Cold Fusion evening

Decided to get an update on the state of Cold FUsion and Ben Forta was in town to speak. He’s always easy to listen to and there was a free beer in there as well. No contest really. It was held in Tiger, Tiger in the Haymarket as they had a good response to the event. It has an intimate downstairs bar where a few geeky people can hide away.

Cold Fusion hasn’t had an IDE for the last ten years and I was interested to see how App Builder, or Cold Fusion Builder would compare to Flex Builder and Flash Catalyst. It is based around the usual Eclipse IDE which makes it very familiar. The beta has been picked up by quite a few people; about 30% of the folk there had tried it. It’s very easy to use with a local server (developers get a free licence for this) The logs can be monitored easily. It has intellisense built in. The refactoring support is improving but limited at the moment to the main methods and properties of classes; more will arrive soon.

There are templates to generate a lot of the common cfm setups. It is straight forward to write java extensions for the IDE and there are already over 120 available. You can generate a framework in a similar way to Rails, given a table in the SQL database. This will generate services that may then be picked up easily by Flash Builder to do the basic CRUD techniques. The backend development can be written in cfml and then it compiles down to Java, but there may also be hints comng from Adobe that actionscript will be a future option.

Debugging looks good in that you are able to have two sessions running at the same time, so could be stepping through server code in one and client code in the other.

Air seems to be the way Adobe is progressing toward devices such as mobiles. The Flash 5 libraries will compile an application to iPhone and there will be similar for other devices. This is pretty similar to the way that other toolsets work, such as PhoneGap, so there will be other competition out there that may have more specific facilities. Flash 10.1 is on the Android but needs certain hardware. Android 2.x seems to be the target of choice. If it builds to c code it can have the performance required, but the libraries need to be created in native code to fit and to perform well. The apps are big at the moment and Apple restrict the size that may be uploaded through the App Store.

Flash could do with a threading model to take it into the future. It is built around having complete control of what is running, so isn’t perfect for use on devices. This must be coming, but there could be a big change required internally.

Ben demonstrated the ease of building code that connects to services and they can be PHP, .Net as well as ColdFusion. The App Builder has very similar facilities to those in Flash Builder 4. It will read a service description and can generate the code to attach to the service, the event handler that picks up the data returned and the binding to the tables. I’ve used Flash uilder with both PHP and .Net and it is very easy to create simple apps. The CF Builder application understands the tables well and can build a Master Detail setup with almost no effort. Flash Catalyst was talked about and it is currently concentrating on getting the return trip to Photoshop and back correct. Moving the project into Flash Builder is still a one way trip; this is eing worked on.

Some talk of the competition towards the end. Silverlight is much better now, with version 4 making it a practical proposition, especially in Microsoft shops where common coding languages would be a benefit. I do like the latest Expression 3 software; state transitions are easier to do than in Flash Builder, but the XAML produced seems harder to cope with than the MXML from Flex. Surprisingly though, Adobe’s Flash developments are more compared to HTML5 now and Silverlight has become less of an issue in competitive situations. The battle becomes more political than feature driven, with Adobe being criticized for not supporting the new open standards. HML5 will take time to come fully into the sphere and there will be many more twists and turns ahead.

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