When the subject of timing came up, I didn't look at the calendar - so I'm flying out to California on Sunday during the Superbowl, for meetings that start Monday. Next time, I'll examine the calendar. I'm heading to Cincinnati first, tomorrow, for related meetings. If you have ideas/thoughts/criticisms/praise for the products - ObjectStudio or VisualWorks - now would be a great time to let me know - I'll be meeting with the entire engineering group.
Heh. This will teach me to read dates carefully. This only just showed up in my aggregator, but it's 2 weeks old. Dohh.
Learning Seaside announced a Seaside talk by Lukas Renggli, the author the wiki system described below. Sounds interesting, and Annecy is apparently just 30 minutes by car from Geneva.
Where: LISTIC - ESIA
LISTIC - ESIA
5, chemin de Bellevue
Domaine universitaire d'Annecy-Le-Vieux
When: Mercredi 18 Janvier 2006 a 18h
Un petit apero sera servi donc envoye un mail pour dire si vous comptez venir a firstname.lastname@example.org
Pier -- A Meta-Described Collaborative Content Management System
Wikis are often implemented using string-based approaches to parse and generate their pages. While such approaches work well for simple wikis, they hamper the customization and adaptability of wikis to the variety of end-users when more sophisticated needs are required, such as different output formats, user-interfaces, wiki management and security policies.
Pier 2 (smallwiki.unibe.ch) is the second version of a fully object-oriented implementation of a wiki. Pier is written with objects from the top to the bottom and it can be customized easily to accommodate new needs. In addition, SmallWiki is based on a powerful meta-description called Magritte that allows one to create user-interface elements easily. In this talk I will present some of the unique features of Pier, such as how pages can be composed and integrated into other web-applications. Furthermore I will create a small extension to demonstrate how to customize and add new functionality easily
Now AT&T is showing how stupid they are - here's CEO Whitacre:
AT&T's CEO Ed Whitacre is once again crowing about his company's plans to extort money from Google and other Web sites who want to be able to reach AT&T customers. "The content providers should be paying for the use of the network," he told the Financial Times, and added that they shouldn't "expect a free ride."
Hmm. Two things come to mind. First, the pipes are being used by people who use Google (et. al.). So the proper charge point is - wait for it - the consumer end. Second - there's this line item that comes in on my cable bill every month - I bet Google gets one just like it, but with more zeros at the end - it's my internet access charge. In other words, AT&T (and the rest of them) are being paid. If he thinks that we aren't paying our way, then he should be more honest, and advocate a rate increase.
Instead, he might start supporting truth in advertising, and call himself Tony - as in Soprano.
It's been a very mild winter here on the east coast - the ski operators on this side of the continent must be crying in their cocoa. Have a look at this picture I snapped yesterday, January 31st:
I took that shot while getting my car inspected. See those trees covered in red buds? Strange weather pattern this year.
Some security breaches are just caused by raw stupidity at work. For instance - look at how the Boston Globe managed to give out personal info for a bunch of subscribers:
Credit and bank card numbers of as many as 240,000 subscribers of The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette were inadvertently distributed with bundles of T&G newspapers on Sunday, officials of the newspapers said yesterday.
The confidential information was on the back of paper used in wrapping newspaper bundles for distribution to carriers and retailers. As many as 9,000 bundles of the T&G, wrapped in paper containing subscribers' names and their confidential information, were distributed Sunday to 2,000 retailers and 390 carriers in the Worcester area, said Alfred S. Larkin Jr., spokesman for the Globe.
In addition, routing information for personal checks of 1,100 T&G subscribers also may have been inadvertently released.
One word for these guys: Shredder.
AR50145: VW Internet Explorer Plugin broken in 7.4
Starting any of the plugin demos and examples raises an exception MNU: #urlDecode
The ar50145.zip download contains a complete replacement for the VisualWorks \plugin directory. The Plugin parcel, as well as the distribution units for deployment, and the example html pages have all changed. The ActiveX Control DLL has not changed.
To update the plugin test samples, simply open the \plugin\examples\index.html and select one of the samples to run. This will update the VisualWorks plugin installation on your machine.
If you have deployed a VisualWorks Plugin application, please consult the \plugin\deploy\readme.txt for instructions to rebuild and redeploy your application. You will need a new plugin image (containing the new Plugin parcel) and new CAB deployment files. It is also critical that the OBJECT tags in your HTML pages be changed to reference vwpluginax.cab#version=-1,-1,-1,-1 so that Internet Explorer will download and install your new CAB files. If you explicitly reference the version of the VisualWorks Plugin ActiveX Control (which did not change) IE will not install the new VisualWorks components.
Has MP3 killed the radio star?
A number of youth-oriented radio stations around the world have reported falling listenership.
Ironically, the rising popularity of music through MP3 may be the cause. (Someone told me today that some radio stations have a playlist as short as 25 song that they play in different order, so not surprising if they are losing listeners to an iPod with more songs.)
