MonoDevelop & Teaching F# & QCon tutorial
Point of sale application from QCon tutorial
It appears that I have been doing a lot more talking than writing in the last two months. I'm hoping to change this direction and I have two articles almost ready, so stay tuned! I was also posting all my interesting F# snippets to fssnip.net, which has grown quite a bit since I announced it in the last blog post. Thanks to everybody who submitted their snippets already and I'm looking forward to more! By the way, you can now run snippets using tryfs.net by clicking at "Load in TryF#" button.
In the meantime, the queue with talk materials that I wanted to post on my blog has grown to 3. I talked about F# in MonoDevelop in the Mono room at FOSDEM in February, then I did an online talk for the Community for F# . Finally, this week, I did a tutorial on F# with Phil Trelford at QCon in London (to fill in for Michael Stal due to unexpected health reasons).
Before I move on to writing about my recent experiments with LINQ, you can find materials from all of the recent talks below...
F# in Education & Concurrency with Agents
November was quite a busy month for me. First, I traveled to Cambridge (the "new one" in Massachusetts :-)) to present my work on the F# plugin for MonoDevelop at the F# in Education workshop. Shortly after getting back to London, I started working on a presentation about Concurrent Programming with Agents at the F#unctional Londoners meeting.
Now that both of the events are over, I'd like to write a short summary and also finally publish my slides and demos. In addition, both of the events were recorded (thanks to External Research group at MSR and SkillsMatter), so if you missed them, you can watch the recording...
Both of the events were really great and I had a chance to meet quite a few interesting people. One of the things that make F# great is the community around it. I think that one unique aspect of the F# community is its diversity. The same language is appealing to high school teachers, academics and researchers as well as software developers and technical directors from the industry. This combination is really valuable for both sides. It helps to transfer ideas from research to practice it gives researchers clear picture of problems in the industry that deserve their attention.
F# in MonoDevelop and cross-platform web sites & screencasts
About a week ago, I attended the F# in Education workshop in Boston. It was a great event with many interesting people around. I believe that the workshop was very exciting for everyone who is interested in F#, but uses Mac or Linux. The F# team recently made some effort to improve the F# support on Mono (meaning mainly Mac and Linux). The recent November 2010 CTP update contains several bugfixes that make it possible to use F# on Mono 2.8. Another great thing that happened at the workshop is the open source release of F# (see also blog post by Miguel with a post-check-in photo). At the workshop, I also announced my contribution to the cross-platform F# story, a project that I've been working on recently - the F# language binding for MonoDevelop.
I promised to make it available as soon as possible after the workshop. As usually, things take longer, than one would like, but I'm finally ready to announce the initial (beta) version of the plugin. The screenshot on the right shows some of the features of the F# language binding. As you can see, there is an F# Interactive tool window, syntax highlighting as well as IntelliSense auto-completion.
If you're interested in trying it out, here are links to the repository (you can use it to install the language binding from the MonoDevelop Add-ins manager) and source code. The F# plugin needs to be able to locate F# installation and it also requires more F# assemblies to be installed in the GAC, so you may as well want to read the instructions before trying it :-).
- Project homepage at the Functional Variations web site has more information about the project as well as detailed installation instructions.
- I also created a web page that contains information about installing F# on Mac and Linux which explains how to install F#, such that the MonoDevelop plugin can find it.
- The source code is available in the F# cross-platform packages and samples project at CodePlex
(under the Apache 2.0 license). You can find it in the
- Online repositiory with a MonoDevelop package is available at: http://functional-variations.net/addin.
(If you're a hacker, the easiest way to get it working is to add
FSharp.Compiler*to GAC and set
FSHARP_COMPILER_BINenvironment variable to F# installation location)
If you want to see some interesting uses of the F# MonoDevelop plugin, you can also watch
talk at the F# in Education event. In one demo, I used F# on Mac to play with a simple, composable
functional 3D library. In another example I demonstrated how to asynchronously process stock
prices on Linux. The last demo, showing my
match! extension didn't work all that well, because
I had too many virtual machines running, but I'll blog about
match! again sooner or later!
