ESUG09: John O’Keefe on VA Smalltalk

Friday was mostly a product update day. This is probably not a good idea of ESUG, because this might make people leave on thursday if they aren’t interested in either VA Smalltalk or Object Studio.

John was the first speaker of the day and gave an update on VA Smalltalk Version 8. He talked a bit about the past evolution of VA Smalltalk and on the current Version 8 features. Some items on the todo-list for V8 that he had presented over the last year have slipped to a later release.

The most important feature of VA Smalltalk V8 surely is the Seaside integration. VAST 8 does not support Continuations at this time, but it supports the rest of Seaside.

John gave a short overview on what will be in V8.0.1 and V8.0.2, which will be available in a few weeks (“in  October”) and in April 2010.

My favorites on his slides were Seaside 3.0beta1 in V8.0.1 and initial support for UTF-8. Given that 8.0.1 is scheduled for October and given  that the Seaside Sprint at ESUG didn’t quite reach the goal of finishing beta 1, the 8.0.1 release might be delayed for as long as it takes the Seaside team to finish it, which should be real soon now ;-). I am waiting for a few bug  fixes in Seaside so I hope things won’t take too long now. Marten will be very happy to learn that Instantiations will support cdecl calling convention on Windows.

What I really like about the contents of V8.0.2 apart from the fact that they hope to ship a Seaside 3.0 final Version with it and fix lots of supportive stuff for it (UTF-8, Multipart forms for file uploads etc.) is the advent of GLORP as a supported feature in VAST. We’ll finally have a current Relatinonal Database mapping framework to offer to potential newVA Smalltalk users.

John made a clear point that even though they plan to add the ActiveRecord feature on top of GLORP later, they do not try to offer an alternative for WebVelocity. I think that’s a good idea, since that would be a waste of talent and money for a me-too product which might not work out very well for Instantiations.

An ongoing effort is the support for better look and feel – both for VAST as a tool and for deliverables. Windows is clearly the target platform in that area, but they plan to continue on supporting most features/widgets witch emulated counterparts on other platforms. I hope they’ll do a good job here since I still hope for the moment when they port to the Mac, and I think it would be great to have the composition editor or WindowBuilder on Cocoa 😉

That directly leads me to an interesting discussion someone (I think it was Soermino) brought up by asking whether a Mac port was on the agenda. Hementioned that most of the laptops around at ESUG were macs. John re-stated that a Mac port is not planned as long as there is no market for it. VA Smalltalk mostly lives in big corporations for inhouse-projects, and there is no current demand for a Mac port. Nevertheless, we discussed a bit about the feasibility and possible pitfalls of such a port since there already is a VM on Linux. John McIntosh was in the room and was asked what he thinks about it. He didn’t want to guesstimate a number, but said he always is looking for work ;-). John said: I guess all of you mac guys would love to have a free non-commercial licence on your macs, but how many of you would like to pay us for it? The audience understood the point and I guess most agreed.

Someone else said that now that free academic and open source licences are available, and Instantiations wants to grow their user base, there is a new argument for Mac OS as a target platform. I strongly agree to that argument 😉

Let’s see what happens…

An ongoing area of Work at Instantiations is the support for Web Services and John said their customers are very successfully integrating their VA ST applications in Web Services infrastructures, but the tool environment is still very poor. They are working on WS-supportive tooling in VAST and hope to release some of the tools soon. I guess he was talking about V9, although it was never mentioned.

There is a plan to make development builds of VAST available early, and this will happen pretty soon. There will be publicly posted lists of fixed bugs on the VA ST discussion forum and the builds will be available for Windows and Linux, but not AIX and Solaris.

John also  pointed out that there now is VASTGoodies, a place for Open Source software for VA Smalltalk. Instantiations will integrate th VASTGoodies tools into VAST and will move some of the Goodies from their website to – So we now have a place to shop for open source tools for VAST!

Even though most ESUG attendees were not VAST users, there was much interest in John’s talk and also quite some discussion about it. I had the feeling the community is happy to see Instantiations making a comeback of VisualAge / VA into the Smalltalk community.