OpenLaszlo – Cool Flash for Clunky Java people

Flash is created by cool people who wear black and use Apple Macs. If you’re not sure as to what flash is, the chances are that if you’ve seen something on the web recently that made you go ‘wow’ for it’s coolness, then it was built using Adobe Flash.

To add substance to this froth Java people can use Flash (instead of normal web pages) to create cool pages that do useful stuff. For example Google Analytics uses Java and Flash to create a stunning User Interface. Even though Ajax and DHTML give you a lot of interactivity on your web pages, Flash goes one better at the small cost of not being as good for SEO and requiring a plugin (that most people already have installed).

So, what are you to do if you want to combine the coolness of Flash with the heavy lifting of Enterprise Java on the Server? The two main options are:

  1. Flex from Adobe is one way for Java people to create flash. The core toolkit is free, but the editor costs about $500 and that’s before you pay for using it on your servers. More details in the previous blogposts on Adobe Apollo and Adobe Flex.
  2. Open Laszlo Project is open source all the way, but does’t have a drag and drop editor (i.e. it’s more technical than graphical). Still , it allows you to create some cool effects , such as this Flash Clock.

Which framework will win out? I don’t know , and that’s before you even consider the Standard Java Web Frameworks such as Struts 2.

More (In progess) notes on Open Java and Flash are on the wiki. In an impulse buy , I bought the OpenLaszlo in Action yesterday. As an EBook , with rebate (coupon LZ35607 before the end of August) it costs about 10 Euro. Initial impressions are good (both for the book and Open Laszlo) , but I’m still working my way through it (so don’t quote me on it).

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Disclaimer: I get a rebate if you buy the book from Amazon, but not if you buy the (Cheaper) E-Book direct from Manning. I bought the E-Book this time, but have got free books from Manning in the past for having reviewed (as yet unpublished) JBoss items.

What is Adobe Apollo?

Update: Apollo has since been rename AIR – Adobe Integrated Runtime. Personally, I Preferred the ‘Flex’ name.
What is Adobe Apollo? You know, Adobe , the people that give us the PDF reader.
Is Apollo the new Java for this Decade? Will it replace Atlas and .Net? Is Apollo an answer to problems we have in building web sites that all users can see? Will Apollo replace Ajax , Flash and plain vanilla HTML? Does it play well with Ruby and JRuby?

apollo.jpg

I don’t know. And neither does the Financial Times Tech Blog. But it does say

Adobe (and incidentally eBay) looks like it has a winner – if only the company can find a better way to explain what Apollo does.

I do know that Apollo may fix the pain of cross-platform web development. So, I’m over to the Adobe Labs site to find out more. Ajaxian has the demo. Mike Chambers (Adobe product development) has the slides. According to Mike:

Apollo is a cross-operating system runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIA’s.

Translation into plain English:Powerful web pages,easy to build , loads of pretty colours. If it’s delivered as promised

Dear Bruce Eckel : Hybrid Java, Google Web Toolkit and Adobe Flex

Dear Bruce,

First up, thanks for the book. Yes I’m saying thank-you about 8 years too late. ‘Thinking in Java‘ is what got me going in the language and in my mind is one of the best Java books written (sorry Tim). Giving it away free only cemented your reputation as the Bono of the Java world. OK, Bono without the Guitar, the Stetson and with a couple of overloaded constructors thrown in, but a man of stature nonetheless.

Thinking in Java Front Cover

Secondly, I’ll forgive your flirtations with Python, on the basis that I’ve been having an affair myself with JRuby. I now understand the pain that you’ve been having at home, the endless repetitive arguments to get simple things done, and the temptation of a newer, younger, more flexible model.

So , I think you’re onto something here in your blogpost. I can feel the pain, the need to deliver Rich clients to users over the web. I think that Ruby / Google Web Toolkit / Struts 2 / Name your web toolkit has further to go than you may think , but eventually these ‘heroic efforts‘ (nice quote) will run out of steam. On the basis of your recommendation alone I’m willing to look at Adobe Flex, but I’m not sure if this is going to solve all the problems.

Now , a lot of us Java guys don’t like change (and as if you needed proof, just look at the comments on this O’Reilly blogpost on the Google API’s). All the same , we have a problem that gets worse every passing year. 6 Years ago we could have been sure that 90% of web sites were running Internet Explorer 4. Now we’ve got IE, Firefox, Safari (in all their different versions) as well as an explosion of mobile devices. The Windows Vista launch is only going to fragment things further with yet another platform to support.

No one web solution is going to display the same in all of these browsers. We’re not going to get a single solution from Microsoft / Sun / Adobe that everybody from developer to my Granny is going to install. So we’re going to have to take the ‘least bad’ route – something that looks great, but degrades gracefully to standard HTML on less capable devices. Excuse my ignorance, but I don’t know (yet) if Flex does this.

Yes Hybridizing open source Java is the starting point for the solution. Unfortunately we’ve a long way to go yet, and Flex is perhaps only inspiration along the way.

Yours sincerely

Paul