News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 1/21/98

From: report.international@link.be (John Kaye);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 09:28:22 +0100;

This seems as good a place as any to record my own wonderful experience of Dell. I ordered a Dell XPS300 with all mod.cons and 128mb on Monday evening in the UK, and it was delivered today, effectively two working days later. Magic!

All this after a truly disastrous attempt to get Gateway to deliver a similar spec machine ordered in mid-December (actually finally delivered, but refused, yesterday, after days of Gateway in Ireland saying it would be delivered "tomorrow" and then acknowledging that UPS hadn't a clue where the boxes where).

The only reason I had ordered a Gateway in the first place, though, was that Dell UK point blank stated in mid-December that they wouldn't be offering a 19" screen in the UK. As soon as the February computer mags. came through the door, there was the ad offering the screen! I suppose that this is normal, but as someone who has bought Dells for our office, and recommends Dells to friends around the world, I sort of expected better, but us non-US-based computer users are always second-class citizens!

From: Jesse_James_Garrett@MCGCorp.com (Jesse James Garrett);
Sent at Wed, 21 Jan 1998 16:00:06 -0800;
Who's Ana?

The Ana in question is "performance artist" Ana Voog, who has garnered quite a following via the camera beaming images from her apartment to the Web 24 hours a day.


Salon had an excellent article on Ana and the whole "homecam" phenomenon a couple of weeks ago. And here it is!


From: wesley@scripting.com (Wesley Felter);
Sent at Wed, 21 Jan 1998 15:23:08 -0600;
Java license

I think Sun's free non-commercial Java source license is a good thing (it's the only way that a decent Java VM exists on Linux), but I'm concerned about tainting effects from the license. What if you download Sun's source code, and then at some later time go to work for a company like (now out of business) Roaster, who makes a clean-room Java VM? Even if you didn't incorporate any Sun code, an argument could be made that your thinking might be "tainted" by having seen's Sun's copyrighted source code. Could Sun sue? I don't know what the legal issues are, but I'd be interested to find out.

From: jeremie@netins.net (Jeremie Miller);
Sent at Wed, 21 Jan 1998 01:45:01 -0600;
Re:"Windows Scripting Host"

Active Server Pages is how JavaScript/VB Script/Perl or any other scripting language that is ported to the correct interface, works on the backend of a HTTP request to dynamically generate pages.

It has access to a built in object model provided by IIS, including some functions and variables, and some database/ODBC stuff... the script can also call what is basically an ActiveX control, or ASP component, to provide additional functionality. I won't go into any more details, but it is a very slick setup.

Now, these scripting languages (engines) can be embedded in any environment, and besides the environments in IE and IIS, Microsoft is making an environment for the native operating system, and calling it Windows Scripting Host. The object model consists of functions to manipulate quite a few important elements of the OS, including the Registry, filesystem, software, and other things. So, WSH basically provides Windows what Perl does for Unix. And any vendor can port their scripting language to work through this scripting interface, so when someone ports TCL it is immediately available as a scripting language in IE, IIS, and in the OS, and probably in future versions of Office. It's a pretty powerful concept and I'm impressed it came from Microsoft :)

I can go into much more detail on this, so just ask away if you have any questions or need some pointers!

From: JohnS@wallingford-software.co.uk (John Styles);
Sent at Wed, 21 Jan 1998 14:09:33 -0000;
Re:"Windows Scripting Host"

As an introduction on how to use the active scripting interface in applications, by far the best source I have found has been the article ActiveX Scripting in MFC by Steve Wampler in VCDJ.

Once you have read this article you will be in a better position to see whether the interface is cryptic (I think it is) and come to a conclusion as to why it is. My personal feeling is that the complexity is due to scripting being one of many things being fitted into the grand Microsoft vision of 'obscure COM interfaces everywhere', and probably not something very high up their list of things that they think are important.

