Hacking Robots for Fun and Profit

Just got back from the Flash and the City conference in NYC. The conference was a smashing success! It sold out, and people were really impressed as far as I can tell based on the discussions on Twitter and at the actual show. Elad, Jesse, Kevin, and Jose all have a lot to be proud of. As I mentioned in my presentation, I would share my deck and the source code… and so, here you go.

If you want the source code, mosey on over to Erik Peterson’s blog, Electric Pineapple.

Making the most of your toy robot (Part 1 of 4) – Custom hardware controls
Making the most of your toy robot (Part 2 of 4) – Object Detection
Making the most of your toy robot (Part 3 of 4) – Processing the video stream in Flash
Making the most of your toy robot (Part 4 of 4) – Docks and Beacons

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many great people in the Flash scene. It was pretty cool finally putting faces with the Twitter handles! Hey… and please go to the Adler planetarium and go check out the exhibit!

An SVN, Testing Process and Continuous Integration Primer for Flash Designers/Devs

Alright… so unless you you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple years, you know that TDD, Source Control and Build Automation have fully hit the Flash design and development scene. It seems as though everyone is talking about it. A lot. And then commenting on it. A lot. (more…)

My MAX Wishlist

So, I’m not going to MAX this year… The economy has made a lot of extra spending go away and conferences are no exception to this rule. I do plan on virtually attending the webcasts and keynotes this year, though, so I definitely am staying in the loop.

I’m not putting together a prediction list, but rather a wishlist… Will any of these happen? I dunno, but I do know they would make my life in the Adobe universe better and more productive.

  1. AIR on iPhone – It’s unlikely that I am going to be learning Objective C anytime soon. And while I would love to take a stab at creating an app on the iPhone, this is really about the only way to do it. If I could compile an AIR app for the iPhone, this would help bridge that gap.
  2. A release date for Flash Builder 4 and Flash Catalyst – Believe it or not, I’ve been using these tools for some time on real work. Flash Builder a bit more, but I have been able to get some nice stuff out of Catalyst from time to time. I’d like a formalized release schedule and a price so I can put it in my budget ASAP and get it on my team’s desktops for real.
  3. Some word on what the Omniture buyout means for Flash platform analytics – Is it going to be a LiveCycle product? A Flash Platform SaaS? What? How can I get integrating this into my experiences and RIAs?
  4. A bit more concrete info on AIR 2.0′s deeper featuresFOTB leaked that C++ and other API integration was coming, but what about Google Earth? Open GL? BYOAPI (Bring your own API)
  5. More Hardware acceleration control and/or better threading/CPU support. – Building 1080P+ experiences on Flash sucks. There I said it. I’ve been burned enough over the last couple of years to know this. At The Iona Group we often build large HD resolution kiosks, presentations, installations etc. We prefer using Flash for our rich media development. These two things collide in unpleasant ways more often than they should. In many ways, Director is still more capable at performing in world class fashion at high high resolution. Processing is too. This could be for Flash Player 11, AIR 2.0 or whatever… Just the sooner, the better. Grant Skinner has made pleas to Adobe to improve CPU usage and performance, so maybe that will be enough.

So there you have it… not sure if any of these will happen, but it sure would be grand if they did. What are you putting on your MAX Wishlist?

Flash Catalyst: A Mythical Beast With the Brains of Flex, Body of Flash, Beauty of a CS4 App

Nearly 1.5 years ago, the Adobe community was treated to a demo of Codename Thermo at Adobe Max in Chicago. Thermo is a next generation tool for designing and developing RIAs. It’s come a long way since then, renamed Flash Catalyst and had a significant refining of its purpose in many many presentations by Adobe personnel, evangelists and community members. The title of this post, making reference to the mythical beasts of lore like the Griffin (Gryphon), is an allusion to the fact the Flash Catalyst is no small bit of work. It draws from the complete Adobe software catalog for various pieces of it’s makeup. It’s got a little of Adobe’s complete DNA strain sprinkled throughout it. Built on Eclipse (like Flash Builder), complete with drawing tools (like AI/PS/FW), possessing some timeline functionality (AE/FL), allowing for interactivity and design time data (FL/DW), Flash Catalyst is one tool from many many sources. Can something so varied in heritage and huge in scope deliver? Well, the community at large is just starting to determine that.