Years ago, when FM receiver prices came down, FM radio just killed AM radio in the music business. When I was a kid in the late 60's and early 70's, AM radio was filled with pop music. By the end of the 70's, FM owned the dial, and AM was in free-fall (it later recovered with talk radio).
Why did that happen? Because FM delivered a better music experience. Less static, lack of interference when you drove under wires/bridges - it just sounded better. Now music players are doing the same thing to FM radio. No loss of signal at all (until the battery runs down, anyway :) ), and no annoying chatter from the "personalities". For all the nostalgia you hear for local dj's, I've always found them annoying - if I'm listening to the FM dial, I want music, not talk. If I want talk, I'll tune to the AM dial (or grab a podcast).
You can also ensure that your player is filled with music you like - you don't get interrupted by the occasional tune that just grates on you. On the other hand, that illustrates an issue - where do you find new tunes without radio? Peer recommendation, I suppose - but someone has to be hearing the new stuff somewhere. Other than that though, a music player delivers a better experience. If FM radio wants to survive, it's going to have to do better than limited playlists.
There's a strange bug in BottomFeeder - if you hit F12, the application locks up. The reason for that is that the system tries to pop up a class that's not in the runtime. That would be ok if I hadn't aliased the name - I did that sometime last year, because of some other problem.
In other words, the dreaded "bug fix that creates another problem" :)
Anyway, there's an update available that fixes that - grab it if you've run into this.
I love these guys. A group of newspaper publishers is lashing out at Google (and other search companies) over supposed violations of copyright:
The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers, whose members include dozens of national newspaper trade bodies, said it is exploring ways to "challenge the exploitation of content by search engines without fair compensation to copyright owners."
Web sites like Google and its specialized Google News service automatically pull in headlines, photos and short excerpts of articles from thousands of news sources, linking back to the publishers' own site. Google News does not currently carry advertising.
"They're building a new medium on the backs of our industry, without paying for any of the content," Ali Rahnema, managing director of the association, told Reuters in an interview.
If this were actually about controlling content, these publishers would have solved it already - by blocking the various search bots in robots.txt. Since they haven't, we know it's not actually about copyright. Instead, they want (just like the telcos!) to find a way to get deep pocketed Google to make charity payments to them. Since Google's not biting, they hope to get what they want via rent-seeking.
I've been going off on Microsoft's DRM (PVP-OPM) for awhile now, and this morning's news from Boing-Boing is just icing on the cake. Their rationale for why they need to implement things this way? It's just too hard to keep up:
A Microsoft spokesman has described their DRM licensing scheme as a system for reducing the number of device vendors to a manageable number, so that the company doesn't have to oversee too many developers.
Oh, but it gets better:
The bombshell was Amir's explanation of the reason that his employer charges fees to license its DRM. According to Amir, the fee is not intended to recoup the expenses Microsoft incurred in developing their DRM, or to turn a profit. The intention is to reduce the number of licensors to a manageable level, to lock out "hobbyists" and other entities that Microsoft doesn't want to have to trouble itself with.
The specific quote, according to this post:
"We don't want this technology to be available to every hobbyist. We need to keep the number of licensees down to a manageable number. We charge a license fee to keep the number of people we have to deal with down to a level we can handle."
So those of us with older devices and content we paid for? We just have to suck it up. This is not an *cough* upgrade *cough* that MS is pushing with Vista. Forget all the happy talk from Scoble; there's not a whole lot of beneficial new stuff here; that all got jettisoned back when Vista was well over a year late. The interesting aspect is what they decided to keep: updated file system? Nah. DRM that hoses off people with existing display devices and legally owned content? Yeah, that needs to stay in.
Sure, Apple has DRM included in the iPod/iTunes system - they aren't a white knight. On the other hand, they aren't telling me to bend over either.
Microsoft can take their shiny Vista and (insert nasty comment here). I'll stay with XP, and make sure my new x86 hardware isn't running Vista.
Thanks to Rogers Cadenhead, there's a draft specification for RSS 2. The only thing better? Seeing this when the Atom effort got started, so that the whole effort would have been unnecessary.
You have to wade a long way into this article on DRM before you find the real stupidity being backed by the advocates of DRM:
Don Huesman, senior director of faculty technology at Wharton, also contends that DRM has value. "Most people think DRM is a problem, but I don't agree. I'm a fan of approaches that reward creative talent," says Huesman, who at the same time acknowledges problems with many current content protection schemes, including Sony's "obnoxious" behavior. But DRM shouldn't simply be thrown out, he believes. The goal of DRM is to "keep honest people honest" about sharing content. If you can prevent most consumers from swapping files across the Internet, then the content creators can benefit, says Huesman, who argues that DRM doesn't have to be 100 percent effective to be a success.
