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Archive for May, 2008

Just today, GWT 1.5rc1 is released to the world with much fanfare and expectation. Despite not been the final version yet, it is a significant milestone for a product that bring fun and ease to the world of AJAX development (at least to the Java developers) where browser incompatibilities due to cranky JavaScript and unsupported HTML features spoilt the development experience.

image Download site

Among the most notable enhancements is the support for Java 1.5 language features that improve productivity, clarity and compilation-checking.

  • Using Generics eg java.util.Map<String, Integer> mMap = new HashMap();
  • Static import eg import static javax.swing.JLabel.*;
  • Variable arguments in method eg public void test(int _i, String… _sArStr)
  • Annotation eg @Annotate
  • Improved For loop eg for (String _i : list)

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A definition of Release Candidate from Wikipedia is cited as “a version with potential to be a final product, ready to release unless fatal bugs emerge. In this stage, the product features all designed functions and no known showstopper-class bugs. At this phase the product is usually code complete.” So in this version of GWT rc1, it means that the product is as good as feature-completed and the main task need to do is to iron out any known bugs during testing before deciding on whether another release candidate is necessary prior to final stable release. No doubt that GWT is a great piece of engineering work done by a great team of talented software engineers. However a product that rely on other system is not enough for its own merit and so this is where the disappointment comes from.

Lack of support from IDE

GWT’s main forte over traditional hand-code JavaScript development comes from the ease of GWT AJAX application development using feature-rich and powerful IDE for editing and debugging and therefore it necessitate the use of IDE. Despite that many popular IDEs offers outstanding support over previous version of GWT (eg 1.4x) using plug-in, it is dismaying that there is total lack of GWT 1.5 support from IDE vendors when the first release candidate is finally delivered. Although it is understandable that GWT is a separated product by Google and so is independent of any IDE vendor and that GWT 1.5 support is up to discretion of the vendor to deliver,  it is not hard to fathom that GWT’s success own greatly to the support of existing IDEs. IDE is the critical key to using GWT and its excellent set of features, without which the benefits and advantage of GWT will greatly diminish. GWT is part of its ecosystem and not a island itself because no pragmatic developer will want to develop a considerable complex GWT application using a vanilla command-line debugger.

In current situation, compiling a GWT 1.5 application using existing support from Intellij gives error (Disclaimer: I never been able to use NetBean’s GWT plugin flawlessly, and I yet to try on Eclipse support yet. As one later see, this is not the issue.), let alone run it.

Errors generated from compiling GWT application using GWT 1.5  in Intellij

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No doubt that support for GWT 1.5 from respective IDEs vendors will be expected due to its popularity but until the final release, the vendors most likely will take a wait and see attitudes in addressing such support (Especially that GWT plug-in in Netbean & Eclipse are delivered voluntary) , and this is where a catch-22 situation occurs. Without the current GWT 1.5 support from IDE, very few developers are willing to test the latest features of GWT and to find and report bugs. The most likely kind of bugs report are those that arise from running previous version of GWT application. Running unit test does not help much since it is only through permutation of using several features or APIs that highly likely to expose critical issues. In this aspect, it defeat the purposes of release candidate where the release should be tested and used ‘in the real world’ as much as possible so the final version will not exhibit obvious bugs.

My experience in using GWT 1.5 currently is tantamount to driving a Porsche with punctured tyre.  Yes, one could still  use ANT script as the last resort to do the development where compilation and debugging are done through command-line but why bother with so much in-productivity and pain ?  Like majority of developers, I will rather do the testing in a IDE as it reflects the actual development environment.

 

Suggestion

So how to resolve this situation ? What if the GWT team works with IDE vendors to deliver acceptable reasonable support for major release that at least able to perform basic task like compiling and debugging and test important features prior to release to public ? What if the GWT team could dedicate more resources to work with partners to ensure that GWT’s major release will sync with support from IDE vendors (My understanding is that GWT plug-in in NetBean and Eclipse are surprisingly done by open-source volunteers not through employee like in Intellij) ? Coordination and partnership are important to ensure that GWT ecosystem is not broken and disrupt every time a major release is announced.  It will be good if GWT team periodically update their work and finding with existing IDE vendors because such news of collaboration are very encouraging and give peace of mind to the developer knowing that such healthy work relationship will only strengthen the investment one make in the technology. GWT is only as good as its ecosystem. Its strong link is only as good as its weakest link, and lack of GWT 1.5 support is the weakest link so far.

