TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jun 95 Dialog Box
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:6
Column Tag:Dialog Box

Dialog Box

By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief

“It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This”

A relative newcomer to the Wonderful World of the Mac (after >20 years in the industry!), I have just read your excellent magazine for the first time. My enjoyment came to an abrupt halt [in the January issue] on page 66, where Chris Espinosa aired a point of view as mistaken as it was bizarre.

Espinosa argues that there is a computer “priesthood”, which loves complexity, and which, because it controls corporate computing, forces computers destined for home use to be more difficult to use than an elevator. Let me reassure him on the first point: the priesthood has not been an effective force in corporate computing for at least ten years; as soon as large numbers of people were talking to computers via a terminal, albeit a dumb one, then the days of the priest, interceding between the computer and the user, were numbered. What exists nowadays is an under-funded regular army trying to defend a major part of the corporation’s assets - its data - from corruption by employees, and theft by intruders. The job is difficult and thankless, but essential to the corporation’s existence. Oh, and by the way, the complexity existed before the computer - most of us corporate computer types are constantly trying to simplify things, not make them more complicated!

The second part of Espinosa’s argument is, if anything, even more specious than the first; the computer is not difficult to use because it has been designed for “the priesthood”, it is difficult to use because it does so many different things. A telephone is easy to use: you pick up the handset and you tap the number of the person you want to contact. Sure, but wait a moment: the last place I worked, there was a twenty-odd page booklet telling me how to transfer calls, set up hunting groups, record a voice-mail message, etc. etc. In fact, that damn phone was difficult to use, because of all the functionality, but only twelve buttons and no screen. Espinosa thinks that photo copiers are easy to use! Try making twenty copies of a 100 page single-sided document, when you want the output double-sided, and stapled together. Last time I tried that, I had every secretary in the building clustered around, giving me friendly, conflicting, and incorrect advice. My Mac is my typewriter, fax machine, remote terminal, filing system, billing system, pinball machine and slide projector. The amazing thing is that in every instance, the “machine” works in very much the same way, and, ... but then, surely, Espinosa can’t have forgotten the reason why the Mac was and is such a wonderful beast?

Finally, as a European, I failed to understand how the Colt .45 could be said to have had a beneficial effect on American society - how wild was the “Wild West” before every loony could blaze away at all and sundry with a hand gun? Is the gun lobby strong at Apple HQ? Is it safer in Redmond, WA?

...but apart from that, I enjoyed the magazine! Best regards

- Martin Jacobson

Sitting On My Bookshelf

Sitting on my bookshelf is a book published in 1976. It put forth the remarkable idea that a good paradigm for an operating system (and the programs written for it) is that the programs should be small efficient tools that can be easily linked together through the operating system. The book, of course, is Software Tools, and the operating system is Unix. However, modern day Unix applications tend to be just the opposite - they are big, all encompassing, and actually quite inefficient if you take into account the changes in processor speed etc.

A number of years ago, a gadfly named Hal Hardenburg (I may have misspelled his name) put out a newsletter named Dtack Grounded. Hal kept making the point that all else being equal, the customer will usually buy the product that is small, fast and efficient, and that the fact that “the hardware will eventually get faster” isn’t an excuse for large, slow software.

It is not just nostalgia of an old fogey that makes me remember the above, but the series of articles in MacTech (on OLE and OpenDoc, on the proper language for people to be programming in, the article by Chris Espinosa “It Wasn’t Suppose to Be Like This”, and some recent software purchases I have made), OLE and OpenDoc seem to be harking back to the original goals of the Unix operating system. However, the descriptions of either technology is extremely complex, and based on the CD’s provided recently, are quite large also. Moreover, some software I recently purchased used one of these technologies. These programs are enormous, are total dogs when it comes to speed, and take up tremendous amounts of disk space - a lot of this appears to be associated with the new technology. Not surprisingly, as Mr. Hardenburg surmised years ago, the customer outcry has been deafening. Is this Unix redux - where the final product is opposite the stated goal?

Many of the new products are being programmed in C++ or related programming languages, which we all know is good for us. Better code, fewer errors, faster development time. Just ask Borland, which a number of years ago switched exclusively to object technology. Since then there have been enormous delays in releasing any new product, and the company is in bad financial condition. On the Mac end, just look at the size of the programs that are being released now. Clearly better?!?!

Even more instructive is an article that appeared in the ACM Transactions on Mathematical Software, Vol. 20, number 3, 1994, by A.G. Buckley entitled “Conversion to FORTRAN 90: A Case Study.” The article describes the effort to reprogram one of his existing FORTRAN 77 algorithms to FORTRAN 90. Mr. Buckley gives a brief overview of the new features of FORTRAN 90. Not surprisingly, most of the new features are similar to features in C++ and other object oriented languages. Mr. Buckley is very enthusiastic about the conversion. However, there are several interesting tidbits hidden away in the article. The first is that while FORTRAN 90 has operators that work on arrays and FORTRAN 77 does not, and as his application has much to do with arrays and matrices this should reduce the code size, the FORTRAN 77 code is just over 6000 lines while the FORTRAN 90 code is over 9000 lines.

