Getting StartED with CSS A few months ago I had the pleasure to get involved tech reviewing a book by David Powers on CSS -- one of the technologies I used to work with on a daily basis before switching almost exclusively to Flash Platform development. I have to honestly say this is most probably the best book I've ever read on CSS, it covers just about the entire spectrum of possible topics and focuses on pragmatic solutions to common problems. David is a very skilled author and uses clear examples to guide you through the process of building out a page and solves issues that come up as you go along.

Definitely recommend buying this book to anyone wanting to start out with CSS!
 

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AuthorPeter
CategoriesCSS, Reviews

Coders at Work I've been reading "Coders at Work" by Peter Seibel over the holidays and wanted to share my review. The book is basically a series of in-depth interviews with 15 interesting programmers including people like Brendan Eich (inventor of JavaScript), Ken Thompson (inventor of UNIX), Peter Norvig (Director of Research at Google).

Other programmers interviewed are: Frances Allen, Joe Armstrong, Joshua Bloch, Bernie Cosell, Douglas Crockford, L. Peter Deutsch, Brad Fitzpatrick, Dan Ingalls, Simon Peyton Jones, Donald Knuth, Guy Steele and Jamie Zawinski.
 
I first got interested in in this book after reading an interesting tweet from Ralph Hauwert quoting Joe Armstrong in the book:

“The problem with object-oriented languages is they’ve got all this implicit environment that they carry around with them. You wanted a banana but what you got was a gorilla holding the banana and the entire jungle.” — Joe Armstrong

Its really invaluable to get the perspective of this wide range of experienced developers and get an insight in the way they work, what inspires them to code and how they see the future of programming languages.

Definitely recommended reading and a good source of inspiration to any developer!
 
www.codersatwork.com
 

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AuthorPeter
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Moderator AIR application I recently found out about a very useful AIR application called "Moderator" created by Danny Dura, Platform Evangelist at Adobe. What the application does is give you access to your comment moderation queue if you're running a WordPress blog.

Installation is very easy, you first install a WordPress plugin and activate it, then download and install the Moderator AIR application. You'll be prompted to log in with your blog administrator credentials and endpoint, usually that is the xmlrpc.php file inside your blog installation directory.

You can specify in the settings how often the application should check the moderation queue and when comments show up you can simply choose to accept, mark as spam or delete.

I'm really pleased with the app, saves me from constantly having my blog admin open in a tab of my browser and manually hitting refresh all the time.

From what I've heard Danny is going to add Growl notification support in an upcoming update which would be a great enhancement. Two thumbs up!

 
More information and download here: http://www.danieldura.com/code/moderator
 

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AuthorPeter
CategoriesAIR, Reviews
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If you haven't read up on today's Adobe Creative Suite 4 announcement yet and still want to watch the live stream or attend a user group meeting, you might not want to read on unless you like spoilers. This is my list of favorite new features for the products in the suite I am most interested in. Flash CS4

■ Timeline model reworked ■ Motion editor (similar to After Effects) ■ Inverse Kinematics (aka bones for shapes, movie clips) ■ New text engine (including right-to-left support) ■ 3D rotation tools (2D objects in 3D space)

Dreamweaver CS4

■ Live view (webkit rendered interactive view of your page) ■ Live code (watch code changes in realtime for AJAX based pages) ■ Code hinting for JavaScript and AJAX libraries ■ Subversion support

Photoshop CS4

■ Rotate canvas ■ Masks panel (easily create masks and tweak settings) ■ Extended depth of field (stack and combine images with a different focus) ■ Content-Aware Scaling (see this video)

 
Excited all round for the features in this new release, the one major disappointment is seeing international customers getting screwed again with the huge difference in geographical pricing.

For more information on CS4 and lots of video tutorials, be sure to check out the new and improved Adobe TV.
 

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AuthorPeter
CategoriesReviews

I attended the MIX Essentials event in Louvain-la-Neuve this Thursday in an attempt to get some perspective on Microsoft's roadmap for Rich Internet Applications (yes, you read that right -- Internet) and Silverlight 2. Note that I'm looking at this as a Flash Platform enthusiast, while I walked away excited about what Microsoft is doing don't expect me to hold back on criticism where I see things lacking. It is in no way meant as a personal attack and welcome your thoughts.

Here's breakdown of the sessions I attended, with my commentary and a couple of videos.
 
Opening Keynote - Luc van de Velde Building RIAs with Silverlight 2 - Tim Heuer Beauty & the Geek - Ian Griffiths & Paul Dawson Data and Web Services in Silverlight 2 - Gill Cleeren Steve Ballmer Keynote Summary

 

The day was kicked off by Luc van de Velde, Director Developer & Platform Group of Microsoft Belux, who presented the opening keyword.

