Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Weekend Redux and Book Report

The long weekend proved quite educational. I didn’t have any ‘homework’ per se, but I decided that it was time to delve into some of my pet projects again. I didn’t get out to take any pictures, but it was nice to just let life slow down a little bit.

I finally got around to seeing Narnia, and though I was skeptical about how The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe could be turned into a worthwhile feature length movie, I ended up being proved quite wrong. Disney did a great job, the cinematography was amazing, the CG was seamless, and the soundtrack was beautifully and tastefully orchestrated. I left the theater feeling uplifted, and that is something that you can’t always say about the movies.

I read this book on Subversion, a source control system that my school group will be using to manage our source. The group project looks like it will be interesting. Though the details are still quite vague, it sounds like we will be writing some software for the PDA that is location aware. I remember reading an article about that sort of thing a while ago, and it sounded like a lot of fun. Anyway, the Subversion source control system was a piece of cake to get up and running thanks to the great folks at Dreamhost. It was one less thing that I had to stress about. The book was also quite informative as far as configuring and using the software.

I also read another two books on DHTML + CSS. The more I read about these “dynamic” browser effects, the less mystical all of this stuff becomes. Ok, so that last sentence was somewhat vacuous, but I felt for the longest time that all of this browser magic that we were witnessing from flickr, Google and the like was just that, magic. As I learn and read more, I am just amazed that people have spent the time and effort to make it all happen. At the same time, I am convinced that people need to take JavaScript more seriously. With some sound software development practices, a sound understanding of HTML, the Document Object Model (DOM), JavaScript, and how the latter three work in different browsers, all of the magical “AJAX” tricks are brought to light. The real game is getting comfortable with that bag of tricks, and then having some sense of design to bring it all together into a nice package.

I am certainly not on the inside in the web-application industry, but I would posit that we need some better tools for creating browser applications, the first of which is a better tool set for working with JavaScript. When I talk about JavaScript with my classmates, many of them don’t even consider it a legitimate “language”, yet if you are going to do things in the browser in a greater than IE scope, it is really the only answer. It seems to me that to the designer, JavaScript is too much of a programming language, and to the programmer, it is too little. Maybe some with the right set of tools, some happy ground could be found in the middle. Then again, maybe we will re-invent the whole distributed application model again before we get around to a reasonable set of browser JavaScript files, and everyone will be developing ClickOnce .NET apps, though I am not sure how that works in the Mac world.

Time will tell.

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