AJAX and Web Services

Greater Toronto Software Symposium 2006

Guerrilla Web Techniques – Scott Davis

This turned out to be “AJAX deconstructed.” The motivation was to demystify AJAX by examining the low-level implementation details. He talked about frameworks in general and web frameworks in particular. The motivation was to “understand one level of abstraction below where you are working.” For the web, the levels of abstraction are from core http and browser technology on top of which are built servlets on top of which are JSPs on top of which is built Struts, JSF, or Tapestry; on top of which are things like AppFuse.

He also pointed out Bruce Tate’s “Don’t Make Me Eat the Whole Elephant.” http://today.java.net/pub/a/today/2004/06/15/ejb3.html. The concept is appealing since it’s suggestive of the Unix philosophy of small tools and pipes versus monolithic apps and frameworks. He phrased it as “microframeworks” vs. “macroframeworks”.

He pointed out the usefulness of telnet for low-level debugging of internet applications. Try the following to see the details of the HTTP responses:

telnet www.server.com 80
GET / HTTP/1.0

Other bits:

  • JavaScript is much more browser compatible that is popularly believed.
  • Use Firefox’s DOM to look at the dynamically modified HTML DOM.
  • EchoServer is a way that you can see the browsers HTTP request in detail http://www.apl.jhu.edu/~hall/CWP-Sources/CWP-Examples/Chapter15/EchoServer.java
  • Want drag-and-drop in your web application? Try WZ_dragdrop.js. http://www.walterzorn.com/dragdrop/dragdrop_e.htm

Google Web Toolkit (GWT) – David Geary

Before the session started, Geary showed Wierd Al’s “White and Nerdy” video. The rest of his talk couldn’t really live up to that.

The GWT makes it easier to write rich AJAX interfaces in Java. The Java is compiled into JavaScript for production. During development however, the Java itself is run and can therefore be debugging in your favourite Java debugger. The UI support seems very rich, and it includes support for the Web Services side of the AJAX equation.

My impression is that this is worthwhile for the most complex AJAX UIs, but may be overkill in general.

Worth noting is the Scriptaculous JavaScript library for doing cool JavaScript effects, and Prototype

Also, Google didn’t use GWT for Gmail or Gmaps, but the toolkit emerged from the crucible of development pain of Google’s earlier works.

Roll Your Own Google Maps – Scott Davis

This was pretty much a walkthrough of his online tutorial at: http://www.mapmap.org/ryogm/

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