SlowNews: iPad, zeromq, open source, toppcloud
by Kevin Dangoor
Apple iPad: Open and Closed
Obviously, the iPad was introduced this past weekend and probably a million words or more about it have spilled out onto the net. Here’s just a few of those words.
Yehuda Katz takes the open side in “A GREAT Day for Open Technologies”. Actually, Yehuda takes both sides. Apple has created a closed platform while at the same time creating a very powerful platform for the Open Web. The trouble is that if you view the iPad as the future of computing, it is a scary thought as a geek to work on a platform that is so closed off. That’s more of Peter Kim’s take.
Personally, I agree with stevenf’s take that the iPad is the “new world” of computing, and it’s really a better world for most users. But, it’s only “new world 1.0″. It requires another computer. It can’t print. I believe that Apple is going to create a Time Capsule sort of device to which you can dock iPhones and iPads without needing a full computer, because an iPad is a full-enough computer for most people. For now, though, iPad is going to start making its way in the world as that “third device” that Steve Jobs referred to upon introducing it.
Mark Pilgrim and I apparently had similar tracks to learning computers (though mine was a TRS-80 Model III, not an Apple ][). He worries that future tinkerers will be left in the cold because of devices like iPads. There’s a huge difference between now and a couple decades ago. Computers were all for tinkerers then. Computers are for everyone now. I think there will remain ways for people to tinker.
iPad SDK: No Multitasking, New Shared Files
MacRumors has a quick rundown of the new iPad SDK. It has support for external displays (for Keynote, I’d imagine). No multitasking is supported. There’s a new shared filesystem, which is presumed to be the way to get iWork documents onto the tablet. There’s also said to be support for apps that support both iPad and iPhone, which should be interesting.
zeromq: Very Lightweight Messaging
Martin Sustrik and Martin Lucina have written an article about zeromq (“a new approach to messaging”), which looks to be about as minimal a messaging system as you can imagine. It’s got an API that’s patterned after BSD sockets. The comments that follow the article are quite interesting and useful as well. There’s a comparison of zeromq, AMQP and RestMS and the different kinds of things those are good at. RestMS actually sounds quite interesting to me. I’ll need to read a bit more about Zyre, which is a RestMS implementation.
ScriptCommunicator: Long Polling for Every Browser
Amir from Plurk has created a small (80 lines) module (ScriptCommunicator) for doing long polling, regardless of the browser. Even if real time isn’t right for everything (this is SlowNews after all), Comet is quite important and this little library deals with some of the tricky bits for one style of Comet.
(fab): A DSL for async coding with node.js
fab will likely remind people of Lisp, because of all of the parentheses. Look more closely, and you’ll notice that the parens are not nested… because this is proper JS, and fab is working through function call chaining. The goal of fab was to provide a nice way to define how URLs get handled in a node.js-powered web app. It’s a neat idea and the result is reasonably clean.
gccgo is Official
GCC 4.5 is slated to include Go. It will be interesting to see when Go-based projects actually start appearing, and when the first Go-based “killer app” arrives on the scene (think of what CouchDB and RabbitMQ have done for Erlang, for example).
75% of Linux Code is Written by Paid People
Over the years, I have seen a number of people characterize open source as written by “hobbyists”. That isn’t actually a derogatory thing to say, because people volunteering their time to a project that they believe in and love will likely do it well and with gusto. But, I’ve always thought that the view of hobbyist-driven open source is not the likely picture for large and successful open source projects. Jonathan Corbet analyzed Linux kernel contributions across 2009 and found that 75% of the code came from people who were being paid to write that code.
Creating a significant open source project can be at least a full time job. For something like Linux, it’s obviously many full time jobs.
toppcloud: Easy, Reliable Cloud Deployment
The prolific Ian Bicking has just spread word of toppcloud. He’s been mentioning it on twitter for a while, but now he gives the full story. If you have to deploy server side code (and don’t mind using Ubuntu on your VPS), check out toppcloud as a way to potentially make things easier.
Hot Code Reloading for node.js
Blaine Cook has a branch of node.js that can hot reload modules. This is obviously great in both development and production, when implemented well.
A zsh Prompt That Understands Hg, Git, Mac Batteries
Steve Losh has created a seriously tricked out zsh prompt.
CommonJS: The First Year
Geek Conversation Killers
Philip Guo has an interesting article about awkwardness of “geeks” in conversation. I have definitely both witnessed this and caught myself doing some of these things. If you’re a geek like me, put a few brain cells onto the task of watching for these things during your next conversation. Calley Soukup has an interesting collection of observations about how sci-fi fans communicate, dating back to 1999.
Feedback for SlowNews #1
“Hypocrite. The article was posted today. Let’s see if it’s still here 24 months from now in the same form.” lutusp on reddit. Ed: this is odd, everyone has to start with a thought sometime. I’m pretty sure that in two years I’m still going to think that real time flow of random news is a bad thing.