Archive for July, 2009
In reply to my previous post Gumbo, Substance behind the hype? – Jones wrote “Flex a hindrance? Only for old goats who sneer at changes to their old way of doing things.”
If someone doesn’t know about software development, then Flex is great. It’s ok for dragging together a quick application that exploits the components in the limited way they were intended. But as soon as you want more customised behaviour – it’s quicker to code from scratch with Pure ActionScript, than to wrestle with Flex idiosyncrasies. And I know these idiosyncrasies better than most people.
In my professional capacity as a senior Flex developer – I’m always getting asked to do with things with Flex components that Flex components don’t do. Ok coding custom components and objects may be an “old way of doing things”, and being an experienced software developer and AS3 expert may make me an “old goat” – but it gets the job done, and I get paid very well for it.
In the early days, the market for Flex was predominantly existing Flash developers. They probably didn’t delve as deeply into things as programmers do. But now, I suspect that a lot of experienced software goats are moving to Flex. I don’t think Gumbo went far enough to accommodate for this new user base.
The bloated swiss-army-knife monolithic components were written to be manipulated inside the Flex GUI – they were NOT designed to be inherited and extended by a programmer.
Anyway, since when is Flex a new idea? It’s like Visual Studio for ActionScript. I hate .NET more than I hate Flex. Jones is probably too young to remember when Visual Basic first came onto the scene. The problem with these drag-and-drop software making GUIs is how they handle the transition to more customised behaviour – Flex does not handle this well.
Buggy, bloated and badly conceived is not a new idea either.
In the pre-history days before Central or Flex, I wrote a Flash-based operating system. (I’ll try and dig-up pictures one day). I called it “CoreOS”. It was a fully functional windows interface with REAL applications. A spreadsheet, drawing apps, a word-processor, a game and some fun stuff. It even had a console application and its own small command-line language. It ran inside a browser window which adjusted itself to fill the screen – but what I really wanted was to break out of the browser. What I did was just a demonstrator to hint at the potential.
Around 2001/2002 – I thought it was inevitable that we’d see a REAL Flash-based operating system really soon. All the pieces seemed to be forming. When Macromedia Central was released, I considered it to be a step in the right direction, and vindication that my ideas were right all along. I thought AIR could be lead to a truly ubiquitous “internet O/S” for desktop, devices, hand-held, embedded, etc…
But it never happened – after all the years I’ve wasted on going-nowhere Macromedia/Adobe technologies.
Finally, years later, Google have made the leap.
So, why didn’t Adobe get there years ago? Too timid? I suspect they don’t see it as their business. Adobe = eye-candy. They’re not that committed to software (Real programmers don’t use Flex – at least, not for their own projects). And you only need to look at the proposals that got Open-Screen funding to realise that Adobe is only interested in style – not substance. Ground-breaking new algorithms, new classes of applications, speculative new ventures – I don’t think any of these things reflect the way Adobe see themselves.