X-Windows, InterViews, and molecular biology software

Roy Smith roy at alanine.phri.nyu.edu
Wed Feb 13 13:24:15 EST 1991

gilbertd at cricket.bio.indiana.edu writes:
> I've been learning How Unix Works over the past month

	You must be a fast learner.  It's taken me 10 years, and I'm still
not sure I know what's going on all the time!

> X-Windows is the Unix (and VMS) sibling of a Macintosh or MS-Windows
> graphic user interface.

	There is nothing about X (in theory) that ties it to Unix (or VMS,
or any other operating system).  The big win, in my mind, will be that you
can run an X server on your Mac and use an application on a Cray somewhere
else in the world.  There is another windowing system called NeWS which was
being pushed by Sun a couple of years back as a competitor to X.  There are
lots of reasons why I thought (and still think) that NeWS is superior to X,
but the basic fact is that X seems to have won out; even Sun has hopped on
the X bandwagon, although they are walking a fine line trying to keep their
NeWS customers happy too.

	I'm of mixed mind about whether X (or NeWS) will be a big thing in
the laboratory environment.  It takes quite a bit of horsepower to run an X
server (or, for that matter, a NeWS server; my 8 Mbyte Sun-3/50 is pretty
marginal for either).  You really need something like a 12 Mbyte
SPARCStation before you will be happy, from what I understand.  I just
don't see that much horsepower being common on benchtops and biologists'
office desks anytime soon.  What I do see is lots of Mac Plus/SE/Classics
and the occasional Mac-IIcx/si/ci and lots of 286-based DOS machines, and
the occasional 386.  I don't see too many of them on high speed networks
(i.e. ethernet; I don't think you would be very happy running X over
LocalTalk) and I don't see that changing much in the next couple of years.

	Biologist who are really into computers already have the big
machines needed to run X (Mac-IIfx, SPARCStation, Iris, DECStation, etc)
and will continue to upgrade those machines, but I don't see them getting
into the vast majority of the labs and offices.
Roy Smith, Public Health Research Institute
455 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016
roy at alanine.phri.nyu.edu -OR- {att,cmcl2,rutgers,hombre}!phri!roy
"Arcane?  Did you say arcane?  It wouldn't be Unix if it wasn't arcane!"

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