Feedback requested: FOSDEM Conference

by Miguel de Icaza

This weekend am heading to Brussels to the FOSDEM conference. The last time I spoke there, Mono was in its infancy (2002). At the time the C# was about to be self-hosting on Linux, but was not quite there (0.8 and 0.9 releases).

Now, five years later Mono has gone through 60 releases and is made up of a few million lines of code and has spawned plenty of software projects.

The question is: What kind of things should I talk about in my two sessions at FOSDEM?

I have one general Mono session, and one session in the OpenSUSE track. Since Mono is so large, and there are so many interesting things being done with it, I find it challenging to find a good topic to discuss with a technical audience like FOSDEM.

I could do a general overview and give some high-level overview of what we are doing, but I feel that the FOSDEM audience is probably more interested in something more technical. So I should probably limit my presentations to two or three key topics.

Should I talk about what is available today, and what are people doing today, or should I talk about the future, and what we want to do?

Maybe the general session could be about the state of the project and where we want to go in the future; And the OpenSUSE session about the practical things that can be done today. Not sure.

What would you like to hear about?

Posted on 21 Feb 2007

Visual Basic Love

by Miguel de Icaza

Today we announced the support of Visual Basic.NET in Mono.

Visual Basic is still one of the most used languages in the Windows world, and with this release we hope to assist a large segment of the population to bring those applications to Unix with Mono.

Rolf developed the new compiler. The new compiler is fascinating because it is a VB 8 compiler (this means that it supports generics), but also because it is written in VB itself. This compiler was sponsored last summer by the Google Summer of Code (2006 edition).

The compiler on my laptop takes 12 seconds to compile itself (78,000 lines of code).

The new runtime (for 1.0 and 2.0) was developed by Boris Kirzner, Guy Cohen and Rafael Mizrahi at Mainsoft and just like the VB compiler it was written in VB, and it is made up of roughly 17,000 lines of code.

As some people have pointed out, the compiler and the runtime are not enough to run applications. A lot of the portability will be mandated by your API consumption. If your application is based on .NET 1.0, you should be ready to use Mono now. If you are using .NET 2.0, you will need to check whether everything your application needs is supported by using Moma the Mono Migration Analyzer.

Our 2.0 support these days for ASP.NET and the core is passable. It is not 100% there, but the ASP.NET Starter Kits should run, and so should applications like mojoPortal.

Posted on 20 Feb 2007

My Name

by Miguel de Icaza

I was reading Rolf's post where he complains that people never get his name right. I am used to it.

English speakers typically pronounce my name as "Mi-koo-elle", or "Mi-goo-elle", while the actual pronunciation is more like "Mig-elle".

Bonus Update: Also most English speaking people miss-pronounce "de Icaza" as "di-eye-kaza", but it is pronounced "the-eekaza".

Posted on 20 Feb 2007

Updated Main Menu

by Miguel de Icaza

Ted Haeger discusses the changes done recently to the Main Menu. Link to the video:

I love the main menu that Anna's team designed and Jimmy implemented. The KDE folks then improved upon the design and on this new iteration some of the ideas from the KDE design are incorporated.

The code is available from Gnome's SVN

Update: Someone at the office told me story of how the "Search" input box at the top of the main menu ended up at there.

In the early days of the main menu the search bar was at the bottom of the main menu, similar in spirit to Vista, but this prototype existed before Vista integrated it.

Garrett created a "Gnome Desktop" with HTML and Javascript a few months back, and they used this HTML-based desktop to quickly try out many ideas with different people.

During the routine usability tests that are conducted in the Cambridge office, one of the tasks that was part of the test was something along the lines of "Find the document that contains foo". But people would not use the built-in search, they did not notice it on the main menu. Instead people went to the file manager and started opening file by file to find the document.

When the search was moved to the top, the subjects in the usability tests immediately started using it.

Then Vista released their first menu with search integrated at the bottom of the menu. I have been wondering if the guys in the Vista team had conducted any similar tests with their start menu.

Joel posted a few months ago his complains about the logoff functionality in the Vista menu. The developer involved in implementing that bit for Vista then blogged about it and followed up here:

Then someone from the MacOS team weighted in and described the process used at Apple.

From Ted Haeger's video you can see that logout/shutdown also got redesigned with the new menu. I do not know the story behind how it got implemented (there are now two options: shutdown/logoff in the menu) and both bring up two dialogs with further options.

It would be interesting from someone on the Novell Desktop team to blog about that process to complement the Vista and OSX postings.

Posted on 18 Feb 2007

Gnome Bittorrent Client

by Miguel de Icaza

Alan McGovern has created a fantastic BitTorrent client library in C#. The effort was part of last year's Google Summer of Code. Alan continued to tune it and implement many of the protocol extensions after the SoC was over so it is now a very complete.

We have a very early Gnome UI that was created last year, but it has not been updated very much, and it could really use some work to get it updated.

The library these days is quite mature and the command line client works well, but we really ought to have a Gnome UI.

There is also a case to be made for a simple and clean UI for Bittorrents.

The library, as well as the simplistic UI can be downloaded from here (tarball is here).

