… the Mac version of Chrome will use a WebCore-rendered bitmap to pass between the browser and rendering processes. The strategy we use in Hypercube (and now Stainless) is far less ambitious, but a whole lot easier to do and, thus, available today for your downloading pleasure (for Leopard only, sorry).
- Performs well – It loads Web pages quickly. And as “ps -alx | grep -i stainless” indicates, Stainless really is a multiprocess browser for OS X. For me, this alone makes Stainless worth the effort.
- Supports AJAX – I’m writing this blog post using Google Docs via Stainless. Stainless worked fine on my initial tests with other Google productivity apps – I tested Google Spreadsheets and GMail. I therefore have some level of comfort in proclaiming it as supporting AJAX. Nice!
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At the Search Engine Strategies Conference in August 2006, in an informal conversation, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated:
What’s interesting [now] is that there is an emergent new model, and you all are here because you are part of that new model. I don’t think people have really understood how big this opportunity really is. It starts with the premise that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing – they should be in a “cloud” somewhere. And that if you have the right kind of browser or the right kind of access, it doesn’t matter whether you have a PC or a Mac or a mobile phone or a BlackBerry or what have you – or new devices still to be developed – you can get access to the cloud. There are a number of companies that have benefited from that. Obviously, Google, Yahoo!, eBay, Amazon come to mind. The computation and the data and so forth are in the servers.
My interpretation of cloud computing is summarized in the following figure.
Yesterday, I introduced the concept of Synced-Data Applications (SDAs). SDAs are summarized in the following figure.
- in Cloud Computing, Commercial Software, Disruptive Innovations, Google, Google Apps, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Notebook, Google vs. Microsoft, Google Web Toolkit, GWT, hosting, Information Technology, Innovation, Internet, IT, Microsoft, Mobile Computing, Mobility, Mobility Solutions, Network-Enabled Platforms, networking, Next-Generation Internet, Service Oriented Architecture, Synced-Data Applications, Web, Web 2.0, Web Applications, Web Browsers, Web Development, wireless, wireless networks
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I recently asked: Is desktop software is dead?
Increasingly, I am of the opinion that desktop software is well on its way to extinction.
In its place, Synced-Data Applications (SDAs) have emerged.
One of the best examples I’ve recently run across is Evernote. Native Evernote applications exist for desktops (as well as handhelds) and for the cloud (e.g., via a Web browser). Your data is replicated between the cloud (in this example, Evernote’s Webstores) and your desktop(s)/handheld(s). Synced-Data Applications.
And with Google Gears, Google Docs has also entered the SDA software paradigm.
With SDAs, it’s not just about the cloud, and it’s not just about the desktop/handheld. It’s all about the convergence that this software paradigm brings.
A revised version of the figure I shared in the previous post on this thread is included below.
Once again, it emphasizes that interest is focused on the convergence between the isolated realm of the desktop/handheld on the one hand, and the cloud (I previously referred to this as the network) on the other.
It’s much, much less about commercial versus Open Source software. And yes, I remain unaware of SDA examples that live purely in the Open Source realm …
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When was the last time you were impressed by desktop software?
After seeing (in chronological order) Steve Jobs, Al Gore and Tim Bray make use of Apple Keynote, I absolutely had to give it a try. And impressed I was – and to some extent, still am. For me, this revelation happened about a year ago. I cannot recall the previous instance – i.e., the time I was truly impressed by desktop software.
- Wikipedia states: “There is no page titled “desktop software”.” What?! I suppose you could argue I’m hedging my bets by choosing an obscure phrase (not!), but seriously, it is remarkable that there is no Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”!
- Microsoft, easily the leading purveyor of desktop software, is apparently in trouble. Although Gartner’s recent observations target Microsoft Windows Vista, this indirectly spells trouble for all Windows applications as they rely heavily on the platform provided by Vista.
- There’s an innovation’s hiatus. And that’s diplomatically generous! Who really cares about the feature/functionality improvements in, e.g., Microsoft Office? When was the last time a whole new desktop software category appeared? Even in the Apple Keynote example I shared above, I was impressed by Apple’s spin on presentation software. Although Keynote required me to unlearn habits developed through years of use Microsoft PowerPoint, I was under no delusions of having entered some new genre of desktop software.
- Thin is in! The bloatware that is modern desktop software is crumbling under its own weight. It must be nothing short of embarrassing to see this proven on a daily basis by the likes of Google Docs. Hardware vendors must be crying in their beers as well, as for years consumers have been forced to upgrade their desktops to accommodate the latest revs of their favorite desktop OS and apps. And of course, this became a negatively reinforcing cycle, as the hardware upgrades masked the inefficiencies inherent in the bloated desktop software. Thin is in! And thin, these days, doesn’t necessarily translate to a penalty in performance.
- Desktop software is reaching out to the network. Despite efforts like Microsoft Office Online, the lacklustre results speak for themselves. It’s 2008, and Microsoft is still playing catch up with upstarts like Google. Even desktop software behemoth Adobe has shown better signs of getting it (network-wise) with recent entres such as Adobe Air. (And of course, with the arrival of Google Gears, providers of networked software are reaching out to the desktop.)
The figure below attempts to graphically represent some of the data points I’ve ranted about above.
In addition to providing a summary, the figure suggests:
- An opportunity for networked, Open Source software. AFAIK, that upper-right quadrant is completely open. I haven’t done an exhaustive search, so any input would be appreciated.
