New home

by Miguel de Icaza

I moved my blog to a new domain, it is now on a spicy new domain.

Posted on 24 May 2005


Dissent like its 2005

by Miguel de Icaza

Check ChomskyTorrents for your dissenting needs in torrent form.

Update: Fixed the previous link.

Nina Simone

Maria Laura just introduced me to Nina Simone, wonderful.

Galloway's Transcriptn

An transcript of the amazing declarations of George Galloway in the US Senate: here.

Update: Even better, there is a video.

Ex-UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter talks about the background of the hearing.

Posted on 23 May 2005


Cross Language Integration

by Miguel de Icaza

Lluis S´┐Żnchez from the Mono team on his blog produced two screencasts: (first and second) which demostrate how Mono allows code written in C#, Boo and Java to work transparently with each other.

The demo shows:

  • The latest MonoDevelop IDE in action: creating a project made up of components and libraries written in multiple languages.
  • Three different languages consuming the Gtk# API.
  • The Mono Debugger in action. The debugger is a library and there are two front-ends that consume this library: a GUI front-end as seen on this screencast and a command-line front-end.
  • MonoDevelop's new templates for Boo and Java.
  • Three different languages instantiating and inheriting code from another language.

The Java magic is achieved through IKVM and the GNU Classpath.

Read Lluis' blog for more information on the futures for MonoDevelop.

The screencasts: first and second.

Enlightenment#

Hisham has been working on Mono bindings for the Enlightenment (EFL#). You can find the bindings on the module "efl-sharp" on our repository.

Better Late than Never

Found about the existance of ccMixter: the Creative Commons site for sampling, mashing and sharing music.

Old iPod

I found a use for my old ipod. It will become a Linux-powered voice recorder.

Zoltan Takes on the The Last Frontier

Zoltan, hacker extraordinaire, has embarked on the last frontier.

Posted on 17 May 2005


Stuttgart, Pilsen, Prague, Paris

by Miguel de Icaza

I will be doing two keynotes at Guadec in Stuttgart and at the .NET Technologies in Pilsen.

I have strategically placed a few cities on this Eurotrip to visit some friends and meet with some developers in the way. If you want to join me for lunch, dinner to discuss Mono, .NET, Gnome, free software or Linux write me an email to my gmail account [email protected].

The dates are as follows:

Update: Sorry about the dates. A bug in my brain prevented me from incrementing the month to June. The dates above have been fixed.

Spec#

A few new ideas for C# are being tried out on Spec#. It is taking steps into building tools to prove the correctness of the code. This is done by integrating into the language things like pre-conditions, post-conditions, object invariants, non-null types and checked exceptions. A separate tool is later used to do a lint-like process on the program.

File Systems in C#

You can now write your own user-level file system in C# bindings are here

Paco, r0ml, Stephen in Boston

Tonight Ben and myself had dinner with Paco, r0ml and Stephen which all happen to be in town this week. Sadly I did not take any pictures, but Paco might have some images to share later on.

It was one of the most fun dinners I had in a while everyone had tons of stories to share. We went to Casa Romero one of my favorite restaurants in Boston. Ben ordered "shrimp with something". Only later he learned that "something" was a sauce of corn parasites. He seemed to like it.

Only today I found that r0ml's not only had a blog, but he was raised in Brazil as a kid. His portuguese is vastly superior to mine, even after having being married to a brazilian for almost two years.

Posted on 13 May 2005


Open Source Java, part 2

by Miguel de Icaza

After my post on Apache's Harmony project I have been watching the fireworks on the blogs and the mailing lists. One thing is clear: nobody quite knows what Harmony is supposed to be.

There are pros and cons. The main pro is that I discovered the BileBlog, a modern-age blog that reads like a good Jamie Zawinski opinion. In particular the flame about project Harmony is gem.

Unlike Mono, open source Java faces a big problem: there are a number of free commercial Java runtimes available for every operating system that matters. The group of people who would have contributed to a free java to scratch an itch are gone. From those who remain another large chunk will switch in a heartbeat to a commercial implementation the moment they run into missing features, scalability issues, the lack of a moving GC or a hard to debug problem.

So you must rely purely on free software advocates or people employed to clone Sun's Java for a strategic purpose.

