Even a chimp can write code

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

WPF/E vs DHTML vs Flash vs WPF performance test

Rob sent a link to this post by Alexey Gavrilov who did some benchmarking on a variety of client technologies: DHTML, Flash, WPF/E and WPF. Alexey summarizes the test results thus:

Here are results I got testing with 16 [animated bouncing] balls on my Pentium M 1.7 laptop:

Browser DHTML Flex WPF/e WPF
IE 6.0 56 61 84 99
Firefox 55 52 58 -
Opera 9.01 94 50 - -
[...] WPF/e is much faster in IE than in Firefox, which seems equally slow for all three tests. The expected result is that WPF runs faster than anything else. The unexpected is that WPF/e is faster than Flash despite the fact that it’s been in the market for years.

Since the tests focus on a narrow animation sample, one would be cautious to put too much into the results. Regardless, the findings are very interesting. Alexey has posted sources for the tests so you can run them on your own machine.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Banning the light bulb

Australia pulls the plug on old bulbs reports the BBC, referring to the proposed plan to completely phase out the incandescent light bulb by 2010 and replace them with fluorescent bulbs. A similar proposal is being considered by California. I understand the energy savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions resulting from this switch but don't fluorescent bulbs contain mercury? Is there a plan to accommodate tons of fluorescent bulbs in recycling centers? It'd be a tragedy to have millions of these bulbs in our landfills with the potential of seeping into the ground water. I'm curious if Australian citizens are asking this question.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

In search of the smokin' pipe

When I first heard of Yahoo! Pipes it evoked memories of the brilliant conception from Sun Microsystems of JXTA - pronounced Juxtapose - from a few years ago. I remember being really excited about an idea whose time had come: JXTA was UNIX Pipes on steriods. Of course, there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip. The fact that almost no one has heard of JXTA six or so years since, is really telling. I do think Y! Pipes is a cool idea though. I have had trouble accessing that site until a few minutes ago. Even now, not all "popular" sample pipes seemed to function. Yahoo is working on increasing capacity after site had a period of downtime ostensibly due high demand on the servers.

There's a lesson to be drawn here for all of us pundits who think web apps will just replace desktop apps this weekend while we aren't noticing. It's one thing to move an app to the web and totally another to make it scale. A Google executive was quoted in this Reuters story as saying:
The Web infrastructure, and even Google's (infrastructure) doesn't scale. It's not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect.
Companies everywhere are working on solving these tough problems in a variety of ways. Until we learn how to scale serious applications, they'll continue to be written for and executed on the desktop. Tip to those of us that work to further the cause of desktop apps: Don't let this lull you into complacence. Things could really change this weekend.

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Open Standards, not Open Source

Miguel has a very insightful post on the OOXML v/s ODF meme. He says:
Open standards and the need for public access to information was a strong message. This became a key component of promoting open office, and open source software. This posed two problems:

First, those promoting open standards did not stress the importance of having a fully open source implementation of an office suite.

Second, it assumed that Microsoft would stand still and would not react to this new change in the market.

And that is where the strategy to promote the open source office suite is running into problems. Microsoft did not stand still. It reacted to this new requirement by creating a file format of its own, the OOXML.

It is amusing to see the reactions of people who shouted from rooftops that Microsoft wasn't open or wasn't transparent, now that Microsoft is doing something to remedy that. The shrill voices that said "we do not have enough information on Microsoft's proprietary protocols to interoperate well" have now changed to "gee, at 6000 pages the spec is too large...too much information". There's also the dishonest comparison with the ODF spec that comes at 722 pages, conveniently ignoring the little fact that ODF references other specs like SVG. Miguel postscripts with this gem:

For example, many years ago, when I was working on Gnumeric, one of the issues that we ran into was that the actual descriptions for functions and formulas in Excel was not entirely accurate from the public books you could buy.

OOXML devotes 324 pages of the standard to document the formulas and functions.

The original submission to the ECMA TC45 working group did not have any of this information. Jody Goldberg and Michael Meeks that represented Novell at the TC45 requested the information and it eventually made it into the standards. I consider this a win, and I consider those 324 extra pages a win for everyone (almost half the size of the ODF standard).

Depending on how you count, ODF has 4 to 10 pages devoted to it. There is no way you could build a spreadsheet software based on this specification.

To build a spreadsheet program based on ODF you would have to resort to an existing implementation source code (OpenOffice.org, Gnumeric) or you would have to resort to Microsoft's public documentation or ironically to the OOXML specification.


Christian Stefan wrote me to point out that the OOXML specification published by ECMA uses 1.5 line spacing, while OASIS uses single spacing. I quote from his message:

ODF 722 pages
SVG 719
MathML 665
XForms 152 (converted from html using winword, ymmv)
XLink 36 (converted from html using winword, ymmv)
SMIL 537 (converted from html using winword, ymmv)
OpenFormula 371

Now I'm still missing some standards that would add severall hundred pages and changing line spacing to 1.5 will bring me near the 6000 pages mark I guess. This is not very surprising (at least for me) since both standards try to solve very similar problems with nearly equal complexity.

That's a kick in the pants if there ever was one.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

...It is a duck

I noticed a very peculiar line in the article "Viacom Tells YouTube: Hands Off" in the New York Times:
Whether YouTube is stealing content by serving up clips of copyrighted programs is very much up for debate.

I wonder if the Times would take as measured and conciliatory a stand if its own Times Select content were served up on another site and read by thousands of visitors, accruing brand value for that site and ad revenue to boot, but with no tangible returns to the Times itself.

I think it is easy to take sides in most such issues because they seem to involve Joe Public on one side versus big companies, record labels and other Hollywood entities that haven't exactly been upstanding citizens, on the other. In this case, it’s a tussle between Viacom and Google: both big boys who are potty-trained and can take care of themselves. Either way, people lose sight of the content creator - who sometimes is an average guy without an army of lawyers at his disposal - and is the rightful owner of his creations. The content creator gets to choose how his content can be distributed or copied and enjoys the profits that arise from that creation. This is how capitalism works. If we love its benefits, we must be prepared to pay the price it asks.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Windows Vista in a browser using WPF/E

From the Microsoft Slovenia team with assistance from local agency Renderspace, here's a Windows Vista demo using WPF/E. Very cool! Requires Feb 2007 CTP of WPF/E which went live yesterday.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Great apps powered by ClickOnce

I've posted previously about XBAPs, but here are a couple links to standalone Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) applications that use the ClickOnce deployment model.

ITN has a cool new news -video application called ITN Hub Player, accompanied by a Windows Vista sidebar gadget. See http://www.itn.co.uk/vista/

OTTO, the 2nd largest online retailer in the world, just went live with a very impressive ClickOnce-deployed WPF application which completely changes the online store as you know it. See http://www.otto.de/vista

This app also uses Windows CardSpace and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), both .NET Framework 3.0 components and part of Windows Vista.

I love seeing ClickOnce being used in mainstream consumer oriented applications, and will be posting about these more often. And that's not just 'cause my team owns WPF Deployment and works closely with the ClickOnce team. Having had my share of munging around with MSIs, I think ClickOnce is by far the most superior application deployment technology out there for rich client apps on Windows. It provides a sophistocated update mechanism for your apps, taking the pain out of that process. If you haven't heard of it before, or aren't using it in your .NET apps, I think the apps above will make you reconsider.

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