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Great competition, Great Outcome

SkinToWinChallenge is over!!! Winners are declared!!! The quality of the themes is really great. Especially the first and the second prize are looking really cool. Congratulation to Alberto Alcaraz and Nahuel Foronda. I had also submitted the almost seven themes for the competition 🙂 with motivation of “Air Notebook” and “Adobe MAX” but competition was really tuff. At the end I am happy for that at least one of my theme is got selected for the spot prize.

Basically, I am not a designer but I play with my curser in free time that gives me great joy. I have learned lot of skinning techniques during the designing of the themes. Thanks Event

As per “Juan Sanchez” blog post the entire theme will be available next week for everyone.

Congratulation to all the winners!!!

Thanks Adobe, Thanks Effective UI, Thanks Juan Sanchez, Thanks all the members who had take a part in the competition.

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Categories: Adobe, AIR, Flex, News, RIA

Integrating Flex 2 and Ruby on Rails

In this article you will learn how to integrate Flex 2 with Ruby on Rails and a MySQL database by building a simple issue tracker application. By following the steps in this tutorial, you will also learn how to add functionality to the application, such as adding a new bug to the database, reading existing bugs, updating a bug, and deleting a bug.

Requirements

Flex Builder 2

Ruby 1.8.4+

Rails Gem 1.1.6+

MySQL 4+

Recommended: RadRails

Sample files:

Prerequisite knowledge:

Basic understanding of ActionScript, MXML, and Flex Builder.

Why Rails?

When using Flex you have several options to choose from for back-end server software. So why might you want to choose Rails? Ruby on Rails, like Flex, is a well thought out, elegantly simple framework. As you will see, Rails uses code generation and metaprogramming to make it incredibly easy to integrate with a database using almost no SQL code. Furthermore, when you use Rails, you also get to use Ruby, a programming language that is both extremely powerful and easy to use. Using Flex and Ruby on Rails, you will be able to get more done with less code.

Flex + Rails + Ruby = RIA Nirvana.

Categories: Adobe, AIR, Flex, Open Source, RIA

Yes or No, is Ajax a RIA Technology?

I was reading a post by Ryan Stewart, who is my main source of news and information about anything to do with RIA (Rich Internet Applications). Wikipedia defines RIA as “web applications that have the features and functionality of traditional desktop applications.” When I think of RIAs, I usually think of Adobe’s Flex or Microsoft’s WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation). Probably the most famous example of RIA is Flash. I also regard Ajax as a RIA, because it enables desktop app-like interactivity. But something Ryan said reminded me that there is a bit of a disconnect out there on what is a RIA exactly? Ryan wrote:

“I see a couple of big reasons RIAs have become much more popular in the past few months. One is that a good experience has become a primary requirement for the web. I don’t really count Ajax as a full RIA technology, but it has raised the expectation level and made people start to wonder how much better the web can be.”

Ryan doesn’t see Ajax as a RIA. Perhaps because he has high standards on what an RIA app should be able to do. Ryan writes more about the topic on his personal blog; also see this post by Adobe’s John Dowdell from 2005.

We all know Ajax has its limitations – Google is probably the biggest proponent of Ajax, yet its web apps have been known to cause frustration at times. I bet every user of Gmail pounds their desk whenever a page refresh problem arises.

So in order to try and get a consensus about Ajax and RIA, I’ve created a very simple poll. Please take a minute to tell us whether you think Ajax is a RIA technology.

Categories: Adobe, AIR, Flex, Open Source, RIA

360Flex – A conference for RIA developers

I’m going to be attending the 360Flex conference March 5-7 this year in San Jose, and since registration just opened, I wanted to let people know about it. I tend to be a big fan of conferences that are more developer focused because I think you learn a lot more and you get to talk to the people that are “in the trenches” and building the applications that we all use. This is exactly that kind of conference and while its focus is on Flex, I would suggest anyone looking at Rich Internet Applications register for it.

The conference is both being held at and sponsored by eBay, which is an indication of how deeply Flex has gotten into the business side of Rich Internet Applications. I’m hoping to find out more about what eBay is doing with Flex, but the little bits I’ve been able to glean indicate that it’s a significant investment. And this seems to be the story across a wide range of industries. Midnight Coders is also a sponsor and they provide Flex Data Services functionality across a wide range of platforms including .NET and PHP. Combine that with the murderer’s row of speakers (the list includes some of the best Flex minds in the business) and it means you’re going to see examples of Flex being used to build great experiences for Fortune 500 companies, web startups and everything in between.

