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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Opera Unite ... or better, Server Widgets!

My plan to conquer the World was so close that I could not believe it: the power of my old Centrino 1.6 based Laptop, nowadays less powerful than latest Netbook, plus my fantastic USB pen to surf constantly switching between GPRS, HSDPA, and 56Kb with constant lags of service, and finally a magic Web Server directly inside a good browser! WOW, It's Done!

What Blocked My Plans

... not the hardware, neither the connection, just the idea! First of all, I cannot understand (or maybe I can ...) that much why everybody should be excited by something like Opera Unite:
  • the idea is not new
  • the implementation is not that friendly
  • there are hundreds of limitations

Nothing New

Somebody already complained about the un-innovative service or the browser integrated web-server, I would like to add the good old no-ip service to the list: install a Web Server, whatever it is, and as long as you are connected, no-ip will redirect a static url into your dynamic IP address. Easy? Moreover, you'll have full control over chosen programming languages, databases, etc etc. So which part of a unified sub domain into Opera servers redirected into your browser is that exciting?

Not That Friendly ... At All!

First of all, I think it is extremely ambiguous to put JavaScript files without understanding if these are for the server or for the client ... could be both? Who knows, I though the load event was for the global object ... what a surprise to find a load event specific for this internal web server. Something like addEventListener("webserver", function(){}); was too difficult to think about, wasn't it? If we would like to mess up our code, adding checks everywhere because we "do not know" how the file is going to be executed, that "load" event is the best option ever. Again, to test the application "as is", apparently we need to put files into a file zip renamed .us - how comfortable for a language which main tradition is the one to be run-time interpreted ... No way, write code, zip, rename the archive, test ... and if a coma was wrong, redo from the scratch. I am sure I am missing something, that was my first opinion as soon as I got how to create my first web app.

Too Many Limits

A local web-server, the key to save some money in this credit crunch era? And how can we do it if the second we "close the browser" all our data will be lost? Alternatives:
  1. storage mountPoint polled every N seconds in order to de-serialize data, add new one, if any, re-serialize, and save back again ... boring, not that safe, slow!
  2. pray that the service, so far beta (alpha?) will never shut down, and use the finally never that usefull JSON Query library
  3. ask Opera Engineers what's wrong with W3 Database API, considering we could implement an SQLite file directly in the package, and copy in the storage folder if necessary. Just easy like that!
  4. others, probably released with final version?

Moreover, everything is sandboxed via the xml configuration file ... but why on earth? OK, security, so we as hosts are considered not safe ... no-ip again? Folders limited somehow because of the event managment, we need a naming convetion. No Rewrite Rules possibility, and if I can add "myPage" event, will it be fired when I try "myPage/myName"? I do not know, Opera Unite crashed few seconds ago, I cannot try.

Maybe It Is Just Me

Yesterday I commented an arrogant post about JavaScript from PC Pro, today I am the arrogant one here and I am sorry if everything is because of my patience, vanished few seconds after I read the API and I did some test, but the impression is that since Opera Widgets are a good reality, this Opera Unite would like to make Widgets even closer to Developers, but in the server, it does not deal that well, IMHO. Anyway, there is still hope, this is a beta (alpha?), and hopefully good old Opera Pioneer will listen our opinion, improving our experience, and going forward thanks to our comments. Will it be the case?


Anonymous said...

Well written article, Andrea. My first impression was somewhat comparable to yours. We will see what this will offer in the future. The strongest problem here might also be that Opera do not have an interesting market share at the moment. The question here is if this new feature will bring any new users to Opera and how this compares to other services.

Andrea Giammarchi said...

I cannot see any way to grab share here, just developers testing or creating a service reachable from every browser ...