Ajax

Day Two Summary @ The Ajax Experience

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The second day of The Ajax Experience is behind us and it was even better than the first. It all started off with a keynote by Brendan Eich as I described earlier. After that, I attended a session titled “Struts on Ajax: Retrofitting Struts with Ajax Taglibs” where my take-away was to not use Ajax Taglibs, ever. Then came the lightning rounds, which were a great way to get a wide variety of information in a short amount of time. After the lightning rounds, Microsoft had a keynote that covered Microsoft’s JavaScript developer tools, namely Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Web Developer 2008. There was also talk of the new IE8 developer toolbar, which is a great big step in the right direction for Microsoft. Strangely, the developer toolbar will be shipped with all instances of IE8. It includes features like:

  • DOM & CSS inspection
  • Live Editing
  • JavaScript debugger and profiler
  • Multiple Document Modes

I really enjoyed Joe Walker's "Advanced Web Application Security" session, where he covered a variety of security issues and complete solutions to help increase security. This is another great session to view once the videos are posted online.

Next up I attended back-to-back sessions by John Resig on Advanced jQuery and Visual Programming with JavaScript. These were two of the best sessions of the entire conference. Clear and concise lectures, chalk full of practical solutions and answers to complex problems.

The last session of the day was the "Ask the Experts Panel", moderated by Ajaxian.com co-founders, Ben Galbraith & Dion Almaer, featuring Brendan Eich, Douglas Crockford, John Resig, Joe Walker and Dylan Schiemann. There was some great discussion on JavaScript engines, Browsers, HTML5, ECMAScript, and more...

That's all for today! I'm looking forward to tomorrow for some more informative sessions.

Lightning Rounds at The Ajax Experience

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We had a great session today that was comprised of 10 “lightning rounds” each lasting about 5 minutes.

Topics included:

  1. Smushit.com – a web based tool that automates image optimization. You specify a URL, or batch upload images and smushit can greatly reduce the file size of your images without sacrificing any quality. A Firefox extension also exists to allow you to easily optimize the images on any page you visit.
  2. Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 – the latest web development tool from Adobe, which was just recently released. You can expect to see some great new features in this version, including:
    •    Workspace customization – coder, designer, compact preset workspaces
    •    JavaScript intellisense and validation, including advanced intellisense that works with any JavaScript library or custom JavaScript classes and objects.
    •    Live Code view – let’s you see changes to the document in real-time as you interact with it.
  3. Comet – discussed technique for Ajax push asynchronous message delivery from the server to the client
  4. Firebug. Enough said, if you don’t know what it is, go here.
  5. Making web apps faster – Steve Souders discussed manual vs. programmatic scripting to time web pages using Episodes, a proposed framework. Read more about Episodes.
  6. Hacking Netflix – Netflix API to be released soon (this week), more info will be available at:
  7. Interviewing JavaScript Gurus.
  8. 280 Slides / Objective-J , a strict superset of JavaScript
  9. shiftspace.org – client-side JS and interface
  10. milescript.org – new language that compiles to JavaScript, intended for large scale (enterprise) JavaScript solutions.

Day Two Begins at The Ajax Experience

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Tuesday morning here in Boston started off with a keynote by Brendan Eich, CTO of Mozilla and creator of JavaScript. The title of the session was “Faster than Light JavaScript”, where Brendan discussed JIT compilation of JavaScript in the browser and the performance gains we can expect to see in the future. In particular, a new JavaScript engine code-named “TraceMonkey”, based on the SpiderMonkey interpreter and the Tamarin-Tracing VM, is set to be released with an future version of Firefox.

Read more about TraceMonkey here

TraceMonkey is one of many current JavaScript engines, listed below:

  1. JavaScriptCore: The engine that powers Safari/WebKit (up until Safari 3.1).
  2. SquirrelFish: The engine used by Safari 4.0
  3. V8: The engine used by Google Chrome.
  4. SpiderMonkey: The engine that powers Firefox (up to, and including, Firefox 3.0).
  5. TraceMonkey: The engine that will power Firefox 3.1 and newer (currently in nightlies, but disabled by default).
  6. Futhark: The engine used in Opera 9.5 and newer.
  7. IE JScript: The engine that powers Internet Explorer.

John Resig wrote a good post earlier this month covering JavaScript performance in these engines, read it here.

Day One Summary @ The Ajax Experience

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As day one comes to an end, it's been a whirlwind of asynchronous requests, CSS Selectors, Chrome, performance and more as we flew through the Ajax Universe. We’ve seen some great comparisons between open source JavaScript frameworks, including the specific focus and goal of each framework that helps to differentiate them from the rest. We’ve also seen how frameworks are on a path of convergence, each with similar solutions to the same problems. However, the likelihood of a unification of the major frameworks is unlikely in the short term.

Of the three developer breakouts, I attended the jQuery sessions which were very insightful. I was surprised to see the growth jQuery has enjoyed over the last 4-6 months, but it’s not too surprising since it is an exceptional framework.

Another highlight of the day was Ben and Dion’s Ajax Universe session where they used created a script to sound a buzzer at random intervals so they would switch turns. This was hilarious and turned out to be a great idea. As they buzzed back and forth, they stepped through the progression of the web over the years, showing where we started and where we are today. Their slides and video should be posted online soon, just stay tuned to ajaxian.com.

