The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Discussion of Common Lisp

Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby Ramarren » Mon Oct 13, 2008 10:13 pm

Exolon wrote:...with the libraries available in the CL community (i.e. ASDF-installable)...


FIrst, there isn't such a thing as "CL community", which might be a part of the problem... there are several scattered weakly connected communities centred around various communication channels, ie. people here, on freenode #lisp and comp.lang.lisp, to name a few, are usually quite different.

In any case, I have noticed that some time ago many of the library maintainers stopped making releases, which are sort of necessary for ASDF-installability, and just started publishing their source repositories. I think this sort of thing started with Slime, which pretty much required installing CVS head for years...

Anyway, this means that for quite many libraries the version which ASDF-install sees might be old, or, as you have noticed, no longer in existence. Right know I would suggest using clbuild, which automatically tracks many repositories. Of course it requires something like four different version control systems.
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Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby Exolon » Tue Oct 14, 2008 8:06 am

Hi guys,

Thanks for your insightful and helpful responses! A few comments on your comments.
qbg wrote:Additionally, for distributing software to end users, if you are sending them a lisp image, it doesn't really matter how you got it to build.

This is great news - I wasn't sure if this would work or not. If I can build a working, distributable image that can be used on machines that don't even have a Lisp installed, then that improves things massively.
Paul Donnelly (and JamesF) wrote:Then why do you need GUI libraries?

  • Back when I was finding my love of programming in 1994 or so with GFA Basic on the Atari ST, even with the fairly sparse API it was easy (and gave immediate results and feedback) to do simple drawing, plotting and a bit of animation. This added an extra level of attractiveness to programming which for me was a good thing. So I like to play with GUI code to get a feel for a new language without taking on heavy duty or mundane programming tasks.
  • After working professionally with J2EE/Spring/Hibernate apps and all the headaches and verbose pain involved (creating a new 'page' meant writing 1: controller unit test 2: controller 3: model unit test 4: model 5: new entries in servlets.xml 6: new jsp 7: new entry in views.xml 8: a HttpUnit UAT test - even without the unit/UAT tests this was a lot of donkey work) I've been kind of turned off writing webapps for a while - although the little I've seen of CL libraries for these purposes seems much, much less verbose (which is pretty easy, let's be honest) than Java.
  • I'd like to create some colourful, impressive, responsive toy programs for my 10 month old daughter, rather than just letting her bash the keyboard in TextEdit
  • And maybe write a game or two.
Paul Donnelly wrote:SDL isn't really a GUI library, is it?

It is, but perhaps not strictly in the sense you mean. It provides API for graphics, sound and input which is very sexy and worth fixing to 'just work'. However I would like to try a conventional GUI library as well - Cells/Cells-gtk/Cello looked promising but didn't work with asdf-install. With perhaps a few days/weeks of experimentation I'll install it manually and try it out.
lnostdal wrote:If you're unhappy with the GUI-stuff that's out there then do something about it instead of expecting others to do it for you. It's that simple; that's the reality, even if this means actually having to learn Lisp first to do it. It's not harder to do in Lisp than in other languages; you can write from scratch and you have things like CFFI which is great, or you can patch or fork something already out there. It's basically what you're doing already -- as Java or Python or whatever type-developers, right? You're the reason Python has PyGtk+, no?

I'm not sure if you're referring to me here, but in any case, I certainly intend to work on these issues and try to improve the situation. On day 0, I submitted a patch to the lispbuilder-sdl mailing list (more as documentation of something that helped the build work for me than a suggestion that they include the patch - for all I know it breaks things for all other OS X users).

However, you must admit that such large learning curves and obstacles to newbie Lispers like myself will drive some people (who may have been capable of great contributions had things been a little easier) away.
That's why I wanted to ask you guys how your experiences compared to mine in this area.
(Incidentally, some asdf-install packages hosted on your site fail because it seems your directory layout has changed.)

On the subject of asdf-install and perhaps asdf itself, I understand why a lot of people are saying "it sucks, just do it manually", but the fact is we need something like that - consider how much apt-get/dpkg from Debian have contributed to the popularity of Linux distributions like Ubuntu. Things like this and having working sexy libraries like sdl/cells/etc out-of-the-box would be a boon to Common Lisp and get more programmers using this powerful language, I think. I will try to improve things as best I can, but I'm no expert, and most definitely a newbie when it comes to Common Lisp itself.

