Author Archive: Mike Hodgson

Stoking the Fires

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Welcome to the initial posting of the Steam Powered blog.

I’ll be honest with you, the idea of posting regular blog entries is not something that previously appealed to me.  I’ve actually been quite resistant to the entire idea as I always believed that I really don’t have anything to say (not that that hasn’t stopped most bloggers).  This has changed recently however when I started working beyond my “comfort zone” and started looking into developing AIR applications.

Let me back up and tell you a bit about my self (it does have some relevance, trust me).  I’m currently employed as a System Specialist at Adobe in Canada.  This means that I work with Sales, Marketing and Professional Services teams to develop customer facing proof of concepts.  Essentially I lend programming assistance to large customer deals for short term pre-sales projects.  I work a lot with the Adobe LiveCycle product, meaning most of the work I do is around Java and JEE development with some .Net thrown in to keep it interesting.  I’m not a rich internet application (RIA) developer and lord knows I’m not a graphic designer (stick people are the limit of my design capabilities). 

Recently Adobe has released a new application environment called AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) which allows developers/designers to build desktop applications using Action Script (the scripting language of Flex).  This means that a developer should be able to build a sexy interface without having to develop piles of library code. The applications will also run on all client environments  – build once, run anywhere (where have I heard that before?)  Quite understandably, everyone at Adobe has been encouraged to try out AIR and there are many, many projects that will be using AIR for their interfaces. 

Naturally this “AIR everything” fever has also been contracted by those of us working with the server side technologies. More and more of the POCs that I have built are requiring a snazzy front end with lots of spinney bits, cool fades and overall mind blowing eye candy.  My usual design of two hot links and a button just won’t cut it anymore – I need to add dancing bananas.  I’ve played a bit with Flex and AIR, putting together some very basic applications that usually do a single simple thing (upload a file to the server, put a graphic on the screen, etc.). But I really want to do more. 

Since I learn best by doing, I have decided to pick a large(ish) project with many different interface aspects and attempt to build something useful (sort of).  And, as I believe that I’m not the only one out there that is faced with a similar challenge, I thought I’d post my journey in a blog.    As I pick a project, start the design and build the code, I will post my findings, frustrations and triumphs here. Hopefully you’ll find it useful.

Next step – pick a project that I can learn with.  I don’t want it to be something directly work related as customer information is confidential and I won’t be able to blog about it.  Also I don’t want a deadline – I’d like this project to proceed at its own pace.  If you have any ideas, let me know.  Otherwise I’ll post when I narrow down the field to a few (or one) good idea.

Cheers,

Mike

 

Note:
Although I do work for Adobe, and they are allowing me to post this blog on their site, this is not an “officially sanctioned” information source.  Meaning that I may not be presenting the best way for doing something, and I may go down several blind allies.  On the other hand, if I find something that is weird, of just plain sucks – I’ll call it out (I’ll try to be polite – I like my paycheck).

 

BTW
Why “Steam Powered”?  I live quite far from the city and my home internet connection is still dial-up.  My father was visiting us a while ago and was trying to check his eBay account and since the connection was so slow he commented  – “What is this, Steam powered?”.  I thought it was an appropriate way to describe the way that I, as a developer, approach developing an esthetically pleasing user interface.