Object Arts | Exciting News for Dolphin Users

looking  at Object Arts | Exciting News for Dolphin Users we read:

Object Arts announces a collaboration with Lesser Software to produce the next generation of Dolphin Smalltalk.

We hope Dolphin Smalltalk will not die: we have that fear  in September 2007 reading a press release called “A Brighter Future for Dolphin?“.

ObjectsArts was asking money to get Dolphin open source. A rather bad move, in our own opinion, and in fact no thing happen. Now it seems Doplphin will be included in a bigger project. Good luck, big fish!

iPhone programming

iPhone is the brand-new Apple product which has changed the way Apple thinks. Because of iPhone, Apple strip the word "Computers" from its brand name. And because of iPods and iPhone products, Lepoard developmenet slip a bit, blurring the focus on pure technology.
To be true, I do not beat on  the iPhone success, but the product success is at least  bright this year. And the iPod touch has also added value to the iPods product catalog. But I am an IT-man, damn you boy! So I want to buy it to play with it, to program with it!

The iPhone Open Application Development, is a fresh book on iPhone Developement, edited by O'Reilly which come into play. The book has less then 280 pages, and is well organized. First of all, the bad news: the book lacks figures and tables (only one, and not so useful) and no Photo on it. Then breaking the iPod firmware is not a thing Apple likes a lot. As far as I know, it is NOT illegal, because Apple is opening the device too.
Anyway, breaking the iPhone firmware can prevent you to get the upgrades so, you must know what you are going forward to do.

And now the good news: the book is well written, and guide the user from the beggining to the end.  There are a lot of way to free the iPhone from the jail.

After that, you can also use Linux to program on the iPhone, where the Apple SDK seems only "PC Mac"-enabled.

The book is composed of 7 chapters. After unlocking the iPhone (first chapter), the author explain us how to write code for it, and what is Objective-C. Objective-C is a very nice idea developed by Brad Cox, in the 1980. It is a C++ language "ante litteram". I like the ideas of Objective-Ch because you get the power of C for fast tasks (like  you know, coding your quicksort or your perfect B-trees :) and you get a true dynamic O.O. language, like SmallTalk is. Objective-C was not so lucky, and there are only two major implementation: the GNU one and the Apple one, used to build the entire MacOSX.
I have no time to study it a lot, but I suggest you to code the iPhone in Objective-C.
Then the books start to explore iPhone features like:

  • Basic user interface building blocks
  • Graphic Services and animation effects. You get also a Coreflow-like animation in the Appendix
  • Sound Control
  • Deep integration. A nice thing is the way to make calls: you simply ask the emmeded Safari to open a "tel://" url

The code presented is always very compact, and the style is nice.
The Appendix give us a lot of code samples.

Programming a so riche device is not easy, but the good news is you have a full O.S. to work with.
Java midlets and J2ME are much more difficult to use, if you will find your way with Objective-C.
A very good book, for very nice techno-guys, and not (only) for nerds!

 

 

 

Javascript and Smalltalk

There is a future for SmallTalk? I was a very strong fan of the SmallTalk language, but in the last five years I have seen more and more contraction of its usage in the IT field.

The OLPC project, which uses also Squeak Smalltalk and its done by the core team fo Squeak, is not going very well.

Anyway, Dan Ingalls, one of the father of Smalltalk, is working on a new project called Lively. It is a rewrite of Morphic in Javascript, especially target  for building a Squeak-like interface.

 The interesting part of this work is a paper outlining the limitation of javascript as programming language. I have tried in the past years to look for ajax and or web 2.0 javascript libraries, but I feel very difficult to develop with them.

From the Paper we underline these parts:

Loading multiple JavaScript applications into the same virtual machine is problematic.[…] For instance, if two programs
happen to use the same names for global variables or functions, the overlapping variables or functions of
the first program will be replaced with the corresponding features of the second program, resulting in
unexpected behavior in the subsequent execution of the first program. Since JavaScript will not typically
give any warning messages or errors in such situations, the resulting behavior can sometimes be a total
surprise; in many cases the errors resulting from such situations may not be discovered until much later.