Finally, we had a session titled “The Top 10 Cross-Browser Issues”. A panel of experts including Andrew Dupont (Prototype), Chris Heilmann (YUI), John Resig (jQuery), and Dylan Schiemann (Dojo) discussed how their respective frameworks handled browser issues. In particular, the discussion included the issue of browser user agent sniffing versus object/feature detection in order to create workarounds for browser issues. User agent sniffing has been the standard for all current libraries, but the next version of jQuery (1.3) will remove all browser sniffing and will rely solely on feature detection. John received some opposition from the other panelists about this approach, but was able to hold his ground and his vision of a more elegant approach for handling browser issues. John stressed that it is the responsibility of the JavaScript libraries to be good role models for coding practices and to encourage browser manufacturers to fix existing bugs instead of assuming that the developer community has already hacked around them.

The discussion continued around issues with the DOM API and the pain it can cause. Then we moved to a new topic: the influence JavaScript libraries have with the browser vendors (which seems to be getting better). The discussion was fast and insightful. I spoke with one of the staff here and was told that videos of the sessions will be posted online at some point. When they are posted, be sure to check out this session.

That’s all for today, it’s time to head to the Microsoft sponsored “Evening Event”!

The Ajax Experience 2008 Begins

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The Ajax Experience 2008 is about to begin here in Boston. Developers from all over the world have gathered to hear about the latest and greatest from the land of client-side development. I'm attending the jQuery Developer Day session this morning where topics will include "Progressively Enhancing the User Experience Using jQuery" and "An In-Depth Look at jQuery UI". Conference presentations are available for download here.

Ajax Marketing...

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GWT 1.5 Released

The Google Web Toolkit (GWT) project has released version 1.5 of its Java-based web development library yesterday. The new release sports a host of new features such as:

  • Support for Java 5 language features (generics, enums, enhanced for loops, and static imports)
  • Improved performance of compiled JavaScript code
  • It is now possible to sublcass the JavaScriptObject class, creating "class overlays" that can be mapped to arbitrary JavaScript classes
  • Expanded JRE emulation library
  • A new high-performance DOM API
  • Default visual themes: Standard, Chrome, and Dark
  • Support for right-to-left languages

For a full list of the new features, see here.

The new version can be downloaded here.

Upcoming Ajax Conferences

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Here are a couple upcoming Ajax conferences for your consideration:


The Ajax Experience 2008
Location: Boston, MA
Dates: September 29th-October 1st, 2008
Cost: $1495
Site: www.theajaxexperience.com
Conference Agenda



AJAX World 2008
Location: San Jose, CA
Dates: October 20-22, 2008
Cost: $1,595 before August 29th [early bird]
$1,695 before September 12th [discounted]
$1,895 onsite price [full price]
Site: http://ajaxworld.com/
Conference Agenda

Leave a comment if you've been to either of these conferences before, letting us know what you thought. Also leave a comment if you plan on attending one or both conferences this year.

Firebug 1.2 Released

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Firebug, the latest version of the indispensable debugging utility for Firefox, has released version 1.2 of the plugin for Firefox 3.0.

What's New?

  • Selective Panel Enablement: You can now choose to enable any combination of Console (logging), Script (JavaScript debugging) and Net (Network monitoring).
  • Automatic activation of HTML, CSS, and DOM views when Firebug UI is visible/activated (since they require minimal overhead).
  • Ability to suspend/resume Firebug.
  • A new tooltip telling you which tab/page in Firefox has enabled Firebug.

John Resig, creator of jQuery and now lead on the Firebug team, gives an excellent overview on his blog. Resig points out the currently rather global nature of enabling certain Firebug features, the overhead of enabling them (especially Script, which slows down all JavaScript running in Firefox about 25%), and states that all of these issues are targets for the 1.3 release.

Use the Add-ons panel in Firefox to update your plugin or get it now.

The release notes are here.

Faster JavaScript in Firefox 3.1

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Mozilla plans to give some relief to web developers struggling to create a "desktop-like" experience for web applications: relief in the form of huge increases in speed. On Friday, the father of JavaScript, Brendan Eich, announced the launch of a new JIT (Just In Time) JavaScript compiler called TraceMonkey that will be included in Firefox 3.1.

Depending on the benchmark, TraceMonkey currently improves JavaScript performance in Firefox 3.1 by about 2 to 37 times over Firefox 3.0. The average performance improvement is predicted to be about 4.6 times faster.

TraceMonkey is an evolution of Mozilla's current JavaScript engine, SpiderMonkey, that also draws from the Adobe-contributed Tamarin Tracing project. It is based on the concept of tracing (or trace-based compilation), which takes the approach of monitoring bytecode interpretation, following frequently-executed backwards branches to a "loop start point", analyzing the linear sequence of instructions in what is called a "trace" (using data structures called Trace Trees), and natively compiling these code paths. This has the advantage over more traditional JIT compilers--that keep track of which methods get called most frequently, and do whole-method analysis and compilation--of having to analyze and natively compile only the performance-critical parts of the code. It also has the advantage of being more mobile-friendly as this translates to a much lighter memory footprint. Andreas Gal, the principal architect of the TraceMonkey project, discusses the technique in his blog.

According to Gal, Firefox now has the "fastest JavaScript engine in the world". So what can you do when your browser's JavaScript is that fast? How about online photo editing...

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