Red

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0.4.2: Unicode console and FreeBSD support

This long awaited new release is now available. As I have been travelling a lot in the last months, this release has been delayed much more than I wanted. Anyway, we managed to achieve a really big amount of work, as shown by the 500+ commits since previous release and the 75 fixes over 210 new tickets opened. As usual, we strive to keep the number of opened tickets (especially bug reports) as low as possible, achieving 97.5% of closed tickets out of a total of 794 tickets so far! We really do care about bug reports.

New runtime lexer

The first runtime lexer (wrapped by load function) was implemented a year ago, as a quick hack for the console addition to Red. It was coded in Red/System and supported ASCII inputs only. It was not meant to stay more than a few weeks, but as often in the software world, temporary code lifespan exceeds by far the wishes of the author. The addition of Parse dialect in previous release has opened the possibility of rewriting the Red runtime lexer using the Unicode-aware parse function. It turned out to be a great design choice and opens even more interesting future options like I/O streaming support (when parse will support it) or dynamically extending the lexical rules (when loading custom datatypes for example).

Improved console

The new runtime lexer is now powering the Red console, so we finally have proper Unicode input support!

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A help system has also been provided, including the following functions: help, what and source. Try them from the console!

From the console code, the line editing features have been extracted in a different source file that can be now included in your Red programs when you need user input support. For that, two new functions have been provided (working like in Rebol): input and ask.

Moreover, a new branch was started in order to provide cross-platform line editing capabilities without the burden of external dependencies that have proved to be problematic and limited. The new vt100 version should work fine, but it is unfinished. Contributors with deep terminal coding experience are welcome to help improve the current code. We are aiming at a cross-platform console engine that could be used both in CLI and GUI apps.

Additional functions

  • New actions: absolute, remainder, complement, power, odd’, even’, and, or, xor, reverse
  • New natives: complement’, positive’, negative’, min, max, shift, to-hex
  • New operators: <<, >>, >>>

A new option was added to the system function: system/interpreted’, that will return true if the code is run by the interpreter (remember that do invokes the interpreter until we get JIT-compilation abilities).

Parse and load have been extended to accept a /part refinement.

Infix operators can now be created from existing functions or routines.

A first call function implementation has been contributed by Bruno Anselme with support for both Red and Red/System.

FreeBSD support

Yes, we got it now! :-) All thanks to Richard Nyberg who kindly provided us with the low-level patches required to make Red work on FreeBSD.

Red/System changes

The Red/System lexer used to be simply the load native from Rebol, which was a great way to speed up the development at the beginning, but was also limitating the syntax to only what Rebol2 accepts. Now the Red/System lexer uses the same code as the Red lexer (the compiler version, not the runtime one), freeing the Red/System syntax from the limitations and making it truly a dialect of Red!

Literal arrays support has been added also in order to facilitate initialization of arrays of value (until we get a first class array! datatype).

CPU registers read/write access has been added. It will be extended in the future to support special registers (like status flags register).

The maximum number of function local variables supported by Red/System was limited to 16, this was limitating also the number of local words that could be used in a Red function. This limitation has now been raised much higher, at least 512 local variables are now allowed.

Work in progress…

Object support is already present in this release, but is it not official yet, as it is supported by the interpreter only and not the compiler. Expect quick progress on this front.

The Android GUI support is also under heavy work in the android branch. In order to implement a proper GUI API, the implementation of a VID-like dialect has started, with Android as first back-end. Windows support should follow shortly, then Linux (most probably using GTK+) and finally MacOSX (once we implement the objective-c bridge).

Gear second!

I am not made of rubber, but I can go gear second too! ;-) You may have not noticed, but the project is rapidly growing up in the last months. It is moving faster and on a larger scale as more contributors are joining. We also get better organized. This is the github stats for just this month:

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The most important power-up we got was the addition of Xie Qingtian (aka qtxie) to the Red core team. Xie is an amazingly skilled young programmer from China, who is contributing to Red since more than a year now. But the thing is that he is working full time on Red project now, thanks to the kind sponsoring of CSDN and his CEO, Jiang Tao. Xie is the one who implemented all the new functions listed above and in a short amount of time! So consider that from now on, Red will be advancing twice faster thanks to him! ;-)

In order to organize better the work on Red, we are now using extensively Trello as our main task manager tool. The Red tasks board contains three main lists:

  • “Work in progress”: for features we are working on.
  • “Road to 1.0”: lists the required features for 1.0 version.
  • “Milestones”: helps us organize upcoming releases.

Last but not least, the number of visitors on this site and the github repo has, at least, doubled since new year, thanks to an article on CSDN about Red, our Google Summer of Code campaign and the successful StackOverflow ad campaign (finished earlier this month) run by HostileFork, that brought us more than 10k new visitors who clicked the ad, making it the most clicked ad on SO since the new year! The ad is still visible here.

Big thank to all the people that have contributed to this (big) release. Enjoy it! :-)

Year of the Horse

In a few days is the Chinese New Year, the year of the Horse. This is what you can find online about its meaning:

The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people’s ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Ancient people liked to designate an able person as ‘Qianli Ma’, a horse that covers a thousand li a day (one li equals 500 meters).

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Clever combination of 2,0,1,4 numbers and an artistic horse illustration!

The horse empowers men to reach out far places quickly, Red aims at empowering programmers to accomplish more with less efforts. It looks like the Year of the Horse might be a good one for Red to take off.

I have been travelling through Asia since a month now and will be getting back home in a few days. I went to Hong-Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. This is my first time in Asia, and it felt like accomplish a kid’s dream, full of exotic names and places. So, it was full of Marco Polo’s stories in mind that I came in China…What a contrast! China is so modern that I must confess Europe looks really behind sometimes… China is also full of opportunities for western people, that’s not just a saying, I experienced it first hand.

The purpose of my trip was to get information about the Chinese market for programmers and especially mobile programmers, meet with some startups there and IT people there, present Red (and Rebol) to any group of programmers interested in knowing more about it and get feedback from them.

Meeting with Qtxie, one of the most talented Red contributors.

I got much more than that in fact and I was not even expecting it. Thanks to Jerry Tsai who is supporting Red and Rebol since many years, we could meet with some of the key IT people in China and main startups. I had the opportunity to give an interview at CSDN (the largest developer community in China) and even give a teaching to an audience of beginners and non-programmers using Rebol2 and its GUI DSL.

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So, not only, I could gather much more information than I expected, but I could also meet with the #1 incubator in China: InnovationWorks (IW).

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IW made me an offer for spending 6 months at their offices in Beijing as a EIR (Entrepreneur In Residence) that I accepted. Basically, I will be able to continue coding on Red project while providing some architecture and tech advices to the incubated startups. This will be a great opportunity for me to study deeply the Chinese programmer’s market and prepare for proposing some Red-related products or services in China and worldwide. So I will be moving in Beijing in a few months. This move does not change in any way my work on Red, as I will be able to continue working hard during the whole year on pushing Red closer to a production version.

I was able to work a bit during my trip, mainly on GUI support for Android (reusable for other platforms as well), so the next Red release should feature an alpha version of GUI programming support!

Special thank to Tamas Herman who hosted me during my stay at Hong-Kong and provided me with all I needed for working (including delicious Thai food!). :-)

So, let’s start riding the Red horse this year! ;-)

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