I had seen the egg metaphor before but he did a great job keeping us captivated.
 

 

Note to whoever designed these slides, the egg tag is not valid XHTML markup ;)

 

Designer/Developer workflow

Luc invited some developers up on stage from various well known Belgian web agencies to do some 'live coding' taking care to mention that these guys are not the best people to demo but they want to give us a real world perspective.
 

 
I actually got excited for a minute, unfortunately to me the whole thing came across as 'highly scripted'. Using code snippets and prepared source files I'm not sure this was the best way to convince a developer audience.

Telltale silence at around 7 minutes 50 seconds, really expect us to be excited by that? I would like to see what Silverlight can bring us in terms of innovation rather than reinventing the wheel.

Personally would've preferred to see a demo with them creating a Silverlight video player for example, how to develop, skin and deploy and highlight the designer/developer workflow to achieve that.

 

Silverlight showcases

Next up was a Dutch Microsoft guy (missed his name, I'm sorry) talking about RIA's. Bit of a funny moment (if you've followed the acronym wars) when he seemed to quickly correct himself after saying Rich Internet Applications as opposed to Rich Interactive Applications. The rest of the day was happy to hear everyone refer to it as Rich Internet Applications.

One of the demo's he started of showing us was a recent Silverlight live stream of the "Amstel Gold Race" for the NOS, national broadcasting association in the Netherlands. You would get video on demand, live data push with the latest coverage and you could switch camera.
 

 
Where did I see that before?
 

 
A little later we saw a financial loan simulator demo, with a live support agent being able to track where you are in the web page.

Sounds strangely familiar, anyone remember the Flex/LCDS FinanceCorp demo? Its all pure coincidence I'm sure.

 

NBC Beijing Olympics

Wasn't sure at this point whether to get depressed or outraged until I saw the NBC Beijing Olympics site. My first real highlight of the keynote, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I was ready to dismiss this at first glance but the performance of the video, picture-in-picture feature and transitions were impressive. Not something that you couldn't do with Flash/Flex and Flash Media Server but having that many streams open would require some serious optimization.

While Flash Player has caught up with full HD and H.264 support I think there's still more that can be done in terms of video performance in the Flash Player, especially when dealing with multiple simultaneous streams.

 

Deep Zoom

Christine Heller, Technical Evangelist, was on stage at this point. Couldn't help but notice Microsoft Evangelists take on much more of a marketing role than I'm used to seeing at Adobe where its always seemed foremost about developer relations. Not a bad presentation at all but didn't feel I could really connect with the message.

The Deep Zoom demo they did was really impressive, again performance really stood out here. Would love to see how this compares to Zoomify and Scene7 and if Adobe can push their technology to that level.

 

Tim Heuer, Program Manager for Silverlight, walked us through what's new in Silverlight 2 and how you go about creating a simple web application.

 

What's new in Silverlight 2?

Text, Text Input C# and VB.NET
Controls LINQ
Layout XML APIs
Styles/Templates Generics
Data Binding HTML integration
Socket networking Local Storage
.NET support Crypto API's (AES)

 

Controls in Silverlight 2

Canvas, FileOpenDialog, Grid, Image, ItemsControl, MediaElement, MultiScaleImage, StackPanel, Texbox, TextBlock, Button, Popup, Checkbox, DataGrid, DateTimePicker, GridSplitter, Hyperlink, ListBox, Calendar, RadioButton, Slider, ToggleButton, Tooltip, WatermarkTextBox.

Microsoft is committed to deliver 100 controls for Silverlight within the next few years.

When talking about styling/skinning controls I was surprised to see a screenshot pop up in his slides with a Flex tree component that reads "Adobe Consulting > Peter Baird".

Tried to Google the image but had no luck finding, not sure what a Flex tree component was doing there when talking about skinning Silverlight controls.

 

Silverlight sandbox and further features

In many ways Silverlight uses a similar sandbox mechanism as the Flash Player and they can also leverage the crossdomain.xml policy files as well as their own clientaccesspolicy.xml flavor. There's also local storage support not unlike SharedObjects in the Flash Player.

Next Tim did a quick demo of how to build a Silverlight application in Visual Studio -- you get the option to start a new Silverlight application or a simple HTML test page. Best practice is to go with the application, since the test page runs in a local file sandbox and you'll get security errors when trying to access any network resources.

We saw IME support in Silverlight, how media files could be leveraged as skinning elements (in this case a video as the background for a TextBox control).

The demo went on to show data binding on a DataGrid and how you could use the equivalent of itemRenderers to completely change how the data gets displayed.

 

Local partner demo

To wrap this session up we got a demo from a local partner, in this case Netika Tech showing us their GOA project. I'm afraid it didn't impress me too much and was a little underwhelmed. Couldn't wrap my head around why Silverlight would be a better technology choice for their product.

