Comments on: R3.0 Project Status Update
REBOL Technologies

Comments on: R3.0 Project Status Update

Carl Sassenrath, CTO
REBOL Technologies
3-Nov-2008 21:22 GMT

Article #0377
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As we move toward the completion of REBOL 3.0 and it's related components, it is time to say a bit more about our progress and plans.

For the last few months, the main focus has been on the graphical user interface (GUI), with the objective of creating a GUI system that was powerful, flexible, but remained lean and lightweight. This was no small requirement and has consumed a great deal of my time. In fact, more than any other aspect of the GUI project, reduction of the number of concepts and simplification of each separate concept has taken more time than I had anticipated.

As a result of that mind voyage, I have concluded a general rule that:

  • Simplicity is a delicate thing;
  • it must be recognized as an objective worth achieving and maintaining, and
  • simplicity can easily be destroyed, so
  • therefore, it must be guarded with great care.

Said another way: simplicity isn't free. In fact, it's more work at the start.

Sidenote

The merits of that rule apply to more than just software. Look at the last few months of financial market meltdown mainly due to years of using financial instruments that were so complex that no one, not even head executives, understood their true value (or lack thereof) or could properly weigh their associated risks.

Now multiply that by ten and you have most modern software systems.

Now multiply that by ten and you have the US federal government.

In any system, when you build layers upon layers of complexity, the system will ultimately fail, in a huge way, to do the most damage possible.

Avoiding that, to whatever degree is possible within our human capabilities, is what drives me.

Anyway, regarding the project, good progress was made so that by the end of September, we started a new private group for testing, discussing, improving the GUI. (I did not want a lot of voices at this point, so I intentionally kept the group very small. It will be expanding soon.)

During October

During the month of October, the project objectives were:

  • To review the basic GUI design/concepts and provide feedback.
  • To contribute improvements, especially focusing on providing a modern graphical appearance and a standard set of styles (widgets).
  • To track and fix bugs as necessary.
  • To increase developer awareness of the project in advance of the next stage.

Also included for October was to build a documentation strategy:

  • To produce a new organization of documents based on the new design, for the purposes of educating new developers.
  • To provide clear and easy-to-understand examples and how-to articles.
  • To begin explaining the finer points, to enable developers to build more complex types of styles, but within the bounds of the design.

And finally, to write a few example reblets, from the GUI point of view and in order to help evaluate the design and to serve as examples:

  • The GUI test control panel (with numerous subpanels, as needed)
  • A simple submission form, such as that used for contact information.
  • A super simple REBOL source file browser.
  • A mini draw program, along the same lines as Sievertsen did in R2, including a few shapes, and controls, as well as undo.
  • A first pass at a color selector/requestor.
  • An analog clock as a resizable, setable, getable style.

More important than the specific features of any of these reblets is that they provide the opportunity to explore the methodology of the GUI and evaluate its current level of capability. In other words, you cannot complete a good GUI system without using it to do real things.

So, we achieved those objectives for October.

For November

For November, our main goals are:

  • To expand the GUI group to include more developers.
  • Discover and resolve various bugs or problems with the GUI or the SVG draw system that it's built on.
  • Wrap up the first skin that has an acceptable appearance for R3, its developers and their initial reblets.
  • Finish off the required base GUI styles (widgets), including more of the compound styles (e.g. combo box), standard requestors and the popup mechanism.
  • To determine documentation priorities, make a list of what's missing, and get those written and published in DocBase.
  • To add several more example reblets, with increasing features and capabilities.
  • To get a real reblet running, such as DevBase itself, which will allow us...
  • To get the source distribution back online and available to interested developers.

And, as you may guess, these last two items that are important because not only do they help move R3 toward completion, but they also help us build and improve the tools we need to do so.

24 Comments

Comments:

Peter Wood
3-Nov-2008 15:40:33
When you wrote "To being explaining the finer points" did you mean "To begin explaining the finer points"?
Greg Schofield
3-Nov-2008 17:20:27
"To expand the GUI group to include more developers."

Carl I would obviously not be suitable for this, therefore is there any chance of a Alpha Ver 2 release for the unwashed? It would be very welcomed for those of us who naturally at the side of things looking on.

PeterWood
3-Nov-2008 20:04:37
If you are going to write platform independent standard requestors, please can you also provide an easy way to use the host environment standard requestors too.
Adrian Sampaleanu
3-Nov-2008 20:30:14
"In any system, when you build layers upon layers of complexity, the system will ultimately fail, in a huge way, to do the most damage possible."

I would say that biological systems, where the complexity is so much greater than anything man has engineered, but which are built exactly as the quote describes, are an exception. The difference is that part of the complexity of these system is found in their ability to do self-repair, maintenance and even improvement, by way of evolution.

Grant Rettke
3-Nov-2008 20:35:33
> I would say that biological systems

We should talk to whoever engineered these systems for advice.

-pekr-
3-Nov-2008 21:58:25
When we look in the past, and ask ourselves, what was the most apparent show stopper of VID2, for many users, it was - missing important styles. New users are not able to create new styles, they simply look into existing style list. We should be sure, that this time, styles like tabs, tree-view, simple grid (list-view), split-window containers, toolbars, maybe even menu, are not missing with final release. I know those styles can come later, but those NEED to be part of default distro. There is many ppl out there, who would like to use REBOL for quick prototyping, connecting to DB, doing some simple forms, and they are not interested in creating such styles themselves ...

Another important thing is to achieve system compatible behaviour. What we miss in recent desing is e.g. accelerator keys (as we can see, no style addresses it yet, as it would have to use rich-text to display underscored char), tabbing system, disabling/enabling of widgets, etc.

