pmuellr is Patrick Mueller

other pmuellr thangs: home page, twitter, flickr, github

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Which Javascript framework?u

So I've looked at least briefly at:

Haven't looked at:

Prolly won't look at, cause they involve flash:

But I dunno. You can do lots of pretty cool stuff with Flash. Even thought there might be a possibility of this stuff running on a PocketPC or something, I guess PDAs are soon to be dead, so the point there is kinda moot. Actually I took a quick peek at Zimbra late last year and realized they didn't really have a story for running outside of a JSP/Servlet environment. All of their component .js files got pulled in via a .jsp. Um. Ick. It's the new millenium guys.

Thoughts on the ones I've looked at:

dojo has a lot more stuff than yui and mochikit. dojo's documentation is quite thin, compared to the other two though. Besides just doc, or maybe just because of the doc, the other two seem more professional. But you know, there's no reason you couldn't use all of them at the same time. You would hope. In fact, I think I saw in the mochikit stuff some dojo-sniffing and -enablement.

Taking a look at MochiKit again right now. It's pretty slick.

Javascript evolution

I'd been thinking for a while now about writing some kind of JS app and making use of my .mac iDisk space via WebDAV. Should work fine with XmlHttpRequest. Why aren't more people doing this? I guess WebDAV is not that prevalent. Actually, an even more interesting story would be using SVN, since they support Autoversioning via WebDAV. Slick.

For iDisk anyway, Alex Young posted a blog comment a while back pointing out some Javascript files on that Apple uses to access iDisk itself from the web. There's somewhere to look for help anyway. WebDAV isn't, generally, that hard of a thing to deal with, although I've always run into odd little problems with it.

And, by the way, What the frick is that ZIP webdav method? hmmm.

So, imagine I have some nice utilities to access files. Files. What other operating system-ish capabilities could you imagine? Start simple and say you have a 'page' which is really a 'desktop'. You create a windowing system, allow folks to create new windows (floating divs?) with shell trimmings that the 'os' manages. A little app controls the content of the window. hmmm. Kind of like, only a desktop, not a page.

In general, I think it's an interesting space to be in, to watch folks extend Javascript usage/capabilities, since the great Ajax hype started anyway. DOS 2.1 days. What's the Win 3.1 version going to look like? What's the Mac OS X version going to look like?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Fixing my web site

I've been meaning to fix up my web site at for a while now. Not really to fix the content, which I also need to do, but fix the structure. See, I use a little trick to get some of the common elements on each of the pages. The first hint is that the pages are xml files, not html files. But do a "view source" on one, and you'll start to see what's going on.

The real trick lies in the second line in the xml files.

<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="local.xsl.xml"?>

I'm formatting these xml files with XSLT. It's my XSLT stylesheets that bring in the common header, footer, etc. I even used it to create 'new' tags like <url> that take the text inside an <url> / </url> pair, and render it as a link to itself.

Why do I want to change this? Seems like it works pretty good. It works quite well on Firefox Mozilla and IE. And doesn't work at all for me on Apple's Safari browser. Which is kind of embarassing since the site is hosted on Apple's .mac site.

The Safari problem, whatever it might be, is probably fixable. In fact, Safari just last year, late in the year IIRC, started claiming support for in-browser XSLT. Only, my site has never worked. Just comes up blank with no errors, warnings, nada. Some basic experiments led me to believe it was probably the sheer number of files I was pulling in to get one page loaded that probably did me in. Fixable.

But that's not the real reason to change this. XSLT, if you've never played with it, is pretty freaking inscrutable (inscrutable is one of my favorite words). Every time I decide to tweak something, I'm lost. The same way I felt after trying to tweak the first Perl program I wrote, a couple of weeks after I wrote it.

So I want to do something else, and of course I'd be nuts to not consider AJAX, since AJAX is so unbelievably kewl! Actually, I'm not building a fricken web app here, but a site, so AJAX isn't really what I want at all. But I do want a little piece of it, that being XHR (XmlHttpRequest). To be able to have the header and footer information available separately from the content, but weave it together when viewing a page.

My first thought was to go ahead and make it a web app, where I'd just have one page, and then mod the links on that page to do XHR requests to replace the body. There are a number of problems with that approach. One being that users wouldn't be able to navigate the site with forward/backward buttons. Another being that they couldn't bookmark pages. Of course, there are ways around these issues, but they're a little unnatural.

But then I realized another problem: Google does a terrible job of indexing xml pages. I had done a vanity google the other day, and just happened to think I didn't remember seeing any links to my home page. Just tried again a minute ago, and nothing really immediately came up for "pmuellr". So I helped Google a little, by asking for "pmuellr". And got three hits. One of them my resume in PDF. Two of the XML files got labelled "File Format: Unrecognized". Screw that. Guess I can't blame Google though. It's not real clear how I could tell Google "I swear a browser will render it as HTML". Which is kind of a lie, obviously, if your browser is Safari, or some other browser that doesn't support XSLT.

The only way to fix THAT problem is to provide the pages as HTML. So I think I'll start some experiments where I take the current pages, change 'em to HTML file extensions, and figure out the smallest bit of header info that I can use to get the header / menu / footer generated. And other stuff like the favicon, css, etc. Wonder if I should even bother trying to make it legal HTML, or if I just try using a script element at the top followed by the contents of the body underneath? Literally a one liner. I'm kind of a sucker for getting that sweet XML validation from editors though ... tough call ... tough call.

I'll post back when I know more, if I find some tasty recipe.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Java Funk

Not sure why this blog post showed up again, but it did, and it was another good read.

Maintainable Programmers from the blog

What resonates most with me are the following nuggets:

  • The implication appears to be that anyone in the real world, if only they’re using Java, writes well structured and maintainable code.

    I think the real world has a few surprises in store for people who think that way. As the saying goes, real programmers can write Fortran in any language.

  • The overall design of large Java systems will tend to be more convoluted than that of almost any system written in a dynamic language, simply because the contortions forced by Java require larger overall designs.

    Java buries the intention of code under a thick layer of implementation details and typing bureaucracy. Programmers are drilled to execute the requisite gruntwork in repeatable, predictable ways. Moreover, doing so conditions them to design their own system to cater to these reflexes. A maintainance programmer who comes in later will therefore easily be able to make changes to the mortar of an application. Unfortunately, that does not ensure good high-level designs nor does it translate to easy refactoring of convoluted architecture.

    Dynamic languages abstract away huge swathes of gruntwork and require less structure. This means small systems have small implementations, which directly translates to better maintainability. The price is a loss of exemplary structure and of conditioning, which requires better innate architectural skills and stronger discipline when building larger designs; neither are strong points of the average programmer. However, designs in such languages aren’t frequently large, because the language does not require large architecture for modestly sized systems – which the majority are.

I've been in a serious funk over Java for the last six months or so (just a light funk for the last decade). It's been hard for me to explain to people why, since it's more of a gut feel thing to me, but this post definitely captures some of it.