Applets coming back from the Dead?

If you remember Applets, then you are so 1990’s man. Right back before the dot-com boom , everybody was putting these Java programs in their web pages to do things simple things like display a financial chart (guilty as charged , my ‘lud). Oracle still uses them in some versions of it’s applications as a half-way house between it’s older desktop applications and a completely web only solution.

Trampoline Logo
Fast forward to 2006 and these ‘heavy’ applets have been replaced by light web pages using Ajax and Flash, which don’t require a user download to run. Pretty much anything a Java Applet can do can be done in Ajax (if you have enough time and patience). Ajax developers have been pretty inventive in using Flash to solve problems (e.g. allowing web pages to store information on your local PC), so it may only be a matter of time before this gets picked up.
It’s ironic then, that the very technology that is meant to replace it , ends up giving Applets a new lease of life. It won’t suit everybody or every problem. An ‘ideal’ problem for this to solve is where the user interaction, business logic or security requirements are at the ‘higher’ end of the scale. While you could solve it using Ajax (basically javascript on steroids), using Java Applets and having a nice IDE to develop and solve your problems in may pay off in the long run.

Jan of Trampoline Systems explains in more detail.

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Must not Copy and Paste …

I must not copy and paste program

I must not copy and paste program

I must not copy and paste program

….

You get the drift. Currently doing a Struts – DWR – JBoss Rules Web application, and there is way too much copy and paste programming going on in there. It’s a web page that needs to pass information to a JBoss Server – how difficult can that be? Maybe it was interesting the first time, but 7 years on the buzz is no longer there.
Grails Logo

I was tempted by a non-Java solution (Ruby on Rails , or JRuby) ,but a similar approach within the Java mindset) is Grails (Groovy on Rails). It gives you all the enterprise Java frameworks (Spring , Ageci, Hibernate) , but with a rapid turnaround.

Oh dear … too many web frameworks …. head hurts … only time to learn one … more head pain … must make mercenary decision about which will be the likely market leader.

Watch this space. 

(For the record the problem isn’t DWR which is excellent, but more the version of Struts / JSP that is being used. )

Anybody up for BarCamp Ireland?

It’s been a while (9 months already) since TechCamp Ireland. Just when I was thinking of ‘when is the next one’ up pops this post on Web2Ireland. (Hint: If the previous sentence just lost you , imagine an (almost) self-organising event where everybody just turns up and makes an ‘unconfernece’ happen.
For more information , check out the BarCamp Ireland page. Early details are sketchy, but it’s pencilled in for the 23rd September , possibly Cork , Galway or Dublin. Techcamp covered everything from Ajax to Web 2.0 and every thing in between (podcasting , Digital rights, user generated content) , so expect the same and more besides.

If you’re not quite sure what Barcamp is , some useful links:

JRuby – Web 2.0 in the Enterprise Java world

On a recent project , the choice was between Enterprise Java (using frameworks such as DWR and Struts) , or Oracle Forms. The newest latest Java technology , versus a 15 year old technology that Oracle is comitted to phasing out (and moving to ADF / Oracle fusion). No contest , you think , until you hear that the decision was made (and rightly so) to us Oracle Forms.

‘What?!’ I hear you say – how could this happen? The project in question was fairly simple – get information and store it in a database. The problem is , despite being mainstream for the last 6 years, there is no standard, easy ‘drag and drop’ method of doing these applications in Java. C# does it in Visual Studio. Oracle does it with Forms. With Java (and despite having doing 10 or so of these projects), there is still too much plumbing that the developer needs to know.

I’m expecting a deluge of ‘have you tried project X’ on this post. And yes, I expect that an Eclipse based tool will probably fill the gap. But for these simple applications , there is no standard way of doing this (standard being a solution that dominates the market in the way Struts did the Web App framework space, until recently). But we’ve been waiting 6 long years!

ruby on rails logo

All of which brings me to Ruby. Ruby on Rails’ sweet spot is exactly these kind of simple, ajax enabled , no frills ‘get info from web and store it on database’ applications. Enterprise Java’s sweet spot is the heavy lifting workflow , Rules , Calculations, Integration with Legacy and other systems , web services and basically anything to do with Business logic. The two are a perfect complement to each other, which is why the news that JRuby now runs Ruby on Rails is especially interesting.

JRuby is a version of Ruby that runs in the Standard Java Virtual Machine (JVM). It means that (1) You don’t have to install Ruby, which might meet resistance in a corporate environment. It also means (2) that all the methods you have available in Java you have available in Ruby. The O’Reilly Ruby site and this Javaworld Article are good places to start learning more about Ruby and linking it into Java.

Not a Web 2.0 Company – Scandanavian Airlines

I don’t think these guys will be joining the Web2Ireland (even Web 2.0) group anytime soon. Basically , their website says ‘We couldn’t be bothered using any of the Ajax toolkits out there, so we’ll get you Mr Customer to do all the work for us’. I wonder what their look-to-book ratio is ( I used to do some work for Aer Lingus – LinkedIn Profile).

Scandanavian Airlines (SAS) Website.

Hint to SAS: Here is how to fix this (pdf), or hire us and we’ll fix it for you.

Or if you prefer , reassure yourself that you’re not the only airline with Ajax problems.
More blogposts on Ajax.