Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Coding Complexity and AJAX

With so much emphasis in the software industry these days on speed and efficiency, some companies might sell products on the stance that you "don't have to write a single line of code." However, in the view of Peter Mezzina (right) of EMC's PowerLink development and support unit, there is no such shortcut with AJAX development.

Mezzina said coding is very necessary to creating a rich AJAX application. “I don’t see any easy way around it. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and depending on what particular technologies are en vogue at a given point in time, you find vendors that advertise the notion you can automate the creation of an application,” Mezzina said. “In the end, the things that are high quality require coding, and that’s inevitable. I think there’s a perception you can avoid that, but it’s unrealistic in my opinion.”

That is not to say that coding cannot become less complex. Mezzina's team uses Backbase's AJAX product, and the tool simplifies coding by packaging data transfer. Mezzina said this could serve as "shorthand" when writing code.

R.J. Owen, senior developer at Denver-based user interface designer EffectiveUI, said that he'd like to see more code conventions added in RIA development. “Personally, I’ve gotten to the point in my programming career where I prefer languages that allow a lot of conventions over configuration—languages that are really dynamic and enforce some structure on your code but enable you to write less code,” Owen said.

I guess the next step for RIA companies is to find a happy medium between reducing complexity of code writing and not sacrificing quality.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Google and Life

Google and Life magazine combined to post thousands of images online for free. These images span the entire history of Life magazine, and chart the growth of America through the last couple hundred years. I scanned through the image archives and found a few interesting tidbits for the geekier among us. Take, for example, this IBM chip. The photo is from 1967. Amazing what technology could produce back then. Here's a link to what turns up the most geeky images in the archives.

A glimpse at Silverlight 3

Microsoft's blogger extraordinaire Scott Guthrie posted a missive about Silverlight 3 to his blog on Monday. But you could miss it if you blink.

Microsoft will ship Silverlight 3 next year, he wrote. Microsoft will deliver media enhancements such as H.264 video support and 3D support and GPU hardware acceleration. It is worth noting that Adobe added 3D capabilities to Flash player 10, which is already available. Expect Adobe and Microsoft to be playing a game of leap frog for the indefinite future.

Silverlight 3 will also deliver application development improvements including:

-richer data-binding support
-additional controls
-an editable and interactive designer for Visual Studio and Visual Web Developer Express

"Note these are just a small sampling of the improvements - we have plenty of additional cool features we are going to keep up our sleeves a little longer. ;-)," he wrote.

Now it's up to us to dig up the rest of the story. ;-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Programming is Creative

Last Friday, I had the privilege of getting a tour of Pixar Studios, the company behind the movies Toy Story, Wall-E, and Cars. The campus is based in Emeryville, California, near Oakland where I live. It's a secluded little patch of green amidst a sea of overpasses, homeless people and a Home Depot.

The company grounds are resplendent with roses, soccer fields, a pool and all manner of fun things to keep bodies and minds fresh. It's a refreshing workplace that made me wonder if this is what Xerox Parc had been like back in the day.

At Pixar, the whimsical and the fun are encouraged. The kid in every employ is coaxed out through constant artistic renderings, radical cubicle modifcations and a stimulating afterwork schedule of things to do.

Of course, this is also the sort of workplace where people spend days at a time, working their fingers to the bone to get movies done in time for their theatrical release dates. It's also a company that produces its own rendering and deisgn software, and has a history of selling boxed products, such as Renderman and Typestyler. I actually have a boxed copy of Typestyler.

With all of these different folks smooshed together in this one magical place, it became clear to me that the writers, artists, actors, directors and software developers here all had something in common: they were all creative talents. Call them no-collar workers.

I'm nnot exactly sure how they've done it, but Pixar has fostered an environment where fun and hard work are both acceptable. In fact, they're both mandated. It's more like a college than a company.

Perhaps pulling out the beanbag chairs and setting up the ping-pong table isn't enough. You must also get your team into these acts of funness. Mandatory ping-pong tournaments, or Friday beer-bashes might be on order. The Pixar folks seem to enjoy these sorts of work-related activities. So much so that there are often after-hours parties in work areas. Internal social interaction is good for creative workers. Maybe it's not for the lawyers or accountants, but when a team is trying to build something massive together, it can only help to get everyone into the same psychic groove.

