Archive for April, 2004

New Player Statistics Available

In March 2004, NPD Research conducted a study to determine what percentage of Web browsers have Macromedia Flash preinstalled. The results show that 98.0% of Web users can experience Macromedia Flash content without having to download and install a player. 98% refers specifically to Flash 2 support (obviously the most ubiquitous), however Flash 6 is up to 93.5% and Flash 7 is already at 52.5% (in the US). A detailed breakdown by player version is available, as well as by browser and operating system. There are even some very interesting user profile statistics available, as well.

Offline For a Couple Weeks

Just wanted to let everyone know that I am on paternity leave from now until the first week of May, so I probably won’t be doing much posting. The time that I typically allocate for blogging will probably be used for sleeping instead.

Try not to let anything too interesting happen while I’m gone!

MXNA in Central

Simon Barber recently created a Central version of MXNA. I always have Central open running some internal utilities, so it’s nice to be able to quickly and easily see what’s going on in the Macromedia community without the overhead of aggregating all 236 feeds myself.

There’s also a Central Fullasagoog application which you can download here.

Changing The Flex Preloader

I’ve seen a few people ask if there is any way to turn off the default preloader in Flex applications. You can do so using the “usePreloader” attribute of the Application tag, like this:

<mx:Application xmlns:mx="http://www.macromedia.com/2003/mxml" usePreloader="false">

But why turn it off? It’s so nice! I can understand wanting to customize it, though, which you can do using the “preloader” attribute of the Application tag. For more information on customizing the Flex application preloader, search the Flex LiveDocs for the term “preloader” and you’ll get all the information you need.

Finally, An Easy Way to Upgrade Your Hardware

IBM has started offering a software package that I think is long overdue. It’s called System Migration Assistant, and the idea is to simplify the process of migrating to a new machine. From IBM’s website:

“IBM System Migration Assistant makes light work of migrating your old computer’s data and settings to a new computer or operating system. By duplicating the source system on a single file, this tool enables you to easily transfer end-user specific data and settings for applications, printers, network connections and personal preferences.”

I’ve always been surprised that software like this isn’t more pervasive. If I were Apple, for instance, I would have way to connect two machines with a firewire cable, hit a few keys, and transfer everything of importance from the old machine to the new in order to encourage (or at least not discourage) hardware upgrades.

Of course, this is easier said than done. First of all, the two machines presumably have different hardware configurations which might make porting preferences, settings and drivers difficult or impossible. There are also licensing and activation issues to worry about these days. And, or course, there is always the advantage of being able to start completely from scratch with a new machine, and take the opportunity to get yourself a little better organized. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t actually use a utility like this because I would be skeptical that it could do the job accurately and safely, and I actually like setting up new machines because it gives me the opportunity to try some new organizational techniques. But in general, I think this is a good concept that might work very well for a lot of people.

First Impressions of Eclipse

I’ve been playing with Eclipse a little recently, primarily in order to evaluate it as a tool for ColdFusion development. I actually haven’t gotten to the point of installing any ColdFusion plugins yet, however, because of various issues I’ve run into with Eclipse itself.

Below are my first impressions of Eclipse as a development tool. I’d be interested in hearing what kinds of experiences others have had, and in getting your reaction to my comments.

The first thing I noticed is that it’s a little on the slow side. I’m running Eclipse on a 1GHz Powerbook with 1GB of RAM, and I was a little surprised at how long it took to start up (well over 30 seconds!). It’s obviously not fair to judge an application’s performance solely by its startup time, however, and I did find that it was generally more responsive than its startup time indicated it would be, but there are still plenty of annoying pauses here and there. For instance, creating a new file for some reason took about five seconds, which seemed a little excessive. I’m looking forward to trying Eclipse out on a Windows box, however, where I suspect I will find it to be significantly faster.

I discovered that one of the reasons Eclipse took so long to start up was that it was actually starting an imbedded application server as well as the actual IDE. It seems the entire help system is written in Java and JSP, so Eclipse starts up an embedded server listening on port 57806 in order to generate and serve help content. There may be other reasons for embedding a server that I am not aware of, but I don’t think a dynamic help system is worth the overhead. If the Eclipse team decided that HTML was the best format for help files, why not generate them once, and include the static HTML files in the product? I’m also not crazy about arbitrary socket servers being started on my machine.

On a more positive note, I really like the overall metaphors Eclipse uses. Projects and perspectives are sound concepts, and are well implemented. I like the package explorer, and the way Eclipse organizes projects. One of the biggest problems I had with the application, however, was that it seems to want to recursively incorporate all files and directories into a project. For instance, I wanted to make a project that points to a directory where I keep most of my source code in various directories and packages, and Eclipse slurped up all the files, regardless of file type, including CVS directories, text files, etc. If nothing else, I think that behavior should be disabled by default, but I actually didn’t see a way to disable it at all. It seems to me it would make much more sense for developers to explicitly add files to projects.

Before I started working with ColdFusion files, I wanted to see how Eclipse worked with it’s primary file type — Java files. Of course, it has some very nice features for Java developers, but I actually didn’t see a lot that JBuilder didn’t have three or four years ago (although I will admit that had I been collaborating on a large Java project with other developers, I’m confident I would have been more impressed with what it had to offer — this is not an area I explored extensively). The code hinting didn’t work with dual monitors (the hint window would always appear on my main monitor even though the Eclipse window was on my secondary monitor), and I couldn’t get code hinting to work at all with any project type other than Java (isn’t it reasonable to want Java files in simple projects?). Eventually, I couldn’t get code hinting to work even with Java projects because Eclipse thought that my project was referencing another nonexistent project, although nothing was showing up in the project reference configuration panel.

I will give Eclipse a try on Windows to see if it performs and works any better, and I will continue to check up on the project to see how it is evolving. How do other people feel about Eclipse?

Free Music Friday!

It’s Free Music Friday! The code below is good for one free track from the Apple iTunes store (look for the Pepsi promotion). First come, first serve. Whoever gets there first, please post here what you ended up downloading. Good luck!

9SAH4YXYEB

Flex Trial Pricing for International Customers

There was a problem with the Macromedia online store which was causing international customers to be charged too much for the Flex trial CD. The issue has been resolved, so the price should once again be $8.99. Apologies to those who were affected. Please let me know if you have any other problems.