"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Graham's Latest

Speaking of Paul Graham, his latest essay is as entertaining as any...

Microsoft saw the danger of Javascript and tried to keep it broken for as long as they could. But eventually the open source world won, by producing Javascript libraries that grew over the brokenness of Explorer the way a tree grows over barbed wire...

The surprising fact is, brilliant hackers—dangerously brilliant hackers—can be had very cheaply, by the standards of a company as rich as Microsoft. So if they wanted to be a contender again, this is how they could do it:

  1. Buy all the good "Web 2.0" startups. They could get substantially all of them for less than they'd have to pay for Facebook.
  2. Put them all in a building in Silicon Valley, surrounded by lead shielding to protect them from any contact with Redmond.
I feel safe suggesting this, because they'd never do it. Microsoft's biggest weakness is that they still don't realize how much they suck. They still think they can write software in house. Maybe they can, by the standards of the desktop world. But that world ended a few years ago.

I already know what the reaction to this essay will be...

Lisp: Beating the Averages

I just installed the latest Gambit Scheme, continuing to be the best Lisp on the block. I first used Gambit around 1990 or so, when it was brand spanking new. The thing can really kick some serious ass, if you're looking to beat some averages.

Coming back around to thinking in Lisp, to some of Paul Graham's stuff...

The designers of Lisp didn't put all those parentheses in the language just to be different. To the Blub programmer, Lisp code looks weird. But those parentheses are there for a reason. They are the outward evidence of a fundamental difference between Lisp and other languages.

Lisp code is made out of Lisp data objects. And not in the trivial sense that the source files contain characters, and strings are one of the data types supported by the language. Lisp code, after it's read by the parser, is made of data structures that you can traverse.

If you understand how compilers work, what's really going on is not so much that Lisp has a strange syntax as that Lisp has no syntax. You write programs in the parse trees that get generated within the compiler when other languages are parsed. But these parse trees are fully accessible to your programs. You can write programs that manipulate them. In Lisp, these programs are called macros. They are programs that write programs.

Programs that write programs? When would you ever want to do that? Not very often, if you think in Cobol. All the time, if you think in Lisp.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Way Out

From Javaworld...

Engineers at Sun are eyeing May for the release of a 1.0 version of JRuby , which provides a Java implementation of the Ruby language... The JIT (just in time) compiler will be enabled by default this month. April plans call for deciding on the final features for the 1.0 release as well as a major bug-hunting push...

Future directions for JRuby include Ruby 2.0 bytecode support and leveraging the HotSpot JVM to speed execution.

Running the Numbers

My sister-in-law sent this link to me, using art to convey significant cultural statistics.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Crazy Fuggers

(Via Blaine Buxton) Edward Povazan exclaims...

Initial exposure to Smalltalkers can be rather confusing. At first you think you understand them, after all they are speaking of an object oriented language. Then utter confusion, they are not talking about a language so much as a whole world...

I am starting to understand things and want to be in this lively Smalltalk world.

Systems

Would you rather your body attempt to act as one "logical" cell, or are you happy to survive as a system of cooperating cells with billions dying off and being replaced each day?

Steve Loughran reminding us of a Note on Distributed Computing. From the note...

We look at a number of distributed systems that have attempted to paper over the distinction between local and remote objects, and show that such systems fail to support basic requirements of robustness and reliability. These failures have been masked in the past by the small size of the distributed systems that have been built. In the enterprise-wide distributed systems foreseen in the near future, however, such a masking will be impossible.
A favorite quote from elsewhere by Jim Waldo, one of the authors...
I've been known to claim that there are two kinds of reliable message systems. The first kind are those that come with an asterisk; following the asterisk leads you to the small print, where you find out when the messaging system can fail and so it is not, therefore, reliable. The second kind are those systems that simply lie – they are no more reliable, but they don't tell you that there are circumstances where they can fail.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Scary Cursors

If this story about vulnerable cursors does not tip us over the line, what will? Whoddathunk that a screen cursor could be the gateway for bad things on your PC?

What to do?

Capability-based systems go back to the 1960s. Someday we'll have them on the Internets, a series of tubes.

How many billions spent on broken security mechanisms? And we still have screen cursors with the power over the entire machine.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Bye Agassi

Bill hits the nail on the head writing about the resignation of SAP's Shai Agassi...

And so it goes. The slow death of SOA.
Netweaver was Agassi's baby and was expected to be more revolutionary for the company than it is turning out to be. Several SAP architects I'd spoken to did not even realize that Netweaver included an implementation of JMS, nor did they really understand what JMS is and when it might be used instead of their XI orchestration mechanism (which is built on R3's relatively cumbersome ABAP workflow engine, not on Java/Netweaver).

The most agile mechanism for working with SAP that I have seen remains an open source Perl API demo'd at OSCON several years ago.

I do hope Agassi is successful applying his abilities and resources to the energy industry though. That could be a better move than remaining with SAP.

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About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.