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Computing At Chaos Manor:
The Mailbag

Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2010 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

November 30, 2010

On the Microsoft.SoftImage venture. [SoftImage was a package for 3D rendering and animation. JEP]

At the time, Microsoft was trying to gain acceptance for Windows NT in a field that was then owned by Silicon Graphics and other workstation vendors. That effort was largely successful and a worthwhile investment for Microsoft. They later sold the company to Avid and Avid in turn was bought by Autodesk.

Now, Avid and Autodesk may be better homes for the product but Microsoft was well rewarded for its investment by changing the way their OS was viewed in the professional visual applications market.

Eric Pobirs

Interesting. I did note the cultural incompatibilities at the time of the purchase. David Em did all the high end graphics testing for Chaos Manor. SoftImage was a very expensive program, about a grand a seat as I recall, and marketing and service of the package was entirely separate from regular Microsoft marketing system. I was offered a second copy of the program, but I couldn't have done anything interesting with it. In those days, as you say, the big work stations outfits owned high end graphics, and Apple owned most of the rest, so Microsoft was scratching for a foothold. They hoped to get that by buying SoftImage.

I also note that Microsoft sold the company rather than trying to "grow" it, which was wise since it required entirely different marketing and servicing from what Microsoft customarily delivered. In those days Microsoft was better focused on its primary objectives.

Microsoft notes

My big question about MS is will they matter (other than as a server player) in 5 years?

It's looking pretty strongly to me that we are at the same place the world was in the mid-90's when (fat) GUI clients started gaining speed and sales of Wyse60's headed south.

Only now, I think the change is the transition from Desktop/Laptop/Big_powerful_local_apps to pad devices. They are cheap, extremely portable and as they mature in speed and processing (along with the 'cloud' and wireless networks) over the next few years, I think they will supplant desktop computing except for developers and very specialized users. Win7/OSX now become the wyse60's of this era. iOS, Android, etc... are the new 'Win95' moving in to take over the business.

Pads are going to be huge and most users will probably have a keyboard and mouse docking station for doing heads down work on them. Their complex apps will reside in the cloud or on a local server and all but the most demanding ones will have to be touch enabled (and it will need to be done well.) The UI of business apps on these pads will mainly be HTML5/javascript. There'll be some flash/flex too and maybe trace amounts of Silverlight but it won't be Winforms running in .Net. (I really pity organizations doing development on major new apps today using .Net WinForms.To have made the typically huge investment required to build and launch a new product only to find out you almost immediately need to rewrite or be left behind seems painful and expensive.)

The play that this leaves for today's Microsoft is server-side and while that will still be a big business it won't have much in the way of glamour or margins for the OS vendor. Server side they'll be competing against free operating systems so they'll have to be inexpensive.

It looks like the content deals, the kinect and Xbox360 and the Windows Phone are the ways that tomorrow's Microsoft is going to transition from a computer software company to a consumer products company (sounds kind of like Apple's plan doesn't it.)

The big question is can Microsoft survive a really large business transition like that when their traditional modus operandi is that every product is cr*p until the 3rd release.

Look at Apple. Their products are of significantly higher quality than Microsoft's at Release 1 but we saw them take unbelievable heat for a relatively trivial antenna issue on the iPhone recently.

End users of consumer products don't have the same I'll-patiently-wait-for-the-fix-to-come-out mentality that Microsoft has conditioned business users to have over the past 10-15 years. They haven't ever demonstrated the unit/system/user testing fortitude to get it right at release 1 (or 2.) That's going to bite them if they don't watch out.

What do you think? Will they matter? Can they survive and prosper (and maintain their revenues and earnings) in the role of a consumer products company?

John Harlow, President BravePoint

I doubt that command line operating systems were important in the computer revolution after about 1990, and by the mid-90's the old terminals were doomed no matter who won out. The real threat to Microsoft came when IBM relegated Windows from being the presentation manager for OS/2 to being even less than that. IBM defecated on Microsoft from a great height in front of the most important assembly of computer press and financial analysts ever assembled, at Microsoft's celebration of the move to the new campus, and the war was on. Microsoft won handily, and it wasn't all just marketing. IBM's culture was from the old days of slower computer evolution. They didn't ship stuff until it was sound. Gates believed in Moore's Law down to his DNA, and shipped software if it worked at all with faith that hardware improvements would bail him out. He also incorporated anything he could get into Windows, including local area networking (most will no longer remember when you needed LapLink to transfer files from one computer to another unless you used sneaker net) and CDROM drivers. Microsoft gave away the Windows PDK for writing drivers; IBM treated their PDK as a profit center. The result was predictable, and in fact I predicted it.

