Musings from Mars Banner Image
For Software Addicts: Yes!MaybeNah!
Articles from    2006   April

Articles from 2006 April

April 25th, 2006

xCuts Dashboard Widget: Tripping the Light Script.aculo.us

xCuts widgetI’ve been writing for some time now about the kinship between Apple’s Dashboard Widgets and web pages. I’ve recently written a time or two about Ajax and the various wonderful dynamic HTML (DHTML) JavaScript libraries that are now available to web developers. And when I first starting compiling the lists of available Ajax/DHTML JavaScript libraries, I was planning to grade Apple’s Widgets library along with all the rest. In explaining why I didn’t, here’s what I wrote last month about Widgets and DHTML pages:

It’s interesting that 2 months after an Adaptive Path essay coined the term “Ajax,” Apple released Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger”, with its amazing and powerful dashboard widgets system. Within a couple of months, there were over 1,000 widgets available on the web, and these little babies were capable of completely replacing (almost all for free!) a number of system utilities, menubar items, and whole applications on the Mac. I’m tempted to think that awareness of Apple’s widgets helped promote awareness of, and interest in, what could be accomplished with rich Ajax/DHTML toolkits. After all, widgets are simply little Ajax/DHTML programs running in a special layer of Mac OS X called the Dashboard… They use exactly the same technologies as all of the Ajax/DHTML libraries, and in fact you can run them inside of Safari outside of the Dashboard.*

And so, it was fitting that when I finally found time to work on a widget I’d been planning to build since last summer, I decided to use one of the leading Ajax/DHTML toolkits rather than Apple’s own, for most of the widget’s functionality. Having done most of my recent DHTML web work with Prototype and its light-hearted, freewheeling sidekick, Script.aculo.us, I naturally turned to those libraries to help me out.

    
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Slashdot
  • Technorati
  • blogmarks
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Mixx

Full article

April 16th, 2006

Nothing To Cheer Here: Microsoft’s Ajax Toolkit Is a “D”

Microsoft Atlas Is A Modern SirenBack in early March when I first released the Ajax/DHTML Scorecard, rating all of the existing Ajax/DHTML toolkits against an ideal cross-browser scale, I rated Atlas an “E.” So, the good news for Microsoft fans is that Atlas is actually better than that. But not by much.

On April 4, I rescinded the original score after some readers correctly pointed out that I was treating Atlas differently from the other toolkits in the shootout. That’s because Atlas was simply vaporware in early March, and there was nothing to test. As I explained in an update to the article, the “E” was based on Microsoft’s past conduct in the cross-browser-support department. Here, they had been very bad big boys. Microsoft is the reason that we have to worry so much about cross-browser support today, so it stood to reason that their entry in the Ajax field would continue their past strategy of steering all users to Microsoft products and away from alternatives.

Though I was skeptical Microsoft had changed its stripes, one writer assured me that

In general Microsoft’s strategy with .NET is to require Windows on the server, but to be 100% browser compatible on the client. .NET components configure themselves automatically for the available browser features ( i.e. CSS levels, javascript dialects, or css/js disabling). While I’m still in the early phases of researching Atlas, it seems that this style of browser support has continued.

And so, I began testing with an open mind, especially after an Ajax blogger raved about Atlas in an article that was picked up by the No Fluff, Just Stuff RSS feed that I follow. (I’ll have to remember to ignore future articles by Brad Abrams, whose blog after all is hosted by msdn.com…)

Since Abrams was celebrating the release last week of the Atlas Control Toolkit, which includes 9 online demos of different Atlas controls, I decided to start my testing there. Unfortunately, Atlas failed on the very first control, the “Cascading Drop Down.” Though it worked in Firefox on Mac OS X, it failed in both Safari 2 and Opera 9. After going through three or four of these, Atlas was batting a very low score, and I decided to keep track of results more scientifically.

The end result? Of the 9 Atlas controls very publicly celebrated by Microsoft this week, here’s how Atlas rates:

  • Firefox, 8 of 9 controls worked
  • Safari, 4 1/2 of 9 controls worked
  • Opera, 3 1/2 of 9 controls worked

I don’t think you can count this as cross-browser support, folks.

    
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Slashdot
  • Technorati
  • blogmarks
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Mixx

Full article

April 12th, 2006

Web-Based Collaborative Editing: Twiki, Tiddly, or TikiWiki?

Wiki ExplosionI spent a few weeks in December 2005 investigating the universe of wiki software, and confirmed what I already suspected: It’s a very big universe with many wikis! It would be impossible to explore them all, so I first tried to come up with a short list of wiki engines to focus on. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent sites that attempt to provide matrices of wiki software functions and abilities. Here are a few I used and recommend:

After studying these various resources, I was able to narrow the list of wikis down to the following:

MediaWiki was the default choice, since I assumed it was probably the best of the lot, given its starring role in powering Wikipedia and just about every other high-profile wiki you encounter on the web. After a painless default installation of MediaWiki, I had the usual MediaWiki shell and did a few quick walk-throughs of the structure just to make sure all the plumbing was in place. It seemed to be, so I proceeded to install a few of the others from my short list.

    
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Slashdot
  • Technorati
  • blogmarks
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Mixx

Full article

April 3rd, 2006

MovieLink: How Stupid Can You Get?

    
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Slashdot
  • Technorati
  • blogmarks
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Mixx

Full article

Just Say No To Flash