QueTwo's Blog

thouoghts on telecommunications, programming, education and technology

Monthly Archives: February 2008

360|Flex Conference Review

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Well, the conference is done and over, and I’m on my way back to Lansing.  Man was it a fun time!

Day 0:

Sunday was the ‘pre-conference day’, and was free and open to everyone. While i didn’t sit in with either of the sessions, I did get to hang out with Tom and John, and help them make copies of the USB drives they were handing out.  Got to meet up with a lot of old friends, and meet some ‘celebrities’ while they were walking in and registering.

Day 0 – Party:

The Sunday party was defiantly the best.  Smaller group of people, lots of food, free drinks, and one of the neatest “hang out rooms” I’ve been in, in quite a while.  Lots of chairs, TV’s, and beer taps in the wall.  I got to meet the other speakers, and just chill. Later in the evening, they opened up the party to all conference attendees.  Got to meet some really cool people who work at pretty much every tech company I could think of.

Day 1:

Monday started off with a bang, and included a keynote from Adobe announcing Flex 3, AIR, a revamped Adobe Developer Connection (now being headed by Ed Sullivan!), and Adobe’s new Opensource platforms.  Matt Chotlin ended the keynote with a ‘home video’ that he created entitled ‘in the life of a Flex Framework developer’, which pretty much followed him through a ‘typical day’.  i don’t think he missed anybody from the Flex team that I knew of.

It seems I ended up sticking in the Custom Components sessions for most of Monday, not really on purpose, but the topics just seemed to call out to me.  I learned lots, from many of the sessions, epically Axel Jensen’s “Understanding the component LifeCycle”.  I thought I knew the material for that one, but it really started making sense up in the noggin when he was presenting  it.

Christophe Coenraets had an excellent presentation on the future of Data Services, and included lots of BlazeDS info. I don’t know if it is the product for me, simply because I have found the magic of Data Sync to be so seductive.

Day 1 – Party :

The party on the second day was at the same location as Sunday, but had a much better attendance.  Unfortunately, the better attendance also boiled down to the food disappearing much, much quicker.  Some of the people put up a fund to buy RockBand; the Flex Team lined right up to show us ‘punks’ how its done :)

Day 2:

Tuesday started off without a keynote, but still early in the morning.  I decided to go to a session on using Licensing within AIR.  The company that presented actually wrote a new sales tool for Avaya (I had heard of a rumor of the application from some of my contacts at the company).  It looks really cool, and in my opinion, is a really good example of an AIR application if I have seen one.

After that, I attended a session from Pete Farland, from the Flex Team talking about the opensouce projects (Flex 3 Framework).  He explained how to check out the source, and at the very least, bringing in the debugging information, so you can see what is happening under the hood in many of the weird, formerly closed portions of the Flex framework (AMF debugging!)

Deepa gave a great update on the future of Flex, including some of the themes of the Flex 4 Framework. Things like a true MVC model for all components, a defarga style graphics library, and much more.  Mobile is also a huge theme for the future releases too.

My session went as expected.  Nobody booed me off the stage, there was no food thrown, and most of the people stayed. The room ended up being mostly full, with about a dozen chairs left unsat.  I got some really good reviews, and lots of people coming up to me after words asking questions.  I think I even answered most of the questions correctly too!  Damn I hoodwinked them!

Day 2 – Party:

The Party the second day was at the same bar, but a different room.  RockBand was in the house, and seemed to entertain lots.  I didn’t get to stay very long, but had a good time while I was there.  I ended up hanging out with some Silicon Valley people, such as Clint Modien and Chuck Freedman and going to dinner at the bar at the CNN Center.  Good discussion were had by all.

Day 3:

Day 3’s Keynote started a bit late, but still had some great info.  Some excellent community projects such as Defarga, the Yahoo Maps AS3 component, OpenFlux, etc were introduced and demoed. 

Day 3’s sessions were excellent.  Scott Talsma with SQLite, Ben Stucki with his 3D Glasses demo, and Clint Modien were excellent presenters (although I had to leave early from Clint’s session to catch my ride to the airport). 

Now I’m all tied out, and looking to go back home! Well, maybe some AIR programming on the plane!

