|By Charlie Arehart||
|February 28, 2003 12:00 AM EST||
Where do you stand in the march of CF developers moving toward implementing Flash interfaces in your Web apps? Are you gung ho? Still on the fence? Dead set against it? Feeling left out? Left behind?
In this month's Journeyman ColdFusion column, I'd like to take up the cause of Flash for CFers. In particular, if you're a developer who's been feeling left out or left behind, or simply challenged to understand most articles and books on the subject, take heart. In this article, I will share some observations and insights to help get you on the right path.
As I say in my user group seminars on this particular topic, it's like there's a wall you need to get over to get started. It's not that high, but just high enough to make it hard to get started on your own without a little leg up. Once you get that leg up, however, there's a whole world of cool possibilities.
The Challenge of Getting Started: It's Not Your Fault
Have you been impressed with Flash integration, but felt that it was beyond your reach? Have you tried to follow along with Flash Remoting articles, but felt stumped by your lack of Flash experience? Have you tried to read beginner Flash books, only to be frustrated by their focus on drawing, graphics, animation, sound, and video? Or by their wading through every part of the Flash interface?
The challenge of getting started with Flash as a Web developer is not your fault. It's partly due to Flash's heritage as a design tool, and the recent addition of many features for developers. Similar challenges exist for Dreamweaver MX. Bringing together two worlds, designer and developer, has left many resources challenged as to how to present fundamentals to each audience.
Also, Macromedia's showing the Pet Market and Broadmoor examples might also have set high expectations, leaving the average newcomer to believe creating Flash interfaces must be difficult. Some have tried to propose that CFers should focus on the back end and leave Flash to designers. On the other hand, those complex examples may have even lowered the expectation of some, thinking such Flash-based replacements of complex processes are not a suitable opportunity to add to their site.
You can integrate Flash easily and effectively. It's just a matter of finding simple samples and walkthroughs, trying them out for yourself, and identifying suitable next steps and resources for learning more from this perspective.
Some Good Starting Points for Web App Developers
Note that I said the first step is "finding simple samples and walkthroughs." In this article, I'm not going to actually walk you through getting started with the Flash interface. I'm not going to show any screenshots nor a single line of ActionScript. Frankly, an excellent guide to getting started was written by our own Ben Forta in the November 2002 issue of CFDJ.
This sort of solution is easy in Flash, and he walks through building it without a lot of focus on needless details. Yet he doesn't leave anything out that you might need. Too many articles soon drop a "place this code in the first layer of the first frame," but if these are foreign terms to you, then the wall has been raised. If you visit that page and use the "print article" link, you'll have an excellent resource that gets you started in just 2300 words. From there, you should be able to proceed to other resources, appreciating all the articles on Remoting and using Flash for Web apps.
Unfortunately, other resources aren't as well-suited to us. For instance, many articles recognize that readers may not have enough Flash knowledge and suggest that you "read the manuals." The problem is, they're really too designer oriented. As I said before, they tend to focus on aspects of using Flash that may not interest us, at least not from the start.
While it may seem counterintuitive, I don't recommend that you start with the Flash MX Manual, Using Flash MX. At least not at first. When you're ready, it's available at Help>Using Flash. There are also tutorials and samples available from the Flash help menu, but those, too, tend to be focused on using Flash in ways that may not immediately seem related to our needs as Web app developers.
Even Ben's book, Reality ColdFusion: Flash MX Integration, while seemingly the perfect starting point, presumes that you already understand Flash. The good news is that his article, and a couple of others I'll recommend, will help get you quickly up to speed to appreciate that book and several others, including the very popular and highly regarded ActionScript: The Definitive Guide (recently released in an MX version) and Object-Oriented Programming with ActionScript.
There is one other book that I'll recommend, and it may surprise you. Most will know that the ColdFusion MX Web Application Construction Kit is the latest edition of what's regarded by many as the seminal introduction to CF. Intermediate and advanced developers may spurn it, thinking if they already have one of the earlier editions that they are perhaps above getting it again. But the book has an excellent chapter, 23, on Flash integration. It was written by Nate Weiss and it's a great introduction to Flash and CF integration.
The chapter covers far more than Ben's article could (he has a whole chapter) and similarly, Nate never loses you nor bores you with Flash interface details you don't need. He builds a few simple but useful examples of Flash/CFMX integration, and even shows a simple, useful application of Flash's animation abilities. He also offers examples of server integration, using techniques other than Remoting. This chapter alone may justify the cost of the book - $35 at Buy.com at the time of this writing.
Other Good Resources
Once you've gotten over the humps explained by the resources above, you should be able to appreciate and take advantage of the many articles both in past issues of CFDJ and the Macromedia DesDev center as well as many other sites. They may have seemed daunting if you read them in the past, but would now be worth your consideration with just that little bit of Flash experience you didn't have before.
