CSS 2008 – Tuesday – BOF

Although the day at CSS is usually long enough (from 8.30 until 7), Hans and I stayed a little later this evening to attend a BOF (Birds of a Feather session) on the topic of web UI development.

The main focus of the discussion was Flex vs. Javascript, and the general feeling I had was that most people were leaning towards Flex.

The main reasons mentioned for choosing Flex were:

  • browser compatibility
  • performance
  • good client-server architecture
  • many considered AJAX to be a hack to get around browser deficiencies
  • accessibility (Flex is 508 compliant)
  • ActionScript is strongly typed, and is class-based (unlike JavaScript which is prototype-based)
  • great tooling (though at a price)
  • excellent charting support (an optional extra, again at a price)
  • declarative way of defining user interfaces
  • slick user interface
  • skinnable user interface

Of these, the point that user interfaces are built declaratively is interesting, as it has the side-effect that user interfaces can be prototyped or built very quickly, giving opportunity for a developer and a user interface designer to work together very closely and quickly build the user interface. This seems to me to have a lot of potential in an agile environment.

Of course, there are disadvantages to Flex too. Flash based web pages are not easily searchable, although Google and Yahoo! are apparently making good progress in this area. Both this, and the other technical issue mentioned, that of bookmarking, are both areas in which Javascript is also weak. It is worth mentioning, however, that the importance of both these features differs depending on whether you are planning to build a web application or a web site.

The only real concern about using Flex was that it was proprietary, but this did not seem to concern most people.

The message I came out of the BOF with was “if you want to build a rich web application, use Flex”. In the words of one participant “for me, Flex is first, I would only not use it if there was a veto on using Flash”.

CSS 2008 – Monday

Looking down the speaker list for this year, there are a number of contributors from LinkedIn. The first presentation I attended, “Building LinkedIn’s Next Generation Architecture with OSGI” given by Yan Pujante gave an overview of the reasons that the LinkedIn architects chose to use OSGi, and the hurdles they encountered along the way. I had hoped that OSGi would feature more heavily in the conference, but this was the only presentation on the topic.

The final presentation of the day, was given by another LinkedIn employee, Matt Raible on the topic of Spring 3.0. The presentation itself was interesting, though a little hampered by the lack of availability of a Spring 3.0 release (the first RC was expected in September but is not yet available). Matt gave an overview of the improvements that were already included in Spring 2.5, as well as what is expected in Spring 3.0, including support for Java 5+ and a new Spring Expression Language.

Development for the iPhone is a topic which is featuring quite heavily at this year’s conference. Despite not owning an iPhone, I attended the introductory session today to see what it was all about. It turns out there are quite a few constraints – 1. you have to have a Mac (no problem there, at least), 2. programs have to be developed in Objective C (some learning curve then), and 3. Apple put a lot of restrictions on the delivery of the software you create, and require developers to be screened before their contributions can be considered (this can apparently be a lengthy process). On the plus side, for anyone used to developing Mac applications, the same development environment applies so you’re already well on your way. Well, who knows, maybe some day I’ll give it a go, but I don’t think I will be rushing to try it.

The fourth presentation I attended was on the OpenWeb operating system, given by Anton Bar, the chief “Gheek” at G.ho.st. G.ho.st is a company based in Israel and Palestine, a fact which Anton gave a little time to at the beginning of the presentation. One particular issue they encounter is that Israeli citizens are not permitted to enter Palestine. Although the two offices are geographically close, organizing meetings between team members is a challenge.

The product G.ho.st is a web operating system, giving users access to their online data from various sources (e.g. GoogleDocuments, Flikr, Hotmail, etc). The G.ho.st user interface is built using OpenLaszlo compiled to Flash (I’m attending a presentation on OpenLaszlo later in the week, so more on that then). The reasons given for choosing OpenLaszlo was that the performance of Flash is better than Javascript, without the browser inconsistencies, but unlike Flex, is not proprietary. I haven’t had to time to play wit G.ho.st itself, but I do plan to.

All in all, an interesting first day. After attending the first few presentations, I’ve changed my schedule a couple times, and looking forward to the rest of the week.

Colorado Software Summit 2008

After a year’s break, it’s again my turn to visit the Colorado Software Summit in Keystone, Colorado.

I arrived on Saturday to fantastic weather and took the opportunity to do some hiking and geocaching (GC82F4, GCPPTV, GCWYDB) before the conference started.

When my colleague Hans arrived on Sunday (after a number of flight delays) we took a drive over to Aspen to sort out the car rental. It turned out to be a 6 hour round trip, but certainly worth the drive to see the scenery, and cross the Continental Divide at 12095 ft).


Today I visited JFall, a one day java conference organized annually by the Dutch Java Users Group. The conference was a good chance to catch up on the latest technologies (with a bias towards Adobe products, as they were the main sponsor of the event this year), and also meet up with some old colleagues of mine.

In the end I attended sessions on:

  • Webservices security (a necessary evil)
  • Adobe AIR (bringing flashy internet sites to the desktop, for example eBay Desktop)
  • New features in Java 6 & 7
  • JavaFX (a new scripting language for Java user interfaces)
  • Concurrency

The conference was for the most part well organized, with the exception of the bus service which was provided from the train station to the conference venue – 2 7-seaters which were hopelessly under capacity to carry everyone. Since there were no signs indicating where the buses could be found, it was a good thing that an all male group of computer programmers is hard to miss.

All in all, though, an enjoyable day which was both educational and social, and gave me a good opportunity to practice my Dutch. I’m looking forward to their next conference, held in April…. JSpring!


Just received my results from the German course I followed at work – 87.5%!