To illustrate my point: Mark reports that for the two months leading to May 7th GNU Classpath had 299 commits and today is made up of roughly 900,000 lines of source code. Mono in the same time frame had 985 commits to its core class libraries and has roughly of 1,600,000 lines of code. The previous count is only for the core class libraries and does not include Mono-specific or Gnome-specific class libraries. The Mono effort is also three years younger than Classpath and five years younger than Kaffe.

For an open source Java effort to succeed, it not only needs to match the functionality of Sun's Java first, but it must offer functionality that is not available anywhere if it wants to attract developers to its core. Today there are probably two openings in this area. IKVM which makes Java and .NET run side-by-side and GCJ which turns Java code into native code.

Java and C#, CLI and JVM

Havoc last post bounces across every possible point.

I was not going to enter the language discussion on PlanetGnome, because it touches on too many topics. For one, I think that:

  • Some key libraries must remain written in C. And we (The Mono Group) have a very good framework for binding GObject-based APIs into Mono APIs.
  • We have a tendency to dump things into a library and hoping that every application will use the library to gain consistency.
    For example, recently a user mailed me to point out that although he can browse his files on a SMB share, he can not actually use any of his local tools to manipulate these files. It turns out that instead of doing the obvious thing, which was to ask the kernel to mount the file system the path we went down on was to use the Gnome-VFS to provide an SMB transport. And this works beautifully with the Gnome tools, but it does not work with any other tools.
  • Mono right now shines as a platform for developing desktop applications, and we want to make sure that the developer experience there is great. Once we have conquered that space, we can organically reach into other spaces, but lets first get the first generation of Mono-based GNOME applications rock solid and shipping.
  • I would very much like Mono-based applications to be part of the standard Gnome desktop release and get the stamp of approval of the Gnome Foundation. There is no mandate that all distributions must ship all the packages, so Red Hat can just not ship this.

I think my comments echo Mikael's post, which both Jeffrey and Havoc seem to have missed.

I wanted to follow up on a few things that Havoc mentioned:

  • Graydon's contrast of Java and C# GUI code is a passable rendering of Java source code into C#, but is hardly an analysis of the technical issues.
    For an actual technical technical contrast there is Dare's C# for Java programmers document and the eight-part interviews with Anders Hejlsberg.
    Last year I was invited to present to the Red Hat Java summit in Boston. My presentation at the time focused on teaching to a Java-savvy audience the differences between the languages Java and C# and the JVM and the CLI, I have uploaded the slides here.
  • The same universe of open source libraries being furiously developed for Java are being developed for .NET. Either direct ports, or re-implementations of the same concepts.
    Mind you, a lot of these open source technologies under development for Java and .NET give me a Freshmeat.net-deja vu. I still fail to see the correlation between all this server code and the Gnome desktop.
  • I can only smile when I see that Havoc tells people to try Java 5 as an alternative to Mono. Specially considering that any use of Java 5 features will likely lock people into using Sun's proprietary Java.

Posted on 11 May 2005


Innovation

by Miguel de Icaza

Jamie correctly points out that the idea of having the search functionality present at all times without popping up an annoying dialog box predates Firefox, it has been availble on Emacs and XEmacs forever:

Emacs search functionality is also a bit more evolved at this point than Firefox (in an Emacs kind of way). Anyways, I can not wait for more desktop applications to use this model for searches.

Mono's Performance

Gonzalo has posted some details on the evolution of Mono's performance for WebForms and WebServices here.

Summary: Loading a test that shows a directory listing without any caching enabled has gone from 30 requests per second a year ago to 155 requests per second as of Mono 1.1.7. Check the details on the incremental improvements that got that performance.

Posted on 10 May 2005


National ID card in the US

by Miguel de Icaza

Some folks are opposing the national ID card in the US, for more details see the UnrealID.com web site. A FAQ is available from News.com. BoingBoing has a call for action.

To get the law approved, legislators used a clever hack: the actual RealID thing is not being discussed or debated, instead it was just hidden inside another piece of legislation which will likely get approved (some military budget).

Bruce Schneier, security and cryptography expert also has some negative things to say about the plan, but focuses more on the lack of security that this will bring and comments on the legislative hack:

If you haven't heard much about REAL ID in the newspapers, that's not an accident. The politics of REAL ID is almost surreal. It was voted down last fall, but has been reintroduced and attached to legislation that funds military actions in Iraq. This is a "must-pass" piece of legislation, which means that there has been no debate on REAL ID. No hearings, no debates in committees, no debates on the floor. Nothing.

