Tag Archives : IronRuby

DLR Namespace Change Fire Drill

UPDATE: This approach doesn’t work. Please see the followup article for the gory details.

[Ed. Note – This long post is about changes we made in the DLR to avoid type collisions with System.Core. The short version of this post is “You can safely ignore the CS1685 warning you’ll get if you embed IPy 2.0 Beta 5 or later in your C# 3.0 application”. The long version below has the gory details of what we did, why we did it, a little about how extension methods work and why you can ignore warning CS1685.]

[Author note – I don’t really have an editor.]

Between Beta 3 and Beta 4 of IronPython 2.0, the DLR team made a very significant change to Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll. As JB noticed, the DLR expression trees have merged with the LINQ expression trees. As part of this effort, they moved the newly merged expression tree types in Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll into the System.Linq.Expressions namespace – the same namespace where those types live in System.Core.dll in .NET Framework 3.5.

This change caused quite a few issues with our users. Basically, because of the expression tree merge and the namespace change, the beta 4 version of Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll had type collisions with System.Core.dll all over the place, making it hard or impossible to use them together. If you’re using C# you could get around these type collisions by using an assembly reference alias. However, assembly reference aliases aren’t supported for Web Sites projects or in Visual Basic.

To fix this, we’re changing the top level namespace in Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll from System to Microsoft. We’re not going back to the namespaces as they were in Beta 3 – for example, DLR expression trees were originally in the Microsoft.Scripting.Ast namespace but now they’ll be in Microsoft.Linq.Expressions. We don’t think this change will be much of an issue because most people don’t use types from Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll directly. Unless you’re building your own DLR language, this namespace change shouldn’t affect you at all except to solve the type collision problem.

However, we did hit a small snag.

The LINQ expression tree code, having been written for .NET 3.5, is a heavy user of extension methods. This means IronPython is now also a heavy user of extension methods. However, unlike LINQ, IronPython has to run against .NET 2.0 SP1. That means we can’t reference System.Core.dll in IPy or DLR. If you try to compile C# code with extension methods but without a reference System.Core.dll, you get a compiler error complaining that it can’t find the required ExtensionAttribute type, which is defined in System.Core.dll.

This might appear to be an unsolvable problem, but it turns out the C# compiler doesn’t actually care where the ExtensionAttribute type comes from. You can actually define your own copy of ExtensionAttribute (in the right namespace) and C# will happily compile extension methods without complaint. Furthermore, ExtensionAttribute is only used as a marker – there’s no real code in it – so implementing your own copy is trivial. In the DLR source, you’ll find they have defined their own copy of ExtensionAttribute so they can use extension methods and remain .NET 2.0 SP1 compatible. Since we were using them in Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll, we started using extension methods in Microsoft.Scripting.dll and IronPython.dll as well.

If you’ll recall back to the start of this post, we’re changing namespaces in order to eliminate type collisions. The snag we hit was that we couldn’t change the ExtensionAttribute namespace without breaking all the extension methods. But we couldn’t leave it the same without having a type collision with the ExtensionAttribute defined in System.Core.dll. If you had a project including both copies of ExtensionAttribute, C# would generate a multiple type definition warning and VB would generate a multiple type definition error.

We’ve looked at a several possible solutions to this. One idea was to ship two completely different sets of binaries – one for .NET 2.0 and one for .NET 3.5. But the upgrade story for that stinks – you want to upgrade your app to .NET 3.5 you have to swap out all your IPy and DLR dlls. Yuck. We considered having separate copies of just Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll – one defining ExtensionAttribute and the other linked to System.Core.dll and using TypeForwardedTo – but since the assemblies are strongly typed they’d have to same exact version number in order to be swappable. Double yuck.

In the end, we decided to put an internal copy of ExtensionAttribute in each assembly that needs it. As previously indicated, that’s IronPython.dll and Microsoft.Scripting.dll as well as making the copy already in Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll internal. For IronRuby fans reading this, we also added a copy of ExtensionAttribute to IronRuby.dll and IronRuby.Libraries.Scanner.dll as well.

It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? To solve a multiple type definition problem, we defined even more copies of the type in question.

The key thing is that all these copies of ExtensionAttribute (except the one in System.Core.dll) are internal rather than public types. If you build a VB app that references System.Core.dll and Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll (beta 4), you end up with multiple public copies of ExtensionAttribute and are rewarded with a VB compiler error. However, as long as there’s only one public copy of ExtensionAttribute – regardless of the number of internal copies of that type – VB is happy. So if you’re building a VB app against Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll (beta 5) and System.Core, you should be golden.

