Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New FLex-AJAX Libraries on Adobe Labs.

Two new pre-release Flex libraries are going up on labs in the next couple hours:
> Ajax Data Services library http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Ajax_Data_Services
> Flex Ajax Bridge (FABridge) update http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Flex-Ajax_Bridge

AJAX Data Services is a new JavaScript library that lets you access the powerful messaging and data management capabilities of Flex Data Services directly from JavaScript. With this library, you can integrate application clients built using Ajax technologies with the same back-end data services used by Flex application clients. This means that data from Flex applications can now be automatically synchronized with other Ajax applications, ensuring that both users see the most current, accurate information.

Significant updates have also been made to the Flex-Ajax Bridge (FABridge), which, as you know, allows JavaScript-enabled components to inter operate with Flex-enabled components embedded in the same web page.

Using both FABridge and the new Ajax Data Services library, you can now leverage the full benefits of both the Flex programming model and Flex Data Services, providing full interoperability with existing or new Ajax applications.

Both of these libraries are planned to be added to upcoming versions of Flex Data Services. If you use them, please let us know what you think by leaving a comment here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

PDF Specification released to AIIM/ISO

Adobe announced it will release the entire PDF specification (current version 1.7) to the International Standards Organization (ISO) via AIIM. PDF has reached a point in it’s maturity cycle where maintaining it in an open standards manner is the next logical step in evolution. Not only does this reinforce Adobe’s commitment to open standards (see also my earlier blog on the release of flash runtime code to the Tamarin open source project at Sourceforge), but it demonstrates that open standards and open source strategies are really becoming a mainstream concept in the software industry.

So what does this really mean? Most people know that PDF is already a standard so why do this now? This event is very subtle yet very significant. PDF will go from being an open standard/specification and defacto standard to a full blown du jure standard. The difference will not affect implementers much given PDF has been a published open standard for years. There are some important distinctions however. First – others will have a clearly documented process for contributing to the future of the PDF specification. That process also clearly documents the path for others to contribute their own Intellectual property for consideration in future versions of the standard. Perhaps Adobe could have set up some open standards process within the company but this would be merely duplicating the open standards process, which we felt was the proper home for PDF. Second, it helps cement the full PDF specification as the umbrella specification for all the other PDF standards under the ISO umbrella such as PDF/A, PDF/X and PDF/E. The move also helps realize the dreams of a fully open web as the web evolves (what some are calling Web 2.0), built upon truly open standards, technologies and protocols. It also makes me immensely proud to be an Adobe Evangelist.

Adobe will continue to work hard to innovate on and around the PDF standard going forward.

I personally want to acknowledge some key individuals who are external to Adobe that were instrumental in the process. Bob Sutor (IBM), James Governor (Redmonk) and Gary Edwards (Open Stack) instilled upon myself and others at Adobe that embracing a course of open standards makes good business sense and is good for the community. Gary, James, Bob – thank you! The talks we had back in May 2005 were an inspiration for me.

To find out more on this, we are also hosting a blogger chat live at 17:00 Pacific Time Monday January 29, 2007 at http://my.adobe.acrobat.com/pdfconversations. If you want to blog about this, please feel free to join in. Space is limited. Leonard Rosenthol has published the history of PDF on his blog at http://www.acrobatusers.com/blogs/leonardr/history-of-pdf-openness. It is very well written and contains lots of supplemental information. The official Adobe FAQ’s are linked from http://www.adobe.com/pdf/release_pdf_faq.html. Last but not least, please leave a comment here and let me know what you think. I read all comments.

Yet another person who thinks they can crack PDF Security

Here we go again. This week, Universe Software announced that they have a tool that can crack security protected PDF documents. I have stopped writing about these types of claims since I debunked all of them by issuing a $500 challenge for anyone who can crack this PDF document in this blog post.

Given this has been live for over one year and not a single person (including those who have claimed they can crack it) has been able to crack it, I would suspect once more that last week's announcement by Universe is also complete bunk. However, I sent them an email and if it is not, they can crack it, post their success here and collect $500 from me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Air Canada goes too far ($2.00 for a blanket)

Okay. I can get used to no food on flights or paying for food. I can get used to limited magazines on the flight, paying for alcohol, paying fuel surcharges, smaller seats and the other cost cutting things airlines or doing. In some cases, paying for meals actually makes sense since now it seems the food selections are better on short haul flights (I usually ride in business or first class anyways).

What I cannot understand is why Air Canada charged me two dollars for a blanket rental. Honestly, does it make that much of a difference? Can it even be rationalized given they are a public company and have to hire accountants to conduct blanket inventory and account for blanket revenues?

I am also pissed about this because the damn airplane was *really cold*. I had enough clothes on that I was NOT cold outside the airport in Vancouver, but got chilled during the flight. I initially resisted buying a blanket but gave in 3 hours into the flight. It seems however, I was too late; I seem to have picked up some sort of cold myself as a result. Feh!!!

If I get pissed off and don't use Air Canada for the next 6 months (statistically, that is about $30-40,000 worth of business from me alone), how many blankets do they have to sell to recoup that loss? I guess that is 20,000 blankets minus the costs of accounting for blankets (do they charge GST on domestic flights?). I am interested to know why and I am hereby inviting someone from Air Canada to comment on this blog and tell me why. In the meantime, I am not booking any new flights on Air Canada until I get an answer.

Add a comment if you join me in this boycott.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Flash Player 9 for Linux and Open Source

The Flash Player 9 for Linux was released yesterday via the Adobe website and can be freely downloaded. I want to thank all of you who took time to write me personally about this for having faith and letting us get the job done we needed to do. The Linux community is very important to Adobe.

