Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Frameworks : Cairngorn, Mate, Swiz & Gaia

Just a quick post to share a couple of useful and interesting recent posts relating to Flex Frameworks. First up Andrew Powell has written a big picture overview comparing Cairngorn, Mate and Swiz. He notes :

"I think that Cairngorm will make more sense to developers coming from the Java world. Developers coming to Flex from ColdFusion would probably be much more comfortable in Mate, due to its tag-based nature. Does this mean that any one is more right for you than another? No. As with anything else in this field, it depends on the task, the developer's skill and comfort levels with different technologies, and the time you have to learn something new."

Secondly, "calm in the chaos" has written a few insights into their experience using Gaia. At one points he says :

"In essence it’s a Framework that takes a lot of the leg work out of creating page based Flash sites. By Page based I mean sites that have a fairly standard navigation hierarchy. It can be used for more complex projects, though I found I struggled against the Framework more than it helped me some of the time."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Drupal Services & Flex

A current project at work is integrating Drupal & Flex together. There are a number of benefits to using these systems together. For me the main one is that you can offer the usability richness that Flex allows and the accessibility that standards based CMS's like Drupal offer without a lot of extra work.

The Drupal modules that make this possible are Services and AMFPHP. With these two modules enabled you get login and node access/saving functionality as a RemoteObject service in Flex. The other nice thing is that any Views (essentially UI developed queries for Drupal newbies) you define are also available as a Service. You can also develop additional Services utilising all the functionality Drupal has to offer. Finally, all these Services can be tested in the Drupal interface.

From that you can probably guess that I'm pretty enthusiastic about Drupal/Flex integration. But I have a caveat. We actually had a problem getting the Node and View Services to work. We kept getting a RangeError fault when trying to access these services. We finally found a workaround but we haven't had time to find the source of the problem. The workaround involves defining the fields you want returned as an array and passing it to these Services. Within the Drupal interface the fields parameter is optional and you get all the results you'd expect with or without it. But as soon as you add Flex to the equation you get an error. I assume it has something to do with the AMFPHP module as the Drupal Services page doesn't require AMFPHP but Flex does. I've posted this in the AMFPHP module issues and if you find a better solution that's probably a good place to post your discoveries.

I first heard about Services from a Friends of Ed book "Advanced Flex Application Development". My response to the book was mixed but it definitively got me thinking about Drupal Flex integration. Below are some links that proved useful getting this up and running:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gumbo (Flex 4) goes beta

Adobe has just released a beta version of Gumbo, the next version of Flex. Gumbo is being developed around three primary themes:

Design in Mind
provide a framework meant for continuous collaboration between designer and developer
Developer Productivity
improve compiler performance and add productivity enhancements to language features like data binding
Framework Evolution
take advantage of new Flash Player capabilities and add features required by common use-cases

Improvements include :

  • enhanced states syntax
  • revamped component architecture
  • FXG : Adobe’s new graphics interchange format. "FXG is a defined subset of MXML...Most skin classes in the Gumbo framework are MXML documents which primarily use FXG tags to describe the visual appearance of Gumbo components."

These improvements are at least in part aimed at laying a foundation for integration with Thermo; a new designer focussed tool aiming to simplify the workflow from design to finished application.

For a good overview of Gumbo you should take a look at Matt Chotin's presentation. ScaleNine has a good summary of the design related changes and Ely Greenfileds video (below) provides an excellent introduction to skinning components using FXG.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Google and Radiohead's House of Cards

Radiohead and Google have released a clip of "House of Cards" that uses no cameras or lights. The clip consists entirely of 3D data created using Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR. "Geometric Informatics scanning systems produce structured light to capture 3D images at close proximity, while a Velodyne Lidar system that uses multiple lasers is used to capture large environments such as landscapes. In this video, 64 lasers rotating and shooting in a 360degree radius 900 times per minute produced all the exterior scenes." They have also released an interactive version of the clip that uses the Flash player to allows you to pan and zoom the clips data. The technology was managed by Aaron Koblin. It's worth a visit to his site to see art works he created using the flight patterns of birds.