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A Talk With Syllable OS Lead Developer Kaj de Vos

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the why-isn't-monosyllabic? dept.

Open Source 121

angry tapir writes "I recently had a chance to interview Kaj de Vos, the lead developer of Syllable: An open source desktop operating system that's not based on Linux nor one of the BSDs. There's a write-up of the interview here, which includes some background on the project. I have also posted the full Q&A, which is very long but definitely worth a read."

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syllable (0)

johnwerneken (74428) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250514)

what not a bsd or gnu derivative omg shades of PARC something new?

INFORMATIVE!!

Re:syllable (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250942)

what not a bsd or gnu derivative omg shades of PARC something new?

INFORMATIVE!!

From the Syllable home page:
Syllable Server is a small and efficient Linux operating system.

Re:syllable (1)

ge7 (2194648) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251030)

That's the server version, not desktop one.

Re:syllable (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251692)

what not a bsd or gnu derivative omg shades of PARC something new?

Yeah! And in the picture it looks just like low-res Windows XP!

Except there is an icon labelled "console" which is kinda scary.

What console? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251892)

On both the TechWorld articles, I see an icon named "Prompt" and an window titled "Syllable Terminal". On web.syllable.org, the "Prompt" icon has been renamed "Terminal". Where is this "console" and what games does it play?

Oye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37250524)

OSNews.com missed this. As usual. Back to slashdot.

Re:Oye (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250782)

Well, it seems like it has become Thoms own site or something .. Not very impressive. And pretty dead.

I don't know who did most of the OS stuff over there. Eugenia is fine though her own video interest took over every now and then :)

Re:Oye (1)

angry tapir (1463043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250866)

Well I only posted the article online today... Plus I have osnews to thank for introducing me to Syllable in the first place!

NOT based on Linux? (-1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250556)

Seriously? The first few words on the site's page talks about how it was built and specifically mentions it uses Linux. 'The hell?!

I know this isn't the first time a summary on slashdot wasn't completely wrong, but sheesh!

Look, in reality, if a new OS today isn't Linux or BSD (at least source code) or Windows compatible, forget about it. The apps make the OS these days. The words "critical mass" keep coming to mind. BeOS, as wonderful as it is/was, did not come at the right time and could not get the apps to make it useful enough to appeal to the masses.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37250576)

Nope. The "desktop" distribution is AtheOS, not Linux. [syllable.org]

An important thing to know about Syllable is that Syllable Server is based on the well-known Linux kernel, but Syllable Desktop is not. Thus, Syllable Server is a Linux distribution, but Syllable Desktop is not.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37250632)

Why use a different kernel for the server and desktop versions? Even Microsoft came to their senses on that one and started just using the NT kernel for desktops and servers.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (2)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250660)

Why use a different kernel for the server and desktop versions? Even Microsoft came to their senses on that one and started just using the NT kernel for desktops and servers.

Oh, to live in a universe in which somebody interviewed the developer and he were to answer that in the first reply. And bunnies flowed hot and cold from the tap.

Half of this already exists. Now, down to the basement with welding equipment, large diameter pipe and some more test subjects...

Re:NOT based on Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37250680)

Clear as mud. I still don't see why you can't do with a Linux-based kernel on the desktop what they're currently doing with an AtherOS-based kernel.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250732)

the TechWorld article [techworld.com.au] : "The developers feel that modern operating systems have headed off track; in part because of the lack of modularity imposed by commercial interests."

Re:NOT based on Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251346)

The guy makes this sort of claims several times. Not a single real example of what he thinks linux (as an example) isn't capable of doing...

It's awesome that people have hobbies (and sometimes those hobbies do turn out to be "big and professional like GNU"), but claiming advantages without actually demonstrating any is just fishy.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (3, Informative)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250670)

He actually explains it in TFA, but long story short, he wanted a server OS that was compatible with both software written for Syllable AND the vast body of server oriented software out there for Linux. The only realistic way of doing this was basically customizing a distro.

He could have gone the Windows or OS X route and basically just layered the server services on top of the kernel as an application, but that would have required re-implementing at least parts of all those services to make them compatible with Syllable. Maybe the maintainers will do that someday, but for the time being their solution allows them to concentrate on further developing the desktop OS while still having a server os that fits into the ecosystem.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251300)

Instead, he went the other Windows route and has two different operating systems for desktop and server. History has shown us that this is fucking retarded. It made sense back in the DOS days with Novell, and even in the WfW 3.11 days, but not now.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 2 years ago | (#37253840)

Instead, he went the other Windows route and has two different operating systems for desktop and server. History has shown us that this is fucking retarded. It made sense back in the DOS days with Novell, and even in the WfW 3.11 days, but not now.

I do not follow you ... so it is super easy to install a standard linux distribution on an "Android Mobile"??
And it is likewise easy to install "Android the OS" on a standard desktop PC?? Or iOS on a Mac or OS X on an iPAd?

Pffffftttt ... to be honest using workds like fucking and retarded very close together in one post does not shine you very bright.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37252744)

He actually explains it in TFA, but long story short, he wanted a server OS that was compatible with both software written for Syllable AND the vast body of server oriented software out there for Linux. The only realistic way of doing this was basically customizing a distro.

