X-Windows, InterViews, and molecular biology software

Christopher Dow dow at presto.ig.com
Thu Feb 14 19:37:15 EST 1991


	Ok, time for my $0.02.
	
	On the issue of C++:
	Currently, in most available implimentations, C++ is a 
translated language.  This means that it is tranlated into some
other language and then compiled into object modules.  If the 
intermediate phase is saved (i.e. the translator translates C++
into C, then a C file is saved, which isn't always the case), 
when you go to debug the code (and you will have to do this), 
what you see is C code generated by a program.  Programs don't 
write particularly readable code, and therefore, you end up not
getting much useful information from the debugger. Even if you
are able to figure out the C code, you still have to determine
what that means in the C++ code that _you_ wrote.  This makes
debugging a nightmare.  Also, C code generated by C++ translators
is not known for its speed.  Searching a 30 MegaBase chromosome
is not something you want to do with a program that was written
in C++.

	On the issue of X:
	First, the product is called "The X Window System" it 
is trademarked by MIT.  The short form is "X".  X was originally
developed at MIT to integrate all their fancy fast hardware and 
their fancy neato graphics systems which at that time were not 
compatible at all.  X consists of two basic units: the client, 
and the server.  The server is a program which runs on the machine
that has the graphics, keyboard, and mouse, since the service is 
access to them.  The client is the program which requests these
services through either inter-process communication or a network 
connection, depending on the location of the client and server 
(same machine: IPC, different machines: network connection).  X
is a very large system (the Sever is about 2 MegaBytes on a Sun
workstation), so the number of platforms it can be ported to is 
small (i.e., no 8080's and it won't work well with 8088's).  
However, I will say that X is the wave of the future (IMHO), and 
if developers don't use it now they will have to use it later.
I think that eventually computers that are X-capable will be 
cheap enough for everyone to have them. I personally own one 
now.  So X is a great idea, whose time is about to come.

	On the specific case of InterViews:
	InterViews is a nice academic environment.  By 
academic, I mean unsupported.  If something goes wrong either 
you have to fix it, or wait until the author does (this is 
from experience).  It does, however, do some things that 
impress me.  One of them is IDraw.  Take a look at it if you
get a chance.  We use it religiously for internal documents.  

	As far as Unix goes, I think that not all of the 
molecular biology community are ready to maintain a unix 
system.  That is why at IntelliGenetics, we have a commitment
to covering as many platforms as we can.  At Human Genome II, 
we showed pictures of a future product running on a Macintosh,
a Sun, and MicroSoft Windows, in addition to the Sun version
running on a Sun and the display going to a MacX server on a
Macintosh, where the Mac version was also running.  I hope 
that the two main groups working to standardize Unix and 
Unix-like operating systems (Unix International and the 
Open Software Foundation) will take the needs of users to
be able to maintain the system into account, and I know that
NeXT already has.  However, until the more 'personal' operating
systems have some of the same features that Unix and VMS have, 
I think that software on these platforms will be more powerful.


	Sorry, that was more like $0.60.

Chris Dow                             IntelliGenetics
Software Engineer                     700 East El Camino Real
icbmnet: 37 22' 39" N, 122 3' 32" W   Mountain View, Ca. 94040
dow at presto.ig.com                     (415) 962-7320




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