Click here to close now.


IoT User Interface Authors: Elizabeth White, Ed Featherston, Pat Romanski, Jnan Dash, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, IoT User Interface

Java IoT: Article

Book Excerpt: Introducing HTML5

HTML5 marks a groundbreaking change in how we interact with the browser

HTML5 is a draft specification for the next major iteration of HTML. It represents a break from its predecessors, HTML4 and XHTML. Some elements have been removed and it is no longer based on SGML, an older standard for document markup. HTML5 also has more allowances for incorrect syntax than were present in HTML4. It has rules for parsing to allow different browsers to display the same incorrectly formatted document in the same fashion. There are many notable additions to HTML, such as native drawing support and audiovisual elements. In this chapter, we discuss the features added by HTML5 and the associated JavaScript APIs.

Beyond Basic HTML
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), invented by Tim Berners-Lee, has come a long way since its inception in 1990. Figure 1-1 shows an abbreviated timeline of HTML from the HTML5Rocks slides (

Although all the advancements were critical in pushing standards forward, of particular interest to our pursuits is the introduction of JavaScript in 1996 and AJAX in 2005. Those additions transformed the Web from a medium that presented static unidirectional data, like a newspaper or book, to a bidirectional medium allowing communication in both directions.

JavaScript (née LiveScript and formally known as ECMAScript) started as a scripting language for the browser from Netscape Communications. It is a loosely typed scripting language that is prototype-based and can be object-oriented or functional. Despite the name, JavaScript is most similar to the C programming language, although it does inherit some aspects from Java.

Figure 1: HTML timeline

The language was renamed JavaScript as part of a marketing agreement between Sun Microsystems (now Oracle Corporation) and Netscape to promote the scripting language alongside Sun's Java applet technology. It became widely used for scripting client-side web pages, and Microsoft released a compatible version named JScript, with some additions and changes, because Sun held the trademark on the name "JavaScript."

AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) started a new wave of interest in JavaScript programming. Once regarded as a toy for amateurs and script kiddies, AJAX helped developers solve more complex problems.

At the epicenter of AJAX is the XMLHttpRequest object invented by Microsoft in the late 1990s. XMLHttpRequest allows a website to connect to a remote server and receive structured data. As opposed to creating a set of static pages, a developer was empowered to create highly dynamic applications. Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook are examples of these types of applications.

We are currently in the midst of another JavaScript renaissance, as the major browser makers have been using the speed of their JavaScript engines as a benchmark for comparison. JavaScript as a primary programming language has found its way into server-side web components, such as Node.js, and mobile application frameworks, such as WebOS and PhoneGap.

Bridging the Divide
Even the best of standards takes a while to gain uptake. As a means to not let the lack of features limit innovation, Google created Chrome Frame and Google Gears (later, simply Gears) to bring advanced features to older browsers.

Google Gears
Google Gears, which was initially released in May 2007, has come to define some of the advanced features of the HTML5 draft specification. Before the advent of HTML5, many applications used Gears in some way, including Google properties (Gmail, YouTube, Doc, Reader, and so on), MySpace, Remember the Milk, and WordPress, among others. Gears is composed of several modules that add functionality more typical of desktop applications to the browser. Let's take a moment and talk about some of its features.

In its first release, Gears introduced the Database, LocalServer, and WorkerPool modules. Gears' Database API uses an SQLite-like syntax to create relational data storage for web applications. The data is localized to the specific application and complies with generalized cross-site scripting rules in that an application cannot access data outside its domain. The LocalServer module enables web applications to save and retrieve assets to a local cache even if an Internet connection is not present. The assets to serve from local cache are specified in a site manifest file. When an asset matching a URL in the manifest file is requested, the LocalServer module intercepts the request and serves it from the local store.

The WorkerPool module helps address one of the prevalent problems with JavaScript-intensive websites: long-running scripts that block website interaction. A website by default has a single thread to do its work. This is generally not a problem for very short, bursty actions (such as simple DOM manipulation) that return quickly. Any long-running task, such as file input/output or trying to retrieve assets from a slow server, can block interaction and convince the browser that the script is unresponsive and should be forcefully ended. The WorkerPool module brought the concept of multithreading computing to the browser by letting your WorkerPool create "workers" that can execute arbitrary JavaScript. Workers can send and receive messages to and from each other, provided they are in the same WorkerPool, so they can cooperate on tasks. Workers can work cross-origin but inherit the policy from where they are retrieved. To account for the fact that several properties such as Timer and HttpRequest are exposed by the window object, which is not accessible to workers, Gears provides its own implementations.

Another API of interest is the Geolocation API. The Geolocation API attempts to get a fix on a visitor by using available data such as the IP address, available Wi-Fi routers with a known location, cell towers, and other associated data.

Google ceased principal development of Gears in November 2009 and has since shifted focus to getting the features into HTML5. Thankfully, all these features we've discussed found their way into HTML5 in some shape or form.