Flex 3 & AIR released TODAY!

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As expected, and noted in my previous Blog entry, Adobe made some big announcements today including:

  • Adobe Flex 3 — The RIA application framework used to design the latest Internet applications deployed to the cross-platform Flash Player.
  • Adobe Flex Open Source — Adobe has announced that the Flex Framework, and SDK will are now open sourced.  This allows developers to see and modify the internals to the framework and sumbit them back to the community
  • Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) 1.0 — The runtime used to deploy cross-platform desktop applications to Windows, MacOSX and soon the Linux Platforms.  Used with AJAX and Flex clients.
  • BlazeDS — An opensource project to allow Remote Object and Messaging among various Flex and AJAX clients.

 

More details to come…  Just thought I would spread the news!

The buzz is in the AIR…

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Timing is everything, and the rumors on the street is that 360|Flex is the place to be for a bunch of announcements from Adobe.  Will we see Flex 3, AIR 1.0, or a free scoop of ice cream for everybody? Who knows.

I will be blogging, twittering, and attempting to capture as much of the conference using one of those flip cameras Adobe sent out. I’ll post the videos here as soon as they get uploaded.

Don’t forget to catch the excitement at your local user groups as well!  If you are in Michigan, our next meeting is March 13th, at 7pm.  I know some usergroups are moving their dates around to capture some of the buzz, so check those dates!

It’s a fun time!

Is Flash a real programming Language?

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While waiting at Detroit Airport for my flight (thanks to Northwest for delaying yet another of my flights!) the gentlemen sitting next to me noticed me going through my presentation for 360|Flex this coming week.  Apparently a web-designer in England, he mentioned to me that he didn’t realize that the Flash platform was powerful enough to do anything other than graphics. 

Now, I’ve run into similar misconceptions all the time when I work with ColdFusion, but it never really occurred to me that people would think that the Flash player was under-powered for any business task.

The Flash Player has an excellent runtime for managing large amounts of data, and still render this data wonderfully to the screen.  The ActionScript 3 language, an addition to the Flash Player in the past two years, allows for ECMAscript style coding (similar to C++, Java and JavaScript), and a typefull language (meaning each object that is created in memory is tagged with type metadata, allowing the compiler to best manage the data held within it).  DataGrids with 10,000 rows?   No problem!  Managed Arrays (known as ArrayCollections) with 100,000 typed objects?  Doesn’t break a sweat.

For example of the power behind the new runtime, take a look at the companies that are creating Flex and Flash applications : http://www.flex.org/showcase.  Companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield are using this client-side power to help interact with their customers.

I’ll be posting more this week — during the conference. Stay tuned to the latest on the keynotes and parties! 

Why does Microsoft hate us?

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While I find it almost cliche to bash Microsoft about many of their products, services, and well, business manner, this one I just can’t keep a tight-upper lip about anymore.

Most of the people that know me, know I’m not really a "Microsoft Fan-Boy", but I do use many of their products.  My primary machine, as well as my laptop are Windows based, I use a lot of the Microsoft office tools out there.  Heck, I’m Microsoft Business Services certified for install and maintenance of many of their products.  I am open to many other technologies (for example, I have a Solaris box, and an OS/2 box I use on occasion, in addition to using ColdFusion and Flex for development), but typically Microsoft products are well thought out, and usually work as designed.

This was my mental state before I installed Office 2007 on my primary machine.  Running through Word and Powerpoint shows many new improvements, and in general, a cleaner work-flow.  At first I was a skeptic on the new "ribbon" toolbar, but after a while, it really does become easier to use than looking for an option among 3,000 menu items.  Outlook, while having some improvements, seems much slower than previous versions, and requires you to install "Windows Desktop Search" (which is a very resource hog as it tries to index your entire computer in real-time). 

