Businesses and Individuals–Not Standards–Drive Innovation in Software

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter has extensive experience as a Development Team Lead across a broad range of methodologies, technologies and architectures.

It seems that the conventional wisdom regarding the future of connected applications is that native apps will eventually give way to web apps. We all know that native apps distributed through download stores are currently in vogue, but many believe that they are a stop-gap on the road to our HTML and JavaScript future.

Let me start by stating this: the fact that HTML and JavaScript are controlled by the W3C and ECMA, respectively, is a good thing. The Web is and should remain open and out of the exclusive hands of any single business or nation.

However, as someone who has experienced the evolution of Java and .NET over the past decade, I believe that standards bodies are terrible innovators relative to private organizations and individuals.

Java was originally developed and released by Sun Microsystems in 1995 when it immediately shook up the world of software. The ability to “write once, run anywhere” was seen as a revelation and a serious threat to the established order. However this dream did not Read more of this post

My iPad at Work

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter has extensive experience as a Development Team Lead across a broad range of methodologies, technologies and architectures.

When the iPad was first announced last year I was tempted to pony up some cash for Apple’s latest object of geek lust. But when I tried to imagine this new gadget in my day-to-day life as a technology consultant it didn’t seem justifiable.

The iPad is a “tweener” device, it sits somewhere between your laptop and your smartphone. There are activities where the iPad works better than both, but there really isn’t anything that it can do that these other devices can’t.

At the time of the iPad 2 announcement it was already clear that tablet computing is here to stay. Sales of the iPad were beyond anyone’s expectations and several of Apple’s competitors had come out with their own tablets. As a result, developers and businesses have been taking these post-PC devices seriously.

After about a month I formed a rationalized argument for why I needed one and pitched it to my wife, who as usual rolled her eyes and then told me to go for it (how could I not love her?).

After three weeks now I’ve had the opportunity to integrate the iPad into Read more of this post

Office Web Apps Image Generation

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter has extensive experience as a Development Team Lead across a broad range of methodologies, technologies and architectures.

In 2010 Microsoft brought its largest business to the Cloud with Office Web Apps. Aside from Microsoft’s hosted version that is available to everyone, Office Web Apps can be installed on your own Windows Server environment.

On a recent project my team was building a SharePoint 2010 site that would host a number of files that users can download, including Word and PowerPoint documents. The client had a requirement that the site display thumbnails of the first page or slide of these files. Fortunately, Office Web Apps supplies an API to generate images from Office files. You can download the specifications for the Web Handlers for Word and PowerPoint from MSDN.

First you have to call the Mobile Doc Handler which is a simple ASHX and returns an XML document that contains the data you need to generate the images. The URL will look something like this when integrated with SharePoint:

http://example.com/SiteName/_layouts/MobileDocHandler.ashx?doc=/SiteName/DocumentList/Document.docx

The resulting XML will look something like this: Read more of this post

Evolution of Logging in Java

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter has extensive experience as a Development Team Lead across a broad range of methodologies, technologies and architectures.

When I first started doing development in Java back in 2000, there wasn’t a free logging framework available (at least not that I was aware of) so my development team wrote our own. Building a robust logging framework is not a trivial task, and thankfully Ceki Gülcü stepped up with log4j which was hosted by Apache and reached 1.0 in January 2001.

Java eventually got an official logging API in version 1.4 a year later, but as is common with features that make their way into the SDK, it was too late and less robust than what the open source community had already come up with.

The diversity in logging implementations was a headache for the growing population of libraries and frameworks, most of which wanted to contribute to log messages. The solution was the Apache Commons Logging API that provided a simple Façade that would detect which logger was being used and direct log messages to it.

For years I used these tools for logging without ever considering looking elsewhere, but recently a colleague introduced me to Read more of this post

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