Friday, September 19, 2008

Yet another boost to JavaScript execution performance - Squirrelfish Extreme

In the past month we've had Mozilla's Tracemonkey and Google Chrome's V8. Today the WebKit team joined the fight with Squirrelfish Extreme, and this fish packs quite a punch.

According to the benchmarks done by Charles Ying, Squirrelfish Extreme is currently the fastest JavaScript engine out there - 54% faster than Tracemonkey and 36% faster than V8 in the SunSpider benchmark.

Not a single word about fast JavaScript engines was mentioned on IEBlog. It seems IE8 is going to hold back the world of web applications for another few years, unfortunately.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BarCampHK 2008

Images from laihiu's Flickr


It was my second time to a tech conference and the first time I spoke in a session, and quite a few people actually came in and listened to me. Seeing how well the others were doing in other sessions, my presentation skills could definitely use some improvement. Still, I was really happy to see a few audience members have already tried FCKeditor in Drupal and found it to be stable.

I also met quite a few old friends in the conference - my former FYP advisor Dr. Dekai Wu; Yusuf from Outblaze (I had a really hard time telling he was talking about Tracemonkey/Firefox3.1 and FCKeditor to me though, apparently I had a buzzword overflow problem in my brain); Edwin Chu (from secondary school) who's founding a startup right now; Eric Tang (also from my secondary school) who founded HKSUA. It seems my secondary school, QES has been making quite a few tech entrepreneurs in these years, and one of them (Dr. Alan Tam) is already quite successful. Did that entrepreneurship spirit form because... we didn't hand in our homeworks? :P

The other sessions I attended were:
  1. Design UI from Anobii
    Anobii's speaker advocated that UI design should be started from hand-coding the HTML, and discouraged the audience from starting web UI design from Photoshop or Dreamweaver's WYSIWYG interface. Dreamweaver's WYSIWYG part sucks of course. But Photoshop? His reason was... not everything you can realize in Photoshop can be realized in HTML/JS/CSS as well. So, if you have a graphics designer working the UI from Photoshop first and then hand it to the web developers, you'll inevitably need a lot of "reconciling" between the web developers and the graphics designers in the form of meetings, arguments, infightings, smashed keyboards... and thus, wasted time.

    I have a counter argument to his point, though. No matter how you put it, it is still much easier to create and visualize a beautiful UI layout in Photoshop than in HTML/CSS. e.g. it is much easier to create and adjust a drop shadow, or a border around a round button, in Photoshop. So, I'd wager that there's good possibility that someone who started from hand coded HTML/CSS would need extra time to fine tune his layout after he coded his initial revision. A Photoshopper who already has experience in HTML/JS/CSS, however, would be able to draw and fine tune his layout easily, while making sure that it can be implemented.

    The difficulty in my scenario, would be finding the Photoshopper who's skilled in HTML/JS/CSS (or, just HTML/CSS) as well. But you don't really need a Photoshop expert to draw up a good looking UI.

  2. Technology Yesterday "Relevance"
    Images from 黛's Flickr

    A surprisingly good presentation from a psychologist. The speaker didn't spend much time talking about old technology actually. The whole session was more like a discussion forum on information technology's effect on the society, and its effects to the younger generations (i.e. Gen-Y-ers and the generation after Gen-Y-ers) who grew up with computers.

    I can imagine the recent victory of LSD (League of Social Democrats) would be a hot topic in such a forum - had it been hosted two days later - seeing the LSD is currently being supported by a lot of young Internet users. The victory of the LSD is a formal announcement to the importance of the Internet in Hong Kong's political arena - most of the promotions for the LSD were done on the Internet, via Yuk Man's YouTube videos or Most of the time Yuk Man didn't even have to take part in such promotions - he spoke something interesting somewhere, one of his audience members recorded down a video of him and uploaded that to YouTube. And, bang! A lot of people saw Yuk Man's speech and rebuttals and were blown away by his impressive oratory skills. A textbook example of how viral marketing works.

    A lot of interesting Internet-based promotions in the next Legco election (2012) can be expected, I think. Those who refuse to face reality and adapt, will lose the election game, sooner or later.

  3. Converging Desktop and Web Application
    This is again, a discussion forum. Topics included the usual suspects - Google Chrome, WorkerPool API in Google Gears, JIT JavaScript engines, client side storage via DOM Storage API or SQLite, Flash and Silverlight, etc. I was quite surprised by the technical know-how of the audience there. But other than that, no surprises.

  4. Open Source + Microsoft

    The topic sounded interesting but I sat so far back in the conference room I couldn't tell what Microsoft's speaker was talking about most of the time. I could hear his point about why Microsoft is entering the open source scene though - there's money to be earned in open source software, entering the scene is just good business practice. There's no conspiracy, and thus open sourcers shouldn't be suspicious of Microsoft's motives.

    Well, but that's not gonna change my attitude towards Microsoft. How about fixing IE's standards support to begin with - not just XHTML and CSS, but also ECMAScript (aka JavaScript, e.g. where is Array::lastIndexOf() in IE?!), DOM Selection, DOM Range, XPath, DOM Parser, <canvas>, SVG, MathML, etc. Client side programming in IE sucks so much right now it's like programming with one hand tied to the back of your chair while your other hand has two fingers chopped off. I don't really hate everything that is closed source you know... I don't hate Opera for example. The thing that ticks me off with Microsoft isn't closed source, but incompetence.

  5. Drupal
    I didn't attend the whole session because I spent some time talking to Dekai about MathML and FCKeditor after my session. The presenter is a really friendly guy though, and they founded a local Drupal user group right after the session.
Need to sleep now. I'll talk about my session tomorrow or this weekend.

My opinion piece on web browsers in PC Market HK

The original piece I submitted bashed IE a lot. But the IE bashing was edited out, probably because it was too sensitive for a mainstream computer magazine. The final result looks pretty ok, still.