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One AJAX dev speaks out…

I found this interesting review of FlexBuilder by an AJAX developer, Anthony G. Cyphers – http://www.envieddesign.net/blog/?p=71\

“Flex comes packed full of pre-built controls. I mean, damn, how many more could they have possibly packed in there without jacking the price up over $5000.00. It’s got everything, MenuBar, Accordian, ComboBoxes, ListBoxes, Panels, TitleWindows, DatePicker, ColorPicker, DataGrid, and a bunch more. This makes it so easy to use that the thought of not building at least one small web app in it just made me sick to my stomach. They’ve obviously put many MANY man hours in to this, and it’s evident that this platform isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. I urge anyone reading this to get the trial, take it for a test drive,…”

Nice. Thanks!

That’s still a lot of trees…

Recently in a local business journal that monitors government contracts and spending, I came across a series of contracts that were awarded to multiple vendors for toner cartridges – remanufactured toner cartridges. The total spend was in the millions for these refurbished cartridges, far in excess of any of the IT contracts in the same publication that would indicate a move away from the endless reams of paper that are generated by the Ctrl-P or Apple-P or Command-P functions.

It strikes me that the use of the computer has probably generated even more paper usage and waste than we thought we would save by replacing our pen with a keyboard and our dayplanner with a productivity suite. So I did some really bad journalistic investigation to see what I could find out.

First I compared some Google search terms.

- “toner cartridge” generated about 8.7 million responses
- “paperless office” generated about 700,000 responses
- “printer” topped out over a billion responses
- “monitor” returned about 670,000 responses

The good news was that PDF returned about 2 billion responses so at least we know people are trying to reduce paper usage by turning documents into PDF. But then we print PDFs all the time – so if each PDF response was printed out 5 times and averaged 2 pages that would account for 20 billion sheets of paper or 2,400,096 trees or 3524 acres of forest.

In the end, we know it has nothing to do with technology preference, choice or anything like that. It is still all about lifestyle, choices, safe thinking and preservation of ritual. We need the chainsaws running if we are going to keep up with the advances in technology.

Sad, but true.

Some more helpful but somewhat useless facts to help you determine the impact of Ctrl-P:

- 1 ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) printing and office paper uses 24 trees
- 1 ton of 100% virgin (non-recycled) newsprint uses 12 trees
- A “pallet” of copier paper (20-lb. sheet weight, or 20#) contains 40 cartons and weighs 1 ton. Therefore,
- 1 carton (10 reams) of 100% virgin copier paper uses .6 trees
- 1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets
- 1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree (and those add up quickly!)
- 1 ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (used for glossy magazines like National Geographic and many others) uses a little more than 15 trees (15.36)
- 1 ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for newsmagazines and most catalogs) uses nearly 8 trees (7.68)
Source: Conservatree

Here are my suggestions to get this on track:

- Stop printing emails
- Get a better monitor (for $200) so you can read things online
- Only print the parts of a PDF that you need to read on paper
- Use best practices in web design to allow font resizing and optimizing layouts for print
- Stop printing ppt – you hate ppt shows, why print them out?
- Keep all the things you print out in your laptop bag each week – this should make it clear if you have a printing problem
- Make all your graphics and illustrations 72 dpi or 96 dpi – that way they look great on screen and they suck in print

And finally, check to see how much your local government is spending on printing things out, and see if you cant find some opportunistic technology solutions to help them address this obvious atrocity at the expense of the taxpayer.

On Top of Enterprise Services

Winners of the SAP TechEd DEMO JAM are posted here

Matthias Zellar of Adobe, took second place with Using Adobe Flex to Build Rich Internet Applications on Top of Enterprise Services. Matthias’ demo extends the demo he presented at SAP TechEd ’06, “Exposing Web Services in ABAP, by enriching an ABAP web service with an Adobe Flex-based user interface. In the demo, Matthias activated a web service of the popular sample flight database. He then consumed the web service with the Adobe Flex Builder IDE and developed a dynamic data grid. Finally, Matthias compiled and ran the application in the Internet Explorer browser.

