Thursday, October 18, 2012

Referral Campaign - Win a free copy of Liberty BASIC!

Until the end of October 2012 we are running a word of mouth referral campaign. For a free copy of Liberty BASIC, refer at least 5 friends with an interest in programming. If you want to qualify for the free copy, your friend need to send an email to freeoffer@libertybasic.com and mention that you referred them. They must include your name and email address. We will send you a download link and registration code. Please try to refer friends that you think would be interested in Liberty BASIC. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Regarding How to Teach Programming

Andres Valloud posted "...The goal of this improved teaching is to allow everyone to take advantage of programming, not just CS oriented people..." http://blogten.blogspot.com/2012/10/regarding-how-to-teach-programming.html

Friday, April 27, 2012

Before Make Magazine

In the corner of the factory there was a rather large machine sitting there unused. There was a sort of hodgepodgeness (if that's a word) about it. My boss Bob explained to me that this was a CNC machine that he had built himself. Wow! So before the company had money to purchase the industry standard Excellon drilling and routing machines he had decided it was possible to build his own, and it worked. I think that's really impressive!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

BASIC for the Raspberry Pi?

What's Raspberry Pi? It is a cool new single board computer about the size of a credit card. It runs Linux (it can run other things) and it only costs $35, or $25 if you don't care about networking. You only need a micro USB charger or batteries to power it, a keyboard and mouse, and an HDMI compatible monitor or TV set.

This new device is aimed at schools, but the appeal of such a device is obviously very broad. I went to their forum and mentioned the idea of producing a version of BASIC for the RP. The reactions were mixed. Seems like that crowd is strongly committed to Python. That's okay, I've got my hands full right now with Liberty BASIC and Run BASIC.

Perhaps in the future I will have a chance to do something. It would probably be my first open source project, based on Squeak Smalltalk.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Arduino Phenomenon

Seems like there is a lot of interest lately in using microcontrollers such as the BASIC Stamp and the new Arduino products. To my surprise, even a long retired electrical engineer friend knew about Arduino when I asked him. I get email from users of these products asking if they can use Liberty BASIC to program them. The answer is no, and yes.

These devices come with their own programming tools. Liberty BASIC is a Windows only (and soon also Mac and Linux) language, so it cannot be used to program microcontrollers. However I've been told that they have found a use for Liberty BASIC with microcontrollers. Some people have created a GUI control panel (including running graphics for example) for their microcontroller projects using Liberty BASIC because Liberty BASIC can be used to monitor devices using serial, parallel and network ports.

For more information about this, see the following link (you will need to register with the forum to read the posts).

http://libertybasic.conforums.com/index.cgi?board=comport

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Automatic file backup - using a timer

Once our file backup utility is running and our window is open we need to be able to use the start and stop buttons to control the activity of program.

Here is the code for the start action. It ties into the [start] label in the Start button.

[start] 'startup the backup timer
#main.start "!disable"
#main.stop "!enable"
gosub [checkInitialFiles]
#main.statusLog "Starting backup"
#main.interval "!contents? interval"
timer interval * 1000, [checkFiles]
wait

When the button is clicked we disable the Start button and enable the Stop button to show which operations are valid. We call [checkInitialFiles] which we haven't written yet (we'll get into that later). We show in the statusLog texteditor that we are starting the backup process. Then we get the contents of the interval textbox and start the timer. The reason we multiply the interval by 1000 is that the timer measures time in milliseconds so if we want 5 a second interval we need to give the timer a value of 5000. Finally we stop and wait for a timer tick or for user interaction.

Once our timer is running we need to be able to stop it. Here is our stop handler:

[stop] 'stop the backup timer
timer 0
#main.start "!enable"
#main.stop "!disable"
#main.statusLog "Stopping backup"
wait

This is real simple. First thing is to stop the timer with timer 0. Then we reverse the enabling of the Start and Stop buttons. Compare this to the way that [start] does it. Then we log to the statusLog texteditor that we are stopping. Finally we wait.

The purpose of the [checkInitialFiles] subroutine is to create a description of the files we are interested in and the time and date they were last modified. Then each time the timer ticks after this we create a new description of these files. If the date and time changes on any of these files then it's time to make a new backup.

Just for now let's just create an empty [checkInitialFiles] subroutine:

[checkInitialFiles] 'snapshot of filenames and timestamps
return

The routine doesn't do anything yet, so we only have a RETURN statement.

Now we'll create a [checkFiles] routine which will be called each time the timer ticks. For now the routine will not do much. We will write the full routine in a later section.

[checkFiles] 'are there new files
#main.statusLog "tick"
'temporarily disable the timer
timer 0
'perform the check here
'reenable the timer
timer interval * 1000, [checkFiles]
wait

The first thing we do is log the word "tick" to the statusLog. This is for instructive purposes only and will be removed later. We do this so that we can see that the timer is working. After this we disable the timer. This might seem like a strange idea, but the reason we do it is because the next thing we do is check the files to see if they changed (we'll write this part later). If they change we don't want the timer to be running because if it takes a while to backup the files and the timer is still running then the timer events can build up. Once the file check and possible backup are finished we reenable the timer.

The entire listing so far is posted below. Try running it. When you click Start it will begin logging its activity. Notice that the word tick gets logged every five seconds. Click the Stop button and change the interval to 1. Start it again and the logging will happen once per second.


dim info$(10,10)
setupPath$ = DefaultDir$+"\backupsetup.ini"

WindowWidth = 560
WindowHeight = 460
statictext #main, "Files to backup:", 5, 5, 94, 20
texteditor #main.listOfFiles, 5, 26, 530, 95
statictext #main, "Destination folder:", 5, 132, 107, 20
textbox #main.destination, 115, 127, 420, 25
statictext #main, "Backup interval in seconds:", 5, 157, 163, 20
textbox #main.interval, 170, 152, 100, 25
button #main.save,"Save",[save], UL, 495, 152, 42, 25
button #main.start,"Start",[start], UL, 5, 187, 75, 25
button #main.stop,"Stop",[stop], UL, 90, 187, 70, 25
statictext #main, "Backup status log", 5, 217, 106, 20
texteditor #main.statusLog, 5, 237, 530, 160
menu #main, "Edit"
open "Backup Utility" for window_nf as #main
#main.stop "!disable"
gosub [loadSetup]
wait

[loadSetup]
#main.listOfFiles "!cls";
if fileExists(setupPath$) then
open setupPath$ for input as #setup
while filename$ <> "end!"
line input #setup, filename$
if filename$ <> "end!" then
#main.listOfFiles filename$
end if
wend
line input #setup, destination$
#main.destination destination$
line input #setup, interval
#main.interval interval
close #setup
end if
return

[start] 'startup the backup timer
#main.start "!disable"
#main.stop "!enable"
#main.interval "!contents? interval"
gosub [checkInitialFiles]
#main.statusLog "Starting backup"
timer interval * 1000, [checkFiles]
wait

[stop] 'stop the backup timer
timer 0
#main.start "!enable"
#main.stop "!disable"
#main.statusLog "Stopping backup"
wait

[checkInitialFiles] 'snapshot of filenames and timestamps
return

[checkFiles] 'are there new files
#main.statusLog "tick"
'temporarily disable the timer
timer 0
'perform the check here
'reenable the timer
timer interval * 1000, [checkFiles]
wait

'return a true if the file in fullPath$ exists, else return false
function fileExists(fullPath$)
files pathOnly$(fullPath$), filenameOnly$(fullPath$), info$()
fileExists = val(info$(0, 0)) > 0
end function

'return just the directory path from a full file path
function pathOnly$(fullPath$)
pathOnly$ = fullPath$
while right$(pathOnly$, 1) <> "\" and pathOnly$ <> ""
pathOnly$ = left$(pathOnly$, len(pathOnly$)-1)
wend
end function

'return just the filename from a full file path
function filenameOnly$(fullPath$)
pathLength = len(pathOnly$(fullPath$))
filenameOnly$ = right$(fullPath$, len(fullPath$)-pathLength)
end function

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Automatic file backup - loading setup

Now that we've got a simple GUI designed, let's write some code which will load the files we want to backup, the destination path, and the interval of our automatic backup.

We need a subroutine to load the setup which we will call using GOSUB. We can call this right after we open the window.

open "Backup Utility" for window_nf as #main
gosub [loadSetup]
wait


We want to know if the setup file exists. There is an example program called fileExists.bas that comes with the functions we need to check for file existence. We'll just grab those. Here they are:

'return a true if the file in fullPath$ exists, else return false
function fileExists(fullPath$)
files pathOnly$(fullPath$), filenameOnly$(fullPath$), info$()
fileExists = val(info$(0, 0)) > 0
end function

'return just the directory path from a full file path
function pathOnly$(fullPath$)
pathOnly$ = fullPath$
while right$(pathOnly$, 1) <> "\" and pathOnly$ <> ""
pathOnly$ = left$(pathOnly$, len(pathOnly$)-1)
wend
end function

'return just the filename from a full file path
function filenameOnly$(fullPath$)
pathLength = len(pathOnly$(fullPath$))
filenameOnly$ = right$(fullPath$, len(fullPath$)-pathLength)
end function


We will call the fileExists( ) function from our [loadSetup] subroutine. A really simple example of the data in our setup file would have a list of file paths, and end! marker for the end of that list of files, a single line with the desired destination path, and another line with the interval in seconds between backup attempts.

