AIR


Adobe MAX 2010 is now just a month away, and we’re starting to prepare for a bunch of sessions where we’ll be talking about mobile development using “Hero”, the next version of the Flex SDK.

Because this is my blog, I’ll flog my own session first: I’ll be running a “Bring Your Own Laptop” (BYOL) lab on Building Mobile Flex Applications. The way these labs work is that you, er, bring your own laptop, and we give you bits to install on it for the session. Also, if you have an Android 2.2 phone, bring it (and the phone’s USB cable) along too–though that’s not required for this lab.

Glenn Ruehle and Chiedo Acholonu from the Flex Mobile team will be presenting Deep Dive into Mobile Development with the Flex SDK, which will go into detail about the mobile development features we’re adding in “Hero”, and how to optimize your development process as well as your applications when building across multiple screens.

Ryan Frishberg, another engineer on Flex Mobile, will be presenting a session on Performance Tips and Tricks for Flex and Flash Development. This session will discuss optimizing both desktop and mobile applications, and describe common performance problems that developers of every level can encounter when building Flex and Flash applications.

Evangelist Christophe Coenraets will be presenting both a session and a BYOL lab on building data-driven mobile applications with Flex “Hero” and AIR for Android. His sessions will be focused more on the data connectivity side rather than the basics of mobile application and UI development.

And from outside the building, we have RJ Owen and Juan Sanchez from EffectiveUI presenting Screens of Possibility: Pushing Multiscreen Experiences with Spark and Flex, discussing their experiences designing and developing on desktop and mobile devices. I can’t reveal details of the app they’ll be showing off in this session, but I’ve seen some early comps and I think it’s going to be very cool.

Of course, there’s going to be plenty more at MAX about mobile development, Flex, and AIR; check out the MAX Session Catalog for the complete list. Hope to see you there!

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It’s been quite awhile since I last posted, but I’ve been keeping busy. Now that we’ve released Flash Catalyst CS5, I’ve shifted my focus to helping lead the team working on mobile application development features in Flex and Flash Builder. Last night we posted the public announcement of the next version of Flex, code-named “Hero”, which will include the first version of our mobile development features.

If you’ve been following Flex over the last year or so, you might have heard of a related effort, code-named “Slider”, which was going to be a separate version of the framework that would be specifically optimized for mobile devices. What we’ve found over the past year is that vast improvements in Flash and AIR runtime performance on mobile devices, as well as the rapidly increasing power of modern touchscreen smartphones, have made it unnecessary for us to split off a separate framework. So going forward, we’ll have a unified framework for both desktop and mobile development, and “Hero” will be the first fruit of this approach.

For a good overview of our plans for mobile development, take a look at the Flex and Mobile whitepaper, FAQ, and Adobe Labs page. We’ve also started to post draft specs for the mobile features (as well as the rest of Hero) to the Flex Open Source site, and we’ll be rolling out more over time.

I’m excited that we’ve started talking about our mobile Flex efforts publicly, and look forward to revealing more over the next few months. Watch this space!

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I’ve been getting a number of reports of people not seeing images in item popups after upgrading to AIR 1.5. It seems possible that this is only an issue with the original “official” build of Snackr (0.33). If you’re seeing this problem, and you’re running 0.33, please try upgrading to the 0.38 build. If you are seeing the problem under 0.38, please let me know.

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I found one possible reason for Snackr crashing on the Mac: it seems that if CoolIris for Safari is installed, it interferes with Snackr/AIR (specifically, the input manager it installs seems to cause the problem). Try uninstalling the plugin (in Safari, do View > Remove CoolIris) and see if that fixes the problem with Snackr.

Not sure this is a bug I can fix in Snackr; it seems to be some interaction between the input manager and AIR. I might just have to note that Snackr is incompatible with Safari CoolIris. (CoolIris for Firefox seems to work fine.)

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Adobe AIR was just updated to 1.5 recently, and it seems to have fixed at least one long-standing Snackr bug–items should now open in tabs in Firefox rather than in new windows if you have that preference set in Firefox. However, I’ve been getting some reports from Mac users that Snackr crashes under AIR 1.5 when opening feed items. I can’t reproduce it on my own MacBook and MacBook Pro with OS X 10.5.5, so I’m wondering how many other folks are seeing this. Please comment if:

  • you’re seeing crashes with Snackr under AIR 1.5, or
  • you’re on a MacBook, have AIR 1.5, and are not seeing crashes.