InterAKT with Adobe

Awesome news finally out today that we acquired Romania-based software firm InterAKT, the folks responsible for some of the most useful Dreamweaver extensions in the business and that sweet little Javascript editor, JSEclipse.

Officially speaking, the acquisition will enhance Adobe products, including Macromedia® Dreamweaver® and Adobe® Flex® software, and bolster Adobe’s presence in Eastern Europe. Don’t ask me for any specifics on the deal, but it is obvious that commercially this represents some exciting opportunities to extend Dreamweaver’s capabilities for web application development and to simultaneously expand the Flex lineup.

Alexandru Costin and Bogdan Ripa have created a terrific team who really get web application development and they have put out some exciting technologies, and these will either be provided via Adobe Labs, discontinued, or available within Kollection – a newly expanded version of MX Kollection Pro, InterAKT’s most popular product.

Specifically, JSEclipse should be posted on Adobe Labs in the next little while, and Phakt will be posted for free on the Exchange.

I know that James Governor will want to weigh in about our continued unhealthy obsession with Java, but IMHO it just got a whole lot healthier. At least it weighs less, runs faster and generally looks healthier from an R&D perspective. Call me superficial….

Airport Demo Etiquette

The more I travel, the more I detest airports. But recently I have found a way to really make the best of it – Airport Demos.

This emerging tech space is a great way to win new customers, more temporary friends, and get your message out to a very captive audience.

I was in the Boston airport last Friday night heading home when such an opportunity presented itself. Let me frame this so that you can extract useful tips and clues to success.

The guys next to me were talking about a bug in Visual Studio. I tried to sneak a peek but couldnt see the screen, and being a former Visual Studio product manager and having spent a few years on MSDN and evangelizing .NET I was highly curious to see this bug. So I asked, and they showed me.

Tip #1 – Bugs are a great way to establish a connection and start a common dialogue.

After laughing at the bug (sorry you wont get the details on that here – sort through the error reports, MS) and talking about our destinations and what we were doing in the airport, etc…I told them that I was working for Adobe and we had just launched a new IDE. They had never heard of Flex, smirked at the mention of Flash, and that was all it took for me to start wangling towards a demo.

Tip #2 – Developers battle it out on the IDE front, even if they are hardcore notepad users they still have an opinion. Picking the IDE as a common ground is much more effective than referring to yourself as “nuts about Flash” or “hardcore ABAP dude”.

I asked them if they wanted to see what we had just released, indicating that I might have some stuff on my laptop that would be interesting. They were instantly interested and a small group started to form to “check out the stuff from Adobe”.

Tip #3 – Don’t let people know that you have a full suite of demo applications – keep it casual, let me see what I’ve got…that way there isnt a lot of pressure.

After booting up and launching WebLogic (thanks for the 2 minute start time BEA!) I launched into a few demos that I “happened” to have kicking around on my laptop – a banking app, a consumer portal, AJAX/Flex datagrid comparison, charting, real time communications/messaging demo, and an end to end Flex and LiveCycle demo.

Tip #4 – Dont stop, keep moving. They arent going anywhere until the plane boards, so why waste any time with setup, storytelling, etc…just the facts, just the tech please. If you can, keep your app server running while in sleep mode, this speeds up the “getting started” part.

The demos went pretty well – got some good feedback like “wow, this is cool” and “I had no idea Adobe was doing stuff like this” and “thats amazing” etc. I then told them they could get the Flex Data Services for free from the Adobe website, and that there was a trial version of the FlexBuilder IDE that they could download as well. They seemed interested, but they werent going to get a job building Flex apps over the weekend, so we had to set up some type of followup.

Tip #5 – Save something that you have to send your new audience. That way you get a card, email address, etc and you can follow up. Developers dont change languages or IDEs over a weekend (unless they were no good at the old one they were using) so this allows you to follow up and get a dialogue going.

