All 18 entries tagged Air

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June 02, 2008

Yahoo BrowserPlus and AIR

Writing about web page http://browserplus.yahoo.com/

Yahoo has entered the RIA domain with BrowserPlus, a technology that allows you to create functionality that bridges desktop and browser. Some reports I’ve seen say that BrowserPlus is a direct rival to AIR, but from what I’ve read on the Yahoo site I’d say it sits closer to the browser than the desktop, like Gears; applications are still browser-hosted, whereas AIR sits more evenly between the two (albeit with much stronger emphasis on applications being system-based), but I’m wondering how many more niches there are left to fill in the RIA paradigm. BrowserPlus does offer some genuinely useful capabilities that are similar to those offered by AIR, like file drag/drop and system tray capabilities so comparisons are inevitable and in some ways justified, but these are currently a limited subset. An area which I think does justify close comparison to AIR is the development ‘gateway’, simply because both technologies allow HTML/JS developers to create RIAs with their existing skill-set.

If it’s easy to detect the existence of the BrowserPlus runtime within a page, it could get some traction; on our own web applications I can see it being useful to provide users who have it installed some extra functionality, like dragging and dropping files to the browser, or page update notifications, but it would be important not to rely on it being there for core functionality, partly I think because it would be harder to persuade users to install something that isn’t so ‘tangible’ as an AIR or Webstart application. Security may also be a concern – AIR and Java applications need to be digitally signed whereas it’s not clear yet what Yahoo will do here. I guess though it will depend on how useful and ubiquitous applications built on BrowserPlus become, and Yahoo has some fairly prominent applications for it within its own portfolio (e.g. Flickr). AIR is fast approaching that stage I think – Ebay Desktop, Google Analytics AIR, Twhirl, Adobe Media Player and Snackr are now core applications for many people I know, and the new and rather lovely Acrobat.com suite (and not forgetting Aviary) will be a major driver for further adoption, especially if the the AIR version can be extended to include desktop versions of the applications. I’m sure Yahoo will have the detection aspect covered – in addition they have done something similar to JavaFX with an extensible runtime that can be added to without re-installation, so it’s really only a case of getting that important first-install.

One final thought – it seems to me that if you could combine BrowserPlus with Prism you would have something closer in concept to AIR, if not execution; a browser-based application that looks like a desktop application, with a desktop integration runtime on top.


May 09, 2008

AS Development skills sharing at Warwick

Chris was talking today about intra-team/department skills sharing, which I think is a great idea. With regard to Flash and Flex development at Warwick we’ve recently embarked on something along these lines, with the formation of a University Flash and Flex developers group consisting of people actively using (or just interested in) Actionscript development. It started with a forum that was initially populated with ITS people (plus one or two others), but since starting to deliver some Flash courses for ITS Training I wanted to maintain contact with what attendees did with the skills they’d acquired after the course, and the forum was opened up to allow more people to contribute. We held the first ‘skills session’ a couple of weeks ago, in the Teaching Grid. It was purposely an informal gathering, consisting of developers from ITS and departments, plus lots of coffee and biscuits. The session was an opportunity for everyone to show what they’d been working on and share expertise and a mix of ongoing Flash, Flex and AIR projects were demonstrated, plus discussion on development approaches and potential applications in the future.

Overall I thought it went well (we ran out of time in the end) and although next time some structure to the session might help us cover ground more efficiently, the informality and range of projects kept it interesting, and it was especially good to share ideas with others while receiving questions and feedback. As a result of the session, I’ve been asked to present a more formal hour-long session on AIR to the CIS Team next week, which I think I’ll prepare some slides for.

Anyway, my point is that personally I found it quite fun/rewarding to find out what other people were doing or planning to do with the technology, and to see and discuss approaches/methodologies and alternatives; we should definitely do more of this kind of thing in future. Time will tell whether we maintain the Flash/Flex/AIR group sessions but I hope we can.

Warwick staff interested in Flash/Flex/AIR/AS3 development can join the developer group forum here. For students, Warwick Game Design have expertise with Flash for game development.


April 15, 2008

Cairngen

Writing about web page http://code.google.com/p/cairngen/

I wish I’d come across Cairngen a bit sooner, having recently just set up two Cairngorm-based AIR projects via cutting and pasting a skeleton Cairngorm project structure from Rob’s earlier examples.

