Status of Oberon readiness for application programming - oberon

I am getting interested in the Oberon language and I would like to know: is the language actually used by common programmers or is it still only used by researchers? Is it production-ready? What I have in mind are non-scientific applications requiring GUI support and possibly Internet connectivity (at least client-side POP3 and SMTP functionality).
Also, which of the Oberon flavors would you recommend for my needs (Oberon2, Active Oberon, etc)? The simpler, the better, as long as it is well maintained and has some community.
If possible, I would like to run my applications in a conventional host environment (Windows or Linux), without the need for a special runtime environment or a special operating system.

BlackBox has some of what you want, runs on flavors of Windows.
There are also some environments that compile to Java bytecode and target the JVM.
Look at POW, and Gardens Point Component Pascal.
I happen to be using some command-line only tools that are Oberon Compilers.
OO2C is an Oberon to C compiler (but the output is not for human consumption).
Ofront is an Oberon to Human-Readable C, but I haven't yet set up a linux box to run it on. (otherwise, it is supposed to run inside of BlackBox on Windows).
There is also Oxford Oberon Compiler by Professor Spivey. A VERY enjoyable Compiler that compiles to a Virtual Machine, but the whole object code is a self-contained application (albeit command -line).
It is a VERY small download, meant for an educational environment, keeps everything CLEAN, and works well for prototyping some of the grunt work or procedures/modules of your code. It also is supposed to allow bitmap drawing in XWindows in Black and White only, probably for drawing graphs, etc, but I have not had an opportunity to use that feature yet.
It has a GUI-based debugger, profiling, and some other interesting tools, and still is very small by comparison to most modern compilers like gcc. It is also totally stand alone.
Works on Mac, Win, Linux, and has source.
By comparison, OO2C took me about a day of futzing and compiling to get it going (but it is working).
I don't have a Windows box right now, so I can't run my copy of BlackBox, but it had a full GUI, and lots of Source code available at the Component Pascal Collection website.
If you are looking for source code you should also check out that site in hopes you don't have to reinvent the wheel.
Really a joy to step into Oberon after having to fight C/C++ all day long to get simple stuff done.

OBNC is a new compiler for the latest version (2016) of the original Oberon language by Niklaus Wirth. It compiles via C and makes it easy to interface to existing C libraries.

Given that Oberon [language] was developed as a complete [operating-]system, and that ETH's CS department ran ALL its computers (even the secretary's) on it I should think it is application-ready. This according to the following PDF:

is the language actually used by common programmers or is it still only used by researchers?
There was/is little use of the original Oberon language outside academia; there was some industrial adaptation of Oberon dialects like e.g. Component Pascal.
Is it production-ready?
Depends on your requirements. Given todays expectations of software developers the (original) language and available toolchains seem very minimalistic.
non-scientific applications requiring GUI support and possibly Internet connectivity ... in a conventional host environment... which of the Oberon flavors would you recommend for my needs?
GUI support and network programming in a conventional host environment is e.g. supported by as already mentioned, which uses a language related to Oberon.
You could also have a look at which includes a platform independend IDE with semantic navigation and a source-level debugger, plus a platform independent foreign function interface as a language extension which allows you to directly use any C shared library, and thus reuse the plethora of existing proven GUI or network libraries out there without having to program in C. It also offers a modern, lean syntax variant without all the semicolons and capitalized keywords, which should appeal especially to younger developers; but of course also the traditional syntax is supported, even mixed modern/traditional syntax projects.


Multiplatform c project

I have to design a C project that is supposed to be run on Linux. I am very used to design C projects on Windows using Visual Studio or DevC++. Is it feasible to design the project on Windows and then port the code to Linux. Is it possible to use Eclipse CDT for switching compile configurations from Windows to Linux. What should i do? What do you suggest me to do or search?
This is a broad question since we have no info on what you're trying to achieve.
Some guidelines I can share with the limited information provided: in my experience it is feasible to write code on Windows and then port it to Linux although you should expect some differences in the Microsoft compiler and gcc compilers used in Linux/Unix (usually the more a compiler is conformant to the standard, the more it "warns" or won't accept something fishy in your code).
If you're dealing with a large number of dependencies / headers / source structures your project could greatly benefit from using a tool like CMake to deal with all those issues (a meta-generator that can generate makefiles and/or visual studio solutions depending on your platform from the same set of sources).
Also notice that you should NOT use any platform-dependent API in order to render your code portable. If you really need to, make sure to #ifdef those code sections for the specific platform you're compiling your code on.
Finally, if you plan to use a GUI in your application (or even if you're not planning one you might still benefit from the various libraries included), you might use a portable framework like Qt but keep in mind that this would require isolating the C part of your application from the C++ one (Qt). As another choice of your preference, you might also use GTK+.

