Friday, June 25, 2004

Gmail Experiences

I was invited onto Gmail by Rajiv recently. Google continues to surprise and amaze with its excellent technological grasp. Its amazing how someone can redesign something as traditional as web-email so fundamentally. Some very core and interesting concepts -

  • Conversation Grouping Most desktop email clients provide this. However, there is something very nice about the way Gmail does it. Perhaps its simply because its so new and its so fast that it makes it fun to use.

  • Labels This is a really nice feature. Instead of grouping into folders you can apply labels to it which are actually pretty similar to filters or saved searches. The advantage is that you can apply multiple labels to it. Nice metaphor.

  • 1GB space Their claim to fame. Already available with a host of other web mailing sites, Gmai l wants you to not delete emails ever. They want their search engine to be used to find emails. I haven't had reason to use it yet though.

  • Smart UI Smartly written JavaScript [which even has Joel impressed] that tries to provide rich-client features to a web UI. Does a very good job.

    • Keyboard shortcuts are amazing. If you are a power user you will enjoy gmail.

    • The Spell checker is brilliant.

  • Sizzzzling Fast Google remains one of the fastest services on the Net and Gmail rocks. It is so blazing fast, sometimes it just outpaces my desktop Outlook Express Client.

And Gmail is still in beta!!

The reason why Gmail is creating a controversy is because it scans your email to provide more relevant ads next to the message. Although, this has gotten people pretty upset, I for one do not mind it too much because of the other features of the site. The ads are quite interesting too. Sometimes they get it so right its quite amazing. And they make sure your email comes first and then the ads so they hardly bother you. They are always text based and occupy very little space. Yet, Google's AdSense program must be quite successful because its all over the place.

They have some interesting rules about what content they will show ads for. e.g. ads are strictly family viewable. A bunch of interesting rules are available here.

From Google's support forum -
Only ads classified as Family-Safe are distributed through our content network and to your Gmail inbox. For example, Google would block certain ads from running next to an email about catastrophic news.

Gmail is available by invitation only so do not try to look for a sign-in link like I did!

Gmail is causing Hotmail, Yahoo to wake up to email competition.
A Microsoft Hotmail employee talking about his experiences dealing with the Gmail threat.

MSN announces 250 Mb disk space just like Yahoo did. Very Reactive!

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Internet Explorer and its 512 limit

A 404 page sent to IE has to be 512 bytes at least otherwise IE will ignore the page. What a wierd quirk.

The link has a list of other pages for which IE has different size limits.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Web Services for Integration

Finally, we are talking Integration as the primary use of Web Services. All the inital hype and hoopla about it being the panacea for diverse applications so that you can discover and use any application that suits your query is giving way to more sensible uses like integrating diverse systems.

SOA is becoming a huge buzzword. Although, Web Services are a way to achieve SOA, it is today considered almost synonymous. BEA is talking about SOA along the lines of integration too.

[BEA's QuickSilver project one implementation of this vision. While no shipdate has been announced, the BEA vision is to provide J2EE developers a console-driven suite of integration software built around Web services protocols, the purpose is to enable them to transport data and business rules between Java and non-Java systems with as little coding as possible, using abstractions and an integration-enabled container (tied into the development/deployment console).]

BEA is also criticizing J2EE 1.4 lagging behind the actual Web Services capabilities which is true because Web Services users have been asking for QoS features that are provided by other frameworks in that space. Today, a variety of WS specifications are covering this very important ground and J2EE is lagging behind. BEA is asking developers to "look out of the container" which could be more out of necessity because the spec is not up to date with what we want rather than following "their" advice.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

My Experiments With Delphi

After several years I have again started working on Borland Delphi. I used to be quite proficient at it. Its interesting how my perspective for things have changed. It still remains an incredibly productive environment for Windows programming especially for a hobbyist programmer like me.

The environment has changed a little since the version 2.0 I was using and the version 7.0 that I have now. However, the changes are quite miniscule compared to the jump in versions. I believe this speaks volumes about their excellent design in their first few versions. They have extended it to support Web Services, XML, Internet programming, newer debuggers, a host of new things but the original clean, easy-to-use framework remains.

Delphi 2.0 used to have an excellent coding editor. Visual C++ had an equally good one. They had identical debuggers of very high quality. The debugging abilities have remained quite the same, I think. Their ability to always run with debug on is quite convenient.

However, all is not great. I believe Delphi's innovation at basic coding productivity is very very low.

Comparing with any of the existing Java editors like IntelliJ Idea, Eclipse, Pramati Studio and you will find an a variety of tools that are integrated into the editor that pop up "Just-In-Time" to provide an excellent coding environment. Both languages, Java and Delphi, have coding tasks that interfere with the basic thought process. Delphi has a whole lot more than Java. Java needs import statements too be added which its IDEs do automatically. Delphi needs function prototypes, variable declarations, imports and some more house keeping which the Delphi editor does not do. VERY IRRITATING.

All the Java editors do online validation of code so that you always know what went wrong and they will manage code completion irrespective of syntax and semantic errors. The Delphi editor after half a decade of evolution cannot do that. It simply says that code completion is not available. That is unbelievable.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

JBoss - TSS Feud

Ramesh's blog on the ongoing JBoss and TSS (The Server Side) Feud capture exactly what I felt on this issue. All parties involved are getting equally unethical.

Interestingly Ramesh's blog is beginning to get quite popular - so popular infact that they are having a TSS style argument in the comments section of his article! Kudos!

Read all about the feud here.