Replace 'server' with 'desktop' in each instance there and you have a fine argument for creating a Linux based desktop. Why was this argument convincing for servers but not desktops?

Re:NOT based on Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251644)

Why use a different kernel for the server and desktop versions? Even Microsoft came to their senses on that one and started just using the NT kernel for desktops and servers.

Stupid huh - not using Microsoft as a model.... what are those fools thunkin?

Re:NOT based on Linux? (5, Informative)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250604)

You seem confused. The project releases a matching server that does use Linux as the kernel. The desktop OS does not. It's based on AtheOS, a new OS from scratch with a fair amount of application support built up over the years for a minor OS.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (0)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250744)

From the first page:

"Syllable Desktop is an original, modern operating system design, in the tradition of the Amiga and BeOS, but built using many parts from the GNU project and Linux."

I read further noting that it is based on AtheOS for the desktop, but it says it is based on Linux in no uncertain terms.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (1)

angry tapir (1463043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250856)

Different kernel and architecture but still using gnu tools etc is what I was trying to convey...

Re:NOT based on Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37250974)

Ok, so what does this part refer to then: "built using many parts from ... Linux"?

Re:NOT based on Linux? (1)

Vanders (110092) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251266)

A lot of the drivers are direct ports from Linux. There's some rather comprehensive documentation [syllable.org] on porting drivers, in fact.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251918)

If the compiler, C standard library, and C++ standard library are from the GNU project, then perhaps you can just call it "GNU/Syllable". There's no Linux in Syllable, just like there's no GNU in Android (which gives GNU/Linux a useful meaning now that there are competing userlands for Linux).

Re:NOT based on Linux? (1)

HellYeahAutomaton (815542) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251774)

It's based on AtheOS, a new OS from scratch

You seem confused. Atheos was started in 1994, and released to the world in 2000.
It isn't exactly new.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (2)

woodsbury (1581559) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250612)

Not really sure what you're saying but Syllable is both a custom Linux distro, which is their server edition, and an operating system which was built from AtheOS which has it's own kernel, which is what is their desktop edition. The server edition is basically just there so that you can have a server with all the capabilities of Linux but a UI similar to the desktop OS's. It's been a while since I've used Syllable so things may have changed a bit though.

I think it's important to develop alternatives to Linux and BSD even if they don't have the app support (though some things can just be recompiled).

And I mean, if the developers enjoy working on it then that's up to them any way.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (2)

aliquis (678370) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250724)

Bla bla bla.

It's a hobbyist OS. If you don't want to use it don't. Most people trying it out probably think it's cool to try these kinds of things out. They know and don't expect them to run all the applications they are used to or that those few that may run once things like GTK and similar is ported over will be of the latest version or run as perfect as on the latest Linux desktop.

So it's not for you. Fine. Move on.

And no. It's not based on Linux.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251390)

Look, its a hobby or niche OS, alright? I'm sure they know they will NEVER take on the big three, but it makes them happy and I'm sure the few dozen guys that use it are happy too. I mean hell, they still sell OS/2 as eComstation so SOMEBODY must like these niche OSes or nobody would bother, right? And it is the SERVER that is built on Linux, the desktop is based on Amiga IIRC.

I just wonder how much of this is hanging onto the past and playing "what if?" because i know that feeling. I was using OS/2 warp back when everyone else was using Win95 and thinking "WTF are you people getting excited over THAT mess for?" but IBM screwed the pooch and tried to tie it to their too expensive and behind the curve hardware and killed it dead. Bad management was also to blame for Amiga. Back in the day it ran rings around just about everything when it came to multimedia but it was too expensive and Windows was "good enough" and cheap so it lost.

So give the guy a break and let him have his tiny minute in the spotlight. Personally i'd sure as hell like to read about the weird and wacky than another "Bob's distro' which of course will be based off Ubuntu and will be the SSDD. I mean how many distros does the world need? at least this IS something more than just slapping a couple of packages together on top of Debian or RH.

Re:NOT based on Linux? (3, Insightful)

khr (708262) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251866)

...OS/2 Warp ... but IBM screwed the pooch...

No kidding... Not to mention their marketing department didn't quite get the Star Trek based code names they were using... Half their material for "warp" looked more like bad acid trip kind of warp than "warp speed". And I have a poster somewhere from IBM that says OS/2 will "obliterate your work". Really... I don't think they "got it" at all...

Re:NOT based on Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37252426)

Shut the fuck up.

People like you are doing nothing but promoting the status quo and parroting marketing guys. Seriously, fuck you.

Why assembly? (1, Interesting)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250564)

Why did they code it in assembly? Given that the x86 world is, as the interviewers stated, b/w Windows/OS-X and Linux/BSD, couldn't they have done it in C, and let some other microprocessor vendors based on things like MIPS, Power, ARM, et al spin boxes w/ these?

Re:Why assembly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37250602)

They may have wanted performance :)

And yes, asm will usually get you a 3x boost over C - and the performance diff. is cumulative, so having a desktop that's 10-20x faster may be possible.

Until someone tries it, we'll never know.

Re:Why assembly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37250754)

The 1990s called - they want their compiler back.

Assembly lang is only faster than C in specialized cases (think SIMD) and where the programmer can manage the entire complexity of the task at hand in their head.

