All entries for Sunday 30 September 2007

September 30, 2007

Adobe Max 2007

Writing about web page

Why go to an Adobe conference? The conference covers all Adobe products including PhotoShop, Acrobat and everything else that they make, but I’m really only interested in their Flash product (and associated tools such as Flex, LiveCycle, FMS and so on). I’ve got three things I’m hoping to get out of it:-

  1. To find out more about the areas where Flash is strong and might be a better choice than HTML and javascript user interfaces, which is what we currently use for most things. Time was that received wisdom said that Flash was the best/only way to do any kind of dynamic UI, but then along came Ajax and people started pushing the limits of how interfaces could behave and what could be done without Flash. A few years ago, if you’d seen apps like this gallery you’d have assumed that they were Flash, but not any more. So where does Flash excel? Audio and video streaming, maybe. Slideshows and so on. Widgets outside of the browser, perhaps. (Maybe the win is guaranteed cross-platform compatibility with no per-browser work-arounds. But then we get by with the work-arounds right now.)
  2. To find out more about whether we could develop in Flash to the same standards of software engineering practice as we currently do in java. Being able to achieve certain things very quickly in Flash or Flex is certainly nice, but it doesn’t matter to us as much as our ability to develop “properly”. Most of our applications have quite a long lifespan so speed of development matters less to us than, if you like, management of development – our ability to build, test, deploy, roll back, check in, check out, etc. our applications. Can all this be done in the same way for Flash as we’re already comfortable with for java?
  3. Perhaps most interestingly for me at least, what kind of applications are other people building? When Chris and I went to ETech a couple of years ago, one of the most useful things I got from it was just seeing what kind of things other people were working on. If you spend too much time just looking at your own applications, you run the risk of starting to see your apps as a giant hammer, and every problem or requirement as some kind of nail. It’ll be interesting, I hope, to see what a wide range of other developers are building for their customers.

I’ll be tagging all the entries I do while at the conference with the tag “AdobeMax2007” so there’ll be a URL just for those entries for anyone strange enough to want to follow along.

Travellin' man

Despite my increasing aversion to long haul flights, I’ve dragged my suitcase down from the cupboard and set off for sunny Chicago for the Adobe Max 2007 conference. The conference doesn’t start till later today so it remains to be seen whether it justifies the trip, but till then a few random observations from the trip so far:-

  • Flying from Birmingham and changing in Europe beats going from Heathrow or changing at Newark by a mile, IMHO. There was literally nobody queuing at the check-in desk at Birmingham, and I’d checked in and cleared customs in less than fifteen minutes. Sweet.
  • But Charles de Gaulle airport took the shine off a little bit. Three transfer buses; one from the plane to the terminal, another from one terminal to another, and the last one back out to the next plane. I didn’t know big airports still did this sort of thing. Plus I’m 90% sure that I walked in pretty much a big circle inside the arrival terminal and got on my second bus thirty yards away from where I’d got off the first. And by golly, the CdG designers sure liked their concrete.
  • Queuing on the steps of the plane out of CdG, it was clear that the stewards greeted each person with “Hello” or “Bonjour” depending on whether they estimated the person to be English or French. I was obscurely pleased to be greeted with “Bonjour”. Perhaps it was my stylish man bag.
  • The plane had seat back video and multiple start times for all their content, which is great. But they still used those lame-ass double-plug headphone outlets which meant that I couldn’t use my noise-reducing headphones because I’d forgotten its double-plug adaptor. Bah. Luckily, though, I’d popped two movies on to my laptop so I still had something to do. (Noise reducing headphones on a long-haul flight, though, are pure gold. Totally worth it.)
  • It’s nice to be back in Chicago again. I came here quite often in the early nineties and it’s a lovely city. I particularly enjoy the train into the city from the airport, not least because it’s both a tiny fraction of the cost of a shuttle bus or a taxi, and at busy times of day (6pm for me) it’s faster. Thoughtfully, the train line runs overground and right between the lanes of the expressway for the first part of the journey, so you can actually watch the stationary traffic as you cruise past.
  • Wandering around yesterday, I noticed that the Sony store on North Michigan (the big shopping street) is gone, and an Apple store has sprung up in its place. Nice physical metaphor.
  • (I wandered in and tried an iPod touch and an iPhone for interest, though, but I’m not feeling it. For the first time ever I think the new generation of iPod hardware is no kind of advance at all on the previous generation. The physical form factor is fine, but the UI felt as though they were aiming for visual style rather than usability. No hardware controls for volume or play/pause or next/previous? Bonkers.)
  • I liked the labelling I saw on some trousers; they had “regular” fit, “slim” fit, or if you wanted something on the other side of regular, “husky” fit.

Next up: Why the Adobe conference?

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