So Apple reinvented Squeak and Sophie…or Not?

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.

Ganz frisch aus der Spamosphäre…

Es gibt einige wenige gute Gründe, warum man sehr froh sein kann, dass online-Übersetzungsdienste bisher noch nicht gut funktionieren. Einen fand ich heute in meiner Inbox mit einer sehr gut gewählten Absenderadresse ( :

Hallo Gast Visa Europe,

Ihre Kreditkarte wurde ausgesetzt, weil wir ein Problem festgestellt, auf Ihrem Konto .

Wir haben zu bestimmen,dass jemand Ihre Karte ohne Ihre Erlaubnis verwendet haben. Für Ihren Schutz haben wir Ihre Kreditkarte aufgehangen. Um diese Suspension aufzuheben [Klicken Sie hier] und folgen Sie den Staat zur Aktualisierung der Informationen in Ihrer Kreditkarte.

Vermerk: Wenn diese nicht vollständig ist , werden wir gezwungen sein, Ihre Karte aussetzen

Wir bedanken uns fur Ihre Zusammenarbeit in dieser Angelegenheit.

Vielleicht sollten wir uns wünschen, dass die Computerlinguistik noch lange braucht, um gute Übersetzungen zu berechnen. Das erleichtert dem E-Mailnutzer das Spamfiltern doch enorm…

Final Schedule for the Smalltalk devroom at FOSDEM

Stephan Eggermont just announced the final schedule for the Smalltalk Devroom that will be held at the FOSDEM conference on Sunday, February 5th, 2012 in Brussels, Belgium:

  • 09:30 Norbert Hartl, Take a small REST. Simple approaches for REST in smalltalk
  • 10:00 Stephane Ducasse, Marcus Denker, The next steps for the Pharo Vision
  • 11:00 Laurent Laffont, John Thornton, Amber, the Smalltalk for web developers
  • 12:00 Nick Ager, An introduction to jQuery Mobile
  • 12:30 Stefan Marr, RoarVM, Sly
  • 13:00 David Chisnall, Compiling Smalltalk to fast native Code
  • 13:30 Craig Latta, Spoon
  • 14:00 Stephan Eggermont, Willem van den Ende, Diego Lont, Back to the future, (re)learn smalltalk (till 16:30).

Enough food for thought for a single day, I’d say.
But it gets even better:

FOSDEM is the biggest free and non-commercial event organized by and for the community. Its goal is to provide Free and Open Source developers a place to meet. No registration necessary.

More on the Fusion/Lion Caret (^) story: It’s the Logitech K750!

I was on the road for a few days now, but now I’m back and took the time to look deeper into my caret issue with VMware Fusion and Lion. I received comments to my last post that led me to some VMware forum posts where somebody brought up the topic of Keyboard drivers for remote desktops that need to be installed on the windows VM. While Henrik pointed me to a post that was talking about french keyboards and such I just started digging deeper. Most of the times, the solution to such problems was to install the Bootcamp drivers for the Apple Wireless keyboard.

Before I do so, I thought, I first try if this could be my problem as well. And it turns out this seems not to be the case. Why do I think so? Because I don’t use an Apple wireless keyboard. It just doesn’t work for me. I use a Logitech K750 wireless solar keyboard, which is a really nice keyboard that somehow fits better with my typing habits. I especially hate the small cursor buttons, the missing of the numeric keys and the location of the fn button on the Apple Wireless. But that’s another story.

For my windows on a VM problem I dug out the Apple Wireless and connected it. And it turns out that the caret key (^) works under both Mac OS X and Windows in VMware fusion. The Logitech doesn’t. In OS X, pressing the ^ button works as expected, but under VMware/XP I get an “<“. So I tried a few more things: pressing “<” on the Logitech twice brings up the Caret twice and pressing “<” and the space bar brings up the caret once, pressing “<” with together with shift brings up “°” in VMware. So it seems the Logitech simply swaps the “<” and “^” keys under VMware Fusion (or maybe VMware swaps them). I also tested the same things in a Win 7 VM and had the same problem.

Please note that this applies to the German version of the K750, I have no idea if the US or any other version is any better.

The funny thing here is that I didn’t install anything on OS X to make the Logitech work. It simply connected and worked out of the box. So I guess the Bootcamp drivers for the Apple Wireless won’t help much in Fusion / Win XP, because the Wireless is working alright already. So now I seem to have a problem. The short term solution is probably to work with the Wireless under Windows or even better try connecting a real PC USB keyboard (which should solve additional problems like multi selection with Ctrl under Windows) directly to the VM. Not exactly what I’d expect from a VM.