Microsoft no longer has an overarching mission as it had under Gates. Ray Ozzie was hired to provide that vision, but that didn't work out, and no one has stepped up to replace him. What happens next isn't clear. As to whether the desktop will follow the mainframe in the basement to a niche or obscurity isn't at all clear. What is clear is that Moore's Law is still in operation. There is a surplus of CPU cycles, at least in desktops, and little software save games to take advantage of it. The desktop can accommodate a lot of memory, enormous storage, very fast CPU, and spectacular graphics, all without overheating. No laptop can do that - yet. The future of the desktop lies largely in the future of software that can make real use of its advantages. The next letter is relevant:

My new toy

Is an 11" Macbook Air. It's beautiful. It has a fully functional, full sized keyboard. It's very portable.

And, amazingly enough, it runs World of Warcraft at reasonable frame rates.

To be fair, that's with the maximum speed and maximum RAM available, which makes it an expensive toy. But worth it. The Cadillac of netbooks--at a Cadillac (I'm tempted to say Ferrari) price.

David Friedman

I have the older MacBook Air, and I find it enormously convenient, but it's not my main system, nor even my main Mac system.

I prefer big screens and big keyboards.

But when I go out and want to operate out of a briefcase, the MacBook Air is my preferred system. I generally also carry the iPad. If I could combine the two I would. And that, I think, will happen pretty soon. I have always thought that Tablet computers will become the "pocket computer" of The Mote in God's Eye, and I see no reason to change that notion. That will be the only computer people carry with them; whether it will be the only computer they own is not quite so clear.

And here is another new Air enthusiast:

Dear Jerry:

I got my new MacBook Air 11.6 from Amazon today; I had one yesterday as well, but it was DOA, the first time that's happened to me since 1981 when I first started messing around with computers.

In any event I also had one of the original Airs for a short time, and the new machine is a vastly superior product in just about every way, except that it is missing the backlit keyboard. But the new Air is lighter, smaller, faster, has better battery life and is far less expensive: sounds like a winning combination, doesn't it?

The screen is a treat; having tried netbooks before it's great to have a truly useable screen of such high resolution in such a small form factor. I haven't calibrated it yet but blacks are black, it's bright with excellent contrast and viewing angles but not, somehow, as reflective as the glossy screens on other Mac laptops.

I got the 128GB model, with only 2GB of RAM, and have had half a dozen programs open at once with no evidence of slowing down. Tomorrow I may put MS Office for Mac 2007 on it, I'm not sure, and of course I'll try streaming some video, but I really don't anticipate any issues. You love to have three or four bazillion tabs open in Firefox so might want to pay the extra $100 for another 2GBs of RAM; for my use I don't think I'll miss them.

The keyboard doesn't have quite the depth of stroke of the other MacBooks but it's not really limiting, and in fact I may grow to like it better. I wish it was backlit, and look forward to the day when Apple brings that luxury to this model. All in all it is completely trivial to adjust to this keyboard's size and touch.

I know how fond you are of your current Air, and just wanted to whet your appetite for going to look at the new models; I think you'd like them a lot more, as well.

All the best


I don't do as much portable computing as I used to. I could use something I can type on to make notes on my daily walks, and that is sort of aiming me toward a smart phone I can use the two-thumb system with because I have not perfected the means of entering text, even short bits of text, on the iPhone without sitting down or leaning against a wall, and even then my one-finger typing is slow. The new Air won't solve that problem.

When I was getting my medical x-ray treatments the Air was a life saver since I could use it in the waiting room, and I continue to carry it when I go somewhere carrying a brief case. I like it and I can work with it, but I don't do enough mobile laptop computing to justify having the new Air. Thanks for the report.

Only comment I have on your November column is that the US has NEVER been a free capitalist market. From the very beginning, the government has propped up or tinkered with or punished some industries, forcing them to play by its rules to survive, and totally screwing up any hope of us every getting to test a free-market economy. Medicare/Medicaid destroyed any hope of free-market healthcare, agriculture subsidies destroyed any hope of free-market agriculture, protectionist tariffs have wonked hundreds of industries (and unions have made us non-competitive in many of the same damn industries.)

And morons look for growth instead of profit. It's dismal.

