Tag Archives: Adobe

Rich Internet Application Jam at SRT January 14-16

SRT Solutions will be hosting an RIA Jam, with Bruce Eckel, James Ward (Adobe) and Josh Holmes (Microsoft).  This self-paced exploration of rich internet options will give participants the ability to learn about Flex and Silverlight and to talk about JavaFX, which doesn't seem to be quite ready for prime time just yet.

I've done several of the jams that Bruce has organized, and I have found them to be great learning experiences. I'm thrilled that we will be hosting this at our new office in Ann Arbor.  We've been getting inquiries about it already, and since enrollment is limited to 30 participants, it seems prudent to register early (plus, early bird pricing of $400 by Jan 2 versus $500 after that makes registering early wise as well).  Sure, you could learn these technologies on your own, but I've found that learning in a jam session like this helps me stay focused when I get frustrated, and that's proved to be really helpful.

Oh, and Adobe is throwing in a free FlexBuilder license with your paid registration fee.  Nice!

Registration and more information are available on Bruce's site


September Ann Arbor Tech Events

Ah, a new month and more tech events in Ann Arbor. All meetings are free and open to the public.  SRT is happy to say that we will be hosting several of these meetings in our new office, at 206 S. Fifth, Suite 200.  That's at the corner of Fifth and Washington, directly above the Linux Box.  Entrance is on Fifth; take the elevator to floor 2R (or you can take the stairs, but then you have to wind around on the 2nd floor to find our office).

Tomorrow, Wednesday September 5, Dave Strenski of Cray Inc., will be presenting a talk for the Ann Arbor Computer Society, entitled "Estimating FPGA 64-bit Floating Point Performance".  For a brief summary on FPGA (Field Gate Programmable Arrays), go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FPGA.  Dave will talk about the architecture of the Xilinx Virtec-4 and Virtex-5 FPGA chips, and demonstrate how to estimate their performance.  This meeting will be held at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty (lower level) for the last time.  Starting in October, SRT will be hosting the AACS meetings.

On Thursday, September 6, the Michigan Python User Group will talk about "Python 3.0: What's up with that?".  The group will meet at SRT's offices, at 206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200 (see directions above).

On Monday, September 10, at UM's North Campus (EECS 1200), the Ruby MI group will meet.  In addition to open discussion, the meeting will include:

  1. User Group Challenge – Boggle
  2. Ruby/Rails Editors lightening talks
  3. RubyConf*MI

The Ann Arbor Java User group, which usually meets the first Tuesday of the month, has moved its meeting to next Tuesday,September 11, because of the holiday.  Raj Rajen will be presenting Janeeva's experiences with Flex.  The AAJUG meeting will be held at its longtime location at Washtenaw Community College, Room WCC BE250

And finally, the Ann Arbor Dot Net Developer Group (AADND) meets on Wednesday, September 12 for a talk on Windows Workflow (WF) and "Following the Rules", by Michael Wood. AADND will also be meeting at SRT's office, at 206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200 (see directions above).

Events Worth the Travel

Upcoming Events Outside of Michigan

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I am a huge fan of Open Spaces events.  In particular, I've really enjoyed the Open Spaces events that Bruce Eckel has offered, in Crested Butte, Colorado.

In about a week, you could travel to Crested Butte (about a 5 hr drive from Denver), and combine the Flex & AIR Jam and the Rich Internet Application Summit all in one.  Since Adobe is giving away a $499 license for FlexBuilder with the Flex & AIR Jam registration, that conference is an amazing value.  James Ward, Adobe Flex Evangelist, will be there too, of course. James is a great guy and also a great contributor to Open Spaces events.  He has a really great knack at distilling a problem into manageable chunks and showing you how to use Flex to solve it.

Immediately following the Flex & AIR Jam is the Rich Internet Application Summit.  Bruce is even offering a discount if you attend both events.  Sounds like a good deal to me.

If your employer is wincing at the expense, it's way less expensive than attending a traditional conference like Java One and, in my experience, more useful. And, you can always get a room at the International Hostel to save money on lodging. It's a great place!

I wish that I were going.  If things shake out just right around here, I may end up out there yet.  It's hard to stay home when I know that there is a really great learning experience going on. And the hiking and mountain biking are great out there this time of year as well!

Bruce Eckel's Open Spaces Events

UI Smackdown: Session 3

XAML/MXML: Why both?

