I followed the instructions on the Firefox build page: download source, install the Mozilla build tools, install the Windows SDK and also Visual C++, create a .mozconfig file, and then run 'make -f client.mk build'. And then, big surprise, I got: "midl : command line error MIDL1001 : cannot open input file oleacc.idl". This was somewhere around the ia2 folder with a bunch of Accessibility IDL files.
Long story short, I searched around the website and found the fix of extra things to disable in your .mozconfig file.
My final .mozconfig is as follows:
I forgot to add --disable-mochitests which would have been a good idea as well. Only --disable-accessibility and the ones below it are relevant to the fix; the rest speed up basic building and debugging.
Awhile back I wrote a little bit about search and error messages, whether by searching for a fix (taking your code from not type checking to type checking, or finding signatures for error profiles and building wikis out of them). An idea for awesomeness: inferring the search hit that fixes the bug. When trying to figure this build error out, I basically started a search session with the exact error message, and then went into a feedback loop between search engines and web pages to refine answers, until, finally, I finished and my searches were about something completely different.
Some other first-years are trying to work on semantics-aware code search, which is neat (I admit Dave's type graph work in Prospector is more in my style than their natural language approach); I want better searching of errors. Until somebody figures out a better way, I'll keep writing posts of brain dead errors like these that take a disproportionate amount of time to figure out to Google. Perhaps it's worth trying to streamline this, say by linking my browser search history to compiler output.