Most Mac lovers love the Mac for the carefully wrought user interfaces and the crisp design, and never pay attention to the open source at the heart of the operating system. But underneath this beautiful facade is a heart built upon the rich - if often chaotic - world of open source software.
Stories by Peter Wayner
When the Palm Pre appeared two months ago, the world took one look at the graceful curves and immediately decided there was finally a contender that might stand a chance of attracting some of the crowds clustered around the iPhone.
Sun Microystems, which announced Sun Cloud in March, is taking a different tack than the Java clouds from Google, Aptana, and Stax because it wants to be more than just a Java provider. The new cloud will create new clusters of machines from any disk image, including some of the most popular versions of Linux and Solaris. Java, of course, will be found in most of these images, but you don't need to use it if you want to, say, run some emulated version of Cobol on a version of Puppy Linux. Unless Sun Cloud is interrupted by Oracle's acquisition, it should be available in a few months.
The world of low-rent key-value storage silos is exploding. Here's a list of some of the more prominent new projects:
When Terry Weaver wants to create .Net applications, he fires up Visual Studio and types away like any other .Net programmer. The setup gets a bit weird when he wants to test how the .Net application might appear to a Mac user visiting the Web site. Instead of starting up another machine, asking a colleague with a Mac, or simply ignoring those crazy followers of Steve Jobs, Weaver just pops over to the browser in another window. That's easy because Visual Studio is running on Windows inside a Parallels virtual machine, which, in turn, runs on his Mac. He has a PC, a Mac, and a Unix development box all in one.
Now that the desktop revolution is largely over, most of the excitement lies in the counter-desktop revolution that is bringing all the flair developed by the desktop programmers back to the safe world of the server. Caspio is one of the most prominent players seeking to lure the desktop database builders away from Microsoft Access and back into the datacenter's fold. The company has been around since before the last bubble burst, and now it boasts a number of prominent companies as customers.
What will the world of dynamic programming languages and Web applications look like in five years? This is one of those highly personal and deeply philosophical questions best saved for after dessert is served, the drinks are poured, and the sidearms are safely locked away.
The relentless drive to control every part of the world from a browser-based widget is now turning on itself. Not only are all of our desktop applications being replaced with HTML, but the act of creating a Web application itself has moved to the Web. The new platform from Coghead lets anyone build Web applications by pointing and clicking at another Web application. The only time you need to edit ASCII is when you're putting labels on columns and widgets.
The power of Web-based applications continues to burgeon as they take on the art of application building itself. In a number of online tools, the old compile-link-deploy loop disappears, and editing a Web application becomes as simple as editing a comment for Slashdot. (Notice I used the word "edit," not "program.") Just click a few times in the browser and your application is up and running.
Who wouldn't want to live in a "cloud"? The term is a perfect marketing buzzword for the server industry, heralding images of a gauzy, sunlit realm that moves effortlessly across the sky. There are no suits or ties in this world, just toga-clad Greek gods who do as they please and punish at whim, hurling real lightning bolts and not merely sarcastic IMs. The marketing folks know how to play to the dreams of server farm admins who spend all day in overgrown shell scripts and impenetrable acronyms.
In the collective imagination, the computers are busy merging into one grand, expansive database filled with minutiae about those pesky, emotive humans so that the machines will be ready for Sarah Connor. The database administrators and programmers know that the reality is more than a little bit creakier than this image -- even though they might use the image to pry some funding if they see a glint of malice in the eyes of the pointy-haired bosses.
One of the joys of being a Web programmer is heading to a dinner party, a haircut, or a reunion and fielding the pitches for everyone's dream for a brilliant Web application. Everyone is always happy to cut you in for 5, 10, maybe even 15 per cent of the equity if you just build out the Web site that's sort of like a combination of Twitter, AltaVista, Eliza, TurboTax, and the corner pharmacy, but cooler.
There was a moment in history when assembly coding and the knowledge of it largely disappeared from the world. Before it, the programmers knew and cared about the binary code the CPU saw, even if they relied upon a compiler to build much of it. After that moment, the IDEs came along and did so many things automatically that programmers stopped caring about such things as linking or op codes.
Just a few years ago, the world of open source packages for generating database reports was a quiet secret shared by programmers on a deadline. Anyone could spend a few minutes linking in a library to start generating relatively clean tables filled with data pulled from an SQL database. I've personally made a few clients happy by adding JasperReports to some projects with just a bit of XML and a JAR file.