Posts Tagged: Adobe


14
Sep 11

A Splash of the Future

“It’s about ideas. Fuck, technique, I can get a monkey to do
this shit for me.”
James Victore

There’s been much talk of the death of Flash in the last 2 years. Pundits have been making sweeping, sensationalist statements from both sides of the aisle – fuelled by emotion and agendas – that has made the majority of the discussion read like a particularly partisan tabloid.

I’m not going to rehash those tired old arguments here, but spending the last 3 days at the inimitable Flash on the Beach conference in Brighton, it’s impossible not to consider where it’s all going.

One indicator is that this is very probably the last Flash on the Beach. As you’d expect, the theme and subject matter of a lot of the talks this year reflected the new digital landscape and focussed on HTML5, JavaScript and mobile devices. It was even pointed out on Twitter that in session titles, “HTML” beat “Flash” by 3:2. Not exactly scientific, but even the organiser admitted that next year will probably see a rebrand that I suspect won’t feature the word “Flash”.

6 years ago, John Davey launched FotB as a conference with a difference. Rather than just technical sessions by designers and developers from the Flash community, there’s always been a mix of artists and inspirational figures that are often at best tangentially associated with Adobe Flash, or even web technologies at all. This year was no exception, with the likes of Jon Burgerman, James Victore, Bradley Munkowitz and Cyriak Harris providing inspiration through their passion and creativity.

But while the sessions may have had more JavaScript and less Actionscript than ever before, there was still plenty of amazing stuff being done in Flash by the likes of Eugene Zapetyakin, David Lenaerts and one of the most impressive Elevator Pitch sessions I’ve seen yet. Sure it’s cool that you can now do in HTML5 what only Flash could do a few years ago, but for me it’s always been more impressive seeing something that could never have been done before.

For years the Flash community has driven the growth of the web – pushing the boundaries of what can be done online, creating a template for browser developers to catch up with. When it was first created Flash (or Future Splash as it was originally titled) was simply for animation and gradually interaction and increasingly sophisticated code was introduced. By its very nature, it has grown out of a hybrid of design and code, the visual and the interactive, which has always attracted programmers with a creative streak and designers with a hacker mentality.

And that’s why I’m not worried about the future of the Flash community. Obviously, the type of inquisitive and innovative minds that were drawn to Flash when it was the only game in town, will experiment with new tools like Processing, HTML5, mobile development etc. Many may never use Flash again. We may not all use the same software anymore but it’s the same passion that drives us all, and ultimately is what unites a community.

Davey may need to come up with a new name for next year, but for my money, he’s already nailed it with the new conference he launched in New York this year, “Geeky by Nature”. It’s not the tool we use that defines our work; it’s the passion that drives the craftsman to create in the first place. And that’s something that’s just in our nature.

Follow Shane on Twitter: @shane_casey

11
Mar 11

Show & Tell #7: Mission to Molehill

i can has hardware accelerashun?Here’s a run-down of what we covered last night. It’s link heavy so you’ll find lots more info if you go exploring a bit more. If it doesn’t make sense shout out in the comments and I’ll catch you up on anything you missed.

 

Molehill

This changes everything. Again.

This week Adobe released their pre-beta (they call it an ‘Incubator’) release of what will eventually be Flash Player 11. Codenamed ‘Molehill’ it caused massive excitement at Adobe Max (see previous Lab post here) and it’s making waves all over again because now we can play with it ourselves. So if you’re feeling adventurous (this is pre-beta software remember, I’m taking no responsibility if your machine melts down), download the Incubator Flash player and join in the fun.

If you’ve already got Flash Player 10.2, you should already be seeing performance boosts on video sites such as YouTube and BrightCove thanks to the new StageVideo API. StageVideo hands off the processing of video to the GPU so there’s less strain on the CPU. Get it? If not, trust me on this, utilising hardware acceleration like this dramatically improves performance. PixelBender was a start, and 10.2 continues this approach.

Molehill is taking the focus on improving performance on to the next logical step, 3D. You can see the performance in this video with some pretty hardcore environment mapping and interactive reflective surfaces.

If you’re playing along at home, you can try out the rippling water and the reflective figure yourself.

One of the areas that I’m expecting to see some really exciting innovation is in web-based gaming. The Max Racer demo that I featured in the previous post looks really incredible and I love this one… Zombie Tycoon.

3D gaming in the browser has come on loads in recent years, the main players being Unity3D and Shockwave (and possibly Virtools) but they’ve all struggled to gain widespread penetration. Others like Quake Live have developed their own bespoke browser plug-ins that have some pretty impressive performance but have stubbornly remained stuck in their niche. Flash has lagged behind with 3D performance but Molehill has changed all that. Combine that with Flash’s 99% penetration and super-fast upgrade adoption and you’ve got a perfect storm for game developers.

If you fancy playing with some more demos, check out Lee Brimelow’s collection of links to lots more cool Molehill demos. Hours of fun!

This is a part one of Show & Tell #7′s round up. Check part two here.

Follow Shane on Twitter: @shane_casey

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


23
Sep 10

Show & Tell #3: With a Vengeance

Show & Tell yesterday covered everything from blancmange to viruses so let’s get stuck in and re-cap some of what you missed…

Are you human? Have you been paying attention to our ad?

