Flex/Flash/Actionscript, Uncategorized

Some clips from my 360Flex presentation

Here are a few small video clips from my 360Flex presentation. The first is my favorite moment in the presentation when I get applause for saying “God damnit, make that protected.” 🙂 And the second clip is 7 minutes of the presentation where I talk about monkey patching (or “underriding”) the core Flex framework classes. I thought this was one of the cooler parts of the talk, so I decided to post the video of that section. You can get the full video (1 hour 20 minutes) of the presentation here.

The videos are licensed under Creative Commons license, so I’m supposed to do some attribution thing. They were filmed at the 360|Flex conference that was put on by John and Tom, video work done by Bryan Zug. You can get all the videos here. Cool?


Facial hair as a measure of coding progress

Not sure if I’m the only programmer who does this, but I often use my facial hair as a visual indicator of how long I’ve been working on a project. I typically employ this technique on short projects with a lot to accomplish and little time to do it in. For example, yesterday I finished a project that was originally scheduled for about 3 full weeks. After week one we figured out that the deadline was 2 days before we thought, so we lost 2 days off the last 2 weeks, which is a fairly substantial portion of time on such a small timeframe (and don’t forget to add in labor day weekend festivities). So the shaving stopped (showering continued on a sporadic basis). Honestly, when you’re in a time crunch there simply aren’t enough seconds in the day to shave. And I like being able to look in the mirror and have a visual representation of the work I’ve been doing. An added benefit is the refreshing feeling that comes after work is done and the scruff is removed. Ahhhh, vacation time…


P.S. Yes, that’s just under two weeks of hair growth, my facial hair is pathetic, I can’t grow a real beard. You can stop making fun of me now.
P.P.S. I swear I’m going to get back to Flex related posts soon. There’s gonna be a bunch of flexlib updates coming. w00t

[UPDATE] Tink and Ben Stucki posted WAY better examples than my own. I had to share. If you’ve got anything better post a link in the comments.

Flex/Flash/Actionscript, Uncategorized

What I learned from my 360Flex session

360Flex logoI’ve been reflecting on how my session at 360|Flex went. Overall I was very happy, I really enjoyed the communal vibe we got going with the discussions. The session ended up being a conversation among developers. I started out giving a presentation with slides and all that jazz, but that quickly got sidetracked and we ended up just sort of shooting the shit and sharing different tips on custom component development. Awesome. That meant I was able to chill and let everyone else teach the session. It kept me interested, and I hope it did for everyone in the session too.

David Coletta took notes during my session (as he did for all the sessions he attended at 360Flex, friggin good work with the notes David). I should also point out that David contributed a lot to the discussion while he was note-taking, impressive! Dan from polygeek.com has some thoughts on the session as well. He wrote that the “session itself was sort of open source,” which I think is really cool that that’s how it turned out. There are a few more notes on the session from some guy named Dave. Apparently he overheard someone say “will there be notes posted from this meeting? This is really kind of scattering my thoughts.” I worry that it was a bit too incoherent, I definitely jumped from slides to code to pulling up random websites to discussion. I hope it was a good balance for people, but I could see how it might have been difficult to follow.

If you have any thoughts about what you liked about the session and what you didn’t, please email me and let me know, or leave comments.

The thing I liked the most about the session is that I learned a bunch of stuff. I don’t claim to know everything about developing custom components, a lot of the people in my session knew a ton more than me. Here’s a list of the things that I learned during the session:

  1. I suck at properly using commitProperties and invalidating properties correctly for optimal component performance. This was pretty hilarious during the session because before the session I was talking to Deepa and she asked if I was going to go over when to use commitProperties and using dirty flags for property validation and all that. I said that I don’t know how to do that, I end up not doing it in my code, so no, I wasn’t going to cover it. She was appalled. It was like I told her I’m naming my first child Silverlight. So then the funny part is that I’m up there at the podium and the very first question that was asked was Andy McIntosh asking “Doug, can you explain when to use commitProperties?” I almost died, it was hilarious. So I promptly responded that no, I don’t know a good explanation of the proper use of commitProperties, would Andy like to discuss how he does it? And then Andy and Deepa taught the session for a while while I took notes. Awesome.
  2. Monkey Patching is a sweet term. I called it “underriding” classes in the framework, not sure where I got that term, it’s certainly not a “correct” term, but I didn’t have anything better. So then Tony Hillerson pipes up and tells me that in other languages there’s a term called monkey patching that is used to describe pretty much the exact same thing. Cool, I had no idea.
  3. There’s a [Mixin] metadata tag. I had never even heard of this. I was going over using a static function to initialize default styles for your component and then Adam Flater yells out that you could use the [Mixin] metadata tag and that would allow you to have an init() method that would get called once for your class. So in the session I pulled up the blog post on Adam’s site and we went over the code straight off his blog. Cool.
  4. I sound like Tom Hanks with Tourette’s. I disagree with this one, but it’s hard for me to judge my own voice. Doug Schmidt seems pretty adamant about this, so it must be true.
  5. Other random stuff. When we were talking about styles vs properties on custom components Tony talked about using both styles and properties to define the same property, which meant that a developer could take their pick and use either the property or the style (ie they could do it all with CSS if they want, or all via direct properties in AS). Nice, hadn’t thought of doing that. We all bitched about not being able to reference static variables for our Event names in the Event metadata. Doesn’t seem like anyone’s found a solution to that one (same for defining possible enumerated values for properties in the Inspectable metadata tag). Someone else mentioned that when I was showing my custom event code I had forgotten to have a Event.clone() function to clone the custom event. Yup, my bad, good catch. That’s what I love about participatory audiences.

