TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Build Cycle
Volume Number:10
Issue Number:9
Column Tag:Inside Info

Without The Build Cycle

Dynamic languages like Dylan™ turn the clock back twenty years

By Chris Espinosa, Apple Computer, MacTech Magazine Regular Contributor

When we first started shipping applications from Apple in 1977, some programmers worked with assemblers, and small bits of work were hand-coded in machine language using the built-in mini-assembler in the Apple II, but most of the software products we shipped in 1977 were written in BASIC.

Though I wrote some code, most of what I did was documentation of other peoples’ programs. For me there was a certain joy to working with a program written in BASIC. First, I could read the code. Everything shipped in source-code form, and if a program had a bug, I could list the offending lines, fix the value of a variable interactively, and run from a given line number. When I called the programmer to discuss the bug, I could help isolate it to a specific line, make the change myself, and save the fix permanently in my copy.

Programmers had similar power, to stop an application, interactively examine the values of variables, and resume. When I went to college and learned FORTRAN and Pascal, I wondered why we were being forced to take a step backwards! All my programs could do is execute or abort. I couldn’t examine variables or program state from the shell. I couldn’t list the program as it was in memory; I had to go to a separate source code file, which the compiler may or may not have been interpreting in the way I expected it.

Because I wasn’t writing anything that demanded great speed, I didn’t appreciate the value of using a compiled language versus an interpreted one. All I saw was the distance that the compiler put between me and my code.

The whole build cycle I saw as a mixed blessing. Yes, it introduced more delays and complexities into the process. But with build files and version control, people could manage much larger projects than could be put together with modules of BASIC programs. One of the last large programs I worked on was the interactive demo for the Apple ///, which was composed of a number of Business BASIC programs chained together. They had to be split up to be manageable, but doing so created a configuration nightmare.

Today static compilation is the reality that most programmers live in. Build systems have their own complexities and problems, of course, and the debate between project-based systems like Code Warrior and Symantec and script-based systems like MPW and UNIX will probably not end soon. But both systems have built up collections of auxiliary tools, common practices, and years of lore to build large projects with them.

In many ways the shape of a software engineering organization and product schedule is determined by the build cycle. The edit/compile/debug rhythm of the individual programmer is echoed in the develop/integrate/test cycle of the project, which itself drives the alpha/beta/final cycle (and in many ways runs the progress of successive generations of upgrades). The belief that product evolution is divided into distinct phases grows naturally out of a software development technique that is divided into similar phases: plan, implement, process, evaluate.

Given this, what happens if the build cycle is eliminated? Dynamic languages like Dylan™ turn the clock back twenty years, back to the interactive character of BASIC programming, but with the efficiency of compiled code. With a dynamic language, the programmer is able to examine live variables, execute code to evaluate expressions, or even change source code while it’s running. In a completely dynamic development environment, it’s conceivable that once a programmer gets the superstructure of the application running, it wouldn’t be necessary to quit it to develop more code. The development environment and the application would run side by side as separate processes, and the development environment could add new objects and methods to the application as it runs.

In this kind of environment there would be essentially no build cycle. You’d test and integrate each piece of functionality as you wrote it, method by method. Planning, implementation, and evaluation play tag with each other; you can hop from one to another at whim. Bugs wouldn’t pile up through the testing cycle, waiting for the next major build; they’d be caught and fixed then and there (and the side effects of their fixes would be noticed sooner).

What happens to the release cycle when the need for a big integration build is reduced? What happens to the separation of engineering and testing teams when testing can conceivably work on the live code as it’s written? How do programmers step back and get perspective on a program, when the environment gives them instant gratification for incremental evolution?

We can look at the ungainliness of HyperCard stacks, and the proliferation of “drop-in” architectures (like Photoshop plug-ins and Mac control panels) to get some warnings about what might happen in a more dynamic world. When programmers have more freedom and faster turnaround, they don’t necessarily use it to make things simpler or clearer. To the end user, the dynamic programming revolution could be seen as a maze of organic, ever-changing entities, assembled without planning or foresight. (Kind of like the Internet).

To be most useful, dynamic programming environments will have to be approached very carefully. Rapid turnaround has the power to make programming more fluid and free-form, and eliminate the artificial discipline of the build cycle. We may have to learn new disciplines, however, to make sure that the programs resulting from dynamic development are clear, simple, and straightforward to end users.

