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Grok 0.12 released!

It happened a few days already, but I hadn't mentioned it here yet: Grok 0.12 has been released! Thanks go to Jan-Wijbrand Kolman for again playing the role of release manager, and to all contributors that made this release possible!

Grok 0.12 is a release that brings two new features:

  • z3c.autoinclude. At the snow sprint last january I worked with Ethan Jucovy and Robert Marianski on this library, which Grok now uses by default. It implements another DRY (don't repeat yourself) feature for Grok: it takes away the need to manually include the ZCML of a package if you use it in setup.py. I was really fortunate to meet Ethan and Robert at the snow sprint, as they're great guys and they both became contributors to Grok afterward! Ethan has been very supportive in making sure z3c.autoinclude works well afterwards, and has expanded its feature set in response to a feature request from Martin Aspeli (with an eye on Plone).
  • viewlet support. Viewlets are a powerful construct from Zope 3 to flexibly configure and plug in "parts of pages". With Grok we've made it about as easy to create a viewlet as it is to create a view. Unfortunately we're still working on documentation for them, but this should be fixed soon. The feature was originally integrated into Grok by Kevin Smith. I had the pleasure of working on finalizing this feature with Tim Terleg√•rd and Robert Marianski at the snow sprint. Tim was the one who pushed to get this one done and I'm very glad he did so. After the sprint various community members helped to test this and polish this up, so it should be in good shape.

It also has a host of bug fixes. We are now ready to start evolving Grok further. At the PyCon Grok sprint, Robert Marianski and Brandon Craig Rhodes worked on separating out some of Grok's core component architecture configuration bits out of Grok into its own independently reusable library: grokcore.component. Philipp von Weitershausen and Brandon will be merging the branch that uses this library into the Grok core soon.

Grok's evolution is quite interesting. While the way Grok works on the surface hasn't changed all that much since the fateful first Grok sprint back in 2006, Grok has undergone quite an evolution underneath. During the first Grok sprint, we set out to just make Grok as we envisioned it work. We wrote nice clean but somewhat ad-hoc code. After the sprint, I noticed some patterns in this code and abstracted out the concept of "grokkers". Grokkers allow Grok's behavior to be extended: you can register new grokkers to handle extension or application-specific registration for new base classes.

About a year ago, I refactored the way grokkers work into its own Python library, Martian, and made Grok work with this library. Martian offers a way to avoid meta-classes while still having automatic registration of classes. This is possible as Grok (and Zope 3) have an explicit, separate configuration phase: configuration is done separately from import time.

Meta-classes are a powerful tool, but can lead to complexity during initialization and surprises for developers who may get unexpected behavior from seem to be normal Python classes. Django uses them for registration, and sometimes a developer has to resort to self-admitted scary solutions. I recall having to resort to some magic code from PEAK to do something similarly scary when I was struggling with a problem in Five some years ago (Zope 2/Zope 3 integration layer, where Zope 2's acquisition metaclass was making trouble). Grok, with Martian, sidesteps the need for meta-classes to do configuration. The only meta-class in Grok code is the venerable and quite well-behaved Persistent (when you use the ZODB).

Grok's evolution continued. At the Neanderthal sprint last october, Godefroid Chapelle initiated a refactoring of Grok's standard grokkers to use Zope 3 configuration actions. The benefit of these is that conflicting registrations (two views with the same name for the same object, say) are detected, and this greatly enhanced compatibility of Grok-based code with Zope 3 based code as well. The action support was something we had been planning from the start but never finalized. After the sprint Philipp von Weitershausen picked up on this work and pushed it a lot further, completing it.

So now we see the step of taking some of the reusable component registrations for basic zope.component features such as adapters into a reusable library as well, grokcore.component. The next release of Grok will make use of this library. The library also make it possible to write Zope 3 libraries that use grokcore.component as a configuration mechanism, and can be dropped into straight Zope 3 applications (the reverse was already possible from the start). That should largely conclude Grok's development of full Zope 3 compatibility.

While all this was being done, Grok applications continued to work with only minor adjustments required. I really like how this worked out for Grok so far. We really are creating abstractions and reusable libraries the way it's supposed to be done: by doing it step-by-step and learning from code that already works.

A next step on this path is a better directive implementation for Martian, something I mentioned in an earlier blog entry. This should help us making grokkers easier to read, and help up maintain consistency. Most importantly, it should make it easier to expand our introspection tools for Grok, giving them knowledge about Grok directives. We will start on this project as part of the Summer of Code project of Uli Fouquet (with me as the mentor).

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