Pride walks before a fall – will Rust survive? Software Craftsmanship Weekly #116

In the last pre-Christmas edition (Christmas Eve is a week away so we’re taking a break), but not the last this year, we have Rust, Chinese regulations, and Microsoft buying itself…. stock market.

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1. China regulates generative AI

There is always a buzz about China. Recently, however, the middle state has not been off the tongues with the controversy over its very consistent policing of the Zero Covid policy, causing social unrest among Chinese citizens. The aforementioned tensions have given rise to some relaxation of restrictions, but the fact remains that this is the country where many firm laws are being enacted historically.

A little over a year ago, I informed you that the Chinese authorities had declared war on youth addiction to computer games. The mechanisms for combating this were quite… spectacular. The game developers were obliged to monitor on their side the amount of time spent in games by minors and strictly trim it to the limits set by the top-down authorities. I’ll admit that I’ve sometimes thought back to this “initiative” wondering what effect it will have. And as much as I’m looking through my fingers at reports from the Chinese government, we’ll probably never get information from another source, so I’ll look at the communications they’re sending out. What the authorities in Beijing are reporting is success and a “solution to the problem.” Apparently, 75% of addictions have been eliminated which is to the Chinese authorities’ credit. First, they can “loosen up” the grasp over the technology business a bit, which, with a recession looming, may be needed. Second, they have been able to show that hard-line rule is good for the future of the Chinese nation.

Best argument, it always works.

We are currently in a rather similar situation, due to announcements from the last week. This time, China has noticed the risks posed by “generative AI models” and has decided to very heavily regulate them. It will be illegal to create text/video materials without a special watermark for identification. In addition, software developers will be obliged to audit all generated works, and users will have to register with real personal data that will allow them to be traced in case of potential abuse.

The so-called “West” has not yet issued alternative legislative proposals, although I suspect that some preliminary talks behind closed doors are already underway. The “Generative AI” industry, however, continues the process of self-regulation. Stable Diffusion has made available to artists the ability to “flag” portions of a dataset that they believe violate copyright. My impression is that this is more of a clever ploy than a viable measure (dopping the cleaning of an automatically generated dataset on people is a questionable method for me, though) – certainly, however, it is another argument knocker for artists who want to curb the operation of generative models.


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2.Microsoft is buying a stake in the London Stock Exchange…. to deploy Azure there

Microsoft is trying very hard to make its cloud computing business as successful as possible, and it seems that despite the coming recession, they are not slowing down. I suspect that in uncertain times large customers are a little less inclined to make large infrastructure investments, so the Redmond company’s next steps are quite unconventional. Indeed, they have bought themselves … 4% of the London Stock Exchange and signed a 10-year deal to be a technology partner.

Probably for many of you it is surprising to know that you can “buy” yourself shares in the stock market. But what, you thought the financial world to surrender “market control” to a “state monopoly”? Not to be expected.

Microsoft, estimates it will pull in $5 billion in revenue over the decade from the transaction in question. The company is expected to modernize the London Stock Exchange’s aging systems with its Azure, as well as make its systems compatible with Microsoft Office and other company tools. I suspect that even when the 10-year deal expires, Microsoft will still be in a fairly preferential position.

It will also be interesting to see how the fate of Microsoft’s other major investments will unfold. The purchase of Activision Blizzard, for example, will now be decided in court, as there it has been targeted by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. It seems the purchase may be prolonged, as the likes of Sony seem to be intensely desperate to prevent the said acquisition from happening, or at least delay it as long as possible.

Something feels that Diablo IV, scheduled for release in June, will not be able to be Day Zero Premiere in Game Pass.


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3. Pride walks before a fall – will Rust survive?

We are probably long past the phase when we could consider such a Rust as a passing fad that will at some point disappear on its own. I think the amount of tooling written in the language would have given it a long life by itself, but at this point, we can already consider the matter officially settled. After all, with Linux Kernel 6.1, Rust has become an official language supported in the development of the Linux kernel, from where it is unlikely to go away too soon.

That is, 2022 is not only the “Year of Desktop Linux”, but also the “Year of Rust”!

What does the slogan “Rust in Linux” mean in practice? As you can guess, the whole process in such a complex project as an operating system does not just come down to writing a few lines of code in something other than C and calling it a day. We’re talking about a situation where we have to adapt the entire ecosystem, including, for example, compilers, to the change. Here the big advantage of Rust to start with was the fact that it is supported by clang, one of the two C compilers used to compile Linux – which made the whole process much simpler. Clang, however, is not as versatile as GCC, so for the moment code written in Rust will only be able to run on x86 and ARM architectures.

So what, Rust fans can uncork the champagne, because they have secured the eternal existence of their language and its further adoption is now inevitable? Well, not necessarily, as a publication under the rather disturbing title What killed Haskell, could kill Rust, too makes clear. I realize that in some circles suggesting that Haskell is dead may be considered heresy. The fact remains that we are not able to talk about the mass adoption of this functional language, and it is precisely such “mass adoption” that the Rust community seems to dream of. The text points out the main reason: the arrogance of programmers using Haskel (hey, hide the pitchforks) and the complete closure to the wider “enterprise” world and its needs. Overall, the whole thing is valuable food for thought.

And you know: opinions from the Haskel community > opinions from the Go community.

Anyway, the arrogance in question (really, hide those pitchforks or I’ll call the police) is not the only one of the problems. A big discussion in the community was sparked last week by the text Rust in 2023 by Nick Cameron, an engineer working on Rust at Microsoft. In it, he points out important initiatives for the language that should guide its development in 2023 and beyond. He also sows his head of ashes, due to the chaos that surrounds how the aforementioned development is planned and managed. He calls for improving the RFC process of new functionalities and limiting the pace of development of the language’s API so that it does not become too bloated. There are also suggestions in the text that this is the moment to slowly consider version 2.0 for Rust. This part turned out to be so controversial that the creator was forced to write an additional clarification post, in a slightly less feisty tone (although the original was actually already heavily balanced by itself).

As there has been so much about Rust, let’s also mention the fact that this week saw the release of new version of the language – 1.66, stabilizing several already existing APIs, as well as adding new ones.