Entries Tagged as 'Flex'

My First Flex Mobile App: Quick Shopper

AIR , Android , Android development , Flex 10 Comments »

Work has kept me from doing much personal coding lately, but when I had some time to spare I spent it building a mobile app with Flash Builder, and I've now released it (for free) on the Android Market.

It's called Quick Shopper.  It's a fairly unremarkable app that I built mainly for my own use, to replace the pen and paper list I would always take to the grocery store.  There are more than a few apps like it in the Android Market, but I felt like building my own. 

In fact, I had originally planned to code it as a native Android app but never got around to it, and after attending a workshop Adam Lehman gave to the local Flash/Flex user group that showed how easy it was to build and deploy an app with Flash Builder 4.5 I thought it would serve as a good learning experience.

And it was. I hadn't touched Flex since version 2, so while certain concepts were familiar I had to relearn a few things.  And of course all of the Spark stuff was brand-new.  But the documentation and blog posts I found online helped me figure out how to get everything working, and the device emulator and mobile device debugger in Flash Builder helped me work out some of the details via trial-and-error.

So am I a mobile Flex convert?  I'll put it this way:  when I come up with my next idea for an app I want for my Android devices, my first thought will be "can I build this with Flash Builder?"  If I can, and I don't see any significant advantage in coding the app in native Android code, then I'll probably go the Flash Builder route.  There may be some app designs that would work better as native apps (apps with widgets, or apps that utilize the scheduling and notification services of the Android OS), but now that Adobe's adding the ability to create native OS code extensions that work with Flex mobile apps, the number of cases where one would have no choice but to go the native route will probably get smaller.

As I said, it's not a very exciting app, but feel free to download it and check it out (it's free, after all).  I made use of the new feature in the Android Market that lets you provide multiple APKs for an app, so tablet users who download it will automatically get the tablet version with the larger icons and slightly tweaked UI layout, and phone users will get the "regular" version.

Initial Impressions of Adobe Durango

Adobe , AIR , Flex , RIAs No Comments »

In an earlier entry, I mentioned the announcement at MAX of Durango, a framework for allowing end-users to build AIR applications out of shared components. I took some time last night to check it out, and here's what I learned...

First off, the components that make Durango work are Flex-based, so if you like to create AIR applications using HTML/CSS/JavaScript, it doesn't look like you can make use of Durango.

Durango allows a developer to make the Flex components they build (whether visual or non-visual/service-based in nature) reusable in other AIR applications. The 10-page long PDF file on the Durango page on Adobe Labs explains how to add Durango functionality to components. It also explains how to configure your AIR application such that it can either donate Durango-enabled components, receive Durango-enabled components, or do both.

The installation package available on Adobe Labs lets you experience Durango in action. Once the install is complete, you are then able to create a blank AIR application (one set to receive Durango-enabled components) simply by choosing the "New AIR Application" option now enabled in your OS (on Windows, you can simply right-click on the desktop to get to that option). Then you can open one of 4 sample AIR apps included in the install (all of which are set to donate their Durango-enabled components) and put it in "reuse" mode. Once the sample app is in reuse mode, the Durango-enabled components can be clicked and dragged onto the window of the blank AIR app you created, and now that component also exists in your AIR app, and you can save the changes to the AIR app. Certain properties of the component can be coded in such a way that the user can change them in the new AIR app, allowing for some customization of the borrowed component.

All in all, it seems like a fairly straightforward idea for making components reusable. The big question is whether or not end-users will utilize this feature. Folks who use a lot of separate AIR applications may see some value in taking bits and pieces from multiple apps and combining them. And it remains to be seen how AIR developers will feel about allowing the components they worked so hard to build to be taken and repurposed by other developers.

Sneak Announcements at MAX: Server-side ActionScript and Durango

Adobe , AIR , ColdFusion , Flex No Comments »

I was a little surprised this morning to find little or no mention of the announcements made at the Sneak Peek session at MAX last evening on any of the ColdFusion blogs aggregated by Adobe Feeds. Either I'm missing something or everyone had too much fun at the after-session party last night. :)

I don't really have any of the details about the announcements, since I was only half-paying attention to the live blogging from the event and the Twitter stream, but two items stood out for me.

One was the announcement that server-side ActionScript is in the works. For those who don't know, ActionScript is the language of Flex, which is a client-side technology. Someone on Twitter said that the announcement meant that you could run ActionScript on the ColdFusion server, so that you could code certain things in ActionScript rather than CFML, but I don't know if that's really the case or not (I'm sure that will be clarified within the next few days).

The second announcement that caught my attention was about Durango. To quote the Durango web page on Adobe Labs (it's already available for download): "Durango is a framework that allows developers to build Adobe AIR applications that can be customized by end-users." Basically, it sounds like a means of allowing user-created mashups in an AIR application. Giving end-users the ability to make their own mashups seems to be a trend in the industry lately. It remains to be seen whether users will make use of that kind of power and flexibility.

