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I have the exact same needs but after voicing the need for the ability to invoke a Java class for a year I still haven't heard a definitive answer.
This is not the answer I was hoping for. Thanks anyway.
If you're right then Bruce Eckel and other Adobe evangelists might turn out to be just gossips who heavily promote an immature product (Flex/AIR) while bashing other established technologies (Java). I hope I am wrong on this point.
I've got similar research going on for a project that sounds similar (multi-threaded java app with an AIR-based GUI). This is by no means a definitive answer but what I (think) I've found so far:
a. I've found something called merapi ( http://merapiproject.net/) that appears to let an air app and a java app exchange AMF messages w/out the use of blazeDS and a J2EE container. A caveat though: I haven't tried it yet and I'm having trouble getting access to the code.
b. don't know yet
c. I haven't yet found a way to do that. My current thinking is that my multi-threaded java application will have to start first and then launch the AIR app via something like ProcessBuildier or Runtime.getRuntime().exec(). This creates some additional problems but it's the only way I can find so far.
d. don't know yet
Thanks pqaid for your reply.
a) The Merapi project looks quite interesting. I quickly read through their web site and watched some videos. It seems to provide answers to some of my questions. I will have to invest more time though.
c) At least in my case the AIR app has to start first (i.e. the user starts it by double-clicking the desktop icon). So the AIR app has to start the Java app (vice-versa would be simple, indeed).
It's a bit off-topic but what strikes me is the abysmal memory usage of AIR apps. I tried the TourDeFlex demo and after having tried a few components memory usage went up to 130+ MB. Quite a lot for an application that does almost nothing.
I am browsing through the Merapi forum and what I found so far sounds discouraging:
To my knowledge, there is no way an AIR application can start an OS application.