New and improved Internet: Client-side speed

Two intriguing glimpses of now and future Internet: One is AJAX, and the other TiddlyWiki.

AJAX is short for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML. Jesse James Garrett explains it best:

An Ajax application eliminates the start-stop-start-stop nature of interaction on the Web by introducing an intermediary — an Ajax engine — between the user and the server. It seems like adding a layer to the application would make it less responsive, but the opposite is true.

Instead of loading a webpage, at the start of the session, the browser loads an Ajax engine — written in JavaScript and usually tucked away in a hidden frame. This engine is responsible for both rendering the interface the user sees and communicating with the server on the user’s behalf. The Ajax engine allows the user’s interaction with the application to happen asynchronously — independent of communication with the server. So the user is never staring at a blank browser window and an hourglass icon, waiting around for the server to do something.

Examples: GoogleMaps | Instant edit | More examples

Jeremy Ruston’s TiddlyWiki is in Ver. 3 right now and it just keeps on getting better. Tiddly Wiki is written in HTML, CSS and JavaScript to run on any modern browser without needing any ServerSide logic. It’s amazingly fast, and all on A SINGLE HTML FILE!

Offshoring, literally

Take 600 geeks, put them on an ocean liner, parked 3.1 miles off California, and wallah, you have the antidote to Indian outsourcing.

Sounds crazy? Two San Diego entrepreneurs don’t think so. David Cook and Roger Green, founders of Seacode, think their idea is unsinkable.

The plan is to park their cruise ship off the coast of El Segundo, Calif., just over the 3-mile border that marks international waters.

No more need for pesky H-1B immigration visas. The C-men will fly in and out of Los Angeles International and board the ship with a sailor’s card from the Bahamas, where the ship likely will be registered. This lets the company avoid U.S. payroll taxes on the foreign coders.

The operation will use T3 connections via microwave, cell phone access and local area codes. US providers will supply phone and Internet access.

Cook, a former supertanker skipper, plans to dock in Long Beach once a month to resupply, and reboot, and dispose of waste and empty cgi-bins.

Programmers from India to Russia would have their own cabins, work eight- or ten-hour stretches on either a day or night shift and have the rest of the time to sleep, play or take an half-hour water taxi to shore. Cook imagines a four-months-on, two-months-off work cycle. Take-home pay will be about US$1,800 a month, compared with US$500 per month for an experienced engineer in India.

Cooks says it’s not a sweat-ship but akin to an international space station. The pitch is that Seacode will still charge the same rates as developing-world firms while offering clients freedom from costly flights to India, Israel and other faraway destinations to check in on projects. Work will also get done faster with two shifts.

More in Forbes, Sourcingmag, and Seacode website.

Picking the Pope’s Domain Name: How did a writer in Florida know to buy the domain name more than two weeks before the new pope was elected? By Amit Asaravala. MORE.

All about the other Benedicts.

Naomi Klein: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

[from The Nation, May 2, 2005 issue]

Quote: “We used to have vulgar colonialism. Now we have sophisticated colonialism, and they call it ‘reconstruction.’ ” says Shalmali Guttal, a Bangalore-based researcher with Focus on the Global South.

Last summer, in the lull of the August media doze, the Bush Administration’s doctrine of preventive war took a major leap forward. On August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, headed by former US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual. Its mandate is to draw up elaborate “post-conflict” plans for up to twenty-five countries that are not, as of yet, in conflict. According to Pascual, it will also be able to coordinate three full-scale reconstruction operations in different countries “at the same time,” each lasting “five to seven years.”

Fittingly, a government devoted to perpetual pre-emptive deconstruction now has a standing office of perpetual pre-emptive reconstruction.

Gone are the days of waiting for wars to break out and then drawing up ad hoc plans to pick up the pieces. In close cooperation with the National Intelligence Council, Pascual’s office keeps “high risk” countries on a “watch list” and assembles rapid-response teams ready to engage in prewar planning and to “mobilize and deploy quickly” after a conflict has gone down. The teams are made up of private companies, nongovernmental organizations and members of think tanks–some, Pascual told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in October, will have “pre-completed” contracts to rebuild countries that are not yet broken. Doing this paperwork in advance could “cut off three to six months in your response time.”

The plans Pascual’s teams have been drawing up in his little-known office in the State Department are about changing “the very social fabric of a nation,” he told CSIS. The office’s mandate is not to rebuild any old states, you see, but to create “democratic and market-oriented” ones. So, for instance (and he was just pulling this example out of his hat, no doubt), his fast-acting reconstructors might help sell off “state-owned enterprises that created a nonviable economy.” Sometimes rebuilding, he explained, means “tearing apart the old.”

