Marten’s VA Smalltalk wish list

Marten Feldtmann posted his personal wishlist for VA Smalltalk for 2011. There’s not much to add here, and I spotted a few wishes that I’d regard as high priority as well. So maybe if I help wishing, the list gets shorter around this time next year:

I would like to get/have

* that with 8.03 we get a pretty stable and up to date Seaside implementation with easy packaging management
* to get an up to date version of Glorp
* to get updated database drivers offering newest features of supported database products
* to get support for at least one open database (eh – what about Postgresql ?).
* to get support for LTS versions of Ubuntu. Actually nothing had to be done – at least I have no see major problems – to make VA runnable under 10.10. But the problems with the latest LTS version (10.04.1) are not going to be solved any more.
* I would like to see a good Linux client, which is a pleasure to work with and does not look like a product somewhere located between Englebart and Smalltalk’72.
* a solution to these problems with source code management among different clients with different code pages
* to have more UTF-8 support
* a new management/developer process making it possible to get earlier access to new versions of Glorp and Seaside – and no need for waiting for next releases in these cases
* even for the most important platform (Windows) we have a complicating installation process
* the – even from the community wished – long awaited open bug databases (Frankfurt !)
* enhanced GUI support for Windows and Linux
* support for Macintosh
* support for better IPCs: either with .NET code, Java code or C
* support for better and asynchronous call-in into Smalltalk independent from the GUI thread
* support for multi-processors and/or multi-threading
* support for interfaces within the Smalltalk language or system.
* much brighter activities at conferences and a better support (activity) via Instantiations forum
* a way for project control with external resources (bitmaps), automatically build management
* easier way of building runtime images (headless and headfull)
* some kind if Intellisense when typing code
* a much better kind of GUI, which make source code browsing within the system even more productive
* enhancements in the GUI builder part: do not store things in the repository, but as source code … make it even more powerful

Some of Marten’s wishes are on the agenda for 8.0.3 or the release after that (8.5?). So chances are Marten and I will be happy boys next year 😉
I think Instantiations has come a long way in terms of public appearance. And I am optimistic and full of hope at the same time that the hiring of a new staff member for the development team will help make (at least some) dreams come true…

Plat_Forms 2011: Application deadline extended

I hadn’t realized, but obviously the Plat_Forms organizers have extended the deadline for applications:

Since we are still waiting for a few applications to arrive we decided to extend the application period until December 8th, 2010. The announcement date (December 10th) won’t change.

So if there are Smalltalkers who want to participate, there is no excuse for not applying.

Note that Stephane Ducasse of ESUG has signalled interest in sponsoring candidates.
And it seems Cincom would be willing to help candidates in getting more comfortable with their platform, should a team decide to use it. I guess they’d like to see their WebVelocity product represented in the contest – maybe they should just send a team, most teams a corporate teams anyways… ,-)

Forrester Research: Java Is A Dead-End For Enterprise App Development

It’s not really new to anybody in the IT industry: trends need to come and make big bucks and they also need to go and free the stage for new ones, so that even more bucks can be made.

Analysts do play their role in making a trend come or go.

This time, they are on a mission to declare Java as legacy which will be replaced. It’s not yet fully clear what’s coming next, but Java is in our way (Well, I somehow agree to this one but I already agreed to it 8 or 10 years ago).

The latest mosaic piece is a blog post named “Java Is A Dead-End For Enterprise App Development” by Mike Gualtieri from Forrester Research, in which he explains why Java does not look into a bright future. His advice is:

Java development is too complex for business application development. Enterprise application development teams should plan their escape from Java.


There are quite a few arguments in his article that make a lot of sense:

Java frameworks prove complexity. Hibernate, Spring, Struts, and other frameworks reveal Java’s deficiencies rather than its strengths. A future platform shouldn’t need a cacophony of frameworks just to do the basics.

