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ApacheCon Europe Highlights

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on July 1, 2006

ApacheCon Europe 2006 is over, and I had a blast.

Mark Shuttleworth Keynote

It started off with Mark Shuttleworth, the Ubuntu founder, giving a very well delivered speech about where he sees the world of free software heading in the next five years. Some of his better points include “Pretty is a feature“, and the massive opportunity for Linux and other free software on consumer gadgets.

Apache Axis

The Axis folks gave a good talk about the new features in version 2.0 of Apache Axis, the web services/SOAP implementation in Apache. The coolest thing, to me at least, is the fact that every web service is also automatically given a REST interface. While it isn’t a full REST api, just using GET and PUT methods, it is a great step forward for people who’d like to write simplistic clients (e.g. Javascript/Web 2.0 clients) and access web services with neither the need to write annoyingly complex client side code, or modifying the server-side code to add a simpler REST interface.

Microsoft Atlas Keynote – Rob Burke

Rob Burke from Microsoft Ireland braved the choppy waters of ApacheCon to speak about Microsoft Atlas, their free javascript toolkit. What could easily have been a hostile crowd was quickly disarmed by Rob using possibly the funniest picture I’ve ever seen, which I’m happy to say I may have helped come into being a little. The talk went down very well, with the main thrust it focused on a coding demo, where Rob went through how to write Atlas applications with .NET and PHP. While .NET looked more attractive due to the slight difference in prettiness between Visual Studio and Notepad (used for the .NET and PHP examples respectively) it was pretty cool to see how easily it could be used in a PHP environment. Microsoft even wrote some PHP code (!) to make the transition to a non .NET framework easier.Clippy
One thing that was missing was a quick comparision between other open source Ajax toolkits, and “why” people should use Atlas instead of Dojo or Scriptaculous/Prototype etc, which are firmly estabished in the open source and commercial worlds. To play devils advocate for a minute, in defence of the other toolkits:

  • Tooling around open source ajax frameworks took a large leap forward with the initiation of the Ajax Toolkit Framework in Eclipse, and should soon be quite comparable to the MS IDE. Also, it doesn’t lock you in to a particular framework, as it supports multiple existing ajax toolkits (currently Dojo, Zimbra/Kabuki and Open Rico)
  • The announcement that MyFaces, the Apache implementation of the Java Server Faces specification, is migrating its client side widgets to Dojo means that Dojo will now have a server-side binding, for Java developers at least. This should be more or less equvalent to the .NET combination of Atlas + VB/C#
  • The recent announcements by IBM and Sun regarding their support of Dojo, with both code and documentation, along with the Oracle connection through MyFaces, and you’ve pretty much got three of the four main IT companies jumping on the Dojo bandwagon.
  • The latest code drop for Dojo will surely lead to it’s dominance over mankind as we know it…. cue self patting on back 🙂

My extra-happy birthday

On a more personal note, the second last day of the conference just so happened to be my birthday, and since it was also the birthday of one of the organisers of the conference, we got Happy Birthday sung to us by hundreds of inebriated hackers. Now THAT I can get used to.

Finally, thanks/hi/bye to all the cool people I crossed paths with over the week. I had a fantastic time bouncing ideas & beer bottle tops off you all, and hope to see you all again in a years time!

P.S. For a listing of a whole host of pictures of the event, go here and here.

Posted in Ajax, Apache, ApacheCon, Atlas, Axis, Dojo, Javascript, Microsoft, Open Rico, Technical, Ubuntu, Zimbra | 5 Comments »

I am a sponge!

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on June 27, 2006

(a sponge absorbing knowledge, not IBM’s conference fees… honestly)

The first two days of ApacheCon Europe are now over and done with – and what have we learned children? I chose to attend two of the full day tutorials,

  • Practical Hands-on Tutorial on JavaServer Faces Using Apache MyFaces, and
  • An XSLT Tutorial, Including XSLT 2.0 and Publishing with Cocoon

The first was relatively interesting, and since I was (am, I suppose) a relative newcomer to the JSF world, a lot of it was new to me – though of course the main idea of this being essentially “another” MVC architecture meant that much was familiar from Struts. The bar was kept pretty low for the day however, mostly due to the fact that it was a very hands-on tutorial, with each of us expected to implement relatively simple JSF applications. Differences in each person’s laptop setup (JRE version etc) meant that various errors occurred, rarely the same, which slowed the whole thing down. As the organisers themselves said, they could easily have filled three days with this stuff, and it’s just a pity that time was so short. It should also be noted that the tutorial was marked as “Novice”, and it’s really my own fault for not reading the small print. The one small highlight of the day was where the Oracle-based speakers repeatedly apologised each time they *forgot* to mention IBM in each vendor listing. Funny stuff, or else I’m easily amused.

The second days tutorial, focused on XSLT, was considerably more interesting, at least to me as much of my recent work has been based around it. The speaker, Doug Tidwell from IBM, is the author of the O’Reilly XSLT book, and is therefore extremely knowledgeable on the subject. Much of the basic XSLT 1.0 stuff I was already pretty familiar with, but I was very happy to find out that XSLT 2.0 has drastically simplified much of the overly-verbose structures of version 1.0. However, raining on my parade was the fact that there will probably be no browser support for XSLT/XPath 2.0 in the near to medium term – if anyone knows of any support for this coming to either Firefox or, very importantly, Internet Explorer 7, please let me know. Without this support, XSLT 2.0 will remain very much a server side phenomenon, which would be a real shame, since it is a vast improvement over version 1.0, and many cool/nifty things can be done with XSLT browser-side, especially when combined with things like Atom feeds.

