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Geeky business

December 12th, 2010 No comments

I thought its time to get my ass back to this “electronic typewriter” and do the writing exercise again. When I was working for Adobe they kinda forced me to do this … and I was grateful for that. I mean I love to search for answer and geeky stuff on Google and stumble on someone post that answer to my question. And this would not be possible if everybody was lazy like I was this year and didn’t want to share his hackings on this cool and crazy thing called The Internet.

Last 10 months were a very interesting ride for me to take. My decision to take a break from corporate world wasn’t planned in advance. It was more of an impulse thing following some health problem that I had at that time (I almost broke my back while playing tennis). Life in Adobe was not that great for me either as the business in the region got hit hard by the recession.  So I was kinda confused and scared. Scared because of my back issue.  Luckily I got a good advice from an childhood friend that told me: “Do you have enough money to stop working without freaking out about the cost  of living? Yeap, I said. Then just stop and after 2 months you will figure out!”.

And that is what I did. And I start thinking about taking a year off and going in Thailand. I even thought that would be not so hard to just do some small contract work and just linger there for some time. Then I thought about trying to get a PhD in social science. Social is the new cool thing today Smile. Oh, and speaking about social, I experimented also with social gaming but it didn’t took off. Not because the idea was not good but the team I joined then was more oriented to dreaming that to execution. Which made me think that the essential thing when you do a start-up is execution. More than a good idea.

Luckily I continued doing small consulting work cause I got bored in the afternoons (mornings were occupied by gym workouts with my back as the main beneficiary). And in one summer day a guy came to me wanting some custom Flex components. It sounded like fun as 20 years ago I started programming trying to do graphic things … on Z80 processors Smile. Working on these graphical components woke up the little geek in me. The other geeky part for this was that these components were designed to be used for visualizing data from Building Automation Systems. This gadget thing was another passion of my childhood. I still remember how I was trying to build a microphone out of a graphite bar and two razor blades.

The next thing I know was that after two months of crazy hacking I jumped into a plane to Los Angeles to meet the guy and I think it was an instant chemistry Smile. I found that this chemistry thing is important when you work with somebody. Another two months of hacking and here I am totally sold to the idea and I am about to open an office here in Romania (I am very reluctant leaving this country … although everybody tells me to do so) and start moving the hacking to a new level Smile. The company is called J2 Innovative Concepts and we are building some sort of a Visual Basic for devices (as I like to call it).

So I promise you to keep posting new technical stuff while I build the “next big thing”. I still do a lot of Air and Flash but now I look how I can make these technologies to be the front-end of microcontrollers, sensors and other geeky stuff Smile

What can I say, it seems that at least for me nothing beats hacking when it comes to fill a boring summer afternoon.

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Enterprise RIA = Transport Tycoon

October 7th, 2009 No comments

I’ve just saw one of the coolest application ever at the MAX Day 2 Keynote. You might think that it’s something about entertainment or a new tweeter thing :) . Well no, the coolest application I’ve seen in a while was actually a business application. FedEx built an app to monitor critical packages (like artwork or cryogenic stuff). And it looks like Transport Tycoon if you remember the old game. You can manage a whole fleet using an app that looks very much like a strategy game. Only that this is for real, with real stuff, real events and real money. Who would have believed 10-15 years ago that the strategy games we played will become the management tools of today. Now I realize that this is not just the RIA and Flex. It’s about building a large interactive system, with sensors,
geolocation, all the hardware and the communication infrastructure. Flex and LCDS was only the cherry on top of the whole thing. I think these kinds of applications are way beyond “cool”. You can really feel the difference that these systems bring in productivity and eventually in our life. I wish we had such applications internally at Adobe :D . Watch out for the MAX Day 2 video, which should be posted soon on AdobeTV.

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Data-Centric Development with Flash Builder 4 @MAX

August 19th, 2009 1 comment

These days I’ve worked to finish my Max BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) lab. It’s about how you can easily develop data-centric front ends using the new data features in Flash Builder 4. I will be presenting this lab together with Enrique Duvos.

In this 90-min hands-on lab you will be building data-driven front ends that connect to either PHP, Java or ColdFusion … yeah we prepared materials for all these back-ends. I can’t wait to see how this will work live.

Plus you will add some advanced pieces of functionality like paging through large record-sets and client-side data management. If I got you interested then you can already  book your place in the room using Adobe MAX scheduler.

And if you have not registered yet for MAX, please take a look at the following two entries from Andrew Shorten and Serge Jespers. There are great discounts available!!!

