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Goodbye Nim, and good luck

In 2012 I learned about the Nimrod programming language, now renamed to Nim. I found Nim because I was looking for higher level programming languages which would compile to C, so I could use the generated code everywhere. Like Java. And I enjoyed learning it.

I did spend a big chunk of time exploring the possibilities of applying Nim to my day job, which is writing mobile apps. I wrote first Seohtracker for iOS and later Seohtracker for OSX as proof of code reuse. Unfortunately I started to find troubles with the language implementation. I also slowly realized that no matter how fantastic the language implementation could be, Nim is designed to use soft realtime GC on thread local heaps. This means that a thread cannot touch the memory of another thread. If you add to this the necessary level of indirection of calling Nim from a different programming language (or vice versa), the amount of barriers to jump over to do what in other unsafe languages is just accessing a variable starts to pile up.

At that point I realized that from all the amount of software written in Nim there were two kinds of software barely explored: GUIs and multithreading. It's not difficult to read in the Nim forums how people are using one or the other, either using GTK for things like Aporia or creating raytracers which scale up in performance. But they are mostly single threaded with one or two callbacks here, or they don't share any state. It's the intersection of both which is lacking. And this intersection seems to require you to ignore all type and memory safety to make your own globals or shared memory for communicating. I'd love to be proved wrong, but all the questions I've found from other programmers attempting to do this are met with vague maybe answers or suggestions which read more like workarounds for an invisible elephant.

People are finding the GC is not really wanted for certain scenarios, and are starting to wish for at least a minimal standard library which uses manual memory handling so that Nim can be used without that wonderful GC. Would this kind of project repeat history like D's Phobos vs Tango but with an even smaller community? I've toyed with this idea too, but there is no point in pushing something towards something it will never be. Of course I'll keep using Nim as I'm using now, to replace most of my toy Python code. But I can't see myself using Nim for anything work related in the future when so many alternatives are already delivering for mobile (Xamarin for C#, Silver for Swift, RoboVM for Java, and plenty of interpreted/script languages too).

Since I started this blog with the purpose of writing articles about Nim and taking potshots at other programming languages from the safety of a random troll, I don't think I'll write anything more here. All the Nim software I've created also has an expiration date: Nim 1.0. I've already spent the last weeks cleaning and upgrading the code I had working with 0.9.6 to work with 0.10.2, but there are still many deprecated warnings left which will make it again impossible to compile with 1.0, whenever it happens.

At least I'll leave those repositories up in case somebody wants to pick them up. Good luck, Nim programmers. I'll keep watching from a distance.

UPDATE: For all useful repositories a one year death notice was put in place, they were forked, and are now maintained by their forkers, so I deleted them to avoid confusion or maintenance limbo.


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Published on: 04/02/2015 22:23. Last update: 10/07/2016 10:50. rss feed
Copyright 2016 by Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz.
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