If you are seeing crashes, please post the URL of a feed whose items are causing crashes. (I don’t think the problem is feed-specific, but it’s probably good to check.)

Thanks!

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The flood of Snackr downloads has finally slowed down to about 150 a day. Over 13,000 people have downloaded it so far; it looks like maybe about 500-600 people are running it daily–not bad for a little side project 🙂

Various people have requested the source code, so I’ve decided to host it on Google Code at http://snackr.googlecode.com/. You can file bugs/enhancement requests on the Issues tab there (the issues and wish list items from snackr.net have been migrated there), and check out the source anonymously using Subversion (instructions are on the Source tab).

The source is currently in an interim state–there are a couple of half-implemented features (the ability to “star” items to read later, and the Google Reader integration that Rob is working on)–but you should be able to run what’s there (the GR stuff isn’t hooked up at all to the UI yet, and the “star” functionality works but the UI is slightly broken). I’m planning to post interim test builds there once in awhile as well.

The source also probably isn’t the prettiest code ever :), and I haven’t finished commenting it, but I’m hoping to continue cleaning it up and refactoring over time. Feel free to check it out, and let me know if you have suggestions–or, better yet, patches you’d like to submit!

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Wow–nearly 600 people have downloaded Snackr in the last two days! Thanks to everyone who’s sent mail or posted comments; it’s great to know people like it. The most common requests so far seem to be:

  • Allow multiple selection in the feed list, so you can delete a bunch of feeds at once. It seems like a lot of people imported large feed lists from their existing blog readers, then realized they didn’t want to actually see all of those feeds in Snackr.
  • Support Asian language characters. Currently, Snackr uses Myriad Web, and the font is embedded in order to make fade animations work properly for text, but that font only has Latin characters. I’ll either need to add an option to use the system font (and turn off fade animations), or maybe build a version that embeds a font with Asian characters in it (though that would probably lead to a huge installer).
  • Ability to keep a list of items to read later (e.g. by starring them). I’ve been wanting this for awhile but haven’t gotten around to implementing it yet–now I have some incentive!
  • Posting the source. I do really want to do this, but I need to set aside some time to make the code slightly less embarrassing 🙂

I also noticed today as I was using it on my machine that for some short posts, the popup seems to “bobble around” a bit and end up at a very thin size (it’s different from the jittery animation on Vista/Linux; this is happening even on OS X). It’s intermittent, but it reproduces pretty regularly on certain kinds of posts. Has anybody else seen this? I’ll have to look into it–it must be a recent injection, as I never noticed it before.

I’m planning to make regular updates to Snackr, though things are pretty busy; I’m hoping I can carve out enough time to release a new version in a couple of weeks. Snackr should automatically notify you when an update is available.

Keep those cards and letters coming!

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I realized a few months ago that, unlike pretty much everyone else I know, I don’t regularly use an RSS reader. Not that I haven’t tried—I used FeedDemon early on, and more recently tried out Google Reader—but never managed to form the habit of checking them regularly. Both of them are fine apps; the problem was with me. Every time I sat down and saw that I had a gazillion unread items in my hundreds of feeds, I didn’t know where to start. Eventually I just gave up trying to keep up.

Around the same time I came to this realization, Adobe AIR 1.0 was publicly released. I wanted to try to write an AIR app just for fun, and it occurred to me that I might be able to make something that would solve my RSS problem.

The result is Snackr, a ticker-like widget that lives on the bottom (or side) of your screen and scrolls random items from your RSS feeds. (It’s called “Snackr” because it lets you nibble on your feeds. Guffaw.) Here’s what it looks like on my desktop:

I’m actually finding Snackr really useful—it helps me keep up with blogs I want to keep up with, and also gives me a great smattering of items from sources I wouldn’t normally read regularly. Please try it out and let me know if you like it! (Of course, it’s still an alpha, so please expect bugs; there’s a list of known issues on the Snackr website.)

Snackr has also been really fun to write, and along the way I figured out some tips and tricks for doing various things with Flex and AIR. Some notes on that after the jump.

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