Archive for the 'blather' Category


Ajaxio proof of concept for Ajax Visio functionality

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

I’ve been acquainted with James MacFarlane for a very, very long time. I first met him in the early 80s when he wrote articles and columns for various Toronto-based computer trade magazines and was active in the tech community. A few years ago, long before the Ajax revolution, he was managing a dev team at Moveable Inc and had me in to give a presentation to his staff about Remote Scripting and related techniques.

Always ahead of the curve, James is at it again with a new proof of concept called Ajaxio, that does Visio-style stuff in the browser. This is an excerpt from his demo page:

The purpose of this experiment is to see if a Visio-type of tool could be developed in a web browser. Using Prototype, and Water Zorn’s SVG library I managed to hack together a simple demo. It’s not perfect, but it demonstrates that it can be done. There is no Ajax writeback to the server in this demo, but it could be easily added as a call in prototype.

Neat stuff.


Free Tools for Debugging Javascript (and Ajax apps) with Internet Explorer

Friday, May 26th, 2006

I have seen a lot of griping over the years about an imagined scarcity of debugging tools for IE. I find it remarkable that people in the business don’t know what’s available.

Microsoft has had great debugging tools for IE since Visual Interdev as far back as 1998 or so and continuing through to Visual Studio. The visual studio debugger has breakpoints, watch variables, call stack, step in/out/over, object browsing, immediate window, debug output window, and more.

If you didn’t want or need an entire IDE, Microsoft Script Debugger became available as a download for NT4 and Win98/ME, later becoming a component delivered with Windows operating systems as of Windows 2000 that simply required enabling. The Script Debugger is a lot lighter than the VS debugger, but still has breakpoints, watch variables, call stack, step in/out/over, immediate window, and debug output window.

Now Microsoft has released their Visual Web Developer Express IDE for free. Install it, then in your browser’s advanced options, uncheck the two boxes that disable debugging, and you have a debugger that is every bit as powerful as Mozilla’s Venkman ever was.

Here is a screenshot of a simple single-page debug session (click to open full size):

Visual Web Developer Debug Session

No wonder it took so long for Javascript to get any respect if people didn’t know that there were decent tools for it.


Today Creative Commons Salon, Tomorrow Mush

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

I went along to the first Toronto Creative Commons Salon tonight and met some amazing folks. While I’m only on the periphery of this stuff, I had some great conversations and was able to act as a connector between some people and others with similar interests.

On the way back to the car, I managed to run into a whole gaggle of folks in post-Mesh celebration. I tell ya, this town she is a-hoppin’ with tech vibes.

Tomorrow night it’s off to Mush, the Web 2.0 Piss-Up. Hope to see you all there.

NOTE: I’ve been under the misapprehension that the Monarch Tavern, where Mush is being held, was all the way up at Bloor Street, however it turns out it’s down below College West of Bathurst as shown here


Ajax Experience – a play within a play

Monday, May 15th, 2006

There were two levels of conference going on at The Ajax Experience last week.

The first level was the conference where the presenters put on a terrific show for the attendees, with lots and lots of presentations about tools and techniques and a number of expert discussion panels.

The second level was the conference among the presenters, tool providers and industry experts, making the connections that will sow the seeds that make the coming years as exciting and fruitful as those recently gone by.

I was very happy to meet Douglas Crockford again. His work on JSONRequest and Javascript advocacy have been instrumental in sparking the conversations that will lead us towards changes in the browsers that will take us to the next level of not only interactive but even robust web applications. I applaud Douglas for taking a stand and proposing change. It comes as no surprise that Douglas is at Yahoo with Bill Scott, another guy at the absolute top of his game as an interaction designer. I’m noticing lately that Yahoo is quietly attracting the creme de la creme to work with them on advancing the state of the art in various ways while the other big guys are busy chasing the ball around.

In the browser camps, Brendan Eich shared his directions for Javascript and Mozilla, and Laurel Reitman helped us to understand that the IE7 team is keen to help us all move forward and solve the challenges that are decelerating our efforts – cross-domain security for instance. While there was some contention, the overall impression was of cautious steps towards increased levels of openness and collaboration.

Michael Mahemoff impressed me as someone who is truly passionate about patterns. His work in gathering patterns from far and wide has no doubt helped us all tremendously.

Big thanks to Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith, who had the foresight to gather together a remarkable mix of thought leaders and catalysts to make a lasting difference, and who along with Jay Zimmerman did a stellar job of hosting what to many in attendance will be remembered as the tech event of the year.