Example backupSetup.ini
c:\myfolder\test.txt
c:\myfolder\backMeUp.dat
c:\myfolder\SillyPutty.exe
end!
c:\backupFolder\files
5


Once we know the file exists we can open it up and read it, placing the information into the different fields in our GUI.

[loadSetup]
#main.listOfFiles "!cls";
if fileExists(setupPath$) then
open setupPath$ for input as #setup
while filename$ <> "end!"
line input #setup, filename$
if filename$ <> "" then
#main.listOfFiles filename$
end if
wend
line input #setup, destination$
#main.destination destination$
line input #setup, interval
#main.interval interval
close #setup
end if
return


Here is the complete listing so far:

dim info$(10,10)
setupPath$ = DefaultDir$+"\backupsetup.ini"

WindowWidth = 560
WindowHeight = 460
statictext #main, "Files to backup:", 5, 5, 94, 20
texteditor #main.listOfFiles, 5, 26, 530, 95
statictext #main, "Destination folder:", 5, 132, 107, 20
textbox #main.destination, 115, 127, 420, 25
statictext #main, "Backup interval in seconds:", 5, 157, 163, 20
textbox #main.interval, 170, 152, 100, 25
button #main.save,"Save",[save], UL, 495, 152, 42, 25
button #main.start,"Start",[start], UL, 5, 187, 75, 25
button #main.stop,"Stop",[stop], UL, 90, 187, 70, 25
statictext #main, "Backup status log", 5, 217, 106, 20
texteditor #main.statusLog, 5, 237, 530, 160
menu #main, "Edit"
open "Backup Utility" for window_nf as #main
gosub [loadSetup]
wait

[loadSetup]
#main.listOfFiles "!cls";
if fileExists(setupPath$) then
open setupPath$ for input as #setup
while filename$ <> ""
line input #setup, filename$
if filename$ <> "end!" then
#main.listOfFiles filename$
end if
wend
line input #setup, destination$
#main.destination destination$
line input #setup, interval
#main.interval interval
close #setup
end if
return

'return a true if the file in fullPath$ exists, else return false
function fileExists(fullPath$)
files pathOnly$(fullPath$), filenameOnly$(fullPath$), info$()
fileExists = val(info$(0, 0)) > 0
end function

'return just the directory path from a full file path
function pathOnly$(fullPath$)
pathOnly$ = fullPath$
while right$(pathOnly$, 1) <> "\" and pathOnly$ <> ""
pathOnly$ = left$(pathOnly$, len(pathOnly$)-1)
wend
end function

'return just the filename from a full file path
function filenameOnly$(fullPath$)
pathLength = len(pathOnly$(fullPath$))
filenameOnly$ = right$(fullPath$, len(fullPath$)-pathLength)
end function

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Automatic file backup UI design

Here's what I'm thinking. The back utility GUI will be a simple window with a text area that contains a list of file paths. There will be start and stop buttons, an interval for a timer in seconds, and a field with a destination path.

When the timer is started the backup utility will examine each file that is specified in the text area and collect modification date and time. Later when the timer ticks we will check them again to see if any of them has changed. If even one of the files is different we will back them up as a set.

To perform the backup the program will take the destination path and use it to create a unique folder by adding a number to it. Then it will copy all the files into newly created folder.

There will also be a status area in the window where the user will be kept informed about backup activities.

The configuration for the backup utility will be stored in a file. When the program is started it will be loaded and displayed in the GUI, and there will be a save button to save the configuration back to the configuration file.

More than likely this design will evolve as we actually build the program code.

Here is the beginning of our program, just the GUI code to start.

WindowWidth = 560
WindowHeight = 460
statictext #main, "Files to backup:", 5, 5, 94, 20
texteditor #main.listOfFiles, 5, 26, 530, 95
statictext #main, "Destination folder:", 5, 132, 107, 20
textbox #main.destination, 115, 127, 420, 25
statictext #main, "Backup interval in seconds:", 5, 157, 163, 20
textbox #main.interval, 170, 152, 100, 25
button #main.save,"Save",[save], UL, 495, 152, 42, 25
button #main.start,"Start",[start], UL, 5, 187, 75, 25
button #main.stop,"Stop",[stop], UL, 90, 187, 70, 25
statictext #main, "Backup status log", 5, 217, 106, 20
texteditor #main.statusLog, 5, 237, 530, 160
menu #main, "Edit"
open "Backup Utility" for window as #main
wait

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Automatic file backup

I'm inspired by a real world need I have to create utility in Liberty BASIC which will do the following:

1) Periodically examine a list of files in a folder to see if they have changed
2) Make a new folder with a unique name somewhere else to contain the updated files
3) Copy the changed files to the new folder

We can keep a list of paths and files in a file, create a simple gui for maintaining this list and starting and stopping the timer, and for displaying a log of activity.

In our next installment we will write the GUI code.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Projects

I've decided to start some small projects which show how to do various things in Liberty BASIC. This will be a good way to demonstrate how easy programming in BASIC can be, and it will help people to learn specific programming techniques.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Words of wisdom

I've always been a big fan of the Forth programming language. It is nothing like BASIC, but here is a page from forth.com with some words of wisdom from Chuck Moore that I figure are just good food for thought no matter what language you prefer.

http://www.forth.com/resources/evolution/evolve_1.html

Sunday, October 11, 2009

BASIC and Space Flight!

The same fellow who created an OpenGL flight simulator in Liberty BASIC has taken it a step further by creating a spaceflight simulator with a map editor. Very neat!

Check it out

Monday, September 28, 2009

BASIC, Lasers, and you

Here's an interesting example of the perfect use for BASIC. If you're into laser tag and programming this may be your ticket. It's cool that the makers of this device decided to write the config tool in Liberty BASIC, and that they make the code available so the average Joe can customize it. That's in the spirit of BASIC. Programming for the non-programmer.

http://www.lasertagparts.com/mtmicro.htm

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fractals in a page of code

What's great about BASIC and languages like it is that you don't have a write a lot of code that has nothing to do with what you're trying to create (like Java for example). It should be really easy to throw together a little code and play with graphics. Programming should be fun, not a burden.

Here is a thread that shows how to draw fractals in less than a page of BASIC.

Click to read the thread

Friday, September 11, 2009

Levity and Programming

BASIC is the perfect programming language to a lighthearted programming challenge, and I'm about to prove it to you. What better matchup between BASIC than Paper, Rock, Scissors?

Check it out. It's great to see people programming just for fun.

Programming tools in BASIC

Alyce Watson has updated her CodeAChrome widget, which is a syntax coloring editor specially made for editing BASIC source code. It's small, simple to use, and free! Check out her announcement here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Earth shaking!

Here's a neat example of BASIC programming which plots earthquake data graphically.  What's cool about this is that it demonstrates graphics, interfacing with VBScript, and getting information off the Internet.  Add to this that it's not a large program.



Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Who says you can't do that in BASIC?

Over at the Liberty BASIC forum on Conforums they've announced a programmer of the month for September.  Chung, a prolific Liberty BASIC programmer has created an OpenGL flight simulator in Liberty BASIC.   Very, very nice!

  Click to read the announcement and make sure to follow the link to Chung's site to see the flight simulator!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Searching for BASIC

When people search for BASIC online using Google or Bing, or whatever, what keywords do they search with? Some of the obvious choices to me are:

  • basic
  • basic for windows
  • qbasic
  • visual basic
  • vb

How would you search for BASIC?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Joy in Programming

I responded to a post on another blog (http://blogten.blogspot.com/2009/05/wards-comment.html) about how someone complained that the Smalltalk programming language permits the programmer too much freedom and that it's "too easy." The argument against being easy is that if it's too easy the programmer will be able to rush into creating software that is designed poorly. I have a hard time believing it is ever a benefit that something is hard to do. I think this applies to languages like BASIC so I'm copying what I posted there below.
Freedom is essential if you want to live life to the full, and not just in software development. We need to teach what is the best way to live in freedom, not impose a tyranny of suffocating "safety". If we don't build a culture of discipline and excellence then we deserve what we get. If we impose tons of rules to in an effort to prevent people from making mistakes we risk making software development such a burden that few people will want to do it anymore. It should be possible for software development to be an enjoyable activity, and for innovation and discovery to be experienced by newbies and experts. Joy is important in life.

Perhaps I oversimplify, but I hope this communicates an important idea effectively.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Easter Eggs?

Here's a link to a fun article about how Microsoft added Easter Eggs to their original BASIC implementations.


It never even occurred to me to do this.  ;-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Imposter?

