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The Flex Show Episode 69: Silverlight with Jesse Liberty

This time we take a look at another option in the RIA space with Silverlight Geek Jesse Liberty.



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shaun's Gravatar Interesting, enjoyed the show.

I must be honest: if I had a copy of Parallels, Windows Vista and Visual Studio, I'd definitely be playing around with Silverlight right now. But that would set me back about $480-$1180!
# Posted By shaun | 3/11/09 12:43 PM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar Shaun,

I can't help you w/ Parallels or Windows, but Jesse did say that most of what you need to develop in Silverlight is available for free at . I assume he was assuming that people already had a working copy of Windows.

Reviewing the site, it does appear that Visual Studio is needed. Is there an express version of VS? I'm not sure.
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 3/11/09 1:00 PM
Bill Reiss's Gravatar You can use Visual Web Developer Express, which is free. Or you can use Eclipse (still requires Windows):
# Posted By Bill Reiss | 3/11/09 1:43 PM
Eric Fickes's Gravatar Great episode, and thanks a bunch for doing a Silverlight show. Looking forward to getting dirty with some SL.
# Posted By Eric Fickes | 3/11/09 2:08 PM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar Bill,

Thanks for the clarification on tooling.


Thanks for listening; we're glad you enjoyed.
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 3/11/09 2:13 PM
Rick's Gravatar Good stuff!!

Eager to know what SL 3 has to provide....
# Posted By Rick | 3/11/09 8:10 PM
Tom Gruszowski's Gravatar I'd be very interested in Flash vs Silverlight install base in corporate world; corporations still use IE6 and if you plan to sell to them you MUST support this archaic browser. While Silverlight as a technology is compelling its hard to tell your customers what to do especially if they have alternatives to your product. This is the reason why I as a .NET dev use Flex, because in Saas model Flash is THE standard not far behind HTML.
# Posted By Tom Gruszowski | 3/19/09 10:56 AM
shaun's Gravatar Just spotted this:

Exciting! Haven't tried it out yet.. gotta do a backup first :)
# Posted By shaun | 3/19/09 11:09 AM
alen's Gravatar Great show. One of the best. Particularly I liked the idea of (re)defining what an RIA is (or should be) versus flaming wars on which technology is best. That being said, I have couple of points. RIA starts from the website, not from the desktop app. I want to say that the user that enters the URL in the browser is expecting a website. This website might be amazingly capable and smart, it can be online Photoshop, business app, whatever, but it is still in the browser and users would consider it as some sort of a website.

And this is where Flash Player fails on usability:

- vertical size of the app limited to preset value, does not scale with content like an HTML page
- right click (open in new tab, copy image, save image, etc.)
- back button

All these can be worked around with more or less hassle, but still the behavior would be quite odd. I'd like to see SL approach to this, as I don't think FP is developing in the way of supporting these.

I know there's an argument out there that RIA *should* be considered as desktop style app in the browser. But I cannot tell that to users with a sticker on the home page. All our usability tests showed that they were expecting the above mentioned behavior for all the RIA scenarios.
# Posted By alen | 3/24/09 5:21 AM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar Alen,

Glad you enjoyed. One thing,

When you run a Flex App from Flex Builder, it fills the full HTML screen. From there, it is not too hard to build your app so that content scales vertically as the browser height changes. You are limited if you have a controlled size as part of a greater page; but HTML would also provide that same limitation.

Am I missing something?
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 3/24/09 10:40 AM
alen's Gravatar Hi Jeff, please correct me if I got it wrong, but I think you're referring to the fact that app can be stretched to fill 100% of the browser height. This is possible of course, but what the usability study was showing is that users want more - 200%, 300% of the browser's height to display the data. If it's just 100% then sometimes, on the netbooks for example, you're only left with 350 - 400 pixels to display the data. All the users were scrolling the mouse wheel trying to reveal more content but nothing happened. If I have hundred rows of data I would like my whole app to expand vertically, with the browser scroll bar, not with the scroller inside the app (because that usually leads to having scrollers inside scrollers, buttons click here to expand, etc.).
# Posted By alen | 3/24/09 12:49 PM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar Alen,

Yes, you can expand the wdith of your swf in the browser to 100% height. And you can also program the Flex App to to be scrollable and take up to 3 times of that space if you wanted.

Do you have links to said usability studies? Do they apply to web pages / reading content or application usability? I would expect those things to have two distinctly different usability requirements.
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 3/24/09 2:51 PM
alen's Gravatar You mean you use Javascript to set the height of a swf?

I'm referring to problems like this:, where instead of having one long page, you have two scrollers inside the page, plus the button 'maximize list' to make it a bit more accessible.

Unfortunately we didn't record user tests, just observed after we have them tasks and scenarios. The thing with RIA is that is never actually just an app, it always has some parts that are more like sites. I mean that's the point that I liked in the podcast, how to best define RIA, etc. I think it still has to be considered as site, although it's an app, as the 'regular' site can also be an app, although it's a site in fact. If we take this approach than all the runtimes, like FP, SL, should support most of the basic browser functionality by default, while still having the options to either bypass it or enhance it.
# Posted By alen | 3/25/09 12:27 AM
alen's Gravatar Ok, I found a good one :) -, they use JS for screen resize though. That's my point, why shouldn't an RIA framework offer the basic 'web site' behavior natively?
# Posted By alen | 5/5/09 11:22 PM
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