Roads Less Taken

A blend of programming, boats and life.

ESUG Day 3

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Suddenly it is Wednesday and we are already on day three at ESUG - a superb software developer conference focused on Smalltalk. Time flies. Yesterday I mainly hacked together with Nicolas Petton on Jtalk, really fun, unfortunately I missed a few interesting presentations, like Fuel and Bifrost etc.

This day starts with Stéphane presenting “Humane assessment”. Mmm, got distracted by my Touchpad, but Stéphane is showing some cool visualizations right now, clearly useful for large systems and organisations that need understand their own “huge legacy software”. Hehe, the browsers shows visual queues on “bad designs” like marking methods as “BrainMethod” or marking a class as “God Class” - that is indeed very slick!

All in all it looks like a very useful tool - I should probably try it out on some codebase. In fact, this tool is a really good “added value” tool that can be offered to customers when helping them. I have at least one client that really could make some good use of a tool like this.

Next up before coffee is Arden Thomas from Cincom (hehe, that was funny, the Touchpad wanted to correct “Cincom” to “Condom”…) presenting what is new in their products / ObjectStudio and VisualWorks. These are really mature and amazing Smalltalk tools, but of course they also costs money, money, money. But VisualWorks is accessible in a non commercial full version, which is quite nice if it fits your needs. Cincom is also quite active in a bunch of open source Smalltalk projects like for example GLORP (think “Hibernate” for all you non-Smalltalkers) and Seaside (the most outstanding web framework in the world).

After running around flaunting the Touchpad :) - I came slightly late to Igor Stasenko’s presentation on NativeBoost. I have worked with Igor and he has this refreshing “fearlessness” so diving into assembler is not a problem for him. So NativeBoost is an extension to the Squeak VM (and the new Cog VM) that enables dynamic machine code generation - and execution - directly from Smalltalk using just Smalltalk. So it includes a DSL for writing assembler (a port of AsmJit) and mechanisms to access memory etc etc. The machine code needs to be relocation agnostic since it is actually stored directly in a Smalltalk object (the method) and will be moving around due to the garbage collector moving things around. Another interesting issue is that if the machine code calls into the VM in order to create a Smalltalk object, it will need to be aware of the fact that this can trigger GCs and move things around - but this is just the same for building VM plugins. Of course, Igor’s stuff is very impressive and you can make very fast code using it.

The day then ended with the social event and announcing the winners of the awards and a nice dinner followed up with some beer and endless “Why doesn’t everyone use Smalltalk?” discussions - as is customary.

Over and out, Goran “typing this in on my Touchpad using the bluetooth keyboard”