I used to be able to handily beat early MS x86 compilers in terms of executable size and runtime performance but modern compilers emit very tight code. On RISC arches the compiler is better than I am at avoiding pipeline stalls (the dreaded "bubbles") because it can rearrange register usage and instructions over a larger swath of code than I can track with my puny human brain.

Re:Why assembly? (4, Informative)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250790)

To get any boost of performance over C, you have to be an extremely good assembly coder... to get a consistent 3x boost, you are either writing very sloppy C, or you're extremely good at assembly and using a pretty poor compiler/poor compiler settings. It actually takes an amazing amount of effort to beat a compiler these days, because compilers have rules to spot non-obvious stalls and such, where as the human has to rely on analyzing every bit of that by hand.

Also, a system where every component is 3x faster is still only 3x faster overall, there is no Captain Planet performance magic where by the power of assembly combined you get a 20x speed up... not to mention many desktop operations being IO limited (especially the ones that you actually notice the slow down on) and assembly doesn't magically make that faster.

Finally, someone did try it - MenuetOS - and they were able to make a quite compact and fast OS. But they also cut out an awful lot of what goes into a modern OS to do so. Syllable itself is not written in assembly like MenuetOS, which was actually the example used above.

Re:Why assembly? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37250884)

Er - I regularly get 3x, on systems with super-duper optimizing compilers (like Itanic) 5x is more typical. Typically the less the vendors say asm is needed, the more gains it gives you.

And sorry, 3x here, 3x there can easily give you a multiplicative 9x boost - won't always, but if you are coding in asm it's likely you are paying attention to the details as well. (Something OO languages are appallingly bad at).

And yes, I have managed to get performance boots of 20x with selective use of asm - not all that was the asm, but asm and care in coding (restructuring inner loops to avoid repeated computation etc) that's achievable.

Re:Why assembly? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250924)

There are a very, VERY few cases where assembly can be considerably faster than C, mostly where the programmer really wants to store(or not store) specific values in the CPU cache. AFAIK standard C has no instructions for explicitly controlling what data is cached in the CPU, the programmer is relying on the CPU and to a lesser extent the compiler, to intelligently cache the data. And 99.9% of the time, if the programmer understands the basics of the cache(how big each of the caches are, how the cache replacement and cache lines work etc), the programmer can simply re-organize the code to maximize the cache hit rate.

However it is possible that you can still get significantly better performance by managing the cache yourself as you may know(either through analysis or profiling) what memory is more or less advantageous to cache. In which case the only way you are going to get peak performance is to go down to the assembly level and manage the cache yourself.

Re:Why assembly? (1)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251150)

Most compilers (including gcc and MSVC) support these as intrinsics (which are usually fairly standardized per processor platform) though, so you don't actually have to go down to assembly level to access them (the same with SIMD instructions, which is another place you can get large gains over vanilla C) and the instrinsics are exposed as normal functions and types.

Intrinsic code is also more standard than inline assembly, which differs between compilers. You can take the x86 intrinsic code written on MSVC and use it in GCC with relatively few problems.

Re:Why assembly? (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251006)

They may have wanted performance :)

And yes, asm will usually get you a 3x boost over C - and the performance diff. is cumulative, so having a desktop that's 10-20x faster may be possible.

Compilers optimize better than humans in most cases. Plus it's significantly easier to read and write C.

Hand coding assembler for anything but very small regions is a thing of the past.

Re:Why assembly? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251216)

Compile OpenSSL with and without assembler, measure the performance.

Compiled languages being faster than assembler is "one of those" myth's. It just ain't so (yet). Another vendor untruth.

Compiled languages produce results faster and more cheaply and are easier to maintain - but one of the prices paid is performance

A similar lie is that Java is faster than C, just isn't true when the chips are down.

Re:Why assembly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251342)

OpenSSL would be both not one of the most cases, nor a thing of the past. There are things that really, really need to be as fast as possible. And than there are things that are really, really a waste of resource to try to beat the compiler at.

Re:Why assembly? (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#37252716)

Crypto algorithms are often done in assembly, just not for performance, but to make sure the math is absolutely correct as well. Otherwise you probably need a lot of flags and extra code to gaurantee the compiler doesn't optimize in a way that can compromise the encryption. Also there are quite a few people who know the profile of crypto algorithms inside and out and thus how to use every bit of power availible int he CPU.. How many people know a window management or the SDL library in quite the same way?

Re:Why assembly? (1)

GauteL (29207) | more than 2 years ago | (#37252492)

"And yes, asm will usually get you a 3x boost over C - and the performance diff. is cumulative, so having a desktop that's 10-20x faster may be possible."

What?? This is like saying that if you managed to make four relay sprinters three times as fast, the resulting times on 4x100 meter relay would be 1/20 of the original. I'm sorry, but in reality, rather than magic pixie dust land, the maximum theoretical improvement is still only 3x, and unless you improve absolutely EVERYTHING by this amount, your improvement can only go down [wikipedia.org] .

Even if your assembly skills far, far outweighed the skills of the compilers, which is doubtful, you would not be able to a modern desktop OS in assembly where ALL parts of the OS is more efficient than what the C compilers would have created.

