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Semi-connected computing

MSDN has an article on the subject. I'm surprised why this is not a hot topic among vendors.

MSDN: Northwind Unplugged: Building a Semi-Connected Application in Visual Basic .NET. “A true semi-connected application assumes that the network connection can come and go at any time, and the application deals with it without any input from the user. When you are online, the application communicates with the server and saves changes. When you are offline, you should have access to at least a subset of the data, and you should be able to make changes that are automatically synchronized when the network becomes available. This article focuses on building these types of applications.”

One reason why I think Groove is such a great tool is that it supports this way of functioning. You are not grounded if you don’t have network connectivity.

These days, laptops are so much more popular than desktops in corporations. There is waiting time involved whenever you travel. If you are lucky, there may be Wi-Fi hot spots, but simple web applications that needs you to connect to an intranet are not enough.

One way to get around this problem is by choosing a simple, yet scalable application server platform. Zope is a pretty good choice since it is easy to package it as an installer for end-user’s machines; and it is _somewhat_ reasonable enough to sync up and down the main server. Not ideal though.

However, if the systems are programmed using RDBMS back-ends instead of using Zope’s object database, it is possible to simply sync the data back and forth between the databases. In Oracle, material views and virtual private databases are especially helpful. However, getting Oracle database installed on desktops -even the lite or personal editions- is expensive; in terms of licenses and in terms of the support required to get it installed. Using light-weight, but good databases like FireBird on the client is more practical.

For data analysts (scientists, business intelligence analysts, managers), ability to analyse this data is very useful.

  1. We did a couple of projects for organizations doing field work:
    -- one used lotus notes and its replication/off-line abilities (replication with notes is unbelievably simple)

    -- the other used sqlserver ce, installed on a handheld (not bad, but activesync is still not as easy as notes replication)

    Posted by: Ashok on September 25, 2003 07:37 AM