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The Blurring Line Between PC and Web

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the battle-for-hearts-and-minds dept.

The Internet 84

The NYTimes has a feature about software development systems that move the Web offline and desktop applications online, with a focus on Adobe Air, which will be released tomorrow. The article has quotes from the developer behind Microsoft's Silverlight (he was a colleague at Macromedia of Adobe's Air guy), and from the head of the Mozilla Foundation about their online/offline offering, Prism.

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84 comments

Translation (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544530)

he was a colleague at Macromedia of Adobe's Air guy

For people who would like that translated into English, he worked at Macromedia with a guy that worked on Adobe Air.

Re:Translation (2, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544612)

he was a colleague at Macromedia of Adobe's Air guy


Funny, I interpreted that as "cleaner with a camera and access to the Air guy's notes" ;)

Re:Translation (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544750)

Funny, I interpreted that as "cleaner with a camera and access to the Air guy's notes" ;)

Huh. I interpreted that as "Microsoft employee posing as a janitor with a camera and access to the Air guy's notes" or, alternatively, as "Miguel De Icaza in a janitor's suit."

Re:Translation (1)

farker haiku (883529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545052)

Microsoft... air... just in time for a daily wtf [thedailywtf.com]

Re:Translation (2, Informative)

Himring (646324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545286)

The article is from the NYT and foxnews has told us not to read or trust the NYT, so, it don't matter anyhow....

Re:Translation (1)

pha7boy (1242512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22550098)

OK. This is not informative, it's funny. Unless FoxNews has moderating points on Slashdot. In which case is very informative :p

Security nightmare? (4, Interesting)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544536)

It took data stored on the Internet and used it interchangeably with information on a PC's hard drive.

Am I the only one who frowned and thought about the security issues, when reading that?

Re:Security nightmare? (4, Funny)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544614)

Hm, that's funny it never even crossed my mind. I guess Adobe has built up such a reputation of trust over decades of reliable security that I just sort of took it for granted.

Re:Security nightmare? (1)

jimbojw (1010949) | more than 6 years ago | (#22549154)

I've been following AIR since beta 1, and despite my initial excitement, I can tell you that the last few releases have illustrated Adobe's extraordinary dedication to the principle of CYA. To the point of destroying the platform's flexibility.

One way to develop an AIR application is to use HTML/CSS/JavaScript. In beta 1, you could use DOM injection to add new <script> elements pointing to outside sources, and they'd execute within the scope of the application. This made it possible (trivial even) to have an auto-updating codebase, since you could just download the new JS each time the app fires up.

From beta 2 onwards, this was no longer possible. They split up the application playing field into two sandboxes, one which could access the local filesystem, and the other which could access the outside world (as by XMLHttpRequest or script tag injection). The only way to communicate between them is using the Sandbox Bridge. This is less than ideal since there's still no way to run arbitrary code in the privileged sandbox. They shut off eval(), setTimeout(string), setInterval(string) and, as mentioned, script tag injection. It's not even possible to hide script in the onLoad attribute of a dynamically created <img> tag.

More from the dept of CYA, AIR lacks the ability to execute shell commands or bind listening TCP ports (no P2P applications for you).

So, if you like being restricted in what you can do with a platform, AIR is for you. For me, all these preventative measures and missing features make it unusable as a desktop development platform.

Re:Security nightmare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22555980)

Re:Security nightmare? (5, Funny)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544624)

Yes, in fact you're the first person to be concerned about the security of online data storage.

Re:Security nightmare? (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544688)

That was not the point: the point is, it accesses both and presumably interchanges. What you thought to be "on your hardisk only" might end up online. That's not something one wants, and from what I understand this will be completely transparent.

It just doesn't seem like a good idea to me. This is pretty much in the same league as: "Hey, lets make a binary plugin that can do anything a normal binary can do!" That exists, it's called "ActiveX"....

Re:Security nightmare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22547140)

...security of online data storage.

That was not the point: the point is, it accesses both and presumably interchanges. What you thought to be "on your hardisk only" might end up online. That's not something one wants, and from what I understand this will be completely transparent.

You know that part where you said:

[t]hat was not the point
I-I think what you meant there was, it's the exact same goddamned point.

Re:Security nightmare? (1)

hab136 (30884) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544882)

Some days I believe it!

Re:Security nightmare? (4, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22546016)

Well, it would lock me out of my data. A lot of places I work I have no internet access (not even via mobile -- not allowed to use one in some locations, and I've not found a way to access the net when riding the London tube). I deal with the issues of having data available wherever I am the easy way -- I keep anything I might need on my laptop, and synch to a server when I get back to base. If there's anything I've forgotten, or I need to check email, then I need to find an internet connection. Works anywhere this guy's solution will work, and a lot of other places besides, and I don't need to buy anything new.

Maybe I'm a luddite, but I don't see the point in moving stuff onto the web that's better placed on one's desk or laptop.

Re:Security nightmare? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22550222)

The benefit is that Adobe and Microsoft get to mine your data.

