Joeflash’s Enigmacopaedia


Surviving as a Flash Platform Component Maker

Posted in Business, Flex, Community MX, Adobe, Best Practices, Components, Flash Platform Community by Joeflash on the October 17th, 2009

There is no doubt: making it as a commercial component maker is a tricky business, what with open source competition on the one hand, and Adobe being possible competition on the other. Now that we’ve defined the kinds of commercial components in the previous post, with these roadblocks, how do you make it in the current commercial ecosystem?

While reviewing recent discussions over at Grant’s blog while writing my previous post, I was reminded of a few things about successful component companies, which I recently discussed in an email conversation with Jeffry Houser over at Flextras about the matter, who encouraged me to blog about some of the points I brought up.

Now keep in mind I’ve never built a business model around making money developing Flash components, so take this part for what it’s worth; however there are a few things I’ve observed over the last decade in the Macromedia/Adobe/Flash industry about successes and failures in this area.

Most commercial Flash component makers start in one of two places:
a) they begin offering mid-level components
b) they have a successful but related business, and offer commercial components to go with their existing proprietary SAAS or server technology.

We won’t even talk about throwaway commercial components, because as I mentioned in the previous post, they should be open sourced anyways.

Starting a commercial component business based solely on mid-level components, as some have done, offers the benefit of relatively little startup capital (basically sweat equity), which gets you up and running very quickly. However, mid-level components can be challenging to hang a business model on, for a few reasons:

a) If they are “extensions,” (i.e. AcmeEnhancedDataGrid) Adobe could, tomorrow if they feel like it, come along and incorporate those ideas into the next version of the framework. In other words, your components may at some point come into conflict with FOSS components of similar functionality.

b) Which means that someone else could also, if they put in the effort, rip off your ideas, at least functionally, and present unwanted, even “illicit” competition, depending on how much they copied you.

c) The lack of phone support and strict licensing means that IT departments, used to spending big bucks to have added functionality at a minimum of fuss, might not regard it/them as serious candidates for an enterprise app, and may not even bother to dig into the API to find out if it has green threading or loose binding functionality.
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Converting Flash Projects into Flex

When converting from a Flash CS3/4-based project, to a Flex-based project, there are not just one or two conversion paths to consider, there are many, all of which depends on the Flash project in question.

I’m on a discussion on LinkedIn, in which one guy asks if we know anyone who can do a Flash-to-Flex conversion project, which evolved into a discussion on techniques. Rather than post a pages-long reply, I thought I’d post it here instead:

First, for any Flash-to-Flex conversion to go smoothly, you’ll need at least one person on your team with a good dose of real-world experience with both Flash and Flex-based RIA projects (Flash banners do not qualify ;)), to guide the conversion process and make sure the best deployment strategies are implemented.

As far as the conversion path, there are several possibilities. Depending on the kind of project, you may want to migrate some, most or all of the project to Flex. When migrating from Flash to Flex, you’re not just migrating code, you’re migrating from a visual asset instantiation and state management environment to a purely coding-based methodology (if we forget for a second about Design View in Flex Builder).
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The RPC Fault Security Error that wasn’t

Posted in Books, Flex, Community MX, Security by Joeflash on the February 1st, 2009

In the first chapter of our upcoming book Professional Flex 3, I built a simple RSS reader in just a few lines of code to demonstrate how easy it is to build a Flex application. I expanded on this application in a few recent articles at Community MX, creating a mini RSS feed reader for all the book authors. All was well, until one of our tech editors Matthew Fabb, told me that the reader I built was producing a dreaded security error. Good catch Matt!

Here’s the original RSS reader code used in the book:

  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
  2. <mx:Application xmlns:mx="feed://http://www.adobe.com/2006/mxml"
  3.     layout="absolute" creationComplete="RSSFeed.send();">
  4.     <mx:HTTPService id="RSSFeed" url="feed://http//www.joeflash.ca/blog/feed/"/>
  5.     <mx:List id="postTitles" labelField="title" left="20" right="20" top="20"
  6.         dataProvider="{RSSFeed.lastResult.rss.channel.item}"/>
  7.     <mx:TextArea htmlText="{postTitles.selectedItem.description}"
  8.         left="20" right="20" top="190" height="200"/>
  9.     <mx:Button label="Go to page" left="20" top="400"
  10.         click="navigateToURL(new URLRequest(postTitles.selectedItem.link));" />
  11. </mx:Application>

I tried it locally, and no security error, of course. I loaded it onto my server, and I got the following error:

[RPC Fault faultString="Security error accessing url" faultCode="Channel.Security.Error" faultDetail="Destination: DefaultHTTP"] ...

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Developing for Flash Player 10 in Flex Builder 3

Posted in Flash, Tutorials, Flex, Community MX, Adobe, Flash Player, Flash CS3, Creative Suite, Flash CS4, FP10 by Joeflash on the November 12th, 2008

In the past few weeks I’ve written two free tutorials on Community MX that guide you through the process of compiling for Flash Player 10 in Flex Builder 3. One shows a Flex project compiled for FP10, and the second shows a Flex-free AS project compiled for FP10.