It has been a great year for Rich Internet Applications. Flex was released a few months ago and has seen a surprisingly large number of applications built for the platform. WPF and WPF/E have both been made available on the Microsoft side which shows how important experience has become. Apollo is coming down the pipeline which will enable a robust desktop RIA solution (much like WPF). Next year should be even better, and this conference is going to be a great way to see what people are doing and how RIAs are changing landscapes all over the spectrum.

Here are the details:

360Flex Conference is scheduled for March 5-7, 2007 at eBay in San Jose, CA. Come join us for this exclusive event and learn Flex from every angle. We are bringing together the best developers for Flex for this event both from within the development community but also within Adobe.

The conference costs $100, special thanks to our corporate sponsors.

360Flex will have 4 tracks as follows:

  • Flex 101 – Learn Flex A-Z
  • Application – Real-world Flex applications ( Browser & Apollo )
  • Integration – Connect Flex to any server (CF,PHP,.NET,JAVA,FDS)
  • Components – Create custom Flex components

Ajax Alive and Kicking

I think that people still finding new and interesting features of old browsers is a good sign that Ajax still has some gas left. Even more recently there are developments around charting, comet, sound and widgets. For those reasons I am not convinced that new “RIA” frameworks like Flex, Silverlight and JavaFX are the nirvana that will save us poor web application developers from the hell that is cross-browser JavaScript and DOM development. Even the very idea that Ajax is a cross-browser hell is really a misnomer in this day and age when there are so many different mature Ajax frameworks that take care of a lot of the cross-browser issues Ajax developers have to deal with on a daily basis – Ajax frameworks are to Ajax developers as the Flash player is to Flex developers. Most of the rest of this is to build on what Kevin Hoyt recently posted.

Where Have We Been

Over the past few years both Ajax and Flex have come a long way. Previous versions of Flex (and Flash before that) were nowhere near where Flex 2 / 3 Beta are at and one can achieve amazing things with Flex these days. The same can be said for Ajax. I think that both Flex and Ajax have been moving forward in step. In fact, Ajax has been around for a lot longer than Flex and was already creating real RIAs back in the late 90’s when Flash 3 was still only being used to make website intro’s. Certain frameworks, like Ext, make it simple to create applications with a desktop like feel using splitters, panels and common desktop UI widgets.

What is an RIA

I use the term RIA here with some reservation just because of the differing perceptions of what it really means – sort of like early perceptions of DHTML only being useful for annoying flashing text and simple animations. In terms of Ajax, one needs only look to today’s best of breed Ajax applications such as the Google online application suite including their great spreadsheet and mapping applications, which either don’t have equivalents in other RIA technologies or are simply better than their competitors; most people would choose Google Maps over the Flex based Yahoo! maps any day. Really, other than Buzzword, there are few popular Flex based RIAs (and even fewer that are actually available to the public) and frankly is there anything that much more amazing about Buzzword compared to a Google Doc? Google Doc even “feels” faster and more responsive to boot.

If RIA is about eliminating the page refresh or drag and drop then Ajax definitely has the right tools to create an RIA application. If RIA is about creating a “desktop like” experience then Ajax is definitely an RIA. If RIA is about improving the user experience and usability of network connect applications then Ajax is undoubtedly an RIA. One look at Google Mail and anyone can appreciate that it for the most part loads faster, searches faster, and generally performs far better than a desktop mail program like Outlook. Even in areas that Ajax may struggle, such as video or graphics, Ajax can take advantage of a wide variety of other technologies such as Flash, SVG or Canvas.

Flex Shortcomings

As with Ajax there are a lot of shortcomings to Flex applications. Dealing with the browser back button, search indexing, rendering HTML content are just a few of the problems that face Flex developers – some of them equally problematic for Ajax applications others not.

On the other hand, one of the biggest strengths of Ajax, which is often quoted as a weakness, is that it depends on the fragmentation of browsers and standards. As we know, overspecializing breeds in weakness. While Ajax may change rather slowly due to the glacial pace of browser advances and constant bickering over standards (something that is changing more rapidly now as the browser market becomes more competitive), at least the people doing the standards are less impacted from having budgets, managers and boards to report to – i.e. closed products like Flex are produced by companies that need to make money. Furthermore, any gaps in the technologies provided by the browser vendors are often filled in by the tireless work of Ajax framework developers.