I'm always curious when we have competing standards emerging, and I wonder how that happens, and why.  So, since we had people who were knowledgeable about both Flex and WPF at the UI Smackdown, it seemed reasonable to explore this issue with respect to XAML (Microsoft's XML scripting language for use with WPF) and MXML (Adobe's XML scriptiong language for use with Flex).  How similar are they?  Do they strive to solve the same problem? Will one standard emerge?

MXML is Adobe's markup language. It's essentially a DSL (domain specific language) for ECMA script.  You write MXML and it compiles into Action Script.  It has a familiar feel to HTML.  Used for layout.

ActionScript is used for all procedural components.  In Apollo, ActionScript compiles to byte code on the server.

XAML is Microsoft's markup language.  You use it to write WPF applications.  Instead of ActionScript, procedural components are written in C# or VB.NET.  XAML is not just for WPF.  It's a serializable format that can be used to:

  • serialize event wireups
  • refer to other objects in serializing code
  • serialize property injections
  • add properties to a language

You can pull in more than just state with XAML.  WPF and WF use XAML (and other technologies will as well).

Thus, MXML is really more specific to layouts, while XAML manages serialized formats.  The general consensus from both vendors is that the technology needs to mature before it can be standardized.  It's hard to work with other primary vendors while trying to innovate (e.g., XUL, SVG).  It's better to give the technologies time to mature and then let them come together.

With that understanding, we moved on to what some described as the "real" question.  The tooling on top of XAML and MXML is really the key, not the underlying technologies that implement it.  So the real question is: WPF/E or Flex? 

In designing tools toward productivity in developers, Microsoft has the edge.  Adobe's process is more manual, but this will be addressed in Flex 3.

Microsoft's Expression UI writes to XAML source files in the same project as Visual Studio Developer.  On the other hand, pure designers feel more comfortable using Photoshop, so Adobe certainly has an edge there.

For now, the jury is out regarding which to use.  As they both mature, this will be interesting to watch.

Adobe's markup language, used to build Flex apps
Microsoft's markup language, used to build WPF apps

UI Smackdown: Session 1

Web App Limits: Real World Experiences

A group convened a session to talk about web applications, and where they break down with real world experience.  The limitations were noted as:
1. Javascript requires testing in many different browsers, but the GWT strives to solve this problem
2. May experience CSS challenges with GWT
3. Limited browser support for multi-media and vector graphics (resulting from lawsuits between Apple and Microsoft?)
4. Drag and Drop onto a scrollable pane generated some headaches for those who had used GWT

The recommendations and observations included:
1. Use Javascript for fast prototyping and then build in GWT once the interactions are discovered
2. Flex can talk to AJAX apps
3. Controls in Flex are builg using vector bitmaps.
4. WPF and Flash allow designer to build whatever they want and the programmer can use it
5. Can encrypt Flex and send over SSL.
6. Can unitttest classes using Flex
7. Javascript, Flex, and WPF build on strengths of the designers
8. Innovation in the browser has stagnated.  By adding in elements other than pure Javascript, Microsoft and Adobe (and others) are able to innovate more freely.

Google Web Toolkit Designer
A great tool for building apps using GWT

UI Smackdown 2007 Early Bird Expires Today

If you’ve been planning to attend the User Interface Smackdown 2007 event to explore GWT, Flex, and WPF, today is the last day to get early bird pricing. At close of business today, we’ll be updating the pricing, so if you’ve been planning to attend and have just been procrastinating, the time is now.

We’re also getting really close to reaching capacity for the event. Unfortunately, the “Buy now” buttons for Google checkout don’t seem to support limiting quantity, so we’ve been manually watching registrations.

On a more technical note, I’m going to have to look into tying into the Google checkout API, I think. My wish list for Google checkout includes support for limiting quantity, being able to specify how many items to buy at a given time, and being able to add a comment field, so that people can manually add information about who they are registering. That’s probably a bit much to ask for in the Buy Now button realm, but hey! Anyhow, I’m looking forward to diving into the Google checkout API to see what we can do with it.

And, back on topic: register now if you’ve been planning to attend. Hope to see you there!

Registration link

UI Smackdown 2007 Event Details

UI Smackdown 2007 Explained

Is this wrestling or deciphering software technologies? Definitely the latter!

A few people have asked me about the name we chose for our user interface event on April 4, which will include Flex, GWT, and WPF. Honestly, the name was proposed by one of the participants, and we couldn’t think of one that we liked better!

