Xojo Developers Conference 2014

Geoff Perlman of Xojo gave the keynote address at the Xojo Developers Conference (XDC) today.  In his hour long talk Geoff talked a lot about Xojo Cloud and a little bit about the upcoming iOS version of Xojo.

This years XDC sold out and attendance was up over 16% over last year.  Attendees represented 14 different countries and over half were first time attendees.  Early on in the presentation Geoff acknowledged over 20 attendees that have been using Xojo since version 1.0.  He also presented Marc Zeedar (of Xojo Developer Magazine) with having attended every single conference.

Geoff then went on to acknowledge that the name change from Real Studio to Xojo has gone well.  There is one issue in that a sports drink made it to market about the same time with the same name.  The two separate companies are on friendly terms and on Friday all of the attendees will get a bottle of the sports drink.  This may or may not be a good thing on a Friday in Las Vegas.

Xojo Cloud

Xojo Cloud has now been released.  It has a number of benefits including zero configuration, one-click deployment, no maintenance, and better security.  The latter issue is incredibly huge since Xojo discovered that it takes about 15 minutes for a brand new server on the internet to get its first unauthorized access (attack).  With Xojo Cloud the servers are automatically configured with security in mind.

In the long run anyone creating web apps does not want to be a security expert.  However, those developers should be, so the security focus of Xojo Cloud is worth the additional cost.  Xojo admits that it is not the cheapest host, but it doesn’t take too much of your time doing configuration and maintenance on your (non-Xojo) server to make up the cost difference.

Xojo is paranoid about security and this is a good thing.  It was during XDC 2013 that their servers got hacked.  They feverishly moved all their backups into the Xojo Cloud servers.  Since then there have been no infiltrations (that they know of) in over 15 million scans.  When they reviewed their security with RackSpace (their server provider) who told them, “Only our most paranoid customers have this much security.”

Framework Changes

Parts of the Xojo framework have been been around for 15 years.  In that time Xojo has supported Mac OS 68k and PPC, Windows x86, Linux, Mac OS X, Cocoa, and Web (to name a few).  Obviously there are a few areas of cruft that have crept in and there are inconsistencies in the API.  Add in iOS, ARM, 64 bit, and LLVM and Xojo has some serious issues in the framework.  Thus a new framework is in the works.

The existing framework (classic) consists of the desktop and web.  Each of these sits on top of the console framework.  The console framework consists of non-ui items like FolderItem, TextInput/OutputStream and BinaryStream.

With the new frameworks there will be framework namespace for each platform (desktop, web, iOS) and will contain things that are specific for each.  For common elements (like buttons) these will live in the UI framework that lives underneath the platform frameworks.  The ultimate goal of this change will be copying common UI from a desktop app and pasting them into a web app the controls will just work with no problems.  This can’t be done now as the desktop and web controls have separate frameworks.

The new framework will arrive first in console, then web, iOS (initially it will have its own version of the new framework), and then finally desktop.  My advice is to not stress out about this until more information is known.

iOS

The big news of the day is that iOS is very close to being sent to alpha users.  The current schedule (always take schedule news with a grain of salt) has the alpha shipping in May with a beta in June and hopefully shipping to end users in the third quarter of 2014.

Pricing will be $400 for those users that want iOS only.  Pro licenses will go up $200.

Geoff did an initial demo with the iOS application running in the iOS Simulator.  This is similar to things we’ve seen before.  What was new, however, was that Geoff did a final build, used Apple’s Configuration Utility and ran the demo app on an iPhone and an iPad.

From this evidence it seems that work on the LLVM and ARM compiler is well advanced.  Built iOS apps are currently only 32 bit.

Another interesting tidbit from the demo was that Auto Layout is in full force in iOS.  Auto Layout is a super advanced way to handling automatic layout for windows, views, containers, etc. and is much more advanced than the simple locking properties.  This should really help in localization.  Other than the quick aside in the demo there was not much said about it.

All-in-all the keynote was fairly quiet.  Not a whole lot of new information was given out.  Ta ta for now and if I find out more information I’ll share it with you.

 

Xojo Cloud

During last weeks XDC keynote Xojo Inc shared the status of the one-click web hosting that they talked about during last years Real World conference.  It will be released June 4 in Xojo 2013 Release 1.  It is now called Xojo Cloud.

One of the things that people have discovered while using Web Edition is that some shared hosting sites will tolerate web apps.  For a while.  And then terminate them when they use too many resources.  For example, I’ve been able to use a lightly trafficked Web Edition app on BlueHost with no issues but I certainly wouldn’t want to do that for our training app that runs all day long.

So this forces people into using a dedicated server or perhaps a Virtual Private Server (VPS).  Either solution requires some knowledge of Apache (assuming you’re using Apache), permissions, backups, and security settings to keep the bad guys out.

Xojo Cloud offers a zero configuration, one-click app installation with industrial strength security, along with automatic backups.  Perhaps the strength of Xojo Cloud is its predictable pricing model that starts at $49/month.  Different servers and different configurations may be more.

Each Xojo Cloud user gets their own Virtual Private Server running Security-Enhanced Linux.  It’s also running a custom-built Firewall that manages Smart Ports that let the IDE talk to the server by negotiating the opening and closing of ports when needed.  Another feature is Intrusion Detection that notified all the other servers in the Xojo Cloud that a breach has happened and minimized the damage.  Along with the Intrusion Detection Xojo Cloud offers Compromised File Detection so you’ll know what files have changed.  If an attacker does get through all those security features they still have to deal with a binary files.

Xojo Cloud is running on Rackspace starting in the data center in Chicago but eventually it will run in the Dallas, Virgian, London, Syndey, and Hong Kong data centers.  This lets you run your apps where your customers are.

One-click hosting in Xojo Cloud offers to take one of the pain points out deploying your web apps.  What we don’t know yet is how it will work with debugging and being able to test multiple versions of your web app.  Also one unknown is the availability of database servers.  It looks like that will NOT be a standard part of the configuration which is a real drag and in talking with other conference attendees this made ti a non-starter for them.

Only time will tell how well Xojo Cloud works for the average user.