Holly Lisle

Escape from Hell

Hi Dr Pournelle,

I finally was able to buy and read Escape from Hell. I couldn't find it in Europe and my kindle is hors d'combat, but I found it at the Houston airport on our way to Mexico. It was a really good book, and definitely makes me want to try Dante again with the English/Italian version you mention in the notes.

Dante's Bench
Dante's Bench

Until last month we were living in Ravenna, Dante's tomb is there next to San Francesco church, he lived the last few years of his life there after being expelled from Firenze. There is also a small monument to him at the end of Via Cavour, a stone bench with a stone cloak and book. I attached a cell phone snapshot of the bench. If he really sat there to read as the monument legend says, it was a nice quiet place, inside an angle made by the city walls and the Porto Maggiore.

Best Regards,

Joe G.

Niven and I seriously contemplated renting Dante's old villa - it's still in the Dante family - for a summer while writing Escape From Hell but we couldn't manage the schedule. It would have been an inspiration. We have visited the tomb that Florence prepared for Dante in the hopes that he could be induced to come back from exile to be buried in his home city, but his heirs would have nothing to do with the scheme, so he remains in Ravenna. Thanks for the kind words.


The wording was good enough on this one that I clicked on the link before thinking, which probably verified my email address. The page load aborted and of course immediately after I clicked I noticed that it didn't actually come from or lead to PayPal, but I clicked before my brain stopped my fingers. I hope I didn't end up pinging off of a zero-day web exploit because I was stupid.

Damnable thing is that I used PayPal from a few different computers from different locations in the last week, so it *could have* been legit. Oops.


I have been getting a number of scam attempts written in proper English grammar. Some appear to be very plausible indeed.

The rule is simple: never follow an email link to an important account site. Always close that email window, then open a browser and use your usual secure log in procedure to go see if you have an account problem. Paranoids, and those who view email in html rather than plaintext and have opened the email, might want to take more drastic measures like erasing cookies or an external scan of the system, or have Nod 32 or have a good anti-virus scanner in place.

It's also always a good idea to preview mail in plaintext, not html. I seldom open mail at all, and essentially never do so unless I know the source.

Hello Jerry,

I very much enjoyed your October column. The story about your flight in the Cessna Citation Mustang was very interesting as I was unaware that the small planes were so completely controlled by computer yet. I do not have a pilot's license but have been a flight simulator "pilot" for many years and used to make use of the autopilot in those "planes".

Thank you for the mention of Eset's online virus scanner, I have added that to my arsenal as I have also moved to Microsoft's Security Essentials with no problems so far.

I'm glad that you enjoy the Apple iPad. I am saving up to get one and think that it is one of the coolest pieces of technology out there. I currently have an iPhone and am very happy with it. I grew up in the 60's and feel very "Jetsons" when I use my iPhone or some of my other toys and tools.

Thanks again for your many years of enjoyable reading in books and articles. Have a good day!!


Thanks for the kind words.

Subject: Net neutrality


According to Wikipedia, net neutrality means this:

"Network neutrality (also net neutrality, Internet neutrality) is a principle proposed for user access networks participating in the Internet that advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication allowed."

But the WSJ have cast this entirely in terms of the government regulating the Internet. So that means we will now allow our service providers to regulate it, according to what is in their best financial interest. I assume that the WSJ editorial writers don't worry about this, either because they think that competition in the free market will keep the service providers honest, or because their commitment to unregulated free markets is so deep that they don't worry about the damaging effects of monopolies.

Unfortunately, out here in the real world, where most of us buy our internet sevices, there is little or no competition in a lot of areas, and consumer choice often comes down to either paying the toll to the only available provider, or not using the internet. So voting down net neutrality may actually be a vote to empower those who have a near monopoly on the services you want and need. As a consumer, I do not celebrate that outcome.

If there was robust competition for access to the internet, via 3 or 4 viable competitors in most markets, then fine, let them compete and keep the government out. But if my choice is Comcast or nothing, then it probably needs to be regulated as a public utility.

Ubiquitous, high speed internet access would seem to create a wonderful playing field for a lot of entrepreneurial business activity. It would be a shame if the entry points to that playing field were limited to a couple of gatekeepers who can charge what they like for admission. (You want access to www.jerrypournelle.com? Well, we've decided to move that web site to our premium content internet package; it is only $19.95/month more than our $39.95/month standard package. Of course, if you sign up for our $49.95/month HBO and Showtime Package, we will give you a 50% discount on access to those premium web sites...)

