Tag Archives: ExtConf

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.

Ext Conference, Day 2

After the 100mph pace yesterday, day two of the conference settled in to a comfortable 55mph. The big news of the day was during the keynote, when they released RC1 of ExtJS 3.0. Jack was the scheduled keynote speaker, but I get the impression he doesn’t like speaking in front of large groups. His keynote lasted all of five minutes. He covered the history of ExtJS in two minutes and said ExtJS 3.0 is here. And that was it. Abe was left scrambling to fill a rather large hole in the schedule, and he called up Darrell of the GXT (Ext GWT) team to talk about their v2.0 release.

Darrell is a nice guy, but I was ready to pull my hair out listening to him. I had lunch with him yesterday and to say he is excited about GWT is a major understatement. In spite of being a Java guy, I don’t like the idea of writing my web UI in Java. It’s like the Hibernate mafia who think you can write a database application without knowing SQL. Each of the tiers has a best-in-breed language for addressing that tier’s problems. An enterprise developer better know SQL for talking to databases, Java/C# for the middle tier and HTML, CSS and JavaScript for the front end.

After the keynote, we had another smoothie break. The smoothies were good, but the general consensus would have preferred coffee in the morning and smoothies in the afternoon.

Aaron kicked off the regular sessions with a breakdown of the signature demo in ExtJS 3.0 — Image Organizer. This is the meatiest demo so far, and was interesting to see how they structured the code and where they subclassed. The application uses Ext.Direct, but the backend was only PHP. One of the first questions Aaron got asked was when they would release other backends. He really danced around the question without giving a true answer, saying that maybe there would be something released in the next week or so. Ext.Direct is starting to sound like a lot of vaporware. They talk a good game of how it will be able to use annotations/attributes server side for exporting objects and other cool stuff, but no one is producing any code. Ext.Direct is the new Duke Nukem Forever.

The next session I attended was one of the funniest. Glen Liptka talked about user experience design with ExtJS. He is at Marketo, which has done the most incredible theming of ExtJS I have ever seen. He started the talk covering general usability and then demonstrated their application. The point he made that stuck with me is that your UI should have low WTF/min. Everyone got a kick out of that.

Next up was JC Bize talking about theming ExtJS. JC is the author of the Slate theme, one of the most popular third-party themes used in ExtJS. He is now an employee of Ext, LLC, so hopefully we’ll see some more cool themes in the pipeline. He showed off a couple cool themes and then got in to a basic example of how to change the theme of a panel. When playing with themes, Firebug is your friend. Unfortunately, he got sidetracked trying to answer an audience question and the presentation fizzled out.

I couldn’t catch the last session, as I had to make a phone call, but came back for the day-ending Ask the Ext Team. Nothing major came up. I tried to ask the question of why they didn’t use Sizzle for Ext Core, but my question didn’t get voted up and they ended the session before they got to it.

The day wrapped up with a social down by the pool with a cash bar. I really started to hate the Ritz after paying $8 for a beer. They definitely need to move the conference to someplace that understands Happy Hour. I managed to corner Aaron at the social and got my Sizzle question answered. He said they didn’t use Sizzle because it was too big and too slow. He did say the DOJO guys were working on a very cool new engine called Acme that looks promising. DOJO makes me nauseous just looking at it, so I won’t be investigating it.

The day ended for me again at the bar. I had dinner with another attendee who works at the DIA. Since I have a similar background, we had a lot to talk about. $35 for two margaritas and a plate of chicken quesadillas — ouch!

Day three is only a half day, but there are still two sessions I’m interested in, so it should be fruitful.

Ext Conference, Day 1

The first day of the first-ever Ext Conference wrapped up today. The day actually started last night when I got to the hotel. Jay Garcia and Shea Frederick both got in at about the same time as me. We had an impromptu meet-up at the hotel bar, where we hooked up with a few more conference attendees who were drawn to the geek conversation like moths to a flame.

One of the guys (Jerry), mentioned that Abe (Elias) was still in the big conference room preparing for the keynote. Since it was 12:30am, and tipsy geeks don’t have anything better to do, we paid him a visit. He was extremely cool, and ended up giving us the tour. He took us down to one of the other meeting rooms where a Rick, Aaron, Evan, Tommy and Chris were getting ready for their presentations too. After about a half-hour of the geekfest with them, I went to bed to be ready for the early start today. As a footnote to the evening, be sure to ask Jay how sissy drinks at the Ritz went over with him.

The conference started up at 8:30am this morning. Abe introduced the Ext development team, which was a lot larger than I expected – over a dozen people. He kept the introductions short so that we could get to Douglas Crockford, our keynote speaker. As he is a legend in the JavaScript community, it was exciting to see him talk in person. He covered a little bit of the history of JavaScript, then dived in to the future, including ECMAScript 5 (ES5). ES5 is going to be pretty impressive, but it will be years before we can really count on it being on all the desktops (thanks, Microsoft).

Most all the sessions throughout the day were at a good technical level. No fluff, just stuff. Aaron presented the new features of ExtJS 3.0, which drew almost everyone. They had to move the session back to the keynote ballroom. ExtJS 3.0 is super cool, with one exception, which I’ll discuss below.

Evan was up next, talking about Ext.data. Since there wasn’t a lot new in this space, this was more a rehash of the Ext.data classes. Evan definitely knows his stuff, and had some educational examples.

Chris then talked about Ext.direct. This is the one area of ExtJS 3.0 that I’m still skeptical on. One of the key parts of Ext.direct is the server-side component, yet everyone so far has been light on details for this piece. Chris is a Merb guy, so it didn’t help when he was showing Ruby code trying to explain it. Even listening to Jack discuss it in the hall left me feeling there were still a lot of smoke and mirrors around Ext.direct. In theory, Ext.direct should provide a server-technology agnostic RPC mechanism for talking to objects. I’m not convinced we actually needed this, and since I haven’t seen any real code behind it, I’m not sure what kind of state it is in. Hopefully, when Jack announces the release of ExtJS 3.0 tomorrow morning, I’ll get a chance to look at some code.

My final session for the day was watching Tommy discuss Ext Core. I’ve already covered Ext Core in some prior posts, but still managed to learn some things. Ext Core is going to really shake some things up when folks start to get familiar with it. I plan on wrapping up a post on the cool OO features of Ext Core this weekend.

That was it for the structured presentations. Here are a few other random thoughts and observations on the day:

  • Swag so far has been an Ext spiral notepad, a pen and a nice travel mug. There will probably be a riot if T-shirts don’t appear.
  • The next fool who gets up and asks about testing ExtJS websites with selenium is going to receive my travel mug upside their head. Asking the same question five times is not going to get you a different answer.
  • The meal was excellent. The hotel is nice, but a bit too ostentatious. It’s the Ritz, so you have to expect it, but it would have been more fun to have the conference in a more festive environment. Hint for Abe: Vegas, Baby!
  • Overheard a Salesforce architect talking about them moving to ExtJS. That would really rock if they did it.
  • The average age of the Ext dev team appears to be about 17 🙂 . They have a lot of bright, young talent on their hands. It will be fun to watch what they do with it.
  • Someone actually asked, in the group Q&A, if there were any books on ExtJS. Paying over a thousand dollars for a conference and not doing your homework is just plain dumb. Never ask something in front of a large group that 15 seconds on Google or Amazon could answer for you.
  • All the sessions were taped and Abe said they would be put up on the Ext site. Presentations should show up too.

I’m hoping tomorrow rocks too. We went non-stop from 8:30am to 6:30pm today, and it was a lot of fun. If they can keep up the momentum, this will turn out to be one of the best technology conferences I have ever attended.