Linux Magazine on using Flex with PHP

In the August 2007 edition of Linux Magazine, the editor contributes an article about the usefulness of integrating PHP with the free Flex SDK to achieve a Rich Internet Application (RIA) in a Web 2.0 world.

Flex and PHP
by Martin Streicher
Linux Magazine (full article available online with free registration)

The author begins by a short comparison of the RIA technologies of AJAX vs. Flex, and goes on to suggest that while AJAX is touted as an alternative to Flex UI's, AJAX suffers from a lack of rich media integration such as video, music, or animations and carries the risk of varying JavaScript behavior across different browser implementations.

The article does a great job describing architectural differences between classic web applications and RIAs. In a multi-tiered Rich Internet Application the application server technology such as PHP, or better yet ColdFusion, acts as the controller to implement business logic and interacts with deeper service layers that interface with the database. However, on the client side, Flex runs in the browser to perform data input validation, displays data visually via drill-down charts and graphs or via paginated data grids, and provides real time updates to changes in data (via Live Cycle Data Services a.k.a. Flex Data Services).

Furthermore, Flex provides a smart looking user interface and seamless user experience akin to typical desktop software while lacking the notoriously painful white screens of death during page refreshes that are commonplace in the Web 1.0 world. In effect, more work is done in the browser as a means of distributed computing, leaving the application server to focus on business logic and freeing it from having to generate the UI again and again across requests.


Easy-to-Read Java Memory Management Article

Most Sun articles on Java memory management are dense and hard to read. This month's Better Software magazine on offers a 5 page article at a more intermediate level that makes digesting this topic a lot easier. The article, Your Mom Doesn't Work Here - Cleaning up with Java Memory Management, by Alan Berg, provides a clear description of how to look for memory leaks in Java applications and the performance impact for various GC algorithms. It also provides an introduction to the JMeter stress testing tool (with additional information in the print magazine not available online)

Pluggable Web Gallery Templates for Lightroom

Earlier this week, Photoshop Product Manager John Nack blogged about the interactive, Flash-based Web Gallery templates from Airtight Interactive which plug right into Lightroom. When viewing a photo collection in the Web module of Lightroom you can then select the template, customize it, then hit the upload button to magically produce a fun photo gallery on your website. Lightroom already comes with a large suite of HTML and Flash-based gallery templates, but you can't deny that those from Airtight Interactive are SWEET! My favorite is the PostCard Viewer.

I recently published two photo collections using the PostCard Viewer. Although I love the presentation, I still pine for the social interaction found on Flickr such as commenting, notes, and groups.

For my class on Photographic Seeing at BU's Center for Digital Imaging Arts, I was assigned to shoot some locations while keeping in mind several techniques of photographic composition, including:

  • Rule of Thirds
  • Frame within a Frame
  • Decisive Moment
  • Leading Lines
  • Negative Space
  • Pattern
  • Long Depth of Field
  • Shallow Depth of Field
  • Panning
  • Blur
  • Creative Use of Whitespace
  • Dynamic Use of Color

You can decide which is which on the final selection from the Photograph Seeing project, displayed with the Postcard Viewer. Also, as recently blogged about you can also check out my Faces of India project, also in Postcard Viewer format.

Performance Considerations for Running ColdFusion 8 in 64-bit Mode

In yesterday's post about configuration nuances of using a 64-bit webserver and 64-bit JVM with ColdFusion 8 on the 64-bit Sun Solaris OS, Damon Gentry posted a comment that is, frankly, way above my head.

I'm curious about if there are any performance gains by running CF8 with a 64-bit JVM. More specifically, given the CPU architecture differences between Intel/AMD, and Sparc (speed vs. cores), does it make since to stick with Solaris? I know that the Sparc T1 can support 32 cores, albeit at 1.2 GHz, whereas the Intel CPU can support 4 cores @ 3.6GHz. [more]

The short answer is, "I don't know".

64-bit Basics
Ok, so I'm not a computer scientist. I don't even have a computer science degree. However, I do have Google. And Wikipedia. And the rest of the Web. So, I've filtered through a variety of articles and selected the following to help inform me on the topic:

All of these articles are quite long, and I encourage you to read them if this subject interests you. Since I cannot precisely answer Damon's question, I'll try to summarize relevant information that I have gleaned from them about running a Java-based web application on a 64-bit JVM/OS. If you want details about any inferences, you should read the above articles, although I may end up quoting liberally here.


Configuring ColdFusion 8 for 64-bit JVM and Webserver on Solaris

ColdFusion 8 is the first version to fully support running on a 64-bit JVM, on a 64-bit operating system, with a 64-bit webserver, albeit Solaris only. Out of the box, when installing ColdFusion 8 on Solaris the default option is 32-bit JVM. To enable ColdFusion for a 64-bit JVM, you must choose the option during the installation:

ColdFusion 8 Installation Option

view plain print about
1Solaris configuration
4Choose if you will need 32 bit or 64 bit configuration. If 32 bit is selected, 32 bit webserver will be configured and vice-vera.
6 ->
1- 32 bit configuration
7 2- 64 bit configuration


Vienen Los Vaqueros, Vienen Los Vaqueros!

