Paul Krill

About the Author Paul Krill


What’s next for Microsoft’s .Net CLR

Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime, the virtual machine that anchors the .Net Framework, is due for a makeover, with the company announcing plans to make the CLR more efficient and scalable.

Key to this modernization will be improvements to the intermediate language underlying the CLR, called IL, which has not been upgraded in 10 years, said Mads Torgersen, lead designer for C# at Microsoft. The company wants to improve the IL and make the CLR a richer target for programming languages. 

The goal of the CLR is to run .Net programs efficiently. Currently the biggest problem with .Net is the inherent limits of scalability of the runtime itself, Ben Watson, Microsoft principal software engineer, said. The CLR is being pushed beyond its original intention and design. Watson explained that when multiple gigabytes of code are being loaded, algorithms built into the CLR start breaking down. 

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Microsoft brings Apache Spark, Cassandra, MariaDB to its Azure cloud

Microsoft has brought several third-party popular platforms to its Azure cloud aimed at developers and data analysts.

The new Azure capabilities include:

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Microsoft debuts beta Visual Studio Tools for AI

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Microsoft’s Mono .Net runtime brings back interpreter

Mono, Microsoft’s open source, cross-platform runtime for .Net-based development, has regained its .Net interpreter, about a decade after it was removed to keep Mono’s development effort manageable.

Mono’s developers are now turning their attention to using the interpreter in mixed-mode code execution, which combines interpreted code and statically compiled code.

What mixed-mode exdcution will bring to Mono

When mixed-mode execution becomes available, developers will benefit from having core libraries optimized with the LLVM compiler platform but still have flexibility of running some dynamic code, said Miguel de Icaza, a longtime leader of the Mono project.

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Scripting languages slip in popularity

Prominent scripting languages, once viewed as the future of programming by offering ease of use, have slipped in the monthly Tiobe index of language popularity. Only Python and JavaScript still have some momentum.

Languages that have seen their fortunes decline include Perl, PHP, and Ruby. Software quality services company Tiobe’s suspected cause is a desire among developers for higher quality than is afforded in scripting languages: “Because quality demands are getting higher and higher, hardly anybody dares to write a critical and large software system in a scripting language nowadays.”

With scripting languages, most errors show up in runtime. And this is a problem, Tiobe says. Developers can write unit tests to compensate for this but it still is “quite dangerous” because these errors can happen while the application is in production. Statically typed languages, meanwhile, have responded to the threat of scripting languages by reducing type verbosity.

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What’s new in Microsoft Visual Studio Code

Microsoft’s open source development tool is an important piece of the developer’s toolkit. Built using GitHub’s cross-platform Electron framework, Visual Studio Code is a full-featured development editor that supports a wide selection of languages and platforms, from the familiar C and C# to modern environments and languages like Go and Node.js, with parity between Windows, MacOS, and Linux releases.

Microsoft regularly updates Visual Studio Code. Keep track of the updates’ key features in this changelog.

Where to download Visual Studio Code

To download the editor for Windows, MacOS, and Linux, go to Microsoft’s Visual Code Studio website

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Beta JetBrains IDE moves Kotlin apps out of the JVM

JetBrains has made available the Kotlin/Native technology, which creates native binaries for Kotlin code so they can run without a Java virtual machine. A beta version of the CLion IDE allows Kotlin programs to be compiled directly to an executable machine-code format.

Kotlin is a statically typed JavaScript language alternative that began on the JVM. But many platforms can’t run JVMs, restricting the use of Kotlin to JVM-friendly platforms like Android. The Kotlin/Native preview’s supported target platforms include MacOS, iOS, Ubuntu Linux, and Raspberry Pi.

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Visual Studio Code roadmap: The new features you can expect

Microsoft’s 2018 roadmap for its open source Visual Studio Code code editor includes better performance, reduced memory consumption, and more support for JavaScript and TypeScript.

The multilanguage Visual Studio Code, which Microsoft has been updating monthly, is designed as a streamlined editor for debugging, running tasks, and version control. More complex workflows require the use of full-featured IDEs. Visual Studio Code 1.0 debuted in April 2016 and supports Node.js, JavaScript, and TypeScript.

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What’s next for Visual Studio Code

Microsoft’s 2018 roadmap for its open source Visual Studio Code code editor includes better performance, reduced memory consumption, and more support for JavaScript and TypeScript.

The multilanguage Visual Studio Code, which Microsoft has been updating monthly, is designed as a streamlined editor for debugging, running tasks, and version control. More complex workflows require the use of full-featured IDEs. Visual Studio Code 1.0 debuted in April 2016 and supports Node.js, JavaScript, and TypeScript.

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What’s new in Kotlin 1.2? Code reuse, for starters

Version 1.2 of the statically typed Kotlin language, a version of JavaScript endorsed by Google for Android app development, will offer an experimental feature enabling reuse of code across platforms, as well as compatibility with the Java 9 module system.

Where to download Kotlin 1.2

The release candidate for Kotlin 1.2 is now available for download from GitHub.

