News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 5/1/97
I've just spent a couple of days moving my personal site into Frontier (using the ODB, not the BBEdit method).
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Steve Bogart);
Sent at 5/2/97; 12:28:14 PM;
new frontier site
Already I'm finding that it's so easy (perhaps too easy) to just shoot my mouth off any time I feel like it. I love it!
I also use Frontier to manage a significant portion of the Olin School of Business site, http://www.olin.wustl.edu/.
Frontier runs on my web servers too, handling CGIs quite nicely. My favorite example of wow-cool-I'm-so-proud-I-did-that is the ability for interested parties to apply to the school online.
People can fill out any of the three forms in any order at any time and Frontier keeps track of which pieces they've submitted so far. When the app is complete, it collects it all and sends it off to the program administrator via e-mail.
Only two of our academic programs have this capability so far, but there will be more eventually.
I agree with McNealy that you shouldn't use proprietary formats for documents. However, I find it odd that he considers PostScript to be a proprietary format. Most UNIX people that I know keep all documents as plain text or gzipped PostScript. It frustrates me that the entire UNIX-using academic community publishes nearly *every* document *exclusively* as PostScript. I can't read a lot scientific papers that I'd really like to have access to. The UNIX users always tell me to install Ghostscript, but it takes forever to render documents that then come out barely legible. Obviously I can't afford a laser printer, and I don't live in a computer lab that's perpetually stocked with paper. Yet when I suggest PDF it's heresy. I think Java is helping Sun overcome its UNIX-centric view of the world, but they still have a little way to go.
From: email@example.com (Wesley Felter);
Sent at 5/1/97; 10:53:55 PM;
Re:"Glasgow draft (What is this?), McNealy/Sun hypocrisy"
One little-known feature of NT Server is that its sprint spooler includes a PostScript RIP, so that if you print a PS document to a non-PS printer, it RIPs it for you. I haven't been able to test it, though. --Wes
P.S. So does anybody know what Glasgow is about? At this rate, it'll be more important than XtraSoft pretty soon. :-)
as the token mac developer on the sunscript vendors page and a long-time tcl/tk developer, let me throw out a few things:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark Roseman);
Sent at 5/1/97; 7:35:22 PM;
Sun's Tcl on the Mac
- tcl/tk started on unix. tcl (the non-gui part) has been around for a while on the mac (courtesy ray johnson, now working in the group at sun), but tk (the gui part) is a fairly recent addition and its still not 100% there yet. they're working hard on it. we will see more mac applications in the future (and windows too). tcl/tk is a very productive development environment thats quite compelling.
- yes, syntax is boring. there was an old version of tcl that talked OSA, and one of the very recent hires at sun is a fellow named jim ingham who used to be working at lucent and was doing a lot of work making tcl talk OSA and talk to opendoc (oops). i expect we'll see more work in this direction. plus they've also promised to interact with some of the java stuff (most likely javabeans).
- sure sun's backing it, but i don't see the conspiracy. there was a newsgroup flamewar when john's white paper draft came out, and one of the amusing arguments that came up was sun using its powerful muscle to inflict tcl on the world. amusing because the tcl group is pretty miniscule (about a dozen people).
- the system has historically evolved very grassroots back from when john was a prof at berkeley. much of the magic has been the community that grew up to support that. at the annual tcl conference, there are still sessions where john and others host an open discussion amongst attendees about what features are needed, and what priority those have. the results show community feedback is driving tcl/tk.
- there's been a lot of effort put into interoperating with other tools (which it was designed for). tk for example is the gui for about a half dozen other scripting languages (e.g. perl, python). there are efforts in the sun group to make it easier for those people to hook into tk.
my take on all this? tcl/tk has been a very productive tool for me and i'm glad sun devoted the resources to do things like make it available on mac and windows -- all the while still giving out all the sources for the core system free, which won't change. for now at least, what i see is a bunch of bright people involved doing their best to get a useful tool into a lot of people's hands.
From: email@example.com (Brent Simmons);
Sent at 5/1/97; 4:06:43 PM;
Glasgow draft (What is this?), McNealy/Sun hypocrisy
Funny that there's no HTML version of this.
Here's Scott McNealy, Upside May 1997, page 122:
"Never lock your information up in a proprietary format like PostScript, Frame, Interleaf or Word because then you need a special application to view it..."
"I tell every CEO, 'Do not let any document of yours be locked up in anything other than HTML.' Because every computer, browser, and desktop can unlock an HTML document and share it with your company."
Yes, the syntax religion is boring. Any programmer worthy of the title today can handle at least 3 or 4 languages on a daily basis without flinching.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam Turoff);
Sent at 5/1/97; 6:07:18 PM;
The syntax flamewar >might< have had merit in the olden days when the selections were Pascal/C/Fortran when we were programming closer to the OS and twiddling opcodes. Now that there are well done high level (scripting) languages out there like frontier/tcl, the task has shifted from twiddling opcodes to twiddling high level objects. THAT's a significant difference.
