Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I have been somewhat tolerant of Microsoft's flaws and missteps, especially compared to many in the Lisp community. It seemed to me in the last couple of years that MS dialed down their aggressive/monopolistic tendencies somewhat and revisited their attitudes/strategies towards open-source, standards organizations, communication with the outside world, etc. For instance, the reality of Windows Activation for XP turned out to be pretty reasonable -- certainly a lot less draconian than some thought back when XP was approaching its ship date.

Lately, Microsoft has been getting some bad press about Windows Genuine Advantage, e.g., here and here. Not a very good track record so far! I myself have not encountered any severe problems, so I was willing to believe that this stuff would eventually get sorted out and all would be well.

But I just read this, which is speculation that in the future MS may require legally-licensed Windows users to install WGA or risk having their system disabled. The reply Ed Bott received from MS when he asked for official confirmation is a red flag. It would be very hard for me to rationalize continuing onward as a Windows developer if this speculation becomes reality. WGA is more intrusive than Activation was, it has a poor track record, and I'm not as inclined to give MS the benefit of the doubt as I might have been in the past. So as I continue work on Graphic-Forms, I'm keeping an eye on this situation, as should all Windows users.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Common Lisp and Windows Vista

The other day, I installed Windows Vista Beta 2 from DVD into a dedicated partition on my PC (the other partition is WinXP SP2). Beta 2 is the first Vista pre-release available to anybody and everybody, as opposed to the technical Betas available to MSDN subscribers and other similarly-connected folks. The only install hiccup that I encountered was that there is currently no driver for my sound system available though Microsoft Update. No biggy. By now, there are probably a dozen reviews of Vista Beta 2 out there, and this blog entry will not be another one. Just in case it helps somebody, here are a few review links:

Naturally, I'm looking at Vista from the perspective of a Common Lisp programmer. So in addition to wanting to poke around the new system and see for myself what it's like, my intention is to get started working with CL implementations on this new version of Windows. In particular, I want to test Graphic-Forms and think about where GF should go, taking into consideration the ways in which the GUI subsystems are changing for Vista and beyond (e.g. some info about that here).

Friday, June 9, 2006

away from the REPL for a week

Next week, I'll be in Maine on vacation and then attending my brother's wedding, so Graphic-Forms work will be interrupted briefly.

There are yet loose ends needing to be tied up before I can make the next release. I might spend some more time on preparations (which are already underway) for implementing the equivalent of GroupLayout that is going to be part of the next JDK/NetBeans release. There are some folks implementing this for SWT as well. And so I want something like it in Graphic-Forms, too. I want to revamp my existing layout-tester program to look and feel more like a GUI layout tool, as a more scalable and robust way of testing the layout managers I've written. Maybe layout-tester ought to evolve into such a tool for real instead of just being happy as a test program. Continuing down my todo list, there are some remaining issues with keyboard navigation in dialogs. I'd also like to implement at least one more common dialog and some controls (especially the edit control). And I'd like to change the graphics package to depend on ImageMagick only if the app developer explicitly chooses to.

The 0.2.0 and 0.3.0 releases saw a decent number of downloads, certainly more than I expected, which is really cool. Unfortunately for me as the lead developer, there has been practically no feedback on the dev mailing list. I'm not working very hard at building `community' around this code, for one thing. I suspect not many folks are getting past the `open the tarball and look at the code' stage. And maybe there aren't that many folks interested in a Windows-only UI library for Common Lisp.

Another possibility is that people are reluctant to invest time and effort in a brand new API that has no appreciable mindshare. I can sympathize with that and every day I think about what the best solution is. Forget about Graphic-Forms for a second, and consider my personal requirements for a UI library: must support Windows as a first-class target, must leverage platform-specific features wherever possible as opposed to compromising in the name of platform portability, must not have too many intermediate layers (especially not some toolkit in another language), and must (eventually, if not already) support multiple Lisp implementations. Right now, I'm not aware of any other UI library for CL that meets those requirements, aside from what I can build myself.

I just hope somebody gets some value out of the code besides me.