This interview with Jonathan Schwartz had to be painful for Schwartz, based on some of the comments he (and other management at Sun) have made about MS in the past.
If the work being done on things like Web Services, CORBA, related technologies is of interest to you, then you'll not want to miss this talk
Cincom Smalltalk Protocol News
Leonard Lutomski, et al.: Cincom
Tuesday 4:00:00 pm to 5:30:00 pm
Abstract: Cincom Smalltalk protocol developers will present the latest advances in the communication and security frameworks of Cincom Smalltalk. The highlights will include live demonstrations of ObjectStudio-VisualWorks interoperation over Opentalk, Opentalk-IIOP, new Web Services tools, the new ASN.1 marshaling framework, SSL/HTTPS, and more. At the end, the protocol developers will outline and discuss their future plans with the audience.
Bio: Leonard Lutomski manages the Cincom VisualWorks Protocol Team. Martin Kobetic, Tamara Kogan, and Sean Glazier are senior VisualWorks developers and members of the Protocol Team. Martin concentrates on networking frameworks and security; Tamara is responsible for WebServices and NetClients; Sean addresses both security and VisualWave. Andreas Hiltner is a senior Cincom ObjectStudio developer, active in advancing the ObjectStudio Opentalk port.
See you in Seattle!
Clay Shirky has a fascinating article up discussing what he calls situated software - software that doesn't attempt to be al things to all people or scale - software that makes use of tacit assumptions in a small group setting:
We've been killing conversations about software with "That won't scale" for so long we've forgotten that scaling problems aren't inherently fatal. The N-squared problem is only a problem if N is large, and in social situations, N is usually not large. A reading group works better with 5 members than 15; a seminar works better with 15 than 25, much less 50, and so on.
This in turn gives software form-fit to a particular group a number of desirable characteristics -- it's cheaper and faster to build, has fewer issues of scalability, and likelier uptake by its target users. It also has several obvious downsides, including less likelihood of use outside its original environment, greater brittleness if it is later called on to handle larger groups, and a potentially shorter lifespan.
I see my students making some of these tradeoffs, though, because the kinds of scarcities the Web School was meant to address -- the expense of adequate hardware, the rarity of programming talent, and the sparse distribution of potential users -- are no longer the constraints they once were
You really have to read the whole thing - the simplest summary seems to be that you don't need to always make software general - in many situations, you can take advantage of the social context the software lives in without trying to generalize it
Sci Fi Wire reports that a new Farscape mini-series is in the works. Now, if only it doesn't get as downright stupid as the last season was....
So here's the blog that Scoble was absolutely gushing over the other day. It looks like what Scoble described - a bunch of posts that originated as email to Scoble. Hmmm. Exactly how is that useful? I get the whole linkblog idea - point to interesting content with (maybe) a sentence or two about each one. But a blog made up of some of the inbound emails? It's the commentary from the blogger in question that interests me....
Maurice Rabb: Katalytyk, LLC
Wednesday 8:30:00 am to 9:15:00 am
Abstract: Dynamic object-oriented programming languages are rarely used in small or real-time embedded systems. The presentation will discuss implementation techniques originally developed to enable Smalltalk to run efficiently on tiny consumer electronic products such as animated watches. The work has application in other domains including wireless, medical, industrial, and military equipment.
Topics will include developments since Smalltalk Solutions 2003. One of Smalltalk's most cherished aspects is its expressive power. Microlingua introduces a fast and consistent conceptual model for handling numerics, im|mutability, execution context, and concurrency. It improves the safety and power in expressing these fundamental concepts.
Bio: Maurice Rabb is the principal of Katalytyk, LLC in Chicago. He specializes in new product development, conceptual blockbusting, and the creative application of technology -- in short, acting as a human catalyst. Mr. Rabb earned his BS and MS in engineering from Stanford University.
See you in Seattle!
There has been a bug in the NC download application for a while now - if the email the server sent failed to go, then it was just lost. I fixed that this morning - the server is now logging such errors, and running a background process to attempt resends. That should clear up one of the bigger issues with the download application. There's another issue with bad error messages, which I intend to take a look at this afternoon. Thanks for your patience!
