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Wednesday, September 28, 2011


... have you ever thought about it ? I did few times in my 11+ years of RIA centric career!
Even if it's like comparing potatoes with tomatoes I'd like to share my thoughts about it, would you mind ?

What we always laughed about OS

  • the blue/gray screen with an incomprehensible error message

  • the Message Box with some rant about some memory address failure

  • the unresponsive OS due some broken application able to make everything else stuck regardless the number of CPU and thread the OS can handle

  • the "quit program" explicit action that does not quit the program

  • any sort of security issue

  • the change/update that requires a system reboot

What we are always "scared about" online

  • the white screen due some JS/CSS failure for the current browser

  • the forgotten alert or console.log inside some try catch with some rant about generic error message (or even worst, the unmanaged error)

  • the unresponsive DOM/web page due some broken piece of JavaScript able to make everything else stuck regardless the number of CPU and WebWorkers the Browser can handle

  • the "close window/tab" explicit action that takes ages due some greedy onunload operation

  • any sort of security issue

  • the change/update that requires a page reload

We are all in the same field

Architecture matters, experience matters, performances matter, investigations matter, code quality matter, unit tests matter, UX is essential, and UI only attractive.
This is the software development world, no matters which language, no matters which customer, no matters which company ... isn't it? So why things keep being the same in every software field ?

Delivery, delivery, delivery !

The main reason many applications out there, web or not, will rarely be that good.
The scrum purpose is to make theoretically well organized baby steps and the agile often utopia due constant, drastic, changes you may want to face during an already planned task while you are implementing the task itself.
The time ? The worst enemy when it comes to quality. As I wrote in September 2009 we are loosing software quality due temporary solutions that last forever, decisions made without real world use cases to consider and everything else web developers are complaining, as example, about W3C decisions.
Is W3C that bad ? I think it's great, and I think we should all appreciate the Open Source effort we can read, support, or comment, on daily basis as is for JavaScript future if you are tough enough to face people proud by default about their decisions ... they can understand, they can change their mind.

The direction ?

Too much new stuff in too short time that could imply future problems when it comes to maintainability and backward compatibility, the day somebody will realize: "something went terribly wrong here!"
The legacy code that blocks improvements, the country or corporates stuck behind old, deprecated, un-secure, old pseudo standard that are causing them more damage than saving.
Is everything going to produce cheap with screwed up quality? Well, this is apparently the tendency about clothes, cars, and something I always wondered about: if your Master/Phd is from the most expensive and qualified institute in this world, how would you feel to work underpaid in some emerging country able to provide everything you have been instructed for in 1/10 of your salary and with much higher units per months ?
Either that institute won't be worth it anymore, or you gonna feel like everything you learned did not really make sense.
This is a potential side effect of out sourcing too, the cheap alternative to a problem that many times is not truly solved, simply delegated and delivered with lower quality but respecting, most of the time, the deadline that once published will make max 70% of customers happy, loosing 30% until they'll face same problems with next "brand" they decide to follow.

Dedicated to

All those persons out there that do their best in daily basis believing in their job, whatever it is.
All those persons underpaid still able to put best effort and provide results regardless the country/economy situation.
All those workers that would like to have more time to do things better, and all those Open Sources/Standards Maker that should be more distant from this frenetic delivery concept, and a bit more focused on doing things properly and able to last much longer ... we would not need so many changes, software speaking, if things were already great and this is what I have always tried to do with all my old projects, often forgotten, still working after 5 or more years of untouched code, and under newer versions of the same programming language.
I had more time back at that time, and things are still working.
I am missing products like the original Vespa, out of Italian company that can still run in your city street and with 30 years on its shoulder: can your cheap scooter, software, architectural decision, do the same?

Monday, September 26, 2011

About Me At JSConf EU

I know I am not in the list of speakers page yet, but I am actually in the official schedule already.

It's about and my talk on Sunday morning at 10:45 entitled ...

Buzz It For Real !

... the tortuous road to Mobile HTML5 Apps

For the very first time in my life I will not represent just myself during a conference. This time I will talk about few ideas, problems, and solutions, we have faced during the "still in beta" development of our Mobile HTML5 Applications.

I will talk about some problem completely ignored by majority of HTML5 developers providing concrete real-world examples, and solutions, over tested code.

