Tag Archives: Object oriented

Recover a broken image with Oz

While hacking the VM the other day, I went into a very special situation: I got an image that crashed on startup. And I had stuff without commit!! So I started the crusade to recover it.

I know that some time ago, people like Sean De Nigris had the same problem and ended up hacking the VM to solve their problem. You can have an idea of what exactly happened by reading the original mailing list post.

But doing that required debugging the vm at the bytecode level (that is, debugging each bytecode internally) until I reach my point and solve my problem.

The concrete situation

The last thing I executed in my broken image was the following two statements in one doit:

Smalltalk snapshot: true andQuit: true.
someObject doSomethingThatCrashesTheVM.

So when my image was started, it executed all the startup code, returned to the context of the code above, and tried to send the doSomethingThatCrashesTheVM message to someObject, causing a crash.

I knew that Oz could do it, so I went into it.

The recovery environment

I needed to put my image in a place where I could fix it. And that place is an object space, which I am implementing in Oz. The idea is to put the broken image inside another image with an object space, so we can manipulate it freely, fix it, and restart it. With the Oz library and VM, creating the object space is as easy as:

objectSpace := Pharo20 loadFrom: 'broken.image'.

The diagnostic

Once we have the objectSpace object, we need to understand how to solve our problem. So I wondered around by getting the scheduler of the loaded image, and looking at the active process.

ps := (objectSpace specialObjectsArray at: 4) value asSchedulerMirror.
activeProcess := ps activeProcess.

And once we have the active process, we can have a look at its context and the method that is being executed. We can follow the sender chain until we reach the context with the problem:

cm := objectSpace
          fromRemoteCompiledMethod: activeProcess context sender method.
cm decompile ==> ' DoIt
	Smalltalk snapshot: true andQuit: true.
	^ someObject doSomethingThatCrashesTheVM.

Now that we are there, we have to fix it.

The medicine

There are many ways to manipulate the contexts and and processes to solve that. But there is also one that is really easy and simple.

We only need to change the someObject reference to nil. That way, we avoid the crash in the startup and obtain a debugger instead with a:

“Undefined Object does not understand doSomethingThatCrashesTheVM”

Nice! So, in order to do that, I needed to understand a bit how the code was compiled. I did it by sending a couple of messages to the compiled method, to understand its structure. Finally, I got the following conclusion: someObject was the first literal in the compiled method. And I fixed it:

association := cm literalAt: 4.
association instVarAt: 2 put: objectSpace nilObject.

I restarted the image in the object space (with the so far ad-hoc method):

[[ objectSpace giveChanceToRun. true ] whileTrue: [ ]] forkAt: 80.

So you make a loop and in each iteration you give the object space a window of time to run. And after that the broken image will appear before you (if you fixed it reasonably well) :).
Then, I saved it with another name, restored manually the changes file (because my object spaces solution does not handle yet :)) and voilá. I had my image back again, with all my objects there. I and could commit :).

Keymappings 101 – for Pharo 2.0


Pharo 2.0 release includes the Keymappings library. Keymappings is a library for configuring shortcuts for the current UI library (Morphic). It models concepts like: shortcuts, key combinations, event bubbling. It is a very simple library which I’ll introduce gradually in this post.

Key combinations

Keymappings main task is it’s ability to associate a key combination to an action. So we have to build up those key combinations. The simplest key combination is the one that gets activated when a single key is pressed. We call these combinations single key combinations:

$a asKeyCombination. -> "single key combination for A key."
Character cr asKeyCombination. -> "single key combination for  key."

Although, usually key combinations get a bit more complex. It is very common to combine single keys with meta keys or modifiers. These meta keys or modifiers are the well known ctrl, shift, alt and command keys. To build a modified key combination we can do as follows:

$a ctrl. -> "a modified key combination for Ctrl+A"
$a ctrl shift. -> "a modified key combination for Ctrl+Shift+A"
It is important to notice that all key combinations are not case sensitive. It takes a and A characters as the same, since they are the same key.

Have you ever used emacs, Eclipse or Visual Studio? Then you probably know sequences of key combinations that launch one only action. Like Alt+Shift+X, T (to run JUnit tests in eclipse)? So keymappings can do that too:

$a command shift, $b shift. -> "key sequence (Cmd+Shift+A, Shift+B)"

Sometimes, you want to configure an action to be activated in two different cases. Those are Keymapping options, and get activated when one of the options gets activated:

$a command | $b command. -> "key combination (Cmd+A or Cmd+B)"

Finally, since Pharo is a cross platform system and it is important to provide a good user experience by with the most suitable shortcut layout, keymapping implements platform specific shortcuts, which get activated only when running in the specific platform:

$a command win | $b command unix. -> "Cmd+A on windows, but Cmd+B on unix"

Shortcut configurations

Now you know how to build key combinations for your purposes, you probably want to go to the action. Map those combinations to actions and make them work!

Single shortcut configuration

The simplest way to attach a shortcut to a morph is by sending him the #on:do: message. The first argument expected is a key combination and the second one is an action. In the example below, a workspace is created with two shortcuts:

  • when Cmd+Shift+A is pressed, the workspace is deleted
  • when Cmd+Shift+D is pressed, an information growl should appear yelling ‘this shortcut works!’
w:= Workspace new.
morph := w openLabel: 'keymapping test'.
morph on: $a shift command do: [ morph delete ].
morph on: $d shift command do: [ UIManager default inform: 'this shortcut works!' ].