High-level system language that compiles to c?

I'm looking for a higher-level system language, if possible, suitable for formal verification, that compiles to standard C, so that it can be run cross-platform with (relatively) low overhead.
The two most promising such languages I've stumbled during the past few days are:
BitC - While the design goals of this language match my needs (it even supports the functional paradigm), it is in very unstable state, the documentation is out of date, and, generally, it seems like a very long shot for a real-world project.
Lisaac - It supports Design-by-contract, which is very cool and has a relatively low performance overhead. However the website is dead, there hasn't been a new release since '08 and generally it seems the language is dead.
I'd also like to note that it's not meant for a real-time system, so a GC or, generally, non-determinism (in the real-time sense), is not an issue.
The project involves mainly audio processing, though it has to be cross-platform.
I assume someone would point me to the obvious answer - "plain ol' C". While it is truly cross-platform and very effective, the code quantity would probably be greater.
EDIT: I should clarify that I mean cross-platform AND cross-architecture. That is why I consider only languages, compiled to C in the first place, but if you can point me to another example, I'd be grateful :)
I think you may become interested in ATS. It compiles to C (actually it expresses and explains many C idioms and patterns from a formal type-theoretic perspective, it has even been proposed to prepare a book of sorts to show this -- if only we had more time...).
The project involves mainly audio processing, though it has to be cross-platform.
I don't know much about audio processing, I've been mainly doing some computer graphics stuff (mostly the basic things, just to try it out).
Also, I am not sure if ATS works on Windows (never tried that).
(Disclaimer: I've been working with ATS for some time. It is bulky and large language, and sometimes hard to use, but I very much liked the quality of programs I've been able to produce with it, for instance, see TEST subdirectory in GLES2 bindings for some realistic programs)
The following doesn't strictly adhere to the requirements but I'd like to mention it anyway and it is too long for a comment:
Pypy's RPython can be translated to C. Here's a nice talk about it. It's been used to implement Smalltalk, JavaScript, Io, Scheme, Gameboy (with various degree of completeness), but you can write standalone programs in it. It is known mainly for its implementation of Python language that runs on Intel x86 (IA-32) and x86_64 platforms.
The translation process requires a capable C compiler. The toolchain provides means to infer various things about the code (used by the translation process itself) that you might repurpose for formal verification.
If you know both Python and C you could use cython that translates Python-like syntax to C. It is used to write CPython extensions.

