Since my health remains bad, this section is not often updated or extended,
but here are a number of new things relating to computing that I recently
found and liked, and an urgent proposal of another internet.
Nuke Anything Enhanced
4. Smalltalk news
5. Open source
6. A new internet is needed + 3 special reasons why
First - it is and ought to be public and open
Second - it makes solid sense
Third - it may save the public media
Having a bad health since
over 30 years (I have ME, which also means that typically you won't get
help at all, especially in such enlightened countries like the US and
Holland), I am also poor, so it took some time to upgrade from a
telephone-modem (yes, I worked with that until the summer of 2009....), but I
did it, it works, and it is a vast improvement - with a considerable problem.
The improvement in speed and ease is obvious, and pretty spectacular if you
were used to a 56 Kb telephone-modem (that often worked at 4 Kb speed, because
the Dutch provider xs4all seems to like it that way, or at least
doesn't care shit, and doesn't answer complaints and queries of knowledgeable
folks: I have reams of unanswered mails, and that's why my site is since 2004
maintained at one.com, which is orders of magnitude better, and perfectly
decent in dealing with complaints - and I have had no serious problems with
them over the last five years at all: They simply work, and do it well, whereas
xs4all doesn't work, or if they do make a mess of it (*)).
The considerable problem is not only McAfee that comes with xs4all,
(and that tells me my computer is all hunky dory, fine and healthy whereas my
own experience and other software tells me it is not) but in general that (1)
with ADSL (and better)
you loose part of
your control over your own
computer when connected to the net, since everything happens very fast, and
mostly undocumented, and (2) there is no decent doable way for private folks
to do much about it, even if they know a lot about computers and computing.
I guess this is more of a Windows than a Mac or Linux problem, but I use
Windows, mostly for practical or financial reasons.
Anyway... ADSL is nice (and lots cheaper than a telephone-modem, it turns
out), but it comes with dangers about which one cannot do much oneself, at
least not on Windows.
But there are some things that help, and to these I turn now - and I trust
that if you are sufficiently interested in something I mention, you know how
to find it on the internet, without me having to supply links.
Firefox - the most recent version is 3.5.3 simply is
a much better browser than MS Explorer.
It is better organized, easier and more pleasant to work with, and also it has
numerous fine extensions and Add-Ons AND it is both free and open source.
If you don't use Firefox, my advice is you should: Installing is a breeze
(with ADSL, to be sure, but then it's done in a few minutes), and once you
have it it is wise to turn fast to the many (nearly all free, open source)
Add-Ons that come with it.
There are very many, for many ends and purposes, and I will here list just
three that contributed much to my piece of mind when browsing the internet
with Firefox: AdBlock Plus, Nuke Anything Enhanced and
Adblock Plus gives a considerable amount
of tools to block the downloading of ads in your browser. It does this fairly
well and effectively, and the only setback I have seen is that to use it
sensibly you need to have some basic knowledge about html. Enters the next Add
On, that I find very enjoyable, because I hate adds, especially if they move,
blink or spout sounds at me:
Nuke Anything Enhanced: Like
with just one feature that may save most of the internet-as-is for you: It can
remove - make invisible - almost anything on any site in two clicks.
section, you should realize that most websites, and nearly all commercial
ones, now run some sort of script, that enable the makers of these pages
to do all manner of things, such as recording your presence, popping up ads,
redirecting your browser, and God knows what else.
allows you to block scripts comprehensively or selectively. This is also worth
adding to Firefox, if only to protect yourself and have an idea of what may be
going on, and as with AdBlock Plus the (probably unavoidable) setback is that
to use it sensibly you need to have some basic knowledge about html and indeed
Possibly this last is not necessary, but it surely helps, and in any case
it makes a lot of sense not to allow script at all, except on sites you trust
what a script does, and indeed often not easy to get to see all the code it
runs (since the code tend to reside elsewhere somewhere, and not in the page they
it a sensible and clear language, which is something I cannot say about Java,
that I don't like.
this seemed a convenient advertisement-policy, and Sun insisted on it.
As it is at present, it is a powerful language, with many facilities, which
nevertheless is a scripting
language because it is meant to add things and capacities to
webbrowsers, and especially to Firefox. (There is a Lite version that works
also on MS Explorer, but MS doesn't like open source and therefore developed
its own JScript, about which I only know that it crashed my computer in
a horrible and major way once, making me loose over 50 MB of data on my
Mozilla's documentation (Mozilla is the organization behind Firefox and
related products); google the net (or whatever search-engine you prefer) for
by once more consulting the Add-Ons for Firefox.
Here there are quite a few utilities, editors and so on to see and write
like in, from fairly simple to quite sophisticated:
Phoenix: This is a basic editor that seems to
work well and is helpful and useful.
a bit fancier than Phoenix, and it seems decent, except that the guys who made
it - it seems to go by the name Venkman, internally - included a script that
connects you to their site when you start it.