Developing for Flash Player 10 in Flex Builder 3

     This article shows you how to install the latest stable Flex 3.2 SDK, and from there configure Flex Builder to compile for Flash 10 using the latest playerglobal.swc file.

Developing a Flex-free AS3 Project for Flash Player 10 in Flex Builder 3

     This article shows you how to create an ActionScript project in Flex Builder compiled for Flash 10. It also shows you how to remove references to the Flex framework, so you can use Flex Builder for compiling pure ActionScript 3.0 projects without worrying whether you’ll “accidentally” use a part of the Flex framework. For those resisting the Flash CS4 upgrade, you may not be able to compile for Flash Player 10 in Flash CS3, but you can in Flex Builder 3.

Flash-Flex Series on CMX: Flash S9 Skinning for a Flex DragPanel Component

Posted in Flash, Flex, Community MX, Flex Builder 2, Flex 3, Flex 2, Flash CS3, Flex Builder 3 by Joeflash on the June 25th, 2008

In part 3, part 4, and part 5 of the Flash-Flex Integration Series on Community MX, we show you how to build a scale-9 skin in Flash, apply it to a custom Flex component, and build a draggable, resizable “panel” component application in Flex. You can see the finished demo for this tutorial trilogy below.

This movie requires Flash Player 9

The skin was designed in Flash CS3, and implemented in Flex Builder 3. To find out how this was done, you can purchase these tutorials at the links below.

Flash-Flex Integration - Part 3: Flex Component Skinning with Scale-9
Flash-Flex Integration - Part 4: Skinning the Scale-9 Flex Component
Flash-Flex Integration - Part 5: Building the DragPanel Component

Flash-Flex Integration - Part 3: Flex Component Skinning with Scale-9 on Community MX

Posted in Flash, Flex, Community MX, Flex 3, Flex 2, Flash CS3 by Joeflash on the May 15th, 2008

I’ve a few new articles on the Flash-Flex Integration series on Community MX. This latest article is part one of two about creating a custom Flex component skin using Flash CS3 along with some deft scale-9 techniques and gotchas.

In this first article, we will design a skin in Flash CS3 for a Flex component, which is able stretch intelligently using a concept known as scale-9. We will look at several techniques for designing assets in Flash using scale-9 effectively, avoiding certain important gotchas along the way. We will also demonstrate how one Flash skin file may be applicable to multiple Flex components. In the following article we will implement this skin for a Flex custom panel component with drag and resize handles.

The completed Flash-Flex custom component skin

Flash-Flex Integration: New Article Series on Community MX

Posted in Flash, Flex, Community MX, Workflow, Flex 3, Flash CS3 by Joeflash on the March 26th, 2008

I’ve just started a new article series on Community MX all about strategies and techniques for implementing an integrated Flash-Flex workflow. Which is to say, using Flash objects and classes to be compiled into a Flex SWF application, or Flex objects and classes compiled into a Flash SWF application.

Despite some very excellent articles on Adobe Devnet, the information that’s out there can be a little confusing, and there are a lot of niggly things to keep track of, and many possibilities to explore regarding integrating Flash assets into a Flex application, or Flex assets into a Flash application. So I started this new series as a way of exploring that seldom ventured “grey zone” between the Flash and Flex development workflows.

The series kicks off with a high-level discussion on workflows, to be followed in the coming months with tutorials for implementing specific techniques.

a bird's eye view of the Flash-Flex workflow
A bird’s eye view of the Flash-Flex workflow

Like all my series on Community MX, the first one is free, and the rest are available for a pittance or at a subscription rate.

Flex Powertools: Explorers article on Community MX

Posted in Flex, Tools, Community MX, Flex Builder 2, Flex 3, Flex 2, Flex Builder 3 by Joeflash on the March 17th, 2008

I’ve a new article on Community MX entitled Flex Powertools: Explorers, in which I review over 20 of my favourite Flex 2 and 3 explorer utilities and resources, which includes component explorers, styling & skinning explorers and resources, visual effects explorers and benchmark explorers.

Flexers and Flashers and Writers, Oh My!

Posted in Enigmacopaedia, Flex, Community MX, Employment by Joeflash on the January 14th, 2008

I thank Adobe for aggregating this blog on the MXNA. Without aggregation, posting on a blog feels like whispering in a desert: someone may hear you, but you’ve got to shout, so to speak. :)

For those of you new to this blog, here are the most recent posts:

Flex 101: Part 14 - Using the Event Subclasses

Posted in Tutorials, ActionScript 3.0, Flex, Community MX, Flex 2 by Joeflash on the January 13th, 2008

The latest addition to the Flex 101 series is now available on Community MX. In this tutorial we go into the Event subclasses — what they are, when and when not to use them, complete with examples. We describe when certain event classes are dispatched from component interactions, what classes to type to depending on use, and the event class package and inheritance structure in Flex 2.

Flex 101: Part 14 - Using the Event Subclasses

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