Tag Archives: Flex

Flex User Group to Tackle Building Flex/Air Apps for Custom Electronics

The Flex User Group meets in Lansing tonight, May 19, 2011. The topic of tonight’s meeting is building Flex and AIR applications for custom electronics, like Arduino. Here’s the summary that has me intrigued, from their mailing list:

“We will be going through basic electronic concepts, hooking up an Ardunio Microcontroller to a computer, and interacting with it from a Flex application.  We will be working with LEDs, push buttons, gas sensors, etc. to make a an application that you can not only control with a mouse, but can also interact with physically.”

Sounds like fun. Note that the summer meeting location is different from previous months. They will be meeting at 7 pm at 1345 Engineering on Michigan State’s campus. The room is the northwest-most room in the Engineering Building complex.

Free parking is available a block south in the Communication Arts and Sciences parking ramp (Ramp 5).

Directions are included below. Enjoy!

From Detroit:

  • Take Interstate 96 towards Lansing. Take exit 106B / US-127 NORTH (labeled DOWNTOWN Lansing) for approximately 2.7 miles to exit 9 / Trowbridge Rd. When on Trowbridge Road, continue EAST onto the campus of MSU. Take Trowbridge Road 0.6 miles to the parking garage on your right. Meters are valid only until 6pm. The Engineering Building is one block north of the parking ramp, on the north/east corner of Wilson and Red Cedar.  Enter the building and go to the north/west corner of the building to find room 1345.  The room is right next to the coffee shop.

From Grand Rapids:

  • Take Interstate 96 towards Lansing. Take exit 95 / I-496 (labeled DOWNTOWN Lansing) for approximately 9 miles to exit 9 / Trowbridge Road.. When on Trowbridge Road, continue EAST onto the campus of MSU. Take Trowbridge Road 0.6 miles to the parking garage on your right. Meters are valid only until 6pm. The Engineering Building is one block north of the parking ramp, on the north/east corner of Wilson and Red Cedar.  Enter the building and go to the north/west corner of the building to find room 1345.  The room is right next to the coffee shop.

Another Java Posse Roundup comes to a close

Well, I've been here in Crested Butte since Sunday afternoon, for the 3rd Java Posse Roundup. It's been an amazing experience, as always.  I blogged earlier in the week about how this conference evolves to match the interests of the attendees. Of course, I should have anticipated that it was still changing.  The attendees really take charge of this conference, and that's part of why it's so great.

In addition to the new (optional) hackathon day, there were several other changes this year. First of all, the size has exceeded the capacity of the Posse House and so the evening events were held at the conference location.  This gave everyone a bit more breathing room and was just as fun.

The lightning talks offer a wide variety of topics, not all of which are Java-related. I enjoy the non-technical talks and tech talks alike.  Some of the more amusing sessions from this year include Barry Hawkins' "Introducing Change" and Andrew Harmel Law's "Zombies".  The lightning talks will make their way to YouTube at http://youtube.com/javaposse.

The sessions, as always, were fascinating. Ranging from the very specific to the very general, they were all great. Of course, they will be released on the Java Posse podcast channel, and it will be interesting to hear the reaction of those who didn't attend. But I did realize that if you're not here, you miss out on a lot.  Not only will you likely not get the jokes, but you also miss out on the opportunity for "free consulting".  People are very generous with their time and ideas.  I have met some amazing people here over the years, and I do keep in touch with them throughout the year.  We bounce ideas off of one another and I benefit immensely.  I hope that I offer at least a fraction in return. 

The afternoon activities were varied. Some people gathered at houses around town to hack together, while others "networked" (aka, skiied and snowmobiled).  I was thrilled yet again to leave my downhill gear packed because of the interest attendees had in learning how to cross-country ski.  We went out two days (so far; I suspect we will go tomorrow morning as well) and the groups were great! Some footage may make its way to the internet; we'll have to see.  Fewer people downhilled this year than in years past, and I suspect that was a combination of the weather (it was grayish without new snow) and the fact that Bruce had broken his leg a few weeks ago.  I think that his mishap may have spooked people.

The hacking groups had productive afternoons as well.  Dick was able to rewrite his JFlubber app in both JavaFX and Flex. With both Tor and James to work with, Dick seemed pretty happy.

Bill Venners was here as well, and he was able to find several willing participants to work on ScalaTest.  Rumor has it that he and Tor got the NetBeans build working for ScalaTest, which will certainly improve the developer experience "out of the box". We had a group at our house one afternoon, and most of us were having difficulty getting it to build.  I'm glad that they were able to make progress. Bill's done a great job with ScalaTest!

