Solving big business problems in our little toolbox application. A use case for Project Distributor.
Project Distributor: Introduction to our distributed web service model
So Darren and I have put in about a month now on the Project Distributor website. We are starting to reach that critical point where the site is pretty cool, we have plenty of users, we are thinking about running out of the allowable bandwidth for the demo site, and all sorts of other things that tend to happen all at once. Now, there are some problems you can design yourself out of, and others that you really have to throw some money at. Our latest enhancements can be summed up in a short list.
- Buy a domain name and start hosting in two places. Project Distributor.com should be up fairly soon to accompany MarkItUp.ASPXConnection.com
- Have people host their own versions of the application. And that means a big source release is in the future. At this juncture risk fragmentation.
- Design away fragmentation with a series of ingenious features that will make everyone want to use the application at hand.
I'm here to talk about the last two, since Darren already bought some additional hosting for us. The concept will be to release a fairly stable version of the application so that groups can host tools, code snippets and other source/binary releases for their teams to share. The application is very lightweight and easy to set-up, so it won't require a bunch of hand holding and configuration to get up and running initially. From our standpoint we solve a number of issues at this juncture. The most obvious problem is what we classify the Lutz Roeder use case. .NET Reflector is the key type of application we'd love to get hosted because it makes it a bit easier to find, not that Google does a bad job, we'd just like to get a bunch of tools in one place, with some features for feedback, new releases, and some cool client tools for publishing.
Now, Lutz would put his application up and he'd whack our bandwidth. He is the prime example of someone that should be hosting their own tools, but possibly using our interface. He doesn't have to, we haven't even asked him yet in fact, but if he decides to do so, then all the better for the web application moving forward. Users such as Lutz probably want a certain level of control over their own sites as well in terms of branding and controlling access. This will only come from hosting the application yourself (and maybe some other features we'll see later).
From a security standpoint many teams will also want to host their own servers. In this manner they get control over the hardware their sources and binaries are stored on. They can accept tools up to any maximum (instead of our imposed limits) and provide unlimited download bandwidth if they choose. Or they can take advantage of our gating mechanisms to make sure their server doesn't get overloaded with downloads and open their tools up to the public.
The only major problem from this source release is that the initial problem we were trying to solve, promoting the visibility of tools, starts to erode. You see, the more sites that host their own tools the harder it is to find the right site with the right tools. We are trying to solve this in a number of ways. The first is allowing users of a site to store bookmarks to other projects and external resources. This is only a temporary fix, because it still doesn't allow a mass search and categorization infrastructure required to truly promote the visibility of the tools being hosted. We have to come up with a solution that brings all of the sites, but we don't want to create just another portal or gateway site. That is boring. Now you have the background, so how will we solve the fragmentation issue?
Designing away Fragmentation
I won't lie to you, I've implemented this model several times, but have never had a project that was capable of really showing off the feature set we are about to talk about. The concept is to unify all of the sites, by allowing them to easily manage views of data from all of the sites combined. Each site owns their own content, maintains their own users, but in turn peers with other sites to obtain additional content.
Web services provide a dual feature set in this model. At the current level they allow us to generate really great client-side tools for managing, well, your tools! We have a drop-client target right now so you can drag and drop new releases to existing projects in just a few seconds. Some new tools for working with build systems to promote the source code up to the server are in the works. We natively integrate with your RSS reader and will have our own alert services in the drop client just in case you don't have one. There aren't any search or local caching features, but those are also planned for the drop client so you can background download new releases, just like Windows Update.
That doesn't solve fragmentation though, that just makes me realize how much work I have left to do. The second feature of web services lies in the ability for each site to aggregate data from the many other sites that are out there hosting the application. Remember, everything we make available at the service layer can also now be remoted. The more caching we put into the data layer, the more performant the entire process will be, and we can even tune the caching depending on whether the data layer is merging off-site contents or database contents.
I'm sure there is another name out there somewhere, but for the past 2 years I've called these peer sites. Each instance of the project distributor will have a number of options allowing for adding peers that will be aggregated and added to the local collection while users traverse the site. The first step is to get the peer sites running in a read-only mode. And set up some really great options so the entire process can be controlled. This solves a number of use case scenarios for us including the following.
- Fragmentation can be mitigated through proper configuration. If everyone aggregates 5 or 6 sites into their peers, then we have a huge network now of interconnected peers and users can pick and choose which one they use for purposes of searching the tool network.
