Ajax Experience: Stuart Halloway – Advanced Prototype

October 24th, 2007

Stuart Halloway is one of the most engaging speakers you are ever to likely to see. He knows his topics well and he presents in a very entertaining and often tangential style.

I won’t bother to comment on the Advanced Prototype part of his talk – you can find prototype discussed in many places. I’ll try instead to follow some of the tangents.

Stuart expresses a strong opinion about Javascript 2.0 – to wit that it is an abomination up with which he will not put. He says that it seems to consist of a bunch features added by people who don’t “get” how Javascript 1.x should have taught them to program, all imposed from on high by the ActionScript camp (a charge I’ve heard from others in the ECMAScript observer community).

Recommended tools:
Javascript Shell

Random rant: “a Domain Specific Language is a way of dressing up your crappy IDE so it looks nice”

I look forward to his “Refactotum” talk tomorrow, which will be about how to contribute to an open-source project.


Ajax Experience: Chris Schalk – Google Gears

October 24th, 2007

Chris Schalk is a Developer Advocate at Google. His talk is called Beyond XHR: Taking Ajax Offline With Google Gears.

Google Gears is a browser plugin that provides offline storage and other supporting functionality. It is supported in most popular browsers.

With Gears you can completely decouple communication from UI actions. The communication happens periodically when connectivity is available.

The three APIs that Gears provides are:

  • LocalServer – to access the application offline
  • Database – a powerful relational db (SQLite) for storage
  • WorkerPool – a way to dispatch chunks of code to run in separate thread-like pools that don’t impact your app


  • ResourceStore – capture individual online resources for offline use
  • ManagedResourceStore – capture entire applications for offline use (using a manifest file)

Chris’s presentation is itself an offline app created with Gears (no link, I’m afraid although a variant of it comes with the gears download). It works equally well online or offline.


  • SQLite – Open source, mature, small, fast full featured relational db
  • Gigabtes of storage


  • thread-like functionality
  • no more blocking the browser UI
  • communications via IPC – no shared state

Chris is showing us some Full Text Search code samples that leverage the FTS3 features of SQLite

What’s Next

  • Support Google Apps going offline
  • Support External app developers
  • FTS3 in languages other than English
  • Cross-domain API and other WorkerPool enhancements

Chris encourages us to visit http://code.google.com/ to discover the cool things google is working on and learn how to use them.

I’m going to subscribe to the Google Code Blog RSS feed right now.

If you have Gears loaded up and want to try an example app, have a look at the blog.gears sample app.


Ajax Experience: John Resig – The Future Of Javascript

October 24th, 2007

John Resig, the creator of JQuery who works at Mozilla, is helping us to understand all of the new features in Javascript 2 / ECMAScript 4.

You can download the ECMAScript 4 final draft to see the details.

My initial take is that while there are lots of neat things, many seem to me to be new ways to make your code more complex and confusing. I think Douglas Crockford, who’s sitting beside me, feels similarly.

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Live blogging from Ajax Experience East

October 24th, 2007

I’m in Boston this week for the Ajax Experience conference.

As usual, it’s got a stunning array of speakers and keynotes. I’ll be blogging as I go, so stay tuned.


GData library extends cross-domain mashup capabilities

September 26th, 2007

Dion Almaer recently announced Google’s GData library, which allows you to securely access Google’s Calendar API (more APIs to come) for reading and writing calendar data.

I have long been a vocal advocate of the development of secure cross-domain methods in the browser. This is just the latest in a series of developments that make it apparent that the way forward is going to be built on existing browser technology without waiting for the browser vendors to bake in the necessary objects to support mashups.

Take note, I see this as the most important development on the internet today. I’ve said it for years – getting over the cross-domain hump securely will open the floodgates to a new level of Web interop.


Strategic internet development technologies

September 19th, 2007

Joel Spolsky has had more than a modicum of success reading the tea leaves of the software industry, so when he writes an incisive essay about the future of application development and platforms, it’s worth not only taking a look, but pursuing an understanding of some of the relevant issues and technologies.

I’ll provide some links here which will help the reader to understand how many of the points Joel makes in his essay are supported by existing technologies in various states of readiness. It’s a big pantry of ingredients that is waiting for the right chef to come along and combine them in a way that inspires the world to follow.

This list is far from exhaustive but I just want to give you some clues that are representative of each topic to help you get started. Please let me know if I’ve missed any important topics.