I definitely wouldn’t want to see GWT team having to repeat those unredeemable mistake by Microsoft over the release of Windows Vista where by Vista is released to the public with catastrophic lack of support and compatibility for existing and legacy devices, where driver is not ready or stable, causing malfunction and disruption to users and business. Such wrath and dissatisfaction will dent the confidence of the user and make it harder to accept similar product from the vendor in the future. Hence it is paramount that GWT team works with GWT plug-in contributors to ensure that when GWT is finally released, it is ready to be used in any popular IDEs.

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image Here are some of the classic Christian songs that I heard more than a decades ago and even to this day, these great songs still feel great.  The music is beautiful and simple sang by the great singers. Just listen to it …

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image iPod is a phenomenal successful and a legendary product that is as popular as the legendary icon, Steve Jobsimage , who unveiled the product to the world in the annual Apple Conference back in 2001. This stylish product set the precedent of how industrial design image  coupled with simplicity could inspire coolness and Wow-ness that itself lead to revolution that even the company producing it couldn’t have expected it. In other words, product that simple just works out of the box image .

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Back in 2001 just two weeks before the 911 event, I made a tour to USA along with four friends. That was my first time in USA and I had a fantastic experience touring the country in a four-wheel -drive car. It is around 11 days tour in US with 3 days on flight. It is something very nostalgic as it is a different kind of environment that is a stark contrast with Singapore. USA is indeed a very beautiful and wonderful country. The fact that I grew up in Singapore where politics are stymied and oppressive to the point that citizens are made believe that Singapore is the best in the world can offer with, and meritocracy and having stellar academic result are keys to flourish in the tiny small state, but only when I get to travel in a country of freedom and nature that I begin to see that there is more life than economic growth and materialistic possession, and change my perception of what I want to do in life. Should I squander my whole life worrying for my own rice bowl to survive in the pragmatic and harsh environment of Singapore, or should I  start doing the thing that I love to do irrespective of whatever outcome ? Okay, that’s another matter.

Anyway, this is my recollection of the tour in 2001. Our was a free-n-easy tour starting from the following route:

San Francisco => Monterey => Las Vegas => Los Angeles.

[Note that the following image are not part of captured photo. Only those from Web Album are.]

There were some popular places along the way that I could not recall. And we took the Ocean Road.

That day I remember waking up in early morning at 3am and taking a taxi to Changi Airport image to await my flight to USA. I met the rest of my friends there and we waited for another hour or so before boarding the plane. It is around 19 hours of flight (If I recalled correctly( from Singapore to San Francisco with a transit in Japan through Narita Airport image where we stay another hour intriguing and fascinated by what we seen in Japanese airport. The Japanese are busy and polite people and scurrying like ant from one place to another.

After arriving in San Francisco airport image  in the morning around 10am, we saw a bunch of China tourists that had problems communicating with custom officers and it took us about 45 mins before we successfully checked out. We took a bus to a city where we got our car that we booked online. We were asked to choose the car from a multi-storey-car-park warehouse. Every of one is stunned because most of the cars had their gear on the steering wheel which we were not accustomed to. We finally choose a 4WD image (Yes, this was the car we used) Suzuki Vitara that suit us better with gear-change that resided beside the sit.  We placed our luggage at luggage compartment. The arrangement was three passengers at back seat and it really feel small. Eventually one of smaller one sit in the luggage compartment.

So off we set to find our hotel. The road was much wider and cars were travelling on average of 120km/hr. As we travelled, I admired the beautiful scenery of the place. It really look like Fairy Tales, so natural and gorgeous. After many round of detour, we finally found our hotel. We put our belonging and quickly off we went to explore the state. As we travelled, we exhaled the fresh cool air. The whole place was air-conditioned and we joked how much electricity bills we could save in a lifetime here. California was also a place where the dot.com fever start and end. Due to dot.com burst, there were a lot of vacant buildings on rent. One of few prominent I noticed was Excite or Lycos. Imagine the excitement of encountering those building that once so prominently featured in magazine. Very surreal indeed ! Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to see Oracle headquarter or any technological company due to lack of time, we did not explore vicinity of Silicon Valley. Much to my disappointment as I thought I could capture the vibrancy of Silicon Valley image on camcorder.

We visited the Intel Museumimage image  and found out a lot of interesting history and photo. A display shown a Pentium design and some multimedia on Intel’s technology. Cool stuff.

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Using GWT

Developers that use GWT application development know that GWT is amazing piece of tool to develop AJAXized web application using familiar Java language without dabbling with hard-to-debug JavaScript. I have personally used GWT to develop own project and I think it is god-send as it makes web development fun and enjoyable,  reminiscent of desktop development. Using the powerful and popular Java IDE to debug web-based application, one can easily set breakpoint and pinpoint bugs easily. Using static-typed Java language, potential compilation errors are immediately reflected in sophisticated IDE in real-time without needless and time-consuming compilation,  that increase in productivity (and perhaps sanity too). Developing in GWT does feels naturally for those developers who accustom to create cool and interactive desktop application using Swing GUI toolkit.