I’ll see whether I can find anything on the topic anywhere on the net. Maybe somebody has already solved the problem…

Do agile methods help improve software? It seems they often don’t

Just the other day I was asked what I think about Agile Methods during a coffee break on our Refactoring / Unit Testing Workshop. My very first reaction was: I think it’s a become money machine.

The reaction was somewhat puzzled. Then I went on to explain that the ideas of getting rid of a lot of bad working practices like planning everything upfront and forcefully sticking to the schedule are of course great. Keeping communication within a team alive, staying in close contact with stakeholders, being able to change directions in very short timeframes and holding the stakeholder responsible for all changes by letting them decide are great ideas.
But no agile method, whatever it may be called or whoever may have come up with it, is going to heal anything if a team follows it relegiously.

The fact that agile has turned into a big merchandising industry, from books, conferences, certifications to buttons, t-shirts and maybe even underwear (you never know…) makes me sceptic. Not that I think it doesn’t work, but I’m afraid it mostly enables quite a few people to sell their consulting time and written material and may be promising enough to make people buy stuff while it doesn’t work good enough for people to adapt it easily and/or succesfully. All of that is not bad per se. I do a bit of consulting and try to think some of the teams I consult profit from it, but I am seldomly selling a ready-made concept or methodology. The art of consulting lies in helping people find their own pace.

This piece of Gerald Weinberg is a great summary of what I mean by all that. If you only have 30 seconds to learn about his conclusions, I’d recommed you this gem:

Those installations and individuals who have successfully realized the promised benefits of agile programming tend to be the ones who don’t buy the typical hardware or software pitch, but who listen to the pitch and extract what they decide they need for solving their problems. They do their own thinking, which includes using the thoughts of others, if they’re applicable. By and large, they were the most successful problem solvers before agile programming, and are now even more successful.

If you even have 6 minutes, read the full article. It’s not new, but it’s excellent, especially his observatiosn and conclusions are worth thinking about.

I agree to almost all of it. I am not sure if and how you could see if a piece of code was written using agile methods, but the numbers he gives are discouraging, because roughly 100% of the code he looked at was not much better than the code written by non-agile teams. So the hope for higher maintainability and quality seems to be unfulfilled.

Does it mean we should condemn agile methods, eXtreme programming and friends altogether? No. I think it means we should use ideas like “Agile” to reflect on what it can do for our specific project or team. There’s a lot of inspiration in what people write about their approaches to overcome certain problems and their experiences with them.
But we always have to choose carefully what we adapt for our teams.

I haven’t yet seen a team that really got anything from reproducing a methodology and making it their new way of life/working.   All they are is a bunch of people pretending to be cool and changing the world whilst ignoring they only replace a well-understood problem with a badly understood “solution”.

But when I visit a team that has adapted maybe one or two ideas and made them a well-understood, common-sense part of their daily work, maybe even tried a few more and stopped using them when it turned out they don’t work for them, I often get the impression they’ve made progress in quality and productivity. Funnily, these teams would never present themselves by “We’re agile” while being much more agile in the sense of speed and quality than those who would.

How to completely miss the point in discussions about a programming language (like Smalltalk)

Sometimes I encounter things on the web that make me think what’s wrong with people. Some just seem to have to much time to insist on some mostly irrelevant point they dislike and use it to judge a whole technology by it.

Take this little example:

Someone, let’s call him Sebastian Sastre ;-), blogs about the top ten reasons why he chose Smalltalk to implement one of his projects and why he’s absolutely happy about his decision. Shortly after that, somebody links to the story on reddit and there people start to discuss in great lengths about why Smalltalk is completely, totally dangerous and just about to sink the world because it doesn’t implement mathematically correct operator precedence.

I agree that the fact that Smalltalk will incorrectly calculate 2+3*5 as 25 instead of 17 is irritating and strange. No doubt about that.

People I introduce to Smalltalk in my courses shake their heads about that, because they are busy soaking up all that’s new about Smalltalk and its environment and not ready to swallow that pill also.

But once they see how clear and concise the “everything is an object” princible and the message precedence rules in Smalltalk are, they simply take a note to rather add a pair of brackets too much than too little and accept it as a Smalltalk weirdness. Later I ask them to explain how #ifTrue: works, and those who get it start being fascinated by Smalltalk and objects, you can literally see it in their eyes. At the end of the course, nobody says “all good and well, but I cannot accept that Smalltalk can’t calculate”.

In the end, most Software bugs have other reasons than the fact that Smalltalk has no operator precedence, and even if so, this kind of error is so easy to find that it’s not worth talking about.

