GNU Smalltalk 3.0 released

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GNU Smalltalk 3.0 has been released at

   ftp://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/smalltalk

The release was tested on the following systems:

  • i686-pc-linux-gnu
  • x86_64-pc-linux-gnu
  • powerpc-apple-darwin8.9.0
  • powerpc-unknown-linux-gnu
  • sparc-unknown-linux-gnu
  • ia64-hp-linux-gnu
  • s390-ibm-linux-gnu
  • hppa-hp-linux-gnu

Thanks to Stephen Compall, Thomas Girard, Robin Redeker for help and testing of this release!

News from 2.3.6 to 3.0

(Changes from the last release candidate, 2.95h, are listed later.)

Important changes:

  • A completely new syntax for defining classes is now present. This is detailed in the manual (see the tutorial section) and the entire source code of the system uses the new syntax.
  • A different startup sequence is used which improves the possibility to customize GNU Smalltalk, both site-wide and per-user. The details are in the manual, the main changes are these: the `~/.stinit' and `~/.stpre' files are now named `~/.st/init.st' and `~/.st/pre.st'; files requested with the `-K' command-line option are sought for in the `~/.st' directory too; kernel files may be overridden by placing them in `~/.st/kernel'; a site-wide customization file can be placed in `/usr/local/share/smalltalk/site-pre.st'.
The kernel path is stored in the image and not changed when the image is loaded. In addition, `Directory systemKernel' and `Directory localKernel' are not used anymore, and just return the same as `Directory kernel'.
Finally, Smalltalk programs have access to the aforementioned `~`/.st' directory as `Directory userKernel' (name subject to change). A `packages.xml' file, as well as `.star' files (see later) can be put there.
  • Several classes not meant to be accessed by the user have been moved to an internal Kernel namespace. This also removes them from the automatically generated documentation.
  • GNU Smalltalk now needs InfoZIP to be installed on the machine where it is compiled, in order to use the new single-file package facility. In the future, this dependency may be removed.
  • The tool for automatic documentation generator, that has been used by the GNU Smalltalk distribution for a long time, is now installed as gst-doc.

Backwards-incompatible changes:

  • If you want to return a specific CObject class from a C call-out, it is suggested that you stop using "returning: ClassName type", as in

      <cCall: 'dupwin' returning: NCWindow type args: #(#self )>!

and instead use

      <cCall: 'dupwin' returning: #{NCWindow} args: #(#self )^gt;!
                                  ^^^^^^^^^^^

The source code conversion tool might silently produce an incorrect output if you use the former syntax.
  • The ABI for external usage has changed. libgst.a does not know anymore how to parse options, but exports functions to achieve the same effect as options.
  • The #writeStream and #streamContents: method were moved down from SequenceableCollection to ArrayedCollection, since they did not really work on variable-sized collections such as OrderedCollections.
  • The database access library has been replaced by a new DBI-like library, contributed by Mike Anderson, with bindings to PostgreSQL (also contributed by Mike), SQLite (by Daniele Sciascia) and MySQL.
  • In general, GNU Smalltalk is able to load files with the old syntax. In some cases, however, it will be necessary to either convert them using the gst-convert tool, or load the Parser package before them. This is the case if you get a "not yet implemented" error while loading the files.

Packages improvements:

  • All packages in the distribution are now installed in the new ".star" format (for SmallTalk ARchive).
".star" files include at the top a package.xml file (whose format is the same as the <package> tag of packages.xml). The name of ".star" file should be the same as the name of the package if the package.xml file has a <name> tag.
  • In install mode, gst-package automatically creates a ".star" file. gst-package also accepts ".star" files on the command line; in this case, install mode will simply copy the file instead of rebuilding it from scratch.
  • gst-package supports preparing a standard skeleton for package tarballs, using the --prepare option.
  • Packages can specify a "testing-only" subpackage that is loaded when running tests (e.g. with "gst-load --test" or "gst-sunit --package"), but not when loading the package normally. This is done with a <test> tag nested into <package>.