I found an article named Web programming is hard to do right by a fellow named Bert Hubert. He does a nice job of explaining what is so hard about web programming and then goes on to describe how it could be done right. He even includes some BASIC code as an example. I like the questions he asks:
  • How did we arrive at this mess?
  • That's just the way it works, isn't it?
  • How should it be then?
  • Why not go back to the old days?
This article really resonates with the ideas that inspired Run BASIC. We need more people who think this way.

He provides some C-like code implementing what the BASIC code does. I guess that this new scripting language is code for a language called Imposter by Gabor Vitez which he mentions in a note at the top of his article.

I did a quick search for information about Imposter and its author but it seems to have withdrawn from the Internet. Does anyone know where to get a copy of Imposter to have a look?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting the word out about Run BASIC

I've been working on a whitepaper for a while now that tries to explain what it is that makes Run BASIC special and I've finally published it. It's titled "Run BASIC - A Breakthrough Web Application Server." Check it out here

It isn't usually wise to toot one's own horn too loud but I really believe that Run BASIC is unique. The trouble is that people are so overexposed to hype that they don't really easily believe that Run BASIC is different. In fact one person who helped me edit the whitepaper recently contacted me after trying Run BASIC and explained that he didn't realize how easy it really is until he tried it out.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Run BASIC v1.01!

I'm excited to announce that we've released Run BASIC v1.01. In addition to the Windows version, this is our first release for the Macintosh and also for Linux. Now we also have a free edition (not time limited!) so you can go and try it on your own computer. Run (don't walk) immediately to http://www.runbasic.com/ and get your own copy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Teaching an old dog new tricks

One reader commented, "So should a basic language add object-oriented features? For me, it would simplify things. Inheritance and polymorphism produces much less code, and FOR ME, much more simplicity. However, for a procedure-oriented person, only complexity has been added."

This is an excellent point. One way that I've tried to add objects to Run BASIC is to have some built right in. You don't have to create them and you don't need to import them, but you can start using them. This is hopefully one way to begin to help procedural programmers warm up to objects and there's no reason why the rest of the program cannot be written in a procedural style.

The other thing that Run BASIC does is take the RUN statement and adapt it so that other BASIC programs that you run can be optionally treated as objects, or if that's too far of a leap you can think of it as a modular library of code, like so:

run "mymodule.bas", #module
#module doMyWork("some string")


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Flight Simulator in BASIC

I remember years ago that there was an instrument-only flight simulator written in BASIC and ported to different computers.  It wasn't much to look at because it was all character based.  Tom Nally has just released an open source flight simulator written in Liberty BASIC.  This one blows the doors off that old classic.  Check it out here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

BASIC for the web a killer app?

If you ask the average geek worth his salt what was the killer app that launched the microcomputer revolution the answer would probably be "Visicalc, of course!"

I take issue with this answer. Long before the spreadsheet application Visicalc was a gleam in Dan Bricklin's eye the most important and powerful application for small computers was the BASIC programming language. Without Microsoft BASIC (and this is Microsoft's real and lasting legacy if you ask me) very few people would have been able to do anything useful with computers. Most versions of BASIC back then were variations on Bill Gates' original BASIC interpreter.

Without BASIC we would not have seen so many kids grow up to be programmers, myself included. This is the very reason why I work on BASIC language products because I believe that there's no good reason why anyone with a little desire and time shouldn't be able to create software.

Run BASIC is very much in the same spirit as the early BASIC, but for the web. Now anyone can create web applications. :-)

Run BASIC - Killer app for the Internet age!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Run BASIC for Windows, Mac and Linux

Tonight I am pleased to mention that we posted Run BASIC v1.0.1 beta 3 for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (tested on Ubuntu). This is our first ever release of software for Linux, although people have been successfully using the Windows version using Wine.

It shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks to finalize v1.0.1 and release it. If you haven't had a look at Run BASIC check out the site. Make sure to watch the videos posted there to get a complete sense of just how easy web programming can be.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eating my own dog food

Run BASIC comes with a bunch of example programs, one of which is a wiki called runWiki. It's about two pages long and is remarkable for what it does in those two pages, including the use of the SQLite database to store pages.

One of my customers (Neal) took that wiki and added a bunch of cool stuff to it like user accounts and many more formatting tags.

Now I've decided to take Neal's version of my original runWiki and use it to host a site for a civic group in the town of Ashland, Massachusetts where I live. It went live last weekend to coincide with the annual Ashland Day faire. Check it out at http://www.weloveashland.com

It's a pretty simple site which will get more sophisticated as we go. The beautiful thing is that it acts as a vehicle for producing runWiki3. I can customize it to my hearts content since I have all the source code in BASIC, the people's language. ;-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Free version of Run BASIC

One thing that has been lacking in our effort to promote our Run BASIC web programming system is a free version. In fact there is no time limited trial either. This has been mostly because we have been unsure what would be the best way to do it.

What we've decided on is when Run BASIC v1.0.1 is released soon for Windows, Mac and Linux we will also release a free version. This free version will be for personal use instead of being a web application server. Users of the free Run BASIC will be able to create projects and use any features of the language, but they will not be able to serve applications. This will allow them to experiment and see if Run BASIC meets their needs. If it does and hosting the application is in the cards then an upgrade to the server version is available for $59.95, or hosting service can be purchased at http://www.runbasicnet.com

Comments and suggestions are most welcome.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Out of control!

On a Java project that I work on part time we use the Eclipse IDE, which is a power tool for Java programming. Java itself gets hard to deal with once your software gets to a certain size, and Eclipse tries to do a lot of the hard work for you. Java would be unusable without such tools.

On the flipside to this, we had been using an older version of Eclipse. Ultimately we decided to upgrade to a newer version (but not the latest) because we wanted to use Subversion instead of CVS for our source code control.

One of my colleages decided to attack the upgrade and document what was needed for everyone to use the new version. It seemed like it took him many days to figure it all out. The new version didn't look too much difference on the surface, but I kept hearing groans from him. Clearly something wasn't going well, so I went over and asked him what was the matter. His answer was simply, "I can't figure out how to do things that I used to know how to do!" The new software was getting bigger and more complicated.

There's a balance to strike when developing software. It's hard to make software easy to use while also adding new features.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rewrite BASIC language today?

In the Usenet group alt.lang.basic there was a thread recently with the subject heading "Rewrite BASIC language today?" where the question was explored about how BASIC would be written in today's programming world.

Clearly there is a wide range of opinions in the responses. Some opted for being retro and simple. Some advocated adding commands for dealing with various things. It's good to have a discussion about these sorts of things, and this one went well. There are a lot of experienced BASIC programmers in that forum and it didn't turn into a flame war.

In my own response I wrote "BASIC needs to be simple. Adding C or Java features is a mistake for the most part. There is value in keeping things out of the language."

There needs to be a balance. Sometimes it makes good sense to add new things to a language. But as I just said... sometimes. ;-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Commodore 64 Twenty-fifth Anniversary

Here is a YouTube video of a 90 minute presentation celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Commodore 64 home computer. The C64 was a groundbreaking machine and I know I'm not the only one who learned a lot from this wonderful machine and similar ones like the TRS-80, the Apple II, the Atari 800, and the TI-99/4. I programmed Commodore computers in BASIC, 6502 assembly language and Forth. Great stuff.

Go check this out for a fun romp into the past. The presentation touches on much more than just the C64. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3754836267385299753

The Definitive Guide to SQLite, a PDF Download

Notice: I'm not sure anymore that this is a legally available file, so I've pulled the link until further notice. You can still purchase the book online at http://apress.com/book/view/1590596730

Here is a link to a PDF for the book The Definitive Guide to SQLite by Mike Owens. This looks like a great resource for Run BASIC programmers. :-) The download seems to take a while, so I wonder if their fileserver is swamped. I guess this is a very popular download.

[link removed]

Followup: For those who have been unable to download the entire file. It took me a few tries, and you may even try some other browser. Safari worked better for me than IE.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Net Neutrality

I'm not an especially political person, but Net Neutrality is an important idea that deserves all of our attention. Essentially since the Internet was recently deregulated, broadband providers are now allowed to prioritize and block traffic. Imagine if suddenly you were unable to Skype your best friend in another country, or if Google became inaccessible to you. What if the online community in a message forum you came to know and love was destroyed because access to it was now impractical to certain key members? What if an online business was suddenly destroyed because they no longer received the visitor traffic they once did?

Net Neutrality is a movement to protect free and unhindered access to Internet resources.

Ethan Poole wrote an excellent article about it here:
http://www.lowter.com/article/net-neutrality/2

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Think programming is too hard, or boring? Think again!

A couple of days ago I was at a Starbucks. I sat down around a large table to enjoy my coffee and a pastry. There were several other people there. I pulled out my iPhone to check my email. There was a fellow across from me with one of the new Macbook Air laptops, and a few minutes later a young man also sat down and pulled out a black Macbook. This concentration of Apple equipment made it easy for us to begin talking.