griffin_fc

The Flash Catalyst beta (FC) has been in the hands of the general public for a week or so. I’ve been playing with it, too. No question about it, it’s a cool tool. The potential to create fully custom skinned MXML based apps leveraging the Flex framework by designers is very near a “holy grail” of XD judging by the level of interest around this application. So, what’s on everyone’s minds now that it’s more than a MAX demo or screencast?

First off, the toolkit… It’s a little feature incomplete to be used for production work right now, since it’s missing a large number of absolutely necessary components for proper RIA design and development. I’m sure they have planned to dramatically increase that number of of available components, but I’ve started a list for that in the user forums, here, to serve as a community point for discussing this topic. It can’t be easy thinking through the nearly limitless permutations of Advanced Datagrids, Item Renderers and ways that components can be combined and then providing a bridge between design tools, so it’s no surprise that some of those pieces are still absent from FC. The Flex framework is mature and robust, and providing Spark components (the new Flex 4 SDK components) for the entire suite is a big big undertaking. This is largely an effort of dumping tons of resources towards finishing this, so I’m confident this will be taken care of prior to sale.

Secondly, the use cases… There are a number of users/community members out there still a bit confused about how and when FC would fit into their workflow. Most have to do with questions about integration with various Adobe apps, but some deal with roundtrip issues and integration with Flash Builder. An interesting post on that can be found here. I don’t think Adobe can possibly make everyone happy here. There are simply too many masters to serve.

Thirdly, the app has some pretty big stability issues and install problems for a good chunk of users. I’m not going to link to each one here, but a quick scan of the topics in the user forum shows a full third of the posts are about basic app launching issues and very basic feature issues. Now, of course, these issues will be fixed prior to release, but it does go to show just how very far they have to go to get app performance up to par for a retail release. I wouldn’t expect a Flash Catalyst release party at MAX… as awesome as that would be. There is so much un-Eclipsing this Eclipse build, so much Adobe-ying to do. I’m sure they want this app to feel like a CS family memeber, and it’s close, but there is a ways to go (just export the project and read “Invoking Flex” as the progress bar advances, examine the Edit menu using Eclipse icons, note the missing preference panel, play around with the code view a little) before it’s an Adobe app.

So, enough complaining, what are some of the real bright spots in this tool so far?

  • Illustrator and FC go together like peanut butter and jelly. I’ve imported a dozen or so AI files into FC and had only minor aesthetic issues with any of them. This bodes well for my RIA mockup tool of choice and FC working well with each other.
  • The tool is a fantastic wireframer! I use Omnigraffle pretty much exclusively for this now, so it may be tough to usurp this for me, but if FC continues to add widgets and an extensibility layer to allow new components to be added to the basic library, I can see big big things for this. One of my biggest problems with doing wireframes revolves around it essentially creating a dead document. There is not really a tool out there that allows you to take a wireframe and use it as a part of your final deliverable. Flash Catalyst looks to proivde a way out of this.
  • It really does work as advertised. You can indeed wire up a CS4 created mockup to XML schema in minutes. Not kidding here.Very nice!

So, to recap… Not complaining about the tool at all. In fact, the contrary. FC is a brave new world in RIA design. There are so many unknown tricks and suprises in this mythical software beast, though, it’s difficult to see how to get to a downloadable purchase from where we are today. The product is sure to elate many, and possilby disappoint just as many as well, at least in this 1.0 release. I’ve got high high hopes. Maybe that is part of the problem.

How about you, are you enjoying the Flash Catalyst beta? Is it what you expected? Where do you this fitting in your workflow? What part of this Gryphon are you most interested in?

