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Future of Flex Components?

Here’s some videos from MAX Barcelona of Ely Greenfield presenting some of the concepts the Flex team is considering for Flex 4. This stuff should make designers very pleased. I never cease to be impressed with how well the Flex team “get’s it”. The concept is to separate the model, view and controller (this may sound familiar) so that you can create a component with core concepts such as the data it holds, the pieces it has and the behaviors it will exhibit. Then, if the look needs to be changed you set styles on the pieces, and the rest of the code stays in tact and continues to be bug free. None of the items in the videos are guaranteed to be in Flex 4, but it’s clear that it’s the direction they want to move in.

Ely has always impressed me and I must say that besides being an incredible coder and designer, he is also a great presenter.

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Custom Flex folder icon

Flex folder iconIf you’re like me, you like to customize and tweak Windows XP to be all your own. I especially love icons. Since my Flex project folder is used so much, I made an icon to set as the folder icon.

To set a folder to the custom icon in XP, right-click on the folder and select Properties. Then choose the Customize tab. Click the Change Icon… button at the bottom and browse to select the Flex folder icon.


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Lists, how I love thee

Most of us love lists and use them everyday. I certainly do. The only problems I have with most listing applications is that you can’t reorganize easily and to set properties of tasks such as due date, there’s way to many clicks required. I think I have found an app that does it right. It’s actually an ajax application and can be used offline. It’s called Remember the Milk. There are keyboard shortcuts for everything. It can print a well formatted list for those that like to check off things with a pen or pencil. It has plenty of properties for each item, including location. It ties in with Google maps so you can set where something should occur.

If you want to get really high tech, you can also have it send reminders through a number of different methods, including Google talk. I found out about it because I was looking into Jott, another great service I’ll talk about some other time, and read how you can configure Jott to work with Remember the Milk.

Check it out, you might like it!

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Drupal, meet Flex

DrupalAt the last SeaFlex meeting, we combined with the Drupal user group and the Contribute user group. The highlight was the Showcase which uses Drupal for the content management and Flex for the front-end. It’s a pretty amazing site.

I’ve started playing with Drupal and am learning it’s power. I would have used it to run this blog but I decided on the simpler, WordPress instead. I know I need to do some major customizing (at the time of this entry) but the default is so pretty.

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Move over bacon

To start out with, I should say I love bacon. And, I love Google and all they have done to create great web apps that just work and look good. Google docs, Google talk, GMail, Picasa, Google Earth. You could pretty much go down the list and find that just about everything Google makes was well thought out and needed to be brought to the public. They deliver. But, Google docs now has some pretty stiff competition.

Enter buzzword. Created by a company called Virtual Ubiquity, buzzword is an online word processor that looks and feels more like a word processor than a webpage. It’s created with Flex, so the graphics and interface have that richness that we know and love from flash based web apps. Collaboration is a feature that was nicely implemented – users can upload an avatar that displays next to their name. It shows who is currently editing it, in real-time. Of course it auto-saves but it goes well beyond that. It has a sort of version history built in so you can roll back to a point if needed. The toolbar is organized with only one row, and the tools sections are organized into groups that expand to focus on the tools needed. That reduces clutter and is done in a way that you still can find the tools you need easily. Images placed in the text can be resized and positioned however you want. The text will flow around them very smoothly. I was impressed at how easily image placement was.

Their target will be people who need documents online, accessible from anywhere. People like students, who go from class to class and don’t want to bring a laptop everywhere because it could get stolen or broken. Or collaborators who want to easily share documents between others in a group and allow reviewing or authoring by multiple people.

Buzzword is still in “preview” which means it’s beta. They’re still working out the bugs. So far, it is proving to be a very impressive online app. Google has the advantage of being more and more of a one-stop-shop for e-mail, documents, web search, etc. but I see a strong advantage to Virtual Ubiquity in the usability and style aspects of online document creation that will get them some strong footing in the market.

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I have other interests

That’s right, I admit it. I’m not one of those guys that sits around all day and night coding actionscript 3 and building custom components. I do that here and there, but I have other interests as well. One of those took up my weekend before the 360Flex conference.

The 48 hour film project is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while and I was able to participate in it with a bunch of college friends in Portland. I gotta give a shout out to all those that helped out – it was such a great time getting together with old friends and making a few new ones!

Quick summary of what it is:
You get a team together of people who can use a camera, a digital editing system, act, script, etc. and register to participate. The friday that the competition starts, your team draws a genre (we got Sci-Fi) and then all the teams get certain elements that must be included in the film. You then have 48 hours to do everything from coming up with an idea to turning in the finished product on tape. All must be done in the 48 hours, ie. no stock video. The elements were the character Roy or Rachel Schwarz, Quality Control Expert, a balloon as a prop, and the line “do you smell what I smell?“.

Here’s what we came up with – it’s a film called Glitch in the Rose.

