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Web Front-Ends Versus Windows
2003-03-06 Graphics 33 Comments
I read in some Longhorn article that MS are planning (“way down the line”) to replace windows with .net.
Not exactly… they are pushing Web Services and have the idea of producing Smart Clients… distributed applications written in .net that can communicate with Web Services to update their displays and also to save data to servers. The application is also capable of working offline and syncing with the server (web services) later when a network connection is available.
Feel free to educate me where I’m wrong…
We’re already replacing our webby client interfaces with .NET GUI clients. The other tiers are (generally) not affected. The reason is simple: What we do involves a lot of data entry, etc., and the call center has complained a lot about the inadequacies of web-based data entry. I agree.
We serve our .NET apps from a common share, and the beauty of .NET is that once the .NET framework is deployed to the client machine, no other installations are required. Just XCOPY the application to the file share and voilà, you’re good to go.
The whole point of taking 4+ years to develop a new Web browser was creating an advanced distribuated front end technology for application developers.
Take a quick look at projects like http://www.ticatk.com/.
Sophicated distribuated application GUI technology that has _NO_LIMITATIONS_ imposed on it by corperate interests is a reality today.
for 2 years i’ve been developing Delphi data entry clients that talks to a middleman server via the internet, and then to a db.
Main advantages over html: a rich, easy to use interface, and less load on the server. Works well, though updates to users aren’t automatic.
I’m now investigating creating these same apps with Flash MX – then they should run on windows, macs and linux, and be automatically updated each time.
The problem with .NET is everyone needs that insanely large VM. The .NET app you create may be small, but very few people have that VM. Everyone already has Flash. plus i’m sick of doing the usual VB/delphi app – i want new design choices…
The big plus to web front ends is their cross platform nature. If the writers of the software (for lack of a better term) adhere to standards then everyone benefits.
For example, I am currently working a web based calendar application for the tech support location at Clayton College & State University ( http://the.clayton.edu ) to handle appointments and various other things. By writing 4.01 compliant HTML (for the most part – the PHP session variable throws it off) the application is usuable by anyone with a modern web browser.
I, for one, do not welcome some sort of .JUNK client.
Egads! Not flash!
nevermind, i don’t use windoze anymore, and have not bought a windoze OS since win98 first came out…
As some of you will know RebolTech (www.rebol.com) has (finally) changed to a free licensing model for their Rebol/CORE 2.5.x product and also for the soon to be released Rebol/View update.
These can be run in cgi mode or in full gui mode and are a lot easier to program in than say .Net or Java. They integrate well with Apache / Apache2 and can easily link to datasources as PostgresQL and MySQL. Al this weighs in at 300 -> 500k depending on the version and platform you want to run it on.
The GUI can create anything from busines applications to games – there are even scripts available to write PDF and Flash. HTML is even simpler with the new Build-Markup <templatefile> command which gives you access to dynamic html that can easily be edited in dreamweaver or notepad
Currently it works on pretty much every OS out there from amigaOS, solaris, windows, linux, BSD, BeOS, MacOS, OSX, etc.
http://www.rebol.com is where you can find all the info to get you started.
YES, I AM a Rebol fanboy
What about commerical license? If I sell the commerical product that are written in REBOL and the commerical clients will have to buy my product plus REBOL for commerical, right?
I’ve always thought Rebol looked interesting, but I never used it because of its license.
I like the term Reblets too. Something about it reminds me of being in Japan again.
Personally, I don’t really like web interfaces. I don’t like making them all that much, and I absolutely hate using them.
I like command line applications when it makes sense, and I really like the standard GUI application.
About a week ago, I needed to write a small program as a front end to a rather complicated and large configuration file. My program had to run on Linux and Solaris, and “hopefully on other platforms”. It also needed to be able to run either on the server being configured, or from a client machine remotely.
Originally, I was going to use Python and Tkinter to do this, but I really don’t like the looks of Python scripts written with Tkinter. Therefore, I did a bit of searching on the web and found wxPython. What a great library! It is very well documented too. My Python script runs on Windows, Linux, Solaris, *BSD, and probably a bunch of other places. It also looks like a native application on all of these systems.
wxWindows is the same thing for C++. I haven’t used C++ for a few years, but wxWindows has caused my interest in it to be rekindled.