But my biggest beef is with Microsoft’s ‘enhancements’ to Access.  Access is one of those programs that really hadn’t changed since 1996 in its design, workflow or management.  Sure they added a little feature here or there, but that has been the extent of Access’s lifecycle for the last decade.  Recently, I had to create a simple database to store some data for a portable web-app (in Flex/ColdFusion) I was writing.  I fire up Access 2007, and attempt to create a blank database file. I click on the "Create a Blank Database Wizard", and enter the name as I always did in the past. Up comes the most confusing "Create your database by just entering in the data" screen.  I start clicking on just about every menu option I can find to get out of this mode and go into a regular design view.  It wasn’t until wading through the help file for about 2 minutes that it pointed me to a 16×16 icon in the lower right corner of the screen that looks familiar — the Design View icon!  If Microsoft is going for best practices, why the heck did that end up down there?  Oh, well, so I go on and create my tables.

I hook up my web application, and enter in a whole slew of sample data then then needs to be erased.  Thank goodness that didn’t change (although, I don’t know how it could), minus having to change the database file to an Access 2000/2003 file.  Everything is going good until I’m ready to clear out the database, and ship the example out. To clear the database, the quickest way for me was to go into SQL view of a Query, and enter in "DELETE FROM xyz WHERE keyField > -1;" and hit the run.  Again, I run through all the ribbons, but all that presented me an option was to run through the Query Wizard. That option felt like a real chore, so I again asked the help file — ah, an option in the Options and Preferences screen to show the Query Design View on the ribbon.  I go through the riga-ma-roll in loading up the Query Design View, and switching the view to SQL view.  Ok, so now I entered in my statement, and I click on the Run Query button.  This is where I would normally be greeted with about three warning statements asking me if I really wanted to delete 203 records..  Nothing.  I start to look around again, and low and behold, "Sandbox Mode has blocked this command" is listed in the status bar.. 

Really?  Microsoft thinks the DELETE command in SQL is a command that should be sand boxed?  Ah, I know how to beat this pig…  I write a quick ColdFusion template, insert my CFQUERY tag and run it.  BAM! Same error!   By now I’m getting really frustrated, but decided to give Microsoft another chance.  Help file, here I come!  

"If you trust a database and you want to run an expression that sandbox mode disables, you can run that expression by changing a registry key that disables sandbox mode. Remember that you must first trust a database to follow the steps in this section. Caution   Incorrectly editing the registry may severely damage your operating system, requiring you to reinstall it. Microsoft cannot guarantee that problems resulting from editing the registry incorrectly can be resolved. Before editing the registry, back up any valuable data. For the most recent information about using and protecting your computer’s registry, see Microsoft Windows Help. If you are not familiar with the registry or you are not comfortable with changing registry keys yourself, contact someone who is. Also, you must have administrator permissions on the computer to change the registry values. "   Is the text RIGHT from the help file, along with the steps to change the registry keys.

So, general feeling….  Office 2007 -> meh.   Access 2007 -> back to the drawing board to make it EASY TO USE and CONSISTANT again.

Flex 3 Usergroup Tour Wrap-up

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Well, last Wednesday, the 6th, the Michigan Flex User’s Group hosted Kevin Hoyt, in what was being called the "Flex 3 / AIR Usergroup tour".  Kevin has been traveling across the country (and soon the world) to spread the word about Adobe Flex 3 and AIR technologies.  I was lucky to spend a majority of the day with him, and was able to tour Lansing’s own Techsmith Corporation with him.  Heck, Bill Hamilton, the president of the company even took us out to lunch!

Our hopes were high of getting a great attendance for the meeting, with 73 people registered to attend, however, Mother Nature decided to play a cruel joke on us by throwing one of the largest snow storms in Lansing’s last 8 years.  I was really hoping to get a good turn out, as we were the smallest city on the Flex tour, and really wanted to show how strong our market is. Despite the weather, 28 enthusiastic individuals showed up, with about 12 people calling me that afternoon letting me know that driving 60 miles or so in the snow wasn’t going to happen to the UG meeting.  Those 28 who did show up got first crack at an excellent presentation, and some of the best prizes we’ve given away to date.  All-in-all we had an excellent turn out, and a lot of people showing the same enthusiasm that I have for Flex and AIR.

If you were unable to make it because of the weather, don’t despair!  I will be covering much of the same material as was covered during this past meeting, plus some deeper-dives into some new stuff. 

(Photos stolen from Betsy Weber)

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