- A new battle ground. Going forward, the battle will be less about commercial versus Open Source software. The battle will be more about desktop versus networked software.
So: Is desktop software dead?
Feel free to chime in!
To Do for Microsoft: Create a Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”.
I’ve just upgraded to Firefox 3 Beta 4.
The spreadsheets component of Google Docs appears to work now. And although this suggests improvements in AJAX support, a known issue with GMail contacts remains:
GMail (new version) conversation labels appear on their own row in the message list, and names don’t show in the contacts manager (bug 415252)
This GMail bug remains a showstopper for me.
Of course, it’s important to remember that
Firefox 3 Beta 4 is a developer preview release of Mozilla’s next generation Firefox browser and is being made available for testing purposes only.
I just downloaded Firefox 3 Beta 3 for Mac OS X Leopard.
- It looks great!
- It’s fast! In some cases, blazingly fast! Page renderings, downloads, etc.
- Its AJAX support is very weak! This is a showstopper for me, as I use a number of AJAX-based applications. Although the word processing aspect of Google Docs appears to work, the spreadsheet capability isn’t quite there yet. And surprisingly, when I opened my GMail contacts, none of them appeared!
- Its add-on support is weak. This isn’t too surprising, I suppose, and is perhaps somewhat unfair to mention at this point. However, none of my add-ons work with this release, so I thought it was worth noting.
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- There’s a broad-and-deep software engineering ecosystem around the GWT that is fueling progress and delivering highly significant results.
- Chaganti is an excellent guide with the ability to negotiate this ecosystem and drive you towards tangible outcomes.
Using a task-oriented approach, the book proceeds as follows:
- Chapter 1 rapidly places the GWT in context, and gets you started by downloading, installing and working with the samples provided. Available for Apple Mac OS X, Linux and Microsoft Windows, the GWT only requires the Java SDK as an installation prerequisite. The GWT is made available via the Apache Open Source license; this allows for the development of commercial and Open Source applications.
- With the Java SDK, the GWT and the Eclipse IDE, the developer has a well-integrated and powerful platform on which to develop applications. After illustrating the development of the obligatory “Hello World!” application at the outset of Chapter 2, attention shifts rapidly to use of Eclipse. Google’s Web-wired DNA is evident in everything they do, and the GWT is no exception. The GWT leverages the Java SDK and Eclipse to the fullest, while closing the gaps in developing AJAX-based applications in a very organized way. By the end of this Chapter, the reader knows how to develop a simple application with both client and server-side components and execute the same in both hosted (i.e., non-deployed) and Web hosted (i.e., executing within a Web-hosted Tomcat servlet container). Made explicit in this latter deployment is GWT’s ability to support a variety of Web browsers – i.e., Apple Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera.
- The creation of services is the focus of Chapter 3. To quote from this Chapter, and in the GWT context, service “… refers to the code that the client invokes on the server side in order to access the functionality provided by the server.” The author is quick to point out that this is a separate and distinct notion from that used in the context of Web services. True to its billing, this Chapter works the reader through the creation of a service definition interface (a client/server contract that defines the service’s functionality and establishes rules of usage) and service implementation. Particularly important in this Chapter is the creation of an asynchronous service definition interface, as this facilitates remote calls in the background to the server, and capitalizes on the AJAX support in the GWT. With definition and implementation taken care of, the remainder of the chapter focuses on use (i.e., consumption of the service by a client). Conceptual illustrations compliment screenshots to effectively convey this content.
- Whereas the previous chapter delivered a prime number service, Chapter 4 introduces no less than six services that really showcase the capabilities of this application paradigm. With ample explanation and illustration live searches, password strength checks, auto form fills, sorting tables, dynamically generated lists and Flickr-style editable labels are each considered. Not only does one recognize these as design patterns that are already in everyday use (e.g., Flickr, Google Docs, Maps and Search, etc.), one also realizes their potential for re-use in one’s own projects.
- Chapter 5 introduces five interfaces that are more complex than those presented in the previous chapter. These interfaces are pageable tables, editable tree nodes, log spy (the GWT spin on the UNIX tail utility), sticky notes and jigsaw puzzle. To reiterate, one recognizes these as design patterns already in everyday use, and the potential for re-usability.
- By the end of Chapter 7, impressive calendar and weather widgets have been created, and readied for re-use.
- In Chapter 8, JUnit is introduced in the context of unit testing. Standalone tests plus test suites are given consideration; this includes tests involving asynchronous services.
- Although this is only the second book I’ve ever seen from Packt Publishing (the first I’ve reviewed elsewhere), I’ve become accustomed to expecting bonus content towards the end of the book. Chapter 9, which addresses internationalization and XML support, falls into this bonus category. Of course, it’s no surprise that Google expertise on internationalizations ranks high, and this is evident in GWT support for the same. The author provides an hors d’oeuvre of the possibilities. XML support is of particular personal interest, so I was delighted by the degree of support for creating and parsing XML documents. I share the author’s sentiments with respect to XML support wholeheartedly: I too hope that future releases of the GWT will provide broader and deeper support for XML.
- In the final chapter (Chapter 10), attention is given to increasingly automated methods for deploying GWT-based applications. Starting with a manual deployment in Tomcat, then an automated deployment with Ant, and finally an Ant-based deployment from within Eclipse.
- A single appendix details how to access and execute the examples provided throughout the book.
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