Cairngen will set up a Cairngorm project structure for you (using Ant), and much more besides. For example it’s capable of auto-generating what are termed ‘sequences’, which are sets of event-command-delegate templates (plus other alternative combinations) that create the FrontController, ModelLocator and VOs required, plus all the relevant mappings and basic classes. The core templates can also be modified so that classes contain whatever boilerplate text you need. A little downtime now learning how to use Cairngen should save me work in future, and if I set up a basic project script anyone else using Flex/AIR here can should be able to get projects up and running more quickly.


April 09, 2008

AIRTour London liveblog

Writing about web page http://onair.adobe.com/schedule/cities/london.php

Just some live notes from the AIRTour London event today…

Andrew Shorten
Adobe – ‘disruptive technologies’
RIA platforms – AMP, Buzzword Connect, all built on Flex/AIR
Why AIR? – occasionally-connected opportunities, efficient development, richer interfaces.
Branding on desktop – clever clothing store that can match clothes to an image dragged

Kevin Hoyt – Building AIR apps with Javascript
Showing mapping app using Yahoo Maps API
Export map view as PNG by dragging – encodes PNG on the fly, drag map straight to desktop
Using notepad app to write an AIR app
Starts with bare HTML page
Point to XML application descriptor file – template comes with SDK
changed to point to HTML file
Running AIR from Terminal to test app – runs directly
Dreamweaver demo – extension for AIR available
Writing tags like input id=”foo” type=”button” value=”save”
then writes JS script that handles event, using DOM to grab object, then runs as AIR app
AIRIntrospector – similar to Firebug
Maps AIR namespace to JS, allows AIR APIs to be called: var stream = new air.FileStream(); direct in HTML.
Now showing Aptana as IDE fr AIR/JS dev – Aptana now supports AIR
Sandboxed environment to prevent scripting hacks, adds some limitations

Mike Downey – Lighthouse programme – looking for key apps to extend reach of AIR (e.g. EBay desktop) *
Kevin Hoyt – Integrating HTML, JS and AS*
Mixing SWFs using SWFObject – then drags an image from Webkit into his Flash app window, makes a table from the BMP that contains each px colour value(!)
Uses FileStream to re-render px values as image in other application window
Basically levering the WebKit engine in AIR to mix HTML, JS and Flash in the same desktop window and all can communicate with each other.

Serge Jespers
Deploying and updating AIR applications
Self-signed applications report identity as ‘unknown’ on AIR installer, when known ico turns green
Uses any signing mechanism, Thawte etc.
Export Release Build, import certificate
Install badge on Labs
CheckForUpdate() script, parses application descriptor file for current version, compares, prompts user to upgrade

Daniel Dura – AIR APIs
Network detection, File I/0, Window chrome
Multi-window, z-ordering, utility windows (no taskbar entry), Native menus, Drag/Drop from various sources, clipboard, System Tray, notifications, Signing, Icons
..and much more!
Windowing control is very rich
File Sync/Async APIs
SQLLite included
Lots of code on Daniel’s site
Can drag a URL into browser, browser opens
Network/Socket Monitor API – URLMonitor(URLRequest);
Dock notifications

Bah, Macbook batteries don’t last long…

Jeremy Baines – from concept to TechCrunch in 5 days
Developed Alert Thingy – AIR-based social network aggregator with alerts etc, in-application commenting on peoples blogs, actually some very useful features and a good example of using AIR.

Developing Secure AIR Applications (Oliver Goldman)
Imported/loaded content executes with the Loader sandbox – does not run with application privileges by default
Sandbox bridges – opt-in on both sides, arguments are pass-by-value, allow communications between loaded content and application
Can expose function calls, but can’t pass objects
Document.write(), eval() are prohibited to protect sandbox
Suggests only loading signed content – XMLSignatureValidator API available
Implementing update functionality makes urgent updates easy should you find a bug – make updating work first

Gah, batteries really gone now…that’s all for today – excellent day, ice-cold Coke, beer, games, short sessions, direct contact with Engineering team.


April 02, 2008

Merapi: AIR and Java

Writing about web page http://adamflater.blogspot.com/2008/02/meet-merapi.html

I was wondering what the status of the Artemis Project was recently and had meant to follow it up, but a post on FlexCoders today highlighted Merapi, a new project that takes over from Artemis.

Merapi will provide a framework that uses Java to give AIR access to the system shell (and therefore have access to things like printing, scanning, hardware etc.). It’s very early days for the project but in a few months time it may be possible to create desktop applications using Merapi that do really useful things, without going near Swing. One to watch…


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