Update: - as it turns out, one of the larger issues was error reporting - the application would tell the end user "username is already in use" regardless of why the username was invalid - very confusing, and a big error on my part. I've fixed that, so the application should be clearer about issues now.
Awhile back, Eric Raymond laid out the pain involved in setting up a remote printer using Linux. I came across this post today, which is a response to that, and to the general problem - up to the quoted section below, it's quite reasonable:
But the whole A.T. angle is quite disingenuous. It wasn't A.T. who couldn't connect to a shared printer. It was Raymond himself who couldn't figure it out. Yes, I see the point that if it were so easy and obvious that A.T. could do it, a nerd like Raymond could do it too. But this is putting the horse way in front of the carriage. In what world does the "archetypal nontechnical user" have two computers connected by Ethernet? When A.T. needs to configure a printer, it's going to be connected directly to her computer, not shared over a network.
Hmmm - I don't think this guy has seen real users up close either. My daughter is in a girl scout troop, and I was talking to the co-leader of the troop the other day. They have a home PC, and a notebook the husband uses at work. They recently signed up for cable modem service, and got Comcast to set up a WiFi router for them - this is a standard Comcast service now. These people are not geeks - and yet here they are, multiple PC's set up on a LAN, with a router, and shared printers in the mix. Here's a cluestick - this is becoming very, very common - as I said above, Comcast now offers to set up a WiFi router as a part of their standard installation. The upshot is, it's worse than you think:
Furthermore, the "I thought I was the only one" response begs the question: what planet are these guys from? Isn't it common knowledge that desktop Linux usability tends to suck? How can anyone write an essay proposing to fix this without mentioning, let alone responding to, Matthew Thomas's seminal essay, "Why Free Software usability tends to suck"?
It's not just Linux that baffles people. Go ask around about anbti-virus software, or firewalls - you'll get a pile of "huh, what?" responses. I had to install my neighbor's printer (not a network printer even!) on Windows, because they had no idea how. Linux has usability issues? heck, PC's have usability issues. Even Macs are too hard for most people. Don't believe me? See all those VCR's with flashing 12:00 clocks? There's your evidence - people want an appliance that just works, not a fulltime hobby that they need to tweak day and night. Linux, Windows, and yes, Macs - are all too hard for most people's tastes. The entire industry has quite a ways to go before we get to real "ease of use" as most consumers understand the term.
On an amusig side note, there's a fair bit of irony here:
If there's a glib, nutshell synopsis for why Linux desktop software tends to suck, it's this: Raymond and his ilk have no respect for anyone but themselves.
They have no respect for the fact that UI design is a special talent.
They have no respect for the fact the good UI design requires a tremendous amount of time and effort.
Heh. This from a guy who's site is dark gray with white text. Sheesh. Could you make it harder on my eyes if you tried???. Now, having said all that, there's a really good point down towards the bottom of the post:
It's pretty hard to sell "services and support" for software that fits that bill. The model that actually works is selling the software itself. This is politically distasteful to open source zealots, but it's true - and it explains the poor state of usability in open source software.
Raymond also complains about CUPS's shoddy and inaccurate documentation, but that's just another side of the same glove. Technical documentation is also hard work, and requires talent to be done well. Writers need paychecks, too. (Trust me.)
Very, very true - and it's what Clemens Vasters was getting at here - a post that was profoundly misunderstood - see this response by Ryan Lowe, for example. There's an old adage that says a lot here: You get what you pay for. If you aren't willing to pay, you are far, far less likely to get useful things out the back end....
Scoble reports that those horrid Office 2003 ads are toast. As he says, perhaps MS could actually give me a reason to care that Office 2003 is out?
If you are looking for Smalltalk work in Europe, I have a lead on positions in Switzerland - you need the ability to work in Switzerland quickly - a Swiss passport, EU passport, or anything else that would clear you to work in Switzerland easily. Interested? Contact me; the person interested doesn't want their email address posted, but I can put you in contact with the opportunity.