Two urban cowboys outside The Skellig in Waltham

During a recent evening on the always eclectic Moody Street in Waltham, MA, among the college students sporting tshirts and baseball hats, two men wearing spurs and cowboy hats came jangling down the sidewalk. With local Hispanic, Brazilian, and Indian populations in the area its common to see an odd mix of cultures, but these two wranglers looked like they just fell off the ranch.

In Spanish, I asked if they wouldn't mind if I took their picture, and they replied with exuberance that two other people had also just taken their photo, and they couldn't believe how popular they were suddenly. I told them how the photography school is just down the street and its common for students to roam the area in search of material, and I just hit the jackpot.

Faces of India - A Photography Project

As a student at Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts, my first photography assignment was given in the second class, Camera and Workflow II. The assignment was called The Faces Project, and the goal was to take at least 100 photographs of faces, to be narrowed down to 50 for sharing in class, and finally to 2 for large format printing. Ideally, the student would narrow down the project to a particular theme, such as people laughing, people over 60, people jumping, or even (yes) people blowing their noses. While one of the project lessons was to get students to become comfortable with the camera and to quickly navigate and make best use of the exposure controls, the underlying lesson was a social one rather than technological one. As future professional photographers, the ability to confidently interact with and among strangers should not be overlooked. In fact, many of the students expressed a feeling of dread when given the assignment because, like myself, many are introverts or not highly social, and the thought of blindly walking up to strangers to ask for their photo made many a butterfly spin around our stomachs.

As I travel to India for work on occasion, I decided to choose the theme of Faces of India, since I was to be in Bangalore for a short while. At first, I thought the Faces project would be an impossible one. At times I was overcome with fear when contemplating photographing people in a foreign land, but at the same time I knew that I could accomplish this task that the results would likely be fantastic because of the diversity of culture and people found there.

Hostess at the Leela Palace Ingama Focus on the Future
Faces of India Project

The project got off with a few fits and starts, and I warmed up by photographying those with whom I work in the Adobe office in Bangalore. I'm very grateful for their cooperativeness while I fumbled around with positioning them, taking shots, and retaking more shots. They had a lot of patience with me. Soon a few key concepts emerged that I would quickly adapt to which would progressively help make the Faces of India project more successful. I didn't learn them all at the same time or in this order, but here's a few important ideas that became very useful:


Professional Digital Photography at CDIA

This year I've taken a big step towards turning a long time personal interest into a professional skill. In May I enrolled in the Professional Digital Photography program at Boston University's Center for Digital Imaging Arts, or BU CDIA for short. The curriculum spans 24 classes over nearly 18 months, and requires the commitment of 2 nights per week and every other Saturday.

First Class at CDIA
First class at CDIA
Over the years I've been able to study at various local universities to build web technology skills, including Bentley College, Brandeis University, Harvard Extension School, and BUTrain (Boston University's corporate education). Compared to CDIA, I would be hard pressed to describe a curriculum or facility that was more current and state of the art, or better staffed with highly qualified instructors. CDIA's facility, conveniently located on Moody Street in Waltham, can hardly be called a campus, although it occupies three floors of a huge building converted into classrooms and studios, and will soon expand into an adjacent building that formerly housed a Jordan's Furniture store. In retrospect, only Harvard's Extension School rivals CDIA in quality of equipment and facilities as well as teaching ability of instructors.


Google Wants to Get into Your Genes

The Biotech startup 23andMe aims to take genomic analysis up a notch, up several notches really, by bringing genomics down to a personal level backed by 21st century technology. In an SEC filing in May 2007 it was disclosed that Google floated 23andMe a whopping $3.9 million in addition to an previous loan of $2.6 million. [Via Bio-IT World]

As it turns out, this is not mere business nor even coincidence since 23andMe's co-founder Anne Wojcicki is none other than the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Wojcicki briefly commented that her goal is to use proprietary software tools, "to allow individuals to gain deeper insights into their ancestry, genology, and inherited traits and, ultimately, the option to work together to advance the overall understanding of the human genome."

As a software engineer and former biologist, I'm all for it. I wish Google and 23andMe many years of happiness and bliss together. Now if 23andMe only had an office in Boston...

(Funnily enough, the URL for the Bio-IT article ends with first base. >insert Beavis and Butthead snickering< *hee hee*)

Looking for a local vineyard and winery in the Northeast US? Try Nimble Hill.

Nimble Hill Vineyard and WineryThis past weekend the website and blog for Nimble Hill Vineyard and Winery went live -- a site I constructed with a template from OSWD for the skin, SlideShow Pro for the photo albums, Google Maps API, and BlogCFC for the Journal.

Currently there is one photo album, taken during the first winemaking ever at Nimble Hill, in October 2006. All photos were taken myself. Soon, Nimble Hill will hold the grand opening of the Tasting Room, and I hope to be present to photograph the event for another album.

Nimble Hill is my cousin Gary's winery in the northeast of Pennsylvania. He operates it as a family winery with help from his wife and children. If you're in the vicinity of New York City, New Jersey, or Connecticut then consider taking a country drive for a couple hours to this beautiful part of the state.

This the first time Gary has ever used a blog, and he's just gotten started with his first post. Please stop by to welcome Gary to the blogosphere by posting a comment so that he can see what blogging is all about.

Gary and Ellie opened the winery to have a business where they can work with and alongside their family, whether it be tending vines, crushing grapes, making wine, or minding the tasting room in Tunkhannock.

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