A Winforms UI should also be possible, and am sure our friends in the Windows world would appreciate it.

MonoTorrent Update

Alan posted some updates on the current state of the library:

uPnP support has been enabled in MonoTorrent using Mono.Nat. So all you people with uPnP routers no longer have to worry about manually creating the port mapping in your router. It'll all be done automagically (all going well ;) ).


Disk writes are now fully asynchronous, but now will automatically throttle download speed if you are downloading faster than your harddisk can write. So you won't ever get 100s of megs of ram being used and 100% cpu usage when exceeding your write speed.

Upload and download speed calculations have been improved drastically (ish) for torrents. What i did before was calculate each individual peers upload and download speed, then sum up that for all connected peers to see a torrents overall download rate.

Posted on 17 Feb 2007

Compiler Updates - C# 3.0

by Miguel de Icaza

Progress on the C# 3.0 front.

Marek Safar has started blogging. Marek has been a contributor to the Mono C# compiler for a long time and has made the compiler very pleasant to use (fixing bugs, improving errors and warnings and doing some large changes).

Today Marek checked in his code to add C# 3.0 Extensions Methods to the compiler. More about it on his debut blog entry.

In the last couple of weeks I implemented the parsing support for C# 3.0 lambda expressions and coded the support for explicitly typed lambdas. Today I added support for overload resolution in lambda expressions.

Implementing lambda expression support in the compiler was challenging and incredibly fun.

Parsing Lambda Expressions: The first problem was that the grammar for describing the parameters in a lambda expression caused a lot of conflicts with our yacc-based parser. For example, this is a valid lambda expression:

	type var = (x, y) => x + y;

The above is problematic because a parser would not be able to tell when it finds the first open parenthesis if it was a parameter list for a lambda expression, or if it is just a parenthesized expression).

I originally feared that lambda expressions would force us to rewrite the parser from yacc into a hand-coded parser.

But I came up with a cute solution: when the tokenizer sees the first parenthesis, it starts a minimal hand-coded top-down parser that will parse the lambda parameter list plus the optional arrow, and depending on the result return either a OPEN_PARENS or a OPEN_LAMBDA_PARENS token.

Implicit Typed Parameters: The second challenge was implicitly typed parameters. Unlike anonymous methods which require the type of the parameters to be specified, lambda expressions do not require them, so it is possible to write code like this:

	delegate string rets (string s);
	delegate int reti (int i);

	Foo (rets s)
		Console.WriteLine (s ("hello, "));

	Foot (reti i)
		Console.WriteLine (i (10));
	Foo (x => x + "world");

The complication is that the lambda expression 'x + "world"' needs to be probed for validity against `reti' and `rets', this means that x can be either a string or an int.

For this to work, I added a cloning infrastructure that would clone blocks and expressions and attempt to resolve each expression without side effects until a valid lambda expression is parsed.

Return Rules: Finally, the last interesting bit was the implementation that allowed code blocks or expressions to return values. The body of a lambda expression can be either a block or an expression.

The problem with expressions is that depending on the delegate type, we might or might not be interested in the result of the expression (void return, no interest; typed return, interest).

I believe I have a quite elegant solution in the form of the ContextualReturn statement. This is a Statement that is pretty much a copy of our "Return" statement implementation. The only difference is that it would become a "return-with-value" if there is an expected return type and would become a "expression-statement; return" in the case that this was a void return.

Posted on 15 Feb 2007

Jon Lech's on Music

by Miguel de Icaza

Jon deconstructs the arguments from Steve Jobs recent letter:

Steve takes as many poetic licenses as necessary to portray himself as the David battling the Goliath.

Jon has more on his DRM blog.

Am all for abolishing DRM .

Posted on 07 Feb 2007

Packages for Mono on the Nokia 800

by Miguel de Icaza

Jarosław Pendowski wrote me to say that he has created proper packages for Mono on the Nokia 800 and the Nokia 770.

His preview packages are here

Jarosław is looking for feedback on what else to package. Please comment on his blog.

I personally think that we should have all the assemblies shipped in units and have proper dependencies. So if an application uses Gtk# and XML, only the dependencies required are installed (System.xml, gtk-sharp*.dll and family).

If an application needs Windows.Forms and System.Data, only those and its dependencies get installed, but there would be no need for example for Gtk# in that case.

Posted on 05 Feb 2007

Mono on the Nokia 800

by Miguel de Icaza

I have good news for everyone that has been asking about how to get Mono on the Nokia 800,

Michael Dominik has posted a HOWTO document to build your own version of Mono from source code on the Nokia 800.

This is still a developer package to get things going. Ideally someone that understands the Debian packaging system could do the right packaging. My knowledge of Debian packages is limited to the fact that they use the ".deb" extension.

Posted on 04 Feb 2007

Spain, Badajoz, Madrid

by Miguel de Icaza

Am going to Badajoz, Spain to the Free Software World Conference.

I will be in Madrid on Monday and Friday nights, if people want to get together, drop me a line. I was thinking dinner at Rias Bajas with Juantomas, Roberto and Ismael.

Posted on 03 Feb 2007

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