BottomFeeder - a Smalltalk Development case study
James Robertson: Cincom
Wednesday 8:30:00 am to 9:15:00 am
Abstract: I'll discuss the process of building, deploying and updating a VisualWorks Smalltalk application. The focus will be on BottomFeeder - http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/BottomFeeder - an open source RSS/Atom news aggregator. This should cover
- Development issues (dealing with RSS, character encoding issues)
- Deployment issues (building a deployable and installable application)
- Cross platform issues (Unicode, character sets, libraries, look and feel)
- On the fly updating of a deployed application
Bio: I got started in Smalltalk quite by accident in 1993 - I was in between consulting assignments at Booz- Allen, my employer at the time. Booz Allen had a training contract with ParcPlace, but had lost both of their instructors. I got picked because I had some teaching experience - 2 1/2 years of junior high and high school. They put a junior guy with no training experience, but some (about a year) Smalltalk experience, figuring that the two of us would figure it out.
I spent 9 months teaching for Booz Allen, but got lured over to ParcPlace - I decided that I would much rather be where Smalltalk was being created! I spent almost two years teaching the intro class before I moved into sales - as a sales engineer. That got very hairy over the next 4 years during the PPD nightmare and the ObjectShare confusion.
When Cincom took over VisualWorks in 1999, I came along, retaining my role as a sales engineer. After about a year, I moved up to Product Management, which is where I still am.
See you in Seattle!
I'm in the midst of making BottomFeeder internationalization aware; that means changing all the string refs into UserMessage objects. This is somewhat tedious, but not hard. What I'll be looking for is volunteers to do translations of the catalog file. Now, don't everyone jump up at once :)
Michael Gartenberg thinks that the delay of LongHorn (2006 at least, quite possibly 2007 or even 2008) is a sign of trouble for MS. His evidence?
Microsoft touts Longhorn as revolutionary and says it will make Windows XP look as pale as Windows XP made Windows 98 look. All well and good, except for one thing: A good deal of the market never made the leap to Windows XP. That's amazing when you consider that Windows XP is probably the best operating system Microsoft has ever released, whereas Windows 98 was one of the worst. That stall in the market -- a large number of customers holding on to old operating systems such as Windows 95, 98, NT and 2000 -- is combining with the delays for Longhorn to put Microsoft at potential risk.
A stalled user base is perilous, especially when users are sticking with a product as poor as Windows 98. That means they're saddled with lousy performance, unreliable systems and unsecured ones as well. The second troubled front that Microsoft faces concerns a market that's starting to look for alternatives.
Now admittedly, inertia accounts for a lot of this - but still, his point that the stall on Win 98 is a marketing failure is a good one. XP is a big improvement over 98, and there's really no good reason to stick with it - and yet people are. This does tend to point to a marketing failure at MS. In Gartenberg's words:
It's not about bad product, but rather poor marketing and evangelism, the third troubled front. Let's face it: If you can't show the market value of Windows XP over prior efforts, you're not doing an effective marketing job.
Ouch. Can't say I disagree with him, either. Over to you Scoble :)
Andrew Binstock has written some interesting rubbish on library vs. language feature:
If one is to believe that threads will be on nearly all desktops soon 14and I think this is now a conservative projection 14then threads processing should be part of the language, rather than a series of function calls.
Who cares? That isn't the problem when writing threaded code; the problem is making sure that code is thread-safe. Here's Smalltalk code that forks off a (lightweight) Smalltalk thread:
[self doComplexWork] fork
Ok, is #fork a library call or part of the language? Why do you care? More importantly, is it threadsafe?. Then there's this:
Another conservative assumption, in my opinion, is that XML processing will become a primary activity of most software. So will accessing resources across the network, and then combining network access and XML into Web services. If so, then Java syntax would benefit from reflecting these features natively in the language. It seems reasonable to assume that URLs 14or, more accurately, URIs 14should be a native data type. And why not native XML types 14although this would be more difficult.
That's just what the curly brace crowd needs - more data types to make learning the language harder. 50 reserved words aren't enough for some people, I guess. Here's some Smalltalk to parse XML: XMLParser new parse: someXMLText. Binstock wants what, exactly - a set of DOM types to screw up Java and C# worse? When was the last time he was near code, and why would anyone let him near any? Sheesh...