After lightning talks, groups formed.  I never went to bed early, always intrigued by some interesting conversation at my house or another one, that went well into the night.  As is consistent with the previous 2 Roundups, I found that I spent nearly ALL of my waking time with other attendees.  I had one brief shopping trip alone to buy souvenirs for my kids.  That's it.  So, if any employers doubt the "hard work" that we do at this conference, pass this information along.  Even while we were out cross-country skiing, we were talking about "things", either about Java things or business things or the conference.  It's truly an experience in conference immersion.


Oh, and just to dispel the myth that geeks don't socialize and can't cook, here's a story:

Since several of us had rented houses around town (5 or 6 in total) rather than renting hotel rooms, we got together and organized a progressive dinner.  While Wikipedia describes it as a complex process requiring a lot of organization, we didn't have that experience and it was awesome.  So, if you're going to do one, don't do it THAT way.  Try it OUR way … you might be surprised.  Here's the official (LOL) Java Posse/Open Spaces version of a progressive dinner:

  1. Write down addresses of houses that are interested in participating. Each house will prepare "some food" (we left that open).
  2. Pick a start time.
  3. Pick a house to start at.
  4. Pick the successive houses and write down the order on the paper.
  5. Go to first house, and migrate to the next in line until done.

We announced this on Tuesday afternoon, and simply reminded everyone on Wednesday at noon.  40 people traipsed from house to house!  It was a lot of fun.

Pretty simple. And FUN! Not only did it get everyone moving around, talking to different people, it was a great way to see the other rental houses and to learn who liked to cook. We didn't go to the trouble of telling people what to prepare, assigning a course, or even letting one another know our plans.  Our menu was varied and we had a blast. Try it.

The week was way too short.  There was a lot that I wanted to do.  But, as usual, I'll be returning home with my batteries charged and new friends. Can't ask for much more than that.

Upcoming tech events in Ann Arbor area

The Michigan Python User Group (MichiPUG) meeting is tonight at 7 pm, at SRT.  If you want to learn how to write a web framework using WSGI, this is the place to come.  Kevin Dangoor (creator of TurboGears web framework) and Mark Ramm (maintainer for TurboGears 2) are both Ann Arborites and usually attend.

Tomorrow, Phil Wilmington of PeopleSoft will speak at the MPowered Entrepreneurship Hour on "Entrepreneurship in a Changing Technology Environment". This is held at the Stamps Auditorium, Walgreens Drama Center.

Next week:

At 6 pm on Monday February 9, the Ann Arbor New Tech February meetup will be held at the Google building in Ann Arbor (201 S. Division St, 3rd Floor).  Sign up at http://www.meetup.com/a2newtech/. 5 companies this month take the stage for 10 minutes each, 5 minutes to demo and 5 minutes to answer questions, followed by networking downstairs at Bar Louie. Space is limited, RSVP strictly required.

At the same time, across the street, the Flex/RIA group meets at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty, Lower Level, in Ann Arbor from 6-7:30 pm.

The Michigan!/usr/group meets on Tuesday from 6:30-9 at the Farmington Community Library, 32737 W. 12 Mile Rd, Farmington Hills, MI. George Castro is going to talk about microblogging.

The Ann Arbor .NET Developers group meets at SRT Solutions (206 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 200, Ann Arbor) from 6-8:30 pm.  Patrick Steele will be talking about ASP.NET MVC.

And on Thursday, January 12, the Michigan Flex User Group meets in East Lansing at MSU.

To close out the week, on Friday, January 13, SRT will hold its biweekly lightning talks, from 3:30-5. Join us for 5 minute sessions on tech topics. All are welcome to speak and/or listen!

Also, a group is forming to drive from Ann Arbor down to EdgeCase in Columbus for Merb and Rails 3.0 with Yehuda Katz. Contact Winston Tsang if you want to rideshare (not sure how much room is available).


Tech events in and around Ann Arbor

The end of the month is sort of light on tech events in Ann Arbor, but STILL there are things to do within driving distance!

PyOhio is going on in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday July 26.  It's a free event, and includes talks, open spaces, lightning talks, and poster sessions. If you're planning to attend and want to carpool, check with other Python developers on the MichiPUG Google group.

The Ann Arbor Java User Group canceled their meeting for next week (would have been on Tuesday July 29), but look for their meeting next month.  Rumor has it that the August talk will be on JavaFX, which is getting some air time at OSCON this week.  

