Aliens coming to Squeak

8 December, 2008

Aliens approaching Squeak

John McIntosh has ported Newspeak‘s Aliens FFI implementation to Squeak. John notes that the port is in its early days, and more work and support will be needed to implement Aliens support across the full range of Squeak platforms.

As a result of this interest in Aliens, Gilad Bracha has written a post giving an overview of Aliens, the thinking that went into it, and how it works. FFI allows a programming language to make use of services written in another language, and Gilad suggests that the lack of a standard, fully-featured FFI has been an ongoing problem for Smalltalk developers. In particular, John writes that “Squeak VM’S existing FFI has been found to be buggy bloated and slow” (though see Andreas’ comments on this below).

John’s code, under the Apache licence, is available at, and more information on his implementation can be found at the Alien swiki page.

One Response to “Aliens coming to Squeak”

  1. Andreas Says:

    Re: “buggy bloated and slow”

    I’d like you folks not to blindly quote demeaning statements like these. Alien has a very different take on the problem, one that has yet to prove that it can gain wide acceptance largely because it throws abstractions out of the window and goes straight to the metal. The recent issues that JMM has seen when porting Alien to PPC shows that they cannot be blindly ignored and Alien is adding “bloat” as we speak.

    By the end of the day it remains to be seen whether it is more useful to add abstractions in the signatures (as the FFI does, which is currently available on at least six architectures) or whether it is advantageous to go to the bare metal (as Alien does, which is currently available on 1.5 architectures). And until this has been decided I think it behooves everyone not to call each other names.

    – Andreas

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