Marcia Marcia Marcia
Friday, October 11, 1996 by Dave Winer.
Good morning DaveNetters!
Yeah-yeah. Here I am. Back in DaveNet mode. Humming and wailing. Just for old times sake I put Aretha on the box. She's humming too. Cooooool.
Hey that's how you know it's DaveNet. Yes, there are lots of imitators. They ask "how many o's in coooool?" Only Dave knows for sure. Every time a different number. It's a secret sauce. A confidential algorithm. Yeah! That's right.
As long as my Aretha CD doesn't wear out, you can always have another DaveNet. Lucky you! OK.
It's playoff season in the baseball world. A Mets fan sent email asking if I know the spring training schedule. Haha! I'm a Mets fan since 1962. Do you remember what it was like? I do. There was this guy, a sign-maker with a great sense of humor, he came to every Mets game and sat in the front row of Shea Stadium. He had signs that had something funny to say.
On opening day, just after the first pitch, he holds up a sign. A hopeful one.
It says, Wait Till Next Year!
Not a problem.
What the hell is Sun doing with Java?
It's true that they have the world turning around them due to some brilliant (and confidential) license agreements. I've tried to learn what restrictions are on the various licensees of Java. No one will talk.
Sun is scared out of their mind of Microsoft. Scared into denial. Microsoft is leaving no room for Sun to dominate on the Windows platform. And there is an incredible anti-Mac bigotry at Sun.
The personality of the Old Apple has found a new home called JavaSoft. The Holy Grail at JavaSoft is Java toasters, Java cellphones, Java running on every conceivable appliance. They don't care about the Mac, but if you say cellphone, boom! action at the highest levels.
That's who's running the Java world.
No, my eyes don't glaze over when I think of Java cellphones. I never bought a Newton. I do own a cellphone, but I use it as a phone, not a PDA. Instead I now have five systems on my LAN all running web servers! I moved into territory that Sun is strong in. Have they tried to sell me anything? Have they ever come to me, on my terms, and offered me anything that makes sense in the world I already understand? No.
Microsoft has, of course. The NT box on my LAN supports AppleShare. The NT file system is an icon on my Mac desktop. Amazingly, the new web search engine software that I'm using can index a website that's running on my NT machine. It's amazing because it runs on a Mac. That's integration.
With DCOM and Denali, you'll be able to run Mac scripts as CGI apps behind an NT server. I find that amazing! A committment to opportunity. A sense of how the world really works. Websites are LANs. Sysops can mix and match brands of hardware to get the best effect.
How could Sun have let this opportunity escape them? If they sold a fast inexpensive Unix box that plugged into my Mac network, I bet I would have bought one by now. But Sun is dreaming about world domination, erasing Microsoft and making smart toasters. Oh those white boys and girls. Earning their fat paychecks and selling their shareholders down the river.
It's like The Brady Bunch, which I never watched (I'm from a earlier generation). My younger friends tell me about the middle sister of the bunch who would always say Marcia Marcia Marcia. I say Java Java Java. People hear Marcia Marcia Marcia. Cooool.
To be a leading platform, Java is going to have to embrace and work with non-Java apps on all platforms, Mac included. The Java environment is incomplete. Its use as a web content tool is over-rated. The Mac platform has a bunch of technology to help Java, but it doesn't come from Apple. An oft-repeated tune in this column. Think about it. Just think. A little bit.
Back in the early nineties, a year before Newton launched, I made an offer to the Newton team at Apple, which in hindsight could have saved them if they had gone for it.
We were developing a scripting system designed to hook into all the popular apps on the Mac platform. We already had the hooks into FileMaker which was the most popular Mac database (still is). We offered to supply the software that would connect Newton into FileMaker. We could have done this in weeks instead of the years it took when they took the do-it-ourselves path.
We offered to do it for them when there was still time. It was what they needed. We needed them to add hooks to the Newton Mac client. They blew us off. Ask anyone who used a Newton why it was so frustrating. One answer: it couldn't share data with their desktop system.
I wrote about this in 1994, in one of the first DaveNet pieces, How to invest in PDAs, 10/14/94.
Java needs the same thing, connections to the flow of information and ideas on the platforms they are trying to build on. Software is the key here. Data formats. Synchronization and reconciliation. Smart and open connections to desktop apps.
I make the same offer to the Java community, at Sun and elsewhere. We can flow your information thru apps that real people really use. Eudora, Netscape, Microsoft Internet Explorer, WebStar, Netpresenz, StuffIt, BBEdit, the Finder, GlobeTrotter, Quark XPress, FileMaker, you name it. We connect to them all. And the Mac OS itself. We can't help you on Windows yet. But we can do amazing stuff with Mac apps. Come have a look.