Next week, Wednesday and Thursday (July 30-31) is the Michigan Flex Camp in Lansing.  The price is only $40 ($25 if you only want to attend the first day).  This hands-on interactive camp looks really interesting.  Registration is limited to 150 people, so sign up now if you're planning to attend: http://www.theflexgroup.org/camp/.

Lightning Talk Fridays, hosted by SRT Solutions, continue on Friday, August 1 from 3:30-5 pm.

And one non-technical event will be held next week as well.  The WXW Business group is holding a networking event for businesswomen at the Ann Arbor Art Center.  Cost is $10, and registration is limited to 120 people.  Wine and appetizers will be served. Registration is available at http://wxwbusiness.com/.

If you have any interest in traveling to North Carolina in next week or the week after, TrizPugBootCampArama is being held there, with 3 consecutive camps: PyCamp and 2 on Plone.

Oh, and of course, the first week in August will be busy event-wise, with both the Ann Arbor Computer Society meeting on August 6 (topic: Ruby for Domain Specific Languages) and the Michigan Python User Group on August 7.  More details on those meetings to come.


Technical Sessions at the Java Posse Roundup

I'm a month late in posting this, but better late than never.

The Java Posse Roundup was an Open Spaces conference in Crested Butte, CO.  It was held March 4-8, and this was the second (hopefully annual) conference.  The non-technical sessions, about which I already posted, were great, and the technical sessions were great too.  I didn't keep really great notes, because it's hard to take notes and participate at the same time, but here is my re-creation, from my chicken scratch.

The night before the conference started, most of the conference attendees were in town, so we got together at Bruce's house.  We badgered Dick Wall about Android, and he spent some time walking us through his application (WikiNotes), which has been (recently) open-sourced. 

Joe Nuxoll, of the Java Posse, convened a session on Component Based Systems.  Many different systems and libraries were discussed, including Swing, Flex, Boxley, and Thermo.  The consensus was (pretty much) reached that Swing is a library and is not component based.  Flex is component based.  Boxley is an AOL component based application development environment whose lead architect was hired by Adobe to work on Flex.  And Thermo is a design-oriented tool that provides the missing link between FlexBuilder and PhotoShop, allowing designers to build an application that a developer can drop into the production app.

Barry Hawkins convened a session on "Why is Agile Hard?" (note: audio released this week on the Java Posse podcast).  Barry is an agile coach, from Atlanta, and I always enjoy his sessions.  He always seems to come up with some good one-liners, that stick with me.  Like "Agile exposes the dysfunction endemic in software development, whereas other approaches mask it".  He also pointed at some great sources for future "research", including Scott Ambler and Kevlin Henney's podcasts at Parleys.com.  Also Alistair Cockburn's podcast on IT Conversations: Agile Software Development, and of course  Mike Cohn's blog "Succeeding with Agile". A few people who participated in the discussion were looking for answers about how to bring agile into an environment which is hostile to it.  The consensus of the discussion is that until the business respects agile, you're giving up a lot of the benefits, but there are some benefits that can be gained by heading in that direction.  Another reference that came out of the discussion was the book "Waltzing with Bears: Managing Risks on Software Projects".

I think that it was Ophir Radnitz who convened a session on "What does Scala Need".  Many people were interested in Scala at the Roundup (myself included), and this was a lively discussion.   It ranged from how to leverage what we already know (about Java) for Scala to what it will take for the language to be successful.  Toward that end, the group determined that books, community, and tools were important to success.  The books are getting there, with Martin Odersky's Programming in Scala book and others likely on their way.  Community is building both at artima.com and scalax.scalaforge.org. The plugins in development for Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJ's IDEA will help a lot with adoption.  It's hard, these days, to learn a language without code completion. Sounds silly, but I doubt that I'm the only one who has started to depend on that support.  During the session, Carl Quinn and Tor Norbye came to an agreement to work together to help advance the NetBeans Scala plugin.

One nice thing about Open Spaces conferences is the ability to mold them to fit the needs of the actual attendees, at the event.  Last year, there was a discussion about how cool lightning talks are in other environments, and so we added lightning talks to the Roundup.  This year, people wanted to go a bit more in depth on some issues, so we added some very informal workshops.  A few people were worried that the workshops didn't fit the model of Open Spaces, which are interactive, but there really wasn't a conflict.  People who were interested in the workshop format showed up!  Others did not.  Joel Neely and I did a workshop on Scala for Java Programmers, followed by a several hour Scala hacking session the next evening, where we worked on a functional implementation of a problem that we had come across.  You can read more about how far Joel has taken this on Joel's blogChet Haase did a really cool lightning talk where he demonstrated how he was able to implement some of the examples from his Filthy Rich Clients, but in Flex.  We wanted to know MORE so we recruited Chet to do a workshop to do a deeper dive on this.  It was fantastic.  I think that his blog will serve as great reference material for building apps in Flex.