The CFDJ articles on Flash and CFMX integration have included, starting with the most recent:
There have also been some great introductory articles at the Macromedia DesDev center. Again, at first reading, without a little Flash experience, they may have seemed daunting and beyond you, but give them a look after getting just the little bit of experience offered by the two resources discussed in the previous section. They include:
You can find even more articles at the various DesDev centers, including the following:
The last one is quite recent, having been opened just in January.
There are also lists of examples of such integration, including articles (some of which are a little more advanced) available at www.macromedia.com/desdev/topics/sample_apps.html. There's also a page devoted to resources specifically for Flash/CFMX integration at www.macromedia.com/support/flash/programs_cf.html.
There are even a number of online video presentations that walk you through the use of Flash, including several related to CF integration, available at www.macromedia.com/software/flash/productinfo/tutorials/gettingstarted.
One of those videos is on the accessibility features of FlashMX. This is a topic of significant importance to many developers and administrators, and Flash MX does add new features to address this important aspect of creating usable applications. Indeed, Macromedia has a site devoted to the topic, at www.macromedia.com/macromedia/accessibility /features/flash. Still one more non-Macromedia resource devoted to the goal of promoting usable Flash sites is a "Wiki" at www.whatisflash.com. The topic is also discussed in a couple of books, including The Flash Usability Guide, by Chris McGregor, et al. Indeed, a useful sample chapter is available online at www.friendsofed.com/books/flash_mx_titles/mx_usability/sample_chapter.pdf. Another is Constructing Accessible Web Sites, by Jim Thatcher, et al.
If you'd like to take a course on the topic of both Flash and integration with CFMX, Macromedia has recently released the class, "Developing Rich Internet Applications." It's an intense three days covering lots about ActionScript, fundamentals of the Flash interface, and integration with CFMX. Simon Horwith wrote about the class in last month's aforementioned "Bridging the Gap Between Flash and ColdFusion MX." Learn more about the class at www.macromedia.com/support/training/instructor_led_curriculum/dev_apps_fmx_cfmx.html.
What If You're Not Using CFMX or Flash MX?
While it would be best to leverage the power and improvements in CFMX and Flash MX, the reality is that some people simply can't or won't yet have migrated. Or maybe you have co-workers or clients interested in doing this integration with servers that do not support Remoting (it is currently supported only on CFMX, ASP.NET, and certain J2EE servers).
What if you're on CF5? Or 4.5? Or PHP? Or Perl? Or some mainframe Web server, for that matter? Or still using Flash 5? You may be led to believe that you're out of luck and unable to play the game of Flash/CF integration. You can! It's just not as easy as it is with CFMX and Remoting. The good news is that we at CFDJ have been covering Flash and CF integration for nearly two years now. Check out any of the following:
Also note that the approaches described apply to pretty much any Web application server. It's worth noting, however, that if you have Flash MX it offers even more powerful new ways of integrating with Web app servers even without Remoting, in the form of the new LoadVars and XML objects. Do look into these if you're not using a server that supports Remoting. The bottom line is that it's pretty easy to pass data back and forth from a Flash movie on the client up to a server of any kind.
Other Next Steps
The focus to this point has been on resources that would be especially suitable for CF and other Web app developers who might otherwise find typical "beginner Flash" resources to be inappropriate. But as I said before, once you get over the initial hump of being shown the most fundamental aspects, your next step is to learn how to use the rest of the features of the Flash interface, such as layers, frames, animation, more about UI components, more about ActionScripting, debugging, troubleshooting, and more.
An excellent starting point once you're prepared to dive into more about Flash would be Foundation Macromedia Flash MX, a "Friends of ED" book. In fact, the first chapter of the book is available online at www.friendsofed.com/books/ foundation/flashmx/Found_MX_Chapter_01.pdf and would be a great resource even if you don't get the entire book (though I'm confident that chapter will motivate you to get it).
A couple of other books that do a surprisingly good job of introducing fundamentals (including some server integration) are Macromedia MX eLearning; Advanced Training from the Source, and the recently released Mobile Macromedia Flash MX. Even if you're not interested in doing development for mobile devices, it's interesting to consider that the skills and efforts applied to building Flash apps for browsers can be applied just as readily to mobile devices (phones, PDAs, and more).
Still other things you may want to explore once you're "over the hump" are Macromedia's "Developer Resource Kits" (DRKs), which offer several useful new components, demonstrations, and more (mostly Flash-oriented). Learn more at www.macromedia.com/software/drk. Another possible next step would be to explore the Flash Communications Server product. While it's primarily shown as being a tool for streaming audio/video, it's much more than that and really about live shared data applications. This month Kevin Towes offers a great tutorial on getting started with that aspect of the Flash Communication Server in "Persistent Data Communications." Learn more at www.macromedia.com/desdev/mx/flashcom.