We ended up covering a lot more material with a lot more expert knowledge than I would ever have been able to provide on my own. I think maybe instead of a single presenter running a session we should think about doing more panel-like discussions on a specific topic. Get four or five badass Flex devs together, have one person in charge of making sure things don’t get completely off track, and then just let the discussion take over. Let everyone share the tips that they know. It might end up being the worst session ever, but I think it would turn out really well. What do you guys say… Deepa, Tony, Andy, Adam, David, you all in?


Dear Adobe: Where’s my free hosted Flash Media Server?

logo_main_sl.gif Microsoft is giving me 4 gigs of free hosted streaming Silverlight video. You want to keep Flash video on top? Give me a free hosted FLV streaming service please.

And I don’t want to hear, hey, you can go and download the developer edition of Flash Media Server 2, install it on your own root server, and then you can have a whopping 10 concurrent users and you can’t use it in a production environment. Nope, screw that, I’ll take a free FLV streaming service please. And you better one up ’em and make it 10 gigs. You can send me an email when you’ve got it up and running and I’ll sign up. Thanks.


didn’t have to install anything my ass

I just had a funny IM conversation with my friend who works at Googs, I sent him the link for the Flash globe from Poly9 that I just saw on MXNA. The description reads “Poly9 FreeEarth is a cross-browser, cross-platform 3D globe which does not require any download.” Turns out it wasn’t quite so easy 🙂

Doug McCune: http://freeearth.poly9.com/ eventually we’ll get google earth in flash

Google Employee: i don’t see anything when i go to the page

DM: ha. really? like nothing at all?

GE: doesn’t look like it’s ready for primetime. no earth

DM: well, so much for that then

GE: do you see anything?

DM: yeah, a spinning 3d earth

GE: using firefox? do you need flash 9?

DM: probably. it’s definitely flash player, probably 9

GE: hold on. geez, didn’t have to install anything my ass

DM: haha

GE: don’t have priveleges. hold on. god dammit

DM: haha, it’s not that cool, not worth the effort

GE: oh, i’m sure it’s not. i just want to show you how big a pain in the ass it is. i’ll tell you when i get it…

DM: I’m timing you. I’ll send the report to adobe

Google Employee disconnected

I assume this was a restart. He didn’t come back on IM though, so god knows. So while us Flash/Flex guys keep bragging about 80-90% flash player 9 penetration, we gotta still remember that we can’t claim that anything we make “does not require any download”.


Blogging while boozing

I was out drinking last night in San Francisco with some people after the Ignite event at the Web 2.0 Expo. We’re in a bar, I’m about 8 beers in at that point (thank god for free beer at conferences), and prolific blogger, Ryan Stewart, is playing with his phone. Suddenly he looks up at everyone and says “Hey guys, WPF is called Silverlight.” It’s almost midnight and some little bird is constantly whispering these tech-geek nuggets into Ryan’s ear. So while in the bar, with a beer in hand, Ryan takes out his laptop and starts writing blog posts. Look at the time stamps for his ZDNet posts. He’s got his Silverlight post logged at 11:49 pm and a post about Philo at 12:23 am.

I guess that’s what separates the casual bloggers from the professionals. I wouldn’t trust myself blogging under the influence. Ryan, I salute you.


I joined Qwitter – you should too!


