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RIA & Ajax: Article

AJAXWorld 2008 West Round-Up: Server-side JavaScript and jMaki Discussed

Jaxer and Phobo do pretty much the same thing, but Phobos is much more focused on language integration

Peter Svensson's Blog

There were two different talks on server-side JavaScript - one from Jaxer and one from the Phobos project. The Jaxer demo was very good. The presenter Ian Selby made a small REST server implementation while we sat there, database tables and all.

The 6th AJAXWorld RIA Conference & Expo had nearly all available conference space at the Fairmont Hotel in San José, connected by miles of carpeted classical Hotel vestibules. All talks had ample room for attending listeners, but the amount present varied (as it does) between different talks.



An attentive audience during an AJAXWorld general session in San Jose, CA


One interesting fact was that there was two different talks on server-side JavaScript - one from Jaxer and one from the Phobos project. The Jaxer demo was very good. The presenter Ian Selby made a small REST server implementation while we sat there, database tables and all. Sure, he was well prepared but still. The amount of code was very small. All portions that accessed was database was one line each. That's the way it's supposed to be, really.

I do hope that Jaxer moves away from the server-side templating stuff and instead emphasize the really nice platform and infrastructure they have in place. Cooking DOM JS on the server and pushing the rendered results to the client when JS is unavailable or wrong version is an edge-case at best, and if no JS is present, ten attaching event-handlers won't be possible anway, so in practice (having mulled this over the course of some months) I feel that there is little that a server-side DOM processingcan do that can't be done with plain CSS anyway. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

The other Server-side JavaScript talk was by Roberto Chinnici who made an excellent presentation of the Phobos SSJS framework. In theory Jaxer and Phobo does pretty much the same thing, but Phobos is much more focussed on language integration. I think that Jaxer has something similar, but OOTB phobos can call and use any Java library or class as well as spawn JavaScript threads. Not hurting whatsoever is a (coming?) port of ActiveRecord from ruby and a low-level implementation of Gears (wich also works with Jaxer, btw).

Something that was mentioned as a feature, jMaki made me perk my ears up. I checked jMaki out briefly a year or so ago and felt pretty certain that it was something tied to JSF, which made it rabidly uniteresting from my point of view. Luckily Greg Murray, the creator of jMaki was also present and could now refute that fact. jMaki is apparently something quite separate which can be used with Java, Ruby, PHP and now also SSJS.

All well and good, surely. But what does it do? Quite. jMaki is a cross-toolkit switchboard. What that means is that you can use a from created in Dojo, attach its events to a table from YUI which readsits data using data abstractions from Ext. Is that hot or what??? In the examples available there is always some pesky server-side component needed with generic sounding names at every turn, but it does seem at his point that jMaki is not dependent ona server-side component and of so, it is pure gold.

I also saw a presentation by Brent Hamby and Geof Hendrey from nextdb.net which takes my thin server architecture one further step: no server architecture! They have a database service which can be used directly from an ajax page with full transport security. The have a model which is similar to Kerberos, where tickets are issues and encryped by the server, which also includes rules of use which must be preserved.

Netxdb.net also have an administrative interface where you can define queries and users, in a very simple manner. If you have an application where you can put most of the logic on the client and only use a data store + security, it's a very interesting solution.

All talks were recorded, but it will take up to five weeks until we can see them online (including mine), so I'll post the links to that later.

More Stories By Peter Svensson

Peter Svensson, Owner of Mashup Station, is a consultant based in Stockholm, Sweden. A contributor to both Dojo and Apache Sling. Peter is an AJAX evangelist and front-end architect at Nethouse AB. He has been a Java programmer since the late 90s, specializing in network programming and encryption. A couple of years ago, he saw the JavaScript light and started blogging as the "Script Uncle" - http://unclescript.blogspot.com/.

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