Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2 Must Read articles for ALL smartphone developers

I came across 2 really awesome articles today regarding development for smartphones:
The first article covers ALL the development platforms currently available for application development for smartphones, e.g. iPhone, RIM, Symbian. The second one covers an alternative to native and interpreted applications, using Web Apps. Both are a must read.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Run your application on a 100+ servers simultaneously using Terracotta

Imagine running a server application which has to be used by thousands of users simultaneously. Now imagine having a database with millions of records which when accessed by even 1 single user ends up killing your server. Now imagine having both these situations together. This will be called the mother of all software implementations. But this is what servers in the field E-Government (think NADRA), Banking and pretty much all big Multi-National companies go through on a daily basis.

To deal with this problem companies invest in expensive solutions in the form Application Clustering, Server Clustering and Database Clustering where multiple servers work together to get the job done. The solution providers charge on the basis of number of servers/applications/databases being used. The cost runs into hundreds and thousands of dollars. Needless to say, this is not everyone's cup of tea.

But if your application was made using Java, you can use Terracotta to cluster your application for FREE. Taken from their site:

Terracotta is open source infrastructure software that makes it
inexpensive and easy to scale a Java application to as many computers
as needed, without the usual custom application code and databases used
to share data in a cluster.

Terracotta manages mission critical data using Network-Attached
Memory (NAM) technology. NAM enables Terracotta to cluster Java Virtual
Machines (JVMs) directly underneath applications, and is a proven
runtime approach to providing Java applications both high availability
and scalability.

Just another reason why beating Java in the Enterprise world can only be a dream for other technologies.

Monday, January 19, 2009

OpenID - One login to rule them all

Imagine logging to your GMail and then browsing to your Facebook, Hotmail, MySpace, Wordpress, personal Blog etc. without needing to login at all. We are not there yet but the OpenID technology will be getting us there hopefully by the end of 2009.

No longer will you have to remember multiple usernames/passwords. You will have the freedom to use any 1 website to actually have your 1 username/password. Other sites will merely ask that 1 site to authenticate you. Lets say you really don't want to trust the likes of Google to have your username/password. No problem, you can run your own OpenID server by just installing a simple Php script (or this) and have Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo etc. ask YOUR server for authenticating you.

Already big names like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, IBM are on board. But they still have to integrate OpenID into their own websites.

Similar solutions like Microsoft Passport and Single Sign-On solutions from various vendors like IBM, Oracle and Sun did not pick up any momentum due to their propriety and single vendor only nature.

For web developers, you will have to allow users to register and login themselves to your sites using OpenID. Since OpenID also allows for the server to send you profile information once the user registers on your site, this will also mean that your website registration will be a 1-click action. This equates to more users for your site.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Run your Application/Database server from a CD/DVD

If you are into selling server based software and you have had to give demos to clients, you know how difficult it is to set up the environment perfectly so you do not end up looking stupid in front of the client. Most companies have laptops specifically kept for demos so nothing is messed up at the time of a demo. DWebPro allows you to set up your whole server on a CD or DVD which can be run directly on any running Windows PC.

It supports:
  • PHP
  • Perl
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • Rebol
  • Delphi Web Script II
  • ASP 3.0
  • ASP.NET 1.1 / 2.0 and Embedded
  • JSP/Servlet
  • Zope
  • Railo (CFML Engine)
  • ColdFusion
  • MySQL
  • SQlite
  • Microsoft Access
  • Firebird *
  • PostgreSQL **
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000 / 2005 / Compact Edition
  • Oracle XE

If you have a binary version of your application code, you could even give a time-limited version of the demo to your client on CD/DVD.

Free Educational Software for Kids

Being a father of 3 I am always looking for good educational software for my kids to learn new things. I came across the Educational Freeware website today which has a long list of FREE educational software for kids. Games for toddlers, learning to type, Math, reading but my personal favorite Programming.

There is also Babysmash which is "a free keyboard banger game for very young kids." Use it to let your newborn beat the crap out of your keyboard and see colourful symbols appear on the screen.

I already have my kids using Linux (Edubuntu) and GCompris. My 6 year old is using the free Lego Digital Designer to create 3D models himself.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Choosing an AJAX Platform

When looking around for a good AJAX platform to use for development of a new application I am working on, I came across many platforms each with its own strengths and weaknesses. I would categorize them as follows:
  1. Coding is done using a server side XML which in turn generates Flash or XHTML files (Open Laszlo)
  2. Coding is done using server-side Javascript which in turn generates client side Javascript based AJAX interface (Jaxer)
  3. Coding done using a server-side language (Java, PHP, ASP.NET) which in turn generates client-side Javascript based AJAX interface (ZK, MS AJAX, YUI.NET)
  4. Pure client-side Javascript AJAX libraries which can further be categorized into:
    1. libraries only providing multi-browser javascripting capabilities along with basic animations (prototype, jquery)
    2. libraries providing a complete set of user-interface widgets along with multi-browser scripting and animations (Dojo, YUI, Ext)
The cons of each method in the same order are as follows:
  1. Single vendor only, capabilities limited by what has been implemented leaving very little room for customization
  2. Single vendor only, capabilities limited by what has been implemented leaving very little room for customization
  3. Client-side Javascript coding limited by what has been implemented leaving very little room for customization
  4. For client-side libraries:
    1. User-interface widgets not available; the source code will be split into 2 languages, 1 on the server-side and 1 on the client-side
    2. The source code will be split into 2 languages, 1 on the server-side and 1 on the client-side
I like the last option the best as it gives me the most opportunity for customization of the user interface and also provides the most needed widgets out of the box. Yes I will have to work with both Javascript and a server-side language but then web development has always involved knowledge of more than one language.

There is also the question of the licensing cost of the platform you choose. Although almost all of the platforms I have mentioned above are open-source, some of them may cost you if you decide to develop a commercial product (ZK and Ext).

So I came down to deciding between Dojo and YUI. Dojo has a huge community supporting it and provides a lot of opportunity for customization but unfortunately its documentation is not that complete. YUI on the other hand has loads of documentation right out of the box to get a first time AJAX developer up and running in no time.

For my current project I have chosen to go with YUI but definitely in the future I will user Dojo.