Porting Autodesk Animator Pro to be cross platform

a previous relevant question from me is here Reverse Engineering old paint programs
I have set up my base of operations here:
wiki coming soon.
Okay, so now I have a 300,000 line legacy MSDOS codebase. It's sort of a "be careful what you wish for" situation. I am not an experienced C programmer. I'm not entirely inexperienced either, but for all intents and purposes I'm a noob to the language and in particular the intricacies of its libraries. I am especially ignorant of the vagaries of the differences between C programs written specifically for MSDOS and programs that are cross platform. However I have been studying this code base for over a year now, and this is what I know about Animator Pro:
Compilers and tools used:
Watcom C compiler
tcmake (make program from Turbo C)
386asm, a specialised assembler for the Phar Lap dos extender
and of course, the Phar Lap dos extender itself.
a selection of obscure dos utilities
Much of the compilation seems to be driven by batch files. Though I have obtained copies of all these tools, I have not yet succeeded at compiling it. (though I have compiled its older brother, autodesk animator original.
It's got a plugin system that replicates DLL before DLL's were available, based on REX. The plugin system handles:
Video Drivers (with a plethora of included VESA drivers)
Input drivers (including wacom tablets, and keyboards)
Drawing Tools
Inks (Like photoshop's filters, or blending modes)
Scripting Addons (essentially compiled scripts)
File formats
It's got its own script interpreter named POCO, based on the C language- The scripting language has enough power to do virtually all the things the plugin system can do- Just slower.
Given this information, this is my development plan. Please criticise this. The source code is available in the link above, so you can easily, if you are so inclined, assess the situation yourself.
Compile with its original tools.
Switch to using DJGPP, and make the necessary changes to get it to compile with that, plus the original assembler.
Include the "Game" library, and switch over as much functionality to that library as possible- Perhaps by simply writing new video and input drivers that use the Allegro API. I'm thinking allegro rather than SDL because: there is a DOS version of Allegro, and fascinatingly, one of its core functions is the ability to play Animator Pro's native format FLIC.
Hopefully after 3, I will have eliminated most or all of the Assembler in the project. I say hopefully, because it's in an obscure dialect that doesn't assemble in any modern free assembler without significant modification. I have tried them all. Whatever is left gets converted to assemble in NASM, or to C code if I can define the assembler's actual function.
Switch the dos extender from Phar Lap to HX Dos, Which promises to replicate as much of the WIN32 api as possible. Then make all the necessary code changes for that to work.
Switch to the win32 version of, assuming that the win32 version can run on top of HXDos. Make any further necessary changes
Modify the plugin system to use some kind of standard cross platform plugin library. What this would be, I have no idea. Maybe you can offer some suggestions? I talked to the developer who originally wrote the plugin system, and he said some of the things it does aren't possible on modern OS's because of segmentation restrictions. I'm not sure what this means, but I'm guessing it means all the plugins will need to be rewritten almost from scratch.
Magically, I got all the above done, and we can try and make it run in windows, osx, and linux, whilst dealing with other cross platform niggles like long file names, and things I haven't thought of.
Anyone got a problem with any of this? Is allegro a good choice? if not, why? what would you do about this plugin system? What would you do different? Is this whole thing foolish, and should I just rewrite it from scratch, using the original as inpiration? (it would apparently take the original developer "About a month" to do that)
One thing I haven't covered above is the text/font system. Not sure what to do about that, but Animator Pro has its own custom font format, but also is able to use Postscript Type 1 fonts, and some other formats.
My biggest concern with your plan, in a nutshell: Your approach seems to be to attempt to keep the whole enormous thing working at all times, tweaking the environment ever-further away from DOS. During each tweak to the environment, that means you will have approximately a billion subtle assumptions that might have broken at once, none of which you necessarily understand yet. Untangling them all at once will be incredibly painful.
If I were doing the port, my approach would be to disable as much code as possible to get SOMETHING running in a modern environment, and bring the parts back online, one piece at a time. Write a simple test harness program that loads a display driver and draws some stuff, and compile it for DOS to make sure you understand the interface. Then write some C code that implements the same interface, but with Allegro (or SDL or SFML), and make that program work under Windows or Linux. When the output differs, you have a simple test case to work from.
Your entire job on this port is swapping out implementations of various interfaces and functions with completely new ones. This is a job that unit testing excels at. Don't write any new code without a test of some kind that runs on the old code under DOS! Make your potential problems as small and simple as you possibly can. Port assembly code instead of rewriting it only if you're reasonably confident that it will actually make your job easier (ie, algorithmic stuff that compiles fine with few tweaks under NASM). Don't bite off a bigger piece than you can comfortably fit in your brain at once.
I, for one, look forward to seeing your progress! I think what you're attempting to do is great. Thanks for doing it.
Hmmm - I might approach it by writing an OpenGL video "driver" for it. and todays machines are fast enough with tons of ram that you could do all the pixel specific algorithms on main CPU into a back buffer and it would work. As the "generic" VGA driver just mapped the video buffer to a pointer this would be a place to start. There was a zoom mode in the UI so you can look at the pixels on a high res display.
It is often very difficult to take an existing non-trivial code base that wasn't written with portability in mind - you mention a few - and then try to make it portable. There will be a lot of problems on the way. It is probably a better idea to start from scratch and rewrite the code using the existing code as reference only. If you start from scratch you can leverage existing portable UI solution in your new project like Qt.