I know Sunday comes after the first conference party and I hope you, as well as me, won't be too drunk to follow my talk :D

Of course a SpeakerRate page was a must have so see you there and enjoy the conference!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Introduction to JS-Ctypes


If you have time follow the whole story in es-discuss mailing list while if you don't have time here the quick summary:
js-ctypes purpose is different from typed structs/arrays so it looks like it was my mistake to compare tomatoes and potatoes.
I bet everybody else in this world could have compared these two different beasts due identical name, look, and similar usage.
If ctypes are not used outside JS these are not JIT optimized in any case so now we know why performances are so slow compared with JS code.

On new Struct({literal:pairs}) VS new Struct(literal = pairs) there is still no answer and even if it's obviously possible to avoid an object creation per each created instance, recycling a single object and refreshing its properties same as we could do with properties descriptors and Object.defineProperty I have pointed this out in that way on purpose since I can already see a massive usage of that unoptimized pattern and I would like to know that engines are able to optimize that pattern Just In Time or tracing it.

More questions, "flames", and answers about this topic in the link I have already posted at the very beginning.

A few days ago I had a quick chat with Ben Green about statically defined JavaScript structs.
He reminded me "somebody wrote something about faster JS objects" and I remember I saw it as well but I could not find the bloody source until I crashed again into Brendan Eich blog, more specifically the My TXJS talk post.

JavaScript Binary Data

The slide I am talking about is at page 14:

const // the statically defined and typed structs
Point2D = new StructType({x:uint32, y:uint32}),
Color = new StructType({g:uint8, g:uint8, b:uint8}),
Pixel = new StructType({point: Point2D, color: Color}),
// the static collection
Triangle = new ArrayType(Pixel, 3);

new Triangle([
{point: {x:0, y:0}, color: {r:0, g:0, b:0}},
{point: {x:5, y:5}, color: {r:10, g:10, b:10}},
{point: {x:10, y:0}, color: {r:20, g:20, b:20}}

"Mind Blown!" as first reaction, then I decided to investigate a bit more during the evening in order to bring some better feedback and have a better understanding of this concept ... but how did I do that?

js-ctypes and Mozilla

Even if landed and approved only recently in, ctypes have been available in Firefox since version 4.
I like the fact Mozilla keeps surprising me as one of the most advanced environment when it comes to JavaScript world but before getting too excited, we'd better keep reading this post.

The (ideal) Purpose

Dave Mandelin in Know Your Engines slides enlightened us describing how things get faster behind the interpreted JavaScript scene. As scripting language developers we would like to do not care at all about details such "do not change variables type" but as I have asked during falsy values conference: "what about objects and their properties?"
JS-Ctypes seem to be the "ideal kick asses performances" trick we all were waiting for: an explicit, yet scriptish, way to describe well known structures in order to make the engine able to optimize and compile these structures runtime and boost up performances.
This concept is not new at all in programming world.


From Wikipedia:
Cython is a programming language to simplify writing C and C++ extension modules for the CPython Python runtime. Strictly speaking, Cython syntax is a superset of Python syntax additionally supporting:
- Direct calling of C functions, or C++ functions/methods, from Cython code.
- Strong typing of Cython variables, classes, and class attributes as C types.
Cython compiles to C or C++ code rather than Python, and the result is used as a Python Extension Module or as a stand-alone application embedding the CPython runtime
I do believe it comes natural to compare js-ctypes to Cython and I am pretty sure initially this was the exact purpose of the Mozilla extension or, at least, Mozilla folks idea.
Ironically this is the same reason js-ctypes are not available by default in Firefox and others except via extensions.

// if not in an extension, deprecated but
// the only way to bring js-ctypes inline in a web page'UniversalXPConnect');

// import ctypes
Bear in mind above code will not work online. In order to test ctypes in Firefox we need to accept privileges risks offline ( file://ctypes.test.html ).
The reason is simple: rather than decouple the power of ctypes from the ability to use compiled libraries or dll, Mozilla put everything into a single module making its usage basically pointless/impossible for Web applications: big mistake!

