# Saturday, 22 May 2010
The Google I/O Developer Conference this past week (May 19-20) was a highly anticipated event for both Google web and mobile Developers alike.

With the exception of Chrome OS, all of the technologies and products on my watch list unveiled new and exciting features that re-affirmed my belief that Google is indeed one of the leading cloud platforms to be embraced by all cloud Developers.

The marriage between the Android mobile OS and Google services is simply outstanding. The new Web Store works seamlessly with mobile devices and actions taken on either the desktop or mobile are immediately reflected on the other device.

Google handed out 2 mobile phones to attendees, a Motorola Droid and a HTC EVO 4G, and I was amazed at the ease and speed of syncing both devices with my existing Google Premier Apps account.

The dilemma I faced was whether to write mobile apps natively for Android apps or use HTML5. Geolocation, games, and apps requiring haptic response will most definitely be better served running natively on Android. General web sites and marketing centric apps written in HTML5 will enjoy the benefits of running cross platform (iPhone, Blackberry, Android) but will lack high end graphics and GPS support (although SVG and Geo Javascript extensions could address both of these in HTML5).

Developing for Google in previous years has been something of a hobby for many Developers, since there were few monetization opportunities outside AdWords and AdSense. Google unveiled several new monetization platforms for both desktop and mobile developers that will make Android very attractive to existing iPhone developers (plus Google doesn't discriminate apps uploaded to their Marketplace).

With 100K Android phone activations per day it's becoming very easy to do the quick math and trust that Google Android is a viable and profitable distribution vehicle.

A considerable amount of time was spent on Google Business during the day 1 keynote. The Google/VMWare partnership mirrored closely what was announced for VMForce just a couple weeks ago, although I think Salesforce did a much better job of helping Developers understand what was being offered via SpringSource. Google is serious about the business market and wants Java apps written on their platform.

I think the most underrated business feature is Google Apps Script. This is a free extension to Google Premier Apps that enables complex workflows between spreadsheets, web forms, email, and calendars. I would highly advise SMBs to use Apps Script for their business needs while larger Enterprises would probably benefit more from the SpringSource business platform.

All demonstration hiccups aside, the Google TV announcement was interesting from a consumer perspective. It was quite amazing to see Google's CEO on stage with the other CEO's associated with the launch (Sony, Best Buy, Intel, Logitech, and Adobe). That was some serious firepower and, if anything, really reaffirmed that Google is pursuing a stratified and open platform in contrast to Apple's closed platform.

On a technical note, I enjoyed spending some time with the Chrome development team during their open "Office Hours". The conversation with them inspired me to download the V8 Javascript engine and brush up on my C++ skills in order to contribute some JSON parsing enhancements I requested.

Most of what I was hoping for in HTML5 support was either previewed at the conference or is scheduled for delivery this year. The V8 engine is in the Android 2.2 Froyo release and we can expect 2010 to be a milestone year for evolving browser technology.

The unedited YouTube video below is a 10 minute walkthrough of the conference floor with both Hardware and Software vendors showing their wares (check out the Salesforce booth around minute 3).

Saturday, 22 May 2010 17:02:22 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
# Monday, 17 May 2010

I'm getting on a plane tomorrow morning for San Francisco to attend the Google I/O conference. If you're a cloud developer and can only attend 1-2 conferences per year, then this conference should be on your calendar (in addition to Dreamforce).

Even though 90%+ of Google's revenue comes from search advertising, they are much more than a search engine these days. They've effectively leveraged their massively scalable Google File System to develop and host hundreds (if not thousands) of applications that are accessible throughout the world using nothing but a web browser.

Google has realized that the best way to increase revenue is not to push more customers towards Google, but to provide more accessibility to the web itself. You can deploy this somewhat altruistic strategy when you have a 72% market share.

Deploying highspeed fiber networks and launching the open source Android mobile operating system are just a couple examples of Google seeking to further enable access to the cloud on the premise that consumers of these networks/devices will eventually utilize the Google search engine and ads.

To see Android phone sales surpass iPhone in the last quarter is quite an amazing feat given the OS has only been available for about 18 months. Google shipped Motorola Droids to all 4,000 Google I/O attendees (including myself) with 30 days pre-paid access via Verizon. My Google G1 phone now seems archaic in comparison and I can't wait for the 2 year Sprint subscription to expire so I can switch over to Verizon and continue using this Moto Droid (I also recently purchased a Verizon MiFi for roaming cloud access and have been very impressed with their coverage)

Moving contacts and calendar events to the cloud is a common first step (I still don't understand why iPhone users tolerate the concept of syncing a device) and the ease of using GMail with Android makes it quite easy for consumers and businesses alike to move to the cloud.

Some key areas/topics I'll be following at the conference:

Chrome OS
I think the formal launch of Chrome OS and ubiquitous distribution through netbook partners will be a next likely step to broaden Google's reach and I expect some exciting announcements about this platform this week.

Android Development
I have the beginnings of an Android app integrated with Salesforce Chatter started, but I need to attain more mastery of debugging techniques, use of the emulator, and package/deployment steps.

Google Apps Marketplace
How to develop for and monetize Google App plugins.
Appirio has a pretty slick demo of embedding a Salesforce widget in Google Mail. I'm hoping Google will open up this API at the conference for others to try it out.

IoT and Google App Engine (GAE)
I'm interested in the potential of using GAE and BigTable as an aggregator for the Internet of Things. One side project I'm working on is to port my Chatter bot to Google.

Chrome Browser and HTML5
Just how far can Javascript be pushed to deliver rich internet applications? I'll be looking for some early indications that Google is serious about implementing HTML5 local storage and video on Chrome.

