collapse Blogs I Read
collapse Table of Contents
  1. Jonathan Pryor's web log
    1. HackWeek V
    2. Defending XML-based Build Systems
    3. mdoc Repository Format History
    4. Assembly Versioning with mdoc
    5. Caching mdoc's ASP.NET-generated HTML
    6. Configuring the ASP.NET front-end for mdoc
    7. Assembling Documentation with mdoc
    8. Exporting mdoc Repositories to Microsoft XML Documentation
    9. Customizing mdoc's Static HTML Output
    10. mdoc XML Schema
    11. Writing Documentation for mdoc
    12. Using mdoc
    13. TekPub's Mastering LINQ Challenge
    14. What is mdoc?
      1. Why the mdoc repository?
      2. Why use mdoc?
    15. Re-Introducing mdoc
    16. Linq to SQL on Mono 2.6: NerdDinner on Mono
    17. Mono.Data.Sqlite & System.Data in MonoTouch 1.2 [Preview]
      1. What Does This Mean?
      2. Example?
      3. What's Missing?
      4. Why Provide Mono.Data.Sqlite?
      5. What About Data Binding?
      6. Conclusion
    18. Linq to SQL on Mono Update: NerdDinner on Mono
    19. Where are all the fuel efficient cars?
    20. Mono 2.4 and mdoc-update
    21. DbLinq and Mono
      1. DbLinq On Mono
      2. DbLinq In Mono
    22. Extension Method Documentation
    23. How To Defend Against Software Patent FUD
    24. openSUSE 11.1: Where'd my hostname go?
    25. Icecream & Firewalls
    26. Announcing NDesk.Options 0.2.1
      1. Usage
      2. What's New?
    27. Threading: Lock Nesting
    28. HackWeek Summary
    29. Announcing NDesk.Options 0.2.0
      1. Usage
      2. What's New?
    30. Unix Signal Handling In C#
    31. Announcing NDesk.Options 0.1.0
      1. Usage
      2. What's New?
    32. Mono and Mixed Mode Assembly Support
    33. So you want to parse a command line...
    34. Announcing Brian Jonathan Pryor
    35. Random Musings About Spain/Barcelona
    36. OOoCon 2007 Trip: Saturday - Monday
    37. OOoCon 2007 Trip: Wednesday - Friday
    38. OOoCon 2007 Trip: Monday - Tuesday
    39. In Defense Of git
    40. Yet Another Random Update...
    41. Comparing Java and C# Generics
      1. What Are Generics
      2. Terminology
      3. Generic Methods
      4. Constraints
        1. Java Type Constraints
        2. C# Constraints
      5. Java Wildcards (Java Method Constraints)
        1. Unbounded Wildcards
        2. Bounded Wildcards
        3. C# Equivalents
      6. Generics Implementation
        1. Java Implementation
        2. .NET Implementation
      7. Runtime Environment
        1. Java Runtime Environment
        2. C# Runtime Environment
      8. Summary
      9. Links
    42. Problems with Traditional Object Oriented Ideas
    43. Things I Didn't Know - What Is Obesity?
    44. It's A Boy!
    45. Re-Introducing monodocer
      1. Monodocer
      2. monodocer -importecmadoc
      3. Optimizing monodocer -importecmadoc
      4. Conclusion
    46. Goodbye Cadmus; Hello Novell
    47. Mono.Fuse 0.4.2
      1. Aside: A Walk through Mono.Posix History
      2. Download
      3. GIT Repository
    48. POSIX Says The Darndest Things
    49. Rides
    50. Entering the Twenty-First Century
    51. Random Update
    52. Mono.Fuse 0.4.1
      1. Mac OS X HOWTO
      2. Known Issues
      3. Download
      4. GIT Repository
    53. When Comparisons Fail
    54. openSUSE 10.2 Windows Key Solution
    55. openSUSE 10.2 Windows Key Workaround
    56. openSUSE 10.2 Complaints
      1. Drive Partitioning
      2. Using the Windows key
    57. Care and Feeding of openSUSE 10.2
      1. IP Masquerading/Network Address Translation (NAT)
      2. HTTP Server with mod_userdir
      3. Windows Shares
    58. Novell, Microsoft, & Patents
    59. Sarah Pictures
    60. Mono.Fuse 0.4.0
      1. API Changes from the previous release:
      2. Download
      3. GIT Repository
    61. Naming, Mono.Fuse Documentation
    62. Mono.Fuse 0.3.0
      1. API Changes from the previous release:
      2. Download
      3. GIT Repository
    63. Miguel's ReflectionFS
    64. Mono.Fuse, Take 2.1!
    65. Mono.Fuse, Take 2!
    66. Announcing Mono.Fuse
      1. Why?
      2. What about SULF?
      3. Implementation
        1. mono
        2. mcs
      4. HOWTO
      5. Questions
    67. Definitions Matter
    68. NSA Phone Call Database
    69. Happy 1st Birthday, Sarah!
    70. Performance Comparison: IList<T> Between Arrays and List<T>
    71. The Return of Patriarchy
    72. Defining Insanity
    73. Criminalizing Nature
    74. The innocent have nothing to hide...
    75. Taxes
    76. Winter Wonderland
    77. Sarah's Cruising Efforts
    78. Secular Societies
    79. Profiling and its Problems
    80. Reverse Engineering
    81. Airport ID Checks are Constitutional
    82. 1968 Liberal Ideology
    83. Sarah's 9 Month Checkup
    84. Programming Language Comparison
    85. The Security and Threat of Unchecked Presidential Power
    86. Creation of Liberal Media Bias
    87. Male Human Rights
    88. Intelligent Design & Atheism - Combined
    89. Death Row for Self Defence
    90. Sarah Picture Galore
    91. Six Month Checkup
    92. Patents
    93. More on 'honor' killings
    94. System.Diagnostics Tracing Support
    95. Mono.Unix Reorganization
    96. Cereal
    97. Sarah, Yard Work
    98. Sarah at Four Months
    99. Peak Oil? We don't need no stinkin' Peak Oil!
    100. Major Change to Nullable Types
    101. It's Not All About Us
    102. Psychological theories for Terrorists and their Apologists
    103. Raising Children
    104. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
    105. Government Taking Private Land
    106. Insane Patents
    107. Guns are a Human Right
    108. Two Wonderful Years
    109. Evolution: What Controversy?
    110. Group Pictures
    111. More Pictures!
    112. A Child Is Born
    113. Death to the Public Domain!
    114. Frogger under Mono
    115. Patenting Medical Facts
    116. How Capitalism Destroyed Slavery
    117. 360° Panorama Workflow
    118. TSA's Secure Flight
    119. Intellectual Property -- Not Just for Software!
    120. Honor Thy Father... Or Else
    121. Who Needs Health Insurance?
    122. Mono.Unix Documentation Stubs

Jonathan Pryor's web log

HackWeek V

Last week was HackWeek V, during which I had small goals, yet had most of the time eaten by unexpected "roadblocks."

The week started with my mis-remembering OptionSet behavior. I had thought that there was a bug with passing options containing DOS paths, as I thought the path would be overly split:

string path = null;
var o = new OptionSet () {
	{ "path=", v => path = v },
};
o.Parse (new[]{"-path=C:\path"});

Fortunately, my memory was wrong: this works as expected. Yay.

What fails is if the option supports multiple values:

string key = null, value = null;
var o = new OptionSet () {
	{ "D=", (k, v) => {key = k; value = v;} },
};
o.Parse (new[]{"-DFOO=C:\path"});

The above fails with a OptionException, because the DOS path is split, so OptionSet attempts to send 3 arguments to an option expecting 2 arguments. This isn't allowed.

The patch to fix the above is trivial (most of that patch is for tests). However, the fix didn't work at first.

Enter roadblock #1: String.Split() can return too many substrings. Oops.

So I fixed it. That only killed a day...

Next up, I had been sent an email showing that OptionSet had some bugs when removing by index. I couldn't let that happen...and being in a TDD mood, I first wrote some unit tests to describe what the IList<T> semantics should be. Being in an over-engineering mood, I wrote a set of "contract" tests for IList<T> in Cadenza, fixed some Cadenza bugs so that Cadenza would pass the new ListContract, then merged ListContract with the OptionSet tests.

Then I hit roadblock #2 when KeyedCollection<TKey, TItem> wouldn't pass my ListContract tests, as it wasn't exception safe. Not willing to give up on ListContract, I fixed KeyedCollection so it would now pass my ListContract tests, improving compatibility with .NET in the process, which allowed me to finally fix the OptionSet bugs.

I was then able to fix a mdoc export-html bug in which index files wouldn't always be updated, before starting to investigate mdoc assemble wanting gobs of memory.

While pondering how to figure out why mdoc assemble wanted 400MB of memory, I asked the folks on ##csharp on freenode if there were any Mono bugs preventing their SpikeLite bot from working under Mono. They kindly directed me toward a bug in which AppDomain.ProcessExit was being fired at the wrong time. This proved easier than I feared (I feared it would be beyond me).

Which left me with pondering a memory "leak." It obviously couldn't be a leak with a GC and no unmanaged memory to speak of, but what was causing so much memory to be used? Thus proceeded lots of Console.WriteLine(GC.GetTotalMemory(false)) calls and reading the output to see where the memory use was jumping (as, alas I found Mono's memory profiler to be less than useful for me, and mono's profiler was far slower than a normal run). This eventually directed me to the problem:

I needed, at most, two XmlNode values from an XmlDocument. An XmlDocument loaded from a file that could be very small or large-ish (0.5MB). Thousands of such files. At once.

That's when it dawned on me that storing XmlNodes in a Dictionary loaded from thousands of XmlDocuments might not be such a good idea, as each XmlNode retains a reference to the XmlDocument it came from, so I was basically copying the entire documentation set into memory, when I only needed a fraction of it. Doh!

The fix was straightforward: keep a temporary XmlDocument around and call XmlDocument.ImportNode to preserve just the data I needed.

Memory use plummeted to less than one tenth what was previously required.

Along the way I ran across and reported an xbuild bug (since fixed), and filed a regression in gmcs which prevented Cadenza from building.

Overall, a productive week, but not at all what I had originally intended.

Posted on 15 Jun 2010 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Defending XML-based Build Systems

Justin Etheredge recently suggested that we Say Goodbye to NAnt and MSBuild for .NET Builds With IronRuby. Why? because they're based on XML.

He goes on to mention several problems with XML-based build systems, principally:

His solution: use Ruby to describe your build process.

My reaction? No, no, for the love of $deity NO!

Why? Three reasons: GNU Autotools, Paul E. McKenney's excellent parallel programming series, and SQL.

Wait, what? What do those have to do with build systems? Everything, and nothing.

The truly fundamental problem is this: "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail" (reportedly a quote from Mark Twain, but that's neither here nor there). In this case, the "hammer" is "writing code." But it's more than that: it's writing imperative code, specifically Ruby code (though the particular language isn't the problem I have, rather the imperative aspect).

Which is, to me, the fundamental problem: it's a terrible base for any form of higher-level functionality. Suppose you want to build your software in parallel (which is where Paul McKenney's series comes in). Well, you can't, because your entire build system is based on imperative code, and unless all the libraries you're using were written with that in mind...well, you're screwed. The imperative code needs to run, and potentially generate any side effects, and without a "higher-level" description of what those side effects entail it can't sanely work.

Want to add a new file to your build (a fairly common thing to do in an IDE, along with renaming files?) Your IDE needs to be able to understand the imperative code. If it doesn't, it just broke your build script. Fun!

OK, what about packaging? Well, in order to know what the generated files are (and where they're located), you'll have to run the entire script and (somehow) track what files were created.

Want to write an external tool that does something hitherto unknown? (As a terrible example, parse all C# code for #if HAVE_XXX blocks so that a set of feature tests can be automatically extracted.) Well, tough -- you have to embed an IronRuby interpreter, and figure out how to query the interpreter for the information you want (e.g. all the source files).

etc., etc.

My problem with imperative languages is that they're not high-level enough. McKenney asks what the good multicore programming languages are; the answer is SQL because it's dedicated ~solely to letting you describe the question but leaves the implementation of the answer to the question up to the SQL database. It's not imperative, it's declarative (at least until you hit esoteric features such as cursors, but in principal you can generally stick to a declarative subset).

OK, so I want a higher-level language to describe targets and dependencies, and supports faster builds. To a large degree, make(1) supports all that, and it's the basis of Autotools. Surely I like that, right?

The problem with autotools is that it's a mixture of declarative and imperative code, with Unix shell scripts forming the backbone of the imperative code (aka the target rules), and these are inherently Unix specific. (Possibly Linux specific, much to my consternation.) Plus, the format is virtually unreadable by anything other than make(1), what with all the language extensions...

So why XML?

Because it's not code, it's data, which (somewhat) lowers the barrier of entry for writing external tools which can parse the format and Do New Things without needing to support some language which might not even run on the platform you're using.

Because it's easily parseable AND verifiable, it's (somewhat) safer for external automated tools to manipulate the file without screwing you over "accidentally" -- e.g. adding and removing files from the build via an IDE.

Because custom rules are limited, there is a smaller "grammar" for external tools to understand, making it simpler to write and maintain them. It also encourages moving "non-target targets" out of the build system, simplifying file contents (and facilitating interaction with e.g. IDEs).

Am I arguing that XML-based build systems are perfect? Far from it. I'm instead arguing that small, purpose-specific languages can (and often are) Good Things™, particularly if they permit interoperability between a variety of tools and people. XML allows this, if imperfectly. An IronRuby-based build system does not.

Posted on 26 Apr 2010 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

mdoc Repository Format History

Time to wrap up this overly long series on mdoc. We covered:

To close out this series, where did the mdoc repository format come from? It mostly came from Microsoft, actually.

Taking a step back, "in the beginning," as it were, the Mono project saw the need for documentation in January 2002. I wasn't involved then, but perusing the archives we can see that csc /doc output was discarded early because it wouldn't support translation into multiple languages. NDoc was similarly discarded because it relied on csc /doc documentation. I'm sure a related problem at the time was that Mono's C# compiler didn't support the /doc compiler option (and wouldn't begin to support /doc until April 2004), so there would be no mechanism to extract any inline documentation anyway.

By April 2003 ECMA standardization of the Common Language Infrastructure was apparently in full force, and the standardization effort included actual class library documentation. The ECMA documentation is available within ECMA-335.zip. The ECMA-335 documentation also included a DTD for the documentation contained therein, and it was a superset of the normal C# XML documentation. The additional XML elements provided what XML documentation lacked: information available from the assembly, such as actual parameter types, return types, base class types, etc. There was one problem with ECMA-335 XML, though: it was gigantic, throwing everything into a single 7MB+ XML file.

To make this format more version-control friendly (can you imagine maintaining and viewing diffs on a 7+MB XML file?), Mono "extended" the ECMA-335 documentation format by splitting it into one file per type. This forms the fundamental basis of the mdoc repository format (and is why I say that the repository format came from Microsoft, as Microsoft provided the documentation XML and DTD to ECMA). This is also why tools such as mdoc assemble refer to the format as ecma. The remainder of the Mono extensions were added in order to fix various documentation bugs (e.g. to distinguish between ref vs. out parameters, to better support generics), etc.

In closing this series, I would like to thank everyone who has ever worked on Monodoc and the surrounding tools and infrastructure. It wouldn't be anywhere near as useful without them.

Posted on 20 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Assembly Versioning with mdoc

Previously, we mentioned as an aside that the Type.xml files within an mdoc repository contained //AssemblyVersion elements. Today we will discuss what they're for.

The //AssemblyVersion element records exactly one thing: which assembly versions a type and member was found in. (The assembly version is specified via the AssemblyVersionAttribute attribute.) With a normal assembly versioning policy, this allows monodoc to show two things: which version added the type/member, and (by inference) which version(s) removed the member.

For example, consider the NetworkStream.Close method. This method was present in .NET 1.0 which overrode Stream.Close. However, in .NET 2.0 the override was removed entirely.

The //AssemblyVersion attribute allows the mdoc repository to track such versioning changes; for example, consider the mdoc-generated NetworkStream.xml file. The //Member[@MemberName='Close']/AssemblyInfo/AssemblyVersion elements contain only an entry for 1.0.5000.0 (corresponding to .NET 1.1) on line 536. Compare to the //Member[@MemberName='CanWrite']/AssemblyInfo/AssemblyVersion elements (for the NetworkStream.CanWrite property) which has //AssemblyVersion elements for 1.0.5000.0 and 2.0.0.0. From this, we can deduce that NetworkStream.Close was present in .NET 1.1, but was removed in .NET 2.0.

When viewing type and member documentation, monodoc and the ASP.NET front end will show the assembly versions that have the member:

NetworkStream.Close -- notice only 1.0.5000.0 is a listed assembly version.

There are two limitations with the version tracking:

  1. It only tracks types and members. For example, attributes, base classes, and interfaces may be added or removed across versions; these are not currently tracked.
  2. It uses the assembly version to fill the <AssemblyVersion> element.

The second point may sound like a feature (isn't it the point?), but it has one downfall: auto-generated assembly versions. You can specify an auto-generated assembly version by using the * for some components in the AssemblyVersionAttribute constructor:

[assembly: AssemblyVersion("1.0.*.*")]

If you do this, every time you rebuild the assembly the compiler will dutifully generate a different assembly number. For example, the first time you might get a compiler version of 1.0.3666.19295, while the second recompilation the compiler will generate 1.0.3666.19375. Since mdoc assigns no meaning to the version numbers, it will create //AssemblyVersion elements for each distinct version found.

The "advantage" is that you can know on which build a member was added. (If you actually care...)

The disadvantage is a major bloating of the mdoc repository, as you add at least 52*(1+M) bytes to each file in the mdoc repository for each unique assembly version (where M is the number of members within the file, as each member is separately tracked). It will also make viewing the documentation distracting; imagine seeing 10 different version numbers for a member, which all differ in the build number. That much noise would make the feature ~useless.

As such, if you're going to use mdoc, I highly suggest not using auto-generated assembly version numbers.

Next time, we'll wrap up this series with a history of the mdoc repository format.

Posted on 19 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Caching mdoc's ASP.NET-generated HTML

Last time we discussed configuring the ASP.NET front-end to display monodoc documentation. The display of extension methods within monodoc and the ASP.NET front-end is fully dynamic. This has it's pros and cons.

On the pro side, if/when you install additional assembled documentatation sources, those sources will be searched for extension methods and they will be shown on all matching types. This is very cool.

On the con side, searching for the extension methods and converting them into HTML takes time -- there is a noticable delay when viewing all members of a type if there are lots of extension methods. On heavily loaded servers, this may be detrimental to overall performance.

If you're running the ASP.NET front-end, you're not regularly adding documentation, and you have Mono 2.6, you can use the mdoc export-html-webdoc command to pre-render the HTML files and cache the results. This will speed up future rendering.

For example, consider the url http://localhost:8080/index.aspx?link=T:System.Collections.Generic.List`1/* (which shows all of the List<T> members). This is a frameset, and the important frame here is http://localhost:8080/monodoc.ashx?link=T:System.Collections.Generic.List`1/* which contains the member listing (which includes extension methods). On my machine, it takes ~2.0s to download this page:

$ time curl -s \
	'http://localhost:8080/monodoc.ashx?link=T:System.Collections.Generic.List`1/*' \
	> /dev/null

real	0m2.021s
user	0m0.003s
sys	0m0.002s

In a world where links need to take less than 0.1 seconds to be responsive, this is...pretty bad.

After running mdoc export-html-webdoc netdocs.zip (which contains the List<T> docs):

$ time curl -s \
	'http://localhost:8080/monodoc.ashx?link=T:System.Collections.Generic.List`1/*' \
	> /dev/null

real	0m0.051s
user	0m0.003s
sys	0m0.006s

That's nearly 40x faster, and within the 0.1s guideline.

Cache Generation: to generate the cache files, run mdoc export-html-web ASSEMBLED-FILES. ASSEMBLED-FILES consists of the .tree or .zip files which are generated by mdoc assemble and have been installed into $prefix/lib/monodoc/sources:

$ mdoc export-html-webdoc $prefix/lib/monodoc/sources/Demo.zip

(Where $prefix is your Mono installation prefix, e.g. /usr/lib/monodoc/sources/Demo.zip.)

This will create a directory tree within $prefix/lib/monodoc/sources/cache/Demo. Restarting the ASP.NET front-end will allow it to use the cache.

If you don't want to generate the cache in another directory, use the -o=PREFIX option. This is useful if you're updating an existing cache on a live server and you don't want to overwrite/replace the existing cache (it's a live server!) -- generate the cache elsewhere, then move the files when the server is offline.

If you have lots of time on your hands, you could process all assembled documentation with:

$ mdoc export-html-webdoc $prefix/lib/monodoc/sources/*.zip

Limitations: It should be noted that this is full of limitations, so you should only use it if performance is really important. Limitations include:

Next time, we'll cover mdoc's support for assembly versioning.

Posted on 15 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Configuring the ASP.NET front-end for mdoc

Last time, we assembled our documentation and installed it for use with monodoc. This is a prerequisite for ASP.NET support (as they both use the same system-wide documentation directory).

Once the documentation is installed (assuming a Linux distro or OSX with the relevant command-line tools installed), you can trivially host a web server which will display the documentation:

$ svn co http://anonsvn.mono-project.com/source/branches/mono-2-4/mono-tools/webdoc/
# output omitted...
$ cd webdoc
$ xsp2

You will need to change the svn co command to use the same version of Mono that is present on your system. For example, if you have Mono 2.6 installed, change the mono-2-4 to mono-2-6.

Once xsp2 is running, you can point your web browser to http://localhost:8080 to view documentation. This will show the same documentation as monodoc did last time:

System.Array extension methods -- notice With() is listed

For "real" use, setting up using Apache with mod_mono may be preferred (or any of the other options listed at Mono's ASP.NET support page). Configuring mod_mono or anything other than xsp2 is beyond my meager abilities.

Next time, we'll discuss improving the ASP.NET front-end's page rendering performance.

Posted on 14 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Assembling Documentation with mdoc

We previously discussed exporting the mdoc repository into static HTML files using mdoc export-html and into a Microsoft XML Documentation file with mdoc export-msxdoc. Today, we'll discuss exporting documentation with mdoc assemble.

mdoc assemble is used to assemble documentation for use with the monodoc Documentation browser and the ASP.NET front-end. This involves the following steps:

  1. Running mdoc assemble.
  2. Writing a .source file.
  3. Installing the files.

Unfortunately we're taking a diversion from the Windows world, as the monodoc browser and the ASP.NET front-end won't run under Windows (due to limitations in the monodoc infrastructure). I will attempt to fix these limitations in the future.

Running mdoc assemble: mdoc assemble has three arguments of interest:

For our current documentation, we would run:

$ mdoc assemble -o Demo Documentation/en.docs

This will create the files Demo.tree and Demo.zip in the current working directory.

The .source file is used to tell the documentation browser where in the tree the documentation should be inserted. It's an XML file that contains two things: a (set of) /monodoc///node elements describing where in the tree the documentation should be inserted, and /monodoc/source elements which specify the files to use. For example:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<monodoc>
  <node label="Demo Library" name="Demo-lib" parent="libraries" />
  <source provider="ecma" basefile="Demo" path="Demo-lib"/>
</monodoc>

The /monodoc/node element describes where in the monodoc tree the documentation should be placed. It has three attributes, two of which are required:

The /monodoc/source element describes what file basename to use when looking for the .tree and .zip files. (By convention the .source, .tree, and .zip files share the same basename, but this is not required. The .tree and .zip files must share the same basename, but the .source basename may differ, and will differ if e.g. one .source file pulls in several .tree/.zip pairs.) It has three attributes, all of which are required:

Installing the files. Files need to be installed into $prefix/lib/monodoc/sources. You can obtain this directory with pkg-config(1):

$ cp Demo.source Demo.tree Demo.zip \
    `pkg-config monodoc --variable=sourcesdir`

Now when we run monodoc, we can navigate to the documentation that was just installed:

ObjectCoda.With() documentation inside monodoc.

Additionally, those paying attention on January 10 will have noticed that the With() method we documented is an extension method. Monodoc supports displaying extension methods on the relevant type documentation. In this case, With() is an extension on TSource, which is, for all intents and purposes, System.Object. Thus, if we view the System.Object docs within our local monodoc browser, we will see the With() extension method:

System.Object extension methods -- notice With() is listed.

In fact, we will see With() listed as an extension method on all types (which is arguably a bug, as static types can't have instance methods...).

Furthermore, mdoc export-html will also list extension methods. However, mdoc export-html is far more limited: it will only look for extension methods within the mdoc repositories being processing, and it will only list those methods as extension methods on types within the mdoc repository. Consequently, mdoc export-html will not list e.g. IEnumerable<T> extension methods on types that implement IEnumerable<T>. (It simply lacks the information to do so.)

Examples of mdoc export-html listings of extension methods can be found in the mdoc unit tests and the Cadenza.Collections.CachedSequence<T> docs (which lists a million extension methods because Cadenza.Collections.EnumerableCoda contains a million extension methods on IEnumerable<T>).

Next time, we'll discuss setting up the ASP.NET front end under Linux.

Posted on 13 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Exporting mdoc Repositories to Microsoft XML Documentation

Previously, we discussed how to write documentation and get it into the documentation repository. We also discussed exporting the documentation into static HTML files using mdoc export-html. Today, we'll discuss mdoc export-msxdoc.

mdoc export-msxdoc is used to export the documentation within the mdoc repository into a .xml file that conforms to the same schema as csc /doc. This allows you, if you so choose, to go entirely to externally managed documentation (instead of inline XML) and still be able to produce your Assembly.xml file so that Visual Studio/etc. can provide code completion against your assembly.

There are two ways to invoke it:

$ mdoc export-msxdoc Documentation/en
$ mdoc export-msxdoc -o Demo.xml Documentation/en

The primary difference between these is what files are generated. Within each Type.xml file of the mdoc repository (e.g. ObjectCoda.xml) is a /Type/AssemblyInfo/AssemblyName element.

The first command (lacking -o Demo.xml) will generate a set of .xml files, where the filenames are based on the values of the /Type/AssemblyInfo/AssemblyName element values, in this case Demo.xml. Additionally, a NamespaceSummaries.xml file is generated, containing documentation for any namespaces that were documented (which come from the ns-*.xml files, e.g. ns-Cadenza.xml).

The second command (which specifies -o Demo.xml) will only generate the specified file (in this case Demo.xml).

For this mdoc repository, there is no actual difference between the commands (as only one assembly was documented within the repository), except for the generation of the NamespaceSummaries.xml file. However, if you place documentation from multiple assemblies into the same mdoc repository, the first command will properly generate .xml files for each assembly, while the latter will generate only a single .xml file containing the documentation from all assemblies.

Next time, we'll cover mdoc assemble.

Posted on 12 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Customizing mdoc's Static HTML Output

Last time, we wrote documentation for our Demo.dll assembly. What if we want to improve the looks of those docs, e.g. to change the colors or add additional navigation links for site consistency purposes?

mdoc export-html uses three mechanisms to control output:

The XSLT needs to consume an XML document that has the following structure:

<Page>
    <CollectionTitle>Collection Title</CollectionTitle>
    <PageTitle>Page Title</PageTitle>
    <Summary>Page Summary</Summary>
    <Signature>Type Declaration</Signature>
    <Remarks>Type Remarks</Remarks>
    <Members>Type Members</Members>
    <Copyright>Documentation Copyright</Copyright>
</Page>

The contents of each of the //Page/* elements contains HTML or plain text nodes. Specifically:

/Page/CollectionTitle
Contains the Assembly and Namespace name links.
/Page/PageTitle
Contains the type name/description.
/Page/Summary
Contains the type <summary/> documentation.
/Page/Signature
Contains the type signature, e.g. whether it's a struct or class, implemented interfaces, etc.
/Page/Remarks
Contains type-level <remarks/>.
/Page/Members
Contains the documentation for all of the members of the type, including a table for all of the members.
/Page/Copyright
Contains copyright information taken from the mdoc repository, specifically from index.xml's /Overview/Copyright element.

By providing a custom --template XSLT and/or by providing an additional CSS file, you have some degree of control over the resulting documentation.

