9 - So who uses this *stuff?
Lot's of people – many who don't even know they are using them!
Starkits and Starpacks are used to deploy a variety of applications - both commercial and open source - in fields as diverse as 24x7 telecommunications projects, business automation, publishing and systems management. There are many thousands deployed world-wide.
One of the most interesting products is CareerDemon - an automated career guidance assessment and reporting service, developed by a team led by Dr Steve Blinkhorn at Psychometric Research Limited in the UK.
CareerDemon is deployed via an installer that contains Tclkit and the CareerDemon Starkit. The installer is usually downloaded over the Internet, which is relatively painless due to Tclkit’s small size. As the user interacts with CareerDemon the user interface is modified, based on the user responses to a series of questions. New user interface scripts are generated as required by a central server and downloaded by the CareerDemon Starkit, which stores them within its own VFS. After the initial install the host operating system isn’t touched.
CareerDemon is one of those applications that has to work “out of the box”, do no damage to the host system and leave no traces when it is removed.
Starkits also help when supporting such installations. Supporting several thousand customers across multiple timezones could be nightmare, but it turns out to be relatively straightforward.
If a problem occurs (e.g. due to disk corruption) rather than trying to remotely diagnose the issues, support staff have the users e-mail their CareerDemon Starkit as an attachment. They are then able to unpack the Starkit, look inside for the problem, fix it and send it back.
This is analogous to a mechanic putting a car up on a ramp, looking for a problem, repairing it and returning the vehicle. Because everything bar the Tclkit "engine" is in one file, it is easier to do return-to-base warranty work rather than trying to fix a problem remotely.
And its not just end-user applications that are benefiting from Starkits - the latest releases of ActiveState's TclDevKit product can both read and produce Starkits.
Since Starkits were “formally” announced in mid 2002, they have become “mainstream” and a preferred method for deployment within the Tcl/Tk community.
In mid 2003 there were revised editions of two books published that included chapters on Tclkit and Starkits.
As noted Tcler Donal Fellows of Manchester University has noted “in the opinion of what seems to be the majority of the Tcl community, Starkits are cooler than a beach holiday in East Antarctica :-)”