FZip, AIRRemoteUpdater Upgraded for AIR Beta 2

Just a quick FYI: FZip and AIRRemoteUpdater upgrades for AIR Beta 2 are now available for download.

FZip now uses ByteArray.uncompress(CompressionAlgorithm.DEFLATE) instead of the now deprecated ByteArray.inflate(). I also tweaked FZip to throw an exception when a parsing error occurs and no event listener is registered for FZipErrorEvent.PARSE_ERROR events.

AIRRemoteUpdater now gets the local descriptor XML via Shell.shell.applicationDescriptor which was added in AIR Beta 2, and uses the upgraded FZip sources.

Enjoy, and please let me know if you run into any problems with this new release.

Automating remote software updates in Adobe AIR applications

I just released the first version of AIR Remote Updater, an AS3 class to automate remote software updates in Adobe AIR applications.

It transparently checks version numbers, downloads the .AIR installer file if needed and triggers the AIR-native update process.

It grabs the version number directly from the remote .AIR file without having to download the entire file, eliminating the potential error prone need of having to put a separate descriptor file online along with the .AIR installer file.

Background:

An .AIR installer file is a PKZIP archive containing metadata files along with the packaged application files. The files contained in a .AIR installer file are, in this order:

  1. /mimetype
  2. /META-INF/AIR/application.xml (contains version info)
  3. /META-INF/AIR/hash
  4. /META-INF/signatures.xml
  5. packaged application files

The file we are interested in, /META-INF/AIR/application.xml (the “application descriptor file” that contains the version number), is always the second file in the archive. AIR Remote Updater uses FZip to stream in the remote .AIR until (and only until) the application descriptor file has loaded. We can then close the stream, uncompress that file and extract the version number.

More info and download here:
http://codeazur.com.br/lab/airremoteupdater/

FZip Update

We just released an update for FZip (the Actionscript 3 class library to load standard ZIP archives and extract/decompress contained files):

  • Added support for Adobe Air. The Adobe Air runtime provides a low level inflate method, making it possible to load any ZIP archive and decompress compressed files without the need of injecting Adler32 checksums.
  • Added FZipLibrary class for higher level access to files in a ZIP archive. “FZipLibrary processes files (based on file extensions) from an FZip instance and converts them into usable formats. Files can be converted to either a BitmapData or DisplayObject classes. Data embedded in SWF files (like classes) can also be retrieved. Flash’s built-in Loader class is used to convert formats, so the only formats currently supported are ones that Loader supports. As of this writing they are SWF, JPEG, GIF, and PNG.”
  • Bug fix: There was a problem with filenames containing special characters. Filename encoding now defaults to UTF-8. In case the filenames are encoded differently in your ZIP, you can specify the encoding in the FZip constructor.

Special thanks to Daniel Wabyick at Adobe for contributing the Adobe Air support!

Enjoy!

http://codeazur.com.br/lab/fzip/

Adobe Apollo and Last.fm: Proof of concept

I have been toying around with the idea to write an Adobe Apollo application that’s able to monitor your favorite media player (such as Winamp, Windows Media Player, iTunes, Rhythmbox, etc) for play back status and song information.

Last.fm provides an application along with plugins for pretty much all existing media players on all major platforms (Windows, MacOS, Linux, etc) that does exactly that. During installation of the Last.fm client, the user is prompted to install the required plugins for the media players she uses. When a media player executes and plays a song, the plugin establishes a TCP socket connection with the client application and sends status and song infos.

The problem: The Apollo runtime (alpha) that is currently available on Adobe Labs doesn’t provide any documented way of (a) talking to shared libraries, (b) launching executables or (c) serving as a socket server, and Adobe indicated that Apollo likely is not going to support those features in it’s 1.0 release version.

There is hope though. Afaik, the last word on launching executables at runtime from an Apollo app isn’t spoken yet, and there exist some undocumented hacks that enable Apollo apps to do just that. If Adobe should decide against letting apps launch executables, then the only way of solving it is to provide second installers that install a socket server of some sort to do the dirty work.

However, i sat down last night and wrote a proof of concept Flash application that can live in Apollo, which talks to a custom daemon via sockets. The daemon in this proof of concept runs as a Windows Service. I took the Last.fm iTunes plugin and modified a bit so that it also connects to that daemon. The daemon then simply echoes the messages it receives from the Last.fm plugin to the socket listener in Flash. VoilĂ .