The main difference between "scripting languages" and "programming languages" is that scripting languages tend to focus on a small set of problems, and programming languages try to be generic. Throw some complimentary scripting languages together on a task - like frontier/perl/tcl - and it has a synergetic effect. No one ever said that of throwing Pascal/C/C++ together on the same project.
Now take that a few years into the future, past OSA. Perl5 and tcl8 compile a script into opcodes once and run the opcodes, similar to the JVM and the Smalltalk virtual machine. If Dr. Ousterhout is correct (I tend to believe he is) and large projects are best implemented with 2 (or more) languages, imagine what happens when these bytecodes and virtual machines converge: http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayArchives.pl?97-t03-14.1.htm
THEN it will really start to get interesting....
"Agree or disagree? Syntax religion is boring. I want tcl to run in Frontier."
From: email@example.com (Michael C. Gilbert);
Sent at 5/1/97; 1:19:58 PM;
Yes, syntax religion is boring
I've used Alpha as my text editor for quite some time, so I am as fond of TCL as I am of Usertalk. Platform requirements at this point also require me to be comfortable with Perl. What I really want is greater integration!
I briefly installed the OSA version of TCL. TCL scripts showed up as an option within Frontier, but it wasn't a stable implementaion, so I dropped it in order to get work done. I could go there again.
Take a look at the Corel Office for Java beta, http://officeforjava.corel.com/, if you haven't already. It would seem to me that this is an attempt to incorporate the best from many different OSes and create a software product that is easy to use on any platform.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jason Hanley);
Sent at 5/1/97; 3:23:19 PM;
Re:I Might Like You Better
I believe that this type of work is a positive step towards creating cross-platform communication where a mass of converters and incompatibilies.
It is true that the file saving issue will have to be dealt with, but I am also aware that several possible solutions are in the works.
Netscape 4.0 combined with Office for Java could be a real killer app-like program. It could even be considered a platform in a way. Think of it- these two pieces of software combined could replace so many messy little components on platforms such as PC and Mac. You wouldn't have to worry about your Microsoft Word for Mac version 2.432 file not being read by your Lotus Ami Pro version 1.23 for Windows program. PC, Mac, UNIX, heck even NeXT people could all use compatible software.
Think of a company (such as Corel) which develops for many platforms. Think of how much hassle would be saved by using the same productivity software across all the platforms...
If nothing else, the Java architecture represents a viable alternative to Microsoft's vision of dominating uni-platform, proprietary Windows, Active-X and such. It will at least give people a choice.
After following your first News post of the SunScript site, I've been reading a bit about TCL and am pretty excited about it.
From: email@example.com (Preston Holmes);
Sent at 5/1/97; 11:51:16 AM;
Mac and TCL
I think Sun is really committed to making this cross platform (more so than Java!).
The Mac is the only platform I saw on their site that had its own page:
Also all the binaries and source projects are made available in Mac format and are on par with versions for other platforms.
It seems to me that the Mac TCL scene is pretty active and a number of Mac apps use TCL extensively. For example the text editor Alpha uses TCL for its scripting language.
Since the full source of the interpreter is available, they are push TCL to be used in applications as a 'free' macroing language.
The TK UI kit is currently still Motif style on the Mac but that is to change. The UI builder is more complete IMO than MacBird.
It seems to me that a UCMD could be written to allow TCL to be stored and run from the ODB very easily...
Alan Cooper agrees. He thinks Microsoft is on the wrong track with Internet Explorer 4.0, "Browsers are like elevators, everybody takes the elevators to get to their office but no one works in one."
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Fred Ballard);
Sent at 5/1/97; 10:42:49 AM;
Re:I Might Like You Better
He also compared what he sees as their design philosophy of heaping on new features to what American troops in the Vietnam War called "mad minutes".
"A bunch of soldiers dug in for the night would suddenly fire every weapon in every direction as a way of warding off the evil spirits," he said.
Microsoft's at war (with Netscape and others) "and they're firing in every direction." Microsoft technical designers said that's unfair. Joe Belfiore, the designer of the Windows interface replied that "Windows 95 is very deep; it has lots of shortcuts. Everyone isn't affected by those things."
Apparently Microsoft isn't confident yet whether giving the Internet and desktop files the same standing and the other new Internet Explorer features will be warmly greeted or even accepted by users.
At least all this is what I got from John Markoff's "Many Doors to Microsoft's New Windows", _The New York Times_, Monday, March 10, 1997, pp. C1, C6.
Me? I haven't seen Internet Explorer 4.0 yet and I can't say I'm anxious to see it on my desktop (or as my desktop) right now.