Oh, and it also helps to have good lunches made on campus every day. Tastey!

Werewolves of Reuse

I hate Kid Rock. I really hate Kid Rock. I thought that long-haired, hoarse-voiced rocker/rapper from Detroit saw his career go down in flames years ago. However, a few months ago, I turn on the radio and on comes a song that I believe to be the classic "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon. I'm ready to enjoy the song, and then Kid Rock's voice comes in out of nowhere for his song "All Summer Long." It's as if he grabbed a microphone at a karaoke bar and just started making up his own lyrics and melody.

I am in no way, shape, or form impressed by musicians and rappers that "borrow" old hits and exploit them to fill their own pockets. I don't care how much permission he might have obtained, I see Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" as a blatant ripoff that diminishes the integrity of the original song.

Borrowing and reuse, however, can have a very positive effect on software development. Plenty of companies offer development products that let teams reuse an environment for large scale projects, and this is increasingly true with more software-as-a-service and on-demand products. Mashups also embrace reuse, as companies like Serena and Kapow offer customized, already-created mashups that users can tinker with and add to. With an ever-growing focus on open source, developers frequently access existing source code written by the largest corporations and some of the most brilliant minds in the industry, and then experiment with it.

So while reuse and borrowing doesn't do the trick for me in music, software developers, keep rocking with that existing code.

SharePoint is good for Microsoft's partners

In my conversations with component makers there is optimism that Microsoft will permit its partners to fill the gaps left where its platform ends and customer use cases begin. Many of those companies believe that developers will be as receptive to buying Web parts as they are to buying .NET controls today.

Of course, the opposite might happen - SharePoint has become big business for Microsoft (a billion dollar product). The company is facing increased competition, and may cycle more of its resources to SharePoint in response.

That would take the wind out of its partners' sails. Amid an uncertain economic outlook and rumors of upcoming consolidation in the component market, the prospect of coming to pass could leave some of its partners jittery, and it has.

I'm led to believe that Microsoft will do what it has always done, build a platform and its partners will live in the ecosystem that forms around it. Visual Studio 2010 is evidence of the direction Redmond is going: VS 2010 has new tooling to make it easier for developers to debug, debug and design SharePoint sites.

Microsoft may seed SharePoint with some Web parts just as it has bundled rudimentary controls with Silverlight 2, but there is nothing to indicate that it intends to intrude upon its partners' domain. In fact, the opposite may be true. If more customers are building SharePoint sites, there will be more demand for specialized Web parts, and consequently more opportunity for its partners.

Microsoft should make its intentions known and nurture the growth of the SharePoint ecosystem just as it has done for Visual Studio, COM and .NET.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The infrastructure crisis

There is an infrastructure crisis in the United States beyond our decaying bridges, roads and sewer systems: Systems that are vital to commerce and the every lives of the American people are insecure and vulnerable to attack.

Yesterday, we published a story about Green Hills Software obtaining a high security accreditation from the US National Security Agency. Naturally, Green Hills had an interest in convincing me that its Integrity operating system was the right medicine.

Granted, Integrity's merits have been proven. It is only 4000 lines of code, and it leaves far less surface area exposed for attack than mainstream operating systems. The fact that it is available is a good thing.

I am by no means an expert on infrastructure security, but I have to question why critical systems in the public sector were not hardened in the first place. While using a secure operating system is only part of the answer, software like Integrity should already have been widely used, and there should not be a security 'crisis.'

There were guidelines for designing secure software in the past, but I am told that they were difficult to obtain. The Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria, known as the Orange Book, was held too close to the military's vest. The NSA's National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP), which tested and certified Integrity, is a more recent development.

Security has long been an after thought in software, and vulnerabilities were not given equal treatment as other defects. Bridges are designed to meet certain tolerances: Why wasn't the software that we rely upon? The nation's neglect of the public sector would be unfathomable if it wasn't reality.

