Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More Ubuntu experiences - continued and discontinued

Che promised and delivered. Almost.

The boot time was indeed fast. Che had compiled the wacom-linux kernel module so the Wacom tablet worked fine. Even dual head worked, well almost...

Problem 1: The screens were in the wrong order. The second screen is standing to the left of the main screen. No problem, just one one word changed in xorg.conf, reset and done.

Problem 2: The Wacom tablet driver still thinks that the second screen is to the right of the main screen. No idea how to solve this. Che thought this would require a code change and recompilation of the wacom-linux kernel module.

Problem 3: The external screen gets the wrong resolution. Whatever we tried, we could not get it to run on 1850x1050, the optimal Dell 2005fpw resolution. Bummer.

So again, after 2 additional hours of hacking, I am back with MS Windows. Perhaps, if time permits, I'll erase the Ubuntu partition and try familiar SuSE this week.

Note: fear not if you have one of the newer Dell Latitude D620s with nVidea graphics. Dual head works a lot better on these then on my older D620 with Intel graphics.

Friday, January 26, 2007

More Ubuntu experiences :(

Having little to do for a couple of days, I decided it was time to move to a real OS on my work laptop, a Dell Latitude D620. One of my colleagues very enthusiastically recommended Ubuntu. Having read a whole lot of other enthusiastic stories about Ubuntu, it was time to give it another try. This time it was to be Ubuntu 6.10.

Stupid me.

First of all GParted just gave me an "Error" while resizing my Window's NTFS partition. That was it, just "Error", no details whatsoever. About an hour later I had tried to downloading the latest GParted iso. Luckily this did work.

Second problem was the line "BUG: soft lockup detected on CPU#0!" during startup of Ubuntu. After this the system froze up. No where to go for, my enthusiastic colleague did a google and find out that the wireless driver crashed when the hardware kill switch for the radio was on. Bummer. I flipped the switch, rebooted and Ubuntu now started. It did take a good 2 minutes longer, just to find out there is no access to a wireless network. (Why do you think the switch was off?)

Third problem was the mouse. Well, actually I do not have a mouse but a very nice Wacom Graphire3 tablet. The tablet kind of works (I could move the mouse pointer) but you can not always reach the edges of the screen. You know, like the place where the menu is located. This really annoyed the hell out of me. Luckily Firefox was already installed so I searched the internet for solutions. I found several and none of them worked. There was one guy with the same setup as me who had worked on it for 3 days! After 4 hours of messing around I found a workaround by setting the mouse acceleration a lot higher.

Today I gave it another try. The older Latitude D620s have a really bad completely sucking low contrast LCD screen that is totally unfit for anything serious. So I decided to configure my kick-ass 20" wide-screen Dell 2005FPW. I found a post on how to configure dual head but to no avail. Boy what a bummer.

Now, I am back on Windows XP and Cygwin. Don't get me wrong, I am a big Linux fan, running it for ages already, and usually avoid MS programs (even on Windows). I liked the looks of Ubuntu and I still do. But as long as it does not run with my hardware, I will not use it.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Backward compatible AJAX development with Wicket

(Also published in Dutch and French, French translation by ZedroS).

Despite the general acceptance of AJAX, there is still some reticence in some sectors. The rich interaction provided by AJAX can not be used by people that, because of their handicap have to use a browser that does not support Javascript or CSS. For a sector like the government it is not acceptable to exclude these people and I believe this is an attitude that should be practiced more often.

Many developers today can or will only create web applications that work solely in Internet Explorer. Building an AJAX application that also works without Javascript is simply too much for many companies. To do this anyway, a number of techniques are known. A more general approach is given by Unobtrusive Javascript, but this article presents a different, more flexible approach that uses Wicket.

Wicket is one of the few fully component based web frameworks. In such a web framework one combines components to larger components until you have a web page. The advantage of components is that it is a lot more comfortable to develop and modify components separately. With a page oriented web framework one must usually develop the whole page simultaneously. Struts for example prescribes that you first collect all information for the whole page before a JSP page will render the (whole) page.