 

Contrast of  development of GWT and Desktop application

Despite the ease of GWT and its effort to make programming web-based application as seamless as desktop application, there is a salient difference in developing for GWT and desktop application.  A Java class can be run through its main method  in system console whereas GWT requires class to implement EntryPoint interface and to explicitly set in module descriptor file (EntryPoint tag in gwt.xml) prior to execute in GWT’s hosted mode browser. Although this is no fault of GWT as such capability requires explicit support in IDE, developers are likely to miss such time-saving feature. Thinking about how useful it is to able to switch EntryPoint class with ease to mock up user interface prior to testing the whole application. Currently, the work-around is often a repetitious and error-prone task of manually editing gwt.xml file and ensuring that the correct EntryPoint class name is added.

 

Unveiling gwtClassRun

So after much frustration incurring long waiting time (especially application becomes increasingly larger due to more features) during long Java-to-JavaScript compilation/translation and initialization for running GWT application (due to my indolence for not changing the EntryPoint class as depict previously), a feasible solution is been developed that works with any IDEs.

image46

So after weeks of development and preparation, image45gwtClassRun is finally done along with its supporting WordPress.com site. Using this nifty application that works in tandem with GWT and IDE, one can easily switch EntryPoint class easily and productively. No more manual editing of gwt.xml file, just point-n-click interface enhanced with real-time search auto-completion capability.

Take a look at the video demonstration and watch how easy to setup and perform class switching

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Find out more and download the beta application from

http://geekyware.wordpress.com/gwt-classrun/

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imageDavid Hardtke, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, worked for 13 years in experimental particle, nuclear and astrophysics.  David specializes in searches for very rare patterns hidden in enormous (many terabyte) data sets using advanced automated statistical data mining techniques. 

Read more at http://www.surfcanyon.com/search/team.jsp
So is it any wonder that Surf Canyon is so innovative ?

Once a while, there comes a simple utility that becomes so indispensable that one probably asks “Why didn’t I think of it >?”. It happens that while as usual piling through daily review of Web 2.0 startup and happenings by Techcrunch, I came across a very interesting post Search Startup Surf Canyon Raises a Seed Round that caught my attention. I have to admit what pique my interest initially is not what image is, after all  there are abundant of daily news about startup, existing or new, that look likes the “Next Big Thing” but prove otherwise, but rather what’s in the world will any sane investors will want to throw US$850,000 dollars to fund such a ‘dubious’ simple idea especially it works primarily as a plug-in to browser ? Notwithstanding that name of Surf Canyon sounds anything but a serious startup.

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Introduction

The RIA market is set to heat up starting from this year as the big three of RIA put their weight on the emerging web trend to put powerful and interactive application running on the web browser. Although Sun, Adobe and Microsoft are by no means the only player in the RIA arena, they are the prominent giants that have the necessary resources, infrastructures and capabilities to execute their vision. Despite other players such as Google’s GWT, Lasso, are gaining momentum  however these players are still  leveraging on ubiquitous AJAX technology which albeit readily supported by leading web browsers, it also ironically limit their potential severely due to impedance mismatch between JavaScript and interactive multimedia application. Moreover the AJAX-based solutions tend to suffer from complexity, performance and compatibility issues due to nature of web technology and indifference between various web browser. For example, versatile graphics and multimedia programming still remain the domain of true RIA solution.

JavaFX

Sun with its JavaFX branding of RIA is the new kid on the block to venture into this still growing untapped market. No doubt that Sun forays into this area aroused from competing giants like Microsoft and Adobe that invest heavily in RIA that may eventually threaten Sun’s valuable asset in Java. In fact, RIA is not new to Sun, and ironically, Sun put RIA into mainstream by introduce the applet back in 1995 which amaze the world how application running in the web browser could transform the user experience and bring the power of desktop application through ubiquitous web browser.  Unfortunately, due to Sun’s poor execution in Applet, applet has a tarnished reputation of being slow, bulky and unintuitive, notwithstanding that it is coupled with problems associated with different Java runtime in user’s system.

Work In Progress 

 

JavaFX finally unveiled to the public with excellent roadmap in JavaOne 2008. JavaFX is a major theme in the annual event. RIA is not new but the concept of able to install a Java application automatically by dragging out a applet and converting into a full desktop application from in a web browser is just fantastic and revolutionizing !

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