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We fear change

There are many things in life that need to change every once in a while. Jobs, where we live, vacuum cleaner bags, our socks… Whether it’s due to fear or laziness or a lack of resources to make the change, we can sometimes be resistant to change. The Flex Guy website has been using WordPress for the front end blog for quite a while now, but will soon be moving to Joomla!. This will allow for a more full-featured website with the ability to grow to something a little more professional.

I’ve been working with Joomla! lately to deploy beautiful websites that don’t require a lot of initial work to get them up and running. There are a large number of templates out there for Joomla! that are very well designed. My favorites come from RocketTheme.com, and you’ll probably see that the new site will be built with one from them. They have great support and build their themes so that they are easily customizable.

I am also helping to create the Seattle Flex User Group (SeaFlex) website using Joomla! I’m gaining a lot of experience with it lately since I have been creating websites for clients as Sound Design Team. So, I have fun staying busy, building websites, developing Flex applications and keeping Adobe fat and happy.

For now, don’t be surprised if The Flex Guy takes a little break from blogging (or continues to take a little break 😉 )

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SWFs are now searchable!

Adobe announced today that they have teamed up with Google and Yahoo! to provide the means to search flash content on the web. This was one of the biggest drawbacks to sites with large amounts of flash content, so it is a welcomed announcement to everyone. The method of searching does not require anything different to be done by developers and allows old swf content to be searched as well.

“Google has been working hard to improve how we can read and discover SWF files,” said Bill Coughran, senior vice president of engineering at Google. “Through our recent collaboration with Adobe, we now help Web site owners that choose to design sites with Adobe Flash software by indexing this content better. Improving how we crawl dynamic content will ultimately enhance the search experience for our users.”

Read the press release here.

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The Open Screen Project is announced

The Open Screen Project was announced by Adobe today.  This is a pivotal point in Adobe’s history.  You can read about the details here: http://www.adobe.com/openscreenproject/

Here’s what this will mean for Flash®:

  • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
  • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
  • Publishing the Adobe Flash® Cast™ protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
  • Removing licensing fees – making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free

Note that this is not making Flash open-source.  It is making it possible to put the Flash player on mobile devices without a fee (even though the fee was small to begin with) and significantly reduces the potential development cost to make it work on a device.  We’ll be able to create Flash content for mobile devices and eventually we’ll see Flex and AIR apps on them.  This is the stuff dreams are made of.  Ok, maybe not all dreams, but I still love it.

The strategy behind it is brilliant as well.  It will ensure there aren’t multiple variations of “flash players” out there that don’t work the same.  We don’t want to have the headaches we had when dealing with CSS inconsistencies. This also will get Flash out there as the platform for rich content.  Sorry Microsoft, but you haven’t been very “open” so what’s your move?

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Now that Flex 3 is out…

Ok, so Flex 3 and thus AIR 1.0 are now out to be used and abused. You’d think I would have been posting like crazy as soon as they hit the shelves. So what have I been doing? You guessed it – using them. I’ve been deep in the world of Trees, ContextMenus and MVC design patterns. I’ve been learning how to use the File class and drag and drop functionality for the desktop. I also broke down and became an Adobe Certified Flex Developer, so now I have something to work in conversations at dinner parties.

I would feel bad if I wrote a post and didn’t provide a tidbit of usable information for the flex community, so how about something I learned about AIR application icons.

To give your AIR application an icon, which you should always do to avoid the default icon being used by the OS, you need to specify the image location for the icon in the <application_name>-app.xml file that will be in the root of your AIR project folder. There are four tags for the icon, and if you don’t use one, you need to remove it. That’s something that got me, although it seems fairly obvious looking back. The compiler won’t automatically look at a tag without an image reference in it and say “hey, I should ignore this”. So either create a png image to use for each of the 16px, 32px, 48px, and 128px icon references it has OR specify one of them and delete the other tags. I recommend creating an icon for each since it’s really not that much more effort and will allow you to tweak the icons to look better for smaller and larger sizes.

Have you wondered how AIR can make icons for both the Mac and Windows platforms? Well, the icons aren’t created until you install the application. At that point, the installer knows what platform you’re installing to and will generate the appropriate icons at that point. Because of this, you won’t see your icon when you’re developing and debugging the application. The icon will only show up when you install the application from a release build.

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A self queueing httpService component

I presented this at the Seattle Flex User Group Tuesday night, soon after finding that there are some methods used in this component that are unnecessary. I won’t go into it, but here’s what this is and why I created it.

This component is a canvas wrapping around an ArrayCollection of httpServices. There is another ArrayCollection used for the queue. Use the public call method to give it a url, the callback function and anything you might want attached to the AsyncToken like so:

var usefulNotes:String = “remember me!”;
myQ.call(“http://www.somedomain.com/service?arguments=foo”, myResultHandler, usefulNotes);

The target use case for something like this is not where you make one call and are done. I created this because I found a scenario where I would end up making hundreds of http calls at once. The browser won’t allow you to send them all at once so I wanted to track the progress of the calls. This allows you to add items to the queue and thus, see how many are waiting to be sent out.

It needs a lot of work so I welcome all feedback on this. If you improve upon it, please let me know. I’d love to see what this evolves into for others!

You can find the sample app here.(provide your own url – it’ll break without a valid one). It’s up mainly for the source code so you can play with it yourself. Enjoy!

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skillbit is born!

This weekend I attended Seattle Startup Weekend, which I blogged about earlier. What a rush! It’s really amazing how much a group of people can get done when they are motivated.

