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Microsoft Open Source Programming News

Microsoft Open Sources F# 212

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-f#-scale dept.
aabelro writes "Don Syme has announced the release of the F# compiler source code as a code drop under Apache 2.0. He wrote, 'The F# PowerPack now includes libraries, tools and the compiler/library source code drops. I'd like to take a moment to explain the F# team's approach to this. Firstly, the source for the F# compiler in our MSI/CTP releases has been available for some time, in the releases themselves, so in that sense there's not much new in this release. Secondly, we've always made sure we have a free download binary release of F# available, and will continue to do that, and that should still be the main way you "get" a release of F#. However, we've long discussed making compiler+library source available in a different way. After some discussion, we've decided to do this via a "code drop" model, where we make available versions of the compiler+library code logically matching each release of the F# language itself.'"
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Microsoft Open Sources F#

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  • So .... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:29AM (#34134984)
    Where's the catch? What will you inadvertently start using that will later need licensing?
    • by arose (644256)
      Some closed components perhaps? The Interesting thing about the Apache 2.0 license is the patent grant, seems like they want it the parts they release out there without reservation.
    • Re:So .... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:33AM (#34135046)

      It's more like that exercise machine that nobody's used in years, so somebody finally leaves it out at the curb. You can take it if you'd like.

      • Re:So .... (Score:5, Informative)

        by tibit (1762298) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:18AM (#34135564)

        Not quite so. There are plenty of companies out there that use Ocaml, F#'s undermaintained cousin. Jane Street, a private investment house, is one having perhaps the biggest Ocaml codebase next to Microsoft's. I see that MS opensourcing of F# compiler will lead to perhaps well-earned retirement of Ocaml from mainstream use. I think the biggest issue with Ocaml was that it was mainly a reasearch tool, maintained by INRIA. The developers have little incentive to have Ocaml do much besides what they need for their R&D, and that's understood and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. What it leads to, though, is that Ocaml is rough around the edges, and not really ready for primetime outside of niches.

        F# should IIRC run just fine under Mono.

        • Re:So .... (Score:4, Informative)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:00AM (#34137116) Journal

          F# should IIRC run just fine under Mono.

          It does. In fact, if you look at the download page, Mono/Linux is an officially supported platform for F#.

          One thing that needs to be understood about F# and why the attitude there is so remarkably different is that it is, essentially, a Microsoft Research project. Yes, it was productized and shipped "in the box" for VS2010, but a large number of folks who work on it are still from MSR.

        • OCaml is used for all sorts of things in many companies and is very much ready for primetime.

          F# is fine if you're using .Net (ie. Windows). For those who want native code, use OCaml.


          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by tibit (1762298)

            I'd say that for all practical purposes, at least in my limited testing, the performance you get from the code running on CLR is not appreciably worse from what you get with OCaml's native code, so I don't see any real benefit of OCaml's native code over code running on CLR. I've found plenty of cases where CLR outperforms OCaml by an order of magnitud -- basically as soon as you use OCaml to the fullest, plenty of POD stays boxed, and everything goes downhill from there.

        • how Erlang started.

          "Rough around the edges" is fine if you have a paradigm-shifting product. :)


      • by bondsbw (888959)
        Except that F# is one of Microsoft's newest languages, one that they are investing heavily in and are continually churning out new features. I'd say it's probably their best language to date, in my opinion.
    • There's always a catch, in this case you'll stop using other development platforms and produce apps that will only run on dotNET ..
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nerdfest (867930)
      Does F# compile to a stand-alone executable on any platform, or does it need to be deployed on a .net framework?
    • No catch. (Score:2, Insightful)

      Where's the catch? What will you inadvertently start using that will later need licensing?

      There is no catch. Microsoft is doing this because F# has no commercial value. Who uses F#? A couple of math/CS geeks?

  • Seriously, (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    F### that Microsoft S###.

  • by bradgoodman (964302) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:30AM (#34135006) Homepage
    Never-mind...rhetorical question...
    • Re:WTF is "F#"?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anpheus (908711) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:40AM (#34135116)

      It's a functional language following in the footsteps of the ML category of languages, but written for the .NET platform. It's open source with a patent grant, and the F# team has made sure each release has both a .NET and a Mono installer.

    • I thought it was a recursive question.

  • Nice, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cerberusss (660701) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:33AM (#34135044) Homepage Journal

    It's really nice they did this, and the license they chose (Apache 2.0) is very free/libre.

    But honestly... is there going to be a big community around this? I don't think so. You can say a lot about the Windows ecosystem, but "lively open source developer community" isn't one of them. So the source code is probably going to be of use for debugging purposes, or research purposes, but other than that, I can't see lots of people chipping in on the F# libs or something like that.

