Ext Conference: Day 1

Day 1 of the Ext JS Conference has been busy. Last night I had dinner and drinks with Jeff, a really nice guy who heads up development for a group writing web based interfaces to hardware appliances. Turns out Jeff is also the guy who introduced JavaScript to Douglas Crockford, who was today's keynote speaker. Douglas made sure to recognize Jeff at the beginning of his keynote, which I thought was a nice nod to the guy who helped give him direction in his career. Douglas ran us through a brief history of hypertext, the evolution of the web, JavaScipt, and the browser wars, before touching on the future of the web, some of the things in the new JavaScript specs being worked on through ECMA, and the fact that none of it would matter for years until the browser manufacturers would implement it. He did give props to Flash, AIR and SilverLight for trying to further the web experience where it has lagged so much over the years. He also spoke about the pitfalls of security in Web 2.0 applications, and the primary culprits of those issues (the browser manufacturers).

Before I go a whole lot further, let me tell you that the conference center, and their service to us, is fantastic. Held at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, the location is beautiful with it's palm lined drives, a well groomed golf course winding around several 'water traps', and a huge pool with several fountains. The food has been exceptional, with an incredible meal at lunch, complete with salad, brazed chicken, and desert with complete table service (this as part of the conference). No buffet sandwhiches here, though a breakfast buffet would have been nice before that 830 session this morning. My room is about half the size of the one I had at the Hotel Rouge last year for WebManiacs, but it is very comfortable and service keeps it nice. The shower did flood the entire bathroom this morning and the in-room coffee is horribly weak (and small), but everything can't be perfect. I've also carried on my conference tradition of bringing a sinus infection with me, which is keeping me from the after-session activities this evening, but the concierge was able to get me covered with some NyQuil for the evening to try to knock this stuff out of me.

Aaron Conran, fellow ColdFusion developer and one of the original contributors to ColdBox, delivered the session covering what has changed and what's new within the 3.0 release, which is officially released tomorrow by Jack Slocum during his keynote. A great deal of work has been spent to make the upgrade fairly painless, with attention payed to backwards compatability, improvements to overall memory management (always important), and an eye towards keeping the code lean and mean, doing what is necessary to keep code size to a minimum and eliminate any unnecessary bloat. Menus and Toolbars have been converted into true Container objects, and the only significant markup changes appear to be to the Button objects.

There are several new visual components, maintaining the professional feel and consistency that has made Ext JS so compelling. Two that attracted a great deal of attention were the ListView and the Buffered Grid View. Sometimes you want the basic view afforded by a Grid, without having the need for (or the overhead of) things like drag and drop column ordering, sorting, and the like. The ListView gives you a basic grid style layout without all of that overhead, and a very trim DOM footprint as well, providing your view without unnecessary code bloat and browser memory overhead. The Buffered Grid View is a full Grid implementation that allows the browser to only render DOM for records in actual view, plus a few extra to make smooth transitions on scrolling, that automatically adds and removes DOM items when scrolling through your recordsets. The memory management improvements with this, and other changes, are very nice to see. Like the new .mon(), or 'managed on', methods that allow you to bind events in a temporary fashion, getting a proper cleanup from browser memory when that component gets destroyed. This was actually a method of Ext prior to it's 1.0 release, and has been heavily requested for this return.

Being the server-side guy that I've been for the last decade, the important new components came to the Ext.data package, with the addition of the Ext.data.Direct and Ext.data.DataWriter classes. Direct provides the ability to marshall your remote service call definitions into one container, calling your Ajax data requests from a centralized location with the ability to make multiple commands through a single Ajax request as well as call listeners on specific actions performed by Direct. Chris Scott did a presentation on Direct this afternoon, explaining how the developer has to create a server side Router to which Direct can attach it's requests, and showing us all a nice and very simple example (even if it was written in Ruby). The Ext Team provides a Reference for development of Routers in a number of server-side languages, including ColdFusion, PHP, Ruby, and .NET. The DataWriter class, covered in more depth in a future session, does for POST requests what the DataReader does for your GET requests, allowing a developer to define your routing of requests to send data back to the server. The combination of these classes with the existing classes of the Ext.data package really improves upon the power of using Ext with any server-side technology.

