Monthly Archives: May 2007

Google Gears enables offline web applications

Being able to author content and interact with the learning management system has been a long time wish of instructors. It will be interesting to see if technologies like Google Gears will enable Sakai to provide this feature.

Google is rolling out a technology designed to overcome the major drawback faced by all web-based applications: the fact that they don’t work without an internet connection.

Google Gears is an open source technology for creating offline web applications that is being launched today at Google’s annual Developer Day gatherings around the world.

“With Google Gears, we’re tackling the key limitation of the browser in order to make it a stronger platform for deploying all types of applications and enabling a better user experience,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in a statement.

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Apple officially announces iTunes U

Apple announced Wednesday that iTunes U is now officially available. I know that a number of our institutions have been working with Apple to get our sites ready. I am glad to see that the new section of the store is now freely available to the public. Currently, the link is placed prominently in the upper left hand corner of the iTunes store under:

  1. Music
  2. Movies
  3. TV Shows
  4. Music Videos
  5. Audiobooks
  6. Podcasts
  7. iPod Games
  8. iTunes Latino
  9. iTunes U

I am sure some will try to read more into the placement…  I suspect that because it is new it went to the bottom of the list.  It will be interesting to see over time if or how the placement changes.

CUPERTINO, California—May 30, 2007—Apple® today announced the launch of iTunes® U, a dedicated area within the iTunes Store ( featuring free content such as course lectures, language lessons, lab demonstrations, sports highlights and campus tours provided by top US colleges and universities including Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Duke University and MIT.

“iTunes U makes it easy for anyone to access amazing educational material from many of the country’s most respected colleges and universities,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes. “Education is a lifelong pursuit and we’re pleased to give everyone the ability to download lectures, speeches and other academic content for free.”


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When Open Source Becomes Too Successful?

The New York Times has an interesting read in the article Firefox and the Anxiety of Growing Pains:

…the people behind Firefox have a dilemma: what happens — and what is owed to volunteer contributors — when an open-source project starts to become successful?

Some 1,000 to 2,000 people have contributed code to Firefox, according to the Mozilla Foundation, which distributes the Firefox browser. An estimated 10,000 people act as testers for the program, and an estimated 80,000 help spread the word.

Mozilla plans to make enough money to keep growing. But a windfall came in the form of a royalty contract with Google, which, like the other search companies, is always competing for better placement on browsers. Under the agreement, the Google search page is the default home page when a user first installs Firefox, and is the default in the search bar. In the last two years, the deal has brought in more than $100 million. (Google has a similar placement with Apple’s Safari.)

Finally, there is the problem of what Mozilla should do with the money, at least the portion that isn’t being reinvested in the Firefox. Throwing money around among volunteers can backfire, Ms. Baker said, though the foundation has been quietly assisting contributors who are hampered by poor equipment.

Instead, Mozilla’s solution is to put money into what Mr. Kapor calls “community purposes.” To that end, the foundation is looking for a new executive director who would focus on worthy projects, although no decisions on what constitutes a worthy project has been made. “We go out and ask,” Ms. Baker said, “and even the community is not actually clear where large amounts of money should go.”

These successes are hard to deny even though the financials have caused some consternation in their community. It would be very interesting to explore similar opportunities in Sakai…

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Given concerns around how Sakai will remain competitive among a new breed of Web 2.0 offerings, I suggest you take a look at Microsoft’s new Popfly. I am not suggesting this is the answer. But I do anticipate this will be one of a new set of tools for creating user generated content/mashups. Popfly is based on Silverlight, so the underlying technology is in a race of its own with Apollo and Java FX. It will be fun to see where this all heads…

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2007 Open Source Think Tank: The Future of Commercial Open Source

In March of this year, representatives from more than 100 software companies met to discuss the state of open-source software. Their conclusions are described in a 16-page report, “2007 Open Source Think Tank: The Future of Commercial Open Source,” which is free to download (PDF).The Open Source Think Tank report contains some surprising conclusions. For instance, participants noted a growing similarity in methods between open-source and proprietary software development. They predicted some kind of convergence, where the best of both approaches gets adopted in each camp.

The idea of convergence seems counterintuitive. For instance, at last year’s Open Source Think Tank meeting, participants were expecting open-source software to achieve greater predominance. However, licensing and support issues have slowed the adoption of open-source solutions at the enterprise level. At the same time, proprietary software developers can’t match the pace and scope of open-source development efforts.

Open source suffers from monetization problems, unlike the proprietary software industry. However, open source is superior to the proprietary approach by its community involvement and rapid development cycle times. The hybrid approach thus represents the “best of both worlds,” according to the report.


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Salil Deshpande: Spring is the new Java EE

I too have been noticing this change and my internal voice kept saying why would anyone develop to J2EE when Spring provides such a compelling alternative. It is very exciting to see the new additions to Spring and it sounds like now is the time to take a serious look at Spring Security (aka Acegi).

For me this conference finally drive home that Spring is truly taking over. What’s funny to me is that Spring is finally solving the problems that J2EE and application server products identified, and tried to solve, but couldn’t.

The Spring phenomenon though, is too big to not end the article dwelling on it again. Spring will be integrated with OSGi during the remainder of 2007, Rod Johnson said in his talk on Spring 2.0. OSGi is a dynamic module system for Java, something that should have been part of Java from the beginning. Strangely, it is currently pervasive on the client side due to Eclipse (plugins), but not well known on the server side. The Spring-OSGi integration is likely to make it into OSGi standards. And as a testament to Spring’s decoupled pieces-parts architecture, Spring itself is available as OSGi bundles.

Longer term, the Spring Framework is turning into the Spring Portfolio. There are integrations with JCA, CICS, and IMS. There’s Spring Web Services, and Spring LDAP. Message-driven POJOs will become possible with Spring. Acegi, the leading enterprise-grade Java security framework, is becoming Spring Security. There’s Spring Web Flow, which is just what it sounds like, again with POJOs. The role of Spring in SOA is being standardized with efforts such as the Service Component Architecture (SCA). A Spring IDE (implemented as plugins for Eclipse) which will support Spring development, including support for AOP, and Spring Web Flow, is in the works.

Perhaps most important is the fact that Interface21 plans to bundle this large collection of little parts that make up the Spring platform or portfolio, and make them available as a single download …or distro. Not just parts all slapped together, but tested and integrated, with the right versions, known to work with each other. I believe this will clinch it. Enterprise Java will mean Spring.

Last but not least, next generation application servers from BEA, and maybe IBM, will be built on top of Spring. Am I the only one that finds this mind-blowing?

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