A Reasonable Shim

It's about 3 years or more I am writing examples and proposals in this blog about "strict typed JavaScript" but this is not the case.
If we want to shim in a good way js-ctypes we should actually forget the type part or performances will be extremely compromised per each bloody created object.
Unit test speaking, once we are sure that Firefox runs all our cases, we'd better trust nothing bad will happen in all shimmed browsers.

try {'UniversalXPConnect');
} catch(ctypes) {
// a minimal ctypes shim by WebReflection
this.ctypes = {
ArrayType: function ArrayType(constructor, length) {
var name = ( || "anonymous") + "Array";
return Function("c", "".concat(
"return function ", name, "(o){",
"var i=(o||[]).length;",
length ? "if(i!=" + length + ")throw 'wrong length';" : "",
"if(!(this instanceof ", name, "))",
"return new ", name, "(o);",
"this[i]=new c(o[i]);",
StructType: function StructType(name, fields) {
for (var key, current, proto = {}, init = [], i = 0; i < fields.length; ++i) {
current = fields[i];
for (key in current) {
if (current.hasOwnProperty(key)) {
init.push("this['" + key + "']=o['" + key + "']");
proto[key] = null;
return Function("p", "".concat(
"function ", name, "(o){",
"if(!(this instanceof ", name, "))",
"return new ", name, "(o);",
name, ".prototype=p;",
"return ", name
To make things even faster, I have adopted an "inline compiled JS" technique so that each defined struct will do most basic tasks per each instance creation.
Following an example about js-ctypes usage:
// as is for native cnstructor, no need to "new"
const Point2D = ctypes.StructType(
"Point2D", // the struct name
[ // the struct description

// a struct can be used to define a collection of same type
const Segment2D = ctypes.ArrayType(
Point2D, // the value type
2 // the length

// if length is specified, this must match during construction

// if no length is specified any amount of elements can be created
const Line2D = ctypes.ArrayType(Segment2D);

// no need to invoke all constructors
// as long as the Array/Object structure
// matches the defined one
var line = Line2D([
{x: 0, y: 0},
{x: 10, y: 10}
], [
{x: 10, y: 10},
{x: 20, y: 20}
], [
{x: 20, y: 20},
{x: 30, y: 30}
Even if geometrically speaking above example does not make much sense, being a line by definition represented by infinite number of points, I am pretty sure you got the logic.

Still NOT

The struct definition is slightly different from the one shown by Brendan Eich but at least the ArrayType signature seems to be similar.
If what Brendan showed is actually true, we will not have a way to define statically typed getters and setters.
Not that a function per each get/set can improve performances, but I consider this a sort of limit over other statically typed programming languages.

10X Slower

Surpriiiiiiiiiiiseeeeeee!!! Even Firefox Nightly performs like a turtle on steroids over statically typed collections and here the test you should save in your desktop and launch via file protocol.
If you see the alert, ctypes have not been loaded ... but if you test in on Firefox via file protocol and you allow the module, you will not see any alert but an actual benchmark of three different types of collections:
  • a generic Array of Objects
  • a typed collection of typed objects
  • an Int32Array implementation over int values with an object creation per each loop iteraction
I don't know what's your score ( and I could not manage to test it via jsperf ) but at least in my MacBookPro numbers are 110ms for ctypes VS 19 or 16 for other two tests.

What The Fuck Is Going On

Pardon my french but I could not describe in a better way my reaction ... however, I have an idea of what's happening there ...

Slow Binding

If ctypes are checking and transforming runtime all values in order to provide nicely written Errors somebody screwed up the speed boost idea here. I would rather prefer to see my browser implode, my system crash, my MacBook explode than thinking every single bloody object creation is actually slower than non statically defined one!
"check all properties, check all types, convert them into C compatible structs, bring them back to JS world per each index access" ... I mean, this cannot be the way to make things faster.
The operation could surely be more expensive in therms of Struct and List definitions but for fuck sake these cannot be trapped behind the scene: these must be instantly available as hidden pre compiled/pre optimized objects and if some assignment goes wrong just exit the whole thing!

Static Is Not For Everybody

Let "week end hobbyists" use JS as they know but give JS the native power of C. Don't try to save poor JS kids/developers here, you either bring this power in or you don't.
Any application that will screw an assignment over a statically typed collection or struct does not deserve a place in the web, as well as any sort of broken C code cannot be compiled or it will kill the execution if something goes wrong runtime.

