Web & Programming

Stepping Into the Cloud for Better Scalability and Flexibility


It seems like "cloud computing" has been a buzzword for seemingly forever, but have you actually sat down and thought about moving your business "into the cloud?" Has the idea of migration been the barrier preventing you from getting it done? Fabio Pedrazzoli, IT strategist and consultant, offers his insights into why a change could be potentially worth it in the end.


I would like to share a typical scenario that shows the benefits of migrating into a cloud computing platform:

The need for scalability
A client of mine is running a social networking website. They have a fast growing community of over 15,000 users with a non-linear traffic pattern. For the nature of their service, the traffic that they receive is concentrated towards the weekend with very high peaks on Friday and Saturday.

To put the situation in real money, the problem is that if you optimise the hardware for the peaks, you end up spending a lot on hardware and other resources that will basically remain unemployed 4 days of the week, and, on the other side, if you just stick on the "budget" solution you'll most likely miss a slice of the very valuable traffic and conversions due to a poor and slow service that is delivered to your users.

A Developer's Perspective on Flash vs. HTML5


The future of rich media and web video has generated much debate over the past year, perhaps most notably through Apple CEO Steve Jobs' condemnation of Flash in favor of HTML5. Since then, there has been a lengthy discussion about whether HTML5 is truly the heir apparent to Flash, or if the latter's demise is greatly exaggerated. Septillion Developers, developer and technology writers, have worked with both platforms and stops to weigh in with the pros and cons of each.


The “Flash vs. HTML5” debate is viewed by many as the ultimate battle for internet supremacy. While one is a time-tested proprietary framework that has ruled the internet in the past and still ranks as a dominant player, the other is fast emerging as the future standard for content on the World Wide Web.

From a developer’s perspective, it’s an interesting proposition. It’s a fine line choosing one out of HTML5 and Flash as each platform has its own merits as well as pitfalls. While an increasing number of tech pundits see it as an either/or proposition, that’s not necessarily the case amongst the developer fraternity.

The Apple Effect
Adobe Flash was the preferred platform of choice for a number of technology heavyweights for several years. And then Steve Jobs wrote an open letter about his “Thoughts on Flash.” The rest as they say is history. Jobs criticized Flash on several aspects including level of openness, reliability, security, performance and several other mobile specific criteria such as battery life and touch capabilities.

None the less, Jobs’ open letter pitched HTML5 as a viable alternative and a number of biggies including Google, Digg and several others followed suit. And to make the HTML5 case even stronger, Apple subsequently lifted “all restrictions on developer tools to create iOS apps” passively promoting the cause of several HTML5 compliant UI frameworks such as PhoneGap, Sencha Touch and several others; while retaining the “No Flash” clause.

Performance, People, and Profit: The Future of Mobile Gaming


Earlier this week Google announced their Android 2.3 mobile operating system update (codename Gingerbread), which is making waves not because of its enhancements for multimedia or communication—but for gaming. There is an incredible demand for mobile gaming now and it’s clear that Google has heard the consumer’s voice loud and clear. Android is the fastest-growing mobile OS in the U.S. and is poised to jump Apple iOS in the near-future, so it speaks volumes that the enhancements of this eagerly awaited update will probably benefit game developers the most.

Hoping to bring more high performance games to Android, Google made native APIs available so that developers have direct access to input & sensor events, low-latency audio, OpenGL ES, and a new native framework for lifecycle and window management. Gingerbread introduces a concurrent garbage collector which minimizes application pauses, results in smoother animations, and increased responsiveness. And for games that support motion processing, there is now gyroscope support.

What do you get when you add it all up? Well, Gingerbread is said to be the OS at the heart of Sony’s long-rumored PlayStation Phone, and the new 2.3 release was found to have keyboard code for a dedicated PlayStation controller—so we’re going to see an effort go towards a pure gaming experience that will more resemble portable gaming consoles like Sony’s PSP rather than the rudimentary games found on cellular phones ten years ago.

