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Open Source .NET Runs on Xbox and PS2

Novell joins ECMA

The open source community has generated a number of items this month: the Portable.NET System. Windows.Forms (SWF) programming contest has been extended; both Portable.NET and Mono have released new versions (Portable.NET v0.6.2, and Mono v0.30); .NET programs can now be executed on PlayStation 2 and Xbox; and Novell is joining the ECMA committee. I will also discuss the importance of supporting languages such as SML and Mercury.

Contest Results
The Portable.NET WinForms coding contest has been extended. The original plan was to give 5 prizes ranging from $200 to $2,000 for top coders, plus 10 $100 prizes randomly drawn from all participants. Those involved have decided to award one $500 prize to Richard Baumann of New York, who implemented image support for the System.Drawing.Postscript class. This class is specific to Portable.NET and will be used to print from Linux using the same commands that are used to draw on the screen. Otherwise, those involved agreed that the contest should be extended until June 30, and the remaining $4,000 in prize money be given out at or before that time; part of the prize money may be given out before then if a developer's submission warrants it.

The contest has already been a factor in the development of many controls, along with a fairly usable SWF, as is shown by the ability to run programs such as the game Reversi from the Code Project site (www.codetools.com/csharp/Reversi.asp) without changes. DotGnu needs more help, especially from experienced coders, and intends to use the competition money to help motivate some new contributors.

Portable.NET has added PlayStation 2 and Xbox to its list of supported platforms, and just to really be really impressive, they even support SWF and System.Drawing. You can view screen shots of SWF on the PS2 at http://neovanglist.thefrontnetworks.net:8080/pnet-winformsPS2.png, and the Snake game (console mode) on the Xbox at www.veridicus.com/tummy/programming/pnet/pnet_xbox_snake.png. This really shows the portability of Portable.NET's XWindows-based implementation of SWF. Although the Xbox is similar to a PC hardware-wise, the PS2 is quite different and uses a custom version of the MIPS processor. Mono also runs Web servers and services on the Xbox, with one Mono user serving ASP.NET Web pages, and another running an Internet chess server.

The Mono runtime has improved support for running SML- and Mercury-generated code. Unlike most common languages, which are procedural (meaning a program executes a series of instructions in order), these languages are logic- or rule-based, and are programmed by writing rules or logic conditions, then calculating the results. The important thing is that these nonprocedural languages really stretch the design - and for Mono, the implementation - of the runtime. The ability to execute these unconventional languages shows how well Microsoft designed the runtime, and how well Mono has implemented it.

Bigger can be better: Ximian could not afford the costs associated with being a member of the ECMA committee, but for Novell this is not a problem. As such, Novell is in the process of joining the committee, and as I write this, Mono Project founder Miguel de Icaza is on his way to one of their meetings (he attended a previous meeting as a guest observer).

Short Takes

  • Portable.NET has released v0.6.2. Most improvements are in the SWF and System.Drawing namespaces, as that is where most of the current Portable.NET work is being done. Portable.NET is supporting more controls all the time. Several members of DotGNU, including Rhys Weatherley, got together at Australia's Linux conference, Linux.Conf.Au, where they met with other members of the open source community. The main decision made was to revamp the Web site to be more beginner-friendly, including more tutorials, how-tos, and instructions on getting started.
  • Mono has released v0.30 with improvements in security and cryptography, XML, and graphics. C# performance has improved 25%; assembly signing has been implemented, as has dynamic discovery of services (.vsdisco); and XML Schema now passes 7,400 out of about 7,420 tests. In addition, the JIT is now fully functional on PPC, and with a beta version of the Boehm garbage collector, passes almost all tests.
  • I also ran across wx.NET, a C# wrapper for the wxWindows toolkit. It is compatible with both Mono and Portable.NET. Look at http://wxnet.sourceforge.net, which lists about 20 programs that run under wx.NET, with screen shots showing different operating systems. With two-thirds of the toolkit marked as complete, my first impression is that this is the best cross-platform toolkit for .NET currently available.

More Stories By Dennis Hayes

Dennis Hayes is a programmer at Georgia Tech in Atlanta Georgia where he writes software for the Adult Cognition Lab in the Psychology Department. He has been involved with the Mono project for over six years, and has been writing the Monkey Business column for over five years.

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