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AIR Sample Application – Movie Trailers

If you haven’t heard Adobe announced that the next dot version of Flash Player will include support for h.264 video and AAC Audio Support (I realize that this is over simplifying it a bit – there are some things that are supported and some things that aren’t – if you want more info – Read Here). Daniel Dura also stated that h.264 / AAC support with be in AIR no later than Air 1.0.

I already have big plans for this. Just for fun, I decided to try and make a prototype of an application that would display movie trailers from Apple. This initial version of the application does nothing more than display an interface very similar to Apple’s Frontrow (see Frontrow at Flickr). Once AIR supports the new h.264 standards, I will integrate the video into this as well. As for now, selecting a video simply opens a web browser to the trailer page. Pressing “f” goes into fullscreen mode.

WARNING: With the Beta version of AIR – if you use the navigateToURL function [ Flex | Javascript ], Firefox will occasionally not take “focus”, especially if you are in Fullscreen mode. So, if you click an item 3 times, if just opened three tabs.

NOTE: Just another great comment about Flex – I build this whole application in about three hours (and most of that was figuring out how to best parse the Apple RSS).

I will release the source code once the full application is complete (this will be part of a bigger application). However, the sample AIR (and again, it doesn’t do a whole lot yet), is available below.

Whoa. You need to install Adobe Flash Player.

Fixing Word 2007 in Vista

Many of us use Microsoft Office on occasion. I also know that many of you have programs installed that add plug-ins to Microsoft Office – specifically Microsoft Word. I have found that most of the plug-ins work perfectly in Windows XP, but a few of them can create chaos on a Vista machine. I ran into issues with two plug-ins: SnagIt (major problems) and Contribute (minor issues). First, allow me to say that I use both of these programs on a regular basis – and I love them both (I use SnagIt to grab all of my screen images for blogging and office documentation).

I was experiencing the following issues:

  • Couldn’t select text with the mouse on occasion (helped improve my keyboard skills, though)
  • Word wouldn’t ever shutdown properly
  • The initial window had changed (the window that allows you to select what type of document you want to create)

As developers, I assume some of you have had issues with plug-ins – so I figured that I would share how I overcame these issues. First, I must tell you that my solution involves deactivating the “problem plug-ins” not fixing them.

All that is needed is a simple registry adjustment. Go to command and type “regedit” (this will bring up the UAC unless you have disabled it). Once in regedit – navigate to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\Word\Addins”. This folder should contain a folder for each “Addin” (plug-in) that is installed in Word (see below).

Inside each folder each plug-in has a key named “LoadBehavior”.

If you click on the “LoadBehavior” key and change the value to 0 – it will not be loaded at runtime by Word.

By doing this, you can experiment and see which plug-ins are causing the issue. Once discovered, you can leave them off. Restart Word, and you should be working properly.

Announcing Blog Series – AIR Tips

If you haven’t started working with the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) – you need to. For web developers it opens up the whole world of the desktop – using only the tools that you are already familiar with (Flash/Flex or HTML/Javascript). The AIR Tips Series will deliver quick examples of specific AIR functionality. You should be able to take 5 minutes and read through the entire tip. For most topics, we will cover both HTML / Javascript and Flex examples. I will also intersperse some applications that I am currently working on. I will post roughly 5 tips a week for the next several weeks.

Speeding Up Microsoft Vista

I was initially frustrated to see that my powerhouse desktop at the office was running about as fast as an old laptop in “power save” mode. I was also equally frustrated to see that many tutorials on how to speed up Microsoft Vista involved turning off almost all of the features that make Vista visually appealing. At that point I started a quest to find a handful of items that could speed up my Vista installation, but that would still preserve most of the features I love.

I can’t claim that these tips will work for everyone, but they helped me. Also, there are some much more detailed tutorials if you want to dive into the registry for some performance boosts.

NOTE: I am working on Vista Enterprise 32-Bit. Most of these options should work on all other versions of Vista, but the visual tweaks will not be present on Vista Basic.

TIP 1: Turning off Indexing

One of the things that usually can slow down a Vista installation is the Indexing service. Why is it there? It allows Windows to keep an index of all of the files in your user directory (and a few other directories) so that you can search for a file quickly. If you don’t organize you files, and you would like to be able to search for items quickly, leave this on. However, I would be willing to wait a bit longer for a search result if I can have better performance most of the time.

