Sunday, October 16, 2005

AJAX and more

To start, a couple of good articles:

Ideas for Startups by Paul Graham

Set Your Priorities by Joel Spolsky

I don't always agree with everything Paul and Joel have to say, but they're usually worth reading.

I've been running into more and more about AJAX. It stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. The name "AJAX" is recent, but the technology it makes use of has been around for a while. It's just that now people are discovering how to really take advantage of it. Things like Gmail and Google Maps use AJAX. AJAX applications promise to combine rich user interfaces with the advantages of a web client.

A recent blog by Jon Udell (and a previous entry) pointed me to Zimbra - an AJAX mail client, their screencast, architecture whitepaper, and AJAX toolkit. They're worth taking a look at.

There are many advantages of web based applications, but so far I've resisted because HTML user interfaces suck. But recent developments like AJAX and Lazlo are promising rich user interfaces for web apps. I still have some reservations - there's a shortage of tools and documentation and they require quite a mixed bag of technologies. All this means a steep learning curve at the moment. But it's making me think that maybe I should be looking at developing web apps. Maybe Suneido should have some tools for doing AJAX.

There are a bunch of recent AJAX books - a search on Amazon will find them.

Zimbra looks pretty cool and it got me thinking about Gmail (maybe not quite as cool, but still pretty good). I've been using Thunderbird for my email and for the most part I've been pretty happy with it. Searching is awkward and slow, but I solved that by using Google Desktop Search. I was excited when Thunderbird added spam filtering. After faithfully training it for a long time, it identifies about 90% of my spam. But the more spam I get, the more annoying that remaining 10% is. It also occasionally identifies legitimate messages as spam, which means I have to review the spam messages, somewhat defeating the purpose of filtering.

I was curious whether Gmail would do a better or worse job of identifying spam. I finally took the plunge and forwarded my main mail account to my Gmail account. It's only been a little over a day, but so far it's been a lot better than Thunderbird. Only about 2% of spam messages have slipped through and no legitimate messages have been mis-identified as spam.

And Gmail has other advantages. I can access my mail (including old mail) from home or anywhere. And I can still use Google Desktop Search.

Another book that I noticed recently was Cross-Platform GUI Programming with wxWidgets. wxWindows is one of the main cross-platform GUI toolkits. Several people have suggested it's probably the best way to make Suneido's GUI portable. In fact, there's a newcomer on the Suneido forum who appears to be working on this right now. I should probably pick up this book just to learn a little more about it.

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