Factum Vicesimus Quartus

Exploring web x.0, innovation and RIA techniques

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I noticed a very interesting tutorial video (embedded below) last week from Seth Sandler on how to create your own low cost multitouch device. I followed along with the tutorial and had my own device working within a few minutes.

The only things you need are a cardboard box, a web cam (I use a Sweex WC050, 1.3 mega pixels), a piece of glass or plexiglas (I bought a photo frame for about 6 euros, size: A4), a piece of A4 white printing paper and a pc with preferably a dual core processor (but my single core computer does the trick quite good too). Once you get your device up and running, the only thing you have to do is download the MTmini software package and you’ve got yourself some serious multitouch coolness at home!

I’m eager to start experimenting with some multitouch work in Flex and will write a follow up on this when I have something worth showing. Thanks Seth, for sharing this great tutorial! Multitouch just got way more accessible!


B.T.W. Seth also has a great PDF document on how to get started on his blog!

After installing Aptana Studio, the Eclipse plugin version, it changes the standard Flex CSS editor to it’s own version. This gives you a lot of errors because of the syntax differences. Luckily this can be changed back to normal (Flex) by going to Window > Preferences > General > Editors > File Associations. Here you can change the default editor for the CSS file type from the ‘Aptana CSS Editor’ to the ‘CSS Editor’. Then after restarting Flex Builder everything should work fine again.

Adobe onAIR tour Amsterdam

Last Friday Adobe’s onAIR tour landed in Amsterdam, in the Beurs van Berlage building and I went to see what I could learn about Adobe AIR, since I didn’t do much with AIR after the rename from Apollo. Also the impressive list of speakers caught my interest. The event was organized very smoothly and the location was perfect. They created a gaming-room with Guitar Hero, a Nintendo Wii and a XBOX 360 for some r&r in between the presentations, there was an abundance of free food and drinks, and the atmosphere was great.

Ryan Stewart presented the Keynote speech, which started at 10 o’clock sharp. He did a short and general introduction for AIR and then showed some cool applications, like uvLayer, a new way to watch and share videos with your friends. He also showed the new Google Analytics AIR application, which brings almost all of the features of Google Analytics to your desktop, including the cool site-overlay feature.

Ryan Stewart @ onAIR tour Amsterdam
Photo by Kevin Hoyt

After Ryan, Mike Chambers built the first Flex based AIR application together with the audience. Nothing too new there. We ended up with a very basic Hello World button in an AIR window. This was also the result of the next session about application building with HTML and JavaScript by Kevin Hoyt. Kevin also introduced the Aptana Studio to the audience, a free development environment for HTML and JavaScript, based on the Eclipse environment (also available as plug-in). I’ve just installed the plug-in myself and will try it later this week.

During the break I went to take a look in the gaming area but it was way too crowded so I rejoined the other guys I was with and we ate a quick lunch in the main presenting area. During the breaks it was still a little awkward to see a giant row in front of the mens restroom while the women could walk right into theirs. This is usually the other way around if I’m right. Oh well, another great excuse for women to get into the web business I guess…

After the break we were introduced to the newest user group in The Netherlands, FLUGR, which stands for FLex User GRoup. Next to the Adobe User Group Nederland, which was launched last year it’s a great development in quite a small country. The community is growing rapidly.

Serge Jespers presented the worlds smallest video player (including a dark and evil voice muhaha). He had a dock icon of 16×16 pixels with Disney/Pixars new movie, Wall-E in full HD which was kind of an awkward new video watching experience. Of course the main point was to show the really great integration of AIR with the current operating systems. Great stuff!

Daniel Dura had a very nice layout scheme about the AIR API’s which was very interesting and well explained by Dany. He will post the slides on his blog after the first part of the euro tour.

I didn’t pickup much from Enrique Duvos presentation about leveraging LiveCycle Data Services within AIR, because I was looking into some other things on my laptop and I also don’t really have any interest in LiveCycle at the moment. There are too much other things I want to learn first so one’s gotta make choices.

Peter Elst thought the stage was very suitable for stage-diving but he didn’t want to break any laptops so he didn’t execute his plan and kept to talking about SQLLite, which isn’t the sexiest of subjects (his own words) but he did a great job explaining the simplicity of combining SQLLite and AIR. With only 300 lines of code he created a useful contacts application which saves the data in a single SQLLite file. I was pleasantly surprised by this technique. I will certainly look into this more intensively quite soon!