Cringely thinks that nothing can stop MS except MS itself:
Sun no longer poses any threat to Microsoft. Part of this feeling is based on agreements between the two companies that have to exist but weren't announced. For all we know, Sun may have given up the future of Java altogether and will allow it to wither away and be replaced by .NET. Whether that's the case or not, Java Desktop (Sun's biggest strategic threat to Windows) is over. Sun now goes back to being just a maker of big Unix servers intended to support a Windows-centric IT world. And the whole Java culture, which is to say IBM and Oracle, is threatened. Microsoft hobbles three opponents in one deal.
The worst thing about this deal is that Sun brought it upon itself through a campaign of ridicule and hate promulgated personally by CEO Scott McNealy. This is McNealy's failure and nobody else's. The quotes last week from McNealy were laughable, the about face nothing short of shameful. How are Sun's big customers going to believe what the company says in the future in the face of such a change? How can they base huge technical investments on the word of Sun?
Now, I'm far less convinced that MS has hobbled IBM and Oracle in this deal (especially given the db opening MS has handed Oracle with the increasingly long delay in the release of Yukon). IBM, I'd never count out - and with this deal in the air, you now know why IBM suddenly started talking up an opening of Java. IBM has done very well the last few years by not doing what McNealy insisted on doing - taking MS on head to head in a space MS owns.
Make no mistake - this is a huge victory for MS (as I said here, right after the announcement). It's not the end of the world in IT though - Sun has been weak for a long time now, and this is simply Sun management catching up with that reality. MS is bound to slip - IMHO, it'll happen no later than the time that Gates decides that he's (personally) had enough and wants to get off the ride....
Charles Miller speculates on possible side effects of the Sun/MS deal:
Now call me a cynic, but I can't help wondering if the next year will see a less aggressive, more financially responsible Sun cutting back on projects that are unprofitable and that only exist as a weapon against a company they are no longer in pitched battle with. Projects like, say, OpenOffice.org.
That wouldn't surprise me either. They just made a 9% across the board cut; if that doesn't return them to profitability (and I'd bet it doesn't), then killing projects that make no strategic sense is the next logical step. The problem for companies in this situation is determining which projects to keep, because internal politics plays as big (or bigger) a role as anything else - and I say that as someone who's been an internal witness to such nastiness...
Visiting New York in April? Then stop by the next STUG meeting and hear about ST goings on in South America:
Beyond OO - Smalltalking Argentina
Smalltalking is a forum created to encourage advances in object technologies. The members of this group share a particular vision of Smalltalk and the way it can be used to build information systems. The presentation will discuss concepts like ambient programming, emergencies and stability of a system.
Some of this ideas will be illutrated with four samples:
- Small OLAP system.
- Complex telecom system analisys.
- Development of a Smalltalk dialect from scratch to be used for Virtual Reality.
- Building traditional systems.
Diego Coronel has been working with object tecnologies for more than ten years. As an independent consultor he has lead system development for companies like Amadeus and Interamerican Development Bank. Member of Smalltalking from its beginings, is currently involved in a Dolphin Smalltalk project.
Date April 21st, 2004 Location Suite LLC offices Address 440 9th Avenue, 8th Floor Time 6:30pm to 7:00pm -- Open house Time 7:00to 8:30 pm -- Beyond OO - Smalltalk Argentina
Mark Roberts: Cincom
Wednesday 9:15:00 am to 10:00:00 am
Abstract: SmalltalkDoc is a web application that generates API and reference documentation for the VisualWorks package and class library, reading it from a Store repository.
Bio: M. Roberts is a member of the VisualWorks team at Cincom Systems, Inc.
See you in Seattle!
Steve Wart tells us just how productive DotNet is allowing him to be - read the whole thing
who wants OK? Not me. When there's 500 channels of people telling us how to become perfect cooks, gardeners, dressers and travellers, any compromise feels like, well, compromise. And that's the problem with choice. Whatever I choose probably won¹t live up to my expecations, leaving me to feel that somewhere out there, there was the thing I missed, the one that would make me happy right now.