Re:Security nightmare? (1)

rapidweather (567364) | more than 6 years ago | (#22553440)

I don't see the point in moving stuff onto the web that's better placed on one's desk or laptop

Sure, if your application is not very "self-contained", and requires constant access to the internet to work, then you have problems in "no-internet-access" zones. Too tightly integrated to work all the time.
But, as one can get automatic updates to Vista, XP, and browsers such as Firefox, we have the reverse going on, in that updated code is placed on your computer for various, mostly useful purposes. Done all in one download session, but not requiring constant internet access.
  Microsoft and Mozilla, in this example have moved stuff onto the web for the purpose of allowing your machine to download it, then your OS waits for the next time to repeat the download. That's about as "integrated" as it will get.
  I have heard of a few instances where a Vista installation crashed, and a "restore point" was needed. Some of that restoration information might be something like Firefox bookmarks, and that would be a good thing to stick somewhere on the web, for the day when you need it. The idea of "you and your machine" and the "internet" being two separate storage places is expanded here at my computer setup in the following manner:

I use a SanDisk ReadyBoost USB Drive, [rapidweather.com] either a 2 or 4 GB one to run the entire operating system.
(In the link, I have a readme with the details)
So, here we have a setup where "you and your machine" can be various PC's and laptops that you have access to. You just plug the USB drive into the PC you want to work with.

Although the livecd linux operating system discussed in the readme is "in the cd", and not really upgradeable, I do have one application that is upgradeable, as long as the system is set up with a persistent home directory [geocities.com] , knoppix style.
It is the "Station Selector for XMMS", a graphical front end with car-radio style buttons for some popular internet radio stations. Here is a screenshot. [rapidweather.com]


The hard-coded radio station internet addresses in the Station Selector could go bad, if the radio station went off the air, so to speak. So, I fixed it up so the user can easily download an up-to-date copy, and have it each time the operating system is booted up, as long as a persistent home directory is being used.
The update portion of the application takes care of everything for you, and keeps you informed as to what is going on. (You don't have to know any code)
  The success of this depends on me keeping the Station Selector up-to-date, so it can be downloaded by users. You can get your own copy here. [angelfire.com]

Here is a screenshot [rapidweather.com] of the application running on Ubuntu 7.10. (One has to install xmms and tcl-tk in Ubuntu so it'll run)

So, I really need the ability to "blend" the "internet" with my own PC, just like Microsoft and Mozilla need to do that, to keep their applications up-to-date on your machine. For me, it is handy to use the Sandisk drive setup, because I only have to update one PC, so the speak, as I can just plug the little drive into another computer or laptop to get the benefit of the updated downloads. No tight "integration" web/PC here, however.


Sure, I can move lots of data onto the web, my rapidweather.com server, if I want to, and I suppose an entire "persistent home directory" with all of my stuff could be zipped and put up there, and then downloaded onto a new computer's hard drive, or a fresh, just formatted USB drive, and unzipped into place in the "persistent home directory filesystem. The emelFM dual-pane file manager I have in my Knoppix Remaster makes that very easy to do.
That's easier I suppose than plugging in two USB drives and copying the files from one to the other. It does involve "using the internet", however, and could pose a security threat in that everyone with access to the file would know exactly what is "on your computer". The idea of using a USB drive is to provide security, not take it away. You put that drive in your pocket, and you are "secure".

So that's how it works for me on a practical basis, but not involving any so called "integrated" applications as in the parent post. Nothing really new, as updating downloads are as old as the internet.
           

Re:Security nightmare? (1)

lpq (583377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22556192)

While I agree with you (and have used your solution @work for years), imagine the problems if one's notebook/laptop were stolen? I tended toward the paranoid side of things, but all it takes is one slip around one smart thief....not that I would change my "M.O." on this account -- putting private or proprietary data on some website is a recipe for disaster. Companies and governments can't keep their stuff on their servers from being hacked over the internet -- and someone wants me to trust some company like "Adobe" that can't even print my PDF without starting a licensing manager as a service that constantly tries to contact Adobe's servers for unauthorized software updates?... Pah! Adobe is right behind Apple and MS in badness.
MS and Adobe lead the pack for numbers of software-licensing problems handled by their enforcement arm, BSA.

Re:Security nightmare? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22566508)

While I agree with you (and have used your solution @work for years), imagine the problems if one's notebook/laptop were stolen?
Well, there would be two potential problems. One is data loss, which is why I synch to the company server. The other is data theft. In my case, the chance of the data finding its way to somebody who would know what it was and could use it is slim -- I'm in something of a niche. But anyway, encryption is pretty straightforward, at least to an adequate level to stop the casual thief.

Re:Security nightmare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22554416)

Does this mean I can't date someone who uses a competing company's browser and keep a job now?

Applications in the Metaverse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544550)

When virtual reality reaches the level of e.g. the Metaverse in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash [amazon.com] , I wonder how much will be running on our own home computers. If the home computer just becomes a client, than that pushes all the computing power (which will only be increasingly in demand) on the provider. Sure, the provider might be able to charge subscriptions, but it just seems horribly inefficient to have everything going on on the server instead of distributing it among the clients.

You can never remove the need for offline. (4, Interesting)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544560)

There will always be offline applications and the need for them. There are so many situations where access to the Internet is not available.

As for having the web offline... The big thing about the web is the links between the various pages. Using a tool such as HTTrack might well enable you to keep the links between pages, thus letting you have the experience of browsing multiple domains using your web browser, even when not connected. But most people just "save as" which gives a different experience depending on if you save the full page or just the HTML, and depending on which browser you use. (Thus guaranteeing that not all the links will work.)

Anyway, I would love to be able to take all the pages that I have already saved and quickly and easily form them into some sort of net, doesn't anyone have an automatic tool to do this?

(Oh and I need to both register and have cookies enabled to see the article. Fuck that. Can someone post the full text?)

Re:You can never remove the need for offline. (3, Informative)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544908)

There will always be offline applications and the need for them. There are so many situations where access to the Internet is not available.