ID cards have successfully been used in totalitarian regimes to impose the will of those in control. Am not saying this will be the case in the US, but I figured I might share some perspective:

  • In Lebanon they were effectively used to identify the opposition and carry massacres effectively (both major groups: christians and muslims).
  • If you saw "Hotel Rwanda" you probably saw the checking of the national ID document to sort out your ethnic affiliation and how folks dealt adequately with people.
  • In Military-Dictatorship Latin America, National ID documents were imposed to keep track of those who opposed the dictatorship: Trouble makers, haters of the freedom to do what they are told (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Franco's Spain).

Of course the situation is not the same in the US. In Lebanon people are pretty much "born" into their political party, as their political party is very much tied to the religion.

Probably other developed nations of the world have National ID documents and they have been very happy with it, I have probably not paid attention to those.

My point is that its a resource easily abusable by those in control. If you care about these issues, you got less than 48 hours to call your representative.

Posted on 09 May 2005


Fafblog and the Medium Lobster on Revisionism

by Miguel de Icaza

Very amusing: the Medium Lobster sets the record straight on the invasion of Iraq.

Also from Fafblog: Great Moments in History: God Hides...

Fun with abused Web Standards

Some people fell in love with the idea of REST-based web services. But they mistakenly confused REST as `encode the operation anywhere you want, send and parse the document in any way you feel, hey we can do whatever we want as long as we use http'.

The problem was that they did not follow the directions in the small print, and the Google Accelerator was the first application to byte them in the ass:

  • Here is what they saw
  • Here is the hillarious I told you so post:
    Well, you didn't listen to me, did you 37Signals? Did you? Now Google releases their Web Accelerator and your application is broken. Apparently you used GET to delete items from Backpack and when Googles Web Accelerator pre-fetches that URI in you web app, items get deleted. Let's make this clear, Google didn't break your application, your application was broken, Google was just the first person to point it out to you. Do you feel the pain? Do you feel it?

This is a good example of something that people predicted would break (Dare has a post here).

Not being a web developer, I just kind of watched the debate without much insight on what was going on until now.

Posted on 08 May 2005


Fork in the Open Source Java world

by Miguel de Icaza

For quite some time there have been a number of open source Java virtual machines implementations, it could be easily understood that each project was trying out different ways of implementing the virtual machine or had different goals, milestones or requirements.

All of these JVM efforts at least shared the class libraries (which is a large component of a Java VM) in the form of the GNU Classpath, and this certainly helped these communities collaborate.

The Apache Foundation is now starting up a new effort (Harmony) to put together a virtual machine and its class libraries under the Apache License. The FAQ posted is a bit short on the motivations for this effort. I can only speculate that this was done to avoid the side effects of class libraries licensed under the GPL-with-exceptions or the LGPL which make people nervous.

Depending on how this process is managed, this could either become a big delay in bringing a full free software/open source Java implementation (as people take sides on the licensing debate) or if managed properly could make open source java more viable.

The challenge that the Harmony project faces now is significant. They need to convince enough of the existing open source Java developers that they should abandon the current GNU classpath effort and either relicense their code to be Apache-license compatible, or that they should rewrite their code to assist this new effort on the grounds that the Apache License is better. This last point does not seem to be very well articulated in the FAQ which merely dances around the issue. The FAQ at this point seems to mostly focus on spinning things positively while not explaining the rationale for this split, as can be seen by the first follow ups.

If they are not able to bring these existing contributors over they are going to have to grow this codebase from scratch and depend on member companies to contribute code to the effort. IBM might be interested in donating parts of their code (assuming they are allowed to) and might even be behind this split.

We have been working on the open source Mono for almost four years now and it has helped me put things a bit into perspective. I can not blame the Apache folks for going down this path. This should have been sorted out a long time ago in GNU Classpath land, but am fairly skeptic about the viability of Harmony's class libraries.

It is hard to tell what will happen, but without the endorsement of the majority of the GNU Classpath developers this is a major setback for open source/free software Java. It might be a necessary step, but am skeptical of its success possibilities.

