May 2005

Off to North America

I’m off to North America for the next 2 weeks: Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco, in that order. If any readers are attending WWDC in San Francisco, drop me an email and let’s meet up!



We needed to set up some Annodex servers for demos this week, and our server software currently runs best on Linux. So, what to do if you’re using Windows machines which you can’t install Linux on for whatever reason, political or technical? Run Linux inside Windows, of course, via coLinux.

coLinux is great. No, scratch that — coLinux is really great. Not only does it work, it works really well: it’s fast (I really don’t think I’ve ever seen a Debian system boot up in 2-3 seconds), it’s stable, and it even uses a pretty small amount of memory, since Linux servers tend to be on the trim side. A full-blown Linux installation for us with Apache serving multi-megabyte multimedia streams to multiple Windows clients was using up less than 30MB of Windows’s memory pool. Low fat.

If you must have Windows on your desktop/laptop for whatever reason, but need Linux and are getting sick of doing the reboot dance just to switch OSs, give coLinux a whirl. And, if you want to get geek cred points, watch your friends’ jaws drop when they see X11 applications hosted on coLinux displaying in Cygwin/X; it’s pretty scary just how well it all works. Now, whither my coLinux for Mac OS X port (and flying car)?


The Mother of All Demos

Ars Technica has an new article (that Slashdot seemed to miss) titled A History of the GUI. The first couple of pages of the article are great, but unfortunately it soon degenerates into screenshots of various GUIs that were introduced in the late 1980s.

However, it does talk for nearly a full page about Doug Engelbart’s Mother of All Demos, given in 1968. As befits its name, Engelbart’s demo is one of the most important events to ever happen in the history of computing. It not only featured the first demonstration of the mouse, but also …

featured hypertext linking, full-screen document editing, context-sensitive help, networked document collaboration, e-mail, instant messenging, even video conferencing!

Hypertext linking and networked document collaboration guys, in 1968. We still don’t have a decent networked document collaboration system today, bar wikis (which aren’t real-time), and SubEthaEdit (which is great, but is limited to plaintext, and only works on the Mac). Engelbart was doing stuff 37 years ago that we still haven’t managed to conquer today.

Anyway, to get to the point of this post, I really encourage you to check out the following two video recordings if you can make time for them — they’ve been lovingly digitized and preserved so that we can view them so many, many years later:

They’re absolutely amazing. So damn amazing, this will probably be the one and only time I’ll tell you to download and install RealPlayer just so you can view Doug’s 1968 demo. You can feel history in the making as you watch the videos, I kid you not. To some extent, I almost despise Kernighan and Ritchie for spawning a culture and mindset that ultimately won, despite being more mediocre. Where would we be today if the world had embraced Smalltalk instead? Ah, time to stop being sentimental and crank out more C code, so I don’t look like such a starry-eyed kid again …