One more possible next step to consider is the "Flash Component Kit for ColdFusion." This toolkit, available at www.macromedia.com/v1/handlers/index.cfm?ID=20983, is really something from the Flash 5 time frame. It's a set of ColdFusion custom tags (that work in CF5 as well as CFMX) that provides some prebuilt components that integrate with CF but don't require you to have or use the Flash authoring tool.
Before concluding the article, I'd like to point out a few Web sites that are devoted to topics related to Flash/server integration. Some are portals with articles, links to other sources, mailing lists, blogs, and more. See:
I hope this little compendium of resources for getting started in using Flash, as a Web application developer, has been useful for you. I'm simply sharing my observations and discoveries in the hope of helping others either get over their own frustration getting started, or avoid it in the first place.
Indeed, I'm thinking of creating my own book and class on the topic, focusing on certain things from this particular perspective and highlighting more lessons learned and key topics.
It's really not difficult to get into all this stuff. It's just a matter of getting that gentle leg up over the wall that then opens to the many paths to creating Flash-enabled Web applications and interface widgets. Now, be on your way!
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,391
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 296
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Jul. 30, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 446
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with APIs within the next year.
Jul. 30, 2015 02:30 PM EDT
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
Jul. 30, 2015 01:45 PM EDT Reads: 261
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
Jul. 30, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,048
In his keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Rodney Rogers, CEO of Virtustream, discussed the evolution of the company from inception to its recent acquisition by EMC – including personal insights, lessons learned (and some WTF moments) along the way. Learn how Virtustream’s unique approach of combining the economics and elasticity of the consumer cloud model with proper performance, application automation and security into a platform became a breakout success with enterprise customers and a natural fit for the EMC Federation.
Jul. 30, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,153
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Jul. 29, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,270
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect their organization.
Jul. 29, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,181
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world and it starts with business models and monetization strategies.
Jul. 28, 2015 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,760
Converging digital disruptions is creating a major sea change - Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is the network connection of People, Process, Data and Things, fueled by Cloud, Mobile, Social, Analytics and Security, and it represents a $19Trillion value-at-stake over the next 10 years. In her keynote at @ThingsExpo, Manjula Talreja, VP of Cisco Consulting Services, discussed IoE and the enormous opportunities it provides to public and private firms alike. She will share what businesses must do to thrive in the IoE economy, citing examples from several industry sectors.
Jul. 28, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,038
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not the disruptee.
Jul. 27, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,028
Akana has released Envision, an enhanced API analytics platform that helps enterprises mine critical insights across their digital eco-systems, understand their customers and partners and offer value-added personalized services. “In today’s digital economy, data-driven insights are proving to be a key differentiator for businesses. Understanding the data that is being tunneled through their APIs and how it can be used to optimize their business and operations is of paramount importance,” said Alistair Farquharson, CTO of Akana.
Jul. 27, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 318
Business as usual for IT is evolving into a "Make or Buy" decision on a service-by-service conversation with input from the LOBs. How does your organization move forward with cloud? In his general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Maravei, Regional Sales Manager, Hybrid Cloud and Managed Services at Cisco, discusses how Cisco and its partners offer a market-leading portfolio and ecosystem of cloud infrastructure and application services that allow you to uniquely and securely combine cloud business applications and services across multiple cloud delivery models.
Jul. 27, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,899
The enterprise market will drive IoT device adoption over the next five years. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Greenough, an analyst at BI Intelligence, division of Business Insider, analyzed how companies will adopt IoT products and the associated cost of adopting those products. John Greenough is the lead analyst covering the Internet of Things for BI Intelligence- Business Insider’s paid research service. Numerous IoT companies have cited his analysis of the IoT. Prior to joining BI Intelligence, he worked analyzing bank technology for Corporate Insight and The Clearing House Payment...
Jul. 26, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,571
"Optimal Design is a technology integration and product development firm that specializes in connecting devices to the cloud," stated Joe Wascow, Co-Founder & CMO of Optimal Design, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 25, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 386
SYS-CON Events announced today that CommVault has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A singular vision – a belief in a better way to address current and future data management needs – guides CommVault in the development of Singular Information Management® solutions for high-performance data protection, universal availability and simplified management of data on complex storage networks. CommVault's exclusive single-platform architecture gives companies unp...
Jul. 25, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,957
Electric Cloud and Arynga have announced a product integration partnership that will bring Continuous Delivery solutions to the automotive Internet-of-Things (IoT) market. The joint solution will help automotive manufacturers, OEMs and system integrators adopt DevOps automation and Continuous Delivery practices that reduce software build and release cycle times within the complex and specific parameters of embedded and IoT software systems.
Jul. 25, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 459
"ciqada is a combined platform of hardware modules and server products that lets people take their existing devices or new devices and lets them be accessible over the Internet for their users," noted Geoff Engelstein of ciqada, a division of Mars International, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 25, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,531
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
Jul. 25, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,485