I’ve caught the twitter bug!

I signed up to twitter months ago, in fact just before Mix 08 (March I think.) The idea at the time was to keep track of announcements as they were made, rather than waiting for blog posts to appear. It really didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, and the web interface was clunky, so I abandoned it.

This weekend though, I decided to revisit twitter. There are a number of desktop twitter apps available, but many seem to show all twitters, not just those from the people you follow. And those that do allow you to filter on your follow list – such as Snitter, Spaz and Twhirl – all seem to be based around Adobe AIR. I’ve nothing against AIR, but the Adobe website has been playing up all weekend and I couldn’t download the AIR runtime, which is a complete show-stopper when it comes to running AIR apps.

I then stumbled across Witty, which is a .NET/ WPF twitter client. I downloaded it and it runs just fine. So I’m now equipped to experiment with twitter for a couple of weeks, to see if it suits me.

If you are a twitterer yourself and wish to follow my random ramblings, the username is DavidArno. If you haven’t tried twitter before, head over to my page and have a read of the small number of people I’m currently following to get an idea of how it’s used.

Will Java show Microsoft the way to .NET 4?

JavaHaving recently started a new job that is Java & ActionScript-centred (as opposed to my old .NET & ActionScript-centred job), I’ve been trying to catch up with the world of Java. Last time I used the latter was back around the turn of the century when Sun hit upon the cunning plan of calling a release both Java 1.2 and Java 2 (a mind-numbingly stupid idea that still continues today with Java 6/ Java 1.6). Things have moved on, the language has had many new features added and the core classes have mushroomed into a huge complex mess that involves a large download. This is of course much the same as .NET, which tends to follow in Java’s footsteps on many levels.

Recently I came across something that Java is soon to offer that .NET would really benefit from: Java 6 SE Update 10. This rather cumbersomely entitled release has the somewhat more snappy title of “Consumer JRE”. This new consumer runtime has a bunch of really nice features, the two key ones in my view are the Java Kernel and draggable applets.

Java Kernel
Like .NET, the Java runtime is a huge download. The first time you try and run a java application on a machine that doesn’t have the JRE installed, in must be downloaded. The Java Kernel is a clever – and oh-so-simple – idea: break the JRE up into lots of bits and only download what is needed. So the first time you run a Java application, the basic – small – kernel is fetched, plus any other parts that the application needs. At that point the application can run. The rest of the JRE is then downloaded in slow-time in the background.

The graph below (from http://java.sun.com/developer/technicalArticles/javase/consumerjre/) highlights this:

Comparison of Various Swing Application Download Sizes With the Full JRE.

Draggable Applets
Back in the days before Flash, Java Applets were the way to do programatically complex stuff in web pages. In recent years, they have declined in popularity, but this feature may bring them back into favour. If you visit a web page and see an applet that you like, then you’ll be able to drag it out of the browser window to the desktop. It then runs as a fully fledged desktop application, rather than just a browser applet.

When these features will be released is anyone’s guess (early betas of the Consumer JRE were “hot news” last year [2007] and it is still in beta), but they are great features none the less. And so this brings me to .NET 4. When Silverlight 2 is released (I’m still predicting late July or very early August for this release, ie just in time for the Olympics), Microsoft will have an obvious starting point for the equivalent of both of these features. The Mono team have their Moonlight desklets, which Microsoft could take and turn into Silverlight applications that can be dragged out of the browser onto the desktop. And the cut-down .NET framework that forms the kernel of Silverlight 2 would make a great starting point for a piecemeal downloadable .NET 4 kernel.

The “big chief” of .NET – Scott Guthrie – is a man who is happy to take great ideas from anywhere and shamelessly add them to .NET, so I fully hope and expect to see such features in the .NET realm sometime soon(ish).

.NET is NOT to blame!

World Wide TelescopeI have been following the World Wide Telescope project with interest ever since Robert Scoble made a bit of an arse of himself over the subject. Since I was really impressed with the ease of install and the beauty of the product, I gushed in near fanboy-style about it when it went into beta release (I didn’t woop; so it wasn’t real fanboy stuff ;)). It was thus a bit of a shock to see that Mike Dillamore was casting the install in a bad light.

Mike was my boss at my last place of work. I have a great deal of respect for him as he is the man that got me into TDD, Scrum, podcasts and of course blogging. An area where he and eye do not see eye to eye though is over .NET. I am a big fan; he has, for reasons I’ve never properly understood, a keen dislike of it.

The instructions for installing the World Wide Telescope are long and complex (and remind me of installing anything on Linux for example), but people seem to be forgetting that this is just a beta release of the product and thus it will be rough and ready. As for the comment that .NET is to blame, what nonsense! The real “blame”, if one must call it that, lies with Microsoft’s business model of supporting what ought to be long-dead products. They could take the Apple route and simply refuse to install the software on any machine that isn’t Vista SP1, but since they are a multi-billion dollar operation that dwarfs Apple, perhaps their business model makes sense. Of course the blame also lies at the feet of the inherent security weaknesses in Microsoft’s desktop operation systems, but that’s a whole different topic.

Far from being a yolk about Micrososft’s neck. .NET is their money-spinning future. ASP.NET single-handedly saved their dying web server business for example. The awesomely powerful shell – PowerShell – that is built into the Server 2008 operating system is .NET based and let’s not forget that SIlverlight is .NET based too. Ten years ago, Borland offered a superb IDE, which people sadly turned their backs on by adopting the awful Visual Studio 6 instead. Those days have long gone though. Now, when one can get Eclipse or the Visual Studio 2008 Express editions for free, the IDEs from Borland (or Code Gear as they now are) make no business sense.

Send your name to the moon

NASA is inviting people to send their names to the moon on-board their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which is due to launch later this year. Go to this page before June 27th 2008, submit your name and you are done. As an added bonus, kids (and me!) get a lovely certificate to show their name will be carried to the moon on a chip on-board the LRO.

Name to the moon certificate

I have no idea what the point of this is. But I think it’s a bit of fun and thought I’d share it. By the way, do not fill out your name if your are worried about Martians stealing your identity… 😉

Corrina Barber adds a really nice skin to her portfolio

SilverlightI posted last week about a set of skins that Corrina Barber had produced for Silverlight. Well she has added a fourth one to the set and it is by far the best at showing just what can be done with Silverlight skins. As before, click on the image below to access the demo page, or click here for the source files.

She describes it as being organic in appearence. I disagree and think it looks cartoon-like, but in a really nice way. The controls basically look hand-drawn, yet work just like normal controls.

The “Rough” skin
The 'rough' skin

Microsoft’s Great Hot Air Launch: Lack of Substance Reaches Heroic Proportions

heroes.pngFor months Microsoft have been playing up their Heroes launch. Yesterday – 27th Feb 2008 – it finally happened. Huge glitz and glamour with fancy website launches and not much else was the order of the day.

VS2008 is now available for retail purchase, rather than via MSDN. Windows Server 2008 is in its late beta stages. SQL Server 2008 might be released some time this year. They are the three main themes to the heroes promotion. In addition, their virtualization tools are still in beta too. Finally there was a bit of a nod toward “open source heroes” with an “open source” package available that mainly consists of trial versions of Vs2008 and WS2008. Um…