CEC 2007: JavaFX on stage, podcasting with Jonathan and Web 2.0 at the unconference

A screenshot of the CEC Message Prompter JavaFX Application 

Boy is this CEC 2007 conference a busy place! Here's a couple of things that got me excited since my last post:

  • Yesterday we had an Unconference session coupled with a couple of speed geeking sessions. Three of the speed geeking sessions were centered around Web 2.0: Neeraj presented on CE 2.0, our new collaborative infrastructure for the field that leverages a lot of Web 2.0 principles. Hal Stern shared some fascinating thoughts about why DRM is Morons and why sharing content is always a good thing, even if it's professional music or movies or other traditional content.
  • Today, after the morning sessions and the big launch, a couple of colleagues and I sat down to record the second episode of the CEC 2007 Podcast. This time, Jonathan Schwartz and John Fowler joined in, together with Matthias Pfützner, Robert Holt, Dave Levy and Michael Ramchand. Don't miss this episode where we share our impressions of CEC and discuss some thoughts about the value of Web 2.0 to us.
  • This CEC has also probably seen the debut of JavaFX and JavaFX Script on a big stage :). To the top, you see a screenshot done by Rajesh of an application that we use to prompt questions from the audience to the presenters on stage. Questions come in through SMS, Email and Instant Messaging while the presenter on stage gives his talk. They are aggregated and fed into a database by the CEC Backstage Messaging Team. Finally, they are displayed onto a screen through the CEC Message Prompter for the speaker and the audience to see.
    The message prompter is written in JavaFX Script. It uses traditional Java classes to access the database through JDBC and it can also digest messages in an XML format through the JAXB API and this is the first significant feature of JavaFX: You can mix traditional Java Classes with JavaFX Script seamlessly, leaving all the heavy-lifting to Java so you can concentrate on the GUI through JavaFX script. Another nice feature of JavaFX Script is the declarative syntax: You just write down how what you want and the JavaFX runtime takes care of instantiating the objects, initializing their parameters and fiddling them into the Swing event loop.
    The above photo only shows a screenshot, but the application is animated: Every time a new message is highlighted, old messages are reduced in size and color while the highlighted message grows and becomes a darker color. Also, to the right, there is a dynamic tag cloud that reflects all of the words visible on screen and where the size of the word indicates its multitude. Again, the tags are animated based on the changes in the message part. Programming animations in JavaFX is very easy thanks to two constructs: Variable binding and parameter streaming. Variable binding means binding an object attribute (i.e. the HTML code that describes the rendering of the message) to a variable (the position of the message in the message list). After the binding, the attribute behaves much like a marionette: As soon as something changes in the data model (i.e. a new message is added to the display list), the attribute is updated in real time and the font characteristics are updated to reflect the change (in this case, the next message grows while the older one shrinks). And here comes another mechanism to help, the "dur" statement. A line like "myVariable = [0..100] dur 500" means: Assign the values 0 to 100 to the variable myVariable during the next 500 milliseconds. Perfect for animation control! JavaFX takes care of all the setting up of timer threads etc. under the hood, while the programmer can essentially animate everything in their application. Very nice.
    Of course, the CEC Message Prompter is not bugless, and unfortunately, the highlighting went wrong a few times :). Fortunately, this didn't seem to confuse anyone, but today I implemented a watchdog mechanism to make sure stuff always has the right size no matter what. I hope that this works more smoothly tomorrow...
    I'd like to encourage everyone to try JavaFX script out. It still feels a lot like beta but it's already quite useable, heck, we're using it in production right now at CEC :). Let me know if you want the source code to the CEC Message Prompter application.
Well, that's it for now. Off I go to drop into a session real quick before attending a meeting and then there's a party scheduled, too...
Comments:

Looks like a great app. I'd love to see the source.

Josh

Posted by Joshua Smith on October 10, 2007 at 08:54 AM CEST #

Hi Joshua,

please send me an email and I'll pack together the source code for you.

Thanks,
Constantin

Posted by Constantin Gonzalez on October 10, 2007 at 10:59 AM CEST #

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