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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.

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Seattle Startup Weekend

Seattle Startup WeekendThere’s an event coming up that is already sold out but would be a blast to attend in the future. It’s called Startup Weekend. Essentially, you get together with a group of people and in 3 days, start up a company. Everyone of the “founders” gets stock in the startup.

I don’t know just how the ideas are generated or how they decide on what gets chosen or how it’s put into play (I’ve never been to one before) but it looks like a great time.

It takes place in other cities all over the country. Check it out, even if you’re not in Seattle and see if you can sign up before it sells out! It’s a great opportunity to be a part of something that could become big. Make your mark in the world!

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htmlText Editor 2008 now available!

I recently revisited the htmlText Editor I created a while back and found that in the shuffling of web hosting, etc. I lost availability to the old version. I decided to re-compile it using Flex Builder 3 beta 3. It’s now located here:
(http://www.theflexguy.com/tools/htmlTextEditor2008).

Not much has changed. It’s still the basic editor it always was. If you find bugs or ways to improve it, please tell me. I’ve had requests to make the filter panel hide-able so maybe I’ll look into that. It seems like a feature that wouldn’t get used much to me. I’ve also had requests to filter on the fly, instead of having to press the Filter Tags button. Let me know if you think this is a priority.

Enjoy!

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Working hard to improve

Working hardI’ve been working with the user group manager of SeaFlex to improve the meeting content and reliability. We’ve been coming up with ways to revitalize the meetings through better participation from the group members, improving the website, and getting more involvement from the community. We’ve had a lot of success in getting donations from publishing companies to donate books to use for prizes and to review. We’re working on lining up some incredible speakers for 2008 meetings.

There’s the Flex 3/AIR pre-release user group tour which will be starting it’s tour of over 50 cities worldwide, here in Seattle. We’ll have some incredible prizes and hear some speakers talk about all the exciting new features in the upcoming releases of Flex and AIR. There will also be a surprise topic that will likely create a lot of buzz in the community.

I encourage any readers to comment this blog with topics they would like to see in the lineup of meetings for 2008. We’ll be making sure each and every meeting is worth attending. We admit that we haven’t been doing a stellar job of keeping meetings worthwhile in the past. We also have been inconsistent in holding meetings and canceling at the last minute. We hope this all changes.

To make all these great changes, we’ll need support from the community, especially here in Seattle. We need feedback on what you’d like to see and if you have a skill you’d like to share with others, let us know when you could present to the group. Usually, a presentation could last for 45 minutes or so. That may seem scary but once you’re up there, the time flies by, especially during Q&A.

One of my primary goals for 2008 is to strengthen the SeaFlex members. This means educating, networking, and empowering the members in the field of Flex development. Help me make sure that happens!

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AIR has it’s final logo

Adobe AIR logoAdobe has had a tough time coming up with the final logo for the AIR platform. Now they’ve settled on a logo design that looks great! You can read the details about it here. Notice on the blog that there might end up being some contests for coming up with great desktop backgrounds!

I want to encourage all of you out there to download the vector versions from that blog and make some killer backgrounds. Spread the word!