I think that we will see an increase in workshop time at future Roundups, if the attendees want them.  We slid these into the dinner time, after the ski hill closed and before the lightning talks started.  It was time that people were using to socialize anyhow, and it fit well into many schedules.

 Once again, the Java Posse Roundup is over for another year. I had a blast, and learned a lot.  I met some really great people, and also enjoyed seeing some familiar faces.  I'm already looking forward to Roundup '09.


Flex meeting tonight, March 10 at SPARK

An Ann Arbor area Flex meeting is being held tonight, at SPARK.  It's free, and open to all. 

Flex: Rich Internet Application (RIA) Demos and Case Studies

Join users of Flex, and others interested in Flex to view demos of Flex applications and talk about how companies are using Flex. Nick Kwiatkowski, manager of the Michigan Flex User's Group will be the guest speaker.

If you're interested in participating in an Adobe Flex User's Group, this meeting will include discussion around starting an official group and talk about its organization. 

If you would like to be involved, please plan on attending this meeting!

Nick Kwiatkowski, manager of the Michigan Flex User's Group (Lansing area)

Monday, March 10, 2008

6-8 p.m.

SPARK Central-330 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor



The Java Posse Roundup: the view from 9000 feet

I'm here in Crested Butte, for the 2nd Java Posse Roundup (my second time as well).  It's been great, and much different than last year.  That's cool because the theme was "Don't Repeat Yourself".  Here's my overview.  I'll post more detail later.

This is an open spaces conference, which means that the conference participants (about 35 people, including the Posse) are defining the content and shaping the character. This year, we're doing sessions from about 8:30 am until about 12:30 pm, then breaking for lunch/afternoon activities.  The 160" base on Mt Crested Butte is amazing.  Some people have been downhill skiing, others snowboarding.  Groups have gone out snowmobiling.  I've even spirited some people away (Dick Wall and Joel Neely and Mike Levin) to nordic skiing, which is fabulous here.  And, of course, some people spend the time working, collaborating with other attendees, or simply relaxing.  In the evenings, after dinner, we've been getting together for lightning talks (5 mins), which have been video-recorded and will be released on YouTube.  I'll post the link when they are available.  But this year, we found that the collaboration aspect of the conference was really growing, and many of us have wanted to have some "workshop" experiences. So, we've conspired to add in some workshop and hacking sessions in the early evening, either over dinner or just before lightning talks.  Joel and I hung back one afternoon and collaborated on some Scala code, and then presented a session comparing Java and Scala during one of those early evening sessions (before lightning talks).  The flexibility to do this speaks loudly for the benefits of open spaces. At more traditional events, people might still hole up in a hotel room and work on code together, but only they would benefit from that experience.  The other attendees likely wouldn't even know of their experience and certainly wouldn't get to listen to a talk about it.

 I don't think that I have attended a single Java specific talk this year.  They've been scheduled, and others are attending those, but I've been more interested in some other talks, like "Startups: Mistakes not to Make", "Hiring and Retaining Technologists", "Brainstorming New Structures for Organizing Companies that serve Programmers Better", "Component Based Systems", "Organizing Community Based Conferences", and "Why is Agile Hard".  But I'm getting some technical mojo out of workshops and hacking sessions.  We spent some time with Dick Wall on Android and that was quite interesting.  Chet Haase did a lightning talk on "Filthy Rich Clients with Flex", which motivated me to strong arm him into doing a more indepth session on that.  A bunch of us sat around for several hours last night hacking some Scala, and we had a lot of fun.  And, of course, there were more lightning talks last night and they were awesome as well.

 So, I'm off for the final day.  Some people will be leaving early today, but I think that they're missing out by not staying for the evening.  Sessions end at 12:30 or so, but we'll be doing dinner together and an informal gathering this evening as well.  Last year, that evolved into "Check out this cool thing on YouTube", but since we're in the mode of "Don't Repeat Yourself", I bet we'll come up with something different tonight.  And I'm taking a group out x-c skiing this afternoon!  Off to breakfast … at Camp4Coffee.


Flex User Group meeting next week (Monday)

SPARK and Janeeva are coordinating to determine if there is interest in a Flex User Group.  Toward that end, and toward introducing Flex to people who might not know about it, they are holding a meeting next Monday evening, February 11, from 6-8 pm.