In the meantime, gentlemen, you can start using Mono with its lax license today! Get it while its fresh!

Mhm, sorry about that. I just felt like plugging Mono again. Lets move on.

Class Library Licensing

Licensing wise, we went through a similar issue in the early days of Mono. Our class libraries used to be under the LGPL license. We switched the class libraries license from it to the MIT X11 license in response to comments from our potential users and contributors. Of course the MIT X11 license has pros and cons. On the pro side, it imposes very few restrictions on the users and its very easy to mix and match, and in general people feel comfortable with adopting it. On the downside, it is possible for companies to "appropriate" the code and never contribute anything back.

Certainly people have copied the Mono class libraries into their proprietary products and not given changes back (mostly people find Mono components easy to reuse on the Compact Framework that lacks plenty of functionality), but even the GPL and LGPL would not have changed things dramatically in this case (only the receiving end would have the right to the source, and for Compact Framework users, even more irrelevant than desktop users).

When it comes to large users of the Mono class libraries, Mainsoft is probably the largest consumer of it. Mainsoft has a product that turns CIL bytecodes into JVM bytecodes and allows users to port their C#/.NET code to a Java VM. Mainsoft could have chosen to make a proprietary copy of the class libraries, improve their copy and ship that to costumers. But instead Mainsoft has chosen to become an active contributor to the project, and is relicensing its own code under the same terms, the MIT X11.

There are a number of reasons: it is simpler to get new improvements from the community into your own code base, you can drive the direction of the project, and they have created a great aura around their company in the community: they are not only socially responsible contributors, but the world can see that their contributions are top-notch. In addition, their customers get access to the code and can benefit from the shared knowledge pool of the resulting code.

I mention this because a common reason to use the GPL and the LGPL, as opposed to a more lax license like the MIT X11, was that third-parties would tend to keep their improvements to themselves and that only a license with stronger terms could get them to contribute back. A few examples are usually mentioned: the X11's own failure in the 80's to get vendors to share their improvements and the success of GCC in forcing the C++ front-end to be released.

Maybe those examples did apply in a poorly connected world and much smaller ecosystem of the 80's, but none of the two previous scenarios necessarily apply today for horizontal software. The Mono class libraries have demonstrated that companies are willing to contribute to the class libraries and that collaboration will help them reduce the cost of development.

I am now less convinced that forcing people is the best way of achieving collaboration. The GPL has certainly played a role in educating people about free software, but for the most part people who contribute to nascent open source/free software projects have done so do for a plurality of reasons that have nothing to do with being forced by the license, including shared R&D costs, joy, need, curiosity, challenge, sense of community, social responsibility, or fame.

Brilliant Ideas

This must be obvious to every Firefox user now, but am still amazed at the simplicity and the beauty of Firefox's search design.

Ever since I can remember GUI applications, searching has been implemented as a popup box that pops in the middle of your document covering the text you want to search. Descriptions on how to float these dialog boxes and the discussion about how to create these non-modal dialog boxes is present in most GUI programming books that taught these principles to developers.

The beauty of placing the search at the bottom as opposed to using a sidebar is that the document is almost never reformatted.

I find myself missing this interface on my applications. Evolution for example still has the old-school search dialogs:

The new Adobe Acrobat pops up a small enough window with only the basics: the text to search for, backwards and forwards button, and configuration options are done from a button on the left:

An improvement, but not as good as Firefox.

That being said, the places where I miss search the most in my applications are:

  • GAIM: At some points during the day there are too many people logged on, and I would like to search for specific users online by typing on an incremental search box.
    Update: I know that I can select the list and start typing on the treeview, but the search is only done on the visible strings, not on other elements. So for example, someone's nick name might be "Arturo", and extra information from the messenger service might be that his full name is "Arturo Espinosa", and I have aliased him to "Pupilo". I can only search on the "Pupilo" string, not on the "Arturo" or "Espinosa" strings. Hence the need for a search feature on GAIM.
  • Evolution: the filters dialog box and the folders list. Like in the case before, I do not want to only search on the text string shown to me, but in any other strings that might be part of the filter criteria:

    It should be noted that this dialog probably needs some love anyways.

Posted on 07 May 2005


The Genesis of a Free Software Hacker

by Miguel de Icaza

Alex Graveley's story. An interesting read

Posted on 06 May 2005


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