Archived entries for Engineering

wow: photosynth

Watch the video demo of photosynth from microsoft’s labs to see what’s possible when the world has zillions of photos of everything. (Hint: you can go inside them in 3D.)

The History of XMLHTTP , and Patience

Microsoft alum Alex Hopmann writes today about creating XMLHTTP (which is the basis of “Ajax” for my less geeky readers). “XMLHTTP actually began its life out of the Exchange 2000 team. … That weekend I startup up Visual Studio and whipped up the first version of what would become XMLHTTP. The first verison (sic) didn’t have async support hooked up and was pretty crude, but it was enough to help Jim and Bob… .”

It’s an interesting read, both from a historical perspective interesting to those of us that pay rent based on work derived from it, and also to those interested in what makes a particular technology flourish.

Towards the end (it’s a long 2000-word piece), he shares this insight which I think it broadly-applicable:

“The lesson to take out of this thing is to appreciate the importance of shipping and having the patience to let something succeed. It feels like [people] measure [a new platform] by how many apps have adopted it on the launch day. That is just crazy and it doesn’t get the basics of how big a shift these sorts of things can be and how long it takes to move the mind-set, learning, and deployment of a big new platform.”


Browser Wars: Episode II The Attack of the DOMs

If you’re in the Bay Area and interested in Web browsers, make plans to come watch Douglas Crockford moderate a panel, Browser Wars: Episode II The Attack of the DOMs, between the Big Four browser vendors. HÃ¥kon Wium Lie (CTO of Opera) and Chris Wilson (Mr IE himself) are already confirmed, and I expect the other two to send big guns too.

It should be a unique and exciting discussion, to say the least.

I expect Crockford to be an excellent moderator – I always enjoy his wit, and he definitely knows his stuff. If you want to see him in action in advance, and learn a ton about the DOM in the process, watch his three-part 78 minute presentation called “An Inconvenient API: The Theory of the Dom” hosted on our YUI Blog.

Open Sourced: Second Life

Interesting new this morning: Second Life (Viewer) in now an open source project. Though I’m not active in Second Life, I’m intrigued and think this development says good things about its future. Very interesting.

They only open-sourced the Viewer, but in many ways — almost by definition — they world/environment is already open-source. I guess the laws of physics for SL are not yet open, but that doesn’t bother me.

Releasing the source now is our next invitation to the world to help build this global space for communication, business, and entertainment. … [W]e welcome the inevitable with open arms.

Update: Marshall Kirkpatrick asks, in a paraphrase of WeBreakStuff, if the open-sourcing of the Viewer is akin to the early WWW days when “the early proliferation of browsers made the web much more usable.”

W3C News: WAI-ARIA Suite Updated

The Protocols and Formats Working Group has published updated Working Drafts of WAI-ARIA Roadmap, Roles, and States and Properties. The suite describes accessibility of rich Web content using interactive technologies such as AJAX and DHTML. These concepts are further introduced in the WAI-ARIA Overview. The PFWG charter has been updated to allow the group to publish Recommendation-track documents. Accordingly, WAI-ARIA Roles and States and Properties are now intended to become W3C Recommendations; the Roadmap remains a draft Working Group Note. Visit the WAI PFWG home page.

Note that there is a new WAI ARIA introduction and overview document, and that comments are welcome until 19 January 2006.

Quick Comment: Choose Class/ID Names Based on Semantic and/or Structural Meaning

Replying to comments on my 24ways article about YUI Grids, I had occasion to mention the two things to consider when choosing good class and ID names. I want to write more on this, but for now wanted to cross-post my quick note:

Regarding class and ID names:

Names should not be based on appearance, but on meaning. For maximum extensibility, choose names that express semantic meaning (derived from the element’s content), and/or structural meaning (derived from the element’s role in the DOM’s tree). Good structural names include “footer” and “module”; good semantic names include “price” and “date”.

The alternative, what-it-looks-like names such as “left” and “doc950px”, is contextually brittle (i.e., mobile) and temporally brittle (because things change). These are the same reasons professional consensus says class=”redButton” and class=”smallBoldVerdana” are undesirable.

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