It’s Like Firebug, but for Flex Apps: FlexSpy

I do just about as much web design as I do Flex work. Maybe more actually. I depend on a couple in-browser tools like Firebug and the Web Developer toolbar to help me get through some of the dicier design issues that pop up in every project. They are a necessity and some of the very first things I have my new students install every semester.

So, when I recently started working on some Flex projects where the UI design had some very complex CSS issues that were popping up, I longed for something similar in my Flex toolkit. A component that would allow you click into a Flex app and identify the various containers and controls and observe all of the properties for the component. I was really looking for something similar to the Inspect function of Firebug. For those of of you that have never used it, the inspect function turns your cursor in a DOM selection tool of sorts, producing a border around the objects you hover over. Clicking on the highlighted object will display the HTML markup portion that contains that element and then list any and all CSS properties affecting the element. It’s sweet. You can also then edit the style attributes live and non destructively, saving you trips back to the test editor for countless tweaks.

So, I put out a call for such a beast on Twitter. I got a couple responses. One suggestedDe MonsterDebugger“, an AIR app that integrates with Flash and Flex apps via a helper class you import into your app/movie. It’s pretty slick. Lee Brimelow has posted a video tutorial on how to use the app. As cool as it was, it actually was overkill for my needs. I simply needed styling assistance, not trace output or the method testing. So, I decided to give the other suggestion I received, FlexSpy. Bingo!

Just one thing… FlexSpy by default wants to open up pretty big. So big that it often covers the entire application window (or more, if your flex app is a tiny little widget or small AIR app). So large that on my MacBook Pro, even with a fully maximized browser viewport, it is too large to fit in the window. So, some tweaks had to be made. Luckily, aranud, the owner of the FlexSpy project on Google Code has affixed a WTFPL license to the code. Check out that last link… LOL! So, with this highly modifiable license applied to it, it seemed like a perfect time to hack up the component and recompile it to be a little more Flex-ible. *ahem*.

The changes I made were simply in the constructor, so instead of simply calling the method and instantiating a FlexSpy window at the default giganto-size, you can now pass a height and a width to it and set the size on open. (eg. FlexSpy.show(600, 450) vs. FlexSpy.show())

Ahhh. Much better.

To see an example of what FlexSpy can do for you, check it out here. To download the source and a SWC file that contain my modifications, download this: FlexSpy component and source. Enjoy. And many thanks to Araund for the original component, it was perfect for my needs!

2 Years Later… An Update on Why Microsoft Silverlight Will Fail

2 years ago, I wrote a pretty dismissive post about my views on Silverlight and where it would go. Then, a year ago I followed it point by point with another post to see where things had improved. It wasn’t that impressive. So, here you go… a bullet point by bullet point update, 2 years into it.

  • No IDE for me – With some work, you can compile Siliverlight using Eclipse. I still want Blend on my Mac.
  • No plug in for Linux - If you are a Linux user, you can download yourself a hobbled Silverlight version. Sounds fun, right?
  • Market Penetration = Demand - A few months in, Flash player 10 is already over 60% market penetration. Microsoft still has yet to publish any sort of numbers on what sort of percentage of web users can use Silverlight content. It’s been two years! It’s estimated that the number is around 25%. Here’s the kicker though, IMHO, not a single remarkable rich media site has been created to showcase a new movie or recording from a band or singer using Silverlight as it’s sole delivery platform. MS is getting killed here. I’d love to get some info that disproves this, so if you can share something, some links, etc, please comment on this post.
  • The Growing Mobile Content Market -Alright, so Adobe’s mobile strategy is pretty shoddy. MS hasn’t really capitalized on this though, so I’d call it a wash.
  • Maturity – SilverLight is just entering it’s 3.0 version. They’ve added some cool features like multi-touch, that clearly eclipse the interactive design features on the Flash platform, but most of the additions and tweaks are really just MS playing catchup (eg. H.264 support). SilverLight out of the Browser doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at all. If you have the .Net platform to deliver to, why worry about delivering a hobbled .Net app when you could have a fullblown WPF exe?
  • The Developer Community - Obviously the .Net crowd is huge, but I’m not seeing any high profile defections, even in this down market, where developers should probably be trying out new tech to improve their marketability.
  • CS3 Microsoft still has no creative suite competitor.

