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Posts Tagged ‘gears

Web apps to demo for Webified

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Bryan Berry suggested I make a list of web apps I’d like to demo as deliverables. Users should be able to navigate to the website with Browse, click ‘create activity’, open the newly created activity and use the web app. I plan to provide examples of better integration with Sugar as userscripts and userstyles for some of the web apps. Also, the created activities should be able to save their state to the Journal.

It will be interesting to compare the results of this (almost) automatic generation of SSBs with manual efforts, like the GMail, SocialCalc and Wiki Browse activities.

Note that I will probably not have enough time to customize all of these. Read notes on each web app for more details.
Web apps that work offline (with Gears):
  •  GMail – probably the most complex, its offline feature is almost a unittest for Gears. With a lot of emails, it should show performance issues with Gears in Sugar. It also has several themes (some of which would look alright inside Sugar) and even allows users to choose their own colours.
  •  Google Calendar – there have been several interface customisations using userstyles and userscripts. It should be easy enough to make one for Sugar
  •  Google Docs (in particular, writer) – also quite complex, with a lot of Gears usage for the offline feature. Documents are plain HTML 4 (not quite valid), interesting
  • MindMeister – very interesting, possible educational value
  • Buxfer – impressive web app, seamless use of Gears. option to store the data only on the client with Firefox extension (firebux).
  • Passpack – interesting use of client-side encryption (passpack.com can’t see your passwords). Gears for resource caching. 3 offline clients: desktop, AIR and Gears.
‘Normal’ web apps, without (official) offline support:
  • WordPress – can optionally use Gears to cache all resources (called Turbo)
  • Bespin – does everything in a <canvas>
  • Wikipedia – not very useful as an activity, but it could run offline with this script
Plain HTML, (almost) only client-side:
  • PaintWeb – (demo) – uses <canvas> a lot, doesn’t really depend on a server
  • Mousebuster (66KB .zip) – made by me, small HTML  & JS game
  • Zoho Writer (and other docs) – much heavier and slower than google docs, interface tries to mimic MS Word and is probably very hard to customize. Plus, I already have an office suite on the list
  • Google Books – not much of a web app, I can’t see how it would help to have it in a separate activity

I welcome any feedback and will probably edit the list accordingly.

Written by Lucian

May 19, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Posted in sugar

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Research and my computer woes

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I really hate my name. I have two surnames, sometimes spelled with a hyphen, sometimes without. Even fellow Romanians often have trouble understanding my name, let alone Brits. It was sooo hard to get the insurance company to admit I had payed for the insurance.

My laptop was (accidentally) damaged, and since it was insured I had to send it to be repaired or it would look suspicious. Its disc drive wasn’t working and the (flimsy) case was bent, but it was otherwise fine. Thankfully, I had a backup (Time Machine) and I use Dropbox for my important files, so none of my data was lost. Quick tip: don’t buy apple products if you can help it (mine was a gift).

Anyway, now I have to use Uni or friends’ computers, most of which run Windows. I’ve got some portable apps in my Dropbox (including portablegit) and I use loads of web services, so for anything but actual development I’m fine. I should be able to develop even if my laptop (or the XO) doesn’t get delivered on time, by borrowing my girlfriend’s computer. There’s also a fedora cluster in the Uni, but I’d probably have to set up a chroot/virtualbox vm.


Since I have less distractions, I’ve had time to think and do some research. I’ve looked at other SSBs and other efforts to add desktop features to browsers and the other way round, to see how they do things. Here’s what I found:

  • Adobe AIR – basically a flash element that can embed web pages if it really wants to (ironic, right?). It has some desktop integration features, but it really fails at native look & feel. It provides filesystem access and several ways to store data. Decent security system.
  • Titanium much more interesting, since it uses standard technologies. It’s surprisingly close to being to JavaScript what Qt is to C++. It provides a rich API with all sorts of features that a sandboxed JavaScript can barely hope to ever do on its own. It’s more like a JS standard library + runtime + packaging system.
  • Prism – very simple SSB. SSBs created with it are applications in the desktop (icons, can have file associations, etc.) and recently they can minimize to the system tray. It has notifications, in the form of systray/dock icon changes and popup alerts. It also has a feature I really want to steal, the Refractor Firefox extension, which allows the creation of SSBs from inside Firefox.
  • Fluid – simple SSB with some cool features. Similar to Prism, but it uses Webkit instead. It integrates quite nicely into OS X and it offers userscripts and userstyles. It also provides a JavaScript API with access to Growl notifications, dock badges, sounds and some control over the application (activate/hide/close).
  • Gears – very popular for taking web apps offline, especially in open source. It does three important things: local storage via SQLite, WorkerPool and some desktop integration (including some filesystem access). It also very recently got a Geolocation API and it will soon (enough) get a Notifications API. What I really like about it is its non-intrusiveness. It adds some features that are really needed for developing web applications to most browsers that matter (including some mobile ones) without a separate runtime or alien technologies. Google Chrome uses Gears to create SSBs, but they don’t really do much besides being separate windows with no chrome (no systray, no notifications).

Wishlist for Webified:

  • An option in Browse to ‘create new activity from this website’
  • JavaScript API with native Sugar notifications (following Gears will be better in the long run), control over the life of the SSB, perhaps sounds and of course window.console.log()
  • Gears, saving its state to the Journal.
  • GreaseMonkey and Stylish (or perhaps steal Prism’s?) – essential for customisation and native look & feel
  • Bookmarklets as toolbar buttons. There are tons of bookmarklets out there and they are used in the same way toolbar buttons are, they just usually reside on another bar.
  • Ability to install bundles of userscripts, userstyles and bookmarklets to make SSBs more sugar-y. Or perhaps even include bundles for very popular websites. A bit like Prism’s bundles, but not necessarily with stuff specific to Webified.

This is just a wishlist, I probably won’t be able to get everything done during GSoC. My plan outlined here stays mostly unchanged. But I have had time to think more about these things and how I’d like them to work.

Written by Lucian

May 14, 2009 at 4:29 am

Posted in sugar

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