Rakudo Star: Past Present and Future
At YAPC::EU 2010 in Pisa I received a business card with "Rakudo Star" and the
date July 29, 2010 which was the date of the first release -- a week earlier
with a countdown to 1200 UTC. I still have mine, although it has a tea stain
on it and I refreshed my memory over the holidays by listening again to Patrick
Michaud speaking about the launch of Rakudo Star (R*):
R* was originally intended as first of a number of distribution releases (as
opposed to a compiler release) -- useable for early adopters but not initially production
Quality. Other names had been considered at the time like Rakudo Beta (rejected as
sounding like "don't use this"!) and amusingly Rakudo Adventure Edition.
Finally it became Rakudo Whatever and Rakudo Star (since * means "whatever"!).
Well over 6 years later and we never did come up with a better name although there
was at least one IRC conversation about it and perhaps "Rakudo Star" is too
well established as a brand at this point anyway. R* is the Rakudo compiler, the main docs, a module installer, some modules and some further docs.
However, one radical change is happening soon and that is a move from panda to
zef as the module installer. Panda has served us well for many years but zef is
both more featureful and more actively maintained. Zef can also install Perl
6 modules off CPAN although the CPAN-side support is in its early days. There
is a zef branch (pull requests welcome!) and a tarball at:
Panda has been patched to warn that it will be removed and to advise the use of
zef. Of course anyone who really wants to use panda can reinstall it using zef
The modules inside R* haven't changed much in a while. I am considering adding
DateTime::Format (shown by ecosystem stats to be widely used) and
HTTP::UserAgent (probably the best pure perl6 web client library right now).
Maybe some modules should also be removed (although this tends to be more
controversial!). I am also wondering about OpenSSL support (if the library is
p6doc needs some more love as a command line utility since most of the focus
has been on the website docs and in fact some of these changes have impacted
adversely on command line use, eg. under Windows cmd.exe "perl 6" is no longer
correctly displayed by p6doc. I wonder if the website generation code should be
decoupled from the pure docs and p6doc command line (since R* has to ship any
new modules used by the website). p6doc also needs a better and faster search
(using sqlite?). R* also ships some tutorial docs including a PDF generated from perl6intro.com.
We only ship the English one and localisation to other languages could be
Currently R* is released roughly every three months (unless significant
breakage leads to a bug fix release). Problems tend to happen with the
less widely used systems (Windows and the various BSDs) and also with the
module installers and some modules. R* is useful in spotting these issues
missed by roast. Rakudo itself is still in rapid development. At some point a less frequently
updated distribution (Star LTS or MTS?) will be needed for Linux distribution
packagers and those using R* in production). There are also some question
marks over support for different language versions (6.c and 6.d).
Above all what R* (and Rakudo Perl 6 in general) needs is more people spending
more time working on it! JDFI! Hopefully this blog post might
encourage more people to get involved with github pull requests.
Feedback, too, in the comments below is actively encouraged.