Attempting to write a whole desktop OS in assembly sounds to me like the most extreme form of premature optimisation [wikipedia.org] . Unless you have infinite amounts of time and resources to write this OS, you'd be far better off writing it in a higher level language, profiling it, and then potentially going back and rewriting the most critical parts in assembly.

Re:Why assembly? (1)

GauteL (29207) | more than 2 years ago | (#37252958)

Ok... so you may achieve 3x performance improvement in an outer loop and an independent 3x performance in an inner loop to achieve a cumulative effect, but this is rather irrelevant to the discussion.

There is absolutely no way you would get an overall 10-20 times speed boost for a complex bit of software like an OS from improving some code by 3x.

Re:Why assembly? (3, Insightful)

gnud (934243) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250722)

What? Syllable is in C and C++, with only a few pieces of assembly. I think you read the linked article about MenuetOS.

Re:Why assembly? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250840)

okay, I'm new to this obviously, and know squat about it, but what' the difference b/w MinuetOS and Syllable? I read the above description:

Syllable: An open source desktop operating system that's not based on Linux nor one of the BSDs

So which is the OS - Minuet or Syllable, and what's the difference - is it something like a DOS/Windows3.11 paradigm? And my original comment applied to either - be it Minuet or Syllable - as some posters commented above, modern compilers are advanced enough that they'd beat, not just equal, hand written assembly code.

Re:Why assembly? (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250870)

The difference between Menuet and Syllable is they're different operating systems. They're unrelated. Menuet was mentioned in the article as an example of another OS that wasn't based on Linux or *BSD.

Re:Why assembly? (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251964)

>okay, I'm new to this obviously, and know squat about it, but what' the difference b/w MinuetOS and Syllable?

What's the difference between Linux and Windows?

Re:Why assembly? (1)

angry tapir (1463043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250852)

That was a reference to Menuet, whose devs I interviewed a few years back. Sorry if it's unclear. I might edit when I get back into the office tomorrow.

Re:Why assembly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251002)

Assembly is FUN, you should try it one day. If you have never programmed in assembler (or hexcode!), ARM is a nice architecture to start with [peter-cockerell.net] .

Re:Why assembly? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251114)

I've done it some 20 years ago in 8085. Assembly programming is fine for small jobs, and when you have only a few registers to deal w/, and not have to monitor the statuses of various flags, which registers are being used, etc. But for modern CPUs, that have plenty of them, and where one would go nuts keeping track of what goes where, just use a higher level language, such as C or even Java, and let the compiler generate the assembly code.

This makes sense for more than one reason. Every time a new CPU is introduced, chances are that it has newer instructions to make use of newer features that it has. Yeah, one could use the older assembly code, test it to make sure it runs fine, and keep going. But if some of the features of the new CPU are likely to benefit the OS, why not take advantage of that by optimizing the code for that CPU? In fact, for VLIW CPUs like Transmeta, there will always be a break in compatibility, as newer instructions may be added and older ones dropped. So do the Minuet authors plan to re-write the OS every time? (Yeah, I know Transmeta is a bad example since it's out of business, but this move just locks Minuet to the x86 platform)

web.? (2)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250752)

web.syllable.org? No! Why? Just when the irritating "www." prefix is beginning to finally die a natural death, someone thinks it's a good idea to rework it. Just let it die, ffs!

Re:web.? (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250932)

It's almost like websites need a default entry point so that if someone types syllable.org [syllable.org] into their browser it will just magically direct to the right page.

Oh wait that works already.

Also in what way do you think www is dying? I'd wager that it's the default prefix for >99.9% of the internet.

Re:web.? (1, Insightful)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251028)

Also in what way do you think www is dying? I'd wager that it's the default prefix for >99.9% of the internet.

If i'm typing or copying and pasting a domain name into a web browser (i.e., one i got from somewhere other than google) i always leave off the www because the results give me an insight into the company whose web site i'm looking at. If the domain name without www doesn't work at all, i know they don't know what they're doing and best avoided if possible. If it works, but redirects to the www version i know they sort of know what they're doing, but are living in the 90s, so definitely shouldn't be a first choice. If it works and doesn't redirect, i know they know what they're doing and they're up to date.

In my experience, more and more web sites are working without the www prefix. But, more importantly, more and more URLs are being published in advertising and print media without the www - none were a few years ago, but some people are finally realising that leaving off the www makes them look more professional. It also doesn't make them look like they think their customers are too stupid to know a web address if it hasn't got the www on the front (which they're not). The really smart ones capitalise the business name part of their domain names.

No www (or "http://"), plus capitalisation, is the most professional look. Everything else looks amateurish and outdated.

Re:web.? (2)

geekgirlandrea (1148779) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251302)

Ugh. The redirect option is perfectly sensible, but putting the other thing just plain does violence to the conceptual integrity of the domain name system and I shudder at the thought that there are no people in the world who would consider one 'unprofessional' for not doing it. There are protocols that aren't HTTP, you know.

Re:web.? (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251344)

Yes, and there's a perfectly good way for determining which protocol someone wants, that being the port number. By all means route different services to different machines internally, but the details of that shouldn't be exposed to external users; there should be one, and only one, public-facing domain name, on which all your public services are available.

Re:web.? (2)

heathen_01 (1191043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251448)

Stupid IT departments and their firewalls force all services to be offered over port 80.

