Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mashup vs. Web Desktop vs. Web OS

During the past year I heard many opinions about all kinds of the recently introduced über-web applications, Web 3.0 if you will. Roughly we can divide them to mashups, web desktops and web operating systems. Unfortunately, more often than not, these terms are used improperly, and I wanted to get the terminology straight.

So what's in a name:

1. Mashup - a mashup is a simplest kind of über-web applications - it combines a number of so called widgets or gadgets, each one doing something useful and simple. The widgets do not inter-operate, they are developed by different people but stored in the mashup itself, often using a special widget format. Examples - iGoogle, Netvibes, Pageflakes and My Yahoo!.

2. Web Desktop - a web desktop is tiny little bit more complicated, it's usually a GUI that looks like Windows desktop and integrates several useful web applications such as email, instant messaging, file storage and sharing. Examples - Desktop Two, YouOS, EyeOS, GlideOS and others. Interesting how many of them have OS in the names.

3. Web Operating System. According to Wikipedia, an operating system is "...is the software component of a computer system that is responsible for the management and coordination of activities and the sharing of the resources of the computer...". Rephrasing this, a Web Operating System is a software component of a large and distributed computer system that is responsible for the management and coordination of activities and the sharing of all kinds of resources stored in many different places on the web.

What was once a device driver is now a web service driver, and the Web operating System coordinates and uses these drivers to provide a unified experience to the users.

Disagree? Feel free to rant here :-)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pixie 1.0 is finally up and running

I'm more than happy to tell that the new G.ho.st Mobile client based on Pixie - http://code.google.com"/p/pixie-os/ is finally up and running at: http://g.ho.st/m!

Pixie should support all devices that have XHTML browser as well as mashups such as iGoogle, Netvibes and Pageflakes.

Please see the list of user benefits is at: http://code.google.com/p/pixie-os/wiki/UseCases

Feel free to contact me if you're interested to join this project.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Virtualization helps minimize the e-waste

I don't know how about you, but I feel very uncomfortable after reading this: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/toxics/electronics.

Do we really have to create and consume so much in such a short time?

I bought my digital SLR, Nikon D70, only 3 years ago when it was state of the art. Today it's considered an old piece of junk. Since then Nikon has released D70s, D40, D40x, D60, D80, D200, D300, D3, D700, and that's only from the "prosumer" line!

Do we really need all the high definition recorders, players, TVs, flat computer monitors, laptops? Do we really have to see every pimple on Mel Gibson's face to really enjoy our life?

And then the question is whether we can take the virtualization to the next level, just like you have your virtual computer at G.ho.st, and stop worrying about backing up, upgrading, swapping gear, recycling and so on. Can we virtualize more aspects of our lives? What else can be replaced with a "thin" and "dumb" virtual "client"?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Join us at the first Jewish-Arab flash mob!

Being a G.ho.st employee, I'd like to propose organizing the first Arab-Jewish flash mob party.

How about dancing pairs dressed as Jews and Arabs in the middle of the Times Square? :-)

BTW, just in case, flash mob is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_mob

If you are interested - post here or email me.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Working in an Israeli-Palestinian Startup

University of life

I am a Russian-Israeli working in G.ho.st, the first Palestinian-Israeli startup in history (more about us: http://antonbar.blogspot.com/2008/05/ghost-on-news.html). I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and came to Israel in 1991. Here I received my education, married my wife (a US-born Israeli), and started a family. My three daughters were born in Jerusalem.

During the last few years, I was the CTO of a high-tech company specializing in enterprise content management. I was bored to death and was desperately looking for something new and exciting until one day, my Headhunter agent called and asked – “What do you think about working with Palestinians from the West Bank in Ramallah?"...

And so the real learning began...


At the moment of writing G.ho.st employs 35 Palestinians in Ramallah and 6 Israelis in Modiin. We are so close to each other – if I was allowed, I could drive to our Ramallah office faster than back home! And yet, there are walls, fences and army checkpoints…


Israelis are not allowed to visit the Palestinian territories and Palestinians must receive special permits to visit Israel. Even if they receive permits, there is no common public transportation and all the alternative solutions are rather expensive.