BI / Google Charts / Visualization
This is a little known API for rendering charts using a RESTful interface and I really dig it. There's great potential for moving business intelligence (BI) apps to the cloud by replicating/aggregating data using GAE and Google charts and visualizations for reporting

Google Sites
As a follow-up to our soon to be released "Cool Sites for AppExchange" app, I'm interested to learn how our template designs can be repurposed for Google Sites.

Google Wave
We've started using Google Wave internally quite a bit internally and it's emerging into an excellent collaboration tool.
Check out some live Google Waves this week. I just may be on some of them :-)

Monday, 17 May 2010 10:58:05 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
# Sunday, 13 December 2009
Update Jan 2012: This article is way out of date. I've since moved to a MacPro for development, using VMWare Fusion to run some Windows apps.

What would be your ultimate machine for developing applications in the cloud?

I've been mulling over this question for a few weeks and finally got around to putting a solution together over a weekend. There are both hardware and software components:

Hardware
  • Something in between a netbook and laptop, around 4 pounds.
  • 8+ hour battery life
  • 1" thin (Easy to tote)
  • SSD (Solid State Disk 256 GB+)
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 2 GHz CPU+
  • ~$700
I settled on a new Acer 4810 Timeline which met most of my requirements. The exceptions being the Acer has a 1.3 GHz CPU and doesn't have SSD. I wanted the SSD primarily for a speedy boot time, but some tuning of the Win7 sleep options along with the Acer's 8+ hour battery life means the laptop is rarely ever turned off and can quickly recover from sleep mode.

Software

Next up was the software required to fully embrace the cloud. My list of essential cloud tools is no where near as prolific as Scott Hanselman's tool list. But hey, this is a nascent craft and we're just getting started. These tools are essential, in my opinion, for doing development on the leading cloud platforms.

Windows 7
Whoa! I can already hear my Mac toting friends clicking away from this blog post. "WTF? Why Windows 7 for a cloud development machine?" Well, there are several reasons:
  • First of all, even if you do develop on a Mac you likely have a Windows VM or dual boot configured for Windows anyway.
  • Windows has been running on x86 architecture for years. Mac only made the jump a few years ago and is still playing catch up on peripheral device and driver support.
  • Even Google, a huge cloud player, consistently will develop, test, and release all versions of Chrome and Google App Engine tools on Windows before any other platform. Windows developers typically get access to these tools months in advance of Mac users.
  • Eclipse is another tool that is well supported on Windows, above all other platforms.
  • Silverlight support. This is my RIA environment of choice going forward.

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2
By the time you read this blog, perhaps this version of Visual Studio will be outdated, but it is the first release of VS designed with complete support for Azure.

Windows Azure
You'll need an Azure account to upload your application to the cloud for hosting.

Azure SDK
Great article here for getting started on installing/configuring your machine for the latest Azure bits

Azure Storage Explorer
Azure Storage Explorer is a useful GUI tool for inspecting and altering the data in your Azure cloud storage projects including the logs of your cloud-hosted applications.

Eclipse 
Eclipse is a Java-based IDE that requires the Java runtime

Rather than downloading the latest and greatest version of Eclipse, I recommend downloading whatever version is currently supported by the next essential cloud development tool (below)...

Force IDE
Eclipse Plug-in that supports development and management of Apex/Visualforce code on Salesforce.com's platform (aka Force.com)

Google App Engine
Currently, there are both Python and Java development environments for GAE. Like Azure, GAE supports development and debugging on localhost before uploading to the cloud, so the installation package provides a nice local cloud emulation environment.

SVN
I have a need for both the Windows Explorer Tortoise shell plug-in and the Eclipse plug-in. You may need only one or the other. All the Force.com open source projects are accessible via SVN.

Git on Windows (msysgit)
It seems gitHub is becoming the defacto standard for managing the source code for many web frameworks and projects. Excellent article here on how to install and configure Git on Windows

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Fox
Nice Firefox plug-in for managing EC2 and S3 instances on AWS. I mostly just use it for setting up temporary RDP whitelist rules on EC2 instances as I connect remotely from untrusted IP addresses (like airports/hotels/conferences).

I highly recommend using the browser based AWS console for all other provisioning and instance management. There's also an AWS management app for Android users called decaf.

Browsers
If you're doing real world web development, then you already know the drill. Download and install Internet Explorer 8, Firefox, and Chrome at minimum. In addition to the Elastic Fox plug-in (above) you'll want to install Firebug. IE 8 now has Firebug-like functionality built-in, called the Developer Toolbar. Just hit F12 to access it (see comparison with Firebug here).

I personally use JQuery for all web development that requires DOM manipulation to handle cross-browser incompatibilities and anomalies.

There are 6-10 other utilities and tools I installed on this machine that aren't specific to the cloud. Installing everything on this list took about 90 minutes (plus a couple hours to pull down all my SVN project folders for Passage and other related projects I manage).

Given that cloud development is all about distributing resources over servers and clients, I like to take a minimalist approach and reduce the surface area and drag of my local environment as much as possible. This improves OS and IDE boot time as well as eliminates a lot of common debugging issues as a result of version incompatibilities.

What about you? What hardware/tools/applications are essential to your cloud development projects?

Sunday, 13 December 2009 12:01:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
# Saturday, 14 November 2009

I hope the buzz is true. If so, I plan to setup a netbook specifically for running Chrome OS. Even better if the netbook/OS can run Eclipse. I'll make it my "cloud machine" :-).

Saturday, 14 November 2009 11:13:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)