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Reality ColdFusion MX: Flash MX Integration

Reality ColdFusion MX: Flash MX Integration
A Creative COW "Real World" Book Review



Michael Hurwicz examines Reality ColdFusion MX: Flash MX Integration
Michael Hurwicz

email: Michael Hurwicz
Web: www.hurwicz.com
Author, "Using Macromedia Flash MX"
Eastsound, WA USA

C2003 Michael Hurwicz and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


Article Focus:
Author/Web developer Michael Hurwicz examines Reality ColdFusion MX: Flash MX Integration by Ben Forta, Randy Drisgill, Dennis Baldwin, Matt Tatam, and Derek Lu. This book is published by Macromedia press. The book discusses goals, logic and development process behind four projects, for which full source code is available on-line. A great way to get a jump start on ColdFusion/Flash integration. Recommended for intermediate Flash and ColdFusion users -- not for beginners.



If you've got the basics of Macromedia Flash and ColdFusion down, and you want to learn about putting the two together, Reality ColdFusion MX: Flash MX Integration can ease your learning curve significantly. The book is organized around four working applications for which source code is available online (www.forta.com/books/0321125150/). It explains the requirements for each project, why particular technical approaches were chosen, how certain key parts of the programs work, and even what is still lacking or less-than-ideal in the final projects. Technologies covered include Flash Remoting, ColdFusion components (CFCs), and the Flash Communication Server.

The four applications --a jukebox, an expense reporting application, an e-mail client and a chat application -- are useful in themselves, and you are free to take the source code and adapt it to your own needs. This book will help you bridge the gap between bare-bones tutorials and creating professional-strength applications.

I find I often learn best by example, but just poring over someone else's code can be like examining the artifacts of an ancient, dead civilization. You find yourself wanting to know what the people were thinking when they made these objects, why they made them the way they did. Even if code is well commented in terms of how it works (and the code accompanying this book is), you still don't know why the programmers made the choices they made, and therefore whether those choices are the best ones for you. It's difficult to get that kind of insight into an application, unless you're able to talk to the programmers and ask questions. This book gives you some of that insight.

You do have to keep a sharp eye out if you're looking for the warts in Macromedia technology. In style and tone, the book often feels more like it came from the marketing department than a technical team. Disadvantages of new technologies tend to be de-emphasized, while 95% of the discussion focuses on advantages. They do generally mention any important drawbacks to the approaches they choose, but don't blink or you might miss it.

In addition to architectural/design insights, the book does offer healthy doses of technical explanation. However, it is not cram-packed with technical detail. It's written in a rather loose, novellistic style, often presenting information in the context of fictionalized meetings and memos among the development team. I found myself speed-reading quite a lot, looking for the programming "meat."

A lot of that meat, however, you have to hunt down yourself, in the downloaded applications. Pull them apart, slap them around, and take what's useful for your own purposes. Use the book to get an initial overview of each project, and to clarify parts you don't understand.

This book is not designed to take you from the earth to the moon when it comes to Flash-ColdFusion integration, or to be your only guide on the journey. But if you're already in orbit and have some idea where you're going, it can help give you the extra thrust you need to achieve escape velocity.

All in all, a worthwhile read. Four Cows. ~

Michael Hurwicz
March 10,.2003





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