Anyone for SWX?

Being a Lewes-based developer who has recently started coding ActionScript, it was inevitable that I’d stumble across the name Aral Balkan. He is a Brighton-based Flash guru and a prolific blog writer. Definitely one to add to your RSS feed-reader in my view.

DatumThe reason for this post though is not so much to talk about Aral, but about something he is developing: SWX. He has often mentioned SWX on his blog, but until recently it hadn’t been obvious what SWX was, unless one went on a serious hunt though his website. He recently addressed this with a really good summary post. So now we all know: it’s yet another Flash/ server communications method. Despite being yet another communications method, it looks a promising one. All of the current methods (including AMFPHP) have big problems with them. SWX actually therefore looks a welcome addition to the list.

If you are interested in finding out more, check out the SWX website.

Google make adding maps to blogs as simple as cut-and-paste

Google is to release a great upgrade to Google Maps next week. Currently one can embed a map into a blog post, web page etc by using the API; but it isn’t a trivial task. Google are about to make the process a whole lot easier for us by making it a simple cut & paste task.

As a Google spokeswoman explains, “To embed a Google Map, users will simply pull up the map they want to embed–it can be a location, a business, series of driving directions, or a My Map they have created–and then click ‘Link to this page’ and copy and paste the HTML into their Web site or blog,”

About time too, I say!

Full story at CNET


As you can see below, the feature is released and is an absolute doddle to use. I created this custom map (with a place marker to “Lewes Cathedral”, ie the Harveys Brewery in my home town) and then simply cut and pasted the HTML that Google supplied to me into this post.

View Larger Map

GOA WinForms

Netika TechI came across what, at first glance at least, seems like a really useful product today: GOA WinForms. The idea behind it is simple, but really clever. Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) are applications that are supposed to work well both via a web page and when run directly from the desktop. They suffer from the problem that web applications rarely look, feel or work anything like “real” computer applications as they implement buttons, menus etc differently to operating system user-interface paradigms. The obvious solution is to implement a set of widgets in Flash, Silverlight, AIR etc that look and feel like those on the chosen operating system. This is no simple task though, and even if done well, one is still faced with potentially writing a “real” application and a RIA that do similar things, but that have wholly different widget APIs.

GOA WindForms addresses this problem in a novel way. The developer uses Visual Studio to create a .NET WinForm. That developer then uses GOA WindForms to turn the WinForm into Flash or Silverlight. Thus the developer can create an XP-style interface in their RIA with minimum effort.


I’d previously expressed concern that  the Pro version was in alpha with no price attached, just a vague “The price of the Professional Edition will be close to the prices of the controls libraries that you can find on the market today.” I pleased to report that Jean-Gabriel has now published the prices on his blog. So now you can use the alpha to see if it is a suitable solution without worrying about nasty surprises further down the line.

VS2008, Silverlight and JScript.NET. What went wrong?

VS2008Microsoft have been making much of the new JavaScript intellisence in VS2008 and have been promising it for the beta 2 release.

I am currently developing ActionScript apps, I have been very interested in Silverlight 1.1 with its .NET support and have been keeping a close eye on VS2008.

There is a reasonable chance that you will read the above two statements and not see the connection. The connection is a little publicised product: JScript.NET. Back in the days of .NET 1.0, Microsoft created a range of languages that could work with the Common Language Runtime (CLR): C#, J#, VB.NET, Managed C++ and JScript.NET. For reasons that I do not know, they decided to build support for all these languages, bar JScript.NET, into Visual Studio.NET. So JScript.NET suffered from little interest and fell by the wayside. The along came Silverlight 1.1, or so I feel the story should have gone…

Silverlight is designed to compete with Flash. I do not think that even Microsoft would deny the truth of that. Flash “movies” that do anything non-trivial contain ActionScript. Microsoft have an uphill struggle on their hands to get developers and designers to switch away from Flash in favour of Silverlight and anything they can do to ease the transition will be to their advantage. An obvious route is to promote JScript.NET as being similar to ActionScript. They did this with J# as a way of encouraging Java developers over to .NET. Converting from ActionScript to JScript.NET would be non-trivial, but would be by far the easiest route for porting existing libraries across.

So we come back to my interest in VS2008. With talk of JavaScript support in VS2008, I put 2 and 2 together: Microsoft are going to start supporting JScript.NET in VS2008.

Having downloaded VS2008 Beta2, it now looks like I put 2 and 2 together and got 5: there is no JScript.NET support to be seen. Hopefully I’m just missing the obvious; but I fear I’m not and that Microsoft are going to make it hard to migrate from Flash to SilverLight.

Where to begin?

MeThere is, in my view, a huge stumbling block to writing a blog: what to write in the first post? So I have decided the thing to do, is to write a short intro about me and what I hope to get from producing this blog.

I have been writing software now for just over 25 years. Things have changed a hell of a lot in that time. My first programming experiences were standing in WHSmiths at the weekend programming a Sinclair ZX81 looking forward to the day I could afford to buy one and program it at home. With its 1Kb of RAM and a “fast mode” that involved turning off the 256×192 pixel monochrome display to get the thing to run four times faster, it was pretty rubbish even 25 years ago. The software changes from those days have been dramatic too. From those early day, where BASIC and Machine Code were king to today, the changes have been huge. Anyone remember such programming gems as 100 GOTO A*1000?

Over the years I have tried out, and sometimes been employed to use, numerous languages: Basic, Prolog (a language I love, but sadly seems to have no real-world use beyond teaching people recursion techniques), RTL-2, Coral 66, C, C++, Ada (painful to use, but it taught me all about generics), Java, PHP, JavaScript and, most lately, ActionScript and C#. To mind mind, the best of these by far is the last one, C#. Its many features just seem to fit comfortably with the way I like to program. My least favourite moden language is JavaScript: its lack of class-based OO and the lack of data typing of variables are serious deficiencies. The other great “evil” of programming of course is pointers and it amazes me that people today still willingly use C and C++ with all the nasty problems that pointers bring to those languages.

So that is a very brief summary of where I’m coming from with software. With that out the way, I can start posting articles…