onAIR Tour Prague report

So I was there (I’m lucky I know). First of all let me give you an advice: if you are really interested about AIR you should definitely go to this event especially if it is coming to your town/country (last two stops: Munich and Milan). Did I mention that it is free? If you can’t, then you have a second chance: go to MAX – either in States, San Francisco or in Europe, Milan Italy; MAX is THE Adobe conference and it covers all the products, there will be a lot of talks about AIR and Flex).

First of all there were no empty chairs, about 160 people showed up. Second the organization was excellent: the Staropramen brewery provided a great location, the food was yami-yami and after 4PM we were able to taste the Czech beer (I think this is the rock and roll part :D). The single downside I can think of: it was a little too hot for my taste.

There were 11 presentations from 10 AM to 6 PM. Three of them were held by people outside of Adobe: first talk was done by Czech Flex User Group (as I am not a speaker of this language I can not tell what it was about), second speaker was Dion Almer from Google and he talked about Google App Engine (did you know there is a page for working with Flex/Flash on top of Google App Engine) and the third one was Using JavaScript libraries and Frameworks to build HTML and JS-based AIR apps by Andre Charland the CEO of Nitobi.

This is where the onAIR was held: Staropramen brewery

The presentations:

  • Keynote by Ryan Stewart. He talked about where is AIR in the Flash/Flex platform and Web/Desktop worlds. He showed some goodies that will come with Flash Player 10 (thus Flex/AIR developer gets them): hardware accelerated effects engine (formerly Hydra, now it is called Pixel Blender) – this one lets you apply cool effects in real time over pictures or movies; second feature is Vellum, the new font rendering engine from Flash – this will add support for left to right languages; and the last was 2.5 D Engine which is not meant to be an alternative to PaperVision but an easy way to create 3D effects. He also had a cool application a Korean one was pretty cool; it was a Dashboard for executives and it had some nice transitions and effects.
    Mike Chambers opening the day Pixel Blender effect
  • Building your first AIR application with Flex by Mike Chambers. This was a Hello Worlds! example in AIR using Flex and Flex Builder as an IDE. He explained some more advanced concepts such as: what is doing the app.xml file and the most important properties from it.
    Mike Chambers giving the first presentation
  • Building your first AIR application with HTML and JavaScript by Kevin Hoyt. This one was mirroring the one before; but this time you learn how to create the Hello World! using JavaScript and HTML instead of Flex and a text editor instead of Flex Builder 3 and ADL and ADT command line tools (ADT is creating a package Installer of your app and ADL lets you launch your application without the need to install the package and run).
  • Leveraging HTML and JavaScript within AIR by Kevin Hoyt. With this one we moved to the next level of complexity. It was about bridging JavaScript and ActionScript in AIR applications. For example it showed how you can manipulate the DOM from ActionScript (to create for example buttons, tables …) and how you can access from JavaScript ActionScript AIR API.
  • Czech Flex User Group – as I am not Czech I don’t know what they talked about.
  • Deploying and Updating AIR App by Serge Jespers. This was very interesting because sooner or later you may want to distribute your application. So, it showed us three different types of installer badges and also a framework to push updates of the app to clients.
  • AIR API overview by Daniel Dura. This was a nice introduction to AIR API: Windows, File I/O, Storage, Drag & Drop & Clipboard, some notifications: idle, online/offline.
  • Google App Engine by Dion Almer. This was about what the Google App Engine is, why it exists and why and how you can use it, as well as some previews about what to expect in the future.
    Daniel Dura presenting a 3D rendering application done in Flash and that use Google Map
  • Data Intensive Enterprises AIR App by Andrew Shorten.
  • Using JavaScript libraries and Frameworks to build HTML and JS-based AIR apps by Andre Charland. It was an interesting presentation about JavaScript libraries used inside of AIR apps. The most interesting things to me were the argumentation as to why you should use JavaScript/HTML in the first place  and not ActionScript. And here are the reasons: there are much more skilled JavaScript programmers than there are Flex/ActionScript programmers; secondly it might be more efficient for a company to switch to a JavaScript/HTML AIR app because of the possibility to reuse UI and business from their existent web apps. I cannot argue with these two arguments.
  • AIR Conditioning by Lee Brimelow.

Between sessions there were raffles; prizes such as books, Flex Builder 3 and Creative Suite licenses, T-shirts.

A funny thing: Daniel Dura’s Mac Book fell two or three times from the presenter’s desk (Daniel wasn’t there) and it was still working when he did his presentation (I think everyone expected it to be broken).

After the last presentation people remained for some more beer and networking. I was amazed that after 8-9 hours they still had the energy and curiosity to stay around. I had the chance to have an interesting discussion with Juraj Michalek, the Manager of the local Flex User Group. That’s all folks!

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