In C# 3.0, on the other hand, continues to throw a warning. If ExtensionAttribute was a user-defined type, we’d be fine. However, since Extension attribute is a “predefined system type”, you get C# warning 1685 even though the copies of ExtensionAttribute are all internal. Furthermore, since there are multiple internal copies of ExtensionAttribute in the IPy dlls, you’ll get this warning even if you’re not referencing System.Core. It seems here that C# 3.0 considers ExtensionAttribute a predefined system type while VB doesn’t.

I realize that always having a warning in C# 3.0 – even if you’re not referencing System.Core.dll – doesn’t feel particularly clean. Given our desire to support both .NET v2 and v3.5 with the same binaries, it was the only choice. Remember that ExtensionAttribute has literally no code and is only used to signal the compiler for extension methods, so we decided it was fairly ignorable as warnings go.

If you’re willing to compile from source yourself, it’s fairly easy to build a set of binaries for a specific version .NET that doesn’t have the warning. If you’re building for v3.5, you need to remove Extension.cs from the three projects that have a copy of it (Microsoft.Scripting.Core, Microsoft.Scripting, IronPython) and add a reference to System.Core.dll. If you’re building for v2.0, remove the Extension.cs from Microsoft.Scripting and IronPython then change the visibility in the Microsoft.Scripting.Core version from internal to public. Note, we treat warnings as errors in IPy, but we did add CS1685 to the list of WarningsNotAsErrors so the code still compiles. Of course, if you’re defining a framework specific version, you won’t get the warning anyway.

As usual, we appreciate all feedback from our community so hammer on this build as much as you can – esp. if you’ve been having type conflict errors with Beta 4. As I said in an earlier post, this is our last planned beta, so now’s the time put it thru the paces to make sure there’s nothing blocking you before we get to 2.0.

Finally, major props to Curt…aka IRON CURT…for driving these dev changes and putting up with the constant barrage of “where are we now?” status requests from yours truly. I’m sure he now regrets sitting across the hall within easy earshot.

Morning Coffee 173

I’m on my way out the door for New Zealand and Australia, but I wanted to push out a few things.

  • F# August September CTP is out! Don Syme has the announcement, Jomo Fisher has the link roundup and details are on the brand-spanking-new MSDN F# Dev Center. Major congrats to the F# team. I’ve been running a pre-release version of these bits, and they are a huge step forward if you’re an F# developer.
  • I’ve got an article on IronPython in the latest issue of CoDe magazine. Also check out Brad Wilson’sIronRuby article, Ted Neward’sF# article and Neil Ford’sPolygot Programming article.
  • Via Michael Foord I discovered that IronPython tester Dave Fugate is back on the blog. He starts with a couple of posts about measuring IronPython performance.
  • Speaking of blogging teammates, I think the dynamic languages team has the highest percentage of bloggers in any group at MSFT. All four Program Managers (Dave (lead), John, Jimmy and me), four of five developers (Shri (lead), Dino, Curt and Oleg) and all three Testers (Jim, Dave and Srivatsn). The only non blogger right now is Tomas – who at least has a home page – and  the lead tester which is an open position right now. 11 bloggers out of 12 team members equals 91.67% team blogger coverage.
  • I was really impressed with Newspeak when I saw it at Lang.NET so I’m very excited to see they have a new website. No public bits yet, but I like the part where they point out Newspeak “can be implemented independently of Squeak, Smalltalk or any particular VM or IDE”. How about implementing a version on DLR guys?
  • Maurice de Beijer shows off embedding IronPython inside a WF application. Kinda cool, but he’s primarily showing off implementing a CLR interface in IPy. How about a WF activity that execute arbitrary IPy code. That would be cool. (via IronPython URLs)
  • Ironclad has reached their 0.5 milestone, being able to import numpy from IronPython. BTW, guys – I’m not sure commenting out one line that appears to be unreferenced qualifies as a “monstrous caveat”. Congrats guys! (via IronPython URLs)

