News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus picture Mail Starting 3/14/97

From: jhebert@lab.housing.fsu.edu (james hebert);
Sent at 3/17/97; 8:32:46 PM;

Solaris, the most respected Unix? Please don't take offense, but that has got to be the funniest thing I've heard all week. Solaris has got to be one of the most made-fun-of commercial unices I've ever heard of. Sure, it has large market share among commercial unices - so what? Frontier is free, port it to a free operating system! How many people have a little sparcClassic kicking around to install Solaris 2.5.1 on and play at making Frontier work? How many people have an old 386 in the corner they can hack away with Linux on? Put Linux on at NT server of yours and add it to the bootloader, I promise, after installing apache, netatalk, and a couple other things, you won't soon be booting back into NT.

Linux, which people have written to you about before, is generally respected by anyone who knows anything about it. I can't say the same is true for Solaris. (The only Linux cracks I ever hear are from FreeBSD fans. I'll live if you decide to port to FreeBSD instead of Linux, since the Linux geeks wouldn't be far behind with the source patches, I'll wager.) If you want developers who will throw their weight behind getting Frontier running under a Un*x, go with one that provides developers with the source code to that OS - free. You're a developer, surely you understand how important that is towards attracting developers to the platform! Linux is an OS that is highly attractive to developers. Perhaps Solaris is, too, but I certainly think that people spend way more time working around Solaris bugs in their development process that when writing for Linux. Find a bug in Linux, or something lacking? Fix it, send the patch to Linus, and move on!

Everyone I know is going towards Linux as fast as they can. Florida State University wrote the Distributed Queueing system, and runs it on Linux. The ISP I work for in Michigan, Compu-Aid(.com), runs Linux. Large portitions of our competition have made the switch with hundreds of users in tow. Florida State University's ResComp people do Linux and Macs. University of Michigan develops netatalk for Suns and Linux boxes (though last I heard they were going to try to port it to freebsd.) The GIMP, which is going to give photoshop a run for its money, was written for linux, and then ported later to other platforms. One of the last SysAdmin magazines I picked up at the newstands was dedicated completely to Linux, and Unix Review has given it a good treatment too. Linux is really where it's at....

Whether you're looking to make a unix frontier that is free, or costs money, Linux is the best option. I stake my reputation on Linux -- every day!

From: wcate@qm.prubank.com (Will Cate);
Sent at 3/17/97; 11:31:53 AM;
Xtrasoft = hoax

Two paragraphs into the RedHerring story & I knew this was a hoax.

This is the technological equivelent of what Vanity Fair did a couple of month ago: They created a fictitious "up and coming" blond starlet, put "her" on the cover (actually a fashion model) and a big feature article inside.

Pretty soon, studio execs are burning up their phone lines trying to get an appointment with the girl who doesn't exist.

The fact that you sussed them out just by doing a "whois" on their bogus domain name shows what a lame idea it was to begin with, or at least how a print-media prank falls flat when retold on the 'net.

From: ralph@spacewalk.com (Ralph Lombreglia);
Sent at 3/16/97; 2:30:06 PM;
Author's query re Boca Raton

I'd welcome hearing from DaveNet readers who have stories about working in the computer industry in southern Florida past and present, especially IBM's PC division in Boca Raton during its heyday in the 1980s. I'm working on a funny but serious novel set partly in contemporary Boca, in which one of the characters, an engineer formerly with IBM, stumbles upon a network-related crime involving electronic money laundering and online gambling. Anything memorable might be helpful. If you'd like to see a sample my previous work, a few short stories are available on the Atlantic Monthly's Web site, http://www.theatlantic.com, as well as the "Digital Culture" column I do there.

From: shmerls@earthlink.net (Steven Shmerler);
Sent at 3/16/97; 11:43:49 AM;
A terrible thing happens when you don't promote....

Allow me to rant back at Apple via DaveNet.