Anyway, I expect folks who are actually at MAX will blog about these items and provide some more details, but I figured I put these items out there so people know what to look out for in upcoming posts from the community.

CoCoMo Now Out on Adobe Labs

Flex , RIAs No Comments »

This morning I read on Ryan Stewart's blog that CoCoMo is now available as a beta on Adobe Labs.

CoCoMo is a set of Flex components (described by Ryan as a "framework") that lets you add real-time communication and collaboration features to Flex applications, functions such as VOIP, webcam videoconferencing, multi-user whiteboards, and file sharing.

I haven't touched Flex since dabbling with Flex 2, mainly because none of the apps I build involve rich media such as audio and video (an area where Flex has a clear advantage over HTML and JavaScript). CoCoMo gives me new reasons to look at Flex as a production development platform.

The North American session of Adobe's huge MAX conference begins today, so I expect that there will be more news and announcements regarding Flex, ColdFusion, and AIR coming this week. Could be an exciting week!

Google's new virtual room service (Lively) may have potential

Flex , Miscellaneous No Comments »

Yesterday Google launched a new beta project called Lively. Lively lets you create virtual rooms that people can join and then interact with each other via avatars. The concept is similar to virtual reality systems like The Sims or Second Life, but the difference is that you can put the rooms that you build on your own web page(s).

When I first heard about it, I thought the idea was a bit over-the-top, but I decided to at least try it out last night.

For a first version beta, it's pretty slick. You start off with a basic set of room layouts and room items (furniture, decorations, accessories) to build your room with, but you can choose to add different items from an on-line catalog (currently, all of the items are "free," which seems to imply a virtual currency may be established later when they let folks create their own stuff). Once you add an item to the room, you can move the item by dragging it and then rotate it as needed. You can also add mood music, either from the catalog of music or by uploading your own music file.

Once you've decided an avatar to represent you, you can enter the room and interact with the items (if there's a couch, you can choose to sit down on it). If there are other people/avatars in the room, you can chat with them just like you would in a normal chatroom and your words will appear in a conversation block over your head for everyone to see (or you can whisper privately to a single fellow occupant). Right-clicking on your avatar brings up a menu of gestures and animations you can have your avatar perform, like clapping, laughing, or dancing like John Travolta in "Pulp Fiction" (yes, it's as bizarre-looking as you might think).

I threw together a very simple room and then embedded the code to access the room on a very simple web page on my site. You can check it out if you like, but since you'll need the Windows-only plugin to enter the room, which is the same plugin that lets you create your own room and avatar, you're probably better off trying Lively out by creating your own room.

The need for the plugin to even enter a room is probably one of the biggest drawbacks of the service. The visual evidence strongly suggests that Lively runs off of Flash and was built using Flex (I once saw the standard Flex "Initializing..." dialog box while loading my room) so it's unclear as to why a separate plugin is needed. Maybe Adobe can work with Google to redo the plugin in AIR so it's at least cross-platform.

The other challenge facing adoption of Lively is, well, its usefulness. Right now, it's essentially an enhanced chat room. Some folks have said that businesses could use it to hold virtual meetings, but I don't see that happening unless Lively is upgraded to allow one or more room participants to speak via a microphone and provides a means of working with a presentation (Lively does allow you to display Flash videos within your room but I didn't explore that feature).

And while the idea of having a virtual room up on your home page or blog is kinda neat, it's not going to do you much good unless there's a compelling reason for people to come and hang out in groups in YOUR room. Centralized virtual realities like Second Life are never empty because there's just one world for people to go to: certain areas might be emptier than others, but there's always someone around to interact with. Still, I do see some potential uses for it with established communities. Popular online forums could replace their existing chat rooms with Lively rooms. Businesses could create a guest room or visitor room where website visitors could hang out before interacting with customer service avatars. Conferences like cf.Objective() or CFUnited could have virtual discussions rooms that allow conference-goers to discuss the day's events with non-conference goers ("Folks, the in-person BOFs will be from 8pm to 9pm, followed by the online BOF free-for-all in the Lively room from 9pm to...whenever.")

Heck, the folks on the RIA cruise in February could take the Lively "tropical island" room template and make a place to meet up with non-cruise landlubbers at some point during the cruise if they wanted to.

Who knows if people would make use of these rooms, but the beauty is that it doesn't take long at all to create a basic Lively room, so if it doesn't work out the time lost in trying isn't painful.

It'll be interesting to see if this goes anywhere. My guess is that it'll depend on how much time and effort Google decides to invest in it and whether it will scale effectively (I heard that there were load issues when it first went public yesterday, but I didn't have any real problems with it last evening).