Category Archives: Rich Internet Applications

Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Epilogue)

Thanks to Brian E. Fox, I managed to avoid duplication of Flex remoting configuration files in this project. It requires a bit of additional configuration and I hope that Maven will soon provide a simpler way to do this simple resource inheritance thing. But in the meantime, this one will work.

I’m going to update my fourarticle series to include those modifications, but for those of you who have already gone through it before the update, here are the exact modifications you need to make to the project you got at the end of Part 4.
Continue reading Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Epilogue)

Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Part 4) [updated]

[UPDATE] This article series has been reedited on the Adobe Developer Connection. For more information, see this post.

In the previous articles in this series, we did the boring stuff of setting up Spring, Hibernate and MySQL on a sample todo list server on one side, and we wrote a small useless Flex UI on the other side. In this article, we’re going to write the final UI and connect it with the Spring backend using BlazeDS. Let’s go!
Continue reading Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Part 4) [updated]

Maven, Flex and GraniteDS: another full stack!

For those of you looking for alternatives, it appears that the main diffuculty I had with Israfil’s maven-flex2-plugin, that is how to specify the contextRoot compiler argument, is not really a difficulty after all. I don’t know if it works with BlazeDS, but the guys behind Igenko apparently made it work with GraniteDS. I have to thank Tim O’Brien for pointing that out.

Their solution to the configuration file duplication is at least as ugly as mine, but if you’re looking for the right configuration for israfil, you can try that:

<plugin>
	<groupId>net.israfil.mojo</groupId>
	<artifactId>maven-flex2-plugin</artifactId>
	<version>1.3</version>
	<extensions>true</extensions>
	<configuration>
	<flexHome>${flex.home}</flexHome>
<dataServicesConfig>../igenko-backoffice-server/src/main/webapp/WEB-INF/flex/services-config.xml</dataServicesConfig>
		<main>Index.mxml</main>
		<useNetwork>true</useNetwork>
		<debug>true</debug>

		<extraParameters>
			<parameter>
				<name>compiler.context-root</name>
				<values><value>igenko-bo</value></values>
			</parameter>
		</extraParameters>       
	</configuration>
</plugin>

Maybe I’ll give it a shot after I finish my series. But anyways, Adobe if you can hear me, it becomes urgent for you to propose an official and well-documented Maven support for Flex 3.

Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Part 3)

[UPDATE 2] If you are still having version issues with the sample application featured in this article, you can get a fully upgraded version here

[UPDATE] This article series has been reedited on the Adobe Developer Connection. For more information, see this post.

In the previous article in this series, I described the creation and configuration of a classic standalone Flex module built with flex-compiler-mojo. In this article I’m going to describe the creation of our back-end module, made up with Spring, Hibernate and MySQL. I’ll keep the most interesting part for the fourth and last episode, that is how to connect the frontend with the backend using BlazeDS.
Continue reading Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Part 3)

Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Part 2)

[UPDATE 2] If you are still having version issues with the sample application featured in this article, you can get a fully upgraded version here

[UPDATE] This article series has been reedited on the Adobe Developer Connection. For more information, see this post.

In the previous article of this series, I laid the ground for what will be a step-by-step tutorial about creating a Flex/BlazeDS/Spring/Hibernate project. In this article, I will go into more detail about the creation of the Flex UI for our Todo List application.
Continue reading Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Part 2)

Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Part 1)

[UPDATE 2] If you are still having version issues with the sample application featured in this article, you can get a fully upgraded version here

[UPDATE] This article series has been reedited on the Adobe Developer Connection. For more information, see this post.

In this article series, I’ll try to give you a step-by-step process to create an application with Flex/BlazeDS/Spring/Hibernate/MySQL architecture, all of that built with Maven. I’ve been looking for such a tutorial for a long time, but you know what Gandhi said about the change you wish to see in the world, right? So I finally put all the parts together, and with a little help from a Brazilian friend, tadaaaa! Here it comes!

But before we dive in to the hard stuff, just a few words of caution:

  1. The project that we are going to build in this tutorial is by no means perfect, especially in terms of Maven configuration. So if you have suggestions to improve it, they’ll be warmly welcome.
  2. One of the main ingredients of this project, one without which nothing would have been possible, is the flex-compiler-mojo from Velo. There are other Flex building Maven plugins out there, but at the time of this writing, none of them offers enough configuration options to build this project. On the other hand, Velo’s plugin is still in alpha, so… Anyway, if like me you are convinced that Adobe’s official Maven support is necessary, feel free to vote for this issue.

Enough blah-blah, let’s move on to the real thing. Ready to get nasty?
Continue reading Flex, Spring and BlazeDS: the full stack! (Part 1)

WaaP? SaaS!

What a cryptic title isn’t it? How about web as a platform and software as a service? Are you still wondering what it means. Well I just have a couple of good examples for you.

Did you imagine that a creative task like image editing would one day possible inside your browser?

What Does it Take to be a good RIA Platform?

Yesterday, I had a very interesting blog debate with a guy named Martin Beeby. He was arguing that Silverlight would eventually crush Flex because Adobe is building its community on Flash developers, who are in fact designers. Of course I couldn’t help demonstrating to him that he was wrong, because Adobe is obviously not trying to transform Flash designers into Flex developers, and is actually trying to add developers to its already existing designer community. But ultimately he made an interesting statement: according to him, RIA’s require both developers and designers, and both Microsoft and Adobe are trying to convince the ones they don’t already have in their community.