I am not sure but new license scheme will allow to use View even commercially – you can easily hide script source from average user (but it is not safe method if you really want to protect your IP).
Then there is SDK – you can “encap” your scripts and generate .exe – you can distribute it – unless you charge for it, you pay nothing – once you do, you have to have royalty agreement with RT.
You can also ask RT to consider special licensing for your conditions …
SDK licensing is still in beta though and some things may change ….
-pekr- … old time reboller …
When every one is talking about smart clients like rebol, curl, altio, macromedia flash and esual all of them are just adding more functionality to a linear web browser. Where the paradim is .. stateless single page servicing to the user. What we need is a paradim shift, don’t think linear linking like in webpages, or dumb content (content with out context and meta data), or dumb servers (servers that just talk a protocol like webserver, with no publish and discovery services).
Some one already envisioned this idea .. where user sees objects (not pages), correlated(not linearly) with smart discovery. And every thing he wants is just linked, makes sense and is visual. Check out http://dharbor.com and the demos on the first page. This is the next big thing after web browser, hope it does not go in drains.
Rebol/CORE (as of 2.5.1+) is now free ‘as in beer’ to use.
as quoted in “http://www.reboltech.com/downloads/changes.html#sect2.2.”
2.2. New Core License
REBOL/Core licensed has changed to allow personal, educational, or commercial use of the CORE software free of charge.
Note that this license change only applies to REBOL/Core (and will be added to the next release of REBOL/View), but it does not apply to REBOL/SDK, /Command, /IOS or other REBOL commercial products.
So yes, you can use it free commercially without charge.
HOWEVER – if as pekr mentioned you want to be able to build .exe files you will need to buy the /command or /sdk versions.
I’ve yet to use a single web interface that works as quickly and as consistenty and as reliably as an actual program. Java, etc… never used one that felt comfortable and complete (and as bug free as your average regular software, which isn’t very).
Thanks for the info regarding Rebol. I was fooling around whit it about 6 months ago, thought it was quite cool but a couple things turned me off:
1) There are few books to learn Rebol. There is a badly outdated “Rebol for Dummies”, a newer book written in French, and then the “Official Guide”.
2) They do have a decent tutorial, some examples, and a forum called Rebol Forces (something like that) but they are all inadequate IMHO. Mostly just scraped the surface, but don’t provide good examples of useful apps.
Maybe now that it’s free, there will be some more support behind it and more examples/books around.
“The big plus to web front ends is their cross platform nature. If the writers of the software (for lack of a better term) adhere to standards then everyone benefits. ”
Cross platform is one thing, but cross platform AND multiple browser support can be an absolute nightmare.
From the summer of 2000 to Jan 2002, I spent that time working on a large web based app for a large US telco.
It was a total nightmare, and this was on top of a large Java/JSP based system.
The whole problem came about in the fact that the original firm contracted to do the work made the client think they could give them Windows functionality in a web app…..we got stuck trying to make it do just that.
I’m not saying to avoid web/browser applications but, for God Sake, look at the cost benefit. Browser apps are good for things that must be accessed by the general public or once in a while by a business partner (i.e. electronic data transfer, e-commerce, product lists, response pages, news pages, etc…) but for intra/extra-net (where you can dictate standards to a captive audience) Windows applications will still provide a more pleasent user experience with a better bang for the buck. The only fly in the ointment is deployment.
What kills me is that the Multi-Tier Windows apps were great by comparison (for both users and developers) except for the deployment issue. But rather than provide a better/standard for automating the deployment/updating… everyone (including MS) jumped on the “web applications” bandwagon and it feels like we’ve thrown away the last 10 years of UI (including workflow) improvement.
Things may change as newer browser/web standards emerge and development (i.e. .NET) tools improve but for now… choose your battles wisely. You’ll realize how many Windows/X-Windows things you take for granted when you create a browser application.
Oh way to go. Hit that big Flash file and…BOOM.
Anyway one can still do quite a bit with web technologies.
And I’ve seen some impressive results earlier today when pushing the standards.