CP, Connecticut.

That does not sound like a sane policy for an ISP, but so what if they do it? It will only affect a tiny area, because someone will come up with a competitive system, probably wireless. It took me a couple of years to get high speed Internet at Chaos Manor and I am in Studio City; but now I have a choice of several. Many others including Cringely and Leo Laporte have similar stories.

I have not seen the need for the creation of a bureaucracy to enforce Internet Neutrality, and I continue to believe that the cure is far worse than the disease.

Second microsoft comfort curve keyboard failed already


I bought a replacement MS comfort curve keyboard to replace the one that failed after a year of use, and this one lasted just a few days. The "one" "exclamation mark" key quit working just a few days after I started using it. The thing is, shipping cost for exchange/refund costs almost as much as the KB itself. The KB sells for thirteen bucks at newegg with about $5 shipping, but the return shipping is eleven bucks (insert exclamation mark here)

Don't waste your time/money on these things... The layout is very nice but the build quality sucks, and exchanging one under warranty costs about as much as buying a new one. Maybe newegg will come through and send me a prepaid shipping label but I'm not holding my breath.

MS laser mice still seem to be high quality though, but I can't prove it because they fail so rarely that I haven't had to use very many new ones, and my sample size is low. These keyboards though... ugh. I really thought this one would last at least a month but I got around a week of use instead.


And all I can say is that I have half a dozen of them, for both PC's and Mac's, wireless and wired, and they all work. And I use them hard. As to your observations on mice, I haven't bought a new wired redeye mouse in years; but I do have some relatively recent wireless mice, and they work fine, with battery lives in the order of a year.

And see the next letter:

Subject: Keyboard life


In your mailbag you have a letter from someone whose Microsoft keyboard had worn out letters and stopped working after a year. I had the letters wear off a Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 and called Microsoft to ask about buying new key caps. They don't have replacement caps, but they sent a new keyboard without any hesitation. Perhaps if ALL of us who have problems get replacements they will decide it is worth their while to make them better!

Roy Harvey
Beacon Falls, CT

A good notion. Alas, the keyboard I have that the letters wear off of is an ancient Ortek. I love it, but I can't get new keys for it. Alas. Which why I use Microsoft Comfort Curves as my "standard" now. I also keep a Microsoft Ergonomic "humpback" keyboard for times when Niven works here. He likes those a lot. I can't use them.

Windows Security

Windows isn't as insecure as it once was but let us not forget that the Stuxnet worm used a number of exploits and could infect an updated and secured machine by just plugging in a USB drive. In a large part the problems with security with Windows was that the consumer version was never designed to be put on the Internet or to be secure, Add in all the legacy apps that will be broken if they put in real security. It is a huge mess. Windows 7 fixed a lot of the problems but I wouldn't classify it as secure.

I do agree that the best way to be secure these days is to use a VM. I would suggest running Linux in a vm like VirtualBox. For surfing the web and email Linux will do just fine. That will leave your Windows system to run those programs that you can not replace... Like FlightSimulatorX. For running MMOG like Warcraft I guess you are stuck with a Windows VM.

Computers are not just a wonder for aviation but even for just driving. If I have to go someplace I have never been before I can just pull it up on Google Maps. I can see it on street view and get a feel for the area around it. I can then use my cell phone GPS to get to the general location and the rest I am already familiar with. I do find that portable GPS systems can sometimes cause more problems then they are worth if you try to follow them to the parking lot and or drive way. Of course the great thing about a GPS is you can never really be lost. If you go for a drive and become totally confused just tell the GPS to get you home to or to some landmark you know.

My experiences so far with Windows 7 and Microsoft Security Essentials have been positive. That doesn't mean that bad things can't happen, and I am careful not only to keep my software up to date, but periodically to go to ESET or Norton and do an external system scan. But Virtual Machines are certainly a big step up in security, and as CPU's continue the trend toward more computing power at lower costs, will probably become ubiquitous.

One expects to see that on desktops well before laptops, of course.

iPad, 3G, self-publishing etc..

Hi Jerry

In your October mailbag, Craig wrote about his decision to buy an iPad without 3G based on the ongoing cost of the data contract; interestingly, I bought a 3G iPad specifically because there was a 'pay as you go' data option available for it from one of the many carriers here in the UK. It is relatively expensive per Mb, but all I wanted it for is to keep my contacts and calendars in sync whilst I'm out of WiFi range, and for that it works very well; my microsim came with £10 (GBP) credit when I signed up for it in May, and I haven't used it all yet, 5 months later; that's a bargain for the convenience of having all calendars etc... synced, and when you throw in the likes of Simplenote and Dropbox (that I didn't know about and couldn't have predicted at the time of purchase) I'm heartily glad I bought the 3G.