I'll be the first to admit that this isn't a whole lot of flexibility; there is no control over what CSS class names are used, nor is there any control over what is generated within the /Page//* elements. What this model does allow is for controlling the basic page layout, e.g. to add a site-wide menu system, allowing documentation to be consistent with the rest of the site.

For example, my site uses custom templates to provide a uniform look-and-feel with the rest of their respective sites for the Mono.Fuse and NDesk.Options documentation.

Next time, we'll cover mdoc export-msxdoc.

Posted on 11 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

mdoc XML Schema

Previously, I mentioned that you could manually edit the XML files within the mdoc repository.

What I neglected to mention is that there are only parts of the XML files that you should edit, and that there is an XML Schema file available for all docs.

The mdoc(5) man page lays out which files within the repository (and which parts of those files) are editable. In summary, all ns-*.xml files and the //Docs nodes of all other .xml files are editable, and they should contain ye normal XML documentation elements (which are also documented within the mdoc(5) man page).

The XML Schema can be found in Mono's SVN, at http://anonsvn.mono-project.com/source/trunk/mcs/tools/mdoc/Resources/monodoc-ecma.xsd.

Posted on 10 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Writing Documentation for mdoc

Last time, we create an assembly and used mdoc to generate a documentation repository containing stubs. Stubs have some utility -- you can view the types, members, and parameter types that are currently present -- but they're far from ideal. We want actual documentation.

Unfortunately, mdoc isn't an AI, and can't write documentation for you. It manages documentation; it doesn't create it.

How do we get actual documentation into the respository? There are three ways:

  1. Manually edit the XML files within the repository directory (if following from last time, this would be all .xml files within the Documentation/en directory.
  2. Use monodoc --edit Documentation/en.
  3. We can continue writing XML documentation within our source code.

Manually editing the files should be self-explanatory; it's not exactly ideal, but it works, and is how I write most of my documentation.

When using monodoc --edit Documentation/en, the contents of Documentation/en will be shown sorted in the tree view by it's assembly name, e.g. in the Mono Documentation → Demo node. When viewing documentation, there are [Edit] links that, when clicked, will allow editing the node (which directly edits the files within Documentation/en.

However, I can't recommend monodoc as an actual editor. It's usability is terrible, and has one major usability flaw: when editing method overloads, most of the documentation will be the same (or similar enough that you'll want to copy everything anyway), e.g. <summary/>, <param/>, etc. The monodoc editor doesn't allow copying all of this at once, but only each element individually. It makes for a very slow experience.

Which brings us to inline XML documentation. mdoc update supports importing XML documentation as produced by csc /doc. So let's edit our source code to add inline documentation:

using System;

namespace Cadenza {
    /// <summary>
    ///  Extension methods on <see cref="T:System.Object" />.
    /// </summary>
    public static class ObjectCoda {
        /// <typeparam name="TSource">The type to operate on.</typeparam>
        /// <typeparam name="TResult">The type to return.</typeparam>
        /// <param name="self">
        ///   A <typeparamref name="TSource" /> containing the value to manipulate.
        ///   This value may be <see langword="null" /> (unlike most other
        ///   extension methods).
        /// </param>
        /// <param name="selector">
        ///   A <see cref="T:System.Func{TSource,TResult}" /> which will be
        ///   invoked with <paramref name="self" /> as a parameter.
        /// </param>
        /// <summary>
        ///   Supports chaining otherwise temporary values.
        /// </summary>
        /// <returns>
        ///   The value of type <typeparamref name="TResult" /> returned by
        ///   <paramref name="selector" />.
        /// </returns>
        /// <remarks>
        ///   <para>
        ///     <c>With</c> is useful for easily using an intermediate value within
        ///     an expression "chain" without requiring an explicit variable
        ///     declaration (which is useful for reducing in-scope variables, as no
        ///     variable is explicitly declared).
        ///   </para>
        ///   <code lang="C#" src="../../example.cs#With" />
        /// </remarks>
        /// <exception cref="T:System.ArgumentNullException">
        ///   <paramref name="selector" /> is <see langword="null" />.
        /// </exception>
        public static TResult With<TSource, TResult>(
                this TSource self, 
                Func<TSource, TResult> selector)
        {
            if (selector == null)
                throw new ArgumentNullException ("selector");
            return selector (self);
        }
    }
}

(As an aside, notice that our file ballooned from 14 lines to 45 lines because of all the documentation. This is why I prefer to keep my documentation external to the source code, as it really bloats the source. Certainly, the IDE can hide comments, but I find that this defeats the purpose of having comments in the first place.)

Compile it into an assembly (use csc if running on Windows), specifying the /doc parameter to extract XML documentation comments:

$ gmcs /t:library /out:Demo.dll /doc:Demo.xml demo.cs

Update our documentation repository, but import Demo.xml:

$ mdoc update -o Documentation/en -i Demo.xml Demo.dll --exceptions=added
Updating: Cadenza.ObjectCoda
Members Added: 0, Members Deleted: 0

(No members were added or deleted as we're only changing the documentation, and didn't add any types or members to the assembly.)

Now when we view ObjectCoda.xml, we can see the documentation that was present in the source code.

However, notice one other change. In the documentation we wrote, we had:

        ///   <code lang="C#" src="../../example.cs#With" />

Yet, within ObjectCoda.xml, we have:

          <code lang="C#" src="../../example.cs#With">Console.WriteLine(
    args.OrderBy(v => v)
    .With(c => c.ElementAt (c.Count()/2)));
</code>

What's going on here? What's going on is that mdoc will search for all <code/> elements. If they contain a //code/@src attribute, the specified file is read in and inserted as the //code element's value. The filename specified in the //code/@src attribute is relative to the documentation repository root. A further extension is that, for C# code, if the filename has an "anchor", a #region block of the same name is searched for within the source code.

The ../../example.cs file referenced in the //code/@src value has the contents:

using System;
using System.Linq;
using Cadenza;

class Demo {
    public static void Main (string[] args)
    {
        #region With
        Console.WriteLine(
            args.OrderBy(v => v)
            .With(c => c.ElementAt (c.Count()/2)));
        #endregion
    }
}

This makes keeping documentation examples actually compiling trivial to support. For example, I'll have documentation refer to my unit tests, e.g.

<code lang="C#" src="../../Test/Cadenza/ObjectTest.cs#With" />

One final point worth mentioning: you can import documentation as often as you want. The imported documentation will always overwrite whatever is already present within the documentation repository. Consequently, if you want to use mdoc for display purposes but want to continue using inline XML documentation, always import the compiler-generated .xml file.

Now, we can update our HTML documentation:

$ mdoc export-html -o html Documentation/en
Cadenza.ObjectCoda

The current Demo.dll documentation.

Next time, we'll cover customizing the static HTML output.

Posted on 10 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Using mdoc

As mentioned last time, mdoc is an assembly-based documentation management system. Thus, before you can use mdoc you need an assembly to document. Let's write some C# source:

using System;

namespace Cadenza {
    public static class ObjectCoda {
        public static TResult With<TSource, TResult>(
                this TSource self, 
                Func<TSource, TResult> selector)
        {
            if (selector == null)
                throw new ArgumentNullException ("selector");
            return selector (self);
        }
    }
}

Compile it into an assembly (use csc if running on Windows):

$ gmcs /t:library /out:Demo.dll demo.cs

Now that we have an assembly, we can create the mdoc repository for the Demo.dll assembly, which will contain documentation stubs for all publically visible types and members in the assembly:

$ mdoc update -o Documentation/en Demo.dll --exceptions=added
New Type: Cadenza.ObjectCoda
Member Added: public static TResult With<TSource,TResult> (this TSource self, Func<TSource,TResult> selector);
Namespace Directory Created: Cadenza
New Namespace File: Cadenza
Members Added: 1, Members Deleted: 0

mdoc update is the command for for synchronizing the documentation repository with the assembly; it can be run multiple times. The -o option specifies where to write the documentation repository. Demo.dll is the assembly to process; any number of assemblies can be specified. The --exceptions argument analyzes the IL to statically determine which exception types can be generated from a member. (It is not without some limitations; see the "--exceptions" documentation section.) The added argument to --exceptions tells mdoc to add <exception/> elements only for types and members that have been added to the repository, not to all types and members in the assembly. This is useful for when you've removed <exception/> documentation and don't want mdoc to re-add them.

We choose Documentation/en as the documentation repository location so that we can easily support localizing the documentation into multiple languages: each directory underneath Documentation would be named after an ISO 639-1 code, e.g. en is for English. This is only a convention, and is not required; any directory name can be used.

Notice that, since mdoc is processing assemblies, it will be able to work with any language that can generate assemblies, such as Visual Basic.NET and F#. It does not require specialized support for each language.

Now we have a documentation repository containing XML files; a particularly relevant file is ObjectCoda.xml, which contains the documentation stubs for our added type. I won't show the output here, but if you view it there are three important things to note:

  1. The XML is full of type information, e.g. the /Type/Members/Member/Parameters/Parameter/@Type attribute value.
  2. The XML contains additional non-documentation information, such as the //AssemblyVersion elements. This will be discussed in a future blog posting.
  3. The //Docs elements are a container for the usual C# XML documentation elements.

Of course, a documentation repository isn't very useful on it's own. We want to view it! mdoc provides three ways to view documentation:

  1. mdoc export-html: This command generates a set of static HTML files for all types and members found within the documentation repository.
  2. mdoc assemble: This command "assembles" the documentation repository into a .zip and .tree file for use with the monodoc Documentation browser and the ASP.NET front-end (which powers http://www.go-mono.com/docs).
  3. mdoc export-msxdoc: This generates the "traditional" XML file which contains only member documentation. This is for use with IDEs like Visual Studio, so that the IDE can show summary documentation while editing.

We will cover mdoc assemble and mdoc export-msxdoc in future installments. For now, to generate static HTML:

$ mdoc export-html -o html Documentation/en
Cadenza.ObjectCoda

The current Demo.dll documentation.

Next time we will cover how to write actual documentation instead of just documentation stubs.

Posted on 09 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

TekPub's Mastering LINQ Challenge

Justin Etheredge has posted TekPub's Mastering LINQ Challenge, in which he lays out a "little LINQ challenge." The rules:

  1. You have to blog about a single LINQ query which starts with Enumerable.Range(1,n) and produces a list of prime numbers from the range. Thus, this blog posting. (Otherwise I'd rely on my twitter response.)
  2. You can't cheat. This is determined by me, and includes hardcoding values in the results. You'll know if you cheated. Part of me wonders if just being me qualifies as cheating, but that might imply that my computer self has too large an ego </ob-##csharp-meme>.
  3. Uses no custom LINQ methods. Here I ponder what constitutes a "custom LINQ method." Is any extension method a custom LINQ method? Any utility code?
  4. Will return all of the prime numbers of the sequence. It doesn't have to be super optimal, but it has to be correct. Boy is it not super optimal (it's a one liner!), but some improvements could make it better (e.g. Memoization, hence the prior question about whether extension methods constitute a "custom LINQ method").
  5. Be one of the first 5 people to blog a correct answer and then tweet this "I just solved the @tekpub LINQ challenge: <link to post>" will get any single TekPub screencast. The time of your solution will be based on your tweet! So be prompt!

    As far as timliness, I'm writing this blog entry over four hours after my tweet, so, uh, so much for timliness.

  6. You must link to both TekPub's website and this post in your blog post.

    Done, and done.

So, the quick and dirty, not at all efficent answer (with longer identifiers as I certainly have more than 140 characters to play with:

Enumerable.Range(1, n).Where(value => 
    value <= 3
        ? true
        : Enumerable.Range(2, value - 2)
          .All(divisor => value % divisor != 0))

In English, we take all integers between 1 and n. Given a value from that sequence, if the value is less than 3, it's prime. If it's greater than three, take all numbers from 2 until value-1 and see if any of them divides value with no remainder. If none of them divide with no remainder, value is prime.

We need to use value-2 in the nested Enumerable.Range call so that we skip the value itself (since we're starting at 2).

Now, we can improve upon this in a fairly straightforward fashion if we can use additional code. For example, if we use Bart de Smet's Memoize extension method on System.Func<T, TResult>, we can skip the repeated nested Enumerable.Range call on every value, as prime numbers don't change (and thus are prime candidates for caching ;-):

Func<int, bool> isPrime = value => 
    value <= 3
        ? true
        : Enumerable.Range(2, value - 2)
          .All(divisor => value % divisor != 0))
isPrime = isPrime.Memoize();
Enumerable.Range(1, n).Where(value => isPrime(value));

Whether this latter answer matches the rules depends upon the definition of "single LINQ query" (does the definition of isPrime need to be part of the LINQ query, or just its use?) and whether Bart's Memoize extension method qualifies as a "custom LINQ method" (I don't think it is...). The downside to the memoization is that it's basically a memory leak in disguise, so I still wouldn't call it "optimal," just that it likely has better performance characteristics than my original query...

Posted on 08 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

What is mdoc?

mdoc is an assembly-based documentation management system, which recently added support for .NET .

I say "assembly based" because an alternative is source-based, which is what "normal" C# XML documentation, JavaDoc, and perlpod provide. Unlike these source-based systems, in mdoc documentation for public types and members are not present within source code. Instead, documentation is stored externally (to the source), in a directory of XML files (hereafter refered to as the mdoc repository).

Furthermore, mdoc provides commands to:

Why the mdoc repository?

Why have a directory of XML files as the mdoc repository? The mdoc repository comes from the need to satisfy two goals:

  1. The compiler-generated /doc XML contains no type information.
  2. Having types is very useful for HTML output/etc., so the type information must come from somewhere.

Said "somewhere" could be the actual assemblies being documented, but this has other downsides (e.g. it would complicate supporting different versions of the same assembly). mdoc uses the repository to contain both documentation and full type information, so that the source assemblies are only needed to update the repository (and nothing else).

Why use mdoc?

Which provides enough background to get to the point: why use mdoc?

You would primarily want to use mdoc if you want to view your documentation outside of an IDE, e.g. within a web browser or stand-alone documentation browser. Most mdoc functionality is geared toward making documentation viewable (e.g. mdoc export-html and mdoc assemble), and making the documentation that is viewed more useful (such as the full type information provided by mdoc update and the generation of <exception/> elements for documentation provided by mdoc update --exceptions).

Next time, we'll discuss how to use mdoc.

Posted on 08 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Re-Introducing mdoc

Many moons ago, Jon Skeet announced Noda Time. In it he asked:

How should documentation be created and distributed?

Thus I pondered, "how well does mdoc support Windows users?"

The answer: not very well, particularly in an interop scenario.

So, lots of bugfixing and a false-start later, and I'd like to announce mdoc for .NET. All the power of mdoc, cross-platform.

Note that these changes did not make it into Mono 2.6, and won't be part of a formal Mono release until Mono 2.8. Consequently, if you want to run things under .NET, you should use the above ZIP archive. (You can, of course, install Mono on Windows and then use mdoc via Mono, you just won't be able to run mdoc under .NET.)

The changes made since Mono 2.6 include:

Next time, we'll cover what mdoc is, and why you'd want to use it.

Posted on 07 Jan 2010 | Path: /development/mono/mdoc/ | Permalink

Linq to SQL on Mono 2.6: NerdDinner on Mono

NerdDinner is an ASP.NET MVC sample, licensed under the Ms-PL with sources hosted at CodePlex.

Back on May 14th, I wrote that NerdDinner could be run under Mono using trunk.

Now, I'm pleased to note that the just-released Mono 2.6 includes these changes. Furthermore, thanks to ankit's progress on xbuild, installation and setup is easier than before:

  1. Build (or otherwise obtain) Mono 2.6. The Parallel Mono Environments page may be helpful.
  2. Download the NerdDinner 1.0 sources through a web browser. (curl or wget won't work.)
  3. Extract the NerdDinner sources:
    $ mkdir -p $HOME/tmp
    $ cd $HOME/tmp
    $ unzip "/path/to/NerdDinner 1.0.zip"
  4. Build NerdDinner 1.0:
    $ cd "$HOME/tmp/NerdDinner 1.0"
    $ xbuild NerdDinner/NerdDinner.csproj
    (Unfortunately we can't build just run xbuild (or build NerdDinner.sln) as this requires access to the MSTest assemblies used by the NerdDinner unit tests, which aren't currently present on Mono.)
  5. Only the web portion runs under Mono, as does the data access layer (System.Data.Linq, more affectionately known as Linq to SQL). The database is still Microsoft SQL Server. Go forth and configure the NerdDinner server (if you don't already have one configured).
  6. Back on the Linux side of things, edit $HOME/tmp/NerdDinner 1.0/NerdDinner/ConnectionStrings.config, and change the NerdDinnerConnectionString connection string to:
    <add name="NerdDinnerConnectionString"
        connectionString="Data Source=gourry\SQLEXPRESS;
        Initial Catalog=NerdDinner;
        User ID=gourry\jonp;
        Password=123456; 
        Integrated Security=true"/>
    
    You will need to adjust the machine name in the Data Source parameter to contain your actual computer name, and change the User ID and Password to whatever values you chose when configuring SQL Server.
  7. Configure a MembershipProvider for NerdDinner username/password storage.
  8. Run the web app:
    $ cd "$HOME/tmp/NerdDinner 1.0/NerdDinner"
    $ MONO_IOMAP=all xsp2
    The MONO_IOMAP environment variable is needed because some link targets used within NerdDinner require case insensitivity.

Some things worth noting since May. First, openSUSE has released openSUSE 11.2, which is apparently more stringent than 11.1. Consequently, you may need to open the firewall so that port 8080 is accessible. You can do this by:

  1. Opening YaST.
  2. Starting the Firewall applet.
  3. In the Allowed Services area, add the HTTP Server and Mono XSP2 ASP.NET Host Service services.
  4. Click Next, then Finish.

One other oddity I encountered is that a url of http://localhost:8080 isn't permitted; using telnet(1) shows that it attempts to connect to ::1... (i.e. a IPv6 address), and the connection is refused. Instead, I needed to connect to http://127.0.0.1:8080.

NerdDinnner on Linux!

Posted on 15 Dec 2009 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Mono.Data.Sqlite & System.Data in MonoTouch 1.2 [Preview]

One of the new features that will be present in MonoTouch 1.2 is inclusion of the System.Data and Mono.Data.Sqlite assemblies. This is a preview release of System.Data et. al; it may not fully work. Known limitations are at the end of this post.

What Does This Mean?

It means that the following assemblies will be included in MonoTouch 1.2, and thus usable by MonoTouch applications:

Example?

Sure:

using System;
using System.Data;
using System.IO;
using Mono.Data.Sqlite;

class Demo {
    static void Main (string [] args)
    {
        var connection = GetConnection ();
        using (var cmd = connection.CreateCommand ()) {
            connection.Open ();
            cmd.CommandText = "SELECT * FROM People";
            using (var reader = cmd.ExecuteReader ()) {
                while (reader.Read ()) {
                    Console.Error.Write ("(Row ");
                    Write (reader, 0);
                    for (int i = 1; i < reader.FieldCount; ++i) {
                        Console.Error.Write(" ");
                        Write (reader, i);
                    }
                    Console.Error.WriteLine(")");
                }
            }
            connection.Close ();
        }
    }		

    static SqliteConnection GetConnection()
    {
        var documents = Environment.GetFolderPath (
                Environment.SpecialFolder.Personal);
        string db = Path.Combine (documents, "mydb.db3");
        bool exists = File.Exists (db);
        if (!exists)
            SqliteConnection.CreateFile (db);
        var conn = new SqliteConnection("Data Source=" + db);
        if (!exists) {
            var commands = new[] {
                "CREATE TABLE People (PersonID INTEGER NOT NULL, FirstName ntext, LastName ntext)",
                "INSERT INTO People (PersonID, FirstName, LastName) VALUES (1, 'First', 'Last')",
                "INSERT INTO People (PersonID, FirstName, LastName) VALUES (2, 'Dewey', 'Cheatem')",
                "INSERT INTO People (PersonID, FirstName, LastName) VALUES (3, 'And', 'How')",
            };
            foreach (var cmd in commands)
                using (var c = conn.CreateCommand()) {
                    c.CommandText = cmd;
                    c.CommandType = CommandType.Text;
                    conn.Open ();
                    c.ExecuteNonQuery ();
                    conn.Close ();
                }
        }
        return conn;
    }

    static void Write(SqliteDataReader reader, int index)
    {
        Console.Error.Write("({0} '{1}')", 
                reader.GetName(index), 
                reader [index]);
    }
}

The above code creates the Documents/mydb.db3 SQLite database, populates it if it doesn't already exist, then executes a SQL query against the database using normal, standard, ADO.NET mechanisms.

What's Missing?

Functionality is missing from System.Data.dll and Mono.Data.Sqlite.dll.

Functionality missing from System.Data.dll consists of:

Meanwhile, Mono.Data.Sqlite.dll suffered no source code changes, but instead may be host to a number of runtime issues (the primary reason this is a preview release). Mono.Data.Sqlite.dll binds SQLite 3.5. iPhoneOS, meanwhile, ships with SQLite 3.0. Suffice it to say, some things have changed between the two versions. ;-)

Thus, the real question is this: what's missing in SQLite 3.0? The following functions are used by Mono.Data.Sqlite.dll but are missing from iPhoneOS's SQLite:

Where are these functions used (i.e. what can't you use from Mono.Data.Sqlite)? These appear to be related to database schema querying, e.g. determining at runtime which columns exist on a given table, such as Mono.Data.Sqlite.SqliteConnection.GetSchema (overriding DbConnection.GetSchema) and Mono.Data.Sqlite.SqliteDataReader.GetSchemaTable (overriding DbDataReader.GetSchemaTable). In short, it seems that anything using DataTable is unlikely to work.

Why Provide Mono.Data.Sqlite?

Why not? We realize that there are pre-existing SQLite solutions, but felt that many people would prefer to use the ADO.NET code they're already familiar with. Bringing System.Data and Mono.Data.Sqlite to MonoTouch permits this.

What About Data Binding?

Data binding with e.g. a UITableView is not currently implemented.

Conclusion

I suck at conclusions. :-)

Hope you enjoy this preview!

Posted on 21 Oct 2009 | Path: /development/mono/MonoTouch/ | Permalink

Linq to SQL on Mono Update: NerdDinner on Mono

NerdDinner is an ASP.NET MVC sample, licensed under the Ms-PL with sources hosted at CodePlex.

It is now possible to run the web portions of NerdDinner 1.0 on Linux with Mono trunk, thanks to Marek Habersack and Gonzalo Paniagua Javier's help with Mono's ASP.NET and ASP.NET MVC support, and the DbLinq community's assistance with Linq to SQL support.

This shows a growing level of maturity within Mono's Linq to SQL implementation.

  1. Build Mono from trunk. The Parallel Mono Environments page may be helpful.
  2. Download the NerdDinner 1.0 sources through a web browser. (curl or wget won't work.)
  3. Extract the NerdDinner sources:
    $ mkdir -p $HOME/tmp
    $ cd $HOME/tmp
    $ unzip "/path/to/NerdDinner 1.0.zip"
  4. Build NerdDinner 1.0:
    $ cd "$HOME/tmp/NerdDinner 1.0/NerdDinner"
    $ mkdir bin
    $ gmcs -t:library -out:bin/NerdDinner.dll -debug+ -recurse:'*.cs' \
        -r:System -r:System.Configuration -r:System.Core \
        -r:System.Data -r:System.Data.Linq -r:System.Web \
        -r:System.Web.Abstractions -r:System.Web.Mvc \
        -r:System.Web.Routing
  5. As mentioned in the introduction, only the web portion runs under Mono, as does the data access layer (System.Data.Linq, more affectionately known as Linq to SQL). The database is still Microsoft SQL Server. Find yourself a Windows machine, install SQL Server 2008 (Express is fine), and perform the following bits of configuration:
    1. Create the database files:
      1. Copy the NerdDinner_log.ldf and NerdDinner.mdf files from the $HOME/tmp/NerdDinner 1.0/NerdDinner/App_Data directory to your Windows machine, e.g. C:\tmp.
      2. Within Windows Explorer, go to C:\tmp, right-click the C:\tmp folder, click Properties, click the Security tab, click Edit..., and add the Full Control, MOdify, Read & execute, List folder contents, Read, and Write permissions to the User group. Click OK.
      3. Repeat the above permissions modifications for the NerdDinner_log.ldf and NerdDinner.mdf files in C:\tmp.
    2. Add the NerdDinner database files to Microsoft SQL Server:
      1. Start Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio (Start → All Programs → Microsoft SQL Server 2008 → SQL Server Management Studio).
      2. Connect to your database instance.
      3. Within the Object Explorer (View → Object Explorer), right-click the database name and click Attach....
      4. Within the Attach Databases dialog, click the Add... button, and choose C:\tmp\NerdDinner.mdf in the Locate Database Files dialog. Click OK in both the Locate Database Files dialog and the Attach Databases dialog.
    3. Enable mixed-mode authentication:
      1. Start Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.
      2. Connect to your database instance.
      3. Within the Object Explorer, right-click the database name and click Properties.
      4. In the Server Properties dialog, select the Security page.
      5. In the Server authentication section, select the SQL Server and Windows Authentication mode radio button.
      6. Click OK.
      7. Restart SQL Server by right-clicking on the database name and clicking Restart.
    4. Add a SQL Server user:
      1. Within SQL Server Management Studio, connect to the database instance.
      2. Within the Object Explorer, expand the SecurityLogins tree node.
      3. Right-click the Logins node, and click New Login....
      4. In the Login - New dialog, enter a login name. We'll use jonp for discussion purposes. Select the SQL Server authentication dialog button, and enter a password in the Password and Conform Password text boxes. For discussion purposes we'll use 123456.
      5. Still within the Login - New dialog, select the User Mapping page. In the Users mapped to this login section, select the checkbox in the Map column corresponding to the NerdDinner database. Within the Database role membership for: NerdDinner section, select the db_datareader and db_datawriter roles. Click OK.
    5. Enable remote access to SQL Server (see also):
      1. Configure SQL Server:
        1. Start SQL Server Configuration Manager (Start → All Programs → Microsoft SQL Server 2008 → Configuration Tools → SQL Server Configuration Manager).
        2. In the left-hand pane, select the SQL Server Configuration manager (Local) → SQL Server Network Configuration → Protocols for Database Instance Name node.
        3. In the right pane, double click the TCP/IP Protocol Name.
        4. In the Protocol tab, set Enabled to Yes. Click OK.
        5. In the left-hand pane, go to the SQL Server Configuration Manager (Local) → SQL Server Services node.
        6. In the right pane, double-click SQL Server Browser.
        7. In the Service tab, set the Start Mode property to Automatic. Click OK.
        8. Right-click SQL Server Browser, and click Start.
        9. Right-click SQL Server, and click Restart.
      2. Configure Windows Firewall
        1. Within Windows Control Panel, open the Windows Firewall applet.
        2. Click the Allow a program through Windows Firewall link.
        3. In the Windows Firewall Settings dialog, click the Exceptions tab.
        4. Click Add program..., and add the following programs:
          • sqlbrowser.exe (C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\90\Shared\sqlbrowser.exe)
          • sqlservr.exe (C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10.SQLEXPRESS\MSSQL\Binn\sqlservr.exe)
        5. Click OK.
  6. Back on the Linux side of things, edit $HOME/tmp/NerdDinner 1.0/NerdDinner/ConnectionStrings.config, and change the NerdDinnerConnectionString connection string to:
    <add name="NerdDinnerConnectionString"
        connectionString="Data Source=gourry\SQLEXPRESS;Initial Catalog=NerdDinner;User ID=jonp;Password=123456;"/>
    
    You will need to adjust the machine name in the Data Source parameter to contain your actual computer name, and change the User ID and Password to whatever values you chose in §5.E.iv.
  7. NerdDinner makes use of ASP.NET's MembershipProvider functionality, so a SQLite database needs to be created to contain the username and password information for the NerdDinner site. This is detailed at the ASP.NET FAQ and Guide: Porting ASP.NET Applications pages:
    $ cd "$HOME/tmp/NerdDinner 1.0/NerdDinner/App_Data
    
    # Create the commands needed to configure the SQLite database:
    $ cat > aspnetdb.sql <<EOF
    CREATE TABLE Users (
     pId                                     character(36)           NOT NULL,
     Username                                character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     ApplicationName                         character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     Email                                   character varying(128)  NOT NULL,
     Comment                                 character varying(128)  NULL,
     Password                                character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     PasswordQuestion                        character varying(255)  NULL,
     PasswordAnswer                          character varying(255)  NULL,
     IsApproved                              boolean                 NULL, 
     LastActivityDate                        timestamptz             NULL,
     LastLoginDate                           timestamptz             NULL,
     LastPasswordChangedDate                 timestamptz             NULL,
     CreationDate                            timestamptz             NULL, 
     IsOnLine                                boolean                 NULL,
     IsLockedOut                             boolean                 NULL,
     LastLockedOutDate                       timestamptz             NULL,
     FailedPasswordAttemptCount              integer                 NULL,
     FailedPasswordAttemptWindowStart        timestamptz             NULL,
     FailedPasswordAnswerAttemptCount        integer                 NULL,
     FailedPasswordAnswerAttemptWindowStart  timestamptz             NULL,
     CONSTRAINT users_pkey PRIMARY KEY (pId),
     CONSTRAINT users_username_application_unique UNIQUE (Username, ApplicationName)
    );
    
    CREATE INDEX users_email_index ON Users (Email);
    CREATE INDEX users_islockedout_index ON Users (IsLockedOut);
    
    CREATE TABLE Roles (
     Rolename                                character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     ApplicationName                         character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     CONSTRAINT roles_pkey PRIMARY KEY (Rolename, ApplicationName)
    );
    
    CREATE TABLE UsersInRoles (
     Username                                character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     Rolename                                character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     ApplicationName                         character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     CONSTRAINT usersinroles_pkey PRIMARY KEY (Username, Rolename, ApplicationName),
     CONSTRAINT usersinroles_username_fkey FOREIGN KEY (Username, ApplicationName) REFERENCES Users (Username, ApplicationName) ON DELETE CASCADE,
     CONSTRAINT usersinroles_rolename_fkey FOREIGN KEY (Rolename, ApplicationName) REFERENCES Roles (Rolename, ApplicationName) ON DELETE CASCADE
    );
    
    CREATE TABLE Profiles (
     pId                                     character(36)           NOT NULL,
     Username                                character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     ApplicationName                         character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     IsAnonymous                             boolean                 NULL,
     LastActivityDate                        timestamptz             NULL,
     LastUpdatedDate                         timestamptz             NULL,
     CONSTRAINT profiles_pkey PRIMARY KEY (pId),
     CONSTRAINT profiles_username_application_unique UNIQUE (Username, ApplicationName),
     CONSTRAINT profiles_username_fkey FOREIGN KEY (Username, ApplicationName) REFERENCES Users (Username, ApplicationName) ON DELETE CASCADE
    );
    
    CREATE INDEX profiles_isanonymous_index ON Profiles (IsAnonymous);
    
    CREATE TABLE ProfileData (
     pId                                     character(36)           NOT NULL,
     Profile                                 character(36)           NOT NULL,
     Name                                    character varying(255)  NOT NULL,
     ValueString                             text                    NULL,
     ValueBinary                             bytea                   NULL,
     CONSTRAINT profiledata_pkey PRIMARY KEY (pId),
     CONSTRAINT profiledata_profile_name_unique UNIQUE (Profile, Name),
     CONSTRAINT profiledata_profile_fkey FOREIGN KEY (Profile) REFERENCES Profiles (pId) ON DELETE CASCADE
    );
    EOF
    
    # Create the SQLite database:
    $ sqlite3 aspnetdb.sqlite
    sqlite> .read aspnetdb.sql
    sqlite> .quit
  8. Run the web app:
    $ MONO_IOMAP=all xsp2
    The MONO_IOMAP environment variable is needed because some link targets used within NerdDinner require case insensitivity.

