Why the ‘Wave’ (Google Wave) is both beautiful and scary

I woke up early this morning but wasn’t quite ready to ‘get to work’ so I perused the tweets and came across mention of Google Wave. What Wave? Google? Hmm. Intrigued as I always am by shiny new technology I watched the hour and a half long demo.

It was mind boggling for someone who grew up during the age of vinyl records and 8 track tapes! Granted I work in technology now but when I do step back and look at how far we’ve come as a nation I’m just floored. If you are younger than 30, maybe this is no big deal but those of us who are at the tail end of the baby boomer set this is almost inconceivable. Although the downside to all this brand spanking new- technology-every-minute is that we have a lot less free time now. I heartily encourage turning off that tech before you crawl into bed at night. Everyone needs to interact with a human being (or two) face-to-face. Patting your child on the head while you watch tweets fly by on your iPhone just doesn’t count. Isn’t that one of the criteria that sets us a part from animals? We need to eat, drink, sleep and interact with others beyond the electronic eye that stares us in the face for hours a day.

I love the concept of Google Wave but I worry immensely about the potential for abuse. As a business owner that runs an email server for clients I know that there are some crafty hackers and spammers that will look at this and say, “Hey! How can I manipulate this for MY benefit”. I realize this is an early look at what Wave will be capable of I just hope we all remember trackback spam, and spending hours cleaning out spam comments riddled with links to porn (before Captcha). It’s beautiful and awe inspiring, just don’t forget what we dealt with when other new and shiny technology was introduced. Please make sure that this is a secure application that doesn’t expose us to any sort of risk. The more private information we put up on the web the higher the likelihood that we as consumers/technologists can lose everything to some bored 15 yo.

/me looking up to the heavens, hey dad, remember before you left this earth you said to me that the web was for the birds, hmm? You hated web technology and couldn’t understand my fascination with Open Source. Web 2.0 was a twinkle in somebodies eye and you felt the world was being lured into a false sense of security You were one of those traditional programmers who thought html was a cop out. I love you but I hope you are watching because Google is proving that the browser can be just as powerful as any non-browser application! I miss you

In Open Source I trust: Top 5 projects for daily use

There are days when I marvel at how far I’ve come since 2001 when the extent of my web experience was Front Page and basic html. In 2001 I met my boyfriend and he introduced me to the wonders of Open Source. Need a word processor or spreadsheet prograqm? Try OpenOffice. How about a graphic manipulation program, Gimp is just as good as Photoshop he’d say. I was sceptical and it took me a long time to “get it” but today as I open up VirtualBox once more to work on a client site with my favorite text editor Kate it dawned on me that the utilization of Open Source on a daily basis has crept into my routine and I’m loving it.  Excuse me while I fire up Amarok here and I’ll tell you about my top 5.

Although I use more than 5 Open Source projects in my daily routine the following are the ones that get the most use and the most attention.

VirtualBox – In February 2008 I wrote this post about my foray into desktop virtualization. Since then VirtualBox has become a mainstay on all my computers and laptops. I use VirtualBox everyday for the following tasks:

  • A sandbox for trying out Linux Distros before I install. Satisfies my curiousity about up&coming distros without having to wait around for hardware resources to be available. See DistroWatch for Linux/FreeBSD Distros to try
  • Testing out new versions of Operating Systems. I tested out Windows 7 last week in a VirtualBox on my laptop without having to build a new machine to install the OS.
  • Trying out new Open Source projects before we dedicate hardware resources (especially content management systems).
  • Installing a commercial application (closed source) like QuickBooks on a VirtualBox for testing (test compatibility with your OS on a test instance without breaking your base OS)
  • Installing and testing bug trackers, server maintenance and SaaS ready applications. Examples of applications we have tested in VirtualBox include Mantis, vtiger and Nagios.

I tried all the desktop virtualization options available and I found VirtualBox to be the easiest to use and I’m still using it a year later.

Plone – Plone is a Content Management System built on the Zope Application Framework. Written primarily in Python (with a little C thrown in for good measure) this project has grown in value as the community has grown in strength. Plone was my first real involvement with an Open Source project and the Plone community is what keeps me involved. It’s open, helpful, charitable idealogy keeps me hooked. I spent 70% of my day working on client sites developed with Plone.

Firefox – As a web developer whose primary focus is look&feel the web developer toolbar in Firefox has become invaluable to me. Firebug is essential to my daily tasks, I just couldn’t imagine trying to track down a css issue or a javascript issue without Firebug. Firefox has become my primary browser and the only time I open IE is to check a client site for cross browser issues. Although Google’s Chrome browser is much lighter I only use Chrome for non-work browsing because Firefox has so many great third-party tools that help me do my job everyday.

