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Equinox Extension Registry Work Objects



Changes from Ver.1

After going through the feedback for the original proposal and some code prototyping, the Ver.1 proposal is transformed into the Tier II of this proposal. Schemas are removed from the picture and class type information is specified in #getObjects(). The mapping overrides are to be supported with Java annotations; only exact name matches will be supported on pre-1.5 VMs. The original proposal can be found at [1].

Proposed solution

After reviewing extension registry usage patterns and the feedback for the original proposal, it seems that there are three common patterns on how the registry information is used:

  • (A) typed objects are created based on the configuration elements,
  • (B) portions of the configuration elements trees are transformed into hash maps, or
  • (C) values from attributes are retrieved and combined depending on location in the configuration elements tree

To make those scenarios easier we can:

  • (C) present an extension registry as a tree supporting a subset of XPath expression to retrieve values; provide overrides for get() method for primitive Java types (Tier I)
  • (A) provide methods to adapt nodes on the registry tree into a Java objects of a consumer-specified type (Tier II)
  • (B) provide methods to adapt nodes on the registry tree into a hash maps constructed based on the registry nodes and their relative positions (Tier III)

The new methods are going to be be a part of the new IRegistryNode interface. There will be adaptors allowing switch from IExtensionPoint / IExtension / IConfigurationElement and a factory to get IRegistryNode element corresponding to a given registry at the given path.

As you'll see some of the proposed functionality makes extension registry look like a read-only preferences.

Tier I: Registry as a tree. Getting typed values, navigation

Group 1. Getting typed values

Registry elements would get a set of typed method to retrieve attribute values, something like:

interface IRegistryNode {
	boolean getBoolean(String path, boolean default)

The "path" could be: "name" - attribute name for the current configuration element " element_name:attributeName" - attribute with a given name under the configuration element "..:attributeName" - value of parent's attribute

The method overrides will be provided for:

  • int, long
  • float, double
  • boolean

Two versions of the method will be provided for override - one that returns one value and one that returns an array:

interface IRegistryNode {
	int getInt(path, int default);
	int[] getIntValues(path);

The path's exact syntax will be fleshed out as we go, but it need to support hierarchical navigation (absolute and relative), multiplicity qualifiers, and attribute names. It is aprobably going to assume a format similar to a subset of XPath:


For multiplicity qualifiers, the only supported qualifier at this time will be the "[1]" to indicate that the first matching element is selected.

In addition, convenience methods will be added to get a resource URL based on the location of the contributing bundle:

interface IRegistryNode {
	URL getResource(nodePath);
	URL getResources(nodePath);

(the nodePath would be expected to point to an attribute(s) containing relative resource path).

Group 2. Navigating registry nodes

The following methods will be added to the IRegistryNode:

public interface IRegistryNode {
	public IRegistryNode parent();
	public IRegistryNode[] children();
	public String[] attributes();
	public IRegistryNode node(String path);
	public IRegistryNode[] nodes(String path);
	public boolean nodeExists(String path);
	public String name();
	public String absolutePath();

Most methods are self-explanatory. For the initial version the #node() won't be creating new nodes, but rather only returning existing nodes or null of no such node was found.

Unlike Preferences, some nodes will have no names and some nodes will have multiple children with the same name. Nodes with no names will match "*" in XPath expressions.

Tier II. Adapting registry nodes into user-specified objects

Two methods will be provided to adapt a given node into a user-specified object (or objects, or hash map).

public interface IRegistryNode {
	Object toObject(Object[] context, Map classNames);
	Object[] toObjectArray(String path, Object[] context, Map classNames);

The classNames map is passed in as an argument and maps element names to the java.lang.Class objects to be created for those elements.

The new object will be specified using the constructor with the best fit for the "Object[] context" arguments. Best fit will be defined as the constructor with the largest number of arguments whose type is assignable from the context[i]. The order of the context[] will be preserved as much as possible; arguments not specified will be passed in as null.

After the object is constructed, it will be injected with values specified in the XML file. First method injection will be tried with method name "set" + attribute_name; then field injection will be tried for the field "attribute_name".

If multiple sub-elements are present in the XML, the "set" method will be called multiple times.

Expansion possibility: for Java 1.5 classes will be able to override mapping of attributes and elements to method names and field names using annotations.

If the created object implements IInitializable#init(), the init() method will be called to give the object an opportunity to finalize its initialization.

If the created object implements IDisposable#deleted(), then deleted() method will be called when corresponding registry element is removed.

TBD: clarify caching of the created objects. Should they be cached by the caller or will the registry cache them? Soft references vs. getting the same object vs. memory consumption.

Tier III. Hash maps

In Tier II methods are added to create an object or array of objects corresponding to a registry node. Sometimes such objects are used to construct hash maps. We can add an extra method to perform this work:

public interface IRegistryNode {
	public Map toMap(String keyPath, String realtiveValuePath, Object[] context, Map classNames);

The method will use keyPath to find key elements for the hash map, then will find corresponding nodes based on the relativeValuePath, will construct objects for those values, and will add (key, value) pairs in the hash map.

Why don't we just use EMF

Several people asked about using EMF in this work. Let's consider where we could use EMF: external view of the extension registry (APIs) and internal implementation.

  • External view: I don't think it would be right for us to push EMF on our consumers by returning EObject-derivatives. Consumers might not be familiar with EMF, and #toObject() methods by design create objects of a user-specified classes which are not limited to EObjects.
  • Internal implementation: EMF could be used to implement IRegistryNode tree. However, it is likely that we'll want to use binary format for cache persistence, not XML (both for the CPU performance and for the memory footprint). We also very likely to use different notification approach - either via OSGi's EventAdmin or by providing our own event bus in equinox.common.

Open questions

  • Event Notifications

For objects created using #toObject() it is probably their containers that would be interested in events which makes IDisposable less than ideal. On the other hand, people who use only Tier I methods still going to need to have registry event notifications.

It might be a good time to see if we can get away from the listeners and start relying on an event bus, or, maybe on OSGi's EventAdmin.

The great deal of the difficulty in dealing with events in the current extension registry comes from the events being asynchronous. As a result, listeners have to deal with a strange data state where some data corresponds to the moment when event was fired, and some data is current. I think we need to reconsider if we really want registry events to remain asynchronous. (Registry events are not generated during usual everyday work, but rather when a bundle is installed or removed.) If we decide to support both synchronous and asynchronous notifications, we should consider sending the path to modified nodes rather then IRegistryNode objects.

  • Permissions

Do we need to add some sort of "permission to modify my extension"?



  1. Inversion of Control: "Inversion of Control Containers and the Dependency Injection pattern" by Martin Fowler
  2. Bug 248340: Improve usability of the extension registry
  3. Bug 221603: Provide a public, reusable RegistryReader

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