Chrome Frame
Chrome Frame is a project that embeds Google Chrome as a plugin for Internet Explorer 6 and higher versions, which have weak HTML5 support. Chrome Frame is activated upon recognition of a meta tag. Chrome Frame currently does not require admin rights to be installed, thus opening opportunities on systems that are otherwise locked down. You can find more information about Chrome Frame at

Getting Things Done with WebSockets and Web Workers
One of the additions to HTML5 is APIs that help the web application communicate and do work. WebSockets allow web applications to open a channel to interact with web services. Web Workers permit them to run nontrivial tasks without locking the browser.

WebSockets allow applications to have a bidirectional channel to a URI endpoint. Sockets can send and receive messages and respond to opening or closing a WebSocket. Although not part of the specification, two-way communication can be achieved in several other ways, including Comet (AJAX with long polling), Bayeux, and BOSH.

Listing 1 shows the code to create a WebSocket that talks to the echo server endpoint. After creating the socket, we set up the functions to be executed when the socket is opened, closed, receives a message, or throws an error. Next, a "Hello World!" message is sent, and the browser displays "Hello World!" upon receipt of the return message.

Listing 1: WebSocket Code for Echoing a Message

var socket = new WebSocket(ws://;
socket.onopen = function(evt) {  console.log("Socket opened");} ;
socket.onclose = function(evt) { console.log("Socket closed");} ;
socket.onmessage = function(evt){ console.log(;} ;
socket.onerror = function(evt) { console.log("Error: ";} ;

socket.send("Hello World!");

Web Workers
Web Workers are the HTML5 incarnation of WorkerPools in Google Gears. Unlike WorkerPools, we don't have to create a pool to house our Web Workers. Listing 2 shows the code to create a simple worker and set a function for it to execute upon receipt of a message. Listings 1-2 and 1-3 show the HTML code for creating a web page with a Web Worker that displays the current date and time on two-second intervals.

Listing 2: Web Page for Requesting the Time

<title>Web Worker example</title>
<p>The time is now: <span id="result" /></p>
var worker = new Worker('worker.js');
worker.onmessage = function (event) {
document.getElementById('result').innerText =;
} ;

The associated JavaScript worker.js file is shown in Listing 3.

Listing 3: Worker.js File for Getting a Date and Time

setInterval(function() { w
postMessage(new Date());
} , 2000);

In the two listings, we see that workers can send messages using postMessage() and can listen for messages on the closure onmessage. We can also respond to errors and terminate workers by passing a function to onerror and executing terminate(), respectively.

Workers can be shared and send messages on MessagePorts. As with other aspects of the Web Worker spec, this portion is in a state of flux and somewhat outside the needs of the examples in this book. Therefore, using SharedWorkers is left as an exercise for the reader to investigate.

Application Cache
Application Cache provides a method of running applications while offline, much like the LocalServer feature in Gears. A point of distinction between the two features is that Application Cache doesn't use a JSON file, using a flat file instead to specify which files to cache. A simple manifest file to cache assets is shown in Listing 4.

Listing 4: Sample Application Manifest

# above line is required, this line is a comment

The Application Cache has several events it can respond to: onchecking, error, cached, noupdate, progress, updateready, and obsolete. You can use these events to keep your users informed about the application's status. Using the Application Cache can make your game more tolerant to connectivity outages, and it can make your users happy by letting them start game play quicker (after the assets are cached). Also, if you choose, Application Cache can be used to allow users to play your game offline. Don't worry too much about it right now. In Chapter 11, "Publishing Your Games," we discuss using the Application Cache in more detail.

Database API
At present, there are multiple ways to store structured data using HTML5, including the WebSQL API implemented by Webkit browsers and the competing IndexedDB API spearheaded by Firefox.

WebSQL provides structured data storage by implementing an SQL-like syntax. Currently, implementations have centralized around SQLite, but that isn't a specific requirement.

There isn't a "createDatabase" function in WebSQL. The function openDatabase optimistically creates a database with the given parameters if one doesn't already exist. To create a database name myDB, we would need to make a call in the form:

var db = openDatabase("myDB", "1.0", "myDB Database", 100000);

where we pass "myDB" as the name, assign the version "1.0", specify a display name of "myDB Database", and give it an estimated size of 100KB. We could have optionally specified a callback to be executed upon creation. Figure 2 shows the content of the Chrome Developer Tools Storage tab, after executing the preceding line of code.

Figure 2: Storage tab showing a created database

In the window to the right, we can run arbitrary SQL code, as shown in Figure 3, where we created a table, inserted some information, and ran a query.

Figure 3: Storage tab showing SQL statements

Although not universally supported, the specification does call out the existence of both asynchronous and synchronous database connections and transactions. Our current example creates an asynchronous connection; to create a synchronous one, we would call openDatabaseSync with the same parameters. After the initial connection, there is no distinction when it comes to database transactions besides calling transaction(...) for read/write transactions and readTransaction for read-only transactions.

