JavaFX Posts

On the Bleeding Edge

Well it thought it was about time I did some posting about my personal project im working on at the moment as I havent spoken about my coding for a while.

For a while now (alot longer than I had hoped for) I have been working on a project that falls outside the realms of my usual kind of games-related projects. Im not ready do describe exactly what it is yet but im excited about it.

For months I have been struggling with the techinal challenges the project has entailed and I have dabbled with many new and highly diverse technologies including JavaFX (Java), Qt (C++) and Mono (C#).  I have been looking for a cross-platform technology that will get the job done that I need and doing it in an elegant manner.

I thought I had found it with a combination of JavaFX and straight Java using the PureMVC framework. I however was plagued with problems throughout with Bonjour, jGroups, JmDNS, JNI and JNA.

So after months of work, hardship and struggles I read a very interesting article on the up-and-coming Adobe AIR 2.0  that was opened for beta in December. With 2.0 Adobe are bringing NativeProcess  to Air. What this means is that you can you can execute native code (.dlls, .so, .jar etc) from Air. To me this was bloody brilliant as I had been playing with Air reccently and my day-job heavily involves Flex and I simply love the power and beauty of Flex.

So what this meant to me was that I could write the bulk of my project including its interface in my much preferred Adobe Flex (Air) and then use Native Process to communicate with a small kernel of Java that would do all the dirty work that Air itself cant do.

So after a little playing with Flerry for Air->Java bridge I started to think about the structure of the code and the framework I would use. For my initial few runs at this project I had been using the Java version of PureMVC. I really like some aspects of PureMVC but I think its can be so overly cumbersome in some circumstances (ill write another post on this in the future I think). So instead I looked at the alternatives.

I have been using Mate alot recently at work and on my own mini-project the Audio Book Organiser. However as this project is partly for my own learning and personal growth I decided to look at what else there was out there. From the videos by Jessie Warden I had heard about Robot Legs. Apparently this framework has been around for a while, but it was the first I had heard of it. Taking at look at it I immediately became very excited as it looks like it offers all the things that make PureMVC great but without the extra coding-baggage that goes with it.

To add to my interest it appears another very interesting, very new action-script technology has been introduced into Robot Legs called Signals by Robert Penner. Signals is an alternative to the standard events dispatching method found throughout flash (more on this in another post).

So why have I called this post “the bleeding edge?”. Well Adobe Air 2.0 is still in beta and has only been for a month or so. Its so new that some parts still havent been documented atall and the only way to find out how they work is to post a msg to the devs on the forums. Signals is also new and its integration into Robot Legs is very new indeed (last coupple of weeks). So at the moment I feel as if im at the forefront of some very new, very exciting technology, a stark contrast to my fiddlings with the ancient Java.

I realise this post is very text and tech-heavy but I needed to post about it before I forgot all the pain I have gone through with this project to get where I am at the moment. Future posts ill be delving a little deeper into some of my experiments with these new technologies 😉

Flirting With JavaFX

For the past several months I have been working on a little project completely different to anything I have done before. Its a desktop application that uses a number of novel technologies to do something I think is pretty cool. Ill talk more about what it actually is and does in the coming weeks, but for this post I just want to talk about the struggles and discoveries I have been through and made with the technology.

One of the basic tenants of the app is that it needs to work  cross-platform, so on mac, windows, linux, etc. As my previous experience with any sort of cross-platform coding involves using Java that was my natural first choice.

It has been a while since I have coding anything substantial in Java, infact my university project Chain Reaction was my last serious foray into the language:

I knew that I wanted a nice rich interface for the project as it was intended to be sold to non-technical users. My first choice with Java was naturally with Swing. This, however, soon brought back various memories of ‘JPanels’, ‘Layouts’ and ‘Look and Feels’  and the headaches of trying to make simple things look attractive (tho some cool advances have been made with substance look and feel).

After having worked for years with Flash / Flex I had grown used to the ease of drawing graphics and manipulating Display Objects in the display hierarchy. I was dismayed at how difficult it was to do what I considered ‘simple graphic tasks’ using Java!  A simple google search for the terms “Java 2d graphics” demonstrates how old some of the concepts and documentation is on the subject.

I ended up writing and rewriting my view using different libraries like G:

ScreenHunter_03 Dec. 13 20.05

I found them all to be unwieldy and too inflexible for what I had in-mind. It all just seemed so archaic and old-hat.

So I was becoming more and more frustrated with myself for not progressing with the project and becoming hung up on something I had taken for granted in the Flash world. It was then that I happened to stumble across (this is after weeks of struggling) the JavaFX project. Now I had heard about this many months back but had dismissed it as Suns rather lame attempt to steal some of Adobe’s dominance of the Flash player market (much like Microsoft’s attempt with Silverlight).

As I was at the end of my line with Java I thought, hell why not give it a little look. Well it took me by surprise. It turns out that JavaFX is rather neat!

For those who havent heard f JavaFX; taken from Wikipeda:

javafx_logo_color_1JavaFX is a software platform for creating and delivering rich Internet applications that can run across a wide variety of connected devices. The current release (JavaFX 1.2, June 2009) enables building applications for desktop, browser and mobile phones.
TV set-top boxes, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players and other platforms are planned.JavaFX is fully integrated with the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) – JavaFX applications will run on any desktop and browser that runs the JRE and on top of mobile phones running Java ME.

What this means is that you can (with a little jiggery pokery) use JavaFX with normal Java. This is great as I had already written a whole load of code in Java which I didn’t want to get rid of.

The language JavaFX Script is great. It took a little getting used to as it is a declarative language (much like Flex’s MXML except that instead of using XML as the language it uses a Java Script like notation) but once I was used to it I could immediately see the awesome power it brings.

A little sample of code to give you a feel of how its declarative approach works:

Stage {
    title: "Ello World"
    width: 300
    height: 300

    scene: Scene {
        content: [
             Text {
               font: Font { size: 22 }
               x: 20, y: 90
               textAlignment: TextAlignment.CENTER
               content:"Ello World!"
             }
        ]
     }
}

This is your standard “Hello World” (but with a British twist):

ScreenHunter_06 Dec. 13 20.32

The simplicity of rendering things to the screen was just what I was looking for as the for this project, it was a double bonus that the language is powerful.

I love some of the features of the language like the natively build in binding, the sequence manipulations, but Ill talk more about some of these features in another post as I have rambled enough in this one as it is.

For now however, if you want to do some more reading into JavaFX  I HIGHLY  this short set of tutorials: Learning the JavaFX Programming Language – Tutorial

avaFX is a software platform for creating and delivering rich Internet applications that can run across a wide variety of connected devices. The current release (JavaFX 1.2, June 2009) enables building applications for desktop, browser and mobile phones. TV set-top boxes, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players and other platforms are planned.

JavaFX is fully integrated with the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) – JavaFX applications will run on any desktop and browser that runs the JRE and on top of mobile phones running Java ME.

JavaFX is a software platform for creating and delivering rich Internet applications that can run across a wide variety of connected devices. The current release (JavaFX 1.2, June 2009) enables building applications for desktop, browser and mobile phones. TV set-top boxes, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players and other platforms are planned.

JavaFX is fully integrated with the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) – JavaFX applications will run on any desktop and browser that runs the JRE and on top of mobile phones running Java ME.