Eclipse Photoshop Challenege

The fellows over at the Eclipse Foundation have put it to their users to create better movies. Or at least, better movie clips. The Eclipse Foundation, a few weeks back, started the "Better Than Movie OS" Photoshop challenge, where users are asked to replace the movie's computer screens with Eclipse screenshots. So far, there have been many interesting submissions, such as the one above. Head over and check out the entries. There's a lot of good work here from folks who probably don't do this sort of thing in their day jobs.

Sail on, Silverlight

When most folks hear Microsoft Silverlight, they probably think of it as the media player that was used to stream over 2,000 hours of live video for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. That was Silverlight's coming-out party so to speak, as it put Microsoft's sparkly new media toy into the minds of the mainstream.

Sure, many folks might have used Silverlight to watch the video of Usain Bolt leave the comptetion in the dust to give Jamaica a Gold Medal for running- by the way, is there a better name for a sprinter than Bolt? But many RIA and .NET developers are dashing off from the starting line and taking off with new applications of their own. Rockford Lhotka, for instance, has created a Silverlight version of CSLA .NET, an open-source .NET development framework for simplifying the production of Windows Forms, Web Forms, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Web Services. Lhotka said Silverlight is easy to use because he uses Visual Studio to develop Silverlight applications, just like he does for .NET.

With Silverlight 2 being released last month, no doubt there will be plenty of Gold-medal winning applications coming along.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

AJAX Uniformity?

With no Microsoft or Adobe-type of entity funding and fueling it, AJAX has taken a long time to mature, according to Dave Meeker, an enterprise RIA developer with Roundarch. Meeker said he has yet to see any entities that are looking to bring AJAX to a whole new level of maturity.

There are certain AJAX libraries out there that are being adopted and followed by developers, like Meeker said is good for UI design and "making things look and feel like Flash." Microsoft has an AJAX library on for creating Web applications that can work across all browsers. There are many others of course, like Dojo and AjaxAnywhere, but none have really risen above the others as of yet.

"There's a pro and con of that," Meeker said. "The pro of someone kind taking it under their umbrella is that now we've got one place for all information and to have an official keeper of AJAX. The con is that it might prohibit some of the innovation out there. If no one owns it, then there's more of psychological willingness to take it on yourself and improve it. So I like the open source aspect of AJAX."

With Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Flex giving AJAX some competition when it comes to creating RIAs, maybe that freedom of innovation is what AJAX needs to keep its luster. Maybe its strength lies in the large amount of different AJAX libraries cranking away new applications in different avenues of creativity and experimentation, without the hand of a corporate giant tinkering. I guess we'll see if that's what will make AJAX stand out.

JavaFX Will be Here Soon

Sun's answer to Flex and Silverlight will arrive in the first week of December. JavaFX, formerly JavaFX Script, is set to hit version 1.0 shortly after Thanksgiving, said a spokesperson with the company. Things at Sun are a bit chaotic right now, and the release may be delayed by as much as a week if things don't come together properly. This, evidently, has less to do with the technology than it has to do with the major changes in management throughout the company. Either way, the release itself will take the form of a new installer for Java.

That new installer isn't too different from the old one: it's the basic JavaSE desktop runtime with the JavaFX libraries included. Users who already have Java installed should be able to automatically pull those packages down upon the reception of a JavaFX application embedded in either a desktop or Web app.

NetBeans is the editor of choice for dealing with JavaFX, and this morning's release of version 6.5 quietly included all of the JavaFX tooling. No patch needed.

The big selling point for Sun, right now, is that JavaFX can run browser applications and desktop applications on the same runtime. Adobe's current schizoid approach with AIR, Flex and Flash could turn out to be an Achilles heel, if you believe Sun's pitch.

The benefit to developers is less understood at the moment, because, as usual with Sun, this type of thing is entirely new. The application benefits will have to be discovered elsewhere. For now, Sun shows off an in-browser video player, and shows that it can be quickly moved out of the browser and onto the desktop.

Perhaps video is the neatest new addition to the platform, here. Java has never had an embedded video codec, and here, in JavaFX, is such a beast. It's not even proprietary: they're licensing a standard codec.

Mac users will have to wait a little bit, as the Java code there is Apple's. Sun expects Apple to add JavaFX promptly upon release, possibly even the same day.