    • Re:Nice, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jgagnon (1663075) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:40AM (#34135124)

      Maybe port it to JVM or LLVM?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cbhacking (979169)

        It already is officially supported on Mono; I don't know why you'd feel it needs to be ported. Might be worth doing for fun, but you can already run F# on pretty much all mainstream OSes, not just Windows.

        • by jgagnon (1663075)

          I never said it needed to be ported. I just think that JVM and LLVM are two great choices to port it to, especially since Mono isn't as well received as some would hope.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cindyann (1916572)

      Almost seems like their thought process is:

          "We aren't going to get more resources in-house to continue developing it. Maybe if we throw it over the wall we'll get something (for free) from the Community."

      • That F# would go open source was announced more than 2 years ago, even before the 1.0 release (and before it moved from being a research project to a part of a commercial shipping product).

    • Re:Nice, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NevarMore (248971) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:46AM (#34135182) Homepage Journal

      So all those Windows projects on Sourceforge aren't part of a lively community? All of the open source web projects that make sure they work on Windows browsers aren't lively?

    • Re:Nice, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by slapout (93640) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:58AM (#34135322)

      There are actually several .NET tools that are open source like NHibernate and NUnit.

  • Okay, why do this when we already have Ocaml? Are they doing this because we already have Ocaml? This doesn't mean we get Visual Studio, either, so I'm ripe for enlightenment on this issue.

    • by bbtom (581232)

      Well, some C# programmers are starting to use F#. Making it open source is quite useful as F# programmers can now produce code that can run on non-Windows platforms using Mono.

    • by Instant_Karmma (1730260) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:45AM (#34135164)
      Because many of us - like it or not - develop on Windows platforms. F# works better with .NET than Ocaml does.
    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <> on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:14AM (#34135506)
      Because you can do the bits that functional languages are good at in F#, and the bits traditional languages are good at in C#, and call one from the other without having to resort to the traditional inter-language calling methods like COM et al (not sure if I have the right example there, I never did modern application development before C#).

      Literally, with C# and F# you can just define classes in either and call them in the other language directly.

      Thats what sets this apart from Ocaml, and thats why people use it over Ocaml on .Net.
    • by tibit (1762298) on Friday November 05, 2010 @09:31AM (#34135740)

      Because next to F#, Ocaml frankly said sucks. And I don't mean to be a troll. Almost anything you look at in Ocaml, F# has it better. Libraries, performance, interoperability, ...

      All of the facilities of CLR are available from F# -- that includes vast core .NET libraries, all of 3rd party .NET libraries, interoperability with all of the code that runs on CLR,... To give a transportation analogy: the libraries available in Ocaml are to libraries available in F# like a car's driver is to a seagoing ferry.

      Ocaml was developed by INRIA to support their own R&D program, pretty much. There is, understandably, little incentive for them to have Ocaml do much more besides what they themselves need. It's OK, really, there's only so much you can do with limited funds and the day only being 24h long.

      Never mind that there are serious technical issues with the virtual machine that runs Ocaml bytecode, and with the runtime library that supports native-compiled Ocaml. Those issues are benign enough to allow Ocaml to be deployed in certain scenarios, but for a language platform to be widely used they are pretty much non-starters. F# runs on CLR, a platform that gets as much or more development resources allotted to it yearly than Ocaml saw through the whole of its long existence, including that of Caml-lite.

      • Not quite sure why you've chosen to troll about F# here, but OCaml simply does not have the serious technical issues you say, and does have hundreds of libraries []. It's used a lot by some very large companies, and in important areas like financial trading, aircraft code verification and virtualization.


        • by tibit (1762298)

          I read caml-devel like you do, so the only thing I can make out of your post is that ocaml's issues are not all that important to your use of it at Redhat. And I'm fine with that, but again -- it's a niche use. As for important areas: sure, I agree, after all F# came up from MS's own use of Ocaml!

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      From what others are saying, Ocaml is not very polished. It was made by researchers for researchers, so some of the practical sides of it weren't well developed.

      MS actually used Ocaml first, then decided to create F# because a.) Ocaml was very popular internally and b.) Ocaml didn't meet all of their needs.

      The solution is obviously to create a language similar to Ocaml that meets all of their needs.

      Thus, F# was born, a language written by researchers for programmers.

      It is apparently used very heavily inter

  • Forgive my lack of knowledge as Delphi developer, but what is F# and does it have any advantages over, say, C#?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      It Microsoft's implementation of objective Caml.
      • No, it's a Microsoft's dialect of ML that shares most of the base language with Caml (and is therefore more similar to it than to, say, Standard ML), so much so that you can typically take a Caml program and have it compile, unless it uses some missing libraries.

