Writing a Secure Plugin Architecture for AIR Applications

If you’ve ever wondered about plugins for AIR applications, I just published a article called Extending AIR Applications With Plugins which hopefully should answer most of your questions.

The trick to writing a plugin architecture for AIR applications isn’t really so much plugin management (installing, loading, deleting, etc.) as it is plugin security. Plugins that are privileged enough to be really powerful also have enough power to be potentially dangerous, so before an end user installs one, he or she needs to know not only who wrote it, but also that the plugin wasn’t somehow modified prior to installation. That’s where code signing and validation come in.

The sample plugin architecture I wrote addresses both plugin management and security. The article contains plenty of background on plugin security as well as sample code for an application called "Pluggable SearchCentral" which you can see in action below:

For more on how to write your own secure plugin architecture, see Extending AIR Applications With Plugins.

Transforming the Magazine Experience With Wired and AIR

Adobe and Wired magazine just introduced a new digital magazine concept that provides an immersive, interactive content experience for readers as well as innovative possibilities for advertisers. The video above provides an excellent overview of the collaboration and includes interviews with some of the individuals leading this project at both Wired and Adobe.

Adobe AIR was used to develop the prototype of the application unveiled by Chris Anderson (Wired) and Jeremy Clark (Adobe) at the TED conference last week. For additional information on the concept, please see the post by Introducing a New Digital Magazine Experience on Adobe Digital Publishing blog.

Screenshots

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Related Links

Zoodles: A Browser Designed To Makes Learning Fun for Kids

One application that recently caught my eye is Zoodles. Built using Adobe AIR, Zoodles is designed to provide a free, child-safe browser and promote learning through interactive games and videos. The browser works off a whitelist so children stay on sites that are pre-approved by the team at Zoodles. The application runs in full screen mode, and the user interface was designed to make it difficult for young children to switch out to other applications.

The browser comes loaded with age and skill-level appropriate games for children. The Zoodles browser interface adapts to a child based on age. As kids grow older, the interface grows with them. For example, younger children have a very simple navigation using a pictures model while older children can browse by category, topic and characters.

Zoodles provides a number of premium features for parents (each account comes with a free trial of these premium features):

  • Promote Educational Subjects. Parents can promote specific subject areas such as reading and math so their children can engage with the topics that parents think they would benefit from the most
  • Parental Controls. Parents can control what sites, branded characters, and types of content their child can engage with online.  Additionally parents can set time limits so their child only plays the amount of time in a day that they think is appropriate.
  • Ad Blocker.  The Zoodles ad blocker removes ads from a child’s interface which protects children from inappropriate ads while also making it easier for children to focus on the task at hand.
  • Parental Monitoring. Parents are provided detailed reports on what their child has been doing online and what academic skills they have been developing

Congratulations to the teams at Zoodles for building an innovative, engaging application for parents and children!

ASDocr Simplifies Documenting Your Flex-based Applications

Grant Skinner released a new, free tool called ASDocr built using the Adobe AIR 2 beta. The application is a graphical front-end to ASDoc, a command-line tool available in the Flex SDK. ASDoc allows you to create API language reference documentation as HTML pages from the classes in your Adobe Flex application.

From Grant’s blog post announcing ASDocr:

Building on the new nativeProcess APIs in AIR 2.0, it provides a simple graphical interface to ASDoc. It walks you through all of the common params ASDoc supports, with help for each of them. You can save configurations for multiple projects, and clone configurations to act as a starting point for new projects.

If you are interested in checking out this application, you can find links to download the Mac and Windows builds on his blog (according to a comment on the blog, a Linux version is in the works). Be sure to grab the Adobe AIR 2 beta before installing the application as it will not run on AIR 1.5.3. If you have feedback on the application, Grant has requsted that feedback it be posted as a comment on his blog.

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Quickly Build Native Installers for Adobe AIR 2

Adobe platform evangelist Serge Jespers released on his blog a valuable AIR 2 "alpha" application that allows you to quickly build native application installers for your AIR 2 applications. Native installers are required if you are building an AIR 2 application that takes advantage of the new extensibility options available from the native process API. This tool simplifies the process of creating a native installer since you do not need to construct a command line statement and can, instead, use a graphical, wizard-like interface.

Serge shared instructions on how to setup the application on his blog as well. The application is currently considered in an "alpha" and, if you have feedback on bugs or feature requests, please be sure to leave Serge a comment.

National Geographic Releases Engaging App Built By EffectiveUI and Powered by Adobe AIR

Congratulations to the teams at National Geographic and EffectiveUI for releasing The Complete National Geographic! The complete collection contains every issue of National Geographic magazine, digitally reproduced in stunning high resolution. Users of the application can explore a topic, search for photographs, browse the globe, or create their own own expedition. Adobe AIR was used as core technology in helping to bring this application to life. The team at EffectiveUI developed a success story that highlights key capabilities of the application.

In addition, the official website from National Geographic provides additional details on the features of the application.

Explore 120 years of amazing discoveries, fascinating maps, and the world’s best photography with The Complete National Geographic. This definitive collection of every issue of National Geographic magazine, digitally reproduced in stunning high resolution, brings you the world and all that is in it. Use the advanced interface to explore a topic, search for photographs, browse the globe, or wander on your own expedition. Order The Complete National Geographic now!

Additional Information

Design Your Own Toys With Printies

Printies is a new craft toy from Techno Source that allows kids to be the toy designer. Using a very simple creative design tool powered by Adobe AIR, you can create your own stuffed character and print it to a pre-sewn, 100% cotton sheet. Once the design is printed, you fill your design with stuffing and you are done. For a video tutorial, check out the Printies website.

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Real-time Multiplayer Gaming with ChessJam and Adobe AIR

ChessJam is a beautiful new online chess game powered by Adobe AIR that allows users to play chess with others from around the world. Greg Wilson, one of the developers of the application and an Adobe employee, wrote a detailed blog post on how the application was created using Flex, Adobe AIR, ColdFusion and LiveCycle DS.

When asked why the team that developed this application chose Adobe AIR, Greg responded with the following points:

  • Embedded images and sounds dramatically speed-up load times compared to an equivalent web-browser-based app
  • User presence detection
  • Network detection for handling disconnects and reconnects
  • Custom chrome (the team wanted 100% control over UI, sizing, position, etc.)
  • Numerous uses of mx:HTML including the news banner, upcoming stats view, etc.
  • Auto-update framework to easily push out updates to the application.
  • Support for Mac, Windows and Linux

Greg mentioned that there are plans to release other features that take advantage of AIR soon including toast-style notifications, local game history storage using the SQLite database and more. Congratulations to the ChessJam for building a fabulous game.

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