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“Sexier Software with Java and Flex” James Ward

Notes from TheServerSide Java Symposium March 2009

I was interested in this talk because we use a lot of Flex in MyAds for MySpace. Ward is an Adobe guy.

He began with some flashy demos, an interesting way to enter car accident information for an insurance form on a web site, and a desktop application called SalesBuilder.

Flex components: Client runtimes (Adobe AIR, Flash, PDF), Frameworks (Ajax, Adobe Flex 3), Servers/Services (LiveCycle, ColdFusion, FlashMedia Server, etc.), Developer tools (Creative Suite 3, FlexBuilder).

The core VM for Flex is the Mozilla Tamarin open source virtual machine. I didn’t know that!

Two primary languages for writing Flex: ActionScript, and MXML. He says “It’s a real language, not just a scripting language.” Okay. :) The FlexBuilder IDE compiles MXML and ActionScript, binds to the Flex Class Library, and creates a .swf file (“swif”).

Nice, live coding of a simple app to update Flickr tags in Flex using Flickr’s RESTful API. Starts with MXML to instantiate variables and objects. (But it’s still XML. Ew. He did say you can do it all in ActionScript if you prefer.)

Ah, the XML appears to provide a scaffolding that makes a configuration environment for ActionScript classes, which look more like a “real” language. Clearly much of the power of the language is going to be found in the class library.

The example made for a great live demo of the whole Flex development process, end to end, complete with debugging and examining data in vitro. That makes for a powerful talk. Oh wait! He’s using Eclipse for the live coding. Interesting.

http://flex.org/tour for an interesting “Tour de Flex” showing fun available Flex components.

Very good performance demo of the ActionScript Message Format (AMF), a proprietary data format  optimzied for Flex. In his demo he’s showing a Tomcat server running on his local machine, and walking through the back end code that communicates with the Flex front-end.

Spring has built integration for Java webapps with BlazeDS for web messaging with Flex front-ends.

With two minutes left, he decided to build a Flex chat client, and showed two clients exchanging chat messages. Impressive.

Presentation slides here.

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