When it came to what sort of work we do, I shared about my business selling programming tools. I moved over to the fellow with the black Macbook and told him I wanted to show him my website so he could understand my business. When I showed him the Learn tab on the Run BASIC site and began to walk him through the examples the other people at the table came over to watch. As we went from simple "hello world!" to some easy graphics examples the reaction from onlookers was amazement! They clearly were not aware that programming could be so simple and cool. To them this was something way above them, and very dry.

What I took away from this is that people don't know that programming can be fun. They can do it, and years ago the average computer user did his own programming, in BASIC. Nowadays what gets promoted as programming is too hard, and it's no surprise that people don't want to do that. This is a misapplication of technology that makes things harder, and not easier.

We need to turn back the clock in this important area of programming.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

iPhone SDK delayed?

It's beginning to look as though the iPhone SDK may not ship this month since Apple has been silent about it. It was supposed to ship by the end of February. Of course this doesn't really have any impact on Run BASIC since it will not use the SDK, but it will produce apps that run in the iPhone's Safari web browser.

We haven't talked much about our plans for iPhone support in Run BASIC. We should have more to say in the next month or so.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BASIC is bad because it's too easy?

A response to a recent post read, "BASIC is good, but I think it should be avoided as a first language because it pampers the programmer too much."

I won't be the first person to say that BASIC is perfect. There is no perfect language. However, to recommend that a first language should not "pamper" the beginning programmer seems to me misses the mark completely.

I'm guessing that this means that languages should force the beginner to be aware of low level details such as the type of numeric value (int, float, byte, etc.) or that the beginner should made to manage the allocation and deallocation of memory. What do these sorts of things have to do with the essense of programming? Since there are many languages which do not have these kinds of features, I can only submit that they aren't essential to programming. Therefore they are not necessary ideas to teach the beginner.

The nitty gritty details of how a computer works ARE important. These things should be taught to any serious student of computers, but they do not need to be the first thing taught. People who do not fancy themselves experts do not need to be bothered to learn them.

Easy is the quality that BASIC has, especially in the quickness of its learnability. This is almost to a fault I agree in the sense that a slightly more general and abstract language might be a little harder to warm up to but better in the long haul. However for the person who programs for fun, or who needs a light language for writing utilities or small personal applications, I think BASIC hits the mark pretty well.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Taking the Arc Challenge

Paul Graham, a very famous Lisp programmer who is well known for his continuations based web framework has invented a language called Arc (a version of Lisp). He came up with a challenge to see how others would implement a trivial web program in their favorite language.

Here's the Arc program:

(defop said req
(aform [w/link (pr "you said: " (arg _ "foo"))
(pr "click here")]
(input "foo")
(submit)))

Follow this link to see other submissions in different languages. Scroll down to to bottom to see the Run BASIC example. http://arclanguage.org/item?id=722

Now tell me which language you'd rather develop web apps in. BASIC is the one. ;-)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Web programming in... Java?

I mean, why? Of course that's how I feel about any kind of programming in Java. I recently found a blog where someone reviewed Wallace Wang's Beginning Programming book which teaches Liberty BASIC. The blogger seemed to enjoy Liberty BASIC and then went on to say that we was planning to learn Java. I wish that those presidential candidates would promise to reform our educational system by banning Java from k12 schools. People who are just learning programming need something that gives them a tighter feedback loop like BASIC does. If the learning experience isn't at least a little bit of fun it won't benefit the kids. Period.

People who trash BASIC haven't tried modern versions. Even the old DOS QBasic has everything the beginner needs.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Knocked on the head with BASIC

A close friend of mine schooled in C++, Smalltalk, Java and Groovy told me the other day that he has written his first BASIC program by using Run BASIC. He had never written code in BASIC before, but he took my word for it that BASIC is a great language for throwing together solutions quickly. He said he was struck by the lightness of the BASIC language and that he enjoyed working in it. This is my paraphrase of what he said, because I don't remember his exact words.

I know there are a lot of modern BASIC implementations that force you to declare all your variables and give them types and sizes. Some of them keep the core keywords but add Pascal syntax, and some make BASIC look more like Java. I know there are some benefits to the way these other languages work, but BASIC is really meant to be very light and simple. In my humble opinion any language claiming to be BASIC which forces the programmer to dot too many i's and cross too many t's is not BASIC, but an imposter.

BASIC is a small language without too many rules.

iPhone development - activation experience

Since we have decided to create some iPhone development features for Run BASIC I bought an iPhone for this purpose. I thought it would be interesting to post my personal iPhone experience.

So, I went to the Apple store. I said that I wanted to buy an iPhone, so the youthful Apple employee grabbed me a small black box from behind the counter and handed it to me. "Big day," he said with a certain air of importance. I thought that was a little over the top. I mean, it's a phone. I wasn't having a baby. My daughter put it well, "Maybe if he was going to give you the $400 phone for free it would have been a big day." Ah well. I suppose Apple store employees can be forgiven for drinking the corporate koolaid. ;-)

I told him that I was buying the iPhone because I am working on easy development tools for it. He didn't quite get it right away that I wasn't working on iPhone apps for people to consume, but a really easy way for anyone to create their own iPhone apps that run in the Safari browser. I explained more carefully and got a gratifying 'Ahhhh' response from him. Gotta work on that marketing message.

So I took the phone home and unpacked it. There's no manual at all. There really should be for that price.

Alright, I understand that you activate the iPhone using iTunes. I am a Mac user (and a PC user) so I thought I would activate the phone from my Mac. That didn't work. I needed a newer version of iTunes. No big deal. I downloaded and installed the latest. Still no good. Why? Because then I discovered that I needed OS X v10.4.x or better. What then dawned on me made me a bit angry. I was going to need to activate the phone using iTunes on Windows. I think that qualifies as mistreatment by Apple of its customers.

Okay, so now I upgraded to the latest version of iTunes on my Vista box. I plugged the phone in and activated it. It went smoothly from there.

I'll post more about the iPhone and our work to support it using Run BASIC in the days to come.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Debugging Run BASIC Web Apps

In Run BASIC's first release there is effectively no built-in debugger. Of course you can use print to log to the browser page or to a file, and this is no more or less than many other web scripting systems. We aim to do something about this in the very near future.

One of our users suggested that it would be good to create an inspector panel in Run BASIC itself and that we should add some reflection via an EVAL$() function that would allow arbitrary execution of BASIC code at runtime. We would probably also need to at least metaprogramming features like the ability to get information from the runtime like:
  • The name of the current context (ie. function or subroutine)
  • The names of all the variables and arrays in scope
  • The source code for the current context
  • A collection of objects that models the stack
  • Probably more stuff

While this sort of thing is possible I think that we probably will initially provide a high level runtime inspection panel that the programmer can show and hide as needed. This is BASIC after all, and it should be as easy as possible to use. The metaprogramming stuff is cool though. ;-)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Web Programming for Fun

There has always been a culture of complexity-worship in the programming community. Some people seem to think that the Internet is a good excuse to take this even farther. This takes the fun out of programming, and it scares a lot of people away from even trying it. We think that this needs to be pushed back against. One of our goals in creating Run BASIC has been to make web development so easy that anyone can do it. As a language designed to make programming simple, BASIC is an ideal platform for realizing this idea.

We need a culture of simplicity. The computer should do that hard stuff for you. For example web application servers manage user sessions and processes, and these are things that require special administration by an expert in most web systems. With Run BASIC, except for a couple of fields in the Preferences tab that let you configure how long the timeouts are for sessions and processes, you don't really need to know anything about these. It's all done for you automatically.

Or for example let's say you want to draw graphics? There are no add-ons that you have to locate, download, and install with Run BASIC. It's all built right in, and just a few lines of code can draw some meaningful graphics into your web apps.

It's easy, and it's fun.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Run BASIC - Zero Configuration Web Application Server

I found a blog post today that compared PHP with Ruby on Rails in terms of how much easier PHP is to install and configure than Ruby on Rails. Both of these systems are composed of at a minimum:
  • A web server (usually Apache)
  • A language interpreter for PHP or Ruby
  • And usually a database server

And this is a simplification. The user needs to install and configure these things which requires knowing about a lot of esoteric stuff. If you've never done this before, you can lose some of your hair. Unless you like pain, why put yourself through this?

If you want to create your own web applications, Run BASIC will install everything ready to run in one shot. http://www.runbasic.com/

Why do people put up with complex programming systems? Because for more than a decade they had much harder tools, so now they think PHP and RoR are easy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Run BASIC Tour Video Posted

One big challenge we face in explaining Run BASIC to people is that people have a preconceived notion of what an easy programming system is. Ruby on Rails is supposed to be easy, right? Easy compared to what? Java server pages? Apache and Perl? For a certain class of problems we need the kind of easy that BASIC (and I don't mean Visual Basic) has always provided.

So, today I created a 20 minute video that walks through installation, startup, and gives a tour of the features of the Run BASIC programming software and several examples. This includes creation and hosting of a simple app. Visit the Run BASIC site and check out the video and I'm sure you'll agree that you've never seen anything easier.

Web Debugging

The topic of web debugging in Run BASIC came up today in the forums, and the topic started with some ambitious ideas from Bill W. who always has something interesting to say (here for example).