- Peer connections are unidirectional or bidirectional. Access is configurable. Teams can include tools from external sites while keeping their own tools completely private. They can exist behind a DMZ or a private network.
- Users can host their own personal tool sites in the same manner as the team sites. They can configure statically which projects to make available even. In this way you can build a collection of personal tools that you love, and have the latest information automatically update on your machine for your perusal.
Peer sites solve plenty of visibility issues, but that is pretty much all they solve for now. We still want to enable all of the features available to the client tools. After all, the web service methods and proxy infrastructure is in place to do so much more.
Well, we want to solve another problem. That is where you edit your data. A master site is where the users, groups, projects, etc... are all hosted, but thankfully, you'll be able to log in through any site (assuming it is peered with your master site) and then edit your own projects and such. This is a remote principal context and is actually one of the cooler features associated with the peering functionality of project distributor. We'll be fully secure in our login and credentials region, but unfortunately we'll still be transferring data in open text in the short term. Maybe we'll fix that with enough push back.
A clone site is where we empower a site to act on behalf of a master site. For me, my local project distributor is currently cloned to the main project distributor site. What does this mean? Right now it means I get all of the data from PD, and that users who trust my site can log-in to their project distributor accounts and cross edit data. Pretty nice if you ask me. It basically means you can fully host a project distributor installation and never, ever have to install a database server. Users can just act on behalf of a remote server.
This isn't a super reusable model like some of those you read about in the popular software architecture books, and it probably accounts for why master/peer/clone sites don't exist very often. The considerations for every option are heavily customized to the problem being solved, and I'm sure we'll be making modifications or updating the configuration context for a while. Right now you can independently configure your primary server type, whether master or clone, whether or not users can use you for a pass-through authentication and edit server, whether or not web services are enabled so peers can enable unidirectional only communications, setting up asymmetric security credentials. Man, you name it and it is in there
For the peer section we have full and selective modes. A full peer pulls all of the data on the remote peer locally for display (in a delay caching manner, just like you'd expect, unless you set up a scheduled pull which is also possible). I expect most people to configure full peers because they really are really easy to set up and maintain. A selective peer is where you specify the groups/projects that you want to display. This is best for a user setting up their own personal toolbox who wants to select a couple of items from many different peers.
We have an extensively exhaustive configuration module already and we'll be continuously adding more to it. The concept is to easily modify your toolbox to your own designs without having to touch the code. If we haven't given you enough options to satisfy your need then we'll have to make something up, because I'm just about running out ;-)
These are the basics of the model ideas I have for project distributor. That doesn't mean Darren doesn't have other great ideas happening as well. He has some pretty extensive UI enhancements, but I'll let him talk about those. We even have another product idea that is kind of a bolt-on for project distributor, but that is probably a couple of months out putting it into next year. Unfortunately we have too many ideas for our own good right now. Better than not having any ideas I guess. I'll try to drop some code with some of the ideas above, that way you can get a look at how the entire system is implemented. I have some diagrams as well, but I'm far too tired right now to add the img tags to the HTML view.
Accessing Information through Natural Language Interface
The natural language interface (NLI) is a module that allows the user to access the information stored in the underlying database by typing requests expressed in a natural language. Kovacs, Laszlo and Sieber, Tanjaread more:
Tutorials - Photoshop,Dreamweaver,Vb.Net.
Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Excel, Flash Mx, Vb.Net, Spyware + Windows Xp Video Tutorials from $14.95 to $49 - Affiliates earn 50%read more:
The Art in Computer Programming By Andrew Hunt and David Thomas, Pragmatic Programmers, LLC
In a way, we programmers are quite lucky. We get the opportunity to create entire worlds out of nothing but thin air. Our very own worlds, complete with our own laws of physics. We may get those laws wrong of course, but it's still fun.Click here for the full article.
Improving Developer Productivity With Domain-Specific Modeling Languages By Steven Kelly, PhD
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Amazon DBD DBI interface
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Rationalizing Relational and OOMoving forward with relational: looking for objects in the relational model, Chris Date finds they were there all the time.
"The question is how to integrate the good ideas of object-oriented database with relational ideas. The wonderful thing is, it turns out you don't have to do anything to the relational model. Absolutely nothing. The relational model is so solid and so robust..."
"The key notion underlying The Manifesto is thus the equation: domain = object class. A domain, or an object class, is a data type that is encapsulated, which means that the only way you can operate on values of that type is through operators that are defined for the type. You don't actually see the way the data is represented. That's not relevant. You only know that there are certain functions you can perform. It might be a primitive system-defined data type. More generally, it's going to be a user-defined data type. The values of these data types can be arbitrarily complex."
