Interview: Paul Colton, founder of Aptana

Here’s a PlaybackTime interview (:30-ish) with Paul Colton, the founder of Aptana.


Listen to learn about:

* Paul’s pionneering pre-Apatana history
* His work with Xamalon, and how Ajax trumps Flash as a runtime philosophy
* What Aptana shares and doesn’t share with Eclipse
* An emerging JavaScript standard called ScriptDoc, and how it helps Aptana support so many Ajax/JavaScript frameworks
* The future of PHP support in Aptana
* Apatana-the-company’s business model (a.k.a. “We love the free, but we also want you to eat”)

Enjoy! A future entry will describe the tools and process used to produce the interview.

* [Aptana][Aptana]
* [Aptana TV][Aptana TV]
* [Direct link to interview (MP3 file)][Interview]
[Aptana TV]:

Posted in Web

Aptana: The first Web 2.0 development environment

Even though I hadn’t really used it in a while, I’ve faithfully upgraded Dreamweaver with each new release. A few weeks ago I dusted it off, thinking that it’d be the perfect tool to start a new project I’m toying with.

Ooof. Dreamweaver has made progress over the years, but not enough. It’s slow, has a flaky UI that feels foreign on Windows and Mac OS, and (sparing you the details since they’re beside the point of this post) provides only weak support for the standards and technologies that modern, dynamic web sites depend on.

Enter Aptana. Aptana is an exciting new multi-platform web IDE, and it’s the first tool I’ve seen that could be the Firefox of web development. Why?

* Multi-platform support. Aptana supports Windows, Macintosh and Linux, plus is available as an Eclipse plug-in for good measure. It can do this because it’s written in Java, but I should note for all the J-haters that Aptana feels at least as fast and native as Dreamweaver.

* Markup support. Aptana not only “knows” XHTML, HTML and CSS, but it knows your target browsers better than you do. This means that it not only points out errors and warnings for your markup in realtime, but also provides live feedback on which browsers support that markup.

* JavaScript support. Core Language and DOM documentation is integrated directly into Aptana — no more scouring through reference books or websites to find the parameters. Code assist allows you to choose from available methods and properties as you type.

* Ajax framework support. One of the more exciting aspects of Aptana is its built-in support for popular Ajax and JavaScript frameworks, including [Dojo Toolkit][Dojo], [Yahoo! UI Library (YUI)][YUI], [Prototype][Prototype], [Scriptaculous][Scriptaculous], [MochiKit][MochiKit], [jQuery][jQuery], [AFLAX][AFLAX], and [Rico][Rico].

  • Document outline. An always-available document outline view shows CSS, XHTML and JavaScript, all in the same outline.

    * Realtime online help. Aptana features an online help system that pulls content directly from wiki-based community documentation, so it’s always live and up-to-date.

    * Extensibility. JavaScript “actions” do for Aptana what AppleScript does for enlightened Mac OS applications. You can use a library of built-in actions, create your own, and contribute generally-useful actions to the community.

    * FLOSS (because it’s good for you). Aptana is free/libre/open source software. I predict that a lot of smart people will be attracted to this important project.

    Aptana was founded in 2005 by Paul Colton, who also started Live Software. (Adobe now owns Live’s [JRun][JRun] product through its acquisition of Macromedia through its acquisition of Allaire through its acquisition of Live Software…whew!)

    * [PlaybackTime interview: Paul Colton, founder of Aptana][Paul Colton interview]
    * [Aptana][Aptana]
    * [Aptana TV][Aptana TV]

    [Aptana TV]:
    [Paul Colton interview]:

  • Posted in Web

    Cory Doctorow: "OMG DRM is r33ly bad!"

    Ahhh. Another week, another anti-DRM…well, **screed**…by author, blogger, and Disney fetishist enthusiast [Cory Doctorow][Cory].

    In _[Apple’s Copy Protection Isn’t Just Bad for Consumers, it’s Bad for Business][Cory article]_ — more honestly titled _How iTunes Screws the Music Industry and the Public_ on his blog — Cory points his blamethrower at Apple and boldly claims that DRM “**makes media companies into [Apple’s] servants**”.

    Let’s set aside for a moment that (1) Apple couldn’t be a successful content retailer without having mutually-beneficial relationships with content providers, (2) content providers (presumably) have _some_ free will when it comes to deciding whether to work with Apple, and (3) DRM was a prerequisite for Apple’s entry into digital music sales, as dictated by its content providers.

    Right off the bat, Cory claims that the “only possible” outcomes of DRM are:

    * A popular single-vendor system that’s bad for the industry and general public
    * A multi-vendor system that’s bad for the industry and general public

    Even if you assume that this gross oversimplification of the content value chain to “the industry” and “the general public” is useful, that’s a not-terribly-productive Chicken Little view of DRM in general, and an unfair characterization of Apple’s DRM specifically.

    In Coryland, a “good” outcome in regards to DRM can’t possibly exist for the industry or consumers. But even if you believe that, the concept of a **neutral** or **balanced** outcome — one which has both pluses and minuses, but on the whole is a reasonable compromise — is conspicuously missing from that worldview.

    **All successful DRM systems must result in _at least_ a neutral outcome for both the industry and consumers.** Any DRM system that’s bad for both the industry and the general public dies quickly, if it gains any sort of toehold at all.

    > Steve Jobs sells [restrictions on the media] — though you’d be hard pressed to find someone who _values_ those restrictions.