No page refreshes, fast data filtering and paging are not a selling point for me -- you can do that just as well with AJAX and Flash and it largely depends on what data transport format you're using. If data performance is what you want I think AMF is the clear winner over plain old XML.

 

After lunch I decided to switch tracks, and am really glad I did! Ian and Paul did a very entertaining session outlining the designer developer workflow. What was refreshing here is that there was zero corpo-speak, a recognition of real world development situation.

Designer developer interaction is not sequential, there is a large degree of overlap. Very good tips on how to improve the workflow, convince designers about the need for source control.

This is the type of session I can relate with and has had me genuinely appreciating what Silverlight can bring to the table.

 

Another interesting session followed with Gill Cleeren talking about various means of accessing data in Silverlight 2 -- both SOAP Web Services and REST based services.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how this worked within Visual Studio with Proxy classes but again saw a little bit too much use of code snippets to really get into it.

Would personally prefer a few less demo's but a more indepth runthrough of the code.

 

The day finished off with an excellent keynote by Steve Ballmer followed by some Q&A.
 

 
Unfortunately my N95 battery died just when Steve was asked an interesting question on why Microsoft has been lagging behind in the RIA space and they are now aggressively competing against established technology.

His answer somewhat surprised me -- recognized the strength of Adobe and said Microsoft would not get involved in a static market like print (where Adobe is the clear market leader). He sees Microsoft having a better proposition when it comes to the designer developer workflow and hinted at new things coming out that would also target the interaction designer.

Can't wait to see how this develops in the coming year and what Thermo will bring to the table from the Adobe side of things.

 

All things considered a day well spent, learned a lot about Silverlight 2 and am convinced the competition will drive innovation both at Microsoft and Adobe for the coming years, which we can all only benefit from.

 
A couple of points I think could be improved:

- Make sure there is wifi for the attendees if you seriously want us to blog, twitter, upload and tag photos. I was taking notes on my cell phone for a good bit of the day, if you can't get wifi at least put a pen and some paper in the 'goodie bag'.

- Power supplies, its not common to have that available at events but during the onAIR tour Adobe did a great job making sure everyone could stay plugged in. I saw only a handful of people with their laptop open in an audience of 500.

- Get us a DVD with Silverlight, trial versions of Visual Studio, Blend -- I found it frustrating not being able to get hands-on and experiment with some of the things we saw in the sessions. No raffle prizes surprised me, no evaluation forms either.
 

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AuthorPeter
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ActionScript 3.0 Design PatternsI've been reading through O'Reilly's "ActionScript 3.0 Design Patterns: Object Oriented Programming Techniques" by William Sanders and Chandima Cumaranatunge for the last few weeks and have to say its an incredibly useful resource. The interesting thing is that this book approaches design patterns in the more traditional sense, not dumbing down on the object-oriented terminology. In that sense it is very approachable to those coming from a Java or C background and are looking for ActionScript 3.0 implementations of specific patterns.

On the other hand I can't help but feel some patterns are shoehorned to fit in an ActionScript 3.0 context. True, ActionScript is a lot more like Java these days but there are still things that can't directly be translated (or shouldn't necessarily be).

One of my personal pet peeves is the way Singleton gets enforced, not only in this book but various other resources. The issue basically comes down to not being able to declare a constructor as private in ActionScript 3.0, thus no way of preventing the class to be instantiated using the new keyword. One common way to get around this is creating another class in the package declaration (there can only be one public class in your package declaration so it'll be private) and using an instance of that "Singleton enforcer" class as an argument in your Singleton class constructor.

In my view this is an incredibly involved workaround which has its own problems (for example, you're still able to pass null as an argument to the constructor and prevent if from throwing an error). It all comes down to personal preference but my vote goes to Grant Skinner's approach -- he proposed to use a simple Boolean property that defines whether or not the class can be instantiated, it defaults to false so if you try to instantiate the class using the new keyword it throws a runtime error. In the getInstance method, if the private instance needs to be created, the Boolean gets temporarily set to true and back to false after it was instantiated. Admittedly, the one downside with this method is that it throws a runtime rather than a compile time error but its as far as I want to go in creative workarounds to get a pattern to work.

ECMAScript Edition 4 is of course still a work in progress, but I for one can't wait for it to support private and protected constructors and seeing ActionScript implement it.

The number of patterns they've been able to cover in this book is extremely impressive (Factory, Singleton, Decorator, Adapter, Composite, Command, Observer, Template, State, Strategy, MVC, Symmetric Proxy) and all things considered I think they found a balance in staying close to the original design while keeping it readable and straightforward to implement for the typical ActionScript 3.0 audience.

Design Patterns are a pretty dodgy subject to cover with zealots of the 'committee for object-oriented purity' lurking around the corner ready to criticize your every line of code. Kudos to the authors for tackling the subject and making it such an approachable book!