Re:web.? (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251454)

[......] putting the other thing just plain does violence to the conceptual integrity of the domain name system [......]

I think that's a bit melodramatic! I'm not quite sure which "other thing just plain" you're talking about, but maybe that's implied by the next bit.

and I shudder at the thought that there are no people in the world who would consider one 'unprofessional' for not doing it. There are protocols that aren't HTTP, you know.

Of course i know there are other protocols than HTTP. But if you enter a domain name or URL without the protocol, all web browsers default to HTTP - and they have done for a very long time. What we're talking about is web addresses, not gopher URLs.

Re:web.? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251822)

Of course i know there are other protocols than HTTP. But if you enter a domain name or URL without the protocol, all web browsers default to HTTP - and they have done for a very long time. What we're talking about is web addresses, not gopher URLs.

All browsers yes. But these days (especially in response to adverts) people find themselves entering the data not into the browser, but a generic search bar in their phones. Many of these will start a google search without a www or http:/// [http] prefix.

But it sounds like what you are effectively complaining about is nothing more than marketing, and I'm going to have to completely disagree with you. Putting no www or http:/// [http] at the start is what looks unprofessional. It's the type of crap I expect of artists who also don't know what a business card is because they are too hip to follow the normal conventions.

Also your removal of the prefix combined with the now free-for-all on the TLDs means that I must now assume that anything I see with a dot in it is a website? Confusing as hell, no thanks.

Re:web.? (2)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251836)

Fine, so the browser defaults to using HTTP. Now, if only it could tell to which HOST you intended to connect within that domain.

Oh, could it be the one serving web pages? and how should we call these World Wide Web page hosts? If only there was some sort of moniker to distinguish them from, say, a file server, or an advertising server...

          -dZ.

Primary public-facing view of an organization (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37252356)

Now, if only it could tell to which HOST you intended to connect within that domain.

Oh, could it be the one serving web pages?

Every organization operating on the Internet should have a primary public-facing view of the organization through the Internet, its "store front" so to speak. As World Wide Web has overtaken Gopher, this public-facing view has come to be a web site. Therefore, the organization's bare domain should be an alias (CNAME) for the host that provides this public-facing view.

If only there was some sort of moniker to distinguish them from, say, a file server, or an advertising server...

Servers providing large file downloads (generally HTTP on a high-bandwidth plan instead of a low-latency plan) can have separate hostnames within a domain. People are split over where to put advertising and other relatively small images. Some think it should be on the same hostname as the primary web server in order to share HTTP pipelines and make ads harder to distinguish from articles, while others think it should be on a separate domain entirely so that the user's session cookie isn't sent several times.

Re:web.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37254068)

We could talk about gopher URLs, though, if you want.

Re:web.? (2)

julesh (229690) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251404)

If it works, but redirects to the www version i know they sort of know what they're doing, but are living in the 90s, so definitely shouldn't be a first choice.

Speaking as somebody who was a web developer for most of the 2000s, I had a lot of experience running pages without the www. and clients *complaining* that it wasn't there. It was an expectation that all web sites must use it. Leave it out of URLs that people type in (on your letterhead or adverts, for example) and people add it themselves. Allowing two forms of the url, one with and one without, creates unnecessary complications when dealing with cookies. Therefore, redirecting makes everyone happy. Except, it would appear, you...

Re:web.? (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251604)

Yeah, i was a web developer for the last two years of the 2000s (and still do a little bit now and then) and i know what you mean. But it was possible to convince people by then - i'm sure it wasn't possible a few years earlier.

But this is a very good reason why it's such a good indicator of whether the people running the business know what they're doing or not - if they do know what they're doing, they'll take advice from their web dev. If they think they know better than the web dev, then they're clearly too stupid to be trusted with my business!

And it's not just me who's not happy with it - there are at least 38,000 of us! [no-www.org]

Re:web.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251752)

I really don't understand what the fuss is about. Why would I care whether or not a url is redirected to a "www"-variant? If anything, I wouldn't want to do business with someone who seems to be as passionate as you are about such an irrelevant detail. After all, who knows what else they'll freak out about.

A campaign against making web pages in Courier [no-www.org] would seem like a much more useful endeavour. Now there's something that looks "amateurish and outdated".

Re:web.? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251848)

Again I think you missed the point. It's not the stupidity of your clients that should influence what you are doing, it's the stupidity of your client's clients. You're setting trends at the expense of the end user .... you don't work for Mozilla now do you?

Re:web.? (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37252714)

If I were a "web developer" I'd build two websites one at domain.com and one at www.domain.com. I'd figure out which one was the one with the dumb people and which one was the one with the smarter people, and develop the pages accordingly. If they were indistinguishable, or became that way, I would merge them back together and use another prefix,

Not using the host prefix is dumb.

Re:web.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251804)

If it works, but redirects to the www version i know they sort of know what they're doing, but are living in the 90s, so definitely shouldn't be a first choice.

Speaking as somebody who was a web developer for most of the 2000s, I had a lot of experience running pages without the www. and clients *complaining* that it wasn't there. It was an expectation that all web sites must use it. Leave it out of URLs that people type in (on your letterhead or adverts, for example) and people add it themselves. Allowing two forms of the url, one with and one without, creates unnecessary complications when dealing with cookies. Therefore, redirecting makes everyone happy. Except, it would appear, you...

