My experience with putting a Flex app on the PlayBook

Published on: May 2, 2011
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As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve finally gotten hold of my free BlackBerry Playbook, so I started playing around with it. First impressions were quite good. Even my wife is interested in this device, which sounds great, but will probably mean I’ll have to kindly ask here to borrow it if I want to test on it…

But for now, she’s not getting hold of the device, because I want to try several things out. And one of those things is the real cross-device development using the Flash Platform. In my case, that means Flex of course. That’s what I’ve be doing for the past couple of days and I must say it’s really working once you get the procedure down. That’s the tricky bit for now, so let me take you through my struggles and maybe I can save you from making the same endeavors as I needed in order to get it working.

Setting up the development environment

This is the first part you’ll have to go through. Blackberry has issued a tablet OS SDK, which is a plugin for Flash Builder that allows you to compile applications for the PlayBook directly from within Flash Builder. While this all sounds great, the latest releases of that plugin do not support Flex Mobile applications. That means you cannot use that SDK to compile your Flex Mobile application. You can only work with ActionScript Mobile application.

A second issue is the fact that the SDK is installed on top of an existing Flex 4.5 SDK and without giving away too much information, it is not compatible with all Flex 4.5 SDKs, so compiling and packaging the application from within Flash Builder is not possible with the latest versions. Hopefully BlackBerry will release another version of their SDK this is compatible soon.

Taking these two issues into accounad the fact that as a Flex developer I want to use a Flex Mobile project, I’ll have to package the application using the command line.

Compiling and packaging the application

Since the option of compiling directly for the playbook is not possible with the latest builds, I’ve used a little shortcut to get the release build of my application. I mean, if you’re working on a Flex mobile application and you compile using Flash Builder, you can only opt for the Android APK file. There is no release build that gives you the release version of the SWF file.

So that’s exactly what I’ve done. Then I unzipped the APK file and searched for the release version of my SWF file and used that to package my BAR file. The command to do the packaging is as follows

blackberry-airpackager -package <BAR file> <application>-app.xml <application>.swf blackberry-tablet.xml <assets required by the application>

Signing the application

Once you have the BAR file ready you have come to the trickiest part: signing the application. This is best done via command line again, but hopefully this will be included in the Flash Builder plugin once it’s updated to work with the latest builds and with Flex Mobile projects.

First, you need to be registered as a vendor with BlackBerry in order to obtain you code signing key. This is done only once per developer or company, depending on how you want to register yourself. Obtaining the key is done by filling out this form.

The key you receive will be a CSJ file. It all starts with that file, because now you have to register that CSJ file as well as create a keystore to communicate with the BlackBerry signing authority. So, we’ll start by setting up that keystore, which is done via the following command

blackberry-signer -csksetup -cskpass <create a password>

Then you need to register the CSJ file by using the following command

blackberry-signer -register -csjpin <PIN> -cskpass <csk password from previous step> <CSJ file>

The last thing to get you set up is to generate a coding certificate, a .p12 file that is not unlike the certificate you create for regular AIR applications. This is done by executing the following command:

blackberry-keytool -genkeypair -keystore <certificate.p12> -storepass <create a password> -dname “cn=<company name>” -alias author

Once you have this set up, you are all set to start signing your application. When signing an application for the BlackBerry App World you actually have to sign it twice. Once for the code signing itself and a second time to add the author data to the BAR file. This can be done by executing these two statements in this particular order.

blackberry-signer -verbose -cskpass <csk password> -keystore <p12 certificate> -storepass <certificate password> <application>.bar RDK

blackberry-signer -keystore <p12 certificate> -storepass <certificate password> <application>.bar author

If you go through this signing process several times, make sure that you increase the application versionNumber in the <application>-app.xml file every single time. Otherwise you will get the error message that the application was already signed.

Deploying the application on the device

At this point your application is ready to be submitted to the BlackBerry App World. However, you might want to install it on your own device already and not wait for approval. This can be done via command line too and it can only be done with the signed BAR file. Unsigned applications can be installed using a debug token that expires after 30 days, but the following command is not suited for that type of deployment. It will only work with signed BAR files.

blackberry-deploy – installApp -device <device IP> -password <device password> <application>.bar

When you execute this command the application will be installed on your BlackBerry PlayBook and you can run it as if you installed it through the App World.

This might not be the best way to get your Flex Mobile application on the PlayBook, but it sure has worked for me and as far as I know it is the only way to do this with my current setup of Flash Builder and PlayBook SDK.
If someone has a better way of doing this, please let me know as I find this not an easy process to do (what should be) a simple task

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