TweetDeck – I have used TweetDeck on both Windows and my Ubuntu box. I’ve tried quite a few of the Twitter clients and Tweet Deck is the easiest and has the prettiest interface. I find it extremely intuitive and it helps me to organize tweets. I’m looking forward to even more features and functionality as TweetDeck matures.

Ubuntu – Although we have been using Debian for years on our client servers (as well as virtualization) I wanted something on my desktop that was easy to use. Ubuntu with KDE (I install kde from source, but you can get KDE on Ubuntu by downloading Kubuntu) is a great combination.  You can make your desktop OS your own through customization. Ubuntu doesn’t use as many hardware resources as Windows and it’s free.  I’m not going to lie to you, I ran into some issues with the video card and some audio/speaker issues but there are forums and tons of tons of tutorials on troubleshooting Ubuntu. I work with Ubuntu everyday in some capacity and find it’s a quality distribution and easier to pick up than most of the other distributions.

So there you have it, my top 5 Open Source projects, VirtualBox, Plone, Firefox, TweetDeck and Ubuntu. Other projects that I use on a weekly basis, Gimp, Amarok and Open Office.

If you haven’t tried Linux yet, download VirtualBox onto your Windows (or Mac), grab an iso from DistroWatch and you should be only minutes away from experiencing the joys of Open Source!

Comparing Plone to WebGui – Part 1

As a long time “user” and “integrator” of Plone I wanted to evaluate the difference between two Open Source cms communities as I have the opportunity to work with Plone and WebGui on two projects simultaneously.

Initial differences (I could be mistaken on some of these points, so please correct me if something has changed):

  • Plone is written in Python, WebGUI is based on Perl
  • Plone uses the Zope Application Server, WebGUI uses WRE (WebGUI Runtime Environment)
  • Plone has both a browser interface (Zope Management Interface) and filesystem access, WebGUI has a browser based interface for customization and development.
  • Plone has multiple third-party products for things like blogs, forums, ecommerce that are developed by multiple authors (examples, GetPaid, EasyShop Quills, CoreBlog, Scrawl), WebGUI has one blog, one ecommerce offering, one forum offering, all included in the core, all worked on by the core development team (I’m planning an entire blog post about this particular topic). Add-ons for WebGUI are feature enhancements and themes.
  • It’s easier to install Plone for testing and development (thanks to the unified installer), WebGUI has a VMWare image but I wasn’t able to get it installed, my very technical boyfriend had to set up an instance for me.
  • Plone is supported by the Plone Foundation, WebGUI is supported by Plain Black, Inc.

According to ohloh.net Plone has a much more active community but the WebGUI project is in the top 10% of javascript projects for their commenting practices .

Initial similarities:

Plone and WebGUI cannot be hosted on $8.00 a month environments (WebGUI requires root access to stop and start mod_perl, apache, mySQL, etc, although you can restart them through the WRE browser interface too after you get everything setup)
Plone and WebGUI can be installed on any OS
Plone and WebGUI both have a high learning curve (we purchased 4 WebGUI books just to get started, which we are still waiting for, hoping we get them next week)
Plone and WebGUI are being used in University and Government projects
Plone and WebGUI have been around for a long time (both went official in 2001)

Plone as a community is much larger than WebGUI. WebGUI appears to be a core group of developers, very tightly knit and controlled. No questions like..”Who is maintaining project x?”. I haven’t decided yet which is better, we will see as I get further into actual integration. So far the WebGUI guys (and gals) have been very accepting of a couple of Plonista’s encroaching on their channel. They know I am a long-time Plone integrator and yet they are extremely helpful.

Next article – Comparing Plone to WebGUI – Part 2
Quality vs Quantity: Comparing offering multiple “third-party” products to including core products that have been tested

Comparing Plone to WebGui

We are moving one of our Plone clients to WebGui. After extensive evaluation of all the other CMS’s out there, WebGui scored the highest based on the clients requirements and plans for expansion. WebGui is as “big” as Plone in that it’s definitely overkill for your standard brochure-ware site.

