Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

.net and cloning

For a few weeks now I've been trying out C# and the new MS development environment, Visual Studio .NET. It is a definite improvement over Visual Studio 6. where the integration was everywhere on the marketing brochures but nowhere on the software.

Apart from new versions of most of the tools the main addition is, clearly C#. (the other notable thing disappearance of Java, which they will include again, apparently, but only for Java 1.1 and only for a limited time to appease lawyers somewhere)

C# is basically a clone of Java with the option of disabling a lot of the features that make Java a safer language. Bill Joy wrote an excellent article back in February this year that analyzed why .NET in general (and C# in particular) are unsafe, or at least potentially less safe than Java. ("Potentially" should be "almost certainly", given the stupidity that characterizes us humans in general).

Now, as I was trying some things on today, I remembered what Bill Gates said about software cloning and I wondered how that idea applies in this case. Cloning implies matching feature by feature and then adding a few more on top (or change another variable, e.g., lower the price) so that people will feel compelled to switch products. In the case, however, the switch to .NET is not competitive (as cloning usually is) but rather defensive, to protect the Windows franchise from the Javas and the Linuxes of this world. When cloning is done by a monopolist, is it cloning? Probably not. What then? And what are the implications of making a clone for the franchise itself (in this case Windows)? Let's keep in mind that the last time they cloned something (a web browser) they almost destroyed the franchise they were trying to protect in the process.
Strange how the rules change when you have 95% of a market.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 22, 2002 at 11:18 PM

the importance of high-level semantics

Today I was in (yet) another discussion over why somebody would use something like RMI or XML-RPC when it was possible to do the same thing in Perl, and using less code. My argument was (as usual) that the line of Perl code might be simpler to write, but then, maintenance is much harder.

This boils down to the discussion of whether high-level semantics are important or not. For example, object orientation provides an abstraction more complex (thus higher-level) than, say, procedures. Objects are harder to write, but they are easier to maintain (if properly written in the first place). Also, because the structure of the code itself conveys more meaning, they require simpler documentation (again, depending on a good design).

Another, less noted, but also important reason, is that they make life easier, in large part because their behavior is more complex. Lots of problems are already solved, and in many cases the programming language can then verify that certain things are done properly (like for example, encapsulation). It is possible to redo these things in "lower-level" languages such as C or Perl, but it takes longer to write, longer to debug, and the end product is much more complex.

On the other hand, it is tempting to just use Perl or C because using them is typically simpler at first: just write code and compile. OO tools and distributed systems sometimes require multiple steps in compiling, or the use of different tools, which creates a problem for casual users.

Hopefully in time better OO-design tools will exist (particularly for distributed programs) to make them useful not only for complex development but also for more casual use.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 22, 2002 at 7:39 PM

worldcom's bankruptcy

So finally the rumors became a reality... Worldcom filed for bankruptcy today. Now there's the question of what will happen to UUNET and with it a full 50% of the Internet traffic, not to say anything about its 20,000,000 long distance customers and its tens of thousands of business customers. A total shutdown is a remote possibility as I mentioned before, but I would be surprised if there were no glitches.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 22, 2002 at 1:43 PM

terrorism in argentina

An article in today's New York times connects Iran with the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires eight years ago. The participation of Iran had always been suspected, but there were several "problems" in the investigation: proof vanishing, people disappearing... now the testimony of an Iranian defector that says that's because Iran had paid $10,000,000 to the argentinian government at that time has resurfaced. Not surprising at all. Menem's government was involved more in dirty businesses than in actually running the government.

It seems that part of the information was leaked to the New York Times from Argentina, since people there are terribly frustrated that the government still maintains the cover-up. It will be interesting to see how this develops, in light of the US's "war on terror", since Menem is now preparing to run for president again (even though he is despised by most argentinians) and he has often presented as an advantage his close ties with the Bush family (particularly with Bush Sr.) Will the Bush family finally cut off their ties given that Menem would now appear to be a "sponsor" of terrorism?

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 22, 2002 at 1:30 PM

pointless punishment

An Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post this sunday made the same argument I was making in an earlier entry on the current cycle of violence in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Retaliation and repression will not work. Somebody will have to give in.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 22, 2002 at 1:15 PM

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