Experts work to aid compiler behind open source

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Lead programmer Mark Mitchell released GCC 4.0 on April 22. It includes a new optimization framework designed to improve the process of translating source code written by humans into binary code a computer understands.

The new version is still very much a work in progress, though, and it will take time for a clear performance advantage to emerge, Mitchell said in an interview. "It's got all this new optimization infrastructure. All that new infrastructure hasn't been as carefully tuned as much as the old one was," Mitchell said.

One of the first rocky moments of the GCC 4.0 debut came with KDE, the graphical interface software widely used on Linux computers. The package wouldn't compile with GCC 4.0, and KDE organizers blacklisted GCC 4.0 for the time being.

The bug that hampered KDE has been fixed now and should be available soon, Mitchell said. "We'll probably do a 4.0.1 refresh release earlier than planned," within a month rather than two months as originally forecast, he said.

GCC is used to produce almost all programs in the free and open-source software movements, so a little improvement or degradation in the compiler can propagate to thousands of projects.

Another rocky patch for GCC 4.0 was a review published this week by programmer and author Scott Ladd. He compared GCC 4.0 to its predecessor, GCC 3.4.3, and found that the new version often took longer to produce code and that the code was bulkier and ran more slowly.

"Is GCC 4.0 better than its predecessors?

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