Google Visualization API

by Ashwin on November 3, 2008

It’s a cherry on top of the Cloud Computing paradigm. In short this is what Google Visualization API does:

Google Visualization API aims to fetch data from any data source connected to the Internet and provide useful visual outputs like Graphs, Charts, Dashboards etc. Earlier, the API worked with Google Spreadsheets and now Google has expanded coverage to any data source connected to the Web

This is a remarkable API, especially in the Enterprise Reporting Paradigm. Lot of Enterprise data are stuck in legacy data sources and Spreadsheets. Once the business decides to move these to the cloud, creating customized reports and analysis applications out of these data can be handled by Google Visualization API.

Google Visualization has a developer community in place, who develop huge numbers of useful Gadgets that can be reused by businesses, if required. One example is a Gantt Chart gadget, that works on Google spreadsheets and generates a Gantt chart out of the data.

In my last post, I was discussing about the platform, by has developed tools for their customers to building reporting and analysis applications using Google Visualization API, out of data from CRM.

Thus Google Visualization API brings a new face to the Enterprise Reporting Tools, with the power of computing on the cloud.

{ 0 comments } – Platform-as-a-service

by Ashwin on November 3, 2008

“Web 3.0 is broadly defined today as the semantic Web. I think Web 3.0 really could be platform as a service,” - said Marc Benioff, Chairman/CEO of What he was talking about, is the platform provided by is a cloud computing platform, provided by, for building and deploying enterprise applications. This platform hosts the complete set of services like User Interface, Logic, Workflow, Database etc., that every Enterprise application needs. Also, this platform makes inter-application communication (a.k.a. Integration), a relatively simple task.

What makes this cloud computing platform stand out – is its Integration capability and Workflow management. platform claims to integrate with – Major ERP systems like Oracle, SAP etc., Middleware systems like Informatica etc., Native Desktop Applications, Mashups from AppsExchange and Developer Toolkits. Thus any application hosted on this platform, can communicate with other hosted applications with minimal effort. This communication can also be handled using Workflows. For example, an Employee Resignation Request on a Oracle HRMS, can trigger a request to SAP Financials through the workflow. Such is the scope!

Also, the Apex Programming language provided by the platform, enables data and content sharing between and Google Applications. This can prove handy, once Google expands their footprint in the Enterprise space.

Overall, brings the power and flexibility of Cloud computing, to the Enterprise Applications. But Enterprise applications are known for heavy transactions and huge volumes of data. How the cloud responds to such loads, is something to be experimented!


Indonesia turning “porn-less”…

by Ashwin on October 30, 2008

Anti-porn bill has been passed in Indonesia, that would ban images, gestures or talk deemed to be pornographic.  Following is the justification by the Islamic groups:

Islamic parties said the law was needed to protect women and children against exploitation and to curb increasing immorality in Indonesian society.

Interesting! What is to be seen is how this ban is put into practice?


Azure – The Cloud Computing Platform from Microsoft

by Ashwin on October 28, 2008


The Azure Services Platform (Azure) is Microsoft’s answer to the cloud computing platform.  Azure provides an operating system and a set of developer services, all required to build applications on the cloud. 

As with any cloud computing service, Azure has the following benefits from the Business standpoint:

  • Reduce the need for Upfront Technology Purchases
  • Higher Availability and Reliability of applications
  • Security provided by the Microsoft Data Centers
  • Pay-as-you-use model, to reduce the operational IT costs
  • Scale up or Scale down the Infrastructure, at comparitively negligible costs
  • Relieving Businesses from other IT costs like Software upgrades, Patch management etc. and instead concentrate on the needs of the users

Azure platform provides native support to Microsoft Technologies – like Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft Visual Studio Development environment – thus enabling developers to leverage their experience for building applications on the cloud.  As per information on the Azure website, more programming languages and development environments like Eclipse, PHP, Ruby and Python, will be supported in the near future.  Azure provides an open, standards-based and interoperable environment with support for multiple internet protocols, including HTTP, REST, SOAP, and XML.


In brief, Azure Services Platform provides following services out-of-the-box (currently).

  • Windows Azure – Cloud Services Operating System that serves as Development, Service Hosting and Service Management Environment
  • Live Services – Platform for Handling User Data and application resources, to build rich social applications
  • Microsoft SQL Services – Extends the SQL Server capability into a web-based, distributed relational database, that can store structured, semi-structred and unstructured data
  • Microsoft .NET Services – Access controls for security, enterprise bus for inter-application communication and hosted workflow execution
  • Microsoft Sharepoint Services and Dynamics CRM Services – Providing access for developers to Sharepoint and CRM Services

Following resources should give you more information on the Azure Services Platform:

About Azure Services Platform

Azure Whitepaper


A Beginner’s Guide to Google Gears

by Ashwin on October 6, 2008


Many of us know about Google Gears as Google’s innovation to store web data offline, that can be viewed even in the absence of an Internet connection.  But Gears is much more than that.

What is Google Gears?

Gears is an open source project that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser. (as described by Google).

In other words, Gears enables web applications to use some features like local data storage,   natural interaction with desktop etc., that were enjoyed primarily by Desktop based applications.

What are the features of Google Gears as of version 0.4?

Local Server Module

This module enables web application to cache HTTP resources like images locally and serve them without requiring a Network connection. 