The funny thing about this whole reddit thread (or at least of most of it) is that it concentrates on some fact about Smalltalk that is such a minor drawback of conciseness and can be overcome so easily by placing brackets around mathematical expressions (which in my opinion improves readybility anyways). It’s somewhat frightening to imagine important management decisions being made on the basis of Statements like “But if it can’t even calculate a simple term, how could it possibly run our business? And don’t forget it’s not typed!” 😉

Smalltalk Inspect 13: Esther Mietzsch über Squeak und den deutschen Squeak-Verein

In unserer neuesten Episode des Smalltalk Inspect Podcast sprechen wir mit Esther Mietzsch über den Squeak Deutschland eV und seine Arbeit mit, an und rund um Squeak auch aber nicht nur in Deutschland.

Zudem sprechen wir über den Einsatz von eToys im Schulunterricht und die Frage, wie und wo man sich mit interessierten und bereits erfahrenen Lehrern oder Eltern austauschen kann, die schonmal Squeak und/oder eToys im Unterricht oder einer AG eingesetzt haben.

Ganz nebenbei erfahren wir auch, dass es zu diesem Themenkomplex bald zwei komplett neue, deutschsprachige Bücher aus deutschen Landen geben wird.

Also auch diesmal gilt wieder: es gibt viel neues, interessantes und vielleicht bisher weniger bekanntes zu Smalltalk zu erfahren. Wer’s nun vor lauter Spannung nicht mehr aushält: hier geht’s direkt zum Download der Episode als MP3-Datei.
Wer Smalltalk Inspect bisher noch nicht kannte, hat hier auch die Möglichkeit, sich die bisherigen 12 Episoden anzuhören, in denen auch sehr viel zu entdecken und zu erfahren ist.

Instantiations about to show their progress on Unix GUI tools at STIC 12

So the list of talks for the Smalltalk Industry Conference in March (held in Biloxi) has just been released (I just read it on Alan’s Blog).

One thing that should be interesting for users of VA Smalltalk is John O’Keefe’s talk on the latest VA ST news. It seems the co-operation with the HPI students last year lead to something that is worth showing and talking about:

I will have some exciting new capabilities to show as well as a preview of a new GUI framework for Unix.

To me that sounds like good news. So let’s hope for a few oh! and ah! moments and progress not only on Unices 😉






….Ah, and isn’t OS X also a Unix derivate???? Okay, maybe that’s too much to ask for 😉

Fusion ate my caret (^) or was it the Lion?

sometimes I encounter strange phenomena. I hove no idea if that’s only me, but I suspect so, because I couldn’t find anything of help on the web (maybe because searching for “fusion ^” is not a good idea).

So what’s happened? One of my machines runs lion and for VA Smalltalk related work I have to use Win XP on that device. For that I use vmware fusion 4. On that machine, I cannot enter the caret. It just is ignored. I do run the same version of vmware fusion, win XP and VA Smalltalk on a snow leopard Mac as well and there I have no problems at all. Pressing the ^ button simply works there.

I cannot tell you how annoying it is to try program in Smalltalk with no chance to enter a caret, because it is Smalltalk’s return statement 😦 I have to use the screen keaboard application for that and sometimes feel a bit like a clown when I do so.

So my options are:

  • Hope for somebody with some insight out there to read this post and help me
  • Contact vmware and hope they help me
  • Look at alternatives to fusion (maybe virtualbox is not the worst idea here)
  • buy me a windows box to run VA ST (didn’t lenovo just show a nice touchscreen machine that looks beautiful and may be a nice base for Windows 8?)
  • hope for Instantiations to port VA ST to the Mac

I guess not all of them are equally likely to happen, nor is my sympathy for all of them equally unlimited. Maybe I’ll start with the first two, followed by the third and somewhere in the back of my head not forget about the last one 😉

Dreams sometimes come true – this time it might be a pdf report generator in Smalltalk

just a few weeks ago, we interviewed Christian Haider on our SmalltalkInspect podcast (it’s in German), where, among a lot of other interesting stuff, we discussed how cool it would be if someone came up with a pdf report generator in top of his pdf4smalltalk framework.

And now consider this: Bob Nemec just wrote about his work on such a thing over on his blog. He’s working on a seaside-canvas – inspired renderer for reports on top of pdf4smalltalk. He’s preparing a talk about it for this year’s ESUG conference (to be held held in Gent, Belgium late August) [UPDATE: Bob points out in a comment that the conference he’s going to speak about his work is going to be the Smalltalk Industry Conference 2012 which will be held in Biloxi, Mississippi USA on March 18-21] .

The best part, however, is this:

Still a lot of work to do, but I’m looking forward to showing it at the conference. And, if it’s good enough, it will be added to the VW public store (long term plans are to port to other Smalltalk dialects).

So it’s going to be open sourced!

It seems Bob has gotten quite some stuff working already (he’s talking abut it in the above-linked post): word wrap, tables – partly even with coslspan and rowspan properties, and I guess quite a little bit more.

Can’t wait to see it in action…