[aprssig] Rant - Cross platform portability

Stephen H. Smith wa8lmf2 at aol.com
Mon Sep 18 12:36:57 CDT 2006

aprs at mulveyfamily.com wrote:
> Brian Riley wrote:
>> I would point out the LimeWire is a java app and its distribution to  
>> 'clueless end-users' is both enormous and quite successful.

I have recently had a chance to see the same version of a large 
graphics-intensive application written in Java work on two different 
platforms at the same time.    This experience has now made me a 
believer that "real" complex programs (not just frivolous "widgets" on 
Web pages) can be written, and made portable, in Java.

Imaginova's "Starry Night" bills itself as "The world's most realistic 
astronomy program". It is a very sophisticated photo-realistic sky 
map/planetarium program that lets you see the night sky for anywhere on 
earth any time in the previous or future 10,000 years. It accurately 
reflects daylight, sunset, fades into twilight and finally dark in real 
time (or you can "turn off" the sun to see the stars in the daytime 
sky). Optional controls allow you to add haze, smog and urban light 
pollution to the view (reducing the number of stars visible). 

It allows you to see the sky from any body in the solar system.  (You 
can even pilot a space ship at "warp speed" throughout and beyond the 
galaxy with correct perspective view.) When you place yourself on the 
moon, you actually see the earth with the correct part of the world 
facing you with the correct day/night grey line display.  It also 
accounts for a vast list of satellites and space probes.  From the 
normal earth view, you can "see" geosynchronous satellites such as 
Echostar (Dish Network) and Rock 'n Roll (XM Radio) stationary in your 
southern sky while GPS, Iridium, US and Russian spy satellites, the 
space station, Sirius Radio,  and Oscars slowly drift across the sky in 
real time.  [I added the Keps for PCsat so I can see it also when it 
passes over.]  
        When you zoom in close  enough on planets, the point objects 
become visible disks (they're actual photographs) showing the correct 
phase) with their moons circling in real time.  Mars Gobal Explorer and 
Mars Express actually show up circling Mars, and Cassini shows up around 
Saturn.  A recent Internet-download update has even added the New 
Horizons/Kuiper Express probe.  Weekly Internet downloads update the 
satellite data to correct for atmospheric drag, gravitational 
perturbations, etc. 

You can turn on or off three different overlaid coordinate systems on 
the sky view (local AZ/EL:, RA/Declination, and Ecliptic), As you hover 
you mouse over any of 25,000 plus objects in the sky, a detailed list of 
information about that object pops up, including it's current 
RA/Declination out to 6 decimal places, updated several times a second.  
The program can even control telescopes with ASCOM-compatible computer 
interfaces. Just click on an object in the on-screen sky view, and the 
telescope will be moved to that object in the real sky.

I have installed and run Starry Night on several PCs.  This is a huge 
program (mostly the photo-realistic graphics and databases I assume) 
that installs from a set of THREE CD-ROMs. For the first time last week, 
I watched a friend install it on a Mac.  The CD ROM is billed as a dual 
PC/Mac install. I had assumed that there were two completely different 
file systems on the CD, one showing up to Windows and a separate one, 
with a different version of the program visible under the Mac OS's.  [A 
number of programs with both Windows and Mac versions are distributed 
this way.]

Instead, I was amazed to see the very same compressed archives that 
unpacked and installed on the PC, unpack and run with an absolutely 
identical presentation on a Mac G4.     (The only difference was a 
different un-archiver/installer  utility that is apparently written in 
native Mac code -- don't know if it would run on the new Intel-based Mac 
-- perhaps the Intel-based installer can run on both PCs and Intel 
Macs)   The program does require as a prerequisite, on both platforms, 
that Java2 Runtime 1.5 and QuickTime  6.x or higher be  present. 

As befits a truly portable program, Starry Night does not get entangled 
with the Windows Registry, shared DLLs and system files, etc.  It is 
completely self-contained (except for the Java and Quicktime 
Runtimes).   I copied it over my LAN from one PC to another without 
benefit of a formal install, and it worked perfectly on the second 


Stephen H. Smith    wa8lmf (at) aol.com
EchoLink Node:      14400    [Think bottom of the 2M band]
Home Page:          http://wa8lmf.com

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