Easy, huh? So let’s move on…

Shortcut categories

Sometimes you want to group and organize shortcuts in a meaningful way and apply them all together on a morph. Sometimes you want some morphs from different hierarchies to share the same group of shortcuts easily. Those groups of shortcuts are what keymapping calls Categories. A category is a group of shortcuts, so far (will change in the future) defined statically by using a keymap pragma on class side:

"defining a category"
SystemWindow class>>buildShortcutsOn: aBuilder

A class side method marked as <keymap> will be called with a builder object, which can be used to define a named set of shortcuts:

SystemWindow class>>buildShortcutsOn: aBuilder
    (aBuilder shortcut: #close)
        category: #WindowShortcuts
        default: $w ctrl | $w command mac
        do: [ :target | target delete ]
        description: 'Close this window'.

Shortcuts defined through the builder specify the name of the category they belong to, a default key combination, an action, and a description. All this metadata is there to be used as settings in the future.

Finally in order to get your morph handle those shortcuts you can use the #attachKeymapCategory: message as in:

w:= Workspace new.
morph := w openLabel: 'keymapping test'.
morph attachKeymapCategory: #Growling.


Keymappings’ shortcuts bubble to their parent if not handled, up until the main world morph. That has two main consequences:

  • Shortcuts for your application can be designed in a hierarchical way and;
  • Every time a shortcut does not work for you, it means that a morph below you has handled it ;) (be careful with text editors that handle loooots of key combinations)

Future work

So far, so good, but there is some plan on Keymappings for Pharo 3.0 development, which I can anticipate:

  • Some API changes: #on:do: can be confused with exception or announcement handling. #asShortcut will probably be properly renamed as #asKeyCombination. There is an inconsistency between the #command and #ctrl messages…
  • A lot of renames and new comments :)
  • Spread it all over the system
  • Make keymap categories first class objects, not any more a symbol ;)

à la prochain!

Pharo 2.0 Released

Pharo Project

Aaaand, a new version of the Pharo project cames out. It ressembles the version 2.0 of this dynamically typed object-oriented programming language and environment. This release includes many cool stuff improving a lot the infrastructure of the system, adding new core libraries and lots of cleansing and improvements. Let’s make some remarks on this release.

Cool Development Tools, all by default

Pharo’s default browser is now Nautilus by Benjamin Van Ryseghem. Nautilus has lots of cool features, like an alternative Group view, a plugin architecture, and integration with Monticello, refactorings and the Critics browser. Yes! Now by default Pharo includes refactorings, since they are one of the cornerstones of the development activities. Critics browser is also included, so the code quality can only improve :).

Auto completion has also seen lots of changes: default completion is <enter>, press <tab> to complete word per word á la command line, and it has also been revisited to provide better and more meaningful results.

Finally, if you press <shift+enter> you’ll see on the right upper corner the Spotlight by Esteban Lorenzano. A simple but powerful way tool to quickly browse a class or method.

Boosted by NativeBoost and Fuel

Pharo wants to be fast. And that’s something NativeBoost and Fuel achieve. That’s why you can find them included by default in the system. NativeBoost (by Igor Stasenko) gives us the ability to execute machine code from the language side, and a new generation FFI with callbacks. Use it with caution :). Fuel, written by Mariano Martinez Peck and Martin Dias, is a cool object serializer focusing on fast deserialization (materialization), and the ability to serialize any kind of objects: Block closures? yes. Contexts? yes. Complete debuggers so we can restore them and debug failures in other environments? YES.

UI Front – Spec and Keymappings

Pharo 2.0 includes two new cool libraries on the UI front: Spec and Keymappings.

Spec is a framework, mainly work of Benjamin Van Ryseghem under the tutelage of Stéphane Ducasse, to build UI components declaratively. It puts its main focus on component reuse and ability to be composed. Spec was included into Pharo 2.0 and some tools were reimplemented to use it. How do you give it a try?

On the other side, Keymappings is a shortcut library mostly re-written by me (Guille Polito) to adapt it to Pharo. It’s main objective is to provide common shortcut semantics for desktop UIs, and remove hardcoded semantics spread all over the system. Pharo 2.0 includes Keymappings and has already replaced some users of the old-fashioned(harwiredandmessy cof cof) shortcut declaration by nice keymapping ones. On the documentation side, I owe it to you :). I promise to a nice tutorial-post this week!

System changes – System Announcements, RPackage, FileSystem, branded VM

On the internals of the system, the notification of system events was replaced by System Announcements, RPackage was introduced so the old and ugly packaging system can be slowly migrated, and the old FileDirectory was tackled down and all its usages were replaced by the new cool FileSystem library (already there in 1.4).

Also, the Pharo VM is now branded, and includes many fixes and bundled libraries (nativeBoost and SSL plugins, cairo, freetype). You should run your Pharo images on a Pharo VM, which you will identify by a nice Pharo icon ;).

And of course there are lots of other clean and cool new stuff to see like SSL, command line tools, non UI blocking notifications… A more detailed list is here. So take Pharo, have a look, enjoy, and give feedback. Remember that any contribution is valuable, as small as it looks.

Download Pharo
Pharo website
Joining and helping
Pharo By Example book (available as a free PDF)
Reporting problems
Pharo vision document

Chaus, Guille