That”s all there is to it. All in all, this new tactic seems to be a highly productive use of my time, and I am sure you will enjoy countless hours of fun and engaging interaction doing airport demos with unwitting captive developers on your trips around the world. Keep up the delays, United – it’s good for business!

I need a Big Fix

One of the challenges in software deployment and management is getting all the right runtimes, drivers, etc in place. At Adobe, this keeps me up at night – how are we going to get our millions of users to update Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash so that our amazing community of developers can trust that their funky new “engaging” RIA will be able to run when a user wants it.

This situation is further compounded in the enterprise where IT staff are forced to do all kinds of contortions to keep up with the demands for a latest, greatest runtime. Do we let users do it themselves? Thats not a good idea, right? Do we sanitize all proposed updates, run them in a sandbox to evaluate, and then do limited rollouts to evaluate impact? That sounds expensive, and it will definitely delay the deployments I am personally vying for? Do we trust vendors to supply us with integratable packages that make network deployment seamless and painless? HA!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that BigFix had introduced some new technology that they call Fixlets (cute) that solve this problem, at least for us here at Adobe, and for their nearly 400 enterprise customers.

“BigFix Enterprise Suite 6.0, a new version of the company’s flagship software that integrates new features that offer capabilities for software license management, expanded executive and compliance reporting, delegation of authority, and client system group management capabilities.”

“BigFix has added real-time inventory and pre-packaged updates for widely used third-party Microsoft Windows-compatible applications to the automated software patch and update distribution service that supports its BigFix Enterprise Suite software.

The new service, packaged as BigFix Fixlet messages, initially includes updates for Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader…(and so on) ”

Good news! Now there should be no excuse for not being able to see that amazing Flex app I just sent you, or not to just stare in awe at the architect sketches of your new mansion that were sent in Acrobat 3D.

What changed…

I am just back from vacation, plowing through a thousand or so emails…first thing I found was a bunch of new useful Flex resources.

First a couple more from Ted Patrick.

A blog of only MXML and AS3 code.
http://www.onflex.org/code/

IFBIN – Open and Free samples and tutorials
http://www.ifbin.com
Seems like a great move for IFBIN!

And a new entry from Zhenhua Yang – already 3rd on Google for “flex livecycle”
http://www.flexlive.net

Cool. Are there more?

Adobe LiveCycle, Flex and ColdFusion Training for Developers

Adobe Developer Week is a full week of online technical seminars on Adobe technologies, scheduled for June 12-16. This is a great chance to attend a technology conference without the $1000 registration fee, the airport security lineups, eating food from a small box, dealing with dodgy wireless connections and ducking unwanted flyers from the booth babes. A conference you can attend in your robe…now that’s good thinking!

There is an effective cross-section of introductory content for folks new to Adobe software, and a few deeper sessions for the veterans…my picks include Duane Nickull’s Processing Models for the New Client and the folks from Ensemble doing an Introduction to Adobe LiveCycle Workflow and QPAC Development. Mike Downey’s ActionScript 3.0 for Flash & RIA Developers with principal scientist, Gary Grossman will be a good session for those taking a first look at AS3. Joe Rinehart’s ColdFusion and Model-Glue also looks pretty interesting. I would also recommend the Flex session, Enterprise development with Flex Builder and Flex Data Services with James Ward and the Apollo session – Building Killer RIAs? Meet: Adobe’s Next-Gen Technology with the Apollo product manager, Luis Polanco. This one will book up fast so register now.

This FREE, week-long event features live, online sessions presented by Adobe technology experts. See live demos and get your questions answered by the experts during interactive Q & A sessions. You could win a copy of Flex Builder 2, an iRiver H10, or other cool prizes just for attending.

Adobe Developer Week – you register for only the individual sessions you choose to attend.

“Open Source is not just for geeks anymore” – CNN

Just watched a brilliantly assembled special special report on Open Source software. Mozilla, IBM, OSU, Open Source Development Lab, Posse, Wikipedia, Lego and many other organizations were featured in the interviews in this report.

