Category Archives: Community

DLang News September/October 2021: D 2.098.0, OpenBSD, SAOC, DConf Online Swag

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Version 2.098.0 of the D programming language is now available in the form of DMD 2.098.0 (the reference D compiler) and LDC 1.28.0 (the LLVM-based D compiler), D has come to OpenBSD, cool things are happening thanks to the Symmetry Autumn of Code, and DConf Online 2021 t-shirts are available for purchase.

Read on for the deets.

DMD 2.098.0

This release comes with 17 major changes and 160 fixed Bugzilla issues from 62 contributors across the core repositories. The number of fixed issues may well be a record high. The 2.097.0 release had 144, and the 2.094.0 release had 119, but a cursory look at several other major releases shows numbers ranging from the high 40s to under 100, with counts in the 50s showing up frequently. This is the sort of trend we were hoping to see when Razvan Nitu came on board as our Pull Request and Issue Manager, and we couldn’t be more pleased.

There are two items of note that I’d like to point out from the new release, and then I have a little more to say about the work Razvan is doing.

ImportC

The ImportC compiler is a major enhancement to D that allows the D compiler to directly compile C source code. Walter has been working on it for a few months now, and this is the first release in which it’s available. ImportC enables the compiler to inline C function calls and even evaluate them at compile time via CTFE. ImportC targets C11 and does not currently handle preprocessor directives, so any C source you do intend to compile must first be run through a preprocessor. It’s not yet complete, but if you have a use case for it, any help in finding and reporting ImportC bugs is welcome. Contributions to fix said bugs doubly so!

Fork-based garbage collector

This release also includes an optional concurrent garbage collector for Posix systems. This is cool in and of itself, but more so because the project came to fruition thanks to the Symmetry Autumn of Code. It was originally developed for D1 by Leandro Lucarella but was never included in an official release (using alternative GCs back then required more than just a simple command-line switch). In 2018, for the inaugural edition of SAOC, Francesco Mecca undertook to port the GC to D2. This resulted in a pull request to DRuntime that was ultimately merged in time for this release by Rainer Schuetze.

To use the new GC, provide the DRuntime option --DRT-gcopt=fork:1 on the command-line of any program compiled against DRuntime 2.098.0+ (this is not a compiler option, but an option to any program linked with DRuntime). It can also be configured programmatically via:

extern(C) __gshared string[] rt_options = [ "gcopt=fork:1" ];

See the D documentation for more GC configuration options.

Shrinking the pull-request queues

Razvan has been managing pull requests across several of our repositories, but he’s been laser-focused on reducing the number of PRs in the phobos and druntime repositories, with dmd his next target. This isn’t just about lowering the PR count. He’s been reviving old PRs with the original author where he can (he tells me he was surprised how many PR authors were responsive, even after no activity on a PR for a few years) and has tried to rebase and resolve those where he can’t. Here are some statistics he’s gathered on PR activity so far this year across the phobos, druntime, and dmd repositories:

  • phobos: 568 PRs created, 650 PRs closed
  • druntime: 283 PRs created, 311 PRs closed
  • dmd: 1140 PRs created, 1126 closed

At the time he sent me the stats on October 29th, the number of open PRs in phobos had gone down from 160 to 77 and druntime from 130 to 96. The number of open PRs in dmd has remained fairly constant at around 230.

We want to thank Razvan for all the work he is doing, Symmetry Investments for sponsoring his position, the volunteer members of the “strike teams” Razvan has assembled to squash as many bugs as possible, and every contributor who has donated and continues to donate their time and effort to improving our favorite programming language.

LDC 1.28.0

The latest release of LDC implements D 2.098.0 (D frontend, DRuntime, and Phobos) and is compatible with LLVM 6.0 – 12.0.

A major item in this release is that LDC now supports dynamic casts across binary boundaries. DLL support has long been a weak point in D, often requiring the programmer to resort to extern(C) functions that return handles (pointers, references) to D objects. Martin Kinkelin has worked to improve the situation in LDC, motivated primarily by the desire to provide the standard library and runtime as a DLL on Windows.

Thanks to Martin and all the LDC contributors for the work they do to keep LDC releases in sync with those of DMD. If you benefit from their efforts, please consider sponsoring Martin (and LDC by extension) on GitHub!

D on OpenBSD

The D ecosystem grows primarily because of the efforts of volunteers who step forward to fill in the blanks. New D projects pop up all the time, but it’s pretty rare to hear that someone has brought D to a new platform. Brian Callahan has done just that.

Brian has been on a mission to bring D to OpenBSD. In August of this year, he popped into the D forums with an announcement that GDC, the GCC-based D compiler maintained by Iain Buclaw, was now available in the OpenBSD ports tree as part of GCC 11. In early October, he let us know that DMD was coming to the platform. Then in late October, he had the same news about LDC. Instructions for installing DMD on OpenBSD are on the download page (and can be extrapolated to LDC and GDC).

We are grateful to Brian for the work he has done to make this happen. We’re looking forward to his upcoming DConf Online 2021 talk, Life Outside the Big 4: The Adventure of D on OpenBSD:

The journey of D from pie-in-the-sky to a package officially offered in the OpenBSD package repository serves as a model story for other platforms who want to offer D to their userbase. We will walk through the many interconnected parts required to get a D package on OpenBSD, what the future is like for D outside the Big 4, how you can get started with D on your platform, and how those of us who enjoy life outside the Big 4 can be a positive force for D and the D community.

SAOC News

The SAOC 2021 progress bar is past the 25% mark. The first milestone wrapped up on October 15, and the participants have been posting weekly progress reports in the General Forum. It’s always interesting to read about the challenges they encounter and their solutions. But the latest SAOC isn’t the only edition about which there is news to report.

I’ve written above about the SAOC 2018 forking GC project that has found its way into the latest release of DRuntime. I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that another SAOC project has come into its own.

For SAOC 2020, Adela Vais set out to implement a D backend for the venerable Bison parser generator. Not only did Adela successfully complete SAOC, she saw her project through to its ultimate goal. The D backend was officially released as part of Bison 3.81 in September.

We want to offer Adela our congratulations and a huge round of applause for a job well done! Getting a project of this scope accepted into a GNU codebase is no mean feat.

DConf Online 2021 T-Shirts

DConf Online 2021 is less than a month away. The D Language Foundation will be providing DConf Online 2021 swag to the DConf speakers and prizes to viewers asking questions in the post-talk live stream Q & A sessions. The cost of the items and their shipping are the only DConf Online expenses, and they’re covered by the D Language Foundation General Fund.

Direct donations to the General Fund and our more targeted funds are always appreciated, but you can also help support the D programming language and DConf Online by purchasing a DConf Online 2021 T-Shirt or other D swag in the DLang Swag Emporium. All proceeds go straight into the General Fund. You get some swag along with our gratitude, and we get a couple of bucks. That’s a pretty good deal!

Looking Forward

As we near the end of 2021, we are looking forward to 2022 and beyond. The D programming language, its ecosystem, and its community have come a long way from the gaggle of curious coders who first took an interest in a one-man project by the guy who had created the game Empire and the Zortech C++ compiler.