I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone wanting to take a deeper look at the world of Design Patterns and object-oriented architecture.

Other books worth exploring are "Advanced ActionScript 3 with Design Patterns" by Joey Lott, the best selling "Head First Design Patterns" or even my own "Object-Oriented ActionScript 3.0" if you're looking for a non-threatening introduction on the topic.

  My rating: 4 stars

Buy this book on Amazon.com Buy this book on Amazon.co.uk

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AuthorPeter
CategoriesReviews
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"One conference to rule them all" Flash on the Beach

I just got back from Flash on the Beach '07 in Brighton - the lack of blog posts probably indicates how busy it has been between sessions, meeting up with friends and the various parties.

Its hard to pinpoint what exactly makes this conference so special but if I think John and the team hit the nail on the head with the mix of creative, technical and inspirational sessions and the fantastic speaker lineup. What I generally would like to see more at conferences is more advanced technical talks on AS3, Flex and AIR although the technical sessions were really good I'd say most were aimed at an intermediate audience.

Looking back my favorite session of the conference was without a doubt Jared Tarbell's - "Algorithms to Fill Space". His mix of math and creativity and presentation style blew my mind. Jared is also genuinely one of the nicest and down to earth people I know, hope to catch up with him again at conferences in the near future.

I've recorded Monday's Adobe keynote in full (some hilarious bits in there with Richard Galvan, Ted Patrick and Andrew Shorten) and about half of Mario Klingemann's new talk, will edit those down and get them up by this weekend.

Flash on the Beach '08 is planned for the end of September, I'm counting down the weeks!

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AuthorPeter
CategoriesEvents, Reviews
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Having been to both the Chicago and Barcelona editions of Adobe MAX, I thought it might be worth in doing a little comparison of the two in terms of location, sessions, party etc.

Location No clear winner - while the size of the CCIB in Barcelona was a lot more manageable than the huge McCormick Place in Chicago, we would sometimes run into serious queues at the escalators when going down for lunch.

The Barcelona convention center was very close to the beach where there was little to see outside the Chicago convention center.

Attendance In my opinion the Chicago edition was a bit too crowded with 4000+ attendees, the only time it was fun to have that many people was during the keynotes and sneak peeks -- at other times it just got a bit too much to work yourself through the crowd and find the people you're looking for.

With just over 1000 attendees Barcelona was the perfect size, the atmosphere was a little cosier but the community was still well represented and you could find people from all over Europe.

I don't think we can realistically expect the Adobe MAX conference to downscale in the coming years but don't overdo it, bigger is not always better. I'll mark Barcelona as the winner here!

Sessions Chicago overdid the amount of sessions in my opinion -- 25 to 30 sessions going on at the same time (I'm not even exaggerating) is way too much even if you want to cover the entire spectrum of Adobe products.

In Barcelona we had around 7 on at the same time I believe, that's still a lot but at least you didn't need to spend your entire break reading through session descriptions to figure out what you want to do next. Both Chicago and Barcelona had a good mix of Adobe and community speakers.

All things considered, Barcelona wins!

Keynotes / Sneak Peeks This is not a difficult one, Chicago was obviously the place to be especially for the sneak peeks. The keynotes were pretty comparable, I would even say Barcelona's were better because they looked at the feedback that surfaced in the community and tweaked the demo's (Thermo for example was presented a lot more clearly in Barcelona than in Chicago)

For some reason a lot of Adobe employees seemed to think Europe has not heard about that thing called the 'internet'. I'd estimate that 90% of attendees were already clued in on the sneak peeks that were shown in Chicago -- at the BoF session the night before they were weighing their words not to give away too much of what was to come, it was just hilarious.

It would be nice if Adobe could leave one or two sneak peeks for the Europe and Japan editions rather than present everything in the US and expect people not to hear about them (please don't go down the NDA route). Also make sure you can do all sneak peeks, not doing the Flash with C/C++ sneak peek in Barcelona was a huge let down.

No live music during the sneak peeks, no gimmick like we had with the Blues Brothers in Chicago.

Chicago wins!

Community Pavilion I liked the Community Pavilion at both events -- what I liked about Barcelona is that it was the central hub for lunch, receptions etc. whereas in Chicago you had to explicitly make your way down there if you wanted to see community members or sponsors.

From a sponsorship standpoint Barcelona was a lot better organized I think. I'm pretty sure every attendee went round the different booths at least once where in Chicago it wasn't always as busy.

Barcelona wins!

Catering Chicago was the clear winner here -- great breakfast, snacks between sessions (even ice cream) whereas in Barcelona it was even difficult to grab a coffee during the day. Lunch were just some small tapas and finger food, not bad but not exactly lunch. There were very large queues for food and drink.

