posted by David Welton on Mon 10th Mar 2003 21:42 UTC

"Tcl/Tk Interview, Part 5"

What do you think about open source, or free software? What is its place in the world?

Donal: If commercial software can't beat free/open software, they don't deserve to be making money from it. But I'm perfectly happy for commercial entities to leverage free/open software; if the infrastructure's open, there's plenty of room for profit for everyone.

Jeff: It's place is growing.

Mark: I think it will continue to grow, especially for "infrastructure" types of software.

Do you "manage" other people as part of your core team duties? What are your thoughts on managing people who want to contribute?

Donal: I don't manage anyone, though I do occasionally chase people up with pending contributions (e.g. where their TIP is accepted but they've not submitted an implementation of sufficient quality.) But I'm usually too busy for that...

Jeff: I currently manage Andreas directly, and work with most others as I have to coordinate release times for usable core releases. Managing people who want to contribute isn't hard - you just lay out the ground rules and watch them for a bit to see that they follow them (that related mostly to coding style for us). The hard part is following up with those who have contributed something, but then virtually disappear when key problems are found in the contributions.

What successes has tclcore had?

Donal: In my humble opinion, TIPs are a *great* success.

Jeff: Well, 8.4 made it out. TIPs are nice. This is a very open question though.

Mark: The TIP system ( has worked very well.

Who are your inspirations? Who or what inspired you when growing as a programmer?

Mark: My first inspiration was my father, who was also a programmer. In the 60s and 70s he worked on a global information distribution system that could transmit weather data to every U.S. military installation in the world in under two minutes, with a downtime of less than five minutes per year. This on a system with about the same computing power as a Gameboy.

I was also inspired by Brian Kernighan's writings. He is still the model of exposition and clear thought I turn to when I try to explain things to other people. It was a high point in my career to work with him on our Tcl book.

Jeff: John Ousterhout has actually been a big inspiration for me. He answered my questions (and even promptly!) when I start using Tcl, which left a great impression on me. He was also a good mentor.

Donal: Alas, I'm not someone who has heroes. Though I'll admit to wanting the respect of other Tcl programmers...

What is the coolest thing you've seen Tcl used for?

Mark: Two early Tcl projects that totally blew me away were the Shell Auger Platform (in which Tcl programs controlled all the wellhead operations for 32 drillheads on a floating oil well thing floating in the Gulf of Mexico), and the use of Tcl in the Mars Explorer project (the one that didn't crash!).

Donal: Now that's a hard question. There were many cool things being done with Tcl at the last Tcl conference (and there's much impressive activity elsewhere too) but the use of Tcl for the electronic version of the DWB (German dictionary) is impressive because it is work by mostly non-programmers and is highly exposed to the public too. And of course the use of Tcl as an OS on a piece of hardware is fantastically funky too. And then there's Tclkit/Starkits... [*]

Table of contents
  1. "Tcl/Tk Interview, Part 1"
  2. "Tcl/Tk Interview, Part 2"
  3. "Tcl/Tk Interview, Part 3"
  4. "Tcl/Tk Interview, Part 4"
  5. "Tcl/Tk Interview, Part 5"
  6. "Tcl/Tk Interview, Part 6"
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