EyeAm
3-Nov-2008 23:45:38
Hey -pekr-, if you don't mind me asking: are you talking about a visual integrated development environment (ide) for Rebol there?
-pekr-
4-Nov-2008 2:57:01
Of course I don't mind asking. I was not talking about IDE. Of course, IDE might come. VID auto layout is sufficient for me, it handles also resizing. What I am calling for here is - to get platform (OS) compatible behaviour. Users are more forgiving to different look, but not to different behaviour of UI elements. And - being on ML for very long time, I remember how often ppl were asking for styles like tabs, tree-view, grid - those things were partially fixed with RebGUI ...
EyeAm
4-Nov-2008 3:59:42
Okay, wasn't entirely sure; thanks for clarifying. In the spirit of keeping things simpler, how about keep something like that separate from the main platform-independent app or environment, and develop as a 'plug-in' or module an interface for the respective platform(s)?

(if this is dumb, my excuse is: I haven't been awake long this morning, haha, and am just now eating breakfast) :)

-pekr-
4-Nov-2008 5:12:52
Then you need few cups of coffee, good oolong tea, or another "drug" to get high :-)

I expect new base for VID being very much solid. Carl put MANY hours of thoughts into new system, from defining its objectives, to final design. Before the project started, we held few chats with Carl, and I defined my requirement for VID as "system, which I like to use and extend" - it has to be fun, understandable, and extensible by not only gurus.

When we think cross platform, it might lead to some compromises. We will not be able to do cross platform deployment, that is for sure. E.g. Systray Windows support will make your app incompatible to other platforms, so you will have to wrap such things somehow.

Users are more forgivable to how app looks. Nowadays, in internet and Vista/OS-X era, we can see many different interfaces, full of colors, etc. But - behavior/deployment should be correct, or our apps will look hostile.

What I would REALLY like to see with new View, is kind of demo scene. When you look into some demos at View Desktop (ViewTop), some of them are really amazing. When I show them to someone, ppl say - well, looks like Flash. They are alway amazed how little code does the trick. I hope that we can use new View to our advantage, and do some animated widgets, some demos, etc.

Paul
4-Nov-2008 5:24:12
I'm hoping to get my hands on REBOL3 to create a new better DBMS. So congrats to the team. Looking forward to seeing the end result. Sounds like the progress continues.
EyeAm
4-Nov-2008 7:35:30
Sorry, -pekr-, if drugs are your thing, that's your business. I don't use illegal drugs, thanks anyway.
EyeAm
4-Nov-2008 7:37:30
This time last year, there was organization (or direction toward that) by Carl about a new Rebol website. A year having passed, almost, what came of all the planning? :) Nothing.
-pekr-
4-Nov-2008 8:01:25
EyeAm - I don't want to turn this discussion into personal chat. However - "drugs" can be different kind of things for different ppl :-) For me, REBOL is a drug :-)

As for Website - I think, it is about priorities. We all know, that there is many of things needed on many fronts, but who's there to work on them?

My understanding of what will come is as follows: VID 3.4 alpha release, VID name final selection, parallel work on new widgets by the community, ditto for new VID 3.4 based DevBase client, rebservices modifications, parallel work on docs, preparation for open-sourcing R3 parts, upload into devbase, then website ...

Greg Schofield
5-Nov-2008 5:04:23
I will be lampooned for suggesting this, but when Carl is talking about the delicate nature of designed simplicity he is expressing a particular quality; something that cannot be measured, something that is not just quantifiable speed or power. -- it is "elegance" which is a combination of lightness and effect.

It is a word that has two meanings, as an affectation, as mere pose. Or as something deftly executed, barely causing a ripple, but producing the exact effect required.

If Carl thinks he has done the trick, and he sounds like he knows he has really got something, rather than VID, maybe just name it Elegance or one of its synonyms, because if it is apt its name should reflect that.

EyeAm
5-Nov-2008 6:54:45
I like that, Greg! :)
-pekr-
5-Nov-2008 8:16:54
I like Elegance too :-)
Albin
6-Nov-2008 10:52:25
I second the suggestion for an Alpha 2. It's been 11 months since we were thrown a good bone. You can wait until Jan 8th to do it again, since that's my birthday and it was a nice gift.
benco5000
10-Nov-2008 8:08:38
In addition to pekr comment.

I would like to see a gridview/listbox, resizable, and columns resizable and sortable, included in VID3.

As a systems analyst/dba - presenting data in a grid is most common and necessary. Sorting can be done at the db but produces additional time delay, and, not all grids have a db backend to do sorting. To date I see this as an obstacle for me to actively use Rebol at work.

If this capability already exists I apologize - perhaps someone could point me to an example.

Nick Antonaccio
10-Nov-2008 9:05:47
I support pekr's request to fulfill the need for missing important styles (all the common GUI "widgets" and layout devices in common use) - it's SOOOOOO important for new users to accept REBOL.
Lepkon
17-Nov-2008 11:45:26
To do something Complicated is Simplistic, to do something Simple is Complex :)

EyeAm
17-Nov-2008 17:03:08
Keep IT Simple, Sassenrath! ;-)

--EyeAm http://www.myspace.com/foadiyops

Casanova
17-Nov-2008 18:39:10
Anyone run rebol on an Apple itouch?
Henrik
18-Nov-2008 7:19:14
Casanova, there is no build of REBOL available for iPod Touch. It is not likely there will be one, since Apple do not allow 3rd party runtime environments on their phones.

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