- While GNU uses many languages, C and Guile are the encouraged languages in GNU
- Many new projects avoid C because it is painful
- C11 has features that make it a nicer experience for the applications programmer
- Therefore, GNU should embrace C11
First, since that post, the GNU Coding Standards have been updated to mention C11. They now read
1989 Standard C is widespread enough now that it is ok to use its features in programs. There is one exception: do not ever use the“trigraph” feature of Standard C.In a policy sense, the modified language isn't much different to the previous version of the standards: basically, use extensions to C89 if they are beneficial, or hold to C89 if you want to be multi-platform. Your choice.
The 1999 and 2011 editions of Standard C are not fully supported on all platforms. If you aim to support compilation by compilers other than GCC, you should not require these C features in your programs. It is ok to use these features conditionally when the compiler supports them.
If your program is only meant to compile with GCC, then you can use these features if GCC supports them, when they give substantial benefit.
Second, with respect to GNOME and C89, Christian Hergert told me this,
"One of the reasons GNOME (and primarily all the way down to GLib) use C89 is because of the Microsoft C compiler. As sad as that sounds, making sure existing software runs on Windows (things like Gobject, Gtk, Pidgin) is important"
Fine. So when will Microsoft put out a better C compiler? According to Herb Sutter, Microsoft definitely has no plans to update their C compiler: they're just maintaining it without adding new features, so it'll probably remain C89-like forever. A pity, since GCC and Clang have kept moving forward.
However, Microsoft has spent a lot of time trying to bring C++11 to their C++ compiler, and, as a side effect, their C++ compiler has picked up most of the subset of C99 that C++11 contains. The truth is that if you want to keep native Microsoft compiler support in a free software project, you need to choose one of two strategies
- Write C89 code forever
- Write using the intersection of C99 and C++11, and compile using C++ on a native Microsoft build.
In my tiny slivers of free time, I have kept plugging away at writing a game trying to use the GNOME and GNU libraries. There's nothing to see, yet. It is slow going because I was completely unfamiliar with GTK+ and Cairo and Glib and Pulse Audio and the very idea of how to program games. Basically I'm completely out of my paradigm. I've already erased everything and started over twice. But, I think I finally am getting the hang of it.
It is all very different from the work I do in the lab. But writing the game does have a great advantage: with that project, unlike the code I do at my job, if I screw up it won't result in real human beings dying. After a career of Mil-Spec and Level B, it is hard to allow myself to just make things work and avoid the perfectionism and paranoia that DO-178B entails. It is hard to code like I did when I was young, when the joy was in hack and slash and making things work, rather than the craft and drudgery of making things that keep their operators safe from harm.
I wish I could show you some of the code I've done at my real-life job. It is bananas.
DO178B gets into your head: everything I do in my spare time is either so ridiculously overbuilt that is never gets completed; or it is so rushed and unedited that it can bypass my Freudian super-ego. The little bit of publicly available free software I've written is in the latter category: it is all crap. I can't seem to work like a normal person anymore.