9 Feb 2005 dfenwick   » (Journeyer)

I recently read an interview with Alan Kay at The Queue entitled: Big talk with the creator of Smalltalk--and much more and it was, yet again, one of the most informative interviews I've read in a long time. I once had the pleasure to have met and talked to Alan Kay many years ago. His grasp of what computer science "should" be is deeper than anyone I've ever met.

Of particular interest in the article, his comment about C++ was revealing:

"You have to be a different kind of person to love C++. It is a really interesting example of how a well-meant idea went wrong, because [C++ creator] Bjarne Stroustrup was not trying to do what he has been criticized for. His idea was that first, it might be useful if you did to C what Simula did to Algol, which is basically act as a preprocessor for a different kind of architectural template for programming. It was basically for super-good programmers who are supposed to subclass everything, including the storage allocator, before they did anything serious. The result, of course, was that most programmers did not subclass much. So the people I know who like C++ and have done good things in C++ have been serious iron-men who have basically taken it for what it is, which is a kind of macroprocessor." - Alan Kay - 2005

That's probably the most accurate depiction of C++ I've ever read.

Responses:

Ahkh: Speed doesn't really bother me that much. What bothers me more than anything is the underlying responsiveness of X. Grabbing with the cursor is one of those things. If I grab a corner of a window to resize it, in MS Windows and on the MacIntosh, I'm greeted with an instant (< 1ms) response time on the interaction. In X on ALL of my platforms, many times I'll grab and EXPECT that 1ms responsiveness to often times I'm greeted with a rubber band selector for desktop icons. I usually have to click and wait a few milliseconds (3 - 5) before I am guaranteed my selection.

You do bring up a good point about overall application responsiveness though. It takes upwards of 10 seconds for FireFox to display on some of my machines. It doesn't even render a window for 10 seconds. It sits with the application launch icon in the environment. Sure, I can go do other things, but I'm not doing other things at that particular moment in time. This is yet another reason I don't think X will ever be embraced by the common desktop user. We're dead center in the instant gratification generation.

pbor: One of the biggest flaws I see a lot in open source GUI applications these days is this odd desire for developers to add features for no better reason than to add them. While some folks might appreciate having a file icon in a MRU dropdown, the sad fact is this leads to code bloat and it conveys very little information to the end user. Sure, the metaphor is there, but metaphors were really fun when there were only 50 desktop applications, but with 500 - 1000 desktop applications, the whole concept of trying to remember 500 - 1000 icons plus all of the metaphoric icons within those applications becomes unreasonable.

I'm glad you guys are making the effort to actually look at performance bottlenecks within GEdit, as it seems that many of the open source developers are not. Although I use GEdit rarely, I do use it.

Is it unreasonable for people to question the use of large, by desktop territory standards, toolbar? Do we really need Undo and Redo options in a toolbar? Do we really need ANY of those types of toolbars on a text editor?

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