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SSH / Telnet client for Blackberry

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

These days almost everyone has a smart phone. Mobile Phones, particularly smart phones, allow users to easily browse the internet, use email, take pictures, videos, send and receive sms, mms, download native applications and much, much more. We live in a fast-moving world and having devices such as smart phones to help us keep up with this pace is paramount.

Anyone who owns a smartphone quickly realizes that the possibilities with it are endless. For example, I recently found a simple, free application which allowed me to log onto my server from my smartphone; a BlackBerry Curve 8310. I always thought it would be useful to be able to log in to my server from my phone and after doing a quick search I found MidpSSH – an SSH1/2 and Telnet client (with VT320 terminal emulation) for MIDP 1.0 / 2.0 (J2ME) devices.

Since the Blackberry OS provides MIDP 1.0 support and OS 4 provides a subset of MIDP 2.0 support, MidpSSH seemed like it would be a good fit.

Installing MidpSSH is very straightforward – like most installers for Blackberry. UX is straightforward as well, and once installed you can simply start up the client, create a new session (which can be saved, imported etc.), enter the host name and log in. You’ll also probably want to increase the font size as the default is set to “Tiny”, which is a very small font size. I changed this setting to LCD 5×9 which works well.

All in all a simple, yet very useful free application.

Global Error handling in Flash Player 10.1

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

A few years back I had the need to write a global exception management framework in order to provide a means from which unhandled errors could be handled gracefully throughout an application. Initially, I assumed there must be a listener available which could be added to SystemManager or Application, and from there all unhandled errors could be caught; however, after spending many hours trying to find a solution, it seemed this wasn’t possible to achieve in the Flash Player API at the time.

Just recently I found myself once again in need of such an API, and thought there may be something new in Flash Player 10 that I wasn’t aware of. However, as it turns out the only thing I was able to find actually happened to be in the Adobe Bug database; specifically, issue FP-444. It was then that I referenced the feature set for the next revision of Flash Player – version 10.1, and learned that in addition to many other significant new enhancements Flash Player 10.1 will finally introduce the ability to manage exceptions globally!

This is an invaluable feature for all Flash based applications as it will allow for the ability to add a global listener from which you can catch any and all uncaught RTEs. The ability to provide a global exception management mechanism will undoubtedly improve Flash applications significantly as uncaught RTEs can then be handled gracefully by responding to the user accordingly.

This may be one of those new features that isn’t necessarily the main focal point in marketing campaigns. However, it is APIs like this that make life for developers (and QA) much easier and, equally as important, ultimateky have huge payoffs for users.

Coincidentally, this also just so happens to coincide with an open source Exception Framework I am planning to release. The framework will provide a foundation from which more robust exceptions can be defined (in comparison to the generic Error class), as well as common exception types which implement the framework. So if you are interested, check back soon as I plan to publish the framework this month.

Maven dependency resolution with javacio.us

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Ever need to determine what versions of a specific Maven dependency are available in a public repository? Or more importantly, determine if a dependency even exists in a public repository? If so, then javacio.us, a free, subscription based service available to anyone with a Google account can be used to help quickly and easily resolve maven dependencies.

Usage is simple:

  1. Search Google for the name of the dependency (e.g. concurrent pom) and you will get a list of all groups in which the dependency is under a public repository.
  2. Select the specific group you require
  3. Select the version you require

And that’s it! Now you can simply copy the coordinates and the dependency has been resolved.

While there are certainly other services available which do more or less the same thing (e.g. Maven Repository Browser, etc.), the simplicity of being able to just search from Google is rather convenient.

Thoughts on Cairngorm 3

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

A week or so prior to MAX, the Cairngorm committee had a rather interesting discussion, during which Alex outlined what the team at Adobe Technical Services had been considering for Cairngorm 3. The meeting was focused on providing everyone with an overview of the collective ideas which Adobe had been gathering internally for some time now, and to also inquire feedback prior to the public announcement of Cairngorm 3.

Prior to the meeting I had anticipated the discussion would be based around a few new patterns and best practices which are currently being advocated, and possibly some additional libraries which help to address recent challenges in RIA development. However, what we discussed was actually quite different – in a good way.

As you are probably aware by now, Cairngorm 3 is focused around tried and tested best practices and guidelines which aid Flex developers in providing solutions to their day to day RIA challenges. These guidelines are primarily based upon that which has been realized by Adobe Technical Services, and also from the Flex community at large. Teams can leverage these guidelines where applicable to help deliver successful RIAs using frameworks of their choosing. While there may be specific frameworks and libraries recommended in Cairngorm 3, these are just that – recommendations. There is generally a framework agnostic approach which I must emphasize is highly preferable to that of suggesting one framework over another. This is precisely what I think is needed in the Flex community, for there is rarely a one size fits all approach to software architecture, especially in terms of specific framework implementations. This is a pretty easy concept to comprehend, as, what works for one team, in one context, may not always be appropriate for another team, or in another context.