This will NOT be a confrontational event, and I hope that no one has signed up to witness the World Wrestling equivalent in the software world. Instead, like CodeMash, the idea is to bring together people interested in different technologies and learn an appreciation for what each one provides. We think that this is a huge win for the vendors involved, since it offers an honest glimpse into the perspective that programmers bring to technologies as they evaluate them.

I’m really looking forward to the event. I’ve seen quite a bit of Flex and it’s very impressive. I’ve seen enough WPF to find that compelling as well. GWT sort of serves a different purpose, but we included it because it’s a different approach to the same problem: how do we build user interfaces that customers can use, but that programmers can maintain and understand.

If you haven’t signed up yet, but have been planning to, the time is now (we had some glitches with our registration page, but I moved it to a different site and I think it’s all working now; if you have problems email info@srtsolutions.com and we’ll get you set up). We have had a great response, and we may end up cutting off registrations. The early bird deadline is Monday (March 26), and the fee through Monday is $75. After that, we’re raising the price to $90, but with the rate at which we’re getting signups, I may end up closing registration before we even get to that point. And from my perspective, that’s a VERY good thing. If we need to choose a larger venue for a future event of this sort, that’s just fine by me!

User Interface Smackdown 2007

Explore Google's GWT, Adobe's Flex, and Microsoft's WPF for creating user interfaces

Registration is now open for the User Interface Smackdown 2007, being held April 4, 2007 at the Ann Arbor ITZone (Spark Central). The user interface toolkits that we will discuss and work with include (at least) Google’s GWT, Adobe’s Flex, and Microsoft’s WPF.

I’ve had a lot of fun doing Open Spaces events that Bruce Eckel has hosted in the past year. I exposed Bill Wagner (my business partner and co-founder of SRT) and our consultants to Open Spaces at CodeMash and they all enjoyed the experience as well, so we decided to start doing them locally, and we hope to do about 1 per quarter. Hopefully we will have the next one planned by the time that this one takes place (teaser: we already have some ideas in the works).

We believe that these events benefit the developer community. Not only are they an efficient and interesting way to bring timely knowledge to programmers, but they also bring the community together in a way that fosters continued communication and builds community. This helps everyone.

We believe that innovative user interfaces will be a key differentiator for software offerings in coming years, and learning how to use modern toolkits to build them is essential. We hope that we have a great turnout for this event and that it provides us with the motivation and interest to do more of these in the future, on different topics.

Cost for the event is $75 before March 26, or $90 after March 26 (and at the door, if space is available). Registration also includes continental breakfast and lunch.

This event is sponsored by Adobe, Microsoft, and SRT Solutions.

Hope to see you there!

Swag at the Java Posse Roundup

Cool swag

Is it rude to brag about the swag at a conference? Ah, well, I’m gonna do it anyhow. Next year, I’m convinced that the Java Posse Roundup 2008 will sell out during the early bird registration period, and it won’t be just for the swag.

But it was cool swag.

Cenqua and Google and O’Reilly sent t-shirts. There was a serious lack of shirts in small sizes. Kathy Sierra would NOT be pleased. She’s right … it DOES matter. Even the guys were amused at the number of XL and XXL. Not a small or medium in the bunch of Google or O’Reilly shirts. I didn’t check out the Cenqua shirts (I like their product, though).

O’Reilly sent some books and notepads. But they made the mistake of labeling the box “Dark Chocolate”. OK, the notebooks were great, but the expectation of chocolate kinda set the bar!

Google also sent some really cool flashy pins. Bruce’s company (Mindview) has great floaty pens.

Adobe sent a training video for Flex and a nice travel mug too.

Sun sent developer tools. I hope that I didn’t forget anyone. The swag table was quite laden with goodies. We have some cool notebooks that I could have taken, but the thought didn’t occur to me.

But next year, someone better send chocolate. I definitely know what SRT will take to its next event. Hmm, we’re sponsors of the Michigan Celebration of Women in Computing in a few weeks. Maybe I should see if we still have time to get chocolate!

Java Posse Roundup: Day 4

Friday, March 9

Friday was the final day for the Java Posse Roundup. We had 2 regularly scheduled sessions followed by a final session which included everyone.

For the first session of the day, I attended a session on JNI, convened by Josh Marinacci of Sun. A major part of the discussion centered around the idea that perhaps JNI is overly complex for what people often use it for these days, and that maybe some assumptions CAN be made about the atomicity of calls made in the JNI (if the programmer says it’s so). Maybe we should have JNI, as it currently exists, and also JNILite.