Apple has a number of high performance games available in its App Store as well, such as Call of Duty: Zombies and Rage HD, but it clearly sees the social aspect of gaming being a huge part of the future. In its September iOS update (4.1), Apple included GameCenter, an application designed to promote social gaming by letting a user challenge friends to compete in games, manage friend requests, and post high scores on community leaderboards to spur competition. Other mobile social gaming platforms like OpenFeint have over 50 million members and growing.

As mentioned in our Elance 2010 Year in Review, we’ve seen demand for mobile developers jump an incredible 98%, with iOS (iPad and iPhone programmers) and Android programmers leading in demand followed by BlackBerry, Symbian, and others. Game developer skills are likely to be big contributors in driving these rankings higher in the very near future, especially as consumers increase demand for smartphones (with more than 200,000 Android phone sold each day and the iPhone coming to Verizon), iPads and Android-powered tablets devices.

iOS Pushes Past Blackberry OS in the U.S.; Android Hot on Heels

It’s official—Apple’s iOS has nudged percentage points ahead of longtime leader RIM Blackberry OS to give it the largest total U.S. market share for smartphone operating systems, according to a release issued by analysis service The Nielsen Company. The news, which comes from October data, shows iOS with a 27.9% share, slightly more than Blackberry OS, which continues its steady free fall at 27.4%.

Most pundits predicted Apple would overtake RIM eventually, so the most interesting piece of data might be that Google’s Android OS checks in with nearly 23% of the overall U.S. market, the latest impressive number in what has been a meteoric rise in 2010 for the relatively new kid on the block. According to Nielsen data, Android began the year with a modest 8% share, while iOS stood at 28% and Blackberry OS led with a comfortable 35%. Since then, iOS has remained steady but Blackberry OS has trended downward each month, with Android gobbling up the lost shares.

Android’s rapid climb mirrors the findings in our recent Q3 2010 Online Employment Report, which saw Android-related jobs jump an incredible 26 spots to number 49 in its Overall Skills in Demand listing. iOS development jumped five positions to number 16, and while Blackberry rose 13 places, it still ranks as only the 89th most desired skill in the Elance employment marketplace.

At its current pace, Android is poised to become the number one mobile OS in the U.S. very soon, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the mobile space. RIM got a head start in the race because the Blackberry has been on the market the longest, with Apple coming to play in 2007 and Android in early 2009. But in the first seven months of 2010, Android has gained an industry-best 32% share over Blackberry and iOS (26% and 25% respectively), announcing Android as the go-to operating system for new smartphone buyers.

Despite the great numbers, the writing isn’t quite on the wall yet for Android’s competitors, as the Nielsen data says 19% of future smartphone upgraders aren’t sure which OS they want next. That uncertainty may be enough to help RIM regain its lead, or to open the door for another OS altogether—like newly launched Windows Phone 7—to step in and seize those new customers.

One thing is clear—right now, Android’s breakthrough has ushered in a tremendous opportunity for Android programmers and developers, as their skills and services will be ultimately determine if—and how far—they pull away from the pack.

HTML5 and the Future of the Web


As a business owner, entrepreneur or developer, making the decision to adopt the new HTML5 web standard or continuing to utilize older technologies like Flash can be a difficult one. Len Payne, content creator on Elance and web development enthusiast, shares his thoughts on HTML5 and the future of the web.

The Internet is not a place to be caught standing still. With the constant shifts and twists of technological trends, it's important to be aware of what's coming, and to make sure you're not getting left behind. With the recent adoption of HTML5 and CSS3, we're looking at a brand new set of open standards for web development. HTML and CSS make up the backbone of all web content and the native language of our web browsers. They're growing, expanding and leaving unprepared companies in the dust. Do you know what changes are coming, and how that's going to affect your business?

