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Windows Media to Flash

Here’s an article on the Adobe Developer Connection entitled “Transitioning from Microsoft Windows Media to the Adobe Flash Platform” that describes some of the differences in the technologies, including differences between Flash and Silverlight.

I thought it was pretty interesting and useful in understanding the key differences.  Since I’ve had a few posts that touch on Silverlight, I decided to share. :)

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Flex Code Formatter

Today, I found a solution to a minor but perpetually annoying problem that I’ve run into many times and decided to share it for those of you who, like me, didn’t know there was a solution available yet.

First, some background.

There are a lot of examples and tutorials out there in the worldwide Flex community.  Often I find one I want to plug into Flex Builder and see working for myself.  So, what do I do?  I copy and paste, then I go through and fix all the indentation problems caused by the difference in how they format their code and the “standard” formatting.  Or, it could be that the way it was posted on the webpage left spaces instead of tabs or whatever.  You get the idea.

I’m a perfectionist with some things and it will annoy me if the indentations are off, or even when I know that a line was indented with spaces instead of a tab.  I guess something in my head complains ahead of time, anticipating the few extra seconds it might take me to backspace over those spaces should the time come that I need to do that.  I know, there’s some issues I need to deal with.  We all have our vices.

So, on to the solution.  Today, I was dealing with this little annoyance and decided to do some googling to see if I wasn’t alone and more importantly, if someone had come up with a solution.  There is a bug in the Flex jira bugbase, so if you feel like it would be a good addition to Flex Builder, you can vote for it.  This requires a log in, which if you don’t have one, you should take a moment to create one.

In browsing the comments for the bug, someone has created a simple little formatter Eclipse plugin that from my limited use so far, seems to work sufficiently well.

Continue reading Flex Code Formatter

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Inauguration streamed using Silverlight

PIC2009While surfing the web, I found this blog post by Chuck Freedman that points an article talking about the announcement that the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) will be (proudly) using Silverlight to stream the inauguration.  Here’s the press release from Microsoft.  It’s a little funny because, with a little searching, you’ll find a bunch of blog posts that wonder what they were thinking.  I don’t doubt that the donations from Microsoft execs had something to do with it, as Serge Jespers elludes.

From a strategy standpoint, if Microsoft did pay to have the PIC site stream with Silverlight, it would be some of the best money they could have spent.  Not that the only place to watch the inauguration is on the PIC site (far from it) but it’s a prime chance to get silverlight installed on more browsers and push the penetration a little deeper.

I love this little RIA that shows the installation of Silverlight and Flash on browsers that visit the site.  It’s not a completely objective illustration since the application is built in Flash, but it definitely paints a picture.

Microsoft employees swear by Silverlight, as they should, but from where I’m sitting, everyone else is using Flash.  It’s a good time to be a Flash/Flex developer.

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Skinning with Fireworks

At the last Seattle Flex User Group meeting, I presented a brief demonstration on skinning using Fireworks CS4 and Flex Builder 3.  Because it’s so easy to do, it went by pretty quick so I thought I’d post the steps here to give people a reference if they want to try it themselves.

Before you skin, there’s a couple of things you need to know:

  1. How to use Fireworks.  It’s really not that hard.  Maybe easier than Photoshop if you’re starting out, and because it’s built for web graphics (vs. photo editing) it’s got some features that make styling buttons and stuff a breeze.
  2. How to read.  See, the labels on the buttons are mostly words, not pictures.  The good news is, if you’re reading this, you’ve already got this one covered.

For this tutorial, I’m going to be using a PC, but the Mac steps are the same.  If you want to see screenshots of the process using a Mac, view Nate Becks blog, specifically this blog post.  He’s an amazing developer with a lot of helpful things to say on his blog.

Ok, let’s get started.

Continue reading Skinning with Fireworks

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Why I switched to Dreamhost

For a really long time, I have been hosting through  They have great prices and great customer support.  Every time I’ve called in, I talked to someone who understood my issue and had access to enough of my account information that they could figure out what I could or couldn’t do about my issue.  They’ve also been very quick to respond.  It was always a bit of a love/hate relationship though, because despite all the good things I could say about their service, there was the sleaziness of the company that hung around it like smog over a tropical beach.  If you have seen any of their superbowl commercials or seen any interviews with the companys CEO and founder, Bob Parsons, you know what I mean.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw him flash a gang sign and say “straight outta Babylon”.

Recently, a friend of mine showed me Dreamhost.  He raved and raved about it.  At first I was thinking “What could be so great about it.  GoDaddy seems to have everything I could ever need.”  But he had experience with GoDaddy too, so I listened.  We even did a screen share connect session and he showed me what the administration side of the hosting account looked like and what options there are to play with.

