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Re: FYI: A killer app?

From: Pascal J. Bourguignon
Subject: Re: FYI: A killer app?
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 23:52:21 +0100 (CET)

Dennis Leeuw <address@hidden> wrote:
> [...] Why does Unix keep returning and
> why doesn't it die like most OSes ancient OSes did. Because it has one
> strong point it has thousands of little tools that do little things, but
> they do it so well that you wouldn't want to loose there functionality.
> You even want to port them to other OSes just because they work that
> well.
> [...]
> Why not return to the real roots? No killer apps, just tools that work.
> But what does that mean for a desktop environment?
> That means OO programming. Little cells that function, but what should
> it do...

We had that with NeXTSTEP. It was called the "Service" menu. There was
a small  application that  only did dictionary  lookup in  the Webster
Dictionary, but it did that well enough that everybody loved to lookup
words in this dictionary from any other application merely selecting a
word and command-=.  And so on  for all the other services. Also there
was this  distributed objects stuff, which  allowed easy communication
between objects  in different  applications, which allowed  to develop
small applications that did only  one thing, but did it extremely well
(Improv and its associated graphing application).

> Let's look at the Unix tools and invent graphical equivalents ( <- is
> that english?)
> Build a graphical awk, groff, less, split, join and more
> This would mean no single killer app, but a killer environment. There
> are ofcourse some things that need to be solved like:
> How to pipe stuff from one to another command ?
> How to select all options and how to interface things right ?
> [...]

With  MPW (Macintosh  Programmer  Workshop) there  was this  Commander
stuff:  an  GUI  option  dialog  could  be  built  automatically  upon
invocation of any command line tool. Pretty nice when you where new to
a  command.  Pretty useless  otherwise.  That's  the classical  dilema
between CLI and GUI.

On NeXT, there was a tool  that would allow to graphically build shell
scripts, with pipes and option settings (I think it was an open source
one, check on peanuts).

I think  we can say that  humanity has researched  interfaces for some
tens of thousand  years now, and we've not  found anything better than
sequencial language (be it oral or written) to communicate. True, some
information  is passed  thru  non verbal  channel,  but that's  pretty
limited. (Why nobody developed a non linear written language? Probably
because  our  ears  and  mouth  process  sequencial  data  flows.   To
communicate complex  (OO) designs, we have  graph(ical) notations that
are not linear  in essence. However, it's quite  tedious to write/draw
such graphs. I'm not sure we can do better in term of GUI).

Therefore, ok, somebody could come with a good (usable) GUI equivalent
of  pipes and  options, but  it  seems to  me that  NeXTSTEP with  its
Service menu  is about the best we  can have within a  GUI (better you
have a CLI).

In conclusion,  it seems that the  killer app of GNUstep  is the whole
NeXTSTEP environment...

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