There I was manning our Internet Developers Association (IDA) booth at IWorld/LA this week and finally got a few minutes to walk the floor of the convention. It was power packed. I rushed to Apple's booth to check out the new 200 Mhz 3400 powerbooks only to find that Apple didn't have ANY on display!


Well, their floor manager told me with great pride, "...because we want to have every one made at retail."

Oh I get it! Silly me. By not earmarking one or two powerbooks for display at a *huge* Internet convention in order to present their wares to a large group of PC users over a 3 day period (and more if you consider the other markets Iworld will travel to), they get to keep the 3400 hot among the Mac community to try to stop rush away from Mac to PC while not trying to move the PC Internet user/developer to the Mac.

Why can't Apple fulfill orders and try to expand their market share at the same time? They've hysterically knee jerked so far on their historical delivery problems. Do they actually think they are fully catering to the Mac community by under-promoting to the bulk of the laptop community? Are we best served by drawing the wagon train?

Can you imagine: not one floor model, demo, prototype, nada! Perhaps I shouldn't be amazed at Apple's continued lack of marketing ability. This is pretty basic marketing 101 stuff though. Here they build the hottest PB on the market and have a booth at one of the hottest shows in So Cal and they don't even have a brochure of it.

A terrible thing happens when you don't promote....


Sadly, all I can gasp is, "wow..."

Regards, Steven Shmerler Web Designer shmerls@earthlink.net

From: filsa@gol.com (Philip Suh);
Sent at 3/16/97; 11:07:13 PM;
Comments on Apple@InternetWorld NewsRoom


I folllowed InterNet World pretty closely via your Newroom. Some comments on the interface from a reader's point of view:

1. As a reader, I wanted to know what kind of article was available before I followed the link. For example, was it opinion, a product review, interview, press release or story? And I wanted those categories to be seen on the main news page, or at least be able to sort by them. Thursday you published a lot of articles, and I really wanted a saner way to wade through them.

Of course, the editor can do this manually on the main news page, but if the article type where stored in a directive or elsewhere, Frontier could easily set up a sort or index by article type.

2. Who were the authors? It would be cool if Frontier kept a file of author information and appended it to the bottom of each article that was written by that person. For example, contentserver.authorBio.gulker is a string or text object that held a short author description (like the blurbs at the bottom of Webmonkey articles). contentserver.authorBio.gulker can also be a table full of author blurbs, and one gets chosen randomly when that author's article is processed the first time.

3. I knew the news was hot, but I wanted to know *how* hot. Date and times of posting to the content server on every news page. Just to emphasis how dynamic the site is.

These suggestions are mostly cosmetic. It's about providing contextual clues for your readers. Also, it's quite easy to implement them in scripts. But I think that these are good suggestions that would enhance the value of Content Server and NewsPage to your target audience.

By the way, loved the site. Your news had a visceral appeal, it was up to date, and had immediacy and directness that I don't get from other news outlets. I felt like I was at the show.

From: hasseily@ix.netcom.com (Henri Asseily);
Sent at 3/15/97; 5:36:00 PM;

I went over to the WebObjects people at iWorld and got someone to do me a complete demo of their stuff.

I looked at their development framework, the html output, etc. The people who were showing me this weren't techie enough to answer all my questions, but basically here is what I figured out (from memory):

1- Very very nice GUI for development. It's basically a PageMill, but better.

2- Excellent database connectivity. Very simple system: you choose the db you want to connect to. It finds all the fields for you. Then you say you want to add a specific field in the html page. Drag the field button, choose the db field you want, say what it should be in HTML (text, radio, etc..). WebObjects itself will convert the data back and forth for display to the user, and writing to the database after the user has modified the field.

3- The output consists of 3 files for each html page (or template). The first file is the html code. The second is the glue html<-->db, the third is the scripts associated with the template. It is very difficult to manually edit this stuff. I don't know how the can manage to import existing sites easily, nobody was able to answer that question.

4- The scripts can be written in many different languages: webObjects script (whatever it is called, I forget), JavaScript, C++, etc...