So, beyond the bullet points, some things to consider. Silverlight was the video platform for MLB. They got pitched out for Flash. Silverlight was the video platform for the Olympics on NBC. They got dumped unceremoniously. Ouch. These two Defections really have to hurt. Silverlight needs customers like this to push adoption, but as it is right now they have a big chicken and egg situation on their hands.

That said, the tech is good for the industry. Really, Silverlight is doing a lot to push Flash’s advances. I also believe that the duoply of binary plugins, Flash and Silverlight is leading to a ton of innovation in the non-plugin RIA dev space. JQuery is super advanced, HTML 5 and CSS3, the Canvas tag, on and on. A lot of good things are happening right now because of this healthy competition.

There are some cool RIAs coming out in the Sliverlight space, Redliner being one of the best, IMHO. BTW, my favorite Silverlight “feature”? The fullscreen alert that appears when watching a video and the transition from an embedded video to a fullscreen video view on Silverlight is way nicer and smoother than the same function on Flash. Don’t believe me? Go to that Redliner site, watch the video and then jump to fullscreen… then do the same on Youtube. Which one looks designed? Which one looks cobbled together? Flash needs to allow for skinning of this message and better handling of the blank screen syndrome when going fullscreen.

Also, the recent additions of streaming services for Silverlight to IIS is a great move. Adobe, are you paying attention? FMS/FMIS might be priced a tad high now, comparatively, don’t ya think? Hmmm… free versus $995.

So what do you think about all of this? Is 2 years of Silverlight “experimentation” by MS enough to expect better results? Is this about where you thought it would be? I’d like to know what metrics MS is using to gauge it’s success.

360 Flex is just a week away… Are you ready for the awesomeness?

So, a quick reminderĶ the only 360|Flex event of 2009 is next week, and there are still some tickets left if you are interested in seeing what is going on in the Flash platform’s RIA development toolset!

Why should you go? What does $550 of your hard-earned cash (or your companies) buy you at 360|Flex Indy?

First off… I’m speaking there! I’ll be covering designer/developer integration issues in RIAs. It going to be an hour of insights for all those involved. So, beyond that… what else do you get? As if you needed anything else. ;-)

  • Almost 60 sessions of Flex, AIR and ActionScript goodness
  • 4 days of conference sessions
  • 4 days of lunch (great for networking)
  • 3 evening receptions at Rock Bottom (again, great for networking)
  • 2 (maybe more) different launches of products (Axiis and others)
  • 1 Bug Quash event on Sunday (come make Flex better)
  • 1 Flex 101 hands-on also on Sunday (to get you prepped for the week)
  • 1 Charity Code Jam over the course of the show (to earn some Karma points)
  • 1 USB drive jam packed with copies of the sessions and code samples, plus some extra surprises
  • A chance to attend the only 360|Flex of 2009

You can check out the schedule for the conference and see who else will be there, and what there presenting here: http://360conferences.com/360flex/downloads/schedule.pdf

There is also an iPhone version of the schedule… check it out.

If youve been thinking about going, register ASAP, as the tickets are almost gone. Register at http://360flex.eventbrite.com now to make sure you get in.

If you register for the event because I told you so, come say hi to me at the event and I’ll buy you a beverage.

