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Flash, development and my Playbook

As I had mentioned in my previous post, I wrote an AIR application for the Blackberry Playbook, the newest of the tablets that run Flash. I got a Blackberry Playbook device yesterday and these are my early impressions –

1. Great hardware build and finish. When you have it in your hands, you get a good feeling. It’s not heavy and it feels right.

2. Though launching one year after the launch of iPad, it equals the hardware of the second iPad or iPad2. It has dual cameras, Bluetooth, HDMI connection ports. So the device on the whole is very sophisticated.

3. What the Playbook lacks is the services around it. It does not have a preinstalled E-mail client or a native facebook or twitter application. There are still many categories in the store that are malnutritioned- without apps or content.

However I think the third point will be tackled soon as..

— Android and Java application players will soon be coming to Playbook in a software update, due in summer. This means Android and Java apps just need to be packaged for the Playbook and they will run smoothly on the Playbook. This is an excellent initiative by RIM as it brings a large community of developers with tons of games, apps into the Playbook ecosystem.

— When I was working with Blackberry toolkit in December / January it was primitive versions of the SDK that lacked signing and other features. It was not all that developer friendly.  I remember in late February, SDK 0.9.3 was released which had tools to sign the apps and RIM have been regularly improving the SDKs (which had both good and bad effects). Around last week, RIM released SDK 1.0.1 and image, which is the firmware currently running on the device. Before this it was hard for developers to gauge platform specific features like contextual menu ( Playbook’s menu appears on a swipe from top of the screen), accelerometer or GPS. Hence, developers couldn’t experiment much. Today, with a mature set of tools and simulators and some devices in the market, I expect the apps to grow.

I have also started working on a game for the Blackberry Playbook using Flash, of course.

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Facebook Graph API Development with Flash: Beginner’s Guide’s by Michael James Williams

Facebook Graph API Development with Flash: Beginner’s Guides by Michael James Williams, his twitter ID:@MichaelJW (Published by Packt Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-849690-74-4, with TOC and Index) is a surprisingly comprehensive how-to book that should be on the book shelf of all levels of flash Developers, especially those who starting to work on Facebook API Development with Flash.

This work includes some of the topics that are covered in “Accessing the Graph API through a Browser,” traversing the Graph and other instances. But it goes well beyond that. Although I’ve been in writing my tutes in several flash websites for long time, I was delightfully surprised to read about some interesting topics that are rarely talked about in books of this kind.  In Chapter 5: Search Me; in Chapter 6: Adding to the Graph; quite interestingly in Chapter 7: FQL Matters (Yes, it is FQL, Facebook’s version of the database language SQL) and a lot more.

The scope and quality of this book is no doubt directly related to the excellent credentials of its author. Michael James Williams is a technical concept writer and freelance Flash developer. He is the technical editor for the tutorial website “Activetuts+” and also runs his own blog about Flash game development. He currently lives in England, in a nice little town that has both a river and a canal. As per his say, he has been using Facebook since it was just some site that his American housemate wouldn’t stop talking about.

His method of delivery is to introduce the main idea, the concept of a writing category, and then take the structural components of the document in question and explain each action component in detail. We can feel the patient hand of a well-seasoned developer leading the reader chapter by chapter towards knowing in detail.

For example, before explaining the individual components of this book (Abstract, Introduction, Body, Conclusion, pop quiz), the author first explain the major steps involved in approaching and researching. Much forethought and planning went into the preparation of this 324 pp. Beginner’s Guide, obviously.

Those who’d like to do some developing Facebook apps in Flash will be delighted by the chapter 6 devoted to “Adding to the Graph.” I found the list of topics of “Putting it online” on p. 265 very useful too.

Every chapter is capped by “Topics” section, which presents many visual elements that the reader/student is asked to cope with by coming up with the correct solution, as explained within the chapter.

The book is so thorough that even topics such as how to use Facebook features, what’s that got to do with the Graph API, and the basic rules of Facebook’s security restrictions and its access are also covered. Oh, let’s also not forget the delightful support of Packt Publication and others that adds a welcome light touch to this serious volume.

Highly recommended e-book for anyone who works or intends to work on Facebook applications as well as those learning in a classroom settings.

 

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