Just back from Edinbourgh and a load of emails and blog comments to catch up on tonight but something that sprung up out of necessity was Adobe Apollo, specifically FineTune Desktop Player.
Since Pandora no longer allows access to listeners outside of the US, I was tipped off to another similar service called FineTunes. Its quite different to say the least and I am still getting used to it. I kinda preferred Pandora with the rating and interface but I thought I'd give it a whirl!
The important thing, and the reason for this blog post is that the desktop player uses Apollo. When Apollo was first released, I was excited and downloaded the sample apps and was impressed. Specifically, I downloaded the RSS reader. Bit sluggish on the menu items but overall great potential.
Onto FineTune Desktop.
Now, I realise Apollo is Alpha so I will only focus on what I think is required to truley make a desktop app in this environment plausable.
Installing the app was fast an straight forward. The interface was nice. It worked first time.
Then some strange things happened. All of a sudden, Apollo crashed with out warning. No biggie, its alpha. Loaded it up again. After about 5 mins of having FineTune open, I instinctively right-clicked and got the god-damn flash context menu. Again, Adobe has restricted using this functionality. This is annoying. Desktop apps should have access to a context-menu.
Then I opened the help window and a child-window spawned. Everything was fine until I closed that window and a debug window popped up telling me that the parent window could not be written too because a child-window blocked focus. The FineTune program was no longer accessible from the taskbar or alt-tab but the music was still playing. I had to end it in processes of task manager. Small glitch that was annoying but acceptable seeing that Apollo is alpha and maybe it will be sorted soon.
Now, Pandoras Box was something I wrote because I wanted music playing without a closeable window on my taskbar. I instinctively clicked the closed button on the FineTune player only to have the whole thing close. Damn I thought, there must be no way for Apollo to run in the task-tray.
This is something that needs to be available to developers wanting to use Apollo. Most little apps I want to write using Apollo would need this functionality. If I want to use the RSS reader, I would expect this. If I wrote an IM app, I would expect this. If I have a music player, I would expect this.
So, I have decided I am going to have a lash at making FineTunes Box. I will take the flash player and use some of the existing code I have from Pandoras Box and make a player I can minimise to the tray. Apollo is a great concept and from poking around, its basically a web browser in desktop app, very much like Pandoras Box with the fantastic advantage of being cross-platform.
Apollo has a great advantage over something like Microsoft ClickOnce in that it is cross-platform but .NET is so much more flexible and has a great supporting IDE for developers. It does though have a huge foot print in the .NET runtime. I was impressed with the Apollos small download.
To sum up, Apollo (I think) needs:
- Proper access to useful libraries to manipulate the host computer. i.e: Access to the file system, devices etc
- An option to have the Apollo host run in the task tray and attach a context menu to the icon
- Access to a context-menu in the Apollo application running
- Simplified ways of accepting global hot-keys
I would love to hear other peoples ideas on the above and maybe some insight from developers who know more about the Apollo platform than me. Maybe these things are available or in the pipeline? Anyone else want to see a FineTunes Box application?