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Pixie Dust and More

  • May 23, 2001
  • By Bradley L. Jones
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In the last few days, a number of news items have crossed my desk. Several were very interesting. I thought I'd share some of the information with you.

Pixie Dust

The news item that made me chuckle and then say "wow" was from IBM. IBM is planning to do the impossible. Using a three atom thick layer of ruthenium, they are expected to created new hard drives that can store four times the information possible today. The expectation is that 100 gigabits of information will be stored in a single square inch of disk space. Today's technology has pushed storage to just over 25 gigabits per square inch. The result will be hard drives that can store 400-500 gigabytes on a desktop computer's hard drive or up to 200 gigabytes on a notebook computer hard drive. How long until this is available? They are saying only 2 years - 2003!

With the shrinking of the form factor for hard drives, power consumption also decreases. This is going to bring the ability to program new functionality into smaller computers. Look for smaller computers such as notebooks and PDAs to be able to run larger and more robust applications. A one-inch drive is expected to be able to hold about 6 gigabytes of data. That should be enough space for voice recognition software and more.

For those of you who enjoy technical terms, the technology IBM is creating with the use of the element ruthenium is called antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media. Ruthenium is a precious metal similar to platinum. If you don't like technical terms, the IBM technicians are calling this pixie dust due to the power of these extremely thin layer of ruthenium.

http://www.ibm.com/news/2001/05/21.phtml

Microsoft XP is Coming

Have you seen Microsoft Windows XP yet? Is it exciting? Is it the greatest thing since sliced bread? What about Office XP? Have you seen it? New and exciting updates... Err... Let's just say new updates from Microsoft have been announced for both products. Windows XP Home and Professional editions are expected to release on October 25th of this year. Office XP is slated to be released in the next few days.

If you want to review Office XP, Microsoft will sell you a trial versionyes sellfor $9.95 (US). It is a fully functioning version; however, it only lasts for 30 days.

http://microsoft.com/office/trial/default.htm

If you want to review the release candidates for Windows XP, you can pay Microsoft another $9.95 and they will let you download copies.

http://microsoft.com/windowsxp/preview/default.asp

What do these XP products give you? There are two features you will immediately notice. One feature is windows with slightly rounded corners. Yes, rounded corners. What is the impact of this feature on developers? You get windows with rounded corners! No other tangible impact will occur for most developers creating on this new version.

The second thing you will notice about these XP products may send shivers down your spine. You have to "activate" these products. If you don't activate them, they will quit working after about 14 days. Activating your products involves contacting Microsoft via the Web or phone. This process is one I hope that other developers do not follow within their own products. In my opinion, Microsoft has not provided compelling reasons to upgrade.

Java Continues to Mature

While Microsoft is creating new programming languages and changing the paradigms for developers, Sun is continuing to improve upon what is now a core [proprietary] development languageJava. Last week an update to the standard edition (Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition version 1.3.1) was released for Windows, Solaris, and Linux. In addition to bug fixes, the JVM has been given a new error handling mechanism. There have also been localization improvements. Downloads for J2SE 1.3.1 are available online. (http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.3/index.html)

Remember Borland?

Borland continues to hold onto developers with their Delphi product. This is a product that doesn't seem to want to go away. With Microsoft changing the way Visual Basic works and with Java being as complex as it is, Delphi is gaining even more attention. It is especially gaining the attention of VB developers.

http://www.zdnet.com/enterprise/stories/main/0,10228,2718091,00.html

Version 6 of Delphi was announced on May 8th. Cary Jensen, Ph.D. president of Jensen Data Systems, inc., made the comment, "Borland is continuing to make our lives easier and Delphi 6 is further proof they are listening to the needs of developers." If only more software companies would do bothlisting and make developer's lives easier.

Delphi 6 is stated to be the only RAD environment that fully supports all major emerging industry standards including XML, SOAP, WSDL, and XSL. It is also expected to support Web Services based vendor Microsoft and Sun's visions. We will see if this is still true when Delphi releases.

Pulling it All Together

It is important as a developer to watch different aspects of the industry to see how they might impact future development. Fifteen years ago most developers would tell you that "real" systems were developed on mainframes, not PCs. COBOL was the language of "real" developers and knowing JCL meant you could call yourself a "techie". If you spoke of the "big bad company that is trying to take over the world," you were not speaking about Microsoft. You were talking about IBM. If you did PC development, the common solution would have been to use Ashton Tate's dBase format to store your data. You'd use the industry leader, Lotus 123, as your tool for your numerical calculations. You'd tie your applications together with Cthe language of true techies. Your C compiler was most likely from Zortech or Borland, and only a few people would consider using development tools from Microsoft.

What is the point of this? Ashton Tate is gone, COBOL programmers are not in much demand, C has been replaced with C++ and java. Many of the other companies that developed tools fifteen years ago are rarely heard of today.

In ten years storage mediums are going to be smaller, programming paradigms will shift, and the players creating tools for developers may or may not be the same. More storage in smaller formats is going to change what can be developed. This in turn will impact how we develop. New operating systems and user experiences are going to change end-user expectation. New ways of limiting software pirating and building in security are going to impact distribution and programming (hopefully this won't be through activation).

The evolution of existing tools and languages is going to continue. There is a lot for a developer to keep up with. The demand for COBOL, dBase, and JCL programmers just isn't what it was. In Ten years the same may be said about today's technologies. Watching what is happening in the industry may just help you to be aware of what tomorrow's developers will be doing.

Until next time...






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