Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Project Capuchin - Sony Ericsson Mates JavaME & Flash Lite

Sony Ericsson announced today that they are experimenting with a new technology which plans to integrate Flash inside JavaME applications. This will enablephone developers to show Adobe's FlashLite interfaces inside JavaME applications. The project is called Project Capuchin and will be shown to the world at the JavaOne Conference 2008.

Adobe's Flashlite has been one of the easier UI development platform for mobile phones, but there aren't many popular business applications in Flashlite. On the other hand JavaME is popular for mobile application development, but the user-interface built using JavaME (especially CLDC) is boring and tough to build. With Project Capuchin, the guys from Sony Ericsson want to provide developers with the combined power of Adobe's Flash and Java's programming capabilities.

The main advantage of Project Capuchin is that developers will not have a new technology to learn. Designers are already acquainted with Flash and Developers already have existing JavaME applications. This will make the new technology easier to learn and will mean faster porting of existing applications with a better UI. The details about the performance and the runtime are still unknown, but most probably it'll be a single Java runtime that'll be able to run the applications. For this technology to be successful, Sony Ericsson should license the platform to other handset manufacturers, so that applications can be run on different handsets. May be Steve Jobs wanted something like this when he said Flash wasn't good enough for the iPhone...

The release date for the project and availability on handsets is still unknown and the technology is very much in the experimentation stage. The idea of such a mashup is exciting and it'll be interesting to see the response towards the technology at the JavaOne Conference. Hoping it'll become a quick and stable release from Sony Ericsson because the mobile platform does need something of this sort.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Intel Steals AMD's Supercomputer Shopper

Cray and Intel announced today that they have established an R&D deal for research on next generation supercomputers. Cray Inc is one of the best Cray supercomputer and high-performance computing manufacturer and mainly has been using AMD processors in its machines. Cray and Intel will be researching on the use of Larabee accelerators in supercomputers.

Larabee is Intel's next-generation GPGPU initiative, which is the cunning plan to use graphic cards to do other computing tasks than just showing graphics. GPU are known to have high-floating point processing capabilities and the industry has decided its time to use it for some math. AMD's ATI acquisition was on similar grounds and AMD today manufactures AMD Stream Processors that do the same thing. Nvidia with its CUDA is also doing a same thing.

AMD must be pretty sad that it hasn't been able to pull something similar with its Stream Processors. AMD Opteron has been pretty popular among supercomputer manufacturers due to scalability brought through HyperTransport architecture. Cray shares seem to have risen due to some excitement with AMD's chip availability, but I suspect its more to do with the Intel partnership.

Stream Processing are going to be the future of high-performance computing. Even on desktops, it'll be either be processors doing GPU work or GPU doing processors work sometime in the future.

Monday, April 28, 2008

netBeans 6.1 Final Released

The guys from netBeans have released the final version of netBeans 6.1 after ironing out a lot of bugs. Its an awesome release and the speed increase is pretty nb-logo-frontpage awesome. NetBeans 6.1 is not just about performance improvement but also has a few new features along the way.

Whats New In NetBeans 6.1

  • JavaScript support.
  • Spring Framework Support.
  • New MySQL support in Database Explorer. This feature allows you to register a MySQL Server, view databases, view, create, and delete databases, easily create and open connections to these databases, and to launch the administration tool for MySQL. This also allows you to easily create NetBeans sample databases so that following tutorials, blogs, and so on is significantly easier.
  • Support for Java Beans. You can now view Java Bean patterns in the Navigator and BeanInfo Editor.
  • JSF CRUD Generator. With this feature, you can generate a JavaServer Faces CRUD application from JPA entity classes.
  • Javadoc Code Completion. Editing of javadoc comments is more convenient with code completion.
  • Shareability of projects. This new feature in Java SE, Java Web, and all Java EE project types allows you to create projects that share definitions of libraries. That in turn allows you to create self-contained projects or sets of projects that can easily be built from the command line, on continuous integration servers, and by users of other IDEs without problems.
  • Existing infrastructure has been enhanced to support window transparency (on platforms that provide it).
  • Javadoc and sources association. Now any JAR item on the project classpath can be associated with its Javadoc and sources too.
  • Inspect Members and Hierarchy Windows. Inspect Members and Hierarchy actions now work when the caret in the Java Editor is on a Java class for which there is no source available.
  • On Demand Binding Attribute for Visual Web JSF projects.
  • Axis2 support for web services.
  • SOAP UI integration for Web Service testing and monitoring.

