Gaia Ajax 3.6 Final Release

by Jan Blomquist 24. November 2009 12:37

 

After some thousand hours of both eurekas and hard work, the "safe-to-put-in-production" bits of Gaia Ajax 3.6 is finally ready to be routed through your NIC and assembled on your harddrive. In this blog I will tell you the 3W+1H: Why, What, How & Where.

Why?

Ideally the product should speak for itself, but endow me a few bytes of your browser memory to unravel the architectural spirit behind the product. Gaia was built with the following ideas in mind:

  • Simplicity
  • Code reuse in a managed language of choice
  • Focus on highly reusable & versatile building blocks
  • It was designed to be your favorite toolbox which just works across all your web projects

"Philosophically speaking it's not so much about the controls that you find there, but more about the controls which you don't find".

This abstract idea can be a little difficult to comprehend at first, but you will become a better developer once you really get it. We humans find it hard to visualize on the non-existent, the history that never took place. A lot of one-size-fits-all components sometimes solves too much (often you need < 1%). Your job title quickly gets deduced to Professional Property Configurator and your products end up looking like everything else (we know! because we see it all the time) and where is the differentiator in that? Don't get me wrong -sometimes these are desireable means to an admirable goal, just don't forget the old gipsy curse: "May you get what you want and want what you get".

What do you get with Gaia Ajax 3.6?

3.6 contains an abundance of new "stuff". In reality, too much to cover here -so permittez-moi to show you what we believe are the most important updates for you.

DRIMR (Did you say D-R-I-M-R?)

DRIMR is an acronym for Dynamic Removals, Inserts, Moves and Replacements. DRIMR conceals all ajax complexity, shields the developer from exposure to low level details and is a common characteristic shared by all Gaia controls. It converges the Ajax umbrella into a beautiful and optimized solution for ASP.NET. In many of our demanding samples, No Re-Rendering takes place at all, except the initial load. This means:
  1. You can move a control between Control Collections and we'll just move the control in the Browser too :-)
  2. You can remove a control and replace it with a new control and if they are of the same type we will reuse that instance in the Browser and only emit the state changes. A great example is paging/sorting in the GridView: Only the Text property of the Labels get's serialized.
  3. You can remove a control entirely and we'll just issue a RemoveControlCommand to the Browser, not touching anything else.
  4. It also means a lot more to you, but we'll just have to expand information on this topic as we go.
DRIMR is such a powerful concept that you might not truly believe or understand what I am saying here, so I encourage you to check out for yourself. We hope DRIMR will inspire a whole new breed of web applications written purely in managed code that doesn't utilize unnecessary re-rendering strategies at all and we depend on you to create these masterpieces. The alternative route being a spaghetti of technologies blended together in a grey mass, colorless and with no distinguishable beauty. And you know how we feel about that now?

Interestingly DRIMR represents only a tiny fraction (1/107) of the tracker items that were solved for the 3.6 release. Imagine how many new features the 3.6 release contains? Other single items include: (>120++) New Samples, GridView, ImageMap, New Effect API, Validation Controls and numerous other features/enhancements.


120++ Samples

Lightbox and Carousel SampleOur brand new samples framework was written from scratch and each sample is now broken into a neatly organized folder structure. Many of the samples were written with extensibility in mind and should be easily customizable and integrated in your own appz. You also get a local copy of the samples when you install Gaia Ajax. Alternatively you can browse our samples online which we hopefully have mirrored somewhere near you:
Ajax GridView

Ajax GridView (for ASP.NET "Ninja" developers)

GridView is the prodigy of our DRIMR technology featuring

  • Dynamic inserts of rows/columns
  • Automatic removals,
  • Sorting and paging
  • + All other features available in the ASP.NET GridView (because it IS the ASP.NET GridView).

Example: If you select a row, Gaia detects that only a CssClass change took place, so that's the only thing Gaia "wires over". This in turn delivers a GridView with an amazing performance that you can use out of the box or upgrade your existing ASP.NET GridView. Instantly turn rows into edit mode, insert ANY control and get JSON-like serialization of data through familiar DataBind() operations in the codebehind. You can use WebServices if you want, but you don't have to, any collection will do just fine.

