Gabby, Come Chat With Me

A new project for RPG and web apps

As I shared in my last article, “OpenRPGUI meets Android,” mobile devices are becoming important mechanisms for people to communicate with data—and as businesses with customers, we have data that needs to get in front of people if we’re to be competitive in the market. My last article involved writing client-side code that only worked on Android devices. Obviously, that could be an approach that doesn’t work for some businesses with public facing websites because you can’t control the types of devices connecting to you. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good reasons to write Java applications on Android for your application, like being able to integrate into the GPS, phone or camera capabilities, but that might not be a high-priority need for most businesses. That is why this article has to do with communicating with handheld devices using the next generation of Web technologies—HTML5.


HTML5 is the next major revision of the HTML standard as put forth by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). We’ve been waiting for this version since it was first started in 2004. The long wait has been both good and bad because the creators of the standard have an incredibly important and challenging job in front of them—determining what the majority of businesses across the globe will be using to communicate with their users. The UI is in a constant state of trial-and-error with the likes of Adobe, Microsoft and Sun (now Oracle) all putting in their two cents by creating proprietary UI layers—Flex, Silverlight and JavaFX respectively—in hopes they’ll catch on as the primary technology. In my opinion, they all fail fairly miserably in my exposure to them as a user—not because they’re inferior, but because they can’t keep up with the needs of the world and have a slanted view because they’re focused on specific languages versus specifications like HTML5.

HTML5 holds a lot of promise but is a bit like a holiday ham right now. A ham takes four hours to cook, though at hour three you can sneak into the oven and steal a layer off the outer portions to satisfy the impatient appetite. The HTML5 specification is still waiting to become complete by the powers that be, but portions of it deemed “finished enough” have been implemented by some browsers.


One of the companies that has been “peeling ham” is Sencha with its SenchaTouch mobile Web app framework. SenchaTouch has only been out for a few months so there aren’t nearly as many examples on how to use it as Sencha’s flagship framework, ExtJS. But that makes it all the more fun for us—nice to have RPG being used in bleeding-edge scenarios for once, isn’t it?

So what’s the difference between SenchaTouch and ExtJS? SenchaTouch was built from the ground up to be used by handheld devices that have limited screen real estate and focus on the primary input navigation and input method—a finger on a touch screen. Note that I can still bring up an existing ExtJS application on my Motorola Android phone (aka Droid), but after having developed my first application with SencaTouch I can, without a doubt, see why having a framework with UI components and APIs targeted specifically at mobile devices is a good thing. When using an ExtJS application on my Droid, it just doesn’t flow right. I usually have to use the magnify feature of the phone make a particular part of the screen bigger so I can more accurately tap a button. This isn’t an issue with SenchaTouch.

Chatty Gabby

I wanted to have a little more fun with this article. How does an RPG programmer have fun other than putting users jobs on hold, you ask? We feed our domain-buying addiction and pursue ideas that have purposes as asinine as Twitter. This was the case a couple months ago as I was trying to dream up ways to advertise the excellent programming environment we have with RPG+DB2+IBM i. It was then that the dream hit me and I headed over to to see if the domain was available. To my surprise, it hadn’t been taken yet, so I did a quick Google search for a GoDaddy domain registration coupon (a practice every domain-buying addict should employ) and promptly purchased for $6.

Aaron Bartell is Director of IBM i Innovation for Krengel Technology Inc. and an IBM Champion.

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