With about four times as many people in Chicago I'm still amazed at how fast they were able to serve us, it was brilliant. The speaker dinner for Barcelona in the Hilton was a lot better than what we saw during the conference though.

Receptions Receptions in Barcelona didn't really have the same vibe as in Chicago. People were hanging out in the community pavilion, there were some tapas and beverages but don't think many people saw it as an opportunity to do networking.

We needed something like the O'Reilly Ignite 5 minute sessions here to keep it lively. Think most people just stayed around for half an hour or so and teamed up to grab some real food in the city.

Chicago wins!

Party The Chicago party was very impressive, the hall was decorated on theme -- lots of entertainment. I preferred the live music in Barcelona and the terrace overlooking the ocean but the casino theme didn't come across all that well. The hall was barely decorated, grabbing food was problematic again and they apparently ran out of booze.

OK, a casino theme is difficult to achieve with thousand attendees running around in t-shirts. We could play some casino games and had a couple of Nintendo Wii consoles to entertain ourselves with. It could've been better in my opinion.

All things considered Chicago wins, though I think they spent a ridiculous amount of money on theirs and they could've toned things down.

Speaker Ready Room The speaker room in Chicago was good, the one in Barcelona was very good to very bad. When asked where the room was on the first day I was directed to the press and VIP room -- coffee, soft drinks, breakfast/lunch, power sockets,... life was good!

On the last day myself and a fellow speaker were semi-forcefully told to move our non-VIP butts to the actual speaker room which I can only describe as a soviet-inspired bird cage, complete with cardboard walls and netting as a ceiling. Located behind the wall in the community pavilion it wasn't exactly a quiet refuge. The amenities were two big round tables and four power sockets located at one end of the room. The chances of getting your laptop charged there were minimal let alone work on your session here.

What can I say, Chicago wins but Barcelona did a mean press and VIP room.

Conclusion

Chicago 5 - Barcelona 4

I think Adobe did a great job for their first European edition of Adobe MAX and am sure they'll take attendee feedback into consideration and improve things.

Enjoyed my time at both conferences and am looking forward to next year in San Francisco and another European destination!

Posted
AuthorPeter
CategoriesEvents, Reviews

In case you didn't pick this up with all the announcements Adobe made this last week -- Adobe Media Player is now available on labs.adobe.com as a prerelease product along with beta 2 of the AIR runtime. Adobe already has some content providers lined up such as CBS, PBS, Yahoo! and services like blip.tv help you with creating feeds that target Adobe Media Player (one of the reasons why I used them for uploading the MAX conference sneak peek video's).

Its really cool to finally see Adobe with a product that plays back FLV files on the desktop, something we had to rely on third party apps for in the past. Although AMP is still pretty rough around the edges, the feature set looks very promising.

Here's a little walkthrough of how to subscribe to a feed not listed in the catalog.

- Launch Adobe Media Player - Click "My Favorite Shows" - Click the "Add Show" button at the bottom of the screen - Type in the URL to the RSS feed (e.g. http://skipintro.blip.tv/rss) and click "Add"

You're now subscribed to this feed inside Adobe Media Player -- if you click on it you'll see the list of available episodes inside the show.

There's an information tab that can contain a description of your show and other relevant information and an options tab where you can specify how many of the most recent episodes AMP should download for you.

Another interesting option is what they call the storyline subscription, where you can tell the application to start at a specific episode and download x episodes from that starting point.

Adobe Media Player has an interesting approach in terms of monetization of video content with advertisement, it includes support for the traditional banners, pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll and interactive overlay ads (Flash based). From what I've heard ads can even be served when the user is in offline mode and statistics sent back he next time the user goes online again. On top of that content providers can customize the look 'n feel quite extensively, all from their show RSS feed. I believe they use SMIL and some RSS extensions to synchronize the ads with the video content, there's also talk of P2P technology to help with the delivery.

There was quite a bit of talk at MAX Chicago around the idea of "movement to convey meaning" which you see implemented in the AMP user interface. I think we'll see more of this type of interface design, especially in the online services Adobe is building like Photoshop Express.

Hope to catch some more Adobe Media Player sessions at MAX Europe to get more indepth information about where they're taking the application and what the deal is with DRM (I'm not a huge fan of digital rights management to say the least, so hope they'll do this right).

Posted
AuthorPeter

Its safe to say that the general theme of Creative Suite 3 is "integration" and what a fantastic job they've done with it. In a way I see the March 27th announcement as the actual closure of the acquisition. Adobe and Macromedia tools now place nice together.

Thought I'd run through the product lineup and see what features make it worth the upgrade for me.

Photoshop CS3 (Extended) Although primarily aimed at specific industries, I would go for Photoshop Extended for the video, 3D and advanced imaging support.

