Confronting ActionScript 3 and the Flex SDK

The Flex SDK in GnomeThis thang, kintespace.com, has 28 streaming audio presentations (and more on the way) that use the audio presentation framework developed by Bryan Wilhite (me), of SonghaySystem.com, back in 2005. The release of this framework was announced (by me) in December of 2005. Almost immediately, I was not satisfied with this ‘framework’ and this lack of satisfaction leads me to ‘confronting’ ActionScript3 and the Flex SDK today.

This is a ‘confrontation’ because my “bitter” intent is not to purchase/support Flex Builder until it is clear that Adobe, like Microsoft with Word 2007, is making me an offer I can’t refuse. These are my points for not investing in Flex Builder:

  • My nascent assumption is that Flex Builder (from $249US) is for a “design firm” with a formal production pipeline—which means that Flex Builder is a management tool.
  • My experience with eclipse-based, Open Source Java culture should permit me to avoid buying more Adobe products through ‘coercion.’ I pay money for Photoshop because I want to—even as I used the GIMP to prep the image in this Blog post. The last time I wanted to buy Flash was when it was version 5. I get tired of paying Macromedia/Adobe to produce incomplete software development products. It feels like I am paying them to learn how to build software tools—this is just too hard for me knowing what Microsoft does with Visual Studio and what the Eclipse Foundation does for free. And the punch line is that Flex Builder is built on top of eclipse! My assumption is that Adobe is trying to make Flex in particular and its developer tools story in general similar to what IBM is doing with its unimpressive Websphere black box.
  • Since my IT powers cross almost fluidly from client to server, I don’t need to cram tons of “features” into client applications when a server should be doing some of the work. My style is to build small, simple client applications (unless you are paying me and seducing me to do otherwise). My assumption is that Flex Builder is overkill for my “simplistic” needs. In fact, my UI-design investment gives AJAX (via YUI) the lion’s share.
  • Microsoft gives away “Express Editions” of Visual Studio. Now the indignant upper-class males that ran Macromedia might get some sympathy for saying that they “can’t afford” to give away a Flex Builder Express Edition. But old-ass Adobe gets zero sympathy from me for doing precious little for the open eclipse community.So, again, the great thing about a journal is that I can look back on this post months from now (literally searching myself) to see how ridiculous or insightful my person may be. So the stake in the ground today represents the claim the a new, more satisfying Songhay System ‘framework’ can be built without me crawling back to Adobe begging to pay 249 bucks for the pleasure of not driving myself insane.

The following table of resources assembles the information needed for this confrontation:

[ASDT](http://mb0.org/asdt) Eclipse Plug-in The non-fatal problem is that this wonderful tool does not support ActionScript 3 as it barely betas for AS2. Watch the [news feed](http://sourceforge.net/export/rss2_projnews.php?group_id=122302&rss_fulltext=1) for any AS3 news.

When it becomes clear that Adobe actually took steps to make Open Source tools like this eclipse impossible to use with Adobe products, then at least someone will have syntax highlighting in eclipse—like the syntax highlighting for Flex in Vim.

Mike Potter of Adobe: “[Why open source developers can be excited about Flex](http://blogs.adobe.com/mikepotter/2006/06/why_open_source.html)” “First of all, the free Flex SDK includes the source code for the Flex components, and allows anyone to compile a Flex application at no cost. You are free to modify the Flex components as you need to. As a developer, you can now build a Flash application in VIM, run it through the compiler in the SDK, which works on Linux and Mac OS X, and build a .swf file.”
[compiler/flex.vim : Compiler plugin for Adobe Flex 2 compiler](http://www.vim.org/scripts/script.php?script_id=1746) “A simple Vim compiler plugin to run ':make' for Adobe Flex 2 MXML files… Currently, it works only with 'mxmlc'.”

The implication here is that I am willing to ‘retreat’ into Vim from eclipse before buying Flex Builder.

