ClearDS for Android

Clear DataServices (ClearDS) is a free productivity tool that compliments Adobe AIR Native Extensions(ANE) for Android devices. It allows to embed BlazeDS into the AIR-based Android application.

Why ClearDS?

ClearDS has been designed for two purposes. Similar to ANE, it allows to code part of your application in Java with full access to Android SDK. In addition, we can turn an Android device into a server, broadening possibilities for application architectures.

Prior to ANE, simple features like Android Toast and Status Bar notifications as well as advanced ones like Text-to-Speech or Speech Recognition were out of reach for ActionScript coders. ClearDS allows you to embed the Android code into a Java class hosted by a servlet container with  BlazeDS and remote to that class with standard and familiar <s:RemoteObject>. There is no dependency on AIR version and you can natively debug the Java portion of your application using Android Eclipse plugin.

By the same token embedding of BlazeDS into  APK turns your application into a server. Now any computer on the same LAN or VPN can remote to your mobile device. Imagine a scenario where your mobile phone is used as a signature pad where you sign to complete an insurance application or  a financial transaction. Here are some other use cases for your mobile phone:

– bar code reader
– better camera for your notebook,
– voice data/entry gadget that renders alphanumeric keyboard useless, eliminating costly clerical mistakes.

How Does It Work?

We fine tuned BlazeDS to be compatible with a set of core Java classes used by Android. To enable HTTP traffic between the SWF and Java portions of your APK we employed Winstone Servlet Container. Since Android APK generated by the Flash Builder generates a single-activity application, we extended this (activity) class. This allowed us to start the ClearDSService when the activity gets created. The service, in turn, starts the Winstone Servlet container. This allows your SWF-based ActionScript code to remote to your Java code within the boundaries of the same APK.

To make the developers’ life easy, we created the ClearDS Eclipse plugin.When you create a new ClearDS project you effectively create two projects: a Flash Mobile project and Android Java mobile project. These projects are related: the additional builder script of the Flash project contributes the SWF as an asset to the Android project. Then you just deploy your Android project the same was as the users of Android Eclipse plugin do. You develop MXML/ActionScript code in Eclipse’s Flash project,  and accordingly,  the Java code in the Android project.

Is ClearDS a Right Approach for You?

Adobe’s AIR Native Extension is a door opener to the world of native APIs of mobile devices. If you find an ANE with the functionality you need – just use it. Unfortunately, there is no way to debug mobile ANE. On the other hand, if you choose the ClearDS route, you will be able to debug the Java code using standard Android ADT Eclipse plugin.

So, as long as you feel comfortable writing Flex and Java code, download the ClearDS plugin and use it right away.

You can also watch this 10-minute screencast of ClearDS plugin in action here.

We also started added the ClearDS-related content to the wiki page of Clear Toolkit located at this URL. You may also subscribe for our new video channel at Youtube.

Victor