I am not joking here, think about those developers that actually know what they are doing and forget for once the "too easy to use" concept: we all desire to handle statically typed code via JS and we expect a massive performances boost.

Double Memory Consumption

The typed part of JavaScript seems to ignore a little detail: every object will require both non statically typed structure, {x: Number, y: Number} plus its statically typed equivalent: Point2D.
I am not sure engines can optimize that much here and thinking about mobile platforms I wonder if TC39 team is actually thinking "Desktop only" ... WebCL seems, once again, a much better alternative than ctypes here 'cause if all these operations will mean higher memory footprint and slower interaction we are in a no-go specification that should never land in JS world.
We really can implement by ourself strict type checks so either ctypes bring something powerful and fast or I can see already a lot of effort, implementation speaking, for zero income, real use cases speaking.

const Point2D = ctypes.StructType(
"Point2D", // the struct name
[ // the struct description

// how it is now in too
var p = new Point2D(
{x: 123, y: 123} // why on earth!

// how it should be in
var p = new Point2D(
// no object dependeny/creation
Above example is just one out of millions way to better initialize a statically typed structures. Since will bring new sugar in any case, unless these objects used to initialize a structure will be completely ignored/discarded runtime, creating holes in therms of object reusability, the creation of a complementary object per each static instance is a non-sense.
In few words, no need to overcomplicate engines when these will be already compatible with named defaults function arguments, isn't it?

As Summary

C could land into JavaScript but it must be done properly. A too hybrid solution could bring double problems and all I have tried to do in this post is collaborate with the initiative bringing thoughts and tests.
I hope this part will be specified and implemented properly, removing the "native dll binding" we don't need on te web, neither we do for node.js modules.
Sure it's a nice have, but once we can write proper modules based on statically typed structs and collections, there won't be such big need of pre-compiled C stuff and all cross platform problems at that point will be solved on browser engine level, rather than on JS specific C module side.
Any sort of thoughts and/or clarification will be more than appreciated but right now all I can say is: avoid this extension, don't try to screw with native system libraries, don't use this extension thinking it will bring more efficient, fast, powerful, code into your app.
Thanks for your patience

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My New Programming Language

yeah, you read it correctly ... we all need another better programming language because everything we've done until now sucks.

What Sucks

  • the fact we don't learn by mistakes, which means all of us should instantly try to create a new "secretly open source programming language" so that the rest of the world can only endure it once it's out, rather than contribute to make it better/needed as it's happening since at least 5 years with JavaScript in all possible, and truly open, channels

  • the fact Java, .NET, and all others failed ... 'cause we are still looking for a new programming language in these days where C++ X11 has been approved while C never died

  • the fact we keep thinking that performances are possible only with compiled languages forgetting that better algorithms, better practices, better tools to develop and track leaks, memory consumptions, CPU/GPU cycles, can make any software fast enough or ...

  • ... the fact new standards are coming to help us with performances, as is for OpenCL, and new techniques are already available to speed up common tasks, as is for Statically Typed Collections

  • the fact we are blaming JavaScript because is the most used programming language and as is for "the most used whatever thing" out there more people will complain about it and even more people will enjoy it ( e.g. the unbelievable growing speed of node.js community and all latest server side JS related projects )

  • the fact if a programming language is part of the scripting group it's considered a toy regardless the fact any sort of application out of billions is working right now out there without major security, performances, or design problems

  • the fact that compiled programming language developers are not necessarily superior or more skilled than scripters ... the world of Software would be perfect otherwise and the Web as we know it, the good one, would not exist

  • the fact that if a programming language is appreciated and used by senior professionals as well as week end hobbyist must mean that language is weak and it needs to be substituted

  • the fact that experience is a key, and with a new language it will be completely lost and all sort of inevitable problems or solutions will not be instantly available to the community

  • the fact that if it's possible to translate this new fantastic language into JavaScript for backward compatibility, everything new this language will bring tomorrow was already possible today

As Summary

Looking forward for the revolution and looking forward to forget that OpenCL even existed.
Let's hope at least all Operating Systems companies will agree, let's hope it will be the universal language we have been dreaming about since ever ... let's hope ... and sorry for this surely not needed rant.
Update A must read post from BrendanEich who is apparently sharing my point of view with more technical reasons.
Alex Russel also on Google & the Future of JavaScript gives us something more about what's going on there, nice one.