Developer Week in Review: webSOS

HP bails, Oracle fails, and the UK teaches coding (including Wales).

On the developer front, if the growing tide of rumors is correct, there will be some iOS stuff to report next week.


Last one out turn off the lights

HP WebOSHP has flung the axe, and it has taken out a large swath of the ill-fated webOS crew. HP is confirming that development will cease by the end of the year, reducing the number of viable mobile operating systems down to two again (Blackberry is heading the way of webOS, and Windows Mobile has an uphill battle at this point).

Is hegemony in the mobile space a good thing? Maybe, maybe not. It’s good for mobile developers, as it reduces the number of potential platforms you need to consider. It could be bad for consumers, as it reduces the pressure on the remaining players to innovate. However, given that neither HP nor Microsoft nor RIM was pushing the envelope much with their products, that might not be a valid concern. And, frankly, Google and Apple do a pretty good job of stealing ideas from each other — witness the new Android-like notification framework in iOS5.

An (un)sign of the times

JavaOne of the joys of Java development is dealing with signed jars. For the uninitiated, Java Archives (jars) can be signed, “proving” that the contents inside are valid and untampered. Among other things, it is how the Java Web Start framework decides which Java programs can be automatically downloaded and started from a web page. Getting your jar file signed correctly is a delicate dance, and getting it wrong means that the applications will just plain not work.

Seemingly out of the blue, Oracle has started to remove the old Sun signatures from some core Java libraries that many developers depend on. The end result of this is that, going forward, it will become more difficult to deploy applications that use these frameworks. Oracle is saying it was done for security reasons, but as with many moves by Oracle lately, the end result has been to upset the developer community.

Creating the next generation of coders?

One of the paradoxical phenomena that seems to be occurring in society is that, even as technology is becoming more and more a part of people’s lives, programming is being marginalized in the public schools. Instead, kids are taught how to use Excel or Powerpoint (God knows, my kid is a Powerpoint wiz!).

In the UK, they’ve decided to turn things around by making software design a part of the curriculum. You can make a strong argument that software engineering brings in skills from a lot of other disciplines like math and science, so it makes a good integrated teaching experience. On the other hand, my experience has been that public schools are uniquely bad at teaching coding because they try to teach it by rote, when it is at heart a creative process. It’s like trying to teach painting by telling the students exactly where to place every brush stroke. Only time will tell if the UK can do it any better.

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