Archive for October, 2006

* Ajax .NET Grid!

Posted on October 31st, 2006 by Dave Johnson. Filed under AJAX, RIA, Web2.0, asp.net.


We have finally made one more step on the path to getting our Ajax Grid control out there for .NET!

The Beta 2 has been officially released so go and try it out and let us know what you think!

You can also check out the demo here and it is looking pretty good!

For other perspectives check out the other blogs too: Alexei and Andre.

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* Enterprise Ajax Podcast 15

Posted on October 22nd, 2006 by Dave Johnson. Filed under AJAX, Nitobi, Podcast, Testing, ajaxworld.


This one was supposed to be out a long time ago but Andre tried to pull a fast one on us! We talk about a fiew things like Canadian Thanksgiving, OpenAjax Alliance, AjaxWorld, Testing and Debugging.

There are likely some quality problems and I think that Andre’s recording died before the end so Alexei and I have to pretend like we know stuff.

Get it while it’s hot!

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* Flex Ajax Dashboard

Posted on October 17th, 2006 by Dave Johnson. Filed under AJAX, Components, Declarative Programming, Flex, Nitobi, RIA, Web2.0.


We have just made a quick Flex/Ajax dashboard to show how Flex and Ajax can work together to make a very compelling user-interface for something like a corporate information dashboard. You can check it out the demo here and an article about the demo here.

Using the FABridge along with the Nitobi Ajax Grid and Adobe Flex Charting, we have created a scenario where one can view monthly sales data and then see the sales details for the month in both a tabular format in a grid and visually represented in a Flex chart.

Under the hood we have used PHP and MySQL to provide the data to both the data grids and the chart. When a user clicks on a record in the sales data grouped by month, the details grid makes a request to the server for all the sales data for that month - this ends up being between 200 to 1000 records or so. To ensure that the details grid is still fast, we only render the part of the dataset that the user is looking at rather than rendering all 1000 records say, which can take a long time when you use the DOM innerHTML property. The other thing that happens when a month is selected in the master grid is that the Flex chart is also updated with information about the sales for that month, except that the sales data is then grouped by day. Grouping of the sales data could either be done on the client or the server, however, since we have already retreived all the sales data for the month and displayed it in the detail grid we simply take that same data and group it very quickly using an XSL transformation (yes currently only IE and Moz but the latest Safari build also has it - finally!). The grouped data we output from the XSL transformation is actually formatted as JSON which is then evaluated into a JavaScript object and passed to the Flex chart for rendering. The grouping XSLT is pretty simple and uses the Muenchian method:

<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0"
    xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform" xmlns:ntb="http://www.nitobi.com">
  <xsl:output method="text" encoding="utf-8"/>
  <xsl:key name="sales-by-day" match="ntb:e" use="@h" />
  <xsl:template match="/">
    [<xsl:apply-templates select="//ntb:data" />{}]
  </xsl:template>
  <xsl:template match=”ntb:data”>
    <xsl:for-each select=”ntb:e[count(. | key('sales-by-day', @h)[1]) = 1]”>
      {’totalSales’: <xsl:value-of select=”sum(key(’sales-by-day’, @h)/@i)”/>,
        ’day’: <xsl:value-of select=”@h” />,
        ’month’: <xsl:value-of select=”@f” />,
        ’year’: <xsl:value-of select=”@g” />},
    </xsl:for-each>
  </xsl:template>
</xsl:stylesheet>

We have also hooked up a few other events so that the chart will be updated when changes to the data in the detail grid are made.

All in all, by using the FABridge to move data to and from a Flex chart we can create very compelling and ultimately very useful dashboard type of application by merrying the Flex and Ajax technologies.

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* Declarative AJAX Components and XML Namespaces

Posted on October 16th, 2006 by Dave Johnson. Filed under AJAX, Components, Declarative Programming, Microformat, Web2.0, XML.


Being on the OpenAjax committee has been pretty interesting so far despite the fact that I have only managed to be in on one call - luckily all the minutes are on the wiki and I have been following that pretty intently.

The declarative markup comittee is looking at how to standardize the definition and instantiation of declarative AJAX components or widgets. A good example of a complex component is the Nitobi Ajax Grid component while the Dojo framework has several smaller widgets like the very cool fisheye menu. To create an Ajax widget in a web page declaratively one might have some markup like this:

<ntb:grid ... />

Similarly, one could use something like this:

<div oatype="ntb:grid" ... />

This is very similar to the idea of microformats - and even makes them more expressive. In either case the OpenAjax bootstrapper would start using something like the onload event on the window object and it would search through the DOM and find all elements with a custom namespace or an oatype attribute. Once the bootstrapper finds a component declaration it refers to a registry to find the toolkit that is responsible for parsing and loading that specific component from the declaration. Personally, I like the former with the custom tag that is properly namespaced.

Unfortunately, IMHO, people generally opt for the later declaration that uses the build in HTML elements and simply adds custom attributes. While both are nearly identical, the use of namespace prefixes on the tags is possibly more “standard” and ensures that one doesn’t get a Grid component mixed up with a regular DIV element. For the most part, I think the gravitation towards the later declaration is due to the general contempt people hold for Internet Explorer - and indeed most of the people on the declarative markup committee feel this way. Having been building declarative components for Internet Explorer for over six years now we are pretty well versed in the problems with Internet Explorer, and I can assure you that the support for XML namespaces and custom tags in Internet Explorer is perfectly fine. I would argue, as you will see in a moment, that the support is even better in Internet Explorer than in Mozilla. Some Ajax frameworks, such as Dojo, support XML namespaces in Mozilla but not in IE due to perceived deficiencies.