NerdDinnner on Linux!

Posted on 14 May 2009 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Where are all the fuel efficient cars?

With my Verizon TV service I get BBC America, which includes the wonderful show Top Gear.

A few weeks ago I saw their endurance race to Blackpool, a 750 mile trip from Basel, Switzerland to Blackpool, UK. (Which is odd, as Google Maps implies that the trip would be 1319km, or 819.5 miles.)

Jeremy Clarkson chose a Jaguar XJ6 TDvi (sorry, no direct link), which gets 32.3mpg, or 8.7 l/100km.

James May chose a Subaru Legacy Diesel (click Economy, then 2.0D R for the mileage), which gets 56.6 mpg, or 5.0 l/100km.

Richard Hammond chose a Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion, which was mentioned as getting 74mpg (though the above site lists 88.3 mpg, or 3.2 l/100km).

Unfortunately, these mileages are using UK gallons, which are larger than US gallons. So, using a handy online calculator, we see that the Jaguar gets ~27mpg US, the Subaru gets ~47mpg US, and the VW gets ~73.5mpg US.

Are there any equivalents to these vehicles in the USA?

Jaguar lists 25 mpg for some models (aside: the US site is far more link friendly than the UK site), which is comparable to the UK Jaguar, so it's covered.

Subaru doesn't offer a diesel engine, so nothing is comparable to the 47mpg that the UK Subaru Legacy gets.

For Volkswagan, the nearest US equivalent appears to be the Jetta TDI, which gets 41mpg, a far cry from the 73.5 of the Bluemotion.

Thus, the question: Why don't we have these cars in USA?

Posted on 12 Apr 2009 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Mono 2.4 and mdoc-update

Mono 2.4 was released, and among the unlisted changes was that mdoc-update has migrated from using Reflection to using Mono.Cecil.

There are multiple advantages and disadvantages to this migration. The disadvantages include slower execution (when I tested, Mono.Cecil took ~10% longer to do the same task as Reflection) and increased dependencies (Mono.Cecil is now required).

I believe that these disadvantages are outweighed by the advantages. Firstly, the migration makes my life significantly easier. One of the major limitations of Reflection is that only one mscorlib.dll can be loaded into a process. This means that, in order to support generating documentation from mscorlib.dll 1.0, there needs to be a version of mdoc-update that runs under .NET 1.0. Similarly, to document mscorlib.dll 2.0, I need a different version of mdoc-update which runs under .NET 2.0. And when .NET 4.0 is released (with yet another version of mscorlib.dll), I'll need...yet another version of mdoc-update to run under .NET 4.0. This is less than ideal, and using Mono.Cecil allows me to have one program which supports every version of mscorlib.dll.

This also means that I can use C# 3.0 features within mdoc-update, as I no longer need to ensure that (most of) mdoc-update can run under the .NET 1.0 profile.

Most people won't care about making my life easier, but I do. ;-)

For everyone else, the most important result of the Mono.Cecil migration is that mdoc-update now has a suitable base for advanced documentation generation scenarios which make use of IL analysis. The first feature making use of it is new --exceptions functionality, which analyzes member IL to determine which exceptions could be generated, and creates stub <exception/> XML documentation based on that analysis. This feature is experimental (see the documentation), and contains a number of corner cases, but I've already found it useful for writing Mono.Rocks documentation.

Posted on 31 Mar 2009 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

DbLinq and Mono

.NET 3.5 introduced Language Integrated Query (LINQ), which allowed for querying groupings of data across diverse "paradigms" -- collections (arrays, lists, etc.), XML, and relational data, called LINQ to SQL. LINQ to SQL support is within the System.Data.Linq assembly, which is one of the assemblies Mono is currently implementing.

However, LINQ to SQL has one limitation: it only works with Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition, leaving numerous other databases users unable to use this assembly.

Enter DbLinq, an effort to provide LINQ to SQL functionality for other databases, including Firebird, Ingres, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSql, SQLite, and SQL Server. DbLinq provides a System.Data.Linq-compatible implementation for these databases (compatible implying the same types and methods, but located within a different namespace).

Which brings us to Mono. Mono is using DbLinq as the foundation for Mono's System.Data.Linq.dll implementation, allowing Mono's System.Data.Linq.dll to support all the databases that DbLinq supports. Mono also has sqlmetal (based on DbLinq's DbMetal.exe sources), which can be used to generate C# types to interact with databases.

DbLinq On Mono

MonoDevelop can load the DbLinq solutions. However, it has a problem with building all of the projects within the solution. At the time of this writing, MonoDevelop can build the following assemblies: DbLinq.dll, DbLinq.Sqlite_test_mono_strict.dll, DbLinq.SqlServer.dll, DbLinq.SqlServer_test.dll, DbLinq.SqlServer_test_ndb.dll, DbLinq.SqlServer_test_strict.dll, and DbLinq_test_ndb_strict.dll. The *_test* assemblies are unit tests, so this leaves the core DbLinq.dll assembly and SQL Server support.

Thus, DbLinq is usually built with Visual Studio.NET (the free Visual Studio Express can be used). Once built, you can run some of the unit tests under Mono:

cd $path_to_dblinq2007_checkout/build.dbg

# Core tests
$ for test in DbLinq_test.dll DbLinq_test_ndb_strict.dll DbMetal_test.dll ; do \
  nunit-console2 $test \
done
# Verbose output omitted

# SQLite tests
$ nunit-console2 DbLinq.Sqlite_test_mono.dll
# Verbose output omitted

# Plus many tests for the other providers...

Most of the tests require an accessible database, so I've been limiting my current tests to SQLite (as setup is easier).

DbLinq In Mono

As mentioned before, DbLinq is being used to implement Mono's System.Data.Linq.dll. (For those reading the DbLinq source, the Mono-specific bits are within MONO_STRICT conditional code.) This allows us to write code that depends only on .NET assemblies (though this is of dubious value, as the mechanisms used to support SQLite and other databases won't work with .NET proper, but it's still a cute trick).

To play along, you'll need Mono trunk.

  1. Grab a SQLite database file to use with LINQ to SQL:
    wget http://dblinq2007.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/src/Northwind.db3
  2. Use sqlmetal to generate C# bindings for the database:
    sqlmetal /namespace:nwind /provider:Sqlite "/conn:Data Source=Northwind.db3" /code:nwind.cs
  3. Write some code to interact with the generated source code:
    // File: nwind-app.cs
    // Compile as: 
    //    gmcs nwind-app.cs nwind.cs -r:System.Data \
    //    	-r:System.Data.Linq -r:Mono.Data.Sqlite
    using System;
    using System.Data.Linq;
    using System.Linq;
    
    using Mono.Data.Sqlite;
    
    using nwind;
    
    class Test {
        public static void Main ()
        {
            var conn = new SqliteConnection (
                    "DbLinqProvider=Sqlite;" + 
                    "Data Source=Northwind.db3"
            );
            Main db = new Main (conn);
            var pens =
                from p in db.Products 
                where p.ProductName == "Pen"
                select p;
            foreach (var pen in pens) {
                Console.WriteLine ("     CategoryID: {0}",  pen.CategoryID);
                Console.WriteLine ("   Discontinued: {0}",  pen.Discontinued);
                Console.WriteLine ("      ProductID: {0}",  pen.ProductID);
                Console.WriteLine ("    ProductName: {0}",  pen.ProductName);
                Console.WriteLine ("QuantityPerUnit: {0}",  pen.QuantityPerUnit);
                Console.WriteLine ("   ReorderLevel: {0}",  pen.ReorderLevel);
                Console.WriteLine ("     SupplierID: {0}",  pen.SupplierID);
                Console.WriteLine ("      UnitPrice: {0}",  pen.UnitPrice);
                Console.WriteLine ("   UnitsInStock: {0}",  pen.UnitsInStock);
                Console.WriteLine ("   UnitsOnOrder: {0}",  pen.UnitsOnOrder);
            }
        }
    }
  4. Compile:
    gmcs nwind-app.cs nwind.cs -r:System.Data -r:System.Data.Linq -r:Mono.Data.Sqlite
  5. Run:
    $ mono nwind-app.exe 
         CategoryID: 
       Discontinued: False
          ProductID: 1
        ProductName: Pen
    QuantityPerUnit: 10
       ReorderLevel: 
         SupplierID: 1
          UnitPrice: 
       UnitsInStock: 12
       UnitsOnOrder: 2

Notice that we use the database connection string to specify the database vendor to use, specifically the DbLinqProvider value specifies the database vendor, and must be present when connecting to a database other than Microsoft SQL Server (which is the default vendor).

If using the DataContext(string) constructor directly (and not through a generated subclass as used above), you should also provide the DbLinqConnectionType parameter, which is the assembly-qualified type name to use for the IDbConnection implementation. This allows you to use multiple different IDbConnection implementations that use similar SQL implementations, e.g. Mono.Data.Sqlite.dll and System.Data.SQLite.dll, both of which wrap the SQLite database.

Posted on 12 Mar 2009 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Extension Method Documentation

C# 3.0 adds a new language feature called extension methods. Extension methods allow the "addition" of new instance methods to any type, without modifying the type itself. This is extremely powerful, arguably crack-adled, and exists because Visual Studio users can't do anything without code completion (tongue firmly in cheek).

It's also extremely useful, permitting LINQ and the even more crack-adled thinking in Mono.Rocks (much of which I wrote, and I'm not entirely sure if the "crack" is in jest or not; sometimes I wonder...).

To create an extension method, you first create a static class. A method within the static class is an extension method if the first parameter's type has a this modifier:

static class MyExtensions {
    public static string Implode (this IEnumerable<string> self, string separator)
    {
        return string.Join (separator, self.ToArray ());
    }
}

Usage is as if it were a normal instance method:

string[] a        = {"This", "is", "my", "sentence."};
string   imploded = a.Implode (" ");
// imploded == "This is my sentence."

Extension methods are entirely syntactic sugar. (Nice syntactic sugar, nonetheless...). As such, it doesn't in any way modify the type that is being extended. Consequently, it cannot access private members, nor is the extension method returned when reflecting over the extended type. For example, typeof(string[]).GetMethod("Implode") will return null, as System.Array doesn't have an Implode method.

Furthermore, extension methods are only available if you have a using declaration for the namespace the extension method type resides in. So if the above MyExtensions type resides in the Example namespace, and a source file doesn't have using Example;, then the Implode extension method isn't available.

Earlier I alluded that Visual Studio users can't do anything without code completion. Extension methods are thus a boon, as they (potentially) make it easier to find new functionality, as no new types need to be introduced or known about in advance. However, you still need to have an appropriate using declaration to bring the methods "in scope," so how does a developer know what namespaces to use? The same way a developer knows which type to use for anything: documentation.

MSDN online documentation has been enhanced to show which extension methods are applicable for a given type, e.g. The extension methods for IEnumerable<T>. Mono has similar documentation support.

This isn't particularly interesting, though. Part of the utility and flexibility is that any type, in any namespace, can be extended with extension methods, and the extension methods themselves can be contained in any type.

Obviously, MSDN and Mono documentation online can't know about extension methods that are not part of the core framework. Thus, if the e.g. Mono.Cecil or Gendarme frameworks provided extension methods, the online documentation sites won't be helpful.

Which brings us to a Mono 2.0 feature (yes, I'm only now announcing a feature that shipped 3 months ago):

Mono Documentation Tools: the Mono Documentation framework has been upgraded to support documenting generics and extension methods.

This support consists of four things:

  1. Enhancing mdoc update to generate an /Overview/ExtensionMethods element within index.xml. The /Overview/ExtensionMethods element contains <ExtensionMethod/> elements which in turn contains //Targets/Target elements specifying which types the extension method is an instance method on, and a <Member/> element which is a subset of the actual extension method documentation. Developers don't need to edit this copy; it's handled entirely by mdoc update.
  2. Enhancing mdoc assemble to look for the //ExtensionMethod elements and insert them into the ExtensionMethods.xml file within the generated .zip file.
  3. Enhancing the XML documentation to HTML generation process so that the extension methods are listed. This allows all of monodoc and mod, online documentation, and mdoc export-html to use the underlying infrastructure.
  4. Enhance monodoc.dll to load all ExtensionMethods.xml files from all installed .zip files. This the allows monodoc and online documentation mechanisms to show extension methods for all installed documentation sources.

The short of it is that this requires no workflow change to get extension methods listed on all extended types. Just create extension methods, document them as if they were normal static methods (as they are normal static methods, and can be invoked as such), assemble the documentation, and install the documentation.

There is one wrinkle, though: since the index.xml file contains a subset of the <Member/> documentation, you need to rerun mdoc update after editing extension method documentation so that index.xml will have the correct documentation when mdoc assemble is run. Otherwise the "summary" extension method documentation may differ from the actual intended documentation. This may be improved in a future release.

Posted on 25 Jan 2009 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

How To Defend Against Software Patent FUD

You don't.

Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha¹⁰⁰⁰.

Context: for years, Mono has been the target of FUD because of potential software patent issues. For years the Mono community has attempted to defend from these attack, sometimes successfully.

Recently, someone asked on mono-list about ways to pre-emptively answer the FUD so that it would become a non-issue. I responded, and had several people suggest that I blog it. Here we go.

To begin, there are several problems with defending against software patent FUD, starting with software patents themselves:

  1. Software patents suck.
  2. Software patents really suck. (Specifically, The "Don't Look" Problem section.)
  3. Software patents really, really suck. (Related)
  4. The anti-Mono FUDsters apparently can't see the forest for the trees.

I imagine that most people reading this will agree with the first three points, so it is the fourth that I will attempt to focus on.

Specifically, the anti-Mono FUDsters seem to spend so much time on a tree (Microsoft) that they either miss or minimize the forest of actual patent problems, patent trolls, etc.

So for once, I'll (non-seriously) throw the FUD:

A long time ago, Wang created a patent that "covered a method by which a program can get help from another computer application to complete a task." Microsoft licensed the patent from Wang. Sun did not. In 1997, Eastman Kodak Company bought Wang, thus acquiring this patent. Kodak then sued Sun, claiming that Java infringed this patent. Kodak won, and they later settled out of court.

Now, for my non-serious steaming pile of FUD, in the form of a question: Did Sun acquire the ability to sublicense these patents from Kodak? If Sun can sublicense the patents, then GPL'd Java is fine. If Sun can't, then Java cannot be GPL'd, and any company making use of Java could be subject to a lawsuit from Kodak.

(I would hope that this is yes, but I have no idea, and the lack of patent sub-licensing has come up before.)

So do we need to worry about Java? I have no idea. I mention it to raise a larger point:

It Doesn't Matter. Anyone can hold a patent, for anything, and sue anyone at any time. Thus, Gnome is not free of patent issues, KDE is not free of patent issues, Linux is not free of patent issues, Python is not free of patent issues, Ruby is not free of patent issues.... Nothing is free of patent issues.

(Consider: do you think that the Python Software Foundation has signed a patent license with Kodak? Has Red Hat? I doubt it. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that something as flexible as Python wouldn't violate the aforementioned Wang patent, especially when you get into COM interop/etc. on Windows...)

Having said the above, a related question becomes: How do you avoid violating someone's patents? You don't (insert more laughter). You could try restricting yourself to only using software that's at least 20 years old, but you won't gain many users that way. It also won't work, for at least two reasons: (1) submarine patents -- not all patents that would have been in effect 20 years ago have necessarily expired (though submarine patents shouldn't exist for ~too much longer); and (2) look at the drug patent industry, where to prevent patented drugs from "going generic" the drug companies take the patent-expired drug(s), combine them with other drugs, then patent the result. I don't think it will take too long for Software companies to start doing this if they feel that it's necessary, and once they do, even using known-patent-expired programs won't be safe, as merely combining them together may be covered by an unexpired patent. Yay.

The only other way to avoid software patents is to perform a patent search, which is extremely tricky (as software patents are deliberately vague), and if you miss a patent and get sued over it, you're now liable for treble damages. You're almost always better to not look at software patents. (Isn't it funny how something that was supposed to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" can't be used by those it's supposed to help? Isn't it hilarious?)

With all this in mind, you can see why patent FUD is hard to fight, because there's no way to dismiss it. Software patents are a reality, they're ugly, but they can't be avoided. (Yet they must be ignored, to avoid increased liability.) My problem is that the anti-Mono people only seem to focus on patents with respect to Mono and Microsoft, ignoring the rest of the software industry. They're ignoring the (gigantic) forest so that they can pay attention to a single tree, Microsoft.

What I find even "funnier" is that Microsoft supposedly holds a number of patents in a number of areas frequently used by open-source projects, such as HTML, CSS, C++, XML, and others. So why don't we ever see any suggestions to avoid these technologies because the Big Bad Microsoft might sue?

For that matter, (again) considering how vague software patents tend to be, wouldn't many Microsoft patents on .NET stand a chance at being applicable toward Java, Python, and other projects? (Again) Why just focus on Mono?

Final note: I am a Software Engineer, not a patent lawyer. Feel free to ignore the entire rant, but I would appreciate it if a little more thought went into all the anti-Mono propaganda.

Posted on 19 Jan 2009 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

openSUSE 11.1: Where'd my hostname go?

After playing with the openSUSE 11.1 beta releases and final release, I finally installed it onto my main workstation. Funny how actually using it ~full-time shows things that were previous missed...

In this case, what greeted me when I opened a shell was:

jon@linux-jcq7$

This was rather unexpected, as this wasn't the hostname I wanted. No matter, this was normal after a fresh install (and has been happening for eons). So off I go to YaST to edit the Network Settings (/sbin/yast2 lan)...

Previously (i.e. on openSUSE 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, and 11.0), I could go to the Hostname/DNS tab, to the Hostname and Domain Name section, and specify a Hostname. (Whereupon everything would break until the next reboot as Gnome didn't seem to like the hostname changing on it, but at least I had the right hostname!)

Under openSUSE 11.1, this is disabled when NetworkManager controls things. (Again, this was not the case under 11.0 and prior releases, even when using NetworkManager to control things.)

So how do we change the hostname? Perusing Control Center brought forth the Network Connections applet → Wired tab → connection name (e.g. System eth0) → Edit → IPv4 Settings tab's DHCP Client ID textbox. This was nice to find -- I'd often wondered why setting the DHCP Client Identifier within YaST Network Settings seemingly had no effect; DHCP Client ID does work -- but it had no effect during bootup (presumably because NetworkManager isn't running early enough to set the hostname), so my shell prompt was still wrong.

Similarly, the "traditional" technique of hand-editing /etc/hosts (or using the new-fangled Hostnames YaST applet) seemed to have no effect on the system name after a reboot.

So how do we really change the hostname? Edit /etc/HOSTNAME, which is a single line file containing the fully-qualified hostname to use during bootup.

Posted on 21 Dec 2008 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

Icecream & Firewalls

Earlier this year, Michael Meeks described how to use icecream to speed up builds. One problem was that originally it required disabling the firewall on most systems. There was an update mentioning that setting FW_CONFIGURATIONS_EXT could be used to open up the appropriate ports in the firewall so that things would Just Work. Alas, that doesn't work for me on openSUSE 11.1.

Thus, if using the openSUSE Firewall Allowed Services configuration doesn't work (which is what setting FW_CONFIGURATIONS_EXT modifies), there is one alternate strategy to use before disabling the firewall: manually specify the scheduler system on the daemon systems within the icecream configuration file:

sudo sed -i 's/ICECREAM_SCHEDULER_HOST=""/ICECREAM_SCHEDULER_HOST="SCHEDULER"/' /etc/sysconfig/icecream

Replace SCHEDULER with the appropriate host name or IP address of your scheduler system.

Posted on 19 Dec 2008 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

Announcing NDesk.Options 0.2.1

I am pleased to announce the release of NDesk.Options 0.2.1. NDesk.Options is a C# program option parser library, inspired by Perl's Getopt::Long option parser.

To download, visit the NDesk.Options web page:

http://www.ndesk.org/Options

Usage

See http://www.ndesk.org/Options and the OptionSet documentation for examples.

What's New?

There have been several minor changes since the previous 0.2.0 release:

Posted on 20 Oct 2008 | Path: /development/ndesk.options/ | Permalink

Threading: Lock Nesting

a.k.a. Why the Java 1.0 collections were rewritten...

Threading is an overly complicated subject, covered in great detail at other locations and in many books. However, there is one subject that either I haven't seen discussed too often, or somehow have managed to miss while reading the plethora of threading sources, something I'll call lock nesting depth:

lock nesting depth
The number of locks that must be acquired and held simultaneously in order to perform a given operation.

In general, the lock nesting depth should be kept as small as possible; anything else results in extra, possibly unnecessary/extraneous locks, which serve only to slow down performance for no added benefit.

First, an aside: why does threading code require locks? To maintain data invariants for data shared between threads, preventing the data from being corrupted. Note that this is not necessarily the same as producing "correct" data, as there may be internal locks to prevent internal data corruption but the resulting output may not be "correct" (in as much as it isn't the output that we want).

The prototypical example of "non-corrupting but not correct" output is when multiple threads write to the (shared) terminal:

using System;
using System.Threading;

class Test {
	public static void Main ()
	{
		Thread[] threads = new Thread[]{
			new Thread ( () => { WriteMessage ("Thread 1"); } ),
			new Thread ( () => { WriteMessage ("Thread 2"); } ),
		};
		foreach (var t in threads)
			t.Start ();
		foreach (var t in threads)
			t.Join ();
	}

	static void WriteMessage (string who)
	{
		Console.Write ("Hello from ");
		Console.Write (who);
		Console.Write ("!\n");
	}
}

Output for the above program can vary from the sensible (and desirable):

$ mono ls.exe 
Hello from Thread 2!
Hello from Thread 1!
$ mono ls.exe 
Hello from Thread 1!
Hello from Thread 2!

To the downright "corrupt":

Hello from Hello from Hello from Hello from Thread 2!
Thread 1!

(This can happen when Thread 1 is interrupted by Thread 2 before it can write out its entire message.)

Notice what's going on here: as far as the system is concerned, what we're doing is safe -- no data is corrupted, my terminal/shell/operating system/planet isn't going to go bonkers, everything is well defined. It's just that in this circumstance "well defined" doesn't match what I, as the developer/end user, desired to see: one of the first two sets of output.

The solution, as always, is to either add a a lock within WriteMessage to ensure that the output is serialized as desired:

	static object o = new object ();
	static void WriteMessage (string who)
	{
		lock (o) {
			Console.Write ("Hello from ");
			Console.Write (who);
			Console.Write ("!\n");
		}
	}

Or to instead ensure that the message can't be split up, working within the predefined semantics of the terminal:

	static void WriteMessage (string who)
	{
		string s = "Hello from " + who + "!\n";
		Console.Write (s);
	}

(Which can oddly generate duplicate messages on Mono; not sure what's up with that... More here.)

For the WriteMessage that uses locks, the lock nesting depth is 2, and this can't be readily improved (because Console.Write is static, and thus must be thread safe as any thread could execute it at any time).

Returning to this entry's subtitle, why were the Java 1.0 collections rewritten? Because they were all internally thread safe. This had it's uses, should you be sharing a Hashtable or Vector between threads, but even then it was of limited usefulness, as it only protected the internal state for a single method call, not any state that may require more than one function call. Consider this illustrative code which counts the number of times a given token is encountered:

Hashtable data = new Hashtable ();
for (String token : tokens) {
    if (data.containsKey (token)) {
        Integer n = (Integer) data.get (token);
        data.put (token, new Integer (n.intValue() + 1));
    }
    else {
        data.put (token, new Integer (1));
    }
}

Yes, Hashtable is thread safe and thus won't have its data corrupted, but it can still corrupt your data should multiple threads execute this code against a shared data instance, as there is a race with the data.containsKey() call, where multiple threads may evaluate the same token "simultaneously" (read: before the following data.put call), and thus each thread would try to call data.put (token, new Integer (1)). The result: a missed token.

The solution is obvious: another lock, controlled by the developer, must be used to ensure valid data:

Object lock = new Object ();
Hashtable data = new Hashtable ();
for (String token : tokens) {
    synchronized (lock) {
        if (data.containsKey (token)) {
            Integer n = (Integer) data.get (token);
            data.put (token, new Integer (n.intValue() + 1));
        }
        else {
            data.put (token, new Integer (1));
        }
    }
}

Consequently, for all "non-trivial" code (where "non-trivial" means "requires more than one method to be called on the collection object in an atomic fashion") will require a lock nesting depth of two. Furthermore, the lock nesting depth would always be at least one, and since many functions were not invoked between multiple threads, or the collection instance local to that particular method, the synchronization within the collection was pure overhead, providing no benefit.

