Last year I started reading or rereading some of the classical texts in computer science. The first one was the CLU Reference Manual by Prof. Liskov et al.
The book and the language were conceived in the seventies. CLU is object based the central concept being the abstract data type essentially encapsulated objects without inheritance. It does however support parametric polymorphism AKA generics. There is also a really nice exception mechanism. Also there is the notion of iterators that support yield return, just in case you thought MS invented that. Also there is a small amount of really effective syntactic sugar. The syntax to call “methods” is a bit queer, but on the whole it’s a very interesting language.
The book is very terse. Beautiful. There is not only advice on how to do exception handling (if only I had that kind of instruction when I learnt java), but also on avoiding singletons. Prof. Waldschmidt once mentioned to us that CLU rather than java should be used to teach programming. I think he was spot on. My java didn’t take off until I understood how to use delegation and composition. If you don’t have inheritance you might learn that lesson faster.
It’s a shame that CLU has been abandoned. Imagine a world, where C hadn’t been used for systems programming…
Warning: Some of the statements in this piece contain irony and sarcasm, if you are unfamiliar with these concepts you might want to stop reading here.
This week there is barely a day, where I am not bored with some trivia from the “embassy cables”. Now my first problem is that most of this is bloody obvious. Who would have thought that Mrs Merkel is risk-averse and rarely creative? Obviously the hacks from the Gruniad didn’t know or at least feel the need to tell me. Also it seems the American foreign policy is quite arrogant, ignorant, and at times stupid, but we even knew that they tortured Iraqi’s before Wikileaks imparted that knowledge upon us. So it’s not really news, let alone new information.
The second thing the annoys me, are the naïve justifications I hear for publishing rather private information. Freedom of Speech and the Press respectively are being cited as the legal basis the publications. Now as it happens there is more than one human right. Obviously there is a lot to be said for privacy on the other side. The Grundgesetz (arguably the best constitution in the world) comes with Artikel 10, which guarantees the privacy of mail and telecommunications. And this is not just a German quirk, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights talks about privacy of correspondence. People might argue that the US government shouldn’t enjoy human rights, but I think there is a point that it’s agents are human beings and should not have there correspondence published. The second problem is, that this sets a nasty precedence and the next time it could be someone’s private mail or documents.
The important here is that different rights need to be balanced, because exercising your rights might compromise other people’s rights. Funnily enough the lack of that insight strikes me as a very American trait, where Freedom of Speech is regularly being used to justify fascist hate speech and the Right to bear arms has cost many a man’s and woman’s life.
To sum up I don’t like the idea of wholesale publication of correspondence and I can’t see how any of the stuff I have read so far would justify this. So I would like to see Assange go behind bars, not for treason, because I don’t think an abstract entity like a government or state can have these rights, but for spreading people’s correspondence for no good reason.