True, but the gap between online an offline will blur: desktop apps that query online databases, and web kits that install through the web AJAX-like applications with local caches. The user will no longer be aware of the browser methods to persistently store content found online.

As for archiving visited pages, the best solutions I've found are through Firefox extensions. I've tried [[Google Notebook]] and [[ScribeFire]] (both take care of online storage and thus multi-PC synchronization), though I've heard wonders of [[Zotero]](1).

(1) I think we're not in Wikipedia anymore... you'll have to google them.

Re:You can never remove the need for offline. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567344)

Applications like Google Earth have already well and truly blurred that line. You use it like a desktop application (unlike Google Maps, which is a more or less traditional, if AJAX-ified Web app), but there's no way that the terabytes of data that feed Google Earth could be distributed by any other mechanism than online, on demand streaming.

Re:You can never remove the need for offline. (1)

karbyn-aceous (1204544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22546008)

> (Oh and I need to both register and have cookies enabled to see the article. Fuck that. Can someone post the full text?)

... like someone who has both registered AND enabled cookies? Fuck that.

Re:You can never remove the need for offline. (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22546630)

There will always be offline applications and the need for them. There are so many situations where access to the Internet is not available.

True, but we are getting to the point where offline information is becoming useless in a world where information always changes. Lets take a stock broker for example. Saving last year history of a particular mutual fund in a local file is needed for long term study, but when he needs to know the current offering price during the active trading day he is going to be a very useless broker without an internet connection.

Not only that but if needs to email 10 of his clients with time critical information, its going to be far quicker to email them than to call them one at a time. This is why so many companies now require employees to carry blackberries 24/7.

Suffice to say, if you aren't online all the time these days, you are going to be at a disadvantage in terms of competing. Rather than focusing on systems that work fine off line, it would make much more sense to minimize any issues that would take you offline in the first place.

Not only that, but if you host your apps and data locally and loose internet connectivity your remote employees are no longer able to access those apps as well. Even if they come into the office, its not like they can receive email and information from clients outside the company at that point.

The reality of the situation is to have backups at all time if it just means having a cable modem just in case your T1 goes down.

Now air travel, remote areas, subways, and tunnels are still problematic but even those are being worked on for traveling workers.

Re:You can never remove the need for offline. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22548968)

Congratulations, you've managed to come up with some situations where being online is beneficial, a mighty feat indeed.

Question: how does this refute the grandparent's assertion in any way?

Re:You can never remove the need for offline. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22547094)

Posts: 1,086,206 Members: 8,091 You guys sure are windbags.

Laptop anyone (5, Interesting)

chelsel (1140907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544590)

"annoyed that he could not get to his PC data when he was traveling"... What about a laptop... the Internet data cloud will not be my primary storage area for many years, if ever... it will be a secondary backup location at best. My primary working data will reside on a fully backed up, as secure as necessary, laptop. First level backup is a self managed RAID NAS (which itself is backed up).

Re:Laptop anyone (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544656)

My primary storage (for documents, *not* multimedia stuff) is a USB stick half of which is dedicated to a Truecrypt volume. I have it in my pocket at all times. I can pretty much access my data on any computer manufactured in the last few years.

Re:Laptop anyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22548814)

Unless the other half of that stick is dedicated to an OS you might as well be copying that data to the hard disk of every computer you use.

Re:Laptop anyone (1)

MrMarket (983874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22546382)

"annoyed that he could not get to his PC data when he was traveling"... What about a laptop... the Internet data cloud will not be my primary storage area for many years, if ever... it will be a secondary backup location at best. My primary working data will reside on a fully backed up, as secure as necessary, laptop. First level backup is a self managed RAID NAS (which itself is backed up).
This isn't for you. It's for people who: 1) Don't want to lug a laptop around; 2) People who do not want to spend money on their own back-up hardware, 3) People who do not want to manage their backup hardware -- the "it just works" crowd, and 4) Social creatures who work with other people on projects, or share their files with other people, and don't want to spend energy on keeping track of the latest versions, who made changes, etc.

This population is probably very small on /., but I'm sure you know lot's people in these categories.

Cloudy thinking (4, Insightful)

joshv (13017) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544594)

Holy buzzword-itis Batman. I am not exactly sure what that article was about, but Adobe's AIR, though a cool product, is no panacea. As broadband, WiFi, 3G and WiMax become ubiquitous we are still on that 20 year+ quest to develop those magical frameworks that let us easily take our apps that depend on network services "offline". The problem is, there were only ever a few use cases that made sense in an offline mode, and in 5-10 years it will be virtual impossible to go "offline".

The future is always on, always networked, and software developers who spend the vast amounts of time and effort required to replicate little portions of their database or webservice in a "local" mode are going to be eaten alive by those who simply depend on the ever increasing reliability, performance, and ubiquity of the Internet.

Re:Cloudy thinking (1)

vurg (639307) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544684)

Yes. Only grandparents won't know the difference between a desktop app and a website. If you show the Google Earth app to normal users, they will figure out right away it's an online app. This "blurring" thing happens when you just dumb yourself down. AIR and Silverlight, give me a break.

Re:Cloudy thinking (2, Interesting)

antirelic (1030688) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545226)

I'm not so sure that in 10-20 years anything will be as we predict. Just because we have gone from stand alone systems to the internet, that doesnt mean that we are going to go from an online/offline to always online model. Just like we didnt go from horse and buggy to car to flying cars.

