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Re: [Caml-list] Unix.file_descr -> int ???
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Date: 2002-06-20 (13:08)
From: Alessandro Baretta <alex@b...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Unix.file_descr -> int ???
Xavier Leroy wrote:
> What's so surprising about this?  This man chose a particular line of
> business where customers are not interested in new or advanced stuff.
> Just like you could choose to manage a McDonald's and have no
> professional interest in gourmet food or fine wines.

It is not so much his choice as the choice of his customers, 
which, of course, he must adhere to. If his customers ask 
for MS-SQLserver he gives them that, although he openly 
declares to have a preference for DB2.  The same is with 
PLs. He mentioned a "fantastic" programming languange by the 
name of APL which he used to use when he was a researcher at 
IBM. (I'm sure you know about APL much better than I.) It is 
not without melancholy, he said, that has had to move 
towards more commercial systems, mainly Java, and more 
recently, given the massive marketing effort from Microsoft, 
towards .NET.

What I'm talking about is the scarce interest customers have 
for quality software development processes, which 
necessarily include quality programming languages, as 
opposed to caring about the marketing hype behind one 
platform or another. Have you seen the MS commercial where a 
robot begins to paint a car frame as soon as the customer 
declares his preference for that color, stops when the 
customer shows some indecision, and immediately resumes as 
the client confirms his first choice? Has this got anything 
at all to do with .NET?

It's just the same thing with teenagers and MacDonalds: is 
it good for their health to eat there? Definitely not. An 
education effort must be carried out with teenagers to teach 
them to eat pizza, which is good for them ;-) as opposed to 
hamburgers. (And, BTW, yes, I am Italian.) A similar 
education effort might make corporate customers aware of the 
fact that O'Caml is good for them, while MS is not. (And, 
yes, I'm also a Caml rider and Penguin breeder.)

> I'm not disturbed in the least by the fact that many computer
> professionals couldn't care less about what we do.  (And conversely :-)
> What I am concerned about is the well-meaning suggestions that we
> should move towards "their" technologies in the vague hope that they
> will pay more attention then.  They won't.

I don't mean to say that "we" (the Ocaml team at INRIA, 
really) should bow to the omnipotence of Big Bill, 
especially when the language needs special features in its 
VM in order to work, as you mention later on. Yet, it would 
be easier for me to market O'Caml applications if I could 
mention some commercial trademarks my customers have already 
heard. "O'Caml" is not a winner for a trademark, especially 
when you are confronted by the inevitable question: "What 
does it stand for?"

>>They want *real_world* products on
>>*real_world* platforms: COBOL and .NET, that's what they want."
>>No comment. But if Ocaml could somehow "run on .NET", people
>>like the above CEO (an ex-mathematician and IBM researcher,
>>by the way) would be a whole lot more interested in Ocaml.
> Again, I think this is a fallacy.  By the same logic:
> "if OCaml could somehow 'look like COBOL', people like the above CEO 
>  would be a lot more interested in OCaml".
> "if Bordeaux red wines were carbonated, McDonald's would be a lot more
>  interested in selling them".
> You can make your own parallels: it's fun :-)

I don't think O'Caml should like like anything other than 
O'Caml, with the sole exception of DdR's CamlP4 and its 
revised syntax. The customers has no visibility of the 
language itself, but of the entire platform on which the 
software runs: VM, API and libraries. I don't know a lot 
about VMs, but I can definitely say the Caml VM is a whole 
lot faster and more efficient that Sun's JVM. I had to buy a 
new PC one year ago just to write--and run--a few thousand 
lines of Java. O'Caml work, on the other hand, requires no 
costly hardware. I really like the VM. But all this does not 
make it terribly attractive to my customers. As I already 
mentioned, it is mainly a marketing problem.

>>Xavier, let me ask a dumb question, if you don't mind: how 
>>do you choose which processor architectures to port ocamlopt 
> By a combination of demand and availability (of a machine running said
> architecture).
>>Could .NET simply be regarded as a new "architecture" for ocamlopt?
> Not at all.  .NET isn't just a (virtual) machine instruction set: it's
> a whole infrastructure, including memory management, data
> representation formats, systems services, libraries, etc.  All these
> replace (and conflict with) those we have in the OCaml implementation.
> Our past experiments in retargeting the OCaml implementation to .Net
> failed because of this.  For more details, and an explanation of why
> .Net is a real straight-jacket for innovative programming languages,
> see a previous post of mine:
>         http://caml.inria.fr/archives/200102/msg00190.html

Dumb question. Alright, forget it.

Thank you very much for your time and interest. I hope I am 
making some sense.


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