Wasting Time with Laszlo

March 08, 2005

Geert Bevin has a blog entry, titled wasting time with laszlo in which he exclaims some of his frustrations when working with Laszlo Presentation Server.

Laszlo, if your not familiar is an xml based rich application development environment, similar to Macromedia Flex. Laszlo was actually around before Flex, but since Macromedia's release of Flex the product has been open sourced. Both Laszlo and Flex run inside a J2EE servlet container, and generate swf files on the fly.

Geert's main problems are:

  • Lack of an IDE - no GUI tools, debugging etc.
  • Slow compilation time - Geert cites 30 second compile times on a dual 2.5GHZ G4, that one would annoy me too!
  • Bugs - Geert asserts that a product that used to sell for $20k should be rock solid.
  • Performance - slow startup times, and optimizers required for decent performance
  • Architectural Design - Geert also has issue with the fact that he needed to rewrite client side logic on the server side. Though with the web since you can't always trust your clients, its kind of hard to avoid these issues.

Geert certainly raises some issues that Laszlo developers will need to address, as I think most developers would quickly get frustrated if they have similar experiences. Since Laszlo is now open source I wonder if they have had many new developers? and are they working on these issues?

Back in October I asked What are the differences between Laszlo and Flex, perhaps now that Laszlo has been open for a while, and Flex has been out for a while now might be a better time for people to comment on that.

How does flex compare? Compile time?, IDEs?, bugs?, performance?

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I've got my eye on Xamlon". Flex is awesome but priced out of my (client's) range. Xamlon could provide all of what's missing... especially in the IDE dept., at a much lower price.
I'm finding Flex compile times of the order of a couple of seconds on my laptop which is a 4 years with old 1.8Ghz processor and 512Mb of ram. That's with Flex Builder running too and consuming about 180Mb of ram GRR!! Most of what I'm running is pretty simple stuff, so I can't speak for the compile time of more complex apps, but it's certainly not something I've heard as a complaint against Flex. On the bugs side it's hard to say. I haven't run into many, but again I'm not pushing the product too hard at the minute, so it's hard to say. On the IDE front, you've got Flex Builder which isn't my favourite cup of tea, but it does work and has the flex documentation built into the help system. You can also use any Schema aware editor and I've heard that some people are having good experiences with a mixture of Eclipse plugins. Performance of Flex apps can be bad if they're written badly, but that's hardly a surprise. I've seen JavaScript apps that will practically cripple even a modern browser. The main question is whether you can easily write apps that perform well and that's certainly true. On the server side you will need a decent amount of ram and processor power, but you can get away with surprising little on the client as long as you are careful about your application architecture. All round I'd say Flex is a top notch product, but it's targeted at a particular market. Not everyone will like it, especially those considering the choice between using XAML, JNLP and Flex. For those who are finding that HTML and DOM scripting is starting to groan under the strain, or who simply need a richer interface for their data Flex is a perfect fit. It's hard to say what will happen in the longer term, but I'm guessing that Macromedia are hard at work on the next version of both Flex and the Flash player. With a bit of luck they will be looking to address some of the performance issues that currently do exist for less carefully architected applications.

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