There are limits to the amount of bandwidth that will be available at all times. As more bandwidth and higher speeds become available, so to will more uses for that bandwidth and speed be dreamed up. Right now 20% (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm) of the worlds population has access to the internet. As time goes on and economies in Africa and Asia grow, and their people come online, and that 20% gets closer to 60%, you are going to see how ridiculous it is to think about waisting precious bandwidth on delivering "Word" via "the Internets".

5-10 years from now alot more people in China and India are going to go online and the internet is going to become much bigger without becoming much faster. I really believe the whole "desktop on the web" idea is the absolute wrong horse to put your money on.

Expensive thinking. (4, Insightful)

Gldm (600518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545658)

Yeah this is great, until you're in a part of the world where Internet access is sporadic, slow, and $10/GB. Then suddenly having to download a few hundred megs of non-differential patches per app and needing a connection to "verify" your software is a bit more than a minor inconvenience. It's extremely annoying when software that'd designed for completely non-networked functionality REQUIRES you to hook the machine it's installed (from CD!) on to prove you haven't pirated it. This just leads to people pirating it and distributing the copies to everyone else in the same situation.

While I would very much love to live in your future of free high speed connections that are always there, the future is looking like pay per gig to clamp down on bittorrent, recover costs for universal monitoring of traffic (without need for pesky warrants), and milk people for all they're worth. "Oh, too bad your line went down when the phone company screwed up and you didn't notice when your router swapped over to the 3G cellular backup, that'll be $54,000 this month."

Here's a tip: The US is not the entire world, and companies sell to the rest too. Try telling everyone here in Africa that "in 5-10 years it will be virtual [sic] impossible to go 'offline'", I'm sure it'll be good for a laugh.

Re:Expensive thinking. (4, Insightful)

blincoln (592401) | more than 6 years ago | (#22547422)

Here's a tip: The US is not the entire world, and companies sell to the rest too. Try telling everyone here in Africa that "in 5-10 years it will be virtual [sic] impossible to go 'offline'", I'm sure it'll be good for a laugh.

Even in the US it's laughable. There are huge chunks of the country where there is no cellular service. I know a lot of Slashdot's readership doesn't go camping or drive through the middle of nowhere, but it's important to realize that not everyone lives like that. Using a network to get data is great. Depending on it as the sole source of data for things like navigation (or worse yet, the navigation application itself) is stupid.

Re:Cloudy thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22548972)

OMG, have you even left your house this year? The world is far, far, far from being connected or "always on". I don't give a fuck that in 5-10 years it will be impossible to go offline. We need solutions now. An application that lasts 5 to 10 years is still worth building - there are problems that need to be solved, even if they are "short term".

Re:Cloudy thinking (1)

Timbotronic (717458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22569114)

While network connectivity may be close to ubiquitous in some places, network reliability is anything but. The outage of Amazon S3 [networkworld.com] should be a wakeup call to the "cloud computing" crowd. Networks are flakey. Wireless networks very flakey.

Occasionally connected apps like Air could provide backup for data in the same way that UPS provides backup for power. I've lost count of the number of times I've gone 20+ form fields into some web app that died. Temporary local storage could fix that.

what does AIR/Silverlight offer that is new/better (4, Interesting)

feenberg (201582) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544596)

We already have Javascript, Flash and Java - what do AIR and Silverlight offer that is better than those? Faster? Better languages? If the improvement is that they relax the restrictions on file I/O and access to the Internet, then do they have replacement restrictions that protect the user?

Re:what does AIR/Silverlight offer that is new/bet (5, Funny)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544770)

what do AIR and Silverlight offer that is better than those?

Well, they enable lock-in and generate revenue for the companies that own those technologies.

Oh, wait... You meant for us? Nothing...

Re:what does AIR/Silverlight offer that is new/bet (4, Interesting)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544970)

We already have Javascript, Flash and Java - what do AIR and Silverlight offer that is better than those?

Mostly more control and better programming. OpenLaszlo [openlaszlo.org] , which is briefly mentioned in TFA, is an XML/javacript based programming language which compiles to Flash and/or DHTML. It includes a bunch of APIs for things like layout, data binding and server communication, and is one of the easiest prototyping tools I've ever used.

The slogan is "write once, run everywhere", which may be familiar to some older Slashdotters, but it's not too far off the truth. I'm using it now to develop auditing apps for the Nokia N800/810 internet tablets, and it's impressively simple.

If you're interested, I'd suggest you download it and try it, or check out the tutorial [openlaszlo.org] . It's very easy to get started, and the tutorial compiles and runs your code online.

Re:what does AIR/Silverlight offer that is new/bet (2, Informative)

andyed (693269) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545148)

AIR provides a graphics layer inside a web browser that is 2nd to none. Firefox 3 SVG is coming along, but it's not there yet. Check out what we were able to do with AIR & Webkit: http://about.stompernet.com/scrutinizer [stompernet.com] It's a simulation of human vision dropped on top of a browser. Wish we could have done it in FF3, but it's not quite up to the task yet.

Re:what does AIR/Silverlight offer that is new/bet (1)

Bandit0013 (738137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545614)

I can't comment on air because I do MS development, but the goal behind silverlight is to bring a rich content experience to the browser. It seems to be succeeding too. Check out the jumper (movie) silverlight application on the microsoft website.

The real point is that mixing flash, javascript, etc isn't the easiest thing in the world to do what with all the quirks between different browsers and how they handle scripting. Silverlight is like a 1.8mb plugin that allows you to develop all your stuff in .NET and it does the legwork of standardizing the code across supported browsers so that you can spend time focusing on the important stuff.

