Educational squeak Re: [squeak-dev] Re: Alien vs. FFI benchmarks (Re: Trying to load ALienOpenGL into 4.1 alpha...)

Lawson English lenglish5 at
Thu Mar 25 20:59:48 UTC 2010

Andreas Raab wrote:
> On 3/25/2010 10:30 AM, Igor Stasenko wrote:
>> Then i really wonder, why people find an Alien so attractive?
> There are two different reasons, one is philosophical, one is 
> practical. The practical issue is callbacks. When you need them you 
> just need them :-)
> The philosophical point is about how a system like Squeak should 
> integrate into the external environment. My opinion is that the VM 
> should provide a safe cross-platform abstraction layer. As a 
> consequence, I am in favor of plugins that provide abstractions, have 
> a well-defined interface, and are safe however you use them. The only 
> real sin I've ever committed in this regard was OpenGL because the 
> interface is so big and the handling of extensions tricky otherwise.
How would a plugin work differently than the FFI's as far as safety goes?

> Gilad's opinion (and I hope I'm not misrepresenting him here since 
> this an extrapolation from discussions with Eliot) as far as I 
> understand it is that the VM should be basically invisible - just the 
> execution machinery and for the rest you go straight to the OS and do 
> everything there.
> That's a perfectly valid position, and Alien makes that point quite 
> explicitly with moving even the marshalling into the image. I.e., what 
> Alien really provides is just an absolutely minimalistic thunk for 
> callout and callback; everything else is up to you. I can appreciate 
> that approach; it's just not my view on how a system like Squeak 
> should function.
EIther approach might make sense. The ability to do both gives 
flexibility tot he platform, without detracting from any safety or 
whatever issues... For a specific task, if you don't need XYZ,  don't 
install it and and whatever its dependent on.

> I think what excites people who understand this is the philosophical 
> difference. Having access to everything at your fingertips is 
> powerful, no doubt about it.
> Plus, most people have no clue what they're talking about when it 
> comes to plugins vs. FFI vs. Alien and just repeat what someone else 
> said. Sad, but true.

I'm always trying to learn and I thank everyone for helping me. In this 
context, though, while many projects, platforms, spheres of knowledge, 
etc, suffer from lack of comprehension on the part of the masses, squeak 
is probably more vulnerable to this issue than most because while it was 
originally designed with beginners in mind, the primary users are 
expert-level and beyond.

I have several main goals concerning squeak right now.

The first is to learn the system well enough to accomplish the rest.
The second is to explore various ways squeak and croquet/cobalt can 
interop with the Second Life virtual world.
The third is to experiment with teaching using these technologies.

I'm a big fan of Salman Khan and the khan academy and a new convert to  
Norm Wildberger's lectures on youtube.

Squeak needs that level and sophistication of education applied to 


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