[IAEP] [Sugar-devel] [SLOBS] Long-term support for Sugar

Benjamin M. Schwartz bmschwar at fas.harvard.edu
Thu Sep 24 00:06:06 EDT 2009

Yamandu Ploskonka wrote:
>  I for one had hoped that the utterly painful performance 
> problems with Sugar were a price we were paying for total cross-platform 
> compatibility though Python.  I'm having my innocence crushed as I 
> follow this thread...

We would do well to clarify this.  For the record:

1.  It is easy to write totally cross-platform programs in Python.  A
simple program written in pure Python, using only the libraries that we
provide, will typically be perfectly cross-platform.

2.  Very complex programs using python are often not "pure Python".  They
may rely on an unusual GTK widget written in C, or an image manipulation
library written in C++, or some other external code that is imported into
python as a module.  This external module is typically a platform-specific
binary blob that requires significant effort to rebuild for each platform,
and potentially for each distribution.  Such external modules are
particularly necessary because Python isn't fast enough to do heavy
computation in pure python.

Some programs only use a little bit of python, and have most of their
functionality in a separate platform-specific executable.  For example,
the "Watch Me" activity uses a bit of python code to configure
collaboration, but most of the functionality is provided by a binary for
x11vnc and libgtkvnc, which are written in C.

3.  Java (and also C#/Mono) is different here because
   (a) it's fast enough to write just about anything, so people don't need
to use external modules
   (b) the interface to native code libraries is extremely inconvenient so
very few people use it
   (c) it's easy to disable the native-code interface entirely, ensuring
that programs are fully portable.
HTML+Javascript doesn't offer any native-code interface, and I believe the
same is true of typical eToys.

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