Javascript (language):

Javascript (engine):


Higher abstractions:


Rich Web Application Runtimes:


CrossSafe secure cross-domain scripting

September 10th, 2007

Kris Zyp (rhymes with Skype!), founder of Xucia, introduces CrossSafe, a small Javascript library to enable secure cross-site scripting:

CrossSafe provides secure cross domain JSON requests and partially implements the JSONRequest specification (the get and cancel methods). XMLHttpRequest follows a same origin policy, and because of this, when developing mashups that involve retrieving data from servers other than the origin, developers have typically had to decide between a secure, but slow connection that through a proxy, or a direct, faster, but unsecure dynamic script tag retrieval of information. CrossSafe allows fast, direct, and secure connections to foreign servers from the browser. CrossSafe uses the JSONRequest API as it provides a subset of the JSONRequest features.

I’m really happy to see that Kris has not only come up with a viable cross-browser solution to the secure mashups problem, but has taken the initiative to implement it via the first-ever released implementation of the JSONRequest API proposed by Douglas Crockford nearly 18 months ago.

Not only that, but he has implemented it in such a way that should browser manufacturers ship a JSONRequest object, it will gracefully step out of the way:

CrossSafe does not implement the entire specification. However, developers can use the JSONRequest API in CrossSafe to make cross domain requests (which is one of the primary motivations for JSONRequest), and if and when browsers implement JSONRequest natively, CrossSafe will simply leave the JSONRequest object alone, and code will continue to operate with the benefits of a native implementation.

CrossSafe apparently uses a technique similiar to that described in the Subspace document I blogged about recently. I’m looking forward to inpecting the CrossSafe code since there was no code released with the research paper.

I met Kris in San Francisco in July at The Ajax Experience. I found him more than once in advanced conversations with people like Douglas Crockford and Brendan Eich – definitely a player to keep your eye on. You can see Kris speak in October at The Ajax Experience East.

Thanks, Kris, for stepping up to the plate. Great work.


Douglas Crockford points me to Collin Jackson’s JSONRequest Firefox Extension. Collin was also one of the authors of the Subspace document.


Discover and become a part of your local tech community with DemoCamp

August 25th, 2007

I’m often asked for advice from people who are just starting to work in technology or who want to take their career to the next level and prepare to become an independent contractor or consultant.

Invariably my number one recommendation is that they begin to build a network of contacts in their local technology community. More often than not, they have no idea how to get started.

In the Toronto area, we’re fortunate to have a vibrant tech community. It wasn’t always so – it has grown significantly in the past couple of years largely due to David Crow’s importation of the BarCamp unconference, an event held a few times a year, generally over a weekend, where people interested in internet technology get together to collaborate.

Even more significant to the growth of Toronto’s tech community was the Toronto birth of DemoCamp, a more lightweight gathering featuring demonstrations from players in the local (and sometimes wider) tech community. Since it takes place in a single evening and is preceded and followed by informal mixing and discussion, it has become a fantastic venue to come out and observe the electricity and creativity of the community and even insert yourself into the fray.

Bootstrapped by the community and now gaining limited corporate support, DemoCamp is growing but still maintains its most important feature – an atmosphere where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and participate.

If there isn’t already a DemoCamp in your community, I strongly encourage you to take the initiative to start one. If you’re in the Toronto area, I hope to see you at Toronto DemoCamp 14 on September 17th, 2007.

My first DemoCamp was DemoCampToronto3, where I demoed BlogChat, an Ajax chat app I developed in early 2002. I have been to almost every subsequent DemoCamp and have witnessed its phenominal growth, as well as the various BarCamp offshoots such as DrupalCamp, EnterpriseCamp and a host of others. I’ve even participated at Geeks and Guitars, playing drums and bass with Joey DeVilla and James Walker.

It has been my pleasure to meet literally hundreds of local people who are passionate about technology, and to collaborate with some of the core people who continue to make DemoCamp a success. This month, I’ve personally pledged $200 to help towards the venue and I encourage others to find ways to lend their support.

The Toronto community also has a “Toronto Global Swarm” Skype channel that is open 24/7 and allows people to come and go and communicate with one another. You can get an invitation from anyone who is already in the chat.

So now you know the not-so-well-kept secret of how to get involved in your local tech community. Spread it around!

Update: David Crow has some details of the presentations lined up for DemoCampToronto14