The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Some while back, my friend Norm mentioned Croquet. Well, because I’m immersed in Smalltalk now, I’m looking at all things Smalltalk. So I’m reviewing Croquet in earnest...

This is exciting! Croquet is the future of operating systems!

There are a number of reasons why we need something like Croquet today. First, the personal computer user interface was cast in amber 20 years ago. This was for various reasons:

* The desktop GUI originally developed by Alan Kay and his colleagues was an extremely successful approach to interacting with the personal computer.

* The emergence of software monopolies removed any encouragement to innovate on the platform. Compare a modern PC of 2004 to the first Macintosh shipping in 1984 and the major difference you will see is color.

* The fact that these dominant systems were created in early bound languages made it impossible to easily modify the foundations of the system either by the developers or by third parties.

Croquet was built to answer a simple question. "If we were to create a new operating system and user interface knowing what we know today, how far could we go?" Further, what kinds of decisions would we make that we might have been unable to even consider 20 or 30 years ago, when the current operating systems were first created? We decided that it was time for an existence proof that innovation could still continue and succeed on the personal computer. We felt that the very definition of the personal computer and its role needed to be shifted from a single-user closed system to a next generation broadband communication device.

Here’s an excellent explanation why I’ve never been able to get into any (C-based) Open Source project...

Most open source work is done in C or C++, often using tools developed decades ago. It's too difficult for most people to download the source and build an open source project and those that could do it often don't feel they have the time or patience to do it. In the Squeak environment, there is no build process, and no long waits for recompilation, nor do you have difficulty jumping into a running system to find out what is happening. Programming happens at a much higher level of abstraction in Squeak Smalltalk. Due to difficulties with C and C++ most people see open source programming as a badge of hacker machismo. Old Smalltalkers, and the new breed of Squeakers can be forgiven for asking, "Why do you people keep torturing yourselves when there's a better way?"


Blogger Darkest Knight said...

I’m so pleased that Smalltalk works well with OpenGL, whether within Croquet or without. If you want to play with OpenGL and Smalltalk, this is your source:

After I finish the Cincom tutorials and a couple of the Smalltalk books, my next two subprojects will be studying Seaside and Jun.


On 10/24/06 8:52 AM, "Edward (Ted) Doig" wrote:

Hmmm, interesting. One of the assumptions behind the creation of Croquet caught my attention:

* 3D graphics hardware is very, very fast (But apart from games, there are few applications.)

That is a very astute observation. The only thing that has been pushing the advancement of computer graphics technology for personal computers for over a decade has been games, period. Nobody has ever been able to come up with the "killer 3D app" that would capture the imagination of the market. Only now are we starting to see the emergence of 3D user interfaces in the mainstream (e.g., Carbon on Mac OSX, Aero Glass on Windows Vista, and Xgl/AIGLX on X Windows) and even there, it is mostly eye candy and window dressing (pardon the pun).

Croquet, on the other hand, appears to be using the 3D paradigm as an integral part of its environment, which is a definite step forward IMHO. This might turn out to be the killer 3D app we in the graphics hardware industry have been looking for. I hope it catches on.

Thx - Ted

3:46 PM  

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