Using Apache Ant with FlexBuilder 3 on Mac OSX – Some workarounds

I recently needed to compile a SWC from Flex Builder 3 on my Mac. I hadn’t done that before, as I really hadn’t had the need to share or publish my Flex components with a broader audience. This seemed like it was going to be a pretty straightforward thing to do, but after a while of tinkering about in FlexBuilder 3 with a number of different failures of varying types, it became abundantly clear that simply following the tutorials on LiveDocs, the docs on Labs and the help files in FlexBuilder wasn’t going to cut it. A number of posts on Mike Chambers blog regarding SWC compiling with compc and some messages in the FlexCoder’s discussion list got me closer to my goal, but it still took a lot more tiral and error than I think it should on a commerical product like Flex Builder. The bugs I found in Adobe’s Jira Flex SDK area on the subject were almost laughable, some mentioning compiling SWCs from FlexBuilder 3 on a Mac as an “edge use case”. Really? An edge use case?

FlexBuidler 3 on a Mac is not capable of compiling Flex components to SWC files out of the box. You need to install and configure Apache Ant before you will be able to share your code libraries with other developers.

So, for my own future reference and in the hopes of saving some Mac Flex developers the headache I encountered, here are the steps I needed to take to get Ant to successfully build a SWC that I could use in other Flex projects or give to developers on my team.

Installing Ant For FlexBuilder on OSX

You’ll need to load Ant into your FlexBuilder installation. To do this, open FlexBuilder and go to “Help -> Software Updates -> Find and Install..” Once the dialog appears, choose the “The Eclipse Project Updates” option and click finish. Choose a repository. You’ll need to install The Eclipse JDT package. Confirm the download, accept the agreement and wait for the install to happen. After the install completes you’ll need to restart Flex Builder to see it. After the restart, it should be available to you via “Window -> Other View -> Ant”. Before using it, though, we have a little more tweaking to get it to work.

Configuring Ant For FlexBuilder on OSX.

Add your SDK folder to your system’s $PATH environment variables. This is a simple step in theory, but in practice will cause you some headaches due to the default location of the Flex Builder install. By default, Adobe Flex is installed here: “/Applications/Adobe Flex Builder 3″. The folder has spaces in the name. Typically, when using spaces in folder names, specifying the path to that directory in a shell application requires using encapsulating quotes or the escape character “\” proceeding the space. In this case, using either of those failed for me. In order to workaround this, I needed to create a symlink at “usr/local/flex_sdk, allowing Ant to reach “compc” in a directory that didn’t have spaces in it. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up seeing errors like this.

So to do this, open Terminal and type: “sudo ln -s "/Applications/Adobe Flex Builder 3/sdks/3.2.0/" /usr/local/flex_sdk” – Of course, this assumes your SDK is located in “/Applications/Adobe Flex Builder 3/sdks/3.2.0/”, which for me, on a default FlexBuilder3 install, it was.

Once that is done, you may edit your “.profile” file to add the symlinked directory (pointing to your Flex SDK) to your $PATH environment variable. You have to do this, because without it, when Ant fires off the Compc Task, your Mac won’t know where the compc application is. You can use any text editor you like to edit the file, but since the file has a “.” prefix in the name, the file is invisible by default to the finder. Pico, Vi, etc in the Terminal have no problem with hidden files, and BBEdit is also capable of opening hidden files via the “File -> Open Hidden…” command. Your edited .profile file should look something like this after you are done:
export PATH=/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:/usr/local/flex_sdk/bin:/usr/local/flex_sdk/lib:$PATH

Once this edit is complete, logout of the Finder, log back in and check that the edit stuck by using this command in your Terminal:
echo $PATH

After that fun is over, you should be able to fire up Flex Builder… Once you have some AS you want to turn into a Ant Project, you’ll need to write a build.xml file and a build.properties file. Pretty much all the other tutorials out there on using Ant with Flex work after this point, so I won’t bore you with those details. After everything is working, I have to say Ant is pretty cool and I’m already thinking of some cool things to use it for to automate my workflow and speed up testing and deployment.

