[squeak-dev] Re: Alien vs. FFI benchmarks (Re: Trying to load ALienOpenGL into 4.1 alpha...)

Vassili Bykov smalltalkbigot at gmail.com
Thu Mar 25 18:38:07 UTC 2010

On Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 11:05 AM, Andreas Raab <andreas.raab at gmx.de> wrote:
> The philosophical point is about how a system like Squeak should integrate
> into the external environment. My opinion is that the VM should provide a
> safe cross-platform abstraction layer. As a consequence, I am in favor of
> plugins that provide abstractions, have a well-defined interface, and are
> safe however you use them. The only real sin I've ever committed in this
> regard was OpenGL because the interface is so big and the handling of
> extensions tricky otherwise.
> Gilad's opinion (and I hope I'm not misrepresenting him here since this an
> extrapolation from discussions with Eliot) as far as I understand it is that
> the VM should be basically invisible - just the execution machinery and for
> the rest you go straight to the OS and do everything there.

And it's not only Gilad's opinion. The issue is not even _how_ to
integrate into the external environment, it's _whether_ to integrate
into it. You have to speak another language to integrate into another
culture. Systems relying on VM primitives with safe abstractions
choose to be tourists, and are bound to remain so.

As for performance, the penalty of high-level marshalling is only as
high as slowly high-level code runs.



> That's a perfectly valid position, and Alien makes that point quite
> explicitly with moving even the marshalling into the image. I.e., what Alien
> really provides is just an absolutely minimalistic thunk for callout and
> callback; everything else is up to you. I can appreciate that approach; it's
> just not my view on how a system like Squeak should function.
> I think what excites people who understand this is the philosophical
> difference. Having access to everything at your fingertips is powerful, no
> doubt about it.
> Plus, most people have no clue what they're talking about when it comes to
> plugins vs. FFI vs. Alien and just repeat what someone else said. Sad, but
> true.
> Cheers,
>  - Andreas

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