ANNOUNCEMENT: The "HyperKnowledge" PROJECT for NeXTSTEP
We are a heterogeneous group of scientists and students who feel that our
work is continuously hindered by computer environments dominated by
incompatible scientific tools and monstrous software packages (too often
claiming to do everything). Rather than being able to use different tools
together in a flexible, interactive system, we find ourselves spending too
much time converting between different data formats, writing throw-away
tools and I/O parsers, and worrying about how to get to a particular goal
rather than what it means to have attained it.
What we need is an object-oriented scientific environment where the tools
we choose to use are integrated without being parts of a closed system,
highly interactive, and extendable (both by the addition of our own
specialized objects and by combining the available tools - graphically).
The use of such an environment should be a natural extension of our work,
requiring a very short learning phase and practically no
user-documentation. The user should feel encouraged to explore different
possibilities, testing his/her own scientific ideas without worrying too
much about whether the system is able to cope (within reason, of course).
By building an open and object-oriented system, each user should be able
to draw upon and combine those tools necessary or conducive to a
particular task: we all need to organize and archive our data, display
results, and combine information from many different sources.
Currently, the group consists of people from very different fields:
Molecular Biology, Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy, and Geography.
While many of our needs for such an environment diverge, the underlying
motivation is the same: no matter what you want to call it, we need a
system which helps rather than hinders the organization of our scientific
data and daily work.
What else is there? No other system offers the same power, a totally
object-oriented developers environment, UNIX-compatibility,
highly-interactive and standardized user-interface. With the advent of
NS486 and the expectation that NeXTSTEP will soon appear on a broad range
of hardware platforms, such a system will soon be nearly universally
available. Classical workstation vendors (SUN, IBM, HP, and the rest) now
have little to offer, no similar tools exist for the standard X-Windows
GUI, if Apple had a system it would only run on their hardware, and the
mass-market Windows/DOS world is a developer's nightmare (either despite,
or more probably because of, OLE).
In order to progress, we need an open discussion of how best to develop
such an environment. In NeXTSTEP parlance, do we simply have to put
together a set of scientific protocols and a common API for our
"Hyper-knowledge" servers? Should be use distributed objects? What
minimum set of tools do we need in order to start working with the
environment? What tool-needs do we all have in common and which ones are
best developed by specialized sub-groups? How many already existing tools
can/should be integrated into the system (e.g. Mathematica)? Do we need
an "AVS"-like tool for data-flow manipulation?
Mailing list and Anonymous ftp
In order to take part to the project or to push the discussion forewords,
you are invited to subscribe to: sci-tools at embl-heidelberg.de
All (interesting) suggestions, projects and sources will be archive and
soon available (anonymous ftp).
For questions send mail to sci-tools-help at embl-heidelberg.de
The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Heidelberg, Germany) has
consented to provide the computer resources for a mailing list and
anonymous ftp services.
Rick Hessman <hessman at eden.uni-sw.gwdg.de>
Georg Tuparev <tuparev at embl-heidelberg.de>