Instantiations just released Version 9.2 of VA Smalltalk. It is now available for download for all registered users with a valid support contract and there is also a free evaluation version for anybody interested in trying it.
Over the last few releases, it seems the folk over at instantiations decided to make each new version a bit more exciting than the last one. The biggest and most revolutionary change in 9.0 surely was the introduction of a new VM, which is much faster than the old one. It’s hard to believe, but the mere speed of the VM wasn’t the main reason to build a completely new VM. The more interesting fact about this new VM was that it is now based on widely-used standard infrastructure and therefor allows for easier maintenance and development for new platforms.
The first, long awaited step here was support for 64 bits on both Linux and Windows.
With the new version 9.2 we see a completely new architecture being supported by VAST: ARM processors. Yes, there is now a VA Smalltalk version you can run on ARM machines, like the tiny Raspberry PI computers. We are likely to see more and more Smalltalk on IoT devices, new ARM-based Servers, and who knows, maybe one day on mobile devices…
But Instantiations didn’t stop there- VAST 9.2 now introduces a new JIT compiler, which again increases execution speed on the basis of the new virtual machine.
The Instantiations we see these days is not the same company that it was, say, 10 years ago. Back then, new releases were more or less maintenance updates, bundled a few more tools that had existed before, but were not previously shipped with VAST.
That has changed dramatically. Instantiations has shifted gears and ships lots of new code and features with each new version these days. Areas of special interest have been encryption technologies, better development tools and some love for long-standing features of VAST.
VAST 9.2 continues on this path.
My favourite new features of VA Smalltalk 9.2 are:
- Native Database Driver for Postgres
For years, VA Smalltalk has only been supporting commercial databases like DB2, Oracle or SQL Server, and ODBC. Open Source has made its way into even big corporations and so I felt the need for DB drivers for at least Postgres and MySQL/MariaDB. Instantiations also has NoSQL databases on their roadmap, so expect to see more in upcoming releases
- SMTP / IMAP support
VAST has supported these standards for almost two decades now. However, the level of support was more like providing the most important building blocks for these technologies. Without anything related to cryptography. The code hasn’t been touched in many many, years, I’d suspect almost never since Instantiations took over VAST maintenance from IBM. This time around, Seth and his team decided to change this and redo the full stack of SMTP and IMAP from the ground up. So this can be considered completely new and – according to my first tests – very well crafted!
- Full support for HiDPI monitors on Windows
- Usability improvements for the Linux version of VA Smalltalk
We’re deploying most of our web based products like https://www.kontolino.de on Linux servers. So final testing and maintenance and bug hunting need to be done on Linux. VA Smalltalk has been available on Linux for many years, but its look & feel on Linux is not as nice as one windows. Many of the nice improvements for the IDE itself are not available on Linux yet, because VAST uses the tried and tested MOTIF GUI toolset. Unfortunately, Tried and Tested not only means rock solid, but also not really as modern as other GUI toolsets on Linux (Gnome/GTK, for example). VAST 9.2 makes things a little nicer, but we will only see Scintilla support on Linux when MOTIF is replaced by GTK, which is already on the roadmap for VAST.
- ARM support
Servers with ARM processors are getting more and more popular, because they offer more computing power per watt (very generally speaking) than X86 processors.
For the very same reason, most mobile and IoT devices these days are powered by an ARM processor.
So Instantiations is pushing open a door into these worlds with this new VM technology
There are a lot more new features and improvements, but these are the ones I personally am loking forward most. You can find a list of all new features on Instantiations’ web site.
Of course the development will not stop there: a new version is already in the works for 2020 and here is the company’s roadmap for the upcoming release(s).
How to get VAST 9.2?
If you are a customer with a current maintenance contract, you can download VA Smalltalk 9.2 from Instantiations using your credentials.
If you are interested in trying VA Smalltalk before you buy, there is an evaluation license available that is fully functional, but doesn’t work well for deployment.
If you are in the Germany, Switzerland, Austria region and would like to buy VA Smalltalk licenses or need support on your VA Smalltalk project, you should get in touch with me at http://objektfabrik.de.