The primary means of contributing to the core D projects went from emailing patches to Walter, to posting patches on Bugzilla, to committing to a Subversion repository, to submitting pull requests on GitHub. The web site went from being a few basic HTML pages of the D spec on digitalmars.com maintained only by Walter, to a simple HTML site designed by a community member under the dlang.org domain, to the more complex collection of pages and scripts that today is maintained in Ddoc by multiple contributors. The ecosystem has gone from random libraries and tools hosted by individuals on myriad services, to centralized hosting at dsource.org, to the package repository at code.dlang.org.

These are just some examples of major changes over the years, each in response to growth: as the community grew in size, some of the processes and systems began to burst at the seams. To continue to grow, something had to change. Such improvements have nearly always been the result of community action: discussion and debate in the forums eventually would lead to a champion stepping forward to make it happen. Community action has been the driving force of D since Walter first announced the “D alpha compiler” in late 2001. That’s still true today. We have a handful of paid positions, but we are still primarily driven by volunteers.

The see-a-problem-and-fix-it philosophy that carried D to where we are today has served us well, and we hope it will continue to do so into the future. But that alone is no longer enough. We are bursting at the seams again, and have been for some time. In the monthly foundation meetings, we’ve been discussing specific issues, both low level and high, and how to solve them. But there’s one thing that’s been missing from the equation: organization.

Razvan Nitu’s position as Pull Request & Issue Manager grew out of an email discussion, prompted by Laeeth Isharc, and was a year in the making. We are grateful for every volunteer who has and continues to make themselves available to review pull requests. Razvan is here not to replace them, but to complement them. They can continue as they have done. What Razvan brings to the mix is organization. He’s there to make sure fewer issues and PRs fall through the cracks, to ensure that as many issues as possible that can be resolved are resolved.

In November, the D Language Foundation and a couple of contributors are meeting with a community member who has graciously volunteered his time and expertise to advise us on how to bring the disparate servers in the D community under Foundation management and multiple admins. The end goals are to eliminate the financial burden on the volunteers who maintain these services and, hopefully, reduce the response time when it comes to solving server-related issues or making changes. In other words, organization.

I’m in the middle of revising the Vision Document that we put together over the summer. I’m not just editing it, though. I’m expanding it. My vision of the vision document has evolved since we first discussed a “goal-oriented task list” in our June meeting. I said at the time that I didn’t “know what the initial version of the final list will look like”. I feel that what we came up with falls short of meeting the need it was intended to fill. Now, I’m pretty sure of what it needs to look like. At the moment, I’m swamped in preparations for DConf Online 2021, so I’ve put the document on the backburner. I plan to pick it up again in early December and present my revisions at the last foundation meeting of the year for approval. If all goes well, it should be published on dlang.org in January. This will be a living document, updated to reflect current priorities as time goes by.

Mathias Lang is working on a proposal to bring organization into even more of our processes. It’s a modified version of the governance proposal he brought to the September foundation meeting, the aim of which is to formalize a core team to oversee the day-to-day guidance and management of the D ecosystem. I hope that this will take what already happens in our monthly meetings to the next level. I see this as a means to establish a framework for creating workgroups that can oversee specific tasks and projects, bringing more opportunities for follow-up and follow-through. It should also help provide guidance and establish priorities (e.g., via revisions to the vision document) so that independent contributors can direct their efforts not just to the issues they care about, but those that are seen as a priority by the core team. (I want to emphasize that this is my personal view. Mathias has yet to complete the proposal. But my view is informed by what we discussed in the September meeting.)

With these and future steps aimed at better organizing our community, we intend to level up our ecosystem: motivate library development, improve the onboarding experience, increase retention, make it easier to contribute, and generally resolve the long-standing issues that tarnish the experience of using the best programming language we know. We ask our current volunteers to keep volunteering, and those who aren’t yet doing so to keep an eye out for the right opportunity to pitch in. Together, we can get to where we all want to go.

Bugzilla Reward System

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The Dlang bot has been updated to track Bugzilla issues
that have been fixed. It went live for testing on the 2nd of July. Each GitHub user who fixes a bug via a merged pull request is awarded a number of points depending on the severity of the issue. The current results can always be seen on the contributor stats page. This blog post covers all of the details regarding the implementation, rules, and prizes of the reward system.

Raison d’être

I want to start by saying that the motivation of this system is not to start a fierce competition between contributors to fix as many issues as possible. The primary reasons: we see this as a means for the D Language Foundation to reward committed contributors and to channel their efforts towards more important bugs. If, as a side effect, the system motivates people to fix more bugs, that’s great! We won’t complain.

There are some negative side effects that are possible with any sort of gamification system, and we’ll be keeping an eye out for them. We think we have one of the best online communities out there. Our members are generally friendly and helpful, and we don’t want to do anything that causes tension or proves negatively disruptive. We think this will be a fun way to reward our contributors, but we will pull the plug if it proves otherwise.

Scoring system

The scoring is designed to reward contributors based on the importance of the issues they fix, rather than the total number fixed. As such, issues are awarded points based on severity:

  • enhancement: 10
  • trivial: 10
  • minor: 15
  • normal: 20
  • major: 50
  • critical/blocker: 75
  • regression: 100

Of course, the severity of an issue does not necessarily reflect the complexity of the solution. There might be regressions that are trivial to solve, and enhancements that require an extremely complicated fix. The message that we are trying to send is that complexity is secondary to need. That is why regressions are given top priority and critical/blocker/major issues aren’t far behind.

Rules

The following rules will guide how points are awarded from the initial launch of the reward system. They are not set in stone and are open to revision over time.

Rule #1: The severity of an issue will be decided by the reviewers of a proposed patch.

Severity levels are not always accurately set when issues are first reported and may not have been updated since. The reviewer of a pull request that closes a Bugzilla issue will evaluate the issue’s severity level and may change it if he or she determines it is inaccurate. I will moderate any disagreements that may arise about severity levels.

Rule #2: A PR fixing a bug may not be merged by the same person that proposed the patch.

This is already an unwritten rule that applies to the DLang repositories, so it should not surprise anyone.

Rule #3: Anyone who adopts an orphaned PR that fixes a bug may be awarded its associated points.

To avoid any authorship conflicts, it is best if the adopter contacts the original author to ask if it is okay to adopt the PR. Rule #3 will apply if there is no response or if the response is affirmative. Otherwise, no points will be awarded.

Rule #4: Only one person may receive points per fixed issue.

This rule is specifically designed for reverted PRs. Imagine that a PR that presumably fixes an issue is merged and the author gets points for it. Later on, it is decided that the fix is incorrect and the PR is reverted. If someone else proposes the correct fix, the points will be subtracted from the original contributor and awarded to the new author. Hopefully, this will motivate the original contributor to propose the correct fix after the reversion.

Rule #5: Incomplete fixes still get points.

A Bugzilla report usually includes a snippet of code that reproduces the issue. A frequent pattern is that the bug is correctly fixed for the provided snippet, then someone comes up with a slightly modified example that does not work and reopens the issue. Since the original fix was correct, but not complete, the procedure here is that the original issue should be left closed and a new one should be opened. The original author keeps the points awarded for the original issue.

