Tools


26
Oct 10

Takin’ it to the MAX

Short of a couple of sneak peeks, the Adobe keynote at this year’s Flash on the Beach really didn’t give much away… they save the good stuff for MAX. Yesterday, they certainly delivered on that.

One recurring theme though, throughout the Flash on the Beach, was that no matter what happens with HTML5, Flash will always be ahead of the curve.

HTML5/CSS3 may be moving in as heir apparent to take over basic video content delivery, prettier fonts, basic animation etc but Flash has always been doing things that couldn’t be done without the use of a plug-in. In many ways, it’s responsible for pushing the boundaries of what people expect from the web and this week they’ve been pushing that even further.

Anyway, back to the cool new stuff…

Real 3D in Flash

Check this out.

Introducing the new Molehill 3D API. Molehill means full-textured 3D models, made of hundreds of thousands of triangles rendered on the fly in Flash with hardware DirectX & OpenGL 3D acceleration. And these capabilities are available to use with existing 3D libraries like Away3D and Alternativa3D.

Not only that, this will be available in the browser too, not just through Air on the desktop. Awesome.

Air 2.5 – Coming to a screen near you

Also revealed at MAX was the new release of the Air run-time. Air 2.5 is really mobile focused, with support for Android 2.2, Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry Tablet OS, – and obviously, it’s running on Windows, OSX and Linux – but the new version is also compatible with set-top boxes and works with Google TV.

That’s right, Flash on your TV and the results look pretty impressive so far. Adobe’s aiming to have Flash/Air on every screen and they’ve made lots of enhancements to APIs to help account for the lower-processing power of mobile devices and set-top boxes.

The desktop run-time has also moved on with greater support for CSS in HTML-based Air apps. You can use TypeKit now and newer CSS features like drop-shadow and @font-face.

For further reading, you can check out all the details are in the Air 2.5 release notes.

So, where’s it all going?

All of these are really positive steps for Adobe, in my opinion. They may have been late to the party on mobile but everything we’re seeing here is right on the money. A lot of people have been really quick to write off Adobe but all of this is adding up to:

  • a solid offering on mobile/tablet/set-top platforms;
  • packaging of ActionScript based apps for iOS devices;
  • increased support and integration with HTML5/CSS3;
  • hardware acceleration cross-platform;
  • and still more features that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Even InDesign is pulling its weight in digital with the Digital Publishing Suite! (Mashable has a good overview here)

I have to say, I’m impressed with what’s coming out of Adobe at the moment. Innovative solutions, in all the right areas. Long may it last.

Postscript: From the Bleeding Edge

Also, you’ve gotta check this out. Adobe have been working on a visual prototyping tool for HTML5/CSS/JavaScript powered animations. Codenamed “Edge” it looks pretty damn handy and Adobe was always the logical place that this kind of a solution would come from. Watch the video from the Adobe DevNet anyway and let me know what you think.

Follow Shane on Twitter:
@shane_casey


30
Jul 10

HTML5 – And why we should all care

I stumbled over this rather interesting (if not slightly busy) HTML5 infographic and it got me thinking about where HTML5 currently stands for us developers.

HTML5 Infographic

Firstly as a developer, yes, there are HTML5 features that you can use today, but it would be wrong to say than you can use all of them. As the HTML5 info-graphic above shows there are features of HTML5 that are compatible among all browsers (e.g. Cross-document messaging & WYSIWYG editable elements) however most features work in some browsers but not others.

It will be no surprise to many of you that older versions of IE (8 and older) only support 26% of HTML5 features and is the main reason why HTML5 development isn’t more prominent now (although IE9 will be far more accommodating). However, I don’t think this should put us off altogether, new HTML5 features are generally designed in such a way that they degrade gracefully in legacy browsers. For example, new HTML5 controls such as video allow you to fall back on object or embed in browsers that don’t support video.

Full browser support for HTML5 will take a while, so I can’t realistically see myself using HTML5 consistently anytime soon. However, this will not stop me using it where I can (compatible & degradable features) in order to future-proof my work.


17
Jun 10

Flashing forward

Just come across the MultiDraggable set of classes for implementing multi-touch with Flash, via The Flash Blog.

Tim Kukulski’s classes do an amazing job of providing proper multi-touch support by accessing the raw touch events instead of those reported by the OS, allowing for more responsive events and smoother control – which let’s face it, is key to any touch gesture controlled interface. It also gets round the biggest weakness in Windows 7′s implementation of touch support: only handling one gesture at a time.

This, to me, is exactly why Flash isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The Flash developer community routinely release open-source, innovative solutions like this… blowing native functionality out of the water. It’s why developers have always been able to do more – better and easier – with Flash.

Sequence 01 from Lee Brimelow on Vimeo.


