FOTB 2010 Day 1

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

This is my fourth Flash on the Beach (FOTB) conference, and I’m getting the pattern of the start of the first day now. I got to the dome around 8:55 and walked past the sad queue of folk still trying to register at the last moment. They were going to miss the keynote as FOTB doesn’t do rapid registration and it doesn’t wait for them. Grabbing a cup of tea, I then hung around outside the hall until 9:10 when we were let in for the 9:00 Keynote session. Since he’s a stickler for timing, I can only assume this persistent late start must drive the event organiser, John Davey, crazy.

The keynote kicked off with a hilarious “Brighton’s got talent” boy band parody, which featured someone with a giant Steve Jobs head as the special guest star. His clothes were ripped off to reveal a Flash suit beneath. Normally I’m not a fan of victors gloating, but Apple’s boss deserved being laughed at in this way. His orchestration of a ridiculous Apple v Flash battle earlier this year that he is now slowly losing achieved nothing other than to force folk into us v them camps. Not everyone appreciated it though. I was next to a guy who sat stone-faced through the whole thing.

We were then treated to a series of “sneak peeks” of the next versions of Flash Player, Flash Pro, Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder. The feature that appeared to wow the conference the most was GPU support in the next Flash Player in OS X. This offers a massive reduction in CPU usage when rendering 1080P video for example.

Inside Flash CS5 Pro
Next up was a session on Flash Pro by Richard Galvan. As I won a copy of CS5 Web Premium recently, I’m keen to learn how to use such tools. The hall was fairly empty as Richard was on at the same time as the ever popular Grant Skinner and the rising star, Conrad Winchester. I found the session really useful though, especially the parts of integration of Flash Pro with Flash Builder and the new XFL file format.

Flash Components in Flex apps
This year, FOTB introduces a great new fourth track at the Lighthouse, a small modern looking conference centre close to the main venues. It was off there for my next session of the day for a “hands on” with Mike Jones. He took us through a feature of FlashBuilder 4 that I didn’t know existed: direct support for flash components. Drag a Flash Pro component onto the container in design view and an “edit in Flash Pro” button appears. Clicking this launches Flash Pro. You edit your component and click done and at that point it’s compiled into a SWC and imported into FB4.

The session involved a lot of timeline stuff, which I’m really not at all familiar with, but it was a great introduction to this topic for me. Definitely one to play with in the future.

Hot out of the Oven: Burrito and Panini
After lunch, it was back to the Lighthouse, this time for a more in-depth look at the upcoming versions of FlashBuilder and Flash Catalyst, codenamed Burrito and Panini respectively. The session was a joint one between the two products’ product managers, Andrew Shorten and Doug Winnie.

The single biggest “yes!” feature with Panini is that you can now edit the project in FlashBuilder and then re-import it into Catalyst. It is no longer a one way process. Burrito will now support creating a Catalyst-compatible project and will have a built-in compatibility checker. For now the compatibility checker will run in the IDE only, but Andrew seemed very receptive to the idea of making it an Ant/ command line compatible tool in the future.

A really nice looking up-coming feature is code completion on metadata. Apparently this will work with custom metadata too, by detailing it in an XML file that gets served up to Burrito.

Me time
None of the next sessions appealed to me, so I took some much needed time out to practice my elevator pitch.

Practice makes perfect, so what are you practising?
The last session of the day was a welcome return of Robert Hodgin. We were treated to some great generative art, clever blending use of physics and imagery and some pictures of amazing works of art he’s created with magnets. I don’t know if the audience were awe-struck, but a great thing for me is that people didn’t clap at everything, they saved up the applause until the end. We were watching the FOTB equivalent of opera, not some boy band doing naff crowd-pleasing cord changes and the lack of audience interruptions enhanced the experience.

So for me, the day came to a close (except for the two hours of rehearsals for the elevator pitch of course) and so ended a brilliant FOTB day one.