In addition to the F# plugin for MonoDevelop itself, I'd also like to mention two web sites that I've been working on and some interesting cross-platform F# screencasts...
F# Webcast (IV.) - Developing standard .NET libraries
In the previous parts of this webcast series we've developed an F# script that downloads RSS feeds
asynchronously and in parallel and searches them for the specified keywords. We followed the usual F#
development style, so after introducing the basic functional
concepts, we wrote the code in the simples possible style
and demonstrated how to use
System.Net namespaces. Then we
refactored the existing code, to run asynchronously and process
the results potentially in parallel, which was very easy thanks to F# asynchronous workflows.
In this part of the series, we'll make the next evolutionary step of our sample application. We'll turn the code that originally used F# tuples and lists into code that uses standard .NET objects and we'll also see how to declare a class in F#. This simple modification will turn the script into an F# library that is almost indistinguishable from a library developed in C#. We'll also look how you can use the library from C# web application to show the interop between C# and F# in practice. We'll start with the code from the previous part, so if you missed that, you may want to check it out or download the source code.
F# Webcast (III.) - Using Asynchronous Workflows
In this webcast, we'll look at improving the code for downloading and
processing RSS feeds that I presented in the second part
(if you didn't see earlier parts, the first one was an introduction to
basic functional ideas). The previous part demonstrated how to use .NET libraries
and we implemented a simple
downloadUrl function for obtaining content
of from the web and we've also seen how to load the data into an XML document object
and how to filter items. In this part, we'll modify the code to run asynchronously and
potentially in parallel. To use some of the functionality, you'll need to get
FSharp.PowerPack.dll, which is available with the VS 2008 installation or
as a separated download for VS 2010 .
Now that we have the first version of the code, we can start refactoring it. I'm using the term in a slightly vague meaning - we're of course going to change the behavior of the code. We'll wrap it into F# asynchronous workflow to run without blocking threads and we'll also run multiple downloads in parallel. However, this can still be viewed as refactoring in some sense, because we're not changing the core behavior of the code. As you can see from the webcast, these kinds of refactorings are also very nicely supported by F# syntax...
F# Webcast (II.) - Using .NET libraries
About a week ago I posted the first part of my F# webcast series. It focused on explainining the basic ideas behind functional programming such as immutability, recursion and passing functions as arguments to other functions (or methods in C#). In the first part, we've seen some C# code to demonstrate the ideas and also a bit of F#, mainly to show the basic language features.
The second part is going to be exclusively about F#. It'll demonstrate how we can start writing
a demo application that grabs data from RSS feeds and processes them. You'll learn how to access
.NET libraries from F# (in particular, we'll use
We'll develop the code iteratively, which means that we'll start by simply enumerating the RSS elements using
for loop and printing the results and then we'll refactor the code to use tuples and sequence expressions to turn it into processing code that generates a sequence of feed items. Finally we'll also demonstrate how to use some of the functions from the previous part such as
List.filter in practice.
F# Webcast (I.) - Introducing functional concepts
Now that Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 is out, it is finally a good time to take a look at one of the (in my opinion) most interesting new features in the new release - the F# language. F# existed for quite a long time now as Microsoft Research project, but is now becoming a real Microsoft product. Interestingly, F# is still available as a plugin for Visual Studio 2008, so if you want to try it you don't have to install the whole new beta of 2010.
There are already many resources for learning F# including my functional programming overview, which is a Manning Greenpaper for the book Functional Programming for the Real World that I'm writing with Jon Skeet and my four-part F# introduction. There are also some useful links on the official F# web site including some talk recordings. However, I haven't yet seen any good F# webcast focusing mainly on showing F# source code, starting from simple functional concepts to the real-world features like asynchronous workflows and object-oriented programming in F#, so I decided to create one.
So, here it is...