Archive for Rich Internet Application

Web for seniors now live

bigscreenlive site

Web does not exclude anyone. While most web 2.0 sites/services are targeting the young, BigscreenLive brings a special service for senior citizens.

UI challenge of creating an interface for seniors is big. We had a great time working with BigScreenLive team in developing it. For developers on the project, putting themselves in the user’s shoe was not easy. After all an apparently simple task might be challenging for seniors. The touch screen interface was also a new for the team. Pramati team had good learning on how to make software interface easy to use. The BigScreenLive team was great to work with on this very interesting project.

Another highlight of the project was use of Ruby on Rails. ROR came very handy in this case where the requirements were extremely loose. It helped us iterate very fast, quick to and fro, and sometimes bring changes in less than 3 days.

Read product review here.


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Desktop Apps built like the web

I was heartned to find this early posting on Netwizard’s blog that points to the thinking behind Dekoh.

Writing applications using markup instead of platform-API-based code is so much more easier. Browser-based UI brings significant advantage of using combined teams with programmers (who generally can’t build great looking UI) and graphics and UI specialists (who can’t wire it up with the backend). The last decade of focus for developers has largely been on building to the web. The programming model and the deployment environment are all too familiar.

A browser-based application need not necessarily mean a hosted application, when a desktop runtime such as Dekoh can serve to your local browser. You have the twin advantage of a common environment for quickly building to the desktop (and web) as well as a fluent integration between the such desktop applications with existing web applications. The best way to build web-desktop integrated applications of the future.

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My interview at

Rajesh Setty has published my interview with him Behind the scenes – Dekoh; Interview with Vijay Pullur. I have talked about several topics like our history, why Dekoh?, how is it different from Adobe Apollo and Google gears, enterprise and SaaS ISV use cases for Dekoh etc. Thanks Rajesh for interviewing me and publishing it.

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Examples of 2 RIA approaches

Here are 2 examples of Rich Internet Applications:

eBay San Dimas Project: Provides offline functionality for eBay. Can create desktop alerts for eBay bids. Written using Adobe Apollo platform.

Dekoh Calendar: Is a desktop counterpart to Google Calendar. Allows creating desktop reminders and audio alerts for Google calendar events. Works offline and syncs events next time connected. Written using Dekoh platform.

Functionality offered by both the above is similar. Both applications can be accessed in an airplane (no internet connection) The big difference is in the way user interface is rendered. eBay application is run like a native desktop application outside the browser. Dekoh calendar is accessed from the browser.

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No need to go beyond the browser

Rich Internet Applications bring a new dimension of richness to web applications. While there are some who are skeptical about RIA value for end users there are others who believe that it is the Future Direction of Applications.

While most people agree that browser is a universal client and in a comparison of Ajax vs RIA – Ajax still rules, there is one prevailing thought that to do anything on the desktop you need to go Beyond the Browser.

This is not true. 

In fact by using browser as the client for RIA as Dekoh does, it is possible to provide a seamless user experience for web and desktop applications. Take a look at this screen shot from Dekoh Photos it is showing the local file-system in a AJAX UI.

Such applications also have the other advantage of gracefully degrading when internet connection is not available. An example of this is Dekoh Calendar. If the user is connected to the internet Dekoh Calendar synchronizes events with Google calendar in both directions. If the user is not connected, the calendar continues to work well locally, just that the sync happens the next time user connects to the internet. This kind of seamless user experience for offline and online operation for an application is possible only when the user interface is in the browser.

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RIA – is it “Rich Interface Application”?

Stephen O’Grady of Redmonk has written this good post Too Rich For My Taste: The RIA Q&A questioning the value of Rich Internet Applications to end users. Some of the observations are  very accurate. Two of them related to Internet Applications are very important:

1. We spend more time using browser based applications  than thick-client desktop applications (exceptions are developers). Browsers are universal client program people are comfortable using.

2. End users are happy using current web interfaces. In the recent years AJAX has made it even better. There is no real need for making application interfaces richer. Don’t fix what is not broken.

The big vendors of RIA, Adobe (Apollo), Microsoft (Siliverlight) and Sun (JavaFX) seem to be making excessive emphasis on richness of interface and pushing their technologies forgetting the above crucial points. The richness of interface is highlighted so much in the demos and talked so much about in their marketing that RIA can be interpreted as “Rich Interface Applications”.

Is there a reason why richness of interface is played up, although RIAs are meant to provide richness in 3 dimensions?

I think the 3 big vendors have a problem with “Internet Applications” part of RIA definition. Internet Applications imply using the browser as the client. Adobe Apollo and Sun’s JavaFX do not run inside the browser, so point #1 above is not in favor of them. If it is not about writing super cool UI Silverlight has no place, so point #2 is not in favor of Microsoft Silverlight.

Does this mean RIA has no role? Should you be a skeptic the way Stephen is?

I think RIA has a big role to play connecting the web to the user. RIA provides a way for web to interact with the user in more ways than current request-response model.

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JavaFX opens more options for Java developers

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz announced at JavaOne a new product called JavaFX. In simple technical terms JavaFX is a easy to use scripting language for writing Swing and Java2D applications. Writing Swing based applications is considered complex by most developers and JavaFX should make it simpler.

With JavaFX coming up now there are more options for Java developers to write dsesktop-web integrated applications. Dekoh, supports writing desktop applications using web standards like JSP, Servlets, AJAX and Flash. JavaFX supports scripting for Swing UI.

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