A potpourri of other interesting features

To economize on your precious time, allow me to just list up some additional things we hope you will enjoy in this release:
  1. New class based Effect API which allows
    1. Run multiple effects in parallel
    2. Run multiple effects in a queue
    3. Client side only effects
    4. Attaching to special control events (ie. Appear/Close)
    5. Lots of usage options
  2. Full IE6 support
    1. Css compatible
    2. Modal windows
    3. Samples Website 100% written for IE6
  3. Brand new controls
    1. ImageMap
    2. ValidatorControls
    3. BrowserHistory
    4. GridView
  4. Gaia Ajax 3.6 contains a total of 41 Server Controls. That's less than $5 pr/control! Let us know if you can write them cheaper, because then -You are hired! 
  5. AspectBinding to Events, Properties and methods. This means more native events are exposed on controls directly and the Modal property is back on Window. The TextBox for example now has:
    1. OnMouseOver
    2. OnMouseOut
    3. OnBlur
    4. OnFocus
    5. OnDoubleClick
    6. OnSelect
    7. + The rest which you already know
  6. Amazing new Drag&Drop capabilities. Dragging can now occur at the document level, circumventing stacking contexts, overflows and other obstacles when items are being dragged around. It also supports
    1. Ghosting
    2. Shallow Copies
    3. Custom CssClasses during Drag&Drop
  7. General Performance optimizations and JavaScript refactorings.
  8. The Nested Windows sample demonstrates how you can make the impossible possible with Gaia Ajax. In this sample we can add "unlimited" levels of modality recursively to nested Windows with roughly 20 lines of C# code!
  9. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Par example: the chess game does not perform re-rendering at all. All pieces are "physically" moved in the browser, captured pieces are replaced and non-valid moves slides the control back where it came from, and the best part: It's all written in 100% pure .NET managed code on the server. No Biz Exposed!

Here's a snippet of the server response during a piece capture:
   1:  Gaia.CRP('f7_black-pawn-f7','f3_white-queen-f3',1);
   2:  $G('f3_white-queen-3')
   3:  .setImageUrl('img/white_queen.png')
   4:  .setID('f7_white-queen-f7');

If you are still in doubt? Check out yourself and unleash the developer animal inside you! I don't have the stamina to continue this list so let me just quote one of our recent customers here: "Gaia is the best investment we've done in a LONG time!" -ConnectIT, Norway

How?

The 3.6 codename has been "fairytale" and was partially inspired by the MGP winner Alexander Rybak's song with the same name. We decided on that name just two months before the MGP final in Moscow due to a gut feeling that Alex would bring medals and honor home to Norway. I think Gemini reveals the publish date :-)

Development of Gaia Ajax is inspired from a mix of agile/bazaar techniques. Core development is mostly in-house, but external contributers are welcome to participate in the open forums/wiki/etc. Today many such contributions exist, including a full Outlook-like Scheduler written by Pavol. For a list of all extensions go here. The project enjoys a tight customer/community feedback loop with an instant report-confirm-fix-test-build-publish loop with our fully automated build system.

Other characteristics of the project include a high degree of transparency & Public Access to:

Compatibility

We've focused on backwards compatibility and for most cases you can do a binary upgrade by just replacing the dlls. ForceAnUpdate() is still hanging around, but should be safe in most scenarios to remove where Gaia only controls are in use. Doing so will result in vast speed improvements and reduced payload for ajax callbacks. for both the client and server, whereas DRIMR does not!

Note: Upgrade fails if you're doing a full custom implementation of IAjaxControl. However, inheriting directly from Gaia controls is considered safe.

Retracted Feature(s)

The alpha/beta release contained a selection of four new skins. These skins did not qualify our QA phase and unfortunately was removed. The skins are available in the SVN repositories under /gaia-ajax-skins/branches/ and they might be released in the future when quality is improved. However, we have plans to release more skins in the near future and these will be made available as a free add-on to the 3.6 release or in a future service pack to 3.6. We'll come back with more information regarding this in a few weeks.

Where?

Where to go from here? Well, that depends a great deal on where you are heading? If you are totally sold at this point (we certainly hope so), just pickup the SKU most suitable for you here: 

The installer is digitally signed (verifies authority) and integrates nicely with VS.NET 2005 & 2008 and you get a shortcut to a locally installed copy of the samples on your start menu. Opening the Samples in VS allows you to dissect the code and see for yourself how quickly you can build similar high quality code effortlessly.

Then I would suggest the following reading:
Here are a few selected samples which demonstrates some of the unique features of Gaia Ajax:

Conclusion

We hope you are going to love Gaia Ajax as much as we do. Also keep in mind that we truly want you to be successful with Gaia and that we are there for you when you need us. Don't hesitate to use email, forums, twitter, phone or any other surface we are exposed through.

Best Regards,
The Team behind Gaia Ajax

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11/24/2009 11:11:25 PM #

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