The new features in Kotlin 1.2

Kotlin’s experimental multiplatform projects capability lets developers reuse code between supported target platforms: JVM and JavaScript initially, and later native. Code to be shared between platforms is placed in a common module; platform-dependent parts are put in platform-specific modules. During compilation, code is produced for both the common and platform-specific parts.

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What’s new in Node.js 8 and Node.js 9

Node.js 8 is graduating to Long Term Support (LTS) release status, which is intended to signify a level of stability for use in enterprise deployments. Accompanying this new designation for Node.js 8 is the debut of Node.js 9, with asynchronous resource tracking, as the “current” release line.

Node.js 8 features

With an LTS release of the popular server-side JavaScript runtime, the focus is on security and stability. The LTS release is actively maintained for 18 months. First introduced by the Node.js Foundation in late-May, the Node.js 8.x line features:

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ZGC large-heap Java garbage collector may go open source

An Oracle-developed, low-latency Java garbage collector geared to large heaps could move to the open source community, if a proposal to do so gets community approval. Votes are due by November 8.

Called the Z Garbage Collector (ZGC), the project is designed to support multiterabyte heaps, have pause times not exceeding 10 milliseconds, and offer no more than a 15 percent application reduction throughput compared to the G1 garbage collector.

But ZGC’s developers don’t see these goals as “hard requirements” for every workload, according to a proposal floated on an OpenJDK mailing list by Per Liden, a member of the HotSpot virtual machine team at Oracle. Liden’s proposal calls for creation of a ZGC project that he would lead, with the HotSpot group as sponsor. 

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What’s new in Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2017

The second beta of Microsoft’s upcoming Visual Studio 2017 version 15.5 IDE, released this week, improves capabilities for C++ and debugging and supports the Angular 2 JavaScript framework.

New features in Visual Studio 2017 15.5 beta

The Visual Studio 2017 15.5 beta’s compiler and standard library gained the following new support for the C++ 17 standard:

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What’s new in Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2017

The second beta of Microsoft’s upcoming Visual Studio 2017 version 15.5 IDE, released this week, improves capabilities for C++ and debugging and supports the Angular 2 JavaScript framework.

New features in Visual Studio 2017 15.5 beta

The Visual Studio 2017 15.5 beta’s compiler and standard library gained the following new support for the C++ 17 standard:

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What’s new in Google’s Android Studio 3.0

Google’s Android Studio 3.0 IDE adds support for the Kotlin language as a mechanism for building Android applications, as well as better Java 8 support and enhancements to its build system and debugging.

Where to download Android Studio 3.0

You can download Android Studio 3.0 from the Android Studio website. It is available now.

Android Studio 3.0 supports Kotlin for development

Kotlin interoperates with existing Android languages and runtimes. Developers can add Kotlin to a project using the conversion tool found in the Android Studio IDE via the menu sequence Code > Convert Java File to Kotlin File. Developers can also create a Kotlin-enabled using the New Project Wizard.

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What’s next for WebAssembly portable code

If its roadmap holds, WebAssembly, the binary format to speed the performance of web applications on both computers and mobile devices, will improve its language support via garbage collection, threads, better debugging, and a SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) extension.

WebAssembly, introduced with great fanfare in 2015, is a low-level format intended to exceed JavaScript’s performance when it comes to executing computationally intensive operations in a browser. WebAssembly provides a binary code format that is smaller over the wire, loads faster, and has better performance than JavaScript. It could prove useful in applications such as web-based CAD programs, 3D models, calculators, and games.

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Mozilla squashes Firebug in favor of native Firefox debugger

The Firebug web development tool, an open source add-on to the Firefox browser, is being discontinued after 12 years, replaced by Firefox Developer Tools.

Firebug will be dropped with next month’s release of Firefox Quantum (version 57). The Firebug tool lets developers inspect, edit, and debug code in the Firefox browser as well as monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript in webpages. It still has more than a million people using it, said Jan Honza Odvarko, who has been the leader of the Firebug project. Many extensions were built for Firebug, which is itself is an extension to Firefox.

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Mozilla is squashing Firebug in favor of native Firefox debugger

The Firebug web development tool, an open source add-on to the Firefox browser, is being discontinued after 12 years, replaced by Firefox Developer Tools.

Firebug will be dropped with next month’s release of Firefox Quantum (version 57). The Firebug tool lets developers inspect, edit, and debug code in the Firefox browser as well as monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript in webpages. It still has more than a million people using it, said Jan Honza Odvarko, who has been the leader of the Firebug project. Many extensions were built for Firebug, which is itself is an extension to Firefox.

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Google’s new mechanism to embed web content in Android apps

Google’s new Trusted Web Activity capability will offer a way to integrate trusted web content into native Android apps. By launching a Trusted Web Activity, any Android app can directly include “app-like” content served from the app provider’s own site with the benefit of custom tabs but running full-screen, said Dion Almaer, developer relations lead at Google. The capability means up-to-date content, a small on-device footprint, and sharing across websites.