From: JohnS@wallingford-software.co.uk (John Styles);
Sent at Wed, 21 Jan 1998 10:13:41 -0000;
Windows Scripting Host

I noticed your message about this. Currently I'm not using it - the installation of IE4 I've got here doesn't include the engines for some reason and I haven't found a need to download them. I would expect to use it if I were doing the sort of automation tasks I would expect to be using Frontier for. Is this correct? I had wondered in the past what your views on this were - to an extent I imagine it's competition for you, and to an extent it isn't.

What we /are/ using is the Open Scripting Interface within our application to allow various housekeeping tasks to be performed. As you will no doubt be aware, as well as VBScript and JScript, any scripting language can be used as a 'plug in scripting language' providing it supports various Microsoft COM interfaces. My experience of integrating this, compared to having integrated other scripting languages before (and having written my own languages and compilers from scratch), is that the Microsoft documentation is very thin on the ground, and some of the COM interfaces are rather tortuous.

Potentially, I guess UserTalk could be one of these languages i.e. if I wanted to write my housekeeping tasks in UserTalk rather than VBScript or JScript I could do so - if you chose to support this interface. This would effectively be a UserTalk runtime without the Frontier environment. In this scenario, where I was writing add-on scripts to our application, I would use the Frontier environment, but not necessarily deploy the Frontier enviroment to the users (just the runtime DLLs). Users of our software would then have the option of using Frontier to develop scripts themselves if they were so minded.

Presumably, too, if you wanted to, Frontier could act as a development environment for other languages supporting the Open Scripting interface i.e. if I were writing VBScript or JScript I could use the Frontier environment to manage that code. This would mean you would have to do things like expose the object database as COM objects for the scripting to work.

Apologies if any of this makes no sense or is old news to you, but I abandoned developing software on Macs after buying one too many completely disfunctional development tools (Symantec Cafe being the final straw) and I haven't had time to get properly into Frontier on Windows yet - this is my project for February.

I wish you luck digging. I have no doubt that some integration with the Microsoft vision of scripting (where their vision makes enough sense to work with) would be a sensible direction for you to go in, if you can avoid being crushed by the jugganaut. In the wider sense, I've no doubt the direction you're digging is the right one.

From: two@seconds.com (Eric Braswell);
Sent at Wed, 21 Jan 1998 09:24:59 -0800;
call for websites

This site serves as an information source for prospective and current residents of University of Oregon Student Housing as well as for people interested in catering and conference services at the UO. We began development of the site in early 1997 as an attempt to move away from simply putting print publications on the web. Since much of our traffic comes from overseas (students checking out their housing options), we wanted to ensure the bandwidth requirements were minimal.

At the same time, however, we also get a lot of traffic from current residents using the campus ethernet. We tried to balance these two audiences to create a site that was both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Because we used Frontier to manage the site from the beginning, we were able to go through many more design tweaks than we might have otherwise. Frontier also allowed us to concentrate more on content and design by taking care of mundane chores like link generation and rendering of our navigation features. For the latter we employed, as others have done, a hacked version of siteOutline() which allowed us to maintain an arbitrary order of navigational links that were limited to each sub-section of the site.

A custom Frontier script is also used to generate cafeteria menus from plain text files and other scripts aid in day-to-day maintenance. It is our hope that this site will one day be hosted on a Mac webserver so we can use Frontier for CGI scripting and other funky things.

BBEdit was used as an external text editor, and Photoshop 4.0 was used for graphic elements and manipulation of photos.

From: weidl@intersites.com (Eric Weidl);
Sent at Wed, 21 Jan 1998 10:48:52 -0600;

I agree that Dell sets an example for the rest of the industry; however, I do not feel that your experiences are a valid gauge for measuring their performance.

I suspect that Mr. Dell would not respond in the same fashion to everyone who emailed him with a beef. A better test would have been to contact them through their normal customer service channels to see what kind of response you received.

In a recent episode with Dell, they took 9 weeks to deliver a machine they said would take 2 to build and ship. That was after a half-dozen calls to their customer service department. I guess if I had called Mr. Dell directly, I might have had a better experience. I'm glad you did, but I don't think you're being fair.

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