Your favourite colour – what should be in our new web site design?

Thanks to Eoghan, there are going to be some changes around here. He’s just announced that we’re the winner of the 2000 Euro worth of web design work. For a sample of his work , check out the redesign that he has done of the Barcamp Dublin site.

I actually tried to convince Eoghan to pick somebody else with even more readers (in a mercenary get some more exposure kind of way). He’s sticking with the person choosen by his random number omiter.
Winner

So the question is, What’s your favourite colour? What part of this website do you think needs an upgrade – this blog, the main FirstPartners.net ‘Corporate site’, or the wiki / knowledgebase? What changes do you think should be made?Or should I save the prize for the forthcoming mad, take over the world attempt part 2 (Red Piranha)?

Further Kudos to Eoghan for carrying out some Charity work as well: tuppenceworth.ie, entered by Simon McGarr, the other is a project by IQ Content for the Red Door School, entered by Laurence Veale

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Dear Bruce Eckel : Hybrid Java, Google Web Toolkit and Adobe Flex

Dear Bruce,

First up, thanks for the book. Yes I’m saying thank-you about 8 years too late. ‘Thinking in Java‘ is what got me going in the language and in my mind is one of the best Java books written (sorry Tim). Giving it away free only cemented your reputation as the Bono of the Java world. OK, Bono without the Guitar, the Stetson and with a couple of overloaded constructors thrown in, but a man of stature nonetheless.

Thinking in Java Front Cover

Secondly, I’ll forgive your flirtations with Python, on the basis that I’ve been having an affair myself with JRuby. I now understand the pain that you’ve been having at home, the endless repetitive arguments to get simple things done, and the temptation of a newer, younger, more flexible model.

So , I think you’re onto something here in your blogpost. I can feel the pain, the need to deliver Rich clients to users over the web. I think that Ruby / Google Web Toolkit / Struts 2 / Name your web toolkit has further to go than you may think , but eventually these ‘heroic efforts‘ (nice quote) will run out of steam. On the basis of your recommendation alone I’m willing to look at Adobe Flex, but I’m not sure if this is going to solve all the problems.

Now , a lot of us Java guys don’t like change (and as if you needed proof, just look at the comments on this O’Reilly blogpost on the Google API’s). All the same , we have a problem that gets worse every passing year. 6 Years ago we could have been sure that 90% of web sites were running Internet Explorer 4. Now we’ve got IE, Firefox, Safari (in all their different versions) as well as an explosion of mobile devices. The Windows Vista launch is only going to fragment things further with yet another platform to support.

No one web solution is going to display the same in all of these browsers. We’re not going to get a single solution from Microsoft / Sun / Adobe that everybody from developer to my Granny is going to install. So we’re going to have to take the ‘least bad’ route – something that looks great, but degrades gracefully to standard HTML on less capable devices. Excuse my ignorance, but I don’t know (yet) if Flex does this.

Yes Hybridizing open source Java is the starting point for the solution. Unfortunately we’ve a long way to go yet, and Flex is perhaps only inspiration along the way.

Yours sincerely

Paul

Feed your addiction with Feedburner , MyBlogLog and Google Analytics

You’ve probably heard of Google Analytics – a free service that gives you
stats such as the charts below.

This chart shows the number of visitors (blue) and the number of pageviews (orange). Interesting that in 2 years blogging , the average of pages viewed has always been just under 2 pages per visitor).

Google Linechart
This chart (again from Google Analytics) shows the visits by source. Bit of an usual one at the moment – I would tend to get about 10% of visits each from MSN and Yahoo (not showing at the moment).

Google Piechart

Google only updates it’s stats once a day. If you’re really addicted to seeing your stats (and you really need to get out more) then feedburner updates most of its stats on an hourly basis. Feedburner not only gives you web stats similar to Google (if you’re FeedFlare enabled), but it gives you the number of people who are also reading your site via a feed – the grey box on the top right of this blog.

Feedburner Barchart
Strangely , this feed history seems to have a life of it’s own. Most people read blogs Monday to Friday , so the numbers dip at the weekend

FeedBurner Barchart

If you’re a hard core stats addict , you’ll also have MyBlogLog enabled. These give the photos on the left hand side of the blog (useful in themselves), more stats (very good for incoming / outgoing links) and a widget (see image below) that shows users the most popular outgoing links.

