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XUL Titan Interview: Vic Cekvenich (of Struts Best Practices book fame) - Part I
posted by Gerald Bauer on October 09, 2004

Welcome back to the XUL Titan Interview series. Today let's welcome Vic Cekvenich of Struts Best Practices book fame.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Vic Cekvenich: Short history: Born in Croatia, grew up in New York City, worked for ComputerLand before PC XT shipped and at a large ad agency specializing in database marketing and frequent flyer points. Then moved to Texas before the Internet took of and did large systems consulting and project recovery. Wrote a book on Struts "Best Practices".

Q: How did you get started on Macromedia Flex? Have you tried out any alternative XML UI language alternatives before?

Vic Cekvenich: I was aware of Flash remoting, but could not get over the IDE, and I was aware of XUL, but could not find enough browser support. Flex was written by Sean Neville, the man that wrote PoolMan. At the time I started on the Beta for Flex, I had my team members working with Laszlo Systems, which is quite similar to Flex. I also found out that Macromedia pulled out of Sun's Java Server Faces (JSF) initiative, and since Macromedia was backing Flex, I assumed they would have more success than Laszlo. So I was on the Flex Beta, and I wrote two mini applications to test how to do CRUD, etc.

Q: Can you tell us more about your two mini apps using Macromedia Flex?

Vic Cekvenich: They were sample apps. One was for an online teaching application, and the other was for real estate listings. This was just sample beta playing. I liked it and assumed it would work. Then... I spent three months writing a complex project in Flex for production.

Q: What happened? Can you tell us some challenges you faced getting your Flex application ready for production?

Vic Cekvenich: Well, once I was well into writing the application, I noticed that when you resize the application with lots of components, that the resizing of the windows was slow. There are warnings about this on the Flex home page. The Macromedia "solution" was to reduce the number of components on a window. So I abandoned it.

Q: How did you stumble onto Sun's JDesktop Network Components (JDNC) as an alternative?

Vic Cekvenich: I am not quite sure. It must have been one of the news web sites, such as Erik's links blog. JDNC was promoted a lot at JavaOne, and that is how it became well known. It's important to note that there is a lot more noise about Service-Oriented Architecture (SoA) than Rich Internet Applications (RiA), but the two go toghether, like a sea-saw. There is a lot more SoA out there: Jabber, JMS, Staxx, Google API, Amazon API, Ebay API, etc.

Q: Can you tell us what application you are developing using Sun's JDNC?

Vic Cekvenich: I am developing an application that is for people that use messages boards, forums, mailing lists and communities. People that might post about stocks, or games, or "Star wars" or anything. Of course, it will be a rich application with a nice UI. It feels a bit like "friendster" and allows you to subscribe to various groups, search for groups or for friends and post your messages. I hope that it becomes a popular site, so I can get out of the consulting "rat race".

Q: What's the hook? Why would anyone use Sun's JDesktop Network Components over say plain old Java Swing coding?

Vic Cekvenich: The main hook for users and developers of Rich Internet Applications (RiA) is that it allows you to bypass the browser. People have broadband more and more and less modems, plus they have larger monitors, and they are looking to do something with them. Browsers have a limit on the user experience. I wanted to break through and give the users something more. Swing components are quite bad, most people use SWT. JDNC makes Swing a bit more usable in MVC and data binding. Also, I get to be a programmer again and not a web master.

Q: Can you tell us some challenges you faced building your app using Sun's JDNC?

Vic Cekvenich: Well... Java as cross platform. The biggest time sink on the project is making the application run on Mac, Linux and Windows. We want to develop a cross platform application, and we had to create three targets. Also, installation: A typical user of our application might have several versions of Java installed on their machine. So how do we deploy this now? This is one area where Flash is superior to Java runtimes in that it is easier to cross deploy to masses. Imagine if a large internet application had 1% of users who could not get Java to run as intended, that is a lot of support calls.

Q: Do you have a favorite scripting language for the Java runtime? Do you want to see scripting pushed more in Sun's JDNC or do you want to keep the code Java only?

Vic Cekvenich: Not sure what you mean there. I hope Java gets "Groovier" and simpler, not just bigger, and that we get a Java shell in Linux like we have a c-shell. Things like ActionScript and Javascript are tied to a browser and have nothing applicable in an internet application. A user could however use a keyboard macro recording software to automate some tasks on an application, assuming their OS has such a thing.

Thanks Vic. Check back next week for the second part of the XUL Titan interview with Vic discussing if HTML has a future, what role Struts may play in the post-HTML world, what's missing in JDNC and much much more.


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