Mono and .NET build up bridges

Chris Barylick
February 1, 2013 —  (Page 3 of 3)

Building an F# bridge
If a grand compromise exists between Microsoft’s .NET Framework effort and the Mono Project community, it can be found in the F# programming language, which de Icaza called “currently one of my favorites.” The F# tools, which can be downloaded from the F# Software Foundation, function as an open-source, cross-platform CLI language that can also generate JavaScript and GPU code when necessary. The language, which was developed via a collaboration between the F# Software Foundation and Microsoft, is currently supported in Microsoft’s Visual Studio development along with Mono, MonoDevelop and SharpDevelop. It also functions on the Android, iOS, Linux, OS X and Windows operating systems.

Even if Mono has yet to completely break out and become the de facto programming standard for all, it’s presently finding its way into some useful tools. Per Bruce Morrison, producer at video game development company Man Up Time, Mono has had elements used in the Unity game development engine, which Morrison has come to know and love in his day-to-day work developing games for the iOS platform.

“Unity is extremely good,” said Morrison. “It has some technical limits, but the power and speed of development it brings can't be beat.”

Morrison went on to add that he supports the idea of Mono helping .NET Framework capabilities reach more platforms, especially iOS. Still, he felt the integrated development environment in Mono Develop could stand to see some improvement in future versions.

Other developers sided with Microsoft’s .NET Framework architecture but still liked how the Mono Project was evolving as a development tool. “I've made a couple attempts at getting my game to compile with MonoGame, but I haven't had any luck yet,” said Ian Stockton, a self-taught game designer and developer with experience in both .NET and Mono, with a preference for the C# programming language. “One of these days, I'll need to sit down with someone who knows his way around the framework so I can get it working. In terms of being cross-platform between Xbox and PC, XNA is amazing. Aside from some resolution and file system things, it's almost automatically cross platform.”

Stockton then detailed the changes he’d like to see made with the Mono Project, especially within the realm of getting new developers acclimated to the technology. “An easier installation process would be nice,” he said. “When I tried it last, I think I had to install about five different programs just to access the codebase. A walkthrough for getting the examples to compile would also be great.

“XNA has spoiled me. Now I feel entitled to zero-friction new projects and deployment. If only MonoGame were so simple!”

The relationship between Microsoft and Mono is and has always been a strange one (if not incendiary at times), complete with all the hesitancy, caution and fervor of a very large software company defending a key technology, and the open-source community doing what it can to bring .NET’s feature set to its operating systems of choice.

Even so, there seems to be a bridge slowly forming between the two camps. In eight years’ time, Microsoft has respected its Community Promise, left Mono alone and seems to be collaborating well with de Icaza’s brainchild, even if there are mutterings among developers that they’d like to see more tools from Microsoft available to the Mono side of the camp. The Mono Project, in turn, has thrived, created what tools it could to work directly with the .NET Framework architecture, and cranked out some amazing open-source tools with no signs of slowing down or stopping.

No, the relationship between the two sides isn’t perfect, nor will it ever be. The two efforts serve different needs and different creators, even if their goal of creating killer developer tools for their respective user bases is the same. The bridge between the .NET Framework and Mono architectures may never be complete, but it is gradually extending, with both sides offering a maturing set of tools to work with as well as collaborating with the other side’s tool set.

And that’s good news to any developer looking for a better means of finishing his or her project.

Related Search Term(s): Microsoft, Mono, .NET

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