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GSoC 2010 Mentor Summit and Git Together Wrap Up

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So many amazing things happened at the Google Summer of Code Mentor summit 2010! I will try to jot a few of them down, before they leave for warmer climates. For those that just want to read all the session notes, you can find them here. Also, if you haven't yet read about how The Perl Foundation and Parrot Foundation fared this summer, you can read about it on the Google Open Source Blog.

It began by arriving a bit early to work with some awesome people on improving the GSoC Mentor Manual by adding a chapter for Organization Admins (there is actually documentation now!) and writing a GSoC Student Manual. This "book sprint" was facilitated by Adam Hyde of FLOSSManuals, and they were written with a completely open source software stack, as well as being released under a Creative Commons license. They are free for anyone to read online and are easily exportable to many formats. Read the Student Manual or the Mentor+Org Admin Manual online now! We even bound 60 copies of the books and handed them out to mentors attending the summit.

Parrot on RTEMS hacking with Chris Johns and Ralf from RTEMS. We used Centos 5 RPMS on Ubuntu 10.04 with rpm2cpio piped to cpio, which was a trick to get around the fact that RTEMS does not have debian packages. It worked remarkably well. I had a cross-compilation environment setup after a few minutes. I think they will be adding these intructions to their wiki. Now that I have the RTEMS toolchain on my netbook, I will be much more productive with regard to Parrot on RTEMS.

Chromatic, Chris Johns and I sat in a room and talked shop about how Parrot and RTEMS can play nicely together. There are still some feature voids on the Parrot side to fill: Parrot calls exit() in various places, which reboots RTEMS i.e. a syntax error reboots the OS. Not Fun. Parrot also needs a C probe to detect RTEMS, which already has a ticket in our bug tracker. A real-time garbage collector will be needed for long-running processes, but for short-lived applications, disabling the GC with the -G command line argument to Parrot will work.

I gave a session with Selena Deckelmann and Bart Massey introducing Troll University, which aims to educate organizations, corporations and open source communities about what motivations and principles trolls use and how to protect against them. We are working on some Trollcasts, so stay tuned!

I also gave a session called Dynamic Language Interoperability, which has been held for the last few years, to my knowledge. The consensus seemed to be that every dynamic language has the same interop problems, and Parrot VM seems to be the only project working hard to solve these complex issues in a general manner. This gives me a lot of hope that people will soon realize that Parrot is full of WIN.

It also came to my attention during the conference that Github hired the student that mentored under them this year to work on libgit2. This is one example of the amazing opportunities that students have after completing a Google Summer of Code. The sky really is the limit. And just in case you think this is an isolated incident, it isn't.

As if writing some books and going the Mentor Summit wasn't enough to totally drain me, I am currently attending the last day of the GIT Together 2010, which is the yearly Git developer and user meetup/unconferencey thing. I have learned so much that I can't even begin to describe it, but if you want to look at session notes, you can find them here.

Real-Time Embedded Parrots

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I am very proud to announce that Parrot Virtual Machine has been ported to RTEMS, a real-time embedded operating system (RTOS). Here is one of the first runs of Parrot code atop RTEMS, this example being the Fibonacci number benchmark with debug tracing turned on, posted by Chris Johns:

RTEMS SHELL (Ver.1.0-FRC):/dev/console. Oct 21 2009. 'help' to list commands.
fstst [/] # parrot -v p/benchmarks/fib.pir
debug = 0x0
Reading p/benchmarks/fib.pir
using optimization '-O' (0)
Starting parse...
sub _main:
        registers in .pir:       I3, N2, S1, P2
        0 labels, 0 lines deleted, 0 if_branch, 0 branch_branch
        0 branch_cond_loop
        0 used once deleted
        0 invariants_moved
        registers needed:        I3, N2, S1, P3
        registers in .pasm:      I3, N2, S1, P2 - 0
        4 basic_blocks, 4 edges  
sub _fib: 
        registers in .pir:       I5, N0, S0, P0
        0 labels, 0 lines deleted, 0 if_branch, 0 branch_branch
        0 branch_cond_loop
        0 used once deleted
        0 invariants_moved
        registers needed:        I5, N0, S0, P2
        registers in .pasm:      I5, N0, S0, P2 - 0
        5 basic_blocks, 5 edges  
1 lines compiled.
Running...
fib(28) = 317811 71.1315400600433s

Many many thanks to all who have helped. -- kiwichris

I met Chris Johns a.k.a. 'kiwichris', a core RTEMS developer, at the Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit 2009, and we have been attempting to get Parrot working on RTEMS ever since. With his extreme hard work and hand-tuned Makefile kung-fu, he cross-compiled Parrot, totally bypassing our configure/build system, which does not support cross-compiling!

Getting RTEMS working on Parrot definitely pointed out a few rough edges on Parrot's part, such as using powl() from math.h without checking for it, even though it is an *optional* POSIX extension. RTEMS does not currently have powl() so our string subsystem blew up. Thankfully, just replacing it with pow() works just fine, for now. I've added a ticket to add support for checking at Configure-time whether powl() exists, and to only use it then, which is the correct behavior.

Also, the Parrot exit handler calls the system exit() after all other exit handlers currently, which reboots a real-time OS like RTEMS. So we are going to have to provide some interface to allow alternate final exit handlers.

But these issues are small, most of the hard work has already been done by Chris. At this point, we will start fixing our configure/build system so that a RTEMS cross-compile can be done with a Configure.pl flag, such as

perl Configure.pl --cross=rtems-i386

Thanks again to Chris Johns and all RTEMS/Parrot core developers that helped make this possible.

Stay tuned to the intertubes for more updates about Parrot on RTEMS!

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