An issue that can crop up with Flex applications is the lack of any log information to match up against users' bug reports. It is possible to configure the debug version of Flash Player to record trace() output, but most users do not have this setup. Additionally, it is much more desirable to maintain this kind of information server-side, where the development team have control, rather than relying on users' whilst also clogging up their machines. A general approach to this problem is relatively obvious - send the information back to the server - but there are all sorts of ways this could be implemented. Of course, sending lots of logging information to the server creates an overhead in the application, so this should very much be considered on a case by case basis.
A solution that we use takes advantage of Flex's native logging API, allowing it to be transparently added or removed from an application while providing us with the benefits of a decent logging framework, for example logging levels. Flex provides the ILogger class, instances of which are obtained using Log's getLogger() method, to log messages. In turn, these messages are sent to one or more ILoggingTargets, the most common of which, TraceTarget outputs the logging information using the trace() method. The logging API documentation provides details and examples for how to get started with this basic logging setup.
On the Flex side, our solution consists of little more than a custom ILoggingTarget implementation, RemoteTarget, that attempts to send the logging information to a specified URL and the appropriate code to initialise the target. Note that RemoteTarget uses URLLoaders rather than HTTPServices because HTTPService itself uses the logging API, thereby causing an infinite loop. Another feature worth highlighting is that our implementation stops logging if it has encounters any errors when sending the information to the server, so that, for example, an application does not repeatedly hit a server that is unavailable. All source code and examples associated with this article can be found here.
Here is a small example showing how RemoteTarget can be used:
As the information is being sent back as a standard example server-side code I have included is in Java and consists of a relatively simple HttpServlet that parses the information and mirrors it onto its own logging framework, in this case log4j.
I'm a designer working on complex systems across desktop, web and mobile. As Head of User Experience at Scott Logic, I work primarily with financial services and energy trading institutions, creating everything from direct-to-consumer investment applications to research, trading and analysis tools. I delight in pushing at what is possible to discover beautiful, effective solutions to problems.