Other major changes:

  • Added #from: to Collection, which constructs an instance of the class based on a conveniently specified Array. This allows one to construct Dictionaries or LookupTables using

       Dictionary from: { 1->2. 3->4 }

Another methods meant to be used with the { ... } syntax is #join. For example

       { 'hello'. a. '!' } join

returns a string and is the same as using #, repeatedly, but is more efficient.
  • All collection classes support #readStream, though the default implementation (which uses generators) could be slow.
  • Continuations and generators have moved to the base image. More complex examples of continuations still reside in the Continuations package.
  • Directory entries are passed to #allFilesMatching:do:'s block argument if they match aPattern. As before, the function descends in all the directories, even those that do not match aPattern.
  • Evaluated code now puts undeclared variables in a private namespace (so that you do not have to declare temporaries) and defers the resolution of undefined variable bindings until the time of their first access.
Unfortunately, this slows down evaluated code noticeably; you can get back the performance by putting code in a method or an Eval (in the latter case, you will have to declare temporaries explicitly, or the code will still use the slower deferred variable binding).
  • Flushing a socket tries to push data all the way down to the network. This usually removes the need for TCP_NODELAY option. If you have applications that want to use #flush to send data to the OS, but not to the network, we're all ears.
  • Image load uses copy-on-write memory mapped files. This means that, as long as a loaded object is not touched, the operating system will map it to the same physical memory, for different copies of the GNU Smalltalk virtual machine that loaded the same image.
  • Processes that are garbage collected before they terminate execution (e.g. because they are waiting on a semaphore that is also garbage collected) are appropriately terminated.
  • Saving the image breaks hard links. This was done to work around a Linux kernel bug, and might change in future versions.
  • Since they are not portable outside Unix systems, the "archive" virtual filesystems (deb, lslR, mailfs, patchfs, uar, urar, uzoo, ulha, ucpio, utar) are now available only if the VFSAddOns package is loaded. Without the package, only #uzip is available and it will only support extracting from ZIP files.
  • Startup time and quit time were improved widely (the time for running a simple "Hello, World" program is about one fifth of 2.3.x).
  • SUnit scripts can declare variables (using a variable=value syntax) that can be accessed from within a testsuite.
  • The <category: 'bar'> pragma can be used to set the category of a method.
  • The graphical browser can now be started just by typing "gst-blox".
  • The image is now installed in /usr/local/var/lib/smalltalk (which in most distributions will map to /var/lib/smalltalk).
  • The MySQL driver was updated to support MySQL 4.x authentication. Tests can be run by configuring with --enable-mysql-tests=USER:PASSWORD:DB (the given user, password and database should already exists when `make check' is run; the default is "root:root:test").
  • The XML package has been split in five smaller packages, XML-SAXDriver, XML-DOM, XML-SAXParser, XML-NodeBuilder and XML-XMLParser. The previous name XML can still be used. In the future it may load a different but compatible (e.g. Expat-based) parser.
  • When declaring a C function, the #returning: argument now supports specifying CPtr and CArray types, the same way it is done in CStruct and CUnion declarations. For example, since you can specify an "int *" as "#{CInt}", an "int **" (pointer to pointer to Integer, i.e. pointer to CInt) would be written "#(#ptr #{CInt})".
Conversion from Array to CType is generally available using the CType class>>#from: method.
  • The zlib bindings' WriteStream decorator supports partial flushing. Class PipeStream is distributed independently as it is not used anymore by the zlib bindings.

New goodies:

  • A new package DebugTools provides a generic Debugger class that can be used to control an inferior Smalltalk process. It is used by the textual MiniDebugger as well as the debugger that is part of the GUI.
  • Complex numbers support added (package Complex).
  • GNUPlot bindings
  • JSON reader/writer contributed by Robin Redeker.
  • MD5 packages renamed to Digest, SHA1 support added.
  • New DBI-like library replacing the old one, contributed by Mike Anderson.

News from 2.95h to 3.0

  • On Alpha, GNU Smalltalk now uses the -mieee C compiler flag.
  • Works around a bug in lrint for ia64 and other 64-bit platforms.
  • Generational garbage collection enabled on ia64. Builds on ia64.
  • Improved error recovery in interactive mode.
  • Provides a public PackageNotAvailable exception.
  • Added a #terminateOnQuit method to exit a process when ObjectMemory>>#quit is called.
  • Merged some parts of the wiki into the manual.
  • Fixed several bugs.
  • Added Collection>>#readStream.
  • Does not close stdin/stdout/stderr on output (flushing it instead).
  • Fixed crash in SmallInteger>>#divExact:
  • Compiles (again) on Mac OS X 10.3.x.

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