Some of the features he showed me existed at GoDaddy, such as the quick-install apps, various language support, etc.  These did impress me though, because the interface was designed better.  Administration panels were cleaner and easier to navigate.

What got me really interested was the features that came with Dreamhost that GoDaddy doesn’t have (or charges extra for).

  • SVN hosting
  • Jabber IM server hosting
  • Google apps easy setup
  • SSH into the server
  • Referral bonuses

The big one for me was the referral bonuses.  At GoDaddy, you have to sign up to be a reseller and it costs a little money but the hope is that you’ll make enough money from it that it’s worth it.  At Dreamhost, it’s included.  You can choose between getting 10% of the fees from those you refer, forever, or getting a one time bonus of $97.  How cool is that!?  On top of that, you can set up promo codes that gives people a discount.  These work by essentially sharing the $97 commission with those you sign up, so you don’t get as much when they sign up, but they are encouraged to sign up.  It’s great.  If you decide to sign up after reading this, email me and I’ll send you a promo code for a free domain registration and 2 months free hosting to get you started.

The final thing I’ll point out is that Dreamhost is not sleazy.  They actually will punish you for spamming.  They don’t use sex to sell their services.  It just feels right.

The one thing they don’t have is ColdFusion hosting.  I don’t use it much, but it’s really nice to have available, even if I did have to pay for it.  Like I said, I don’t use it much so it was not hard to give up.

I encourage you to check it out.  The price to sign up for a year is the same as GoDaddy, and it’s less if you sign up for more than a year at a time.  I know the search for a good hosting provider can be tedious so I hope I’ve saved you some time.

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See you at MAX!

Well, it’s official.  I’ll be at MAX 2008 in San Francisco this year.  I will be a TA at a few sessions so maybe I’ll see you there.  Here’s the sessions I’ll be a TA for:

Session Date/Time Location
Deploying Services with BlazeDS and LiveCycle Data Services ES 11/17 2:00 pm Marriott Golden Gate A3
Deploying Services with BlazeDS and LiveCycle Data Services ES 11/18 8:30 am Marriott Golden Gate A3
Building Your First Rich Internet Application with Flex 3 11/19 2:00 pm Marriott Nob Hill A/B 

I’m looking forward to helping some of you get started with Flex and improving your skills!

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htmlText Editor – now on AIR

One of the simplest and most used projects I’ve done is the htmlText Editor. Mainly used by Flex developers, it provides a shortcut to having htmlText generated in a WYSIWYG type editor. I’ve thought for a long time about making a desktop app out of it. The time has come. It’s got some additional features that I’ve procrastinated putting in, such as:

  • Updating both ways – you change the rich text, it changes the htmlText AND you change the htmlText and it instantly updates the rich text
  • No more “filter tags” button – it updates the display as soon as you check and un-check the boxes
  • CDATA wrapping – check the box to wrap the htmlText in CDATA tags and what you copy to the clipboard will be wrapped in the CDATA tags

I’m totally open to making more changes, so please, provide feedback!

You can download the application from the Adobe Marketplace (free of charge).

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Beanstalk Beanstalk is an application to manage user group members and their participation…

Right now, I’m working on an AIR application that user group managers can use to connect to their user group websites.  Provided the site is running on Joomla, they can authenticate through the AIR app against the Joomla site.  The vision is that at a user group meeting, the people who come in can sign in on the application (through a laptop at the entrance) using their website credentials.  They’ll be given an option to register if they haven’t yet.  Logging in allows the user group managers to keep track of who attended as well as give an interface to prize drawings.  For user groups that keep track of participation, there can be weighted drawings so that members who participate more will have more of a chance of winning.

It’s currently in it’s baby stages.  I am in need of experience creating Joomla extensions so if you have developed Joomla 1.5 extensions before and feel pretty comfortable using PHP, I could really use your expertise.  This especially applies if you’ve ever used AMFPHP with a Flash/Flex application.

Informal roadmap: 

  1. Get AIR application to connect and authenticate using a Joomla website.
  2. Create interface for AIR application
  3. Create Joomla plugin that creates the necessary database tables
  4. Create Joomla administrator section to manage the entries
  5. Get AIR application to manage participation points
  6. Develop animated prize drawing portion of AIR app
The goal of the project is to provide an tool for user group managers to make their group meetings more successful.  There is a lot of potential here, and I’m only focusing on the beginning to start out with.  Further into the future, I can see adding meeting planning tools, such as a way to keep track of potential speakers and events, as well as full site administration.  Perhaps even adding support for other CMS sites.