.htaccess files existed in since before 2000 what was your excuse - it's rewrite (as in mod_rewrite) not redirect - if you have to redirect you fucked-up big time. Which would put you amongst a majority.

Re:web.? (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251920)

I had this conversation with a dev yesterday. He has to have separate virtual hosts for everything and then has to have a www. version of each. Add in that he'd set up a bunch of them as A records rather than CNAMEs and I have a lot to clean up.

Re:web.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251714)

No www (or "http://"), plus capitalisation, is the most professional look. Everything else looks amateurish and outdated.

It's not just looks - it's search ranking. Any site that can't be reached with or without the www prefix is amateur hour - without requires less typing, with allow for those that insert it dogmatically (which some browsers will do for you). It only requires a simple entry in .htaccess after all.

I wouldn't trust a site designer/builder who built a site without out the ability to be accessed both ways any more than I'd hire an illiterate programmer.

Re:web.? (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251948)

99.9% of the web. Repeat after me, "The web is only part of the Internet."

Re:web.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37253822)

Anyone else notice this all started with a complaint about a subdomain? Much like the one in your address bar as you read this page... developers.slashdot.org
developers?? No! Why?

To summarise the article. (4, Insightful)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250786)

If you're only going to read one page of this article then read page five.
http://www.techworld.com.au/article/398892/developer_q_syllable_os/?pp=5 [techworld.com.au]

To summarise the thing that makes this different from everyone else is that the parts of an actual application are split up unix style. For example instead of having two or more applications taking your photo and taking out the red eye, the desktop would have thus functionality written once and the applications will simply glue all these standard pieces together.

My only criticism to this is that we already have this in the form of libraries. Perhaps what this guy is after is something more standardised and higher level then that but I don't see how that's not doable in linux.

Re:To summarise the article. (1)

rta (559125) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250940)

Thanks for the explanation. I went to their "about" page( http://web.syllable.org/pages/about.html [syllable.org] ) and after about 3 paragraphs of mythology and squishy backstory they still said nothing about what the project is, what problem it solves or what it does differently than other OSes. It probably says so further on but skimming didn't yield anything and it sounded too much like an infomercial to continue.

If it wasn't so late at night maybe i'd have more focus, but that page really needs a punchier intro.

Re:To summarise the article. (5, Interesting)

oever (233119) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251080)

That sounds very much like Android Intents [android.com] and Activities [android.com] .

An Intent provides a facility for performing late runtime binding between the code in different applications. Its most significant use is in the launching of activities, where it can be thought of as the glue between activities. It is basically a passive data structure holding an abstract description of an action to be performed.

Re:To summarise the article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251618)

Wow they've rediscovered OLE. Awesome!

Re:To summarise the article. (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251666)

Didn't Apple do this in the early '90s with OpenDoc? That wasn't exactly a resounding success, in fact the only OpenDoc apps I remember just packaged the entire app into one container, defeating its purpose.

Interesting part (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250812)

The most interesting part, in my opinion, is the attempt to make programs more modular, into building blocks. I was going to try to summarize how, but the article says it much better than I can:

On indoor pictures, you want to remove the 'red eye effect' caused by the flash. On outdoor pictures, you notice the horizon isn't straight and you would like to correct that.

"These are common, but technically complicated manipulations on pictures. The correction of red eyes may be offered by multiple applications on your system. The straightening of horizons may require you to buy yet another image manipulation application.

"Why can't you plug in the camera, have its icon appear on your desktop without extra software and click on it, then click on a picture and be offered one option to correct red eyes and one option to straighten a horizon?

Clearly there are difficulties doing this, but it seems like something useful if you can figure out a way to make it work.

Re:Interesting part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37250914)

Don't we already have this notion? Isn't it the UNIX way? And doesn't everyone want to slap an "easier" all-in-one interface over it, with either dozens of checkboxes and menu items, or greatly reduced feature set?

Might be a good idea, in theory, but in practice "ordinary" people don't seem to like it at all.

Re:Interesting part (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250918)

"Why can't you plug in the camera, have its icon appear on your desktop without extra software and click on it, then click on a picture and be offered one option to correct red eyes and one option to straighten a horizon?

"Why can't you plug in the camera, have its icon appear on your desktop without extra software and click on it, then click on a picture and be offered one option to correct red eyes and one option to straighten a horizon?

Because it would be stupid to do it on the camera. It's much better to import the photos onto your computer (and, ideally, into a photo management tool) before you start working on them.

You don't need any extra software to do that in Linux - in fact, f-spot, among others, will import the photos, manage them, and remove red-eye or straighten the horizon. I don't understand what the problem is.

Re:Interesting part (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250926)

Oops! Bodgy cut and paste there. That's the problem with needing extra software to browse the web!

Re:Interesting part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251024)

"Why can't you plug in the camera, have its icon appear on your desktop without extra software and click on it, then click on a picture and be offered one option to correct red eyes and one option to straighten a horizon?

Because it would be stupid to do it on the camera. It's much better to import the photos onto your computer (and, ideally, into a photo management tool) before you start working on them.

