By: J.D. Hildebrand
Abstract: C++ considered harmful for open source projects. Mandrake on the move. Embedded-Linux starter kit. New uses for idle CPUs. Microsoft goes programmer-hunting. Is the dot-com economy circling the drain? And the usual nonsense from J.D.
By J.D. Hildebrand
Greetings! Today is the 343rd day of 2000; 23 days remain in the year. You
can celebrate Kim
Basinger's birthday today if you like -- she turns 47, can you believe it?
-- but for my money today is more accurately characterized as the anniversary of
notable deaths, not births.
On December 8, 1978, Golda
Meir died. Meir devoted her life to the establishment and safety of Israel,
and served as prime minister of the country from 1969 to 1974.
John Winston Ono Lennon
died twenty years ago today, on December 8, 1980, when he was shot
outside his apartment in New York. I was not a big Lennon fan in 1980, but over
the years I have come to appreciate his work more, and with every passing year I
get a clearer idea of what we lost when he was shot. Mark the day's passing by
spending a few minutes with the John
Lennon Artificial Intelligence Project, where you can chat online with
editor William Shawn (1,
died 13 years ago, on December 8, 1987, at the age of 85. Over the past couple
years I have read thousands
of pages about The New Yorker's history and its staff -- for someone
who persists in thinking of himself as a magazine journalist, as I stubbornly
do, the books read like juicy insider accounts and irresistible gossip.
Thurber -- a humorist who was responsible in large part for putting The
New Yorker on the map -- was born 106 years ago, on December 8, 1894.)
Brazilian composer Antonio
Carlos Jobim died six years ago, on December 8, 1994, at 67. Jobim's
harmonically complex but irresistibly listenable songs were responsible for the
explosive popularity of the Bossa
Nova movement that swept American music in the 1960s. Jobim's music dropped
off the mainstream airwaves decades ago, but it has retained its currency in the
community, where dozens of Jobim's songs serve as standards.
I'm running around in circles these days chasing news stories, editing
articles submitted by Developer Community members, and keeping up with
paperwork. I've run into some ideas that I need to share with you, however.
C++ A BAD LANGUAGE FOR FREE SOFTWARE? The loose cannons at
Advogato have fired another intriguing salvo, this time in the form of an essay
by a thoughtful fellow named Dan Egnor. In "Why don't C++ and free software
mix?" Egnor points out that although many open source projects are
implemented in C, few are written in C++. And he wonders why.
As interesting as the article are the 51 replies from Advogato members, who
generally agree that C++ is not widely used in the open source world and blame
the poor quality of the tools. Some of the people who contributed comments tied
themselves into logical knots to justify their use of plain ol' C. One writer,
for instance, suggested that the world's programming problems are best addressed
with high-level languages like Perl and Python or low-level languages like C,
leaving few problems that are best addressed with mid-level C++.
You may shake your head with dismay over the general level of discourse, as I
did and do, but it's an interesting debate. Check it out: Why
don't C++ and free software mix?
LEAD SHIFTING IN LINUX MARKET? Which Linux distribution is the most
widely used? Red Hat's, right? Maybe not. The folks at MandrakeSoft are boasting
that Linux-Mandrake is the leader in the retail market. (Nobody seems to have
figures for downloads, or at least no one is willing to disclose them. And no
one can say whether the average Linux CD languishes uninstalled on a shelf or is
used to install the OS on 300 workstations across an entire workplace. So you
always have to take market-share figures with a grain of salt.)
SuSE and Mandrake appear to be the most programmer-friendly Linuxen according
to newsgroup posts and idle gossip. Nice to see 'em doing so well.
Mandrake's news release.
WINDOWS-TO-EMBEDDED-LINUX TRANSITION KIT. You are no doubt tired of
hearing me yammer about the growing importance of the device market and the
corresponding relocation of the PC from the center of the Web-connected computer
universe. On the off chance you find my harangues persuasive, you may be
interested in Lineo's new Embedix SDK, a Windows-hosted development kit for
embedded Linux. It's all you need to start development work for x86 and
The SDK isn't cheap -- prices start at $5,000 for a single-developer license.
That may discourage you from getting a kit to play around with, but it's fuel to
my contention that embedded Linux is where the future lies. Vendors will put
their shoulders to the grindstone that is most likely to respond with revenues.
If Lineo can really get $5k per developer, then why would they bother trying to
compete with Gnu, or putting out yet another distro for free distribution?
is Lineo's news release, as hosted at All Linux Devices. Here
is the online brochure for the Embedix SDK for Windows. And here
is Lineo's data sheet for the product.
NEW USES FOR IDLE CPUS. You're probably already
aware of UC Berkeley's SETI@home project, which harnesses idle CPU time on
participants' PCs to analyze radio-telescope data for evidence of intelligent
life elsewhere in the cosmos. Now researchers at Stanford are proposing a search
that's somewhat closer to home.
The Stanford Folding@home project uses idle CPU time to simulate the
construction -- or "folding" -- of proteins. Evidently each protein is
composed of molecules that come together in lengthy processes requiring billions
of steps. Sequencing proteins is a challenge for supercomputers. But Stanford
researchers believe they can distribute the process as a screensaver among
thousands of PCs and come up with answers in a short time.
The SETI@home screensaver made the old PC I installed it on slow and
unreliable, but I'm intrigued by the promise of this distributed-computing
approach, so I'll probably install the protein-folding software and donate my
is a Silicon Valley.com article about the project, and here
is the Folding@home project home page.
HUNTING FOR PALM DEVELOPERS. Are you attending the Palm
Economy Developers and Solution Providers conference in Santa Clara next
week? If so, you might want to take a copy of your resume. Microsoft is
reportedly planning to hire as many Palm programmers as it can.
According to ZDNet, this is the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between
Microsoft's Pocket PC team and Palm Inc. At stake is success in the
gazillion-dollar PDA market, where Palm currently enjoys a substantial lead.
ZDNet quotes Ed Suwanjindar, product manager for Microsoft's mobile devices
division, as saying, "We're interested in engaging the guys developing for
Palm and discuss porting their apps over to Pocket PC." Microsoft will
reportedly host an invitation-only dinner and reception for developers at the
Honestly, you have to wonder...don't you think it's high time Microsoft
simply declared itself the winner and stopped struggling so aggressively to win
and crush its competitors? Where will it all end?
(Speaking of which: Here's an entertaining Tom Nadeau article from osOpinion,
which raises much the same question: A
monopolist's stomach is never full.)
is ZDNet's article about Microsoft's intentions to poach at the Palm conference.
A BAD WEEK FOR THE DOT-COM WORLD. Remember last year when whispering
"dot-com" in an investor's ear got you more venture money than you
could spend? Here's a data point suggesting that those days are gone.
Today I received the headlines summary from Newsbyte's Internet Week in
Review. The short e-mail included links to these stories:
The moral of this story? If you have a job, hang on to it. And if you're
tempted to take a loan against your stock options and buy a house, don't do it.
Foreclosures are rising in Silicon Valley and even Redmond.
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