Ext Conference, Day 3

The third day of Ext Conference 2009 was only a half-day, which turned out to be a good thing given the trainwreck start. They were an inexcusable 20 minutes late in opening the door for what should have been 15 minutes of closing remarks. Instead, it turned into a 30+ minute demo of the new UI designer. Yes, the designer is awesome and will rock the ext world, but it is beyond me why they would improvise a demo on the morning of the last day. This should have been either on day one or possibly part of Jack’s keynote on day two.

With events now running 45 minutes late, the final two sessions ended up being pretty disorganized. I went to the “Mainframe to Web” presentation by Rich. I had just done a similar project and was interested in what he had to say. Turns out their showcase pretty much faked an integration with the backend by using a screen scraper on the server side which translated terminal session screens to ExtJS metadata. They didn’t change any of the backend code at all. I’ll give them credit for finding a clever solution, but I’m not convinced it is the best one. When we confronted a similar problem, we ended up wrapping backend functionality in AS/400 stored procedures we called from the middle-tier.

The positive side effect of the wheels-off schedule was that Rich rushed his presentation to try and wrap up on time. The other presentation, ExtJS deployment, was only halfway done, so I jumped in to catch the last half of it. In this case, it seemed like the heart of the presentation was in the last half, so I basically got the best of both presentations.

The deployment presentation covered a lot of the useful tools for bundling up your JavaScript. I had heard of JS Builder before, but plan on taking a deeper look now. It can create a single JavaScript file from many smaller files. YUI Compressor is the recommended tool for really putting the squeeze on your JavaScript files, but even then, Jamie still recommended ensuring you use GZip/Deflate on the web server for JavaScript files. He also talked about a tool for creating a multi-image sprite file of several small images that can also have a big impact. I came away with a lot of things to research and this should be a top presentation to check out when they put them online.

The final session for the day was Scott covering the Ext.Writer. This has got to be one of the coolest features of ExtJS 3.0 and they really should have moved this earlier rather than waiting for the last minute. The Writer addresses the problem of handling CRUD operations for Stores. It can use REST-like URLs like /app/update/1 or /app/delete/1 with the record ID as the final parameter. It pushes a JSON object back to the server containing the information that needs to be acted on. It even addresses passing a primary key back to the Store on a create operation. This is looking a whole lot cooler than Ext.Direct and I want to give it a try for my application.

I didn’t sit through the final Q&A session as I needed to bugout for the airport. Based on the tweets so far, it doesn’t look like much was discussed. Overall, the conference was excellent and I can chalk up the final day to growing pains. What will be interesting to see is what happens in the coming weeks. Ext.Direct was talked up in about every session, but there is an incredible lack of detail for how it will be implemented with mainstream enterprise technologies (Java/C#). Abe talked about the Marketplace, which sounds like the equivalent of RubyForge for ExtJS. If they can get it up, it will be cool. Finally, the UI Designer is what everyone really wants but it is slated for v3.1, and no one would talk timelines for it.

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