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Jakob Reschke, Robert Hirschfeld, Fabio Niephaus, Tobias Pape, Marcel Taeumel

Towards version control in object-based systems

ISBN: 978-3-86956-430-2
100 pages
Release year 2018

Series: Technische Berichte des Hasso-Plattner-Instituts für Softwaresystemtechnik an der Universität Potsdam , 121

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Version control is a widely used practice among software developers. It reduces the risk of changing their software and allows them to manage different configurations and to collaborate with others more efficiently. This is amplified by code sharing platforms such as GitHub or Bitbucket. Most version control systems track files (e.g., Git, Mercurial, and Subversion do), but some programming environments do not operate on files, but on objects instead (many Smalltalk implementations do). Users of such environments want to use version control for their objects anyway. Specialized version control systems, such as the ones available for Smalltalk systems (e.g., ENVY/Developer and Monticello), focus on a small subset of objects that can be versioned. Most of these systems concentrate on the tracking of methods, classes, and configurations of these. Other user-defined and user-built objects are either not eligible for version control at all, tracking them involves complicated workarounds, or a fixed, domain-unspecific serialization format is used that does not equally suit all kinds of objects. Moreover, these version control systems that are specific to a programming environment require their own code sharing platforms;popular, well-established platforms for file-based version control systems cannot be used or adapter solutions need to be implemented and maintained.
To improve the situation for version control of arbitrary objects, a framework for tracking, converting, and storing of objects is presented in this report. It allows editions of objects to be stored in an exchangeable, existing backend version control system. The platforms of the backend version control system can thus be reused. Users and objects have control over how objects are captured for the purpose of version control. Domain-specific requirements can be implemented. The storage format (i.e. the file format, when file-based backend version control systems are used) can also vary from one object to another. Different editions of objects can be compared and sets of changes can be applied to graphs of objects. A generic way for capturing and restoring that supports most kinds of objects is described. It models each object as a collection of slots. Thus, users can begin to track their objects without first having to implement version control supplements for their own kinds of objects. The proposed architecture is evaluated using a prototype implementation that can be used to track objects in Squeak/Smalltalk with Git. The prototype improves the suboptimal standing of user objects with respect to version control described above and also simplifies some version control tasks for classes and methods as well. It also raises new problems, which are discussed in this report as well.

Version control is a widely used practice among software developers. It reduces the risk of changing their software and allows them to manage different configurations and to collaborate with others more efficiently. This is amplified by code sharing platforms such as GitHub or Bitbucket. Most version control systems track files (e.g., Git, Mercurial, and Subversion do), but some programming environments do not operate on files, but on objects instead (many Smalltalk implementations do). Users of such environments want to use version control for their objects anyway. Specialized version control systems, such as the ones available for Smalltalk systems (e.g., ENVY/Developer and Monticello), focus on a small subset of objects that can be versioned. Most of these systems concentrate on the tracking of methods, classes, and configurations of these. Other user-defined and user-built objects are either not eligible for version control at all, tracking them involves complicated workarounds, or a fixed, domain-unspecific serialization format is used that does not equally suit all kinds of objects. Moreover, these version control systems that are specific to a programming environment require their own code sharing platforms;popular, well-established platforms for file-based version control systems cannot be used or adapter solutions need to be implemented and maintained.
To improve the situation for version control of arbitrary objects, a framework for tracking, converting, and storing of objects is presented in this report. It allows editions of objects to be stored in an exchangeable, existing backend version control system. The platforms of the backend version control system can thus be reused. Users and objects have control over how objects are captured for the purpose of version control. Domain-specific requirements can be implemented. The storage format (i.e. the file format, when file-based backend version control systems are used) can also vary from one object to another. Different editions of objects can be compared and sets of changes can be applied to graphs of objects. A generic way for capturing and restoring that supports most kinds of objects is described. It models each object as a collection of slots. Thus, users can begin to track their objects without first having to implement version control supplements for their own kinds of objects. The proposed architecture is evaluated using a prototype implementation that can be used to track objects in Squeak/Smalltalk with Git. The prototype improves the suboptimal standing of user objects with respect to version control described above and also simplifies some version control tasks for classes and methods as well. It also raises new problems, which are discussed in this report as well.