"If it's 20 percent effective, that's enough. You have to err on the side of access and fair use," he suggests, adding that using DRM is better than allowing piracy to run rampant. Why settle for 20 percent? According to Huesman, before DRM technology, content owners couldn't even track what happened to their property once it was purchased. If DRM manages to be just successful enough not to be a burden, enough incremental dollars will go to the creative types to be worth the effort.
So... he notes that content has not been protected in the past as a way of stating that some mostly useless (but certainly annoying) DRM system that stops 20% of piracy will be a net positive. If that's the case, how did the industry ever make money with audio tapes being available? And don't razz me with crap about how the lower quality made it less of a problem - contrary to popular belief, most music listeners aren't tremendously huge audiophiles - i.e., they don't care. I made plenty of party mix tapes back in the 80's, and I ended up listening to them more often than I listened to the LPs I had purchased, for the simple reason that they had only songs that I liked.
All digital does for most people is make the process faster and easier. Fortunately, there is some sanity out there; in the same story, Mark Cuban states the obvious:
Cuban doesn't buy it. DRM is "a waste of time. There is always someone smarter" who can sidestep antipiracy efforts, he says.
This is exactly why Cincom Smalltalk NC doesn't have time-bombs or any other sort of protections - whatever we do, someone else will quickly find a way to hack around it. The sort of person who's willing to use my product illegally isn't going to pay me anyway - so adding "protections" will only limit my exposure. It's past time for the music industry to wise up to that obvious bit of wisdom - most people will happily pay for music - or TV, or movies - so long as they don't feel like they are getting stuffed into a locked trunk with the DRM.
Wikipedia has recently blocked a range of IP addresses belonging to the United States Congress due to staffers who have been engaging in revert wars regarding content associated with frequent politicians. This RFC was started to centralize the discussion on the violation of Wikipedia policy and alleged libelous behavior.
This fits right in with my general take on Wikipedia (or any similar resource): content about controversial topics (which includes bios of people who are still alive and politically prominent) are going to be hard to keep objective.
Scoble touts EVDO, and isn't happy that Apple isn't supporting the stock PCMCIA slot:
Why does this matter? Well, go down to Sprint and ask for an EVDO card. Or Verizon . Or Cingular . They all have them. I would say these are all now NECESSARY for a traveling businessperson. I just got one yesterday and I’ve said goodbye to Wifi forever. My friends are all buying them (Phillip Torrone showed me his at Macworld expo).
Well, there's a small rub in that. Around here (I live in Maryland) runs about $60 a month. That's not onerous, when you compare it straight up to cable/DSL prices. Personally, I'm not going to plunk down that kind of money on top of my existing home service. Could I get Cincom to pay for it? I don't know, but I suspect that I'd get questions - something like, "we already pay for broadband for you. Why do you need another connection, exactly?".
That's going to be a stopper for a lot of people, I think. It's slower than my home broadband (a fair bit slower), and slower than most WiFi connections. I realize that it's got a wider spread than Wifi, but thus far, WiFi is "good enough" for me.
How it comes down likely depends on your travel schedule. If you're a road warrior, then it should be easy to justify that $60 per month - a single WiFi session at an airport can run $10, as can the daily pickup at StarBucks (etc, etc). If you aren't a road warrior, it's going to be a lot harder.
Back to Apple - the interesting thing is this - over a decade ago, when IBM tried to push MicroChannel, people went bats. Apple is doing much the same thing with their own BIOS replacement and the push for a new card standard. And yet, no one is up in arms (or almost no one, anyway). The difference? It's all about the success of Apple marketing.
Jack Shafer of Slate ties it all together on how the web is set to displace an awful lot of print media. It's all about the lower cost of production, and the industry's non-reaction to that simple fact.
He kicks it off by relating the present to past actions in the newspaper business: the consolidation events that kicked off due to technological changes in the post WWII era:
In 1953, Low of the Patriot Ledger placed his bet on a newfangled photocomposition device—the Photon—that set type on film instead of lead, did it six times faster, and did it tons cheaper. By 1956, the Patriot Ledger had fully integrated the Photon into its operation. This allowed Low to replace skilled workers with the unskilled, who could set more type in less time at much less cost, eventually displacing "a method of production that newspapers had been using for nearly a hundred years."
That technological change drove dinosaurs out of the business, and helped the more savvy survivors larger and more profitable. That win was shortlived though - the rise of the net pushed the cost of content production down, although that wasn't immediately obvious:
This is where blogs come in. The union-destroying technology Neiva describes continued to evolve, reducing newspaper costs. Ultimately, the technology trickled down to individual desktops in the form of affordable personal computers. When the Web arrived in the mid-1990s as an alternative publishing system, big media organizations and other well-funded entities were the only ones that could afford to build high-traffic, fancy Web sites.
Getting your own website was no easy thing back in the 90's. The process of editing content and getting it to a server was onerous, and the cost of running a server was - relative to the average person - high. Since then, costs have dropped - you can open up a free blog on numerous services, or get a hosted solution for about the same price as monthly cable TV service. Pushing up content is easier as well - the barrier is fairly non-existant. Anyone who wants to share their thoughts on a subject can.