Sergey Ilinksy presented about combining the Backbase Enterprise AJAX framework with AIR, but after missing the first half of his presentation I couldn’t get into his story when I rejoined to audience. He just couldn’t convince me with his presentation, the slides where not appealing, they contained too much information and he didn’t have any volume in his voice. I had a hard time hearing what he had to say. Least interesting presentation of the day in my opinion.

Chris Brichford is a senior developer at the AIR team and is working on the html rendering within AIR. This obviously is done through the WebKit engine and it was pretty interesting to hear him talking about it. He also talked us through the security model for AIR.

Next up was André Charland, CEO of Nitobi, who presented about leveraging AJAX through AIR. He also showed a lot of interesting applications like sh.AIR, snitter and especially Scrutinizer, which kind of simulates the eye-tracking method to user-test your websites. It blurs the website and only shows about 2% of the site clearly in a sharp blob around the mouse cursor. This blog also moves with the cursor so you can check out your website and see if anything really jumps out or not. Very interesting piece of work!

Lee Brimelow @ onAIR tour Amsterdam
Photo by Kevin Hoyt

The last speaker of the day was Lee Brimelow (who loves fart soundboards, funny guy!), obviously known for GotoAndLearn() and TheFlashBlog. He discussed the API’s some more and had a great low level approach in explaining it with a lot of (funny) graphical support to backup his story. His slides also can be found over here on his blog. One of the most interesting things about the API he told about was the option to handle multiple screens. I didn’t hear or read about that feature before. Lee’s presentation was really awesome!

So that’s about it for my view on this great day and event. It was the best event organized by Adobe which I have attended so far. Everything was organized perfectly and I learned a lot about the subject!

Last week I requested a free student license for Flex Builder 3 from Adobe, and this week I found it in my mailbox. After downloading the Flex Builder 3 trail version from the Adobe website and applying my license key to it, it said I now have the Education version. But the strange thing is that when I open the ‘About Adobe Flex Builder 3…’ window, it tells me I have Flex Builder 2 and then freezes the entire application (see screen shot below)! All of the menu buttons in the top bar are gone and the application stops responding to anything. I had to restart Flex Builder in order to continue my work.

After installing the trail version of Flex Builder 3 on my Windows XP machine this afternoon I checked the same window. At first I didn’t apply my license key to it so it was still in trail mode. No strange things, just the normal black ‘About Adobe Flex Builder 3’ window. But after applying the student license key the window was corrupted again! The only difference between the Windows and OS-X version was that on the Windows machine it didn’t completely crash my Flex Builder, and I was able to return to the development screen by clicking the corrupted window.

Apparently there is a little bug in the educational license system in Flex Builder 3.

Click screen shot for a larger version…

Adobe has branded their latest upcoming child “Thermo”. With Thermo designers must be able to create Flex applications from their designs in an easy way. Check out the video’s from Aral Balkan (I’ve embedded them at the bottom of this post) to see how Adobe succeeds in doing that. Way cool to see how they import a PSD file, Thermo converts all the bitmap layers to components and they connect the scrollbar to the list without using any code.

But as Rick Tretola is pointing out, it looks like everything becomes one massive MXML file which makes it really hard to change anything afterwards or set up the application with the MVC model in mind for instance. Rick also discribes his fear of the SWF becoming huge with all the image assets that are embedded into the application. These things have to be worked out better before this application will become a serious tool for both designers and developers. But other than that I think this is another tool from Adobe to keep updated about and to try as soon as the BETA shows up on Adobe Labs.

Adobe Thermo presentation on MAX Chicago 2007 – Part 1: [yt]lGdr3dCmxe4[/yt]

Adobe Thermo presentation on MAX Chicago 2007 – Part 2: [yt]d9IjZJ0D_bo[/yt]

Adobe Thermo presentation on MAX Chicago 2007 – Part 3: [yt]lsfOe_MCEbg[/yt]

Adobe just released the newest beta versions of Flex 3 and AIR. These new releases are nearly feature complete. Matt Chotin wrote a nice article about the new features in this new release, but you can also find a full list of features on the FlexWiki of Adobe. Some of the newest features were already discussed by Ted Patrick last week and those features are looking really promissing. The other great news of today is that Adobe aquired Virtub, and with it their main product Buzzword. This application is a complete online word processing tool which was in private beta for a long time, but recently Virtub annouched more openings so that everyone can get an account today! Check it out because it’s awsome!