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Archive for April, 2008

Yes, I know: it’s yet another software list. But you don’t have to look at it if you don’t want to. So here’s to Open Source Living.

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Yes, the Google App Engine is a very interesting platform, but it is not yet a web version of Hypercard. To be more like Hypercard, the platform needs to include an online developer developer tool (like Heroku, for example) and a simple kind of web content management tool. That could be quite a powerful combo, though: having the possibility to combine more or less static “pages” with small (or large!) applications and data into a single app (or is it a site) without a locally installed development tool allows you to whip up a new app whenever and wherever you are, no matter the tool you’re using at that moment (as long as it has internet access and a browser). Then again, something like this already exists: it’s called XWiki, and it’s a wiki that allows you to program wiki pages with Groovy. What’s missing is a deployment platform on a Google-like scale, and a smarter programming editor…

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Proverbs

I love a good one-liner, even if it takes more than one line: Software Engineering Proverbs collected by Tom Van Vleck. Here’s one that applies not just to software engineering: “No matter what the problem is, it’s always a people problem”.

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A Nasty Kill

On March 28th, 2008, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights died“: an draft resolution to amend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would make it possible to sanction any criticism of religion! A nasty kill, yes, because ‘democracy must mean more than dictatorship of the majority’, and freedom of speech is an essential part of the rights of any democrat. Nasty, also because many of the votes to defend this amendment come from countries that aren’t exactly known as strong defenders of human rights in general. So it looks like we’re heading back towards the Middle Ages… I wonder: what was/is my government doing to prevent the passing of this resolution in the UN General Assembly?

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Or: to protect your web surfing from the tribulations of Web 2.0 applications, use Fluid to create “virtual” apps that run in a separate application. Fluid is Mac OS X Leopard only.

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Almost by accident I stumbled upon a site called Heroku. It’s not a number puzzle or a game, but an online and browser-editable Ruby On Rails platform, promising to provide you with “a full Ruby and Rails runtime environment… no limits“. So Google maybe the biggest, but not the only player in the ‘application hosting’ market, and I’m sure that this market is going to boom in the coming years. After all, choosing between administering your own Linux (or …) server, and having your own spot on a large and proven running platform administered by specialist is not that hard, unless you are (or are willing to become) a sysadmin. So the real question for most people will be: what kind of applications can you install in such an environment? I’m guessing we will see things like ‘personal information managers’ for all kinds of web-enabled handheld devices like smartphnes, lightweight web content management tools like Radiant, and much more. The average user will not be interested in tools that are difficult to develop, configure and use, so I’m guessing that we will see more and more relatively simple and somewhat limited tools, specializing in just a few functionalities. I’m also guessing that we will see more and more “domain-specific programming languages” in such applications, to allow the user to use and tune the application in exactly the way she or he wants. Looks like a large playing field for the socalled scripting languages like Python, Ruby and Groovy!

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Your Google account for OpenID, that’s what one of the applications in the Google App Engine gallery provides. Nice stuff: your Google account suddenly is also your OpenID identity, and the app logs the use of that identity.

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