All that has come as a shock to the news business:
Battelle extols what a new business can accomplish with $200,000 that would have taken millions just six years ago. If you combine Neiva's findings with Battelle's argument, you can make the case that the next entrenched "guild" that technology is likely to bulldoze is the "newspaper guild." I'm not speaking of the union of the same name, but of those who work in the news business—reporters, editors, publishers, radio and TV broadcasters, etc.
So, when newspaper reporters bellyache about shoot-from-the-hip bloggers who don't fully investigate the paper trail before writing a story or double-check their facts before posting, they're telling a valuable truth. Bad bloggers are almost as bad as bad journalists. But the prospect of a million amateurs doing something akin to their job unsettles the guild, making it feel like Maytag's factory rats whose jobs were poached by low-paid Chinese labor.
The entrenched media are reacting slowly and - for the most part, stupidly. Consider the New York Times. They have news production resources that most bloggers can't touch - people on the ground all over the world. So what do they put a pay wall in front of? The one place where their value-add is dropping like a rock: opinion mongering. Why should I pay to hear the thoughts of the Times' op-ed team - whether those thoughts are on sports, politics, fasion (etc, etc)? There are tons of people covering those beats for free, in far more detail than the Times can. Sure, many of the people blogging on those topics are lower quality. But many of them are as good or better, and the price is definitely right.
Meanwhile, the Times (and other outlets) are cutting back on the one area they have a shot at doing more with:
But instead of improving their product by deploying technology bloggers can't afford (yet), newspapers are devolving. Many are cutting staff. Daily newspapers are growing smaller and uglier, with no paper looking anywhere near as lovely as Joseph Pulitzer's New York World from the late 1800s. Comic strips have gotten so tiny you need a magnifying glass to read them. I'm fine with newspapers cutting back on stock tables, but they aren't adding something new to the package. Most newspapers claim they've shrunk their dimensions to combat steep increases in newsprint prices, but that's a lie.
Back when I first moved to Maryland, I paid for a subscription to the Baltimore Sun. Why? Because they had more pages of comics than any other paper I'd ever seen. Over time, they chopped the size of the comics, and also the number. At some point, I stopped reading. I used to read the Washington Times, not for the news coverage - it was pretty slim in that department. But they had a large (typically 4+ pages) op-ed section. I stopped reading that as well - I can get opinions in BottomFeeder far more easily.
Just at the point where good, objective, hard news coverage might be a value-add, it's getting harder to find in print media. As Shafer says, adding blogs and comment sections are fine, but they aren't a win for the papers - they need to tout something that the blogs can't do. They don't have much time to figure it out, either - between Google's ads, and the destruction of the classified business by Craigslist and Ebay, the entire business model is being torn apart.
After reading this piece in InformationWeek, I'm pretty sure that most corporate networks are a lot less secure than we'd like to think. Read it and ponder.
The real story in the BlackBerry lawsuit isn't even being looked at - the utter absurdity of the patent at issue. Here's the story from the point of view of the outfit that went after RIM:
He caught his breath when he saw the RIM story. For a decade, Mr. Stout and his long-time client, Chicago inventor Thomas Campana Jr., had been patiently sitting on a batch of patents for a system to send text messages from computers to wireless devices.
Knockoffs. Amateurs. Who was RIM kidding? That's our technology, Mr. Stout thought. He picked up the phone, setting off an improbable chain of events that has ignited one of the most celebrated intellectual property showdowns in U.S. history. The fateful call put two proud inventors -- one Canadian and one American -- on a collision course that goes to the essence of what it means to develop something new, claim it as yours and then make it wildly popular, even indispensable.
So Campana claimed it's some kind of innovation that he figured out - apparently all by himself - that if a wireless device is on a network - then gosh! You can use SMTP to direct email messages to an address, and the client device can use POP (or IMAP) to yank them down. Wow - I'm so glad he came up with that, and even happier that some uninformed yutz at the PTO handed him a "poach on the industry for free" card. RIM is no better here; they wanted to be the same kind of gatekeeper, and just ended up on the short end of the stick.
Is minimal technical literacy too hard to ask for at the PTO? I guess so.
Blaine talked a little bit about his upcoming talk at Smalltalk Solutions, so I figured I'd mention mine. I'm talking from 2:00 - 2:50 on Tuesday the 25th of April - it's an experience report on various issues I've had with the blog server over the last few years and how I've addressed them.
I started out with a very simple server in 2002, and it really hasn't gotten very complex over the last 3+ years - but I have had to deal with a few things from time to time. I'll be talking about those problems, and about my live patching scheme.
Scoble takes off with Dave Winer's piece on a different sort of VS funding - and I must say, after saying that the idea is to disintermediate, he immediately proposes a new middleman - but that's not what I wanted to comment on. Scoble's take is that venture funding isn't as critical now as it once was:
What are the “ventures” the entrepreneurs actually need?