Implementation

Since most of you are die-hard geeks and are eagerly awaiting the code, here’s the database implementation hosted on the dlang-bot, and here’s the web page implementation. You will notice that the web page is extremely minimal. That is because I am a total n00b when it comes to web programming, so if anyone has the skills and the time to make a cooler web page, feel free to make a PR :D.

In short, for each of the issues that are fixed, the database stores the Bugzilla issue number, the GitHub ID of the person who fixed it, the date when the fix was merged, and the severity of the issue. Every time the leaderboard page is accessed, a query is issued to the database to compute the total points for all of the contributors and sort them in descending order. Easy peasy.

I would like to thank Vladimir Pantaleev for his continued support and assistance throughout the period that I implemented the system.

Prizes

As Mike briefly described in this forum post, we are going to have quarterly competitions. The quarterly prizes will vary. At the end of the year, the person who has acquired the most points will be awarded a bigger prize.

For the inaugural competition, which will officially start on the 20th of September 2021 and will last until the start of DConf Online (the 20th of November), the prizes will be:

  • First Place: a $300 Amazon eGift Card
  • Second Place: a $200 Amazon eGift Card
  • Third Place: a $100 Amazon eGift Card

The next set of prizes will be announced at DConf Online, so stay tuned!

That’s all folks!

If there are any questions or suggestions regarding any aspect of the bugfix reward system, please contact me at razvan.nitu1305@gmail.com. Also, feel free to directly propose changes to the existing infrastructure.

Happy coding everyone!

SAOC 2021 Projects

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The applications have been reviewed, the results decided, and the applicants notified. Five coders will be participating in the 2021 edition of the Symmetry Autumn of Code, one of whom will be the first to take part in SAOC two times.

Following is a brief introduction to each participant and an equally brief summary of their projects. The project planning phase officially kicks off on September 1st, so any details I could provide from their applications would likely change by the time they finalize their initial milestones with their mentors. If you’re eager for more detail, please hold out a little while longer. The participants will start posting updates in the forums once their projects are underway. Their first updates should include more information.

Rethinking the default class hierarchy

If you followed SAOC 2020, you may recall that Robert Aron was a fourth-year student at University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest who worked on implementing D client libraries for the Google APIs, along with a tool to generate client libraries for said APIs (all of which can be found in his GitHub repositories). He also was a recipient of the final SAOC payment (one of two last year, where usually we have only one) and is owed a free trip to a future real-world DConf.

Robert is now working toward an MSc in Security of Complex Networks at the same university, and he’s back with us for SAOC 2021. His project this time around is a DIP for and implementation of the ProtoObject concept that Eduard Staniloiu described in his DConf 2019 talk. This will set a ProtoObject class as the root class of D’s object hierarchy and the ancestor of the existing Object class. It will allow users to opt-in to features currently provided by default through Object, such as the inclusion of a monitor to support synchronization.

Once again, Robert will be working with Eduard Staniloiu and Razvan Nitu as his mentors.

Welcome back, Robert!

Replace DRuntime hooks with templates

Teodor Dutu is also at university in Bucharest working on a master’s degree in Advanced Cybersecurity. He has experience in C and Java, and it’s the low-level experience he gained working on projects like a file system, a kernel module, and an asynchronous HTTP server that he wants to apply toward improving the D ecosystem. The D language grabbed his interest when he participated in Razvan and Edi’s D Summer School, and he is eager to help out where he can.

To that end, Teodor is entering SAOC to work on a change to DRuntime. Currently, certain operations in user code are rewritten to call functions in the runtime known as runtime hooks (if you’ve ever seen a linker error mentioning something like _d_newArrayT or a symbol with a similar name, that was a runtime hook). There are some significant downsides to this approach, such as code bloat (the entire DRuntime library is linked in when linking statically), negative performance impact (due to the use of TypeInfo to pass runtime information to the hooks), and code that’s hard to maintain (the hooks are inserted at the IR level, a component of the compiler that’s difficult to understand).

Teodor’s plan is to replace each of the runtime hooks with templates. Dan Printzell already did some work on this, and Teodor will be following in his footsteps intending to take it all the way.

Eduard Staniloiu and Razvan Nitu will be Teodor’s mentors.

Implement support for D in LLVM Debugger (LLDB)

Luís Ferreira has extensive experience with C, C++, and D. He has contributed to DMD, DRuntime, and Phobos, and has a WIP implementation of DIP 1029 (Add throw as a Function Attribute) underway.

One of the projects Luís has been working on in his free time is a rewrite of DRuntime’s demangler to avoid exceptions, taken on because of his interest in mangling and demangling. He also has an interest in LLVM. The combination sparked the idea for his SAOC project. His rough goals for the project are to add support to LLDB for demangling D symbols, recognizing D-specific data structures, and parsing D expressions.

Mathias Lang has taken on the role of mentor for this project.

Light Weight DRuntime (LWDR)

Dylan Graham made waves on this blog when he wrote about the custom gearbox controller he built, using D for its firmware. That project led him to a new one: D needs a runtime that is suitable for embedded, Internet of Things, and real-time operating systems. That’s when he started work on LWDR.

You can see from that link that LWDR is not a port of DRuntime, but “a completely new implementation for low-resource environments”, and you’ll find a list of features that are currently supported. For SAOC, Dylan will be working on expanding feature support, shoring up what’s already there and adding new features along the way.

Dylan is a university student in Australia, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Computer Science through Monash University. He’s been programming since he was 11 years old, starting with C on the Arduino Uno and BASIC on the Maximite. His courses have exposed him to several other languages, and he has shown he’s a good hand with D.

His mentor for SAOC 2021 is Adam D. Ruppe.

Improve DUB: solve dependency hell

Ahmet Sait Koçak is a Computer Engineering student from Turkey. He has a strong background in C#, but considers D his second-most comfortable language. Some might be familiar with his work maintaining bindbc-harfbuzz.

For his SAOC project, he made use of our Projects repository and settled on the idea of solving the “dependency hell” problem that can arise when using DUB. Essentially, if library A depends on libraries B and C, which in turn depend on two different versions of library D, dub will error out without any effort to resolve the version conflict.

In reviewing the application, the judges identified some issues with the project as proposed, but it was still accepted with the understanding that Ahmet may need to take a different approach. His project subsequently gained the distinction of being the first SAOC project application discussed in a D Language Foundation meeting. The goal was to determine if there might be another way.

Ahmet’s mentor is Max Haughton, who was present for the meeting. He will be working with Ahmet to investigate the solution arrived at in the meeting and, if that proves infeasible, to move forward with the initial idea. Either way, you’ll hear the details from Ahmet in his weekly forum updates.

Onward!

The SAOC judges (Átila Neves, Robert Schadek, and John Colvin) were impressed with the quality of the applications this year and are eager to see how the projects turn out. Please keep an eye out for the weekly updates that should start arriving in the forums around September 22nd, a week after Milestone 1 begins. This will help you keep abreast of the progress of each project and also provide an opportunity for suggestions that might help our SAOC 2021 coders along their paths.

Milestone 1 kicks off on September 15th, and Milestone 4 will end on January 15th. The D Language Foundation and our sponsors, Symmetry Investments, wish these five coders well in all they do over those four months. Their success is the D community’s success, so we hope everyone will join us in ensuring they have all the support and help they need to get through their four milestones and see this thing through to the end.