Which is why in Java 1.2, all of the new collection classes such as ArrayList and HashMap are explicitly unsynchronized, as are all of the .NET 1.0 and 2.0 collection types unless you use a synchronized wrapper such as System.Collections.ArrayList.Synchronized (which, again, is frequently of dubious value if you ever need to invoke more than one method against the collection atomically).

Finally, the Threading Design Guidelines of the .NET Framework Design Guidelines for Class Library Developers (book) suggests that all static members be thread safe, but instance member by default should not be thread safe:

Instance state does not need to be thread safe. By default, class libraries should not be thread safe. Adding locks to create thread-safe code decreases performance, increases lock contention, and creates the possibility for deadlock bugs to occur. In common application models, only one thread at a time executes user code, which minimizes the need for thread safety. For this reason, the .NET Framework class libraries are not thread safe by default.

Obviously, there are exceptions -- for example, if a static method returns a shared instance of some class, then all of those instance members must be thread safe as they can be accessed via the static method (System.Reflection.Assembly must be thread safe, as an instance of Assembly is returned by the static method Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly). By default, though, instance members should not be thread safe.

Posted on 27 May 2008 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

HackWeek Summary

In case you missed it, last week was "Hackweek" at Novell.

My week was less "hacking" and more "spit-and-polish." In particular:

I had wanted to do other things as well, such as migrate the monodoc-related programs to use NDesk.Options instead of Mono.GetOptions for option parsing, but such efforts will have to wait until later...

Posted on 19 Feb 2008 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

Announcing NDesk.Options 0.2.0

I am pleased to announce the release of NDesk.Options 0.2.0. NDesk.Options is a C# program option parser library, inspired by Perl's Getopt::Long option parser.

To download, visit the NDesk.Options web page:

http://www.ndesk.org/Options

Usage

See http://www.ndesk.org/Options and the OptionSet documentation for examples.

What's New?

There have been numerous changes since the previous 0.1.0 release:

Posted on 14 Feb 2008 | Path: /development/ndesk.options/ | Permalink

Unix Signal Handling In C#

In the beginning, Unix introduced signal(2), which permits a process to respond to external "stimuli", such as a keyboard interrupt (SIGINT), floating-point error (SIGFPE), dereferencing the NULL pointer (SIGSEGV), and other asynchronous events. And lo, it was...well, acceptable, really, but there wasn't anything better, so it at least worked. (Microsoft, when faced with the same problem of allowing processes to perform some custom action upon an external stimuli, invented Structured Exception Handling.)

Then, in a wrapping binge, I exposed it for use in C# with Stdlib.signal(), so that C# code could register signal handlers to be invoked when a signal occurred.

The problem? By their very nature, signals are asynchronous, so even in a single-threaded program, you had to be very careful about what you did, as your "normal" thread was certainly in the middle of doing something. For example, calling malloc(3) was almost certainly a bad idea, because if the process was in the middle of a malloc call already, you'd have a reentrant malloc call which could corrupt the heap.

This reentrant property impacts all functions in the process, including system calls. Consequently, a list of functions that were "safe" for invocation from signal handlers was standardized, and is listed in the above signal man page; it includes functions such as read(2) and write(2), but not functions like e.g. pwrite(2).

Consequently, these limitations and a few other factors led to the general recommendation that signal handlers should be as simple as possible, such as writing to global variable which the main program occasionally polls.

What's this have to do with Stdlib.signal(), and why was it a mistake to expose it? The problem is the P/Invoke mechanism, which allows marshaling C# delegates as a function pointer that can be invoked from native code. When the function pointer is invoked, the C# delegate is eventually executed.

However, before the C# delegate can be executed, a number of of steps needs to be done first:

  1. The first thing it does is to ensure the application domain for the thread where the signal handler executes actually matches the appdomain the delegate comes from, if it isn't it may need to set it and do several things that we can't guarantee are signal context safe...
  2. If the delegate is of an instance method we also need to retrieve the object reference, which may require taking locks...

In the same email, lupus suggests an alternate signal handling API that would be safe to use from managed code. Later, I provided a possible implementation. It amounts to treating the UnixSignal instance as a glorified global variable, so that it can be polled to see if the signal has been generated:

UnixSignal signal = new UnixSignal (Signum.SIGINT);
while (!signal.IsSet) {
  /* normal processing */
}

There is also an API to permit blocking the current thread until the signal has been emitted (which also accepts a timeout):

UnixSignal signal = new UnixSignal (Signum.SIGINT);
// Wait for SIGINT to be generated within 5 seconds
if (signal.WaitOne (5000, false)) {
    // SIGINT generated
}

Groups of signals may also be waited on:

UnixSignal[] signals = new UnixSignal[]{
    new UnixSignal (Signum.SIGINT),
    new UnixSignal (Signum.SIGTERM),
};

// block until a SIGINT or SIGTERM signal is generated.
int which = UnixSignal.WaitAny (signals, -1);

Console.WriteLine ("Got a {0} signal!", signals [which].Signum);

This isn't as powerful as the current Stdlib.signal() mechanism, but it is safe to use, doesn't lead to potentially ill-defined or unwanted behavior, and is the best that we can readily provide for use by managed code.

Mono.Unix.UnixSignal is now in svn-HEAD and the mono-1-9 branch, and should be part of the next Mono release.

Posted on 08 Feb 2008 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Announcing NDesk.Options 0.1.0

I am pleased to announce the release of NDesk.Options 0.1.0. NDesk.Options is a C# program option parser library, inspired by Perl's Getopt::Long option parser.

To download, visit the NDesk.Options web page:

http://www.ndesk.org/Options

Usage

See http://www.ndesk.org/Options and the OptionSet documentation for examples.

What's New?

There have been numerous changes since the previous prototype release:

Posted on 27 Jan 2008 | Path: /development/ndesk.options/ | Permalink

Mono and Mixed Mode Assembly Support

An occasional question on #mono@irc.gnome.org and ##csharp@irc.freenode.net is whether Mono will support mixed-mode assemblies, as generated by Microsoft's Managed Extensions for C++ compiler (Visual Studio 2001, 2003), and C++/CLI (Visual Studio 2005, 2008).

The answer is no, and mixed mode assemblies will likely never be supported.

Why?

First, what's a mixed mode assembly? A mixed mode assembly is an assembly that contains both managed (CIL) and unmanaged (machine language) code. Consequently, they are not portable to other CPU instruction sets, just like normal C and C++ programs and libraries.

Next, why use them? The primary purpose for mixed mode assemblies is as "glue", to e.g. use a C++ library class as a base class of a managed class. This allows the managed class to extend unmanaged methods, allowing the managed code to be polymorphic with respect to existing unmanaged functions. This is extremely useful in many contexts. However, as something like this involves extending a C++ class, it requires that the compiler know all about the C++ compiler ABI (name mangling, virtual function table generation and placement, exception behavior), and thus effectively requires native code. If the base class is within a separate .dll, this will also require that the mixed mode assembly list the native .dll as a dependency, so that the native library is also loaded when the assembly is loaded.

The other thing that mixed mode assemblies support is the ability to export new C functions so that other programs can LoadLibrary() the assembly and GetProcAddress the exported C function.

Both of these capabilities require that the shared library loader for the platform support Portable Executable (PE) files, as assemblies are PE files. If the shared library loader supports PE files, then the loader can ensure that when the assembly is loaded, all listed dependent libraries are also loaded (case 1), or that native apps will be able to load the assembly as if it were a native DLL and resolve DLL entry points against it.

This requirement is met on Windows, which uses the PE file format for EXE and DLL files. This requirement is not met on Linux, which uses ELF, nor is it currently met on Mac OS X, which uses Mach-O.

So why can't mixed mode assemblies be easily supported in Mono? Because ld.so doesn't like PE.

The only workarounds for this would be to either extend assemblies so that ELF files can contain both managed and unmanaged code, or to extend the shared library loader to support the loading of PE files. Using ELF as an assembly format may be useful, but would restrict portability of such ELF-assemblies to only Mono/Linux; .NET could never make use of them, nor could Mono on Mac OS X. Similarly, extending the shared library loader to support PE could be done, but can it support loading both PE and ELF (or Mach-O) binaries into a single process? What happens if a PE file loaded into an "ELF" process requires KERNEL32.DLL? Extending the shared library loader isn't a panacea either.

This limitation makes mixed mode assemblies of dubious value. It is likely solvable, but there are for more important things for Mono to focus on.

Posted on 27 Jan 2008 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

So you want to parse a command line...

If you develop command-line apps, parsing the command-line is a necessary evil (unless you write software so simple that it doesn't require any options to control its behavior). Consequently, I've written and used several parsing libraries, including Mono.GetOptions, Perl's Getopt::Long library, and some custom written libraries or helpers.

So what's wrong with them? The problem with Mono.GetOptions is that it has high code overhead: in order to parse a command line, you need a new type (which inherits from Mono.GetOptions.Options) and annotate each field or property within the type with an Option attribute, and let Mono.GetOptions map each command-line argument to a field/property within the Options subclass. See monodocer for an example; search for Opts to find the subclass.

The type-reflector parser is similarly code heavy, if only in a different way. The Mono.Fuse, lb, and omgwtf parsers are one-offs, either specific to a particular environment (e.g. integration with the FUSE native library) or not written with any eye toward reuse.

Which leaves Perl's Getopt::Long library, which I've used for a number of projects, and quite like. It's short, concise, requires no object overhead, and allows seeing at a glance all of the options supported by a program:

use Getopt::Long;
my $data    = "file.dat";
my $help    = undef;
my $verbose = 0;

GetOptions (
	"file=s"    => \$data,
	"v|verbose" => sub { ++$verbose; },
	"h|?|help"  => $help
);

The above may be somewhat cryptic at first, but it's short, concise, and lets you know at a glance that it takes three sets of arguments, one of which takes a required string parameter (the file option).

So, says I, what would it take to provide similar support in C#? With C# 3.0 collection initializers and lambda delegates, I can get something that feels rather similar to the above GetOpt::Long code:

string data = null;
bool help   = false;
int verbose = 0;

var p = new Options () {
	{ "file=",      (v) => data = v },
	{ "v|verbose",  (v) => { ++verbose } },
	{ "h|?|help",   (v) => help = v != null },
};
p.Parse (argv).ToArray ();

Options.cs has the goods, plus unit tests and additional examples (via the tests).

Options is both more and less flexible than Getopt::Long. It doesn't support providing references to variables, instead using a delegate to do all variable assignment. In this sense, Options is akin to Getopt::Long while requiring that all options use a sub callback (as the v|verbose option does above).

Options is more flexible in that it isn't restricted to just strings, integers, and floating point numbers. If there is a TypeConverter registered for your type (to perform string->object conversions), then any type can be used as an option value. To do so, merely declare that type within the callback:

int count = 0;

var p = new Options () {
	{ "c|count=", (int v) => count = v },
};

As additional crack, you can provide an (optional) description of the option so that Options can generate help text for you:

var p = new Options () {
	{ "really-long-option", "description", (v) => {} },
	{ "h|?|help", "print out this message and exit", (v) => {} },
};
p.WriteOptionDescriptions (Console.Out);

would generate the text:

      --really-long-option   description
  -h, -?, --help             print out this message and exit

Options currently supports:

All un-handled parameters are returned from the Options.Parse method, which is implemented as an iterator (hence the calls to .ToArray() in the above C# examples, to force processing).

Posted on 07 Jan 2008 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Announcing Brian Jonathan Pryor

It took longer than we would have liked, and he still arrived earlier than he wanted, but Brian Jonathan Pryor was born this morning at 2:39 AM:

Brian and Amber

Jonathan and Brian

Vital Statistics:

Weight
7 lbs, 9 oz
Length
20 inches

Delivery did not go according to plan. Amber's OBGYN was going on vacation today at noon, so we had originally planned to induce labor on Wednesday. That fell through...because the hospitals were full. They managed to find a room for us on Thursday, so we induced last night. By Friday morning, things had gone "sour" -- Brian's heart rate was lower than the doctors were comfortable with, so Amber underwent an emergency C-section.

Aside from events unfolding in an unexpected fashion, Amber and Brian are doing fine.

Posted on 21 Dec 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Random Musings About Spain/Barcelona

Some random thoughts that occurred to me while in Barcelona:

Posted on 24 Sep 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

OOoCon 2007 Trip: Saturday - Monday

Saturday was the "tourist" day; get up early, meet with Shaun, Louis, John, and several others, hike around town:

Outdoor Market.

Cathedral.

Sea Port.

Yes, I really did go and I'm not making this up!

Overlooking the port from the Castle.

John and Shaun

A cathedral under construction for over 130 years...

Christ looks like a nude cubist piece of art up close.

Beach!

More Beach!

Sunday I did some actual work (I had a patch written Wednesday, but the wireless access at the University was sufficiently flakey that cvs diff never completed), hit the beach again, and started writing these blog entries.

Monday was the (long!) flight home, limited work (when will planes get real internet access?), and more blog entries.

Mental note: Try to never go through JFK International Airport in New York when returning from an international flight. I had to go through security after going through customs to get on a domestic flight. :-(

Posted on 24 Sep 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

OOoCon 2007 Trip: Wednesday - Friday

Wednesday officially started the conference, with a talk by Louis Suárez-Potts.

Then were some excellent presentations on the Aqua port of OpenOffice.org, a meetup at the hotel Tuesday night with the Aqua port folks, and Tapas for dinner. Tapas are like appetizers; many restaurants I go to have a "choose 3 appetizers for one price" deal. Tapas are like a la carte appetizer-sized dishes, allowing for a wide variety of foods to be sampled.

Dinner

Thursday brought chatting with Niklas Nebel, one of Sun's Calc programmers, the Chart2 overview, and OpenGL transitions. The OpenGL presentation mentioned a desire to create a UI that "mere mortals" can use to create new transitions. I wish them luck in this -- it's very difficult to create a UI that non-experts can use that won't enflame the experts (insert Gnome vs. KDE flame war here as a perfect example).

Friday had a wonderful set of presentations on source code managers, which I discussed earlier. For dinner I was supposted to meet up with Michael Meeks, and sadly got lost instead. Apparently we were on the same road (Catalunya), but since said road is very long I'm not surprised that Shaun and I couldn't find him and his entourage with 30 minutes of walking...

Posted on 24 Sep 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

OOoCon 2007 Trip: Monday - Tuesday

The OpenOffice.org 2007 Conference officially started on Wednesday, but since I was going for the whole conference I needed to arrive on Tuesday and leave on Saturday. To arrive on Tuesday, I had to leave on Monday, and to get the best flight bargain I'd have to leave on Sunday. Not too bad -- I'd have a day to look around Barcelona.

So I dutifully show up ~2 hours early for my flight 3:38 PM flight, and find...that there is no reservation for me. Fun! Apparently something somewhere got screwed up (I still haven't heard what), so the flight arrangements I had made in August were canceled...in August. Oops.

Quick phone calls to the travel agency ("what's going on?!") and to my manager got things sorted out in time for the original flight, but with a change in plans; in order to get the cheapest flight, I now would be leaving Barcelona on Monday September 24. This was less than ideal -- it meant that Amber would be alone with Sarah for a day longer than originally planned -- but off I went for my first-ever trip to Spain.

After that beginning, the flights were uneventful. (Long and boring, but uneventful. Silly 8-10 hour flights! At least I was able to finish some research into a bug...)

When I landed in Barcelona on Tuesday at 11:15 AM, I met up with Kohei, who was kind enough to wait for me even though he arrived two hours prior. Thanks! We continued to wait around for Florian to no avail, because we mis-understood his 12:15 departure time for an arrival time. By 1:30 PM we figured he wouldn't be showing up, so we tried to make our way to the Hotel.

That trip was also unexpectedly long, as we had difficulty reading the bus map (can I have a "You Are Here" sticker, please?), and the bus map at the bus stop was truncated, so that we couldn't see the full path of the bus. Long story short, we got off at the wrong place because we didn't realize that the bus would loop around to drop us off at the right place (ugh!), but we quickly hit upon the metro to continue our journy.

Long story short: when someone (hub) is kind enough to provide Metro instructions over IRC, you should probably follow them. :-)

Alas, I also failed to do enough pre-planning, as once we got off the metro at the correct stop (according to hub's instructions), we still needed to find the hotel. As the bus stop was ~6 blocks (and a couple turns) away from the metro stop...this was less than ideal. Apparently we looked dazed-and-confused enough that someone walked up and helped us find our location. Much walking followed.

So by 4:00 PM we hit the hotel, get settled in, speak with kendy about fixing my bug, attend a phone conference for our Novell department, and do the ~40 minute walk from our hotel to the Universitat de Barcelona for "dinner" and registration at 7:00 PM (free shirt!). Much talking was had by all.

OpenOffice.org 2007!

Posted on 24 Sep 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

In Defense Of git

On Friday at the OpenOffice.org Conference, we had two sessions discussing the future of Source Code Managers in OpenOffice.org: Child workspaces and the OOo SCM system by Jens-Heiner Rechtien and git: the Source Code Manager for OOo? by Jan Holesovsky (kendy).

In the Q&A section after the git presentation, there was a lot of heated debate in which it seemed that Jan and Jens were talking "past" each other. As a git backer, I thought I'd try to bring some clarity to things.

It seemed that Jens has one fundamental problem with git, which itself is fundamental to its operation: commits are not transferred to the remote module; instead, you need an explicit git-push command to send all local changes to the remote repository. Jens claimed three implications of this (that I remember):

  1. git did not permit line-by-line authorship information, as with cvs annotate or svn blame.
  2. Developers would not see changes made by other developers as soon as they happen.
  3. QA and Release Engineering wouldn't be alerted as soon as developers made any change on any child workspace.

The line-by-line authorship information is possible in git with the git blame or git annotate commands (they are synonyms for each other). I suspect I misinterpreted this part of the debate, as all parties should have known that git supported this.

Which leaves the other two issues, which (again) are fundamental to git: a commit does not send any data to the repository. Thus we get to the title of this blog entry: this is a Good Thing™.

Local commits are world changing in a very small way: they're insanely fast, much faster than Subversion. (For example, committing a one-line change to a text file under a Subversion remote directory took me 4.775s; a similar change under git is 0.246s -- 19x faster -- and this is a small Subversion module, ~1.5MB, hosted on the ximian.com Subversion repo, which never seems as loaded as the openoffice.org servers.)

What can you do when your commits are at least 19x faster? You commit more often. You commit when you save your file (or soon thereafter). You commit when you code is 99.995% guaranteed to be WRONG.

Why do this? Because human memory is limited. Most studies show that the average person can remember 7±2 items at a time before they start forgetting things. This matters because a single bug may require changes to multiple different files, and even within a single file your memory will be filled with such issues as what's the scope of this variable?, what's the type of this variable?, what's this method do?, what bug am I trying to fix again?, etc. Human short-term memory is very limited.

So what's the poor developer to do? Most bugs can be partitioned in some way, e.g. into multiple methods or blocks of code, and each such block/sub-problem is solved sequentially -- you pick one sub-problem, solve it, test it (individually if possible), and continue to the next sub-problem. During this process and when you're finished you'll review the patch (is it formatted nicely?, could this code be cleaned up to be more maintainable?), then finally commit your single patch to the repository. It has to be done this way because if you commit at any earlier point in time, someone else will get your intermediate (untested) changes, and you'll break THEIR code flow. This is obviously bad.

During this solve+test cycle, I frequently find that I'll make a set of changes to a file, save it, make other changes, undo them, etc. I never close my file, because (and here's the key point) cvs diff shows me too many changes. It'll show me the changes I made yesterday as well as the changes I made 5 minutes ago, and I need to keep those changes separate -- the ones from yesterday (probably) work, the ones from 5 minutes ago (probably) don't, and the only way I can possibly remember which is the set from 5 minutes ago is to hit Undo in my editor and find out. :-)

So git's local commits are truly world-changing for me: I can commit something as soon as I have it working for a (small) test case, at which point I can move on to related code and fix that sub-problem, even (especially) if it's a change in the same file. I need an easy way to keep track of which are the solved problems (the stuff I fixed yesterday) and the current problem. I need this primarily because the current problem filled my 7±2 memory slots, and I'm unable to easily remember what I did yesterday. (I'm only human! And "easily remember" means "takes less than 0.1s to recall." If you need to think you've already lost.)

This is why I think the other two issues -- developers don't see other changes instantly, and neither does QA -- are a non-issue. It's a feature.

So let's bring in a well-used analogy to programming: writing a book. You write a paragraph, spell check it, save your document, go onto another paragraph/chapter, repeat for a bit, then review what was written. At any part of this process, you'll be ready to Undo your changes because you changed your mind. Changes may need to occur across the entire manuscript.

Remote commits are equivalent to sending each saved manuscript to the author's editor. If someone is going to review/use/depend upon your change, you're going to Damn Well make sure that it Works/is correct before you send that change.

Which brings us to the workflow dichotomy between centralized source code managers (cvs, svn) and distributed managers (git et. al). Centralized source managers by design require more developer effort, because the developer needs to manually track all of the individual changes of a larger work/patch before sending it upstream (as described above).

Decentralized source managers instead help the developer with the tedious effort of tracking individual changes, because the developer can commit without those changes being seen/used by anyone else. The commit instead gets sent when the developer is done with the feature.

This is why I prefer git to Subversion. git allows me to easily work with my 7±2 short-term memory limitations, by allowing me to commit "probably working but not fully tested" code so that I don't need to review those changes at the next cvs diff for the current problem I'm working on.

Posted on 23 Sep 2007 | Path: /development/openoffice.org/ | Permalink

Yet Another Random Update...

By parental request, more images of Sarah...

Around April, we started setting up a swing set for Sarah:

Sarah studying a branch.

Jon preparing to put in a stud.

Sarah wants to help.

Of course, play areas need to be filled with mulch:

Mulch.

Mulch in Play Area.

Unfortunately our back yard isn't level, so some digging was necessary to ensure that the play set was level:

Ditch for Swingset.

Swingset.

Which was completed just in time for my parents to visit, necessating...a trip to Busch Gardens:

Sarah in Airplane.

A trip to Maymont Park:

Sarah, Jon, Chris.

Amber, Sarah, Jon.

Sarah likes to help with chores:

Sarah and Vacuum.

Sarah still needs her naps...

Sarah napping in car.

...Especially when we went to Chicago for July 4th to visit family, and an impromptu baby shower:

Sarah, Doll, Chaka.

Sarah and lots of toys.

And an unfortunate side trip to the hospital:

Sarah on Jon

The unfortunate trip was due to a fall on an escalator, causing Sarah to loser her pinky nail. (Ouch!) I freaked out more than Sarah, initially. We found out ~1.5 weeks after returning home that this was a good thing, as there were many incidents of food poisening at some food stands my parents hit (and we would have hit if not for the hospital).

A Zoo Trip:

Amber & Sarah.

Sarah in Kangaroo.

4th of July, Sarah meets my cousins:

Kelcie, Kyle, Sarah.

More recently, we can relax:

Jon & Sarah.

Also, after many years of poor health, our oldest cat Bodhi died. To keep Arthur company, we got a new cat last Saturday, Gwen:

Gwen

Posted on 03 Sep 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Comparing Java and C# Generics

Or, What's Wrong With Java Generics?

What Are Generics

Java 5.0 and C# 2.0 have both added Generics, which permit a multitude of things:

  1. Improved compiler-assisted checking of types.
  2. Removal of casts from source code (due to (1)).
  3. In C#, performance advantages (discussed later).

This allows you to replace the error-prone Java code:

List list = new ArrayList ();
list.add ("foo");
list.add (new Integer (42));  // added by "mistake"

for (Iterator i = list.iterator (); i.hasNext (); ) {
    String s = (String) i.next (); 
       // ClassCastException for Integer -> String
    // work on `s'
    System.out.println (s);
}

with the compiler-checked code:

// constructed generic type
List<String> list = new ArrayList<String> ();
list.add ("foo");
list.add (42); // error: cannot find symbol: method add(int)
for (String s : list)
    System.out.println (s);

The C# equivalent code is nigh identical:

IList<string> list = new List<string> ();
list.Add ("foo");
list.Add (42); // error CS1503: Cannot convert from `int' to `string'
foreach (string s in list)
    Console.WriteLine (s);

Terminology

A Generic Type is a type (classes and interfaces in Java and C#, as well as delegates and structs in C#) that accepts Generic Type Parameters. A Constructed Generic Type is a Generic Type with Generic Type Arguments, which are Types to actually use in place of the Generic Type Parameters within the context of the Generic Type.

For simple generic types, Java and C# have identical syntax for declaring and using Generic Types:

class GenericClass<TypeParameter1, TypeParameter2>
{
    public static void Demo ()
    {
        GenericClass<String, Object> c = 
            new GenericClass<String, Object> ();
    }
}

In the above, GenericClass is a Generic Type, TypeParameter1 and TypeParameter2 are Generic Type Parameters for GenericClass, and GenericClass<String, Object> is a Constructed Generic Type with String as a Generic Type Argument for the TypeParameter1 Generic Type Parameter, and Object as the Generic Type Argument for the TypeParameter2 Generic Type Parameter.

It is an error in C# to create a Generic Type without providing any Type Arguments. Java permits creating Generic Types without providing any Type Arguments; these are called raw types:

Map rawMap = new HashMap <String, String> ();

Java also permits you to leave out Generic Type Arguments from the right-hand-side. Both raw types and skipping Generic Type Arguments elicit a compiler warning:

Map<String, String> correct = new HashMap<String, String> ();
    // no warning, lhs matches rhs
Map<String, String> incorrect = new HashMap ();
    // lhs doesn't match rhs; generates the warning:
    //  Note: gen.java uses unchecked or unsafe operations.
    //  Note: Recompile with -Xlint:unchecked for details.

Compiling the above Java code with -Xlint:unchecked produces:

gen.java:9: warning: [unchecked] unchecked conversion
found   : java.util.HashMap
required: java.util.Map<java.lang.String,java.lang.String>
                Map<String, String> incorrect = new HashMap ();

Note that all "suspicious" code produces warnings, not errors, under Java. Only provably wrong code generate compiler errors (such as adding an Integer to a List<String>).

(Also note that "suspicious" code includes Java <= 1.4-style use of collections, i.e. all collections code that predates Java 5.0. This means that you get lots of warnings when migrating Java <= 1.4 code to Java 5.0 and specifying -Xlint:unchecked.)

Aside from the new use of `<', `>', and type names within constructed generic type names, the use of generic types is essentially identical to the use of non-generic types, though Java has some extra flexibility when declaring variables.

Java has one added wrinkle as well: static methods of generic classes cannot reference the type parameters of their enclosing generic class. C# does not have this limitation:

class GenericClass<T> {
    public static void UseGenericParameter (T t) {}
        // error: non-static class T cannot be 
        // referenced from a static context
}

class Usage {
    public static void UseStaticMethod () {
        // Valid C#, not valid Java
        GenericClass<int>.UseGenericParameter (42);
    }
}

Generic Methods

Java and C# both support generic methods, in which a (static or instance) method itself accepts generic type parameters, though they differ in where the generic type parameters are declared. Java places the generic type parameters before the method return type:

class NonGenericClass {
    public static <T> T max (T a, T b) {/*...*/}
}

while C# places them after the method name:

class NonGenericClass {
    static T Max<T> (T a, T b) {/*...*/}
}

Generic methods may exist on both generic- and non-generic classes and interfaces.

Constraints

What can you do with those Generic Type Parameters within the class or method body? Not much:

class GenericJavaClass<T> {
    T[] arrayMember  = null;
    T   singleMember = null;

    public static void Demo ()
    {
        T localVariable = 42; // error
        T localVariable2 = null;

        AcceptGenericTypeParameter (localVariable);
    }

    public static void AcceptGenericTypeParameter (T t)
    {
        System.out.println (t.toString ()); // ok
        System.out.println (t.intValue ()); 
            // error: cannot find symbol
    }
}

class GenericCSharpClass<T> {
    T[] arrayMember  = null;
    T   singleMember = default(T);

    public static void Demo ()
    {
        T localVariable  = 42; // error
        T localVariable2 = default(T);

        AcceptGenericTypeParameter (localVariable);
    }

    public static void AcceptGenericTypeParameter (T t)
    {
        System.out.println (t.ToString ());     // ok
        System.out.println (t.GetTypeCode ());  // error: cannot find symbol
    }
}

So how do we call non-Object methods on objects of a generic type parameter?