See, in the 1980s, they needed money. Why? Cause the growth was in computers and other electronics goods. I worked on an assembly line at Hewlett Packard one summer in the early 1980s. Why did these (and smaller startups like Apple or Atari back in the early 80s) need money? Cause building physical machines costs money. Assembly lines. People. Materials. There was a high marginal cost of goods.
But today’s world isn’t money constrained. You don’t need much money to build software or services.
Oh really? I don't need money to pay my mortgage? I don't need money for anyone else who plans to come along and help me? I don't need money for the monthly hosting bills (assuming that I'm building a hosted solution)? If my solution gets big, I don't need more money to pay for all the bandwidth I'm using?
Even if I manage to get hosting paid for somehow, there's the simple matter of paying the day to day bills each month. Most people don't have 1 - 3 years of living money stored up, so they can't just jump off and try to be the next big thing without help. Which means one of two things - venture funding or a bank loan (in the simplest case, maxing out a set of credit cards).
There are different risks attached to each route, obviously, and different levels of control as well. But to state that money doesn't constrain creativity anymore? Lots of luck with that one. Try explaining that to your mortgage company, and the local supermarket.
Maybe Vorlath just needs to sit down with a Smalltalk system for a few minutes instead of just throwing uninformed rocks. In his latest post, he's decided to explain (again) what's wrong with objects, and he's using Dan Ingall's 1989 talk as the starting point. His target this time is polymorphism:
If you have a queue and can put any kind of type in it. When you get to processing them, you would have to check the type of each kind. There's more on this at around 9:22 of the video. His solution and what OO is about is that instead of checking each type before doing an operation, you would just ask the object in the queue to do this action. In C++, this is somewhat like virtual functions. In SmallTalk, it's a little simpler than that in that you only have to send a message. Ok, fine. If these are actions that these objects are supposed to do, then I'm all for it. However, many operations such as inserting itself into the queue is not the job of the object. It's the job of the higher-level running program. There needs to be something that controls the interaction between the objects and the queue as well as the sending of the object to another location after it has been removed from this queue. There's a bigger problem here. Are all these objects independant? No! He's talking about a common Display operation. Well, you can't display anything without a screen. So these objects have a common incoming interface in that they all implement the Display command. But where is the outgoing interface? What commands do these objects require? What resources do they need? There is no mention of this. In fact, I've yet to see a language that has this. If I want to replace the display, it's impossible because the object is coupled to it. Not only that, but this coupling would happen with any external function call. This is what is wrong with objects and I've mentioned in previous entries.
VisualWorks (and Squeak, for that matter) is a direct descendent of the system Ingalls was discussing. The "display" operation being discussed is #displayOn: - which is implemented by any object that knows how to display itself out on the screen (or whatever device you are displaying on. Ingalls is making the common case against the switch statement. Basically, instead of this:
Display(x) Case type(x) of Doctor ["do doctor display"] Nurse ["do nurse display"] Window ["do window display"] ...
The OO complaint against this kind of code is simple - that sort of case statement tends to litter a codebase, and every time you add a new kind of thing to be displayed, you have to modify every one of those case statements. Whereas, if you use polymorphism:
displayOn: someDevice "insert code here for the object to display itself"
Note that the device is sent in as an argument; that way you can get more specific if you need to. That kind of code actually tends to be specific to widgets; the more common case in application code is a method like #displayString - i.e., a common method sent by a widget whenever it needs a way to display some object inside itself. For instance, a Listbox that holds a disparate set of objects. Instead of the case statement, which switches amongst the types, the system sends #displayString and we simply implement it ourselves. For instance, say I have a user in a system whose roles I'm modifying; I might have a simple listbox that displays their name, with a collection of other widgets that, upon selection, displays their access rights. The #displayString method might look like this:
displayString ^self lastName, ', ', self firstName
That way, if the system has different employee types classified (Manager, LineWorker, etc), then I merely need to implement a different #displayString appropriate for each one. I don't need some grand switch statement outside - that code simply does something like this - here's the code that assigns a new text to a label in class Label:
text: aValue "Set the value for text. If you subsequently modify aValue, you will need to invoke this method again in order to register the change with the receiver." text := aValue. text := text displayString. width := nil. self updateNeedsScan
Notice how it doesn't care what kind of text is being handed to it? It simply tells it to display itself, and lets that object handle the details (i.e., it reduces coupling). That's the part Vorlath misses; he wants the #displayString code to be all bunched up with the specifics of what kind of device is attached. Those are details that are irrelevant at this level.