D Summer School v3

The third edition of the D Summer School, held at University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest, took place from the 5th to the 25th of July. It was three weeks of boot camping bachelor students into the basics of D across eight sessions of hands-on workshops and a hackathon. We will describe our experience in organizing the program, teaching the students, and trying to integrate them into the D community.

Recap from past editions

For the first two editions we had the following process:

  • we started advertising the summer school two months before the event;
  • we selected students from among the applicants;
  • the students had to complete a project during the summer school;
  • we helped students improve their projects during the hackathon;
  • we collected feedback at the end.

For more information, we recommend our previous article on the first edition.

DSSv3

Pre-event actions

In contrast to previous years, this time we started marketing the event very early in February, five months before the start date. We used the most influential vectors we could to promote it: the most popular professors. We nagged them ceaselessly to promote DSSv3 during their courses. The results were spectacular: we received 86 student applications (as opposed to 25 in the previous years). Since this was an online version of the summer school, we decided to drop the selection process and open the door to everyone. This had the added benefit that we didn’t have to conduct interviews with everyone and a wider range of students had a chance to be introduced to D.

To cope with the larger number of participants, we had to grow our team. Former Symmetry Autumn of Code participants Robert Aron and Adela Vais, and Symmetry employee Alexandru Militaru, agreed to join us. As such, we were able to diversify our teaching materials and raise the overall quality of the presentations.

The teaching materials were mostly the same as in the previous years; we simply reshuffled the order to have an incremental level of complexity and added a lab, “WebApp Tutorial using Vibe.d”. Besides this, we also changed the project competition. During the previous editions of DSS we found that students were not very engaged with the project assignment, so this time we came up with something different. We created a Dlang Bug Fix Competition: the top three students who had the largest number of merged PRs that solved a Bugzilla issue would win Raspberry Pi 400 kits (you may have noticed the “DSSv3” labeled PRs on our three main repositories). You may think that contributing to a programming language is a scary task, however, the truth is there are dozens of approachable, easy-to-fix issues that give instant gratification to the contributor.

With all the planning into place, we were now ready to start DSSv3.

The teaching sessions

A teaching session is comprised of an hour-long lecture and two hours of hands-on exercises. This year, we abandoned the slides in favor of tutorial-like examples. Since everything was online, we simply shared our screen and highlighted the different aspects of D in a practical way by directly compiling and running examples. This made the lessons more interactive as students enthusiastically asked “what happens if…?” questions, and we could easily demonstrate the results.

For the exercises, we followed a team-play system where students were grouped in teams of four, and they worked together to solve their tasks. This made it easier for us to organize everything on the Teams platform (we would enter rooms of four students instead of talking students individually) and it encouraged them to help each other.

From among the 86 applicants, we had an average of 35 students attending the sessions, with a record high of 56 (“Introduction to D”) and a low of 25 (“C\C++ Interoperability and Tooling”). It seems that from the first lecture to the last, almost half of the students abandon the course. This may seem like a grim figure, but note that we had students from all types of backgrounds, some of them in their first year at university. Since we are teaching subjects like memory management and multithreading, it’s only natural that some of them will be lost along the way. Regardless, the lowest number of attendees was higher than the highest number from previous years.

The hackathon was attended by eight people. Again, a low figure, but that was not a surprise. Keep in mind that the majority of the participants had never made an open-source contribution. We expected that only the best students would manage to contribute. One other factor that may have influenced the low number was our uninspired decision to organize the hackathon on a Sunday; several people noted in our feedback form that they would have participated had they not had other plans. The result of the hackathon:

  • 9 PRs submitted to Phobos: 5 were merged, 2 were closed but led to closing the associated Bugzilla entries, and 2 were rejected
  • 1 PR submitted to DRuntime that was merged
  • 4 PRs submitted to DMD: 2 were merged, 2 were rejected

We had hoped that students would submit PRs before the hackathon, but we were wrong. It seems that students should be assisted when making their first PR.

The winners of the hackathon were:

  1. danandrei279 with 3 PRs merged
  2. vladchicos with 2 PRs merged
  3. lucica28 with 1 PR merged

Feedback

We asked the students to fill out a feedback form, and we received 15 responses. It is highly possible that the results are biased since the feedback form was available at the end of the hackathon; by that time some students had already dropped out. Although it would have been great to understand their perspective, we still had valuable feedback on what went well and what could be improved.

From aggregating the results, we have the following conclusions.

  • The difficulty of DSS is perceived as being high. Those who are well prepared love it, but those who don’t have too much programming experience are lost along the way.
  • The introductory courses are much more popular than advanced ones such as “C\C++ interop” and “Multithreading in D”.
  • The hackathon was appreciated by hardcore programmers (a small percentage of the total number of attendees), but the rest were intimidated by it.
  • Students appreciated the relaxed interactive atmosphere of the sessions, with some commenting: “The general feel of the summer school was a chill evening hanging out with your friends.”

Overall, DSSv3 generated enthusiasm among the programming geeks, but we still have some work to do to make it attractive to a less savvy audience.

Future plans

Now that our team has grown, we plan to do a bigger restructuring of the course. Given the high drop-out rate, we would like to make the course welcoming for any type of CS student regardless of background or experience. To that end, we are considering creating two tracks for the course: one at a beginner level, and one for more advanced students. That way we can accommodate any type of audience.

Another aspect to think about is the hackathon. We still haven’t found the most appealing project that would motivate students to commit to it. Experience has shown that creating a project from scratch in a language you’ve just learned doesn’t really work (or we haven’t found the adequate project) and contributing to the D language may be intimidating. We are still searching for better solutions, so if you have any ideas, please contact us.

Also, right now, UPB is going through a major redesign of its curriculum. Proposals for new courses are being accepted, and we will forward this course as our choice. There’s a long wait for acceptance, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Conclusions

Overall, we are happy with this year’s edition. We managed to expand our team, grow our reach, and motivate some students to contribute to the language. Even though we still have some work to do to engage less passionate students, we think we are on the right track.

See you next time at DSSv4!

A Pull Request Manager’s Perspective

Since January of this year, I have been working as a part-time PR (Pull Request) manager. During this time, I have mostly been reviewing PRs and going through issues on the D Bugzilla. I have also been trying to come up with ways of creating organizational structures and procedures that will ultimately aid the D leadership in motivating and focusing community effort. This blog post presents a few insights I’ve had regarding the PR queues of the dmd, druntime, and phobos repositories, and a couple of proposals that, in my opinion, could benefit the D contribution process.

PR rounds

As a PR manager, I spend most of my time reviewing PRs. Since I started on the job, I have been involved in the merger of more than 400 PRs across our repositories. From this experience I have extracted a few insights:

  • If a new PR is not reviewed within the first 3 days after it was opened, chances are that it will get abandoned.
  • If a PR is not merged during the first 2 weeks after it was opened, chances are that it will be abandoned.
  • Contributions, in terms of PRs per month, are as follows: phobos (130), dmd (85), druntime (30).
  • Although phobos benefits from more contributions, dmd has a larger contributor base.
  • Druntime needs morelove.
  • Veteran contributors are more likely to abandon PRs than new/first-time contributors.