Morning Coffee 172

  • I took the kids to see Fly Me To The Moon recently. We had to trek to Monroe (about 30 minutes away) because it’s a special 3D movie, and it was only playing there and in downtown Seattle. The movie’s story is insipid – three flies stow away on Apollo 11 – but all the space shots were actually kinda cool. It sure felt like they wanted to be scientifically and historically accurate about the the actual mission (well, other than the part about the flies). Patrick really liked it (he wants to build a rocket in the back yard) and Riley sat thru the whole thing with a minimum of fussing.
  • I’m a big fan of Joe Biden, so I’m really happy Obama picked him to be his running mate.
  • I know it’s old news but what the frak was John Edwards thinking? I like his policies, but the arrogance it takes to run for president when you know you’ve got that skeleton in your closet is mind-boggling.
  • On the other hand, watching the Sean Hannity and guest’s hypocrisy on Edwards’ affair, only to watch them scramble like cockroaches when Colmes points out McCain had admitted to having an affair was frakking hilarious.

OK, onto geek stuff:

  • My new boss Dave Remy has moved to a new blog. If you’re curious what he was up to for the 10 months he was away from Microsoft, he’s happy to share.
  • IPy and IRuby developer Curt Hagenlocher (aka Iron Curt) is blogging. Cue the Ozzy…I AM IRON CURT. Or don’t. Anyway, he dives in the deep end of the pool – no “hello world” lollyblogging for Iron Curt – digging into the stack implications of rethrowing exceptions and debugging emitted IL.
  • Srivatsn writes about static compilation of IPy scripts. Note, we’re not talking about static typing – it’s still the same good-old dynamically typed IronPython, just packaged up as an assembly, rather than as a bunch of .py files. Note, if you’re interested in compiling IronPython, you should check out the PYC sample we published as part of Beta 4.
  • Speaking of IPy Beta 4, Shri Borde posts about the COM dispatch support which is enabled by default as of Beta 4. If you’re driving COM automation clients (like Office) from IPy, this is a huge improvement over the old mechanism.
  • Jeff Hardy has released a new version of NWSGI, a managed version of Python’s Web Service Server Gateway Interface. My understanding is that this would allow any Python web stack written against WSGI to run in IIS with IronPython (subject to IronPython’s compatibility with CPython). Jeff’s been documenting his efforts getting Django running with NWSGI on his blog. Awesome work Jeff! (Thanks for the correction Seo!)
  • I never really bought into the “Attention Economy”, but Chris Anderson’s economic analysis of his DIY Drones site traffic was fascinating.
  • Lutz announces “it is time to move on” from Reflector and there was a collective horrified scream in the .NET community. He’s handing it over to Red Gate, who promised they “will continue to offer the tool for free to the community”.
  • I missed this when he posted it in June, but I really liked Nikhil Kothari use of the DLR in Silverlight to cut down on the XAML verbosity in his ViewModel action binding.
  • Brian McNamara previews the new Add Reference and file ordering support in the upcoming F# CTP. I’m really looking forward to the project-to-project reference support. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten burned because my main project recompiled but my test project didn’t. You just get used to hitting Rebuild All instead of Build. As for file ordering, it’s a bit of a bummer that F# requires it, but the new experience is hella better than editing the project file by hand. I’m really looking forward to the new CTP.