To me this was another real sign of maturity for open source. Not that it validates it, but rather that it pushes it out to audiences that really don’t think about it that much because they see it as being marginal or cliquey.

The first part was set in Oregon, talking about how Portland has repositioned itself as a hub for open source. It was odd to see normally media-shy Linus Torvald have the big news network into his home. I like that he focused on his “team”, talking about how his development team works better together than companies like Microsoft, and that it no longer matters if people are in the same building or even the same company, since we all work over email anyway. He turned around the notion that he was a “rock star” saying he had no interest in normal conferences, or even the commercial implementations of Linux.

Lego, the big toy company, was also a big featured company in this, and they talked about how open source software is driving Mindstorm, where they actively encourage customers to play a role in development. Lego factory also talked about open source design, where the community builds whatever they want, and the designs and packaging are generated based on customer input. This seemed to be a bit of a stretch from true open source but an interesting building block in the overall theme, nonetheless. SInce I have three avid Lego developers at home, I plan to actively encourage them to contribute their designs and work back to Lego Factory and the Lego community. Maybe now we can get two more of those little yellow hands that are lost from the soldier dudes.

This version of open source sounds a lot like plain old customer-centric or community thinking with yet another marketing spin on this apparently novel idea of listening to your customers.

Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia also talked about the social implications, and the goal of Britannica quality, he stressed that it was not about the programs and software, it was about the people. “Information should be non-proprietary” “People should be sharing information” “…the damage that is caused when organizations horde information” “…freeing up the information so people can get things done” “Everything is a work in progress” – I love wikipedia.

Portland’s FreeGeek, a non-profit volunteer driven organization focused on system and hardware waste – “give us your unwanted compudetritis and send us your hordes of geeks who want it” – if you volunteer they train you to build systems – you build 5 for the community and you can keep the sixth. Cool!

Then they took an interesting turn into “open source beer” based on the recipe for FreeBeer from Rasmus Nielsen and Superflex – and now they had my attention! Off to a Danish website to get the world’s first open source beer recipe, a quick shopping trip through London, and we watched a couple more interviews as the reporter’s open source beer fermented. Apparently his batch didn’t turn out as expected, but as he said, “That’s the beauty of open source, if I dont like it, I can just change it.” If you are interested, this is released under a Creative Commons license, which basically means that you can use it free of charge but if you make money selling their unique beer, you have to give them credit and publish any changes you make to the recipe under a similar license. Free like beer.

All in all, the reporters did a good job of posiitoning open source as more of an accessible social phenomenon than an elitist technology revolution. Mostly, it was interesting to see CNN preaching the open source gospel from an end user perspective, skirting the techie talk and ending one section on a nice sunset shot on and the words “open source is no longer just for geeks.”

I couldn’t help but think that open source media would mean open sources. I am sure that this would be good leg up for smaller media entities, who produce news items that aren’t just for geeks either.

I think you can use this information if you want to, but if you make any money from it, I will probably have to take it and then pass it on to someone else. I should probably just get out more.

On that note, do you remember Wonkette’s feature, “The Blog Report Report,” where they describe CNN describing bloggers describing the news.

I’m Ben Watson, it’s May 19th, and that’s the news.

Continue reading…

AJAX Developer Day at XTech

Today was a solid day of demos, details and development on AJAX in Amsterdam at XTech. One speaker pointed out that there are now over 134 AJAX frameworks – it is amazing to see what developers are doing in the browser.

Flex drew some oohs and aahs as well with this crowd – seeing great components being built for Flex definitely build interest in the platform.

Highlights from the lightning demo session today include:
- Carculatr – a used car pricing guide built on AJAX for mobile
- Javeline – data driven UI and events for AJAX
- Adactio – link hijacks mashup in a terminal application UI (there was AJAX GUI too, but the terminal stuff was cooler)
- DabbleDB – like a file maker application (db) for the web – columns with context
- Opera AJACS – full screen AJAX on a Nokia with Canvas to handle 3D and audio
- eMessenger – componentized AJAX chat client based on the big messenger providers