Last week marked the end of my employment at Stanford University. It’s been a great 4 years (wow, 4 years?!). The project I’ve been working on has reached a point where I can comfortably step away. This is completely voluntary, and I’m leaving on good terms with everyone at Stanford.

qwitter badge

So as of this moment I’m unemployed. I highly recommend it. I’m not looking for new work for a while. For the next 4 months or so I’ll be traveling and doing a little Flex contracting work. I’m going to try to focus on blogging a bit more, so hopefully I can start posting more frequently. My travel plans are still taking shape, but include some combination of the following:

  1. Sailing along the coast of Central America to Panama. For a few weeks in April I’ll be sailing with my dad, who is currently sailing alone from California to England via the Panama Canal (yes, he is amazingly badass). I’m going to meet up with him somewhere along the way, maybe El Salvador, and sail for a few weeks to Panama.
  2. A few east coast trips. I’ve got friends on the east coast I haven’t visited enough, so I’ll be making a few trips. I’ll be vacationing with my girlfriend in Cape Cod, and I also might make separate trips to DC or NY.
  3. Sasquatch music festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington state.
  4. An as-yet-undecided European-ish destination. Maybe Turkey, Greece, eastern Europe… this is pretty up in the air, we’ll see if it actually happens.
  5. Denmark for the best rock festival ever, Roskilde.

During and between traveling I’ll be playing with Flex stuff and blogging. I’ll be back home and doing contracting work for most of May. I’ll get back to real life around mid July or August, at which point I’ll be figuring out my employment situation. I am not looking for a job until then.

For now it’s time to enjoy life without worrying about paychecks and early-morning commuting. To celebrate I gave myself this sweet mohawk:



Pulled the trigger and bought a Mac – now where to buy RAM?

Thanks for everyone’s input today about what Mac laptop to get. Here’s what I ended up getting:

MacBook Pro 15.4″
2.16 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 120 GB Hard Disk, 128 MB graphics card

After people pointed out some good reasons to go for the Pro, the decision was then about the higher-end version or not. The benefits of the more expensive version would have been a faster processor (2.33 vs 2.16) and a 256 MB graphics card. The faster processor didn’t seem worth the extra price. The extra graphics RAM was more tempting, I don’t know, maybe I should have gone with that instead. As someone pointed out, the upcoming CS3 release from Adobe is going to have more intense graphics requirements, which was one reason to go for the Pro vs. non-Pro. Maybe once I get CS3 I’ll have wished I went with the 256 MB graphics RAM. But I figure I’m gonna drop 3 GB of RAM in there, so I should be able to run whatever the hell I want without problems.

So one more question for people out there: where should I buy a single 2 GB stick of RAM for a MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo?

Someone pointed out macsales.com, and I was checking out the different options. There are three different options I could go with. I’m not a RAM expert, so I have no idea what the benefits and drawbacks for any of these choices are. Here are the choices:

  1. $260 – Other World Computing Brand
  2. $340 – Micron
  3. $450 – Samsung

Crucial’s got a 2 GB stick for $355.

They all look exactly the same to me. The only difference I can spot is that the Micron option says it’s “128 x 8” versus the other two are “256 x 64”. I have no clue what this means. Is there any reason to not go with the cheapest option?

I’m going to be using the 1 GB stick of RAM that comes from Apple and just adding the new 2 GB stick I buy. Is there any brand that would play better with the 1 GB stick from Apple?


About to buy my first MacBook, any thoughts?

MacBook Pro

MacBook Black

I’m about to pop my Mac cherry. It’s time for an upgrade from my old Toshiba Portege m200 tablet that I’ve had for about 3 years. I’m trying to decide whether to go with the Pro or non-Pro version of the MacBook, weighing the pros and cons of each. This is yet another case of a long-time Windows user switching to a Mac. The last Apple computer I had was an Apple II E. For a variety of reasons I’m switching, but the Paralells virtualization software is a driving force that got me to actually make the decision.

I like a small laptop. I have a 24 inch widescreen monitor on my desk, which I use most of the time if I’m working at home. Over the past few years I’ve come to really appreciate the small form factor of my current laptop. It’s a 12-inch display and it’s light (just over 4 pounds). That 12-inch display packs a 1400 x 1050 resolution, so that’s sweet for a laptop that small. Part of the reason I really value the small size is that for the past 2 and a half years I’ve been commuting an hour each way via train to work every day. I often work on the train, so being able to easily carry around my laptop and pull it out without breaking a sweat has been important to me. That said, I’m not going to be commuting any longer, so maybe the small lightweight aspect isn’t as important to me anymore.

In terms of MacBooks, I’m deciding between the 13-inch MacBook and the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The 17-inch MacBook Pro is out, I’m not even considering something that big.

