Wednesday, June 30, 2010

AMP gets the love with 0.8.0

Buried in all of the "boring" announcements last week, I posted that the Agent Modeling Platform has just passed its release review. Actually, there is a lot more to tell about Version 0.8.0 then the simple fact that it is our first official release.

It represents a pretty significant jump in general usability and features from previous versions that people might have used. Here are some of the highlights -- if you've been curious about AMP and want to give it a try now is a great time. Especially for all of the Eclipse committers out there -- you have plenty of time to kill now that Helios is out the door. Right? Here are the install coordinates. Once you get that installed, just go to the Welcome Samples page and follow the "Import Example Models from VCS" cheat sheet. Easy enough to love..

Model Visualization

Graph Visualization Built in support for visualization and generation (as always with AMF, no code to write!) of graph
3D View Improvements 2 1/2 visualizations now support interpolated positions for agents. You can't see that here, but it
means that the agents move smoothly through space, even if they are on a fixed grid. You can turn that feature
on and off and you can change perspective easily.
API Improvements There have been significant changes to the APIs. As always, we've followed common Eclipse and EMF
idioms, which means that to customize model visualization you typically only need to implement figure, shape or
color providers and then adapt them to your model. And of course all of your existing models will generate code
for the new APIs.
More Legacy Views In addition, we've supported all existing Ascape views (not all of these are supported through AMF
generated code..yet!).

Modeling Framework

New Actions Some key new Actions have just been introduced. These provide support for recursion (Cause and
Perform), minimization and maximization queries, diffusion (Diffuse) and derived (Derive) values and give the
framework a much more general purpose flavor while preserving model generality. You should be able to build many
more kinds of models without resorting to custom coding. See the Modeler's guide Actions section for the
Improved Model Representation and Generation There have been many improvements to how models can be designed and the code that is generated from
those designs. As just one example, you can now search for agents within a model without having to specify an
explicit space. As with model editing improvements, many of these changes have been driven by user input. If
there is something you'd like to be able to do with AMF but can't, let us know by filing a feature request or
posting to the newsgroup.
Multiscale Support Support for modeling across scales has been greatly improved. For the Escape target it is very easy to
define models with enclosing hierarchies. For example in the EpidemicRegion model, we've defined Regions which
contain Cities which contain Individuals.
  When the model is executed, views are automatically created for each member Scape (context) and data is
collected for each level of scale.

Model Editing

Overall Usability Significant effort has gone into improving the overall user interface for editing models. User feedback
has been enormously helpful here -- please keep letting us know what works and what doesn't! In addition to the
obvious changes, a lot of work has been done under the covers to provide a more seamless model building
experience. We've fixed some glitches, but we've also added a number of things to help simplify and automate the
model building process. As an example, when you create an agent, a style is automatically created along with
default color, shape and paint actions.
New Icons Most of the existing icons have been replaced or custom designed (which has incidentally required a lot
of documentation to be recreated) to provide a better and more consistent user interface.
Action Lists Actions are now displayed in lists, not in a tree structure. As the actual Actions are graph
structures, the tree structure never matched well with this representation. Taking a simpler approach has made
the action definition process much more transparent.

Modeling Tools

Parameter Management Support AMP now has full support for editing and launching of parameter files, including code completion and all of the other editor niceties.
Test-Driven Modeling and Simulation Tests can now easily be defined and analyzed.
Automated Data Export Data can now be easily generated to a common EMF based (adata) data format.

User Experience

Overall Last but certainly not least, a lot of effort has gone into making it easier to get into AMP as well as
to understand how to work with its more powerful features. Eclipse supports a number of sophisticated User
Assistance features, and we've taken advantage of most of them.
Documentation Over a 100 pages of documentation, plus another 100 pages of Ascape documentation converted to Eclipse
Help and PDF.
Welcome and Intro When starting AMP you'll be met by a custom welcome screen providing an easy path into Agent Modeling
on Eclipse.
Cheat Sheets Helpful guides walk you through initial steps.
Integrated Models You can run example Ascape models directly from the documentation!


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