This might be an interesting detail for all people involved in Smalltalk environments that run on Android and/or iOS. Among the top 10 search terms used in 2012 to find my blog there were “smalltalk android” and “smalltalk ipad”. And in fact, almost every day I check my blog statistics, and these terms or variations thereof are on the list.
To me, this is a clear indication that people are looking for documentation and possibly ready-made installation packages for either Smalltalk IDEs or deployed applications that are written in Smalltalk. I must admit I have been playing with the idea of writing an application for Android in either Gnu ST or Pharo repeatedly, but never took the time because I couldn’t find much documentation for it. People do deploy Smalltalk appliations on iPhones and Android devices but I haven’t found much material on how they do it. It’s either blindingly obvious for people who are used to writing Android / iOS apps, or the people who managed to do it regard their knowledge as a trade secret. Both are okay with me. I like to have a certain advantage on things I know as well. So I am not going to bash this. Continue reading
This article titled “Pre to postmortem: the inside story of the death of Palm and webOS” on The Verge is not new, but it is well worth reading.
It’s a short rundown on the sad story of the one platform that could have become the No. 3 – maybe even No. 2 on a longer time scale – on the tablet/smartphone OS market. To me, HP’s Touchpad looked so promising and the ideas and concepts behind WebOS combined with nice hardware could have been very attractive to many users and developers.
But the story also shows something else: The fate of a technology has so little to do with its actual quality that it really makes you wonder how crazy our market ist. Management driven by quarterly reports and a “vision” can easily wipe a great technology from the table. Failure of technologies often has nothing to do with their quality. Or the other way around, it even makes more sense: just because “everybody” likes, hypes, uses a certain technology, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is good.
There’s another example: If you read reviews of Windows Phone (7 or 8) or Nokia’s newer Lumia Smartphones , the reviewers never forget to mention the low numbers in which the O/S is being sold today, even though reviews of the O/S are positive. Take a step back when you read such a sentence next time ask yourself if it doesn’t make you think: “so maybe I shouldn’t buy one – because obviously nobody else does” ?
The TouchPad had only a few days or weeks to prove whether people like it or not, before its vendor (HP) killed it. So we’ll never know if it would’ve been a serious competitor to iPads and Android Tablets or Windows8-tablets. It’s such a crazy story…
Apple once again proves that it doesn’t really need new ideas, technologies or such to come up with a commercially successful product. Isn’t the whole point of their latest Announcement of iBooks 2 and iBooks author and iTunes U exactly what Alan Kay has been talking about for, well, decades?
iBooks will have a lot more sex appeal than squeak has ever had, and the integration into the Apple ecosystem will no doubt be great. The fact alone that kids will now be able to play with their e-Textbooks on an iPad will help grow the iOS market.
But wait! Squeak, eToys and Scratch are so much more than just a multimedia vehicle to transport knowledge. They are enablers for creativity and learning environments. Apple’s new tools make presentation easier and maybe make learning a bit more fun. But it’s more or less a one-way channel that’s embedded in a widely known and desired ecosystem, but the new iBooks aren’t really interactive or programmable. You still cannot use an iBook and experiment with it or extend it. In fact, taking Kay’s ideas and Squeak’s potential and comparing them to what Apple presented today is like comparing day and night.
I also like his summary:
The demo went well. I’m always surprised how making something pretty makes people think it’s better. In this case I just added a new facade on a web site, and it was considered a big thing, yet it was only a few days work. It’s like my buddy in marketing says: ya gotta sell the sizzle, not the steak. There’s a lesson in there somewhere for Smalltalk.