First, open up your control panel and click on the “Programs and Features” button. You should see a similar window to the one below.

Click on the area highlighted above, “Turn Windows features on or off”. You should then see the window below:

If you wish to turn off the indexing service, uncheck the box next to “Indexing Service”. You may also want to investigate what other items to turn on or off. Personally, I usually check “Telnet Client” so that I can run telnet from the command line (to check ports on remote servers). I also turned off “Tablet PC Optional Components” and “Windows Fax and Scan” – because I do not use these features.

TIP 2: Turn off the Sidebar

Now, I was a bit reluctant to do this one, because generally I like the Sidebar. However, if you add some gadgets (a few in particular), the Sidebar’s memory usage will skyrocket over time. If you would like to keep the Sidebar, I would recommend only using gadgets that have a low memory usage.

To turn off the Sidebar, first, find the Sidebar icon on the taskbar (first icon shown below).

Right-click on the icon and select “Properties”. You should then see the window below.

Uncheck the box that says “Start Sidebar when Windows starts”. Upon restart, the Sidebar will not startup. If you wish to close the Sidebar immediately, you can right-click the taskbar icon and select close.

TIP 3: Turn off Transparency

I like the Aero interface, so I didn’t want to turn off all of the visual bells and whistles. However, there is minimal visual change when you disable transparency – but some pretty big performance gains.

To turn off transparency, right click on the Desktop and select “Personalize” and then click “Window Color and Appearance”. You should see the window below.

Uncheck the “Enable Transparency” box.

TIP 4: Enabling Disk Caching

WARNING: Only enable disk caching if you are using an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS). If you lose power – you could lose data with this option. If you are on a laptop – don’t use this tip.

If you do have a UPS, go to your Control Panel. Click on “System” and then on the left side click “Device Manager”. You should see the box below.

Click on the “Disk Drives” option and then click on your desktop’s internal hard drive(s). Right click and select properties. In the next window, select the “Policies” tab. You should see the window below.

Be sure the two highlighted boxes are checked to take full advantage of Drive Caching.

TIP 5: Updates

Microsoft recently released two updates for Vista.

  1. Compatibility and Reliability – helps with program compatibility
  2. Performance and Reliability – improves memory management and overall performance

These options will probably be included in SP1, but Microsoft has made them available right now. Some people have said that it has slowed down their systems, but it has sped mine up.

I would love to hear everyone’s comments on what sped up your Vista system.

Update – More Pownce Invites

I have even more Pownce invites. If you are an AIR Developer (or want to be) this is a good chance to use a real-world application. Also, this has been a good resource for me to discuss with other developers and exchange files while I work. Just comment – and let me know where you want me to send the invite.

Highlights of the onAir Adobe Bus Tour – Part 3

Quick Reminder: My photos can be viewed here. All of the photos from all the attendees can be viewed here.

Ben Forta’s presentation was great (as always) – although I wish they had given him a bit more time to dive into some more extensive CF / AIR integration examples. He demonstrated the two different application wizards that are in Flex Builder / Eclipse. He then took the AJAX Aplication and Integrated it into an AIR Application. As you may have guessed, this was a breeze with AIR. After the application was created with the wizard, he just created a new AIR project with a single HTML control – and set the location to the AJAX Application. Obviously there are multiple ways to do this – but Ben did a great job showing the simplicity of it all. On a side note, I love to see people’s reactions the first time they use these wizards – most people are absolutely floored.

Many other people shared the stage. All of the presentations had value. Some were better than others, but that is to be expected. Overall, I would rate this conference a 9 out of 10. I can’t wait to see what Max will be like this year.

For some great sample AIR code, I would recommend checking out the code used for the onAir Tour Bus Applications. You can get that here. Some of that code is a bit advanced. I will be posting some beginner tutorials over the next few days. Stay tuned.

Once again, great job Adobe.

Highlights of the onAir Adobe Bus Tour – Part 2

After the introductory sessions, Kevin Hoyt jumped right into some awesome stuff with Script Bridging between Javascript and Actionscript 3. He showed a simple Flex / Actionscript AIR application that was able to access the DOM of an HTML page and manipulate it. I never thought I would be able to call “getElementById” within a Flex application! It was pretty amazing how much of the HTML Control is exposed to work with in AIR.