Earlier this week we released Frontier 4.1. What a labor of love! It was intense. But it's over now. I can tell because I'm typing this on a new keyboard and have a new mouse. Whenever I ship I get a new keyboard and mouse. It improves my feelings about the computer tremendously. I type with authority. I click with real feeling!
If you employ programmers or writers, and want to reward someone for a job well done, send them flowers, of course, and also buy them a new keyboard and mouse. The fresh flowers make a lasting impression. So does the fresh new keyboard.
On the MIDAS mailing list, we've been locked in debate over silly syntactic details on a proposal we made about macro syntax for web page rendering software. In the meantime, market opportunities are passing, chaos continues to reign, other standards bodies are working on less adequate solutions, and some are thinking of going ahead without a standard, trying to achieve defacto status thru market muscle instead of informed consensus.
In contrast, in the process of shipping Frontier 4.1, we agreed to many new standards for this part of the Mac scripting community. It was an interesting study in contrasts. We can move much faster here because we have a central and relatively benign leader... Me!
I've learned so much about platform management in the last few months. All the complaints I've ever had about Apple were sent back to me. I hadn't been watching what was going on in our community. And some of them weren't watching me. So we collided.
Then we backed off and people got back to work. Two new leaders emerged in our world. Preston Holmes is graduate student at UCSD and Brent Simmons is a web developer and software entrepreneur in Seattle. I learned to depend on these guys in ways I used to hope Apple would depend on me. I trust these people. I let them lead. My employees can't cover all the bases. We're stronger because they're here. They don't work for me, but we cooperate.
This was what I wanted. I find that you need a different kind of patience. But if they're good people (they are!) it's always worth the wait. We've attracted the very best people in the scripting world, and we want to attract more. I want the Frontier world to be about success. People achieving new stuff that they used to dream about. People who beat their competitors because they build with our tools and runtime. People who make money, lots of it! and have fun, and most important, respect each other. We try to take the high road, look for win-wins, where ever possible.
We're also competitive. We make offers to others to work with us. If they say yes, they're our friends. If not, we blast them! Not with words, we're too respectful for that. We deliver the software they dream about. It's a competitive world. We like that.
Next week I'm going to help one of my developers launch a new product. It's commercial. It has a pricetag. It's worth every penny. It's fantastic stuff. It's respectful. What a milestone! Stay tuned.
Another thing to watch for is an implementation of Microsoft's Denali web serving technology on the Mac platform, running behind Mac web servers.
I was briefed on their plans a few weeks back and I liked most of what I saw. But I saw a collision in syntaxes, the same page rendering problem I mentioned earlier in this piece and in Midnight Plane to Windows 9/12/96.
We're going to do what Denali does on the Mac platform. Our technology will offer a plug-in architecture for macro syntax. We'll support different syntaxes thru plug-in modules. We need to have cross-platform agreement on how scripts appear in web pages. Everyone's singing a different tune. We need an orderly infusion of technology here.
By shipping a syntax-agnostic framework for adding macros to web servers we provide a platform for experimentation, and for sorting out differences. The Rosetta Stone of web page macro syntax. We're almost ready with this piece. I'll point you to it in DaveNet of course.
I have more to say about scripts that live in web pages.
Microsoft's Denali approaches web pages as islands separated from other web pages. That's not the nature of the web. Each site has many pages which can contain their own scripts and data. How does a script on one page invoke a script on another page? Here's the object orientation that's coming on the web. A page is a very nice unit. Yes, it has an object hierarchy inside it, but more important, it lives in an object hierarchy called a website. And that's contained within a hierarchy called The WorldWide Web.
Imagine a class system that can span the whole web. That's what we've been working on for two years. That's getting pretty close to being ready now.
PS: Many thanks to my programming partner, Doug Baron, for a job well done on Frontier 4.1. We still make shitty software, with bugs. But it just keeps getting better and better!
PPS: MIDAS stands for Macintosh Internet Developer Association.
PPPS: The best use of a Newton comes from a random web page. "The Newton Message Pad PDA is a major babe magnet." I never thought of that!
PPPPS: Denali is the code name of Microsoft's new web server. It's also the codename of a language being developed by IBM in conjunction with Apple. It's also the name of a national park in Alaska.
PPPPPS: LAN stands for Local Area Network.
PPPPPPS: Frontier 4.1 is free. You can get it at http://www.scripting.com/frontier/.