Should I get the best?
As a tech junkie it’s always hard for me to not buy the hottest thing available. In the computer world you always pay a premium for the newest, fastest machine. But you know you’ve got the most badass thing you can get. My roommate works for Google and gets a free MacBook Pro for work. I have the opportunity of getting a better one 🙂

I have an itch to get the fastest machine I can get with the most RAM I can get. So now I’ve got to control my desire and hold off on buying a $3,200 laptop (most expensive MacBook Pro config I could get) until I consider whether it’s actually worth it.

As I see it I have 3 options:

  1. $1,756 – 13-inch black MacBook @ 2 Ghz
    2.0 Ghz, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB drive
    The best non-Pro MacBook available. 2 GB RAM through Apple is only slightly more expensive than doing it through an external vendor, so it’s worth the convenience.
  2. $2,393 – 15-inch MacBook Pro @ 2.16 Ghz
    2.16 Ghz, 3 GB RAM, 120 GB drive
    Includes $355 RAM upgrade from Crucial (one two-gig stick).
  3. $2,893 – 15-inch MacBook Pro @ 2.33 Ghz
    2.33 Ghz, 3 GB RAM, 120 GB drive
    The fastest processor with the most RAM I can get. Includes $355 RAM upgrade from Crucial (one two-gig stick).

[Note: these prices include an educational discount I get for being an employee of Stanford University, and they all include the extended AppleCare plan.]

I’m currently leaning towards option #2, but trying to determine if it’s worth $640 more than option #1. There’s a part of me that wants to jump at the 2.33 Ghz version just because, but is that really worth an extra $500? I can buy a lot of booze for $500.

Hard drive
I’ve got a 600 GB external drive, so I’m not putting a priority on the internal drive space. I’ve got 50 GB on my current Windows disk that I’m going to transfer over with Parallels Transporter. So I figure I can deal with a 120 GB disk just fine.

Each of those options has the most RAM you can stick into the machine. The 13-inch MacBook can only have a max of 2 GB. The 15-inch Pro can have a max of 3GB. Something sneaky is that you can’t order the 2.33 GHz machine with one one-gig stick of RAM (but you can for the 2.16 GHz machine). I can get a 2GB stick from Crucial for $355. This means if I get the 2.33 GHz machine, I end up with one one-gig stick that I don’t use. Versus the 2.16 GHz machine allows me to only order one-one gig stick, so I’m not paying for something I’m just going to throw away (I’ll pretend I’d try to sell it on ebay, but I know I’m too lazy). Another option would be to just get 2 GB of RAM instead of 3. I’m definitely going to get at least 2. My current Windows laptop has 1 GB and when I run Flex Builder in Eclipse, Flash 9, Photoshop, and Illustrator all at the same time it gets a little unhappy. So if I want 3 GB of RAM that pushes me toward the 2.16 GHz MacBook Pro. Is it worth it? I don’t know, I suppose I could always upgrade later.

Display considerations
I like high resolutions, even on small screens. The 1400 pixel wide resolution on my current 12-inch screen is awesome. I’m young and have good eyesight at close range, so I like the screen real estate and don’t have trouble reading the small text. The 13-inch MacBook has a resolution of 1280 x 800. The 15-inch Pro has a resolution of 1440 x 900. And obviously the Pro version’s screen is physically larger. This pushes me toward the 15-inch Pro.

I have a 24-inch monitor that requires that my laptop be able to output at least 1600 x 1050 (which my current laptop was barely able to do, with some tweaking). Both MacBooks can output to high enough resolutions for external displays. The non-Pro can output up to 1920 x 1200, which is enough for me. The MacBook Pro can output a ridiculous max resolution of 2560 x 1600, far more than I need. This one’s a tie.

I was talking to someone at 360Flex and they told me that the non-Pro MacBook can only mirror the screen when using an external display, not extend the desktop. Maybe this used to be true and got an upgrade, because looking at the specs on Apple’s site it says that both the non-Pro and the Pro can do mirroring and extended desktop. While I don’t use my external monitor and my current laptop screen at the same time very often, I do occasionally, and I certainly want that option. I’ll assume the Apple specs don’t lie to me, so this one’s a tie.

So I guess I’ve got to decide if the better display, the slightly faster processor, and the extra gig of ram are worth $640. Or maybe I’ll impulsively buy the fully pimped out 15 incher. If anyone has any thoughts that might help me decide, let me know. And if anyone knows the cheapest (but still reliable) way to get a single 2GB stick of RAM for a MacBook Pro, hook me up.