JavaFX should be an interesting new avenue for Sun. Eventually, the company plans to offer this language on mobile platforms, and right now, the target date for that capability is next summer. The idea is to have one language to rule them all.

Wasn't that what Java was supposed to be?

The proof is in the pudding

Two years have passed since Microsoft and Novell struck their technical collaboration agreement, and Novell received a windfall of US$348 million in cold hard cash. As my father used to say, "The proof is in the pudding."

Here's the proof: the companies are nearly ready to deliver some software. In the first half of next year, Microsoft will release a management pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise that integrates with its System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 software. Likewise, Novell is completing a beta of Mono Moonlight, a variation of Microsoft's Silverlight run time that works with Linux.

Microsoft demonstrated a technical preview of the management pack at the TechEd EMEA conference earlier this month, my former colleague and Microsoft’s senior open source community manager Peter Galli, wrote in a post on the company's Port 25 blog. It manages Linux and Windows servers from a single console.

Further, Microsoft has been very collaborative with the Mono team. Its engineers are in regular communication with Novell, and has provided test cases to assist with Moonlight's development, Mono project head Miguel de Icaza told me in a recent interview. Significant work has happened.

A handful of other Linux vendors have struck similar interoperability agreements with Microsoft, and there is no doubt more to come. Interoperability is good for customers regardless of what motivates Microsoft, whether it be its enterprise customers' demands for interoperability or the European Commission. Even a cynic would have to acknowledge that the company has thus far stayed true to its interoperability principles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

JCP Election Results Are In

The Java Community Process Executive Committee membership election process is now over.

The executive committee of the JCP guides the guides that guide Java. It's like being on the board of directors for Java. Sort of. Some would say, not really. Either way, the JCP's EC now has four newly elected members.

Intel will be returning to its seat on the Java SE/EE executive committee, as will Sony Ericsson on the ME committee. The two not-quite new-comers are Werner Keil (below) on SE/EE and Sean Sheedy on ME (Above).

Werner is spec lead on JSR 275, the Units specification. Sean was involved in JSR 248, the mobile service architecture. He was, effectively, Nextel/Sprint's member on the EC. This year, he is independent.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Yahoo's Yang out as CEO

If I held stock in Yahoo, today would be a bittersweet day for me. Jerry Yang, one of the culprits responsible for decimating shareholder wealth by not accepting Microsoft's offer(s), is out as CEO. The search has already begun for his replacement.

Today, Yahoo's share price lingers somewhere around US$10.00; Microsoft offered to pay $33.00 per share. It is a shame that Carl Icahn didn't join Yahoo's board sooner than August - before Microsoft had taken its proposal off the table.

Chairman of the board Roy Bostock is charged with recruiting a new CEO. My advice for Roy: find a replacement for yourself and others on the board who failed your shareholders. Step aside and allow Yahoo's 'new strategic direction' to take hold under new management.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Today's Vax

Today's Vax is from the Computer History Museum. It's an 11/750, which makes me think it's really just a PDP-11 with a different name tag. Again, I could be wrong. I only really write about these things because the Vax exemplifies the embodiment of Big Iron. I'm too young to have used much VMS.
Keep it tuned here for something truly horrible tomorrow; Vax Jousting.

Rich Green Moves to Greener Pastures

Rich Green shouldn't have much trouble getting another job. That's a good thing because Rich was recently let go from Sun, where he headed up the entire software division. Solaris. Java. NetBeans. Glassfish. Everything.

It's definitely hard to think of a more punishing, difficult job than making sense out of Sun's software portfolio. In a company where the guiding line, recently, is to open source everything, Sun still has a remarkable amount of closed source software that it supports and sells. That list has gotten shorter under Rich's reign, but it's by no means gotten any better.

Sun has always been known for writing very competent, technically advanced software that is years ahead of the curve. Unfortunately, it's also known for producing software that moves too slowly to keep up with the accepted curve of excellence. Such is the case with Solaris. Solaris users are ravenous, and can't understand how people get work done in other Unix environments. And yet, newcomers mostly stare at Solaris and ask "so, why is this better than Linux?"