5- Looks like the scripts are compiled JIT.

I think we can get Frontier to work with this. We need to have the scripting system be integrated to WebObjects. Frontier scripts could be called from WebObjects. However, much of the functionality between the 2 is redundant from what I briefly saw.

What I am certain about, though, is that I would love to have WebObjects' db connectivity and user tracking schemes (it tracks the user for you, you don't need to do a thing).

From: George.Bray@moreinfo.com.au (George Bray);
Sent at 3/16/97; 10:24:18 AM;

> Re WebObjects pricing: "It is actually $25,000 per processor - for a
> multiprocessor server deployment, the price is N times $25K.

Welcome to DAL, QTVR and Apple Media Tool marketing. Take a super product in which you have a clear technology lead and restrict not only developer but also customer access to it.

Apple: Want to make a difference with this integrated web world building system? Get it to developers cheap. License it to corporate and government cheap. Don't let it wither because there's little revenue for it.

If WebOjects is as good as everyone says, deploy it and support it for the rest of us. If Dr. Amelio's Internet World keynote is directing Apple to make the best web world building systems, wouldn't it be foolish to make the same licensing mistakes made with your former, now defunct, jewels?

From: mark@mtlake.com (Mark Richer);
Sent at 3/15/97; 1:23:38 PM;

> Re WebObjects pricing: "It is actually $25,000 per processor - for a
> multiprocessor server deployment, the price is N times $25K.

I didn't realize that WebObjects is so pricey. For stuff that can be done with LiveWire, it's 25 times less expensive just to buy a Netscape Enterprise Server. For more complex stuff, there's Net Dynamics, which is endorsed by Netscape now. I doubt it's in the WebObjects price range. It has a Java API vs. Objective C. I hope Apple doesn't blow it with WebObjects. It seemed like a promising addition but it's a lot more expensive that I realized.

BTW, if you get a cross-platform (Mac, Windows, Unix) Frontier to market that does what LiveWire does (database connectivity, user/session state management) and works with different web servers (web star, apache, netscape, microsoft, etc.), I think you'd have a very successful platform. I was thinking someone should create a LiveWire compatible implementation for Apache and MIIS, but I figure if you entered this frey, it would be with Frontier, and why not.

> Re Mac is bigger than the Internet: "I said it, and I meant that lots of
> our satisfied customers do not necessarily buy Mac for the net. I did
> not mean to say, obviously, that Internet is not a huge opportunity
> for the Mac. I am not dumb."

The numbers don't support this statement. Netscape has more users than Apple. Yahoo probably has more users than Apple! IBM has satisfied OS/2 customers too. So? They laid off 200,000 people, now Apple is laying off 1/3 of their employees. It doesn't seem as if they have _enough_ satisified customers, does it?

The network is the computer. Publishing is the web, regardless of what else a media company does. Apple better get this soon or they're dead. The Internet isn't just an opportunity; supporting it well is critical for survival.

From: tclifton@es-designs.com (Tom Clifton);
Sent at 3/14/97; 3:44:56 PM;
Time to Content

Welcome back, I trust you had a successful and enjoyable time at Internet World. I enjoyed the news room.

After waiting for the MSNBC article on Chris Gulker to download with superfluous graphics and all, I started thinking about the Internet experience that most users see (life at 28.8 kps or worse) and how that might effect their browsing habits. The result was a little test of download times for a couple of sites. This test revealed why I frequent some sites and not others, and pointed out an important website metric, "time to content"

I have posted the results of this quick study and a brief discussion at http://www.es-designs.com/test/discussions/waiting.html.

I wonder how many website designers view their sites at the slow end of the connection spectrum?

From: tgravett@forepoint.com (Antony Gravett);
Sent at 3/14/97; 4:10:15 PM;
Great coverage!

Thanks for the _superb_ coverage at Internet World, by way of the newsRoom.

It's everything I could have wanted from the trade show floor, without the aching arches!

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