Given the first 2 points, I try to make contact as fast as possible with PR authors. It often happens that I do not have the necessary expertise to technically review a PR. In that case, I try to find people who are willing to take a look. However, since we do not have a concrete community hierarchy, it is sometimes difficult to find the needed reviewers. A solution to this problem is proposed later in the blog post.

Regarding the ratio of contributions per repository, it is noteworthy that phobos and dmd get a lot of attention, whereas druntime is by far the least attractive repository. Another interesting aspect is the diversity of the contributor base: in the last month, there have been ten contributors who opened more than one PR for dmd, five for phobos, and four for druntime. Ths emphasizes the fact that druntime needs more love.

Lastly, I noticed that veteran contributors tend to abandon their PRs more often than newcomers. This can be explained by the fact that veteran contributors usually tackle multiple PRs at the same time, whereas newcomers usually focus on a single PR. I want to take this opportunity to urge all contributors not to abandon their PRs. It is disappointing for reviewers such as myself to put in the time to properly investigate the patch and offer advice to then see it go to waste. I know that it is much more appealing to start working on new things, but it is highly important not to let any work go to waste.

Upcoming projects

From my perspective, D has come a long way from its early days: language features are maturing, adoption is steadily growing and the community is expanding around a nucleus of veteran contributors. But given that growth, it is surprising that from an organizational standpoint we are basically in the same spot: if a critical issue appears (a critical bug report, a CI failure, an expired certificate, etc.), the solution is to make a forum post or a comment on Slack and hope that someone who can fix it, or can get it fixed, notices it soon; non-critical issues depend on someone taking an interest: an issue might eventually be fixed, or we might be stuck with it indefinitely. The problem is not manpower or skill; our community has a lot of talent. Unfortunately, we fail to utilize it to its full potential.

If we want certain things to be done, it is the leadership’s responsibility to:

  1. specifically state what work needs to be done,
  2. organize the community, and
  3. incentivize contributors to do the needed work.

Although there is room for improvment, (1) has usually taken place in the form of forum discussions, DIPs, and blog posts. (2) is difficult to implement, given that people contribute in their own free time. As for (3), the mantra has been “fix it if you need it”, which works well for interesting topics, but not that well for important, hard-to-fix bugs, or high-impact, boring tasks.

Implementing points (2) and (3) in an open-source community and with limited financial resources is difficult. However, there are alternative approaches that have not been explored in the DLang ecosystem. I will outline them below.

Creating strike teams

One way of organizing the community is to create dedicated groups of people, or strike teams, that can be called upon for specific tasks. One will be assigned to each repository (dmd, druntime, phobos, dlang.org). The idea is to add people to these groups who either have expertise but lack time to contribute, or don’t lack expertise but are willing to actively contribute. This way, if you do not have time to contribute code, you can still help the community by offering implementation advice, whereas if you do have time to offer, you can contribute and develop expertise. The strike teams will be populated by a limited number of people who are trusted members of the community. These teams will be approached directly by the leadership (Walter, Atila, Mike, PR Managers) to fix issues or implement work defined in point (1). The components of the strike teams will receive recognition by having their name listed on the dlang.org site (thus satisfying point (3)).

Of course, this will work as long as there are folks out there willing to dedicate their time. If you want to contribute in some form to any of the strike teams, please contact me directly on Slack or via email.

Bugzilla Gamification

The D compiler has around 3000 reported bugs, druntime around 300, and phobos 900. These numbers have grown over time. Although some issues are fixed, we have had no means to incentivize people to work on the critical ones. To that end, we propose a simple gamification scheme: each issue has a severity associated; once a PR that closes an issue is merged, the github author of the PR is awarded points according to its severity level; a leaderboard, which is updated in real-time, is presented on dlang.org, and anyone can see who the top contributors are. At the end of each “season”, contributors will be awarded prizes and recognition based on different criteria, such as overall point total, number of total contributions, and so on (we have yet to finalize the kinds of prizes that will be awarded).

By implementing this scoring scheme, we offer some incentive for more experienced contributors to prioritize blocker/critical/major/regression issues over the more trivial or simpler ones, and encourage new contributors to try their hand at a level with which they’re comfortable. We are already working on implementing this and will announce the rules and prize categories once everything is up and running.

Conclusion

We are at a point in the evolution of the D programming language and its ecosystem where motivating community effort towards a common goal is crucial. This is a long-term, complicated task, but we need to start somewhere. I hope that with this initiative we can pave the way to a more sophisticated and better-organized contribution process that is a more satisfying and rewarding experience for our contributors.

A New Year, A New Release of D

Here in DLang Land we’re beginning the new year with a new release of the D reference compiler (DMD) and a beta release of the popular LLVM-based D compiler (LDC). D 2.095.0 is crammed full of 27 major changes and 78 fixes from 61 contributors. Following are some highlights that I expect some D programmers might find interesting, but please see the changelog for the full rundown. Those more interested in Bugzilla issue numbers can jump straight to the bugfix list

D 2.095.0

Digital Mars D logo

D’s support for other programming languages is important for interacting with existing codebases. C ABI compatibility has been strong from the beginning. Support for Objective-C and C++ came later. Though C++-compatibility is a bear to get right, it keeps improving with every compiler release. This release continues that trend and also enhances Objective-C support. We also see a number of QOL (quality-of-life) improvements throughout the compiler, libraries, and tools. DUB, the D build tool and package manager that ships with the compiler (and is also available separately), especially gets a good bit of love in this release.

C++ header generation

For a little while now, DMD has included experimental support for the generation of C++ header files from D source code, via the -CH command-line option, in order to facilitate calling D libraries from C++. For example, given the following D source file:

cpp-ex.d

extern(C++):
struct A {
    int x;
}

void printA(ref A a) {
    import std.stdio : writeln;
    writeln(a);
}

And the following command line:

dmd -HC cpp-ex.d

The compiler outputs the following to stdout (-HCf to specify a file name, and -HCd a directory):

// Automatically generated by Digital Mars D Compiler

#pragma once

#include <assert.h>
#include <stddef.h>
#include <stdint.h>
#include <math.h>

#ifdef CUSTOM_D_ARRAY_TYPE
#define _d_dynamicArray CUSTOM_D_ARRAY_TYPE
#else
/// Represents a D [] array
template<typename T>
struct _d_dynamicArray
{
    size_t length;
    T *ptr;

    _d_dynamicArray() : length(0), ptr(NULL) { }

    _d_dynamicArray(size_t length_in, T *ptr_in)
        : length(length_in), ptr(ptr_in) { }

    T& operator[](const size_t idx) {
        assert(idx < length);
        return ptr[idx];
    }

    const T& operator[](const size_t idx) const {
        assert(idx < length);
        return ptr[idx];
    }
};
#endif

struct A;

struct A
{
    int32_t x;
    A() :
        x()
    {
    }
};

extern void printA(A& a);

This release brings a number of fixes and improvements to this feature, as can be seen in the changelog. Note that generation of C headers is also supported via -H, -Hf, and -Hd.

Default C++ standard change

Prior to this release, extern(C++) code was guaranteed to link with C++98 binaries out of the box. This is no longer true, and you will need to pass -extern-std=c++98 on the command line to maintain that behavior. The C++11 standard is now the default.

