Saturday, March 31, 2007

Busy Times

I have had a bit of a perfect storm this week. I decided to upgrade my Ubuntu to feisty. Although the upgrade went very nicely it took a couple of days to get the configuration the way I like it. It always does. I tend to tweak my setup to no end. Well after all that the OTP folks went and released the new version of Erlang so it took a few days to get the repository updated. At last, though, things have settled down and I am able to get back into sinan development. So I should be releasing a couple of new versions of the alpha over the next few days.

On a side note, Ubuntu feisty just rocks. It has, by far, the best wireless support that I have seen any any distribution. That alone makes it worth the upgrade. If you haven't already done it I suggest that you do the upgrade.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Full OTP Migration

I just finished migrating the sinan to a full OTP application. It already followed all of the OTP principles it just wasn't setup to run as an application. I ran into a few issues that encouraged me to do the conversion. It wasn't actually difficult, as I said , I already followed OTP for the most part. It was mostly a matter of turning the tasks into gen_servers and figuring out a way for them to work together in a meaningful way. For now there isn't much difference for the user, but it sets things up so that I can rapidly iterate on the current outstanding issues.

The hardest part of all of this was getting the error_logger logging set up right. A lot more loggers then I suspected are involved from the get go. Kernel sets up a very primitive error_logger to start. It also sets up a slightly better tty logger. Then sasl sets up its own set of loggers. Figuring out where this was coming from, getting rid of the loggers and adding the custom logger was more difficult then I actually expected. In the end I got it done via a combination of configs for kernel and sasl and actually removing the primitive logger via the gen_event api.

In any case, I should be able to start knocking my open issues. Thanks to the beta testers for providing the feedback.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More on Configuration

The first, lightly tested, version of fconf is out. At the moment its undocumented, but that should change pretty quickly. Its a otp app that supports multiple simultaneous configurations and merging configs together. It supports everything that I talked about in my last post. Sinan has already been ported over to fconf from its built in configuration system.

Monday, March 12, 2007


OTP applications have their own configuration mechanism in the app config structure. However, this doesn't always suit every applications needs. Currently, I have two distinct config mechanisms right now, one for sinan and one for tercio. They share a lot of similarities and I suspect other applications share similar needs. To that end I have split the config system out into its own project, fconf with the intention of using it in both projects. There isn't much out there yet but I should have the config subsystem pulled out of sinan and refactored in the next day or so. There are a few features that I want to support.

  • Reloadable config files (maybe auto reloaded)

  • Config file syntax agnostic; use the syntax that is right for your user community

  • Good, well defined override semantics

Of course, it all needs to be robust and scalable as well. The existing sinan config subsystem supplies most of this. It needs to be converted over to gen_server, create a supervision tree, and convert it to an OTP application.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

First Version Out to Beta Testers!

I just sent the first really usable version of sinan out to the beta testers who registered their interest. I expect there to plenty of issues. However, the fact that the product is out and being used is great. I can't wait to see the feedback, both positive and negative, that should come in. I will try to relay some of the relevant bits here on this blog.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Dependencies Again

Just when you think you are finished something pops up and bites you. As I was getting ready to do the release to my beta customers I noticed that some of my unit tests in the dependency code no longer passed. I had made some changes the week before to alter conflict reporting and I guess I for got to run the tests. Well I jumped in and started debugging. An hour or so latter whop-a-mole with bugs I realized that the core algorithm was wrong. Leaky edge cases are almost always a symptom of an underlying fault in the logic. In almost all of these cases about the only thing you can do is through out the existing implementation and start fresh.

Well, in this case, I wrestled with a creating a new solution with little or no luck. Eventually, I went to lunch with some friends to talk out the problem. We, or more specifically Scott Parish, realized that at its core this is a backtracing problem very similar to that Prolog was designed to handle. Fortunately, he had just spent the last month living and breathing a similar backtracing problem and volunteered to code up a solution. He took the core of his solution from chapters 11 and 12 of PAIP. It seems that Erlang, due to its immutability, makes for a very good platform for these types of issues. In any case, Later on that night he sent me the solution that turned out to be a special cut down, special purpose prolog interpreter. Even then it was a complete, fast solution that occupied no more then a hundred lines of code. I am working on getting it integrated back into the build system as I write this. Its amazing how simple and concise an elegant solution can be.