And you know what the best part of being standards based is? You get included in all the coolest new technologies. Can the same be said of the de-facto standards? Well, Opera is doing ok )

Development Process

Flex has a hard time fitting into conventional – and I dare say preferred – web development processes, which will keep it on the fringe for some time to come. The process that Flash and now Flex developers go through when building an application is that they have Flex builder to design their application and maybe write some ActionScript to access some web service endpoints on a server somewhere. Then the developer needs to build their web service endpoints using a different tool (likely Eclipse or Visual Studio). Everything is separated between the client and server only connected by the web service endpoints yet the client side development is still not strictly for a designer but a designer and an engineer need to work on the Flex application. One interesting thing about this approach to development is that it fits in well with the enterprise SOA sort of idea; the Flex app is only a consumer of enterprise services and does nothing on the server. This is one reason that Flex is becoming popular in applications for SAP and Salesforce I think. However, hat is not to say that Ajax has no place in enterprise applications. The one thing that I do really like about Flex development is the declarative approach which few Ajax frameworks have done, I digress.

On the other hand, Ajax developers are used to using one tool for doing their server and client development whether it be Dreamweaver, Eclipse, or Visual Studio. Arguably the most popular Ajax frameworks, notably ASP.NET Ajax and Google Web Toolkit, actually combine both server and client development in one environment. In those environments Ajax developers are able to write server side code (binding to databases, interfacing with external web services, writing server side events, and so on) as well as client side code (CSS, JavaScript and HTML) all in one place. Even better, the server side code often encapsulates all the HTML, JavaScript and CSS required for an Ajax component like a tree or grid making Ajax development a painless and productive RIA endeavour.

Ajax developers also have so many choices between different Ajax frameworks that provide different widgets and various fundamental approaches to Ajax itself. Some are integrated with the server while others are completely client side. Whereas if a developer chooses Flex, they have really only got one option for their framework, their widgets, their tech support and their sanity.

Testing

Unit testing is all well and good but where is the functional test framework for Flex that is Selenium to Ajax? I concede that functional testing is more important for Ajax just because you may be trying to hit four or five different web browsers with your application but it is important for Flex development even beyond just checking for browser nuances.

Mashups

Finally, one of the biggest drawbacks of Flex, and strengths of Ajax as evidenced by the Web 2.0 craze, is the fact that Flex simply does not play nice in the world of the web. Sure you can access data across domains from Flex if the remote server has read permissions set in the crossdomain.xml file, however, in general Flex is not amenable to building mashup applications. There is no easy way to specify some Flex widget and have it dynamically included in another Flex application (probably due to what I say in the conclusion). On the other hand Ajax RIAs are free to use any of the many technologies at their disposal and mashup content from anywhere on the net – including Flex content. Ajax applications were popularized due to the early mashup – in particular maps based ones with Google Maps. Flex is a heavy (handed?), non-standard, monolithic approach to building RIAs that are conducive to keeping the application separate from others.

Conclusion

Ajax is made for the browser and the browser will continue to be the universal approach to accessing content over a network for some time to come. Not the least reason of which is the rule of least power. The web became popular for a reason and that reason is the ease with which content can be created. This is as true for HTML as it is for Ajax and is the main reason that Ajax is alive, kicking and will be around for a while despite new RIA technologies.

Categories: Adobe, AIR, Flex, News, Open Source, RIA

New Public Betas of Adobe Flex and AIR

Today, Adobe released the Beta 3 versions of both Adobe Flex and AIR. You may ask “Why should I care about beta software”? Well, both of these applications will be impactful if you are building, or considering building, Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). While not the only solution on the market, Flex is one of the most widely used technologies for enterprises RIAs.

What makes this release interesting? It delivers:

  • Great tools for data aggregation and for visually presenting metrics that will contribute to decision making.
  • More freedom for end-users to access tools and information without necessarily being connected to the internet.
  • Great economies of scale in creating online and offline applications in from a single effort.

We suspect that this release is a feature-complete version of what we will see in the final on which is anticipated to be available in early February 2008. If you are looking for a copy, it’s available on the Adobe Labs site.

Categories: Adobe, AIR, Flex, News, Programming, RIA