  1. Cast the variable to a type that has the method you want (and accept the potentially resulting cast-related exceptions).
  2. Place a constraint on the generic type parameter. A constraint is a compile-time assertion that the generic type argument will fulfill certain obligations. Such obligations include the base class of the generic type argument, any implemented interfaces of the generic type argument, and (in C#) whether the generic type argument's type has a default constructor, is a value type, or a reference type.

Java Type Constraints

Java type and method constraints are specified using a "mini expression language" within the `<' and `>' declaring the generic type parameters. For each type parameter that has constraints, the syntax is:

TypeParameter ListOfConstraints

Where ListOfConstraints is a `&'-separated list of one of the following constraints:

(`&' must be used instead of `,' because `,' separates each generic type parameter.)

The above constraints also apply to methods, and methods can use some additional constraints described below.

class GenericClass<T extends Number & Comparable<T>> {
    void print (T t) {
        System.out.println (t.intValue ()); // OK
    }
}

class Demo {
    static <U, T extends U>
    void copy (List<T> source, List<U> dest) {
        for (T t : source)
            dest.add (t);
    }

    static void main (String[] args) {
        new GenericClass<Integer>().print (42);
            // OK: Integer extends Number
        new GenericClass<Double>().print (3.14159);
            // OK: Double extends Number
        new GenericClass<String>().print ("string");
            // error: <T>print(T) in gen cannot be applied 
            //  to (java.lang.String)

        ArrayList<Integer> ints = new ArrayList<Integer> ();
        Collections.addAll (ints, 1, 2, 3);
        copy (ints, new ArrayList<Object> ());
            // OK; Integer inherits from Object
        copy (ints, new ArrayList<String> ());
            // error: <U,T>copy(java.util.List<T>,
            //  java.util.List<U>) in cv cannot be 
            //  applied to (java.util.ArrayList<java.lang.Integer>,
            //  java.util.ArrayList<java.lang.String>)
    }
}

C# Constraints

C# generic type parameter constraints are specified with the context-sensitive where keyword, which is placed after the class name or after the method's closing `)'. For each type parameter that has constraints, the syntax is:

where TypeParameter : ListOfConstraints

Where ListOfConstraints is a comma-separated list of one of the following constraints:

class GenericClass<T> : IComparable<GenericClass<T>>
    where T : IComparable<T>
{
    private GenericClass () {}

    void Print (T t)
    {
        Console.WriteLine (t.CompareTo (t));
            // OK; T must implement IComparable<T>
    }

    public int CompareTo (GenericClass<T> other)
    {
        return 0;
    }
}

class Demo {
    static void OnlyValueTypes<T> (T t) 
        where T : struct
    {
    }

    static void OnlyReferenceTypes<T> (T t) 
        where T : class
    {
    }

    static void Copy<T, U> (IEnumerable<T> source, 
            ICollection<U> dest)
        where T : U, IComparable<T>, new()
        where U : new()
    {
        foreach (T t in source)
            dest.Add (t);
    }

    static T CreateInstance<T> () where T : new()
    {
        return new T();
    }

    public static void Main (String[] args)
    {
        new GenericClass<int>.Print (42);
            // OK: Int32 implements IComparable<int>
        new GenericClass<double>.Print (3.14159);
            // OK: Double implements IComparable<double>
        new GenericClass<TimeZone>.Print (
            TimeZone.CurrentTimeZone);
            // error: TimeZone doesn't implement 
            //  IComparable<TimeZone>

        OnlyValueTypes (42);    // OK: int is a struct
        OnlyValueTypes ("42");
            // error: string is a reference type

        OnlyReferenceTypes (42);
            // error: int is a struct
        OnlyReferenceTypes ("42");  // OK

        CreateInstance<int> ();
            // OK; int has default constructor
        CreateInstance<GenericClass<int>> ();
            // error CS0310: The type `GenericClass<int>' 
            //  must have a public parameterless constructor
            //  in order to use it as parameter `T' in the 
            //  generic type or method 
            //  `Test.CreateInstance<T>()'

        // In theory, you could do `Copy' instead of 
        // `Copy<...>' below, but it depends on the 
        // type inferencing capabilities of your compiler.
        Copy<int,object> (new int[]{1, 2, 3}, 
            new List<object> ());
            // OK: implicit int -> object conversion exists.
        Copy<int,AppDomain> (new int[]{1, 2, 3}, 
            new List<AppDomain> ());
            // error CS0309: The type `int' must be 
            //  convertible to `System.AppDomain' in order 
            //  to use it as parameter `T' in the generic 
            //  type or method `Test.Copy<T,U>(
            //      System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable<T>, 
            //      System.Collections.Generic.ICollection<U>)'
    }
}

Java Wildcards (Java Method Constraints)

Java has additional support for covarient- and contravariant generic types on method declarations.

By default, you cannot assign an instance of one constructed generic type to an instance of another generic type where the generic type arguments differ:

// Java, though s/ArrayList/List/ for C#
List<String> stringList = new ArrayList<String> ();
List<Object> objectList = stringList; // error

The reason for this is quite obvious with a little thought: if the above were permitted, you could violate the type system:

// Assume above...
stringList.add ("a string");
objectList.add (new Object ());
// and now `stringList' contains a non-String object!

This way leads madness and ClassCastExceptions. :-)

However, sometimes you want the flexibility of having different generic type arguments:

static void cat (Collection<Reader> sources) throws IOException {
    for (Reader r : sources) {
        int c;
        while ((c = r.read()) != -1)
            System.out.print ((char) c);
    }
}

Many types implement Reader, e.g. StringReader and FileReader, so we might want to do this:

Collection<StringReader> sources = 
    new Collection<StringReader> ();
Collections.addAll (sources, 
    new StringReader ("foo"), 
    new StringReader ("bar"));
cat (sources);
// error: cat(java.util.Collection<java.io.Reader>) 
//  in gen cannot be applied to 
//  (java.util.Collection<java.io.StringReader>)

There are two ways to make this work:

  1. use Collection<Reader> instead of Collection<StringReader>:
    Collection<Reader> sources = new Collection<Reader> ();
    Collections.addAll (sources, 
        new StringReader ("foo"), 
        new StringReader ("bar"));
    cat (sources);
  2. Use wildcards.

Unbounded Wildcards

If you don't care about the specific generic type arguments involved, you can use `?' as the type parameter. This is an unbounded wildcard, because the `?' can represent anything:

static void printAll (Collection<?> c) {
    for (Object o : c)
        System.out.println (o);
}

The primary utility of unbounded wildcards is to migrate pre-Java 5.0 collection uses to Java 5.0 collections (thus removing the probably thousands of warnings -Xlint:unchecked produces) in the easiest manner.

This obviously won't help for cat (above), but it's also possible to "bind" the wildcard, to create a bounded wildcard.

Bounded Wildcards

You create a bounded wildcard by binding an upper- or lower- bound to an unbounded wildcard. Upper bounds are specified via extends, while lower bounds are specified via super. Thus, to allow a Collection parameter that accepts Reader instances or any type that derives from Reader:

static void cat (Collection<? extends Reader> c) 
    throws IOException
{
    /* as before */
}

This permits the more desirable use:

Collection<StringReader> sources = 
    new Collection<StringReader> ();
Collections.addAll (sources, 
    new StringReader ("foo"), 
    new StringReader ("bar"));
cat (sources);

Bounded wildcards also allow you to reduce the number of generic parameters you might otherwise want/need a generic method; compare this Demo.copy to the previous Java Demo.copy implementation:

class Demo {
    static <T> void copy (List<? extends T> source, 
        List<? super T> dest)
    {
        for (T t : source)
            dest.add (t);
    }
}

C# Equivalents

C# has no direct support for bounded or unbounded wildcards, and thus doesn't permit declaring class- or method-level variables that make use of them. However, if you can make the class/method itself generic, you can create equivalent functionality.

A Java method taking an unbounded wildcard would be mapped to a generic C# method with one generic type parameter for each unbound variable within the Java method:

static void PrintAll<T> (IEnumerable<T> list) {
    foreach (T t in list) {
        Console.WriteLine (t);
    }
}

This permits working with any type of IEnumerable<T>, e.g. List<int> and List<string>.

A Java method taking an upper bounded wildcard can be mapped to a generic C# method with one generic type parameter for each bound variable, then using a derivation constraint on the type parameter:

static void Cat<T> (IList<T> sources)
    where T : Stream
{
    for (Stream s : sources) {
        int c;
        while ((c = r.ReadByte ()) != -1)
            Console.Write ((char) c);
    }
}

A Java method taking a lower bounded wildcard can be mapped to a generic C# method taking two generic type parameters for each bound variable (one is the actual type you care about, and the other is the super type), then using a derivation constraint between your type variables:

static void Copy<T,U> (IEnumerable<T> source, 
        ICollection<U> dest)
    where T : U
{
    foreach (T t in source)
        dest.Add (t);
}

Generics Implementation

How Java and C# implement generics has a significant impact on what generics code can do and what can be done at runtime.

Java Implementation

Java Generics were originally designed so that the .class file format wouldn't need to be changed. This would have meant that Generics-using code could run unchanged on JDK 1.4.0 and earlier JDK versions.

However, the .class file format had to change anyway (for example, generics permits you to overload methods based solely on return type), but they didn't revisit the design of Java Generics, so Java Generics remains a compile-time feature based on Type Erasure.

Sadly, you need to know what type erasure is in order to actually write much generics code.

With Type Erasure, the compiler transforms your code in the following manner:

  1. Generic types (classes and interfaces) retain the same name, so you cannot have a generic class Foo and a non-generic Foo<T> in the same package -- these are the same type. This is the raw type.
  2. All instances of generic types become their corresponding raw type. So a List<String> becomes a List. (Thus all "nested" uses of generic type parameters -- in which the generic type parameter is used as a generic type argument of another generic type -- are "erased".)
  3. All instances of generic type parameters in both class and method scope become instances of their closest matching type:
    • If the generic type parameter has an extends constraint, then instances of the generic type parameter become instances of the specified type.
    • Otherwise, java.lang.Object is used.
  4. Generic methods also retain the same name, and thus there cannot be any overloading of methods between those using generic type parameters (after the above translations have occurred) and methods not using generic type parameters (see below for example).
  5. Runtime casts are inserted by the compiler to ensure that the runtime types are what you think they are. This means that there is runtime casting that you cannot see (the compiler inserts the casts), and thus generics confer no performance benefit over non-generics code.

For example, the following generics class:

class GenericClass<T, U extends Number> {
    T tMember;
    U uMember;

    public T getFirst (List<T> list) {
        return list.get (0);
    }

    // in bytecode, this is overloading based on return type
    public U getFirst (List<U> list) {
        return list.get (0);
    }

    //
    // This would be an error -- doesn't use generic type parameters
    // and has same raw argument list as above two methods:
    // 
    //  public Object getFirst (List list) {
    //      return list.get (0);
    //  }
    //

    public void printAll (List<U> list) {
        for (U u : list) {
            System.out.println (u);
        }
    }
}

Is translated by the compiler into the equivalent Java type:

class GenericClass {
    Object tMember;
    Number uMember; // as `U extends Number'

    public Object getFirst (List list) {
        return list.get (0);
    }

    public Number getFirst (List list) {
        // note cast inserted by compiler
        return (Number) list.get (0);
    }

    public void printAll (List list) {
        for (Iterator i=list.iterator (); i.hasNext (); ) {
            // note cast inserted by compiler
            Number u = (Number) i.next ();
            System.out.println (u);
        }
    }
}

.NET Implementation

.NET adds a number of new instructions to its intermediate language to support generics. Consequently generics code cannot be directly used by languages that do not understand generics, though many generic .NET types also implement the older non-generic interfaces so that non-generic languages can still use generic types, if not directly.

The extension of IL to support generics permits type-specific code generation. Generic types and methods can be constructed over both reference (classes, delegates, interfaces) and value types (structs, enumerations).

Under .NET, there will be only one "instantiation" (JIT-time code generation) of a class which will be used for all reference types. (This can be done because (1) all reference types have the same representation as local variables/class fields, a pointer, and (2) generics code has a different calling convention in which additional arguments are implicitly passed to methods to permit runtime type operations.) Consequently, a List<string> and a List<object> will share JIT code.

No additional implicit casting is necessary for this code sharing, as the IL verifier will prevent violation of the type system. It is not Java Type Erasure.

Value types will always get a new JIT-time instantiation, as the sizes of value types will differ. Consequently, List<int> and List<short> will not share JIT code.

Currently, Mono will always generate new instantiations for generic types, for both value and reference types (i.e. JIT code is never shared). This may change in the future, and will have no impact on source code/IL. (It will impact runtime performance, as more memory will be used.)

However, there are still some translations performed by the compiler, These translations have been standardized for Common Language Subset use, though these specific changes are not required:

Runtime Environment

Generics implementations may have some additional runtime support.

Java Runtime Environment

Java generics are a completely compile-time construct. You cannot do anything with generic type parameters that rely in any way on runtime information. This includes:

In short, all of the following produce compiler errors in Java:

static <T> void genericMethod (T t) {
    T newInstance = new T (); // error: type creation
    T[] array = new T [0];    // error: array creation

    Class c = T.class;        // error: Class querying

    List<T> list = new ArrayList<T> ();
    if (list instanceof List<String>) {}
        // error: illegal generic type for instanceof
}
Array Usage

The above has some interesting implications on your code. For example, how would you create your own type-safe collection (i.e. how is ArrayList<T> implemented)?

By accepting the unchecked warning -- you cannot remove the warning. Fortunately you'll only see the warning when you compile your class, and users of your class won't see the unchecked warnings within your code. There are two ways to do it, the horribly unsafe way and the safe way.

The horribly unsafe way works for simple cases:

static <T> T[] unsafeCreateArray (T type, int size) {
    return (T[]) new Object [size];
}

This seems to work for typical generics code:

static <T> void seemsToWork (T t) {
    T[] array = unsafeCreateArray (t, 10);
    array [0] = t;
}

But it fails horribly if you ever need to use a non-generic type:

static void failsHorribly () {
    String[] array = unsafeCreateArray ((String) null, 10);
    // runtime error: ClassCastException
}

The above works if you can guarantee that the created array will never be cast to a non-Object array type, so it's useful in some limited contexts (e.g. implementing java.util.ArrayList), but that's the extent of it.

If you need to create the actual runtime array type, you need to use java.lang.reflect.Array.newInstance and java.lang.Class<T>:

static <T> T[] safeCreateArray (Class<T> c, int size) {
    return (T[])java.lang.reflect.Array.newInstance(c,size);
}

static void actuallyWorks () {
	String[] a1 = safeCreateArray(String.class, 10);
}

Note that this still generates a warning by the compiler, but no runtime exception will occur.

C# Runtime Environment

.NET provides extensive runtime support for generics code, permitting you to do everything that Java doesn't:

static void GenericMethod<T> (T t)
    where T : new()
{
    T newInstance = new T (); // OK - new() constraint.
    T[] array = new T [0];    // OK

    Type type = typeof(T);    // OK

    List<T> list = new List<T> ();
    if (list is List<String>) {} // OK
}

C# also has extensive support for querying generic information at runtime via System.Reflection, such as with System.Type.GetGenericArguments().

What C# doesn't support is non-default constructor declaration, non-interface or base-type method declaration, and static method declaration. Since operator overloading is based on static methods, this means that you cannot generically use arithmetic unless you introduce your own interface to perform arithmetic:

// This is what I'd like:
class Desirable // NOT C#
{
    public static T Add<T> (T a, T b)
        where T : .op_Addition(T,T)
    {
        return a + b;
    }
}

// And this is what we currently need to do:
interface IArithmeticOperations<T> {
    T Add (T a, T b);
    // ...
}

class Undesirable {
    public static T Add<T> (IArithmeticOperations<T> ops, 
        T a, T b)
    {
        return ops.Add (a, b);
    }
}

Summary

The generics capabilities in Java and .NET differ significantly. Syntax wise, Java and C# generics initially look quite similar, and share similar concepts such as constraints. The semantics of generics is where they differ most, with .NET permitting full runtime introspection of generic types and generic type parameters in ways that are obvious in their utility (instance creation, array creation, performance benefits for value types due to lack of boxing) and completely lacking in Java.

In short, all that Java generics permit is greater type safety with no new capabilities, with an implementation that permits blatant violation of the type system with nothing more than warnings:

List<String> stringList = new ArrayList<String> ();
List rawList            = stringList;
    // only triggers a warning
List<Object> objectList = rawList;
    // only triggers a warning
objectList.add (new Object ());
for (String s : stringList)
    System.out.println (s); 
        // runtime error: ClassCastException due to Object.

This leads to the recommendation that you remove all warnings from your code, but if you try to do anything non-trivial (apparently typesafe arrays is non-trivial), you get into scenarios where you cannot remove all warnings.

Contrast this with C#/.NET, where the above code isn't possible, as there are no raw types, and converting a List<string> to a List<object> would (1) require an explicit cast (as opposed to the complete lack of casts in the above Java code), and (2) generate an InvalidCastException at runtime from the explicit cast.

Furthermore, C#/.NET convey additional performance benefits due to the lack of required casts (as the verifier ensures everything is kosher) and support for value types (Java generics don't work with the builtin types like int), thus removing the overhead of boxing, and C# permits faster, more elegant, more understandable, and more maintainable code.

Posted on 31 Aug 2007 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

Problems with Traditional Object Oriented Ideas

I've been training with Michael Meeks, and he gave Hubert and I an overview of the history of OpenOffice.org.

One of the more notable comments was the binfilter module, which is a stripped-down copy of StarOffice 5.2 (so if you build it you wind up with an ancient version of StarOffice embedded within your current OpenOffice.org build).

Why is a embedded StarOffice required? Because of mis-informed "traditional" Object Oriented practice. :-)

Frequently in program design, you'll need to save state to disk and read it back again. Sometimes this needs to be done manually, and sometimes you have a framework to help you (such as .NET Serialization). Normally, you design the individual classes to read/write themselves to external storage. This has lots of nice benefits, such as better encapsulation (the class doesn't need to expose it's internals), the serialization logic is in the class itself "where it belongs," etc. It's all good.

Except it isn't. By tying the serialization logic to your internal data structures, you severely reduce your ability to change your internal data structures for optimization, maintenance, etc.

Which is why OpenOffice.org needs to embed StarOffice 5.2: the StarOffice 5.2 format serialized internal data structures, but as time went on they wanted to change the internal structure for a variety of reasons, The result: they couldn't easily read or write their older storage format without having a copy of the version of StarOffice that generated that format.

The take away from this is that if you expect your software to change in any significant way (and why shouldn't you?), then you should aim to keep your internal data structures as far away from your serialization format as possible. This may complicate things, or it may require "duplicating" code (e.g. your real data structure, and then a [Serializable] version of the "same" class -- with the data members but not the non-serialization logic -- to be used when actually saving your state), but failure to do so may complicate future maintenance.

(Which is why Advanced .NET Remoting suggests thinking about serialization formats before you publish your first version...)

Posted on 28 Aug 2007 | Path: /development/openoffice.org/ | Permalink

Things I Didn't Know - What Is Obesity?

Ran across this interesting article: Freakonomics Quorum: What is the Right Way to Think About the Obesity ‘Epidemic’?.

For example, under our current definitions, George Bush and Michael Jordan are overweight, while Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mel Gibson are obese.

In short, BMI isn't always an accurate indicator of obesity, and should be avoided.

Posted on 22 Aug 2007 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

It's A Boy!

Amber's pregnant, and it's a boy!

Ultrasound

Estimated due date is December 22, 2007.

Posted on 15 Aug 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Re-Introducing monodocer

In the beginning... Mono was without documentation. Who needed it when Microsoft had freely available documentation online? (That's one of the nice things about re-implementing -- and trying to stay compatible with -- a pre-existing project: reduced documentation requirements. If you know C# under .NET, you can use C# under Mono, by and large, so just take an existing C# book and go on your way...)

That's not an ideal solution, as MSDN is/was slow. Very slow. Many seconds to load a single page slow. (And if you've ever read the .NET documentation on MSDN where it takes many page views just to get what you're after... You might forget what you're looking for before you find it.) A local documentation browser is useful.

Fortunately, the ECMA 335 standard comes to the rescue (somewhat): it includes documentation for the types and methods which were standardized under ECMA, and this documentation is freely available and re-usable.

The ECMA documentation consists of a single XML file (currently 7.2MB) containing all types and type members. This wasn't an ideal format for writing new documentation, so the file was split up into per-type files; this is what makes up the monodoc svn module (along with many documentation improvements since, particularly types and members that are not part of the ECMA standard.

However, this ECMA documentation import was last done many years ago, and the ECMA documentation has improved since then. (In particular, it now includes documentation for many types/members added in .NET 2.0.) We had no tools to import any updates.

Monodocer

Shortly after the ECMA documentation was originally split up into per-type files, Mono needed a way to generate documentation stubs for non-ECMA types within both .NET and Mono-specific assemblies. This was (apparently) updater.exe.

Eventually, Joshua Tauberer created monodocer, which both creates ECMA-style documentation stubs (in one file/type format) and can update documentation based on changes to an assembly (e.g. add a new type/member to an assembly and the documentation is updated to mention that new type/member).

By 2006, monodocer had (more-or-less) become the standard the generating and updating ECMA-style documentation, so when I needed to write Mono.Fuse documentation I used monodocer...and found it somewhat lacking in support for Generics. Thus begins my work on improving monodocer.

monodocer -importecmadoc

Fast-forward to earlier this year. Once monodocer could support generics, we could generate stubs for all .NET 2.0 types. Furthermore, ECMA had updated documentation for many core .NET 2.0 types, so...what would it take to get ECMA documentation re-imported?

This turned out to be fairly easy, with supported added in mid-May to import ECMA documentation via a -importecmadoc:FILENAME parameter. The problem was that this initial version was slow; quoting the ChangeLog, "WARNING: import is currently SLOW." How slow? ~4 Minutes to import documentation for System.Array.

This might not be too bad, except that there are 331 types in the ECMA documentation file, documenting 3797 members (fields, properties, events, methods, constructors, etc.). 4 minutes per type is phenominally slow.

Optimizing monodocer -importecmadoc

Why was it so slow? -importecmadoc support was originally modeled after -importslashdoc support, which is as follows: lookup every type and member in System.Reflection order, create an XPath expression for this member, and execute an XPath query against the documentation we're importing. If we get a match, import the found node.

The slowdown was twofold: (1) we loaded the entire ECMA documentation into a XmlDocument instance (XmlDocument is a DOM interface, and thus copies the entire file into memory), and (2) we were then accessing the XmlDocument randomly.

The first optimization is purely algorithmic: don't import documentation in System.Reflection order, import it in ECMA documentation order. This way, we read the ECMA documentation in a single pass, instead of randomly.

As is usually the case, algorithmic optimizations are the best kind: it cut down the single-type import from ~4 minutes to less than 20 seconds.

I felt that this was still too slow, as 20s * 331 types is nearly 2 hours for an import. (This is actually faulty reasoning, as much of that 20s time was to load the XmlDocument in the first place, which is paid for only once, not for each type.) So I set out to improve things further.

First was to use a XPathDocument to read the ECMA documentation. Since I wasn't editing the document, I didn't really need the DOM interface that XmlDocument provides, and some cursory tests showed that XPathDocument was much faster than XmlDocument for parsing the ECMA documentation (about twice as fast). This improved things, cutting single-type documentation import from ~15-20s to ~10-12s. Not great, but better.

Convinced that this still wasn't fast enough, I went to the only faster XML parser within .NET: XmlTextReader, which is a pull-parser lacking any XPath support. This got a single-file import down to ~7-8s.

I feared that this would still need ~45 minutes to import, but I was running out of ideas so I ran a full documentation import for mscorlib.dll to see what the actual runtime was. Result: ~2.5 minutes to import ECMA documentation for all types within mscorlib.dll. (Obviously the ~45 minute estimate was a little off. ;-)

Conclusion

Does this mean that we'll have full ECMA documentation imported for the next Mono release? Probably not. There are still a few issues with the documentation import where it skips members that ideally would be imported (for instance, documentation for System.Security.Permissions.FileIOPermissionAttribute.All isn't imported because Mono provides a get accessor while ECMA doesn't). The documentation also needs to be reviewed after import to ensure that the import was successful (a number of bugs have been found and fixed while working on these optimizations).

Hopefully it won't take me too long to get things imported...

Posted on 15 Jul 2007 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Goodbye Cadmus; Hello Novell

After nearly four years working at Cadmus on all manner of external and internal applications in C++, Java, and Perl, it's time to move on.

Today marks my first day at Novell, working on OpenOffice.org.

I foresee lots of reading ahead...

Posted on 09 Jul 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Mono.Fuse 0.4.2

Mono.Fuse is a C# binding for FUSE. This is a minor update over the previous Mono.Fuse 0.4.1 release.

This is a minor release to fix configure support.

Aside: A Walk through Mono.Posix History

As mentioned in the Mono.Fuse 0.1.0 release, one of the side-goals was to make sure that Mono.Unix.Native was complete enough to be usable. One of the great discoveries was that it wasn't, which led to the addition of some new NativeConvert methods.

However, Mono.Fuse and the new Mono.Posix development were concurrent, and in getting the new NativeConvert methods added some of them were dropped. Originally, there would be 4 methods to convert between managed and native types:

This is what Mono.Fuse 0.2.1 and later releases assumed, and they used the NativeConvert.Copy methods.

Unfortunately, it was felt that having 4 methods/type (Stat, Statvfs, Utimbuf, Pollfd, Timeval...) would add a lot of new methods, so Mono.Posix only accepted the TryCopy variants, and not the Copy variants.

This implicitly broke Mono.Fuse, but I unfortunately didn't notice. Combined with a configure check that only checked whether libMonoPosixHelper.so exported one of the required underlying copy functions, most people didn't notice it either (as the installed libMonoPosixHelper.so didn't have the exports, so the check always failed, causing Mono.Fuse to use it's fallback methods).

Now that newer Mono releases are available, the configure check does find the libMonoPosixHelper.so exports, so it tries to use the NativeConvert methods...and triggers a compilation error, as the methods it's trying to use don't exist.

Mea culpa.

Download

Mono.Fuse 0.4.2 is available from http://www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse/mono-fuse-0.4.2.tar.gz. It can built with Mono 1.1.13 and later. Apple Mac OS X support has only been tested with Mono 1.2.3.1.

GIT Repository

The GIT repository for Mono.Fuse is at http://www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse.git.

Posted on 29 Jun 2007 | Path: /development/mono.fuse/ | Permalink

POSIX Says The Darndest Things

make check was reported to be failing earlier this week, and Mono.Posix was one of the problem areas:

1) MonoTests.Mono.Unix.UnixGroupTest.ListAllGroups_ToString : #TLAU_TS:
Exception listing local groups: System.IO.FileNotFoundException: Nie ma
takiego pliku ani katalogu ---> Mono.Unix.UnixIOException: Nie ma
takiego pliku ani katalogu [ENOENT].
  at Mono.Unix.UnixMarshal.ThrowExceptionForLastError () [0x00000] in
/home/koxta/mono-1.2.4/mcs/class/Mono.Posix/Mono.Unix/UnixMarshal.cs:456
  at Mono.Unix.UnixGroupInfo.GetLocalGroups () [0x0001c] in
/home/koxta/mono-1.2.4/mcs/class/Mono.Posix/Mono.Unix/UnixGroupInfo.cs:127
  at MonoTests.Mono.Unix.UnixGroupTest.ListAllGroups_ToString ()
[0x0000a] in
/home/koxta/mono-1.2.4/mcs/class/Mono.Posix/Test/Mono.Unix/UnixGroupTest.cs:32
  at MonoTests.Mono.Unix.UnixGroupTest.ListAllGroups_ToString ()
[0x0003c] in
/home/koxta/mono-1.2.4/mcs/class/Mono.Posix/Test/Mono.Unix/UnixGroupTest.cs:37
  at <0x00000> <unknown method>
  at (wrapper managed-to-native)
System.Reflection.MonoMethod:InternalInvoke (object,object[])
  at System.Reflection.MonoMethod.Invoke (System.Object obj,
BindingFlags invokeAttr, System.Reflection.Binder binder,
System.Object[] parameters, System.Globalization.CultureInfo culture)
[0x00040] in
/home/koxta/mono-1.2.4/mcs/class/corlib/System.Reflection/MonoMethod.cs:144

Further investigation narrowed things down to Mono_Posix_Syscall_setgrent() in support/grp.c:

int
Mono_Posix_Syscall_setgrent (void)
{
	errno = 0;
	setgrent ();
	return errno == 0 ? 0 : -1;
}

I did this because setgrent(3) can fail, even though it has a void return type; quoting the man page:

Upon error, errno may be set. If one wants to check errno after the call, it should be set to zero before the call.

