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  • The GWT Experience
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During the late 1990's the Pharmacology Department at (NWU) started a distance learning programme for the further education of health care professionals.  Due to low bandwidth connections and high internet access costs a combined off-line/on-line mode of study was proposed.

This requirement has come a long way and initially the chosen technology was an MS Windows based application written in Delphi or Visual Basic.  Java was not considered due to its heavy load on processor and memory usage for entry level computers.

When Psybergate was asked to do an investigation in 2007 the Java technology was chosen and a proof of concept project was conducted.  Google Gears combined with Google Web Toolkit were selected as key building blocks.  This made it possible to develop a rich browser based AJAX application with the ability to cache online files and to synchronize database content to a local database.  The AJAX application itself is also cached by Google Gears so that it can be launched offline.

The Eclipse project setup was challenging in the beginning and documentation and examples were not easy to come by however, once we understood the basic concepts and got the debugger working, things picked up speed.  Some time was spent to understand why the GWT compiler produced unexpected results.  We had to inspect the compiled JavaScript (set the compiler output to DETAILED instead of OBFUSCATED).  The solutions were to either change the Java code or to write a piece of native JavaScript in Java).  Later versions of the GWT compiler gave much better results.

The end product was a stand-alone, browser independent, eye-catching browser application that can talk to a Sakai RPC service over a TCP/IP connection.

Overall, our experience with Google Web Toolkit and Google Gears was very pleasant but required innovative ideas and quick thinking to overcome the fact that you are actually still coding in good old JavaScript.

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