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Author: Hayden Porter | Website: http://www.aviarts.com

Book Review: Flash Applications for Mobile Devices

Authors: Richard Leggett, Wyert de Boer, Scott Janousek
Friends of Ed (Apress)
~$35.00 Amazon

Flash Applications for Mobile Devices is the first book published on the subject of Adobe Flash Lite for mobile devices. The authors, Richard Leggett, Wyert de Boer and Scott Janousek are noted experts in the field and longtime active members of the Flash mobile community. The authors have a corresponding web site, www.flashmobilebook.com, where readers can download examples from the book, read an example chapter and contact the authors.

Book Overview

The first chapter serves to introduce the reader to the Flash platform, its history and its various applications on the web and in mobile. This chapter is most relevant for mobile developers who are new to Flash. Chapter 2 delves into wireless and mobile development concepts, the limitations of developing for mobile, idiomatic applications for mobile, and compares different mobile development platforms. This chapter is a good introduction for Flash developers not yet familiar with the various issues of mobile platforms

Subsequent chapters deal with Flash Lite development issues. Chapters 3 and 4 get into the specifics of Flash Lite 1.1 and 2.x respectively, and Chapter 5, 6, 7 cover application development, game development and wallpaper/screensaver content development. We learn about Flash Lite sound and video in chapters 8 and 9, ways to extend Flash Lite capability with external helper applications in chapter 10, issues for content distribution in chapter 11 and conclude in chapter 12 with speculation on future uses of Flash Lite for mobile applications.

The book also has three helpful appendices. Appendix A lists Flash Lite player error codes for both FL1.1 and FL2.x. Appendix B documents each FSCommand2, the new category of ActionScript commands unique to Flash Lite for integrating the player with devices. Appendix C is a glossary defining common mobile terminology and acronyms. Developers should find these appendices a convenient resource for looking up terminology, fscommand2 descriptions and referring to error code meanings.

Book Review

Most of the examples and concepts from the book are based upon the Flash Lite implementation for Nokia series 60 platform, which for many developers is the most popular and accessible Flash Lite platform. In addition, there are examples for Pocket PC Flash and chapter 7 covers developing wallpaper and screensaver content using a Sony Ericsson phone as the example platform. The book focuses on developing for mobile phone content and does not examine Flash development for handheld devices such as iRiver U10/clix, Sony PSP or Chumby.

The book authors write about both FL1.1 and 2.x, and I would say provide excellent guidelines for FL1.1 authoring techniques. This is right on target because at this time network carriers/operators world wide are releasing a mix of Nokia and Sony Ericsson FL1.1/2.0 devices to market, so FL1.1 platform will remain viable for some time to come.

Flash Lite 1.1

For those interested in FL1.1 development, the authors have provided a great set of resources throughout the book. Chapter 3 covers setting up a development environment with Flash MX 2004 Pro, which may be useful for those who have not yet upgraded to a more contemporary version of Flash IDE but still want to develop FL1.1 content. This chapter also discusses FL1.1 ActionScript concepts like slash syntax and FSCommand2. The authors provide a useful set of custom string and number functions to extend functionality and discuss other techniques such as checking for the existence of movie clips.

Chapter 5 gives an overview of the Adobe FL1.1 CDK component set and also discusses ways to improve the functionality of these components. Readers can download the updated FL1.1 components from the book web site. In chapter 6, the authors discuss game development and provide useful techniques for detecting collision and hit testing with FL1.1, an important topic because FL1.1 has no built-in hit test detection functions. Chapter 7 is dedicated to FL1.1 techniques to create dynamic animated wallpaper and screen savers, which are emerging Flash Lite content types.

Flash Lite 2.x

The authors begin discussion of FL2.x in chapter 4 with an overview of ActionScript 2. This chapter also explains the subset of Flash 7 features in Flash Lite 2.x and specific concepts like the asynchronous behavior of mobile shared objects in FL2.X and the extended properties of the system.capabilities class. Chapter 5 demonstrates a stock quote application developed in FL1.1 and ported to ActionScript 2.

The chapters about sound and video focus on using ActionScript 2.x coding techniques to embed and control sound or video objects. Chapter 8 notes the difference between device sound and native audio subsystems for playing sound. Readers learn to use system.capabilities to determine supported device sound formats before attempting to play a sound. The authors provide an extended MP3 player code example and discuss using _forceframerate to synchronize graphics with device sound formats.

Chapter 9 covers embedding video, using a Video object to play embedded, local and streamed .3GP video and compares FL2.x video capabilities to video in Flash for PCs. The authors include many code examples and a complete video player ActionScript example. In chapter 10 the authors demonstrate a FL2.0 component for emulating T9 predictive text entry for a text box, which improves upon the standard text box behavior of FL2.0.

Extending Flash Lite with OS Helper Applications

More advanced developers interested in extending Flash Lite will be especially interested in chapter 10 which explains how develop helper applications. The first example pertains to using a Symbian C++ application to save persistent data from Flash Lite to a phone, a feature missing from the core capabilities of FL1.1. As the authors point out, this can be useful for saving game scores, or creating date dependant demo applications. The chapter also demonstrates creating local web server applications for Pocket PC Flash using .NET for windows mobile and Python for Symbian to access native functionality in a device’s operating system. These techniques can be used with either FL1.1 or FL2.x to enable the player to access features of the operating system, not available to the standard Flash Lite ActionScript API.

As a final note, a large part of chapter 11 deals with creating .SIS files for the Symbian series 60 platform either by using BlueSky North’s swf2sis software or manually creating .SIS files. Fortunately, the daunting task of creating .SIS files has been improved with swf2go by Orison software, which largely replaces the need to create your own .SIS and supports Symbian series 60 version 3 devices (those with Flash Lite pre-installed) which swf2sis does not.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Flash Lite mobile development. It offers great tips and serves as a useful reference for those already experienced with mobile development, and should help to smooth the learning curve for those new to Flash Lite development. For more details on the book, visit the web site, www.flashmobilebook.com.

» Level Basic

Added: 2007-06-05
Rating: 6.33 Votes: 3
(10 being the highest)
» Author
Hayden Porter is a Flash mobile developer and a FlashKit moderator for the Mobile and Devices forum and the Music and Sound forum.
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