A word of caution: Synchronous connections are not well supported and, in general, you should structure your code to run asynchronously.

IndexedDB API
IndexedDB stores objects directly in object stores. This makes it easier to implement JavaScript versions of NoSQL databases, like those of the object databases MongoDB, CouchDB, and SimpleDB. At the time of this writing, the implementations of the APIs weren't synchronized and used different naming schemes and strictness to the specification. The Internet Explorer implementation requires an ActiveX plugin. I encourage you to check out to see some examples in action on Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. The Chrome code in most cases will work seamlessly on Safari.

More Stories By James Williams

James Williams is an experienced developer and speaker who has given presentations all over the world on Java, user interfaces, and Google Wave. He is the creator of SwingXBuilder, a DSL for creating user interfaces using SwingX components, and a co-despot of Griffon, a framework to make rich applications using Groovy. James is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and you can follow his blog at

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
According to Forrester, public cloud platforms are evolving, blurring the lines between Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS) in order to satisfy the needs of enterprises and widen their appeal to developers. In The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Public Cloud Platforms, Q4 2014, Forrester evaluates the 16 most significant Enterprise Public Cloud Platforms and details how each vendor fulfills the 19 evaluation criteria points.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a software development company, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software development company with representative offices in Atlanta (US), Sheffield (UK) and Würzburg (Germany); and development centers in Ukraine. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobi...
Interested in leveraging automation technologies and a cloud architecture to make developers more productive? Learn how PaaS can benefit your organization to help you streamline your application development, allow you to use existing infrastructure and improve operational efficiencies. Begin charting your path to PaaS with OpenShift Enterprise.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Agema Systems will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Agema Systems is the leading provider of critical white-box rack solutions to data centers through the major integrators and value added distribution channels.
The cloud has reached mainstream IT. Those 18.7 million data centers out there (server closets to corporate data centers to colocation deployments) are moving to the cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Achim Weiss, CEO & co-founder of ProfitBricks, will share how two companies – one in the U.S. and one in Germany – are achieving their goals with cloud infrastructure. More than a case study, he will share the details of how they prioritized their cloud computing infrastructure deployments ...
Data loss happens, even in the cloud. In fact, if your company has adopted a cloud application in the past three years, data loss has probably happened, whether you know it or not. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bryan Forrester, Senior Vice President of Sales at eFolder, will present how common and costly cloud application data loss is and what measures you can take to protect your organization from data loss.
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated a...
The modern software development landscape consists of best practices and tools that allow teams to deliver software in a near-continuous manner. By adopting a culture of automation, measurement and sharing, the time to ship code has been greatly reduced, allowing for shorter release cycles and quicker feedback from customers and users. Still, with all of these tools and methods, how can teams stay on top of what is taking place across their infrastructure and codebase? Hopping between services a...
For almost two decades, businesses have discovered great opportunities to engage with customers and even expand revenue through digital systems, including web and mobile applications. Yet, even now, the conversation between the business and the technologists that deliver these systems is strained, in large part due to misaligned objectives. In his session at DevOps Summit, James Urquhart, Senior Vice President of Performance Analytics at SOASTA, Inc., will discuss how measuring user outcomes –...
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud wit...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VividCortex, the monitoring solution for the modern data system, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The database is the heart of most applications, but it’s also the part that’s hardest to scale, monitor, and optimize even as it’s growing 50% year over year. VividCortex is the first unified suite of database monitoring tools specifically desi...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, ...
“All our customers are looking at the cloud ecosystem as an important part of their overall product strategy. Some see it evolve as a multi-cloud / hybrid cloud strategy, while others are embracing all forms of cloud offerings like PaaS, IaaS and SaaS in their solutions,” noted Suhas Joshi, Vice President – Technology, at Harbinger Group, in this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Key Information Systems, Inc. (KeyInfo), a leading cloud and infrastructure provider offering integrated solutions to enterprises, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Key Information Systems is a leading regional systems integrator with world-class compute, storage and networking solutions and professional services for the most advanced softwa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless...
In recent years, at least 40% of companies using cloud applications have experienced data loss. One of the best prevention against cloud data loss is backing up your cloud data. In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bryan Forrester, Senior Vice President of Sales at eFolder, will present how organizations can use eFolder Cloudfinder to automate backups of cloud application data. He will also demonstrate how easy it is to search and restore cloud application data using Cloudfinder.
Docker is hot. However, as Docker container use spreads into more mature production pipelines, there can be issues about control of Docker images to ensure they are production-ready. Is a promotion-based model appropriate to control and track the flow of Docker images from development to production? In his session at DevOps Summit, Fred Simon, Co-founder and Chief Architect of JFrog, will demonstrate how to implement a promotion model for Docker images using a binary repository, and then show h...