I also want to encourage Linux community members to also participate in the open source Flash Player scripting engine project at Mozilla. The Tamarin project will implement the final version of the ECMAScript Edition 4 standard language, which Mozilla will use within the next generation of SpiderMonkey, the core JavaScript engine embedded in Firefox®, Mozilla’s free Web browser. As of today, developers working on SpiderMonkey will have access to the Tamarin code in the Mozilla CVS repository via the project page located at www.mozilla.org/projects/tamarin/ . Contributions to the code will be managed by a governing body of developers from both Adobe and Mozilla.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Flex Camp (Bay area only)

My good friend and colleague Ted Patrick has asked me to extend an invitation to any Bay areas denizens who may be interested in coming to the Adobe San Francisco Office to get under the hood of Flex a bit more. This would also encompass interests in Apollo.

Evangelism is hosting a "Meet the Flex Team" in San Francisco at Adobe Thursday, Jan 25 5-8pm. The event information is provided here:


If you plan to attend, register for the event.

Also please reach out to contacts in the bay area who are using Flex/Flash or in the web development market.

The Meet the Flex team session at Max2006 was a lot of fun and we expect this event to be similar. We will do some demos of Flex 201 and Apollo and will have a general QA session. The goal is to make Flex and Adobe more approachable and transparent in line with Flex25 goals. Plus it should also be a fun evening with our development community.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How truly open is Flash? Do we need "Open Flash"?

This is a post made by David Mendels that inspired me to get this message out. I too have noticed that a few people Still perceive Flash as a proprietary technology. If you are one of those, read this then ask yourself the two questions at the end. I had a completely different view of Flash before Adobe and Macromedia merged.

David writes:

(Some basic points)
  1. The Flash programming language (ActionScript) is 100% ECMASCript, a standard with multiple implementations and is open. You can script using ActionScript with a plain old text editor.
  2. The internal Flash Player VM, “Tamarin” is an open source project run by the Mozilla foundation (donated by Adobe).
  3. The Flash file format, *.SWF is a published format.
  4. The Adobe Flash Player (the reference implementation) is free. So are several others like the Gnash player.
  5. The Flash Player is available on Mac, Windows, Linux, Playstation, Nintendo Wii, Symbion, and many other platforms.
  6. An SDK for building, compiling, debugging Flash applications is available for free on Mac, Windows and Linux
  7. There are over 100 third party, free, commercial, open source and closed source products that produce, edit, generate, and otherwise manipilate Flash files, Flash Video files, etc.
  8. There is a very active Open Source community around the Flash runtime. For better or worse (I do work for Adobe -;) many many people take full advantage of the Flash Player without using any commercial products from Adobe (or anyone belse). See http://www.osflash.org/ to get a good view of this.
  9. Flash itself makes use of several standards such as JPG, AVI, GIF and PNG's as outlined here.

There are numerous web based services (You Tube, BrightCove, etc) that convert to, host, deliver Flash Video without requiring the purchase or use of any commercial or proprietary technology.

Now, all that said, the Flash Player as a whole is not open source. There are a number of reasons for this, at least as of today. 2 primary reasons come to mind right now, but these are not immutable:

i. The desire to avoid bifurcation. Right now one can produce a SWF from any one of many tools/servers/services from many vendors and be 100% confident it will run across platform and across browsers. We experienced the impact of multiple slightly (or largely) incompatible implementations of HTML/JS browsers and of JVMs and both had a major impact to slow innovation and usage. One of the things our customers (developers/desginers/publishers) have told is us not to screw up the compatibility and ubiquity that have been the hallmark of Flash since day 1.
ii. There are technologies in the Flash Player for which we do not own the IP or the rights to open source it, for example, we have licensed our MP3 codec.

There is one more area where we are arguably not “open”. This relates to our licensing strategy on non-PC devices (eg Cell Phones). On these devices, we do license the Flash Player for a royalty to device manufacturers and telco operators. It is still free from an end-user and developer perspective, but there are a lot of costs associated with these integrations.


My experience is that when people say they want “open”, there are usually 3 or 4 things they really want or need:

* No lock in. They don’t want adopt a technology that they may get “blackmailed” to pay money for in the future. I think we have addressed this fairly well by making the Flash Player and SDK free.

* Integration. They want the technology stack they work with to work with the rest of their stack and tool chain. This requires appropriate use of standards (eg. we support XML over HTTP, Web Services, ECMAScript, CSS, integration with multiple IDE and Source Code management systems, etc) and well crafted and well documented APIs. I think we have this area covered too, but I’d like to hear about concerns.

* Leverage existing skills. By using standards, one does not get locked into skills that can not be found generally in the market and that will be obsolete in the near term. This is why we standardized on ECMAScript. This is why we have an Eclipse based tool. This is why we enable development with a purely ASCII text format to fit into other systems. This is why we leveraged CSS in the Flex framework, etc. I think we have this covered too, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

* Ability to fix bugs/issues without depending on a vendor. From a tool chain perspective, one can choose to work in an entirely open source toolchain for the creation of SWFs, so this is covered. From the runtime perspective, this is arguably a barrier. That said, I don’t hear a lot of folks who have actual concerns about our “stewardship” of the Flash Player in this regard. I’d love to have your perspecitve.

Questions for the public:

* What does “Open Flash” actually mean to you? Have we done a good job of balancing the interests of implementers and developers without hindering innovation?

* What specific problem(s) does “Open Flash” solve that are not addressed by our current “openness”