iPhone – Lacking as a Phone, Rising as a Platform

28 06 2007

Though the iPhone does not fare well feature-wise in comparison to existing Smartphones for its hefty price tag, there is one good outcome I see from the Apple Marketing Machine hype:

Web applications can piggyback off of the iPhone’s success.

Since Apple is limiting apps to run from Safari, this means developers must create web compliant applications. How does this benefit us who don’t have an iPhone? It means we can run the same applications from our internet enabled phones/devices too. What does this mean to the developer community? AJAX enabled development will be on the rise pushing the limits of Web 2.0 even further. We will see more tools, and new ways of manipulating the browser to deliver a rich user-centric experience.

Plain simple, the iPhone will help usher in the web application platform. More and more applications are going to the web, and with Apple’s marketing power, the Web 2.0 generation is inadvertently benefiting from the iPhone success.

Free Tools to Develop AJAX Applications

26 06 2007

AJAX is new technology. There aren’t very many tools supporting it compared to Java or .NET. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any good tools to develop AJAX applications however. Here are a few of my favorites which have helped me out:

Development – Eclipse + Aptana

Eclipse is the most powerful and extensible IDE I’ve ever used. It supports multiple programming languages, refactoring tools, and the works. Aptana is a plugin for Eclipse which lets you write Javascript code as well as design web-pages from within the IDE with full syntax highlighting and script debugging. Aptana also supports Adobe AIR and Ruby on Rails two new technologies that will make developing web-applications even more powerful. Putting two and two together, it leaves Dreamweaver, which is mostly a design tool, in the dust.

Eclipse can be downloaded from http://www.eclipse.org. Drop the archive anywhere on your system and run it. If you are an Ubuntu user, Eclipse is in the universe for your pleasure.

Aptana can be installed from within Eclipse if you add http://update.aptana.com/install/3.2/ as a remote site. Restart Eclipse and you are good to go.

Basic Testing – Firebug Extension for Firefox

We developers know that debugging can be the most tedious part of the programming experience. Eclipse and Aptana cover debugging the Javascript, but what about the communication between the client and the server? All AJAX applications are n-tiered and Firebug makes monitoring data between the model-view-controller a breeze. You will have to test your application in a web-browser regardless, so having Firebug installed is a bonus. You can also manipulate scripts on the fly, so if you want to make a quick CSS change to see how it affects your page thats already live, go right ahead.

Production Testing – Apache Jakarta JMeter

How do you test if your shiny new application can hold up against thousands of simultaneous users at once? JMeter is a profiling tool from Apache that lets you setup cases to stress test your application. It even provides important data like how long it took to serve a page with 50 simultaneous users, so you can fine tune your app for speed.

Deployment – FireFTP Extension for Firefox

AJAX applications live inside an HTTP server. FTPing your website is easy with FireFTP. It features a two-pane view so you can transfer your website over quick.

As AJAX becomes more popular better tools will be developed making the software process a little bit easier. The above tools mentioned are very robust so put your thinking hats on and start developing applications for the Web 2.0 generation.

Killer App – 5 Reasons Why Google Gears is Great

1 06 2007

Google Gears (BETA) is an open source browser extension that enables web applications to provide offline functionality. Gears just may be the platform Google needs to compete against Microsoft. Here are a few reasons why I think this is the new killer app:

1. Google Docs & Spreadsheets

Imagine being able to take the documents you write offline so that you can edit it on your computer. When you get back online you can synchronize your changes with the version thats on Google’s servers – all within your web-browser – all for FREE.

2. GMail

One of the reasons why Microsoft Outlook is so popular is due to the fact you can read your mail on your desktop (offline). GMail is a great e-mail application, and I have completely replaced Outlook/Thunderbird for that matter. However, if I could read my GMail content offline it would make a nearly perfect product simply golden.

3. Google Maps

Save maps offline. Get driving directions offline. Need I say more?

4. Google Reader

Taking your RSS feeds offline allows you to read more content when you’re not live on the wire. I would love to be able to read Engadget where I’m not connected to the internet.

5. Taking Web 2.0 to Web 2.5

All of those online photo editors, and AJAX apps make life a lot easier. Some of them downright are easier to use than desktop applications. Why not take those apps and bring it to the desktop? We are getting closer and closer to ubiquitous computing.

With the above points mentioned Gears seams awfully similar to Adobe’s Apollo platform. Adobe announced that their platform will integrate the Gears API,  paving the way for mass adoption. Microsoft is coming out with their own technology called Silverlight, but as usual its closed-source and will lock you into their technologies. We’ll see where the road lies ahead, but an open-source platform seems very enticing to me. I have a feeling the web is about to get a whole lot smarter.

Note: For all you developers check out the Google Gears API. Make your web application desktop ready. The power of open-source will prevail.