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Computing Thoughts
Last Week's Flex-AIR Jam
by Bruce Eckel
August 19, 2007
As promised, everyone moved their knowledge forward, and I personally felt like I turned a corner in my understanding; something clicked and came together.


Despite the last-minute restructuring of the event, we all had a good time.

Some people had significant experience and came to work on their own projects. James Ward sprinted with a team for a couple of days, working on an open source project. Some were there to explore the technology and get perspective.

Some started from scratch, and used my sequence of introductory exercises (these exercises evolved throughout the event). I selected a number of exercises and created solutions. Although I still got stuck at a number of points and got help from James, much of the time it felt like I was in the flow; FlexBuilder helped a lot with this via context help.

Everyone agreed that the next version of FlexBuilder should include some kind of Virtual James Ward feature where you can just turn and point at your code and he'll say "oh, you need to override this or respond to that event." Having the real thing at the workshop rocketed us all forward.

Hikes in the morning rather than the afternoon continues to be an obvious choice, better on multiple levels. Not sure why it took me so long to figure it out; probably the same reason that it took so long to start having events during ski season. (Contact me if you're interested in having me run a technical event or meeting for you here in Crested Butte).

Josh Holmes came from Microsoft and gave us an overview of Silverlight (See Josh's adventures in getting to Crested Butte via the Wrong Way as directed by Microsoft MapPoint). I found this quite surprising because I assumed it was a me-too technology, but what we saw was highly impressive (They are even building support for both Python and Ruby right into Silverlight, something I also hope will happen with Flex). Although it's fascinating and compelling, the fact that Microsoft is not saying whether they'll support Linux is still a deal-breaker; "cross-platform including Windows and OSX but not Linux" is not an option for me.

With both Flex and Silverlight it feels like we're on the verge of a massive jump forward in the kind of applications we can create. Unfortunately there was no one there from Sun who could show Java FX, but we are hoping to hold another event (an "RIA Jam") where all three technologies can be shown and experimented with.

James and Josh were intent on learning about and exploring the other technology, and they even decided to build separate identical applications, one in Flex and one with Silverlight, playing with some of the publicly-exposed interfaces to Twitter. Far from being a "smack-down" type of event, there was no sense of competition; it was fascinating and educational. I guess this is what happens when you take the idea of a "smack-down" and filter it through open spaces: something where there are no winners or losers and everyone benefits.

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About the Blogger

Bruce Eckel ( provides development assistance in Python with user interfaces in Flex. He is the author of Thinking in Java (Prentice-Hall, 1998, 2nd Edition, 2000, 3rd Edition, 2003, 4th Edition, 2005), the Hands-On Java Seminar CD ROM (available on the Web site), Thinking in C++ (PH 1995; 2nd edition 2000, Volume 2 with Chuck Allison, 2003), C++ Inside & Out (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1993), among others. He's given hundreds of presentations throughout the world, published over 150 articles in numerous magazines, was a founding member of the ANSI/ISO C++ committee and speaks regularly at conferences.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2007 Bruce Eckel. All rights reserved.

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