The weekend started off a little choppy. Friday evening, we spent the time deciding on what we’d do. Keep in mind that when you’re doing a years worth of work in around 52 hours, each hour equates to a week spent developing the business. So Friday was Jan – Mar. At then end of March we had researched our idea enough to realize that it wasn’t feasible. Too much competition, and not enough opportunities for revenue. So, we scrapped it.

We decided on a different idea. One that was not beaten to death already and had great potential for revenue. It would be a tool to help organizations catalog the skills and talents of their employees called “skillbit“. Here’s the pitch from our genius marketing team:

Small businesses, project teams, and DnD weenies are missing out. They have incredible skill and talent among their members, but the team leaders simply don’t know what resources they have access to within their own group. Money is wasted on consultants, bloated knowledge management software, and simple inefficiencies of communication. Of course, the team members are missing out, too. They have coaches, assistants, mentors, and friends sitting next to them and they don’t even know it.

What if a tool were created to help these teams of people build up a database of team skills? Searchable, lean, flexible, and powerful: You know your employees but with skillbit, you can also know what they know.

The design team did a wonderful job on the skillbit logo. For me, that was like seeing a newborn baby for the first time, except cleaner. Skillbit will be a valuable tool for medium to large companies since it is often hard to know all about the employees.

The beauty of skillbit that sets it apart from so many other options is that it is so flexible. For example, many software packages ask canned questions that get a slice of skills that a company could use. Those skills may not be a good fit for all companies. Another package might leave it up to the users to list all the skills they have in a big empty box. Skillbit on the other hand, allows the users to ask questions for the rest of the group to respond to, allowing the collected data to grow and mold itself to the companies specific needs. If you’ve never done business internationally but are growing quickly and one day you get a call from a potential client who speaks French, they may need to know if they’ll be able to communicate easily with your company. You could say ‘of course’ and then scramble to bring on a consultant who speaks french to help with the sale, spending large amounts of money in hopes that it will satisfy the need, OR you could use skillbit to create a poll asking if anyone speaks French, if so, how well? As employees respond, you find that there are a couple of employees that lived in France and speak it fluently as well as some who took french class in high school and still remember some of it. Now you don’t have to bring anyone else on board, and the french company feels confident knowing you have people on staff that know your product as well as have the ability to answer their questions when needed, in their native tongue.

That’s the beauty of skillbit. Sign up for the waiting list to be notified when it’s ready to take customers. The more you use it, the more you’ll know.

Skillbit was created through a process that was found to have some potential legal challenges. As a result, the company has been dissolved.

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Excitement builds for Flex 3 & AIR

Last night was the Flex 3/AIR Pre-release tour event here in Seattle. The event was a success! We had around 70 people show up, many of them new to Flex. Ryan Stewart gave a great presentation describing what Flex and AIR are and why the community should take notice. He gave some great demos, including some sample applications he made himself. Ryan is full of energy and delivers a great presentation. People were listening. After Ryan, we gave away prizes, including an iPod Nano, an iPod Shuffle, a Logitech NuLOOQ, Flex backpacks and t-shirts and more. There were great questions afterward about Flex and AIR, which said to me they were inspired and wanted to learn more.

One of the participants emailed me:

I’m a Flash Developer whose been on the fence about Flex for some time and the presentation by Ryan Stewart was just what I needed to push me to learning more about the world of Flex. The evening also armed me with some points that are sure to help to sell my boss on the idea of migrating over to Flex (in particular the Deep Linking, Framework Caching, and HTML integration as demonstrated by Ryan’s Geocaching app).

I’m excited to see the growth of Flex developers after events like this. If you attended, please give some feedback to let me know what we could have done better, what you liked, and what knocked your socks off. We love to hear about it.

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Flash & Flex – The Chemicals Between Us

Flex - It’s that easy.I had a great time speaking at the Flash user group last night. The group members had some great questions and there was a lot of people who benefited from the discussion. We talked about the relationship between Flash and Flex, the differences and similarities and a little intro on how to create a Flex application.

Here’s the presentation slides: Flash & Flex – The Chemicals Between Us

I promoted the idea of getting more designers involved with Flex. I’ve always felt that since Flex was created to appeal to coders, the designer is intimidated by it and therefore doesn’t adopt it as much. What we see as a result is a bunch of really cool application out there that look so-so. Let’s face it, most developers aren’t designers. I’m excited for the announcement of Thermo, the application that will make Flex development more appealing to designers.

There’s a lot of really exciting stuff on the horizon in the world of Flash, Flex, and AIR. I feel pretty lucky to be a part of it. I think we’ll see a trend on the internet of a movement to Rich Internet Applications. Recently, there was a poll done of a number of companies and of those polled, 75% planned on creating a Rich Internet Application in the next year. That means a great opportunity for Flex developers to make themselves available to fill that need.

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January, the longest month so far this year!

There’s a lot of stuff happening this month!

First of all, tomorrow night (the 10th) we’ve got the SeaFlex meeting. We’ll be hearing from Richard Rodseth as our main presenter. He’ll be talking about MVC in Flex. I’m excited to hear about that. MVC is a coding pattern, it means Model View Controller. The post about the event can be found here.

On the 15th is the Flash user group meeting where I’ll be presenting on the relationship between Flex and Flash with an intro to Flex.

On the 21st is the Flex 3/AIR Pre-release Tour. Ryan Stewart, a Flex evangelist will be speaking. There will be tons of great prizes and lot’s of food. It will certainly be the meeting you won’t want to miss! The post for this event is found here.

Register for the event here:
http://upcoming.yahoo.com/event/398836.
Registering is necessary so we know how much food to purchase so please register.