Is C good for any projects beyond the command-line and learning?

This is not meant to be inflammatory or anything like that, but I am in the midst of learning C, and (think) I have a good handle on most of the basics. I've done all of the various book exercises: primes generators, Fibonacci generators, string manipulation, yadda yadda, but none of this is cool.
What is the "bridge" between command line programs and something -cool-? I've heard of various games being written in C, but how?
Forgive my exasperation, but it feels like I've been learning lots but can still only do relatively little. Thanks for any insight on what to do with C.
Relevant information: OS X leopard, PHP and web development experience (which is so great because projects are immediately in a context where you recognize how they can be powerful)
C is the concrete and the steel of modern tech
There was a time when almost everything was written in C, or in something much worse.
These days, many of the advanced languages and systems are actually implemented in C or C++, and then those things implement more systems. It is standing on the shoulders of giants, as the expression goes. Almost every OS kernel, browser, and heavy-duty-web-server is written in C/C++.
So sure, you don't see the steel in the high rise, you see the beautiful interior furnishings and the sleek glass windows. You don't want a steel or concrete desk, and if you did, it would be too expensive to build for you.
Back to your GUI question: your first C graphics program should probably use the original X Window System directly. Don't spend too much time there, but then move on to one of the more advanced Widget toolkits such as GTK+ or (the C++) Qt. Be sure to investigate your OS X system, as it has one of the most advanced of them all.
I try love to write things in Ruby these days, but I happen to know there are over 100,000 200,000 lines of C code implementing that cool Ruby language system. :-)
Ok, this post got really big, so here's a quick summary before you read it: to program GUIs, there are a number of good C/C++ libraries (for example, QT). What most people do, on Windows systems at least, is to use a .NET language (like C#) when they want GUIs, and C/C++ when they want more control/speed. It's also very common to use both in combination, i.e. make a GUI in C# and speed-critical parts in C.
I still encourage you to read the longer answer, it contains a lot more information on your options.
Longer answer
I'll start with the big question, then answer (as best I can) your specific question about creating a GUI. I think you're kind of suffering from the fact that C is used to teach programming, and it's much easier to do so only using command line programs (after all, they're much simpler to write). This doesn't mean that C can't do all of the stuff you want, like GUIs specifically. It does. I don't think there's any type of software that hasn't been done in C, usually before it was done in other languages.
All right, some answers:
Is C Useful?
C, and its very close relative C++, are responsible for a huge portion of the world's code. I don't know if more code is written in C than any other language, but I'm guessing it's not far off.
Most of the really important programs you use are actually written in C/C++. Just for one example, Windows.
Where is C used today?
C/C++ are still used a lot. They're especially useful for developing low-level stuff (i.e. stuff like Operating Systems, which need a lot of speed, a lot of ability to control exactly what your code does, etc.).
But don't think it's all low level for C programmers. Even today, with many other languages available (which are arguably much better, and certainly much easier to program), C is still used to create practically everything. GUI applications, which you specifically asked about, are very often made with C, even though nowadays, lots of people are switching to other languages. Note I say switching: C used to be the standard language for writing, well, everything, really.
How do I develop GUIs with C
Alright, you specifically wanted to know how to create a GUI with C (I'm hoping C++ is ok too).
First of all, it depends on a number of factors:
What Operating System are you writing for? (Windows, Mac, and Linux are the most common).
Do you want the GUI to work on other systems as well?
The most common case is writing software to work on Windows. In that case, the "natural" solution is to write things that work with the Win32 API. That's basically the library that "comes" with Windows, letting you do any GUI work you want to do.
The big problem with this is, it's kinda hard. As in, a lot hard. This is the reason most people don't do that kind of work anymore.
So what are your other options?
The most natural is going with what's called a .NET language. Those are a bunch of languages, together with libraries, that Microsoft created. They're probably the easiest way to get a GUI on Windows. The problem is, you can't really use them from C (since it's not a .NET language).
Assuming you want to stay in C/C++ land, you can use some kind of library which makes working with the Windows API easier (since it hides all the ugly details):