The second tidbit is the timings. FORTRAN 90 code is a dog compared to the FORTRAN 77! Mr. Buckley attributes the timings to the immaturity of the FORTRAN 90 compilers, but the FORTRAN 90 code is much slower than a good FORTRAN 77 compiler. The hope is that better compilers will bring FORTRAN 90 so that it is within 25% or so of FORTRAN 77. And of course, better hardware will make up for this loss of speed! All the nice abstraction properties of the new language make for a great routine in theory, but the fact remains that there are two algorithms, both of which accomplish the same purpose, and one is smaller and much faster than the other.

Chris Espinosa made some good points about modern PCs and their operating systems - but he didn’t go far enough. The received theology is affecting applications as well.

- Roy Mendelssohn, Santa Cruz, CA
Roy_Mendelssohn@ssp.nmfs.gov

Getting It Off My Chest

So Symantec have finally decided to launch a PowerPC compiler - wow! - and only 18 months too late

We’ve been using Symantec C (nee Think C) since 1986. At its inception it was a brilliant move up from the likes of Consulair. However, since Symantec took over, new versions have dried to a trickle and what has come out has been buggy and trivial. It took them over a year to get the C++ in version 6 even half-decent.

Compare this with CodeWarrior. Great compilers, the greatest symbolic debugger ever and enthusiastic staff ready to council customers and implement their suggestions - and, most of all supplied on time.

For those senile enough to remember entire systems written in machine code the reliance on others in the chain to the machine must cause worry - we are now far from our own masters. The introduction of any compiler moves us away from the machine (let’s say a foot) and dependent on the compiler for the correctness of the output. The introduction of object programming (say C++) introduces code, inserted by the compiler and interspersed with our code, to determine the relevant object hierarchy - that’s another couple of feet (three if your keeping count).

Now objects come into their own when the modern programmer is faced with the ever-increasingly complex GUI, Scriptable applications, diverse communications between other tasks and/or machines, etc. Here, we now rely on the Class Library, again supplied by the manufacturer, to remove a great deal of the pain that all this causes. That’s another twenty feet. (and I’m not even considering any aspect of the operating system here - which represents about half a mile). Some, like us, for their sins (or more likely perversion!) extend this so they work inside others environments like Quark or Photoshop - we’re not considering that either.

That fact is the a working program has to do just that - work, and that, as we have seen, is increasingly dependent on the reliance on the compiler manufacturer to supply timely, solid software. Even without the traumatic change (for some of us) to PowerMac, life in so volatile a period in computings’ history is difficult enough without a petulant compiler manufacturer that every Mac developer around the world has relied on for ten years.

Well Symantec - it’s too bloody late. Your tardy notice that we were all screaming for an update for PowerMacs is just not good enough - the PowerMac has been out for 13 months! Every English and U.S. developer that I have spoken with has now moved to CodeWarrior - and they are not coming back. They’ve had enough of updates every two years, buggy compilers and no help at all. And after the C++ fiasco, how long will it be before the PowerMac compiler shows a hint of working

We had a 1.4mb Quark XTension that was part XTension, part application and related drivers that could only be compiled in one piece - so no way with any so called machine code converters. Since it relied on TCL 1.13 we had to upgrade to TCL 2.0 (1.14 if you look at the changes) and then convert across to CodeWarrior. This has cost in excess of £80,000 and halted product development for several months, financially reducing a small company to it’s kneecaps. We now have no Symantec products on any disks.

If anybody wants to keep their business running get CodeWarrior and don’t look back. And MacTech, could we have a CodeWarrior Top Ten instead, specializing in the complex but powerful PowerPlant Class Library? ‘Cos I reckon that otherwise you will shortly be publishing ‘Thinks Only 10’

- R. Warren Davies, The Whizz Computing Company

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Parallels Desktop 10.2.0 - Run Windows a...
Parallels Desktop is simply the world's bestselling, top-rated, and most trusted solution for running Windows applications on your Mac. With Parallels Desktop for Mac, you can seamlessly run both... Read more
LaunchBar 6.2 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
Firefox 37.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals and casual... Read more
Arq 4.11 - Online backup to Google Drive...
Arq is super-easy online backup for the Mac. Back up to your own Google Drive storage (15GB free storage), your own Amazon Glacier ($.01/GB per month storage) or S3, or any SFTP server. Arq backs up... Read more
MacFamilyTree 7.3.4 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: it's modern, interactive, incredibly fast, and easy to use. We're convinced that generations of chroniclers would have loved to trade in their genealogy... Read more
Yummy FTP 1.10.2 - FTP/SFTP/FTPS client...
Yummy FTP is an FTP + SFTP + FTPS file transfer client which focuses on speed, reliability and productivity. Whether you need to transfer a few files or a few thousand, schedule automatic backups, or... Read more
VueScan 9.5.08 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.1 - Powerful imag...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
Monodraw 0.8.4.1 - Powerful ASCII art ed...
Monodraw allows you to easily create text-based art (like diagrams, layouts, flow charts) and visually represent algorithms, data structures, binary formats and more. Because it's all just text, it... Read more
Air Video Server HD 2.1.0 - Stream video...
Air Video Server HD streams videos instantly from your computer on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple TV. No need to worry about converting or transferring files. We took everything that was... Read more