Right. People are afraid of Smalltalk for a lot of reasons, but most of them are mostly FUD instead of real facts. But as soon as the result looks good, many doubts and fears simply vanish. Using Smalltalk as a fast-path to building web appilcations that handle complex business logic can be an extreme advantage over many mainstream teachnologies. With great design and given the fact that it runs on a server where noone ever touches the application after installation, most arguments against Smalltalk are obsolote…
[Update:] I may be wrong on this one: the WWDC Keynote slide I’m talking about mentions ‘Automatic Reference Counting’, which technically is not the same as Garbage Collection, but nevertheless takes away the burden and responsibility of manual memory management from the developer. So the hooray is still valid, even if the technical implementation may not be Garbage Collection. For more details make sure you read the comments to this post[/Update]
Apple’s Keynote on the WWDC yesterday was again a huge media event, and they showed a lot of interesting new stuff that’s neither rocket science nor revolutionary on its own, but the level of integration into their product portfolio and their perspective on things that should simply work is great.
My personal highlight of the keynote was a very little but probably very influential tiny detail: iOS5 will have Garbage Collection.
Up to now, if you programmed in Objective-C for the Mac, and used Garbage Collection, you couldn’t use the same body of code for the iPhone or the iPad, because iOS required you to manage your memory by hand. Not that it was too hard, but it was a difference. So you either had to maintain two versions of your code, or you had to ignore Garbage Collection for your Mac version.
Now the only major difference between a Mac and an iPad application is the GUI framework (there are, of course, still others as well). This is easy to overcome, because you simply redraw your app in the IB for the other platform, and still maintain a single body of backend code.
And I guess even this difference will go away pretty soon, now that Mac OS X Lion adapts many principles from iOS.
It seems we’re on our path to the unified operating system and development environment for all platforms, from Desktop to Tablet PC and SmartPhone or Car Entertainment units. The gap between a MacBook Air and an iPad isn’t very broad anymore. Imagine a Netbook with a MultiTouch Screen and you have the unit for all purposes. Add to that the fact that there’s no real difference in APIs between platforms, we can imagine a lot of cool scenarios for our software.
So this is probably the answer to the question I posted a few weeks ago.
Today Apple released XCode 4, their latest development environment for MacOS and iOS.
Having worked with XCode for a while and skimming through the list of improvements and new features in Xcode 4 it seems like this new version is another big step forward and makes development an even much nicer experience than before. I wish some of the Smalltalk IDEs around would gather some inspiration from Xcode.
The nice thing about Xcode and Objective-C is that it feels very familiar to Smalltalk developers and ships with a lot of nicely crafted tools. Apple’s Interface Builder is one of my favorite GUI Builders together with VA Smalltalk‘s Composition Editor and Google’s WindowBuilder for Eclipse/Java. This combination doesn’t come by accident, all three tools share a common heritage, just like Xcode has adopted many things that Smalltalk IDEs offered 15 or 20 years ago and help boost programmer productivity.
It’s a funny thing to see how new generations of IDEs adopt more and more of the feel of Smalltalk environments. Some people call this the “feels like dynamic” trend, and Xcode 4 together with the latest additions to Objective-C (I am talking of Garbage Collection and Blocks) is a clear step towards feeling like Smalltalk.
There are now two ways of getting Xcode: registered Apple developers can download it for free, if you’re not registered, you can purchase XCode in the Mac App Store for 4.99 USD or 3.99 EUR.
It seems like the growing demand in Android gadgets and the noise of App developers have finally made Apple rethink their rules (Press Release):
In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.
So it seems like it will be allowed to put packaged Smalltalk applications onto the iPhone, iPad (and maybe soon Apple TV???).
We would never say that Steve lost a battle or had to give in to the Mob, would we
Did I mention that both Squeak and Pharo run on the iPhone? Maybe this change may even motivate some Smalltalk Vendors to work in that direction. This is surely good news for Esteban and his Mars/Deimos project and for John’s iSqueak work… But not only for Smalltalkers, but also Rubyists, Flash developers and so on…
Bert Freudenberg has put up a short video of his port of the Squeak VM (based on John McIntosh’s port for iPhone) and Etoys onto YouTube.
It looks really cool: Multi-Finger gestures on this nice pad computer to let little race cars drive around. I am not sure I’d like to use the screen keyboard for coding in Smalltalk, but as an Etoys-based learning machine, this is really cool.
Now if only Apple’s policy on interpreted languages was a bit more reliable and transparent, we could invest in Smalltalk-based apps for the iPhone/iPad…