One of the most common is what's called MFC (Microsoft Foundation Classes), which are a bunch of C++ classes which make it "easier" to create Windows stuff. Unfortunately, this library is very old, and is really not that easy to use.
The other way to go if you want to program in C++ is to use some kind of third-party library. This is a library that someone other than Microsoft created, which makes it easier to create a GUI.
Another option is to create only the GUI part of your software in a .NET language, and use C/C++ for the other parts (or use the .NET language to do almost everything, and use C/C++ only when you really need it, for example when you need things to go really fast). This is a very popular option.
The advantage of a third party library is that, if you pick the right one, you can use the same code to create a GUI for all the Operating Systems at the same time.
I think the most famous of these libraries is QT, and also WxWidgets, but there are a bunch of other ones. I would personally pick QT since it seems to get the most fame, but I haven't worked with either.
Every major operating system has all of its low-level libraries implemented in C. Mac OS X is a Unix-like system under the hood, which is a wonderful world if you're a C programmer.
Check out The Art of Unix Programming for some great ideas.
As for GUI stuff, you'll probably want to use X11. There is plenty of good documentation out there -- most Unix programming stuff and most deep system-level stuff just assumes you're working in C, since that's what everybody uses for it.
Well, that depends. If you want to build desktop applications, a multiplatform GUI library whose main language is C is GTK+:
For games, check out SDL:
Which provides you with thinks like direct input from keyboard, 2D graphics, some audio and even threads and stuff like that. It can also open an OpenGL context if you want to get into the 3D world (however it's hard to do it in raw OpenGl). Did I mention that SDL is multiplatform?
However the real strength of C is in systems programming. For desktop applications/games maybe you are best suited with C++. Now that you have command of C, learning the basic C++ should be easy ;).
Cool stuff do with C?
Operating Systems, device drivers, and python modules for starters.
Games typically will use C++ if they're C-Based, in my experience / what I've seen.
There are many libraries for C under Unix, such as X lib, which accesses X11.
If you wanted to get into robotics you may find C to be very useful, as you will have to write low-level code with very small memory footprints, so even C++ may not be the best choice.
C and C++ are very good at writing small, fast code, but OOP is not always the best choice, so at times you will find that C is a better choice, for example if you are writing a compiler or OS.
Sure there are some impressive programs made in C !
GNOME for example, arguably the most used desktop environment used in modern unix systems is written in C (the major parts at least) and is mostly based on GTK+ gui toolkit, itself done in C.
For game, OpenGL is a C api and is the standard for 3D graphic programming in multi-platform development (not uniquely microsoft platform), and Quake 3, which the engine, Id Tech 3, is available in GPL, is also writen in C. There also is many 2D games written using SDL library.
SDL is a good library for graphics and sound, and I've seen some cool stuff done with it. If you do it in C, it'll take longer to make, but from a performance point of view, it'll be much better.
If your idea of cool is GUI apps and you want to write native GUI apps on the Mac, you'll want to look at
Carbon. This is the official C API into the Mac GUI and OS. They keep threatening to kill it, but it survives.
Personally I think GUI apps are a very narrow definition of cool. What I think is cool is implementing parallelized math algorithms using opencl.
GTK-server is REALLY easy to get started with, in C or any other language. Just click that link.
For a "cool" application that goes beyond simple GUI's, check out the OpenCV computer vision library. It provides fast real-time image processing and face recognition.
Now you can access a webcam and start writing real-time computer vision games. For applications like these that are processor intensive, C is the ideal choice.
Last I checked more Open Source projects are started in C than in any other language.
The fact that C is used by so many large and successful projects doesn't particularly make it "good". The reason C is so commonly used is because of a few factors, it's been around a long time, it's fast, it lets you access both low level and high level interfaces as needed, and it's better than the other old languages (FORTRAN etc). The "cool" thing about C is that you can make it do absolutely anything: inject itself into the kernel and add some new features or bug fixes that you couldn't convince Microsoft to do, etc.
Yes, C can be and is easily used for things beyond the command line, but it's extremely dangerous due to pointers... Not to mention development in other more modern languages is faster (and safer) by magnitudes. I never use C unless it's the last resort, ie: need to implement something low level or needs that extra performance.
By the way, when I say C, I really mean C++. I'd never choose C over C++ unless I was forced to.

