSE servers today so I can't say I've tested it since the update ... though I've also been using Firefox 3b4 for quite a while. But it doesn't recognise any extensions yet.

Side note, Konqueror 4 is actually a decent browser, but of course I can understand you not installing KDE 4 on a "mission critical" system.

Anonymous said...

I've been using .13 since it became available with update, but I haven't had any problems, in fact it seems to be working better that .12 did.

I've also tried v3.04b and the only problem I had with it was some images failed to appear now and then. I'm back with .13 since it is working smoother than v3.

Looking over the errors you posted, I wonder if maybe you need to update gtk.

GoremanX said...

Why couldn't this be a distro-specific issue? Is it possible the Firefox package maintainers for your distro have somehow managed to compile a binary that's responding badly to certain situations? I've never had this problem in opensuse 10.3 or virtualized Windows XP, and I recently updated to as well. However I do not use any extensions.

I did have this problem frequently when I used to build my own distros from scratch and I compiled Firefox using flags that over-optimized the code, but we're talking years ago... like Firefox 0.8.

Anonymous said...

Might be time to try a different distribution.

Ubuntu has no such issues, and as this is obviously (hopefully?) not a hardware issue, switching to Ubuntu or similar would probably solve all your woes.

Anonymous said...

And of course this could be a distro-specific issue. Like I said, seeing as this is not a hardware issue, it's either a misconfiguration issue on your part (purposeful or not) that is causgin certain Gecko components to interact incorrectly with God know what other components, or firefox has been packaged badly for your distro - I really don't see any other possibilities.

cpanceac said...

no (such) problems with firefox on fedora 8.
neither in window$ xp with firefox 3.0b4.

Anonymous said...


You attempted to solve a FireFox 'upgrade' problem by re-installing the Operating System? That was a strange idea.

*BUT* you are correct, I think, to zero in on the update process. I'll take a guess, from your GDK/GTK null pointer returns, that you're suffering from conflicting GTK versus Firefox code,

I always install using mozilla-built tarfiles, avoiding possible package conflicts from 3rd party builders (such as the Ubuntu maintainers). I'm always using Nightly or Tinderbox builds, installed in my home directory rather than /usr .... although I'm sure they'd work fine if I unpacked them there too.

As you see form the bug, the fix was landed on the 1.8 branch just the other night, in preparation for Firefox (You haven't tried anything this new yet.) But the fix landed on the V3 Trunk quite a bit earlier, and I think you should upgrade to "Minefield" Nightly V3. Although it's not yet officially even an RC, it is now (IMO) well past the point of being BETTER than Firefox V2.

Here's what I'm using, with absolutely no problems loading ZaReason, except that I need to whitelist the site in flashblock to play the videos:

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.9pre) Gecko/2008032920 Minefield/3.0pre - Build ID: 2008032920

Adblock Plus
Adblock Plus: Element Hiding Helper 1.0.2
AutoFormer 0.4
CLEO 3.3.1
ColorfulTabs 3.0
Connect to address 1.1.7
Extension Developer
Extension Manager Extended 2.6.1
FEBE 5.3.1
Flashblock 1.5.5
Forecastfox 0.9.6
Form Saver 0.7
Greasemonkey 0.7.20080121.0
Html Validator
JavaScript Debugger
Leak Monitor 0.4.2 [DISABLED]
LocalLink 0.3
MIME Edit 0.60
Mozilla Quality Extension 0.1.5
MR Tech Local Install
Nightly Tester Tools 1.3
Nuke Anything Enhanced 0.67
Platypus 0.66
Remove It Permanently
RSS Validator 0.3.2
Screen grab! 0.93
Searchbar Autosizer 1.3.8
Stop-or-Reload Button 0.2.2
Tab Mix Plus
Text Complete
Toolbar Buttons
User Agent Switcher 0.6.11
View Dependencies
Web Developer 1.1.5
YesScript 1.1

If you're using even more extensions (or different ones), please list 'em. I *do* have flash, and you need to make sure that yours is the newest version:

File name:
Shockwave Flash 9.0 r31

- - - - -
It is my feeling that the current nightlies (NOT 3.0b4, there have been some big fixes since then) are already more stable than FF2. FF2, although it was last year's "latest and greatest", contains many errors which were too big to fix via maintenance updates. The "GA, Current" version is _definitely_ flakier than the newest V3 builds.

