Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Macromedia set to spill the Zorn beans.

Sho Kuwamoto: New Flex/Zorn talks at MAX

Looks like MM is getting ready to give us a peak at the work being done on Zorn at MAX this year. I can hardly wait. Running FlexBuilder and Dreamweaver on the same machine is really awkward. You can't launch them both at the same time and they mess with each others site panels. Anybody have any tips for running them together in the interim?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Printed CSS1 W3C Specs

Sometimes I just like having a printed specification handy instead of a website. I've tried getting these printed at places like Kinko's and it just seems so expensive. The CSS1 spec I put up here would have cost over $30 to get a printed copy and then I would have to assemble it myself and buy something to put it in.

Anyway, this worked pretty good for me. It's kinda rough, but it gets the job done. I have CSS2 ready to go, but I thought I'd see if anybody thinks this is worth doing before I tackle any more of the recommendations.

BTW, I followed the W3C guidelines for distributing their recommendations, so there should be no copyright issues.

Let me know if there are any others you want. I'm thinking some of the xml specs could be next.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Make cflogin work with the cfschedule service

This one is really pretty easy, but it baffled me for a few minutes until it clicked. It was one of those brain spasms I get every once in a while where something incredibly simple is difficult to grasp, like trying to describe the process that goes on in your head when you try to add 2+2 to get 4.

I like to use cflogin to secure sites (with j2ee session on). It just seems to work so well and you don't have to think about it once you build it. Sometimes I like to create a directory under the application to hold scheduled task templates that get fired off by the clock. In order to do this, the setup needs to have login credentials. If you don't think about it, you can test directly in the browser like crazy and everything works because before you try to launch the temlpate, you are forced to log in. You don't tend to think about it too much. When you then try to get the scheduler to launch the templates, they can fail because you don't have an opportunity to log in.

There won't be any messages in the logs, because technically, nothing failed. What happens is that your login template gets returned to the cf service waiting for a login. If you don't store the results anywhere (which you normally wouldn't), there really isn't anything to tell you why your template didn't run.

In order to make them work, all you have to do is append the username and password to the end of the url like this:

http://myserver.mydomain.com/myApp/scheduledTaks/myTask?j_username=myServiceLogin&j_password=myServicePassword

Simple as that, but one that can have you hunting for a few minutes until you think of the solution.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Google Desktop 2 is just lame

You can pick up the new release of Google Desktop at the link above. Personally, I think it's just more of the same. So many of the Google technologies just seem to be so much about nothing. Where are the amazing productivity gains? Where are the new business categories created by the existance of their technology. AJAX is certainly interesting, but I'd hardly call it a disruptive technology. Macromedia has been all over the RIA space for years and Microsoft is hot on their heels.

The latest desktop search reminds me of the Netscape Desktop. A thinly veiled attempt to try to grab a little more eyeball time from the user and to bury a little more of Microsoft beneath the application shell. Good luck.

The fact that all of this indexing of my computer is going on behind the scenes, as well as my browsing habits being watched just gives me the jibblies. I know that Google's motto is "Don't be evil", it just seems like they are collecting so much information that if they ever did turn to the dark side, it would be bad news for the lot of us.

I remember how horrible it was to watch the Netscape browser get tortured and twisted into a hollow shell of it's former self with the sole purpose of its existance to deliver advertising to its users. It's still amazing to me that Mozilla and Firefox were able to survive that whole ordeal.

So, Google, how about a polished, supported desktop linux? or free broadband to everyone in the country. Now that would be interesting. What else are you gonna do with the additional $14billion you plan on raising?

Monday, August 15, 2005

MS Hosted Labs Rock

If you're interested in getting a peek at some of the new stuff coming out of Microsoft, but you don't have the nerve to put any of it on your own equipment, Microsoft has put something together that you might find very interesting.

The Visual Studio Hosted Experience lets you run an actual copy of SQL Server 2005 or Visual Studio 2005, etc., remotely. You have to use IE and there is an activeX control that gets installed, so be prepared for that.

Each of the labs takes about 30 -45 minutes to complete an just gives you a taste of the software in most cases. I took the SQL Server one for a test drive. The studio looks pretty cool. There are tons of changes in there from sql2000, too. MS did a pretty good job with sql2000 for the bulk of their target market, so it feels like they are really trying to pull out all the stops to top it with sql2005. I'm sure they are aware that it is going to be VERY difficult to get people to upgrade their sql installs.

At this point, many people would wrap up by saying "Anyways, check it out", but I won't. That plural "Anyways" drives me freekin' nuts! Doesn't the "Any" part of the word preclude the necessity of making it plural? I'm not picking on anybody in particular, I've seen it about a dozen times this weekend. But, if you're one of the people that insists on making words plural unnecessarily, I thinks yous shoulds stops it's (<-- unnecesary appostrophe).

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Google IM might be a hoax.

It looks like the rumors of a Google Messenger may have been premature. According to the CEO of Meetroduction (the latest Google purchase rumor), the whole story is "rumors". Maybe they are waiting to see if there is some ground-breaking technology that can be added to IM before they tip there hand. If they never find out what that is, maybe we'll never see it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Perfect RIA Storm

For those of you not familiar with the movie, The Perfect Storm, the primary plot device centers around the conflux of seemingly random weather events to create a storm at sea of unimanginable proprotions.