Dreamweaver CS3 AJAX support, better CSS management, improved browser compatibility check

Flash CS3 Photoshop and Illustrator import, copy motion, component skinning, AS3 debugger

Fireworks CS3 Prototyping designs with web controls, export to MXML

Illustrator CS3 Live color, points and path enhancements

Contribute CS3 Blog editing, Firefox plug in, FLV support

Acrobat 8 Professional PDF forms (results emailed back to you), PDF packages

These are obviously just the Web Premium CS3 products, from what I've seen the video editing products will also be well worth purchasing an upgrade for but am yet to look into those in some more depth.

If I was to pick one product that has the most compelling case to warrant an upgrade, I'd say Photoshop Extended but in truth all products have had such significant improvements in terms of integration that you'd be a fool not to go with the entire suite.

http://www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/web/

Posted
AuthorPeter

Chumbylicious I just got a Chumby alpha prototype and am really *really* excited -- big up to Michael Coleman for giving me a chance to play around with it at this early stage!

Getting it up and running was a breeze (once I got hold of my US power adaptor that is), here are the steps involved:

1. plug in the chumby 2. switch it on 3. calibrate the touch screen 4. set up the wifi connection 5. register your chumby id with your account on the website

Now all you need to do is log in to the chumby.com account and start adding Flash widgets to a channel. The Chumby then cycles through these widgets.

Of course what sold me on the Chumby is, apart from it running Linux and being completely open and hackable, it support Flash Lite 2.1 and access to its sensors (squeeze, accelerometer, touchscreen) through ASNative calls. A few features are still missing from this alpha version, most notably external MP3 streaming, but that will no doubt make it in the final product.

In under half an hour I managed to fling together a little widget; as you might have expected from me its an RSS reader for the Adobe XML News Aggregator that cycles through the last 15 blog posts. Just a few things to keep in mind when creating a widget:

- export to Flash Lite 2.1 - set dimensions to 320x240 pixels - frame rate needs to be 12 fps - create a background fill if you don't want black - don't use _root (widgets get loaded into a holder movie clip) _ fonts need to be embedded - maximum filesize for a widget is 100kb

When you're ready with that, just use the upload widget form on chumby.com where you specify your widget details, give it a category upload the SWF and a thumbnail JPG (80x60 pixels). There's a checkbox right in that form that allows you to make the widget public so other Chumbians can add it to their channel.

If you're not a proud owner of a Chumby yet, you can start using the virtual chumby when you create an account on the website (see below).

There's much more to cover (SSH to the device, running Python, Ruby, Java, Perl on it etc.) but I'll keep that for another blog post when I've had some more time to play around with my new best friend.

The guys are really awesome with their support and I can't wait to see this device get widely available!

If you didn't already know, the Chumby will be publicly available some time in Spring 2007 with a price tag of around 150 USD... oh, and it has an alarm clock function too ;)

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AuthorPeter
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I just got back from seeing Ben Forta's sneak peek session on Scorpio in Brussels -- and I can honestly say it rocks! Believe we were the first over in Europe to publicly see the demo's and there's some very very exciting stuff in there. I won't spoil the fun by revealing everything we saw because Ben still has an upcoming user group tour in the US. Suffice to say there are really cool things happening with PDF, image manipulation and some other areas which you might not have expected ColdFusion to get into. There is apparently going to be a public beta at some point and you can get signed up to be considered for the private beta via the Scorpio page on labs.adobe.com.

http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Scorpio

Posted
AuthorPeter
CategoriesEvents, Reviews

This whole web 2.0 phenomena sure brings out some cool services -- with all the beta's you can sign up for these days I've become pretty selective which ones I subscribe to, just to make sure I do get a couple of hours of work done.

Something I recently signed up for is jaxtr, a really cool service that I believe will take off "skype-style" once it is publicly released. What it allows you to do is a couple of things. You can put up a badge on your site that allows people to call you on one of your phone numbers without actual having to publish that number.

When someone clicks your badge they get a local number that they can call (currently supports 29 countries) and it then redirects to your phone. The services gives you 100 minutes of free talk time a month, after that runs out it jumps to voicemail mode which has no limitations. You can also set it up to go directly to voicemail rather than call you which I find an even cooler feature, particularly for something like podcasts.

What happens when you get a voicemail message is you get sent an email with a link to an MP3 you can listen to or download. In your account you also get an overview of all voicemail messages and can set it up filters to block certain numbers.

If you think about it, this service basically gives you the equivalent of local skype-in numbers to 29 countries, 100 minutes of free talk time and a free unlimited voicemail service. Not entirely sure about the business model around this but bring it on... I'm not complaining!

I might just have to write a WordPress plugin to get jaxtr to enable audio comments on a blog post. Shouldn't be too difficult to hack together.