Re:what does AIR/Silverlight offer that is new/bet (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545896)

This commercial was brought to you by Microsoft, the power in web browser quirks.

Now back to our normal program...

Not all the world is Windows or Mac (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22548606)

Silverlight is like a 1.8mb plugin that allows you to develop all your stuff in .NET and it does the legwork of standardizing the code across supported browsers so that you can spend time focusing on the important stuff.
But which browsers on, say, set-top boxes or mobile devices are supported browsers?

The ground continues to shift under our feet (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544608)

Here's another article: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_apps_serious_threat_to_microsoft_office.php [readwriteweb.com]

Mainstream applications are moving onto the browser. Everything is changing as a result. I, for one, am having a hard time predicting the future. Does this development, for instance, presage the death of the corporate IT department?

The other day I was having a chat with our school's senior management. I observed that many apps were moving onto the browser and that this would make it easier for the students to use laptops because the school wouldn't have to be concerned about managing the software on those laptops. He observed that we still had issues with programs like AutoCad. The thing that impressed me was that the VP had a ready answer. It seems like he had already been thinking about the issue.

A sample set of one isn't something on which to draw conclusions. Even so, if management types, who don't usually spend much time thinking about IT issues, are seriously thinking about web aps, it seems like there is some enthusiasm for going that direction. Desktop applications may move online quite quickly.

Give generously, help find a cure (3, Funny)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545018)

I, for one, am having a hard time predicting the future.

I realize that you posted as AC to hide your shame. But don't let this condition stop you from leading a normal life.

Every year, millions of people just like you and me discover that they have lost the ability to predict the future.

Science is working on a cure. With the generous help of people whose lives have been touched by this tragic condition, we hope that one day Future Blindness will be a thing of the past.

But we can't say when that might be.

Until then, you can post on /. and predict all the arrant nonsense you want without being answerable for any of it.

"Adobe Introduces Windows Killer..." (1)

KH2002 (547812) | more than 6 years ago | (#22546772)

And another interesting article here -- "Adobe Introduces Windows Killer" [whydoeseve...ngsuck.com] :

"if you are writing with Flex and AIR or HTML/Javascript and AIR you are not writing to Windows, or for that matter Mac OS X. The strategic import of this cannot be understated. Having MS-DOS and then Windows as the world's most important software development platform has been Microsoft's single most significant advantage in its history as a software company. That advantage is gone."

"Adobe's strategy is a death stroke to Windows as a strategic monopolistic platform. And Adobe as a software company with revenues north of three billion dollars has the muscle, the development community, and the momentum to fight this battle. They will not be "Netscaped."

"Windows will be a money maker for years to come as a tool that end users care about. And to be sure, there is still significant strategic value to the platform. But as a "must have" because people need to run Windows compatible apps, as of today we can say that rationale is officially dead."

Speaking of which... (2, Interesting)

Barts_706 (992266) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544610)

...I would like to recommend keeping an eye on this interesting project, called Aviary :

http://a.viary.com/ [viary.com]

Anyone know how sluggish these apps are? (4, Interesting)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544618)

How much of these applications run client-side? The thought of using a sluggish word-processor turns my stomach - and not the typing, but the menu interaction and so on. It reminds me of my recent cell phones. New and flashy and fully-featured as they are, it drives me out of my gourd that there is a 1/4-second delay when pressing every button. I can't stand that. I have an ancient Nokia - monochrome amber and all - and it responds instantly navigating through the address book, settings, or texting. If these online applications are anything like using a newer cell phone, count me out.

Re:Anyone know how sluggish these apps are? (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545060)

A well designed web app using ExtJS is faster than an average desktop app sometimes... Using Adobe Air, its much, MUCH faster than the same app running in IE or Firefox... so performance should be acceptable.

Re:Anyone know how sluggish these apps are? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545140)

Do you usually spout such nonsense?

A downloaded script will never be faster than a local compiled application of the same functionality.

Re:Anyone know how sluggish these apps are? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545374)

-"Sometimes"? Perhaps you mean only when comparing a well-designed web app to an average (presumably you meant badly-written) desktop app? Oh, that's a fair and reasonable argument.

-Characterizing the performance of an arbitrary app written in some 3rd party network platform as "acceptable" - does that refer to unchecking a checkbox in 1/10s most of the time, because I presume you aren't thinking about processing 200MB DICOM images into a 4 MegaPixel preview with instant feedback.

-Much faster than IE? How much is "much"? Seriously.

The problem with Adobe AIR (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544654)

The problem with AIR is that it requires "porting". A website won't just work in AIR, and once it's been ported, it will no longer work as a regular real website, as it'll have dependencies on Adobe AIR. This effectively means that if you as a developer want the best of both worlds, you'll need to maintain two version of your application.

The approach Mozilla is taking with Prism on the other hand (which is also being taken with Bubbles and Fluid, with standardization between these in the early stages of being talked about), is to make available small features which allows a real website to gain some properties on the level of a desktop application when run from Prism, without stopping to work as a website. This is the progressive enhancement approach, which helps keep the web open (any browser can continue to run the application). It's very important for developers to realize this distinction, less the web gets locked into a proprietary realm. (both Microsoft and Adobe would love nothing better than to be the sole gatekeeper to this realm.)

Re:The problem with Adobe AIR (4, Informative)

chong (67651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22546086)

AIR isn't a host for a "website". Its a desktop host for the flash engine that executes SWF files - that is, packaged flash.