Ajax Experience

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

I’m in San Francisco at The Ajax Experience. Alex Russell is explaining the Dojo Toolkit, one of the primo Ajax toolkits. I’m seated beside Douglas Crockford and directly behind Michael Mahemoff of Ajax Patterns.

Last night I sat on an expert panel, after which a few people gathered by the podium to speak. Laurel Reitman, Lead Program Manager for IE7 came over to get involved in the conversation, and I took the opportunity to introduce her to Brendan Eich, CTO of Mozilla. It certainly looks like this conference could be a catalyst in some really great forward movement.


IE7 XMLHttp resending requests?

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Tucows used BlogChat earlier this week for the Ask Tucows chat they regularly host for their partners, clients and other interested parties.

After the chat was closed, I noticed that Bryan’s browser continued to resend chat messages. These were repeats of earlier conversation from his browser, and being sent in their original order, although not with exactly the same timed spacing. They were actually coming in as logged http requests from his IP. I quickly got Bryan’s number from whois and called him at his desk. He still had the browser running, but had closed the chat tab immediately after the chat. His browser continued to send these old messages after the tab was closed!

I’ve looked at our code. We recently changed the transport method on the visitor chat client from img/cookie to XMLHttp (with failover to hidden Iframe) to a) avoid cross-domain problems in embedded chat windows and b) be more AJAXY. The code creates a new XMLHttp object each time but then does not explicitly dispose of it once its onLoad has fired. The polling nature of the app means that many of these objects are being created. I’ve yet to
determine whether certain browsers keep them around where others don’t.

My working theory is that IE7’s native browser implementation of XMLHttp (as opposed to IE6’s ActiveX implementation) not only keeps these objects around, but for some reason starts re-firing them later on, for some reason in the order that they were created.

While I’ll definitely look into disposing of the objects once used, I think this behaviour could constitute a pretty nasty bug if your ajax calls do things like “delete record” or “apply charge to account”.

I’m away at The Ajax Experience next week but after that I’ll set up a vm test environment. In the meantime, has anyone had similar experiences with IE7 and XMLHttp?


In My Lifetime

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Today I receive the meme baton from a ReMarkK!able guy central to the braintrust of the Toronto techsphere about which I’ve been enthusing of late.

The task at hand is to enumerate the three things I’d like to see happen in my lifetime. I’m immediately reminded of Steve Martin’s SNL sketch (“the first would be the crap about the kids definitely…”).

These three things come to mind:

  1. A return to primary respect of skilled trades in Canada. Apprenticing to be a carpenter or bricklayer is at the very least as important to our economy as as going to university to study liberal arts or computer science, but you wouldn’t know it from the attitude of parents and legislators across the country. Our immigration policy needs to recognize this as well. There’s no future in being a nation of eggheads with nowhere to live because there’s nobody to actually build and maintain the necessary infrastructure.
  2. Let us have a resurgence of hope. Let us have new vibrant leaders who follow the historical examples of the likes of MLK and JFK and PET who despite the trials of their times could deliver inspirational speeches that they themselves authored from their heartfelt passion for the basics of democracy, brotherhood and goodwill. Let us eschew the culture of ultraconservative fear, distrust and control that has been foist upon us and embrace openness, enthusiasm and the kind of collaborative altruism that once was strong enough to spawn the very nations we care about so deeply when it could have been so easy to succumb to the despair of the circumstances of the day.
  3. Will the real omnipotent being please stand up? Just step out from behind your veil of allegories and parables long enough to establish that indeed, you’re the definitive sole entity towards whom our genuflections should be directed and clear the air that either of Messrs Bush and/or Bin Laden or whomever you care to anoint does or does not have the authoritay to speak on behalf of your corporate mission. Oh, and if you wouldn’t mind doing the odd bit of smiting while you’re at it, thanks in advance.

In the interest of spreading this further afield, let’s hear what Nate, Terry and Rick have to say.


The cream starts to rise

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Toronto’s DemoCamp5 this week once again demonstrated this city’s huge as-yet unsatiated thirst for tech collaboration.

Summaries and reviews of the content can be had from a few places – here are two of them:

I spent time afterwards working the room at the pub and had quite a few interesting conversations, the most interesting of which were with Ryan McMinn and Pete Forde of Unspace. I’ve been acquainted with Ryan for some time but was impressed with his depth and how well he articulates his passion. I met Pete at the last DemoCamp and we clicked on a few levels. and it was gratifying to share opinions on the state of webdev and its potential directions.

Pete has been posting some Unspace essays that contribute extremely well to the evolution of the web development commons. Highly recommended reading – there’s an rss feed to be had, so snarf it with all speed.

The braintrust at these gatherings is remarkable. Come and see for yourself. And I mean YOU.