Feel free to leave me a voicemail: http://www.jaxtr.com/peterelst

P.S. If someone has an invite to Joost, thats something else I wouldn't mind giving a whirl ;)

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AuthorPeter
CategoriesReviews
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[update] If you own a Wii and read my blog, feel free to add me as a friend - here is my ID: 2344 1118 2775 4961

It took me a while to get hold of one (narrowly missed getting my hands on a Wii on its launch day) but after placing a couple of calls today managed to get hold of my brand new toy.

What can you say -- the Nintendo Wii rocks! Took me under half an hour to set up and do a system update over the wireless network. Wii Sports that comes with the console is very addictive but you sure feel the workout ;)

I've also bought Zelda Twilight Princess and the game play is simply amazing, can't wait to get to the fishing mini game and give that a whirl.

Unfortunately the WiiPlay was completely sold and no separate Wiimotes available yet so I'm stuck with just the one controller for now, not ideal if you have friends over.

The channels seem great but not a lot of these are active yet so will have to wait and see how that turns out. Looking forward to them releasing the Internet channel (from what I've read the browser is based on Opera and will support AJAX and Flash).

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Posted
AuthorPeter
CategoriesReviews
7 CommentsPost a comment

I attended the university session on Flex 2 RIA's with James Ward and Christoph Rooms at JavaPolis, Antwerp today and have to say it was an absolute blast! For a moment it felt as if I landed in a parallel universe, wandering through the exhibition area with my rather limited Java skills it almost seemed like I was a Microsoft employee at the MacWorld conference trying to blend into the crowd by sporting the swag and nodding confidently at all the obscure acronyms thrown at me. One minute longer and I'd been offered a job as a lead Java developer at Oracle... well not quite ;)

Christoph and James did a great job introducing Flex 2 concepts and I particularly liked the focus on Flex Data Services and the ease with which you hook up Java back-ends to the engaging Flex interfaces we all know and love. They even went into Apollo and the Flex-AJAX Bridge, which went down a treat.

But then it hit me... the Flash platform has grown up, we're finally there! Watching Java developers eagerly grabbing for Flex and AS3 API posters, the eagle has landed - world domination is within hands reach!

In some strange way seeing the reaction of mainstream developers validates the work Macromedia and Adobe have been doing for years now. User experience meets enterprise development and we, both as Flash platform developers as end-users, can only profit from this revolution.

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AuthorPeter
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I got back from Flash on the Beach a couple of hours ago and have been catching up on my blogging. You can read my earlier posts to get some feedback on the sessions I've seen in the last few days but this certainly deserves a post on its own. John Davey... what can you say, the guy is brilliant! I'm not sure how he and his team have pulled it off but I'm absolutely astounded. The way this conference was organized you'd think they've been doing it for years. From conference registration, technical rehearsals, the exhibition area, swag for the attendees, dealing with the speakers and the evening parties it all went flawless!

Its somewhat of a tradition to say how much you enjoyed a conference coming back home but I can honestly say this is the very best Flash event I've ever attended (and I've seen a fair few all over the globe by now).

If you only have a budget to attend one conference a year, wherever you are located -- make sure its Flash on the Beach next time round!

Posted
AuthorPeter
CategoriesReviews

Got in in time for the first session of the day, seeing Geoff Stearns (of SWFObject fame) talk about best practices for Flash in a Web 2.0 world. Some really good info on site indexing, navigation and deep-linking support that I'll definitely be using on future projects. Next up Niqui Merret talking about accessibility in Flash, a subject I've only encountered when working my way through getting some Flash apps section 508 compliant for US-based clients (which I can tell you is not an easy task). I particularly liked this session for her pragmatic approach to the challenge of accessibiliity and making it broader than just something to consider for visually and hearing impaired users. Specifically accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities will no doubt be something we'll hear more about with people starting to explore this area.

Had a nice lunch with Martin Smestad Hansen before going to see Folkert Gortert, I was presenting next in this hall and truth be told other than that I probably wouldn't have chosen it over Hos Gifford's talk but it was actually really nice. Folkert presented some of his work and it sure sparked my creativity, pleased I got at least one of these sessions in at the conference over just seeing all technical talks.

My session on JavaScript Flash was fun to do, I've done similar ones a few times now and its a bit of a difficult topic to present on as its actually quite extensive and most examples are written for very specific projects. I opted for deconstructing a bunch of small examples of tools, commands, windowSWF panels (and explain why I hate behaviors and timeline effects). The talk seems to have gone down quite well, got some interesting questions and Friends of ED was kind enough to have me give away a copy of "Extending Flash MX 2004", a must-have reference guide for doing anything with the JSAPI in the authoring environment.

Final session I went to see was Mario Klingemann's -- simply astounding, I continue to be amazed at the stuff he comes out with, from a flickr-based clock mashup, through a 'pizza' record player to a VJ tool hooking up midi through processing to a Flash front-end. Couldn't have chosen a better talk to end the conference with.