I was able to see the presentation on the Direct class because of a snafu with a scheduling change of the presentation of the Ext.air package. Originally these two sessions were the one conflict in my schedule, but they moved the Ext.air presentation session up a time slot (a change I didn't know of until after the fact) which allowed me the opportunity to sit in on Chris's session. Luckily the presentations are being recorded and are supposed to be available online after the conference. I'm glad they're doing this, since I had to leave during my final session of the day, on Ext.Core, due to the sinus issues that progressively worsened through the day. The Ext.air session is one I am very looking forward to watching.

The members of the Ext Team are a great group of guys. Abe, again, congratulated me on the book, and invited me to sit in on the Industry Experts panel tomorrow. I've had several people say they wished they had brought their copies of the book so Shea and I could have signed them for them. One attendee asked why PackT didn't have a booth setup somewhere, which is when I first noticed that their don't appear to be any outside sponsors for the conference. Ext appears to have financed the conference solely through the registration of the 200+ attending, which is pretty impressive considering the facility and it's services. On another note, ColdFusion has been publicly mentioned in several presentations, and with so many different server-side programmers represented here it is refreshing to hear so many comment that they should give ColdFusion a hard look.

And with that, I'm going to pack it in for the evening and pray that the NyQuil does it's job to kick the junk out of my head. Tomorrow looks to be an exciting day, with Jack's keynote releasing Ext 3.0, sessions on User Experience Design, Theming, and Performance Optimization. I'll be posting updates to Twitter and my Facebook profile throughout the day. If you're here, make sure to come up and say hi.

WebManiacs Follow-Up

After WebManiacs, I thought it would be good to jot down some thoughts on conferences, and ColdFusion development in general. I was asked to speak at WebManiacs, which was my first conference speaking engagement, and although my session was somewhat small (last session that day), I had a great group who seemed to really enjoy my presentation, with a lot of questions, comments, and discussion afterwards. All in all a lot of fun. That being said, the conference was... lacking a little. Now, in all fairness, it was the first of it's kind, the first for FigLeaf (of this size), and a learning experience for everyone involved.

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A Small Bug In AIR?

Well, maybe. One of my co-workers, Andy Matthews, has been working on a small app, integrating BlazeDS with ColdFusion to push messages to an HTML/AJAX based AIR application. He and I spent several days configuring the server integration and piecing out the ins-and-outs of how the messaging works (big thanks to Andy Powell on this too). Andy (Matthews), coming from a design background, created this beautiful chromeless HTML interface, with a little JQuery magic thrown in to work with the bridge. That's where this possible bug reared it's ugly head.

The question is whether the bug is in AIR, or within the Flex/AJAX Bridge itself. Basically, if you've defined your transparency setting to true, within your App.xml file, then the load() method of the bridge will not call the function reference.

Andy has submitted the bug to Adobe. He also dropped Christian Cantrell and Ben Forta (hey, it's who he knows...) the following email about the issue:

Christian/Ben...

I believe that I've discovered a bug in AIR and I'm not sure who else to send this to.

I've been working on an HTML/JS based AIR application for my company using BlazeDS. I'd finally gotten everything working in a test environment when I went to port the working code into my already working transparent, custom chrome AIR app. Then it stopped working.

After debugging, I found the reason, or at least part of it. It appears that an AIR app which uses the FDMSBridge.swf provided by Adobe WILL NOT work when the app has transparency.

In my sample app ----------------- 1) I opened my sample code (without transparency), and compiled it. 2) I pushed a message to the gateway and the message was successfully received in the app. 3) I then changed the transparency setting in the App.xml file from false to true and recompiled the app. 4) I pushed another message to the gateway and received nothing.

In the final app --------------------------------------------- 1) Transparency was already set to true, so I compiled the app 2) I pushed a message to the gateway, and received nothing. 3) I then changed transparency to false, recompiled the app 4) Pushed a message and successfully received it.

Further, when the app first loads, it correctly displays the alert window when transparency is set to false, but not when it's set to true. ------------------------ Here's a small code sample:

view plain print about
1FDMSLibrary.load("FDMSBridge.swf", initBlazeDSCode);
2
3function initBlazeDSCode() {
4 alert('why me');
5 var cs = new ChannelSet();
6 cs.addChannel(new AMFChannel("cf-polling-amf","http://domainname.com/flex2gateway/cfamfpolling"));
7 consumer = new Consumer();
8 consumer.setDestination("ColdFusionGateway");
9 consumer.addEventListener("message", messageHandler);
10 consumer.setChannelSet(cs);
11 consumer.subscribe();
12}
13
14function messageHandler(e) {
15 alert('got a message! I GOT A MESSAGE!');
16}