Harlequin 
Author Message
 Harlequin

Sure you have by now heard the bad news.

If anyone has an interest in buying the Lisp part of their business,
he/she should contact the receivers as *soon* as possible to
express an interest, etc.

It would be a tragedy for the whole Lisp community, if we'd
lose LispWorks and LCL. A single vendor for Unix/Windows remaining
is not enough, I'd guess.

Rainer Joswig



Thu, 20 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Harlequin
....

Quote:
> Big picture:  Does anyone have any idea what the going rate to purchase
> a suite of programming languages might be?

> In other words, if someone wanted to put together a bid to purchase
> their CL, Dylan, and ML products, does anyone know of a way to come up
> with a reasonable valuation on which to make an offer?

> Personally, I would think it would be on a discounted basis of the cash
> from their current support contracts.

  As a software developer I may be biased, but as a commerical venture the dominating cost
  here is really is can you afford pay the some signficant fragment of the Harlequin
  Development team.    If all you going to do is milk the products as a cash cow the Franz
  marketing/sales folks are going to swooping out of the sky like an A-10 during Desert
  Storm.  You're {*filter*} you can make it across the pontoon bridge before the plane blows it up.

  The productive i-prop of most software companys is wrapped up in the developers head much
  more than most company probably care to admit.   It will take a long time to get a new
  set of developers far enough up the learning curve to keep your support customers happy.

Quote:
> it appears that Harlequin is primarily known for it's RIP (some sort of
> publishing tech) and law enforcement technology.  It appears the
> programming language products are a bit of an afterthought (they've an
> extremely bizarre product mix!!!).

  Not too bizarre.  A RIP (raster image processor? )is built around a
  postscript engine/interpreter.  The result of the "compiler" is a result on a piece
  of paper instead of bits into a file.    I'd wager the law enforcement technology is layered
  on top of their own tools.    At least one would hope that they "ate their own
  dog food". :-)

Quote:
> If the purchasing company is not interested in the language tools, they
> might be persuaded to sell the tools at a _very_ reasonable price

  However, it is always amazing how much people cling to "sunk costs".  There is a
  limit to that "very".
  At a certain low "cents on the dollar" there is a tendency to collect pennies in
  a jar on the dresser rather than do anything productive with them.  Especially,
  when there are other pieces that have a greater valuation.  

Quote:
> Personally, I think the most likely purchaser for the language products
> comes from engineers within the company.  I can picture of group of
> engineers starting a small solutions company using the $$$ from the

  The pain in the {*filter*}problem for them will be raising the start up capital.
  The language products business doesn't have high margins/high profitability in
  comparison to most other software categories, let alone have a "dot.com" like
  potential.  

  That's why sometimes it is better to give a company some breathing room and let them
  exit bankruptcy themselves instead of doing a "chop shop" job.  The best entity to
  take commerical advantage of the code is a, perhaps "reformed", Harlequin.

  P.S. taking a collection to put the code into the "bazaar" is a bit misguided.
       One part oftened overlooked in the bazaar model is that the an "owner/leader"
       of the code.  Without some focal point just casting the code out onto the
       net isn't likely to lead to something very productive.  The mulitple eyeball
       thing only works after there is something "working".

       However, I think there are some free/open source folks looking into this.

---

Lyman



Sat, 22 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Harlequin


Quote:

>   As a software developer I may be biased, but as a commerical venture
>   the dominating cost here is really is can you afford pay the some
>   signficant fragment of the Harlequin Development team.    If all you
>   going to do is milk the products as a cash cow the Franz
>   marketing/sales folks are going to swooping out of the sky like an
>   A-10 during Desert Storm.  You're {*filter*} you can make it across
>   the pontoon bridge before the plane blows it up.

Agreed about the development team part.  WRT the A-10, that bridge has
probably already been targeted (I'd bet Franz has already contacted
every company they know of on Harlequin's customer list. . ."we're
sorry to hear about your chosen vendor. . .if any problems pop up, give
us a call."

Quote:
>   Not too bizarre.  A RIP (raster image processor? )is built around a
>   postscript engine/interpreter.  The result of the "compiler" is a
>   result on a piece of paper instead of bits into a file.    I'd wager
>   the law enforcement technology is layered on top of their own tools.
>   At least one would hope that they "ate their own
>   dog food". :-)

I agree that they probably "eat their own dog food."  On the other hand,
it appears that they make too d*** many kinds of dogfood.  I, the
investor, generally want to see a company with a reasonably coherent
business plan.   It appears they have enough different product lines for
three different business plans.

Quote:
>   However, it is always amazing how much people cling to "sunk costs".
>   There is a limit to that "very".

Worrying about "sunk costs" is irrational.  This mainly (in my
experience) occurs with managers justifying past decisions. An outsider
is less likely to feel this pressure.  However, it still comes in the
guise of overly rosy powerpoint presentations.

Quote:
>   The pain in the {*filter*}problem for them will be raising the start up
>   capital. The language products business doesn't have high
>   margins/high profitability in comparison to most other software
>   categories, let alone have a "dot.com" like potential.