Where does it say that the resulting image must be stored back onto the camera? Or that the camera must even be involved while you are working on the image(s), other than to initially load them and optionally store them back when you are finished?

You don't need any extra software to do that in Linux - in fact, f-spot, among others, will import the photos, manage them, and remove red-eye or straighten the horizon. I don't understand what the problem is.

Do you really think they were claiming that there exists no software that can both remove red eyes and straighten horizons? Or maybe that they were giving an example of how it could be useful that functionality offered by potentially multiple programs would be accessible from anywhere in any program on your system? Of course it is always possible to write a program that contains all functionality you need. Their point is that this should not be necessary in the first place.

Re:Interesting part (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251242)

Or maybe that they were giving an example of how it could be useful that functionality offered by potentially multiple programs would be accessible from anywhere in any program on your system?.

Maybe they were, maybe they weren't. But, if they were, the article certainly didn't make it clear.

Of course it is always possible to write a program that contains all functionality you need. Their point is that this should not be necessary in the first place.

That could almost make sense in an ideal world. But in the real world, to make use of that functionality, you'd have to write every application from scratch, just for that OS. So Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, Evolution, LibreOffice, Gimp and any of the other cross-platform software that most people use most of the time, will never use the OS's built-ins, making them redundant and pointless.

Re:Interesting part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251656)

Or maybe that they were giving an example of how it could be useful that functionality offered by potentially multiple programs would be accessible from anywhere in any program on your system?.

Maybe they were, maybe they weren't. But, if they were, the article certainly didn't make it clear.

That was supposed to be a rhetorical question. Of course they were giving an example.

Of course it is always possible to write a program that contains all functionality you need. Their point is that this should not be necessary in the first place.

That could almost make sense in an ideal world. But in the real world, to make use of that functionality, you'd have to write every application from scratch, just for that OS. So Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, Evolution, LibreOffice, Gimp and any of the other cross-platform software that most people use most of the time, will never use the OS's built-ins, making them redundant and pointless.

Yes, just like Firefox does not use the Mac OS X built-in spell checker. And VLC doesn't support Mac OS X' "Bonjour" network discovery. And Chrome doesn't use the Mac OS X Keychain service for storing passwords. And in general: not a single non-Apple-written Cocoa application supports interaction via Cocoa services [apple.com] . Oh wait, they all do...

Look: nobody is saying that everyone will immediately scramble to rewrite all applications from scratch. However, that does not mean that the concept is "redundant and pointless". The nice thing about their approach that it's perfectly possible to gradually export functionality of your application via this API. And if it's anything like Cocoa services on Mac OS X, then making use of such functionality exported by other applications will happen semi-automatically (at most after hooking yourself up to certain events, or setting appropriate metadata so that the system knows when a non-standard object is graphics, text, music, etc).

Re:Interesting part (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37253246)

We already do this a lot on many OS. This is software as a component. For instance today most APIs offer a lot of really high end functions some of which would have been entire programs in the past. A good example is text areas that are in effect a simple text editor.
Video and audio codec systems like the ones on Windows, the Mac, and Linux are other examples. If you want to play back video you do not need to have very codec known to man supported in your program but instead can use the installed codecs on your OS. In theory it should increase security and productivity. Ideally if a security issue or other bug was located in a component then only that component would need to be fixed and then every program that uses that component would also be fixed. The downside is that every program that uses that component is has that bug until it is fixed. I find the concept very interesting.

Re:Interesting part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251044)

The reason you do not understand the problem is because you are not intelligent enough. You should not go around advertising it by making a post like this.

Re:Interesting part (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 2 years ago | (#37253750)

You don't need any extra software to do that in Linux - in fact, f-spot, among others, will import the photos, manage them, and remove red-eye or straighten the horizon. I don't understand what the problem is.

The porblem is you don't understand what an example is ...

Re:Interesting part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251056)

"These are common, but technically complicated manipulations on pictures. The correction of red eyes may be offered by multiple applications on your system. The straightening of horizons may require you to buy yet another image manipulation application.

"Why can't you plug in the camera, have its icon appear on your desktop without extra software and click on it, then click on a picture and be offered one option to correct red eyes and one option to straighten a horizon?

It sounds like another case of "There are N ways to do something (N > 1). We need a unified way of doing it. Oh no, now there are N + 1 ways to do it." Oh hello, PulseAudio.

(Oblig.: xkcd: Standards [xkcd.com] )

Re:Interesting part (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251406)

Sounds philosophically a lot like the UNIX pipeline. Late to the game as I am, I've really been impressed with what I can do with those little component applications working in concert. The idea of teaching a computer to do your job for you, without having to create the software from scratch, needs to be revived.

Re:Interesting part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251870)

The most interesting part, in my opinion, is the attempt to make programs more modular, into building blocks. I was going to try to summarize how, but the article says it much better than I can:

On indoor pictures, you want to remove the 'red eye effect' caused by the flash. On outdoor pictures, you notice the horizon isn't straight and you would like to correct that.

"These are common, but technically complicated manipulations on pictures. The correction of red eyes may be offered by multiple applications on your system. The straightening of horizons may require you to buy yet another image manipulation application.

"Why can't you plug in the camera, have its icon appear on your desktop without extra software and click on it, then click on a picture and be offered one option to correct red eyes and one option to straighten a horizon?

