[rescue] NeWS (was: FS/FTGH: Sun kit)

Richard legalize at xmission.com
Tue Jan 17 16:25:18 CST 2006

In article <200601172138.QAA18842 at Sparkle.Rodents.Montreal.QC.CA>,
    der Mouse <mouse at Rodents.Montreal.QC.CA>  writes:

> > Speaking of PostScript, I remember before the X Window System became
> > the defacto window system on all workstations that people often
> > talked about how wonderful NeWS was for its display postscript model.
> > God, was that ever a setup that was WAY overhyped.  I tried writing
> > some UI by programming the display postscript and it was horrible.
> Writing UIs by programming Xlib is not that great either.

The comparable tool at the time wasn't Xlib (after all NeWS had
objects you could instantiate, you didn't have to write raw DPS), but

> I saw a
> signature (Henry Spencer, I think it was) saying that writing in raw
> Xlib was like computing sqrt(pi) in Roman numerals, and while I don't
> go that far, I do agree that Xlib is a pretty bare-bones interface.

I don't know anyone that ever coded a UI in raw Xlib; at E&S we did
all our UI in Xt+Motif (or in a pinch, you could do Xt+Athena

> Yes, there are higher-level interfaces layered atop Xlib, and some
> debugging tools for those who (for watever reason) are working with
> Xlib.  Such higher layers and debugging tools could have existed for
> NeWS, and indeed likely did, but, NeWS being closed source and locked
> up tight, they never got out into people's hands where they could have
> done some good.

This is my point.  You can't just toot your horn about your window
system being so technically superior to other alternatives when those
other alternatives have a robust and well supported set of development
tools (all I'm talking about is dbx/gdb at the time!) and your
"superior" alternative is tantamount to using bear claws and stone

> I lay X's dominance not at the feet of technical merit - X is a good
> example of something that sucks worse than everything except all the
> alternatives anyone has tried, to steal a turn of phrase from Winston
> Churchill - but at the feet of open licensing and widespread sample
> implementations.

I hear this complaint about X all the time, but its always from the
perspective of "I just need to plot a pixel and X makes me do all this
crap", not caring about the breadth of problems that X solves.  This
was the sort of argument used *for* NeWS and *against* X.  I tried the
former and the latter, both at the same time period and both with the
latest available tools at the time.  NeWS was hell and X was within my
grasp.  I'm very knowledgable about X and I've yet to see a criticism
of X that wasn't myopic in scope.  Its not enough to say "I don't like
X", you have to show that your alternative is demonstrably better at
solving the same problems.  That noone has persuaded me of this shows
me that they don't understand the problems that X tries to solve and
instead they are thinking of it like the C=64 where they just want a
dumb memory-mapped frame buffer so that they can code their own
version of setpixel(x,y,c).

Its noise that's comparable to what I heard from the Standard ML
programming community vs. C/C++.  The former can be made "provably"
correct and has some nice features, but in the real world you always
have to talk to code in libraries, whether static or dynamic, and
the ML community adopted a pariah attitude towards that gigantic body
of real-world code that the rest of us non ivory tower purists have to
deal with on a daily basis.  Again, I am sympatheitc to ML (and even
NeWS) and I've given them a fair shake and came away siding with the
majority of programmers (i.e. for X and C/C++ and against NeWS and ML)
because they don't acknowledge the reality of programming and pretend
that they can sit in their ivory tower and issue proclamations to the
rest of the world about how we should be doing our work.  I suppose
the modern version of this purist vs. pragmatist argument is Java vs.

Its not enough to be theoretically more elegant or superior.  It has
to be demonstrably superior in practice.  Its like those egoist
architects that aren't content designing a building, they have to
design an entire city and *everything* has to be done their way,
whether you like it or not.  I notice that there aren't any cities in
the real world that are built that way, except maybe Arcosanti, but
even that is more a monument to a monumental ego than a workable city
development plan that is being emulated across the globe.
"The Direct3D Graphics Pipeline"-- code samples, sample chapter, FAQ:
             Pilgrimage: Utah's annual demoparty

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