Well, then he decides to come out strongly (again) against GC:
Then around 23:00, he starts talking about automatic memory management. While I agree that some automatic memory management is good if it's clear and concise such as the stack, Dan Ingalls offers no reasons other than it's easy to get it wrong and it doesn't say anything about the problem being solved. I can't believe a programmer would ever say such a thing. Perhaps he believes 640K will be enough for everyone too? Programming in general is easy to get wrong. By that notion, we should just give up entirely until we can get robots to do the programming for us. So the getting things wrong argument is bunk. The next thing he says is that it doesn't say anything about the problem being solved. Well, last I checked, memory is a resource. I can't think of anything MORE important than correct management of this resource. I've yet to see a GC that operates correctly. And if your data is so unmanagable that you can't keep track of it, you're doing something wrong. Sorry to all you out there that disagree, but if you can't keep track of your data, why should I expect you to do anything useful with it? So far, I haven't heard ONE good reason that would explain why automatic memory management is a requirement. This is just shameful all around.
There's no one memory management policy that is appropriate for all client and server systems. This fact drives Vorlath to state that the entire pursuit is meaningless. I might as well come out strongly against speed limits, since no one policy is useful for both city streets and the freeway. What you want is a system that will allocate more memory as you need it, and get rid of it f when you don't - within a set of guidelines that are appropriate to your deployment situation. Smalltalk systems allow for that level of control. In VW, we have a set of tuning parameters in two places:
- ObjectMemory, where we can set (amongst other things) the starting sizes of the various memory zones used by the VM
- MemoryPolicy, where we can change the policy used by the VM to allocate/collect
At the simplest level, you can do things like decide that your application should stay within a given range of memory usage, and set the policy appropriately. BottomFeeder does that (thanks to some nice policy code created by Terry Raymond). The developer may need to tweak those parameters specifically for a given application.
The point being, we don't need to throw our hands up in despair and go back to sharp rocks and pointed sticks. His point about being able to specify the outgoing interface makes no real sense to me; the developer presumably knows what set of objects he's dealing with, and designs accordingly.
Interested in showing off your Smalltalk skills or application at this year's Smalltalk Solutions, but don't have the cash for a standalone booth? Turns out you don't need to - We are setting up the Smalltalk Experience Pavilion (PDF):
- Cost: $1200 USD
- You get floor space with a booth display unit - 1 meter display, set up/tear down done for you
- Specific signage
There are 12 spaces available in the pavilion - check out the linked PDF for details. If you would like to have your own booth space, the document has details on that as well. See you there!
If you're a fan of the Potter series, then run - don't walk - over here, so see what looks like a reasonable argument for Dumbledore not being dead. We won't know for sure until book 7, of course - but the clues seem to be worth thinking about...
As I noted last week, the BottomFeeder access numbers have been off for awhile - the HP numbers have been in line with Solaris (duh), rather than the high numbers my script was producing. Note to self - always look at anomalous results before reporting them :) Anyway - the numbers for the last week:
Which translates into 272 per day, which is an accurate number - and based on the downward adjustments for the bad script, a pretty good one. On to the HTML page accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
Those numbers look normal. On to the RSS tool accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||9.4%|
And that looks like the normal RSS access list as well.
The traditional approach to corporate communications envisages a controlled process of scripted messages delivered by the chief executive, first to investors, then to other opinion-formers, and only later to the mass audiences of employees and consumers. In the past five years, this pyramid-of influence model has been gradually supplanted by a peer-to-peer, horizontal discussion among multiple stakeholders. The employee is the new credible source for information about a company, giving insight from the front lines. The consumer has become a co-creator, demanding transparency on decisions from sourcing to new-product positioning.
The interesting thing is how he explains the rising problems with the traditional model - it has to do with the ongoing loss of faith by the public in elites (whether they be political, business, or otherwise). That's a process that really got started in the West in the aftermath of WWI, but the history isn't relevant here - merely the fact that it's been going on, and is accelerating:
The most profound finding of the 2006 Edelman Trust Barometer is that in six of the 11 countries surveyed, the "person like yourself or your peer" is seen as the most credible spokesperson about a company and among the top three spokespeople in every country surveyed. This has advanced steadily over the past three years.
In the US, for example, the "person like yourself or your peer" was only trusted by 22% of respondents as recently as 2003, while in this year's study, 68% of respondents said they trusted a peer. Contrast that to the CEO, who ranks in the bottom half of credible sources in all countries, at 28% trust in the US, near the level of lawyers and legislators. In China, the "person like yourself or your peer" is trusted by 54% of respondents, compared to the next highest spokesperson, a doctor, at 43%.
The fact that it's a trans-national phenomenon means that you can't isolate it to some specific political or business event - it's bigger than that. For the purposes of PR, you don't even need to worry about how or why though - you simply need to think about how to best get your message across. If only 28% of Americans consider a CEO to be a credible source, then PR that focuses on the CEO almost certainly isn't doing the job.
