Posts Tagged ‘actionscript


Do they test at all?

I’ve noticed that there are a lot of sites out there that have swfs throwing Errors (*).  It’s the most annoying thing about having to use the debugger version of the flash player. I don’t want to look at other coders sloppy error handling, but there seems to be no choice. Check Microsofts Xbox Live site for instance: – it pops an error window with: Error #2044: Unhandled IOErrorEvent:. text=Error #2035: URL Not Found. The site is just a random example – Microsoft is no better or worse than others. Continue reading ‘Do they test at all?’


Flex API bug

I just ran into an issue that looks like a bug in the Flex API. The DragManager is used for dragging and dropping between flex components, and it can also be used to implement drag and drop quite easily in your own projects. It’s (mostly) well implemented and the syntax is straightforward. To start a drag, use DragManager.doDrag(dragInitiator, dragSource, mouseEvent). The details are explained in the documentation.

The bug I encountered is in the dragSource part of the call above – it’s an instance of  DragSource class, used to store data being dragged. You add data with myDragSourceInstance.addData(myData, “identifyingString”). Nice and sensible. The problem occurs when data is retrieved through myDragSourceInstance.dataForFormat(“identifyingString”). It returns Object as data can be of any type. Here’s the method from DragSource:

public function dataForFormat(format:String):Object
 var data:Object = dataHolder[format];
 if (data)
   return data;

 if (formatHandlers[format])
   return formatHandlers[format]();

 return null;

But if the data you added is numeric zero – 0 – the test if(data) will return false and the method will return null instead of numeric zero. Bummer! I suspect that if (data || data === 0) would be better.

The workaround I used was to set data as a string instead. As data return is untyped, we need to cast it anyhow.

What do you think? Has Adobe implemented the method correctly or is this a bona fide bug?


Open challenge: Dynamic ContextMenu

Inspired by the very enjoyable challenge from my friends at Apt, we’re doing our own. In a recent project I needed a contextMenu which allowed the user to select the number of pictures to show in a ad template. The choices change with the size of the ad, so every time the context menu is shown, it’s regenerated first. But for the challenge, you can skip the regenereation bit.

I’ll post my solution on tuesday (2.jun)

Continue reading ‘Open challenge: Dynamic ContextMenu’


Modulo (%) – the designer’s best friend

I became a programmer because I was a lazy designer. That is lazy as in “Why create fifty animations that are almost the same”, not “bah – good enough, customer isn’t going to care”. I want top results with as little effort as possible. So actionscript was the way to cut down on unwieldy timelines.

The downside of not having a programming degree is that a few of the useful concepts and methods remain obscured in a corner. As with modulo. For those of you with a maths degree, just skip down a few paragraphs. Designers – bear with me.

Modulo is a maths operator like multiply and divide are. It is most similar to divide as it returns the remainder from an integer division. Quick example: 13 % 10 = 3 because 13 can be divided once by 10 with three remaining. 23 % 10 is also three as 23 can be divided twice by 10 with three remaining.

So why should I care, the designer asks, this is all very interesting, but what practical value does it have? One scenario is my contribution to this mini challenge from Apt, although SIN is probably better in that case. I’ve used it most when laying out n-objects in a grid to calculate x-position. As % returns the remainder, you can multiply count and x-step and do a modulo on total width.

An example:

function placeItems():void {
  var numItems:int=45;
  var xstep:int=15;
  var ystep:int=15;
  var totalWidth:int=150;
  var item:MovieClip;
  for (var i:int = 0; i<numItems; i++) {
    item.x = (i*xstep)%totalWidth;
    item.y = Math.floor((i*xstep)/totalWidth)*ystep;


function createAnItem():MovieClip {
  var item:MovieClip = new myItem();
  return item;

Which results in this if you have a blue square in the library exported to actionscript as ‘myItem’


All the magic is in the last two lines of the for…next loop, it places items in a grid without needing help counters.
Look at item.x = (i*xstep)%totalWidth. It multiplies item count with distance between items and does a modulo on total width. I.e., if i*step is 330, 330%150 = 30. Combined with stepping y down with whole multiplies, we get a nice grid. Y value – if i*step is 330, it gives  2.2 when divided by total width, lose the decimal and we know it in row 2.

It’s super easy to change parameters. Set x/y-step or total width and you’re done. Just keep total width divisible by x-step, else the gird gets staggered.

Anyone else with good examples of modulo for layout?


Server result, who called?

I ran into a problem the other day. We integrate our flash application with a server-side image archive, allowing browsing from the flash front-end. That means loading a tree structure and contents of all folders. We only load the structure initially to optimize bandwidth usage – data about the contents of folder is loaded when the user selects a folder. That means the first time I select a folder for this session, a call to the server is made requesting the content of that folder. A call-back function is set which handles placing the data into the dataProvider and updating the view.

So far, so good. But there was a snag – to further optimise transferred data, we only return data about the images in the folder, not what folder they are in. So the call back function has no way of telling where to put the data unless we make sure that there’s only one call for folder contents at a time. Continue reading ‘Server result, who called?’


ErrorEvent – equivalent to throw new Error?

A technical question for you out there:

I had a class that dispatched an ErrorEvent which was not listened for by any other class. That resulted in the player popping up an error dialogue very similar to the one you get from throwing Errors – and not catching them.

Nice image – imagine a juggler throwing three or four Errors into the air and catching some of them.

The documentation for ErrorEvents says that ErrorEvents without listeners will be displayed by the debugger, but I can’t quite see how it’s handled. ErrorEvent inherits TextEvent, nothing special there. I just wonder how the flashPlayer detects these events. Is there hard coded special handling of Errors? Or are there attributes of the ErrorEvent that tells the player to treat it differently from other events?

File under “unecessary fidling with the API”


Web Services are suprisingly easy with Flex

Last time I had to work with web services, ActionScript2 was still hot stuff. Handling complex data was an absolute pain, mainly because of the woefully primitive XML implementation of AS2. Manually looping through children’s lists is not my idea of fulfilling programming tasks. Not that I realised how bad it was until AS3 showed up with E4X. “You mean I can just read the XML like an object or array? No way, that’s sci-fi!”

It was with a great deal of apprehension that I started on a new project that required integration with an external web service. But it turned out to be an absolute breeze. A small, hitherto ignored, menu item called “Data: Import Web Service (WSDL)” turned out to be very close to magic and became my new best friend.

Import Web Service takes an URI to the WSDL (web service definition language), loads and parses it and then lets you choose the methods you want to generate code for. It creates complete proxies with typed data classes for both in- and output. You can reload and regenerate classes if the web service changes, and you can add and remove methods at any time. All the generated code is accessible and well documented – although all is well documented with examples in the Flex help, I didn’t need more than the comments in the generated code.

I’m not claiming to have made a big discovery here, after all it’s part of the standard Flex Builder. But it just works so much better than I expected. Web Services have gone from being a royal pain to the easiest and most structured way of communicating with the server.