I had never thought of it that way. As a matter of fact, if you have a look at most Flex apps available out there, rare are those who use the default theme provided by the Flex SDK. In fact, Flex apps are so easy to customize using themes and stylesheets, that it’s perfectly understandable. Adobe is even pushing us in that direction with tools like Thermo or Flash Component Kit.

Adobe Thermo

But do we really need that level of customization? In fact, in enterprise applications, this themeing mania can even do more harm than good, unless you use a standard WindowsXP-like theme, because they don’t want fancy stuff, they just want transparent software.

He used another argument in favor of Silverlight, the fact that it’s generating more buzz lately. With showcase applications like Beijing Olympic games website, or the new AOL Mail interface, Silverlight is definitely trying to draw the attention on itself. Is it working? Hard to say.

But all of this debate made me think about what makes a good RIA platform. Here is my list:

  • the runtime has to be as widespread and portable as possible: on that point Flex is clearly ahead with its 95%-ish penetration rate, but the Flash runtime still suffers from a bad reputation in IT departments. On the other hand, Silverlight is still far behind but it has a tremendous advantage: Windows Update.
  • behind the fancy stuff, the code has to be simple, clean and state-of-the-art: that’s one of the main reasons why I love Flex, the ActionScript/MXML combination is just perfect, and it doesn’t even require any framework. I don’t know anything about Silverlight code, so I will probably have a look at some tutorials before commenting on that.
  • it has to be supported by a wide variety of development tools: Flex Builder is great but it’s still quite expensive, especially when you’re not using Eclipse at all and it forces you to run two development environments side-by-side. Fortunately, IntelliJ Idea has added support for Flex 3 and it’s becoming great. The last thing it misses is a visual designer. But given their experience with their Swing designer, I’m certain they are working on something (I hope so!). And all of that is possible thanks to the openness of the platform. On the other side, Silverlight is supported mainly by Visual Studio, and I haven’t heard of any openness effort that would allow other .Net development tools to support it.
  • RIA is all about the presentation layer, so it has to be connected to some backend to be useful, and the more backends it supports the better: Flex is really ahead on that one, since it can be plugged on Coldfusion, J2EE, .Net, PHP, Python, Ruby and virtually any platform via its webservice connectivity. But what makes it really powerful now is the extension of Java support thanks to BlazeDS. And apparently, Silverlight doesn’t have an equivalent communication protocol.
  • it has to be deployable on any platform: Flex just produces plain SWF Flash applications, so it doesn’t require any server-side technology. A plain Apache httpd server is enough. I don’t know what are the requirements of Silverlight on that matter.

Now what do YOU think? Do you see anything to be added to the above list? What are your criteria? Have you already had to make a choice and justify it?

RIA on Your Phone?

I love Apple. I confess I’m a pure fanboy, writing this post on a Macbook Pro I’m very proud of, and I really admire what Steve Jobs has managed to do with this company in just more than 10 years since he returned. But yesterday he did another of these annoying things I really hate: he denigrated a competitor. I mean, when you have great products like Apple does, you don’t need to do that sort of things, and if you do, it obviously means that you are afraid of them.

flexiphone.pngSo when Steve Jobs says that “Flash is not suited for the iPhone“, I don’t hear “Flash will never be available on the iPhone” but “Flash will eventually adapt to the iPhone and when this day comes, we’ll have to deal with it.” The truth is that Adobe has been doing huge things with Flash lately, thanks to Flex. And I’m sure Steve is aware of that. And I see absolutely no coincidence in him spreading that kind of FUD on the same day he’s announcing the iPhone SDK.

For months, Apple has been telling us that we didn’t need any SDK for the iPhone, because we could just write standard AJAX web applications, which is nothing more than a transitional form of rich internet application. Now that the SDK is out (and it really amazes me by the way, but that’s another topic), the web application way of doing things looks really poor in comparison, both more complex to use and less integrated than its heavyweight client alternative. But what if Adobe comes up with a Flash runtime for the iPhone supporting Flash 9 and Tamarin? Then we will have Flex applications on the iPhone, in other words easy-to-develop apps, with no need to go through the App Store. And if Adobe does things right and uses the full power of the iPhone APIs, maybe we could have some special capabilities to integrate multi-touch and other advanced features into our rich mobile applications.

Wouldn’t it be great?!

Now the question is, if Adobe comes with such an adapted Flash support, will Apple accept this alternative and pre-install it on all new iPhones?

I really hope so… But what do you think?

The Flex Office Suite is (almost) Complete

Today, I’ve discovered yet another great Flex app that completes my online Flex Office basic suite. It’s called BList and once again, the ease of use of Flex has made ot possible for its creators to be really creative about the way to create spreadsheets. And what I really love is that you are not lost with their new way, since you’re litterally taken by the hand and everything is explained.

So now we have:

What else do we need for it to be really complete:

  • A mail application, like GMail or LaszloMail (that is now GoWebtop) but with a more creative approach of course
  • A good calendar app, something with simple tools to synchronize meetings ala Doodle for example, possibly synchronized with the mail system for invitation
  • And obviously there is a lot of creativity needed in the personal database area

Now imagine if Adobe bought all of the existing startups mentioned above (they have already bought Buzzword) and created the missing tools to build up a great Flex online Office suite, possibly with AIR spin-offs for each application…

What do you think? Do you know of any other Flex app out there that could be integrated in this online Office suite? Would you be interested in such an integrated toolset? Would you or your company be ready to pay a subscription for it?

[edit]
Mike Potter just pointed me to another incredible example of creativity allowed by simple technology. It’s a personal organization tool with a calendar, todo-lists and notepads like I’ve never seen before. I’ve added it to the list above. It misses some meeting synchronization features but it’s really excellent.
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