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"Kester, Rush W." <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Kester, Rush W.
Tue, 11 Apr 2000 14:30:45 -0400
text/plain (119 lines)

I know this is an old thread, but "The times they are a changing."  IMHO,
for the better.

GtkAda now provides the GUI widgets you are seeking and the available widget
set is growing rapidly.  What's important is that unlike VB, they are
portable to non-Microsoft platforms.  It works with Win32 and any platform
that support Windows X11. This means that the applications developed on
Wintel platforms can run on Linux, Unix, & MS Windows, etc.  For more
information see,

I agree with your point on the importance of domain analysis.  I can't argue
whether or not VB is well engineered.  It's advantage is its close tie with
Microsoft and Intel PC's.
But this is also its disadvangage.

The AdaSage effort developed a similar component set with high-level
abstractions for application development.  Unfortunately, AdaSage was taken
over by those who saw only its profit potential and decided to keep it as
proprietary rather than manage its growth in an  Open Source environment.
From what I can tell, it died as a result.

As you well know, there are many Ada component sets out there.  What is
lacking is a group in the Ada community to organize and integrate them into
a powerful component based architecture.  I agree that four of your five
domains: GUI development, data manipulation,
OS-based device control, and communications in general (and web in
particular) have great potential.  I also agree that because of its
widespread use, the MS Windows OS cannot be ignored, but the world of
students and the software industry should be broader than Microsoft.

Why not devote our considerable talents and energy to making Ada's component
set into something well engineered to meet future software needs.

You cited PITAC as being a perfect match with Visual Basic.  I'm not sure I
agree with this conclusion.  Per, the
first research goal of the "President's Information Technology Advisory
Committee" (PITAC) is:  "Research on software, with special emphasis on
design and production techniques and enhancing software reliability."  IMO,
this is an area where Ada systems standout as good examples, and Microsoft
systems poor ones.  The executive summary of the PITAC's Interim Report states, "We have become dangerously
dependent on large software systems whose behavior is not well understood
and which often fail in unpredicted ways."  IMO, This is symptomatic of
proprietary systems like Microsoft's and less so of Open Systems where user
organizations can go to the source to determine how/why the software will

Rush Kester
Software Systems Engineer
AdaSoft at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.
email:  [log in to unmask]
phone: (240) 228-3030 (live M-F 9:30am-4:30pm, voicemail anytime)
fax:   (240) 228-6779

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Richard L. Conn [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 1:36 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: What the competition looks like

> I haven't seen any arguments to convince me that VB
> is not right for this climate or the need to make
> learning fun is not justified.  Both work effectively.
> The PITAC report I spoke of the other day speaks of
> Component-based Software Engineering.  That's where I
> see VB fitting in like a glove, and that's were I see
> Ada lacking.  The VB GUI is not just buttons and text
> boxes (THAT was the first day).  It is also dynamic
> list boxes (a form of linked list without the pointers),
> drive list boxes and directory list boxes and file list
> boxes which combine to allow you to navigate a file
> system without programming any system calls, the chart
> control which allows you to configure and draw 16 kinds
> of charts (bar, XY, line, area, pie, both 2D and 3D, etc)
> without worrying about manipulating pixels, the common
> dialog control which allows for 6 common program needs
> (open a file, save/create a file, select a printer,
> select a font, select a color, and invoke online help)
> with almost no effort, and so on.  The standard packages
> in Ada95 are very good, but no where near this level of
> abstraction.  Assuming the components are reliable
> (which they seem to be), you can put together massive
> applications with very few lines of code.  They work the
> first time (in my experience) and you are done and ready
> to move on.  The Web Browser I wrote in 1 hour on a
> Sunday morning was part of what made me trigger my first
> message.
> The domain engineering which went into VB really shows.
> We see the five target domains clearly: Windows OS
> interfacing, GUI development, data manipulation,
> OS-based device control, and communications in general
> (and web in particular).  The VB controls operate at such a high
> level of abstraction that you don't have to worry about
> the low-level details and can concentrate on the problem.
> Ada was a significant step in the right direction, but
> VB is a much bigger step.  Ada could be there as well
> (there's no technical reason why these highly abstract
> component features cannot be added), but the cost of
> such an effort would be really significant.
> Component-based SE is a PITAC goal for the future.
> Well, that's the last 21 message responses in a nutshell.
> Another opinion,
> Rick
> ----------------------------------
> Richard Conn, ASE and PAL Manager