[Pharo-users] Understanding the role of the sources file

Sven Van Caekenberghe sven at stfx.eu
Wed Jan 13 05:12:24 EST 2016

> On 13 Jan 2016, at 10:57, Dimitris Chloupis <kilon.alios at gmail.com> wrote:
> I was adding a short description to the UPBE about sources file , I always thought that the sources file is the file that contains the source code of the image because the image file itself stores only the bytecode. 
> However its just came to my attention that the sources file does not contain code that is recently installed in the image.
> So how exactly the sources file works and what it is ? 

The main perspective is from the object point of view: methods are just objects like everything else. In order to be executable they know their byte codes (which might be JIT compiled on execution, but that is an implementation detail) and they know their source code.

Today we would probably just store the source code strings in the image (maybe compressed) as memory is pretty cheap. But way back when Smalltalk started, that was not the case. So they decided to map the source code out to files.

So method source code is a magic string (RemoteString) that points to some position in a file. There are 2 files in use: the sources file and the changes file.

The sources file is a kind of snapshot of the source code of all methods at the point of release of a major new version. That is why there is a Vxy in their name. The source file never changes once created or renewed (a process called generating the sources, see PharoSourcesCondenser).

While developing and creating new versions of methods, the new source code is appended to another file called the changes file, much like a transaction log. This is also a safety mechanism to recover 'lost' changes.

The changes file can contain multiple versions of a method. This can be reduced in size using a process called condensing the changes, see PharoChangesCondenser.

On a new release, the changes file will be (almost) empty.



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