Additionally, the compiler will now accept -extern-std=c++20. In practice, the only effect this has at the moment is to change the compile-time value, __traits(getTargetInfo, "cppStd"), but new types may be added in the future.

Improved Objective-C support

Objective-C compatibility is enhanced in this release with support for Objective-C protocols. This is achieved by repurposing interface in an extern(Objective-C) context. Additionally, the attributes @optional and @selector help get the job done. Read the details and see an example in the changelog.

Improved compile-time feedback

Here’s a QOL issue that really became an annoyance after a deprecation in Phobos, the standard library: when instantiating templates, deprecation messages reported the source location deep inside the library where the deprecated feature was used (e.g., template constraints) and not the user-code instantiation that triggered it. No longer. You’ll now get a template instantiation trace just as you do on errors.

Another QOL feedback issue involved the absence of errors. The compiler would silently allow multiple definitions of identical functions in the same module. The compiler will now raise an error when it encounters this situation. However, multiple declarations are allowed as long as there is at most one definition. For mangling schemes where overloading is not supported (extern(C), extern(Windows), and extern(System)), the compiler will emit a deprecation message.

The mainSourceFile in DUB recipes

The mainSourceFile entry in DUB package recipes was a way to specify a source file containing a main function that should be excluded from unit tests when invoking dub test. However, when setting up other configurations where the file should also not be compiled, or where a different main source file was required, it was necessary to add the file to an excludedSourceFiles entry. This is no longer the case. If a mainSourceFile is specified in any configuration, it will automatically be excluded from other configurations.

Propagating compiler flags to dependencies

Not every existing compiler flag has a corresponding build setting for DUB recipes. The dflags entry allows for such flags to be configured for any project. For example, -fPic, or -preview=in. The catch is, it does not propagate to dependencies. Now, you can explicitly specify compiler flags for dependencies by adding a dflags parameter to any dependency entry in a dub.json recipe. For example:

{
    "name": "example",
    "dependencies": {
        "vibe-d": { "version" : "~>0.9.2", "dflags" : ["-preview=in"] }
    }
}

Unfortunately, it appears the implementation does not work for recipes in SDLang format (dub.sdl), so those of us who prefer that format over JSON will have to wait a bit.

LDC 1.025-beta1

LDC logo

This release of LDC brings the compiler up to date with the D 2.095.0 frontend, with the prebuilt packages based on LLVM v11.0.1. The biggest news in this release looks to be the new -linkonce-templates flag. This experimental feature causes the compiler to emit template symbols into each compilation unit that references them, “with optimizer-discardable linkonce-odr linkage”. The implementation has big wins both in terms of compile times when compiling with optimizations turned on and in cutting down on a class of template-related bugs. See the beta1 release notes for the details.

Happy New Year

On behalf of the D Language Foundation, I wish you all the very best for 2021. As a community, we weren’t affected much by the global pandemic. Sure, we were forced to cancel DConf 2020, but the silver lining is that it also motivated us to finally launch DConf Online in November. We fully intend to make this an annual event alongside of, not in place of, the real-world conference (when physically possible). Other than that, it was business as usual in D Land.

At a personal level, the lives of some in our community were disrupted last year in ways large and small. Please remember that, though the primary object that brings us together is our enthusiasm for the D programming language, we are all still human beings behind our keyboards. The majority of work that gets done in our community is carried out on a volunteer basis. All of us, as the beneficiaries, must never forget that the health and well-being of everyone in our community take top priority over any work we may want or expect to see completed. We encourage everyone to keep an ear open for those who may need to borrow it, and never be afraid to communicate that need when it feels necessary. Sometimes, an open ear can make a very big difference.

Thanks to all of you for your participation in the D community, whether as a user, a contributor, or both. Stay safe, and have a very happy 2021.

DConf Online 2020: How to Participate

DConf Online 2020
As I write, we are a little over 24 hours away from the start of DConf Online 2020, our first online version of DConf. All of the talks for Day One are uploaded, the livestreams are scheduled, and #BeerConf is almost ready to launch.

The details

All of the prerecorded talks will be accessible on our YouTube channel via the DConf Online 2020 playlist (look under the live chat box for the full playlist; you may have to scroll down). Use the live chat to ask questions during the talk. The speaker will be available to provide short answers in the chat box. Longer, more complex answers, and/or additional context, will be provided in the Q & A livestream. The speaker will let you know if he is providing more detail in the livestream. If you don’t want to tab over to the livestream and miss part of the talk, the livestream will be saved to our channel once it ends and you will be able to go back and watch any part of it you may be interested in.

Each day, the Q & A livestream will begin at 13:50 UTC. Each speaker will be in the livestream 5 minutes before his talk begins and will be available to answer questions for the duration of the talk and for up to 15 minutes after. As I said above, you may ask questions in the live chat of the talk, but you may also ask them in the live chat of the livestream (and will likely have to if you have questions after the talk ends). Depending on the amount of time available, the number of questions, and the speaker’s schedule, each speaker may stay longer than 15 minutes after the talk, but is not required to.

Please note that speakers are not expected to answer off-topic questions. It’s entirely up to them if they do so.

I’ll be hosting the livestream throughout each day. I’ll be chatting with the speakers about their talks and D in general to fill in the dead time when no one is asking questions. After the conference is over, I intend to chop up the livestream and upload the Q & A session for each talk as separate videos.

On Day One, we have an Ask us Anything session scheduled with Walter and Átila. This will take place in the Q & A livestream for that day. We also have a livecoding session by Adam Ruppe scheduled. That will take place in a separate livestream when the Day One Q & A livestream ends (links below). Adam will be monitoring the chat as he codes, so he will answer any questions you have.

The livestream links:

BeerConf

From 18:00 UTC November 20, we’ll be running a Jitsi Meet instance for our online version of BeerConf. Everyone is welcome to join, no alcohol required. If you aren’t familiar with BeerConf, you can read a brief description of it on the DConf Online 2020 website. You can also read about it here on the blog.

BeerConf will run all weekend long. You can come and go as you please, during talks, in between talks, day time, night time, anytime!

See this D forum thread for details on how to join.

The prizes

Throughout the event, I’ll be announcing different ways for viewers to win various prizes. We’ll be handing out t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other items from the DLang Swag Emporium (and maybe a DMan shirt or two). I’ll announce the details in the Q & A livestream and, if a talk is ongoing, in the talk’s live chat. Sometimes, winning the prize may involve tweeting, in which case I’ll announce the details on Twitter, so be sure to follow us if you aren’t already.

Additionally, everyone who asks a question to which a speaker provides an answer will be entered into at least two random drawings. There will be one random drawing at the end of each day which includes those eligible on that day. The winners of these drawings will receive a $50 Amazon eGift card. The winner of the two-day drawing will receive a $100 Amazon eGift card. If you win on Day One, you will not be eligible to win on Day Two, but both winners will be eligible to win the two-day drawing.

Funding for all prizes comes from the D Language Foundation General Fund. You can contribute by buying DConf Online 2020 swag or other items from the DLang Swag Emporium, by selecting the D Language Foundation as your preferred AmazonSmile charity and shopping through smile.amazon.com, or by donating directly to the General Fund.