"The values in row and column slots can then be anything you like. They can be simple integers. They can be strings. They can be arrays. They can be books. They can be engineering drawings. They can be videos... They can be anything you like - as long as you can define the data type. In fact, I believe do one of the reasons we're hearing so much hype about object-oriented is because of a failure on the part of the relational vendors to step up to the mark. They haven't supported the relational model. If they had, we wouldn't be having these silly arguments now."
"In my opinion, there are precisely two good ideas. One is the data type concept - user-defined data use of arbitrary complexity, with encapsulation and user-defined functions. The other is inheritance. For example, in a geometric database you might have an object class called polygons, and one called rectangles, where rectangles are a subclass of polygons because every rectangle is a polygon. Therefore it follows that everything that works for polygons automatically works for rectangles too."
"If under the covers, the representation changes - if polygons are represented by a sequence of points for the vertices, and rectangles are represented by just the bottom left and the top right corner or something like that - the code to implement the operator has to change too, but that's implementation. From the model's point of view, if you have a function called area that returns the area of a polygon, automatically it means that you can invoke the area function on a rectangle and get the right answer. Under the covers, it may be desirable to reimplement that function. I don't care. That's implementation."read more:
JRudy now does Rails**
"** We are able to generate and run the cookbook demo from rolling with rails tutorial (http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2005/01/20/rails.html) with what we have and all appears to work. With this said, it is likely that there are several aspects of rails that are not working correctly. See docs/README.rails for known issues/instructions in release."JRuby
"WEBrick runs...Ruby on Rails runs on top of WEBrick (and generation scripts work)**"
Time for a free lunch
"I believe I've found a 'free lunch' in Ruby on rails. Oh, it's not always free. If I need to do two-phased commit or hardcore object relational mapping, this lunch may cost me more than I'm willing to pay. But often enough, it's for all practical purposes free.
* I can train a team of Rails developers faster than I can teach a new Java developer Spring plus Hibernate plus whatever web mvc you want plus all of the other frameworks and tools Java developers have to know.
* I can build my applications much faster than I could before.
* For many applications, the latency in the database is the overriding concern, so I don't even notice differences in performance.
* I can trivially expose web services, letting other applications, potentially written in other languages, quickly access my Rails services.
Now, I know that some will tell me that the lunch really isn't free. But you can tell that to my customers that pay a fraction of the price they'd pay for a Java application, and get something that's easier to maintain, just as fast, and on an earlier schedule. From that exec's perspective, the lunch is free."read more:
At War with Ourselves
I read this a while ago but it seems somewhat relevant recently.The Vietnam of Computer Science
"Although it may seem trite to say it, Object/Relational Mapping is the Vietnam of Computer Science. It represents a quagmire which starts well, gets more complicated as time passes, and before long entraps its users in a commitment that has no clear demarcation point, no clear win conditions, and no clear exit strategy."
"Developers simply give up on objects entirely, and return to a programming model that doesn't create the object/relational impedance mismatch. While distasteful, in certain scenarios an object-oriented approach creates more overhead than it saves, and the ROI simply isn't there to justify the cost of creating a rich domain model. ([Fowler] talks about this to some depth.)"
Fowler's piece I believe is, "GetterEradicator
" which links to "Tell, Don't Ask
", which makes an important point about Design by Contract, "According to Design by Contract, as long as your methods (queries and commands) can be freely intermixed, and there is no way to violate the class invariant by doing so, then you are ok. But while you are maintaining the class invariant, you may have also dramatically increased the coupling between the caller and the callee depending on how much state you have exposed."
"Developers simply give up on relational storage entirely, and use a storage model that fits the way their languages of choice look at the world."
"Developers simply accept that it's not such a hard problem to solve manually after all, and write straight relational-access code to return relations to the language, access the tuples, and populate objects as necessary."
"Developers simply accept that there is no way to efficiently and easily close the loop on the O/R mismatch, and use an O/R-M to solve 80% (or 50% or 95%, or whatever percentage seems appropriate)..."
"Developers simply accept that this is a problem that should be solved by the language, not by a library or framework...bring relational concepts (which, at heart, are set-based) into mainstream programming languages, making it easier to bridge the gap between "sets" and "objects". Work in this space has thus far been limited, constrained mostly to research projects and/or "fringe" languages, but several interesting efforts are gaining visibility within the community, such as functional/object hybrid languages like Scala or F#, as well as direct integration into traditional O-O languages, such as the LINQ project from Microsoft for C# and Visual Basic. One such effort that failed, unfortunately, was the SQL/J strategy; even there, the approach was limited, not seeking to incorporate sets into Java, but simply allow for embedded SQL calls to be preprocessed and translated into JDBC code by a translator."
