Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Goodbye, PM3; Recent Reading

Goodbye, PM3

I have been cleaning some uncessary packages off and in the process accidently deleted pm3-forms, a GUI library for the Polytechnic Modula 3 implementation (PM3). Unfortunately, CVSup uses the forms library, and I use CVSup extensively to keep the FreeBSD source code and Ports up to date, so I can keep up to date. Unfortunately, I'd built PM3 back in the XFree86 days and have since switched to Xorg and the dependencies in the other PM3 packages would have caused rebuilding and reinstalling all the XFree86 packages. I had no desire to go back there, so I decided to delete all the PM3 packages and CVSup and rebuild CVSup from scratch. Upon consideration, I decided to use the ezm3 Modula 3 distribution instead of PM3 ; the ezm3 distribution is specifically maintined to support CVSup, and since that's the only thing I'm using Modula 3 for any more it makes sense to use the smaller but better maintained ezm3 instead of the bigger and more featureful but almost unmaintained PM3 distribution.

It's really a pity: the PM3 distribution had a lot of neat programs included and Modula 3 is very interesting language and was used as the building blocks for a lot of very interesting research, but today the user base is too small to see much development with the language. Personally, I think it has a lot going for it: it's a relatively small language with a great number of features that showed up in other languages of its kind only later: garbage collection, modules, threads, objects, generics, and so on, in a very readable and understandable way. In many ways it's a better language than many of its successors.

Unfortunately, for my personal use, it doesn't go quite far enough in one way: I've been spoiled by the convenience of higher level languages like Dylan, Lisp, Scheme, and Objective Caml; and in another way it has gone a little too far: interfacing to C is well defined, but is not without some easily overlooked drawbacks. The situation was not improved by the minor but pervasive incompatiblities between classic Modula 3 on one side (the original DEC distribution, PM3, and ezm3) and the enhanced version produced by Critical Mass (CM3). In the end, it remains a language that, like Oberon-2 and Ada, I like, but not enough to use regularly.

Recent Reading (Harlan)

  • Wasteland of Flint, by Thomas Harlan; Tor/Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, April 2003. I devoured Harlan's earlier Oath of Empire, a fascinating fantasy set in an alternate Roman Empire, so I was overjoyed to find he has started a new series, beginning with this book. This time it's science fiction, but again it's alternate history, set in the future in a universe where the Aztec empire rules Earth and has expanded to the stars. It's a good book that kept me interested to the last and looking forward to the next book in the series, House of Reeds.

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