Have you got an hour avialbable to play? Try ripping the package; pull in a Minefield nightly build; use Nightly Tester Tools and Mr. Tech Local Install (the real one, not the "light" version) to activate these un-named "mission critical" extensions which aren't yet listed compatible with FF3 (> b4), and give it a try.

Depending on which extensions you're using you might need to also add these preferences to your config:

"extensions.checkCompatibility" (boolean) false
"extensions.checkUpdateSecurity" (boolean) false

and you might also want:
"" (boolean) false
"app.update.enabled" (boolean) false

so that it doesn't keep trying to try to auto-update again.

I'll bookmark this thread and come back tomorrow, to see if you've got any questions about this suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about typos, I'm up way too late to notice them ;)

Blaise Alleyne said...

"Stable is what Linux is supposed to be all about, right?"

*raised eyebrow*

Stability is secondary to freedom. It's the free software and open source bit that provides stability, amongst other things.

Anonymous said...

Ubuntu has no such issues, and as this is obviously (hopefully?) not a hardware issue, switching to Ubuntu or similar would probably solve all your woes.

No...the other two boxes were a kubuntu 7.10 and Mepis 7.0 Both were identical ffox .13 installs and all crashed with the identical triggers with the identical output from the command line. No, this is either a GTK issue or an obvious bug BCAK.

Sorry for the anon post...


Anonymous said...

that's what you get for going to Fox News! :)

Blog of helios said...

Perhaps it's time for BoH to examine those "mission-critical" extensions. Maybe THEY are the real reason for the crashes.

Actually, that was the first thing I did and to a point, deleting the entire folder then reinstalling them did solve the download link crashes and I have one by one, reinstalled them with no download link crashes...unfortunately, I have not been able to identify which one it was that was causing the problems. The multiple page crashes still persist even with a gtk update however.

Blog of helios said...

I'll bookmark this thread and come back tomorrow, to see if you've got any questions about this suggestion.

You don't know how much I appreciate your taking the amount of time it took to post this...thank you very much for your in-depth observations and suggestions. I will try the things you suggest but it will have to be on Wed. as we have several Komputers4Kids installs to do today. It's the busiest day we've had for our charity in weeks.

My concern isn't so much for myself but for those brand new to Linux who don't have a clue as to how to fix this. My point is that the Mozilla Foundation and Firefox in particular should have been on top of this long ago. If you go to where I did and look at the bug reports, this "issue" has been unresolved for almost a year and still in forum after forum, you see unanswered or unresolved posts on this very problem. I've got two calls into Firefox now...let's see how interested in getting this fixed they are.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't look like a real Firefox problem to me. Even your own logs posted seem more likely to indicate this. For example, what's this soundwrapper entry?
Did you bother to check into that? soundwrapper is a known issue for many people on many distros.

The actually sounds to me like a distro problem. Some sort of incompatibility with a support library or application (ie soundwrapper).

I use .13 myself daily, and extensively with many extensions and crazy websites and I've never had any issues. I use FF .13 on XP and OpenSUSE 10.2 and 10.3 daily.
I have occasional minor issues on OpenSUSE, but they are almost always related to issues of websites that assume they are going to be viewed on a Windows platform.

Anyway, I think you've got the cart before the horse in blaming FF for this one. Just because a new version fails doesn't mean it's bad. I may well just mean that it uses a feature of the system or external library or application in a new way that reveals a bug in that application or library.

As for me, I have no plans to use IE or Opera. The UI's of either make me nearly homicidal with frustration.

Despite the occasional bug (very few personally), I still find FF less buggy, and worlds more productive and functional that the alternatives.


Anonymous said...

