Reflecting on reflective computing.

RE01 Rice Brian T. EM2
Wed, 21 Oct 1998 15:55:48 -0700

>Hey guys,
>Been lurking awhile, and just curious about a few things.
>Firstly, and most importantly, have you guys *really* questioned what
>our computers are for and why they are useful? You might make this
>really cool OS based on <insert novel ideas here> that uses <insert
>buzzwords> technology, but what difference is say running a word
>processor on Tunes going to make to the average MS Word user or AOLer?
I think it will make this difference:  millions of people will not have
to remember 'to click here and do this' when what they want is just to
do such-and-such.  That they won't have to wait for lots of corporations
to agree on (or be coerced into) a standard way of making software work.
 So that people can have a computer and not be excluded from the "in"
crowd of software development, especially if they have a more powerful
computer (say an SMP machine).
>Fundamentally: If Tunes is going to host more intuitive and natural
>software that allows the non-technical user to do more powerful things
>with less effort, then why is Tunes needed to host this type of software
>and why couldn't it be done with Linux, which I'm sure you all know
>about the progress being made with GNOME and Redhat and Debian so that
>Joe User doesn't need to worry about /etc/rc* and permissions and
>everything else the MacOS and Windows and other "consumer utility"
>operating systems hide.
Tunes won't have to hide anything.  Tunes won't separate developers from
users in any way.  Tunes is about the entire software process in
society, not just "what you see on the screen."  Obviously we lose sight
of this when we're discussing theory.
>And for the more technical user, well, I'm *very* pleased with Linux.
>I've wired my WindowMaker desktop to be macro driven and I can have 30
>application windows open and immediately get to any desktop with one
>macro and then cycle through the applications, or I can use my more
>extensively defined Emacs style macros to immediately get to anything
That's a great thing to be able to do, but it's just one of millions of
things that we'd like to be able to do with computers.  For instance,
why a desktop on a computing device that fits into your hand?
>And the applications are very impressive to. XEmacs is perfection to me,
>the elisp indentation engines for various types of editing completely
>eliminate redundant operations, and you can immediately get to anywhere
>at any time with a few macros.
Cool, but when is "anywhere" really anywhere?  What I mean is that there
are many other landscapes to explore in software that have only been
touched on, and that are just as exciting.  Tunes should take us beyond
all those borders into conceptual wilderness, and bring the world with
>Applications are what we use our computers for, and it seems that,
>particularely in the free software community, that most people spend
>their time developing development, rather than developing applications.
>We have language compilers for everything under the sun, and people
>continue to develop these things and similar things so that they can
>develop more development tools and it goes on... most development effort
>in the free software community isn't focused on making the applications
>that computers could actually allow us to do useful work with to
>accomplish goals in the real world, but only to further the development
>process itself, which is pointless.
We're not the majority, I believe.  Just look at all the shareware,
freeware, ... !
>I see how Linux imposes many limitations on the application developer,
>but I don't see how it limits the power of the UI and functionality of
>the application itself.
I don't think that you see all the ranges of functionality that we are
trying to incorporate into this system.
>What audience are you guys targeting Tunes for anyways?
Whoever it manages to appeal to, initially (I don't speak for everybody,
though).  We want to apply it to everybody's needs, eventually.
(everybody means Everybody).
>It seems that what is really needed is not another OS, since we have
>Linux and Linux is good, but rather truly intelligent and revolutionary
>applications that sit atop Linux that allow real world goals to be
Intelligence and revolution don't have to be proprietary or dependent on
a particular interface or technology, though. Our abstraction systems
should free up those ideas so that everybody gets them with little total
effort by society.
>Would not all of your time be better spent writing intelligent
>algorithms in Common Lisp or scheme and trying to make a really cool
>application that uses them. Ultimately it would be cool if we could talk
>to our computers and tell them what kind of work we need them to do
>without the error prone and frustrating process or programming and
>learning difficult to use and slow learning curve applications. I can
>see how you guys have some goals to this end, but I don't see why you
>need to write a new OS to do it, instead of just writing algorithms atop
>of Linux that may someday have the intelligence to assist you in
>replacing and extending what is no longer adequate with Linux.
We're insisting on removing the UNIX / C tradition of "magic numbers"
and "internals", in order to de-mystify developing as distinct from
using software.