In general, I don't see programming languages as a highly profitable
product offering (Microsoft excepted).

Quote:
>   That's why sometimes it is better to give a company some breathing
>   room and let them exit bankruptcy themselves instead of doing a
>   "chop shop" job.  The best entity to take commerical advantage of
>   the code is a, perhaps "reformed", Harlequin.

I won't say Harlequin isn't a going concern.  I would say that I would
be surprised if their not "chopped" down to a smaller (1 or 2 segment)
focus.

Quote:

>   P.S. taking a collection to put the code into the "bazaar" is a bit
>   misguided.  One part oftened overlooked in the bazaar model is that
>   the an "owner/leader" of the code.  Without some focal point just
>   casting the code out onto the net isn't likely to lead to something
>   very productive.  The mulitple eyeball thing only works after there
>   is something "working".

1)  I presume their stuff basically works.
2)  The "owner/leader" problem is a big (huge???) one.  Frankly, I don't
    know how that would be solved.

Earlier, someone in this thread had voiced the hope that Harlequin would
open up their programming tools.  As a creditor, I wouldn't be very keen
to see this happen.  On the other hand, I might be willing to sell
(donate) the code to a tax-exempt organization for some amount and
deduct the remaining market value donated (or some hocus pocus like
that. . .IANAL).

I would change the followups, but I don't know a more relevant place for
this particular discussion.

Quote:
> Lyman

--Brad

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Share what you know. Learn what you don't.



Sat, 22 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Harlequin

Quote:

>  marketing/sales folks are going to swooping out of the sky like an A-10
during Desert
>  Storm.  You're {*filter*} you can make it across the pontoon bridge before

the plane blows it up.

Pontoon bridges in the desert??

James McCartney  asynth <at> io <dot> com



Sat, 22 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Harlequin
Well, I happened to wear my Apple Cambridge Dylan cancellation t-shirt to
work today... just on a whim. I rarely wear it.

Now I read Harlequin is bankrupt?

Is Dylan the cursed language? Or are all languages coming out of the Lisp
tree cursed?

Why is it that the business model for advanced languages is, for the most
part, not working?

What would a workable model look like?

I am very disappointed. I became interested in Dylan when Apple was giving
out its free book (based on the parenthesized syntax version) to drum up
interest. I was a tester of Apple Dylan and some of my (early, not very
idiomatic, messy) code made it as a user contribution on the Technology
Release.

At the time I was working with C++ and NewtonScript. NewtonScript is a very,
very small but very cleverly designed language; Apple had a simple, compact,
byte-code or native compilation language. It lacked a few niceties, but it
is still amazing how well it works. A Pascal-like syntax and a Java-like
runtime model and closures and true dynamic behavior. NewtonScript got me
interested in other dynamic languages like Scheme and Dylan.

Apple Dylan was way ahead of its time... it ran so slowly on the machines at
the time (68040 class) that it was painful and nearly useless. It is quite
snappy now on a PowerPC... but not quite stable enough for real work.

I was very e{*filter*}d to see Harlequin jump in. I beta-tested Harlequin
Dylan... it too had some pretty serious performance problems, although they
have improved a lot. I could never fathom how their program required over
100 megs of RAM to do anything useful, where Apple Dylan could build its
frameworks in under 40. It was obvious they were having some painful
struggles with their user interface, although that has improved. I can't
imagine trying to do a sophisticated Windows-API user interface. In Apple
Dylan's case, the great UI came first.

I work primarily with Mac hardware, so I blew a wad of my own money on a
fast PC. Unfortunately my free time has gotten thinner and thinner and there
was no way to use an NT-based environment here at work, although our
tailoring and rule engine tools would benefit ENORMOUSLY if could get away
from Perl and C++ and AppleScript. A more hideous concoction of code I can
scarcely imagine... but it works.

I guess I'm really just venting here... I want to use Dylan. I want to be
able to use Dylan on Apple hardware. For various reasons, I do NOT want to
use Java.

What can be done to save businesses working in advanced language products?
What can be done to make Dylan viable?

I might be able to work with Gwydion, but trying to debug crashing C code
built out of Dylan code does not sound like much fun to me.

Java... C++... Perl... blech.

Paul

--
"ain't you ever seen a disembodied soul before? ain't you ever seen a soul
   seeking incarnation?" - Robyn Hitchcock
Paul R. Potts - Technical Group Leader - Health Media Research Lab
Comprehensive Cancer Center - University of Michigan Medical Center



Sat, 22 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Harlequin

Quote:
>   P.S. taking a collection to put the code into the "bazaar" is a
>   bit misguided.
>        One part oftened overlooked in the bazaar model is that the
>        an "owner/leader" of the code.  Without some focal point just
>        casting the code out onto the net isn't likely to lead to
>        something very productive.  The mulitple eyeball thing only
>        works after there is something "working".

Right.  There is already one good-quality native-code open source Lisp
available (CMUCL) which has seen some but not a huge amount of
development.  I don't see that simply dumping others out there as
public code will lead to some frenzy of activity & development.  You
need an owner/leader and those people need to be able to get paid
somehow.