Consider MS, for instance. Bill Gates speaks frequently, but he's always done that. There's been an uptick of trust in MS over the last few years amongst developers, and I think I'd have to point at their bloggers for that. Those people - Scoble in particular - added an authentic voice to the company from someone who isn't living the rarified life that Gates does. It's made the company a lot more transparent and - IMHO - trustworthy. Which is what Edelman is after here:
How can companies embrace this future of empowered stakeholders? Speak from the inside out, telling your employees and customers what is happening so they can spread the word for you. Be transparent, revealing what you know when you know it while committing to updating as you learn more. Be willing to yield control of the message in favor of a rich dialogue, in which you learn by listening. Recognize the importance of repetition of the story in multiple venues, because nobody believes something he or she hears or sees for the first time. Embrace new technologies, from employee blogs to podcasts, because audiences are becoming ever more segmented. Co-create a brand by taking on an issue that makes sense for your business, such as GE's Ecomagination campaign where green is truly green.
If you want to get the message out, pushing it from the top down simply isn't the most effective way to do it anymore. Maybe with the President of a major PR firm saying it, more marketing departments will pay heed.
Scoble reports on a dinner he set up with a diverse set of bloggers and Jim Allchin, senior exec (Windows) at Microsoft. Give MS credit for listening to outside voices - this is better than just talking to the tech press or giving speeches. I'd have loved to be in on the DRM conversation though :)
I came across an interesting language comparison today - a Red-Black tree implementation in Java, Python, C++, and Java. One of the things that jumped at me was stylistic - in all the implementations, the insert() method was very, very long. Why did that strike me? Well, I've been doing Smalltalk so long that anything over 7-10 lines starts to grate on me. So I took a look at it; here's how I would refactor that method in Smalltalk:
rbInsert: aVal and: sw ((left notNil and: [left color = self red]) and: [right notNil and: [right color = self red]]) ifTrue: [color := self red. left color: self black. right color: self black]. aVal < val ifTrue: [self rotateOnLesserVal: sw] ifFalse: [self rotateOnGreaterVal: sw]
Which, at least for me, makes it far, far easier to follow. This has a lot to do with tool use, I think. In Smalltalk, we edit method at a time using a code browser; most people edit other languages in a text editor (sometimes embedded in an environment, such as Eclipse - but it's still text editing). The Smalltalk tools really push you toward small methods - partly just so that it all fits in the visible part of the pane. Which isn't that different, I guess - the old policy I had in C was that a method should be no longer than a page - i.e., the visible portion of the text editor without scrolling.
Most of the conclusions made in the post seem ok to me - I definitely value dynamic typing more highly, but that's probably because my longer use of it has convinced me that the kinds of errors that static advocates worry about just don't come up that much. Nearly every time I see a MessageNotUnderstood, it's an initialization problem.
The only other quibble I'd have is with the assertion that Java is compiled. Like Smalltalk, it's dynamically compiled - byte code is converted to platform executable at runtime by the VM.
I've gotten all of the content from smalltalk.cincom.com converted now, and I have a test site running. I'm not ready to make that public knowledge yet; it's at an URL location that won't stick, so I'd just as soon not see people start making bookmarks. I've had a few people look, and reaction is positive so far - if you're really interested, email me and I'll let you have a look.
Overheard in the Smalltalk IRC channel, as a comparison of the inspection capabilities of .NET tools versus those of Smalltalk:
it's actually a bit like inspector cluseau, without the eventually getting things right
Keith Ray links to a 1989 video of a presentation by Dan Ingalls on Smalltalk - back when he was an Apple employee. The comment below hits on one of the classic issues in procedural programming: the switch statement. Sure, they can be useful. Smalltalk simply provides a better answer: polymorphism.
Dan Ingalls , principle designer of Smalltalk, with Alan Kay at Xerox Parc. This video was sponsored by Apple, recorded in 1989. In introducing OO (and Smalltalk in particular), he describes the main failing of non-object oriented languages in writing complex software: the switch statement. The switch statement has all sorts of problems with cohesion and coupling. The irony today is that almost all OO languages today, other than Python and Smalltalk (in which it can easily be implemented), still have switch statements.
This is a great site - there's a flash tour and video of portions of the Maginot Line. Great stuff for history buffs.
Now here's an interesting experiment - NASA is going to toss an uninhabited spacesuit out into orbit, with the environmental controls off, but the communications gear on. The idea is to see whether or not the idea can be used as a cheap satellite:
"We've equipped a Russian Orlan spacesuit with three batteries, a radio transmitter, and internal sensors to measure temperature and battery power," says Bauer. "As SuitSat circles Earth, it will transmit its condition to the ground."
Unlike a normal spacewalk, with a human inside the suit, SuitSat's temperature controls will be turned off to conserve power. The suit, arms and legs akimbo, possibly spinning, will be exposed to the fierce rays of the sun with no way to regulate its internal temperature.
"Will the suit overheat? How long will the batteries last? Can we get a clear transmission if the suit tumbles?" wonders Bauer. These are some of the questions SuitSat will answer, laying the groundwork for SuitSats of the future.
