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So You Want to Learn Flex (2)

Posted by Moxie Zhang | December 15, 2005 .

To learn Flex, I know we are not starting at the same line. Well, it’s not a racing so we are just fine.

Every piece of technology, new or old, there are usually a group of elites surrounding it. They are the advocates and evangelists of this technologies, and they could be barriers as well. because they are so good that the poor programmer Joe wouldn’t think he is not good enough to doing that elite thing. Or they are so good at a few things and very influential, so it’s hard to preach them a new better piece. At earlier day (not so far past) more than once or twice I was interrupted by elites with a smarty comment like, "So, Flex is Flash on steroids, right?" Those are hardcore Flash and ColdFusion people I’m talking about, not mention Windows dudes yet. Anyway, I don’t think elites need roadmaps or alike. I’ll make the roadmap for average Flex Joe. But please give some helps if you could.

In So You Want to Learn Flex (1) I listed the levels of a learner as a programmer. Now let’s list all the technologies Flex touches. Later we will find a entry point for different level of learners and, the roadmap will lead to where you want to be. How’s that?

The following diagram is the birds’ view of a Flex application (or system):

Flex Gen Arch

Kinda standard boring three-tier architecture you’ve been seeing everywhere. There are a lot more behind each block but let’s peel the onion slowly (have you ever done that, peeling onion?) The dot-lined block is kind of optional for a Flex application depends on what the application does. You can run Flex application (a swf file) without Flex server, just like a regular Flash piece running in a browser. But you don’t want to do that even  though you can. There is whole licensee issue involved. Let’s don’t go there. Not on my map.

Here is the list of significant technologies a super-duper Flex elite knows them all (ya’r right):


Relevant Level

Language XML ***** A XML file won’t tell anything significant. But there are a big set of THINGS under the XML cover. Go check out
W3C you would find out.
  MXML ***** You want to learn Flex, do you?
  ActionScript ***** They all tell you AS is just Javascript. But like all the new language, it’s not the language, it’s API library, the class library, etc. make the learning curve.
  Javascript *** Now it’s javascript. Still useful when dealing with browser or learning AS.
  Java *** The current Flex server is a J2EE application. The server side action, obviously, should be in Java. Not that you have to though.
  PHP * The most popular opensource site building language. There are even PHP module for Flash stuffs. Why not.
  Perl * Another scripting popular language, overshadowed by PHP at web front though.
  Ruby * It getting more attention now because of Ruby on Rail.
  AJAX **** I know it’s hardly a language. If you don’t know about it, how do you do the arguing:-)
  XAML *** This will get in your way one way or another. Might as well start getting to know it.
  C# * Until the .Net Flex server released, don’t spread yourself too thin.
Flex Tools FlexBuilder **** You want to learn Flex, right?
  Flex Server ***** There are a lot you can tweak or hack at server side.
  Flash ** You don’t have to know how to create swf in Flash, but increasingly I think that skill is important.
General Techs (X, D)HTML *** Assume you must know one or two about them.
  J2EE Services ** This is a big jar. All those acronyms in there for building J2EE based enterprise system, JMS, JTS, JNDI to name a few.
  Web Services *** You can’t avoid hearing it these days. Sooner or later you will have to deal with it.
  .Net ** This one too. Why not? Just another suite of technologies.
  HTTP *** The more you know the inside of HTTP, the more you know the whole web thing.
RDBMS Oracle ** ya ya ya.
  MS SQL Server ** sure sure sure.
  MySQL and alike ** Plus this one the whole DB base should be covered.
Design UML (and tools) **** UML itself is just a notation system. But use whenever you can. All the design tools support it and application designers too.
  User Interface (UI) ***** Flex doesn’t make a good UI. Flex allow good UI designer make great UI!
  GoF Design Patterns ***** The classic thing. Have to know them.
  J2EE Design Patterns *** Once you know these bunch, the J2EE marketplace will be boring to you. Flex won’t just exist alone. It need enterprise system behind it.
  Graphic Design * You are just a programmer.
Architecture Multi-tier ***** What is not multi-tier these days?
  MVC ***** What is not in MVC these days?
  Messaging ** Oh, don’t get me start on this. Believe me, Flexer, you will deal with it.
  SOA ** Who is not talking about SOA?
Security SSL * sure
  LDAP * When authentication is in your business.
COTS ERP, SCM, CRM, PDM, Etc. ** Those three-letter beasts are the backbone of enterprise information systems. The will feed your Flex sooner or later.
Productivity Tools Eclipse **** The next FlexBuilder, Zorn, is on Eclipse. You know what to do.
  CVS, PVS or alike ***** After all you don’t want loss your works, don’t you?
Frameworks Spring ** The SPRING J2EE framework is getting really serious these day. When you
build Flex for J2EE, get take look of it.
  ActionScript focused ** There are a few of them. Learn from them first, don’t jump in too soon.
  Ruby On Rail ** Soon a lot of stuffs will be on Rail.

Looks like a maze, isn’t it. Don’t worry. A roadmap will help the way through. And, believe me, you don’t need half of the above stuffs to be a Flex expert. Stay tune.

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4 Comments so far
  1. Adam Schroeder  December 15, 2005 7:16 am

    I’ll be following this very closely!


  2. Constantine  December 16, 2005 2:36 pm

    “Pearl” must be “Perl” =)

  3. Flexguy  December 16, 2005 9:21 pm

    Thank you, Constantine.

  4. Dave  April 16, 2008 11:45 pm

    So where are you up to with laying out a flex learning roadmap?

    Where should a budding flexer-wanna-be start? would this be with the flex builder interface? learning AS3? or right back at XML?



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