First off was a novel solution to “banner blindness” from the clever folks at Solve Media, called TYPE-IN. Skyscrapers, MPUs, leaderboards – standard banner formats are all so played out at this stage that we don’t even see them when browsing the web. TYPE-IN forces the user to actually process the ad before they continue.

They’ve put together a lovely animation that explains the concept nicely, check it out.

Sure, it’s much more aggressive than a standard banner and places a barrier between the user and the content but we’ve seen time and time again that users are willing to tolerate interruptions as long as they’re getting something in return. Solutions like this could be a step towards solving that pesky paywall problem.

Following on from that we had a brief discussion about the “Captcha” technology that TYPE-IN is based on. ReCAPTCHA is an initiative from Google in their quest to digitise (and index!) the world’s books – one poorly scanned word at a time.

Oh, the irony

What’s cool about it is that of the two words shown to you, one is giving their character recognition software problems and by typing them in you’re helping preserve knowledge. I guess humans still have a purpose after all.

Google Instant

Speaking of Google, the search giant has been making waves again this week with the introduction of their latest feature – Google Instant.

Not content with suggesting what you’re trying to type, Google has taken it a step further and is now performing searches for you as you type. The technology behind indexing all that information and serving it up faster than you can type is impressive, to say the least.

The experience, however, I’ve found to be at best distracting, at worst damn irritating. Charlie Brooker put it better than I ever could:

“It’s the internet on fast-forward, and it’s aggressive – like trying to order from a waiter who keeps finishing your sentences while ramming spoonfuls of what he thinks you want directly into your mouth, so you can’t even enjoy your blancmange without chewing a gobful of black pudding first.”

Whether you find it a time-saver (really? that busy?) or irritating, there are bigger considerations here too. Google’s drive to predict what we’re looking for can have only one outcome. The most popular search results appear more frequently and higher up meaning search results will get ever more homogeneous and dominated by the larger players (read: payers). Even “God” comes second to “Godaddy” now in Google Instant search results.

Praise be to GoDaddy

In other search news – Yahoo! search is now powered by Microsoft’s Bing search engine – putting Bing up to 28% of US market share. Not too shabby.

Once a giant among search engines, Yahoo! have said this move will allow them to focus their efforts more on the direction they want be developing the company in a last-ditch struggle for relevance. If only they could get a bit more crap on their homepage, it might all turn round for them.

Another one that slipped quietly into the ether this week is Cuil. Once heralded as the “Google-killer”, Cuil’s search results were so bizarrely unrelated that the Cuil has now become the Internet’s unit for measuring abstraction from reality. Do yourself a favour and read what I’m talking about here. Hilarious.

Greplin: The missing element in search

So as one star fades, another is rising. As more and more of our information is stored in the cloud, there’s no central point for us to find what we’re looking for. How often have you thought to yourself: “Now, where did I see that? In my email? Or was it on Facebook? Twitter?”

Enter Greplin. Greplin fills a gap in the search space that amazingly no-one has previously addressed: personal search. Create an account on Greplin and you can add all your favourite services for it to index. Gmail, Google Docs and Calendar, Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, EverNote, BaseCamp and more are supported already and I’m sure more services will be added.

One handy search bar will let you find what you’re looking for, quickly and easily.

Your passwords stay secure, as the site uses OAuth, the open authentication protocol, to allow access to your data but not your log-in details. OAuth is going from strength to strength (all Twitter applications, for example, now have to use OAuth and Google are looking at adopting the protocol across their services) but to index your data, Greplin still has access to your data. Not sure how the security and privacy issues here will pan out yet but they seem to be approaching it the right way.

Developed by an 18 year-old, Greplin is already looking good to make a huge impact on the web – having already secured $700,000 in venture capital. It’s in private beta at the moment but create an account and they’ll notify you when they let you in.

Twitter virus

Other big news this week was the world’s shortest ever virus, spreading itself like wildfire across Twitter. On twitter.com a vulnerability was reintroduced that allowed users to post Javascript to their Twitter feed which would activate when one of their followers rolled over the malicious tweet.

Thankfully, Twitter’s tech team closed the hole within a few hours but even the White House’s Twitter feed fell prey to it. Most abuses of the vulnerability were pretty harmless but it was an embarrassing lesson for Twitter to learn.

Adobe built apps on iPhone

And finally, Apple announced a dramatic relaxation of their app approval terms, allowing apps developed on non-Apple software to be approved.

“We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.” (Full statement here)

Apple famously pulled the rug out from under Adobe, 3 days before their launch of CS5, including the Packager for iPhone feature of Flash CS5. We wrote about it here back in April and I’m glad to see this unexpected reversal from Apple. It’s still not Flash on the iPhone but giving developers the freedom to use their tools of choice and utilise their existing expertise can only be a good thing.

Russell and I are off to Flash on the Beach next week and I’m sure we’ll see lots of happy faces there after this announcement! We’ll definitely have lots of cool stuff to report from there too, so watch this space.

See you at the next Show & Tell!

Follow Shane on Twitter:
@shane_casey


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.


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