The full list of features are here... Download it from here and have fun with the coding!!

NetBeans 6.5 will be the next version of netBeans and the developers want to improve the database connectivity in that version. And its not just for MySQL, but a lot of SQL improvements as well as drivers for not just JDBC. You can read all about it here.

India Overtakes US For Mobiles, But Broadband Sucks

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released the latest figures on the number of subscribers using wireless network in India. According to the press release, India became the 2nd largest wireless network in the world, overtaking US and 2nd only to China. India has 261.09 million wireless subscribers and most of these are mobile phone users (GSM, CDMA and WLL).

  • India becomes second largest wireless network in the world.
  • 10.16 million Wireless Subscribers added in March 2008
  • Subscribers base touched 300 million mark.

Mobile subscribers have been increasing at an exponential rate for sometime now and this was expected. Mobile voice services are pretty good across India and a lot of cities, towns, villages are under coverage area. But something needs to be done quickly about the data services. Wireless data services suck completely and WiMax is just starting to catchup with Reliance and TataIndicom boxing each other. The service quality for WiMax in cities is still below par and services needs to improve.

According to the TRAI figures, broadband users are at 3.90 million at the end of March. If you look at the figures, you'll realize broadband penetration is really really low. Even the growth rate is pretty slow... There are a few reasons to this and the poll at Trak.In shows some reasons. But I guess its a little more complex than what the poll shows.

Reasons for Low Broadband Penetration:

  1. Illiteracy & Lack of Computer Knowledge: I think this is the primary reason why broadband penetration is low compared to mobile phone usage. You don't need much skills to talk on phone, but operating a computer and browsing the Internet is not as simple. It is partly to do with illiteracy in India, but as a programmer I can only believe that we need to make the User-Interface on the computer lot more intuitive. I feel really bad when I see new users struggle to use the computer and probably we need to improve the interface quite a bit.
  2. Expensive Broadband: The entry-level broadband service in India is really not very costly. Its only that its costly in the long run because you have very few plans where you can get unlimited data download/upload. As soon as you realize the Internet is a big place, you already have downloaded too much and pockets start feeling lighter.
  3. Poor Quality of Broadband Services: The downtime, low data speeds, big repair time, too much time to provide a connection are probably only adding to the problem of high cost.
  4. Few Useful Online Services: Although this is changing slowly, there isn't much local stuff that you can do online. There isn't a online retailer like Amazon or useful online services like Pizza shops, cafe or Online hardware stores. Online banking and travel booking is popular, but still is far from mass market.

Actually it is a circle of things. The online services will improve if more people come online and more people will come online if there are useful services. Hopefully soon, one of these will improve and accelerate the growth of the other...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Will The "Sun" Shine With x86 ??

Latest news has it that Sun Microsystems has bought a struggling x86 chip manufacturing called Montalvo Systems. Montalvo is known to have been in talks with Sun for quite some time and there were long running rumours that Montavlo would be bought. When I heard the rumours, for the first-time I had thought it would be crazy for Sun to get into x86, but now it seems they have actually bought the company for a bargain buy of $5.5 million.

Monalvo Systems is a fabless startup funded through venture capital. It raised about $73 million from the venture capitals, but needed more $100 million lately. It still hasn't made any money and hence was denied the request for additional capital. In comes Sun Microsystems and gets a bargain buy!! Now if you are like me, then you would be wondering, why would Sun Microsystems buy an x86 chip design startup. Montalvo doesn't have the clients nor the SPARC designs. Sun Microsystems has over the years talked us into the greatness of the SPARC architecture and x86 manufacturing is really not its game. But so wasn't Sun's software business...

