Popups in GWT and IE8

Just starting to test some GWT applications against IE8.  (Using IE Collection, which is very useful.  It includes standalone versions of IE from IE1 to IE8.  Very useful, even if the version of IE8 doesn’t include the developer tools.)

The only issue I’ve seen so far is that popups don’t work correctly.  Some appear, but not where they are supposed to.  Others, particularly with the lightbox we’re using (from the GWT-Widget project), just don’t appear at all.

For the latter, you get the very helpful message:

Line: 2618
Char : 324
Error: Not implemented
Code: 0
File: url to your GWT cache.js file.

(This is with GWT 1.5.3.)  After compiling the GWT with “-style DETAILED”, I looked at the precise line causing the error message.

It was in this method:

function com_google_gwt_user_client_ui_impl_PopupImplIE6_$onShow__Lcom_google_gwt_user_client_ui_impl_PopupImplIE6_2Lcom_google_gwt_user_client_Element_2(popup){
var frame = $doc.createElement($intern_1350);
frame.src = $intern_1351;
frame.scrolling = $intern_1352;
frame.frameBorder = 0;
popup.__frame = frame;
frame.__popup = popup;
var style = frame.style;
style.position = $intern_1314;
style.filter = $intern_1353;
style.visibility = popup.style.visibility;
style.border = 0;
style.padding = 0;
style.margin = 0;
style.left = popup.offsetLeft;
style.top = popup.offsetTop;
style.width = popup.offsetWidth;
style.height = popup.offsetHeight;
style.zIndex = popup.style.zIndex;
style.setExpression($intern_110, $intern_1354);
style.setExpression($intern_111, $intern_1355);
style.setExpression($intern_91, $intern_1356);
style.setExpression($intern_93, $intern_1357);
style.setExpression($intern_1358, $intern_1359);
popup.parentElement.insertBefore(frame, popup);
You can see where I commented out the style.setExpression calls, which seemed to fix the issue (the $intern strings are css property names like 'left').  Obviously not very sustainable. The other fix available right now is to add this meta tag to the HEAD section of your HTML documents:
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=EmulateIE7" />

For more information on this, follow the GWT issue tracker bug 3329.

Speeding up Thunderbird Search with IMAP

I like the Thunderbird email client a lot (Thunderbird2).  I used to use and love pine, though, so perhaps you should take any accolades with a grain of salt.

I use Thunderbird with IMAP so that I don’t have to worry about backing up my email locally, and so that I can always ssh in and view new mail if I’m on a different computer (‘less’ is my mail client then!).

It has a lot of plugins, but the only one I really used was lightning, the calender/task management plugin.  And then I got a Palm, and haven’t been able to find any way to hook the calendar on the palm up to lightning (there is support for syncing contacts).

Anyway, one thing that got me really riled me up was the slow search.  This post illuminated the facts for me; it wasn’t Thunderbird that was slow, it was my IMAP server.  I upgraded my IMAP server to dovecot 1.1.7, that being what my hosting provider supported.  Dovecot has a nice full text search installed by default.  Or at least I thought it was nice.  It couldn’t be worse than no full text indexing at all, I figured.

However, my hosting provider didn’t provide that plugin–whoops!  I downloaded the same version of dovecot, ran ‘configure; make; make dist’ and copied over all the fts *.a *.so and *.la files for both fts and fts_squat to the plugin directory.  Then I enabled the fts plugin in the dovecot.conf file, including changes recommended for fts_squat, and restarted dovecot.  My full text searches (in Thunderbird quick search) for folders with 6000 messages, went from 4.5 seconds to 1 second.  Quite the success.

I then wanted to figure out some way to search for multiple areas in the quick search box.  I already found that you can use the pipe symbol as an or operator but that only applies to a given type of search (for subject, or body, etc).  What I was looking for was a way to search for ‘from sue’ ‘to anton’ and ‘body contains spaghetti’, all in one search.

I searched and searched, looking at the IMAP rfc and trying many different variations.  I looked at plugins.  I looked through the config editor.  I tried the Thunderbird tips page.  No luck.

Then I read a post that talked about the two ways to search.  Quick search (the box in the upper right hand corner of the email client) and normal old search, the one you get to by typing ‘control-shift-f.

This does exactly what I want!  But it’s cumbersome.  It’d be great to take a page from Yahoo Mail and implement their search shortcuts in the quick search bar: ‘from: ‘ for from, etc.  It’s a killer feature for me.