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BEST Engineering Competition – PixelBender Contest

May 20th, 2009 2 comments

Adobe Romania sponsored the IT contest of BEC Competition in Bucharest. This is a cool competition organized by BEST Europe wide. I had the pleasure to choose the IT contest and I thought that a little math neuron twisting might be just great for these talented future engineers.

And I wasn’t wrong. After just two hours since their first encounter with the PixelBender language and PixelBender Toolkit here is what they did with my poor face … using only numerical algorithms that PixelBender runs in parallel:

 

You can take a look at the PixelBender kernels here.

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New York Times on your desktop – version 2.0

May 11th, 2009 Comments off

Picture 5 The New York Times has just released an app for reading the newspaper on the desktop. You can get it at http://timesreader.nytimes.com. 

The first question that I asked myself was: Why wasn’t the browser enough for them? Why do you need a desktop app for viewing some pictures and text?

Then something popped into my head. I asked myself: When do I read the newspaper? Well, I read the news in the metro, when waiting in line for something, when sitting on the … well toilet … and sometimes on weekend mornings while still in bed. Except for the weekend mornings (when I read it on my laptop) at all other times I use a mobile device. And the experience on the mobile device is less than stellar.

Now one thing that I immediately noticed about TimesReader was how easy it is to navigate and how nice it resizes (The resize is way tooooo cool). And that is when ‘that something’ popped into my head: This is perfect for devices that are NOT standard PCs. I mean it is cool for PCs too but it might not justify the effort when the browser might be good enough (except that you can also download a week’s worth of content and read it offline). But if you have something that you can hold in your hand and read it on the metro, this kind of interaction is just PERFECT.

I think this piece of software could be the beginning of a revolution. If you take this reader, add reasonable cheap tablet PCs or capable phones and a runtime that can run consistently on all these hardware … well it sounds like a revolutionary way to deliver a newspaper in a digital way. (I know Adobe AIR is not yet on my phone, but I urge the engineers to hurry up). Why? Because this way a digital newspaper can really pass the hardest test of all: Can you read it easily when sitting on the toilet?

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Environmental Friendly Bug Killing @ bugquash

May 8th, 2009 Comments off

It is said that reading other peoples code is 10x times harder than writing yours. That’s why I think that solving bugs (without messing everything up around them) is more of an art and black magic than a science. I find it easier to teach architecture and algorithms than debugging.

So if you think that you’re a black belt programmer then come and measure your Kung Fu skills against Flex Framework bugs (yeah you can do this because Flex is an Open Source framework). Killing these bugs does not harm the environment and the entire Flex community will benefit.

So on the 17th of may we will attack them again in an organized manner. You can participate from wherever your are. Find more about the Bug Quash at bugquash.com.

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Moving the session from Flex to AIR – PHP Version

May 5th, 2009 3 comments

p>Recently I was working to enable a common workflow for a Flex application in the browser and an AIR application. So basically your Flex application is working in a Browser, it does some stuff there and then you decide you want to move everything into an AIR app, let’s say because your user just decided in the middle of the workflow that he wants to switch to the AIR app that you provide.

So now the state of the application needs to move between Flex and AIR and it would be nice if you could move the server session from the browser application to AIR.

For this example I will use PHP as a server side technology but it will work very similar for other server technologies as well. Basically I want to:

  • get the session ID/cookie in the Flex Application
  • send it over to the AIR application
  • use the session ID in the AIR application to make requests that will access the same session as in the browser

Getting the session ID in the Flex Application

First I need to get the the session ID from the Flex App. One simple way to do that is to just grab the whole cookies string. This can be done through the ExternalInterface mechanism. So I inject a little JavaScript function that gets the cookies string from the browser and then call it:

ExternalInterface.call('eval','window.cookieStr = function () {return document.cookie};')
var cookieStr:String = ExternalInterface.call('cookieStr');

 

Communicating with the AIR App

 

To communicate with the AIR app I use LocalConnection. In the AIR app I register to an inbound connection:

var inbound:LocalConnection = new LocalConnection();
inbound.allowDomain('localhost');
inbound.client = new Object();
inbound.client.notifyMe = function (cookieStr:String):void {
    //add Code here to use the Cookie String
}
inbound.connect("session");

 

and in the Flex App I register to an outbound connection and call the notifyMe() function

outbound.connect("session");
outbound.send("app#phpSessionAIR:session","notifyMe",cookieStr);
//outbound.send("app#phpSessionAIR.F0B3F68E1857B8A07069FED1D0638CAF200F76EB.1:session","notifyMe",cookieStr);
outbound.close(); 

 

Please notice that when launching from Flex Builder, the AIR Application has no Publisher ID so the connection name is “app#phpSessionAIR:session”. After packaging and installation, the AIR app will get a Publisher ID and the connection name will be something like this: app#phpSessionAIR.F0B3F68E1857B8A07069FED1D0638CAF200F76EB.1:session

You can get the publisher ID of the installed AIR App by looking into META-INF/AIR/publisherid file within the application install directory.