Enjoy, and post a comment with what you think of it, good or bad! We know it might not be the best 5 minutes of your life, after all, we only had 48 hours to create it!Oh, and here’s the pictures. What a blast we had!

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360 Flex conference update

Right now, I’m at the 360 Flex conference in downtown Seattle. It’s the last day and it’s been a great few days. There’s been some great sessions, given by some of the best of the best when it comes to Flex.


The Seattle Flex User Group (SeaFlex) put on the first Flex Charity Code Jam for Northwest Harvest. Northwest Harvest is Washington’s own, and only, statewide hunger relief agency. The folks at the code jam developed an online food drive application that allows groups to compete to reach a goal. This will be a big help to their organization. With a donation of $0.53, Northwest Harvest can feed a family of three. That is much more efficient than gathering physical food donations since that requires manpower to gather the food and process all the items. With money, they can purchase pallets of food for much less than the average Joe.


It’s been a great chance for Flex developers from all over to meet the people who created Flex along with other companies who have mastered development for large projects.


I’ve seen a lot of people who look sleep deprived but still smiling. Watch for the conference to come again, and take advantage of the chances to learn, network and code!

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Adobe in the drivers seat

I just read an article by Tom Yager describing how Adobe is actually making things happen in the Web 2.0 world, where others are slacking.

“…’browser as a platform’ has been on [
Microsoft, Mozilla, and Apple’s] to-do lists for years, and none has raised HTML rendering and caching performance, standards compliance, stability, or JavaScript engine speed to levels sufficient to support true applications. With Adobe doing the driving, I think we’ll soon see some action.”

Well put.

While being employed at Adobe, I’ve seen first hand how well Adobe listens to it’s customers, and many times proactively seeks thoughts from it’s customers, on what could be improved. What things are important to it’s customers. What ways Adobe can use it’s resources to best serve the customer. What an inspiring company!

Microsoft wants to be on top of the world. They have been able to position themselves there through their past success. Slowly, it seems they are losing the confidence of their customers and the only reason they haven’t plummeted to the bottom is that they are so big, they don’t move very quickly. Vista is disappointing, and they don’t seem to have many new ideas that impress. The “new” ideas they do have are not at all new – they take competitors ideas and try to use their massive resources to make something comparable. They’re reactive, not proactive.

The new products Adobe has coming out, namely Flex 3, AIR, ColdFusion 8 and LiveCycle ES, are truly a testament to the commitment Adobe has to fulfilling it’s customers needs. Adobe understands that it can focus on the needs of it’s clients and the profits will follow where many other companies focus on profits and respond to customers needs if it isn’t inconvenient.

This is an exciting time to be involved in web technologies. Where do you see it going?

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When the cat’s away

…the mice will teach Flex development.

The Seattle Flex User Group (SeaFlex) meets tonight. Being the co-manager, I’m going to be teaching some Flex fundamentals while Ali is out of town. We’ll be going over a lot of the beginning hurdles that newbies encounter. My experience has taught me that when you’re jumping into a new development tool (and this is especially true for Flex) the hardest part was getting past that initial “Where do I start?” phase. Once you are comfortable using Flex Builder, you can fairly easily poke around and answer most of your own questions. Some good places to get answers are

  1. the help system – one of the best I’ve ever seen
  2. mailing lists – flexcoders and flexcomponents just to name a couple
  3. – if you haven’t discovered how helpful Adobe has been to new developers, check it out
  4. – this is the official site for Flex and has tons of great resources in it
  5. google – the community loves to blog and show off their skills, so do a search!

I’ll be giving away some books too, so that will add the resources you have available.

The user group is held at Adobe Systems, in Seattle. It’s in the Fremont neighborhood nestled between the Aurora Bridge and the Fremont Bridge on the canal. The meetings actually take place in the Adobe Conference Center, which is in the 701 building. Here’s the address:

801 N. 34th St.
Seattle, WA 98103

Meetings are 6:30 – 8:30.
Drinks are provided for those looking for more free stuff.

See you there!

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The AIR up there

There’s been way too much going on lately! Flex 3 beta is now available on Adobe Labs, as well as the beta of Apollo (now called AIR, Adobe Integrated Runtime). There are some huge advances for developers and users alike.

One of my favorite things that is a part of Flex 3 is the ability to cache the Flex framework. This means that swf files don’t have to contain all the framework components every time. This will make your compiled swfs incredibly smaller. I love Ted’s blog on the subject.

Here’s where I see the future going:
Flash content will become as prevelant as html on the web, since the hurdle of filesize (the biggest drawback to using Flash) is going away. Creating engaging Flash/Flex applications is getting easier and easier and with Flex going open source, developers will feel really good about using it.

Lately there seems to have been a step back in much of the design of Flex apps. Not with the bigger design firms but just in general. I admit I’m guilty of it too. Being that it’s so easy to drop in the default controls without changing the look and feel, it can be too tempting. But I urge the developer community to join me in breaking out of that, and developing RICH Internet Applications. Rich with customized graphical elements!