Seems reasonably straightforward, no? Clear errno, do the function call, and if errno is set, an error occurred.

Except that this isn't true. On Gentoo and Debian, calling setgrent(3) may set errno to ENOENT (no such file or directory), because setgrent(3) tries to open the file /etc/default/nss. Consequently, Mono.Unix.UnixGroupInfo.GetLocalGroups reported an error (as can be seen in the above stack trace).

Further discussion with some Debian maintainers brought forth the following detail: It's only an error if it's a documented error. So even though setgrent(3) set errno, it wasn't an error because ENOENT isn't one of the documented error values for setgrent(3).

"WTF!," says I.

So I dutifully go off and fix it, so that only documented errors result in an error:

int
Mono_Posix_Syscall_setgrent (void)
{
	errno = 0;
	do {
		setgrent ();
	} while (errno == EINTR);
	mph_return_if_val_in_list5(errno, EIO, EMFILE, ENFILE, ENOMEM, ERANGE);
	return 0;
}

...and then I go through the rest of the MonoPosixHelper code looking for other such erroneous use of errno and error reporting. There are several POSIX functions with void return types that are documented as generating no errors, and others are like setgrent(3) where they may generate an error.

It's unfortunate that POSIX has void functions that can trigger an error. It makes binding POSIX more complicated than it should be.

Posted on 29 Jun 2007 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Rides

We went to Busch Gardens, and managed to get Sarah to ride on some new rides: The Battering Ram ("like a giant swing," I tell her), and the water-flume ride ("a big slide"). It took three attempts to get her on the Battering Ram -- she kept looking at it while riding some of the kiddie rides nearby -- and she enjoyed it immensely.

Posted on 24 Jun 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Entering the Twenty-First Century

As a child (late 1980's/1990's) I remember reading books stating that in the future we'd all have fiber-optic cables going to our houses (Fiber To The Premises, FTTP). I got the impression that fiber optic had been promised since the 1970's.

Last Friday, that nebulous future became reality, as Verizon came by my house to install FiOS, their FTTPH (Fiber To The Home) technology, providing phone, Internet, and TV service. Installation took six hours.

It's 99.999% of my childhood memories of FTTP. With FiOS, the optical fiber terminates outside my house; from there, it's a Coax cable to a Router, which acts as a cable-modem (Coax input, Cat-5e output) that my computer can plug into. (It's missing 0.001% of my memories as the pictures I saw had the optical fiber running directly to the computer in question, and I have ~50' of Coax cable between the Optical Network Terminal outside my house and my computer.)

Installation involved involved drilling a new hole into my laundry room -- the system relies on a battery backup to allow phones to work in the event of a power failure -- and terminating lots of cables. The biggest holdup was transitioning Verizon's network to use the optical network for my telephone instead of using the (no longer used) 12-V phone line. A supposedly 10-minute operation became a 60 minute operation as a part at the tel-co needed replacement, a part that apparently never breaks. (It would break for me, wouldn't it...) The next biggest holdup was setting up the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) -- plug it in, and it starts downloading...something (program guide, etc.), and it takes awhile for it to get downloaded.

Observations/thoughts:

Finally, why did I do this? Largely because of Comcast -- they keep upping the prices of their TV+Internet service, such that it's currently ~$101/month just for "basic" cable (~70 channels) and Internet, and it goes up every year. With FiOS, I'll be getting a slightly slower Internet download speed (5Mbps vs. 6Mbps download, though (1) FiOS has a 2Mbps upload compared to a few hundred kb for Comcast, and (2) the installer mentioned that Verizon will likely bump the low-end download speed to 10Mbps) for over $10/month less. FiOS also provides TV service, which is also cheaper. At present, it looks like I'll be getting Verizon TV + Internet + a DVR for less than Comcast.

Posted on 30 Apr 2007 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Random Update

Today is Sarah's second birthday, and I've been terribly lax in posting any pictures (or mentioning anything else for that matter). So, what's been happening in the 6 months since the last update? Lots.

We visited Mary and Steve after Thanksgiving, and Sarah got to see some horses:

Sarah & Horse

Last fall we also managed to cut down some trees from our backyard, including one that was already dead:

Fallen Trees

In January, it snowed (all ~1/8" of it):

Snow!

In February, Sarah was cute:

Sarah on stairs Sarah on Jon

In March, we visited Mary and Steve again:

Mary, Amber, Sarah, Steve Sarah

There was also some dog mhugging:

Sarah & Sadie

In late March, Sarah started crawling out of her crib, so we thought it was time to convert her crib to a day bed:

Sarah & Amber

This turned out to be a terrible mistake, as Sarah gave up naps when we did this, and she isn't ready to give up naps; she's terribly cranky at night when she skips them. (We're not ready for her to give up naps either, for that matter.) Fortunately, we were able to convert it back into a crib a few days later, and Sarah hasn't tried to repeatedly crawl out of her crib since.

In April, we got...more snow. Amazingly, it was more snow than we got in January. Yay global climate change! :-/

Sarah & Amber

Then Amber went hog-wild in cleaning up the backyard so that we could create a play area. We rented a chainsaw, cut down a few more trees, had co-workers collect most of our large fallen trees (thanks Dave and Pat!)... Then on one (rainy) Saturday, we rented a 16' Penske truck, loaded up the rest of the trees parts (canopies, small branches) and most of the dog pen, dumped it all at the town dump, went to Toys 'R' Us, picked up a swing set, a ton of lumber, then returned home exhausted.

After lots of work on Amber's part later, we get this:

Sarah & Amber Sarah & Amber

(And in the middle of that, I was busy running CAT-5 and COAX cable throughout the house. I'm surprised I had the energy to do all that...)

Last weekend we returned to Blacksburg to attend Vera and Brian's Wedding. Sarah met 2½ year-old Isaac Miao, and they seemed to have fun together:

Amber, Jon, Sarah Sarah & Isaac Isaac & Sarah

Finally, Sarah has been spending some of her evenings with our next-door neighbor. Sarah enjoys this immensely:

Sarah & Amber

Posted on 24 Apr 2007 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Mono.Fuse 0.4.1

Now with MacFUSE support!

Mono.Fuse is a C# binding for FUSE. This is a minor update over the previous Mono.Fuse 0.4.0 release.

The highlight for this release is cursory MacFUSE support, which allows Mono.Fuse to work on Mac OS X. Unfortunately, it's not complete support, and I would appreciate any assistance in fixing the known issues (details below).

Mac OS X HOWTO

To use Mono.Fuse on Mac OS X, do the following:

  1. Download and install Mono 1.2.3.1 or later. Other releases can be found at the Mono Project Downloads Page.
  2. Download and install MacFUSE 0.2.4 or later. Other releases can be found at the macfuse download page.
  3. Download, extract, and configure Mono.Fuse 0.4.1:
    1. curl www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse/mono-fuse-0.4.1.tar.gz > mono-fuse-0.4.1.tar.gz
    2. tar xzf mono-fuse-0.4.1.tar.gz
    3. cd mono-fuse-0.4.1.tar.gz
    4. PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/usr/local/lib/pkgconfig CFLAGS="-D__FreeBSD__=10 -O -g" ./configure --prefix=`pwd`/install-root
      • Note: PKG_CONFIG_PATH is needed so that fuse.pc will be found by pkg-config.
      • Note: CFLAGS is used as per the macfuse FAQ.
      • Note: You can choose any other --prefix you want.
    5. make
  4. Once Mono.Fuse has been built, you can run the sample programs as described in the README:
    1. cd example/HelloFS/
    2. mkdir t
    3. ./hellofs t &
    4. ls t
    5. cat t/hello

Known Issues

HelloFS works, but RedirectFS and RedirectFS-FH do not. Trying to execute them results in a SIGILL within Mono.Unix.Native.Syscall.pread when trying to read a file:

  1. cd example/RedirectFS
  2. mkdir t
  3. MONO_TRACE_LISTENER=Console.Out:+++ ./redirectfs t ~/ &
    • Note: MONO_TRACE_LISTENER set so that exception messages from Mono.Fuse.FileSystem will be printed to stdout. See the mono(1) man page for more information about MONO_TRACE_LISTENER.
  4. ls t        # works
  5. cat t/some-file-that-exists
    • Generates a SIGILL.

I would appreciate any assistance in fixing this issue.

Download

Mono.Fuse 0.4.1 is available from http://www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse/mono-fuse-0.4.1.tar.gz. It can built with Mono 1.1.13 and later. Apple Mac OS X support has only been tested with Mono 1.2.3.1.

GIT Repository

The GIT repository for Mono.Fuse is at http://www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse.git.

Posted on 13 Apr 2007 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

When Comparisons Fail

One of the unsung helper programs for Mono.Fuse and Mono.Unix is create-native-map ( man page), which takes an assembly, looks for DllImport-attributed methods, and generates C structure and function prototypes for those methods and related types. This allows e.g. the internal Mono.Posix.dll methods to be kept in sync with their implementation methods in MonoPosixHelper, checked by the compiler to ensure type consistency.

One of the "features" of create-native-map is support for integer overflow checking. For example, if you have a C# type:

[Map ("struct foo")]
struct Foo {
  public int member;
}

then create-native-map will generate the (excerpted) C code (it generates much more):

struct Foo {
  int member;
};

int ToFoo (struct foo *from, struct Foo *to)
{
  _cnm_return_val_if_overflow (int, from->member, -1);
  to->member = from->member;
	return 0;
}

This could be handy, as if the actual type of struct foo::member differed from int, we could tell at runtime if the value of from->member wouldn't fit within to->member. That was the hope, anyway. (Yes, this flexibility is required, as many Unix structures only standardize member name and type, but not necessarily the actual type. For example, struct stat::st_nlink is of type nlink_t, which will vary between platforms, but Mono.Unix.Native.Stat.st_nlink can't change between platforms, it needs to expose an ABI-agnostics interface for portability. Consequently, overflow checking is desirable when doing Statstruct stat conversions, and vice versa, to ensure that nothing is lost.)

The reality is that _cnm_return_val_if_overflow() was horribly buggy and broke if you looked at it wrong (i.e. it worked for me and would fail on many of the build machines running !Linux). Consequently _cnm_return_val_if_overflow() was converted into a no-op unless DEBUG is defined before/during the Mono 1.2.0 release.

Why discuss this now? Because Mono.Fuse 0.4.0 shipped with a broken version of create-native-map, which is the primary reason that it doesn't work with MacFUSE.

But because I'm a glutton-for-punishment/insane, I thought I'd take a look into making overflow checking work again (though it still won't be enabled unless DEBUG is defined). I wrote some tests, got them working on Linux, and tried to run them on Intel Mac OS X. The result: all but one worked. The reason it failed is inexplicable: a failing comparison. G_MININT64 can't be directly compared against 0:

$ cat ovf.c
# include <glib.h>
# include <limits.h>
# include <stdio.h>

int main ()
{
  long long v = G_MININT64;
  printf (" LLONG_MIN < 0? %i\n", (int) (LLONG_MIN < 0));
  printf ("G_MININT64 < 0? %i\n", (int) (G_MININT64 < 0));
  printf ("         v < 0? %i\n", (int) (v < 0));
}

$ gcc -o ovf ovf.c `pkg-config --cflags --libs glib-2.0`
$ ./ovf
 LLONG_MIN < 0? 1
G_MININT64 < 0? 0
         v < 0? 1

Now that's a w-t-f: G_MININT64 < 0 is FALSE. Simply bizarre...

Meanwhile, I should have a Mono.Fuse 0.4.1 release out "soon" to fix these problems, permitting Mono.Fuse to work properly with MacFUSE.

Posted on 12 Apr 2007 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

openSUSE 10.2 Windows Key Solution

Celso Pinto has told me the solution to my Windows key woes:

gconftool-2 --type bool --set /apps/metacity/general/enable_windows_keys "false"

That is, set the GConf key /apps/metacity/general/enable_windows_keys to false, the documentation for which is:

If true, then pressing the Windows flag keys will cause the panel's main menu to appear.

(This obviously proves that I didn't look hard enough in GConf.)

The downside is that this isn't exposed in a UI anywhere. Which, on reflection, is a good thing -- it shoudn't be exposed, as the key shouldn't be necessary!

<rant>

The presence of the key is a hack, plain and simple. I like the idea of having the Win key display the panel's main menu. It's just like Windows (which isn't always a bad thing). The problem is execution: under Windows, the Windows Start Menu isn't displayed until the Win key is released, i.e. on key-up. This allows using it as a command modifier, e.g. Win+d (show desktop), Win+r (run command), Win+e (open Explorer), and the Start Menu is never displayed for any of these shortcuts.

The problem with the Metacity implementation is that the main menu is displayed on key-down, preventing it from being used as a modifier.

The simple solution? Follow Windows practice, and only display the panel's main menu on Window key-up, and only if no other keys are pressed when the Win key is released. This allows Win+r, Win+d, Win+F1, etc. to all be valid shortcuts, while Win (press + release) can display the main menu, and it all Just Works, without the requirement to set a crappy GConf key.

</rant>

Posted on 04 Jan 2007 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

openSUSE 10.2 Windows Key Workaround

Massimiliano Mantione suggested a workaround for the Gnome main-menu in openSUSE 10.2 always "eating" the Windows key: add an additional modifier, such as Ctrl or Alt. This works, so Alt+Win+F1 can be used to switch to workspace 1. Additionally, this can be typed with one hand, making it significantly better than using Menu+F1 for the same task.

The downside is that there is an ordering requirement: whatever modifier you use with the Win key must be typed before the Win key, so Alt+Win+F1 switches to workspace 1, while Win+Alt+F1 (Win key typed first) results in displaying the main menu, with the Alt+F1 ignored. This is annoying.

What's odd is the Keyboard Shortcuts applet: Alt+Win+r is <Alt><Mod4><Hyper>r -- an extra modifier, <Hyper>, is synthesized. (Before openSUSE 10.2, Win+F1 would be <Mod4>r, so the <Mod4> makes sense. Furthermore, it wasn't always possible to use the Win key when entering shortcuts within the Keyboard Shortcuts applet, but it was possible to enter it manually within gconf-editor by using <Mod4> as a "stand-in" for the Win key.)

Posted on 03 Jan 2007 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

openSUSE 10.2 Complaints

Drive Partitioning

I have a genetic deficiency: the default options are never adequate. :-)

In particular, I have three drives: two ISA and an external FireWire drive. /dev/hda had ~13 partitions (/home, /boot, swap, and a set of /, /usr, /tmp, /var etc. directories for two separate installations). Obviously, this is what I had wanted to install to. /dev/hdb had my backups.

What does openSUSE want to install onto? /dev/hdb (my backups), of course! No, that is not happening.

Of course, I also wanted to completely redo /dev/hda to make use of a Logical Volume Manager. This was also more complicated than it needed to be. When using the Expert installer, you can only create a Logical Volume Manager on an already existing partition. So I couldn't delete every partition on /dev/hda, create two new partitions (/boot and the LVM partition), and setup the LVM in the new partition. That wouldn't work. It should work, but it doesn't. So I had to create the two partitions, continue with the installation, abort the installation, restart, and then I could use a LVM on /dev/hda2!

WTF?!

At least it worked though.

Using the Windows key

"Back in the day," when my roommate was trying to convert me to Linux from Windows, I spent a fair amount of time at the "console", outside of X11 or any other GUI environment. One of the nice features that Linux had that FreeBSD and other systems lacked at the time was virtual consoles: pressing Alt+FN (e.g. Alt+F4) would immediately switch to virtual console N. This made it really convenient to run multiple programs concurrently within separate shells, without messing around with &, bg, etc.

I thought this was an excellent feature, so when I moved to using X11 more extensively I wanted to do the same thing with virtual desktops. So I did. The only downside to this is that some apps wanted to make use of Alt+FN shortcuts themselves (e.g. KDE uses Alt+F4 to exit programs), but this was something I was willing to live with.

More recently, I switched to using the Windows key as the virtual desktop modifier, so that Win+FN would witch to virtual desktop N, and Shift+Win+FN would move the current window to virtual desktop N.

I also use the Win key for a host of shortcuts borrowed from Windows, e.g. Win+r to open the Run Program dialog, Win+d to show the Desktop, Win+a to move the current window above all other windows (I use sloppy mouse focus/"focus follows mouse"), Win+b to move the current window below all other windows, etc. I use it a lot.

This is where things go horribly wrong: under openSUSE 10.2, the Win key is always eaten by the Gnome main menu program. Oops.

Even worse, I can't find a way to fix this. Changing the Keyboard Layout in the Keyboard Preferences application doesn't change anything, and none of the Layout Options → Alt/Win key behavior options seem helpful.

The best "compromise" is the Alt is mapped to the right Win-key and Super to Menu option, which still sucks, for two reasons. First, the Menu key can no longer be used to open the context menu (fortunately Shift+F10 still works for this), and two, all of my shortcuts which used to take one hand now take two. Win+F1..Win+F5, Win+r, Win+a, Win+b, etc., could all be done with my left hand. Since the Menu key is on the right, next to the right Ctrl key, I now require two hands for these shortcuts. Which means I can't easily keep one hand on the keyboard and one on the mouse...

Grr....

Please, someone fix this. It's fundamentally broken. I've been able to use Win as a modifier for literally years, and now I can't, because one broken app decides that the key is only meaningful to it. And removing the Gnome main menu doesn't help, the menu is still displayed.

:-(

Posted on 30 Dec 2006 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

Care and Feeding of openSUSE 10.2

I upgraded to openSUSE 10.2 recently, and since I installed from scratch I had to figure some things out so that it would be usable. Sadly, Google isn't very helpful with some of these issues...

See SUSE Linux Rants for steps to install media codecs so that you can play videos and DVDs.

Then comes the stuff that Google doesn't help with...

My machine has two ethernet cards: eth0 is the external-facing device (connected to a cable modem), while eth1 is the internal-facing device, which is connected to a Wireless Router and desktop machines. I need to setup IP Forwarding so the internal machines can access the Internet, plus setup some Samba shares so the Windows Machines can access shared files.

IP Masquerading/Network Address Translation (NAT)

  1. Start YaST
  2. Start the Network Devices → Network Card Program in YaST.
    1. Select Traditional Method with ifup. Click Next.
    2. Select the internal network card. Click Edit.
    3. In the Address Tab:
      1. Select the Static Address Setup radio button.
      2. Set the IP Address field to 192.168.1.1.
      3. Set the Subnet Mask field to 255.255.255.0.
      4. Click the Routing button.
      5. Check the Enable IP Forwarding check box.
      6. Click OK to exit Routing Configuration.
    4. In the General Tab:
      1. Set Firewall Zone to Internal Zone (Unprotected).
      2. Set Device Activation to At Boot Time.
      3. Click Next.
    5. Click Finish.
  3. Start the Security and Users → Firewall program in YaST.
    1. In the Start-Up node, within the Service Start area, check the When Booting checkbox.
    2. In the Interfaces node, make sure that eth0 is the External Zone, while eth1 is Internal Zone. Note: eth0 and eth1 aren't used here; instead, the devices names are used here (e.g. Realtek RT8139).
    3. In the Masquerading node, check the Masquerade Networks check box.
    4. Click Next, then Accept.
  4. Make sure that eth0 has an IP address, and that you can view a web page.
  5. Start the Network Services → DHCP Server program in YaST.
    1. In the Start-Up node, within the Service Start section, check the When Booting check box.
    2. In the Card Selection node, select the device which is eth1, which should be the one with an actual IP address listed (eth0 is probably DHCP), check the Open Firewall for Selected Interfaces check box, and click the Select button.
    3. Read the file /etc/resolv.conf. There should be at least one line starting with nameserver, followed by an IP Address, e.g. nameserver 1.2.3.4.
    4. In the Global Settings node, set the Primary Name Server IP textbox to the first nameserver entry in /etc/resolv.conf, and set the Secondary Name Server IP textbox to the second nameserver entry in /etc/resolv.conf. Set the Default Gateway field to the IP Address of eth1, e.g. 192.168.1.1.
    5. In the Dynamic DHCP node, set the First IP Address field to 192.168.1.10, and the Last IP Address field to 192.168.1.254.
    6. Click Finish.

You should now be able to connect to the router from any internal machine via DHCP and connect to the outside world.

HTTP Server with mod_userdir

mod_userdir is an Apache module that allows accessing the /home/username/public_html directory as the URL http://server/~username/. It should be easy to setup, and yet I always have grief setting it up...

  1. Start the Network Services → HTTP Server in YaST.
    1. In the Listen Ports and Addresses Tab, make sure that HTTP Service is Enabled, Listen on Ports has a Network Address value of All Addresses, and Port is set to 80. Check the Open Port in Firewall checkbox.
    2. Click Finish.
  2. Edit /etc/sysconfig/apache2 as the root user, and change line 32 from:
    APACHE_CONF_INCLUDE_FILES=""
    to:
    APACHE_CONF_INCLUDE_FILES="extra/httpd-userdir.conf"
  3. Run the following commands as the root user:
    • /sbin/SuSEconfig
    • /usr/sbin/rcapache2 restart

Windows Shares

I have internal Windows machines which need to use files on the router (it doubles as a file server), so I obviously need a Windows share. This involves configuring Samba.

  1. Start the Network Services → Samba Server program in YaST.
    1. In the Shares tab, check the Allow Users to Share Their Directories check box.
    2. Click Finish.
  2. Create a user (Security and Users → User Management) for each remote user that needs to access the Windows Share (assuming you don't want Guest access to the share).
  3. At the command line, type the following as the root user for each remote user
    • /usr/bin/smbpasswd -a username

You should now be able to connect from any remote machine as the user username, using the same password that was entered in the smbpasswd command.

Posted on 30 Dec 2006 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

Novell, Microsoft, & Patents

The news is out: hell has frozen over. Novell and Microsoft have announced a "patent cooperation agreement," whereby Microsoft won't sue Novell customers for patent infringement and Novell won't sue Microsoft customers for patent infringement.

I first heard about this on mono-list, and immediately replied with the obvious (to me) response.

Note: I am not a lawyer [0], so consequently everything I say is bunk, but I have been paying some attention to various lawsuits over the years.

That out of the way, take a step back and ignore Microsoft and Novell for the moment. Assume that you're a patent holder, and you decide that your patent has been infringed. Who do you sue? There are three possible defendants:

  1. Sue the developer. (Example: Stac Electronics vs. Microsoft.)
  2. Sue the distributor. This is frequently identical to (1) as the developer is the distributor, but the rise of Free and Open Source software introduces this distinction.
  3. Sue the customer of (1) and/or (2). The example I remembered hearing several years ago was Timeline vs. Microsoft [1].

The summary is this: software patents are evil, allowing virtually anyone to sue virtually everyone else. There are no assurances of safety anywhere. Software from large companies (Internet Explorer) can be sued as easily as software from a no-name company or the open-source community (see Eolas vs. Microsoft).

With that background out of the way, what does this Microsoft/Novell deal mean? It means exactly what they say: Novell won't sue Microsoft customers, and Microsoft won't sue Novell customers. Anyone else can still sue Microsoft, Novell, and their customers, so Novell and Microsoft customers really aren't any safer than they were before. Novell customers are a little safer -- the monster in the closet of a Microsoft lawsuit is no longer an issue -- but no one is completely safe. It just provides peace of mind, but it isn't -- and cannot -- be a complete "solution" to the threat of patent lawsuits. (The only real solution is the complete abolition of all software patents, which is highly unlikely.)

What does this mean for hobbyists who contribute to Mono, Samba, Wine, Linux, and other projects (like me)? It means I'm protected as part of this agreement, as my code is distributed as part of openSUSE. This also means that anyone other than Microsoft can sue me if I happen to violate a patent.

What about hobbyists whose code isn't part of openSUSE? Nothing has changed -- they're as subject to a lawsuit as they were a week ago.

What about other companies such as Red Hat? Nothing has changed for them, either. Red Hat is still safe, as it is a member of the Open Invention Network, which was created to deal with the potential for patent lawsuits from any party. OIN is a more complete solution for most parties involved than the Microsoft and Novell agreement, as it involves more parties.

The problem with OIN is that it only covers the members of OIN. Red Hat is protected, but any distributors of Red Hat code are not (such as CentOS), and neither are the customers of Red Hat (unless the customer has a patent protection contract with their supplier). Consequently, OIN serves to protect the original developers (1), but not any "downstream" distributors (2) or their customers (3).

But what about the GPL, section 7? Doesn't the Microsoft/Novell agreement violate it?

7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

The simple solution is that this doesn't apply, as this agreement doesn't touch this clause at all. It's not a consequence of a court judgment, there is no allegation of patent infringement, and I haven't heard of any conditions that Microsoft requires Novell to follow in order for the code to be freely distributed. The Microsoft/Novell agreement primarily covers their customers, not their code, so there isn't a problem.

Notes:
[0] But I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night!
[1] Computerworld Article.

Posted on 04 Nov 2006 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Sarah Pictures

I've been terribly lazy, and I need to find a better way of handling images (and being less lazy about getting all the photographs off the camera in the first place).

By parental request (How's Sarah doing?)...

Sarah & Amber

Amber, Sarah & Jon

Sarah & Jon

Sarah

Sarah

Amber & Sarah

Sarah

Sarah

Posted on 09 Oct 2006 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Mono.Fuse 0.4.0

Mono.Fuse is a C# binding for FUSE. This is the fourth major release

This release contains a few major changes to the public API for consistency and clarification purposes, the biggest of which is renaming Mono.Fuse.FileSystemEntry to Mono.Fuse.DirectoryEntry (which of course required changing Mono.Fuse.FileSystem.OnReadDirectory(), again!). Some of the Mono.Fuse.FileSystem properties were also renamed for consistency.

I'm still making no promises for API stability. The FileSystem virtual methods should be fairly stable, but the properties may continue to be flexible as I document them more fully (as I'm not entirely sure what the ramifications are for some of them, such as FileSystem.ReaddirSetsInode vs. FileSystem.SetsInode, and answering these questions will require reading the FUSE source).

API Changes from the previous release:

See the commit diff for specifics.

Download

Mono.Fuse 0.4.0 is available from http://www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse/mono-fuse-0.4.0.tar.gz. It can built with Mono 1.1.13 and later.

GIT Repository

A GIT repository for Mono.Fuse is at http://www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse.git.

Posted on 20 Sep 2006 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Naming, Mono.Fuse Documentation

I find naming to be difficult. What should a type be named, what should a member be named? What's consistent? What names are easily understandable in any context? What names sow confusion instead of clarity?

This is why writing documentation, as annoying as it can be (lots of repetition), is also useful: it forces a different viewpoint on the subject.

For example, Mono's monodocer program uses System.Reflection to generate an initial documentation stub for use within monodoc. As such, it shows you the public types which are actually within an assembly, not just what you thought was in the assembly, like the compiler-generated default constructors which are so easy to forget about.

I've documented every public type and member within Mono.Fuse: Mono.Fuse Documentation.

And if you haven't guessed by now, the types have changed, because writing documentation forces a different viewpoint on the subject, and shows out all of the glaring inconsistencies within the API. So much for my hope that the API would be reasonably stable after the 0.3.0 release. <Sigh>

Consequently, the docs are only ~90% useful for the most recent 0.3.0 release, as they document the forthcoming 0.4.0 release. I hope to get 0.4.0 out reasonably soon, though I still have to write release notes.

The GIT repository has been updated so that HEAD contains the 0.4.0 sources, so if you're really interested in using the current API, you can git-clone it for now.