Anyone know of a plugin that does this?  This page has some keyboard shortcuts, but that’s not really what I’m looking for.  And I didn’t see anything in the Thunderbird bug list, though this bug seems like it might be heading down that path.

Anyway, those are my recent adventures in email.

Notes from Tom Malaher’s cloud computing presentation

A former colleague, Tom Malaher, did an online presentation about cloud computing on Mar 11 at the Calgary JUG.  You can view the recording of it now.  It was titled: Cloud Computing and Amazon Web services (AWS), and was a great survey of cloud computing and then a nice dive into AWS.  I used to work with Tom and always enjoy the depth and breadth of his presentations.

Below are some of my notes.

  • This was their first online meeting, due to cash flow issues (lack of sponsorship), and to make it easier for speakers out of the Calgary area.  It was put on using Elluminate.com.  (This client was installed using JNLP; very easy to install and setup).  You can use Elluminate for up to three participants for free (but you cannot record your session).
  • Definition of cloud computing is in tug of war in vendor land.  According to Infrastructure Executive Council, cloud computing is elastic, multi-tenant, on-demand, usage based metering (no long term contracts), self service

Tom outlined a number of variations on cloud computing

  • Infrastructure as a service (s3, ec2)
  • Platform as a service (Google app engine, Microsoft Azure)
  • Software as a service (Google docs, salesforce.com)
  • Grid computing–more homogenous, but lots of overlap

Diving into Amazon Web Services, he outlined all the webservices that Amazon provides.  I had already heard of a number of these, but two caught my eye:

  • DevPay–pass through payment for Amazon Web Services.
  • Public Data Sets–public domain data sets easily available for computation on the AWS platform

Composing AWS services makes sense, since there are no bandwidth charges between Amazon service calls within Amazon’s data centers (e.g. EC2->S3).

He had some interesting figures from the IEC: 70% surveyed are not using cloud computer (40% aren’t even considering it).  Only 10% are hosting an ‘app’ on the cloud (with no definition of an app).  I asked a question of Tom about what is considered an app.  I have a client who is hosting backups and images on s3, and friends who regularly back up servers to s3.  Is that an ‘app’?  I don’t think so, but Tom didn’t have a definition of ‘app’ for this survey.

Tom also did an interesting cost analysis when he was looking at pros and cons for AWS.

The 1and1.com high end hosting agreement: 1gb ram 50gb hd, 2000gb transfer: $59/month.

For a comparable AWS instance, with an ec2 image, 1.7 MB ram, 160gb hard drive (ephemeral), 2000 gb transfer, persistent 50gb hard drive: worst case $479.50/month, but for one day: ~$16.

In my opinion, this is the key con of AWS right now, at least for full fledged applications. It’s simply not cost competitive with some of the hosting you can find out there.

And with regular hosts, you don’t have to deal with as much infrastructure overhead. Tools like ElasticFox and S3Fox can help.  I’ve used S3Fox and love it.
The development model is suprisingly similar (Tom mentioned building his demo on his home machine and using some of the more exotic services, like SQS; then, when he was ready for the full cloud deployment, he just moved his war file to the appropriate image after some setup).

Then Tom demoed an app built by composing a number of Amazon web services.  Starting an an ec2 machine image (AMI) takes a long time (but still less than building a machine from scratch :).  During entire presentation and demo (1 hour, 3 instances, some messaging, he was only charged 50 cents.

Other interesting uses: The NY Times used it to build a bunch of web friendly pngs from tiffs of papers past.
You can use a regular RDBMS, with Elastic Block Storage.

Someone asked: where does AWS fit in larger organizations?  Tom thought it was a good fit for small organizations…  But he was not really sure about large organizations.

In my opinion, many of the technical decision makers I know are willing to use S3 as a storage mechanism, but they still want a backup solution, in case Amazon is unavailable (as it sometimes is).  This unavailability would be even more damning if you had an entire webapp running off ec2 and the other services.

Buying your own dedicated server has its own risks, but many people are still used to that paradigm.  But, for quickly scaling, or for a special one time project that needs a lot of firepower (like the NYTimes project above), it makes sense.

Stepping back from AWS, the idea of cloud computing seems to be continuing to make progress and attack the issues of network connectivity, security and cost that make it a hard sell at the present.  I love the delineation of the variations (infrastructure as a service, etc), and not all cloud computing will look like AWS.
Overall, a great presentation.  If you have the time (I stayed for some of the Q&A, and left at the 90 minute mark), it’s worth a listen. Go ahead, check it out.

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