Run BASIC does need a debugging facility. I realize that most web programmers probably write to logs, and you can do that in RB without adding anything but we can make it a lot easier. Just for starters I was thinking of adding a logging object of some kind. A debug button would be added to the toolbar, and then you could specify either logging of all variable changes, or specify watches so that only certain variables would get logged, and a LOG statement could also be added that would only log if the program is executed in debug mode (instead of merely run).

Also, it would be no hard matter to include an inspector object which could be rendered into the page whereever it is convenient for the programmer. You could examine and change the value of variables, and perhaps even execute code dynamically on a running program in the web browser.

I'm eager for feedback on this!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

BASIC Back By Popular Request

Sales of Run BASIC have been pretty strong since we launched it on Jan 5. It's been really encouraging to see our users post about their experiences. People are building a lot of really neat things with it.

One thing that people seem interested in doing with Run BASIC is to use it as a frontend interface to various systems like home automation, machine control, monitoring and such. So requests for RS-232 serial port access, hardware port I/O and even USB devices are a hot topic. See this thread.

Hobbyists and people who take it upon themselves to automate their own work without the help of IT experts have traditionally used BASIC, and we intend to make Run BASIC work for them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Run BASIC Podcast Interview - Part 2

As promised, part two of the Run BASIC interview with James Robertson is now online. Amongst other things, we chatted about how web development is harder than it needs to be, and about the challenges of marketing something different because people's perceptions can be hard to break through.

http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/blog/blogView?entry=3378296271

Enjoy!

-Carl

Java and BASIC - Simplicity and backwards compatibility?

Bruce Eckel and Joshua Bloch kick the can around about Java and complexity. Read about it here:

http://www.infoq.com/news/2008/01/java-evolution

I especially like this quote about Java and web development:
Web application development - this is difficult, and developing web applications with complex and underpowered technologies like JSP and JSF "is like eating soup with a fork"

I've been a Java programmer for 7 years. I've never liked the language. It always seemed to me to be much too verbose and controlling. It's amazing to me that it has been so popular, but that is more of a marketing accomplishment than anything else.

Run BASIC is a web programming system in development, and a really important part of what Scott McLaughlin and I are trying to do is to manage how the language grows. One important question to ask is how much emphasis to place on backwards compatibility as we more forward. Our goal is to create the best BASIC for the web, and it should still be simple and fun to use even as it becomes more powerful.

I invite your comments. :-)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Amazon's EC2 and Run BASIC?

I've been trying to figure out how to provide hosting for Run BASIC users. Someone had asked, so I suggested Amazon's EC2 system. I had read about it somewhere, and then it was recommended to me while I was being interviewed here.

The idea that I've been toying with is to charge a reasonable monthly fee like $15 for a Run BASIC user account on a VPS on EC2. A single instance of a VPS costs about $75 a month, and additional instances are created and removed as load changes.

So far things aren't looking really encouraging. Jerry Muelver has been looking into this matter, and so far it looks like a difficult matter to set up. Documentation is not easy to follow, and it just seems like a real hair puller. Check it out Jerry's story here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ajax and BASIC

Ajax (Asynchronous Javascript and XML) style techniques for building interactive web applications are the rage today. They are somewhat overhyped, but there is some value there.

Run BASIC already provides an exceptionally easy web programming system, but it does so with minimal special effects. There is a tiny bit of Javascript being used but almost everything is done with XHTML on the browser, and a very smart web application server.

In release v1.0 of Run BASIC the widgets (and indeed the page itself) are all objects. They are created by very simple statements. Any sort of Ajax inspired widgets for a future release of Run BASIC must not be any more complicated to use than the simple to use widgets that are already there.

Additionally, one of the most important aspects of Ajax is partial page reloading. This is important and we are eagerly planning to add this. What this will allow you the Run BASIC program to do is to reload a small part of your web app in the browser so that each user action does cause the whole page to be refreshed from the browser. This provides for smoother feeling user experience, and it also can improve performance.

So, Ajax must not complicate Run BASIC. Our design philosophy is to respect the simplicity of BASIC as much as possible. There are too many complicated programming systems out there, and the world doesn't need another one.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Moving Up From Web Design

Sometimes you will see people posting something like, "I've been creating web sites for years using HTML and FrontPage but I'd like to know how I can take the next step. How do I become a web developer?" Usually the answer provided is something like, "You should learn PHP."

Is PHP the answer? The answer is of course, it depends.

If you're just looking for a job skill you can put on your resume, then PHP may be exactly what the doctor ordered. But, if you are building your own sites or are doing custom work for a client, or want build something for use at the office, or if you just want to learn because programming interests you then you really should consider Run BASIC. You can get something going faster with Run BASIC than with more traditional web tools because Run BASIC is designed to be easy. It doesn't try to fit into the mainstream notion of a web tool. There are just too many of those.

Take a look at the site at http://www.runbasic.com/ for more information.

Intel and the OLPC

I was shocked this last week to discover that when Intel left the One Laptop Per Child project, many people immediately used this as an opportunity to say that OLPC is finished, done for, kaput. Why, just because one of their most recently joined partners was ousted? Their other partners include Quanta, Chi Mei, AMD, News Corp, Google, Brightstar, Red Hat, Nortell, Marvell, eBay, SES/Astra, Citigroup, Real Networks, Seagate, Adobe, and more.

Seriously, it seems like people want this project to fail and I'm not sure why. I am a proponent many of the ideas that are intrinsic to the XO laptop and the software it comes with, so I'm rooting for it to be a success. I even participated in their Give One Get One program, and I'm eager waiting for my very own green and white XO laptop.

Some people think that because Intel is also selling laptops to education ministries in poor countries that this dooms OLPC. I hope they're wrong. Intel is selling what amounts to power guzzling Windows laptops. They aren't rugged enough, they need AC power to run, and they run Windows and Microsoft Office. In other words they are only in the market to kill OLPC and they don't care the least little bit about benefitting children.

A lot of other people trash the OLPC because it isn't useful to them personally. This is just a nonsensical position to take. It isn't designed for the affluent consumer but for education starved kids in poor countries out in the bush. It fulfills it's intended role perfectly. It is designed specifically to open a world of learning to kids, and not just give them boring drill and repetition games. Why do American consumers tolerate boring educational software BTW?

The OLPC is a completely open platform with a designed-for-kids collaborative GUI and built in wireless mesh networking, special BitFrost security, and very radical learning software. It is uncompromising in executing the vision it sets forth. Very cool.

Some people criticize OLPC saying that kids don't need computers, but clean water and food. There are already many charities striving to provide those things. Why is it wrong for another charity to enrich their minds?

I encourage everyone to go to http://video.google.com/ and search for OLPC or Negroponte. There are some excellent long presentations that explain all the important ideas of OLPC.

Web 2.0 Podcast Interview - Run BASIC

James Robertson interviewed me yesterday on his weekly podcast Industry Misinterpretations about our new web appserver Run BASIC, where he describes it as a Web 2.0 platform. I don't usually use that term, but I guess if the shoe fits...

The interview lasted more than an hour, and it was a great time. We talked a lot about how complicated programming systems are these days, and how badly we need simplicity to make a comeback. :-)

Listen to part one of the interview here:
http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/blog/blogView?entry=3377692218

Part two will be posted next week.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

iPhone BASIC?

Now that we've released Run BASIC, we would like to collect some feedback about the idea of adding some capability for the iPhone (and other mobile phones). There is a Javascript library and some CSS called iUi http://code.google.com/p/iui/ which provides the metaphor and visual look for iPhone (and iPod Touch) apps. This would make for very easy iPhone development, and it could be a great marketing button for Run BASIC.

Apple plans to announce some sort of SDK next month if I'm not mistaken, but a lot of iPhone software development will definitely still be web apps.

We could:

  • Work on this now
  • Work on this later
  • Encourage the RB community to integrate iUi by writing BASIC code

Perhaps the last option is the most sensible for now. Feedback is welcome.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Learn Web Programming

What does it mean to learn web programming (or web development) anyways? Most of the time it means that you need to struggle learning a programming language, a web server, and a bunch of frameworks. When I tell people that they can learn web programming with Run BASIC their automatic response (unless they're complete newbies) is, why not learn one of the popular web programming systems? Why learn Run BASIC?

I'll tell you why. Because you don't need a thick book with Run BASIC. Because you don't need to install a whole bunch of stuff. Because you can create a program and put it on the Internet in the blink of an eye with Run BASIC. Because you can think about programming instead of about trying to satisfy all the requirements of Apache+Perl, or PHP, or Ruby, or whatever.

http://www.runbasic.com/

Not web programming

Okay, the title of this post is slightly wrong because Run BASIC is a web programming system. But, it isn't wrong because Run BASIC emphasizes not the webish-ness of programming, but the act of programming in BASIC.

BASIC always was the people's language. It was a success as the first popular way to create programs for home computers. It was so easy that even children learned programming with it. I was one of them.