That said, I surely hope that FlexBuilder 4 fixes some of these dicier development issues that seem to plague FlexBuilder 3. Honestly, avoiding stuff like this was one of the main reasons I have paid for a FlexBuilder license, rather than simply downloading the free SDK and using the free Eclipse IDE, so if 4 doesn’t fix a lot of this stuff, I’ll likely do that. Writing MXML is easy enough, and with Catalyst just around the bend, it might supplant one of the bigger benefits of the FlexBuilder design view, so this seems even more plausible for many now than it did around the release of FlexBuilder 3.

In closing, I hope this article helps you, and if does, please comment below. If things aren’t working for you after following the tips in this post, comment and I’ll try to help you out!

Gentlemen (and Ladies), start your registrations.

I’ve been informed that I got accepted to speak at 360|Flex in Indianapolis (hence the title for the post)! The show will be going down May 18-20, 2009. This is my first true conference speaking gig, so I’m pretty psyched about it. I often speak to 1 day seminars, user groups, classes and other associations, but this is the first time I’ve been invited to a multi-day, multi-track event. Very cool, indeed.

My session is titled “Developers Are From Mars, Designers Are From Venus”. It’s a session focused on the integration points in a mixed team and the challenges facing them. This is a situation that many design and development house find themselves in today for a number of reasons. As Flash development gives way to Flex development for larger applications, the makeup of the development staff is bringing in more traditional development techniques and technology that seems foreign to designers. Likewise, Developers now just coming to the Flash platform, lured by RIA sexiness and agile techniques find themselves awash in a sea of designer hoo-ha. Leading? Kerning? Whitespace? The attention given to aesthetic in a modern app is not something one used to battleship grey apps is used to. This combination of situations, when put under pressure to deliver on time and on budget can breed animosity and destroys the teamwork mentality needed to create a superior user experience. My session is light on code, heavy on collaboration. Hopefully you’ll find out about some

You can check out the other great 49 speakers on the schedule at: http://360conferences.com/360flex/downloads/schedule.pdf It’s looking like it’s gonna be another great 360|Flex conference, especially with the list of people lined up. Juan Sanchez, Michael Labriola, Doug McCune, Josh Buhler, Renaun Erickson, Jeff Tapper and so many other talented and well known developers in the Flex ecosystem. I’m really happy to share a bill with so many others that I read, follow online and respect.

Tickets are cheaper on a first come, first serve basis! There are limited seats available, so register early. These 360|Flex events sell out. So buy your tickets asap at http://360flex.eventbrite.com to get the best possible price. I hope I see you there… you better go to my session!

A Few Plugins, Components or Tool Add-Ons Worth the Money for a Web/RIA Designer

I have shared tools, and components and source code libraries here in the past, primarily focusing on free and open-source libraries. I do enjoy using and getting to contribute to these community projects, but sometimes, there is no way to get around it, you just have to buy a component or plug-in to get the project done. When doing so, it’s really difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Here are a few commercially available tools or components that I have used that aid in creating web, RIA or other rich-media experiences like kiosks or tradeshow pieces. There are some add-ons that I have used in the past that I haven’t included here because they were troublesome or too buggy for final use, so view this as a list of only the ones that have stayed in my toolbox after a successful deployment.

