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This Week in Programming: Linux Kernel Keepers Mull In-Tree Support for Rust

This Week in Programming gathers the week's top programming news for the cloud native computing community.
Jul 18th, 2020 6:00am by
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While this is not the first time the topic of Rust in the Linux kernel has surfaced, the internet this week is awash in twitterings and rumblings that the time has finally come. It all started with a thread on the Linux Kernel mailing list where software developer Nick Desaulniers, who works on compiling the Linux Kernel with Clang (and LLVM) proposed the idea of running a session on support for Rust “in tree” at an upcoming Linux Plumbers Conference. While the idea has been floated before, what has everyone, according to an article at Hackaday, asking if 2020 will be the year of Rust in the Linux kernel is the fact that Linux creator Linus Torvalds responded seemingly in favor of the idea.

“The interesting part is [Linus Torvalds]’s response on the LKML thread, which leaves everyone hoping for a hearty signature Rust rant akin to his C++ one disappointed,” they write. “Instead, his main concern is that a soft and optional introduction of the support in the build system would leave possible bugs hidden, and therefore should be automatically enabled if a Rust compiler is present — essentially implying that he seems otherwise on board.”

An article over at The Register takes a deeper dive into the topic, noting that Microsoft recently cited Rust as the “the best alternative to C and C++ currently available” — a topic we’ve surely touched on before — with memory safety being the primary benefit of Rust over the others.

For further support of the topic, another blog post crossed the feeds this week, this one exclaiming that Rust is surprisingly good as a server language. While it is not, in any way, directly addressing the topic of Rust and Linux, the author’s conclusion adds a little thought to the overall idea of Rust as a systems language:

Would I recommend someone write their next server in Rust? No. The ecosystem is not quite there yet, and most servers are still going to be I/O bound, so the speed gains probably aren’t going to matter that much,” they write. “BUT, once the ecosystem matures, honestly I think Rust is a great language to write servers in. You get the speed, and the safety, and honestly you don’t pay the same price you normally do fighting (or at least thinking of) the borrow checker.

This Week in Programming

  • If The Idea Of Helping Design Rust Appeals To You…Then you might want to head on over to the Rust blog again this week to read all about the path to membership of the language’s lang team, the team behind designing and implementing new language features. The post offers a list of expectations for a potential team member — such as leading project groups or participating in RFC discussions — and highlights a “path to membership” with steps such as being involved in individual project groups and resolving technical disputes “in a productive way.” While this is one focus of the blog post, the Rust team writes that it is all in an effort to address a different issue. “In short, the idea is that we are trying to ‘intercept’ the RFC process earlier by introducing a “pre-step” called a Major Change Proposal (MCP),” they write. “The idea is that if you have an idea you’d like to pursue, you can file an MCP issue and describe the high-level details. If the idea catches the eye of somebody within the team, we will create a project group to pursue the idea, with that member serving as the lang team liaison and you (or others) serving as the group lead.” Essentially, the effort here is to recruit more people to staff this process and make language development smoother — and they want your help.
  • Android & Kotlin for the Noobs: It’s been a while now since Kotlin left behind its underdog status and became the officially backed language for Android development, and now Google has launched some courses for prospective developers to learn Android and Kotlin with no programming experience. Following their 2016 release of their Android Basics curriculum, Google is now launching Android Basics in Kotlin, “a new online course for people without programming experience to learn how to build Android apps.” The course offers step-by-step instructions on how to use Android Studio to build apps, as well as how to run them on an Android device (or virtual device), along with hands-on practice to learn the fundamentals. The course is completely free, and the first unit is immediately available with more to follow.

  • Visual Studio Code’s New JavaScript Debugger: ADTMag has noted that VS Code is getting a new JavaScript debugger, which “debugs Node.js and web applications (in Edge and Chrome), and will eventually become the built-in debugger for VS Code,” according to the project description. Microsoft announced the new debugger last month, which allows users to debug Node.js processes in the terminal, debug npm scripts, allows for instrumentation breakpoints and top-level await, and will include support for Microsoft Edge and WEbView2, plus a whole bunch more, including accessibility improvements, Windows ARM builds, and more.
  • PHP Support on Windows Officially Ends: InfoWorld brings us the story of the end of the line for PHP on Windows, citing a message that says Microsoft will not be producing an official build of PHP 8 for Windows. According to the story, Microsoft has been delivering Windows releases as binaries and source code on for IIS and other Windows Web servers, but that will be coming to an end. Nonetheless, they write, “PHP for Windows will not disappear. It’s very clear that there’s more than enough demand for someone to continue building and distributing a Windows version of PHP beyond PHP 7.” Rather, it’s just that “Microsoft won’t directly contribute resources and servers for the builds, but more than likely, it will donate licenses and servers to the PHP project.”

  • Archiving In the Arctic: Less on the practical end of things and more on the “huh, that’s cool” spectrum, GitHub offers us a view into the journey of the world’s open source code to the Arctic. The mission of the GitHub Archive Program along with the GitHub Arctic Code Vault, they write, is “to preserve open source software for future generations by storing your code in an archive built to last a thousand years” and this week sees the arrival of 21 terabytes of open source code repositories written on 186 reels of piqlFilm (digital photosensitive archival film) to the arctic. Oh, and if you happened to get code included in the archive, you’ll get a nifty new badge on GitHub!


Feature image by Vince Veras on Unsplash.

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