Cairngorm 3 is a step forward towards what (IMHO) should be a general consensus in the Flex community at large; there are many existing frameworks out there which help address specific problems, with each providing unique qualities and solutions in their own right. This is the kind of thought leadership which helps a community progress and grow; it should be encouraged, as allowing for the shared knowledge of fundamental design principles and guidelines is something which provides value to all Flex developers, regardless of which framework they happen to prefer.

If there is one suggestion I would propose, it would be to have an entirely new name for these collections of best practices, guidelines and general Flex specific solutions. Personally, I would like to see the name Cairngorm (which, after all these years, I still pronounce as Care-in-gorm) refer to the original MVC framework, i.e. the framework implementation itself, as keeping the name the same while undergoing a different direction is bound to cause confusion to some extent. Whatever the new name would be is insignificant as long as the original name of Cairngorm applied to that of the actual framework implementation. This would perhaps be more intuitive as it would allow for the name Cairngorm to be used to describe a concrete framework as a potential solution, just as one could describe other frameworks; e.g. Spring ActionScript, Mate, Swiz, Parsley, Penne, Model-Glue, PureMVC, Flicc etc.

Most importantly, however, is the prospect of choice, as choice is always a good thing. Moreover, an initiative being lead by Adobe in this area sends a very good message to the Flex community as a whole. I happen to leverage a number of different frameworks and patterns which address different problems. As new problems arise, I employ new solutions where existing solutions may not suffice, or develop custom solutions where none are currently available; never blindly choosing one solution over another. However, in every case, there are typically some basic, fundamental guidelines which hold true and can be followed to help drive a design in the right direction. Regular readers of this blog have probably noticed that the basis of the majority of my posts are heavily rooted within these fundamental design principles, as it is from these fundamental design principles and guidelines that developers can utilize the frameworks which work best for them in order to and meet their specific challenges.

Essentially, Software Architecture is all about managing complexity, and there are many fundamental patterns and guidelines which can help developers mange this complexity. The specific framework implementations are of less concern, for it is the understanding of these patterns and principles – and more importantly, when to apply them, which will ultimately drive the decisions to leverage a one framework over another. In my experience, I have found that the only constant in software architecture is that a pragmatic approach should be taken whenever possible, whereby context is always key, and simplicity is favored as much as possible. Cairngorm 3, I feel, is a nice illustration of this principle.

Advanced Flex 4

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

This morning I received a copy of the new Book Advanced Flex 4, written by my friend Elad Elrom and Shashank Tiwari, with contributions by Charlie Schulze.

Upon opening the package and browsing the first few pages, I was quite flattered to read:

“I would also like to thank Eric Feminella who has inspired me, mentored me and helped me to become a better Flex Architect. I had the pleasure of working with Eric at Weight Watchers three years ago and I have found that Eric is one of the smartest, yet extremely humble, people I have ever met. He has a deep understanding in OOP, Architecting Flex apps, as well as RIA in general. Check his blog here: http://www.ericfeminella.com/blog/ and follow him on Twitter: @ericfeminella”

It is always nice to receive recognition for something; however, the real reward is in knowing you have had a positive impact on someone as, this has always been a very real goal of mine.

The book covers an awful lot of ground – everything from Mobile Applications, AIR 2.0, Flash Catalyst, Data Service Integration, consuming Web 2.0 APIs, Flex Mashups, Audio, Video, 3D and more. I especially like the the Chapter on Flash Player Security. The book also appears to follow the theme of traditional software development best practices, that is, the first chapter is on Test Driven Development – test first. A good read by any standards, and I highly recommend it.

Why is programming fun?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Just recently while going through some old files I rediscovered a quote that is rather inspiring.

The quote is an extract from the book “The Mythical Man-Month”, and while the book was originally published in 1974 before being republished in 1995, I feel it will always remain relevant:

Why is programming fun? What delights may its practitioner expect as his reward?

First is the sheer joy of making things. As the child delights in his mud pie, so the adult enjoys building things, especially things of his own design. I think this delight must be an image of God’s delight in making things, a delight shown in the distinctness and newness of each leaf and each snowflake.

Second is the pleasure of making things that are useful to other people. Deep within, we want others to use our work and to find it helpful. In this respect the programming system is not essentially different from the child’s first clay pencil holder “for Daddy’s office.”

Third is the fascination of fashioning complex puzzle-like objects of interlocking moving parts and watching them work in subtle cycles, playing out the consequences of principles built in from the beginning. The programmed computer has all the fascination of the pinball machine or the jukebox mechanism, carried to the ultimate.

Fourth is the joy of always learning, which springs from the non-repeating nature of the task. In one way or another the problem is ever new, and its solver learns something: sometimes practical, sometimes theoretical, and sometimes both.

Finally, there is the delight of working in such a tractable medium. The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures.

Yet the program construct, unlike the poet’s words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separately from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be.

Programming then is fun because it gratifies creative longings built deep within us and delights sensibilities we have in common with all men.

This quote really hits home with me, so I shared it with my team and felt I should also share it with the community, as I imagine it will also inspire many others as well.