19
Apr 10

Social Media Toolkit

As Social Media becomes more prevalent within our personal, everyday life, so companies are realizing the potential to utilize this data / information to their advantage.

Businesses are using numerous techniques and programs in order to harness the power of Social Media to help them understand their user base better and how their users interact with their website / service / products.

From collating comments from individual Tweets to data-mining Tweet traffic & usage ( helpful in identifying power users and determining how they use the website / service ) companies are now able to use what was previously seen as “something cool” and “I don’t know what it does but seeing as everyone is using Twitter & Facebook we should too” in order to make serious strategic decisions that can help them to unlock new business potential.

OneForty have compiled a nice list of Social Media Toolkits that may be of use to companies looking to turn that “i’m gonna Poke your FaceWall” into serious strategic advantage and more importantly cold-hard cash!

Take a look at OneForty’s Social Media Toolkit

 


6
Jan 10

Turn around, bright eyes…

Just discovered a lovely little add-on to jQuery that allows rotation. You can grab it at http://code.google.com/p/jquery-rotate/

It’s simple to implement, just include the script in the head and once the page has loaded:

$('#image_to_rotate').rotateLeft();

Ta-da! 90° rotation counter-clockwise. You can also use rotateRight() for clockwise rotation or even specify the number of degrees

$('#image_to_rotate').rotateLeft(45);

The plug-in works using the DXImageTransform filter in IE and the Canvas element in other browsers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in Safari…

Continue reading →


22
Dec 09

Less spaghetti, more source please

I’m a firm believer in stability.

Build it, test it thoroughly, and move on to the next piece of the puzzle. If the pieces are stable, they’ll work in harmony together, and you can build more powerful applications.

Which is where design patterns, and particular, MVC come into their own.

As a Flash developer it’s nice to know that many of the problems I’m trying to solve have been thought about and cracked a long time before Moock taught me how to code (thank you Colin, and your amazing O’Reilly books).

I’d been using a version of MVC that I’d cribbed from the back of Essential ActionScript 2.0 back in 2004, and had even ported it to ActionScript 3.0 as soon as I made the switch, using the new event model. It was pretty rough around the edges, but hey, it had become my baby now. It worked, and I was kind of proud of myself.

Then this year I made the leap of faith of switching to PureMVC, a framework for ActionScript development that was so popular it had started being ported to other languages such as Ruby, Objective C, etc. If it’s that popular, it must be good, right?

Is there a learning curve? You betcha. Is it worth it? I’m sure of it.

What is MVC?

PureMVC structure

See - it's simple.

It stands for Model-View-Controller, and is, IMHO, perfectly suited to the bear-trap that developing in Flash can quickly become.

At its simplest, MVC separates the state of an application (the model) from the display (the view). The controller takes input from the view, updates the model, and then broadcasts a notification that a change has happened. The views are then updated with the new state.

While it can seem like a long-winded way of developing, its structure encourages good development practices, helps avoid spaghetti code, and leads to more modular, reusable classes.

PureMVC has been a learning curve for both Shane and myself. However, the benefits it brings in stability and re-usability make it very, very worthwhile, and I’d recommended it to anyone bulding anything more complex than a banner.

But please don’t ask me to listen to Coldplay.


10
Dec 09

Do believe the Hype

Wow. Just stumbled across this http://hype.joshuadavis.com/

Screenshot of objectPool class in action

Joshua Davis (one of my highlights from FOTB this year) and Branden Hall have released the HYPE framework. Lots of cool little classes to make beautiful things quickly.

Extremely cool of them to share their genius with us all so just spreadin’ the love…


17
Nov 09

New releases from Adobe…

Flash Player 10.1 and Air 2.0 are out now.

Some interesting features in there… local microphone support, GPU acceleration and hardware decoding of H.264. I also like the sound of the new global error handler to deal with runtime errors. About time Adobe.

Most interesting though, is multi-touch support. Yes, you need a touch-screen device but it just goes to show Adobe are gunning for Apple. The Apple tablet’s not far off and it won’t be long until the other hardware manufacturers are catching up but my money says it’s the Flash-on-iPhone dream that they won’t let die and that’s really driven this.


5
Nov 09

Chroma-Hash

This has divided opinion in the studio today – http://mattt.github.com/Chroma-Hash/

Personally, I think it’s a really interesting idea. At first glance,it won’t make much sense but have a look here for a more detailed description and a lively debate.

Screenshot of Chroma-Hash i action

Screenshot of Chroma-Hash in action

Continue reading →


2
Nov 09

Christmas fun

Big things brewing for the annual MZ Christmas card. Russ and I are full of ideas from Flash on the Beach so expect to see some multi-user gaming via Moock’s awesome Union platform and a test-run for our new Red5 streaming server.

Watch this space…


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