Bluish Coder

Programming Languages, Martials Arts and Computers. The Weblog of Chris Double.


2009-07-27

Building and using Self on Linux

The original implementation of the Self programming language is easy to build from source. Russell Allen maintains a git repository on github containing the source.

I use Arch Linux with 'flex' and 'tcsh' packages installed for various parts of the build process. To build a Self binary:

$ git clone git://github.com/russellallen/self.git
$ cd self/release
 $ sh buildLinuxVM
$ cd ..
$ ./Self

The build takes about 30 minutes on my laptop. There will be many compilation warnings but these can be safely ignored. The result of the build is a 'Self' executable in the root directory of the cloned source. The executable can be run but most of the Self library is not loaded. You need to create an image to run or use an existing one. About the only thing you can do with the Self VM without an image is use primitives.

The 'objects' directory contains the source for the core Self library, the User Inteface, as well as other applications and interesting stuff. These can be used to build an image to run Self. The file 'all2.self' can be used to create an image including the graphical user interface. 'small.self' can be used to build an image without the user interface. The primitive '_RunScript' is used to load these files. Once loaded you can save a 'snapshot' (this is the term Self uses for images) which can be resumed in later sessions.

$ cd objects
$ ../Self
Self Virtual Machine Version 4.1.13, Sun 26 Jul 09 16:59:28 Linux
Copyright 1989-2003: The Self Group (type _Credits for credits)

for I386:  LogVMMessages = true
for I386:  PrintScriptName  = true
for I386:  Inline = true
for I386:  SICDeferUncommonBranches = false (not implemented)
for I386:  SICReplaceOnStack = false (not implemented)
for I386:  SaveOutgoingArgumentsOfPatchedFrames = true
VM # 'all2.self' _RunScript
reading all2.self...
reading ./core/init.self...
reading ./core/allCore.self...
reading ./core/systemStructure.self...
reading ./core/defaultBehavior.self...
...
reading ./ui2/outliner/profileSliceGrpMod.self...
reading ./ui2/outliner/profileSelfSlotMdl.self...
reading ./ui2/outliner/powerOperations.self...
verifying newgen: eden from to oldgen: old0 old1 z p r S v O m N M i  done
Starting: Collecting Garbage...
Finished: Collecting Garbage
Starting: Refilling module cache...
Finished: Refilling module cache
"Self 0" saveAs: 'ui.snap'
Starting: Writing snapshot to ui.snap...
Finished: Writing snapshot to ui.snap
shell
"Self 1" quit
Save to ui.snap before quitting? 
  y => save, then quit
  n => quit without saving
  RET => cancel
Response: n

Notice the call to 'saveAs:' to save the image snapshot. 'quit' is used to exit the running Self session. This image can now be resumed using the '-s' argument to 'Self' whenever you want to run Self:

$ cd objects
$ ../Self -s ui.snap
for I386:  LogVMMessages = true
for I386:  PrintScriptName  = true
for I386:  Inline = true
for I386:  SICDeferUncommonBranches = false (not implemented)
for I386:  SICReplaceOnStack = false (not implemented)
for I386:  SaveOutgoingArgumentsOfPatchedFrames = true

Welcome to the Self system!  (Version 4.4)


Copyright 1992-2009 AUTHORS, Sun Microsystems, Inc. and Stanford University.
See the LICENSE file for license information.

Type _Credits for full credits.

VM version: 4.1.13

"Self 1"

At this point you can now use any Self expressions. All code is run in the contents of an object called 'shell'. You can start the graphical user interface by passing the 'open' message to the 'desktop' object:

desktop open

The desktop will appear with a 'trash can' object and an outliner for the 'shell' object. Left clicking on the middle button labelled 'E' in the group of three buttons on the right of the shell will open an expression evaluator allowing you to enter Self expressions. Middle click on objects to get an object specific menu. On the desktop this provides a menu item to quit when you want to leave the session.

There are some interesting applications in the 'objects' directory. For example, there is a Smalltalk implementation written in Self. This can be loaded at the shell with the command:

bootstrap read: 'smalltalk' From: 'applications/smalltalk'

When it completes loading you can find a 'smalltalk' item on the desktop's right click menu. Choosing that provides a menu to load a standard Smalltalk browser, workspace and inspector, allowing you to write Smalltalk code. There's a document that describes the Smalltalk emulator for more information about it. There are other interesting applications in the objects directory including a web browser, Java emulator, a C preprocessor, Cecil implementation and a parser/lexer generator. Most of this code is old and in various states of usability but it provides some interesting examples of Self code to look at and play with.

The Self tutorial provides a good introduction to using the Self user interface.

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