Websites can continue to have their needs well served by HTML and JS.

Web applications that need to offer rich client experiences without succumbing to browser compatibility issues can choose to use Flex (which yields SWFs as well). Those same apps can run in the browser and with minimal rework be re-deployed as desktops via the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR).

The AIR instances will the have the benefit of using connected and disconnected modes (in addition to having desktop icons, file I/O, systray access, etc...).

AIR is an alternate to the browser-hosted flash engine. Its the desktop container for the flash engine.

Re:The problem with Adobe AIR (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#22546612)

Prism is an interesting idea, but I doubt that it will ever be more than a toy. I am curious, though: what happens when someone clicks on an off-site hyperlink in their Prismed Gmail? Does it take them to the link? Does it open a "real" instance of Firefox? How does Prism differentiate between legitimate portions of an application which are off-site?

One of the main web-safety concerns I have these days is with XSS and cookie stealing. It'd be pretty nice if I could keep instances of my browser completely segregated--banking details in one instance, webmail in another, Slashdot in another--so that without an actual browser/OS vulnerability, there would be no way for them to read the sensitive information in my browser profile. Prism looks like it could be leveraged to do this--and to some degree, you already can do it using different profiles. The tough part is figuring out when a site is legitimately accessing something from another domain.

Anecdote time. I recently had an absolutely awful experience with Citibank's website. I use the Firefox extension Noscript, and I needed to go to the Citibank website to check on some credit card information. I got to the front page and had to enable Javascript. When I logged in, it redirected me to a different domain, where again, I had to enable Javascript. Then when I told it that I needed to look at my credit card--you guessed it. I was sent to yet a third site and for the third time, I had to enable Javascript. Trying to keep all of this in a single browser instance is going to be a daunting task.

Re:The problem with Adobe AIR (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22548656)

Not completely true, check out uvlayer ( www.uvlayer.com ) they are launching a web version using the flash portion of their AIR application reusing 90-95% of their AIR effort.

Three versions! (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22549060)

The problem with AIR is that it requires "porting". A website won't just work in AIR, and once it's been ported, it will no longer work as a regular real website, as it'll have dependencies on Adobe AIR. This effectively means that if you as a developer want the best of both worlds, you'll need to maintain two version of your application.

Three versions... don't forget Silverfi^H^Hlight.

no problem to come up with excuses (1)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544748)

At least it will give a lot of excuses: I could not do the project because
  • Application XYZ currently is buggy/does not work.
  • My IP filters application XYZ traffic.
  • The online service XYZ went bankupt. All book project is gone.
  • Due to EULA changes, my documents now belong to XYZ.
  • My project was deleted due to claims of copyright violation.
  • My software project I compile online has been tagged as colliding with patent XYZ and was deleted.
  • My text has just appeared in an other journal by an other author (somebody else must have had access).

Local LAMP so different? (2, Interesting)

sobolwolf (1084585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544760)

I have long been able to download LAMP distros in many flavors that will install with minimal fuss on widows - apparently it is even easier to get this working on other OS such as linux, mac, etc.

With such a set up it is would be very easy to set up some kind of SYNC type system between the locally (client) hosted lamp set up and online services. I am sure some kind of framework / web app could be quickly created that would allow an online and offline mirror of the site to operate.

This system is basically ready now and even more importantly open source and not locked to any closed code platforms.

All we are waiting for is for some industrious soul with some time on his hands to mold this system into a viable FOSS alternative to silverlight and apollo

Re:Local LAMP so different? (2, Insightful)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544826)

There's the begining of this sort of thing in development now - Google have Gears, which provides a Javascript interface to a locally stored SQLite database. Try using Google Reader in offline mode sometime, it's the same application, and will synchronise any changes you make when you take it back online.

Joyent have also developed Slingshot [joyent.com] , built on top of Rails, which allows you to provide your web app as an offline desktop application. Again, this all synchs up with the servers once you get back into range of a network.

Also local WAMP and file:/// (2, Informative)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545358)

On the WinXP side, I've been using local web hosting with XAMPP for development for around a year. Works well from a USB drive.

Lately I've also been looking at personal wikis as a kind of outliner on steroids tool. At least one launches its own micro web server and uses your choice of browser as the interface, with the scripting done server-side (but on your machine). It can run from a USB drive. I've forgotten the name of this guy, because I've been focusing on another one:

TiddlyWiki uses client-side Javascript for the scripting and runs well under Firefox, and with the usual irritations under MSIE. Reports are that it works well under Safari, Opera, etc, too. It has proven itself in small applications (size of the file:///.../myTiddlies.html up to about 2MB without hassle; haven't gotten any larger than that yet). As mentioned, storage is as a local file, with no server involvement. It's amazing how capable Javascript can be in a standards compliant browser.

I'm just starting my second cup of coffee for the day, so I'm not yet ready to dig up links to any of this. But googling on "personal wiki" [google.com] will bring up plenty of reading.

I suppose I need to make it abundantly clear that this is on topic. This is all about using software designed for intarweb tubes on your local machine, which is right smack in the middle of the topic category.

The Story is Already Old (1)

webword (82711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544776)

"Adobe Blurs Line Between PC and Web"

It's not this is revolutionary. It's part of the evolution -- not sudden at all. Let's look at some examples...

Consider how long we've all been able to browse content offline after seeing it online. Or, how we've been able to start and stop uploading (FTP) when connections go up and down. The "blur" between local and network has been happening for a while.

