What have we been up to?

by Miguel de Icaza

Every once in a while I would run into someone that will ask me what exactly we are up to in Mono. As Mono becomes larger, and various big projects "land" into the trunk, we can no longer do releases on a monthly basis. Some of the work that we do is inherently very attractive, things like new features, new libraries, new UIs and new frameworks. But probably more important are the efforts to turn our code into programming system products: fixing bugs, testing it, packaging it, supporting it, writing documentation, test suites, improving error handling, scaling the software, making it faster, slimmer and backporting bug fixes.

I wanted to give my readers a little bit of an insight of the various things that we are doing at Novell in my team. This is just focused on the work that we do at Novell, and not on the work of the larger Mono community which is helping us fill in the blanks in many areas of Mono.

MonoDevelop work

We just released MonoDevelop 2.2, a major upgraded to our IDE story, and the backbone that allows developers on Linux to debug various kinds of Mono-based applications. With support for the new Soft debugging engine, it has allowed us to support debugging ASP.NET web sites, ASP.NET web services, Silverlight applications, Gtk# and Console applications with minimal effort. Since the soft debugger leverages Mono's JIT engine, porting the soft debugger to a new architecture is very simple.

MonoDevelop 2.2 major goal was to create a truly cross platform IDE for .NET applications. We are off to a solid start with Linux, Windows and OSX support as well as solid support for C#, VB, Vala and Python.

We are now turning our attention to MonoDevelop 2.4. This new release will incorporate many new UI touch ups which I will blog about separately.

MeeGo/Moblin Support

We have been working closely with the MeeGo (previously Moblin) team at Novell to offer a streamlined developer experience for developers on Windows, Mac and Linux to target MeeGo devices.

Developers will be able to develop, test and deploy from their favorite platform software for MeeGo devices.

Mono Service Pack

A service pack release of Mono's enterprise supported ASP.NET release is ahead of us and we will be upgrading Mono from release 2.4 to release 2.6.

This will bring to our customers support for all of the new features in Mono 2.6 with the added benefit that it has gone through four months of extra testing and polish.

As part of this effort we are also upgrading the MonoTools for Visual Studio to support the new Mono Soft Debugger.

Runtime Infrastructure

Mono's runtime is being upgraded in various ways: we continue to work on integrating LLVM [1], productize our new copying garbage collector that can compact the heap, and make Mono scale better on multi-core systems with the integration of ParallelFX into Mono as well as re-architecting thread management and thread pools in Mono.

A big upgrade for Mono 2.8 will be the support for obfuscated assemblies that insert junk in dead blocks. This is a feature that we never had, but with many Silverlight applications being deployed with these options we started work on this.

We are working to improve our support for F# and together with various groups at Microsoft we are working to improve Mono's compatibility with the CLR to run IronPython, IronRuby and F# flawlessly in Mono. Supporting F# will require some upgrades to the way that Mono works to effectively support tail call optimizations. [1] LLVM: better use LLVM to produce better code, use it in more places where the old JIT was still required and expand its use to be used for AOT code.

Mono for Mobile Devices

We recently shipped Mono for the iPhone and we continue to develop and improve that platform. Our goal is to provide developers with a great experience, so we are doing everything in our power to make sure that every wish and whim of the iPhone developer community is satisfied. We are working to expand our API coverage, write helper libraries to assist developers, tune existing .NET libraries to run on Mobile devices, reduce startup time, and reduce executable sizes.

But we have also just started an effort to ship MonoDroid: Mono for the Android platform. This will include a comprehensive binding to the Java APIs, but accessible through the JIT-compiled, 335-powered runtime engine.

Our vision is to allow developers to reuse their engine and business logic code across all mobile platforms and swapping out the user interface code for a platform-specific API. MonoTouch for iPhone devices and the Monodroid APIs for Android devices.

Head-less Tasks

A big part of Mono's effort is in the development kit: the compiler, the tools and the server side components.

Mono has now a complete C# 4.0 implementation that will be ready to ship with the next version of Mono. Anyone can try it today by building Mono from SVN. We are also porting our C# compiler to work with Microsoft's Reflection.Emit to enable us to run our C# Interactive Shell in Silverlight applications and to allow .NET developers to embed our compiler in their applications to support C# Eval.

Our MSBuild implementation is very robust these days, and it will be fully supported in Mono 2.8 (and we will be backporting it to Mono 2.6 as well).

On the ASP.NET front, we are working with third party vendors to certify that their controls work with Mono's ASP.NET (we will have some tasty announcements soon) and we are also catching up to the new features that are coming with .NET 4.0.

WCF has turned out to be one of the most requested features. We had historically only paid attention to WCF for its Silverlight/Moonlight use cases, but as time goes by, more and more users are moving to WCF. We are working on completing our WCF support.

On the ADO.NET front our major focus has been to complete the support for LINQ to SQL as part of the DbLinq project that we are contributing to. At this point we have no plans to implement Entity Frameworks due to the large scope of that project.

Moonlight 3

I do not need to say much about Moonlight 3. Moonlight 3 is one of our most visible projects right now due to the adoption of Silverlight and Smooth Streaming.

By the first week of Feburary there had been 610,000 downloads of Moonlight 2.0 for Linux. This is only counting the downloads since the official release on December.

Policy Changes

Mono 2.6 was the last release of Mono to support the .NET 1.0 API profile. With Mono 2.8 we are going to drop the class library support for 1.0 and ship both 3.5 and 4.0 assemblies.

With Mono 2.8 we are also switching the default tools and compiler to be 4.0-based as opposed to be based on the 3.5 profile. We will be doing a release of Mono 2.8 a couple of months after .NET 4.0 ships.


The above probably reflects the main focus of the team in the past three months. There are many community driven efforts that are very cool and that deserve their own space and a future blog post. Things like the amazing work that was done on Qyoto and the Synapse IM client come to mind.

We look forward to a great year ahead of us.

Posted on 17 Feb 2010