Few ideologues can resist the allure of a blank slate–that was colonialism’s seductive promise: “discovering” wide-open new lands where utopia seemed possible. But colonialism is dead, or so we are told; there are no new places to discover, no terra nullius (there never was), no more blank pages on which, as Mao once said, “the newest and most beautiful words can be written.” There is, however, plenty of destruction–countries smashed to rubble, whether by so-called Acts of God or by Acts of Bush (on orders from God). And where there is destruction there is reconstruction, a chance to grab hold of “the terrible barrenness,” as a UN official recently described the devastation in Aceh, and fill it with the most perfect, beautiful plans….


Adobe swallows Macromedia

Fireworks, Freehand and GoLive could go, but ColdFusion likely to stay in US$3.4bn deal.

Adobe is to buy Macromedia in a stock transaction valued at $3.4bn (£1.8bn) that will see the formation of a content-creation behemoth.

The deal, announced early on Monday morning, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2005, subject to shareholder approval. Bruce Chizen will continue as Adobe’s chief executive and Shantanu Narayen will remain president and chief operating officer. Macromedia chief executive Stephen Elop will join Adobe as president of worldwide field operations.

“By combining our powerful development, authoring and collaboration software — along with the complementary functionality of PDF and Flash — Adobe has the opportunity to bring this vision to life with an industry-defining technology platform,” said Chizen in a statement.

In a hint that some products could be scrapped as a result of the merged, Chizen noted that “cost savings” are likely to be made at the company, though he added that the motivation for the deal was to continue to expand and grow business into new markets.

The main areas of overlap between the companies’ products are in graphics, where Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator are the market leaders ahead of Macromedia’s competing Fireworks and Freehand. For Web design, Macromedia has the established DreamWeaver against Adobe’s more recent GoLive product. Macromedia also has the ColdFusion web application development system that has no equivalent product in Adobe’s range. This means ColdFusion is likely to be kept by the merged company, at least for the time being.

Initial reaction from users was negative: “It’s a monopoly,” said one art director who works at a London-based creative agency. “They could create great software, but where will the competition come from?” He added that he thinks Macromedia is “already wielding too much power in not making Flash open source”.

However, the situation with Flash could change: Adobe has invested heavily in SVG for Web graphics, and some Web developers see a combination of SVG and scripting as a standards-based alternative to Flash. Adobe has produced an SVG browser plug-in, and includes SVG authoring capabilities in GoLive.”

Hitachi: Use of Flash as a Corporate Plug

The data storage biz is about as boring and unsexy as stale wet toast.

But this creative Flash presentation really turns the driest of dry material into something entertaining.

China, India and the Asian IT Renaissance

[via Dvorak Uncensored]

Chinese PM Seeks Indian Tech Cooperation

BANGALORE, India (AP) – China and India should work together to dominate the world’s tech industry, bringing together Chinese hardware with Indian software, China’s prime minister said Sunday.

On a visit to India’s southern technology hub of Bangalore, Premier Wen Jiabao said the two nations should put aside their historic rivalries for the venture and welcome a new “Asian century.”

“Cooperation is just like two pagodas (temples), one hardware and one software,” Wen said. “Combined, we can take the leadership position in the world,” he said.

“When the particular day comes, it will signify the coming of the Asian century of the IT industry,” he said in an address to information technology professionals in Bangalore…


Hackers, Daubers, Dabblers and Blowhards

Maciej Cegłowski takes a dig at Paul Graham’s pronouncement that hackers are like painters and comes up with some gems:

“…hackers are nothing like painters. It’s surprisingly hard to pin Paul Graham down on the nature of the special bond he thinks hobbyist programmers and painters share. In his essays he tends to flit from metaphor to metaphor like a butterfly, never pausing long enough to for a suspicious reader to catch up with his chloroform jar. The closest he comes to a clear thesis statement is at the beginning “Hackers and Painters”:

‘Of all the different types of people I’ve known, hackers and painters are among the most alike. What hackers and painters have in common is that they’re both makers.’

“To which I’d add, what hackers and painters don’t have in common is everything else.”

He goes on to define the difference thus:

  • “Computer programmers cause a machine to perform a sequence of transformations on electronically stored data.
  • Painters apply colored goo to cloth using animal hairs tied to a stick.

“It is true that both painters and programmers make things, just like a pastry chef makes a wedding cake, or a chicken makes an egg. But nothing about what they make, the purposes it serves, or how they go about doing it is in any way similar.”

Cegłowski then takes us down the always winning ‘get more sex’ argument:

“Great paintings, for example, get you laid in a way that great computer programs never do. Even not-so-great paintings – in fact, any slapdash attempt at slapping paint onto a surface – will get you laid more than writing software, especially if you have the slightest hint of being a tortured, brooding soul about you…many of the women whose pants you are trying to get into aren’t even wearing pants to begin with.”


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