 

Evolutionary development approach is a necessity. Due to the highly permissive, error-tolerant nature of
JavaScript, JavaScript programming requires an incremental, evolutionary software development
approach. Since errors are reported much later than usual, by the time an error is reported it is often
surprisingly difficult to pinpoint the original location of the error. Error detection is made harder by the
dynamic nature of JavaScript, for instance, by the possibility to change some of the system features on
the fly.

 

A lot of room is left in optimizing JavaScript performance. Current JavaScript virtual machines are
unnecessarily slow. Even though JavaScript is a significantly more dynamic language than, for instance,
the Java programming language, there is no fundamental reason for JavaScript VMs to run two orders of
magnitude slower than Java virtual machines.

 

Memory management capabilities of the current JavaScript VMs are poorly suited to large, long-running
applications. Current JavaScript virtual machines have simple, 1970's style garbage collectors

 The reason of these issue are simple:JavaScript was intially a language for web developers, small and easy to use, and very compact.
Absence of errors or warning is a nightmare, if you care of your digitating time.
And Javascript is slow because no one will write  long script with it.

A very compact and clean discussion can be found in http://javascript.crockford.com/javascript.html 

Fixing these problems is hard. Until the current  implementation will not provide a better way of error detection, writing javascript code will be a very long and time-consuming task.

And using a so old garbage collector, give a chance to a c/64 BasicV2 to beat your code:  you are awared, guys :)

Anyway, there is a good set of javascript libraries out of there (prototype and jquery, for instance but not only), so you should be quite happy 

 

 

 

Dynamic languages troubles

I have read http://www.manageability.org/blog/stuff/chandler-failure and I think it is very danger way of exposing concepts.

In the article pointed out, the quite dead Chandler project is compared to the multi-billion Eclipse project. And then a too easy analysis is done against dynamic languages, where Java is the absolute winner.

I will try to fix some of the things said there, and to add also my two cents here :)


 

First of all, I use Java a lot, but I am also a fan of dynamic languages. Every tool has its place in the world, and I will avoid some holy war here. 

Anyway, it is important to understand major differences between very distant projects.

 

First of all, Eclipse is a very huge project, developed by IBM and based from the beginning with a very strong hype on plugin modularization.

The effort pushed inside Eclipse is very huge and come also from the San Francisco Project. Other IDEs (like JBuilder and Together) stops fighting Eclipse years ago, and eventually failed even to sell their stuff.

 So there are no similar example to Eclipse in Python/Ruby/Perl world. Even in PHP is hard to find a so huge and well designed program. And the languge here is less important: a company big as IBM can also code in PL/I all its stuff, without so much pain :)

Second, PHP is very successful language, even if a bit too insecure, at the present time.

PHP Language has poor support for modules and so on, but project like Drupal, Joomla and other are full of plugins, quite easy to write.

RubyOnRails is falling down because nobody is understanding why PHP should be abandoned for Rails.

Java architectural model is very well written and Sun worked very hard to it. Java Hot Spot VM is derivered from the Self dynamic language,  and has inside technology difficult to develop in an open source project.

Surely Dynamic languages are strong when there is the one-man-band paradigm: sharing works in Smalltalk was  a bit complex in early days.

Put Perl, python and ruby have a strong modularization concepts, and so this issue is often solved.

I have tried Zope and I think it is weak because:

  • Zope is user is non-existent. Zope user is a super-skilled web master which wants a web CMS without writing so much code.
  • Zope product upgrade is a nightmare
  • A stuck Zope Product can destroy your work. So hosting Zope is a problem
  • A lot of Zope basic objects (like cache accelerators and so on) are poorly minded: they works only on RAM, and are not thinked well. Drupal 5 has more strong theory for this issue, and Drupal is poor PHP code.
  • Zope use a proprietary database, when a simple SQL database with a relational mapper can do the same thing…think twice before reinventing the wheel!
  • Every major Zope releases breaks a lot of the API. This is the most stupid thing you can do as open source developer.

Chandler failed because they tried a very difficult business: calendar software is a very difficult area to address. All operating system (including possibly C/64 :-) has now a huge set of Personal Information Manager software (PIM), and LDAP solves sharing issue for big companies

Even Ximian Evolution is near death.

And your bigger competitor is Microsoft Exchange and… yes… old Unix.

Dynamic lanuages has many lacks, and difficult refactoring is a problem but… remember frefactoring tools was INVENTED under SMALLTALK!

IT is a place where you must be careful… isn't it?