So, this is the age of the Internet. Run BASIC is the BASIC of the age of the Internet.

Come and join our online forum and see what people are saying: http://runbasic.proboards82.com

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Run BASIC's Programming Model

Most web app systems model applications as a collection of pages. Information must be persisted between pages in some sort of datastore. Sometimes this is in memory but oftentimes it is done in a database or by passing files. Run BASIC does not force you to partition your applications in this way. Instead you can write your entire application as a single continuous program just like you would write a desktop app. You create a new page in your application by clearing the page and placing new things onto it in a dynamic way.

Traditionalist procedural programmers can create entire applications using subroutines and functions, similar to how it is done in popular languages like QBasic. This democratizes web programming because many casual programmers are comfortable with this way of coding software.

More object-oriented thinkers can componentize their systems into objects and call methods on them. The objects can be purely data, or they can render into a display buffer and be injected into a web page. This makes it easy to have different parts of a web page managed in a modular way.

http://www.runbasic.com

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Run BASIC v1.0 is released!

Well I've been awfully quiet here for a couple of months, but for good reason. Everything we've been doing has been leading up to the release of our Run BASIC Personal Server, and now it's finally available. To pick up a copy head on over to http://www.runbasic.com !!

We've also launched a Run BASIC forum so come on over to http://runbasic.proboards82.com and see what's going on.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Half Life 2 Episode 2

I've been a big fan of Half Life and its sequels for years, and Valve just released HL2 Episode 2 so I've looked at some reviews online. It's receiving very high marks by those who've played it.

So why am I posting about a video game here? Because I'm dying to play it, but I won't play because I can't allow myself to be distracted from working on Run BASIC right now. Probably I'll give myself permission to enjoy some game playing abandon when the holidays roll around.

In the meantime Run BASIC development is a lot of fun too in many important ways. :-)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Parsing XML in Run BASIC

One of the important feature that a Web 2.0 language needs is an XML parser. Run BASIC now has one built in. The XMLPARSER statement parses an XML string and returns an XML accessor object with a bunch of handy built-in methods for making your way through an XML document.
Here is a simple example of what that sort of code looks like:

a$ = "<program name=""myprog"" author=""Carl Gundel""/>"
xmlparser #parser, a$
print #parser key$()
for x = 1 to #parser attribCount()
key$ = #parser attribKey$(x)
print key$; ", ";
print #parser attribValue$(x)
next x

This short program produces:

program
name, myprog
author, Carl Gundel

And here is a short program which will display the tag names and contents of an artibrarily nested XML document:

xmlparser #doc, s$
print #doc key$()
call displayElements #doc
end

sub displayElements #xmlDoc
count = #xmlDoc elementCount()
for x = 1 to count
#elem = #xmlDoc #element(x)
print "Key: "; #elem key$();
value$ = #elem value$()
if value$ <> "" then
print " Value: "; value$
end if
print
call displayElements #elem
next x
end sub


Monday, September 24, 2007

Do-it-yourself programming

A friend of mine pointed me at this article "Do-It-Yourself Software" in the Wall Street Journal.

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB119023041951932741.html

Run BASIC and Liberty BASIC are both aimed at this market, and in fact this is the traditional niche of BASIC language products.

More on modularity

Run BASIC gives you the ability to create web pages that are component based. You define your own components and the ease at which you can plug these things together comes essentially for free. Here is a really simple example that I posted in our beta testing forum:

[masterPage]
cls
html "Program manager"
link #wiki, "Wiki", [runTheWiki]
print " ";
link #multi, "Multicounter", [runTheMulticounter]
print
if launchFlag then render #subProg
wait

[runTheWiki]
run "runWiki", #subProg
launchFlag = 1
goto [masterPage]

[runTheMulticounter]
run "multicounter", #subProg
launchFlag = 1
goto [masterPage]

Here is a version that doesn't use any GOTOs:

global launchFlag
call displayMasterPage
wait

sub displayMasterPage
cls
html "Program manager"
link #wiki, "Wiki", runSubprogram
#wiki setkey("runWiki")
print " ";
link #multi, "Multicounter", runSubprogram
#multi setkey("multicounter")
print
if launchFlag then render #subProg
end sub

sub runSubprogram linkKey$
run linkKey$, #subProg
launchFlag = 1
call displayMasterPage
end sub

So what does this do? It creates a simple web page with a title and two links. Click on the wiki link and the wiki program becomes part of the web page. Click on the multicounter link and the multicounter replaces the wiki part of the page. You can switch back and forth between the wiki and the multicounter at will with just the click of a mouse. What's even more interesting is that the multicounter is already a modular program, so you get three levels of modularity but you aren't limited to that.

So for programmers who like to put all their code in one file, there's nothing to prevent that. But people who like modules can have a field day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Run BASIC enters beta testing

Well, it's been quiet here for a couple of months but now that the summer activities are over things have begun to pick up steam. In particular we started beta testing Run BASIC Personal Server a few weeks ago. We are still looking for a few more people to help test.

Run BASIC Personal Server is an all in one web app server, BASIC scripting language, database engine and more. It offers an extremely easy way to get into web application development. When I say extremely easy I am not exaggerating. We are talking "a child could do it" easy web programming.

When I asked my testers how they would describe Run BASIC, here is what some of them said:

" - - Run BASIC provides a complete alternative to the complex development languages that have evolved to script web content. Run BASIC wrests control back to you, allowing BASIC language scripting of web content. Create web pages in an easy to use project development environment and publish on the web at the click of a mouse."

" - - If you've ever used one of the classic BASIC interpreters, then you already know most of what you need to build dynamic websites using Run Basic."

" - - Run BASIC moves desktop programming out onto the internet. The screen displays, forms, interactions, graphics, and data-handling processes you create with clear, understandable BASIC programs suddenly become web applications, usable by anyone, on any platform -- Windows, Mac, Linux -- on any computer with browser access to the internet. With Run BASIC, you can write your program from anywhere, on any computer, and run it everywhere, on every computer."

If you are interested in Run BASIC and feel you have enough time to spend at least a few hours testing it out, please send an email to me at carlg@libertybasic.com and explain why you would like to be a beta tester.

We will accept only a certain number of applicants and I'll post a note here when we have enough.

Thanks!

-Carl Gundel

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Database and web capabilities

Our Run BASIC + SQLite integration is coming along nicely, and it lays the groundwork for using other databases later on (Oracle, SQL Server, MySql, etc.). One thing that we did to make using databases handy is that we built in some display technologies. You can query the database and then just use the RENDER statement to put the result on the web page. You can also inject some CSS styling right into that result, and you can even turn the line items of any column in the displayed table into links.

We also have added an httpget$() function so you can use HTTP to retrieve web documents like web pages, RSS feeds, etc. We plan to include an XML parser, and if we can come up with an easy to use way to stream through an HTML document we will provide that also.

These capabilities (except for the table rendering) will also be included in Liberty BASIC v5.0.

To keep up with what we're doing with Run BASIC, make sure to visit this blog and also http://libertybasic.conforums.com/index.cgi?board=runbasic

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Adding SQLite to Run BASIC

Here is some example code that runs under Run BASIC using SQLite v3.4. I haven't pushed this stuff onto the publicly hosted site. SQLite will come with the Run BASIC personal server and should be suitable for many projects. Support for other databases like Oracle, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, etc. will be added with the professional server license.

sqliteconnect #users, "test.db"
call execAndPrint "select * from users"
call execAndPrint "select count(*) from users"
#users disconnect()
end

sub execAndPrint query$
#users execute(query$)

while #users hasanswer()
result$ = #users nextrow$(",")
print result$
wend
end sub

SQLite is a popular database engine provided as a library and is supported for Windows, Mac and Linux. The source code is available and is in the public domain so it is completely free. We will support the parts of Run BASIC that integrate with SQLite, but as for the specific level of conformance to the SQL standard and other technical details, see http://www.sqlite.org/

The SQLITECONNECT #obj, "databasefile.db" statement connects to a database and sets the #obj variable to be a connection object. The connection object understands EXECUTE(), HASANSWER(), NEXTROW$() and DISCONNECT(). I'm sure there will be more commands.

Notice the NEXTROW$() method. It returns each query result row as a string, with each item delimited by the specified string ("," in the example but it could be CHR$(9) or something else). It is trivial then to use the WORD$() function to extract the information. We will certainly also add the ability to get items by name.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Run BASIC and the iPhone

With Apple's iPhone getting ready to ship at the end of this month I'm very excited that we will have something soon that iPhone owners can use to customize their devices by running their own programs in the iPhone's built-in Safari web browser. Run BASIC (http://www.runbasic.com/) will be one easy way to extend the new device in the same way that many people used to use BASIC to create their own applications and games. This is really just the beginning since you can be sure that there will be so many similar kinds of telephones produced by the major cell phone makers.