    _Hard pressed?_ C’mon, it’s not rocket science — content **providers** value digitally-enforced restrictions because they want _some_ friction in the otherwise-frictionless world of file sharing in order to feel comfortable selling their goods digitally. Content **retailers** value digitally-enforced restrictions because without those capabilities, they have no content, and therefore no business.

    Also, saying that Steve Jobs “sells restrictions” is like saying that Cory “sells non-recycled paper”. Both generally (but not always) come with the territory of selling digital music and works of fiction respectively, and other than that are really beside the point (which is, after all, selling content).

    > No one but Apple is allowed to make players for iTunes Music Store songs, and no one but Apple can sell you proprietary file-format music that will play on the iPod.

    But the corollary to that is **everyone is allowed to sell unprotected music that will play on the iPod**, which is exactly what Cory wants. So what is he complaining about?

    By emphasizing what a travesty it is that no other content retailers can sell DRM-encrypted music to iPod users (which we know is not his goal anyway) Cory panders to the interests of “the industry” in hopes that they’ll hog-pile on Apple. What he doesn’t understand is that (1) the industry is generally happy with their relationship with Apple, (2) the industry is learning from Apple, and (3) the industry knows that Apple’s unusually-high marketshare in paid digital content is a temporary artifact of the industry’s youth.

    He also implies that this somehow reduces consumer choice, which is silly. Here are several completely legal ways to get music that will play perfectly on your iPod:

    * Buy and rip CDs
    * Buy DRM-free music from eMusic
    * Buy DRM’d music from the iTunes Music Store
    * Buy DRM’d music using any system that lets you burn CDs, then rip it
    * Download free (public domain, Creative Commons-licensed, etc.) music
    * Subscribe to music-focused podcasts

    > Apple has already demonstrated its willingness to abuse its monopoly over iTunes players by shipping “updates” to iTunes that add new restrictions to the songs its customers have already purchased.

    Meh. It’s true that before version 4.5, iTunes let you burn a playlist containing music purchased from the iTunes Music Store ten times instead of the current seven. However, iTunes 4.5 also raised the number of computers that you could authorize to five, up from three.

    > Steve Jobs and Apple managed to lure the music industry into licensing the copyrights for the iTunes Music Store even though the Store’s use-restrictions are comparatively mild.

    Right…Steve **lured** the poor, defenceless music industry into licensing their content for the iTunes Music store, which (at the time) had — wait for it! — **zero million customers**.

    > Steve Jobs really doesn’t care how many CPUs you play an iTune on, or whether you burn a playlist seven or 10 times.

    Here, Cory simply shows that he has no idea what he’s talking about. Could anyone really be so naive as to believe that these are the initial terms that content providers offered, and all Steve did was say “yes”? Steve fought like hell for the current terms — not for the good of all mankind, but because he knew the pricing and rights that would enable the iTunes Music Store to be successful.

    > There’s no good answer to designing a “good DRM.” Or rather, no DRM is good DRM.

    That’s the kind of crazy digi-hippy talk that is **not** going to advance the cause. Cory’s also not thinking about how DRM could work for us — I’m personally looking forward to the use of DRM to protect and control access to individuals’ private data.

    So, Apple didn’t invent the concept of DRM. The iPod doesn’t force you to buy DRM-encrypted content, and there’s _lots_ of alternatives. And consumers don’t seem to particularly _mind_ Apple’s DRM implementation a whole heck of a lot. So why the angst in his pants?

    * [InformationWeek: Apple’s Copy Protection Isn’t Just Bad for Consumers, it’s Bad for Business][Cory article]

    [Cory article]:

    Overview of popular open-source Ajax toolkits

    InfoWorld’s Peter Wayner wrote an good overview of the most popular open-source toolkits, including a helpful screencast about each. Specifically, he covers:

    * [Dojo][Dojo] _([screencast][Dojo screencast])_
    * [Google Web Toolkit (GWT)][GWT] _([screencast][GWT screencast])_
    * [Microsoft Atlas][Atlas] _([screencast][YUI screencast])_
    * [Rico][Rico] _([screencast][Rico screencast])_
    * [Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI)][YUI] _([screencast][YUI screencast])_
    * [Zimbra Kabuki Ajax Toolkit][Kabuki] _([screencast][Kabuki screencast])_

    Which to use? Well, GWT is dependent on Java, which makes it a **non-starter** for everyone I know. Atlas (not surprisingly?) **doesn’t play well with others** — there are Firefox or Safari compability issues, and although the _client_ part is technology-agnostic, the _server_ part is ASP.NET. Rico is neat, but less complete. Kabuki looks interesting, but it’s also missing interesting features.

    That leaves us with **[Dojo][Dojo]** and **[YUI][YUI]**. You can’t go wrong with either, and any time you spend learning them now will pay off for years to come. I believe these two toolkits will evolve into the dominant frameworks for standards-based client development.

    I personally use and recommend YUI because of its feature set, it’s excellent documentation (including Web 2.0 UI patterns), and the excellent support you can get directly from its developers on via the [Yahoo! JavaScript Developer Group][YUI list] mailing list.

    * [InfoWorld: Surveying open-source AJAX toolkits][InfoWorld]

    [Dojo screencast]:
    [GWT screencast]:
    [Atlas screencast]:
    [Rico screencast]:
    [YUI screencast]:
    [YUI list]:
    [Kabuki screencast]:

    Posted in Web