The cool part for us non-rocket scientists is that we can listen in:
SuitSat can be heard by anyone on the ground. "All you need is an antenna (the bigger the better) and a radio receiver that you can tune to 145.990 MHz FM," says Bauer. "A police band scanner or a hand-talkie ham radio would work just fine." He encourages students, scouts, teachers and ham radio operators to tune in.
This is a blurry line in the world of truly dynamic languages, and it reminds me of the absurd notion of final in Java. There are times when I need to extend an existing class to provide additional functionality because that is where it belongs . Sometimes people put things in the wrong place, but the idea is that they should just “write a function” isn’t necessarily the right solution either.
I agree completely - better to put the method where it belongs than to introduce a bunch of wrapper classes. It's easier to understand, and easier to deal with - and I say this as someone who's been managing a set of class extensions for BottomFeeder through numerous releases of Cincom Smalltalk.
Simpler is better.
This piece explains why flaming in online forums (email, usenet, blogs, etc) is so much more common than the in-person kind: it has to do with the inability to gauge reaction and adjust. Yes, I realize that it's obvious :) Having said that, it's a good read:
Communication via the Internet can mislead the brain's social systems. The key mechanisms are in the prefrontal cortex; these circuits instantaneously monitor ourselves and the other person during a live interaction, and automatically guide our responses so they are appropriate and smooth. A key mechanism for this involves circuits that ordinarily inhibit impulses for actions that would be rude or simply inappropriate -- or outright dangerous.
In order for this regulatory mechanism to operate well, we depend on real-time, ongoing feedback from the other person. The Internet has no means to allow such realtime feedback (other than rarely used two-way audio/video streams). That puts our inhibitory circuitry at a loss -- there is no signal to monitor from the other person. This results in disinhibition: impulse unleashed.
This relates to the "tone" post I made last week - and explains why it's a bigger problem online.
Hey look - the PTO decided to grant Cingular a patent for showing emoticons on a mobile phone. What next? A patent for the ability to use Unicode?
The USA based mobile operator, Cingular Wireless has managed to get a patent on the concept of using emoticon on mobile phones. While the aim of the patent is to enable the displaying of MSN style graphics on handsets, they also managed to patent the delivery of text based emoticon - so presumably sending :) via an SMS - if selected via a dedicated or softkey, would be a breach of the patent in future.
Do they let anyone work at the PTO these days, or do they specifically test for cluelessness?
While a majority of organizations claim they are already using word of mouth and, with even higher numbers noting WOM is either extremely or very important to the organization’s overall marketing plan I was surprised to learn that 71.4% of all organizations that responded to the survey don’t have an established word of mouth marketing plan.
I'd say that blogs count as a word of mouth exercise - whether most corporate efforts that way count as "organized" is another matter entirely. Certainly my efforts here don't come from any large scale initiative; I did this myself, using software I wrote. Sounds like a lot of other firms are in the same place. Which is interesting, because word of mouth is very effective.
Think about it - what's more likely to drive you to try a new restaurant:
- A big ad in the newspaper or on local TV
- A friend you trust who tells you the food is great
Kind of answers itself...
I've been neck deep in a web project over the last few days - I'm migrating content in order to put up a new and improved Smalltalk website. The end result of this should be a more up to date website, with RSS support. The actual deployment may take longer than the work itself - there's an upgrade of the server for this site underway, so I may have to wait until that shakes out.
Suzanne took some more shots while visiting customers - these are all of Frankfurt and the surrounding area, where Suzanne was visiting customers
Cincom and our partner Georg Heeg had a booth at OOP 2006 this year - Suzanne Fortman, our marketing manager, was there with her camera. Here's the booth, showing Andreas Hiltner and Helge Nowak (on the left) from our German office, and Georg on the right:
And here's another shot of the booth, showing the Cincom Smalltalk logo:
Next, a shot of Suzanne and Georg at the show:
And finally, a shot that includes a section of the booth touting AMD's use of Cincom Smalltalk in their wafer fabs, during the Cincom Smalltalk evening event:
Here's an interesting theory on what's going on in "Lost" - and it seems to have internal consistency on its side. I'll have to ponder this one.
With Smalltalk Solutions 2006 being hosted by LinuxWorld/NetworkWorld, hotel space is being taken up faster than you might expect - the main conference hotel, the Renaissance, is already sold out. Point your browsers here to register at one of the other conference hotels.
The book "Designated Targets" - a fascinating time travel/alternative history yarn - posited a ship defense system called "Metal Storm" - a system that would fill the air with enough shrapnel to stop any incoming attack.
Well, it seems that the author wasn't talking out of his hat - have a look here. The description certainly sounds like the one from the book:
The U.S. Army plans to test next month a SUPER GUN from a company appropriately called Metal Storm that can shoot 240,000 bullets per minute. The gun has no moving parts. Among its many tricks, the gun can actually shoot down enemy mortar fire. I want one.
Note: I'm not at all sure that the story and the picture line up. The linked image looks like one of the bots that are reportedly being used in Iraq and Afghanistan now.