Of mice and pirates

I had always understood patents to be about the mechanism of the device, not it’s effect. E.g., a particular mouse trap design, not the idea of catching mice.

But what do I know? Squeak blogger Torsten turned me on to this article about some courtroom pirates suing Apple over the User Interface in their latest operating system release. The original patent was for an old Xerox UI implemented in Interlisp-D, and now owned by a holding company.

Apple’s Tiger operating system isn’t implemented in Lisp. Do you suppose the lawyers are basing their argument on Greenspun’s Tenth Rule?


Our KidsFirst project includes a great deal of what we’ve learned about Croquet. We’re making all the code available through the CroquetSource code repository, as part of the Contributions collection of code that will be distributed in the forthcoming Croquet release. (This repository is available to developers ahead of release, as part of what David Reed calls “Invention in public.” For info on updating, see this movie and this discussion thread. There will also be a new image distribution shortly.)

We call this code the KAT – KidsFirst Application Toolkit. It fits over all the other Croquet SDK code without changing it. All the KAT-specific classes begin with K – partly for the KidsFirst project that informs its development, and partly as homage to Alan. As the code matures, you may or may not see some of the KAT code migrate down to the base classes from which it inherits. (For historical reasons, the name of the Monticello package is “Wisconsin.” This may change.)

Continue reading


I’ve admitted that I didn’t immediately get the point of the One Laptop Per Child project, but now I’m now very excited about the ideas behind this non-profit effort to build a $100 mesh-network computer to be owned by children in the developing world. This essay captures a lot of what I feel and wonder about it, including some fears of dystopian unexpected consequences.

Continue reading

I Can't Quit You Brie, So I'm Gonna Put You Down For a While

(Sorry, Willie Dixon.)

I haven’t been working on our Brie user-interface framework for a while now. We took it to a certain early level in Jasmine Croquet, in which we pretty solidly worked out user interface conventions, internal infrastructure, and the basic direct-manipulation philosophy.

Although not terribly novel (we stole liberally from David Smith, David Unger/Randall Smith, David Place/Pat O’Keefe, and, running out of Davids, Stallman/Sussman), Brie was still fairly advanced and abstract research, and we had more immediate work to do: Dormouse and the Croquet SDK release, and several projects using them. Brie had been sustained with financial support from NICT which has come to a pause. A great friend and entire world’s best salesman and demo-jock for Croquet went to Duke. So nothing got done on Brie following C5 ’06.

Brie has not yet been integrated with the current Croquet SDK. It still needs a lot of work in both the graphics and the API between private and replicated Croquet. It might be most efficient to let some dust settle here: Josh is working on new Croquet graphics, Andreas is working on 2D interfaces, and David Smith is working on the task/interactor model.

But the main thing is that I’m starting another project that I’m very excited about (more about this later), so I know that I won’t have time to work on Brie for a while. Fortunately, I do think that, say, phase III or so of the new project will be a driver for pulling Brie out of the closet again.

Spore video

There’s a nice video of Sims creator Will Wright explaining the new game he’s developing, called Spore. (An edited-down version of the video, concentrating on the game play, is here. (Thanks for the lead, John!)

Very cool stuff, and I think a nice addition to the set of collateral material that gets at some of the aspects of either Croquet or Brie. A very nicely done thing to compare against

Continue reading

Of UI and Narratives

There were some comments to a previous entry that I thought were worth calling attention to all by themselves. The general theme of these was that of user interface and how the role of media in storytelling can inform the design of new UI paradigms. Highly appropriate for Brie.

So I’m moving those comments here. I want to keep the original page for the my attempt to define the heart of Croquet independently of UI, applications, and software distributions.

Continue reading

components have a name — Brie

I don’t know why software projects need meaningless codename, but they do. Maybe that’s how this ethereal stuff becomes “real.”

I can’t say that all our U.Wisconsin projects for Croquet will be named after cheese, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Not sure why Wisconsin means cheese, yet we start with a French cheese. But Brie is cool. My wife lived there for a while. The have big parties when the new cheeses come out, but you can also buy this old wrinkled stuff that you can’t get here, which my wife calls “fromage morte.”

So, what is Brie?

Continue reading


The computer spreadsheet doesn’t get enough credit among computer programmers. I think that more than any other one concept, VisiCalc, 1-2-3, and Excel were the killer app for the personal computer. As a programmer, I have tended first to think of formulae and calculation mechanisms when I think of spreadsheets, but the UI and development style are perhaps more significant. For each individual cell, you can look at the value, the formula, or the formatting, and change each through a menu. You can incrementally build up quite a complex application all on your own, never leaving the very environment you use to view the results. Why doesn’t all software work this way, only better? That’s what I’m working on.

Continue reading

Inventing the Future: learning the system

Dear Diary,

I’m off to Japan Tuesday for the big conference. Better take a snapshot of what I’ve been doing, because I expect my world to change by the time I get back. My first six weeks on this radical Croquet project were spent with very general learning of what’s what. Drinking knowledge from a firehose. For the next six we’ve been prototyping some of the features from conference papers written by my boss, Julian, and his counterpart at U. Minnesota. We’re going to demo these at the conference, and we go on right after Alan Kay’s keynote address. Yikes. Good thing Julian gives great demos! I imagine the conference organizers know that and put him in that slot accordingly. (Cast of characters here).

[details below the fold]

Continue reading