Popular belief has it that Sun Microsystem is going to use Montalvo's technology in its SPARC chips. Montalvo seems to have an excellent IP and chip design team which Sun was interested in. Sun Microsystems also has an amazing chip design team and probably its the human resources which has resulted in this deal.

If this buy is another completely new strategy from Jonathan, then it would be one to really watch out for. Lately, Sun has been selling x86 servers with AMD Opteron and you never know what Sun is upto after the ticker change... From JAVA to x86 can't be a more dramatic change than the last time.

Summer With OpenMRS... & that Life is not FREE

I haven't blogged for a few days and I haven't been able to follow the tech news and follow-up on emails. But today, I feel a bit relaxed and probably have something to share. I haven't talked about myself on this blog, but today may be a little bit of philosophy and personal adventure will come through this post.

I had applied to the Google Summer of Code 2008 for a summer job and I will be working with OpenMRS. To all my students, now you have to believe I'm a student... and Moksh guys/gals I'm still your "MEAN" software architect ;-). Just that along with my services at Moksh, I'll also be contributing code to open-source, and consider this post to be an introduction to OpenMRS...

OpenMRS is a free, open-source, Medical Records System targeted towards developing countries and mainly implemented in HIV/AIDS health-care. You can read the Overview of OpenMRS and I think the OpenMRS community has already done a decent job at its own introduction. Instead, I will talk to you why I'm contributing to OpenMRS.

I realized pretty early in my life that "Humans fear death". Although death is the only sure thing about life, we often forget its quintessential for life. But probably its the fear for suffering that's more deathly than death itself. I wanted to be a doctor after I passed out of high-school, just for the sake of treating people and making them realize the beauty of life. I dropped out to prepare for the State Medical entrance exams and it was in this year of self-turmoil that I learnt from a spiritual guru that we can change lives only through what we loved in life. I realized then, that I've loved computers and programming all my life and that my karma couldn't have been more appropriate to hug my love for computers as tightly as I could. In the following years, I learnt new paradigms of programming, new languages and better ways to write code. I'm still learning and pray to God that the learning never ends...

With the same love, I hope to contribute code to OpenMRS, in a pursuit that it helps change lives. My summer job is to make a "General Registration Module" and you can read the details here. My mentor for this project is Brian McKown and hopefully I'll follow his guidelines and be useful to the OpenMRS community. And along with the fun of contributing, Google pays me $4500 + certificate + Google swag for the 3-months (i.e. if I complete the project successfully) and $500 to my mentor.

I don't think the project I'm doing at OpenMRS is a life-changing contribution by itself, but I hope its a beginning. If we all do our minuscule contribution to a social cause, it can really change lives. We have taken life and what life has given us so lightly that we don't respect it. Our skills may be completely different, but its the desire that can help. Although OpenMRS is FREE, life is not FREE. Give back something to the world, which has given you the skills.

I will be regularly writing about my OpenMRS Module and OpenMRS in general. Please look into the project, contribute and offer advice to me on the project.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Java Applets Don't Run In Browser Anymore

If you had your Java textbooks tell you that "Applets are defined as programs that run in the browser", then you probably have to get a new revision of that textbook. Probably even authors and Java gurus need to change their definitions and refresh their ideas. And all this because from Java 6 update 10, applets will be able to execute on a process outside the browser through a nice new plugin.