Here’s a screenshot of the app in action (iTunes on top, Flash below):

iTunes talking to Flash

[Update] I also modified the Last.fm Windows Media Player plugin to work with my daemon. All plugins can be used simultaneously. See this screenshot (Windows Media Player on top, Flash below):

Windows Media Player talking to Flash

Note that this is only a proof of concept, and sources aren’t ready for release yet. I would very much like to make this an open source project (The Last.fm plugins are released under GPL), so if there are any interested developers out there who like to help, please contact me or leave a comment. Thanks!

Flashconference 2007, May 4th, Stuttgart, Germany

Just to let you know that i’ll be speaking at the 9th annual Flashconference in Stuttgart, Germany on May 4th. My presentation is about the new Actionscript 3 Flash UI Components that come with Adobe Flash CS3. I’ll give an overview on what’s new, what’s different with respect to previous components sets and Flex, if and how to use them and how to skin and subclass them. I was part of the CS3 components dev team together with the guys at gskinner.com so hopefully i have some interesting things to show. If things work out well i’ll probably also be showing some FC64 stuff i was working on lately.

If you’re in central Europe early May, please drop by. Among others, Mario Klingemann, Andre Michelle, Peter Elst and Marcos Weskamp will be presenting, and as the flashconference is taking place as part of the fmx (“12th International Conference on Animation, Effects, Realtime and Content”, May 1st-4th), there’s almost a full week of top notch events to attend.

Check out the full schedule here.

I’ll stay in Germany for two weeks and will be traveling Munich, Stuttgart and Bremen, so if you like to meet, please drop me a line!

DENG is back!

The DENG Modular XML Browser project finally has a new home. Over the last two years, i switched hostings twice (don’t ask), and DENG was scattered all over the internets, and many things got lost.

I finally sat down to clean up the mess and everything is in one place again. The project homepage features a small news section, the feature matrix, examples (i’ll add more every now and then, so be sure to check back), downloads (includes examples on how to integrate DENG into your Flash projects and HTML pages as well as the source code of course) and support (you can support us by donating via PayPal now, and we can support you via our forum and mailinglist, and we offer individual support too).

Nothing terribly new there, but i thought i let you know.

I’m working on DENG 2.0 (Actionscript 3 implementation) whenever i find some free time, so stay tuned. May take a while yet though until i have something halfway meaningful to show.

http://deng.com.br/

MSN, Yahoo!, ICQ and IRC in Flash 8 – 6kbytes.com

An old friend of mine from Argentina contacted me recently and showed off his work. I was impressed.

6kbytes.com integrates all your messenger accounts (MSN, Yahoo!, ICQ, IRC) into one slick Flash 8 interface. And it’s all free.

As far as i understood, communication is done via XMLSockets to a Jabber server that is used as a gateway to other messaging servers/protocols.

Good job, Francisco!

1337! FC64 demo updated.

In celebration of todays release of the Flash Player 9 for Linux beta, i finally updated the demo of FC64, our C64 emulator for Flash Player 9.

Some time ago i implemented support for sprites and the lo-res bitmap mode, so quite some more games work on FC64 now, including Elite (see screenshot below – i added it to the demo), Fort Apocalypse, Frogger, Donkey Kong, and a whole bunch of others.

Also, Voidrunner renders properly now, including the sprites in its intro.

Check it out:
http://codeazur.com.br/stuff/fc64_final/

FC64 wins Flashforward Film Festival

Darron already blogged it: FC64 won Flashforward Film Festival in the Technical Merit category. Ohhh yeah!

I promised i show you the FC64 trailer that was shown at the ceremony, so here it is:

http://codeazur.com.br/stuff/fc64_final/flashforward/

(takes a while to load, i didn’t bother writing a preloader)

The fun part of it is that the trailer is written in 6502 assembly and executed by FC64. Even more fun: FC64 loads the assembly sourcecode at runtime, compiles and executes it. The scrolling arrows are actually lots of custom 8×8 pixel characters, animated by the C64 graphic chips smooth scrolling feature. I used raster interrupts to switch scrolling off in the middle part where the text appears (we don’t want that to scroll).

Ok, i also cheated a bit. Credits go to Andre Michelle: i ripped the Super Mario mod off his fantastic mod player. SID emulation in FC64 is being experimented with at the moment by Martin Wood and Ralph Hauwert, but we don’t have anything stable to show yet. Be patient :)