Composing Wicket components (a Wicket introduction)

Once creates a component in Wicket by writing an HTML fragment (the template) and by writing Java code that couples more components to the template. Creation and coupling of components happens during the construction phase. During the render phase the components can add or change the fragment or even completely replace it.

Lets look at an example. Here is an HTML template and the associated Java code:

<h1 wicket:id="title">_Template title</h1>
add(new Label("title", "The real title"));
The Label component is coupled to an h1 element. Label will put the real title in the HTML template during the render phase. The result is:
<h1>The real title</h1>

Composing components is just as simple. Suppose we want to use a title with subtitle on many places. We will create a component for that, a Panel to be precise:

  <h1 wicket:id="title">_Template title</h1>
  <h2 wicket:id="subtitle">_Template subtitle</h2>
class TitlePanel extends Panel {
  public TitlePanel(String id, String title, String subtitle) {
    add(new Label("title", title));
    add(new Label("subtitle", subtitle));
  } }
The panel can now be used (for example in the template of another panel) with:
<span wicket:id="titlepanel"></span>
add(new TitlePanel(
  "titlepanel", "The real title", "with a subtitle"));

Linking between pages is done with the Link component:

<a href="#" wicket:id="detaillink">Book details</a>
add(new Link("detaillink") {
  void onClick() {
    setResponsePage(new DetailPage(bookId));
  } });
The Link component will put a Wicket generated href attribute on the a element during the render phase. When the link is clicked the Wicket servlet will call the onClick method. In this example the response page is changed to a page that is constructed on the spot (pages are of course also components). After this the response page is rendered and sent to the browser. If the onClick method was left empty, the response page would not have changed and the current page is rendered again.

Dynamic pages in Wicket

Links are not only for jumping to other pages. In Wicket it is just as easy to change a part of the page by replacing a component by another one. Lets extend the example a bit:

final BookDetailPanel bookDetailPanel = ...;
add(new Link("detaillink") {
  void onClick() {
      new BookDetailPanel(bookId));
  } });
Clicking the link leads to a change in the current page. After this the current page is rendered again, and another book is displayed. Note that exceptionally little code is needed. In many other web frameworks all information of the complete page must be collected again.

The observant reader will have noticed that replacing a piece of a page is a trick that is nowadays mostly done with AJAX. In the example however, we have not used a single line of Javascript. Since the whole page is send to the browser again and again, lets change the example a bit more:

final Component bookDetailPanel = ...;
add(new AjaxFallbackLink("detaillink") {
  void onClick(AjaxRequestTarget target) {
    Component newBookDetailPanel =
      new BookDetailPanel(bookId);
    if (target != null) {
During the render phase the component AjaxFallbackLink generates both a href and an onclick attribute on the coupled a element. Furthermore it makes sure that a number of Wicket Javascript files are added to the HTML header. Depending on whether Javascript is supported, the browser will request either a normal URL, or it will do an AJAX call. In both cases the Wicket servlet will call the onClick method. In the first case the argument of onClick is null and everything will work exactly as in the previous example. When an AJAX call is done, Wicket will only render the components that were added to the AjaxRequestTarget and the result of that is sent to the browser. On the browser side, the Wicket Javascript searches for the element that needs to be replaced by using the id attribute. To make sure it is set, method setOutputMarkupId(true) is called.

With just a few lines of code we have created an AJAX application that even works in browsers without Javascript.


This article shows only a small piece of Wicket's AJAX capabilities. For example it is fairly easy to let the user know an AJAX call is in progress, to quickly execute some Javascript before an AJAX call (for example to disable a submit button), or to validate a form input when it changed.

Wicket is not only a fantastic framework to easily build modern and maintainable web applications, it is even possible to do it in such a way that older and special browsers can deal with them.