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

AirPort Utility 6.3.6 - Set up and manag...
Note: Most recent release available only within OS X 10.11 El Capitan update. Use AirPort Utility to set up and manage your Wi-Fi network and AirPort base stations, including AirPort Express, AirPort... Read more
Quicksilver 1.3.1 - Application launcher...
Quicksilver is a light, fast and free Mac application that gives you the power to control your Mac with keystrokes alone. Quicksilver allows you to find what you need quickly and easily, then act... Read more
Tidy Up (Five Users) 4.1.5 - Find duplic...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more
Mellel 3.4.3 - The word processor of cho...
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
Skype - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Bookends 12.6.0 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Apple iBooks Author 2.4 - Create and pub...
Apple iBooks Author helps you create and publish amazing Multi-Touch books for iPad. Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All... Read more
Web Snapper 3.3.9 - Capture entire Web p...
Web Snapper lets you capture Web pages exactly as they appear in your browser. You can send them to a file as images or vector-based, multi-page PDFs. It captures the whole Web page - eliminating the... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.6beta10 - GUI for OpenVPN...
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
EtreCheck 2.5.1 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is a simple little app to display the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support... Read more

Camel Up (Games)
Camel Up 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Martian: Bring Him Home (Games)
The Martian: Bring Him Home 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Based on the best selling novel and critically acclaimed film, THE MARTIAN tells the story of Astronaut Mark... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 21-30, 2...
Leap Into Fall With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter (Social Networki...
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter 4.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 4.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off for a limited time. *** | Read more »
Mori (Games)
Mori 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Stop, rewind and unwind with Mori. Time is always running, take a moment to take control. Mori is an action puzzle game about infinitely... | Read more »
100 Years' War (Games)
100 Years' War 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Tower in the Sky (Games)
Tower in the Sky 0.0.60 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 0.0.60 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
hocus. (Games)
hocus. 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: New, polished, mind-bending, minimal puzzle game with dozens of levels and extra-ordinary design Features:- Beautifully crafted... | Read more »
Mos Speedrun 2 (Games)
Mos Speedrun 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mos is back, in her biggest and most exciting adventure ever! Wall-jump to victory through 30 mysterious, action packed levels... | Read more »
3D Touch could be a game-changer, but it...
Were you one of the lucky/financially secure enough ones to buy a new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus over the weekend? Yup, me too (I’m not convinced I was either of those two things, but let’s go with lucky for now), so I thought I’d delve into just... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Bare Bones Software Releases TextWrangler 5.0...
Bare Bones Software has announced the release and immediate availability of TextWrangler 5.0, a major upgrade to its free, high performance, general purpose text editor for Mac OS X. Built on a new,... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Air 2s available for u...
Apple has Certified Refurbished iPad Air 2s available for up to $140 off the price of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 128GB Wi-Fi iPad Air 2... Read more
Save up to $100 on Mac AppleCare Protection P...
Adorama has 3-Year AppleCare Warranties on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - Mac Laptops 15″ and Above: $249 $100 off MSRP - Mac Laptops 13″ and... Read more
Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $81 off MS...
Adorama has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2218.99, $81 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan, plus a free external DVD/CD drive, and a copy of Corel... Read more
12-inch MacBooks in stock for up to $120 off,...
Adorama has 12″ Retina MacBooks in stock for up to $120 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. For a limited time, Adorama will include a free Apple USB-C to USB Adapter,... Read more
EasyDocScan Turns your iPhone or iPad into a...
Note-Ify Apps has announced the release and immediate availability of EasyDocScan 1.0, their new business app developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. EasyDocScan is a simple application... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for... has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1799 including free shipping. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model (except for Apple’s $1699... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, includes...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, $11 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
iPhone 6s and 6s Plus Feature Improved Durabi...
Upgraded components in the new iPhone 6s Plus cost $16 more than the components in the earlier iPhone 6 Plus according to a preliminary estimate from IHS Inc. The bill of materials (BOM) for an... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Payments Security Manager - *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior payments security manager to join the Apple Pay security team. You will Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Site Security Manager - Apple (Unite...
**Job Summary** The Site Security Manager is a high-profile security position at Apple . The Site Manager is the face of Apple Global Security (GS) and primary point Read more
*Apple* Fulfillment Operations Execution Ana...
**Job Summary** The AMR Apple Fulfillment Operations Team is seeking a talented team player to drive the Apple Online Store (AOS) fulfillment performance to ensure a Read more
*Apple* Distinguished Educator (ADE) Communi...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking candidates for a new position on the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Program team as ADE Community Support Manager. Join a team Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.