True. But when it comes to Struts and other web frameworks, we must be fair and say that the complexity of web applications is not really Java’s fault, it’s because the mess of technologies like HTML, CSS, AJAX, JavaScript, HTTP is extremely complex and the whole web application chaos comes from the fact that we always nail new additional technologies onto this ball of mud to save a particular problem, rather than just come up with new and improved bas technologies. Java with its static typing just adds a few dozen adaptors, beans, templates and xml files on top of that for the simplest jobs. Partly due to the fact that we still fear to throw away code and want everything configurable to a degree where programming is the smallest part of assembling a web application. But that’s another story, let’s continue looking at Mike’s post:

Java is based on C++. Is this really the best way to develop enterprise business applications?

No, it’s not, but nobody ever really said so – apart from Sun and IBM. And the reason for that was not really altruism but the quest for big Bucks 😉

Java’s new boss is the same as the old boss. Oracle’s reign is unlikely to transform Java. […] So far, it appears that Oracle is continuing with Sun’s same failed Java policies.

Right. Larry wants to see some return on his investment in Sun, so being a Java Superstar is not on his list of priorities. I’d say arguments like this are just a sign of disapointment about the fact that the industry is still a place were people want to make money. Which I think is not too bad, since I am part of it and need to feed my kids. So this is neither a technical nor a rational argument. Java could still be great even if it cost 10000 Dollars per developer seat. But it’s not, even though it’s for free.

On the other hand, the community has added a lot of valuable code around Java that really makes Java a powerful platform.

Gualtieri comes to these conclusions:

What It Means: Application Development Teams Must Find A Better Way To Develop Apps

He’s oh so right. What I see in may daily practice at major IT shops is so depressing. Levels of complexity layered by the dozens, and nobody can draw a picture of their part of the overall architecture which would help anybody understand how The Enterprise System really works. No idea who to call when a Transaction fires some weird error message. Badly educated architects with a wall full of certificates and methodology popes sitting in their ivory towers. Java is just a little piece in the puzzle which adds complexity within software systems. But it does a great job of it.

The next generation of app dev tools will:

    • Dramatically increase developer productivity.
    • Allow developers to delegate change to business end users.

Unfortunately, he forgot to name them. But I somehow have the feeling I read sentences like this in the early nineties. And maybe people with a longer history in IT may know these wishes even from the 70ies or 80ies.

Interestingly, technologies like that have existed for decades. Smalltalk for example allows for high productivity, is highly adaptable, can be learned quite fast (I do train people in Smalltalk that come from very diverse backgrounds, and they learn pretty fast). It’s just that Smalltalk has been covered in articles from colleagues of Gualtieri 15 years ago 😉

Packaging a VA Smalltalk based Seaside App as NT Service

Seaside is still quite fresh in the VA Smalltalk world, so documentation and best practices in areas like Packaging and Deployment in this environment are also quite sparse.

Louis La Brunda has put up a writeup of his experiences with packaging a Seaside Application as an NT Service onto the VA Smalltalk support forum. It covers how to solve packaging problems as well as how to start Seaside in the packaged image. He gives very valuable hints to pitfalls and possible problems. So keep this link as a reference.

ESUG 2011 will be in Edinburgh

It already had been discussed internally at ESUG 2010, that the next ESUG conference would likely be held somewhere in Great Britain. Now it’s official:

The European Smalltalk User Group put an early announcement up for the ESUG 2011 conference. It will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland:

We are in Edinburgh next year.

  • Saturday 20th – Sunday 21st August 2011: Camp Smalltalk
  • Monday 22nd – Friday 26th August 2011: the ESUG conference

These dates are carefully chosen to be just after the famous Edinburgh festival fringe ends (so we are “Beyond the Fringe”; later, I’ll add information for those who want to arrive early and enjoy fringe and festival events).

We have a excellent venue: the entire ground floor of the Edinburgh University Informatics department, right in the heart of Edinburgh. Look for Potterrow, Edinburgh to find it on the map.

So we now can start planning our journey to Edinburgh next August…

Just in case you didn’t know yet: the ESUG conference is absolutely the place to be if you are interested in Smalltalk and have the chance to travel to/within Europe!