I have a Treo 650 myself, and I can use it to access the Run BASIC site, but it is awkward because the web browser it includes is slow and the Treo has a tiny little screen. I am eager to see how this all works on the iPhone, and if it is compelling I may even buy one just so I can demonstrate Run BASIC wherever I am. ;-)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Support for CSS class tags

In an earlier post I described how Run BASIC can use the DIV and CSS statements to style a web page. That works well for styling the different parts of a web page, but not for styling individual things on a page.

One new addition to Run BASIC is the ability to add a CSS class tag to an object on a web page, so that it can be manipulated.

For example the following would create a link and set a class to "button".

link #doMyBidding, "GO", [go]
#doMyBidding cssclass("button")

And the following statement would add the CSS needed to style the link (or any object that has the class tag "button"):

cssclass ".button", "{ put some css styling in here }"

Here is a link to a video demonstrating how this all works.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qomg67VdF0

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Component Based Web Development

As a followup to the modules post I made a few days ago which is applicable to both Liberty BASIC and Run BASIC, Scott and I have created something very web specific for Run BASIC.

In addition to inserting graphics into a web page, Run BASIC's RENDER statement can now be used to insert a module into a web page. We have this in a rough state now. It does work, but we need to iron out a couple of things.

What is this useful for? You can now create different parts of your web application as separate programs. You load them in and render them into the page. You can also control them using their own functions.

For example you might have a blog application with different parts of the page rendered by their own modules:
  • BannerLogin
  • Navigation bar
  • Entries
  • Archive outline
  • etc.
Each component has it's own little virtual page which you can print to, embed graphics into, cls, add links and other stuff to, etc. The contents of the component are managed automatically. Only a RENDER statement is needed.

By using the DIV and CSS statements, the modules can be formatted on the web page in an attractive and useful way.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Rumblings under the surface

I apologize for the slow progress of things lately. It only appears on the surface that progress is lacking. We've been busy doing very cool things that we plan to reveal soon. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Modules and Run/Liberty BASIC

People have been asking for a way to create code libraries in Liberty BASIC for some time. I have thinking about how to do this using an in-memory model. Over the weekend Scott and I worked on adding some modularity to the Run/Liberty BASIC language. Here's how it works so far. We are open to suggestions.

The RUN statement has a new form. If I want to use mymodule.bas as a module in a program I am writing I would code it like this:

run "mymodule.bas", #myModule

This causes mymodule.bas to be compiled into memory. It will execute code up to the first wait statement. This is how values will be initialized. The program then becomes an object assigned to the #myModule handle.

Then you can call any function on that program from within the calling program, like so:

#myModule myFunction(myParameter)

or even use the invokation in a more complex expression:

print "digits: "; len(#myModule myFunction(myParameter))

You may recognize this syntax as being the same as for controlling widgets. It relies on the same underlying mechanisms to do its work.

When we're done with this, modular programs loaded this way will be cached in memory and will only recompile when the source file changes.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Inkey$ and Liberty BASIC

There has been some discussion in the support forum about extending keyboard handling in Liberty BASIC programs. Currently we only allow doing something like this in the graphics views. Two things (maybe more?) are missing:
  • Getting the next character in the mainwindow without stopping the program. Currently only INPUT and INPUT$() are supported. Both stop the program and wait.
  • Getting the next character typed for some window or widget that has focus. In other words, reading keypresses for objects with handles (ie. #thisWindow)

What I suggested in the forum is a function called inkey$().

The following would read keypresses for the mainwindow:

print inkey$()

or it could be abbreviated to:

print inkey$

To read keypresses for windows or widgets with handles:

print inkey$(#handle)

I'd like to solicit feedback here. Any ideas? Please leave a comment, and thanks!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

BASIC and CSS

One of the important aspects of integrating a programming language with web development is page layout. Until recently this would have meant inserting lots of HTML tags into your source code. You can do this with Run BASIC.

However there is a better way. It is called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). This provides a way to wrap the things on your web page with tags that you give your own names to, and you defined the appearance of the stuff wrapped in those tags somewhere else. This way your program's code has very little extra stuff in it to clutter up your code. If there is too much clutter it can be very hard to understand what code means, and this can slow you down and lead to bugs.

So, Scott McLaughlin and I have begun to integrate CSS with Run BASIC. We added a CSSID statement (originally this blog entry had this as CSS, but we changed the command), a DIV statement, and an END DIV statement. Here's a very short example:

cssid #myTag, "{ background: #FFDDDD; font-family: tahoma }"

div myTag
print "count to ten"
for x = 1 to 10
print x
next x
end div

Okay, so this displays all the text printed between the DIV and the END DIV with a light red background, and using the tahoma font. The #myFont token isn't a handle like the ones used for files and GUI controls. The # is simply part of CSS syntax.

DIV statements can be nested, and the contents of one DIV block will be rendered on the page nested inside of each other.

There is a lot more that can be done with CSS, and we're trying to explore what are the simplest and most useful things to include in Run BASIC.

We will be posting a screencast in the next few days that shows how this works.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Demo of Run BASIC at Smalltalk Solutions

Wednesday evening I had the priviledge of organizing the Seaside BOF (birds of a feather) session at Smalltalk Solutions. This meant that I was the one up at the microphone (which I pushed aside since the room wasn't big) for most of an hour and a half. It was fun and I didn't feel put on the spot since this was more of a round table than anything. I only had to try and direct the conversation some.

Here is James Robertson's blog entry with a photo of me presenting.

http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/blog/blogView?entry=3355631481

I'm very small in the frame, but yeah that's me all right. You can make out the Run BASIC web page up on the screen if you look carefully.

The demo was a little bit scary since I was modifying the Run BASIC code almost right up to the last second before the meeting. Scott and I were spending most of our free time at the conference working on some simple CSS integration. I'm hoping to put a screencast up to show how it all works.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Artificial Intelligence and BASIC

When I was 13 or so years old I bought a book at You-Do-It Electronics titled Experiments in Artificial Intelligence for Small Computers, authored by John Krutch. This book influenced me in important ways. It teaches the essentials of AI so anyone could understand it. Examples are presented in the BASIC programming language. One of the examples presented is of the classic Eliza sort of conversational system. Not cutting edge research, but as a starter it gets the job done.

I was able to use the techniques in the book to create demos for the computers at NEECO. A person visiting the store would ask the computer about itself, and the computer would try and respond appropriately with a demonstration of features.

The book can still be purchased used on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Missing the Point

I read a paper the other day that described a system for teaching kids programming. It was one of those robot simulations where the student learns programming by using a special mini-language to teach an on-screen robot to accomplish certain goals.

So in this case the language in question is a simple one, specialized for the robot ideas as a gentle way to introduce programming.

Later in the same paper they described how a newer version of the system switched to Java as the language for the robot. I am amazed how easily people are brainwashed into using the popular thing in place of the right thing. Instead of something simple use the "industry standard" language, no matter how much it might damage their minds. :-/

What would be better? I guess the robot language they were using before would be just fine. Or pick some other simple language if you're looking for mindshare. BASIC, LOGO, Forth, Smalltalk.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

BASIC Contributed to Success of Industry

It seems to me that BASIC was one of the reasons for the success of the early microcomputer business. I get so many emails from people who:
  • bought a computer twenty or thirty years ago
  • learned BASIC and did fun and productive things
  • migrated to Microsoft Windows when it became the defacto standard OS
  • found Windows programming languages to be too hard
  • stopped programming for a LONG time
  • stumbled across Liberty BASIC http://www.libertybasic.com
  • started programming again in earnest!

The remarkable thing to me is that Liberty BASIC isn't as simple as the original BASIC interpreters were, but it is still so much easier than VB or Java that it serves as an acceptable gateway back into computing for so many people.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

BASIC versus RoR?

Someone posed the question recently about how Run BASIC http://www.runbasic.com will stack up against Ruby on Rails. I think the question was meant primarily about performance. This is really an apples to oranges comparison because Run BASIC isn't meant to be a scripting language.

While I don't doubt that some people will use Run BASIC to create commercial sites, this is not the focus we are pursuing. Instead we are creating a tool for the traditional users of BASIC. If you want to learn or teach programming, if you want to create web apps for your use at home (or on your iPhone!), or if you need a custom application at the office and the IT folks and programmers are too busy to build it for you then Run BASIC is designed for you. :-)

Coming back to performance, the processing of large web applications is bottlenecked at the database. A Run BASIC front end to a database will perform similarly to other languages like Perl, Ruby, etc.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Run BASIC Personal IDE sneak peek

Here is a link to a screencast showing how Run BASIC can be used to create a blogging application with very little code. Enjoy!

http://www.libertybasic.com/basicology.html

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Small Matter

I'm a big fan of object oriented programming a la Smalltalk. Nothing could be more different from BASIC than Smalltalk.

How do I resolve my love for BASIC and Smalltalk? It's easy. I pick the right tool for the job.

For large projects Smalltalk rules. Anything that has to scale to support many specialized features scales better when constructed from objects (usually anyways).

BASIC's strengths become evident when you know that your project will always be small. In such cases I can knock out a quick solution to my problems faster in BASIC than I ever could in Smalltalk, or Java for that matter.