This is a reason I have used it very little, for I am against this on
principle, just as I am against the recently evolved fashion to force you to
go on line to see helpfiles for programs, probably because this adds ticks to
those sites, which in turn adds financial gravy to the ads that usually are on it.
Apart from that, it appears like a decent programming environment.
Firebug: This is fancier and more recent than
Sofar, this seems to give the best and the most information about
Helpfile you have to visit the site of the makers.
(1) that it is an object-oriented language, and I have spend rather a lot of
time on that in the context of learning Smalltalk, that originated much of
(Object Oriented Programming) and (2) that it does give a part of
Smalltalk gives - that has the serious setback that it depends on its own
environment, and runs on your computer more or less as its own OS (Operating
System) - and not in a Smalltalk environment but in the environment of a
browser (Firefox, specifically).
This gives it - in principle at least - a lot of power, and also in code
that only requires a browser, and not a whole Smalltalk-environment. This has
lots of advantages, and one of these is that there is a lot of code for
Mochikit: This is one of such bundles of code
for free from the last link, and it installs perfectly easy and well, and I
found it very helpful. Also, it comes with excellent documentation.
4. Smalltalk news:
I am still following the Smalltalk world - see
the index of BAP for more -
basically because (1) it does work, once you've mastered Smalltalk and the
environment in which it works (that varies some, or a lot, with the
implementation you use); (2) I like the language; and (3) most of the people
who program in it are helpful and intelligent, if for my tastes perhaps too
much wedded to one language and one model for computing.
So here are some updates on some implementations of Smalltalk and some news
related to Smalltalk:
Squeak is still struggling on, and the latest
innovation is that there now is a trunk-image, which is related to a
coding repository for developers.
The up side is that since this happened, around a month ago or so, lots of
code has been added, and the down side is that I doubt it was a good idea -
while it just doesn't work for me.
It does not seem to me to be a good idea because it was imposed by Andreas
Raab with hardly any discussion on the Squeak developers list, quite probably
because he was justifiedly upset about the slow rate of development of Squeak
(and he knows a vast amount about Squeak, indeed wrote a lot of it, and has a
firm that sells products based on it), but this seems to me to be just too
centralized and undiscussed a move.
Now this is as may be - and something had to be done to pull Squeak out of
the mire, and maybe I am a bit too
pessimistic - but the real flipside for me
is that I have now downloaded 4 trunk-images thus produced, and they don't
even start. (Instead, they tell me I ought to drop the Squeak-image on the
Squeak-executable, which I have been doing since July 2001, and also here: No
juice at all.)
For me, this is an effective showstopper - but I admit there is a smallish
chance it is my computer, and not the trunk-image, although the rest of the
Smalltalks on my harddisk, including earlier Squeaks, all do as they are
So let's consider the brotherly competition to Squeak:
Pharo is a fork of Squeak, because a number of
developers (especially French or Swiss), some of them quite important also,
were fed up with the slowness of Squeak's development.
It is mostly Squeak 3.9 (I think), except that some of the stuff that is in
Squeak has been ripped from Pharo (that aims at a commercially useful
Smalltalk, among other things); a goodly amount of the code seems to have been
cleaned up some; the Pharo-interface is a lot nicer than that of Squeak; and
otherwise it just works as I am used to in Smalltalk and Squeak.
The only problem I had with it is that it does have a working update system
(as Squeak used to have), that I tried to use to update the distribution-image
of Seaside, of which more below, that is mostly by people also doing stuff for
Pharo, but that turned out to take ages and to be in eternal loops. (I may be
mistaken, but sofar as I can see, after some 40 minutes of downloading and
installing, at most 10% of what was to be installed was installed, and I saw
the same thing occur again and again in terms of downloading and installing so
Seaside is another fork of Squeak and is meant
for web-development. I don't know much about it, but I downloaded it with the
result in the previous paragraph.
What is good about it, though, and why I downloaded it to take a closer
look at it (which makes sense only if you know already how to
program in Smalltalk, I think), is
that there has been a recent free e-book written for it, that seems to be
fairly well done, and is indeed what nearly all Smalltalk-environments
need: Good, clear documentation.
I don't know whether Seaside is interesting for me, for I tend to believe
as they relate to webdevelopment,
among other things because unlike all Smalltalks it is not effectively
enclosed in its own OS, that does not have all the power of Windows API,
though it does have nice things plus the sourcecode of everything.
But it is a Smalltalk and it looked decent and comes with what appears
reasonable and extensive documentation, which is why I mention it here.
5. Open source
I am much in favour of open source - and indeed all I
reviewed in this text is open source, but I have lately been fairly
pessimistic about its chances to oust or tame Microsoft, Apple, Sun, Google
and other hidden source commercial players (though these differ also,
and I am only for shortness's sake bunching them here together).
In any case: Firefox and
do, for it is all open source and it is considerably
better than what the commercial competition has to offer, viz.
especially MS IE and JScript, these being Microsoft's browser adapted and
own purposes, while mangling it to fit in its vision of what computing should
be (commercial, profitable, hidden source).