JNA is also a good replacement for many of the common usages of JNI. Instead of the programmer writing JNI code, annotations are used to access native libraries, all without writing a single line of native code. Interesting perspective arose that there aren’t many Java programmers who actually WRITE C code anymore, and so the availability of something like the JNA is a good thing.

Many comparisons were made to Microsoft’s CLR and unmanaged code.

And, a lot of us remember the old recommendations to AVOID doing things using JNI because it wasn’t “pure Java”. Well, it sounds like we need to get past that, and use the right tools for the job. If it needs to be in native code, write it. Josh did a really cool demo during one of the lightning talks where he wrote a small amount of JNI code (I think he said one line!) to communicate with the motion sensor on his Mac, using that motion to change a display shelf of pictures to move to the next page. VERY cool! And totally impossible if you wanted to avoid JNI code, since the PCs don’t generally have motion sensors. We really need to be able to use the native interface for things like this, and for creating innovative user experiences. Maybe instead of scaring people away from the JNI, we should come up with some recommendations and (dare I say?) best practices for its use.

Next, I went to a discussion of applets, positioned as “Applets: Does Java need an answer to Flex?”. Very quickly, it became apparent that there was agreement that applets have a certain “suck factor”. When the audio of this session becomes available on the Java Posse, this is something that I think both Java programmers and Microsoft programmers will find interesting.

With applets, there’s simply not enough attention paid to detail. Flash, on the other hand, provides a user experience where you can’t really even tell that it’s a Flash app because the plug in was done so well.

The recommendation was made that we change the applet architecture. Perhaps a 2 phase load would make sense. Everyone agreed that a spinning Sun logo, reminding the user that s/he’s waiting on a Sun applet is bad marketing! The slow loading is not in the JVM, but rather in the plugin.

A competitive requirement is that desktop apps can directly connect with web apps. And pretty much all agreed that Flash is winning on web for user interface from a Java perspective. A great amount of stress was generated in the group, centered around how to move forward. Waiting for Java 7, even as Java 5 is still being rolled out into corporate environments, probably means death for Java. The question was ultimately raised, “Is it worth solving this problem?”. I agreed with the group of people in the room who don’t believe in playing catch-up, not with Microsoft, not with Adobe. Pick the sweet spot that Java has and work in interoperating with Flash using Flex. Forge an alliance with Adobe.

IMO, Microsoft would take both paths. They would fix the plugin AND they would forge an alliance with Adobe. I don’t know if Java will take that direction, and that’s OK as long as they don’t continue trying to play catch-up.

This session was ultimately attended by everyone who was still in the building. Little by little, the crowd grew. The energy was amazing. The audio for this session will be incredible, and I would urge anyone to listen to it, both for the ideas and for feeling the energy of an open spaces event.

The last session of the day was the closing session for the conference. We all met together, and went around the room to suggest what improvements could be made. The appreciation for the Open Spaces format was evident the night before, when the Java Posse did a live podcast recording at the house that they were renting. And Camp4Coffee got a big plug too (“second best consistent coffee in the US, according to Pete from Australia).

Anyhow, so instead of asking how people felt about the event, format, etc., the question was asked about what could be improved. This was all recorded, and will be made available through the Java Posse at some point. My suggestions included involving the people at home more. Since the Java Posse podcast has a large audience, of which only a tiny percentage actually attended, I feel like somehow keeping the people who couldn’t come involved would be a great way to build the community and keep events like this populated in the future. As it was, I think that when registration opens for Java Posse 2008, the event will sell out quickly.

For those of us who have attended several of these events, we’re cautious about changing much about the format. It works. Tread lightly so as not to break it. But one thing that a lot of people suggested was ancillary to the conference itself, and more personal in nature. It would be nice to be able to include the spouses and families in a more formal way. Bruce and I have talked extensively about arranging childcare in Crested Butte so that my family could come (without my husband being in a hotel room with 2 kids, staring off at the snowy mountains that he can’t ski). Others echoed this. Even for those who wouldn’t be bringing kids, it would be nice for the spouses to have a parallel board, where they could arrange activities among themselves. That really relieves the pressure on people who are feeling guilty about leaving families at home!

As it was, many of the spouses attended the lightning talks in the evenings. If there had been scheduled spousal activities, people felt that their spouses would have wanted to attend. I’m looking forward to that in the future, even if my spouse ends up being the only male in the group!