Coffeehouse Thread

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What happened to "M"?

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  • User profile image
    Blue Ink

    Since Oslo got scattered among various projects, the M language kind of fell under the radar and whatever documentation was available is now either defunct or obsolete.

    It was an interesting language and I thought it had some potential, for instance as a cleaner yacc replacement. Does anyone know if there is any activity on the language, either by Microsoft or some independent party?

     

  • User profile image
    contextfree`

    Yeah, I'm wondering this too - Quadrant and the Repository were officially canceled, but supposedly M was still going to live on (although I think a lot of people were skeptical). However, since then Don Box has left the SQL group (or wherever it is he was) and joined the Xbox/TV/entertainment division, and he seemed to be the main remaining person championing it - after Brad Lovering and Doug Purdy also left Microsoft - so that makes me suspect it's dead. 

    Too bad, I think most people were just confused by the Oslo project but M was the one piece of it that did seem pretty cool.

  • User profile image
    vesuvius

    At least 90% of all incubations result in being shlved. Chris Seels also igrated to the ADO.NET team and run the Entity Framework team.

    My guess is that cloud computing looks set to replace the 70% of use cases where you would have needed a domain specific language and OSLO so that is where resources are being directed. It has only recently started to become clear to me just why cloud computing is important and why the infrastructure needs to be created now even though most broadband networks are substandard.

    We go digital in the UK next year and all the bandwidth clogged up by analogue signals will no longer be an issue. My music, Film and Books are pretty much going to exist on my machine at home, and cloud service that I can access at a whim

  • User profile image
    contextfree`

    @vesuvius: Huh? How does cloud computing replace domain-specific languages? That makes no sense whatever. People still need to write programs in the cloud, right?

  • User profile image
    vesuvius

    @contextfree`: I said 70% of use cloud cases overlap with Oslo, though I know not the minutiae or reasons why the project was aborted, I know that Cloud Computing is 100% guaranteed to generate revenue, rather than allowing users to create domain specific languages - there is just no money in it.

    Apart from Academic excitement, DSL's are never going to generate a lot of revenue, apart from the cool Names like "Dublin" and "Oslo", I just fail to see why people just don't use another language. Ruby, Python and the DLR allow you to program in one way, .NET and languages like F# allow you other ways, and you can use Erlang or Scala if you need to, so it was all "Much Ado About Nothing" AFAIK or am concerned.

    What do you need a DSL for?

  • User profile image
    PaoloM

    What doy need anything other than K&R C for?

  • User profile image
    contextfree`

    @vesuvius: OK, I just thought it was weird that you brought up cloud computing specifically - you could replace it in your post with Windows, Office, phones, Bing, or anything else that Microsoft makes money on or thinks they can eventually make money on, and it wouldn't change the argument.

    I don't really agree with the argument either, but that's another matter that I don't have the energy to pursue right now.

  • User profile image
    Blue Ink

    @vesuvius: may be specific to my line of work, but you wouldn't believe the number of structured data I come across that live in some custom format, often not fully documented and "improved" over the years by successive augmentation of the original syntax. Lots of scientific instruments tend to produce this kind of junk, it seems. 

    Sure, you can always write your own parsers using one of the many fine languages you mentioned, but it's a slow and pedantic job that often results in poorly maintainable code (as a reflection of the poorly defined syntax). A language - or rather, a meta-language - that allows you to clearly map the syntax would be a great help. And apparently there isn't a lot of choice in that area, especially if you expect any sort of user-friendliness or even just sanity.

  • User profile image
    AndyC

    @Blue Ink:Isn't that just what BizTalk is for though?

  • User profile image
    Blue Ink

    @AndyC: in theory, yes. In practice, every time we experimented with that we ended up with a solution that was arguably worse (and more complex) than writing the whole parser by hand. To be fair, I'm observing the technology from a pretty odd angle...

  • User profile image
    joechung

    @vesuvius: Where are you getting your numbers from? BOMUS?

  • User profile image
    vesuvius

    @Blue Ink: I can see the attraction of DSL's for your problem space, I have had to deal with similar instances where each new customer had their own hardware and we had to (in effect) create a bunch of regular expressions and classes that mapped to their hardware protocols. The problem you would have is that you would need to create a new DSL for each new customer, with no reuse, plus the headache of creating the DSL.

    Maintenance is not really improved because a new developer on the system would now need to learn several languages anyway. In this type of environment DSL cause as many problems as they fix, so for me a DSL is truly useful only when is can be reused i.e. hardware manufacturers start using standards rather than their own user defined protocols. HTML is a good DSL to use as an example, as though there are subtleties that differ across browsers, for the most part it is a little bit more manageable than the hardware you are talking about.

    @joechung:Yes my figures are a little bogus and more of a guesstimate. I was hoping someone from Microsoft would chime in and correct me  Wink

    My calculation is based merely on speaking with people and determining whether they fall into the use case or not.

     

  • User profile image
    exoteric

    James Clark of XML/XML:NS/XPath/XSLT/DSSSL/RelaxNG/* fame was also involved in the effort at some point in time. It did indeed look like it had some potential and the language looked very simple and clean.

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