We have a company to run, we have to design the system’s architecture, write code, find and solve bugs and this is all about communication. Virtualization to the rescue! I was surprised to learn that video conferencing is a great solution. We always keep the video conference open between the offices. I think of it as a window, or a tunnel, to another room where the rest of the team is working.


Despite the common misconception, it turns out that it is much easier for an Israeli to find a common language with a Palestinian rather than with an American – we like similar food, similar sports, and speak very similar languages.


Did you know that Judaism and Islam are actually more similar than they are different? Both share common origin in the Middle East through Abraham, and both are considered Abrahamic religions. Islam is similar to Judaism in its fundamental religious outlook, structure, law and practice.


We all are the same. We like laughing, love our children, care for our families, and we all bleed when we get cut!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One of the most amazing musicians I've seen!

Asaf Avidan from Jerusalem:

If I wouldn't see his picture, I'd think it's Janis Joplin. Check out his web site - amazing!!!

Smartest browser and OS

Want to know what browsers and operating systems the smartest people use? Try this IQ test: http://www.iqleague.com/.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Top 5 reasons to do open source

5. Better public image - sell a story, not only a software - contribute to the community and it will pay you back.

4. Closer to the customer - it's an old and proven paradigm, and you cannot get any closer than actually involving your customers in the development process. It is especially useful with new and innovative products where customers do not know if they need it or what features they need

3. Better product - feedback matters - “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” (Linus Torvalds).

2. Lower overhead - unpaid and outsourced work by volunteers and commercial companies adopting the product and an efficient and inherently distributed development environment allowing extending the team and hire selected community members w/o changing the infrastructure

1. Broader market - more features on wider range of client platforms and the geographical advantage - with the help of the community you can support more languages and more location specific features.

It's not all sunshine though, the disadvantages are that you cannot control volunteers, the “Benevolent dictator” model means you have to control all the commits, review all the code that comes in, and spend much more time on the integration of the new code. There is also some management overhead, distractions (the so called “bike shed” effect) and your business model should deal with the fact that your intellectual property is not protected.

Pixie - a mobile web client for G.ho.st

A few weeks back I started a new open source project called Pixie, a simple, lightweight user interface for G.ho.st, a free virtual computer that runs on any browser as a PC. Pixie is designed for mobile phones, mashups, and limited environments such low-bandwidth high-latency networks, some subnotebooks, and older computers.

Particularly we are working on a free and open source library that will simplify the development of mobile web applications and help making them work on most mobile devices made by many different manufacturers and used by different cellular carriers.

We believe that this is a classic project for the open source community because otherwise only very large and rich corporations can afford supporting so many different target environments, and they would not do so just for the greater good.

The project is hosted at Google Code at: http://code.google.com/p/pixie-os/

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Talk at the Colorado Software Summit

I was invited to talk about the G.ho.st web operating system and the virtual web file system at the Colorado Software Summit. We will discuss how we built our system using open community standards, such as OpenID, DataPortability, OAuth, OpenSAM and WebDAV, and how to consolidate multiple and diverse online services and provide the freedom of choice of location, device, and user interface.

More details are available at: http://www.softwaresummit.com/2008/speakers/bar.htm

Friday, May 23, 2008

Web developer toolbelt

Firefox Add-ons for development and debugging

Switch User Agent
Use it to change the User Agent string of your Firefox browser: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/59

Web Developer Toolbar
A Swiss army knife for every web developer: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/60

View / Remove Cookies
This add-on is very useful when developing features depending on security cookies: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/315, when you frequently need to check cookies of a currently displayed web page (Right click the web page View Page Info Cookies).

Force Content Type
Add-on that allows you to force the browser to use a custom Content Type: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3207. It is very useful for reviewing REST / SOAP API responses as XML instead of "text/plain" as some systems return.

Script debugger and network sniffer for Firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1843

Extension of the Firebug add-on: http://developer.yahoo.com/yslow/. Helps you finding performance problems in your web pages quickly and easily.