Mono.Fuse Home Page

Posted on 20 Sep 2006 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Mono.Fuse 0.3.0

Mono.Fuse is a C# binding for FUSE. This is the third major release.

This release completely changes the public API for consistency and performance. Hopefully this will be the last API change, though I would appreciate any feedback on the current Mono.Fuse.FileSystem.OnReadDirectory API.

API Changes from the previous release:

Download

Mono.Fuse 0.3.0 is available from http://www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse/mono-fuse-0.3.0.tar.gz. It can built with Mono 1.1.13 and later.

GIT Repository

A GIT repository for Mono.Fuse is at http://www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse.git.

Posted on 11 Sep 2006 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Miguel's ReflectionFS

After the Mono.Fuse 0.2.1 release, Miguel de Icaza wrote a small Mono.Fuse program that exposed System.Reflection information as a filesystem.

With the Mono.Fuse 0.3.0 release, this sample no longer works, as the Mono.Fuse API changed. Thus, here is an updated version of the sample:


$ cp `pkg-config --variable=Libraries mono-fuse` .
$ gmcs ReflectionFS.cs -r:Mono.Fuse.dll -r:Mono.Posix.dll
$ mkdir t
$ mono ReflectionFS.exe t &
$ ls t/mscorlib/System.Diagnostics.ConditionalAttribute
ConditionString      GetType             ToString
Equals               get_TypeId          TypeId
get_ConditionString  IsDefaultAttribute
GetHashCode          Match
$ fusermount -u t

Note that the above requires that PKG_CONFIG_PATH contain a directory with the mono-fuse.pc file (created during Mono.Fuse installation), and that libMonoFuseHelper.so should be in LD_LIBRARY_PATH or a directory listed in /etc/ld.so.conf.

Mono.Fuse also contains other sample programs. In particular, RedirectFS-FH.cs is a straightforward port of FUSE's fusexmp_fh.c sample program, and shows a way to "redirect" a new mountpoint to display the contents of another existing directory. RedirectFS-FH.cs is actually an improvement, as fusexmp_fh.c just shows the contents of the / directory at any new mount point, while RedirectFS-FH can redirect to any other directory.

Posted on 11 Sep 2006 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Mono.Fuse, Take 2.1!

At Miguel's request, I've created a version of Mono.Fuse that doesn't depend upon Mono runtime changes. This should make it possible for more people to try it out.

Don't forget to read the README, as it contains build instructions and a description of how to run the included example program.

I should caution that the API isn't stable (I suspect Mono.Fuse.FileSystem.OnRead should probably become Mono.Fuse.FileSystem.OnReadFile, for one), and I look forward to any and all API suggestions that you can provide.

Two final notes: Mono.Fuse depends on FUSE, and FUSE is a Linux kernel module, so you'll need to run:

/sbin/modprobe fuse

as the root user before you can use any FUSE programs. You'll also need to install the FUSE user-space programs, as you must use the fusermount program to unmount a directory that has been mounted by FUSE, e.g.:

fusermount -u mount-point
Posted on 01 Sep 2006 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Mono.Fuse, Take 2!

See the original announcement for more on what Mono.Fuse is (in short: a C# binding for FUSE).

This is an update, releasing Mono.Fuse 0.2.0, and (more importantly) an updated set of patches to mcs, mono, and now mono-tools. The mcs and mono patches are required to build & run Mono.Fuse, while the mono-tools patch is optional and only necessary if you want to view the create-native-map.exe program.

See here for all patches and an overview.

The major change between this set of patches and the original set is one of approach: the original set tried to make the native MonoPosixHelper API public, which was deemed as unacceptable (as there's too much cruft in there that we don't want to maintain).

The new approach only adds public APIs to the Mono.Unix.Native.NativeConvert type, permitting managed code to copy any existing native instance of supported structures. For example:

  Mono.Unix.Native.NativeConvert.Copy (IntPtr source, 
      out Mono.Unix.Native.Stat destination);

copies a pointer to an existing native struct stat and copies it into the managed Mono.Unix.Native.Stat instance. There are equivalent methods to do the managed → native conversion as well.

Since this approach requires making far fewer public API changes to Mono.Posix and MonoPosixHelper (i.e. no public API changes to MonoPosixHelper, as it's an internal/private library), I hope that this will be more acceptable.

Here's to a quick review!

Updated to add a link to the overview page.

Posted on 01 Sep 2006 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Announcing Mono.Fuse

Mono.Fuse is a binding for the FUSE library, permitting user-space file systems to be written in C#.

Why?

I read Robert Love's announcement of beaglefs, a FUSE program that exposes Beagle searches as a filesystem. My first thought: Why wasn't that done in C# (considering that the rest of Beagle is C#)?

What about SULF?

Stackable User-Level Filesystem, or SULF, is a pre-existing FUSE binding in C#, started by Valient Gough in 2004.

Mono.Fuse has no relation to SULF, for three reasons:

  1. It goes to great efforts to avoid a Mono.Posix.dll dependency, duplicating Mono.Unix.Native.Stat (Fuse.Stat), Mono.Unix.Native.Statvfs (Fuse.StatFS), and many methods from Mono.Unix.Native.Syscall (Fuse.Wrapper).
  2. I don't like the SULF API. (Not that I spent a great deal of time looking at it, but what I did see I didn't like.)
  3. SULF wraps the FUSE kernel-level interface, while Mono.Fuse wraps the higher level libfuse C interface.

I find (1) the most appalling, if only because I'm the Mono.Posix maintainer and I'd like to see my work actually used. :-)

Once I started writing Mono.Fuse, I discovered a good reason to avoid Mono.Posix: it's currently impossible to use the native MonoPosixHelper shared library from outside of Mono. I figured this would be a good opportunity to rectify that, making it easier for additional libraries to build upon the Mono.Posix infrastructure.

Implementation

Mono.Fuse requires patches to the mcs and mono modules, changes which need to be proposed and discussed.

mono

The biggest problem with the mono module is that no headers are installed, making it difficult to make use of libMonoPosixHelper.so.

Changes:

map.h is the current map.h file generated by make-map.exe, with some major additions (detailed in the mcs section).

helper.h is the main include file, which includes map.h and declares all types/functions which cannot be generated by make-map.exe.

mono-config.h is necessary because it needs to contain platform-specific macros. In particular, Linux needs:

int
Mono_Posix_ToStatvfs (struct statvfs *to, struct Mono_Posix_Statvfs *to);

while OS X and *BSD need:

int
Mono_Posix_ToStatvfs (struct statfs *to, struct Mono_Posix_Statvfs *to);

Note struct statvfs vs. struct statfs. The mono/posix/helper.h header needs to "paper over" the difference, and thus needs to know which type the platform prefers. helper.h thus looks like:

#ifdef MONO_HAVE_STATVFS
  struct statvfs;
  int Mono_Posix_ToStatvfs (struct statvfs *from, 
      struct Mono_Posix_Statvfs *to);
#endif
#ifdef MONO_HAVE_STATFS
  struct statfs;
  int Mono_Posix_ToStatvfs (struct statfs *from, 
      struct Mono_Posix_Statvfs *to);
#endif

One of MONO_HAVE_STATVFS or MONO_HAVE_STATFS would be defined in mono-config.h.

mcs

There are two major changes:

The MapAttribute attribute is public so that make-map.exe can use a publically exposed API for code generation purposes which can be used by other libraries (Mono.Fuse makes use of these changes).

make-map.exe can also generate structure declarations and delegate declarations in addition to P/Invoke function declarations, allowing for a better, automated interface between C and C#.

Previously, [Map] could only be used on enumerations.

Now, [Map] can be used on classes, structures, and delegates, to create a C declaration of the C# type, suitable for P/Invoke purposes, e.g. the C# code:

[Map] struct Stat {public FilePermissions mode;}

would generate the C declaration

struct Namespace_Stat {unsigned int mode;};

The MapAttribute.NativeType property is used to specify that type conversion functions should be generated, thus:

[Map ("struct stat")] struct Stat {public FilePermissions mode;}

would generate

struct Namespace_Stat {unsigned int mode;};
int Namespace_ToStat (struct stat *from, struct Namespace_Stat *to);
int Namespace_FromStat (struct Namespace_Stat *from, struct stat *to);

along with the actual implementations of Namespace_ToStat() and Namespace_FromStat().

The MapAttribute.NativeSymbolPrefix property is used to specify the C "namespace" to use:

[Map (NativeSymbolPrefix="Foo")] struct Stat {FilePermissiond mode;}

generates

struct Foo_Stat {unsigned int mode;};

This prefix is also used for the conversion functions.

(You may be wondering why NativeSymbolPrefix exists at all. This is for reasonable symbol versioning -- make-map.exe currently has a "hack" in place to rename Mono.Unix(.Native) to Mono_Posix, a hack I'd like to remove, and NativeSymbolPrefix allows the Mono.Unix.Native types to have a Mono_Posix C namespace in a reasonably general manner.)

The previously internal Mono.Unix.HeaderAttribute has been removed. The HeaderAttribute.Includes and HeaderAttribute.Defines properties have been replaced with make-map.exe command-line arguments. In particular, HeaderAttribute.Includes has been replaced with --autoconf-header, --impl-header, --impl-macro, --public-header, and --public-macro (the first three modify the generated .c file, while the latter two modify the generated .h file).

Finally, make-map.exe has been renamed and moved from mcs/class/Mono.Posix/Mono.Unix.Native/make-map.exe to mcs/tools/create-native-map/create-native-map.exe.

HOWTO

  1. Go to http://www.jprl.com/Projects/mono-fuse for the patches and source download.
  2. Apply mcs.patch to a mcs checkout, rebuild, and install.
  3. Apply mono.patch to a mono checkout, rebuild, and install.
  4. Build mono-fuse-0.1.0.tar.gz in "the standard manner" (./configure ; make ; make install).

Questions

Posted on 29 Aug 2006 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Definitions Matter

In much of life, definitions matter. Especially if the definitions are part of a law.

Which is why analysis of the definitional changes in Arlen Specter's surveillance bill is so interesting:

Specter's bill would mean that the NSA can tap every cell phone in the country of every US citizen, for entirely domestic calls, all without a warrant.

That's a pretty significant change in definitions...

(From Unclaimed Territory.)

Posted on 09 Aug 2006 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

NSA Phone Call Database

The news was just released, and is making all the rounds.

The short, short version: the NSA has a huge database containing records of most phone calls made within the U.S. (only Qwest isn't handing over call records). Apparently the U.S. government thinks everyone is a potential terrorist, and the only solution is to breakignore every law in the book.

Because ignoring laws is the American way!

Posted on 11 May 2006 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Happy 1st Birthday, Sarah!

Sarah is 1 year old today. She's grown up so much.

Birth

1 Year

In particular, her mental and language skills have improved, more than we realized. She's been babbling away for months now, but as far as we can tell she hasn't said a "word" yet, as word connotes meaning, "The...conception [of] an idea," and as far as we could tell she hasn't said anything with any actual meaning behind it. (We realize that we're probably being too literal here.)

So yesterday, we were lamenting that she hasn't said her first word yet (as we have a sticker book for those sorts of things), when we wondered if she was understanding us yet. She should be, as I've read that babies start understanding language at 10 months, but we haven't seen much evidence of that. Such evidence was provided, when Amber said "goodbye" to Sarah, hoping that Sarah would say something in response.

Realize that I've been saying "goodbye" to Sarah every morning for the past several weeks/months as I left for work. Amber has never said this to Sarah before (that I'm aware of), and is generally always around.

Upon hearing "goodbye" from Amber, Sarah broke down and started crying, half hyperventilating. She knew what "goodbye" meant, even if she couldn't say it, even if she couldn't say any words (by our probably-too-strict definition), she knew what it meant regardless, and the mere idea that Amber would leave... That was more than enough reason to break down and cry. It took us over 10 minutes of cradling and a walk to calm her down again, she was really unhappy.

So we learned something yesterday. We learned that she's learning English as well as we could hope for, and that she really loves Amber.

Sarah also had her first piece of Chocolate Cake for her birthday "party." She was...unimpressed. She ate it, with the same level of enthusiasm she shows when eating everything else (i.e. not much).

Posted on 24 Apr 2006 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Performance Comparison: IList<T> Between Arrays and List<T>

Rico Mariani recently asked a performance question: given the following code, which is faster, Sum(array), which converts a ushort[] to an IList<T>, or Sum(list), which uses the implicit conversion between List<T> and IList<T>.

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;

class Test {
  static int Sum (IList<ushort> indeces)
  {
    int result = 0;
    for (int i = 0; i < indeces.Count; ++i)
      result += indeces [i];
    return result;
  }

  const int Size = 500000;

  public static void Main ()
  {
    ushort[] array= new ushort [Size];
    DateTime start = DateTime.UtcNow;
    Sum (array);
    DateTime end = DateTime.UtcNow;
    Console.WriteLine ("    ushort[]: {0}", end-start);

    List<ushort> list = new List<ushort> (Size);
    for (int i = 0; i < Size; ++i) list.Add (0);
    start = DateTime.UtcNow;
    Sum (list);
    end = DateTime.UtcNow;
    Console.WriteLine ("List<ushort>: {0}", end-start);
  }
}

Note that the question isn't about comparing the performance for constructing a ushort[] vs. a List<T>, but rather the use of an IList<ushort> backed by a ushort[] vs a List<ushort>.

The answer for Mono is that, oddly enough, List<ushort> is faster than ushort[]:

    ushort[]: 00:00:00.0690370
List<ushort>: 00:00:00.0368170

The question is, why?

The answer is, "magic." System.Array is a class with magical properties that can't be duplicated by custom classes. For example, all arrays, such as ushort[], inherit from System.Array, but only have an explicitly implemented IList indexer. What looks like an indexer usage results in completely different IL code; the compiler is involved, and must generate different code for an array access.

For example, an array access generates the IL code:

// int i = array [0];
ldarg.0    // load array
ldc.i4.0   // load index 0
ldelem.i4  // load element array [0]
stloc.0    // store into i

While an IList indexer access generates this IL code:

// object i = list [0];
ldarg.0    // load list
ldc.i4.0   // load index 0
callvirt instance object class [mscorlib]System.Collections.IList::get_Item(int32)
           // call IList.this [int]
stloc.0    // store into i

This difference in IL allows the JIT to optimize array access, since different IL is being generated only for arrays.

In .NET 2.0, System.Array got more magic: all array types implicitly implement IList<T> for the underlying array type, which is why the code above works (ushort[] implicitly implements IList<ushort>). However, this is provided by the runtime and is "magical," in that System.Reflection won't see that System.Array implements any generics interfaces. Magic.

On Mono, this is implemented via an indirection: arrays may derive from System.Array.InternalArray<T> instead of System.Array. InternalArray<T> implements IList<T>, permitting the implicit conversion from ushort[] to IList<ushort>.

However, this indirection has a performance impact: System.Array.InternalArray<T>.get_Item invokes System.Array.InternalArray<T>.GetGenericValueImpl, which is an internal call. This is the source of the overhead, as can be seen with mono --profile=default:stat program.exe:

prof counts: total/unmanaged: 172/97
     27 15.79 % mono
     12  7.02 % mono(mono_metadata_decode_row
     11  6.43 % Enumerator:MoveNext ()
     10  5.85 % Test:Sum (System.Collections.Generic.IList`1)
     10  5.85 % (wrapper managed-to-native) InternalArray`1:GetGenericValueImpl (int,uint16&)
     10  5.85 % InternalEnumerator:MoveNext ()

To conclude, List<ushort> is faster than ushort[], when accessed via an IList<ushort> reference, because the ushort[] can't be accessed as a normal array, procluding the usual runtime optimizations:

It should be also noted that because of this "magic," all arrays under .NET 2.0 have more overhead than the same arrays under .NET 1.1, because of the need to support the "magic" generics interfaces. This could be optimized to save memory, such that if you never access the array via a generic interface no memory is used, but Mono has not performed such an optimization yet.

Update: After discussing this on #mono, Paolo Molaro implemented an optimization which makes the array usage much faster. Now it's only slightly slower than IList<T>:

    ushort[]: 00:00:00.0133390
List<ushort>: 00:00:00.0132830

Update 2: Rico Mariani has posted his .NET performance analysis. The key take home point? "Arrays are magic."

Posted on 10 Mar 2006 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

The Return of Patriarchy

Via Instapundit, an article discussing the probable return of patriarchy. Why? Cultural evolution.

The 17.4 percent of baby boomer women who had only one child account for a mere 7.8 percent of children born in the next generation. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer women who had four or more children. These circumstances are leading to the emergence of a new society whose members will disproportionately be descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made childlessness and small families the norm. These values include an adherence to traditional, patriarchal religion, and a strong identification with one’s own folk or nation.

It's a "survival of the fittest" scenario: conservative, patriarchal families have more children than non-conservative families, so the next generation leans more conservative than the previous generation. Repeat for a few genrations, and things "naturally" become more conservative.

Interesting article, pointing out the causes of patriarchy, the causes for the decline of patriarchy thoughout history (men want to do things other than raise children, like party all night), and the causes for a probable resurgance.

Posted on 01 Mar 2006 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Defining Insanity

I got a couple of responses to my Criminalizing Nature entry, which can be summarized as "but 'abortion' doesn't mean that." In common context, this is true. What is also true is that the meanings of words change over time, which is why dictionaries are useful, and the dictionary does define "miscarriage" as a form of abortion.

Which shows that definitions control arguments. So we disagree on our definitions, and you can safely believe that I'm a loon who doesn't know what the correct definition of anything is.

Another comment was that abortion isn't about control, it's about murder (I'm possibly taking that out of context, due to my addled memory, and I'm without access to my email). Miscarriage isn't murder, so it isn't an issue, but abortion is murder.

Through the joy of definitions and taking things to extremes, I'll show that it is about control.

  1. Life begins at conception (according to South Dakota).
  2. That life is human (what else could it be?).
  3. "All men are created equal...with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (From The U.S. Declaration of Independence.)
  4. Therefore, the fetus has a right to life.

So, if the fetus has a right to life, why should we let nature take its course and let the fetus die? In other words, why should we allow miscarriages? Yes, this is a silly question today, but consider 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years from now. With the probable advances in medical technology, it should be fairly easy to take a single cell and grow it into a human.

So, assuming we have this technology, wouldn't we have to grow the fetus into a child? It has the right to life, doesn't it?

So we have the moral mandate that every fetus is sacred. Since there's a ~70% chance of miscarriage before the woman even knows she's pregnant, wouldn't this require that she continually check for the presence of fetuses? At what point isn't this control? Is there a point?

But this is taking things to an extreme! It would never happen, right? Because humans never take anything to extremes.

Coming back down to earth, there are two more issues.

First, it was considered that this wouldn't ever be abused. We can quibble about the meaning of the word "abuse," but consider a different scenario. An elderly person dies. It's either natural, or its murder (or doctor assisted suicide, or something still equivalent to murder). What do we do? Assume it's natural, or assume foul play. The assumption depends on the circumstances; death in a hospital may raise more "red flags" than elsewhere, which may lead to investigations of doctors, which may result in medical malpractice lawsuits against the doctors. We know these happen; we can't say for sure if such lawsuits have ever been used as a form of abuse, but I wouldn't rule it out either.

So we come down to trust. Do we trust that the government, or whoever has power within some branch of the government, won't ever try to use and abuse any law at their disposal to make someones life difficult? Are we able to say that abuse never occurs? Which is why I said that this abortion law could be potentially one more law open abuse.

Law isn't usually concerned with nice behavior. If everyone were nice, laws wouldn't be needed. Laws are there for the exceptional cases, and any potential for abuse should be considered.

The second issue is the woman's rights. Not the woman's "right to choose," but the woman's rights to Life, Liberty, and the persuit of Happiness. The South Dakota law wouldn't permit abortions for rape or incest. So if a woman is raped, she must have the child. Is that fair? Isn't that punishing the victim? Is it fair to the child either, having no father around? (And would you want a rapist father around anyway? Perhaps the rapist should have to pay 100% of all child support for the next 18 years; perhaps economics would help prevent rape, and provide an incentive for more rapes to be reported.)

What is fair anyway? Too bad logic doesn't seem to actually help in tough questions like this, because everyone is using their own definitions....

Posted on 24 Feb 2006 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Criminalizing Nature

I heard on NPR this afternoon about South Dakota's Abortion Ban bill. One of the points they mentioned is that the South Dakota legislature believes that life begins at conception, and thus all abortion is murder.

There's one problem with this definition: miscarriage. Miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion, and is fairly common, statistically; see these statastics. A pregancy is 75% likely to result in miscarriage within the first two weeks of gestation -- that's after conception and before the woman even knows that they're pregnant. Probability for miscarriage drops sharply after that, but this still implies that tens of thousands of miscarriages happen every year in this country.

If life begins at conception, and miscarriage is an abortion (by definition, even if it's spontaneous and outside of our control), then logically miscarriage would have to be illegal in the same way tha abortion is illegal. The result? Thousands of women would immediately be guilty, and they wouldn't know it. Anyone who had a stillbirth would be known to be guilty, and must have broken the law (despite having no control over it).

Does this make sense? Not at all. What South Dakota is doing, in effect, is trying to criminalize nature. Many will argue that this isn't what the legislatures intend -- and that's probably right. So the letter of the law will be ignored to follow the spirit of the law...until control freaks come to power and want to make some poor woman's life miserable, at which point they'll have one more law at their disposable for abuse.

Posted on 22 Feb 2006 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

The innocent have nothing to hide...

A common phrase, which used to be a cliché, is this: "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Slashdot, as usual, has a wonderful comment by SuperBanana with one possible problem.

(Un)Fortunately, we don't need to stick to theoretical arguments. As Lord Action says, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

So what happens when police believe that a bar is facilitating drug deals? Well, as TheAgitator mentions, the police take 70-90 SWAT officers to raid the bar, under the auspices of an Alcohol Beverage Control inspection (because that doesn't need a warrant), and find no evidence of drug deals...except for the drug deals that the police themselves were involved in (as part of undercover investigations). Can you say "entrapment?"

The innocent may have nothing to hide, but they also have rights, rights to live their live however they see fit (within the law), without needing to justify their actions to whoever requests them. The problem is that this "innocent have nothing to hide" meme shortchanges the rights of the innocent, subjecting them to life in a police state, including SWAT raids, when they have never done anything to deserve such treatment.

In short, this meme persists only to make the lives of the authorities easier, at the expense of everyone else, and eventually of everyone's respect for the law.

UPDATE: Bruce Schneier also discusses this meme.

Posted on 21 Feb 2006 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Taxes

Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
   -- Benjamin Franklin

I did taxes this weekend. Beyond the knowledge that filling out the entire IRS 1040 form sucks (necessary for itemized deductions), one other interesting thing is apparent: the IRS exists to benefit tax professionals.

In particular, the Free File options are only for those with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $50,000 or less. This wasn't the case last year. Further, if you read the IRS e-file page, most of the e-File Partners for Taxpayers listed do not provide a free service.

Fortunately, there is one that does provide free filing for the Federal return: TaxACT Online. It complains about my browser (Epiphany 1.6.5), but I was still able to file my federal return. The one downside is that their submission system keeps referring to their for-pay software, which is annoying, but it doesn't hinder anything.

Fortunately, Virginia State Taxes are significantly easier. Instead of referring everyone to private companies, Virginia handles taxes itself -- you just need a password, and you can fill out all the forms and file entirely online. This is what the IRS should be like, but can't, as (conjecture) it would cut into the profits of private tax businesses.

Posted on 12 Feb 2006 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Winter Wonderland

It's winter (hard to believe when most of January was in the 40's or warmer), and Richmond was hit by a snowstorm. Nothing major, but I got to wake to a winter wonderland.

Backyard

Backyard

Front of house

The current temperature is 36°F, so the snow won't be around long...

Posted on 12 Feb 2006 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Sarah's Cruising Efforts

Random Picture Update...because I'm too lazy to post these pictures when they're actually taken. :-)

Sarah and Sadie look very cute together (January 7, 2006):

Sarah and Sadie

Meanwhile, Sarah continues to do well eating solid foods (January 19, 2006):

Sarah eating carrots

Sarah also enjoys crawling everywhere, and climbing over everything (January 29, 2006):

Sarah climbing over rocker

Standing? She's working on it (February 4, 2006):

Sarah climbing over rocker

Stairs won't be a problem forever (though we'll continue to worry) -- February 11, 2006:

Sarah trying to climb stairs

Dressed to go outside (February 12, 2006):

Sarah standing against couch

Meanwhile, Sarah has changed her daily schedule so that she has only one nap a day. I've heard some proclaim this as a good thing, mentioning the fabled 4-4-4 schedule (4 hours awake, 4 hour nap, 4 hours awake, then bed for 12 hours). Sarah hasn't followed this; instead, she's going for 3-2-7, or something very close to it, with a 2-3 hour nap, and up for upwards of 8 hours at night. I can't recommend this at all, since it leaves little time to do anything while Sarah is asleep.

Posted on 12 Feb 2006 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Secular Societies

More humorous than my other wtf entries, The Brick Testament: Laws -- the laws from the Old Testament put to Lego.

See when you should stone your children, burn down an entire town, and try to kill all doves in the area. (OK, the last is for "Sexual Discharges", but it says that women needs to take "two doves or two young pigeons to the priest" 8 days after every menstrual cycle; the priest will kill both birds. Do this twelve times a year, for all women in a community...and that's a lot of birds.)

Aren't you glad we live in a secular society, where we don't need to follow such...archaic and immoral rules (at least by today's standard)?

Posted on 12 Feb 2006 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Profiling and its Problems

Via Schneier on Security, What pit pulls can teach us about profiling.

In short, generalizations are useful, except when they're bad, and they can be bad very easily. You can't profile pit bulls, because the human-killing behavior we hate isn't intrinsic to the species, it's intrinsic to the individual. You can't profile terrorists, because terrorists aren't restricted to any particular race, and even if they were they'd still be a minority of that race. Profiling based on race can't work, you need to "profile" something more useful, such as "suspicious behavior," and even that can be problematic.

It doesn't work to generalize about a relationship between a category and a trait when that relationship isn't stable—or when the act of generalizing may itself change the basis of the generalization.

As for dog attackes, the breed has much less to do than other factors, such as gender (6.2x more likely to be male), neutered (2.6x more likely if not neutered), whether the dog is chained (2.8x more likely if chained), and whether the owner was previously involved in illegal fighting.

So generalizations (profiling) can be useful. The devil is in the details, determining what to look for, as it's frequently not obvious.

Posted on 07 Feb 2006 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Reverse Engineering

Occasionally I run across blatant misunderstandings about what reverse engineering is, for example a recent slashdot post regarding Wine benchmarks, and on mono-list.

The confusion exists because there are two forms of reverse engineering: white box reverse engineering and black box reverse engineering (similar in many respects to white box testing and black box testing).

White box reverse engineering, when applied to software, frequently involves decompiling the binary to view either the underlying assembly or some higher level representation. (For example, there are Java decompilers which can recreate the original Java source, absent any comments.) The results of White box reverse engineering cannot be used in a commercial product, as it creates copyright violation possilibities (since you may inadvertantly copy the original product). Nevertheless, it can be very useful in a security context, such as the creation of the unofficial WMF patch, or for determining how a virus operates.

Black box reverse engineering is closer to the scientific method, only applied to hardware or software:

  1. Gather information and resources, typically by reading any available public documentation.
  2. Form a hypothesis, such as how something is implemented.
  3. Perform experiment and collect data. For software, the "experiment" is typically a test program of some sort.
  4. Analyze data.
  5. Interpret data and draw conclusions.
  6. Repeat 2..5 until the underlying hardware or software is understood.

If black-box reverse engineering wasn't allowed, then any market that depends on interoperability would be killed. Samba, Wine, Mono: dead. The PC Clone industry? Couldn't happen without Compaq reverse-engineering the original BIOS. Garage door openers? Forget it (though there was an interesting use of the DMCA to try and prevent the creation of compatible garage door openers).

Reverse engineering is a necessary component to a free market. Without it, monopolies cannot be challenged, compatibility can not be assured (compatibility is at the whim of the original creator), and the market is stifled.