It's like standing in a field of hedgerows, then picking the one quartered off field with the nicest grass, and an excellent caretaker, but only 10 feet square of space on each side.

In truth, the only way I see for Sun to move forward, away from the smoking heap of rubble that is its software portfolio, is to move closer to the consumer side. That means paying more attention to usability, simplicity, and penetration. Not exactly Sun's strong points. The Solaris faithful, of late, have had the throne of Murdock to worship at, and that's a good thing.

But is it too late for all this stuff? Maybe, maybe not. There are many other options than my consumer/power-user direction, though Sun's forthcoming release of JavaFX 1.0 could help there.

Another option is bringing the entire company together to confront the storage/database market. Sun's already offering solid-state drive arrays running ZFS, meaning RAID is no longer needed. A major advancement that's not offered anywhere else. If I were Mr. Schwartz, I'd be concentrating all firepower on that particular super Star Destroyer. Too bad EMC would be waiting at the door to kick Sun's shins and say "welcome!"

Anyway, here's hoping Rich Green finds a good company to work with. I think he'll do a great job somewhere that's a lot smaller and less troubled than Sun. It can't be easy to work at a company that seems to put all its effort into losing money.

Flash coming to an iPhone near you - next year

Today, Adobe and ARM announced that they are collaborating on optimizing Flash player and AIR for the ARM architecture. As an iPhone owner, I am truly excited, because dissections of the iPhone have revealed it to be an ARM powered device. The path is being blazed for Flash to come to the iTune's App Store (hopefully at no cost).

Given Apple's penchant for control and shepherding the user experience on its products, it is likely that the player will be further customized to work well with Safari. One of the aspects that I like the most about my iPhone is that I can use it to find information when I need it. Indeed, there was one time when my attempt to view a restaurant's Web site was stymied by lack of Flash.

In my conversation with Adobe's Anup Murarka, director of technical marketing for mobile and devices, he was somewhat cagey about admitting that Adobe was working with Apple to bring Flash to the iPhone. But they are, and today's announcement is proof positive.

Adobe says that the ARM runtimes will not be released until the second half of next year. I'd expect Apple to be the first out of the gate, but am not holding my breath.

Going for the Next Step in Continuous Integration

Continuous integration 2.0.

That’s what Mike Maciag of Electric Cloud is calling it. The company’s CEO said preflight builds, with their ability to patch broken builds and development cycle stopgaps, is the next step for continuous integration.

“The reason we think about it as continuous integration 2.0 is it has all the benefits promised by continuous integration and it goes a long way to eliminating some of the issues,” Maciag said.

Electric Cloud said continuous integration problems arise if a developer puts code in and it breaks the build. The entire development team will be stopped because no one can check in until the problem is fixed.

Pre-flight builds, on the other hand, let a developer experiment with changes to a build without altering the source code. This can prevent production problems with a full production build cycle on source code before the developer checks the code into the development process.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Daily Vaxination

Today's Vax is an 11/780, a wall-length cabinet affair that lives at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. It's always fun to see the big machines they wheel in there, quietly sitting, unplugged and unfunctioning, for the peoples of the world to stare at them and marvel at how far we've come. Elsewhere in the museum, they have a nifty set of Cray super computers, along with the advanced processors they created for those gargantuan machines.

Microsoft's F# to ship in Visual Studio 2010 time frame

Microsoft will ship F#, a derivative of OCaml, in the Visual Studio 2010 time frame, David Mendlen, director of developer tools at Microsoft told me during an interview at Professional Developers Conference last month.

While it will be shipping, Microsoft is still hand waving over whenever to bundle that language with Visual Studio or not, he noted. Microsoft's core languages team, which is modifying some .NET languages for parallelism, believes that F# is critical for parallel development, he said.

As we previously reported, F# (pronounced: F-sharp) is a hybrid functional and object-oriented programming language that was created by researchers at Microsoft's Cambridge, U.K., lab to demonstrate interoperability between different programming paradigms. The researchers also drew concepts from C# and Haskell, another functional programming language.

