Category Archives: Technologies

“Write once, run everywhere”

I just wrote Adobe Flash is full of surprises about a week ago and today I came across OpenLaszlo. It’s a platform that’s supposed to enable “write once, run everywhere” applications. From what I understand after reading their website, OpenLaszlo is a programming environment or an SDK for writing applications. The code eventually gets compiled into Flash code so that it can run in Flash or Java. My guess is that the main target platform is Flash since Flash is ubiquitous and that OpenLaszlo seems to be targeting the desktop(ok, Java runs on the desktop too but seriously, it’s not desirable to run a Java application on the desktop when there are choices)

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DRM is dead

Finally, Steve Jobs just annouced that he wants to scrap DRM! Most consumers never believed in DRM anyway but media companies jammed it down consumers’ throats. Soon, we’ll see DRM in the graveyard!

Update: Steve Jobs’ letter is here.

Paypal vs Google Checkout online payment systems – Part II

Since my last post, I’ve implemented PayPal on my site. I thought I’d write about my PayPal implementation experience.

Google CheckoutFirst of all, the fact that I didn’t go with Google Checkout is not because Google Checkout is worse then PayPal in terms of features, performance, fees, etc. I went with PayPal only because I had already spent a lot of time looking into PayPal and that I had a good understanding of how it works. PayPalThe fact that a lot of websites already use it and it just works(cross my fingers), and that there’s existing support in Ruby on Rails made it almost a no-brainer to go with PayPal. In order for me to get a better time estimate for implementing Google Checkout, I’d have had to spend more time than the couple hours that I had already spent. That said, Google Checkout seems to have all the features that I need. Having SOAP is also nice. Google Checkout also works with AdWords and that’s another plus. It has a lot of potential and my plan is to implement Checkout sometime in 2007. Continue reading

Ruby on Rails with and without SSL using WEBrick

I’m currently building a website with Ruby on Rails that requires SSL to secure a few web pages such as the login page while leaving the rest of the site SSL free. It took me a few hours to figure it out and the information on this subject is somewhat sparse. I thought I’d write down the information in case someone needs it.

I’m using WEBrick for my development work because it’s quick and easy. Normally, WEBrick isn’t in ssl mode and it wasn’t obvious to me as to how to run an ssl version of it. After looking around, I found the script mentioned in this mailing list.  Simply save the script as server_ssl in the script directory of your RoR project and then:

chmod +x script/server_ssl

Be sure to change the ‘ip’ in the script.

SSL requires the use of a server certificate. The logical question is then how does one create and install a server certificate? Normally, you would purchase a certificate from a Certificate Authority or create one by using a tool like openssl(see HTTPS Configuration in the Ubuntu Server Guide). However, it seems the server_ssl script tells WEBrick to create a server certificate on-the-fly and so there is no need to create and install a certificate. One side effect is that Firefox will warn you the certificate is not authentic. Another side effect is that if you stop and restart WEBrick without restarting Firefox, Firefox will tell you the certificate has the same serial number as another certificate and will simply refuse to use the certificate. If that happens, just restart Firefox. These are inconveniences but are ok while you’re still in the development phase.

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Microsoft Expression Studio + WPF /E look very interesting

The announcement of Microsoft Expression Studio product and WPF /E generated a lot of buzz yesterday. The products will give designers an alternative to Adobe’s products for creating rich user interfaces for web applications easily. Designers will also be able to use the products for desktop applications but my guess is that Microsoft’s emphasis for these products will be on the web.

WPF /E (Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere) is Microsoft’s answer to Adobe/Macromedia’s Flash Player. I downloaded it from the release site and played with it a bit with the demos which are also available on that site. The installation was fast and smooth on IE7. However, Firefox wasn’t able to locate the plugin. All demos ran pretty smoothly and the UI was very slick and responsive, just like what you’d see in a Flash application.

I’m pretty excited by just playing with the demos. Hopefully, the plug-ins for Firefox and Safari will be available soon. I do wonder how many professional designers will switch to the Microsoft platform when they’re already very comfortable with the Adobe tools. Do you see capabilities that Expression offers that Adobe’s products don’t? If you’re a designer, I’d love to hear your opinions.

Stepping into your Ruby On Rails code with ruby-debug

I’ve been developing a website with Ruby on Rails since August(more on the choice of the technology later). I like Ruby on Rails the framework a lot so far and it has made me very productive. However, the default debugger breakpointer (ruby script/breakpointer) is somewhat primitive. One of the big minuses is that breakpointer does not provide the functionality to step through your code. I didn’t feel that was a big problem because frankly the output from WEBrick and development.log, together with breakpointer allowed me to diagnose any problems I had until now.

The implementation of PayPal payment for my website changed my requirements and I now need to step through the code to have a better understanding of the payment process, to ensure payments are handled correctly. I dug around the net a little and found ruby-debug. The first version of ruby-debug was developed by Kent Sibilev in July. The current version of ruby-debug has very convenient features such as stepping into or over a line of code, viewing the code, saving your breakpoints to a file, etc. It has made my life a lot easier.

I’m currently running Ubuntu Dapper Drake and the installation of ruby-debug is very easy if you install Continue reading

Google Apps for your Domain has a slow UI

I had been procrastinating to set up my company email up until last week when I had to start signing up for services for my company. I thought about managing my own email servers since having total control and privacy is certainly nice. I spent a few hours learning about Postfix but finally decided that it was too much of a hassle to manage my own email server. Plus I want to dedicate all my VPS resources to my web application(more on VPS hosting later) anyway. I also didn’t want to just spend $10 a month to get a shared hosting plan just to get managed emails.

Coincidentally, a Help page of a hosting company mentioned Google Apps for your Domain and it reminded me the free Continue reading