It raises an interesting point about the cost of the data contract though; with smaller tablets like the Dell Streak and Samsung Galaxy Tab being treated like mobile phones and tied to contracts, this must have an adverse impact on their sales; like Craig, I wouldn't have bought a 3G iPad if I'd had to have an extra contract for data.

Re. eBooks. My wife and I are big readers, and we switched to eBooks about 4 years ago and haven't willingly bought a paper-based book since. We started reading on PDAs, then switched to e-ink devices, and then iPhones and iTouches. Now we both use iPads, but are contemplating the purchase of a couple of Kindles just to keep everything 'in the loop' with Amazon; I know from the chatter on the message boards that we're far from alone in this, and whilst e-ink's convenience in certain situations is desirable, it's the cost that's a huge driving factor - a WiFi-only Kindle at £109 (GBP) makes it a almost disposable option, cheaper in fact, than many iPad cases. Actually, I'd like Amazon to go one step further and produce a keyboard-less Kindle - I have other, more responsive devices running the Kindle software/App to buy and manage my books, so a keyboard is redundant to my needs.

As for self-publishing, I presume you're familiar with J.A.Konrath's musings - http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/. In a recent post he made the point that most authors rarely earn out their advances, and backs this up with numbers from his own sales - well worth a read if you've missed them.

Best wishes,

Peter Millard
London UK.

I intend to sign up my iPad for 3G; I have several times wanted that capability. Not so often that it's urgent, but when I replace my iPhone 3 I'll do that at the same time. As you say there are plans that make it a sensible decision if you're not going to use it a lot. Of course I also find semi-secure wireless nets.

All my books have long since earned out their advances, although it took Footfall some years to do that despite being Number One on the New York Times bestseller list. It was also the biggest advance we ever had.

Ebooks are now about 10% of the entire publishing industry revenue, and the percentage is growing.

Windows and Malware

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Blaming the OS for allowing "baddies" to infect it with malware is akin to blaming Corning or Anderson for the fragile glass in a window that a thief once broke to gain entry into my house. It's the same mentality that blames guns for violence instead of the people who use them. IIRC the first "wild" virus programs in the first place infected Apple DOS 3.3. Long before MS Windows was written.

I know some people who switched from Windows to Apple, but didn't bother to learn anything in the transition. So their computers are set with no password, full access to the root, and yes, they have been compromised by various viruses. Not nearly as many as they had when they operated Windows badly. Moving to a new house for protection only work if you secure your house properly.

Still, the OS should be set for full security as a default, but that will prevent the Aunt Minnies of the world from playing Farmville.

Stay well,

Bill Grigg

The moral of the story is obvious....

Great Column for October 19!!

Hello Jerry,

I wanted to tell you that I thought that the October 19 column was great! There is something, maybe in the style and pace, that reminds me strongly of A Step Further Out. Also, it was nice seeing you mention Case, since I am a CWRU BSME '98. I can tell you that at least in the 1990s that we engineers were required to take a Operations Research class, and the letters were indeed OPRE - I think the class was OPRE 345 (lots of PV, FV, but also weighted decision trees).

I'm not sure if many other schools have such a requirement, but Case always had extras that were required. Such extras were in: calculus/differential equations, physics (general & special relativity and some quantum mechanics), and a professional communications. From what I know from grads of the state school programs in Cincinnati (U. of C.), Columbus (OSU), and Cleveland (CSU) - they not only did not have such requirements, they were appalled (well, honestly so were we!). Then again, I'm positive that Case was trying to make us quit whereas the other schools were extracting tuition.

Sorry for the tangent, but wanted you to know that the Voodoo sciences are being kept at bay and that Operations Research had survived for a while longer.

Jim L.

Thanks for the kind words. I am glad to hear that there are still OR men.

Comment on October Column re: John John Kennedy


In yesterday's column you said:

"Failure to believe the instruments was probably what killed John John Kennedy; or perhaps he misread it."

If I recall correctly, JFK Jr. was a new pilot with only a VFR (visual flight rules) rating. While VFR pilots can read and understand the flight instruments (turn and bank indicator, artificial horizon, rate of climb indicator, altimeter and compass), they generally can't maintain controlled flight by reading the instruments alone—they need an external visual reference (the "real" horizon). For this reason, they can only fly when visibility and ceiling meet VFR minimums, and they cannot fly near (or in) clouds or cloud layers.