Escaping The Past

First of all, let me give you an example of what it's like to be left behind by internet technologies. I was recently linked to the actual, honest to goodness, ticket ordering websites for the two most-watched game shows on North American television today. I'm talking about Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Click on that, I'll wait. It's a blast from the past, but it's the web presence of a very successful business. Today. Would you seriously feel comfortable giving your personal information out on a website like that? It's functional and cost-effective, but in an age of eBay, PayPal and Facebook, is a 1996 Geocities template the kind of face you want for your company?

That's an extreme example, and we all know that it's always important to keep up with the times, but what's really changed? What is the cutting edge of web design and how do these web professionals actually make things look so professional? The big changes we're seeing in HTML5 and CSS3 are leaps and bounds beyond what you saw from "America's Game", but the hugest shifts from last year to this year are the inclusion of inline media tags—bringing movies, sound and games back in control of the browser.

Now somebody out there is gonna say, "What?! But I can already watch movies in my browser!" And they're right… sort of.

For years, we have relied on Flash and Java to provide rich multimedia web content. Why? What did they offer? They offered programs that would run within your web browser to play sounds, videos and even interactive games. It's an added layer, like paying someone else to wash the windows. What you're seeing in today's web browsers, however, is the built-in ability to show rich media content without bloated overhead. In other words: Everyone's windows are washing themselves for no extra cost.

Complete Cloud Control in 2020?

In 2020, you, those you work with, and nearly everyone else that is digitally connected will access data, software applications, and all information through “cloud”-based services like Google Docs, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Box.net, and more, according to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project Study.

Considering how much data the general public digests through the cloud in today’s world, the majority of experts agree that this trend will only move forward by the end of the upcoming decade.

Out of an expert sample group of 371, 72 percent agreed that by 2020, most people will be completing their work through web-based applications via computers and mobile phones as opposed to utilizing a general purpose PC. In contrast, 25 percent disagreed by saying most people will still be doing their work the old fashioned way – with software running on a general-purpose PC. As for cloud applications? Those will be useful, but “the most innovative and important applications will run on (and spring from) a PC operating system.”

The 10 Best Android Resources on the Web

You and I both know that Google’s App Market doesn’t boast the numbers of Apple’s industry-leading App Store, but with slick new devices, updated software releases, and a high carrier and manufacturer adoption rate, the Android platform is riding high on a wave of popularity that is attracting new developers, app creators, entrepreneurs, and most importantly, consumers.

And with Android making a 10-position jump in the most recent edition of the Online Talent Report, it clearly indicates a spark of heavy interest in development on the open-source platform. Regardless of if you’re an amateur developer, a veteran coder, or an entrepreneur looking to learn more, we’ve got you covered with our 10 best Android development resources on the web.

Android Developers Site:  In order to begin development for the Android platform, you’ll need to start here at square one. From this site, you can download the software development kit (SDK) and the tools required for Android development and testing. This is also the very same site that you will be coming back to when it is time to publish your app onto the Android market. The site also features extensive documentation on the APIs associated with the platform.

While the Android Developers site does in fact feature a forum for help with the Android Market, it doesn’t have a general purpose discussion area for new coders who may have development related questions. Instead, Google refers users to the second resource in this list, Stack Overflow.

Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow is an online discussion forum suited for a variety of programming questions across a variety of platforms. It’s chock full of stuff for Android developers because it’s the primary site recommended by Google for those looking for help with Android related problems. Rather than being broken down into sub-forums like many other online discussion forums, Stack Overflow is organized according to tags. It also allows visitors to vote on the best answer, similar to other question and answer sites like Yahoo! Answers.

Did Apple’s iPhone and iPad Kill Flash?

Rumors of Flash’s impending death have been greatly exaggerated, but according to recent headlines, the Cupertino mobile devices giant is looking to singlehandedly shift online rich media content from the Adobe Flash platform to HTML5, CSS, and Javascript with its mega popular iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad devices. But why?

