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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Mon, 17 Sep 2018

Everything doesn't have to be a web program

Desktop GUI programming used to matter. Just about every programming language offered a way to build a desktop application that wasn't tethered to the terminal.

And many programming languages either ship with or allow the installation of modules that allow for a desktop GUI.

Javascript, unfortunately, didn't do it in a lightweight way. While I've heard rumblings of some kind of React-based way to create a desktop GUI via Node.js (aka Javascript in your local terminal), the language of the web (and now servers everywhere) has latched on to Electron, basically a full Google Chrome browser in a local window.

I just want a GUI to be a GUI. Java has the once-new (wasn't everything) JavaFX, and the still-old Swing, but there's no excitement and few tutorials. That doesn't mean JavaFX isn't one of your best bets in creating desktop GUI software. For better or worse, it is.

The computing world really wants you to write GUI applications in whatever frameworks Microsoft or Apple offer. I want something cross-platform. I'm not interested in Swift, Objective C or C#, though I do have to admit that C# code looks as clear as anything out there.

While I like the apps I see written in QT, which is cross-platform, that just doesn't seem to be my thing. Sure, I've coded in C++, but it's not something I'm hankering to revisit.

I've written a little Perl, but that holds little attraction at this point.

My language of choice at the moment is Ruby. It should be Java (or Clojure, Go, Elixir, Haskell ... you get the idea), but it's Ruby.

Ruby used to have people who were sort of interested in GUIs. There was a RubyFX project at one point. Abandoned.

Ruby Shoes was clear and concise. For some reason it now only runs with JRuby, the Ruby on Java. The MRuby (aka "regular" Ruby) version was abandoned.

There's a GUI that still ships with Ruby. It's the same one that ships with Perl and Python.

It's called Tk.

Tk is old school. I think people cared about it once. It is tied to the TCL programming language. Those ties are close enough that I considered figuring out how TCL works and coding in that.

But Tk still works, and it is sort of, kind of still under development. I think.

The problem is that there are few resources for learning Tk with Ruby or Perl. I have been using the Tkdocs.com website, and I managed to get the first sample GUI program working. It's a simple converter from feet to meters, and I've been able to start hacking together my own program from that shell.

I'd love a book on Tk and Ruby that was published in the past 10 years. I might just have to settle for an old book.

For some reason or maybe a few, I have avoided coding in Python. I might have to change my mind. There is more interest in Tk in the Python world. I think there are even recent books on the Python and Tk. There might even be newer tutorials on the web. I've stumbled across a book from Packt, but I haven't investigated the web resources.

Right now my command-line application -- which is working, by the way -- is written in Ruby. So I'd love to stay in Ruby and figure out Tk.

But I'm at a crossroads. I feel like I'm reinventing the wheel by trying to code a GUI application in Ruby. Maybe I'd have an easier time reimplementing everything in Java. I'm sure I'd be better off going with Python.

I could also do this as an Android app. That way I could use it on my phone and tablet and have a GUI framework (that being Android itself) that isn't mired in the 2000s.

For those who say, "just do it as a web app," I don't want to deal with the security issues of running a web-exposed service. Maybe I should figure that out. This still feels like a desktop GUI application. There's no reason for it to be a browser-controlled, web-based service.

If I stick with Tk, I'm not sure a TCL- or Python-focused book will get me where I need to be. I might have to travel back in time to 2008, when Ruby was hot, and grab whatever Ruby GUI books were out then.

I thought I wanted to make my blogPoster Ruby script more class-based (currently it is 0% toward that goal) and leave the GUI for later. But now I'm thinking GUI first.

I'm reading the excellent "Head First Ruby" book, and that is doing a great job of teaching me how classes work in Ruby. I'm excited about that, and it pulls me in yet another direction.

This is what learning programming and just programming (where you're always learning) are all about. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.