Oh, and another example: Microsoft Sharepoint. I'm not a huge fan, but non-geeks can't really tell if they are local or online. So again, no revolution, just evolution here.

 

Re:The Story is Already Old (2, Informative)

dat cwazy wabbit (1147827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544858)

It may not be everyone's favorite software, but Lotus Notes has done this for a decade or more.

Re:The Story is Already Old (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 6 years ago | (#22557838)

Sharepoint cheats ... everything is online, but some is online on a local server and some is online on a distant server and everything is synched whenever possible ...?

It is also the most locked in system from Microsoft yet ... try running a non-Microsoft service with sharepoint ... and then look at the effort they have gone to to duplicate well known systems inside the sharepoint system

Yet another format war... (1, Flamebait)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544928)

This is just in time to fill the void left by the end of the Blue Ray vs HD-DVD format war. Now consumers will be dragged into a Flash vs Silverlight battle. I look forward to the numerous flame-wars over which technology is the least worst.

Re:Yet another format war... (2, Insightful)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545240)

Well... probably most end users will just end up installing both.

I mean, it's not a money decision on the scale of buying your choice of player and a ton of movies.

Re:Yet another format war... (2, Insightful)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22546430)

And hopefully, both will die a terrible death.

Seriously, why do we need any of them to triumph? Let's forget the proprietary lock-in aspect of these technologies, let's consider that they make your page much less accessible and platform dependent (platform dependency on a web page sounds so awkward or bizare to me, really, who would want such a thing?) The fact that they screw people with disabilities, is another problem, but let's forget of all those, and remember that such pages would be slugish, please. Let's forget about this idea, it was pretty bad to begin with!

Re:Yet another format war... (2, Insightful)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22551538)

platform dependency on a web page sounds so awkward or bizare to me, really, who would want such a thing?
I think that when a site strays from the w3c's standards, it can no longer be referred to as a "web site".

Re:Yet another format war... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22546868)

Considering both technologies have no viable free alternative yet, the competition is a very good thing. Consider that, in three years, Adobe Flex has gone from a $29,000 [yahoo.com] piece of software to one that is on the verge of being released (partially) as open source [adobe.com] . Would this have happened without Microsoft giving away their competing technology?

It's not going to work until everyone is connected (1)

theonlyaether (1146549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544962)

Sure, they may find some niche markets, but honestly it won't work (at least in the US) with the outdated infrastructure most of us are used to dealing with. Anyone on bandwidth restriction, or dealing with ISPs that do packet shaping of one kind or another, or still on dialup (many areas in the US can not get broadband [dslreports.com] thanks to various factors).

So what to do, what to do? I personally would love to have FIOS or some other level of service that would allow me to migrate partially online, but honestly at the rate things are going I don't expect this stuff to gain any momentum anytime soon, at least not in the US.

It's not going to work soon anywhere (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22553484)

I personally would love to have FIOS or some other level of service that would allow me to migrate partially online, but honestly at the rate things are going I don't expect this stuff to gain any momentum anytime soon, at least not in the US.

It's not going to get momentum elsewhere any time soon, either, for the same reason that those ISPs you mentioned are starting to get scared and adopt packet shaping, and that your chances of getting a cell phone line at 12:05am on 1 January are pretty slim: there is this little thing called bandwidth, and it needs to become a great big thing (at a cost of billions of dollars of infrastructure) before the idea of everyone migrating to these on-line apps is even technically credible. And that's just for fixed machines, because physics kinda gets in the way of building new bandwidth for current generation wireless systems.

I suspect that what will gain traction in the next few years is web-style applications hosted locally within companies, so IT have a standard set-up they can manage centrally and new users can just connect and start work. This is only a step removed from using web interfaces to databases and such, which is already commonplace for much the same reason. It's not things like Google Apps hosted by Google that Microsoft has to fear; it's things like Google Apps hosted on major businesses' own servers, so it doesn't even matter which OS their clients are running.

how much is a jillion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545026)

Given the article states there are about 1 million Adobe developers now, I find it hard to believe 1 million applications got launched today. And how much is a jillion?

Can you smell what the PR guy is cookin?

yeah, remote computing will never work. (1)

draxredd (661953) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545390)

i'm reading this on a citrix thin client, you insensitive clod.

We having fun or what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545424)

New technology: do off-line now, what used to be the new technology on-line. That new technology on-line, it used to be: do on-line now, what used to be the new technology off-line.

We having fun or what?

While we're making a buck not enhancing functionality, we might as well allow hardware vendors to make a buck compensating for our decrease in performance.

Oh, and, anybody needs more MS-Adobe-lock-in? We've plenty to go around! This way, we'll be sure to make a buck tomorrow, too, moving to other lock-ins as the current ones disappear.

Of course we don't mind that meanwhile things mostly don't actually work to any user's satisfaction. Hey, software don't work, programmers do!

Seriously, though... Remember the times when we used to actually create?

Re:We having fun or what? (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22553544)

Seriously, though... Remember the times when we used to actually create?

As someone who spent much of today suffering a combination of Outlook, Powerpoint and Project rather than my usual helping of Visual Studio and Word... No, my memory of those times seems to have been erased, and replaced only by submission to the fact that all software today is **** together with a slow loss of the will to live.