Last week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs published a 1,500+ word article titled “Thoughts on Flash” highlighting his and Apple’s collective decision to continue to leave Adobe’s Flash technology off of their products. His argument details six main reasons, which include (from Apple.com):  

  1. Adobe Flash is a 100% proprietary product that is not open and is completely controlled by Adobe.
  2. While most online video is Flash based, H.264 is a more modern alternative that is widely available.
  3. Flash has significant reliability, security, and performance issues. (He even claims the number one reason why Macs crash is due to Flash.)
  4. Flash technologies require software decoding, thus eating an unnecessarily large amount of battery life.
  5. Flash was designed in a world when input devices simply comprised of mice and keyboards and not touch.
  6. The most important reason to Jobs: Flash is a third-party layer of software that hinders the progress of development and the platforms it resides on, like the iPhone OS, for example.

While most of these arguments can be seen as thoroughly valid points, several of them can be fiercely debated, and recently, some of them have been.

First, Flash is neither entirely proprietary or entirely open – according to an article from Fast Company. Certain aspects of Flash are open source, like the SWF and FLV video formats and the Flex SDK, and some are not, like Flash IDE. But why the accusation of open vs. closed? Fast Company writes, “The open-vs.-closed argument isn't really what we're talking about here, anyway: Jobs only mentions it to negate the accusations that iPhone OS is 'too closed.' His real problems are technological (like battery life and touch).”

HP & Palm: What Does It Mean for the Smartphone Market & Developers?

Yesterday, a bomb of atomic proportions was dropped into the smartphone market as Hewlett-Packard, one of the world’s largest electronic device manufacturers and the current reigning champ of the PC manufacturing arena, bought Palm for $1.2 billion USD. Palm, mostly noted for its recent innovations with the webOS software on the Pre and the Pixi, had been struggling to gain significant marketshare in the crowded smartphone market currently dominated by Apple, RIM, and Google.

It’s completely reasonable to make the logical assumption that the folks at HP HQ were after Palm’s crown jewel, the webOS platform, but speculations of the following ramifications regarding the purchase are starting to surface. Here’s my take (of course, take this with a grain of salt):

  1. More Hardware: This one is a no brainer. If you buy a shoe company, you’re probably going to sell shoes at some point and make it part of your core business. The purchase of Palm is no different. And since HP has largely been out of the mobile hardware market in recent memory (the last phone I can remember is the iPaq 910c) expect the obvious to occur: HP will pump out more new phone and device variations taking advantage of the slick webOS platform, as opposed to Palm’s limited number of offerings - the Palm Pre and the Palm Pixi (plus editions included.) Speaking of platforms…

iPhone OS 4.0 Brings Multitasking and More

Since the summer of ‘07, consumers have fallen in love with the iPhone, iPod touch, and most recently, the tablet device known as the iPad. However, nearly all users of the devices have complained in unison about one missing feature spanning all three devices – multitasking.

Today, the Cupertino electronics giant announced the highly-anticipated iPhone OS 4, which brings multitasking, folders, and a newly redesigned email inbox to the iPhone 3GS, iPad, and third generation iPod touch.

The new unified email inbox offers multiple Exchange accounts, fast inbox switching, threaded message view, and the ability to open attachments directly from email, while folders allow you to neatly organize your hundreds (or now thousands) of apps into collapsible folder icon. Also joining the ring is Apple's iAd, an ad platform for developers to earn revenue to help "free apps stay free." These are all welcome additions to the operating system, but multitasking is clearly the killer feature of the day.

While Apple’s multitasking implementation isn’t “true” (due to the amount of resources true multitasking requires), the seven APIs that are now available for applications to utilize have the potential to increase the functionality of many existing applications. The seven APIs include background audio, Voice over IP, background location, push notifications, local notifications, task completion, and fast app switching. This allows applications like “Pandora” or “Skype” to operate as you original intended – you’ll be able to hear your Pandora stream and browse the web without any interruptions.


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