Writing cross-platform apps in C

What things should be kept most in mind when writing cross-platform applications in C? Targeted platforms: 32-bit Intel based PC, Mac, and Linux. I'm especially looking for the type of versatility that Jungle Disk has in their USB desktop edition ( )
What are tips and "gotchas" for this type of development?
I maintained for a number of years an ANSI C networking library that was ported to close to 30 different OS's and compilers. The library didn't have any GUI components, which made it easier. We ended up abstracting out into dedicated source files any routine that was not consistent across platforms, and used #defines where appropriate in those source files. This kept the code that was adjusted per platform isolated away from the main business logic of the library. We also made extensive use of typedefs and our own dedicated types so that we could easily change them per platform if needed. This made the port to 64-bit platforms fairly easy.
If you are looking to have GUI components, I would suggest looking at GUI toolkits such as WxWindows or Qt (which are both C++ libraries).
Try to avoid platform-dependent #ifdefs, as they tend to grow exponentially when you add new platforms. Instead, try to organize your source files as a tree with platform-independent code at the root, and platform-dependent code on the "leaves". There is a nice book on the subject, Multi-Platform Code Management. Sample code in it may look obsolete, but ideas described in the book are still brilliantly vital.
Further to Kyle's answer, I would strongly recommend against trying to use the Posix subsystem in Windows. It's implemented to an absolute bare minimum level such that Microsoft can claim "Posix support" on a feature sheet tick box. Perhaps somebody out there actually uses it, but I've never encountered it in real life.
One can certainly write cross-platform C code, you just have to be aware of the differences between platforms, and test, test, test. Unit tests and a CI (continuous integration) solution will go a long way toward making sure your program works across all your target platforms.
A good approach is to isolate the system-dependent stuff in one or a few modules at most. Provide a system-independent interface from that module. Then build everything else on top of that module, so it doesn't depend on the system you're compiling for.
XVT have a cross platform GUI C API which is mature 15+ years and sits on top of the native windowing toollkits. See WWW.XVT.COM.
They support at least LINUX, Windows, and MAC.
Try to write as much as you can with POSIX. Mac and Linux support POSIX natively and Windows has a system that can run it (as far as I know - I've never actually used it). If your app is graphical, both Mac and Linux support X11 libraries (Linux natively, Mac through and there are numerous ways of getting X11 apps to run on Windows.
However, if you're looking for true multi-platform deployment, you should probably switch to a language like Java or Python that's capable of running the same program on multiple systems with little or no change.
Edit: I just downloaded the application and looked at the files. It does appear to have binaries for all 3 platforms in one directory. If your concern is in how to write apps that can be moved from machine to machine without losing settings, you should probably write all your configuration to a file in the same directory as the executable and not touch the Windows registry or create any dot directories in the home folder of the user that's running the program on Linux or Mac. And as far as creating a cross-distribution Linux binary, 32-bit POSIX/X11 would probably be the safest bet. I'm not sure what JungleDisk uses as I'm currently on a Mac.
There do exist quite few portable libraries just examples I've worked within the past
1) glib and gtk+
2) libcurl
3) libapr
Those cover nearly every platform and so they are extremly useful tool.
Posix is fine on Unices but well I doubt it's that great on windows, besides we do not have any stuff for portable GUIs there.
I also second the recommendation to separate code for different platforms into different modules/trees instead of ifdefs.
Also I recommend to check beforehand what are the differences in you platforms and how you could abstract them. E.g. this is some OS related stuff (e.g. the annoying CR,CRLF,LF in text files), or hardware stuff. E.g. the previous mentioned posix compability doesnt stop you from
int c;
fread(&c, sizeof(int), 1, file);
But on different hardware platforms the internal memory layout can be complete different (endianess), forcing you to use conversion functions on some of the target platforms.
You can use NAppGUI for both console and desktop apps. The SDK uses ANSI-C and your code will work on Windows/macOS/Linux.
It's free and OpenSource.