2010: Things to come

Time to dust off the crystal ball and have a wild stab at what may happen in the coming 12 months. There were some disappointments in 2009: Google Wave certainly didn’t live up to the hype but maybe things will change for the better now that the EtherPad guys have been bought on board. Wolfram Alpha also flopped. Frankly, I’d almost forgot it ever launched in the first place but they still thought that people would pay $50 for their iPhone application.

Twitters recent acquisition of Mixer Labs indicates the way things are heading: location-based services will be this years real-time web. Google’s attempted courting of Yelp provides further evidence for this. I’m still mocked among my non-tech friends for using Twitter so I’m expecting more of the same when Foursquare becomes more prominent. Augmented reality will also be a large part of this location-aware shift.

A faster, more widely available, always-on connection will obviously be an important factor for location-based applications but for the renewed attempt at tablet computing and a thin client model running Google’s Chrome OS, connectivity will be more important still. Cities in Norway and Sweden recently gained a 4G network which is up to ten times quicker than 3G.

Now that HDTV has been sold to the masses, it’s time for the electronics companies to tell us once again that we out-of-date and we need a new television set. What has been the big thing in the cinema of late will now be pushed at the consumer level. Sony has signed a deal that will see up to 25 matches at the 2010 World Cup be broadcast in 3D – but only at special events. If the biggest sporting spectacle in the world can’t drive demand then there could be trouble ahead for 3D in the home.

Another thing set to take off next year that will become huge is making and taking payments with mobile phones. While the Japanese have been doing this with the handset itself for a good while now this has only been used like the contactless cards we’re starting to use here (i.e. paying for things). Square and possibly the iPod Touch system used by Apple will allow anyone to take payment for goods and services.

2010: Things to do

It’s almost the end of the year. A lot of us will be making the usual New Years resolutions again: drink less, exercise more, eat better. We say this every year, thinking about improving our health and ourselves. It lasts for what, a few months – at best? It’s beyond time for us to wise up and make changes not for ourselves but for our children and the planet that has been loaned to us by them.

Copenhagen has shown us that the politicians can’t be relied upon to stand up to big business and their own interests. Responsibility now lies with the citizen to do something – at the polling station and in our personal lives.

We know what we’re supposed to do: change our lightbulbs, turn the TV off at the wall, turn the thermostat down and so on. We know we’re supposed to keep our air and food miles down. We should be doing the same for sea miles as well.

Half of all journeys made in the EU are less than 5km. Start walking or using a bike for the shorter journeys you make. Take the bus, train or car-share when possible.

Stop wasting food. It’s not a hard thing to do. Start by planning your meals and writing a list before you go shopping. Don’t religiously adhere to “Best Before” dates.

Know what’s involved in the production of what you consume: 140 litres of water for that cup of coffee you enjoy so much for example. And for crying out loud, stop drinking bottled water.

Don’t just recycle: reuse. One of my friends favourite ripostes to the recycling brigade was that it’s not clear if recycling uses any less energy than making something from new. He missed the point entirely. As The Story of Stuff makes clear, we only have a finite amount of resources on the planet.

Behind the scenes

The PQP profiler from Particletree is a very handy thing to have in your development toolbox. However, it doesn’t deal with the ever-increasing amount of work done via Ajax requests. Or, at least, it didn’t.

Back in the days when FireBug actually worked reliably, FirePHP was a very handy plugin that enabled you to view trace statements and debug information generated by PHP scripts requested by an XMLHttpRequest object. It occurred to me that I could use the same method of piggybacking JSON encoded messages in the HTTP headers, parse them with JavaScript and dynamically update the PQP Console. This way also means that a native cross-browser solution would be available.

The Prototype library has great Ajax support. Two features in particular allowed me to implement this new functionality extremely quickly: it adds a header that identifies requests as being of type XMLHttpRequest (as does jQuery) and has a global responders object (which jQuery lacks) that means any Ajax request created can automatically have the required callbacks registered. In short, you won’t need to change your code – as long as you’re using Prototype as well that is, although I’m sure one of you clever jQuery types can knock something up fairly quickly!

I made some fairly minimal changes to the PQP classes to add the new functionality (and to satisfy my obsession with coding standards). I also tidied up the JavaScript to ensure that the Prototype library would be available and take advantage of it for tab switching and DOM manipulation.

I’ll polish it a little, integrate it with my ongoing PDO work and document it properly later on but for now you can go and have a look at an example over at my playground.


I’ve been convinced for a while now that Google are up to something. I’m not talking about the real-time results inclusion that launched today but something more fundamental that will have a huge impact next year.

A couple of weeks after the announcement of the Chromium SPDY protocol we now get the Google public DNS. OpenDNS founder David Ulevitch shared his thoughts on this pretty quickly. Then there’s all that Dark Fiber that we first knew about a few years ago that I suspect we still don’t know the full details of.

Is this all just positioning for the best possible experience of Chrome OS next year? Speed of connectivity and reliability are going to be key. Google have reportedly dropped Gears – their proprietary browser plugin – in favour of the offline caching features found in the as yet unfinished HTML 5 specification.

Google’s corporate mantra of “Don’t be evil” is quite subjective. Just how much control do you want to give a single entity? The recent aggregation of data held on an individual from each of their services through the new Dashboard was a very welcome move. They also appear to act responsibly and actively avoid being a brain drain on the rest of the industry.

If relinquishing control to Google and newly designed – preferably open source – protocols eliminates the problem of spam and phising then I for one would welcome our new Internet overlords.