A few years ago I worked with a big UK supermarket chain. We did some research into why people shopped organic. Was it for health? A commitment to the environment? To sustainability? The real reason was quite shocking: in the organic aisle, there¹s only one kind of carrot, two kinds of potatoes and one kind of lettuce. People were paying a premium to escape being confronted with twenty varieties of spud.
That's interesting - it lines up with things I hear about VisualWorks as well - there are too many ways to organize code (categories, parcels, namespaces, packages, bundles) - people don't want that - they want a recommended path. Sure, some people want more choices so that they can design their very own optimal solution - but most people don't. This is food for thought...
Wednesday 2:00:00 pm to 2:45:00 pm
Abstract: A panel on the future evolution and directions of the Smalltalk language. Participants TBD.
See you in Seattle!
I haven't read any fantasy novels - other than LOTR - in many, many years - I think my love of LOTR stood in the way of exploring anything else in the genre, and I had gotten into political thrillers and "Alternate Reality" books (such as most of Turtledove's stuff). I was thrown back into the genre last fall and Christmas though - my sister bought me the first four books in this series - "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan. It's a ten book series, and not over yet according to my sister.
I started reading the first book in the fall - and to be honest, had a little trouble really sinking my teeth into it. It was good, and I was interested - but I wasn't yet in the "can't put it down" frame of mind. That held pretty much through the first three books - I was interested, but not really enthralled. I finished the fourth book on my way back from London, and that brought me to the end of the gift books - and also had me hooked. I got down to Barnes and Noble straight off, and bought books five through ten - so I guess you could say I'm committed now :)
I guess I'm back to fantasy novels again. I'm enjoying this series, and last night at Barnes and Noble I noticed my eye wandering over other books in the genre. Looks like my reading habits have shifted again
Julia Lerman talks about the general lack of women in the software development business: (in the context of an MS MVP meeting)
She brings up an interesting point about the very young MVPs - teens and college students. The only college age MVP female I know is Stacey Yasenka from Ohio. I met her when I kept asking isn't there even ONE girl in the Student Ambassador program. She now proudly tells me there are three! But there were even some highschool boys
This is a general issue in software, hardly limited to the MS side of the development house. I don't think it's a sexism thing at this point in time - most guys I know would love to have more women in the mix. No, this seems to be one of those subtle sorting things, like you see at parties. Go to a party with a bunch of married couples that know each other - over time, the men and women will tend to separate into their own groups, talking about their own subjects of interest. I've seen this for too many years to think it's a coincidence :) It looks to me like software development is one of those fields that women tend to sort themselves away from. Why? Heck, darned if I know. I just know what I see.
Resilient: Making Embedded Systems Serviceable
Lars Bak: OOVM A/S
Wednesday 10:30:00 am to 12:00:00 pm
Abstract: Developing software for embedded systems has until now been very static. Source code, written in C, is compiled and linked on the development platform and the resulting binary image is transferred onto the device. In an industry where robustness is paramount and dynamic software updates are required, this is simply not good enough. This presentation will describe a new approach to developing software for embedded devices. At the bottom of the software stack we have replaced the operating system with a Smalltalk based virtual machine. Scheduler, interrupt handlers, device drivers, networking code and application software are executing on top of this virtual machine. We will discuss some of the design decisions behind this dynamic, lean and mean system for embedded devices. The approach solves many software related problem within the embedded industry. The two biggest problems are full serviceability and transparent software updates. We will conclude with a demonstration of the Resilient programming environment and embedded platform.
Bio: Lars is a technology industry veteran with more than 15 years experience in virtual machine technology, product engineering and management. Prior to founding OOVM in 2002, Lars was the main architect of the Java HotSpot virtual machine at Sun Microsystems, Inc., a highly successful product with more than 50 million installations worldwide. At Sun, Lars was also the main architect of the CLDC HotSpot virtual machine, a new high-performance system for mobile phones. Lars holds a MS degree in Computer Science and is inventor on numerous patents within virtual machine technology.
See you in Seattle!
We are looking at 4 straight days of rain. That wouldn't be so bad, if I hadn't fertilized the lawn before I went to Europe. Why is that bad? Well, it's now become very clear that I missed quite a few spots. I have a "stripey" lawn, and it's not in a good way :)