SJ, your understanding fo rebol, macromedia, curl and possibly others can be wrong. I will speak for Rebol, as this is the land I am coming from – it is a X-Internet technology. You can create “smart clients”, platform agnostic, which don’t need web browser. Look at AlternativeMessenger – http://www.altme.com, look at REBOL IOS – http://www.rebol.com/ios-intro.html
One of the links you posted was slower than many flash links (the http://www.muze.nl site).
Besides most html based technologies are going to have speed issues as they deal with static data sources like images, music files, flash files, and not to mention the odd 75k java/html file which is not compressed.
Crossbrowser is probably going to get more and more difficult as was shown in the recent MSN vs Opera case where Microsoft used malformed CSS styles mangle Opera display.
I guess that is why I like Rebol. It can act as both a html generator in CGI mode or as a full Windows/Linux/etc.. native application in GUI Mode – all in one simple package. The fact that the standard rebol program can weigh in at under 100k (or less) has a size and speed advantage over web apps (where you have to worry about tags etc.) and a large size advantage over most standalone apps for YourOS of choice due to their compressible text nature.
As for deployment for Rebol throughout a network its as easy as copy and paste – regardless of the OS. The rebol file will run – unchanged on all supported OS types.
I have spent the last number of years developing a handful of small web applications and two major applications that had to mimic their client/server counterparts. Aside from dealing with the headaches caused by the differences between Netscape and IE, the biggest problem I encountered with the larger applications was the lack of control over the browser environment (keyboard navigation == Hell!), and the asynchronous nature of browser/server requests. While most problems have solutions (i.e. Remote Scripting), some do not and the amount of time dealing with these problems adds a tremendous amount of time to a project.
The only benefit I see to web applications is the ease deployment. However, I think this problem can be solved without giving up so much.
The other problem I have with the web application paradigm is the idea of statelessness and scalability. Has anyone done any real analysis on the benefits of a stateless application running in a server farm? At what point is the application (web) server no longer the bottleneck? When does the network become completely saturated? Since there is a shared resource being used by all the applications servers (DBMS server) will that not become the bottleneck at some point? The problem that I have with a stateless application is the extra processing required for each HTTP request to manage any necessary state at the application level.
Have you tried your application on OS X? You may find that it works without any modifications – apparently my app did this without it even being intended!
Web Applications can easily have as much functionality as native apps, it all depends on how much effort goes into it.
For example, if you look at http://nanotree.sourceforge.net  the tree is exactly how you’d expect a tree in a native app to be, and I’ve had several projects where a webapp, looked and behaved 99% like a native app (Including drag’n’drop, etc.).
 Disclaimer: I’m Admin on that project.
Great. Now I have a tree. What about the lots’n’lots of other widgets/features and so on ? Anyway, I wasn’t complaining much about “is not possible”, more about “noone does it” and “takes damn much more time to develop”. Then there is the slowness, roundtrip to a webserver for many things..
A normal tree doesn’t give me the realization that I am waiting for images to download… because I’m not! And I’m on cable modem, so don’t tell me it’s because of a crappy net connection. A normal tree’s text labels don’t vanish when I select them. A normal tree shows a dotted-line or some other kind of visual to demonstrate where the focus is. A normal tree can be operated via keyboard. And on and on…
Thanks for demonstrating exactly why I do not like all this web crap that seeks to replace real programs.
Thanks for post the link of license! I will look at it more harder and see how many features/can do.
With REBOL, you can immediately begin addressing the problems you face as development and GUI development is trivial. Add IOS for deployment of your applications (as well as files and messages) throughout your organisation and you have the all-in-one IT solution. No browser. No dependence on Windows.
I second that! I had problems watching my friends webcam in BeOS since I needed either a JVM or flash 5 to do so. So I wrote my very first reblet which was a simple window fetching the webcam image about 20 times/second, without any knowledge of Rebol it took me about five minutes to make. Rebol solved my problem and it solved it quickly. It would take me a lot longer to do the same thing with C++(a language I know fairly well), I honestly wouldn’t even bother doing it. Rebol is great for the little handy tools you need to make quickly.