Applications manage the cache using two classes – ResourceStore and ManagedResourceStoreResourceStore is for caching ad-hoc URLs using Javascript and ManagedResourceStore is for caching set of URLs declared in the “manifest” file and updated automatically

The Local Server intercepts all HTTP/HTTPS requests and serves them when all of the following conditions are met:

  • URL is cached in ResourceStore or ManagedResourceStore
  • Store’s enabled attribute is set to “true”
  • If the Store has a “requiredCookie” attribute, then the request must have a cookie that matches

The enabled attribute determines – whether the resources are served locally or from remote server, when the network connection is available.  To read more on the Local Server Module – you can go here

Database Module

Another powerful feature of Gears is the ability to access the Database on the desktop.  This can greatly improve application performance, as database access plays a major role in network latency. 

Database Module provides an API, that enables the Javascript to store browser-local data storage onto the Database.  Gears uses the SQLite database.

Security is ensured by making sure that the web application cannot access data outside of its domain.  A web page with a particular scheme, host and port can access only resources with the same scheme, host and port.   Thus, a site using Gears:

  • Can access only databases created for that site’s origin
  • Can only cache URLs and use manifests from the site’s origin  

Data storage and retrieval follows regular SQL statements – thus there is no learning curve here.  To know more about the Database API, reach here

WorkerPool Module

This API allows web applications to run heavy and long running Javascript code in the background, without blocking the main page’s script execution, mimicking the background processes in Unix.

I/O operations and heavy computations are some sample operations, that can be optimized using WorkerPool API. 

WorkerPool is a collection of processes; and not threads.  Thus, they don’t share namespace or execution state.  These processes are independent of each other and interact by sending message objects.  Also, the workers do not inherit script code from their parents.  To know more about the WorkerPool API, reach here

New in 0.4

  • Geolocation API, that provides access to user’s geographical location
  • Blob API for handling blocks of Binary data.  This is particularly useful for caching images.  We can expect an implementation on Picasa
  • Access to files on the client machine through Desktop API.  Comes handy for document management web sites, where online documents can be stored on local disk for offline access.  Also useful for providing Desktop shortcuts for web applications
  • Localization of Gears to 40 languages

With Chrome now out of the box, we can expect more enhancements with Google Gears.  It is a great leap towards making Operating Systems redundant on the desktop.

To know more about Google Gears –

Hope you found this article useful.

Technorati Tags: google gears,google api,web 2.0


Backup your Firefox extensions

by Ashwin on August 18, 2008

FEBE (Firefox Environment Backup Extension) is a cool Firefox addon, that enables you to backup your Firefox extensions.  It will actually rebuild your extensions individually into installable .xpi files, that enables you to synchronize between office and home PC.
Firefox FEBE

This extension is available for Firefox 3.x.

As claimed by the addon description, FEBE backs up your extensions, themes, and (optionally) your bookmarks, preferences, passwords, cookies and just about everything else Firefox offers (it can even backup/restore your entire profile).

Another nice feature, is that it enables backing up directly to your Box account.  This facilitates easy sharing and portability.


Google Blog Search

by Ashwin on August 9, 2008

Google Blog Search is yet another Google Labs product.  This enables you to search for keywords, across the blogging community.

Once a search is performed, results are returned in a new page.  You can filter the search results based on the time of the post – for instance, you can view only those posts, that were posted in the Last hour.

I have searched for ‘bangalore local’ and it gave me the following results page.

Another cool feature is that, from the results you can do the following:

  • Create a RSS/Atom feed out of the results. For instance, you can create a feed that brings you local news from Bangalore
  • Create a Google Blog Email Alert (more on this in my future post)


Digg Toolbar for Firefox 3

by Ashwin on August 9, 2008

Digg has officially released its toolbar for Firefox 3, which would highly simplify the way the users digg, comment and submit posts.

This toolbar fits nicely under the firefox navigation bar, just above the Google toolbar (in case you have it).

In case you are navigating to a new page, that has never been digged, you can see the ‘Submit’ button in the toolbar.
Digg Toolbar 1

If the current page has already been digged, you can see the ‘Digg it’ and ‘Add comments’ buttons.
Digg Toolbar 2

Also, the toolbar displays the popular stories at the bottom of the browser. It displays the information in 3 styles - Bottom Bar (my favorite), Inner popup, Outer popup. You can customize the topics from which to retrieve information.
Digg toolbar 3

More on this:
New Firefox 3 Digg Extension Released


Google Mail – Web Clips

by Ashwin on August 8, 2008

Gmail Web clips brings news bits from your favorite sources, right in to your inbox.

Gmail, by default, picks up news items from popular sources. You can edit and include the feeds of your choice.  Navigate to Settings -> Web Clips to edit your settings. Also, the news is filtered based on the mail contents, when reading an e-mail.


AllTop – A News mashup site

by Ashwin on August 7, 2008

AllTop is a news mashup site that claims to bring all latest news, across topics to your desktop. Guy Kawasaki, a well known blogger and strategist, is supposed to be the brain behind this.

Essentially, this is “one site fits all” – that covers a wide range of categories. For instance, there is a category for “PHP”, where another one exists for “Wine”.

Once you enter into a category, a scroll over of links under a source, will display the headline of a particular news item. Interested readers can click on the links to read further.

Appears to be a cool website, but RSS feeds are conspicuous by their absence!

Further changes that would make it much cooler…

  • Currently, all categories are organized alphabetically. Instead, the organization must be customizable to the user. I can choose to group all Web 2.0 categories together. Currently there is no such flexibility
  • On selecting a category entire page is reloaded and shows only the contents of the category. Instead, they can try partial page reloading (thus retaining the categories page)