Swag prize winners will be announced in a talk’s live chat and/or the Q & A livestream, depending on the nature of the prize task. For prize tasks that take place on Twitter, winners will not be announced, but will be notified through private message. Amazon eGift card winners will be announced in the livestream. Since YouTube apparently no longer allows private messages, winners on YouTube will be instructed on how to claim their prize when they are announced in the livestream.

Enjoy!

We want to thank all of our speakers for volunteering their time to put together these presentations and making themselves available for Q & A. Without them, this event would not be possible. We hope you enjoy DConf Online 2020!

D 2.094.0, DConf Online Schedule, and SAOC 2020

Digital Mars D logo

The end of September saw a new release of the reference D compiler, DMD 2.094.0, sporting the latest language features. That was followed not long after by a beta release of LDC, the LLVM-based D compiler, based on the same frontend version. The DMD 2.094.1 patch release entered into beta a few days before this post was published. Meanwhile, the first Milestone of the Symmetry Autumn of Code has come to an end, and the DConf Online 2020 schedule has been published.

DMD 2.094.0

This release of DMD incorporates 21 major changes and 119 fixed Bugzilla issues, thanks to the efforts of 49 contributors. Here are some highlights.

This ain’t your grandpa’s in parameter

Back in the days of yore, when DMD was still a pre-1.000 alpha, the D language supported in, out, and inout parameter storage classes. They had the following meanings:

  • in (input), the default, was the bog standard function parameter which is a mutable copy of its argument, i.e., the normal passed-by-value parameter.
  • out (output) parameters were passed by reference and, upon function entry, initialized to the default initializer value for the parameter type (e.g., 0 for int, float.nan for float, etc).
  • inout (input/output) parameters were passed unmodified by reference.

When D2 came along, there were some changes. inout was replaced by the ref keyword and out kept the same meaning, but now there was an explicit restriction that these parameters could only take lvalue references; rvalue references, commonly used in C++, were forbidden as arguments. With in, things became a little muddy. And that brings us to scope parameters, a D2 feature that has evolved over time.

For quite some time, it was not fully implemented and only affected parameters that were delegates: the compiler would only allocate a closure for a scope delegate if it absolutely needed to. The D2 version of in was intended to be equivalent to const scope, but it was never fully implemented and was effectively equivalent to const. Today, scope is intended to be applied to ref or out parameters to prevent them from escaping the function scope, and with DMD 2.092.0, in finally became equivalent to const scope. In DMD 2.094.0, in has been reimagined and extended to solve the rvalue reference issue.

The first thing to know about the new in is that it’s still equivalent to const scope, but now the compiler is free to choose whether to pass an in parameter’s argument by reference or by value. The second thing to know is that in parameters can now take rvalue references. All of this is implemented behind the -preview=in command line switch first introduced in 2.092.0.

Like any preview feature, the new in may or may not make it into the language proper, and if it does it might not be without changes. But for now, it’s there and waiting to be put through its paces. The more people using it, pushing it, and looking for holes, the sooner we can know if this is the in we’re looking for.

Ddoc Markdown support

Quite a while ago, Ddoc, D’s built-in documentation syntax, was enhanced to support some Markdown features. It was hidden beind a -preview switch. Now, that switch is no longer necessary—Ddoc supports Markdown out of the box.

Note that this is not full-on Markdown. For example, although asterisks are supported for italic and bold text, underscores are not. But Markdown-style links, code blocks, inline code, and images are supported. For the details, see the Documentation Generator documentation.

More speed please

Since the release of DMD 2.091.0, the DMD binaries in the Windows release packages are being compiled with LDC. This is a good thing because LDC has a better optimizer than DMD, which makes DMD’s fast compile times even faster. Now, LDC is used to compile binary releases on Linux, OSX, and FreeBSD. As a side effect, there are now no more 32-bit releases for FreeBSD, and additional binary tools are no longer included. If you need them, you can still pick them up from https://digitalmars.com/ or from older DMD releases.

Download

The latest release of DMD is always available for download at https://dlang.org/download.html. The latest Beta or Release Candidate can always be found there as well. You can also find links to download LDC and GDC, the GCC-based D compiler (which is now an official component of GCC). While you’re there, if you enjoy the D programming language, consider leaving a tip to the D Language Foundation.

DConf Online 2020 Schedule

DConf Online 2020 is coming together nicely. Over the two days of November 21 and 22, we have nine prerecorded talks, a livestream Q & A with the language maintainers, and a livecoding session. We’ll also be bringing our annual real-world BeerConf to the virtual world.

The talks

The prerecorded talks will be scheduled to premiere on our YouTube channel at the UTC times listed on the schedule. For the duration of each talk and for 15 minutes after, each speaker will be avalailable in a separate livestream for questions and answers related to the talk. We want to record the questions and answers verbally for posterity. The idea is that viewers of the prerecorded talk can ask questions in the video’s chat, or ask in the livestream chat during or up to 15 minutes after the talk. The speaker will read the questions out loud. Short answers will be provided both verbally and in the chat. Longer answers will be provided verbally only. Commenters asking questions during the talk will be notified in the chat if their questions were selected so that they don’t have to tab out to the Q & A and miss a portion of the talk. They can go back and watch the Q & A video later on our YouTube channel.

The livestream Q & A with the language maintainers will run on our YouTube channel. We’ll be streaming a video conference call and questions will be taken from the livestream chat. During the livestream, some viewers will be invited to join in on the conference call and ask their question directly in order to provide more opportunity for follow up and feedback. Details on how to participate will be released on the day of the livestream.

Throughout the weekend, we’ll be handing out prizes to random viewers. Eligibility details will be provided during the course of the event, so pay attention!

BeerConf

BeerConf is a real-world DConf tradition dating back to the first edition of the conference, though the name didn’t come around until Ethan Watson coined it a few years later. Every year, we designate a gathering spot where DConf attendees can mingle every evening to unwind. The DConf days are where we all wear our D programmer hats and spend our time talking about our favorite programming language, but BeerConf is our chance to be human. We still talk about D, but we also have the opportunity to go beyond the code and get to know each other on a more personal level.

So for DConf Online, we’re taking BeerConf online. On the evening (UTC) of Friday, November 20, we’ll open the BeerConf video conference to any and all, and we’ll leave it open all weekend. Despite the name, no alcohol is required to participate. All you need is an internet connection and a web browser, and you can come and go as you please. We’ve been running monthly BeerConf events since June of this year, so we know that, though it’s not quite the same as being in the same place, it’s still a lot of fun.

We hope to see you November 20–22 in BeerConf and DConf!

Symmetry Autumn of Code

We are currently running our third annual Symmetry Autumn of Code (SAOC). Sponsored by Symmetry Investments, the event provides an opportunity for D programmers to make a little money working on projects aimed at improving the D ecosystem. Particpants each get paid $1000 for the successful completion of each of three milestones. At the end of a fourth milestone, the progress of each participant will be evaluated by the SAOC committee, then one participant will be awarded a final $1000 payment, and receive free registration and reimbursement for transportation and lodging for the next real-world DConf.

