October 11, 2012

Squeak vs Linux

1. Squeak vs Linux
2. My eyes and my condition
3. NOTEBOOK vs Nederlog


This is about programming in and working with Smalltalk/Squeak and
about programming in and working with Linux/Ubuntu.

It is - mostly - not for you if you don't care about these subjects.

1. Squeak vs Linux

I discovered Squeak in 2001, learned myself Smalltalk to program in it, and still use it, also on Linux/Ubuntu, on which it was easily installed in a Linux version, with the instructions on for doing so.

Smalltalk is one of the first object-oriented programming languages. It was invented in the early 1970ies by Alan Kay and Dan Ingalls at Xerox. It had its own environment, that functions like an OS (Operating System) that also the first graphical environment.

As a programming language it is very nice and elegant, and as environment it was quite spectacular until the mid 1990ies, when it was relaunched again by Kay, Ingalls and some others, with the support of Disney and Apple, that had come to own the code, after Xerox had made rather a mess of selling Smalltalk in the 1980ies.

I have written quite a lot about it and some in it, since I was quite taken with it from 2001-2004, but since gave up for reasons explained here: 
About SmalltalkAbout SqueakMore about Squeak  - and also here Object-talk and OOP-talk (see especially the end) on the subject of explanations of Smalltalk, that turned out to have irritated Edsger Dijkstra for the same sorts of reason as it irritated me, much later, and without then knowing about Dijkstra.

Squeak still exist and is still being developed, as are some of its forks (alternative developments) and I still use it occasionally, because it is easy to program once you've got the hang of it, but as I explained in the links, basically I think it is finished, except for a few diehards, and perhaps a few who are very curious about programmming. (Mind you: There are some who disagree.)

One of the things that I really liked about it was that it is much like an OS: You can write text in it, write graphical programs in it, draw in it, record sounds in it, and much more, albeit in an environment that will strike many as quaint and unfamiliar, for one thing because it is still based on the core of the environment of Smalltalk of 1980.

But then you get all the source code for everything, so in principle you can alter everything, and also everything is free.

And that brings me to Linux/Ubuntu, that I have been using now since May 2012, and that I still like a lot, indeed because it is an OS, and a much better one than Windows, and because it is - in a way - much like Squeak in that you can write text in it, write graphical programs in it, draw in it, record sounds in it, and much more - but in an environment that is rather like Windows XP, except that it is better, and again you get all the source, and everything is free.

Linux/Ubuntu is much more powerful than is Squeak, and is developed and used by very many more people. Also, it is much better documented than is Squeak.

Linux/Ubuntu also is more powerful and much better documented than MS Windows, in any version, and it has some amazing programs.

Some may say it is still for techies (nerds, geeks), but if so, this is so to a much lesser extent than Squeak or Smalltalk. Also, the basics are not very different from Windows:

One can browse the internet with Firefox, write mail with Thunderbird, and it comes - for example - with the very fine LibreOffice (what I would consider the flagship for Linux, though it also exists for MS Windows), for doing the things Microsoft Office does, except that LibreOffice does it much better, and is free.

And for most things one can do on a desktop computer there are mostly - not always - better programs available on Ubuntu than for MS Windows, and on Linux/Ubuntu things are free, come with source code, and are much better integrated in the OS than on MS Windows, especially if one knows how to program.

The reason this enters here is not that one needs to program in Ubuntu, though of course one may, but because this gives one a much better grip on understanding what is possible, why things are as they are, and how to get things done.

Also, it is another OS than is MS Windows, and some ways are just organized differently. Generally, this is better, but to get to grips with it, one needs to be able to make sense of it, though there is fine documentation for beginners e.g. here:
Ubuntu Linux Resources                  
(very good introductory series)
Full Circle Magazine                         
(excellent free monthly about Ubuntu)
As to programming:

First, knowing how to program helps a lot with working with Linux/Ubuntu, not so much to (re)program it as to know what is possible and to understand why things are as they are.

Second, if you do want to program, Linux/Ubuntu has a lot of programming environments available for you, and at least two I find quite impressive:

1. Python: There are many Python environments for Linux, and Python is an object-oriented language that is as nice and elegant as Smalltalk, but much better documented, and meanwhile also much further developed. In particular, I've come to like Spyder.

2. Qt: This is a programming environment made (mostly) by the developers of Nokia, but free and open source. It is based on C++ but a lot more elegant. I have only found this a few months ago, so I can't say much about it except that I am impressed.

For those who want to program in Smalltalk and can, one can run Squeak in it:

for those who DO want to program, the above two - Spyder and Qt - seem very fine, and there are more alternatives available.

By and large, I suppose Python is best for most ends and most people, since it is simple, clear and well-documented.

Anyway... the moral of the story is that Linux delivers for me what Squeak promised, and much more plentiful, and much better: Smalltalk and Squeak definitely have been overtaken, in my opinion, namely by Linux/Ubuntu.

2. My eyes and my condition

My eyes are definitely somewhat better, as regular readers may have inferred.

They are far from well, but I have been jumping through various hoops to allow me to use the computer - which is my main connection with the world outside my room - which I can do now thanks to the facilities Ubuntu gives, and that Windows does not, and thanks to Duratears and a better way of administering them.

Both are necessary condition: I cannot use Windows with such eyes as I have: the screen needs to be mostly dark not white, and if my eyes get to be as bad again as they were, I  hardly can use the computer.

What is rather odd is that apart from my eyes, also while sleeping too little because of them, I am otherwise tolerably well, comparatively, also without the mB12 protocol now since a month, and in fact without any supplements.

I can account for that in various speculative ways, but none that I can attribute a high probability to.

In any case, these two facts explain why I have been able to set up NOTEBOOK, and indeed I also always could write fast and easily if I could write at all.

As to "
without any supplements":

I've always followed the rule that if I get problems while taking supplements, I stop taking the supplements (i) to find out whether this seems to help and (ii) to be able to find a familiar baseline, and then take it from there.

As it is now, there is no known baseline for me: I have not head the problems with my eyes before, and I also have not slept as little as I have been doing now for quite a long time without collapsing.

I am puzzled, which is a fairly common condition with me about many things. (There is very little I confidently know, apart from this - that I know I do not confidently know much - besides some mathematics, logic,  linguistic knowledge, common sense, and some basic science.)

What I am not puzzled about is that any decent explanation for my condition must be physiological: If it is not physiological (biochemical, physical) it is not really scientific.

And those who are more fond of psychology or psychiatry than I am should note that I agree quite willingly that there are known physiological explanations for some forms of madness/deviance/problems: drink and drugs. But then I don't use these. And I know of no physiological explanations for any of the ailments I have (ME/CFS, Dupuytren's Contracture and Keratoconjunctivitis sicca/Sjögren's syndrome, which may all three be autoimmune diseases, and indeed the last two -
Dupuytren's and Sjögren's - are medically supposed to belong in that group).

And I do not know of any sound physiological explanation for human experience.

3. NOTEBOOK vs Nederlog

I am aware NOTEBOOK gets to look more and more like Nederlog (with a different color scheme).

But I will return to it - if ever - only on condition that my eyes get a lot better than they are, and one reason to set up NOTEBOOK (aka NB) is that it allows me to only  maintain that. I can look at my site, but only with colors reversed in Firefox in Ubuntu, and I cannot edit it that way.


Maarten Maartensz

P.S. My eye problems

                  PS: Any necessary corrections have to be made later.