magpiebrain

Sam Newman's site, a Consultant at ThoughtWorks

Archive for ‘December, 2003’

A nice little site this – “Widgetopia”:http://www.eleganthack.com/widgetopia/ catalogues various widgets from websites. Resources such as this can help show just how functional a website’s UI can be, and more importantly can give some well needed inspiration to webapp UI designers. Its time webapp developers realised that their interfaces don’t need to be ugly, bland affairs, and that beyond looking nice, a decent functional design can make for a more pleasant and efficient user experience.

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My ongoing campaign to understand all facets of the “Spring Framework”:http://www.springframework.org/ has been hampered somewhat by the fact that I haven’t been able to develop anything with it. Using it at work is a non-starter, so I’m looking at developing a project at home which is big enough to explore the various aspects I want to explore, but not so big that it becomes too much work. And ideally it needs to be useful. I certainly want to use AOP with the Spring Framework. Documentation for Spring’s AOP support is sparse to say the least, but I did manage to find a brief overview from the old Wiki which gives me enough of an idea. The problem with these simple demos however is that they have to be simple enough to cover in a straightforward manner but always end up being a trivial example, that doesn’t really help show the power of AOP. Perhaps I’ve found the topic for another article…
I am seriously considering writing an aggregator webapplication actually. Given my knowledge of Informa, RSS and blogging as a whole it would make sense. The only problem with that idea is that I don’t need one really, and I’m not sure anyone else does – blo.gs works fine for me. Oh well, lets see what the new year brings.

It is with a growing sense of dread and depression that I read the “news(news.com – Judge orders SCO to show Linux infringement)”:http://news.com.com/2100-7344_3-5114689.html that SCO finally delivered the UNIX source code that it claims IBM has infringed the copyright of. Surely this should be a cause for celebration? Finally we will see exactly what SCO has been talking about – an army of Linux coders waits in the wings to analyse the code and help rebuke SCO’s claims. The problem? Well SCO has decided to deliver said source code to IBM on 1 million pieces of paper. This reminds me of a bet I won with a welsh friend of mine concerning the England v Wales 5 nations (as was) rugby match a few years back – he took great delight in delivering the £5 in pennies, wet ones at that. I suppose its naivety on my part, but I had hopped that this whole debacle wouldn’t descend into playground tactics.

For a while now I have been singing the praises of “FeedDemon”:http://www.bradsoft.com/feeddemon/index.asp, Nick Bradbury’s very good RSS reader. I still think its a great product, however a couple of niggles caused me to look elsewhere. Firstly, with FeedDemon its a bit of a pain to synchronise my blogroll between sites. I browse both at work and at home, and whilst FeedDemon does allow you to synchronise your feeds with an online OPML file, this is a manual process. Also it cannot write to the file (meaning an export->ftp upload before leaving work). The lack of blog synchronisation between sites also means I’m not sure what I’ve read and what I haven’t, so keeping up can be a pain. Secondly, I can’t use Firebird (well, Gecko) to render the sites. Not a major gripe I’d admit, but IE blows.

“blo.gs”:http://blo.gs/ is an online service that stores a list of your favourite blogs. When you log into the service, you can see your favourites, and when they were last updated. In of itself this isn’t too useful. What is useful however is the sidebar they provide for NS6/Firebird. It sits quite nicely in my Firebird sidebar. When at home or the office, I can use the time stamp of my favourites to work out what I would of read. Even better is the fact that my favourites get automatically exported as an OPML file thereby making the construction of a online blogroll very easy (expect one soon). FeedDemon hasn’t been started since I got all of my favourites loaded into blo.gs.

Of late, I’ve been looking into a variety of technologies, with a view to reimplementing an existing web application. “Spring”:http://www.springframework.org and “Hibernate”:http://www.hibernate.org/ are a given. Even if it offered no performance improvements over CMP Entity Beans, Hibernate is much nicer to work with. Once you get your head around Spring, its benefits become clear – cleaner, simpler code with less configuration hassles can only be considered a good thing. Next up I’ve been looking at business rule engines and user interface scripting.

Currently, both “Jess”:http://herzberg.ca.sandia.gov/jess/ and “Drools”:http://drools.org/ are striving for my attention, with Drools wining out so far purely because of its better documentation. Both should theoretically allow me to remove business rules altogether from my Java code, assuming I can work out a design whereby everything hangs together properly. For the UI, I had almost come to the conclusion that I would be hand-scripting it, but I took a look at the “Thinlets”:http://www.thinlet.com/ project, and was impressed by what I saw.

From the website:

Thinlet is a GUI toolkit, a single Java class, parses the hierarchy and properties of the GUI, handles user interaction, and calls business logic. Separates the graphic presentation (described in an XML file) and the application methods (written as Java code).

Its compressed size is 38KB, and it is LGPL licensed.

Thinlet runs with Java 1.1 (browsers’ default JVM) to 1.4, Personal Java, and Personal (Basis) Profile. Swing isn’t required.

The online demos look impressive. My only concern at present is the requirement for a Java plugin. Assuming this isn’t an issue for my target audience (and it depends greatly on which of the projects I take on – there are a couple on the table) I may well consider using it. It certainly helps support the argument that a thin (web) client can also be a rich one.

Dan is making posts via a neighbours wireless network, who seems to have no idea what’s going on. This scares me. I think I’ll hold off going wireless for the moment.