Stories by Peter Wayner

Why developers prefer Macs

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.

A Web-based app builder with a Microsoft twist

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.

Dynamic programming futures

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.

Coghead clicks for non-coders

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.

Application builders in the sky

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.

Developers rest easier with JavaScript reversal

The programmers in the trenches of Web development can breathe a bit easier now that a major committee planning the future of the JavaScript standard has decided to focus on small, incremental changes that will improve the performance in Web browsers. Some members of the ECMA International standards committee still have bigger dreams to enhance the language, known more formally as ECMAScript, to tackle more complicated projects, but these plans receded as the group focused on clearer and more present needs.

Cloud versus cloud: A guided tour of Amazon, Google, AppNexus, and GoGrid

Who wouldn't want to live in a "cloud"? The term is a perfect marketing buzzword for the server industry, heralding images of a gauzy, sunlit realm that moves effortlessly across the sky. There are no suits or ties in this world, just toga-clad Greek gods who do as they please and punish at whim, hurling real lightning bolts and not merely sarcastic IMs. The marketing folks know how to play to the dreams of server farm admins who spend all day in overgrown shell scripts and impenetrable acronyms.

Denodo brings old-school polish to new mashups

In the collective imagination, the computers are busy merging into one grand, expansive database filled with minutiae about those pesky, emotive humans so that the machines will be ready for Sarah Connor. The database administrators and programmers know that the reality is more than a little bit creakier than this image -- even though they might use the image to pry some funding if they see a glint of malice in the eyes of the pointy-haired bosses.

First look: Google's high-flying cloud for Python code

One of the joys of being a Web programmer is heading to a dinner party, a haircut, or a reunion and fielding the pitches for everyone's dream for a brilliant Web application. Everyone is always happy to cut you in for 5, 10, maybe even 15 per cent of the equity if you just build out the Web site that's sort of like a combination of Twitter, AltaVista, Eliza, TurboTax, and the corner pharmacy, but cooler.

Product review: WaveMaker

There was a moment in history when assembly coding and the knowledge of it largely disappeared from the world. Before it, the programmers knew and cared about the binary code the CPU saw, even if they relied upon a compiler to build much of it. After that moment, the IDEs came along and did so many things automatically that programmers stopped caring about such things as linking or op codes.

Open-source reporting goes corporate

Just a few years ago, the world of open source packages for generating database reports was a quiet secret shared by programmers on a deadline. Anyone could spend a few minutes linking in a library to start generating relatively clean tables filled with data pulled from an SQL database. I've personally made a few clients happy by adding JasperReports to some projects with just a bit of XML and a JAR file.

Refining the art of enterprise Web apps

It is now more than two years since the AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) buzzword swept through the world of client-server applications, up-ending the old architectures and spurring us to rethink how we can make the browser the center of our world. But long before the coinage of AJAX, rich-client framework vendors JackBe and Nexaweb had already embraced and extended what has become the AJAX ideal.

Surveying open-source AJAX toolkits

A close look at six high-profile toolkits reveals a wide variety of app-dev options - if you have the knowledge and time to take advantage of them.

AJAX breathes new life into Web apps

One year ago, Thomas Lackner didn't ask much of JavaScript. When he sketched out the architecture to a Web application, he knew he could count on the browser language for "set-a-cookie hacks" and for loading images, but he turned to the server side for the heavy lifting. But when Google began launching highly interactive Web sites such as Gmail and Google Suggest, the scales dropped from Lackner's eyes and he saw the opportunity.