Daniel Dura came up next to discuss the AIR API items. He started off with a great description of the Windowing API. I learned quite a bit about this. As a matter of fact, I learned so much, that this will become a blog post in and of itself in the weeks ahead. He also covered the File API, Service Monitoring API, Drag / Drop / Clipboard API, and briefly touched on the embedded database API.

Christian Cantrell presented the details of the embedded database – and did an excellent job. I have seen him on video before – he is a very good presented – mainly due to the fact that he certainly knows what he is talking about. He a great comparison between the synchronous and asynchronous methods of database interaction as well as some great information for how the classes interact. This is one of the areas I have not touched in AIR yet, so I am now really looking forward to getting around to that. Also, if this is a topic that interests you, you might want to check out the blog of Christophe Coenraets.

One of the big highlights of the afternoon was a presentation by an attendee, Alan (I apologize for not hearing your last name – comment if you read this). He developed a multi-track audio editor in AIR that works with wav files (yes, I said wav files, not mp3′s). Obviously this was extra cool to me since my degree was in audio production – and I have spent years working with applications such as Pro Tools and Digital Performer. Not only could he read in the wav files, but he could bounce a mix out to a wave file as well. He also had all of the customary bells and whistles (visual representation of the waveforms, time zoom, cut / paste / copy / trim regions, etc…). I am very excited about this application. Now, I am not saying that I will be abandoning Pro Tools, but this is a great proof-of-concept for AIR – and could be integrated into a lot of types of rich applications.

UPDATE: The developer’s name is Alan Queen. If I can find a URL for the application, I will post it here also. However, he stated it was in pre-Alpha – so it might be a bit.

Highlights of the onAir Adobe Bus Tour – Part 1

The Adobe onAir Bus Tour in Atlanta was absolutely amazing today. The setup was near perfect at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. As I mentioned earlier, there were at least two power strips on each row and they had a pretty good wireless network setup for all of us to use (it actually handled all the traffic very well).

The day opened with Mike Downey giving an overview of AIR highlighting both the current feature set as well as some hints as to the future direction of the Adobe Integrated Runtime. He demoed a few applications (many of which you may have seen on the Adobe Labs Site). He also highlighted and explained the AIR Installation Badge (more on this in a different blog posting). Mike also stated that the next version of AIR (Beta 2) will be release at (or around) Adobe Max 2007 – which is only a month away (see you guys there). He also stated that the final release of AIR will coincide with the release of Flex 3, Flex Builder 3, and the next version of Flash Media Server.

Mike Chambers followed with an overview of how AIR apps can be constructed using Flex. One of the things that amazed me about this presentation – was how Mike helped us to realize how much AIR is really doing behind the scenes. One small example of this was how AIR handles the Native OS Icon Support. By simply having a single transparent PNG (128 pixels square) AIR converts that into every resolution and file format needed by the different OS’s. Awesome.

Kevin Hoyt did a great job introducing how to create AIR applications with HTML / Javascript. All of my AIR applications to date were with Flex, so this was a great session. He demoed an absolutely beautiful HTML/JS AIR Application by Jack Slocum. You can see this application and Jack’s blog post about its creation here. It amazed me how developing in HTML/JS for AIR didn’t feel dramatically different than Flex. There are obvious differences, but with the Dreamweaver AIR Extensions on Adobe Labs, it really is smooth and easy.

This all was before lunch, and I considered this the “introduction” part of the conference. A lot of this was review, but I was amazed at how much I learned. In the next post I will cover the more advanced sessions from the conference.

This Blog Shown at the OnAir Bus Tour

I was surprised to look up at the screen and see my blog during the Adobe onAir Bus Tour in Atlanta. Come to find out, Mike Chambers was highlighting the fact that I was the first person to get images up on Flickr of the Atlanta stop of the tour.

Blog Shown at onAir Tour Atlanta

For having this recognition, I got a whole O’Reilly set of books dealing with Flex and AJAX (check out the picture below).

Books I Won at the onAir Tour Atlanta

OnAir Bus Tour Atlanta: Arriving

I just arrived here at the OnAir Bus Tour for Atlanta. I was delighted to find that they had Wi-Fi and power on each row. Sweet. I will try and post about each session as it is going on. I also will Pownce about it (http://www.pownce.com/mindmillmedia). Here are some photos of the venue. You can keep up with the event via this tag set at Flickr.

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