"Developers simply accept that this problem is solvable, but only with a change of perspective. Instead of relying on language or library designers to solve this problem, developers take a different view of "objects" that is more relational in nature, building domain frameworks that are more directly built around relational constructs."read more:
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Error ''Codec Initialization Error'' when attempting to export as Flash Video (FLV) (Premiere Pro 2.0)
IssueWhen you try to export a Timeline as Flash Video, the export fails and Adobe Premiere Pro displays the error message "Codec Initialization Error".DetailsYou are exporting to a hard disk with low disk space.SolutionsDo one or more of the...read more:
Supported file formats in Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0
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Fighting the Evil-Doers: A Database Security Workshop on Tuesday, July 11
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Book: 'Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About'
It's said that you can't judge a book by its cover, but that's no excuse for buying Knuth's 'Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About' without even looking inside, as I did. Based on that impulse-buying experience, I fear I may be the kind of fool the famous have to thank for the fact that they can pretty much just crap in a box and be guaranteed to sell it.
It's not often you buy a book from the CS shelves and end up wondering 'Am I any better than a teenage girl who buys Britney Spears perfume?'
I can't even claim I wasn't forewarned. Years ago I bought, read, and passed on to a friend a copy of Knuth's earlier '3:16'. So I was fully aware of the perp's prior. But hope triumphed over experience and I assumed that this time he'd be talking about esoteric CS or mathematical topics. Like 'Selected Papers', only less famous.
But mainly Knuth wanted to waste 200 pages of once-lovely trees, $20 of my money, and several hours of my precious reading time on, well, nothing really. Nothing stood out as I read it, and nothing much has stuck with me. I remember him describing the religious symbolism in some of the calligraphy in '3:16', which for me finally explained why there were so many weak works in that book: the effort of shoehorning in symbolism can compromise anyone's work. (Interestingly, Knuth describes how he made a 'correction' to one artist's work because he didn't get it; I remember that as one of the uglier examples, but uncorrected it actually works.) I also remember him commenting that the ratings for '3:16' on a certain well-known patent-abusing bookseller's web site were all either 1 (the lowest) or 5 (the highest).
The website ratings for '3:16' go to the heart of the matter. The problem with books like this, or, to be more accurate, the authors of books like this, is that they're only really good at preaching to the choir. You might expect that the rigorous Knuth of the 'Art of Computer Programming' complexity analyses might avoid this trap, but he doesn't. If you don't already find mysticism interesting, you won't after reading this book. Really, this book is interesting only in the same way that Buckminster Fuller's 'Critical Path' is interesting, only it's rather less funny because Knuth's crackpot side is so much more commonplace than Fuller's: the friend I gave my copy of '3:16' has (to an outsider) the same beliefs as Knuth, but I'm pretty sure I've never known anyone quite like Fuller.
If you're a stoner or a drunken student, you might like this book. Then again, if you are either of those things, you probably get enough of this kind of blather every time you sit down with your friends. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. It's not even as forehead-slappingly 'let them eat cake' wrong-headed as C.S. Lewis' 'Mere Christianity' (a book I usually think of as in many ways the opposite of Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World') because, as far as I could make out, Knuth and his friends don't really say anything.
Funnily enough, I've read Star Wars fiction that gave me more to think about.
I promised myself a while back that I'd stop writing reviews of books and films that weren't directly related to computing, but since I've just saved you $20, I have a couple of suggestions of what you might spend it on. If you want (often religious) craziness tranformed into art, try 'A Scanner Darkly'
. For once this adaptation really does Dick justice, even to the extent of poking gentle fun at him (or taking on his style so completely that the invented bits were totally convincing). If you're more of a book person, you could read the original book, or you might prefer T.E. Lawrence's 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom', about Lawrence's time fighting in the desert in WWI. It took me two months to read, but it was worth every page. And it coincidentally contains some of the most interesting writing on religion I've read in years.
Plus shit gets blown up every couple of chapters, and you can't buy quality like that.read more:
'Designing Effective Database System' put up for sale in eZine
DirectX Programming in C# - Article by tomd123
You Searched for
Tom gives a step by step introduction of DirectX programming.read more:
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