Marvel Mighty Heroes, the Ultimate Marve...
DeNA and Marvel Entertainment have brought us a new action-packed brawler: Marvel Mighty Heroes. You can play with up to four of your friends as you favorite marvel heroes like Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, Captain America, Star-Lord, Hulk, and... | Read more »
Take Note - The Jot Script 2 Evernote Ed...
Adonit's Jot Script 2 sylus has an all-new edition that's meant to be Evernote's BFF. The sylus has been redesigned to work better with iPads and give you faster stroke tracking, smoother line rendering, and better tip-to-line accuracy. | Read more »
INFINIT Lets Mobile Users Send Files of...
Infinit  is a file sharing app that ignores file size limits. It maintains the original quality of your photos and videos so you can be sure they look awesome after sending. You can move entire albums of photos or full HD films from your iPhone to... | Read more »
Serious Sam Double D Developer is Making...
There's nothing like the thrill of watching a horse race, especially when the horses are drunk.  | Read more »
2K Announces WWE 2K, Mobile's First...
It seems like this month has been pretty big for wrestling. First Wrestlemania, then 2K has announces that they're releasing  WWE 2K for iOS. It's a simulation-based WWE game where you'll get to play with several WWE superstars such as John Cena, ... | Read more »
How the Apple Watch Could Change the Fac...
The Apple Watch is still a ways out, but my previous musings on the wearable’s various features got me thinking: what might it be like a year after launch? Two years? Five years? What if it becomes a symbiotic part of the iOS framework to the point... | Read more »
You Can Start Challenging Your Friends t...
Last year we reported that Sebastian Gosztyla's new game, Dual, was theorized to be released sometime during the summer of 2014. Sadly that did not become a reality, but the good news it there is now an official release date. | Read more »
Forgotten Memories : Alternate Realities...
Forgotten Memories : Alternate Realities, from Psychoz Interactive, is planned for release on April 23. The Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Alone in the Dark inspired horror game puts you in the shoes of Rose Hawkins as she searches for a missing... | Read more »
Pie In The Sky: A Pizza Odyssey (Games)
Pie In The Sky: A Pizza Odyssey 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A game about delivering pizza. In space. | Read more »
Chosen Gives Hopeful Singers, Songwriter...
If YouTube videos and reality TV shows like The Voice have taught us one thing, it’s that there are a lot of people out there who are anxious to show the world their talents. And if they’ve taught us a second thing, it’s that there’s an almost... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Will Microsoft’s Surface 3 Give The 12-inch M...
The more I ruminate over the new 12-inch MacBook, the more it occurs that it’s probably going to be more of a cannibalization threat to high-end iPads (including a new 12-inch ‘Pad when/if that... Read more
13-inch 2.4GHz Retina MacBook Pro available f...
MacMall has the 2013 13″ 2.4GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro available for $949.99 for a limited time. Shipping is free. Their price is $350 off original MSRP, and it’s the only sub-$1000 new Retina... Read more
Adobe Brings Powerful Layout-Design Capabilit...
Adobe today announced the availability of Adobe Comp CC, a free iPad app that enables rapid creation of layout concepts for mobile, Web and print projects. With Comp CC, designers can rough out and... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro avail...
Best Buy has clearance 2014 13″ 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pros available for $1199.99 including free shipping. Their price is $300 off original MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model.... Read more
Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
21-inch 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $999, save $1...
Best Buy has the 21″ 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $999.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pick up. Price is for online orders only, in-store prices may vary. Their price is... Read more
2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $649, save $50
Amazon has the 2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $649.99 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Textkraft Professional 3.2 Powerful iPad Text...
Finally it’s springtime, at least theoretically in my neck of the woods, where we’re still navigating canyons between towering snowbanks with temperatures well below freezing in winter weather that... Read more
Apple offering refurbished 27-inch 5K iMacs f...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMacs for $2119 including free shipping. Their price is $380 off the price of new models, and it’s the lowest price available for... Read more
16GB iPad mini on sale for $199, save $50
Walmart has 16GB iPad minis (1st generation) available for $199.99 on their online store, including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Online orders only. Read more

Jobs Board

DevOps Software Engineer - *Apple* Pay, iOS...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail...
**Job Summary** Job Summary The Lead ASC is an Apple employee who serves as the Apple business manager and influencer in a hyper-business critical Reseller's store Read more
*Apple* Pay - Site Reliability Engineer - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.