In the world of enterprise programming, the mainstream is broad and deep. Code is written predominantly in one of a few major languages. For some shops, this means Java; for others, it's C# or PHP. Sometimes, enterprise coders will dabble in C++ or another common language used for high-performance tasks such as game programming, all of which turn around and speak SQL to the database.
Stories by Peter Wayner
One of the best ways to see what's changed with the ninth and newest version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer is to tune into beautyoftheweb.com and watch the words, images, and DIVs bounce around, luring the world into pretty images and information that can't sit still. "Tune in" is the appropriate verb because the experience is closer to consuming television than what the Web was once supposed to be, an endless library filled with serious knowledge that might come from an underground physics bunker in the mountains.
While it's impossible to sum up the thousands of enhancements and bug fixes both big and small, the Firefox 4 beta version brings the browser that much closer to taking over everything on the desktop. There are fewer reasons for anyone to interact with an extra plug-in or the operating system. Remember when people cared about whether a machine was Windows or Mac or a Commodore 64? Remember when software needed to be written in native code? Those days are fading away quickly as the browser is more able than ever before to deliver most of the content we might want.
Can Google Android phones compete with the Apple iPhone? A few weeks ago, Google loaned me a Nexus One smartphone for experimentation, and I've spent the time since downloading applications and writing my own code. The good news is that the platform is not only competitive but is often a better choice than the iPhone for many programmers and the enterprises that employ them.
The BlackBerry may be the most popular phone in businesses today, but the openness of the Google Android platform is attractive too. Most of the big-name apps from the iPhone world are now available for the Android.
Even though the market for Android apps is still emerging, there are a number of good programs for business users.
These eight apps allow you to open a shell, run a shell script, tap the Linux command line, or otherwise put your Android-based smartphone to productive use. Most are available in free editions, and none will set you back more than a few dollars.
Most Mac lovers love the Mac for the carefully wrought user interfaces and the crisp design, and never pay attention to the open source at the heart of the operating system. But underneath this beautiful facade is a heart built upon the rich - if often chaotic - world of open source software.
Sun Microystems, which announced Sun Cloud in March, is taking a different tack than the Java clouds from Google, Aptana, and Stax because it wants to be more than just a Java provider. The new cloud will create new clusters of machines from any disk image, including some of the most popular versions of Linux and Solaris. Java, of course, will be found in most of these images, but you don't need to use it if you want to, say, run some emulated version of Cobol on a version of Puppy Linux. Unless Sun Cloud is interrupted by Oracle's acquisition, it should be available in a few months.
The world of low-rent key-value storage silos is exploding. Here's a list of some of the more prominent new projects:
When Terry Weaver wants to create .Net applications, he fires up Visual Studio and types away like any other .Net programmer. The setup gets a bit weird when he wants to test how the .Net application might appear to a Mac user visiting the Web site. Instead of starting up another machine, asking a colleague with a Mac, or simply ignoring those crazy followers of Steve Jobs, Weaver just pops over to the browser in another window. That's easy because Visual Studio is running on Windows inside a Parallels virtual machine, which, in turn, runs on his Mac. He has a PC, a Mac, and a Unix development box all in one.
Now that the desktop revolution is largely over, most of the excitement lies in the counter-desktop revolution that is bringing all the flair developed by the desktop programmers back to the safe world of the server. Caspio is one of the most prominent players seeking to lure the desktop database builders away from Microsoft Access and back into the datacenter's fold. The company has been around since before the last bubble burst, and now it boasts a number of prominent companies as customers.
What will the world of dynamic programming languages and Web applications look like in five years? This is one of those highly personal and deeply philosophical questions best saved for after dessert is served, the drinks are poured, and the sidearms are safely locked away.
The relentless drive to control every part of the world from a browser-based widget is now turning on itself. Not only are all of our desktop applications being replaced with HTML, but the act of creating a Web application itself has moved to the Web. The new platform from Coghead lets anyone build Web applications by pointing and clicking at another Web application. The only time you need to edit ASCII is when you're putting labels on columns and widgets.
The power of Web-based applications continues to burgeon as they take on the art of application building itself. In a number of online tools, the old compile-link-deploy loop disappears, and editing a Web application becomes as simple as editing a comment for Slashdot. (Notice I used the word "edit," not "program.") Just click a few times in the browser and your application is up and running.