What’s exciting about Google Gears

A lot of folks are going gaga over Google Gears and its capability to enable partially connected web applications (web applications that can run offline).

Here is a paraphrase from a comment I left at Burningbird (Shelley Powers’s blog is one of my favorite places to discuss web technology and how it relates to society, politics, and more):

What really interests me about Google Gears is the local web server.

It’s the Dave Winer Fractional Horsepower HTTP Server idea (from back in 1997), that’s finally come of age.

Just what is possible when each of us have our own web servers, running on our desktops?

Immediately you think p2p heaven. But the possibilities for building collaborative apps is just massive.

I know, I know, for anyone who knows Perl, Python or Java, it’s never been too much of a big deal to spin up your own webserver, but this looks like it makes it more than simple – it makes it practical.

If I’m reading it right, you’ll need some form of centralized web app to co-ordinate collaboration across machines, which is no big deal.

The web’s about being connected. And it’s the online possibilities that Google Gears opens up that are rather mind boggling.

Flex, Flash, and Comcast Interactive Media’s Fan 4.0 Alpha

The team I belong to at Comcast, Comcast Interactive Media, released an alpha version of our video player, The Fan, this week.

You can give it a try here. If I say so myself, it’s pretty sweet.

While more information is available on its official cimLabs page, including links to give feedback, I’d like to point you towards one of its developers, Arpit Mathur, and his blog entry about it.

This version of The Fan was built with Adobe’s Flex and Arpit has a lot to share about the project. Feel free to leave a comment and tell him what you think.

As Arpit mentions, we’re on the lookout for Flash developers. But there’s more to the CIM story than Flash. In fact, the development stack we use at CIM resembles what Bruce Eckel proposed in a piece called “Hybridizing Java” on Artima a while back. We are looking for experienced Web developers of all stripes to join us. Check out cimLife for more.

Update:

Arpit’s post about the new version of the Fan is earning some buzz.

RIApedia: Comcast Launches New Flex Based Video Site

Masable: The Fan – Comcast’s New Flex Video Site

Ryan Stewart: Comcast jumps into Flex 2 for media content

Shelley Powers: Cool Thingie

Update:

Aaron Held, my manager at CIM, checks in with more about Flash, Java, and The Fan.

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Follow the linkage on Techmeme.

Free quality icons

I nabbed the icon I used for my earlier podcast experiment, from the Tango Desktop Project.

Coworker and friend showcased at Adobe Labs

I’ve been far to busy to write here lately, but wanted to share this with you: Arpit Mathur has a sweet Flex-built mp3 player that shows off a little of what Flex can do when building a mashup that combines media, storage, and identity (in this case Box.net, Flickr, YouTube and Amazon). He built this in very little time, so it has a few quirks and bugs, but hey, it’s a proof of concept. They’ve been featuring it at Adobe Labs over the weekend. Check out FlexAmp here (Flash 9 required).

“Eclipse: Beyond the Geeks”

Shelley Powers, in one of her last Burningbird posts, shares a terrific short tutorial to help you get started using Eclipse for producing web pages.

‘Perfectly proportioned’ websites may be the worst

New Scientist:

…a study by Paul van Schaik at the University of Teesside, UK, has found that the golden ratio does not benefit all designs. Websites with golden proportions can be harder to extract information from, he says.

Van Schaik put 98 students into five groups and asked them all to answer questions using information on five separate websites. He recorded the time it took participants to answer each question, together with the number of web pages they looked at to do so.

All the sites had a navigation bar with links to other sections of the site on the left of the page and a frame for content on the right, but the sizes of these two sections differed for each group. The pages of one group were divided according to the golden ratio, while the websites of the other four groups gave over less space to the navigation bar.

Those in the golden group answered the questions slowest, taking an average of 15.8 seconds to answer each question – 3.5 seconds longer than the fastest group. The golden ratio group also took 2 seconds longer than the next slowest group and had to visit more pages to find the information required.

“It has been suggested since antiquity that the ratio is aesthetically pleasing,” says Van Schaik. “But we found that not only is it not liked in web pages, it is also less efficient in terms of accuracy and speed.”

Please help me test a CSS menu

I’m testing a css drop down menu for use here and for use at Philly Future. Can you help me by letting me know if this works for you and what browser/browser version/OS you are running?

The menu appears as a bar just beneath this page’s header for now. Don’t sweat the colors – they are temporary.

here is the source for the menu.

Quote viewer in AJAX…

I switched the implementation of my quote viewer from Flash to Javascript last night for fun and education. If you view source, it’s there for you to find in gory detail, but here it goes for the lazy…

In the header of this page you will find tag that loads the script that enables the quote viewer:

<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript" src="/widgets/quoteview/quoteview.js"></script>

At the top of the script you will notice two variables, one sets the number of seconds I want this quote to auto-refresh (set to -1 to disable) and the the next indicates where to find the XML document that contains the quotes I want to display.

Methods in the script will load a random quote and refresh a div element on the page:

<div id="quoteview"></div>

To kick it off, I call a method from the script:

<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript" src="/widgets/quoteview/quoteview.js">quoteViewXmlRequest();</script>

And that’s it 🙂 I’m a server-side developer by trade so if you care to take a look at this and critique, it could be helpful.