There was a lot of news last week, and almost all of it is positive. As always, we are looking for new items and news sources for this weekly column. Please post any news items of interest in the discussion.
Update on the Rails/Merb merger
I had the chance to speak with Yehuda Katz, a Rails Core Team Member, about what is going on with the merger of Rails and Merb. He explained that Rails and Merb, while significantly different, are in the process of "meeting in the middle" on many items (such as configurability vs. standardization), so the merger makes sense. He also said that many of the perceived conflicts between the two are actually matters of priorities. (In other words, it isn't that one project felt that a feature should not be done, it's just that it hadn't been done yet.)
One of the major changes to Rails is the introduction of an API for plug-in developers. Due to the lack of an API, Rails releases tend to "break" plug-ins; a proper API will mean that Rails 3 (the designation for the first merged release) should be the last time a Rails release will make plug-ins incompatible. Having a bulk of the most popular plug-ins work with Rails 3 is a major precondition of its release, Yehuda said.
We also discussed timelines a bit. He said it looks like a feature complete release should happen in the next few months, pending the completion of the Google Summer of Code (some of the items are being done as part of the Summer of Code). After that, the project will go through the usual beta/test/feedback cycle, go to release candidates, and so on. Yehuda hopes that a final version comes out by the end of the year but that isn't a firm date.
"The DCI Vision" rails against OO or just C++ style OO?
InfoQ pointed me to a paper called "The DCI Architecture: A New Vision of Object-Oriented Programming," which discusses the problems with OO and such. To be honest, I cannot believe the authors of this paper really took themselves this seriously. The fact that there was even this much "bike shed" discussion about how to model a bank withdrawal shows the problems with OO!
The problem is that what these DCI proponents propose is really not too different from the way Smalltalk, Ruby, and other similar "verb-oriented" languages work. What they are really upset about isn't OO in general, but "noun-oriented" OO (aka "The Kingdom of Nouns"). In a twisted way, I don't have these problems very often because I completely missed formal training in OO, and I tend to write code that "feels" like someone bolted on just enough OO to procedural programming to survive, which is essentially what happened. I am a pragmatic person, and I believe that the vast majority of the OO purist vision has little relationship to reality and delivers few benefits to working programmers. But, hey, I could be wrong. If you disagree, please let me know in the discussion.
Railsconf 2009 summed up
The Rails folks have a summary of the Railsconf 2009 event, with lots of links to videos and such.
OutSystems wins a CODiE award
OutSystems' Agile Platform has won a CODiE award for Best Development Solution. I am currently putting together a substantial write up about Agile Platform, and without giving too much away, I will say that this award is well deserved. (I wrote an overview of OutSystems in December 2008.)
PHP's TestFest is under way
PHP's annual TestFest is going on right now. TestFest is a three-month period from April to June, in which groups spend time rigorously testing PHP; a group can commit to any amount of time, no matter how big or small, or how little or much time they want to test for. There are already a number of teams from around the globe registered, and you have about six more weeks to get involved.
Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 on the horizon
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reports that Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 is expected soon — maybe even this week. Visual Studio 2010 is desperately needed, so this is pretty good news, if you ask me. Visual Studio 2008 was more of a stopgap measure that did the bare minimum to get developers to be productive on Windows Vista. Visual Studio 2010 needs to have a better WPF editor, better Silverlight editing, better integration of a lot of technologies. (I have been editing TFS Work Items with the Process Editor, which is a great example of a barely baked feature.) I look forwards to seeing Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1.
Microsoft opens up Azure to PHP developers
Also from Mary Jo Foley is news that Microsoft is opening up the Azure cloud computing platform to PHP developers.
Axum, a new .NET language for parallel processing, is available
Microsoft has put together a new language for .NET called Axum that is specially designed for parallel processing. Axum recently had its initial public release. Keep in mind this is very much a "not production quality" release; the language is still subject to frequent changes, and there is no commitment as of yet to turn it into a shipping product. All the same, the Axum team is soliciting feedback. I've been following this project for a few months, and it looks interesting. It's based around channels and message passing, as opposed to the more familiar method and function calls. Not only does its isolation of storage and methodologies make it good for parallel processing (its "agents" default to operate concurrently), but it is also well-suited for distributed computing.
Devexpress releases CodeRush Xpress for free C# and VB.NET refactoring
Devexpress, makers of the popular CodeRush refactoring suite for Visual Studio, has announced a free version of CodeRush called CodeRush Xpress. This version includes 60 popular refactorings for C# and VB.NET and works with Visual Studio 2008 (though, ironically, not Express editions).
Details on the Microsoft Test and Lab Manager
Via Chris Eargle comes details on the upcoming Test and Lab Manager from Microsoft. It will be useful for folks above and beyond those using Visual Studio Team Test, and it will offer an Express edition. What I like best is that there is finally a way of testing the UI, including HTML, WPF, and WinForms. This has been badly needed for quite some time.
Eclipse Ajax Tools Framework on the chopping block
Apparently, so few people are interested in working on the Eclipse Ajax Tools Framework (despite much publicity early on) that it is up for termination. ZDNet blogger Ed Burnette has more information.
Quick tutorial on creating ASP.NET Dynamic Data Web sites
MSDN has a nice, short tutorial on creating an ASP.NET Dynamic Data Web site. I had never read anything about this technology before, so it was good to get an idea of what it does.
New version of the AJAX Control Toolkit released
There's a new version of the CodePlex-hosted AJAX Control Toolkit for ASP.NET AJAX Extensions. It features three new controls: HTMLEditor, ColorPicker, and ComboBox.
Silverlight now supports multicasting
There's a new plug-in for Silverlight to allow it to handle multicasting. While it is not something that lends itself well to general Internet usage, it is something that is readily deployed within the enterprise. If you have a large network that video is transmitted over, multicasting is the way to do it.
J.JaDisclosure of Justin's industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.
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Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.