    • FlashLoaded’s 3D Wall/Spiral/Tube, etc – If you want to create a simple 3D gallery or touch-panel display, need it done quickly and don’t have a lot of time to to learn Papervision, this relatively inexpensive group of component will achieve most of your needs. It’s pretty much bug free and does have a fairly large and accessible API for managing and working with the properties, methods and events in the component. You can integrate video into the the 3d planes, and put interactive SWFs in the panels as well. Pretty cool. That said, if you are already adept at Papervision and have a grasp on how you might want to build image galleries using the library, this product would have very little use to use to you. FlashLoaded does a respectable job at offering support, updating the components when there are bugs or issues and even adding features after a components release, offering updates free of charge to registered purchasers. They are worth a look.
      • JumpEye Component’s Menus – JumpEye is a well known rich media design/development consulting company, but they also offer a wide variety of components for sale at their JumpEyeComponents.com site. The menus they have there are pretty good in particular, and fill the void created after Adobe Flash CS3′s release, when the more advanced menu components and accordion panel were inexplicably removed from the product. It’s a shame you have to purchase a replacement for a component that Flash used to ship with straight from Adobe, but it seems that advanced UI components, etc have been migrated out of Flash and into Flex. This site has a number of add-ons available that help you overcome that shortcoming if you need to produce some advanced UI in Flash. For the price, it’s tough to argue for custom development of a menu when a deadline is looming. Highly cusomtizable and powered by XML, the components are flexible enough to make them useful for a wide variety of implementations. Find out more here.
        • IconFactory’s IconBuilder- Do you find yourself needing to produce a wide variety of icons for AIR apps, Windows apps, Mac apps, websites, favicons, etc? If so, this will save you a ton of time. If all you ever need is a Favicon from time to time, this probably overkill, but Iconfactory’s IconBuilder is great for simplifying the process needed when moving through the design process for multi-sized icons inside of Photoshop or Fireworks. It can create icons of pretty much every size dimension and palette, even helping you verify how the color indexing will look for final output to older, or smaller icons used in list views, etc. It’s pretty indispensable for that reason. If you are delivering custom apps for clients and you aren’t creating custom icons for those apps, step up to the plate and add some polish to your deliverables. It really finishes off the presentation. This app is $79 for Mac users, $49 for Windows users, but the Mac version does have a few extra niceties for the extra $.
          • ixis’s (formerly Softheap) Public PC Desktop – Have you ever produced a kiosk for use at a trade show, exhibit or other installation? How did you lock it down? You know, prevent those pesky users from monkeying with the system? An absolute necessity. This $80 app is super handy for keeping nosy people out of the OS. You can lock down the computer via a white-list for applications, URLs, services, firewalls/proxies or pretty much anything else. Additionally on lockdown, you can have Public PC desktop auto launch your kiosk app. This helps in the daily routine for a exhibit when the computer reboots after being off for the evening. I wouldn’t dream of putting in a touchscreen at a remote location that didn’t have some level of protection on it. This is a key step in setting up that final disk image that gets shipped on pretty much any project we do. This app is by no means the only out there that does this sort of thing, but is probably the easiest to use that still offeres enough configurability to fit your clients needs. The site is pretty poorly designed, but here is a link directly to the product page.
            • Zoomifyer – This app gets a bit of use from time to time by me. The intelligent slicing, loading and simple navigation UI it adds for deep image viewing, panning and scrolling is pretty nice. Advanced hotspots, event management and other interactions make this a very nice choice for making an image viewer app. A simple version does ship with Photoshop, but the full product adds a suite of bells and whistles that make the upgrade worth it. To do this sort of thing by hand, you’d need an army of graphic prep artists and a very regimented workflow to ensure the proper consistency. Check out some samples here.
              • Multidmedia’s Zinc – More than just a plug-in, this IDE allows for Mac, Windows, and Linux applicaiton compilation. Wht’s the big deal? Why would you use this instead of AIR? Well, not a lot of major client I encounter have made the jump to AIR yet. On top of that, Zinc compiled apps have deeper access to OS level APIs, file IO, Database connections and much much more. This compiler really does take your Flex or Flash app and turn it into a desktop program. It’s got an impressive list of features. My main complaint against it is that the developers seem to prize a rapid release cycle over a robust testing cycle, so sometimes even minor point updates can break previously stable code. I have learned this over the years and now only update Zinc after reading the suport forums and ensuring that the most recent release doesn’t mess things up. This is by far the best SWF to EXE tool out there IMHO, and I have used pretty much all of them. Check it out. Absolutely worth the $ if you have projects that require this sort of functionality.

              So there you go, a group of tools I have found useful in my projects over the last couple of years. These get used again and again by me and my team, and maybe you will find a use for them as well. Got others in your toolbox you keep going back to? Share ‘em with me by leaving a comment.

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