"Gecko - We Have A problem

Did you look at the output from the Konsole? Epiphany, Mozilla, kazehakase, Galeon...all gecko engined browsers. I am not just blaming firefox and that should be obvious from the title alone. The fact that this problem was replicated on two other distros with identical firefox installs tells me it IS NOT a distro-specific problem. That's the first thing I checked.

It may have been a sound wrapper problem in FFox and thank you for noticing the obvious but it is NOT the problem with the other four browsers. Look at the damned forums and bug reports...see how many thousand people are affected by this very same issue. It was stated in the article that one should do that. Shame you only read enough to get pissed off and pound out your biased answer.

You seem to be in good company.

Chandru said...

Isn't this Fool's day joke?

If so, man you just caught too many.

Anonymous said...


This may be a hardware problem. A Floating Point Exception is triggered by an illegal instruction executed by the FPU, if I recall correctly. If this is the case, then you should be experiencing other problems with programs that use non-integer values (e.g. games, graphics editors, etc). Just my 0010b cents.

Blog of helios said...

This may be a hardware problem.

That was my initial assessment. Being such, I ghosted the FFox install and put it on two other machines running different distros. I was able to replicate the exact same errors with the exact same terminal output. The only thing that did NOT follow suit was Firefox crashing when opening a download link in Mepis. It did not crash then in mepis but everything else did identically.

No, I am guessing this is a problem in gecko and the way it processes gtk...but then again,, I am by no one's farthest stretch a programmer.

This was reported a few hours after we blogged it so either the powers that be do G.A.S. or it was fortunate and extremely coincidental timing.


Anonymous said...

Mr. "LONG COMMENT" anonymous again, please call me "rickst" if you want to point a reply in my direction.

BoH, I saw to check back again tomorrow (and will do so). When I was talking "GTK conflict", I failed to specify-- it is most likely that, if this *is* the problem, then your installed GTK was already too "new" for the firefox update you got, which was built with older GTK compatibility. In this area as well, FF3 could solve your problem-- because, as you may know already, FF3 cuts off support for Win95, Win98, and really old GTK versions. There might be some circa-2002 compatibility band-aids creating your problem.

SO I'll wait for your report tomorrow. Any reason you can't list your add-ons in a reply?

BTW, I'm MDV 2008.0 here, GTK 1.2.10-47mdv2008.0 and 2.12.1-2.1mdv2008.0. If you've just done maintenance on an ubuntu box, you're newer.

anonymous/tachyon, the soundwrapper call was probably spawned from within firefox (I'll swag it was "left behind" after invoking flash plugin). The newest flash version is STRONGLY recommended (IIRC swf plugins are all 32-bit only.)

I'll agree that use of GTK makes Firefox really ugly in some places, and man -- I *HATE* that brain-damaged filechooser.


Anonymous said...

rickst again:
BoH, there was some bustage in the 'nightly' and 'hourly' versions yesterday, but everyone says that today's are back to the usual reliability. So if you already got one, please TRASH IT, and get a fresh one here:

You might also check that this page shows all "green light" builds, except for "yellow" on the builds being created and tested right when you load the page:

- - - - -
I hope your charity work on Tue. and your Wed. both went well. I'm NOT rushing you-- please take your time, or just skip the effort entirely if you're too busy....


Blog of helios said...

then your installed GTK was already too "new" for the firefox update you got, which was built with older GTK compatibility. In this area as well, FF3 could solve your problem-- because, as you may know already, FF3 cuts off support for Win95, Win98, and really old GTK versions. There might be some circa-2002 compatibility band-aids creating your problem.


BINGO...and that answers the question as to why all the other gecko-based browsers were crashing. Thank you for digging this out and bringing it forward. I am running way behind schedule so I am just now following your advice on the ff3 install. We have a new client in teh real estate business that is wanting badly to migrate to Linux. I will be there most of the day today assessing their needs and working with Ricoh on a solution to their particular hardware and may end up writing the interface scripts myself...but that's fine, whatever it takes.

I have just begun to use ff3 and so far there has been not a single crash on any of the pages I am testing. and my extension list being used under .13 follows:

firegestures (much more responsive than mouse gestures)
text link
gmail manager
google toolbar lite
greasemonkey with only one script (html signatures)