Additionally, F# supports dynamic linking, preemptive multithreading and SMP machine support, and Unicode strings—features that are unavailable in other ML language implementations, according to Microsoft Research's project Web site. It also provides interactive scripting that is akin to Python.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Vax of the Day

Today's daily Vax is of the Micro Vax variety, and the first such machine we've featured here. It's a 3, I believe, though I am probably terribly wrong about that enumeration. I do remember that starting this machine up made a sound like a jet engine spinning up. There were tons of fans in this thing, and lots of air channels and intakes. If you put your hand under the front of the thing, you could feel the sucking of the air being pulled in.

Even robots have their heads in the 'cloud'

Windows Azure will power even robots. Microsoft's robotics group is experimenting with cloud computing as a technique to provide more advanced functions to robots while keeping the cost of a particular unit affordable for customers.

At Microsoft's PDC event last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with Tandy Trower, who is general manager of the division. He explained that future robots will not be running in isolation; rather, they will have strong broadband connections.

That will enable Microsoft to offload processing power to the cloud or other computing power within the home; another advantage is a wider range of form factors.

Another advantage is that the cloud preserves investment. When a robot enters the home it learns and adapts to the home space, he explained. But when a new model comes out, that learning is lost. The cloud model stores that learning so that a new home robot can pick up where the other left off.

"We do see wireless connections as being essential to the future of personal robots as it allows greater compute power and information access that robots will need. But the cloud isn’t the only resource that wireless connectivity will offer. It will also enable the potential of harness information and compute power by other PCs in the home (or work) environment. The distributed nature of our architecture (afforded by DSS) makes it easy for development of these scenarios as, except for bandwidth performance, applications can written where services written to the DSS protocol can run on any compatible computing device," he wrote in an e-mail sent today.

In his e-mail Trower noted that CCR (and DSS) can already be used with Windows Azure. "We also included a sample ASP.Net application in the CCR & DSS Toolkit," he added.

The division is one of the smallest product groups within Microsoft, but it has managed to ship technology called Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR) that is used to manage resources on the back end of Web sites including Microsoft's own and MySpace.

The Robotics Group’s main result to date has been the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio, which consists of the CCR and Decentralized Software Services (DSS), a distributed run time.

Put simply, CCR coordinates components and transactions, and its companion DSS scales out across networks, or down in the case of robots, pushing SOA to tiny devices, Trower said in a previous interview.

The division announced at PDC that it was working on a road map to hand over CCR and DSS to Microsoft's developer division, and that those technologies would surface in the version of the .NET Framework after .NET 4.0. In the meantime, the group will continue to maintain them. "Our business is robotics," he said, "We are not trying to compete with .NET."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Now Loading Your Daily Vax

Today's Vax really is a 6000 series. An old beast of a machine with white metal paneling, wheels at the bottom, and a tape drive up top. This is the kind of Vax you could really make a refrigerator out of. Or a battering ram. The machine you see here is now deceased, sent off to a recycling center to be crushed up and salvaged for its base materials. Back when copper was worth lots of money, this was the right thing to do. Today, however, it would probably be better just to use it as some sort of building foundation.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Merb 1.0 Arrives

All the great things Ruby on Rails does for developers don't matter much once you really start to get used to the environment. As with any piece of software, familiarity can breed contempt, and that's why there are alternative ways of doing just about everything in the development world. Hence, the release of Merb 1.0. RoR is great for getting up and running, if you want to build a MySQL-backed Web application that will be standing alone, and working only with its own data.

Beyond that, things can get sticky. Some folks have turned to JRuby to remove constraints. Others have turned to Merb. We wrote about Merb, recently, and felt it was time to bring the story back to the front page, as version 1.0 has arrived. It's the Ruby framework for folks who don't like waiting for Rails to restart.

Your Daily VAXination

Today's Vax comes from the Computer History Museum. Someone with better eyes than mine will have to properly identify this monstrosity. It looks to me to be a 6000 series Vax, with all the trimmings of a data cabinet and an interface cabinet as well, but these things are so old, it's hard to tell, really, from this angle. Some one out there in the world, please correct my enumeration error, if in-fact I have mis-identified this Vax.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Mother of All Mother of All Demo Celebrations

Our illustrious leader forwarded me the info on this event. It's the 40th anniversary of the Mother of all Demos. The event is in Stanford's memorial auditorium on December 9. We'll sooooo be there.