Introduction to Flex : Creating Rich Internet Applications (RIA)

Janeeva and SPARK are pleased to invite you to a seminar on creating RIAs using Adobe Flex technology. Flex is a cross-platform development framework for creating rich Internet applications (RIAs). Flex enables you to create expressive, high-performance applications that run identically on all major browsers and operating systems.

Seminar leaders Raj Rajen and Michael Bergens, both of Janeeva, will use examples to demonstrate the key concepts of Flex, then progressively build upon the examples to illustrate how Flex applications interact with backend server applications. The seminar is designed for web application developers experienced in using Java, PHP, Ruby, Python or .NET.

We will also discuss the potential to create a Flex User Group, depending on the level of interest. If you are unable to attend but interested in a user group, please register anyway.

The session is scheduled for February 11th, 6-8pm, at SPARK Central in Ann Arbor. Please register at www.annarborusa.org/events.

Raj Rajen is currently the CTO of Janeeva Inc., an Ann Arbor based SaaS company delivering Rich Internet Applications to fortune 500 customers. Previously, Raj was an Information Architect at Mechanical Dynamics Inc, MSC Software, and BlueGill Technologies. He has 20 years of industry experience in the IT and Computer-Aided-Engineering space with a focus on Enterprise Systems development.

Michael Bergens is currently a Senior Software Engineer at Janeeva. He is a graduate of the Mendeleyev University in Moscow's Computer Science department.  He wrote and sold his first computer program in 1976, and has more than 30 years of software industry experience.

Rich Internet Application Jam: Silverlight and Flex

Last week, James Ward (Adobe), Josh Holmes (Microsoft), and Bruce Eckel (well, Bruce Eckel!) conducted a Rich Internet Application Jam at our office. This was NOT a competitive event.  Rather, in the spirit of CodeMash, people came together to learn about competing technologies in a cooperative manner.  Each attendee decided which technologies to explore, and how much time to spend on them.  Most of the attendees were interested in Flex, but Silverlight was represented as well.  And of course, the Jam included discussions of the strengths of each.  It appears that Flex has strong support for controls, yet to be provided in Silverlight.  Silverlight shines in its support of vector graphics, which Flex doesn't currently provide.

I spent some time looking at the AdvancedDataGrid in Flex 3.  One of the attendees had a customer requirement for a lot of grid data, including summaries and rollups.  The advanced data grid supported what he needed to do, using a combination of summary rows and groupings.  On the summary rows, he was able to choose one of five functions that are baked into the advanced data grid: min, max, average, count, and sum.  Nice!  If you're interested in this, note that the documentation is apparently not available in the Flex 3 docs that are downloaded, but is available online.  Sreenivas Ramaswamy's blog has a nice writeup about this control (and others!).

Andy Beaulieu's site has a cool Silverlight demo.  If you enter an address for which there is Virtual Earth data, you can play a game that allows you to destroy UFO's while flying over that address.  Impressive!

Once again, I was impressed by the Jam format.  With Bruce, James, and Josh to help people over any rough spots, attendees were able to work on exercises that interested them, and spend as much time as they needed on any particular task.  I like this better than the typical situation where a class is in lock step for exercises, and individual attendees are either sitting around waiting for someone to finish, or frantically trying to rush through so that everyone else can move on.  And these people were able to focus on using the technology in a way that is meaningful for their purposes, but have the support of an expert right there.

The attendees seemed to enjoy themselves and learn a lot.  I can't wait til our next Jam: it's a C# Jam with Bill Wagner, Jamie King, and Bruce Eckel.  It will be held at our office April 8-11.  Bruce and Jamie are working on a C# book, and Bill's working on his 3rd C# book.  This Jam will focus on C# 3.0 and its new language features.   The early bird deadline for that event is January 31.


Day 1 of the RIA Jam … and RIA at Special User Group meeting tomorrow

Today was the first day for the Rich Internet Application Jam, being held at SRT Solutions' offices.  James Ward (Adobe)  and Bruce Eckel are here, working side-by-side with people who are in various stages of learning Flex and Josh Holmes (Microsoft) is here representing Silverlight and working with people interested in that.  The Jam goes through Wednesday.

Tomorrow night (Tuesday January 15), James and Bruce will present a talk, "Connecting Java with Flex using Open Source Blaze".  The discussion will include how Blaze differs from LiveCycle Data Services and perhaps even a little bit of Scala.  You see, James spent some time this past weekend connecting Flex to Scala.  Interesting.

This is a special joint meeting of the Ann Arbor Computer Society and Ann Arbor Java User Group, and will be held at 206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.  The meeting starts at 6 pm, and is free and open to the public.  AACS is providing pizza.