 

Use the session id in the Air App

Now all that remains to be done is to use the cookies string when making the next request from the AIR app:

var myService:HTTPService = new HTTPService();
myService.url = "http://localhost/phpSessionFlex/sessionGet.php";
myService.headers.Cookie = cookieStr;
myService.send();

 

Here are the source files for the AIR and the Flex App

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Adobe Developer Day – Bucharest

April 29th, 2009 Comments off

Next to my desk sits a crazy lady named Magda. A few months ago Ben Forta, the “father” of all evangelists at Adobe, told us he would like to pay us a visit. So the crazy lady I mentioned thought: “If Ben is coming to Bucharest why not have him speak with the local Flex community? And if he speaks with the local Flex community, why not have all the evangelists speak with them? That might attract some people. And if these people come, maybe we can move the AIR team to leave their coding for a day and also talk with them. And if there are so many interesting people there maybe not only the Flex and AIR community will show up but also other people that are interested in our technologies. … and if … what the heck let’s just make a BIG Event and invite everyone!”

So she did that! And it’s going to take place on 19 May at Hotel Intercontinental. Here is the schedule (it might change a little but not too much):

  Main room Speaker
9:30-10:00 Registration  
10:00-10:15 Introduction – Agenda Alexandru Costin
10:15-11:15 Adobe and RIA Ben Forta
11:15-11:45 Making of Adobe Romania Digby Horner
11:45-12:00 Coffee break  
12:00-13:30 Flex for Enterprise Cornel Creanga
13:30-14:30 Lunch  
14:30-15:30 Flex 4 SDK and Flash Catalyst Mihai Pricope
15:30-16:00 Intro to ColdFusion for Enterprise Ben Forta
16:00-16:45 InContextEditing – First Adobe Romania Product Lucian Cozma
16:45-17:30 Mobile Mpackager Mihai Pricope
17:30-18:00 Flash Player 10 – FMS Cornel Creanga
18:00-18:30 Closing session  

Oh … and there’s more. We have some bootcamps (you can call them hands on seminars if you like) also:

Bootcamp room Speaker
11:30-12:00 Open Doors Alexandru Costin + Upper Management
12:00-13:30 Pixel Bender Skinning Bootcamp

Dragos Dascalita
14:00-14:30 Open Doors Dragos Georgita+ AIR team
14:30-16:30 BlazeDS + LCDS Bootcamp Advanced Mihai Corlan + Cornel Creanga
16:30-18:30 Introduction to Flex and AIR Bootcamp Mihai Corlan

Ah … still more, Digby Horner, the man who was behind the InterAKT acquisition and the opening of the Romanian campus will be there too. And also some guys from management, they call themselves “upper management”. And they are open for questions about our campus too.

I hope you are convinced by now to book 19 May for Adobe Developer Day.

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PixelBender Photo Booth for Valentine’s Day

February 10th, 2009 2 comments

This is gonna be a cheese post :) . So I’ve took a my last PixelBender stuff and I’ve made a little Photo Booth for Valentine’s day.

Here’s a lovely picture with me and Mihai.

myPict

Make your own picture here. You can download the sources here.

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GoDaddy – account problems – Anybody can help?

October 13th, 2008 Comments off

Some of our sites (mine, Mihai‘s and Cornel‘s) have been down in the last 24-48h due to an account problem with GoDaddy. We had an account (at about 10$/month) with them with an limited HDD quota (about 150MB). Somehow we surpassed that quota without noticing (no big red thing, no warnings) … and we got a 7000$ bill. We called support and they say we surpassed our HDD quota by 58% but they didn’t want to say for how long or any other info. We asked why they didn’t upgrade at the next account level which is 14$/month, unlimited HDD quota. They say they can do that now . So we paid the new account … but then they said that we still own them 800$ (don’t know what computation they did to come up with this) and because of that they can’t give us access to the old account and they cannot migrate the DB .

I personally believe that this is unacceptable way of doing business.

Because of that it might take some time to get all the posts back (we have some back-ups and long live Google Cache). If anyone lived that before and solved (without paying a ton of money to GoDaddy) … or can help us in some way we would be more that grateful!

You can see a more romanced post at Mihai’s Blog as he dealt with them on the phone.

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