Archive for July, 2009

Revised AIR 1.5.2 Application Install Experience

The Adobe AIR 1.5.2 release is now available. There are relatively few changes in it, given that it’s a minor release, but I’ll nonetheless be posting a few entries about the more interesting changes.

Perhaps most interesting of all is that we’ve revised the much-loved unrestricted system access warning that’s displayed during application install. I think you’ll be pleased with the new design:

AIR1.5.2RevisedPublisherPanel.png

Please note that this change applies only to applications signed with certificates that are trusted on the targeted machine. I hope you’ll find some comfort in knowing that we do, indeed, listen to–and appreciate–your feedback.

MAX 2009: AIR Deployment and Distribution Options

At this year’s MAX conference I’ll be speaking on deployment and distribution options for AIR applications. Here’s the description:

Learn how to get your AIR applications to your users and how to keep them up to date. We will discuss important considerations for distribution on the Internet or an intranet, including impacts on your auto-update mechanism. We will cover existing deployment options such as badge installation and IBM Tivoli support. Finally, we will explore the new deployment options that will be available in Adobe AIR 2, including the native installer support required to use some of the advanced new AIR 2 APIs.

My favorite part of MAX is hearing directly from you. If you’re there, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello.

ActionScript Objects are Reference-Counted

One of the most under-appreciated aspects of ActionScript memory management is that ActionScript objects are not just garbage collected; they are also reference counted. When their reference count hits zero, they are immediately freed. This happen irrespective of the state of the garbage collector.

For example, suppose you were to monitor memory use as you stepped through the following lines of code:

var buffer:ByteArray = new ByteArray();
buffer.length = 100 * 1024 * 1024;
buffer = null;

This code creates a 100 MB buffer, then discards the reference to it. After the second line executes, you’ll see memory use grow by 100 MB. (Using such a large number is convenient because it makes the results really obvious in your monitoring tool.) After the third line, however, you’ll see memory use drop back down immediately.

(Caveat: Monitoring memory use can be tricky in its own right, and you need to make sure you’re monitoring the correct measurements to see this effect. See Performance Tuning AIR Applications for more about how to monitor memory use.)

Despite this quick-cleanup capability, it often seems like the memory use of a given application tends to creep up over time. There are two major reasons for this.

First, it’s quite common in ActionScript programming that objects are connected—that is, have references to each other—in cycles. When a graph of objects contains a cycle it prevents the reference counts from going to zero even if the entire graph is itself unreferenced. The garbage collector will ultimately sort out the situation and free these objects, but it can take a while, and in the meantime the memory remains in use.

The second possibility is that there’s a “leak”, which is to say there’s an unintended reference to an object that is, at least logically, no longer in use. These objects simply can’t be freed: they have a non-zero reference count and, because they are referenced, won’t be collected, either.

You can combat the first issue (cycles) and help uncover instances of the second (leaks) by eliminating cycles in object graphs when discarding references to them. More about this in upcoming posts.