MyBlogLogs Outgoing

Google Spreadsheets Mean the end of Java

Or to be more accurate ‘Google Spreadsheets mean the end of Java as we know it’.
Google Spreadsheets Logo
Think about this. Who pays your wages Mr Java-Developer-who-has-just-had-a-couple-of-years-at-the-top-of-the-pile? Clients, or if you’re in a larger organisation , the business folks (i.e.’internal’ clients). Do you think any of them care about Java? Do any of them know what Java is? All they want is to get things done, quickly , and with as few mistakes as possible.

These business people would be happy to run their organisations on Spreadsheets. Do you remember the cartoon where Dilbert convinced the pointy haired boss that he could fly the plane using Excel? There’s more than a element of truth to this. I know of at least one US Fortune 100 company that (until recently) conducted most of it’s operations on little more than Microsoft Office and duct-tape. It worked, not very well, but it worked.

Until now , the next line would be ‘Excel (or any other type of Spreadsheet) is not secure / scalable / sharable / not web friendly’. That was until Google launched their Docs and Speadsheets. It’s an online version of Office with some spreadsheet functionality. Play with it a bit and you’ll see that there’s plenty missing. But this being Google , I’m willing to put good money on

  • (a) new features rolled out (think steamroller) and
  • (b) These Spreadsheets being massivly scalable / secure / sharable.

This being Google, there is also an API (developer page here). It’s got massive holes in it (e.g. you can’t yet use it to create a new spreadsheet). But when Microsoft bring out their version of online spreadsheets (and they will) not only will they clone the Google API (to get market share), they’ll need to go one further and introduce new features / remove the usage restrictions in order to compete.

So, secure, scalable, sharble online spreadsheets are here to stay. So lets take a look at Mr. (or Ms.) Pointy haired boss thinking about their new project:

  1. Hmm, I think we need to be able to gather which health plans our employees are enrolled in.
  2. OK, I’ll throw together a spreadsheet to show people what I want
  3. Before I’ll give to our friendly Java developer and let him ‘do’ a website from it.
    Soon I’ll just share this on Google.
  4. Great , Loads of people are now using it, I’ll just the (Ruby / PHP / Insert other language here) guy to add one or two extra features.
  5. Most Excellent. Why don’t we spin this off as a Web 2 company and sell it to EBay??

There you have it, Massively scalable , Highly secure websites (see Google Authentication API), without needing to know anything about EJB, JMX , JBoss, JDBC or any of the hard won knowledge that us Enterprise Java Developers have built up over the last 7-8 years. I’m exaggerating, but not much.

What do you think? Is Enterprise Java dead, or is Web 2 just another boost and a slightly different way of doing things for us Java people?

Other Java Posts from Technology in Plain English

Some other notes:

This article was originally published on the O’Reilly books OnJava Website.

This is going to get ugly

This is going to get ugly. Yes, I’m learning CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) , the thing that does the pretty colours on this page. Normally , this sort of thing is done by Graphic Designers (the cool people who wear black), not people like myself (who spend too much time in the Server room). Think 3 year old kid with a paintbox , and you won’t be far off some of the weird and wonderful effects that you might see in the next couple of days.

View Paul  Browne's profile on LinkedIn Call me!

All because I want to add a photo to the top right corner. And stop the ‘linked in’ and ‘skype’ links floating all over the place.

I'm not used to this from a hosting company

I’m in shock. I don’t normally get this kind of treatment from a hosting company.

Normal Version (for more see this post)

  1. Try something vaugely technical and fail
  2. Post support ticket on website
  3. Have support ticket ignored
  4. Post another support ticket , have it ignored
  5. Have credit card billed for hosting
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 until hosting company dies (it actually happened).

Java and Linux VPS Hosting by RimuHosting

New Version

  1. Try to upgrade to PHP5 (latest version of the language the website is written in)
  2. Find good script on support section of hosting company website
  3. Script fails near end (these things happen), raise support ticket.
  4. Get response within 6 hours (hmm , that’s strangely fast!).
  5. Shock! Not only have the updated the script, but they’ve actually gone and performed the upgrade for me , saving me about 2 hours work.
  6. Still not believing 5 , I double check the upgrade , and yes, they’ve actually done it!

Now , if only they could do something about the name (I’ve lived in New Zealand , so I know Rimu is actually a type of tree, but a lot people just think it’s rude!).