Archive for June, 2004

Two More Product Notification RSS Feeds

It didn’t take long for the requests for additional product feeds to start rolling in after we launched the initial set yesterday. This morning, we added HomeSite and Authorware RSS feeds. We now have 16 total. Check out the Macromedia Product RSS Feed information page for details.

RSS Feeds For *All* Macromedia Products

Earlier this month, we announced that we were opening up the ColdFusion, JRun and Flex TechNote RSS feeds to the public. We got a very positive response, however several people asked me why we were stopping there. Why just three products, and why just TechNotes? The answer was that we were trying to gauge interest before investing in the process any further. Well, there was enough enthusiasm that we decided to go ahead to start publishing RSS feeds for 14 different Macromedia products, and to include not just TechNotes, but also security bulletins and product updates, as well. Introducing the new Macromedia RSS Product Feeds:

http://www.macromedia.com/go/rss_info

A word of caution: the Macromedia RSS Product Feeds make heavy use of “go” URLs, or redirects, which means that although the URL above points to macromedia.com, you will actually be redirected to a page on another domain. It’s very important that when posting this URL and when adding the individual feeds to your aggregator, you use the go URLs rather than the URLs they redirect to since it’s likely these feeds will end up needing to move at some point in the future.

Enjoy, and spread the word!

CFUN Overview

Another CFUN is behind us, and I can honestly say, this year was even better than last. CFUN is one of my favorite conferences because it has an abundance of the two things all good conferences need:

  1. Serious, valuable, and enriching sessions presented by top people in the industry.
  2. A community that is easy to get along with, and blast to hang out with!

I don’t want to start dropping names for fear I will leave many out, but I hung out and exchanged ideas with a huge number of great developers (and just plain great people) over the weekend. I love to see so many (well over 500!) developers get together from so many different places getting along so well both personally and professionally. Thank you Michael Smith (and others from TeraTech) for making it all possible.

I did a session entitled Flash for CFers which went well, and was a lot of fun. The only problem was that I wasn’t able to get a wireless connection to show some very cool demo apps. And I ran out of time. It’s hard to even scratch the surface of a topic like Flash and ColdFusion in only 50 minutes, but I think I was able to get through enough of it to give ColdFusion developers a pretty thorough introduction to Rich Internet Applications. I’m going to post the presentation and the source code for the sample application I demoed at some point this week after I get caught up from being out of town. I’ll also post links to the RIA examples I was going to show but couldn’t because of the network issues.

The audience was great during my presentation. While I was trying to get a network connection, someone shouted “Are you sure the problem isn’t your OS?” I was doing the presentation on a Powerbook, and even as a big Mac fan, I thought the comment was funny and timely. Then Steven Erat suggested I demo the Flash Store sample app, if I had that installed and running locally, which fortunately I did (yes, Flex works great on Macs, including debugging). And, naturally, there was Critter in the back who helped to set the tone of the presentation right from the very beginning (if you were in the room, you know what I’m referring to), and then we all rocked out to “Fight the Power” and a hilarious Steve Ballmer remix (in the context of Flash and ColdFusion, of course). I have given a lot of presentations over the last couple of years at a lot of different conferences, and I always like it when I feel like everyone had fun as well as learned something valuable.

Ben Forta’s day-two keynote was incredible. He demoed some amazing features of Blackstone, and although the features themselves weren’t new to me, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the reaction of the audience. I lost count of the number of times the audience erupted in applause during his talk, and all around me, I heard constant murmurs of amazement and excitement. I think Blackstone is going to be an extraordinarily popular release. Anyone who has seen Ben’s presentation knows that the ColdFusion engineering team has really outdone themselves this time.

There was some interesting software floating around the conference, as well. There was a beta version of He3 in everyone’s bag. He3 is a dedicated ColdFusion editor by RichPalette built on the Eclipse platform. I haven’t tried it yet (I didn’t have my ThinkPad with me, and I want to try it on Windows first before OS X), but I heard some very good comments which have me intrigued. I will definitely install it early this week and set aside some time to evaluate it.

Doug Hughes of Alagad was handing out copies of the new Alagad Image Component. I’ve played with it in the past, and it’s very impressive. It is capable of performing over 60 image manipulation operations, and has an extremely intuitive and powerful API. As an added bonus, it is implemented entirely in CFScript, so you don’t even need to install any jar or class files on your server to use it. Very cool stuff. If you need to manipulate images on the server, you need this component.

It was good seeing everyone again this year. Let’s continue to keep in touch, and I look forward to doing it all again in 2005!

Heading to CFUN

I’ll be heading up to Maryland for CFUN 2004 in a few hours to join many friends and colleagues for a weekend of ColdFusion, a little Flash, and maybe a tiny bit of socializing. CFUN is definitely one of the best ColdFusion conferences around, and I feel fortunate I am only about an hour south of the venue (though I would happily travel anywhere to participate).

I’m going to be doing a session on Sunday on Flash for ColdFusion developers which is basically going to be an introduction to Flash and RIAs, geared toward ColdFusion folks. The presentation will probably eventually make it to my weblog, so if you’re interested in learning some Flash fundamentals, keep an eye out.

