Creating a Windows AIR Native Extension with Eclipse

Nick Kwiatkowski created a few very interesting posts with video tutorials, he writes; The second I heard about Adobe giving us the ability to create our own extensions to the Flash Platform in AIR 3.0, I was smitten. It was finally a way that we could add our own features and do the things that were high priorities on our lists, but not on Adobe’s. I knew I was looking for features that were one-offs (how many people today really need access to the COM ports), but they were forcing me to do all sorts of weird workarounds like launching proxy applications to do seemingly simple tasks.

AIR 3.0 got released a few weeks ago and I’ve jumped in head first into creating some ANEs (AIR Native Extensions). For those of you who don’t know, ANEs are packaged extensions that contain operating-system specific code (DLLs for Windows, Libraries for MacOS, Java classes for Android and Objective-C for iOS), that allow you to do things that the Flash Player wasn’t able to do.

Unfortunately, Adobe assumed that if you were developing DLLs for Windows, you were going to be using Visual Studio and nothing more. This didn’t make a whole lot of sense in my mind as they’ve been leveraging Eclipse for all of their tooling, and Eclipse does offer some great C/C++ addins. Now, that being said, Visual Studio is by far the more feature-full and hands-down the best editor for enabling these kinds of workflows on Windows. It is, however, very costly and even though Microsoft offers a free versions, it takes over your computer by installing debug versions of most of Microsoft’s shared libraries making your computer slower and more crash prone.

I wanted to use Eclipse’s CDT addin with the standard GCC tooling that is available on pretty much every operating system. By using GCC, I was able to make very portable code that with minimal effort was able to compile on all three of the major OSs (Windows, Mac, Linux). Adobe’s documentation was little help in getting this going (even if you were coding in Visual Studio, there is very little guidance on how to get things setup). I do have to note that with my setup there is one distinct disadvantage — the lack of ability to debug the DLL when it is launched from AIR. You will have to write your own C/C++ harness to do testing on your code in order to test it. If you use the Visual Studio tooling, you CAN debug any DLL while it is running (this is why Microsoft replaces the shared libraries on your system to allow that debugging).

I’ve created a four part video series documenting how to get going creating ANEs. Part 1 covers setting up your environment, including installing CDT, the compiler, and getting Eclipse setup to do your programming. Part 2 covers actually coding the C/C++ code for your Windows DLL. Part 3 covers creating your ANE, and packing up all the stuff needed to make it work. And Part 4 covers how to use your new ANE in an AIR project.

Watch the Video >> Part 1 « QueTwos Blog.

Transparent Logging with Zend_Log

Lebesold publishes another screencast; First of all, I’d like to thank you all for your patience! Zendcasts takes quite a bit of time and research to put together and I’m deeply touched by all your support.
On a personal note, my wife and I are heading out of North America in a week to visit Namibia and South Africa for 3 months. I’m going to do my best to keep up Zendcasts on a weekly basis, however my connectivity and upload speed will be limited. We’ll see how it goes!

Now for today’s episode:

I was working on a project for a client the other day and noticed a couple of lines in the ErrorController for automatically logging errors with Zend_Log. In 10 minutes, you can have a fully integrated logging framework. I also implement a singleton pattern for reusing your Zend_Log configuration (defined in the application.ini) anywhere else in your application.
Grab a copy of the project or browse the repository.

Watch @ Zendcasts.

Reporting with Zend_Tool and Zend_

Jon Lebensold posts a continuation to his screencast on Zend_tool; Reporting with Zend_Tool and Zend_Log

This video uses a collection of powerful PHP libraries in order to illustrate how easy it really is to build a command-line tool for reporting against XML files. We start off by logging visitor statistics in the controller into a log file with Zend_Log. Once data has been collected, we’re then able to utilize SimpleXML, Zend_Date and the Zend_Tool component to build out a very simple reporting tool. This is of course just an example of what’s possible. What comes to mind for me is building a cron job for generating reports based on the executable, or even just doing backups at the command-line with the help of a fully integrated Zend Framework installation.

I’ve noticed that configuration information isn’t properly loaded into Zend_Tool and am still trying to figure out the design decisions there. You’ll notice that I was having some timezone issues with regards to Zend_Date and it seems that specifying a timezone in my application.ini file didn’t resolve the issue.

Grab a copy of the project or browse the repository.

via Zendcasts.

Integrating Zend_Tool Into Your Application

Jon Lebensold shows you how to use the Zend Tool in useful ways; This screencast should help you setup Zend_Tool in your Zend Framework application. Zend_Tool is a command line entry point into your application. Currently, Zend_Tool is used to scaffold (build generic files) the Zend Framework project structure, modules, controllers, database table classes and other tedious processes. The goal of this video is to start looking at how we can generate our own Manifest and Provider classes so that custom command line tools can be integrated into the Zend Framework application.

The advantage of such integration is far reaching: deployable web applications using the Zend Framework can have “installers” and other frameworks, like Doctrine, can easily become first class citizens within the Zend Framework eco-system.

Grab a copy of the project or browse the repository.

via Zendcasts.

Ajaxify Your Zend_Form Validation with jQuery

Jon Lebensold posts an update to his excellent screencast; We’re going to take what was put together in the last 3 videos and now include some server-side validation that will appear asynchronously. This is an example of using Zend_Form as a validation tool via JSON.

Grab a copy of the project or browse the repository.

UPDATE: as a couple people have mentioned, you can cut down your IndexController even more by using the Zend_Json view helper:

public function validateformAction()
$f = new Form_Registration();


See it at Zendcasts.

Writing Composite Zend_Form Elements

Jon Lebensold writes; This video should help you build your own composite Zend_Form element. We’ll be building a phone element. The phone element will have 3 textboxes, one for geographic location, area code and local code. In the following videos will add a custom cell phone validator and some ajax validation.

Grab a copy of the project or browse the repository.

View the Screen cast: Writing Composite Zend_Form Elements