Adobe Live in London – quick report

I attended Adobe Live yesterday. This was in two parts, an exhibition with a schedule of presentations/tutorials, and a developer day focused on Rich Internet Applications – Apollo and Flex – as well as ColdFusion 8.

I’m told that around 1800 attended, though most of these were for the main exhibition, whereas I spent almost the whole day in the developer sessions.

It was a worthwhile though low-key event and I picked up some insights into Apollo and Flex 3 as well as getting an update on ColdFusion. I’ll be reporting in more detail shortly. A couple of quick comments though.

First, this struck me as primarily a designer crowd, Flash folk interested in applications, rather than developers new to Adobe. These are just impressions so I could be wrong, but it strikes me as in interesting issue. Equally, when I went along to Microsoft’s Mix07 earlier this year my perception was that many delegates were primarily Visual Studio folk interested in web design, rather than vice versa. If I’m right, Adobe and Microsoft have inverse cultural and marketing problems here. Still, at least Adobe put on a proper developer schedule this year; it didn’t exist at last year’s London event.

Second, I found the Apollo stuff though-provoking in the light of Google’s Gears announcement as well as what Microsoft is offering with WPF. I knew that Apollo was sandboxed, but hadn’t appreciated the extent of the sandboxing. As I understand it, Apollo apps can do file i/o on the local machine, but in other respects it is locked down in a similar way to web apps running in the browser. There is no access to external libraries, OS scripting, or custom native code extensions.

That’s good from a security perspective, but it limits the extent of OS integration. So the key question: if you can’t integrate with the OS, beyond a few trivia like Start menu or Dock shortcuts, then why bother with a desktop app? Especially now that Gears has a solution to the offline problem. Maybe it is worth it just to get out of the browser window, but some at least will not see the point.

Third, I asked what if anything Adobe intends to do with Google’s open-source Gears code, but apparently I may not have the full story yet – more when I get the information.

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FireFox team not sure about Google Gears adoption

During Google Developer Day I had the impression that Mozilla was right on board with Google Gears, the plug-in which which enables offline applications. Here’s Aaron Boodman and Erik Arvidsson from the Gears team:

We are releasing Gears as an open source project and we are working with Adobe, Mozilla and Opera and other industry partners to make sure that Gears is the right solution for everyone.

It seems that things are not as clear-cut as Boodman and Arvidsson imply. quotes Mozilla’s Mike Shaver:

We’re talking to Google engineers and looking at how these two models — ours and theirs — compare. This is in the open now, and going forward we’ll see what we can learn from each other,” Shaver said. “But there’s a lot of work that’s been done already [on Firefox 3.0], and we’re not planning to throw that work away.

According to the article, Shaver is particularly doubtful about using SQLite for persisting web application data locally, and is inclined to stick with the more limited DOM Storage API already planned for FireFox 3.0.

A related point is that Adobe’s commitment to Gears is not absolute. Here’s Adobe’s Michele Turner says, quoted by David Berlind:

…For example, they’re using SQLite and we were already incorporating SQLite into Apollo. So, now we’re aligning our efforts with Google on things like the synchronous and asynchronous calls that must be made to the SQLite database in order to enable the offline capability. 

My impression is that Adobe is aiming for a measure of API compatibility, but will ship its own build of SQLite rather than using one installed by Gears, with inevitable version and customization differences.

There is a world of difference between using a similar API on the one hand, and sharing common components and/or common source code on the other. It looks to me as if Apollo, FireFox and Google are going to provide three independent and isolated mechanisms for handling local storage.

Of course Gears installs into FireFox anyway, and there is nothing to stop Flash developers from using Gears.

I will quiz Adobe on this subject at tomorrow’s Adobe Live event.

Google: Don’t let your kids use Gears

More Google Gears Terms and Conditions madness. Gears is licensed under New BSD terms; yet before you can install the runtime you have to agree to onerous terms and conditions. Here’s clause 2:

2. Accepting the Terms

2.1 In order to use Google Gears, you must first agree to the Terms. You may not use Google Gears if you do not accept the Terms.

2.2 You can accept the Terms by:

(A) clicking to accept or agree to the Terms, where this option is made available to you by Google in the user interface for any Services; or

(B) by actually using Google Gears. In this case, you understand and agree that Google will treat your use of Google Gears as acceptance of the Terms from that point onwards.

2.3 You may not use Google Gears and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google, or (b) you are a person barred from receiving the Services under the laws of the United States or other countries including the country in which you are resident or from which you use the Services.

I’m puzzled. If Gears is BSD licensed, how can Google insist that the mere act of using it binds me to these terms (which I dislike for other reasons too)? And 2.3 is bewildering: you may not use Google Gears apps if you are not an adult?

What if someone else installs Gears on your machine, and you then use a Gears-enabled app? How can terms like this possibly apply in such cases? Note that the agreement does not refer only to installing Gears, but specifically to using Gears.

By the way, you can download the source for Gears, and compile it if you can figure out how, without assenting to any such agreement.

I think Google is letting its legal team get out of hand.

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New Live Writer is out

Beta, of course. But since this is my favourite offline blog authoring tool, I’m taking a break from Google posts to mention it here. You can download it here – I’m using it to write this post. The official blog has a list of new features.

Do they amount to much? Inline spell checking (wiggly underlines) is great, except that it still seems to be hard-wired to US English. I like Paste Special, particularly as I’ve had problems pasting from Word in the past, with Writer inserting annoying font tags (something to do with using the embedded IE editor, no doubt). That said, I’ve just tried a paste from Word and it worked fine, so perhaps this is fixed too. Synch between local and online edits is neat – when you retrieve a post from Live Writer’s local cache, it updates it from the online version, so that it is now safe to edit in either location. Writer also exposes a richer set of properties, including Excerpt. There are a bunch of other changes that don’t matter much to me, such as Sharepoint support. Table editing? I don’t generally use tables in blog posts, but it could be useful.

On the minus side, Writer has sprouted an odd extra toolbar so that you now have three rows above the working area: menu, toolbar, and editing toolbar. That looks cluttered and unnecessary. There’s the spelling problem mentioned above. And as for this, words fail me:


Overall, a useful but low-key upgrade.

Update: Graham Chastney has a hack to fix the US spelling.