If you’re going to CFUN, please come by and introduce yourself. I’ll even have some DRKs to give out to the first few folks who ask me for one. Hope to see you there!

How to Create Navigation Like Macromedia’s

One of the most consistent and frequently asked questions I see on the Macromedia forums is “how can I create a top navigation bar like Macromedia’s?” Answers range from explanations and advice to URLs pointing to various DHTML and Flash projects.

I want to create the “Macromedia Top Navigation Bar Definitive Resource” right here on my weblog, so I’m posing this question to you:

What’s the best way to create navigation like Macromedia’s?

Here is your opportunity to promote your own projects, components, templates, or extensions. Promote a friend’s work. Promote the work of someone you don’t even know. Offer advice, tips, tricks, gotchas, etc. Post anything and everything you have to say about creating these types of navigation widgets. Then when I see this question out in the wild, I can point people to this post, or better yet, hopefully Google will uncover this post before the question ever gets posted.

Free ColdFusion Applications

Need an application, and need it fast? There is no more efficient technology for developing web applications than ColdFusion, so of course, you can build just about anything you need quickly enough, but now you can also just download a complete application for free from Free ColdFusion Applications (by the folks at EasyCFM). There are only about 12 applications at this point to choose from, but it looks like a lot of the basics are covered (weblog, calendars, forums, etc.) I have no idea how good any of these applications are, but it seems like they have a lot of potential. I can think of several uses:

  1. Download and use as-is.
  2. Download and customize.
  3. Download and cannibalize.
  4. At the very least, get some ideas for the fully customized version you are writing yourself.

Anyone have any experiences with any of these apps? What do you think?

Know Your List Functions

If you use ColdFusion list functions, make sure you know the difference between listContains and listFind. Using listContains where you should be using listFind might appear to work at first, but can introduce hard-to-find bugs in your applications down the road.

listContains returns the index of the first item in the list which contains a substring of the string you are searching for. For instance, consider the following code:

<cfset myList = "abc,def,ghi"/>
<cfoutput>#listContains(myList, "e")#</cfoutput>

The substring “e” is contained in the second item in the list, so listContains returns 2 rather than 0. Now consider the code below which uses listFind:

<cfset myList = "abc,def,ghi"/>
<cfoutput>#listFind(myList, "e")#</cfoutput>

listFind looks for an exact match rather than just a substring, so 0 is returned since there is no item in the list which matches “e” exactly. (The search is case-sensitive — for a case-insensitive search, use listFindNoCase.)

Most of the time, you are probably going to want to use listFind. Either way, just make sure you are aware of the difference.

iPods Integrate With BMWs

Apple announces the “first seamless integration of iPod and automobile”. If you own a BMW 3 Series, X3, X5, Z4 Roadster or a Mini, for just $149, you can integrate your iPod with your car. Connect your iPod to your car’s sound system via a cable in the glove box, and not only can you control it with the buttons on the steering wheel, but it will also be powered by the car rather than using its own battery.

Why BMW, and not Jeep?!

Studio MX 2004 Price Drop

It looks like Macromedia has dropped the price of Studio MX 2004 by $200 for a limited time. The savings applies to both the upgrade, and the full version. Check out the Macromedia Store for details.

Out of curiosity, how many of you use studio vs. DevNet vs. purchasing products individually? Which do you think is the best deal, and why?

Cool Tool Friday: Web Development Utilities

About six years ago, a friend of mine and I built a tool using Visual Basic which we called PixelRuler. All it was was a window that displayed its outer dimensions in the center, and updated dynamically when you increased or decreased its size. We used it while developing web applications to make sure images or other elements weren’t pushing out the boundaries of our tables (everything was table-based back then).

Once I left the company I was working for at the time, I switched to a Linux workstation, and was doing more programming and back-end development than design, so I forgot about the tool. At Macromedia, however, I do an equal amount of front- and back-end work, so once again, I found I needed a good tool for quickly measuring the dimensions of graphics and objects in my browser.

Today’s Cool Tool Friday post was going to be about a tool for OS X called Trilithon Rulers by a company called Trilithon, and I was later going to do another post about another OS X tool called DigitalColor Meter (an eyedropper tool for getting HEX and RGB colors from anything on your screen). Ironilcally enough, however, when I was reading FlashLounge this morning, I came across a post by Lee Probert describing a tool called xScope by ARTIS Software and The Iconfactory that comes with screen rules, an eyedropper tool, and much more:

  • Rulers – On-screen rulers that measure distances and angles
  • Screens – A dynamic view of smaller screen sizes and web browser content areas
  • Loupe – A magnifying glass that gives you a close-up view of your work
  • Guides – Markers for precise horizontal and vertical alignment
  • Frames – Markers for precise width, height & origin alignment
  • Crosshair – Finds the exact location on screen

A single-user license for xScope is $14.95, which I think is very reasonable. I haven’t actually purchased it because I haven’t finished evaluating it yet, but so far, I’m pretty impressed.

What kind of similar web development utilities do you use?