Morning Coffee 171

  • Big news for IronRuby out of OSCON. John and Jim have the details. Congrats to the IronRuby folks on reaching these milestones and paving the way for others (i.e. IPy) to follow some of the same paths.
  • One of those OSCON announcements, is a project my teammate Jimmy Schementi has been working on: Silverline, which “let’s you write Rails code that can run on the client“.
  • Shri Borde – the dev manager for IPy, IRuby and F# – tackles a tricky subject of static compilation of dynamic Python code. This came up on the mailing list recently as one of the outstanding requests for IPy to do is support custom attributes, which requires static compilation. Shri lays out some of the big issues with this approach. However, the community has been fairly clear on this, so it’s obviously something we need to look at.
  • I met someone from MS Research at the MS Product Fair who pointed me to the Institute for Personal Robots in Education, a joint effort between Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr College and sponsored by Microsoft Research. Their Myro software (myro == my robot) is written in CPython, but there’s an effort underway (aka Miro 3.0) to build a .NET version that uses IronPython. Must investigate.
  • Seshadri shows how easy it is to extend C# types in IronPython. It’s also shows how simple it is to host DLR code in your app – it’s like 6 lines of code!
  • Early reviews of IronPython in Action are good.  
  • If you want to run an IronPython IDE in your browser with Silverlight, check out SilverShell from Dan Eloff.
  • The XNA team has announced their business plans for community games. Basically, you set a price point between 200 and 800 points (aka between $2.50 and $10) and receive a “baseline” of 70% of the revenue the game generates. More details are available in the FAQ. This is pretty excited. I’d like to build some co-op kids games.
  • Speaking of XNA, Caligari is now offering TrueSpace 7.6 for free . David Weller and Glenn Wilson provide an XNA viewpoint on the announcement, Chris Pendleton shows how to upload your models to VirtualEarth.
  • Congrats to the CodePlex team on their latest drop, which features that a cool new feature – Mailing Lists! IronPython has had a Mailman mailing list for years, so I’m not sure we’ll use this feature on IPy, but I’ll investigate it
  • Two PDC notes: First, Rick Rashid – VP of MS Research – will be delivering a PDC keynote. Second, the PDC team has put up a video podcast on Producing a Ginormous Conference in 10 Minutes or Less! It’s the “inaugural episode” so watch for more Countdown to PDC video podcast episodes in the future.
  • I recently discovered Chris Smith’s F# blog. He’s got recent posts on Mastering F# Lists and Guidelines for Readable F# code. For the F# novice, check out his F# in 20 Minutes posts (part one, part two)
  • Pat Helland is moving to the SQL team. Good luck Pat!
  • I like Nick Malik’s formal definition of use cases, but I can’t help be reminded of Charlie Alfred’s Value-Driven Architecture article in Architecture Journal 5 where he said use cases were “easy to teach and explain” but that “if simplicity were the only goal that counted, we’d all still be walking or riding horses to get from one place to another.”

Five Minutes Past Noon Coffee 170

  • Ben Hall announcesIronEditor, a simple dev tool for IronPython and IronRuby. Pretty nice, though fairly simplistic (as Ben readily admits). For example, it doesn’t have an interactive mode, only the ability to execute scripts and direct the output to IronEditor’s output window. However, it is a good start and I’m sure it’ll just get better. One thing he’s apparently considering is a Silverlight version. (via Michael Foord)
  • Speaking of “Iron” tools, Sapphire Steel have had an IronRuby version (in alpha) of their Ruby in Steel product for several months now. I wonder if John’s had a chance to play with it.
  • Speaking of John, the ASP.NET MVC / IronRuby prototype he talked about @ TechEd is now available on ASP.NET MVC Preview 4 via Phil Haack.
  • Ted Neward has an article exploring the IronPython VS Integration sample that ships in the VS SDK. As I mentioned the other day, we’re starting working on a production quality implementation of VS Integration for IPy.
  • Ophir Kra-Oz (aka Evil Fish) blogs Python for Executives. I like his “Risk, Recruiting, Performance and Maturity” model – four boxes, perfect for keeping an executive’s attention! :) Plus Ophir has some nice things to say about IronPython. (via Michael Foord)
  • Ronnie Maor blogs an extension method for PythonEngine to make Eval simpler. I especially like how he uses string format syntax so you can dynamically generate the code to eval. I wonder what this would look like in IPy 2.0 with DLR Hosting API. (via IronPython URLs)
  • Speaking of DLR Hosting, Seshadri has another great DLR hosting post, this time hosting IPy inside of VS08 so you can script VS08 events (document saved, window created, etc) with Python.
  • Justin Etheredge has a bunch of IronRuby posts – Getting IronRuby Up and Running, Running Applications in IronRuby, Learning Ruby via IronRuby and C# Part 1. (via Sam Gentile)
  • Don Syme links to several F# related posts by Ray Vernagus, though he’s apparently also experimenting with IronRuby. I’m really interested in his Purely Functional Data Structures port to F#.
  • Speaking of F#, Brian has a teaser screenshot of F# upcoming CTP. However, he chooses the New Item dialog to tease, which looks pretty much like the current new item dialog (the new one does have fewer F# templates). However, if you look in the Solution Explorer, you’ll notice a real “References” node. No more #I/#R! Yeah!
  • The interactive graphic in Kevin Kelly’s One Machine article is fascinating. It really highlights that the vast vast vast majority of power, storage, CPU cycles and RAM come from personal computers on the edge. Even in bandwidth, where PC’s still have the highest share but it looks to be around 1/3rd, the aggregate of all edge devices (PCs, mobile phones, PDAs, etc.) still dominates the data centers.