Friday, August 25, 2006

Clorox won't make the web any better... but AJAX will!

In 1995 Netscape hired Brendan Eich to take charge of a development project in which they were creating a new programming language to add interactivity to web pages.  This language was called LiveScript by the developers because of its ability to change itself and web page content.  Later, when the language was released to the public, it was announced as JavaScript.  As it turns out, this was a change that didn't make much difference to the marketers who made the decision, but have made things very confusing for up-and-coming web developers ever since.
Just following, the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) was developed in 1996.  Simply put, XML is a markup language (not a programming language) that is used to define and describe data. 
While these two languages have been around for quite some time, it has only been during recent years that people have discovered the potential made possible by combining them.
By combining JavaScript, a primarily web-based programming language, with XML, which is used to define and describe data, it is possible to dynamically access data and data descriptions over the web.  This method of combining these two is known as AJAX: Asyncronous Javascript + XML.  Now, I know that sounds like a lot at once, but take a look at our example and you'll see how easy it can be.
In order to demonstrate how cool AJAX can be, I created an AJAX-based Instant Messenger (click here).
Notice that when you post a message, or receive one, the window does not refresh; there is no "post back".  This is because every time you send a message, there is a JavaScript that is dynamically creating a new browser instance with which to send the message.  It then receives an XML response with all of the current messages that have been posted.  Feel free to dig around in the source code.
The term "Web 2.0" is being used to describe where we are headed once all web-based applications are using AJAX to interact with users.  Imagine the possibilities...

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

If my math is right, Bill Gates owes me $1.78 million!

A few years ago an email started it's way around the Internet that was, supposedly, from Microsoft.  In this email, it stated that Microsoft had placed a tracing mechanism in the body of the message and that Microsoft was going to pay $1 for each person that received the email because of you.  The idea was that you might send it to four people ($4), and those four might send it to four more ($20).  Five generations later, Microsoft owes you $21,844!
There are several different versions of this email and all of them are hoaxes.  I know, I know... It's unbelievable to think that something you receive in your email might not be pure facts. 
One of the more recent emails being forwarded to hither and yon shows several pictures of muslim people demonstrating.  This email says that the photos are from a demonstration in London that was titled the "Religion of Peace Demonstration".  The photos depict several hundred protesters holding signs that are not exactly... what's the word... "friendly."
However, this email is only a half-truth which, according to the way my Dad raised me, is far from a complete truth.
The pictures in this email were taken on February 3, 2006.  There was, in fact, a demonstration on this day in London, but it was to protest the political cartoons that were originally published in a Danish newspaper and later reprinted in several other publications.  These "cartoons" were very offensive to Muslims world-wide.  (Click here to read more on this story.)
Emails of this kind are becoming more and more common.  The old axiom that, "You can't believe everything you read," stays especially true for email. 
Now, I have to go check  my Hotmail account... I'm expecting some information from the Prince of Botswana who needs my bank account information so that he can escape the military coup that is after his money.