Real web applications…

One of the problems with so-called web applications is that often they don’t function like real applications would with regard to data transfer. In a nutshell, when you use Outlook and you click an email to view it, that email is opened pretty much instantly, and generally in the same “wrapper” as the link you clicked. That’s because a desktop application has a direct link with the data it is interacting with. With web applications we don’t have that luxury – every time we want to show a new piece of data it means a whole new trip to the web server to pass the request and then send the result to the browser.

But things are changing. Fast. People are finding ways around these problems to provide a more seamless environment for users within web applications. Generally that means a frame-heavy design, as with my projectGenie system which uses inline frames extensively. However that’s not fantastic for accessibility. So enter XMLHttpRequest, the latest technology to when developers appetites.

While the research team behind mSpace are billing it as a whole new way of looking at data, it’s just a neat use of XMLHttpRequest, which in essence is a JavaScript function for retrieving data from a web server and loading it into an already-downloaded web page. Their example application is neat, but suffers from JavaScript-itis (it loads 25, yes, 25 JavaScript includes) and they haven’t made the “sorry, no data found” message look very neat. But still, it’s a good idea.

There’s been much discussion over Googles new email service, GMail, which is partly frame- and partly XMLHttpRequest-based. It seems they have got it right … and wrong. I know we’re in early days with this type of technology so expect to see some exciting things happening in this area over the next few months. I’m certainly going to be messing about with it; interestingly enough I developed a system last summer for a client that had a similar but unfortunately (and to my shame) IE-only system for fetching remote data. This XML thing seems to be affecting the web-world more and more.

Edited at March 3, 2005, 12:04 am by geektimes

Project: New…

You wait for days for a Geek Times entry and then two come along at once. Isn’t that just the way of the world.

Anyway, here’s a big heads-up to Kevin Leitchs Project: New site, a resource for web designers just starting on the path to enlightenment, or experienced developers wanting to get to grips with standards-compliance. Well done Kevin, it looks good.

Edited at March 3, 2005, 12:05 am by geektimes

Connecting people to knowledge…

Thanks to the wondrous wonder that is RSS, I can keep up to date with the world of blogging (and world news) all from one place. Lucky me. While I’ll expound on RSS and syndication in general at a later date, I did want to add my “amen” to this:

“Connecting people to knowledge is the entire point of programming as far as I’m concerned, and so far there’s been no better medium for that than the Internet.” (From Troutgirls weblog)

Amen, amen and thrice amen. That’s what it’s about for me, too. Those three little words – people, connecting and knowledge. Whether that knowledge is someone elses opinion, statistics, news, jokes, technical information or whatever, it’s still knowledge. And people like to gain knowledge – whether it’s just for information, curiosity, plain noseyness or whatever, people like knowledge. What an exciting world we live in. We just need to share the good bits more, and reduce the bad bits.

Edited at March 3, 2005, 12:05 am by geektimes

Conferences, networking and the dark art of making money…

After having read a interesting article at
I wondered more about my desire to visit web design conferences.
Obviously it would be great to go to Boston, or New York – even London
would be good – especially if someone else is paying. But would I learn
anything more there than I could just keeping an eye on a few notable
blogs? Possibly not.
However the real advantage to getting together with a load of other
geeks is that you … are with a load of other geeks. And that can only
be a good thing, because human networking (rather than the wired or
wireless based computer networking we all rely on) is fun, informative,
and vital to the continuing development of the web. Just imagine a
world where Tim Berners-Lee
kept his ideas to himself. So talking together and getting to know what
other people are doing is great, and it can be much easier when that is
done in Real Life, rather then just on a screen. It can also lead to
business opportunities that you might not have been aware of or had the
chance to pursue otherwise.
Speaking of business opportunities, I spent some time with a friend on
Monday night in a local CAMRA
award winning pub. He’s a property developer and landlord, and is
looking for new areas to expand his business into. Not geographical
areas, but new commercial ventures. We discussed e-books, blogs,
e-commerce, community websites and the nature of people, and these
points have stuck in my mind:

  • Giving things away for free is great, but it doesn’t easily put bread on the table
  • To become a millionaire you only have to sell a million £1 items
  • On the internet, people want to feel a part of a community

So where does that leave me? I’d like to retire at 30, but unless
I have an amazingly good idea very soon I won’t. So I’m going to try to
think of an amazingly good idea. And whether making money on the
internet is against everything I’ve said on this blog about open source
software, and the importance of ethical netizenship, I still need to
eat. I’l admitted it; I do have a commercial streak in me. Perhaps I
should get myself along to a few conferences and start networking.

Edited at March 2, 2005, 11:59 pm by geektimes
Edited at March 3, 2005, 12:00 am by geektimes
Edited at March 3, 2005, 12:01 am by geektimes

Welcome to 1997…

Any sharp-eyed reader of The Geek Times will know I am a huge fan of the wondrous Mozilla FireFox web browser, a nifty piece of software that does what it is meant to do, how it is meant to do it, and all for free. So imagine my surprise when a fellow developer sent me a link to this monstrosity. For those still in the dark ages when it comes to internet technology, this is the page you get when you try to view their site in anything other than Internet Exploder under Windows. Are we in the 21st century or what? Get with the programme, people.

And it’s also interesting to note that IBM have met problems when switching all their 40,000+ desktop computers to Linux from Windows. However the problems are all to do with IE-only web applications. That’s a trap I won’t fall into again. Long live open source and internet standards.