Monday, May 28, 2007



Via Mads I watched Douglas Crockford present on quality in software development. I posted before on some of his excellent javascript tutorials, this is on par with them. While he's done a good job of granting some ideas in making software quality better, my train of thought goes towards my own workplace and how we can make information like that actionable.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Visibility, Alpha Geeks


Who are the alpha geeks out there? According to many, there are none outside of Microsoft using Microsoft tools. Ergo, I must be excluded unless my night sessions with perl in Komodo somehow grant me reprieve... very doubtful... but rather than bristle and come up with examples of people who are accomplished and effective while not being on Microsoft's payroll I'm prompted on a different question: how do we define "alpha geek" especially in a world where so many of us don't know if we're good or not?

I'll answer in the negative because the blogosphere seems to taint judgement in one respect: visibility. There are quite a few people who maintain a loud profile and acquire a status as "expert" and yet when you look more closely at the body of work it doesn't reconcile itself with the status their profile seems to afford them.

I respect people like Hanselman, Haack, Moise, Atwood, JLam, and so on - they seem to have jobs I can empathize with and still find time to be the large sounding boards online. Banking software is involved, complicated stuff, and not only that, it's the type of software that I write. When I compare the design goals of something like NStatic or RubyCLR to pretty web CRUD, I find myself with more respect for the former.

But these are people we all know because they are in our aggregators. They are good but for every one there are many silently effective "alpha geeks" that don't prioritize a web presence. Think game developers here... more specifically think of someone like John Carmack - not necessarily a Microsoft developer but neither a well dressed Web 2.0 pundit. These are people living a little lower level, cranking out stuff even as the blogosphere distends itself with opinions like my own.

So I keep going back to that wariness of visibility. For all the fashion against Microsoft, what makes or breaks my impressions are the body of work that accompanies the comments.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

RIA: Game of Thrones


Catching up on my aggregator yesterday I saw that Dare had posted about Sun's response to Silverlight: their own rich internet application (RIA) framework to supplant (though the politically correct answer is not that it would, it's just a "new opportunity") some of the Web 2.0/AJAXish things that have been popular of late. Mary Joe Foley presents a noncommittal analysis and Sam Ruby points to a few resources.

I went to Sun's page and although it seems like a real enough project the fact that it's applet based right now (and far slower than the Silverlight beta in installing) seems to point to it as an unfinished thought. Their demos at this point are not just slow, but rather underwhelming - compare that with the MLB demo at Silverlight and it's quite a contrast.

But I'm willing to assume that Sun is serious and that their technology has a lot of appeal, especially to many people who live on the "Not Microsoft" koolaid. If that's the case there is a three way battle going on between Adobe, Sun, and Microsoft for how RIAs will be developed.

I wonder if it's wise in a situation like this to hope for a clear winner; competition should hopefully produce the best technology out of each company. Although there will doubtless be compatibility questions that come up, but because each seems to be plugin/runtime based, it seems like developers will have an opportunity to choose a target and build with/for it rather than some of the monkeying around that needs to be done to make a web application work on multiple browsers.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Mighty DLR sans Perl


It wasn't until this morning that I had a chance to look at John Lam and Jim Hugunin present on the DLR at Mix. My response is a mixture of giddiness and shock - appropriate I hope for a programming language geek like me. Lam begins the presentation by writing a "simple" application with a mixture of C# (an onscreen button), with its click event handled in Ruby, obtaining parameters from Visual Basic and making a call to a Javascript function. Hugunin is not to be outdone: he follows up with an animation library he has written and his own mixture of onscreen manipulation with a mix of Python, Visual Basic, Javascript, and Ruby.

This is the part of Silverlight that I can grok as a developer of nary so flashy (pun intended) as much as practical pieces of software. The ability to put so many languages in concert, the development experience as text-based and interactive (edit text and refresh just like you do with HTML), and the cross platform support make my mind swim with potential uses. The fact that their demonstration was on a Mac was a brash in the best sense: it's a level of confidence that's not based on arrogance, but preference (Lam presented on a Macbook pro at Teched last year).

I was fortunate enough to meet John Lam at TechEd last year (I have this problem of "freezing up" when I meet people I respect as much as that - all my questions/ability to speak vanishes) and had I the foresight I'd have asked what his thoughts are on Perl. The dynamic languages Microsoft is supporting initially seem like smart choices and certain languages like Smalltalk may not be popular enough for them to justify an implementation. But Perl? I would have thought it would make the cut. I understand that it could be a syntactically difficult language but there are features in Javascript such as handling parameters on functions that seem to be on that order of magnitude in difficulty.

Although the Perl community is tremendous, it seems as fractured as 3rd century Rome. But that being said it's possible that either one of the monks or a clever company will start a project that makes it another language in the DLR family.

Or maybe I'll start a PerlCLR project and get hired by the b0rg. Not even in my dreams do I have skills like that ...


Sunday, May 06, 2007

What Is Silverlight - The Poster


Yeah, there felt like a little impedence mismatch in Scott Hanselman and the Mike Harsh describing Silverlight - ironically Scott being more excited than Mike who actually worked on the project. Let's allow for Mike just not being a visibly enthused sort of person -

Microsoft posted a graphic that is meant to be a resource on understanding what we're dealing with - sans (screen|pod|video)cast it's still not quite the nuts and bolts. Fortunately there are annotations and an entry Scott posted.