Posted on 31 Jan 2006 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

Airport ID Checks are Constitutional

Airport ID checks are constitutional, as is apparently having secret laws that "mere mortals" are unable to read and understand. What you can't know can hurt you.

Slashdot provides coverage, and the standard host of decent comments (I suggest browsing at +5 to save time).

This does raise something I've been pondering for awhile. If "ignorance of the law is no excuse," does the law require that everyone be (a) clairvoyant, and (b) a super-genious? New laws are being created and changed every year (if not more frequently), so it isn't really reasonable to follow laws that you can't reasonably know about. Further, the law is so complex I'm not sure lawyers can keep it all straight. (I've heard that the first amendment of the Constitution now has several large tombs of case law restricting and expanding it, from "don't shout in a crowded theater" to campaign finance reform, and last I heard there were still questions about how political speach and campaign finance laws apply to blogs.)

How anyone is supposed to be able to keep track of all this is beyond me. Perhaps ignorance of some things should be an excuse, or perhaps our legal system needs to be simplified so that it can actually be comprehended.

Posted on 28 Jan 2006 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

1968 Liberal Ideology

Via Instapundit, Stuck on 1968, how liberal ideology hasn't withstood the test of time (that time being the last 30+ years). What is the liberal dogma which doesn't hold up?

It ties nicely in with the creation of liberal media bias -- liberals place more trust into the government, conservatives don't.

Unrelated is how government trust varies on the subject. Take domestic wiretaps, for example, in particular this comment. Conservatives seem to be willing to trust the government, forgetting decades of history in which the FBI spied on Americans without any real reason. Liberals seem rational, distrusting the government, but that's probably more because they dislike President Bush than for any other reason.

Posted on 27 Jan 2006 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Sarah's 9 Month Checkup

Sarah had her 9-month checkup this morning, and here are her current stats:

Weight
18 lbs 12 oz (45-50th percentile)
Length
28" (75th percentile)

It looks like she's going to be a tall girl...

Posted on 26 Jan 2006 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Programming Language Comparison

Last year, Joel Spolsky mentioned the The Perils of JavaSchools, and mentioned the mid-term he took at Penn:

1a. (MIT-Scheme) Using the following function, implement sum-of-squares which calculates the sum of squares of a list:

(define (accumulate combiner null-value l)
   (if (null? l)
       null-value
       (combiner (car l)
                 (accumulate combiner
                             null-value
                             (cdr l)))))

(define (sum-of-squares l)
   (accumulate (lambda (x y) (+ (* x x) y))
               0
               l))

(sum-of-squares '(1 2 3 4 5))

Simple, straightforward (if you're familiar with the functional programming paradigm), and 14 lines of code.

This begs the question: what's the similar flavor code in C# and Java?

C# 2.0 allows anonymous delegates, which allows an almost direct conversion of the Scheme version, with the caveats that this version is limited to ints (while Scheme will handle mixed numeric types), and it's a more verbose 25 lines, largely because of the required class structure:

// Sum Of Squares
using System;
using System.Collections;
class Exam {
  delegate int Combiner (int a, int b);

  static int Accumulate (Combiner combiner, int null_value, IEnumerator l)
  {
    if (!l.MoveNext())
      return null_value;
    return combiner ((int) l.Current,
      Accumulate (combiner, null_value, l));
  }

  static int SumOfSquares (IEnumerable e)
  {
    return Accumulate (
      delegate (int a, int b) { return a*a + b; },
      0, e.GetEnumerator ());
  }

  public static void Main ()
  {
    Console.WriteLine (SumOfSquares (new int[]{1, 2, 3, 4, 5}));
  }
}

Notice that I'm using IEnumerator.Current as the (car) of the list and the IEnumerator instance is the (cdr) of the list. This is a reasonable mapping, and allows any .NET collection type to be used with the Exam.SumOfSquares method.

Java is considerably more verbose to stay in the same style as the Scheme program, requiring 37 lines. It's similar to C# in that it uses the standard Iterator interface to represent a list, with next() mapping to (car) and the Iterator instance containing (cdr). This program also uses an interface declaration and an anonymous inner class to implement the callback (to maintain the feel from the Scheme program):

import java.util.*;

class sos {
  static interface Combiner {
    int combine (int a, int b);
  }

  static int accumulate (Combiner combiner, int null_value, Iterator l) {
    if (!l.hasNext())
      return  null_value;
    Object next = l.next ();
    return combiner.combine (
      ((Integer) next).intValue (),
      accumulate (combiner, null_value, l));
  }

  static int sumOfSquares (Iterator l) {
    return accumulate (
      new Combiner () {
        public int combine (int a, int b) {
          return a*a + b;
        }
      },
      0, l
    );
  }

  public static void main (String[] args) {
    List l = new ArrayList ();
    l.add (new Integer (1));
    l.add (new Integer (2));
    l.add (new Integer (3));
    l.add (new Integer (4));
    l.add (new Integer (5));
    System.out.println (sumOfSquares (l.iterator()));
  }
}

The real "killer" for Java is the lack of integration between the language and the class libraries. .NET arrays implement the collections interfaces, which is why the C# Exam.SumOfSquares method can accept an array of ints, as well as a System.Collections.ArrayList, a System.Collections.Generic.List<int>, or anything else implementing the collections interfaces (such as C# 2.0 iterators).

Java, on the other hand, requires manually constructing and populating a java.util.ArrayList or some other type to obtain an Iterator; there's no way to convert an existing array into an iterator, short of writing your own wrapper class.

This language "comparison" really doesn't mean anything -- the functional paradigm isn't widely used (sadly) -- but functional programming might not be used because the common "mainstream" languages support it so poorly. C# is providing better functional support, going so far as supporting a limited form of closures (and C# 3.0 will make lambda functions even easier to define). Java, sadly, does not seem to be making the functional paradigm easier to use, at least not from what I've seen.

Posted on 17 Jan 2006 | Path: /development/ | Permalink

The Security and Threat of Unchecked Presidential Power

When it was earlier discovered that President Bush had permitted wiretaps without a warrant, there was a lot of crying out as to whether or not this is legal. Apparently it isn't clear whether or not this action was legal, so we'll likely see this debated for the next year.

What is clear is that the scenario is clear as mud, with the NSA potentially using technology originally developed for Total Information Awareness (TIA), a program which would allow automated scanning of all electronic messages.

Meanwhile, the US Senate and Congress are trying to pass the USAPATRIOT Act.

Bruce Schneier chimes in with some wonderful quotes:

If the president can ignore laws regulating surveillance and wiretapping, why is Congress bothering to debate reauthorizing certain provisions of the Patriot Act?

What is clear is that the government wants an increasing role in our lives, even if computer-automated surveillance is a bad idea.

Posted on 21 Dec 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Creation of Liberal Media Bias

With additional studies showing media bias (via Instapundit), it might be interesting to know how the liberal media evolved, through simple economics (via Instapundit).

Summary: cities require a working government to operate (for sewers, water, trash, etc.), while the countryside doesn't (septic tanks, wells, and burning trash as equivalents that cities can't use, though pollution of various forms can make wells and burning trash impractical). Since people in cities have a more favorable view of the government, any newspapers based in cities will also have a more favorable view of government. Since it's easier to sell papers in big cities, newspapers & other media in cities grow larger and more powerful compared to more newspapers in rural areas.

Interesting read.

Posted on 21 Dec 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Male Human Rights

From Instapundit, do boys and men get equal human-rights billing as women?

That's a rather harsh question to ask, but when there are class assigments with the underlying assumption that all boys have attempted to rape a girl, and also that boys have never been abused and would lie about abuse, it makes one think.

Posted on 19 Dec 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Intelligent Design & Atheism - Combined

The Dilbert Blog, in arguing that Intelligence is Overrated, shows that if you choose your definitions carefully, you can prove anything. In this case, he redefines the intelligence of God to be identical to the behavior of the laws of Physics, therefore God is Reality, and we just need to adjust our definition of "design" to cope with an omnipotent deity.

In short, Intelligent Design exists through Evolutionary theory.

It's hard to argue against this perspective without disagreeing with the definitions chosen. Rather entertaining.

Posted on 13 Dec 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Death Row for Self Defence

From Instapundit, the problem with no-knock police raids.

Short version: Police get a warrant for a no-knock police raid, raid a duplex, and enter the side of the duplex the don't have a warrant for (as they didn't know it was a duplex to begin with). The police either don't knock or don't provide sufficient reaction time from the inhabitants, enter, and one of the officers gets shot and later dies.

Perfectly understandable, actually -- you get woken up in the middle of the night, have people shooting at you, so you defend yourself and your family with the weapons available to you.

What isn't understandable is where it goes from there. The shooter was black, the officer white (and the son of the police chief), and the jury was white. The shooter was sent to death row.

What's deeply troubling is jury statements, in which they convicted because they didn't like the attorney's closing statement.

TheAgitator.com has more.

Overall, this could be used as a reason to prohibit the death penalty -- innocent people have been convicted and will be needlessly killed.

Posted on 12 Dec 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Sarah Picture Galore

Further proving that I never update this site often enough, here are a number of pictures taken over the past few months that should have been posted sooner, but didn't (because I'm lazy and have no time).

In chronological order, we have Amber and Sarah on June 10 and June 13, when Sarah was almost 7 weeks old:

Amber and Sarah

Amber and Sarah

Next is Sarah napping on me on June 14:

Sarah napping on Jon

Of course, Sadie needs to get in on the act (on June 17):

Sadie and Sarah

On the July 4th weekend, we went up to New York to visit my parents, and many of my relatives were also visiting:

Chris, Sarah, Aunt Barb, Amber

Chris, Sarah, Aunt Barb, Amber

Sarah, Amber, Jon

Sarah, Amber, Jon

Jon, Sarah, Grandpa Peceny, Dad

Jon, Sarah, Grandpa Peceny, Dad

Sarah Napping

Sarah Napping

Josh, Mike, Chris, Sarah, Jon, Amber

Josh, Mike, Chris, Sarah, Jon, Amber

Sarah obviously likes sleeping (July 14 and July 23):

Sarah Sleeping

Sarah Sleeping

Sarah also keeps getting bigger (August 19)...

Sarah Filling Basinet

Her smiles are so precious (August 22):

Sarah Smiling

One of these days she'll figure out crawling (September 10). She's gotten much better at supporting herself since.

Sarah on bed

On October 1, Amber's parents came down to help us cut down some trees in the back yard, pick up some trash destined for the dump, and to watch Sarah as we worked:

Mary, Sarah, Stevan

This allowed me to pile more work on Amber:

Amber and Jon

Allowing us to fill in a trailer and take the trees away:

Amber and Jon

Posted on 30 Oct 2005 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Six Month Checkup

Today was Sarah's 6 month checkup, which consisted of four shots, and the vital stats that everyone really cares about:

Weight
15 lbs 15 oz, which is the 50th percentile for girls of this age.
Height (length)
27", which is the 80th percentile.

It looks like she's going to be a tall girl. :-)

Posted on 28 Oct 2005 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Patents

From slashdot.org, PTO Eliminates "Technological Arts" Requirement.

Translation: "We don't need to restrict patents to just the 'useful arts,' the Constitution be damned! Bring on those patents covering algorithms to give managers raises!"

Groklaw also has some coverage.

Posted on 18 Oct 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

More on 'honor' killings

From Instapundit, more on the horribly mis-named 'honor' killings in Germany.

Posted on 10 Oct 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

System.Diagnostics Tracing Support

As I wrote Mono's original Trace support infrastructure, I should probably get around to implementing the much improved 2.0 version. Which means I first need to understand it. Fortunately Mike Rousos is documenting how it works:

Posted on 21 Sep 2005 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Mono.Unix Reorganization

Brad Abrams, author of the Framework Design Guidelines, recently posted his precon slides for the recent PDC.

I quickly read through it to see how it well Mono.Unix follows it. I also recently ran FxCop on Mono.Posix.dll, with many interesting results.

One major point that Abrams' slides pointed out is on page 53:

This is completely different from how Mono.Unix currently operates, as it places both low-level classes such as Syscall and high-level classes such as UnixStream into the same namespace. The only difference between thw low-level and high-level is the Unix prefix present on the high-level classes. This is a problem.

It's a problem because when looking at the class view or the documentation you get lost looking at the dozens of low-level types such as AccessMode, ConfStr, and Syscall, as the high-level wrapper classes -- having a Unix prefix, will be after most of the types developers (hopefully) won't be interested in.

My solution is to separate the low-level classes into a Mono.Unix.Native namespace. The Mono.Unix namespace will be used for high-level types following CLS conventions (such as PascalCased types and methods) such as UnixFileSystemInfo, and for .NET integration classes such as UnixStream.

This change went into mono-HEAD today. All of the existing low-level Mono.Unix types have been marked [Obsolete], with messages directing users to use the appropriate Mono.Unix.Native types. Alas, some of these low-level types are used in properties or as the return types of methods in the high-level classes. These have been marked [Obsolete] for now, with a message stating that the property type or method return type will change in the next release. "Next release" in this case will be 1.1.11 or 1.2 (as I'm assuming the release of 1.1.10, which is when developers will actually see these messages if they don't follow mono-HEAD).

I'm also interested in better CLS compliance in the high-level classes. At present many of them are [CLSCompliant(false)] because they use non-CLS-compatible types such as uint or ulong. Should these be changed to CLS-compliant types? Any such changes should be done now (i.e. before 1.1.10), to allow any migration time.

Posted on 20 Sep 2005 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Cereal

We've started feeding Sarah cereal today. Well, we've attempted to start feeding Sarah cereal today. It's rather messy:

Sarah Eating

Sarah Eating

Posted on 18 Sep 2005 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Sarah, Yard Work

Sarah is getting good at holding her head up:

Sarah on Bed

Meanwhile, we have some yardwork to do. In mid-August, we ordered a truckload of mulch to help our ailing garden:

Mulch Pile - Start

A full truckload may have been too much; while we've put a serious dent into it -- we've probably used half of it -- there's still a lot left. It's likely to get "dumped" into the forest-like backyard.

Mulch Pile - Current

Posted on 11 Sep 2005 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Sarah at Four Months

Sarah was four months old on August 24, 2005 (or 17 ½ weeks). Here she is on August 27th:

Sarah on Jon

We visited her pediatrician last Friday, and her current "official" weight is 13 lbs 4 oz (50th percentile) and her length is 24.5" (~55th percentile), so she's doing very well, though she feels heavier than 13 pounds to me...

Sarah's currenty weekday routine is:

6:00 AM - 8:00 AM
I take care of her. She wakes up anywhere within this range, though she may wake up earlier. I normally feed her breakfast (consisting of ~7 ounces of formula), coo at her a bit (she's too cute!), and try to get her back asleep before leaving for work. Intermix feeding and walking Sadie (our dog), shaving, and otherwise getting ready for work, and I'm occasionally not sure how I have time for everything.
8:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Amber takes care of Sarah, usually feeding her at least twice during this period. Sarah tends to go at least three hours between feedings, frequently napping immediately before a feeding. Playing, tummy time, and the occasional bout of smiling/insanity will insue, plus taking Sarah on a walk around the block (optionally with Sadie).
5:30 PM - 10:00 PM
When I get back home from work Sarah is my responsibility again. The first order of business is walking and feeding Sadie with Amber and Sarah in tow. Dinner for Amber and me swiftly follows, though frequently Sarah needs a feeding about when I'm trying to eat (bad timing!). Sarah gets one or two more feedings during this time as well (depending on when she feels like going to bed). Intermix email with caring for Sarah, and my night ends far too quickly.

Weekends differ in that I'm responsible for her all weekend long, with assistance from Amber when necessary (it's Amber's time to take a break, care for the garden, and other non-Sarah-related things).

We haven't started feeding Sarah solids yet, though it looks like we'll be able to within the next month.

During tummy time, Sarah's feet seem to have the idea for crawling down, but her arms don't (possibly because they're not strong enough to lift her body yet). The result: she's an inchworm, slowly moving forward, when she moves at all. Very cute. She occasionally holds her head up, but she's not quite strong enough yet.

Posted on 28 Aug 2005 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Peak Oil? We don't need no stinkin' Peak Oil!

OK, maybe we want cheap oil. Maybe some industries need cheap oil (the airlines, for example). But will the disappearance of cheap oil cause the collapse of modern civilization? Not likely.

There are alternatives, which haven't been used yet because they cost more than cheap oil. As the price of oil increases, the alternatives become more cost-effective. For example, there is a process to convert agricultural waste into oil. It isn't cost effective yet, as it costs ~$80/barrel. When oil is $40/barrel, that's insane, but with oil currently over $60/barrel (and no end in sight to the rising prices), the alternatives become viable.

The end of the world? No. It just requires a change in priorities.

See also Instapundit's take and the Steven Levitt's take (of Freakonomics).

Posted on 22 Aug 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Major Change to Nullable Types

Poor Martin Baulig -- Microsoft has changed the design of System.Nullable so that it's far more integrated into the runtime. This change impacts things as fundamental as the box and unbox instructions...

Posted on 12 Aug 2005 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

It's Not All About Us

Via Instapundit.com, the behavior of terrorists is not solely in reaction to American occupation. It's about a great deal more.

Posted on 12 Aug 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Psychological theories for Terrorists and their Apologists

From Instapundit, an interesting comparison of the terrorist/liberal-apologist relationship to that of sadomasochistic symbiosis.

The liberal apologists assume that the world is rational place, and that if we merely change our behavior the terrorists will stop committing acts of terror. The truth is that the world is anything but rational, and are perfectly willing to use the logic put forth by the apologists to further their own goals...

Posted on 08 Aug 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Raising Children

As a new parent, I'm finding the various perspectives on what's "wrong" with American education and children to be fascinating subjects.

slashdot.org discussed what's wrong with science education in america recently; the impression I'm left with is that Americans don't emphasize science and other intellectual accomplishments enough, preferring instead to emphasize sports and other physical accomplishments. The result is that sports and acting (TV, movies) become the way to Get Rich And Famous, instead of inventing, writing, research, or any number of other areas.

Is this a problem? Given how additional education is important for more and more areas of society, the neglect of the mind certainly isn't helping.

Perhaps meditation is the answer. :-)

In a related miracle, I'm finding myself agreeing with an article on -- gasp -- FOXNews: straight talk on teen sex and media hype. This shouldn't be too surprising, given that it's written by Glen Reynolds of Instapundit fame.

Doubly interesting is The Voice of Hedonism.

It's amazing how people seem to think that modern times will alter millenia of human behavior. Of course teenagers will have sex. They have for millenia, and will continue to do so. The reasons are myriad, but it will happen; adults shouldn't throw a hissie fit every time it happens, it's embarassing.

Posted on 28 Jul 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Found at slashdot.org

a group of French cleaning ladies who organised a car-sharing scheme to get to work are being taken to court by a coach company which accuses them of "an act of unfair and parasitical competition".

What is this world coming to?

Posted on 13 Jul 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Government Taking Private Land

Via Instapundit, A round of stories on government taking of private land.

<sarcasm>Who needs private property, anyway?</sarcasm>

Posted on 24 Jun 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Insane Patents

Just when I hoped that the scope of patents couldn't be expanded any further, comes this attempt to patent storylines and plots.

The end is nigh if this is granted...

Posted on 21 Jun 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Guns are a Human Right

Via Instapundit, how Zimbabwe is the posterchild for guns as a human right.

The short, short version: if guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns. And if those "outlaws" happen to be controlling your country carrying out genocide... You're screwed, plain and simple.

Guns may have their problems, but the lack of guns is also problematic....

Posted on 10 Jun 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Two Wonderful Years

Thank you Amber for a wonderful two years of marriage, and thank you for bringing us Sarah. She's a joy to behold. She's also going to co-op the rest of this entry. :-)

Sarah has enjoyed sleeping in my arms. She's the cutest thing, and she's been doing this for quite some time. Here she is, two weeks old (on May 8th):

Sarah on Jon

Sarah is also staring at everything in sight, as should be expected, at 2 weeks 2 days (on May 10th):

Sarah staring at camera

Sarah almost smiling

Normally she sleeps in a bassinet, as this makes it easier to move her around the house without actually waking her. In theory, anyway... (One month, 4 days old on May 28th):

Sarah in bassinet

When we really need her to sleep, we put her in The Chair. This wonderful rocker has a battery-operated vibrator, which helps put her to sleep (on June 4, at 1 month 1.5 weeks old):

Sarah in bassinet

We also take her on walks with us. The stroller is too cumbersome most of the time, since there are few sidewalks in the area, so we carry her in a baby carrier (1 month 2 weeks old, on June 7th):

Sarah in bassinet

Posted on 07 Jun 2005 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Evolution: What Controversy?

From The New York Times is a wonderful article showing that there is no controversy in evolution.

For example, the bastion of conservatives, the Roman Catholic Church, believes in evolution. As do athiests. This is because evolution is a scientific theory that explains what is, but not why something happens. The Church can provide one reason for why -- God is "the cause of causes" -- while athiests can believe that evolution doesn't require a God. Evolution itself isn't under contention.

Posted on 17 May 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Group Pictures

Jon, Amber, Sarah, Mary, and Steven Hall:

Jon, Amber, Sarah, Mary, Steven

Jon, Amber, Sarah, Chris, and Michael Pryor:

Jon, Amber, Sarah, Chris, Michael

Posted on 09 May 2005 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

More Pictures!

By popular demand, more pictures for the family:

Posted on 02 May 2005 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

A Child Is Born

My first child was born today, Sarah Rose Pryor. She was born on April 24, 2005 at 3:30 PM. She is 7 pounds ½ ounces. More information as it becomes available.

Gratuitous Images. :-)

Amber and Sarah

Sarah Rose Pryor

Sarah and Amber are both doing fine, though Amber was in labor for over 14 hours (using 1 AM as the onset of labor, though we weren't entirely sure that labor had started until her water broke at 2:36 AM; Amber thought the contractions were really just strong cramps, especially since they were localized to the lower part of her abdomen, not throughout the entire uterus). I managed to help Amber and the nurses with delivery, and was given the opportunity to cut the umbilical cord -- which promptly decided to shoot blood everywhere, including my hand. Umbilical cords are messy. :-)

Posted on 24 Apr 2005 | Path: /life/ | Permalink

Death to the Public Domain!

From Groklaw... Ever get the feeling that major companies want the Public Domain to disappear? The Public Domain exists only to steal profits from mega-corporations, it has no real purpose. This is why it's gratifying to know that the state of New York has decided that when copyright expires, common law can be applied to assert the rights of the original owner. This means that no music can ever enter the public domain, assuring limited supply and greater profits for all "original owners" involved.

Satire is dead. I'll go cry now...

Posted on 14 Apr 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Frogger under Mono

DotGNU Portable.NET provides a .NET Curses wrapper for creating nifty console-based programs using the ncurses library. It is possible to run this under Mono.

Alas, the provided configure script doesn't work very well with Mono, so we need to do things manually. The following will allow you to build Portable.NET's Curses.dll ncurses wrapper and run the bundled Frogger game.

  1. Download and extract pnetcurses:
    $ wget http://www.southern-storm.com.au/download/pnetcurses-0.0.2.tar.gz
    $ tar xzf pnetcurses-0.0.2.tar.gz
    $ cd pnetcurses-0.0.2
    			
  2. Build the libcsharpncurses.so helper library. You can ignore the warnings produced by GCC.
    $ cd help
    $ gcc -shared -o libcsharpncurses.so *.c -lncurses
    input.c: In function `CursesHelpGetNextChar':
    input.c:69: warning: integer constant is too large for "long" type
    $ cd ..
    
  3. Build the Curses.dll wrapper library:
    $ cd src
    $ mcs -t:library *.cs -out:Curses.dll
    Compilation succeeded
    $ cd ..
    
  4. Create a Curses.dll.config file so that Mono can load the appropriate native libraries. This file should go into the same directory as Curses.dll.
    $ cd src
    $ cat > Curses.dll.config <<EOF
    <configuration>
      <dllmap dll="cygncurses5.dll" 
        target="libncurses.so"/>
      <dllmap dll="libcsharpcurses-0-0-1.dll"
        target="libcsharpncurses.so"/>
    </configuration>
    EOF
    $ cd ..
    
  5. Build the Frogger.exe demo program:
    $ cd frogger
    $ cp ../src/Curses.dll* .
    $ mcs -t:exe -out:Frogger.exe -r:Curses.dll *.cs
    Compilation succeeded
    $ cd ..
    			
  6. Execute Frogger.exe with Mono:
    $ cd frogger
    $ LD_LIBRARY_PATH=`pwd`/../help mono Frogger.exe
    			
Posted on 08 Apr 2005 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink

Patenting Medical Facts

From Groklaw, the patenting of medical facts, in particular patenting the knowledge that a vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency can be detected by measuring the patient's homocysteine level.

Is there anything left that can't be patented?

Posted on 30 Mar 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

How Capitalism Destroyed Slavery

From Ashishi's Niti, Capitialism and Slavery, and why they don't co-exist.

One point I'm surprised the author doesn't make is that slaves, being slaves, have minimal income, and thus can't buy anything. This reduces the market size, reduces the amount of money that can potentially be made, and slows down the normal capitalist cycle (you make stuff to sell stuff to make stuff to sell stuff... to get rich!).

Posted on 18 Feb 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

360° Panorama Workflow

From Planet Gnome, a 360° panorama image workflow.

There is also some software to use with The Gimp which may help...

Posted on 03 Feb 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

TSA's Secure Flight

As Bruce Schneier mentions, making flying safe is a difficult problem. Making it immediately susceptible to feature kreep doesn't help.

Posted on 03 Feb 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Intellectual Property -- Not Just for Software!

From Instapundit... Many in the softare industry fear the problems that "intellectual property," particularly patents, can cause for entrepreneurs. Apparently it's also hitting the military model industry, where even World War II aircaft kits are being hit with demands.

What can a World War II aircaft be covered by? Patents should have expired by now, so I suppose it's trademark law that's causing problems...

Posted on 03 Feb 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Honor Thy Father... Or Else

Honor Thy Father -- Or Else. A Wonderful article showing just how screwed up the world can be. If people claim to be religious, and one of the 10 commandments is to not kill, how is it possible that any killing can be honorable?

Of course, this isn't a problem with religion, it's a problem of culture, of respect. What I can't fathom is why women receive so much repression. All I can guess is that the men are somehow scared of women, and thus do everything in their power to ensure that women will never do anything against men. It's sickening.

I do have to wonder how bad it is in the United States, though...

Posted on 02 Feb 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Who Needs Health Insurance?

Illness and medical bills cause half of all bankruptcies according to the Harvard Medical School. More disturbing is the out-of-pocket medical costs: $13,460 for those with private insurance, and $10,893 for those without.

In other words, for this limited sample, you will owe more money by having medical insurance than you would without it. Though this doesn't say anything about the quality of life for those with vs. those without insurance -- those with insurance may have had better care, for example.

It also points out that medical insurance is primarily useful for "minor" health issues; anything major, and more importantly, major enough to keep you away from work long enough to cause loss of the job, and you might as well not have any insurance, as it won't help.

From the article:

Unless you're Bill Gates, you're just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Most of the medically bankrupt were average Americans who happened to get sick. Health insurance offered little protection. Families with coverage faced unaffordable co-payments, deductibles and bills for uncovered items like physical therapy, psychiatric care and prescription drugs. And even the best job-based health insurance often vanished when prolonged illness caused job loss - precisely when families needed it most. Too often, private health insurance is an umbrella that melts in the rain.

Posted on 02 Feb 2005 | Path: /wtf/ | Permalink

Mono.Unix Documentation Stubs

I've just added the Mono.Unix documentation stubs. Next step is to start documenting the members, mostly by copy/pasting the current Mono.Posix documentation.

Lessons learned:

  1. Documentation can be out of date, especially the documentation to update existing documentation. Oops. We're supposed to use the monodocer program.
  2. The correct command to generate/update documentation is: monodocer -assembly:assembly-name -path:directory-name.
  3. The monodocer program didn't like me (it generated a NullReferenceException because of a class in the global namespace). Patch in svn-trunk.
  4. Documentation is an alternate view of a class library

That final point is the major point: through it, I realized that several methods in Mono.Unix which should be private were instead public. Oops. Obviously I need to document things more often...

Posted on 30 Jan 2005 | Path: /development/mono/ | Permalink