|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!
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
Feb. 10, 2016 10:04 AM EST
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn’t require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbuilding of data centers ...
Feb. 10, 2016 09:30 AM EST
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
Feb. 10, 2016 09:00 AM EST Reads: 180
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
Feb. 10, 2016 09:00 AM EST Reads: 379
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...
Feb. 10, 2016 08:00 AM EST
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
Feb. 10, 2016 07:45 AM EST Reads: 433
Silver Spring Networks, Inc. (NYSE: SSNI) extended its Internet of Things technology platform with performance enhancements to Gen5 – its fifth generation critical infrastructure networking platform. Already delivering nearly 23 million devices on five continents as one of the leading networking providers in the market, Silver Spring announced it is doubling the maximum speed of its Gen5 network to up to 2.4 Mbps, increasing computational performance by 10x, supporting simultaneous mesh communic...
Feb. 10, 2016 07:00 AM EST
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
Feb. 10, 2016 12:45 AM EST Reads: 197
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Feb. 10, 2016 12:00 AM EST Reads: 205
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
Feb. 9, 2016 10:15 PM EST Reads: 242
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
Feb. 9, 2016 05:00 PM EST Reads: 176
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
Feb. 9, 2016 04:00 PM EST Reads: 611
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
Feb. 9, 2016 03:15 PM EST
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
Feb. 9, 2016 02:45 PM EST Reads: 209
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Feb. 9, 2016 02:15 PM EST Reads: 405
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
Feb. 9, 2016 01:15 PM EST Reads: 383
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
Feb. 9, 2016 11:30 AM EST Reads: 417
One of the bewildering things about DevOps is integrating the massive toolchain including the dozens of new tools that seem to crop up every year. Part of DevOps is Continuous Delivery and having a complex toolchain can add additional integration and setup to your developer environment. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Miko Matsumura, Chief Marketing Officer of Gradle Inc., will discuss which tools to use in a developer stack, how to provision the toolchain to minimize onboa...
Feb. 9, 2016 07:45 AM EST Reads: 101
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including clou...
Feb. 6, 2016 03:30 PM EST Reads: 759
Most people haven’t heard the word, “gamification,” even though they probably, and perhaps unwittingly, participate in it every day. Gamification is “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.” Further, gamification is about bringing game mechanics – rules, constructs, processes, and methods – into the real world in an effort to engage people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Endo, owner and engagement manager of Intrepid D...
Feb. 5, 2016 09:00 PM EST Reads: 819