--tim



Sun, 23 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Harlequin


Quote:
> It was an interesting (for several values of interesting) place to
> work. It did some things very right, and others it got frustratingly
> wrong.

Could you expand on which ones?

Thanks,

-- O.L.

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Share what you know. Learn what you don't.



Sun, 23 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Harlequin


Quote:

> >   P.S. taking a collection to put the code into the "bazaar" is a
> >   bit misguided.
> >        One part oftened overlooked in the bazaar model is that the
> >        an "owner/leader" of the code.  Without some focal point just
> >        casting the code out onto the net isn't likely to lead to
> >        something very productive.  The mulitple eyeball thing only
> >        works after there is something "working".

> Right.  There is already one good-quality native-code open source Lisp
> available (CMUCL) which has seen some but not a huge amount of
> development.  I don't see that simply dumping others out there as
> public code will lead to some frenzy of activity & development.  You
> need an owner/leader and those people need to be able to get paid
> somehow.

The trouble with CMUCL is that it is just so complex. I've never even
managed to get the system to build with or without instructions.
I'm amazed at the progress made by the CMUCL team.

However, if there was a lisp out there that was easier to get into I'm
sure people would fix problems and develop new code, even if it wasn't
a frenzied effort.

Quote:
> --tim

barry

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Sun, 23 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Harlequin

Quote:

> Well, I happened to wear my Apple Cambridge Dylan cancellation t-shirt to
> work today... just on a whim. I rarely wear it.

> Now I read Harlequin is bankrupt?

> Is Dylan the cursed language? Or are all languages coming out of the Lisp
> tree cursed?

It's T-shirts which are the problem.  I wore my official Rotary Rocket
t-shirt to work a few weeks ago and a few days later they unexpectedly
laid off the entire propulsion team.  I'm just glad I don't have a Pioneer
Rocketplane shirt to jinx them with as well.

Quote:
> Why is it that the business model for advanced languages is, for the most
> part, not working?

> What would a workable model look like?

Difficult to say.  Is anyone making money from development tools now?
Maybe Metrowerks.  They're now managing to sucessfully raise prices
without seeming to lose customers and they're available *everywhere* with
the same IDE: Mac, Windows, Solaris, Linux, BeOS, Palm, PlayStation...

I think I'd be willing to pay quite a lot for something that really,
really made my job easier.  Metrowerks' C/C++/Pascal/Java product does
that pretty well for those languages. now I just want a better language.

The problem is that I'm not going to pay a lot on the off-chance that the
hype on product M is actually true, when the hype for products A, B, C, D,
E, ... has proved to be false.  I need to be able to try it out for myself
very cheaply. Harlequin got *that* much right -- the problem is they don't
make tools for the platforms I actually use (Mac, Linux, Solaris ... and
naturally Rhapsody/Mac OS X).

I'm very, very fussy about my tools.  They need to let me do anything I
want to do -- too many "advanced" programming tools try to lock me into
*their* way of thinking.  They need to produce fast code.  They need to
make it easy to make user interfaces (but there somewhat slow but flexible
code that's fast and easy to write is fine).  They need to have great
browsing and editing facilities.  They need to interface with existing
stuff.

And I don't want to switch too often.  I want to use the same language for
at least 10 years. (Which has been the case if you don't count Java)

Quote:
> I am very disappointed. I became interested in Dylan when Apple was giving
> out its free book (based on the parenthesized syntax version) to drum up
> interest.

Me too.  Got it right here.  And the ADTR.

Quote:
> I was very e{*filter*}d to see Harlequin jump in. I beta-tested Harlequin
> Dylan...

Me too.

Quote:
> I guess I'm really just venting here... I want to use Dylan.

Me too.

Which is why I jumped on board to try to help out with Gwydion Dylan as
soon as I heard that it was in the hands of Open Source volunteers and I
found a copy to try it out.  Maybe it'll take a long time to get it truely
competitive with the commercial offering, but it runs where I want it to
run (or can be made to if I so choose) and it's amazingly good already.

And no company can take it away from me.  That's looking even more
important now.

Quote:
> I might be able to work with Gwydion, but trying to debug crashing C code
> built out of Dylan code does not sound like much fun to me.

It's not that bad.  First, your Dylan programs should never be able to
crash -- throwing exceptions should be the worst.  Second, there's nothing
stopping source code debugging from working at least as well as it did
with the original CFront C++-to-C compiler.  Third, I actually *like*
being able to take a peek at the intermediate C code :-)  d2c makes much
more readable code than CFront did, and since it can assume a rather
smarter C compiler backend (i.e. gcc as a minimum), it doesn't have to
fall over itself trying to micro-optomise the generated code like CFront
did.

-- Bruce



Sun, 23 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 Harlequin

Quote:

> However, if there was a lisp out there that was easier to get into I'm
> sure people would fix problems and develop new code, even if it wasn't
> a frenzied effort.

I looked at PowerLisp ( The PC version is Corman Lisp ), which hadn't
been updated in while and isn't Open Source. It had lots of the right
sort of brackets but that's all I could discover... :-)

- Rob.

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Sun, 23 Dec 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 
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