On the bright side, this all gives me another few years to contemplate my pet "if only I had the time" project of developing actually good, actually useful software that does the sorts of things people working in real offices actually want. I'll be releasing that six months after I've finished designing the programming language to implement it, producing a state of the art IDE and tool set to work with the language, and making my first million training others in how to program it and save themselves years of effort. :-)

The most stupid trend in computing. (2, Insightful)

BrendaEM (871664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545928)

One of the strengths of personal computers is that they can act autonomously. Decentralization means reliability. It means that no one can control your data, no one can deny you from it. It means that no terrorist, no hardware or software failure can take out a single company leaving all the others dead in the water.

What a needless waste of bandwidth running large applications, such as office applications on the internet would be. If every application ran from the internet, there would be little bandwidth left for anyone.

Solid state drives are new, but they won't be small for long. So, the whole air-thing is a moot point.

For those who are too young to remember.... At one time, computers and software was very expensive, they had these things called "mainframes," and they would connect these things called "dumb terminals" to them. The reason why they were called "dumb terminals" is they couldn't do anything without the mainframe, really, I'm not kidding you. Anyway, sometimes the "mainframe" would "go down." That didn't mean the same thing then as it meant today, in fact, it meant something very very bad. It meant that everyone in the office had nothing to do except talk at the water cooler. Years later they started making personal computers. They were cheap, and they helped people work even without the "mainframe." As time went on, and the software that ran on the personal computers became big, and fat, and bloated, and do you know what else, some of it became so expensive that people couldn't use them any more, so they didn't. One day, a man became upset that some people still had some money left in their pockets, so do you know what they did, that's right, they hired some marketing people and some programmers to make these things called "Web Applications." They fooled everyone. The man made lots of money, and that made him very happy, until one fateful day in an office, a "Web Application" wouldn't work, and for the first time in many years two people walked to the water cooler to talk. One of them said, "We've reduced our PCs to the level of dumb terminals." The other one said, "Yea, terminals hooked up to someone else's mainframe." They laughed, and laughed, and went to make some coffee.

Re:The most stupid trend in computing. (1)

mdfst13 (664665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22552636)

What a needless waste of bandwidth running large applications, such as office applications on the internet would be. If every application ran from the internet, there would be little bandwidth left for anyone.
Sure, but if no application used the internet, you wouldn't have posted this. There are many applications where it makes sense to have some sort of centralized storage: blogs, email, newsgroups, etc. There are others where the internet is at least needed as a communication medium: email (again), Instant Messaging, bittorrent, etc. There are advantages to interconnectedness.

It's also worth noting that in many cases what they want to do with the technology is to extend the experience that currently only works on the internet to the desktop. I.e. much of the advantages of this is not running things on the internet that used to be local but in running things locally that used to be on the internet. For example, Amazon.com has a variety of tools on their website to allow third party sellers to list products. They also have a downloadable application called Amazon Seller Desktop that serves the same purpose. Making the local copy work seamlessly with the remote version is important. In that sense, what you see happening now is more a continuation of the trend from centralized computer to a decentralized mechanism.

A lot of the work that is being done now is making it so that you don't need to care whether the information is only stored remotely or also stored locally. Only stored locally becomes problematic when you want to share with others or when you want to work somewhere else. Remote storage with local caching gives you most of the goods from both worlds. An example of a lost positive is that remote security is still inferior to the pure local solution. Examples of gains from remote storage are the ability to share with others and the ability to switch workstations without making an explicit effort to transfer the information. Examples of gains from local caching are performance and the ability to work offline.

Not every choice needs to be made between extremes. Sometimes the best choice is a hybrid between extremes. Further, there may be multiple best choices depending on the exact application under consideration.

Snore... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#22546968)

Why couldn't he have access to all his information, like movie schedules ...

Umm. How long do "movie schedules" actually stay relavent when offline?

It took data stored on the Internet and used it interchangeably with information on a PC's hard drive.

Wow, dude invents "caching", film @ 11.

Am I just getting old... (2, Interesting)

supersnail (106701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22547108)

.. or does this sound like java applets circa 1998?

s/SUN/ADOBE/g

reality check (1)

psbrogna (611644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22548574)

Although I too get apprehensive when cloud computing's considered for the workplace, wouldn't using encrypted file systems address this problem? The client keeps the keys and therefore the sanctity of the corporate data, at least in theory, is protected. Certainly lots of details need adressing concerning key transport but that ground's already been covered, hasn't it?

Prism is completely different from AIR/Silverlight (1)

heffrey (229704) | more than 6 years ago | (#22549814)

http://wiki.mozilla.org/Prism/ [mozilla.org] says this about Prism:

Prism is a simple XULRunner based browser that hosts web applications without the normal web browser user interface. Prism is based on a concept called Site Specific Browsers (SSB). An SSB is an application with an embedded browser designed to work exclusively with a single web application. It doesn't have the menus, toolbars and accoutrements of a normal web browser. Some people have called it a "distraction free browser" because none of the typical browser chrome is used. An SSB also has a tighter integration with the OS and desktop than a typical web application running through a web browser.
In other words it's a web browser without the chrome.

Thus it's nothing like the AIR and Silverlight frameworks. Would someone like to explain why people keep lumping Prism and AIR/Silverlight together? Is it because they don't want Mozilla to feel left out?

What are the cool AIR & SL apps? (1)

halr9000 (465474) | more than 6 years ago | (#22553672)

Reply to this thread if you've got some good apps to check out. I've been searching the web a little bit and it seems there's a lot of "samples" and a few alpha quality apps that have not been updated in a year. Ebay Desktop (desktop.ebay.com [ebay.com] ) was rather cool, but there's no seller's interface so it's only 50% complete in my view.
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