Oisín
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Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby dmitry_vk » Tue Oct 14, 2008 8:34 am

Shipping a single image may not always work. FFI might require presence of shared object files.
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Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby lnostdal » Tue Oct 14, 2008 9:14 am

Exolon wrote:
lnostdal wrote:If you're unhappy with the GUI-stuff that's out there then do something about it instead of expecting others to do it for you. It's that simple; that's the reality, even if this means actually having to learn Lisp first to do it. It's not harder to do in Lisp than in other languages; you can write from scratch and you have things like CFFI which is great, or you can patch or fork something already out there. It's basically what you're doing already -- as Java or Python or whatever type-developers, right? You're the reason Python has PyGtk+, no?

I'm not sure if you're referring to me here,


..everyone, I guess.


Exolon wrote: but in any case, I certainly intend to work on these issues and try to improve the situation. On day 0, I submitted a patch to the lispbuilder-sdl mailing list


..exxxxellent; so there is hope after all! :lol:


Exolon wrote:However, you must admit that such large learning curves and obstacles to newbie Lispers like myself will drive some people (who may have been capable of great contributions had things been a little easier) away.


Yeah, maybe - I don't know. I think the language "at the core" or out-of-the-box has enough of interest to keep one going through the initial hurdles wrt. "practical obstacles" etc..

Code: Select all
(defclass button (widget)
  ())

(defmethod render ((button button))
  (format t "TODO: replace this with code that renders a button at [~A, ~A] later .. apply my own imagination while learning lisp for now~%" (x-pos-of button) (y-pos-of button)))


"..hm, yeah, OOP -- cool".


Exolon wrote:That's why I wanted to ask you guys how your experiences compared to mine in this area.
(Incidentally, some asdf-install packages hosted on your site fail because it seems your directory layout has changed.)


Do you mean SymbolicWeb? It's not ASDF-installable; never was. I'm using a .sh-script to move it around to other servers quickly. I guess I could clean it up and publish that as a part of the source and link to it from the front page .. but, uh, .. later.
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Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby sburson » Tue Oct 14, 2008 10:55 am

It's a plain ordinary chicken-and-egg problem: without a large user/developer community, there aren't enough people writing and maintaining libraries; without lots of good libraries, we can't attract the users. It's as simple as that.

I think we need to be a little careful when we tell newcomers "if you don't like it, fix it yourself". Yes, that is the reality of the situation. But I think we also need to acknowledge that the expectations these people came in with were not unreasonable; the current state of CL just doesn't happen to be able to meet them. And these newcomers may or may not have the resources to invest in overcoming the difficulties they encounter. Most don't, I would guess, and that doesn't make them wimps; it just means they have other priorities.

I certainly would like to encourage everyone releasing libraries for CL to take the time to get your code working on multiple implementations and to make it ASDF-installable. (I have done this with my FSet library (http://common-lisp.net/project/fset/.) If one is going to the trouble of releasing something at all, seems to me, it's worth the extra effort to make it usable for as many people as possible. But, I understand, you have your own priorities too.
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Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby JamesF » Tue Oct 14, 2008 3:38 pm

Exolon wrote:I like to play with GUI code to get a feel for a new language without taking on heavy duty or mundane programming tasks.

Ah. You may want to try something else, while getting the hang of CL, as there doesn't seem to be much well-polished GUI-related stuff, unless you go for Lispworks. It's not that it doesn't work, I just get the distinct impression that you want to have already climbed the main learning curve of CL before adding those to your load.


Exolon wrote:After working professionally with J2EE/Spring/Hibernate apps and all the headaches and verbose pain involved (creating a new 'page' meant writing 1: controller unit test 2: controller 3: model unit test 4: model 5: new entries in servlets.xml 6: new jsp 7: new entry in views.xml 8: a HttpUnit UAT test - even without the unit/UAT tests this was a lot of donkey work) I've been kind of turned off writing webapps for a while - although the little I've seen of CL libraries for these purposes seems much, much less verbose (which is pretty easy, let's be honest) than Java.

Ah, whereas my day-job is customer support in the midst of a Java shop. While I admittedly don't work directly with the code myself, I spend enough time reading the source-code to wonder why the hell they have to make everything so incredibly complicated.

Do give it a try; chances are you'll find it strikingly simpler, at least for relatively trivial stuff. I qualify that because non-trivial work requires a well-thought-out model, which involves work no matter what language you're implementing in.

If you go for Hunchentoot and CL-WHO, I'll mention two gotchas: first, make sure you really do have the latest versions of the dependencies, to save yourself wondering why the frikkin' page won't display. Second, CL-WHO wants (format nil ...) sometimes, and (format t ...) at other times, and I've yet to spend the time to figure out the reason.