        However it has a lot of differences to Objective Caml - its object model is entirely different, for example (to easily align with .NET one). It misses some major features of OCaml (e.g. functors), but adds some of its own: indentation-based syntax a

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For starters, it's five semitones higher!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mouldy (1322581)
      I've never used it personally, but IIRC from my functional programming unit at University, F# is MS's language for the functional programming paradigm. Similar to Haskell (which is what we did study). I *think* it also has elements of other programming paradigms too, but don't quote me on that (:
    • Re:What is F#? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:46AM (#34135174)

      Very few .NET languages have strong advantages over the others aside from programmer preference. It's more about which one you like coding in, as all of them have pretty much the same capabilities.

      With that said, it appears that F# is essentially a tweaked OCaml syntax, whereas C# is a tweaked C++ syntax. It's really more about what you prefer coding in.

      I must say though, despite loving my Linux desktop at home, I work in C# a great deal at work, and I love it. I know there's a lot of MS hate on Slashdot, but their development tools are amazing. I'd do a lot more coding in Linux if I had something that was similar to (and of the same quality, which throws out things like Monodevelop) Visual Studio.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by _0rm_ (1638559)
        --- I'd do a lot more coding in Linux if I had something that was similar to (and of the same quality, which throws out things like Monodevelop) Visual Studio. Vim ;)
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by simula (1032230)
        You might want to look into Qt-Creator for your cross-platform C++ development. It just so happens that it is integrated with the Qt libraries and tools quite seamlessly and makes developing applications for linux and windows at the same time a snap.

        Qt Creator []
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by slyrat (1143997)

      Forgive my lack of knowledge as Delphi developer, but what is F# and does it have any advantages over, say, C#?

      Well really the power of F# comes from the functional programming style. So there are much easier, cleaner ways to do some things in F# than C#. They both have the same capabilities, the way you implement and code them is just different. Also, with the ability to have F# and C# code call each other makes it so you can have the benefits of object oriented (C#) along with the benefits of functional (F#) while having clean code in both.

  • /. snottery (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgower2 (1487929) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:41AM (#34135132)
    Unbelievable! They start moving in a direction that they've been criticized for NOT moving in/adopting and what's the response from the /. snots? I guess it takes some honor/courage/maturity to give credit when it's due.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by _0rm_ (1638559)
      It's commendable that they would move in this direction, but history has shown us that Microsoft has a tendency to take a step forward, then another two steps back as far as the Open Source community is concerned. Does seeking royalties for companies to use Linux in their devices ring any bells? []
    • I dunno I can see both sides. On the one hand, it's really good that Microsoft would release anything Open Source. On the other hand people are justifiably suspicious of a company that goes out its way to demonstrate what a fool's chance you're taking by using Open Source... then releases Open Source software. Of course there's always the people who won't be happy with Microsoft no matter what they do simply because they're Microsoft, and the people who are incapable of seeing any gray between the black

    • by fwr (69372)
      Oh come on. Not speaking for anyone else or any particular comment, I'd guess 90% of the snotty responses are in jest. One thing we do know, is that snotty responses get the attention of MS, and upset them. So, even if MS does something worthy of praise, the amount of praise would likely never exceed 10-30% of total comments, just because we like poking MS.

      There is also the "once bitten twice shy" syndrome. MS has such a horrible past that even when they do something worth of praise it is very diffic
  • Patents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

    Until Microsoft permanently ceases asserting software patent rights, sharing their source code is of very limited value.

    • Re:Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mattdm (1931) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:52AM (#34135252) Homepage

      Until Microsoft permanently ceases asserting software patent rights, sharing their source code is of very limited value.

      And therefore, it's interesting that the chose to use a license that explicitly offers a Grant of Patent License.

    • But I thought most of the value of open source was that you could inspect the guts of something yourself and fix it if it was broken?

      Seriously, I feel like open source advocates should be happy whenever a force in the closed-source world takes a step, no matter how small, in their direction -- instead what actually happens is it's never open source enough.

    • Ballmer has been a bit of a patent bully in his speeches, but I believe the TomTom case was the first in history when Microsoft went after someone for patents. They have a massive portfolio and could be a nasty patent bully, but they haven't really acted the part so far.

  • F#CK Yeah (Score:5, Funny)

    by fonky (74817) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:49AM (#34135216)

    so they released the F# Compiler Kit?

  • ...but there is no need for criticism of back-handed compliments here. Regardless of their history, this is a good move.

    Kudos on another open source release.

  • by crf00 (1048098) on Friday November 05, 2010 @10:12AM (#34136312) Homepage
    Does this mean that we can use the source code to port F# to other platform such as GCC and LLVM?
    • by anss123 (985305)

      Does this mean that we can use the source code to port F# to other platform such as GCC and LLVM?

      If the Apache 2.0 license is GPL compatible, yes, if not you can still use the sources for learning how to write a F# compiler.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.