It's about as geeky an anniversary as one could possibly hope to have. In 1968, Douglas Engelbart showcased the research work that had taken place in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute. That meant showing off the world's first modern computing environment. It's where the world first saw the mouse, windowed work spaces, networked computing, and even hypertext. There will never be a more influential computing demonstration.

Historically, Xerox PARC gets the credit for inventing a lot of this stuff. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Xerox PARC perfected the ideas first shown here. Of course, the lines between the two organizations became extremely blurry as former ARC folk became PARC folk during the 70's. Note the 5-button keyboard-pad Engelbart uses in the demo. Standard issue with an Alto.

On a personal note, Bill English will be on hand to speak about the demo. I met Bill many years ago at the ACCRC, where he'd dropped in to recycle some computers. After we spoke for a half hour or so, and I gave him a tour of the facilities, he hinted that he'd been something of a technology visionary himself, back in the day.

I asked what he'd done in his youth. He told me he had built the first mouse. Forget Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Without Bill English and the guys at Stanford ARC, we'd all be using light pens. Ick.

Enough rambling! What good is a demo without a video. Watch the Engelbart demo below. And remember, this was all done in 1968!

Your Daily Dose of Vax

As I write this today, I am sitting in the emergency room with a friend who is horribly ill with some food-borne illness. It's not a bad place to write from: relatively quiet, cool, ample power for my laptop. There is no wireless network, but I think there's one nearby I can walk to.
Now that I have been exposed to this nasty infection, I felt I needed to apply some severe VAXinations. Thus, today, we have our daily dose of vitamin V in the form of a Vax Station 3800. this poor machine is long gone, recycled and ground up into base elements to satisfy the needs of rabid commodity speculation. The DEC Stations looked just like this machine, and all of them had little plastic skirts on the bottom hiding some non-rotating wheels. Great little computers for surfing. That's surfing as in “Standing on top of it and riding it while someone pushes,” not surfing as in “can run a Web browser.”

Monday's Linkapalooza

Naturally, Linkapalooza isn't coming out until News on Monday. But until then, I think we can allow you to sneak a peak at the forthcoming Linkapalooza. Observe:

The best thing yet found in the Android source code.

The story behind the massive network and infrastructure behind those cheap “Single?” signs on lawns.

JavaScript graph plotting tool.

50 Must read books on Web development.

Tips for preparing a technical presentation.

n introduction to Microsoft's F#

Today's Random Wikipedia Entry: Blogging!

Two Updated IDEs

This week saw the release of two major updates to two very different IDEs. The first was Komodo 5.0, ActiveState's dynamic language-focused IDE for Ruby, Python or Perl fans. Hence the dragon above. Actually, it was something of kismet here, because today, as it happens, the front page Wikipedia random entry just happened to be about the lovely green fellow you see above. Naturally, with the open copyright image therein, we just had to use him here.

The second big updated IDE is IntelliJ's IDEA 8.0, which arrived yesterday. We'll have a full story, as always, at SD Times dot com next week. But until then, here's a snippet of what we'll be saying about the release:

SQL has come home to roost in the new IDEA. JetBrains, on Thursday, November 6, released IntelliJ IDEA 8, the latest update to its popular Java IDE. But Java was hardly the focus of this release, which includes SQL query design and management tools for the first time. A new UML class browser has also been added, expanding the capabilities of this IDE beyond just Java and into the ephemeral support languages and structures commonly used in enterprise applications.

For IntelliJ loyalists, version 8 updates the core editor with new refactorings and code inspections. Also new to this version are tools for working with unit tests, and the new “dataflow to this” command. Both should help developers get a handle on confusing code when debugging.

On the framework and protocol front, IDEA 8 brings Spring support up to date with version 2.5. Included in that support is the ability to deal with Spring Dynamic Modules, all the rage of late in the component-based development crowd. Beyond that, IDEA also brings in support for Jboss Seam.