Java 6 update 10 brings a whole new paradigm of applet development through the use of a new plugin for browsers. The applets running through the new plugin will feel like they are running inside the browser, but actually are executing on a different process outside the browser. The idea is that there is a lot of baggage that Applets carry when executing within the browser, thus slowing the user experience and taking an awful amount of time to load. The new browser plugin is supposed to work on:

  • Internet Explorer 6 and 7 on Windows XP and Windows Vista
  • Firefox 3 pre-release builds on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Solaris and Linux

The plugin does not work with Firefox 2, but Sun Microsystems expects someone from Mozilla to backport it. Opera, Safari and other people need to talk to Sun to get the plugin implemented. There is also a feature where you can switch between the old plugin and the new plugin. It all depends on which one do you want to use.

Applets have been a failed bet on Sun Microsystems part and you won't find many takers for Applets on today's Internet. Not that its a bad thing to use, but probably its download time, slow startup and not-so-seamless integration on webpages, made it a miss rather than a hit. Applets were supposed to be the defacto for active documents, but somehow didn't turn out to be that way. This is another push towards active documents or web deployed applications, but this time probably its more JavaFX.

The Kernel and Improved Updates

Another problem Java deployment generally faces is that it needs the JRE (Java Runtime Environment) to be deployed first on the client machine. Any update to JRE is a huge download and the size has been increasing with the addition of new APIs. A new feature, part of Java 6 update 10 (Java6u10) is the "Kernel" which only includes typical components required for your programs. It is a small package of 4-5 MB instead of the regular ~20MB.

JavaDwnld KernelDwnld

Download and Update Improvements

The complete list of new features can be found here. You can download the Java 6 update 10, which is still in beta from here and decide for yourself if its the right thing for you. I have downloaded it and from my assessment it seems to be an excellent release. Applications are a lot faster and cold startup of Java applications have improved dramatically.

The guys from Sun mention that its the biggest update release of Java that they have ever shipped without the API changes. One thing I love about Java and JRE is that they have improved the API quite a bit, but don't make the old programs incompatible. I hate the way for .NET we had completely separate v1.0, v1.1 and v2... for the .NET Framework.

Finally all the new improvements to JRE feels like the year2000 internet boom prediction where everything on the web is going to change. Silverlight, Adobe Air, JavaFX Script, and many many more technologies are all lined up to take the developer share. Which technology will rule in the end is a tough call to make, but this time all the buzz seems more real than the last bubble!!

NetBeans 6.1 RC1 Needs Your Feedback

If you have been among the people using netBeans 6.1, then its your time to give some feedback to the netBeans developer team. netBeans 6.1 has just nbday08_logofinished on a release candidate and your comments can be invaluable to ironing out the final bugs that you may have faced.

If you haven't yet looked into netBeans 6.1, then probably this is your time to look at the really fast and cool new netBeans. netBeans 6.1 has improved a lot on the performance and startup of the IDE. Some other important updates include the fast javascript debugger, Spring 2.5 support, JSF CRUD Generator and a lot of other useful features.

You have to go here and fill the survey.

In netBeans news, there is also the upcoming NetBeans Day 2008 held alongside JavaOne. You can get into it FREE and does not require a JavaOne registration. From that room probably you can sneak your way into the JavaOne Conference free, but don't tell anyone I told you to do that :))

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mozilla Has Own Book of Testament in Firefox 3

Mozilla has been playing a lot lately with Firefox 3 and has been running this marketing of a robot image that's protecting the world. The what's new from the latest Firefox 3 beta 5 has the Robot in a park. Other ones from Beta 4 also features something like this.. (see below)

Mozillabeta5 Mozillabeta4

Continuing the rounds of fun that they are having there are few more robot things inside latest Firefox 3 Beta 5. Type about:robots in the address bar and you'll see a nice fun thing about robots and how they welcome you. Watch the screenshot below:


And another good thing is that Mozilla is also in the midst of making a "Book of the Testament". If the old Testament had Book of Samuels, Book of Kings... then Mozilla is creating a new Book of Mozilla. They are expecting it to be the web surfers holy grail. Type about:mozilla in your address bar or see the screenshot below.


There are few more things to be discovered in Firefox 3. Few more lands to be conquered. If you have the Columbus in you, go find America!!

