(not) Installing the TextUML Toolkit 1.2 on Eclipse 3.5 M6

I decided it was time to start using Eclipse 3.5 before it went RC or else if I find any blockers there won’t be time left for them to get fixed before the next release this Summer. I have been on the other side of the fence and know how frustrating it is when people only really start reporting bugs at the very end of the release cycle.

After I installed the 3.5 M6 SDK, I decided to install the TextUML Toolkit 1.2

Nothing to install?

First surprise: no features would show on the update site! WTH? Well, turns out I had the Update UI to show available features grouped by category, but the TextUML Toolkit update site does not use categories. Unchecking the option to group by categories shows the four features in the TextUML Toolkit update site as it was usual in 3.4. Phew… I was just about to enter a bug report against the Eclipse update component (a.k.a. p2), when I found out that that unintuitive UI behavior has been recently addressed and the next milestone won’t show this problem any longer.

A roadblock

I managed to install the TextUML Toolkit, and that brought along EMF and UML2, which are required features. Since, at this time, the TextUML Toolkit does not specify version range for its dependencies, the latest versions of EMF and UML2 were automatically installed by Eclipse. That should be fine, I thought, as one of the Eclipse development key mandates has always been backward compatibility. But this time around that was not the case: the TextUML builder was failing to compile a TextUML source file that was making use of template parameters. Turns out the UML2 API around templates has changed in its version 3.0. Before (in UML2 2.2), a template parameter substitution could have multiple formal and actual parameters. Now it can have only one of each, and thus the TextUML Toolkit is (partially) broken in 3.5.

So much for core values, you might be thinking? Well, to be fair, this is a bit of a fringe case. The UML2 API is an Eclipse component, and as such should strive for backward compatibility too. However, it is also a high-fidelity rendition of the UML specification published by the OMG. In this case, the OMG fixed a bug (#9838) in the spec, and as often is the case with UML, that resulted in a change that was not backward compatible. If the OMG promotes changes that are not backward compatible, the UML2 team does not have much of a choice: in order to continue to closely implement the spec, it has to break the Eclipse guidelines.

And neither do I. For the TextUML Toolkit 1.2, I will have to issue a maintenance release (1.2.1) that will explicitly depend on UML2 2.2, thus avoiding the new version, and probably becoming incompatible with other UML modeling packages that only run on Galileo and UML2 3.0. For the next release of the TextUML Toolkit (1.3), I will have to adopt the new API and explicitly depend on UML 2 3.0.

That is how life goes… for some reason, I kind of feel like a flea crawling on the back of an elephant.

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