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.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

WhiteCap 6.7.1 - Visual plug-in for iTun...
WhiteCap is a sleek and sophisticated music visualizer and screensaver that features futuristic, wireframe mesh visuals with dynamic backgrounds and colors. WhiteCap contains thousands of visual... Read more
DiskMaker X 6.0 rc5 - Make a bootable OS...
DiskMaker X (was Lion DiskMaker) helps you to build a bootable drive from the official OS X installer app (the one you download from the Mac App Store). It detects the OS X Install program with... Read more
Lyn 1.9 - Lightweight image browser and...
Lyn is a fast, lightweight image browser and viewer designed for photographers, graphic artists, and Web designers. Featuring an extremely versatile and aesthetically pleasing interface, it delivers... Read more
MacFamilyTree 8.2.1 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: modern, interactive, convenient and fast. Explore your family tree and your family history in a way generations of chroniclers before you would have loved.... Read more
LaunchBar 6.9 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
LaunchBar 6.9 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
MacFamilyTree 8.2.1 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: modern, interactive, convenient and fast. Explore your family tree and your family history in a way generations of chroniclers before you would have loved.... Read more
Spotify 1.0.57.474. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
VOX 2.8.26 - Music player that supports...
VOX just sounds better! The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all audio formats you should ever need.... Read more
beaTunes 5.0.1 - Organize your music col...
beaTunes is a full-featured music player and organizational tool for music collections. How well organized is your music library? Are your artists always spelled the same way? Any R.E.M. vs REM?... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

This War of Mine gets a new ending and m...
This War of Mine just got a big new update, featuring free DLC that adds a new ending to the game, among other exciting changes. The update is celebrating the game's two-year release anniversary. Apart from the new ending, which will be quite... | Read more »
Summon eight new heroes in Fire Emblem H...
Nintendo keeps coming at us with Fire Emblem Heroes updates, and it doesn't look like that trend is stopping anytime soon. The folks behind the game have just announced the new War of the Clerics Voting Gauntlet, expected to start next Tuesday. [... | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
iOS publishers are pulling out all the stops this week -- there's a huge number of seriously great games at discounted prices this week. Let's not waste any time and get right down to business. [Read more] | Read more »
The House of da Vinci (Games)
The House of da Vinci 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Enter The House of Da Vinci, a new must-try 3D puzzle adventure game. Solve mechanical puzzles, discover hidden... | Read more »
Solve the disappearance of history’s gre...
Blue Brain Games invites you to indulge in an immersive hands-on 3D puzzle adventure in similar vein to The Room series, with its debut release The House of Da Vinci. Set during the historic period of the Italian Renaissance (when Leonardo himself... | Read more »
Age of Rivals (Games)
Age of Rivals 3.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 3.3 (iTunes) Description: Deep civilization-building strategy in a fast-paced card game! | Read more »
Panthera Frontier (Games)
Panthera Frontier 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Angry Birds Evolution beginner's gu...
Angry Birds changes things up a fair bit in its latest iteration, Angry Birds Evolution. The familiar sling-shot physics mechanics are still there, but the game now features team-based gameplay, RPG elements, and a new top-down view. With all of... | Read more »
Sega Forever is for the retro game fans
Sega is launching a new retro games service titled Sega Forever, in a move that's sure to delight games enthusiasts with a bit of nostalgia. Sega's releasing five classic games for free. The titles include Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star II,... | Read more »
The Little Acre (Games)
The Little Acre 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

ABBYY TextGrabber 6 for iOS Implements Instan...
ABBYY has announced the release of TextGrabber 6.0.0, an important feature update to the company’s productivity app developed for iOS and Android devices. TextGrabber 6.0 now offers Real-Time... Read more
vPhone, First Smartphone That Can’t Be Lost,...
Austin, Texas based Hypori has introduced the vPhone, a virtual smartphone that affords every business user the benefits of separate work and personal phones, conveniently delivered on a single... Read more
Save this weekend with 2016 refurbished MacBo...
Apple has dropped prices on Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros by as much as $590 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
New 27-inch 3.4GHz iMac on sale for $1699, sa...
MacMall has the new 2017 27″ 3.4GHz iMac (MNE92LL/A) in stock and on sale for $1699 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Clearance 2016 MacBook Pros available for up...
B&H Photo has clearance 2016 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $400 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple Ranks 9th In comScore Top 50 U.S. Digit...
comScore, Inc. has released its monthly ranking of U.S. online activity at the top digital media properties for May 2017 based on data from comScore Media Metrix Multi-Platform. * Entity has... Read more
10.5-inch iPad Pros available for up to $20 o...
B&H Photo has the new 2017 10.5″ iPad Pros available for up to $20 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 64GB iPad Pro WiFi: $649 - 256GB iPad Pro WiFi: $749 - 512GB... Read more
Three Off-The-Beaten-Track iOS Apps That Dese...
One of the great things about using iPads and iPhones is the vast selection of apps available for most anything you want or need to do. The three outlined in this article have been in my core app... Read more
Apple No. 1 Spot In Gartner Top 100 Vendors i...
Gartner, Inc. has unveiled the top global 100 vendors in IT in 2016 based on their revenue across IT (excluding communication services) and component market segments. In the Gartner Global Top 100:... Read more
Clearance iMacs available for up to $300 off...
B&H Photo has clearance 21″ and 27″ Apple iMacs available starting at $949, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $1999 $300 off original MSRP - 27″... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* News Product Marketing Mgr., Publish...
…organizational consensus on strategy and vision for publisher tools, authoring, and Apple News Format.Carries this strategy and vision across the organization to Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Security Data Analyst - *Apple* Information...
…data sources need to be collected to allow Information Security to better protect Apple employees and customers from a wide range of threats.Act as the subject matter Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple I...
…integrity, and trust.Success Metrics/Key Performance Indicators:Quantitative* Year over Year growth in Apple Product and Beyond the Box sales in the assigned Point of Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant till v%u00E5r...
…ethics, integrity, and trust.Success Metrics/Key Performance Indicators:QuantitativeYear over Year growth in Apple Product and Beyond the Box sales in the assigned Point Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.