 
AAPL
$111.78
Apple Inc.
-0.87
MSFT
$47.66
Microsoft Corpora
+0.14
GOOG
$516.35
Google Inc.
+5.25

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

NeoOffice 2014.6 - Mac-tailored, OpenOff...
NeoOffice is a complete office suite for OS X. With NeoOffice, users can view, edit, and save OpenOffice documents, PDF files, and most Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. NeoOffice 3.x... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.5.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
CleanApp 5.0.0 Beta 5 - Application dein...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more
Monolingual 1.6.2 - Remove unwanted OS X...
Monolingual is a program for removing unnecesary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. It requires a 64-bit capable Intel-based Mac and at least... Read more
NetShade 6.1 - Browse privately using an...
NetShade is an Internet security tool that conceals your IP address on the web. NetShade routes your Web connection through either a public anonymous proxy server, or one of NetShade's own dedicated... Read more
calibre 2.13 - Complete e-library manage...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Mellel 3.3.7 - Powerful word processor w...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
ScreenFlow 5.0.1 - Create screen recordi...
Save 10% with the exclusive MacUpdate coupon code: AFMacUpdate10 Buy now! ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your... Read more
Simon 4.0 - Monitor changes and crashes...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
BBEdit 11.0.2 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Galaxy Trucker Pocket (Games)
Galaxy Trucker Pocket 1.0.8 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.8 (iTunes) Description: Galaxy Truckers Wanted!================================================================= (5/5) "Galaxy Trucker isn’t... | Read more »
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More)...
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More) with Toyze Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
So Many Holiday iOS Sales Oh My Goodness...
The holiday season is in full-swing, which means a whole lot of iOS apps and games are going on sale. A bunch already have, in fact. Naturally this means we’re putting together a hand-picked list of the best discounts and sales we can find in order... | Read more »
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode f...
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode for Angry Birds Epic Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minec...
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minecraft: Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their...
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their New Game: Tempo Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] WarChest Ltd and Splash Damage Ltd are teaming up again to work | Read more »
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary...
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary with a Bunch of Free Games Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] BulkyPix has | Read more »
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking F...
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking Fever’s new sushi-themed update Posted by Simon Reed on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Lithuanian developer Nordcurrent has yet again updated its restaurant simulat | Read more »
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to C...
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to Celebrate 20 Million Downloads Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Desti...
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Destiny, and Beyond – AppSpy Takes a Look at AAA Companion Apps Posted by Rob Rich on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] These day | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Holiday sale: 13-inch 128GB MacBook Air for $...
 Best Buy has the 2014 13-inch 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99, or $150 off MSRP, on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Price valid... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Best Buy has lowered their price on the 2014 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro to $1149.99 on their online store for a limited time. That’s $150 off MSRP and the lowest price available for this... Read more
Kodak Returns to CES With New Consumer Produ...
Former photography colossus Kodak is returning to CES for the first time in three years where the Kodak booth (#21818 South Hall 1) will showcase a wide range of innovative, imaging-related products... Read more
Invaluable Launches New Eponymously -Named A...
Invaluable, the world’s largest online live auction marketplace, hhas announced the official launch of the Invaluable app for iPad, now available for download in the iTunes App Store. Invaluable... Read more
IDC Reveals Worldwide Mobile Enterprise Appli...
International Data Corporation (IDC) last week hosted the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Mobile Enterprise Applications and Solutions 2015 Predictions Web conference. The session provided organizations... Read more
Hello Vino Wine App Launches “Safe Ride Home”...
Hello Vino has announced addition of a new “Get a Safe Ride Home” feature in its Food & Drink app with a direct connection to Uber, the technology platform that connects users with rides. The... Read more
DEVON-technologies Releases DEVONthink To Go...
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho based DEVON-technologies, LLC has updated DEVONthink To Go, its mobile companion to DEVONthink, to version 1.5. The update includes an iOS 8 extension, compatibility with the... Read more
The Apple Store offering free next-day shippi...
The Apple Store is now offering free next-day shipping on all in stock items if ordered before 12/23/14 at 10:00am PT. Local store pickup is also available within an hour of ordering for any in stock... Read more
It’s 1992 Again At Sony Pictures, Except For...
Techcrunch’s John Biggs interviewed a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) employee, who quite understandably wished to remain anonymous, regarding post-hack conditions in SPE’s L.A office, explaining “... Read more
OtterBox Defender Series Case For iPad mini 3...
With their innovative Touch ID technology and ultrathin profile, the latest tranche of Apple iPads are more desirable than ever, and OtterBox has just announced the Defender Series custom-engineered... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Store Leader Program (US) - Apple, I...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on experience, Read more
Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.