Thursday, July 09, 2009

Are GAE developers a bunch of

ignorant, incompetent boobs... or what?

Usually I avoid ranting, at least on my blog entries. Thing is, negative output creates negative image: there is little positive in negativity. If you have nothing good to say, say nothing, and so on.

But sometimes enough is enough. This is the case with Google, and their pathetic attempts at Creating Java(-like) platforms.

1. Past failures: Android

In the past I have wondered at the clusterfuck known as Android: API is a mess, concoction of JDK pieces included (and mixed with arbitrary open source APIs and implementation classes) is arbitrary and incoherent. But since I don't really work much in the mobile space, I have just shook my head when observing it -- it's not really my problem. Just an eyesore.

But it is relevant in that it set the precedent for what to expect: despite some potentially clever ideas (regarding the lower level machinery), it all seems like a trainwreck, heading nowhere fast. And the only saving grace is that most mobile development platforms are even worse.

2. Current problems: start with ignorance

After this marvellous learning experience, you might expect that the big G would learn from its mistakes and get more things right second time around. No such luck: Google App Engine was a stillbirth; plagued by very similar problem as Android. Most specifically, significant portion of what SHOULD be available (given their implied goal of supporting all JDK5 pieces applicable to the context) was -- and mostly still is -- missing. And decisions again seem arbitrary and inconsistent; but probably made by different bunch of junior developers.

My specific case in point (or pet peeve) is the lack of Stax API on GAE (it is missing from white-list, which is needed to load anything within "javax." packages). It seems clear that this was mostly due to good old ignorance -- they just didn't have enough expertise in-house to cover all necessary aspects of JDK. Hey, that happens: maybe they have no XML expertise within the team; or whoever had some knowledge was busy farting around doing something else. Who knows? Should be easy to fix, whatever gave.

3. From ignorance to excuses

Ok: omission due to ignorance would be easily solved. Just add "" on the white list, and be done with that. After all, what could possibly be problematic with an API package? (we are not talking about bundling an implementation here)

But this is where things get downright comical: almost all "explanations" center around the strawman argument of "there must be some security-related issue here". I may be unfair here -- it is possible that all people peddling this excuse are non-Googlians (if so, my apologies to GAE team). But this is just very ridiculous (dare I say, retarded?) argument, because:

  1. Being but an API package, there is no functionality that could possibly have security implications (yes, l know exactly what is within those few classes -- the only actual code is for implementation discover, which was copied from SAX), and
  2. If there are problems with implementations of the API (which should be irrelevant, but humor me here), same problems would affect already included and sanctioned packages (SAX, DOM, JAXP, bundled Xerces implementation of the same)

Perhaps even worse, these "explanations" are served by people who seem to have little idea about package in question. I could as well ask about regular expression or image processing packages it seems.

4. Misery loves company

About the only silver lining here (beyond my not having to work on GAE...) is that there are other packages that got similarly hosed (I think JAXB may be one of those; and many open source libraries are affected indirectly, including popular packages like XStream). So hopefully there is little bit more pressure in fixing these flaws within GAE.

But I so hope that other big companies would consider implementing sand-boxed "cloudy" Java environments. Too bad competitors like Microsoft and Amazon tend to focus on other approaches: both doing "their own things", although those being very different from each other (Microsoft with their proprietary technology; Amazon focusing on offering low-level platform (EC2) and simple services (S3, SQS, SWF -- simple storage, queue, workflow service -- etc), but not managed runtime execution service.

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