Camping Around Toronto

Posted May 15th, 2008 by Chris Gurney

Tonight I attended my second Toronto tech event, taking advantage of get-togethers orchestrated by various members of Toronto’s tech community, around various technologies and themes.

The first event I attended was the awesome DemoCamp 17 back in February (at The Toronto Board of Trade, in First Canadian Place), which played host to over 400 people. It really was a great way for me to start to learn about who the players are in Toronto.

Tonight’s event was Toronto Flex Camp 2, at the MaRS Centre (located at University & College), a venue I had been looking forward to checking out.

The Event

Apparently Adobe’s Flex has been around for a number of years. With all the buzz about it lately, I had thought it was a recent thing.

Tonight’s event was sponsored by the Toronto Flex User Group (which we learned boasts over 700 people), New Toronto Group (an RIA services company, who does Flex consulting & training), and Adobe, of course.

Our dinner for the evening was mini hamburgers and massive — and I’m talking massive – pretzels. Suitable for the stereotypical developer, perhaps, but I’m sure we would have all appreciated something a little more healthy. (Though I really shouldn’t complain as the event was free. Thanks guys!)

The large auditorium we were in was fairly full of people, so it looked like a really good turnout.

About this Flex Thing

As I know absolutely nothing (void) about Flex, the first track — an Introduction to Flex 3, hosted by Oliver Merk — was helpful to me to put things into context.

The idea is that with Flex, Adobe has provided the tools and framework necessary for developers to build applications and publish them as Flash. Flash, of course, has previously been thought of primarily as a medium for animators and web designers, with Adobe Flash Creative Suite being tailored towards these people.

After giving a brief history of Flex, Oliver started with the obligatory “Hello World” application. Here’s the gist of how it was built: After firing up Adobe Flex Builder (Eclipse), he edited a little MXML (Flex’s XML-based markup language):

<mx:Label text=”Hello World!” />

…hit “compile”, and viola, out popped a web page with the text “Hello World!”.

As I understand it, the XML is converted to Adobe’s ActionScript, which is then compiled to Flash, which in turn is embedded in HTML and displayed.

Oliver then added a button to his example, to show how events could be handled: To do this, another line of XML was added that triggered onClick(), a function he added to the ActionScript portion of the XML, which triggered an Alert box. The result? An alert box with a drop shadow on a nice gradient background.

The demo was expanded a tad to accept an XML data file, and display it in a grid. This was done with a single line of XML, a little bit of attribute tweaking, and the addition of some code (ActionScript) to marshal the XML data into objects, and then render the result.

I chose not to stick around for the rest of the event, but the other topics on the agenda included tips on promoting your Flex and Air applications (by Mike Potter, Sr. Developer Marketing Manager from Adobe’s office in Ottawa), and segments relating to Adobe’s Blaze DS, Flash Media Server, and “web-based call control”. These three bits were put on by Ben Forta, Brian Lesser, and Boris Rozinov, respectively.

My Thoughts on Flex?

Based on what little I saw, and by looking at the Toronto user group’s page — which, I’m going to go out on a limb and say was also written in Flex — it’s too early for me to see what the benefits are. As a part-time web designer/developer, I’ve never really been a big fan of Flash. That said, I’ve seen some pretty impressive things pulled off with Flash, so I can see the potential here for some fancy looking applications; “rich” Internet applications, you might say.

In terms of how it’s all implemented, I applaud the fact that Adobe chose to embrace Eclipse, and built ActionScript and MXML around established standards. Beyond that, I can’t comment on details as I really don’t know that much about it all.

Future Camping Trips

Anyway, I’m hoping DemoCamp 18 lands this Summer, and I’ve already signed up for WordCamp Toronto in October. Aside from these, I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for other events, and opportunities to learn about Toronto’s, and Ontario’s own tech community.

Update: David corrected me on the fact that FlexCamp wasn’t a BarCamp event. I’ve updated the post accordingly.

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2 Responses to “Camping Around Toronto”

  1. David Crow Says:

    Hi Chris,

    FlexCamp was not a BarCamp event. It is an event inspired by BarCamp. There are a lot of grassroots efforts inspired by the BarCamp movement in Toronto including:

    * DemoCamp
    * StartupCamp
    * CaseCamp
    * FacebookCamp
    * TransitCamp

    Just to be clear, none of these events are a BarCamp. A BarCamp is a participant-driven conference. It is a conference where the schedule is determined the day of the conference by the people attending. Long set of blah, blah, blah.

    It’s fantastic to see the Toronto community of designers, developers, product managers, entrepreneurs really start pulling themselves and others together. The idea is that we learn and grow by participating.

    Hope to see you at the next DemoCamp? Maybe you’ll think about presenting Blueprint?

  2. Chris Gurney Says:

    Thanks for dropping by, David. I’ve corrected the post.

    And I’ll definitely be at the next DemoCamp. Presenting Blueprint’s technology is a definite possibility!