So that's fairly good news: It is possible to do better than Microsoft,
also with regards to its flagship product (apart from Windows), and it has
resulted in a better browser with fine Add-Ons.
Indeed, what pleased me most in all of the above - because I just hate ads:
to me it is literally breaking into my own privacy, intentionally so, which I
find despicable no matter what lousy justification smoothies may find for it -
is the brief, short, powerful and effective
Nuke Anything Enhanced.
For this makes browsing the internet far less irritating than it is when
one can't block ads, that to me are spam to the power of spam. And this leads
me to my last topic of this discursive BitsAndPieces:
6. A new internet is needed + 3 special reasons why
It seems to me highly desirable to split up the internet as is in a
commercial net and a public net, with the commercial players, the advertisers,
the commercial-Flash-on-you-pukers, and indeed also all that is commercial and
more or less decent and justified, from banking to plumbing, on one net, and
non-commercial content, varying from private persons websites, to
schools and universities, the Wikipedia and much other educational matter
(Stanford Encyclopedia, Victorian Net, Perseus, you name it...), on another
In fact, the split between commercial and non-commercial can be drawn quite
easily, while allowing for overlaps: It is mostly that between open en hidden
source and apart from that depends on whether makers of web-content want to
cash in on advertisments and/or have web-pages in order to support a
Next, the technological change should be easy and small, in principle, for
it is a matter of server and storage capacity and processor speeds: All that
seems really required is, next to a WWW a WCW, say: A Worldwide Commercial
Web, all run on the same known principles as the WWW, with the same protocols
a.s.o., except that on that WCW the user knows that the content is commercial
and meant to be commercial, and indeed may very well be hidden source.
Since the server and storage capacities these days are great, as are the
processor speeds, it seems this is technically quite feasible - and indeed in
the interest of virtually all private persons, while also giving in principle
new possibilities, on that WCW, to use all manner of hidden source pimped
software to make it better looking and produce even livelier ads for the
Besides, such a WCW serves a legitimate purpose: It is like a computerized
set of Yellow Pages in the phonebooks of yore (just as the ordinary phonebook
lists mostly private persons, and without ads).
And here are three final arguments:
First - it is and ought to be public and open:
the internet has grown out of the efforts of private persons and people
working at universities, and indeed out of what was from the beginning open
source - Microsoft jumped in only for the money, and since then attempted to
redesign it for its own needs.
Second - it makes solid sense:, the split I
advocate - into a WWW and a WCW, to reduce it to acronyms - corresponds quite
closely to a manifold split of the following kind
open source - hidden source
personal - commercial
educational - profit-oriented
individual - organizational
Third - it may save the public media: Seeing what is
happening to the classical papers (getting extinct fast, to be replaced by
Foxnews and the like, at least for the masses) and to the media (mostly
moronified to please the masses of pinheads and the smart-alecks who live off
these pinheads), this could be an excellent means to regain something like the
classic media, but on the net:
Make the media - in part, for there is also place for commercial
media, but I am talking in fact of the major public benefits of real
quality papers, produced by highly competent and trained journalists,
preferably with a university education - into educational institutions,
somewhat like universities are (in Europe), that is, mostly funded by public
money and on a BBC-model.
Note that here too I am talking about known models, while I am not
proposing anything requiring much innovation or investigation:
The BBC works and produces the best journalism to be had, without ads, and
without state censorhip, so this ought to be possible as well for quality
papers, on the same principles, largely for the same reasons also, except that
computing, the commercialization of the internet, and the imminent collapse of
quality journalism, have made this both more urgent and more easily possible.
Indeed, one may well combine such new quality media on the net with
universities or polytechnics, whether special or part of the old universities,
and make these into professional Media-Labs, as it were, working for the
public, funded by public money, part of the educational institutions, and with
their own (almost) ready-made schools for internet journalism there.
This seems to me the best way to go, to preserve the quality media, albeit
in a new form; to give the internet back to the public, who created it in the
first place; and to clearly separate what is commercial from what is not, and
should not have to compete with, crowded out, or suffocated by, commercial
players with private ends and megabucks of money.
And I know the above is a brief argument, that may be butressed and
countered in quite a few ways, but it seems to me the only way I know
of to keep the internet public, educational, open source and for and by
private individuals, and also to retain quality journalism and quality
media in the interest of all.
(*) They're not alone in this, by the way: Part of their
"service" is a licensed McAfee, which I have come to deeply
hate, and strongly disrecommend:
Slow, stupid, and not working in many respects - I can't even download an
English version, and have tried 10 times now (I must be living in Holland, and
hence must be a moron who can't read English, it seems is the reasoning behind it); I can't let it
defragment my disk without locking up the computer; the moronified interface
is slow as treacle and seems to hide rather than give information; useful utilities
there are none and so on, and so on: No way this works, as most things in the
McAfee suite only seem "to work" and the whole suit seems to be designed
for the lowly educated of great faith and small brain.