Exolon wrote:However, you must admit that such large learning curves and obstacles to newbie Lispers like myself will drive some people (who may have been capable of great contributions had things been a little easier) away.
That's why I wanted to ask you guys how your experiences compared to mine in this area.

I totally agree. I just finished a large chunk of refactoring in my pet library this morning, so there's hope it'll be released in a month or so. If I've gotten it right, it'll make web programming just a bit simpler again, by providing the utilities that you'd have had to write anyway. I even comment my code!


Exolon wrote:On the subject of asdf-install and perhaps asdf itself, I understand why a lot of people are saying "it sucks, just do it manually", but the fact is we need something like that - consider how much apt-get/dpkg from Debian have contributed to the popularity of Linux distributions like Ubuntu. Things like this and having working sexy libraries like sdl/cells/etc out-of-the-box would be a boon to Common Lisp and get more programmers using this powerful language, I think. I will try to improve things as best I can, but I'm no expert, and most definitely a newbie when it comes to Common Lisp itself.

My next trick is to see if I can improve on asdf/asdf-install. Version constraints are my particular bug-bear, because I'm sick of maintaining multiple different repositories on my development machine.
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Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby August » Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:50 pm

sburson wrote:It's a plain ordinary chicken-and-egg problem: without a large user/developer community, there aren't enough people writing and maintaining libraries; without lots of good libraries, we can't attract the users. It's as simple as that.

I think we need to be a little careful when we tell newcomers "if you don't like it, fix it yourself". Yes, that is the reality of the situation. But I think we also need to acknowledge that the expectations these people came in with were not unreasonable; the current state of CL just doesn't happen to be able to meet them. And these newcomers may or may not have the resources to invest in overcoming the difficulties they encounter. Most don't, I would guess, and that doesn't make them wimps; it just means they have other priorities.


From the perspective of a small commercial developer, I agree completely. I am certainly a Lisp newb, but am looking at it for future projects because it looks to be a beautiful and productive language as well as having the potential for the performance that we need. I would be perfectly happy contributing useful pieces of code or libraries that we develop as part of a product, but we don't have the resources to put together something like a GUI toolkit of our own.
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Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby JamesF » Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:36 pm

August wrote:From the perspective of a small commercial developer, I agree completely. I am certainly a Lisp newb, but am looking at it for future projects because it looks to be a beautiful and productive language as well as having the potential for the performance that we need. I would be perfectly happy contributing useful pieces of code or libraries that we develop as part of a product, but we don't have the resources to put together something like a GUI toolkit of our own.


If you're willing to pay for a GUI toolkit, there's one from Lispworks (http://www.lispworks.com/products/capi.html) and another from Franz (http://www.franz.com/products/allegrocl ... ools.lhtml). While the open-source toolkits might have some way to go before they're newb-friendly, it's not quite true that there's nothing available. I can't comment on what they're like to work with, because I don't do GUI programming outside of a web browser, so SBCL does the job just fine for me.

Sorry about the clumsy linking, but I'm not sure how to hyperlink things on these forums. Give me plain HTML any day :)
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Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby August » Thu Oct 16, 2008 3:15 pm

JamesF wrote:If you're willing to pay for a GUI toolkit, there's one from Lispworks (http://www.lispworks.com/products/capi.html) and another from Franz (http://www.franz.com/products/allegrocl ... ools.lhtml). While the open-source toolkits might have some way to go before they're newb-friendly, it's not quite true that there's nothing available. I can't comment on what they're like to work with, because I don't do GUI programming outside of a web browser, so SBCL does the job just fine for me.


I guess I was speaking more in the spirit of "how do we get more people to start using Lisp". In the current Lisp implementation world, we would likely purchase some Lispworks licenses as it seems to solve most of our issues (except native threads simultaneously running Lisp). I didn't mean to imply that I thought there was nothing available. I did a reasonable amount of research before starting my slog to enlightenment via SICP and PCL :-)
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Re: The library situation (warning: mini-rant)

Postby JamesF » Thu Oct 16, 2008 4:21 pm

August wrote:I was speaking more in the spirit of "how do we get more people to start using Lisp".

Ah. In that case, it looks like we'd get most mileage out of a more complete (in both senses) set of libraries to address things that have become much more common in the last 10 years or so, and making it easier to install and use them. Mostly, I suspect, polish (which is the other 90% of the development work).

At least I now have an answer to the "I don't like parentheses, and I want my C syntax!" crowd: Javascript. It's turning out to be a nice stepping-stone to Lisp, once you figure out the recursion, anonymous functions and closures. I think it'll serve as much as a stepping-stone to C for me, but maybe that just reinforces its versatility... or something.
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