I am tasked with creating the “theme” for this new WebGui website. After some initial reading and talking to the WebGui guys I’m left with the feeling that we (Plone) are making skinning sites way too difficult. The primary culprit? Viewlets. When one of our star programmers has to create a third-party product (GloWorm) just to allow designers to change a footer or header in the site we need to rethink the way we are approaching this whole theming scenario. Deliverance is great, but really guys, how many of you really believe someone who is focused on the “visual” aspect of a site is going to learn xslt? It’s easier, but it still isn’t easy enough to attract more designers. We have less than a dozen individuals in our community of over 400 (guessing here) who actually can take a .psd and convert it to a Plone 3 theme (and most of us are still struggling, I’m not the only one). Look at our paltry offering of themes available now,? The OOTB theming group is working really hard to get as many out as possible.  We need to step up theme creation but that is not going to happen if there is not a dramatic change to the process of theming. It’s too painful. I do have to say though that buildout and eggs rock! I just hate viewlets (ok there I said it). As someone who works directly with clients in determining their requirements, there hasn’t been a single theme that we’ve done that didn’t require extensive changes to the viewlets (including different banners on inside sections and changes to drop downs in horizontal nav based on where you are located, etc etc). The fact that we have to turn off viewlets first, then add the new one and have to change at least 4 files to do that?? configure.zcml, viewlets.xml, viewlets.py and umm there was one more.

Now back to the WebGui theming. I’m just getting started and I’ve already ran into one thing that Plone really does right. Filesystem skin development rocks. WebGui does not offer filesystem skin development, yet. All “theming” has to be done in the browser (or offline in Dreamweaver and then pasted into the browser). They are working on this but as someone who has been doing file system development for a few years now, it’s something I’ll miss.

I have a large Plone project starting next week along with this WebGui project. I will write about the difference, what I really like and what bugs the heck out of me.

26,926 blog posts in the blogosphere within the last day for Google Chrom

26,926 blog posts in the blogosphere within the last day for Google Chrome.

I have fallen prey to the phenomena that is “Google Chrome” blogging day. Although I’m usually so much more strong willed, today I’ve lost all of my ability to not jump off that proverbial bridge. I downloaded Chrome, and am playing with it along with everyone else.

First impressions:

Damn it’s clean and at first blush it seems really, really fast

Although only 1/2 the functionality of Firebug at the moment the “inspect this element” tool is slick, slick, slick! (right click on the browser page and select “inspect this element”)

I added gmail as an “Create an Application Shortcut” and it’s sexy and accessible from my desktop. Not that that matters as much to me as it does to my 65 yo mother who likes shortcuts on her desktop to her “ahem” Yahoo! mail.  I’m absorbing as much as I can in the blogosphere about this new tool (you find out more from your peers than you do from documentation, I’ll tell you that much!)

An interesting post from Mozilla CEO John Lily

http://john.jubjubs.net/2008/09/01/thoughts-on-chrome-more/

Want to know why? Read Google’s Comic Book

http://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/index.html

(warning: the comic book is excellent but 36 + pages so get a cup of coffee and maybe call a geek to explain it, I just happen to live with a geek so I know more about browsers than I ever thought I wanted to know, go me)

I ran a few tests and I’m still poking at the “Chrome” but it’s looking like it’s going to be an awesome browser. I love FF3 and am writing this post in FF3 with Yoono and all my little rss feeds, twittering in my Yoono panel and admiring my colorful tabs so whether I’ll switch browsers anytime soon remains to be seen.

As a xhtml/css/template designer I spend way too much time in the browser worrying about this pixel and that pixel and swearing that non-standard browsers should be totally and completely scrapped I’m glad to see that Google is listening and improving our experience.

Google is so right when they say that our experience with the browser has changed. So many of us spend our day streaming video (watching the news online instead of on the television like we used to). Talking to our kids who have left the nest through chat of some sort (gtalk anyone?). Ordering groceries and holding online conferences and/or training sessions (I did that more this past year than I ever have in the past).  The requirements of the average user has changed.

As far as the accusations that Google is trying to monopolize the web. Who cares? If they do something better than anyone else, don’t they deserve it? They’ve worked hard to get here so why take that away?

Google has done their homework, let them revel in the ice cream sundae they earned and let’s get back to helping them build us the best browser ever (even if it turns out to be Firefox 4 – using all the cool technologies Google has developed and is willing to share). Monopolization implies the unwillingness to “share”, how can Google monopolize the web when they’ve Open  Sourced the code generated after months and months of  blood, sweat and gears (yes it’s a pun ;-P)

Kudos Google, keep up the good work.

As for me, I’ll continue to use FF3 for web developer type work and Chrome for browsing and checking email! (at least for now)

(btw the amount of blog posts has probably increased since I started this particular post!)