Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Teach your kids how to program!

A loooong time ago - I taught myself how to write software in the BASIC Programming language on a Radio Shack TRS-80 in middle-school. From there -- I moved up to an Apple II+ computer -- and still continued to write programs in BASIC. (and don't knock BASIC, back-in-the-day, Bill Gates started his Microsoft empire from the humble roots of the BASIC Programming language and DOS...but that's another story)

"Basic Computer Games" by David Ahl was how I taught myself to code when I was about 11 years old. I loved that book.

On these simple machines - you turn on the computer, and just start typing. You had everything you needed to let your imagination run wild writing stuff. Life was good.

Now -- The computer world is over-whelming. The "Introductory" Java book we use for our Java classes is 1000 pages long. ONE THOUSAND PAGES! Plus all the tools, frameworks and servers...Integrated Development Environments, compilers, and Web Containers. Phew...Life is now complicated.

Well - somebody has recognized this to be a problem for the beginner and created a self-contained learning environment that even a child could use called Hackety Hack. Learn to program in a friendly environment again! (you know its friendly because it has a cute cartoon character) - Hackety Hack will step through multiple lessons that teach you (or a child) how to write small computer programs. Ever want to write your own WebLog program?

Check it out!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Microsoft Silverlight. Adobe flash and Java JVM Killer???

This past year, I've spent a lot of time working with a wide variety of Rich Internet Technologies. In particular, Ajax (Dojo Toolkit, DWR, Prototype), and Ruby on Rails (yeah, I know, ROR is not specifically sold as a RIA platform, but it does incorporates Ajax seamlessly into the framework with partial templates, components, and readily available Prototype/ support).
  • Java Applets, and ActiveX are both dead (and should be buried)
To round out my understanding of the RIA space -- I'm ramping up with Adobe Flex. Adobe Flex is Adobe's enterprise web product that builds on top of Adobe Flash. Flex can be further extended through Adobe Apollo to build desktop apps.

So I thought -- these are the big players....I was hoping that this was all we will see in the near-term...


I've tinkered with a project from Microsoft called WPF/e several months ago, and I even invited Microsoft to demonstrate WPF/e at a conference I organized on March 1st. But at that time, it all felt very very beta. So its not necessarily new. But now, Microsoft has renamed WPF/e to Silverlight and TechCrunch is just gushing over it.

  • "...Silverlight will be the platform of choice for developers who build rich Internet applications..."
  • "...It makes Flash/Flex look like an absolute toy..."
  • "...Ajax looks like a bicycle next to a Ferrari when compared to Silverlight..."
From the Silverlight web-site:

Microsoft® Silverlight™ is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web. Silverlight offers a flexible programming model that supports AJAX, VB, C#, Python, and Ruby, and integrates with existing Web applications. Silverlight supports fast, cost-effective delivery of high-quality video to all major browsers running on the Mac OS or Windows.
A portable Silverlight CLR run-time on Mac OS and Windows that can be used to play Rich Media (like videos) and build desktop applications? What's this going to mean to the Java JVM and Adobe Flash?