News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 6/23/97
You ask: "The geeks may dig Java, but unless they deliver a lot that can't be done better in C or Director or whatever, why should anyone care?"
From: email@example.com (Martin Minow);
Sent at 6/24/97; 12:22:21 AM;
Re:800 Words on Java
An interesting question. I suspect Java will be used by many in-house developers doing those "one programmer, one week, one user" tasks that are a pain in the neck to implement in C++ and are too complex for scripting languages. Of course, Frontier is also used in this arena, but Java offers a number of consistency advantages (particularly for mathematical computation) and has a more familiar organization than Frontier's outliner format.
At JavaOne, one of the more interesting demos was a live display of Space Shuttle and Hubble Space Telescope telemetry data, using a handful of Java applets and a publicly-available graphing package. Using Java, the NASA engineers could throw together one-off telemetry display applets quickly (and without lugging a lot of hardware from their offices to Houston).
So, for me, Java's advantages are implementation speed that is as good as C, combined with an equal amount of flexibility. Cornelius Willis suggests that it will be unsatisfactory for "large-scale data operations." On my machine, sine/cosine takes 100 microseconds, which is sufficient for my needs. (See http://www.vmeng.com/minow/simplesun/simplesun.html for an example of real-world number crunching in Java.)
Java is slower than a compiled language. It is like C++, just a little different. Java's other advantage is it's name and marketing. So what if it runs slower? Our product is Java Ready and Internet Enabled. Java is a buzzword, and the boss says, "Why don't we use that Java stuff in our toaster, and slap an Internet Toaster label on it?" This is not why people should care, but it is why some will care, until they see where to use Java and how.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Matt Maurano);
Sent at 6/23/97; 11:57:43 PM;
Re:800 Words on Java
Applications vendors will not dissipate their scarce QA resources to make Java apps run on fringe platforms. This is the lesson of PC Mag's startling Java compatibility test of last month; they tried to run Corel Office for Java, Applix, and Eye Opener on a couple of dozen Java implementations on a half dozen or so platforms. What they found is that in the best case (Corel) the app ran on 42% of the platforms tested. What was fascinating however was to see which platforms it did run on: Navigator on Win 95 and NT, IE on Win '95 and NT, and a smattering of other high volume implementations. Economics in action: the high volume platforms got the QA resources, the low volume platforms were written off.
From: email@example.com (Cornelius Willis);
Sent at 6/23/97; 8:49:58 PM;
Re:800 Words on Java
And (maybe) you thought Java meant the end of multi-configuration QA as we know it!
I had to laugh (not a good laugh, but a sort of the I'm-screwed type) while reading about your experiences with that bad excuse for an ISP, Internex.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jon Rust);
Sent at 6/23/97; 5:59:50 PM;
See, I own and operate an ISP. We have never done anything like that, and we have tons of happy customers. We're ranked 7th in the country by C|Net last time I checked! However, we have had at least a half dozen customers get their charges reversed even after they received services! The card companies never even call to get our side. Our bank told us anything less than about $500, they just take the customer's word for it, and screw the vendor. Either you've got one hell of a vendor friendly card company, or maybe you didn't make enough noise.
As an example, we had a guy sign up with an LCII w/6 meg. "Oh no," I said, "you're not going to be able to do all you want on the Net. That machine doesn't have enough horsepower or memory." "Oh that's all right," he explained, " I just want email." After about an hour of never-used-my-Mac-before tech support, and a month of service, during which he DID use the account, he calls to complain that our service is incompatible with his Mac. Seems Netscape 2.0 or 3.0 won't run on his computer -- not enough RAM. Well Duh! So I try to explain that we can install more RAM for him for free if he buys it and brings his computer in, but the LCII is waaaaay out of date and it'll still be very slow. "You never told me your software wouldn't work with my system," he yelled. "I want a full refund." I told him no, and tried to explain to him, but he wouldn't listen, and abruptly hung up on me after he said he'd just go to his card co. About 6 weeks later, the charges were reversed and we got a copy of the letter he sent them. It told of how we gave him no support, lied to him about his computer and *our* software, and hung the phone up on him when he politely asked for help. The card co never even asked for our side, and completely reversed the charges -- every last penny. We tried to protest, but got the cold shoulder from everyone. "The customer is always right" is all they'd tell us.
I've got a bunch of other tech support beauties ("Ever since I installed the VCNet on my computer, my washing machine won't run" -- and that's not a joke), but I'm sure you're bored by now.
Being an ISP is soooooo much fun. :-/ Of course, I do get ultra-fast net access and cool hardware at my disposal, which is nice. :->
Checked with many friends in the mid-west ... java is not a "household" word even for fairly well plugged in business types ... only geeks there know of it. Not even close ... Netscape is .... Web is ... but even browser is not ...
From: email@example.com (frank levinson);
Sent at 6/23/97; 2:19:48 PM;
Re:800 Words on Java
Your piece last week, Thirty Miles of Air inspired me to make the climb up Mt. St. Helena, a shortish motorcyle ride from my home in Sebastopol. I agree that turning that corner for thirty miles of air is cool. More mountains and towns and vineyards and air and haze and hazy thoughts...
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Foley);
Sent at 6/23/97; 1:48:26 PM;
mountains of metaphors
My question is: Isn't thirty miles of air _enough_? So why did I have to go to the top? Did you?
I agree with your strategy. I can't understand why Apple doesn't use Frontier instead of AppleScript; but then I've been an Apple Developer since 1981 and I don't understand a lot of things in Apple 's history.
From: email@example.com (Donald W. Larson);
Sent at 6/23/97; 9:39:14 AM;
Scripting and Rhapsody Comment
May I suggest an alternative to your new "dual-track" Scripting News? You mentioned that the problem you had for older browsers was unreadable results when light colored type was placed on a (in NS 2.0) non-colored table cell. This is why <FONT> is a horrible tag... it is nearly impossible to gracefully downgrade a design if the browser in question only supports some of the tags/colors you're using.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brent Sleeper);
Sent at 6/23/97; 12:28:30 PM;
Re: Scalable Content
It's why Cascading Style Sheets are so neat -- content is separated from presentation, helping to ensure a greater degree of compatibility with older browsers or other output formats like the printed page or touch-screen devices.
Lordy, you could even return Scripting News to a single track if you wanted to prove a point. You know all about this concept, of course, so I won't bore you with the philosophy. But please do check out the W3C's style sheets site -- if only because I'm greedy and would like to see some "from the source" support for CSS in Frontier's website and HTML suites!
An interesting thread you started with the recent DaveNets! Just wanted to say that I'm glad you are hearing good things about Mac OS 8. Yes, I did see the desenting opinion from Rich Siegel, but I'm convinced after seeing the response from other developers, customer seed sites, press previews and our own internal testing -- that we have an extremely popular release coming up.
From: email@example.com (Jim Gable);
Sent at 6/23/97; 9:41:38 AM;
Re:Anyone But Microsoft
Virtual PC is also getting plenty of attention. They are a smart group and it's looks good. While there are concerns like you expressed, we find in our market research that a ton of buyers would be more likely to buy a Mac if they could access some PC software. So it seems on balance to be a good thing. After all we have been promoting PC Cards and Soft Windows for years.
I doubt NT will be a logical host for Mac OS APIs anytime soon. There are plenty of drawbacks in trying to switch to NT in terms of cost and complexity. Rhapsody will be an excellent alternative for many people, especialy in traditional Mac markets like publishing, scientific and higher education.
At least it's clear that the Mac business will be fancinating during the next year -- and finally for good reasons!