On a side note, I’ve recently discovered that JackRabbit, the Apache based Java Content Repository implementation, only supports a subset of XPath 1.0 – for example, you cannot do a query like:


which would be very useful for paging. There are a number of other limitations to the implementation. If anyone is in a programmy kind of mood, and feels like diving the depths of JackRabbit, Lucene and Derby, adding full XPath 1.0 support would be cool little (read huge) and very worthwhile project.

Posted in Apache, ApacheCon, Atom, Technical, xslt xpath jackrabbit jsf | Leave a Comment »

Notepad? Check. Rotten tomatoes? Check. Microsoft Atlas is being presented at ApacheCon!

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on June 23, 2006

I've been chatting a lot with some friends recently about the merits of Microsoft's Ajax engine, Atlas. They tell me that it's the be all and end all (of course they're died-in-the-wool "friends of Bill" so….), and after some initial investigation, it definitely seems to be a nice package. It shares many features with Dojo, my Ajax package of choice, and has some nice (and free – shock!) tooling based on it, in the Microsoft Web Developer Express. However, all the documentation assumes that you're developing an ASP.NET application, and that you're using their tooling, rather than just say "Here's a bunch of javascript libraries and how to use them". The documentation is also very fragmented, for example I couldn't find a single "Hello World" tutorial, just a (seemingly) random bunch of code snippets.

Anyway, I've been assured that Atlas is essentially free of all backend or tooling dependencies, with optional ties to the .NET framework. I'm yet to be convinced, but Rob Burke told me that he's presenting a session on Atlas at ApacheCon next week here in Dublin, so at the very least it should be interesting to see the reaction of the open source crowd to Microsoft's foray into the "free as in beer" world of software development.

Posted in Ajax, ApacheCon, Atlas, Javascript, Microsoft, Technical | 3 Comments »

ApacheCon 2006 in Dublin

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on June 9, 2006

So, ApacheCon is coming to Dublin at the end of June. What exactly does this mean for Ireland, if anything? Everyone knows at this stage that Ireland pretty much at the forefront of the world software scene, but I always wonder exactly how much of this spills over into open source development. I remember, when back in university, there was practically no mention at all of open source, besides being forced to use Linux for a few modules (the rest all being Borland or MS Visual Studio based). We were never actively encouraged to contribute to open source projects or use open source software. I'm not sure if this is still the case… hopefully not. (On a side note, there were always those elightened few who worked on OS projects, but that was in spite of, not as a result of the environment). Sooo….. hopefully ApacheCon will help raise some local awareness among the up and coming programmers in Dublin and beyond of the benefits/wonders/whatever of the many open source projects out there.

So, enough proselytizing for now. There's a lot of cool stuff coming up in ApacheCon. Some of the more interesting talks are:

  • Integrating AJAX and JSF and its usage inside Apache MyFaces – I've been working a fair bit recently with AJAX technologies, specifically with IBMs JSF/JWL (Java Widget Library) implementation and the open source Dojo Ajax toolkit, so it'll be interesting to see what direction Apache are moving with this.
  • An XSLT Tutorial, Including XSLT 2.0 and Publishing with Cocoon – another area of interest for me is how to take syndicated content, Atom in particular, and generate UIs from it. XSLT is one of the approaches I tried, and while very powerful, gets pretty complicated. If Cocoon can simplify the process, it could be very significant.
  • Accelerating Web Services Development with Axis2
  • AJAX development with the Kabuki project – Once again, I'm very interested in Ajax toolkits, and while I'm generally focus more on Dojo right now, the folks at Zimbra are doing some very good work, so this talk should be well worth a look.
  • Getting everything out of Apache Derby Database – I played around with Apache Derby (formerly IBM Cloudscape Java database) for the first time recently, and was pleasantly surprised to find how very simple it is to embed it in an application and have a fully functional JDBC database. You literally just slot the jar into your classpath and that's it.
  • Apps made easy with Zend Framework The good folks at Zend are the driving force behind PHP, and seem to be taking all the right steps to move it from being "just" a scripting language (albeit a phenomenally successful one) to really moving it into the enterprise, partnering with large companies like IBM, Oracle, SAP, Sun… the list goes on. They're also now giving away for free their very good Eclipse-based IDE for developing PHP apps, which this talk should talk about. Worth a look.
  • Apache Solr, a Full-Text Search Server Based on Lucene – Lucene is an amazingly well written search solution, which I've spent many a long hour working with. Still, it does/did have issues with regards to cluster support and some other barriers to its use as a web search engine. The Nutch and Hadoop projects are aimed at fixing these issues, and it'll be interesting to see how the Solr project has leveraged them for its "high volume low latency" web search engine.

Anyways, that's my €0.02, and my first blog post! Looking forward to going to the conference, should be a blast.

Posted in ApacheCon, Technical | 2 Comments »

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