We currently have four programmers coding away toward their goals. Milestone 1 has just come to an end and Milestone 2 is set to begin. The participants will soon be sending in their milestone reports, their mentors will send in progress evaluations, and the SAOC Committee will review it all to determine if everyone has put forth the effort required to continue through the event (we expect no issues on that front!). You can follow the progress of each participant, and perhaps provide them with some timely advice, through their weekly updates in the D General Forum. Search for “SAOC2020”.

Symmetry Investments and the D Language Foundation are Hiring

Digital Mars D logo

The D Language Foundation is hiring! Thanks to generous funding from Symmetry Investments, we are looking to fill two (mostly) non-programming positions geared toward improving the D ecosystem. Symmetry is also offering a bounty for a specific improvement to DUB, the D build tool and package manager. And on top of all of that, they are hiring D programmers.

D Pull Request/Issue Manager

A lot of good work goes into the D Programming Language GitHub repositories. Unfortunately, some of that good work sometimes gets left behind. A similar story can be told for our Bugzilla database, where some issues are fixed almost as soon as they’re reported and others fall victim to a lack of attention. Efforts have been made in the past to tidy things up, but without someone in a position to permanently keep at it, it’s a task that is never complete.

The D Language Foundation is looking for one or two motivated individuals to take on that permanent position, get the work done, and keep things running smoothly. Symmetry Investements is generously funding this role with $50,000 per year for one person, or $25,000 per year for each of two.

The ideal candidate is someone who:

  • is familiar with git, GitHub, and Bugzilla;
  • is familiar enough with D to be able to review simple pull requests;
  • is able to recognize when more specialized reviews are required and
  • is able to proofread English text (for reviewing documentation and web site pull requests).

Examples of the role’s responsibilities include:

  • ensuring all pull requests follow procedure;
  • reviewing simple pull requests;
  • finding appropriate reviewers for more complex pull requests;
  • ensuring that pull requests are reviewed in a timely manner;
  • reviving stale pull requests;
  • coordinating between pull request submitters and reviewers to prevent pull requests from going stale;
  • closing pull requests that are no longer valid;
  • identifying Bugzilla issues that are duplicates or invalid;
  • identifying Bugzilla issues that are candidates for bounties;
  • publicizing Bugzilla issues in need of a champion and
  • other related tasks.

We are hoping to hire from within the D community, though we will accept queries from anyone. If you are interested in taking on the role, please send your resume to social@dlang.org. You should also indicate if you are willing to do the job full time (just you) or part time (share the responsibilities with someone else).

Community Relations Assistant

I’ve been working with the D Language Foundation for the past three years. Much of what I do falls loosely in the category of Community Relations. These days, I’m in need of an assistant. Symmetry Investments is providing $600 per month for the role.

The job will involve a number of different activities as the need arises, such as:

  • seeking out guest authors and projects to highlight for the D Blog;
  • monitoring our social media accounts;
  • sending out messages from the D Language Foundation (such as thank you notes to new donors);
  • assisting with maintenance of pages at dlang.org and dconf.org;
  • assisting with the organization of events like DConf and SAOC and
  • any odd jobs that pop up now and again.

If you have good communication skills, an optimistic disposition, and enthusiasm for the D Programming Language, I’d like to talk to you. I don’t need a resume. Instead, please send an email to social@dlang.org explaining why you’re the right person for the job.

DUB Bounty

Symmetry Investments logoDUB has become a critical component in the D ecosystem. A significant number of projects depend on it and we need it to be able to meet a wide range of project needs. To that end, there are certainly improvements to be made. One such is in how DUB determines which of a project’s source files are in need of recompilation. Currently, DUB follows in the tradition of the venerable make and uses timestamp comparisons to make that determination.

A new generation of version control and build tools (git, buck, bazel, scons, waf, plz, and more) rely on file checksums to assess the need for action. This is a much more robust approach because it detects actual changes in file content. Timestamps can change in any number of irrelevant ways. Robustness is important if one is to depend on a build working properly even when files are moved, copied, and shared across people, machines, and teams. As hashes are fast to compute on modern hardware, the impact on speed is very low.

Symmetry Investments is offering a $2,000 bounty to the programmer who either converts DUB’s use of timestamp-dependent builds to use SHA-1 hashing throughout, or implements it as a global option to preserve the current behavior.

For inspiration, see this clip from Linus Torvald’s Google talk, and the article Build-Systems Should Use Hashes Over Timestamps. Note that shasum $(git ls-files) in Phobos takes 0.05 seconds on a warm SSD drive in a desktop machine.

Anyone interested in taking on this bounty should contact social@dlang.org beforehand. Anyone interested in contributing to the bounty amount can do so via the bounty card Support for Hash-Based Recompilation in DUB at our Task Bounties page.

Symmetry Autumn of Code 2020 Projects and Participants

Symmetry Investments logoThe verdict is in! Five programmers will be participating in the 2020 edition of the Symmetry Autumn of Code. Over the next three weeks, they will be working with their mentors to take the goals they outlined in their applications and turn them into concrete tasks across four milestones. Then, on September 15th, the first milestone gets under way.

Throughout the event, anyone can follow the progress of each project through the participants’ weekly updates in the General forum. Please don’t ignore those posts! You might be able to offer suggestions to help them along the way.

And now a little about the SAOC 2020 participants and their projects.

  • Robert Aron is a fourth-year Computer Science student at University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest. For his project, he’ll be implementing D client libraries for the Google APIs. When it’s complete, we’ll be able to interact with Google service APIs, such as GDrive, Calendar, Search, and GMail, directly from D. The goal is to complete the project by the end of the event.
  • Michael Boston is currently developing a game in D. For his SAOC project, he’ll be taking some custom data structures he’s developed and adapting them to be more generic. The ultimate goal is to get Michael’s modified implementation merged into Phobos. Should that not happen, the library will still be part of the D ecosystem once it’s complete.
  • Mihaela Chirea is a fourth-year Computer Engineering student at University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest. Mihaela will spend SAOC 2020 improving DMD as a library. Part of this project will involve soliciting community feedback regarding proposed changes, so anyone interested in using DMD as a library should keep an eye out for Mihaela’s posts in the D forums.
  • Teona Severin is a first-year master’s degree student at University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest who will be working on a mini DRuntime in order to bring D to low-performance microcontrollers based on ARM Cortex-M CPUs. Currently, D can run on such systems when compiled as -betterC, but the end goal of this project is to get enough of a functional DRuntime to write “a simple application that actively uses a class.“
  • Adela Vais is yet another fourth-year Computer Engineering student at University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest. For her project, she’ll be implementing a new D backend for GNU Bison. Currently, Bison has an experimental LALR1 parser for D. Adela’s implementation will be a GLR parser intended to overcome the limitations of the LALR1 parser.

The strong showing from Bucharest is down to the work of Razvan Nitzu and Eduard Staniloiu. They have introduced a number of students to the D programming language and encouraged them in seeking out projects beneficial both to their education and to the D community. Plus, Razvan and Edi will be participating in SAOC 2020 as mentors.

On behalf of the SAOC 2020 committee, the D Language Foundation, and Symmetry Investments, I want to thank everyone who submitted an application and wish the participants the best of luck in the coming months.