Just in time for the completion of JSR 311, IDEA also adds support for dealing with and creating RESTful Web services.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Daily Vax Dosage

Doctors recommend that aging computer geeks gets their daily allotment of vitamin V. Or is that vitamin DEC? Either way, here is your daily dose of Vax: an 8600.
It sure was a beast, wasn't it? This particular beast is out of the private collection of Sellam at Vintage dot org. He runs the Vintage Computer Festival as well, but this year the event had to be skipped due to economic woes. Next year, however, there should be a great VCF, for all that have gone longing for Amiga, Atari and Amstrad enthusiasm.

Bill Joy as National CTO?

The Web is a-buzz with the rumour that Barack Obama put in a call to folks from the VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, asking for CTO recommendations. National CTO recommendations. It's about time we had a leader who recognized that this nation needs a singular technological vision for government infrastructure.

The scuttlebutt on the Obama call is that Bill Joy, among others, were offered for the job. Not necessarily offered the job, but we'd imagine Obama's list would be relatively short, and Joy is perfect for the job.

Joy, as you may recall, is one of the original co-founders of Sun Microsystems. Despite that company's recent woes, there's no denying its underlying understanding of technology. Perhaps Bill Joy as national CTO wouldn't necessarily mean Open Solaris for all, but it would no doubt be something of a breath of life for the ailing company.

No matter what technology company our national CTO is affiliated with,however, it certainly seems that the Obama team is already asking the right people about the right jobs. Rah!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Will Oracle Miss The Cloud?

Cloud computing has arrived with such force that the concept and marketplace for it both jumped straight from the pages of theory and into buzz word territory, completely skipping the all-important "hype" phase.

It's understandable that many would look at the Cloud space and say "Whoa, that's a freakin' jungle right now. I'm going to sit this out for a bit until standards emerge."

But the Cloud is not outside the door, waiting to be let in. It's already sitting in your living room. You've unknowingly offered it some tea, and it's currently admiring your drapes.

Like Obama, Cloud computing represents hope. It's the hope that all of the traditional hang-ups of software development and maintenance can be overcome with a click or two. It's an undeniably vast space of opportunity, and one where innovation is blossoming inside Amazon, Google and VMware.

So it was strange to hear an unnamed Dutch journalist chatting about an Oracle press conference he'd recently attended. He told us, over a coffee in an unnamed conference press room, in an unnamed San Francisco hotel, that Larry Ellison got hostile when asked about cloud computing. This journalist infered that Ellison thought it was too early to worry about Cloud.

Of course, Oracle already offers its databases in Amazon's Cloud, a sure sign the company is paying attention. But it was striking to hear such talk — which, of course, we're only reporting second-hand — when only a few hours earlier, Marc Benioff and numerous other ex-Oracle salespeople were Salesforcing their way into nasty comparisons with the now ERP giant.

To look at it on the outside, Oracle is still innovating and providing great new areas for enterprise collaboration. But they're not offering anything of significance in the Software as a Service world. To our knowledge, they're not even pitching much of a fight to act as the undercarriage for Clouds. And that is undeniably the world of the future.

It's funny that Salesforce is staffed with so many ex-Oracle salesfolk, its CEO included. When listening to casual conversations over lunches and coffees, these folks couldn't keep themselves from comparing their wares to those of Oracle. And when they did, the comparisons weren't pretty at all. It's hard to rationalize buying a massive ERP installation for a single business problem, when you can get the same thing without needing an Admin for a quarter of the annual price.

So with even Microsoft making Cloudy announcements of late, it is strange to see Oracle still standing on the ground, preparing its Cloud sailboat. But hey, it is a magnificent sail boat!

The Next Mac OS Has Left the Station

Many of us here are rabid Mac users, except for those that aren't. No matter who we are, however, we undoubtedly love hearing rumors of the impending release of new operating systems. Such was the case earlier in October, when we reported that Apple's Mac OS X 10.6 had left the station in a release train.

In layperson terms, that means that all the new features, ideas and fixes for the operating systems' next release, are set in stone. That doesn't mean there won't be changes, it just means there won't be anything new added. It's a significant step in the development of any software, and for the Mac OS X, it could mean a January 09 release at MacWorld San Francisco.

And yet, no one seems to have noticed that we've written this story. We suppose it's their loss that they won't be privy to this hip, cool knowledge.