News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 2/13/98

From: weidl@intersites.com (Eric Weidl);
Sent at Fri, 13 Feb 1998 11:13:21 -0800;
American Science and Surplus

I'm glad to see that American Science & Surplus has a web site, but you really have to visit one of their stores to get the full effect. The place is great. I live right down the street from the one in the far west suburbs of Chicago. You could spend hours and hours there and get through only one section. The stores are not large by any means, but the signal-to-noise ratio is incredible. I know guys that could spend days in just one short (20 feet) aisle.

Each aisle is packed with large and small bins. Each bin is clearly (and humorously) labeled. (The energy which must be expended to create literally thousands of hand-lettered, funny labels is in itself impressive). The bins contain all sorts of items, from electrical components to empty hand grenades, to pipettes, models, lasers, anatomical models, etc., etc., etc. I was there last week and saw a hard drive unit from an IBM 3270 for $25. Makes a great conversation piece. They also had a range finder unit from a German tank for $15,000.

Next time you, or anyone else is in Chicago, I encourage you to stop by one of their stores. The main one isn't too far from O'Hare and is a good way to blow an hour or two on a layover.

From: Frontier-Central@scripting.com;
Sent at Fri, 13 Feb 1998 09:06:01 -0700 (MST);
Developing Java in Frontier

From Michael Grinder, grinder@esus.cs.montana.edu:

Spinning off from the Perl in Frontier thread, I would like to discuss something similar.

I'm a Frontier Newbie and just barely know enough to maintain a simple website at the moment, but one project I would like to work on is a development environment in Frontier for Java. The table/outline structure would be perfect for Java packages and writing code with the outliner would be very convenient.

For example, sometimes I want to change the structure of my Java packages, but that usually requires a lot of file copying and search and replace work. If I had my Java code in tables and outlines, I could just put a macro after the package keyword that would put the table path in for the package name. That way, if I wanted to rearrange the package structure, I could just move and rename tables or move an outline from one table to another and then rerender the source code.

To do this I would probably need to develop an outline to .java file renderer, a .java to outline parser, and some misc. scripts for other things like package name macros. Any ideas on how this could be done?

From: feoh@norman-bates.dayroom.org;
Sent at Fri, 13 Feb 1998 06:59:06 -0800;

In the DaveNet piece on Netscape losing Java, you asked who will balance Microsoft.

I think the free software community will and does. You can buy Linux on CD at just about every computer store worth its salt these days. That says something. And once you've got Linux installed on your hard disk you could spend *months* groveling through all the wonderful software out for it on the net.

Linux aside, the universe is shrinking - with the release of the Cygnus stuff for win32 you can take your program written for Linux and with minimal effort (Certainly less effort than a straight port to Win32) have it running under Windows, so everybody benefits - Apache for Windows is a great example of this kind of thing Though they didn't use the Cygnus tools that I can tell.

Anyway, thanks for some really insightful commentary!

(P.S. Best of luck productizing Frontier! After all those years of digging you deserve to win big. I know if it's priced under $300 I'll buy it..)

From: fisherm@tce.com (Fisher Mark);
Sent at Fri, 13 Feb 1998 10:41:10 -0500;
Re:"Linux, Cathedrals, and Bazaars"

Having used Perl since before the Web, and Unix for 20 years now, AND having developed both commercial software and contributed to open software, maybe my perspective is a little different.

From what I understand of what I see, Linux and Perl (and ESR's Fetchmail) have succeeded because not only have there been large communities of developers, but there have been core people who have coordinated the efforts of these communities. Certainly, Perl would not be the success it is today without the efforts of Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, and Randall Schwartz, in coordinating the efforts of all the Perl developers. Without them keeping the development effort focused, Perl could have splintered into many incompatible dialects. From my perspective, it appears that Linux has had its success for similar reasons (although I don't know the names involved except for Linus Torvalds).

Another fact to remember about Perl, Linux, Fetchmail, et. al, is that they are horizontal-market tools -- they are tools likely to be used by large numbers of people, therefore there will be a large community of developers eager to enhance these tools. Vertical-market applications (library card catalog management software, simulation programs for television set designers, etc., and especially embedded-systems applications) will only have a very small pool of people using them, so there will only be a very small pool of developers ready and able to help out.

As Fred Brooks so eloquently stated, "There is No Silver Bullet". There is no software development model that can make software development trivial. However, for some classes of applications, the Bazaar model makes a lot of sense. (For other classes, Cathedral model is much more appropriate.) There is room for both.

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