“[Flex 3 SDK and Eclipse working together](http://www.jakehilton.com/?q=node/27)” “I am still using the ASDT plugin for syntax highlighting. …ASDT may try to warn you of problems with the package declaration but you can ignore this. Hopefully ASDT will become more AS3 friendly soon.”
“[Developing for the Flash Platform using Linux](http://osflash.org/linux)” “There are several possibilities for creating Flash Content under Linux. The best choice for you depends on what language you’d like to program in, and what ActionScript Virtual Machine you’d like to target.”
“[Setting up Eclipse for Flex](http://www.darronschall.com/weblog/archives/000182.cfm)” This article explains how to use the [MXML](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MXML) XSD with eclipse (among other things). In case you cannot find this schema at Adobe (hmm…) you can pick up one from [falkensweb.com](http://falkensweb.com/other.html). Like ASDT, this schema is in the AS2 timeframe.
“[Creating a Simple MP3 Player using ActionScript 3.0 and Flex 2](http://kriggio.wordpress.com/2007/06/19/creating-a-simple-mp3-player-using-actionscript-30-and-flex-2/)” Articles like this one make me wonder why people are not using a combination of [MediaController](http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/15/asdocs_en/mx/controls/MediaController.html) and [MediaPlayback](http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/15/asdocs_en/mx/controls/MediaPlayback.html)—which seem to be ‘designed for’ video applications (but can work for MP3). I’m pretty sure I tried to experiment with these controls as well (but failed to journal about it!)
“[Playing an external MP3 file using MXML](http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/communityengine/index.cfm?event=showdetails&postId=501&productId=2&loc=en_US)” Another strange article from 2006 on the Adobe site that also does not mention [MediaController](http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/15/asdocs_en/mx/controls/MediaController.html) and [MediaPlayback](http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/15/asdocs_en/mx/controls/MediaPlayback.html).
“[Flex xml mp3 player](http://code.google.com/p/xmlmp3player/)” An excellent open MP3 player at Google Code. I can’t use it because it is ‘too’ open—as it does not allow the obfuscation of MP3 sources to discourage near-casual unauthorized copying.

Comments

Ed, 2007-11-13 23:38:30

The biggest issue I had was Flex is not multi-platform.

It is simply hard for me to tell anyone to develop on a presentation platform that does not scale out to non-desktop, Web-based devices.

rasx(), 2007-11-14 06:56:46

Adobe AIR is supposed to address this concern but I am unable to be excited about it right now...

Ken Riggio, 2007-11-14 08:02:43

With regards to "why people are not using a combination of MediaController and MediaPlayback," for me it is simply naivity. :) When I wrote the articles I was very new to Flex and ActionScript. In fact, I am still really new to Flex And ActionScript. However, articles like yours are great because they further introduce me to these, probably, better alternatives for inspiration. I think you may have just inspired me to go and write a new article and apply lessons learned and a more efficient/modern approach towards my previous implementation.

rasx(), 2007-11-14 20:12:16

Hey, Ken, the more I can inspire you, the more you can help me!

Ed, 2007-11-14 23:15:34

I just saw Adobe Air - it looks similar to Microsoft Expression Blend. Still looks like it is stuck on the physical desktop but I will look into it further to see what it is really about.

Ken Riggio, 2007-11-15 04:45:45

After doing some investigation on how I could use the MediaController and MediaPlayback Components, I found that these components are not part of the Flex SDK distribution. Are these components only part of the Flex Builder product? Just curious if these components are openly available or part of a restricted set of components that are only available if you buy Flex Builder or Flash.

rasx(), 2007-11-15 19:35:20

Ed: Adobe has this other thing called Flash Mobile that should allow Flex builds to run on it. But, you are right: Adobe AIR is stuck on the desktop and does not provide a clear mobile device alternative. My assumption is that you would have recompile twice with (perhaps) two versions of your build: one for the AIR desktop and one for Flash Mobile.

Ken: Your report suggests another unbelievably cheap trick from Macromedia/Adobe. I'm going to research this issue and see just how far this goes into cheapskate-land...

rasx()