I think that JFK Jr. flew into a hazy or foggy area in twilight conditions and lost his external visual reference. I suspect that, like most VFR pilots, he had no training or experience flying on instruments alone. The result is usually a steep dive or a spin.


Doug Ely

That is what I remember, but of course since all were killed we don't really know.

Norton antivirus

Dr. Pournelle:

I was reading your column on antivirus software. I use Norton Antivirus (not the more complex packages) and I think their program and operation have improved significantly recently. I suspect the Microsoft competition had something to do with this.

The program Just Works. It updates automatically, but I poke it every few days just to make sure. It has found a number of nasties on websites, downloads, and places I'm not even sure of. It grabs them, isolates or deletes them, and lets me know I've just dodged a bullet. I never turn my system off, and heavy defenses are a must. I also use Microsoft's firewall and Defender.

Best recent development from Symantec is that they now authorize my Antivirus for three computers, not just one, which is just enough for my two main systems and laptop. I pay the same annual fee for subscriptions, but it works for all three systems. I don't know if they're still offering this on plain Antivirus (they do on Norton Internet Security), but it's still working for me. I wish they did this for Macs.

I had version 2010, and they recently upgraded the software to version 2011. They offered me the upgrade (again, all three systems) for free, which rarely happens in the software world unless you just bought a program a month ago and the manufacturer takes pity on you.

Tom Brosz

I was fond of Norton for a long time. After that I hated it. I am glad to see they are back. Competition is important.

For a very long time Microsoft did not directly compete with Norton on many Windows utilities, because when Commander Gordon Eubanks was running Symantec he was one of the first to go all out on developing software for Microsoft Windows, and Gates and Eubanks became friends; when Gates chose companies to compete against, Symantec generally wasn't one of them. Of course Symantec changed enormously when Eubanks left it, and it's a small shadow of its old self now.

No wonder I'm fat, after eating all those cookies

"Still, by exposing just how vulnerable we are to all manner of virtual calorie bombs, Mr Kamkar has become a sort of digital nutritionist."

[Economist link] Note that he's up to 13 recipes.

http://samy.pl/evercookie/ When I use this page I get a constant stream of clicks as my watchdogs cut in. [Not a clickable link - it SETS an evercookie for you. Paste into your browser bar at your own risk - BPB]

I found that I can write an autoexec.bat file into c: using the standard cookie command. So far I haven't found any command that then executes under Win7, but, given M$ laxities, that doesn't mean there isn't one. I only tried a couple, given the 1.2 minutes it takes to reboot my computer. I may try setting up a stripped-down Atom system to semi-automate the process. I also want to try config.sys, and, if I set up a dedicated Atom, hiberfil.sys (should be protected but I'm not holding my breath) and bootmgr (which is not protected, since I can change it from the desktop.)

I'm not interested in their tracking me as much as where they can read and write on my computer and network. Nag, nag, nag. If you're tired of hearing from me, tell me and I'll go take another nap.

Don Miller

I used to fool around with stuff like that. I've been hoping to get a further report on this...

Hi Jerry,

A "why I use C/C++" response:

I write code in C/C++ because our applications require the speed. We do architectural/design stuff for construction people and use a realtime 3D feedback loop. We live in the real world where we have to assume a baseline of pre-XP era OS/equipment; we can't expect all users to buy new computers. Our calculation loop takes about 12 seconds on a slow older laptop which allows users to work iteratively (imagine a spreadsheet 'what if' process being applied to designing a new rec center.) The nearest competitor (thankfully) uses the "modern" languages. They require about 2 minutes (!!) and still do less. Not very iterative. Java etc may well be tolerable for IT or things where same day response is acceptable, but it's unacceptable for what we do.

Thing is, there's a LOT of requirement out there for apps that aren't IT yet aren't videogames and need high(er) performance. There are very good reasons to use C/C++ for execution speed, and this is unlikely to change; in our case faster hardware will *always* permit more features and more behind the scenes automation.

The point is that your "hardware is faster than the software" notion is only true for the subset of applications that are fully mature and/or don't do much between keystrokes. It's not true for that which is calculation intensive such as in our case where raw speed better enables interactive design ability.

Gary Alston

Oh, I understand the legacy problem. Alas, it seems to be reflected down the ages...