From our experience, Firefox and not Internet Explorer has been the browser that breaks when custom namespaced tags are used. The biggest hurdle is that, as noted in the Dojo manual page that, one “must” (emphasis on the part of the author of the Dojo manual) define the xmlns:mynamespace on the page. Usually that is done on the HTML tag. Anyone that has worked with XML will surely know that if you want to have some elements in a different namespace then declaring that namespace is a fact of life. On the other hand, Firefox works in a quirky way if you define custom XML namespaced tags - forgetting the fact that it doesn’t even care if you define the namespace or not, which seems very bizarre to anyone familiar with XML. For the straight dope on custom tags in IE everyone should check out the relevant MSDN article (it is amazing all the good stuff on MSDN that many people ignore). The jist of the article is that you just need to specify your XML namespace on the HTML element like this:

<html xmlns:mynamespace>

How completely unexpected! However, it can also be specified on any other element that is a parent of an element that uses the namespace. The article describes the fact that support for custom tags was introduced for enabling behaviours - ie defining custom HTML elements that behave in some custom way - which were a great idea. Admitedly, the one drawback of the IE model is that it does not support the document.getElementsByTagNameNS() method, which can select tags with a namespace in Firefox. Instead one has to use the regular getElementsByTagName method and look at the namespace value. This is easily wrapped of course.

Having said all this, one should also remember that XHTML is not really there yet.

At any rate, we still want to use XML namespaced tags and there are a few problems we have found with Firefox regarding support for custom XML namespaced elements. The two main problems we have observed are:

      Styles are not applied correctly
      DOM methods do not work correctly
      Self closing tags do not work

To illustrate this, I have made a simple example with some sample markup that might be used in some sort of windowing or panelling situation. I defined some buttons, panels and a title with some interspersed native HTML elements.


<div id="div1">
  <ntb:button id="button1">button 1</ntb:button>
  <ntb:button id="button2">button 2</ntb:button>
  <ntb:panel id="panel1">
    <ntb:title id="title1">
      <div id="div2">panel title 1</div>
    </ntb:title>
    <ntb:contents id="contents1">
      <div id="div3">Contents div3</div>
      <div id="div4">Contents div4</div>
    </ntb:contents>
  </ntb:panel>
</div>

One common thing to do is define some custom styles for these elements such as this:

ntb\:panel {border:1px solid red;display:block;}
ntb\:contents {color:red;display:block;}
ntb\:title {border:1px solid black;background-color:#3366FF;display:block;}
ntb\:button {border:1px solid black;background-color:#CCCCCC;}

The results are fairly good in IE:

ie namespace formatting

and pretty poor in Mozilla:

firefox namespace formatting

Granted that is quite contrived and the likelyhood of specifying styles for the custom elements is pretty low.

This brings us to the second point which is a bit more important. The native DOM methods in Mozilla don’t actually recognize the custom elements; or rather, to be more precise, DOM methods don’t reflect the true DOM hierarchy as it appears in your HTML. As an example, we will try and access the parent node of each of the nodes in our sample custom namespaced HTML. The results were as follows:

IE parentNode()

Target Node ID Expected Parent ID Actual Parent ID
title1 title1 title1
contents1 contents1 contents1
ok you get the idea

Mozilla parentNode()

Target Node ID Expected Parent ID Actual Parent ID
div2 title1 div1
div3 contents1 div1
div4 contents1 div1
button1 div1 div1
button2 div1 div1
panel1 div1 div1
title1 panel1 panel1
contents1 panel1 div1

Internet Explorer gets the parentNode as one would expect but Mozilla seems to have some difficulty. There are similar difficulties with many other of the DOM methods in Mozilla.

The big problem we have found is that Mozilla does not support self closing tags. One would expect that the following would be equivalent:

<ntb:grid />
<ntb:grid></ntb:grid>

Not so in Mozilla. The later syntax is ok, whereas the self closing tag does not get parsed correctly when you look at the innerHTML of an element and it is even worse once you have self closing tags in conjunction with DOM methods.

Mozilla has to get its act together with custom namespaced tags for declarative AJAX components to ever get anywhere. If anyone wants to compare war stories then please leave some comments.

Technorati tags:ajax, microformat, declarative, components, xml

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* AjaxWorld Testing and Debugging Slides

Posted on October 7th, 2006 by Dave Johnson. Filed under AJAX, Conference, Debugging, JavaScript, Testing.


Here are the slides from my testing and debugging talk at AjaxWorld.

I had a great time down in Santa Clara despite the high number of marketing presentations compared to good Ajax technical talk. Still, I got to meet a lot of new people. w00t.

Anyhow, hopefully doing a podcast this afternoon so we will discuss all the happenings there!

technorati tags:ajax, javascript, conference, testing, debugging, ajaxworld

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* AjaxWorld

Posted on October 3rd, 2006 by Dave Johnson. Filed under AJAX, Conference, JavaScript, Web, Web2.0.


Andre and I made it safe and sound down to Santa Clara for AjaxWorld. If you are in the neighbourhood give us a shout!

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