In addition in order to be productive in most modern systems like Smalltalk, Java, etc. I need to learn to use a large class library. In BASIC I can dispense with all that.

BASIC is fun.

Monday, February 12, 2007

BASIC and Web 2.0

Run BASIC has been called a Web 2.0 BASIC by several people now. I have been pretty much avoiding that classification (lately) because I don't think it meets that description, yet.

One idea that is important for Run BASIC to be a Web 2.0 system is that it needs to be able to consume information from other internet sources. The ability for the user to write a program that downloads the contents of a web page and then process that as information, or the ability to read RSS feeds as data would get us partway there.

I'd be interested in the reader's thoughts about this (yes, you!).

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Run BASIC Two Weeks Report

Well, Run BASIC (http://www.runbasic.com) has been online now for slightly more than 2 weeks. We've had more than 1500 unique visitors.

There have been a handful of server crashes in that period and numerous bugfixes. A few of these fixes are related to stability of the server but most are new features or fixes in the compiler or runtime system. This is a very good thing since most of this stuff feeds directly into the Liberty BASIC v5.0 effort. In essence this is a kind of alpha testing for LB5.

The community has responded nicely by creating a Run BASIC section on the Liberty BASIC Conforums site and by putting up a wiki. People have been busy creating programs that run under Run BASIC. Thanks to all of you for that.

Where are we headed with this? We have just started work on a Run BASIC personal edition. This will be a special version of the software that you can install on your own computer. Windows, Mac and Linux will all be supported. The user interface for this will still be web based, but it will be more of an IDE style setup. Our idea is that you can use this system to host a web site and share programs that you write as links on a home page. We are thinking a license for this system will cost $20 to $30.

Once the personal system is launched, we plan to create an educational system for instructors. Each student can have an account, and they can work through their lessons in their browsers whether at home, at school, or wherever they can access the server by means of the internet. Access to student work will be managed for the instructor automatically. We'll develop these ideas more later on.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New web BASIC launched!

The new Run BASIC site is now up! This site is a starting point for new web technologies that use Liberty BASIC is the core language. The site is a modest (but very cool) demo of what's to come. If you have always enjoyed programming in BASIC we think you'll like Run BASIC. Check it out! http://www.runbasic.com

-Carl Gundel and Scott McLaughlin

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tiny BASIC Revisited

Scott and I decided to port Tiny BASIC over to Liberty BASIC last week. What we have is mostly working now and I'll make it available after I've polished it a little more.

In the Wikipedia article I mentioned before there are two versions of Tiny BASIC implemented in BASIC. The one we decided to use is here: http://www.aldweb.com/articles.php?lng=en&pg=7407 We decided to use this one because it is simpler. It is also open source.

So what we have is a cute little line numbered BASIC interpreter. In fact the version of BASIC used in the original TRS-80 Model I computer was Tiny BASIC. So if you've ever used this machine or anything like it (VIC-20, C64, Atari 400/800, Sinclair ZX81, etc.) you remember entering code a line at a time each with a line number, typing LIST and RUN. You also have immediate evaluation, which is a nice feature that most languages (even BASIC) don't have today.

The limitations? Single letter variable names. No string variables at all. Only about 100 lines of code per program (a completely artifical limit left to the reader to remove). No GOSUB/RETURN.

Okay, so why do this at all? Clearly this is not a useful programming language, right? I'm not so sure.

First, as an example of how to create a simple programming language it is great. The code is pretty well written (even though it looks like it is also written in a version of Tiny BASIC) and I had no trouble following it.

Then, when I consider just how small this program is I am impressed. In very little code the author has created an interactive programming environment.

If someone wants to use this as a platform to experiment it is wide open. One could try extending the language with string variables, add graphics support, or build a programmable robot battle game on top of it. Perhaps it could even be used to support scripting for Liberty BASIC applications.

Very cool. :-)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

BASIC and iPhone

Well, my post the other day about the iPhone wasn't about BASIC programming, but now that I've had a chance to think about it this new device does have some implications. One interesting thing about iPhone's introduction is that nothing was mentioned about development tools. This is a little bit of a contradiction since the iPhone runs Apple's OS X, a full blown Unix operating system. Since this new device is more computer than phone you would expect there to be some way to at least customize it by installing software, or perhaps by scripting. This would also make it easier to justify spending $500. On the other hand you must be a Cingular customer. Hmmm. :-/

It would be great if Apple decides to support this. Imagine Liberty BASIC on the iPhone! If software installation isn't a feature of the iPhone at least you will be able to run our web BASIC on it using the Safari web browser since you'll have an always-on internet connection. :-)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Apple Phone

I admit this has nothing to do with BASIC, but go to http://www.apple.com and see what their new iPhone looks like. I'd be tempted to think this whole thing is an April fool's joke, but it's only January.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A sneak peek at our web BASIC

Alyce Watson asked if she could post about the sneak peek we gave to her of our server in action. Have a look at what she had to say.

http://libertybasic.conforums.com/index.cgi?board=lb5&action=display&num=1168003459

We plan to unveil this web BASIC as a free site this month. Later we will sell personal licenses perhaps an affordable subscription service. After that, who knows? ;-)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My BASIC? Your BASIC? Tiny BASIC?

Not infrequently people will post questions in our community forums (http://libertybasic.conforums.com and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/libertybasic) asking how to implement a programming language. Usually someone will chime in with a link to some very detailed tutorials hundreds of pages long. This is fine if the reader is sufficiently well motivated.

The other day I stumbled on a very cool page on Wikipedia about Tiny BASIC, a language implemented many years ago and published in the seminal Dr. Dobbs Journal magazine. I realized that budding language implementors would really go bonkers for this!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiny_Basic

Check out the links at the bottom. There are a couple of implementations there written in BASIC with source code. What better way to get your feet wet but to port Tiny BASIC to Liberty BASIC or to your favorite BASIC? Doing the port shouldn't be too hard, and you'll learn enough to venture adding some new commands. :-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

C for Beginners?

I recently responded to someone's blog comment that said that BASIC is not a good language for beginning programmers. He suggested instead that beginners learn C. I responded that C is a fine language for many purposes (like operating system development), but that it contains too many difficulties that are not fundamentally related to learning programming. Here's a cool page that I found using StumbleUpon http://www.stumbleupon.com that illustrates my point effectively. ;-)

http://www.andromeda.com/people/ddyer/topten.html

BASIC's culture of diversity

One of the really interesting things about BASIC is that there are probably more dialects than any other programming language. Perhaps this is because BASIC really is the people's language. Sure, there are different versions of C (a few), Cobol (why?), Forth, etc. but people just love to create their own version of BASIC for whatever reason.

I guess that since BASIC was born into a world where it was shoehorned into many, many different computers it became part of the BASIC culture that it is okay to have many broadly different implementations. Every early home computer had it's own BASIC.

Now I've heard it said that this is a weakness of BASIC, and many people complain that there is no commercially viable standard BASIC. I'm not sure why this is a problem. The standard (by committee) is very old and limited. Since the world is constantly changing, I think it's a good thing that BASIC hasn't settled down into a rut. BASIC is still a place where people feel free to explore and innovate.

The world is big enough to accomodate variety.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Liberty BASIC gets some attention

Although Liberty BASIC isn't mentioned by name, the Liberty BASIC site gets a mention and a link by Jim Kelly here:

thenxtstep.blogspot.com/2006/10/learning-basic.html

Right away some debate about the suitability of BASIC arose in the reader comments. My how things never change. ;-)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Telengard and learning to program

Many years ago a close friend and I loved to play Telengard on his Commodore 64. This was a classic Dungeons and Dragons styled game. It was very well done and lots of fun. It seems to me though that was most fun about it was that it was written in BASIC. With very little effort we managed to break into the running game and customize it.

In fact recently I mentioned the game to him. He seemed to enjoy remembering most that we were able to hack the game. I was an experienced BASIC programmer at that time and it didn't impress me as much. I simply enjoyed playing the game.

I think what this makes clear to me is that programming novices like my friend really enjoy the process of learning by monkeying with a running system. You can just break into a program, examine or change a variable, add/change code and resume execution. I wonder how many beginners do not go on to become competent programmers without access to this kind of interactive system.

This is something that interpreted BASIC is excellent at. More systems need to be like this.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

It's about computer literacy

David Brin wrote an article about how computer users (kids in particular) need an easy language like BASIC again, and it should come with the computer. Read it all here http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2006/09/14/basic/index.html

I absolutely agree with Mr. Brin's stance. The trouble isn't that there aren't tons of programming languages to choose from, many of them free. The problem is that the computer doesn't come with an easy language. And if it did come out of the box (like DOS had QBasic), it really should be an icon on the desktop. Hiding it away would be a bad thing.

Also the programming culture worships complexity. What the professional programmer today considers easy sets a bar way too high for the child or casually interested adult. The result is that the fun is removed from the experience. No fun = no learning.

Schools today think that computer literacy is about using Photoshop, Microsoft Office and Frontpage. That's a low-minded place to be. Teach kids to program. Some of them will latch onto the experience.