Archive for November, 2009

Cloudy Skies ahead. Ruby, jQuery and VPSs

November 17, 2009

It’s that time of year again. You know when the pontificators pontificate about the upcoming year. What will Oh Ten bring us? Well, here is my predictions: Much the same as Oh Nine, but with some cool new stuff. You want examples? Ok. Everything will be in the ‘cloud’. All your apps will be mobile. Apple will release a touchscreen computer ala Star Trek. Google will make gobs of money. Microsoft will patent both kinds of bits, 1’s ___and__ 0’s in an attempt to foil Free/Open source once and for all. Ruby will become the premier language and JavaScript will ride its coattails to glory.
Oh, and I forgot: 2010 will finally be the year of the Linux Desktop.

Well, having just scooped Tim O’Reily and Cringly, what really is going on?
I’ve noticed a trend, and I’m sure you noticed it too. JavaScript is really talking off. Client side applications are web-based, but increasingly run (much of) the user interface in the browser. AJAX is used as the transport layer to/from the server and HTML is really just the envelope to load the JS code and the initial state of the presentation layer. After that, jQuery uses the DOM and CSS to wow us with its magik. Apps like Google Docs, Wave, GMail and others demonstrate the feasibility of web-based client side appllications.

On the server side, Ruby is used to express concise meaning to the Semantic Web. REST is used as a means to aggregate solution domains together, providing superior user experiences.

Beyond the server, the cloud is becoming the place to be. The advent of Virtual Private Servers with VM appliances built in, will eliminate the need for initial setup and a lot of maintenance. Scalability of your application will no longer be in the domain of the local sysadmin. He will outsource that to the VPS company. His boss will just hsve to pay the bill, eventually.

We are seeing this trend develop now. Eventually, I think we will have another paradigm shift. We moved from server side apps (Mainframes), to client side apps (PC Revolution: The ’80s), to client-server apps (’90s) to web apps (’00s) to cloud based client side apps. The source code is no longer static. It moves around. The servers send it around to each other (XML/REST), and then on to the browser (JS/JSON).

We will stop thinking in terms of deploying our code on some physical layer (Floppy Disk/CD-ROM/DVD/USB Flash/Internet download) and expect that it will start in the cloud and migrate to the needed place.

Want to be on this cutting edge? Beef up your Ruby for REST services with database back ends (maybe not relational ones). Polish up your jQuery/CSS skills. Look for plugins that enhance the user experience. And quit worrying about performance. That’s Mr. PointyHHair’s domain. :=)

Happy new year. Enjoy the new decade.

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GiveCamp – Code wrangling weekend for Non-Profits

November 16, 2009

Well, GRGivecamp http://grgivecamp.org/ is unfortunately over. I had a wonderful time. Despite being physically challenged, everyone there lent a hand with food and coding expertise. I met a lot of wonderful folks and we ate a bunch of great food and drinks from many corporate sponsors such as Bigby Coffee, Panera, Brick House Pizza and Sandman’s BBQ. GiveCamp was started by a Microsoft employee a couple of years ago and continues to grow. There have been two ann Arbor Mi (U of M home – Go Wolverines!) and several in other places. One of organizers, Chris (Woody) Woodruf, is on the national board and said that there are at least five more scheduled across the country in the next few months. I hope there is another in GR  Fall  ’10. (Why do I keep saying “Oh- Ten”?)

What was my experience like? Well, in my case, I was assigned to Neighborhood Ventures, a non-profit that promotes businesses, economic development and community support in GR. Their representative, Sylvia Harris, was a wonderful woman who took the time to really define what they wanted done to their website: http://www.neighboorhoodventures.com. This is a LAMP based site that used PHP and jQuery. It was nicely done and hosted by the folks at Community Media Center. Our team, which was lean and mean, consisting mainly of me with a lot of help from floaters (specialists like HTML/Graphics/CSS designers) and some help from GRGiveCamp Cincinnati edition,  had to move some content around and fix up some bugs in Safari and add some links. It was about the right amount of work for one person with a lot of help. I managed to get it done to Sylvia’s satisfaction by the end of the weekend on Sunday, just in time to demo it to the crowd.

We had over a hundred volunteers show up to work on 23 non-profits. Quite a few were using Drupal, .Net Nuke, Joomla and other CMS systems. This seems about the right solution for NP’s as they mainly have content and presentation. There is really no need for the heavy lifting of a framework like Rails or some other app. Although, I counted 2 Rails apps, one of which was BDD driven by Cucumber and RSpec by our team of folks at our Ruby group in GR (http://ruby.meetup.com/46/calendar/11787410/) and the developers at Mutually Human Software (one of the corp sponsor.) Whichever tool fits. I think. The organizers did a great job of fitting the wide range of  skills of the various developers to the needs of the NP’s. Every project got done in time, albeit with a lot of all-nighters.

To quote Woody, we may be highly paid consultants in our day jobs, but we don’t feel that NPs should have to pay for tech work. We as citizens of the community all benefit from their services equally. We can afford to give back. 148 strong, the attendance suggests for our little big town, I guess so.

 

We got quite a bit of media coverage and there are some online stuff you can view:  The Rapidian http://www.therapidian.org/grgivecamp-enlists-100-volunteers-help-23-nonprofits

WZZM Channel 13 http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=115722  (Sorry no video, but was on TV).

 

I’ll update this as they become available.