I think this might be a good anaology of what we're about to see in the RIA (Rich Internet Application) space. We've been hearing about the virtues of RIAs all the way back to Flash 5. It was the first Flash release that let us do a little programming in there to do something other than just annoying intro screens. (See the link to the movie above as a prime example) Since then, each successive release of Flash has given us dramatic improvements in coding capability while at the same time having us suffer through ActionScript's early growing pains.

Now that ActionScript2 has been around for a while and is based on an ecma standard, I don't think we will see radical changes to Flash's programming language. Most likely, we will see refinements and improvements to the language as the product moves forward, allowing developers to increase their skills as the language matures. Personally, I'd really like to see a regular expression object added to the language, but that has as much to do with the player as the authoring environment. I've got my fingers crossed, but I'm not holding my breath.

The ColdFusion community is getting more and more comfortable with the (relatively) new component architecture introduced with cfmx6. While many cf devs are struggling to push the component architecture into MVC (model-view-controller) development frameworks to deliver traditional web applications, little do they realize they are building the development skills that will be necessary to supply RIAs with an integration layer. OK, most of them DO realize it, they just have a job to do that doesn't let them focus on RIAs yet. The best part is, it will be a very short mental leap to move from an MVC based framework to an RIA. Basically, the view
gets replaced with the new technology and you are able to push a lot more funtionality to the client that currently requires a trip to the server.

It's too bad MM hasn't been able to synchronize the releases of Flash and the Flash Player with updates to the Flash Remoting included in CF. Maybe they will in the next release. Currently, CF, in my mind, is the technology of choice for supplying RIAs with data. It's possible that the next release of Flex may change that.

We can't forget about Flex, either. While I haven't done a lot of work with Flex yet, the work that I have done was in copying an application that I built in Flash. Let me just say that the increases in productivity are dramatic. On the order of 10 times faster as long as you don't require custom flash work in your app. With Mike Chamber's recent announcement that the next release of the Flex authoring tool will be able to compile it's files that can be deployed without the Flex server, a LOT more developers are going to have the chance to take a look at Flex's mxml language.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what gets incorporated into the next release of Flex. I would not be suprised if we get the ability to set up data persistance objects using server-side actionScript. This could be truly amazing if we are able to create data bindings that chain all the way back to your database. You would be able to build internet applications that would "feel" like you were editing data directly in your data store. This is purely speculation on my part, I have no knowledge of anything going on inside MM, but with the work being done with Hibernate, I can easily imagine something like this getting leveraged by the product.

There is a lot of buzz right now about AJAX. Gmail being the app that really brought it home for me. They also have some extremely interesting work in Google Maps. Both are applications that have broad, popular exposure. There are going to be a lot more web citizens beginning to expect this type of web experience. Personally, I think that Flex and Flash based RIAs kick AJAX based RIA's butts. Unfortunately for developers that aren't exposed to the Macromedia RIA technologies, AJAX is all they have to work with. Right now, I don't know any developers that I think would be up to pulling off anything other than the most basic AJAX applications.

Microsoft is working on the only commercial competitor to flash that I have found. From what I've read so far, it's still a year away before a release and will probably require a computer upgrade in order to run. Currently, it requires a 30+meg download for WinXPSP2 users or an upgrade to Windows Vista. Mac and *nix users need not apply. Compared to the lightweight and ubiquitous Flash Player, it almost seems like a non-starter. I imagine that eventually, MS will push the technology into use for rendering desktop apps which will force adoption for some. It wouldn't suprise me if the consumer adoption of Windows Vista is even slower than WinXP.

Because of all of these events and the definition of the Flash Platform, I think we could be looking at the formation of a Perfect RIA Storm. It's still just a forecast at this point, but there are definitely some signs. Worst case scenario, Flash based RIAs dissappear like mist on the wind, displaced by AJAX, Vista and The Next Big Thing. Best case scenario, we see an explosion of RIAs that changes the nature of what people expect to see in a web application.

Personally, I'm hoping for the latter.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Use of Mobile Data Services Hampered by Poor User Experiences

I could have told them that (maybe I did and I don't remember). As one of those poor users experiencing cell phone use, there is only one thing I want from my phone.

The ability to make a call from anywhere and have crystal clear sound. That's it. No photos, no movie trailers, no games, no messaging, no web browsing, nada.

This last time, I did myself a favor and saved the $5/month for web access. It's hard to imagine, but it's just not worth $5/month.

And yet, I can make a call from the center of their coverage area sometimes and it sounds like the person on the other end is recording a song for Nitzer Ebb.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Proper Code Documentation

Documentation

Obligatory Humor Warning: The following post is made using a sarcastic and/or ironic voice. This post is intended solely for amusement purposes. If you are offended by humor/irony/sarcasm or have trouble distinguishing parody from fact, do not read the following post or the associated story. Click Here to avoid anything even remotely amusing.

Documenting your code is very important, although I tend to subscribe to the "less is more" camp. I prefer automated documentation templates where practicle. Unfortunately, I tend to do a bit of number 5 from the article. Keeping the design docs up to date can be a bit challenging as well, especially when we are always pressed for performance and price.