Clearly there are difficulties doing this, but it seems like something useful if you can figure out a way to make it work.

Support for the interesting parts of this are done by Android using Intents. For example, I could make an application that accepts intents for editing pictures called RedEyeFix, and a different one called horizonfix. And app could make a call to "Edit Picture" and the user would get a list of all the picture editing intents. The advantage is that if someone later releases some cool new image manipulation processer thingy, your software will automatically support it. It's not hard, I just think people prefer to have a dedicated image editing application.

The "without extra software" part means you will have only the lowest common denominator in terms of hardware support. For example, they have no accelerated 3D. Now, if you mean that you have all these drivers that are built in to the OS and just sort of work, then Mac OS, Windows, and Linux implemented this sort of thing a long time ago. Yeah, it is not perfect, but I guarantee that there are a lot more devices that work with Linux than the desktop version of Syllable. The quickest way for them automatically implement support for lots of hardware is just to use Linux. Even more well-supported operating systems like Solaris suffered from the lack of hardware support compared to Linux.

Now, I could see this OS working on embedded devices, where X-Windows might be overkill and most legacy applications won't have a good user-interface, so you have less motivation to support them. But, we already have Android, so I am not seeing the advantage.

   

Re:Interesting part (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251886)

But this is what the OS API, frameworks, and libraries are for.

Why should an application farm out work to external, autonomous processes? Who's going to control priority, threading, and all sorts of complexity of organizing and managing the execution of all these different parts? Or is it expected to work as a UNIX pipeline, in series?

By having all those services available to all applications as sub-systems or extensions of the operating, applications can take advantage of them without having to manage external processes, or without external processes running autonomously. They then all execute within the application's context, as extensions to it.

So, yes, it was something quite useful some time ago. Now it is just anachronistic, and obsolete.

            -dZ.

Yes, but statically compile them in (2)

jvonk (315830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37253154)

But this is what the OS API, frameworks, and libraries are for.

Exactly. However, I would take it a step further and suggest that the overall idea to push this much application level functionality into OS libraries should be Considered Harmful.

"Don't write your own red eye correction code, it's built into the OS! Oh, wait, now I see that your new version only works correctly with version 1.5 of the library that's not in my current OS release. Guess I have to upgrade the *whole OS* to install your new software."

Yes, this happens in all OS's (cf. DirectX). However, increasing the surface of these kinds of dependencies to this degree seems like a bad plan.

I'm all for code reuse, but I would prefer it if most apps were statically compiled and included all their dependencies. I am also fine with having a few, very stable external dependencies; the .NET Framework is a good example because it is very basic and allows apps to explicitly target different framework levels (and the OS allows having multiple versions installed).

The alternative is DLL Hell (and/or weird gymnastics to try to avoid it) and all too often these dependency patches that get pushed out ("fixed once in dependency library, now fixed everywhere!") don't pan out as intended and break one app or another.

Statically compiled binaries would be "huge" but again, disk space is "free" in these amounts. As a user, do I really care if a particular app weighs in at 3 MB or 150 MB anymore? Naturally, a binary diff patch system like Chrome's would go a long way to mitigating the bandwidth required to keep these up to date.

Oh well. While I'm wishing, I want a moon rocket too.

Re:Yes, but statically compile them in (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 2 years ago | (#37254260)

OSX takes your approach. It has its upsides, but also its problems - they had to push out new versions of absolutely everything when the libpng vulnerability was found. It also means macs tend to need more RAM than other systems - if multiple dynamically-linked applications are using the same library, the OS only needs to load one copy into memory. You might not care about 3MB vs 150MB for diskspace, but it's still relevant for RAM.

What's needed is for libraries to be strict in their versioning, and for the OS to support having multiple versions of the same library when needed. This is actually something that MS has got right in recent years - seriously, when was the last time you had a "dll hell" problem - while linux in particular lags behind.

seems GNU/Linux based (1)

pD-brane (302604) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251116)

not based on Linux nor one of the BSDs

At least the server edition is based on the Linux kernel according to the about page [syllable.org] .
Furthermore:

It uses the GCC compiler and many other tools from the GNU project.

So it is also, at least for a significant part, GNU based.
(Note that people often talk about GNU/Linux if they say Linux, so to be certain I show that it is also GNU based.)

Not Linux based (2)

pD-brane (302604) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251154)

Nevermind, the desktop variant is indeed not Linux based. (I should have read the FAQ before I posted.)

Why ?! Answer the "Why" question ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251126)

I read an awful lot of blurb on their site ( and didn't read the whole interview, because I refuse to click on "Next Page" buttons ), but I didn't see anywhere the answer to "Why should I use Syllable Desktop ?".

Re:Why ?! Answer the "Why" question ! (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37251306)

Because 2021 will be the year of Syllable on the desktop. Get with it!

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37251452)

Dumb question from a noob:
I want to go on the internets via Syllabe and I have an external (USB) network card... I simply won't be able to install it (as in: Windows installer)?
(So generally, anything Windows-specific needs to be installed and run under an emulator?)

Looks like BeOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37252702)

Anyone remember? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BeOS
I ran it on an old AMD K6-2 with a Voodoo 3 3000 graphics card.

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