Part 3: Unicorn Hunting

VA Smalltalk has been around a long time, and contains the fruits of the labours of at least three companies and countless individual contributors.  This is good in that there’s almost certainly a way to accomplish something you want to do, but bad in that the details may have been lost in the mists of time.  The file abt.cnf is a perfect example of this.

If you haven’t already, go ahead and search ‘abt.cnf’ on Google; we’ll wait for you.  When you’re done, please remember to brush off the dust and cobwebs before resuming.  If you’re the contrary sort that decided to try Bing, you probably found no useful information either.  Generally, you’re more likely to find credible pictures of mythical creatures than details on abt.cnf.

A word of warning for Windows users before we continue on: The ‘.cnf’ extension  has special meaning to Windows – it indicates a speed dial file.  No matter what your Explorer settings are, Windows will protect you from seeing the dreaded ‘.cnf’ extension and you’ll need to jump through some hoops to be able to edit the file. (This is true of Windows XP.  Your mileage may vary with other versions).

As it turns out, abt.cnf is meant to hold Smalltalk code that will be executed as part of the image startup.  The name abt.cnf  can be changed in the Preferences window, but if you’re starting with a virgin image, you’re stuck with abt.cnf.  It’s also important to remember that the code in this file is executed every time the image is started so if you’re starting the same image multiple times in the same directory you either need to make sure that the code is idempotent (Thanks, John!), or change the name looked for by the image. My solution to this is to move any image I save to a new directory.

If you haven’t already, you might want install and load the config map ‘Abt Image Startup’ from  Navigating to the class methods of the class AbtStartupApp, you’ll find the method #setUpEnvironment.  Executing this method (there’s code in the comment you can highlight and execute) will give you an abt.cnf file. We’ll dissect its contents next time.


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