AMD Launches New Processerr... GoHome'on

AMD has been struggling and much of it is because of bad execution and sitting on the laurels when it was winning in the CPU race. AMD's financial woes amd-phenom-logo featuring huge debt after ATI buy continues and in this hard time they do like corporates always do. But in AMD style of bad names, they released a new processerr called GoHome'on and like 'Athlon and Duron', its not going to be met well by the markets. Its basically a product to ask employees to leave the job and "Go Home!!"

AMD expects revenues for the quarter ending March 29 to drop approximately 15 per cent drop from previous quarter but up 22 per cent over 1Q 2007. Generally Q1 is not the best time for microprocessor business, but this story is longer than that... AMD has been struggling with the performance and Intel has been executing better than ever.

AMD announced that it will layoff about 10% of its current workforce starting mid-April and finish the entire procedure by Q3. This means after the exercise finishes, 1,650 AMD employees will be doing something else. The markets haven't taken the news well and AMD is down by more than 4%. In the meanwhile, Hector is still on the hotseat trying to convince it'll be good someday and his expected successor Dirk Mayer is optimistic.

AMD just a week ago was saying that the layoffs are rumours. And today it confirms that there will be layoffs. The financial results will be out on the 17th of April and probably the layoffs are to promise some expenditure cuts on AMD's part... Hopefully, we aren't loosing some good chip designer who would have created something to fight Intel... Or else we will see AMD just limping around behind Intel!!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Only Intel Marketing Can Sell At 1500% Margins

How many businesses can sell chips at 1500% margins?? I bet you won't believe to buy processors at that price even if you were in Zimbabwe's inflation... But that doesn't stop Intel to sell its upcoming Atom processors at those margins, if you were to believe TGDaily. TGDaily noted earlier that Intel produces these  small processors at $8 including packaging and shipping. And according to the latest pricelist, Intel hopes to sell these at $135!!

Atom is the upcoming generation of low-power processors meant for MID (Mobile Internet Devices) that come in really small packages. I noted earlier about how much noise Atom has been generating even though its not the best performing part out there. But according to Anand, it seems Atom is some special change in architecture that's gonna change the future of computing. May be Anand's seen that 'Crystal Ball' of the future, but it still got me wondering about the hype and the pricelist just added up to the hype.

The price list is as seen below:

- Atom Z500, 800 MHz clock speed, 512 KB L2 cache, FSB400, 0.65 watt TDP, $45 (including chipset)
- Atom Z510, 1.1 GHz, 512 KB, FSB400, 2 watt, $45 (including chipset)
- Atom Z520, 1.33 GHz, 512 KB, FSB533, Hyper-threading, 2 watt, $65 (including chipset)
- Atom Z530, 1.60 GHz, 512 KB, FSB533, Hyper-threading, 2 watt, $95 (including chipset)
- Atom Z540, 1.86 GHz, 512 KB, FSB533, Hyper-threading, 2.4 watt, $160 (including chipset)

Hyper-threading is back and just like James Reinders had told me to expect it in every upcoming Intel chip, it isn't really a surprise. Technologically, there are quite a few new things in Atom, but claiming all of them to be path-breaking doesn't make good sense. Its more like bringing the original Pentium back to a new fabrication and adding some lessons learnt from Pentium M. I think any ARM design without much dramatic changes would easily be able to beat Atom today. And if we had Intel giving x86 licenses away, then we would really have an 'apple vs apple' comparison (pun intended!!)... But I'll talk about the architecture some other day...

Is Intel Playing Bully Again ??

You must be thinking Intel has gone crazy with the pricing on this one, but there is some logic behind it. And the logic is called Intel marketing... Intel has been known to sell processors that are not the best performing in the market at higher street price during 'NetBurst' era. AMD alleges that Intel sold its processors at lower prices to PC vendors on the condition that they would sell Intel-only machines. It had major market share then, and I don't think it will be any different now!! If you go by the same logic, probably that margin is only for the lame buyer and not for Intel buddies.