Let more ar out of the balloon!

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Let more ar out of the balloon!

Kirk Fraser
Downloading the latest Squeak i noticed a fragment of documentation saying there are lots of options to start Squeak on command line and view help to see them.  Help provided nothing obvious, leaving all those options unused.  So that provided an occasion to again shout for grounding the balloon, from its long past lofty ascend over the ivory towers of other software research by the power of hot air or hype.  Perhaps you white cat petting experts should try starting over as beginners for a while to understand what new programmers really want instead of announcing rich new features then letting the programmer guess at how to use them.   

From my observation, I would guess there is a huge demand for Artificial Intelligence especially integrating conceptual objects with high speed GPU trained neural nets of varying depth capable of making a self driving car and other robots see.  But all I've heard of in Smalltalk is an old Digitalk Goodies floppy with a neural net that trains way too slow in Smalltalk and suggestions to try FFI.  So in this case the balloon is still under moat water, instead of above the ivory towers.  Developers interested in attracting more beginners to Smalltalk should build things beginner's appreciate and remove things they don't like the automatic double entry of the closing bracket and parenthesis.

Squeak developers should also consider what application developers want'  I've read most applications are written in Visual Basic.  Squeak has some ability to drag and drop partially built objects to simplify applications but there seems to be a certain crisp precision or quality missing.  Again the documentation may hook you up to something but the link then says a browser is not installed so you can't do X Y or Z.  Ok, but how does one install a browser or even find the kind that Squeak accepts?  I would love to use a browser that allows me to override certain commands of webpage authors who make it impossible to copy a text without manually typing it all in.  

The reason I downloaded a new Squeak is to put it on a new used computer I had to buy to run Fusion 360 which would not run on my other 6 computers.  And there I see another problem similar to the problem with Microsoft Word developers - overdevelopment at the expense of simplicity.  A CAD program should allow a user to toss in all kinds of objects, circles, likes, and other shapes into the sandbox then move them around, hook them together, and add precise measurements as needed then proceed on to the other steps of surfacing, engineering the strains, and automatically shaving excess material to make a design perfect for 3D printing and converting to G-codes to do it.  Is Smalltalk up to that?  Yes as much as Fortran or Cobol I suppose but is it ready and available to use?  Nope.

Yesterday I met a customer in the computer store who has a Ph.D. in EE so i asked a question and immediately he backed away saying that's outside his expertise instead of offering the slightest hint and a step to explore for a solution.  I wondered where is the scientist in this Ph.D.?  Some people get so niched by their specialty they are useless for everything else.  That brings me to the compiler package.  I have been working on my own language I call Ruletalk and the parser is done, needing only its VM to finish.  I thought maybe I would get some ideas from Squeak's compiler but it is so complicated I failed to immediately see any parallels with what I have been building.  So perhaps it is time to redevelop Squeak with a view toward actually serving beginners who want to solve problems instead of going for a ride on a balloon whose technology has fallen behind what the ivory towers are teaching and industry is demanding these days.

Kirk Fraser


 


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Re: Let more ar out of the balloon!

Chris Muller-3
Hi Kirk,

> Downloading the latest Squeak i noticed a fragment of documentation saying
> there are lots of options to start Squeak on command line and view help to
> see them.  Help provided nothing obvious, leaving all those options unused.

Eliot stopped including the man page with the VM a long time ago.
However, if you can find and download a really old VM, you may find a
file inside called "squeak.1".  If you place this file in:

  /usr/local/man/man1/squeak.1

then you should be able to type:

    man squeak

and get a really detailed explanation of the command-line arguments.
Much better than squeak --help.

> So that provided an occasion to again shout for grounding the balloon, from
> its long past lofty ascend over the ivory towers of other software research
> by the power of hot air or hype.  Perhaps you white cat petting experts
> should try starting over as beginners for a while to understand what new
> programmers really want instead of announcing rich new features then letting
> the programmer guess at how to use them.

Thanks for the feedback.  Some of us are thinking along these lines.

> From my observation, I would guess there is a huge demand for Artificial
> Intelligence especially integrating conceptual objects with high speed GPU
> trained neural nets of varying depth capable of making a self driving car
> and other robots see.  But all I've heard of in Smalltalk is an old Digitalk
> Goodies floppy with a neural net that trains way too slow in Smalltalk and
> suggestions to try FFI.  So in this case the balloon is still under moat
> water, instead of above the ivory towers.  Developers interested in
> attracting more beginners to Smalltalk should build things beginner's
> appreciate and remove things they don't like the automatic double entry of
> the closing bracket and parenthesis.

That feature helps new and experienced programmers enter valid
expressions.  If you don't like it, it can be disabled in the
Preferences ("Auto enclose brackets () {} []").

> Squeak developers should also consider what application developers want'

I agree, and some of us are pushing for these considerations, but the
elite of this community are made up of expert developers who are
mostly interested in developing features that appeal to themselves and
other expert developers.

> The reason I downloaded a new Squeak is to put it on a new used computer I
> had to buy to run Fusion 360 which would not run on my other 6 computers.
> And there I see another problem similar to the problem with Microsoft Word
> developers - overdevelopment at the expense of simplicity.  A CAD program
> should allow a user to toss in all kinds of objects, circles, likes, and
> other shapes into the sandbox then move them around, hook them together, and
> add precise measurements as needed then proceed on to the other steps of
> surfacing, engineering the strains, and automatically shaving excess
> material to make a design perfect for 3D printing and converting to G-codes
> to do it.  Is Smalltalk up to that?

This type of random, flexible interaction is something that Maui
strives to achieve for individual domain models.

> Yes as much as Fortran or Cobol I
> suppose but is it ready and available to use?  Nope.
>
> Yesterday I met a customer in the computer store who has a Ph.D. in EE so i
> asked a question and immediately he backed away saying that's outside his
> expertise instead of offering the slightest hint and a step to explore for a
> solution.  I wondered where is the scientist in this Ph.D.?  Some people get
> so niched by their specialty they are useless for everything else.  That
> brings me to the compiler package.  I have been working on my own language I
> call Ruletalk and the parser is done, needing only its VM to finish.  I
> thought maybe I would get some ideas from Squeak's compiler but it is so
> complicated I failed to immediately see any parallels with what I have been
> building.  So perhaps it is time to redevelop Squeak with a view toward
> actually serving beginners who want to solve problems instead of going for a
> ride on a balloon whose technology has fallen behind what the ivory towers
> are teaching and industry is demanding these days.

Thanks for the feedback.  Coincidentally, I conveyed a similar message
just this week to my fellow board members.  I will continue to try to
represent beginners and "power users" who recognize Squeak as
something that's on the cusp of usable.

Cheers,
  Chris

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