A preview of Trusted Web Activity support will be available soon in Chrome canary and developer channels.  Support also will be available in the Android support library, so other browsers can provide the capability as well.

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Microsoft adds multithreading to Node.js for compute-heavy apps

Microsoft’s beta Napa.js runtime is offering multithreaded support for the Node.js server-side JavaScript platform, to provide the flexibility of JavaScript with speedy performance akin to C++’s.

By introducing multithreading to Node.js, the Napa.js runtime can more easily handle computation-intensive tasks, Microsoft said.

Built on the same V8 JavaScript runtime as Node.js, Napa.js can be embedded in a host process without Node.js dependency. It can be installed via NPM by typing npm install napajs.

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RacerD detects hard-to-find race conditions in Java code

Facebook has begun offeingr broad access to RacerD, a tool intended to tackle the longstanding problem of race conditions in software.

RacerD had been available as a prototype, accessible in Facebook’s open source code base only through a series of backdoor options, said codeveloper Sam Blackshear, a Facebook research scientist. Now, the tool will run by default in Facebook’s open source Infer static analysis tool for bug detection. Initially, RacerD is available only for Java code. But plans call for expanding coverage to other languages, including C++.

With race conditions, overlapping processes trying to access the same data concurrently can cause conflicts in programs. These concurrency errors can be difficult to debug or even reproduce. “This has really been a hard problem” in computing for about 50 years, said Peter O’Hearn, a research scientist on the Infer team and co-author of RacerD.

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What’s new in Microsoft .Net Framework 4.7.1

With Microsoft’s release of .Net Framework 4.7.1 this week, the development platform gains critical improvements to garbage collection, security, and application configuration. 

To boost memory allocation performance, particularly for large object heap allocations, an architectural change to the garbage collector splits the heap allocation into small and large object heaps. Applications making a lot of large object heap allocations should experience a reduction in allocation lock contention and better performance.

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At GitHub, JavaScript rules in usage, TensorFlow leads in forks

JavaScript is the most-popular language on GitHub, based on pull requests from the popular code-sharing site.

Since September 2016, there have been 2.3 million pull requests for JavaScript, GitHub reports. Following web development staple JavaScript was Python, with 1 million requests, and Java, with 986,000 requests. Python displaced Java as the second-most-popular language on GItHub. Also improving its lot greatly in 2017 was TypeScript, Microsoft’s typed superset of JavaScript, which had 207,000 pull requests, almost four times as many requests as it had the year before.

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What’s new in TypeScript 2.6

Version 2.6 of Microsoft’s TypeScript language has moved to the release candidate stage. The new release of the typed superset of JavaScript features improvements such as increased strictness to help developers better find mistakes.

The new features in TypeScript 2.6

TypeScript 2.6 introduces a strict mode flag, which is identified as --strictFunctionTypes. In strict mode, any function type that does not originate from a method has its parameters compared “contravariantly,” said Microsoft’s Daniel Rosenwasser, program manager for TypeScript.

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‘Universal’ Windows development adds .Net Standard 2.0 support

Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP), an attempt to foster development of apps across multiple devices all running Windows 10, now supports the .Net Standard 2.0 specification for .Net unification.

But this move comes right after Microsoft revealed it was effectively pulling the plug on its Windows Mobile platform for smartphones, making Universal Windows apps less universal. In fact, Microsoft has been expanding support for Android and iOS in its various development tools as it effectively cedes the mobile market to Google and Apple.

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What’s new at GitHub: dependency management, security alerts

GitHub is adding several services to its popular code-sharing site to help developers manage dependencies and improve security.

GitHub dependency graph service

With the dependency graph service, GitHub will use its own data to build a dependency graph that gives developers insight into both projects their code depends on and the projects that depend on their code.

The essential features in the GitHub dependency graph service

Via the dependency graph, developers can see which applications and packages they are connected to without leaving their repository. The graph currently supports JavaScript and Ruby code, with Python support planned for later.

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Kotlin could overtake Java on Android next year

Kotlin is on its way to overtaking Java on that mobile platform, claims mobile database maker Realm.

Realm performed an anonymized assessment of 100,000 developers using its database and which languages they were using, determined by developers’ selection of SDKs. Realm found that 20 percent of apps built with Java before Google’s May endorsement of Kotlin are now being built in Kotlin.

Based on that data, Realm predicts Kotlin will overtake Java on Android by December 2018. Kotlin may even change how Java is used on the server, the company said: “In short, Android developers without Kotlin skills are at risk of being seen as dinosaurs very soon.”

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What’s new in Microsoft Visual Studio Code

The September 2017 release of Visual Studio Code, aka version 1.17, has arrived with a number of significant updates. Among the many improvements, the upgrade to Microsoft’s open source code editor brings region markers to the code folding support and boosts the performance of the built-in terminal.

With code folding, developers can hide away regions of source code using folding icons on the gutter between the line numbers and the start of a line of code. The region markers allow you to specify with comments exactly where your foldable blocks begin and end. Markers have been defined for TypeScript, JavaScript, C and C++, C#, F#, PowerShell, and Visual Basic.

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