Z2 PT 9.3 Available for Download

Z2 PT 9.3 is now available for download:
GitHub Win32 Prebuilt binary

There has been some restructuring and cleanup in the GitHub repository, including project renames and the use of separate isolated branches for releases, but you can find the standard library sources here:
GitHub Z2 Stdlib

There has been quite some time since the last release was announced. And there were minor releases that were not announced at all. We need to do something about lengthy pauses between releases, especially if in that period bugs are resolved. You shouldn’t have to download an old release with bugs that might have been fixed weeks or even months ago.

In order to fix this, we are restructuring releases and what they mean. Each release will now be a platform with a plan. PT 9.3 is foundation build that will receive multiple updates. Here is what to expect from 9.3 during its lifetime:

Biweekly minor releases

Every two weeks we’ll release a new minor version. If there are some major bugs solved and the solutions are stable, there might even be a weekly bugfix release, but as a general rule we’ll stick to bi-weekly. This means that two weeks from now, 9.3.1 will be released.

Language nears completion

9.3 will implement all major language features, except for lambdas and advanced meta-programming features. Delegates and reflection will be added before 9.4, to name the two largest missing features.

Dcoumentation

If you look inside the GitHub repository, you might notice some new “*.api.md* files. These files are documentation. They are readable but not particularly pretty Markdown files which you can read directly from GitHub to get some idea on what the standard library API does.

At the same time, these file are read by ZIDE and using the actual source code, the information inside these *.md files is enhanced and presented as small documentation flash-cards when browsing a documented source code. This is only the first incarnation of the documentation system. The *.md files will become more readable, ZIDE will allow you to browse documentation in a separate web-browser like tab and the enhanced union of the *.md descriptions and the formatting extracted from the source code will be exportable as standalone HTML and PDF in order to enable the browsing of documentation outside of ZIDE.

This is only the first step in documentation, so only class APIs are documented. And not all of them yet. Each minor release will add more and more documentation, until 100% of the API is documented. And there will be also non API documentation created.

Integrated debugging

This was supposed to be the major ZIDE improvement in 9.3. If you observe the file sizes, zide.exe has gone up a bit from the previous versions in size. This is the new debugger code. Unfortunately, we were not able to get his working on time. It kind of works, but it is very crash prone. So this feature is disabled for now.

Future minor versions will re-enable it, as soon as it stops crashing. Currently, only an experimental PDB based debugger was implemented. A second GDB based one is planned.

OSSing the compiler

When Z2 was originally released, only the standard library sources were made available. The compiler and tools were distributed only as pre-built binaries. And only on Windows. We always planned to release all the sources, but we wanted the compiler to be self-hosting and buildable without any hacks. This is still the plan.

But that will still take some time, probably more than half e year. Until then, we started releasing C++ sources for the compiler. Not just a simple release, where we take that actual compiler sources and dump them to GitHub. Instead, piece by piece, the code base is cleanup up, improved and tested further. So at this time, only some parts of the compiler were released on GitHub. As the minor 9.3 versions roll out, more and more parts of the source code will be released, up to the point where a full package will be available, for everybody to compile their own full featured Z2 compiler.

Releasing the compiler sources piece by piece is a welcome opportunity to refactor it all. The code-base is starting to show its age. With the benefit of hindsight, most of algorithms and data structures that the compiler uses currently would have been replaced with better ones. The compiler is due to a major rewrite with techniques that work better. We can’t put the project on hold and rewrite it optimally, but we can do small incremental changes, refactoring one small system at a a time. As the pieces are refactored, they will make their way to GitHub.

Linux

This was promised long ago but it is still not available. 9.3 is compatible under Linux and even has some support for it, like detecting GCC, but at the end of the day, the compiler is not working under Linux. With the OSSing effort it would be silly to not go ahead and fix Linux once and for all. So 9.3 will start providing full Linux support for the compiler.

Take not that this means only the compiler. Once the compiler is ported, you can compile arbitrary Z2 code with it on Linux. This does not mean that the Z2 standard library will be ported to in the same effort. That will be a separate effort. Most of the standard library is OS agnostic, but some bits need to be ported. Things like identifying the CPU, IO, clock and environment queries all need to be ported before a full Linux SDK will be functional.