Next up was the conference wrap-up with a near endless stream of give-aways, tried to make a dash to the podium to grab some goodies but John got the better of me ;)

We went out for some dinner with the speakers at Wagamama's and had another party planned for that night, only hit the sack around 5am that night after some serious trouble-making at the hotel bar with the rest of the speakers. Its been brilliant seeing so many familiar faces and finally meeting people you've been following online for years. See you all at the next one!

Posted
AuthorPeter

Started out today with an *excellent* session by Mike Jones on Flex components, some great in depth tips and tricks that I'll be using day in day out. Next I went to see Joey Lott's session on AS3 Design Patterns, particularly liked his undo/redo commands implementation and the Memento pattern which I hadn't looked at before.

Over lunch I went to see a Quark presentation on their new Interactive Designer software. It looked like a nice tool for non-technical users and see the advantage of having the ability to go both to print and web from the same file. From a first quick look at the tool I do have some doubts about the usefulness and flexibility of their scripting engine and how well compression/file size turns out exporting from large, high-resolution documents prepared for print.

First session after lunch was Rich Shupe who did some good examples about the usefulness of bitmap caching, filters and blend modes. Had actually expected it to go a little more into bitmap manipulation and some of the more advanced features -- looking back might have gone to Jeremy Keith's instead, but a good refresher nonetheless.

Next up Keith Peters on animation with AS3, he started out with a really entertaining look at the history of Flash and even found some flyer that mentioned as a tag line something to the effect of "stunning animation, no pesky coding". Loved the irony to see this a decade later at a talk on AS3 ;-)

Final session of the day for me was Rich Legget's, I've been meaning to get into Flash Lite development for quite a while. The lack of actual commercial projects coming up for it with me has prevented me to go out and buy an Flash Lite 2 (or 2.1 now) enabled device. Suppose I could use the device emulator, but there's nothing like seeing the real thing. The walkthrough he did of two Flash Lite games were really very cool, can't wait to start doing it myself.

Didn't make it too late a night at the party being my usual professional self with my talk scheduled the next day :P

Spent some good time doing the finishing touches to my presentation and scripted a few more commands and WindowSWF panels to demo.

Posted
AuthorPeter

I managed to drag myself out of bed just in time to catch a quick breakfast with Keith and Tink and head out to the Dome to see Mike Downey, Mike Chambers and Mark Anders present an excellent keynote on what Adobe has in store for us in the not too distant future with Creative Suite 3 and Apollo. First session of the day was Tink's, walking through Flex for the Flash developer, looking at custom events etc. -- although I've been working with it for a while now it was a well worth refresher course for me.

Lunch ran a bit over, went for some tapas with Elmer, Carolina and the These Days and PIH crew. Did manage to catch the last half an hour of Brendan's talk. Loved his presenting style and again a great high-level look at what AS3 has in store.

Next up Aral Balkan who as always managed to capture the audience and get his point across about XP, usability, Agile and user-centric development. Definitely like the approach he suggests and would love to implement these techniques in all my project development going forward. Its not all common-sense ;)

To wrap up the day I went to see Mark Anders' session on Flex components, a great in depth look at how to handle components in Flex 2 and how measurement works by dissecting one of Ely Greenfield's examples. When you saw the finished component it was obvious the effect was a bit of a hack but very interesting code to see this functionality in action though.

Missed the Flux party unfortunately, crashed in my hotel room probably not completely recovered from the night before...

Posted
AuthorPeter

I've just gotten my hands on the TotalTraining DVD "Flex 2 Rich Internet Applications" presented by James Talbot and its an absolutely wonderful training resource. First heard about this title during the Adobe Community Summit this summer at the Adobe HQ in San Jose when we had a two-day crash course on Flex 2 by the man himself.

Tend to be a bit biased against video training as opposed to the real thing in a classroom setting but must say I didn't have this feeling after watching this training.

If you're a somewhat experienced Flex 2 developer as I'd consider myself the first two lessons and the "Flex fundamentals" section probably won't be too interesting. From there the course moves swiftly on to some more indepth topics giving you a solid basis to start developing with Flex Builder 2.

From lesson 10 onwards I feel this title gets really interesting talking about application architecture, data handling, custom formatters etc.

Would highly recommend getting this training DVD if you're interested to get into Flex 2 development or want some best practices on how to improve your current work. Hope they've got a similar title in the works specifically for ActionScript 3.

http://www.totaltraining.com/prod/adobe/flex2_ria.asp

On that note, if you are interested in any instructor-led Adobe Training in the UK -- I can highly recommend checking out CourseMonster.

Posted
AuthorPeter
CategoriesFlex, Reviews