Gentlemen, Start your Wii-Motes – Flash API

Wii Api Controls ScreenshotAn API at WiiCade has been released to map the WiiMote buttons to your keyboard equivalents… It seems to me a perfect time to start cracking some of those old games you made… yeah you! and start building in some Wii support. I can see it now, miniclips and newgrounds, on and on… Hundreds of Flash Classics ported to the Wii. Flash Arcade ports from the 80s… oh yeah! Who needs ROMs?
Pretty much all for the games I have ever created have some sort of licensed property on ‘em, so I won’t be posting them for use on any public sites soon, but I do think I will be building support into them going forward. With some simple testing of system capabilities / user agents, you could switch the commands on the fly, making the port pretty seamless to players on their TVs.

Granted, we are dealing with Flash 7 on the Wii, but it’s a start!

Adobe Apollo Alpha coming soon!

Straight from Adobe… Possibly the most anxiously awaited RIA development of the year. Adobe Apollo Public alpha to be released on Adobe labs imminently. I’m excited… are you excited? Sounds a bit rough around the edges as Bit-101 puts it, but I am still really looking forward to it. Hope that the Webkit stuff is at least semi-functional.

EDIT: Removed reference to Mike Chambers as Product Manager for Apollo, it is indeed Mike Downey, as he pointed out in the comments below. Apologies to both parties.

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Getting your client to drink the web standards kool-aid.

I admit it. I was late to the game. I waited until 2002 to produce my first standards based/compliant website. It was a simple affair, consisting a couple divs sprinkled about and having a spartan layout compared to my rigorous slice and dice table based sites of yore. But, it was a step in the right direction. I had been fighting it big time… for a number of reasons.

  1. It would take a massive relearning of what I had learned – Imageready 1.0 was a godsend and a curse all in one. The “save for web” slicing crack had taken hold of me and when I produced a pixel perfect layout with pristine text and fabulous rollovers (some even with animated gifs – :-) ), I felt great immediately afterwards, with a sick, sinking feeling taking hold of me later after having a congratulatory beer and cigarette (I was a smoker then) knowing I wasn’t doing things the right way.
  2. It would take a pile of new software on users machines – Internet Explorer 5 for the Mac was great and a fantastic battle in the browser wars. For 3% of the audience or so. IE 5 on Windows was still in non-standards hell and Netscape was in purgatory. In short, even if you did produce a good site then, your chances of having someone actually see it as you intended was slim. Add to that a relatively low broadband penetration rate until recently and you have an even slimmer chance, because non one is getting the new browser because it takes far to long to download.
  3. Working your clients through a design process that by its very nature infers some variance from the final product is very difficult - Some clients are just not able to accept that “YMMV” or it might look a bit different on another machine. After all, they probably just came from a Photoshop sliced site that looks picture perfect from the outside but is 99% obsolete on the inside (Here’s looking at you Jeffrey Zeldman).

When the dotcom bubble burst, I got laid off after 2 corporate buyouts. I freelanced when I could, all the whiel seeking fulltime jobs at firms that probably didn’t need me or couldn’t see the need for a senior level web designer. I began to seek ways to differentiate myself and stay with the curve of the industry. I started reading some blogs and saw the writing on the wall. Adapt or join the ranks fo basement dwelling Frontpage users.

Since then, I have largely produced only CSS based sites or 100% Flash based minisites. I primarily use XHTML and am now liberally sprinkling in some AJAX-y DHTML type stuff using frameworks. By and large, I have sipped from the standards firehouse in huge gasping gulps. After much kicking and screaming, I was/am a bit a of a standardista. A pretty flexible one, but one that sees the value in separating content from presentation, anyway.

While the skills are there, and the browsers are there, mostly, too… But one thing still hasn’t really changed on the client front. Pixel perfect website designs are definitely still in vogue. We designers and developers are in the thick of this. We create a dozen sites a year, maybe more. We track the trends, see what others are doing across the entire web, not just a narrow industry like finance, or manufacturing, or consumer goods… In short, we’re desensitized. Jaded. Able to see what happens when the content becomes 5 paragraphs instead of 2. When 3 new nav items get added. When a section gets moved to be a subsection in another area of the site. Not so with the client. They get a new site every 2 years, 3 years, 5 years. They don’t know Digg, AJAX or Flex and they don’t care. They want their headers as Eurostile with a dropshadow and thats what they want (Yes, I know about SiFR and Siir, etc). Period.

While talking to your clients about standards and maintainability, etc. things look like they might be sticking. Then, they see your first HTML page after having only seen mockups in Photoshop and the headers have shifted three pixels over, and they are freaking. What now? How to get them to see the light? I have no conclusions here, and some clients are certainly exceptions to the rule, but in my experience, even with a very trained and experienced designer these sorts of baubles occur.

How do you iron this out? I know many of you might say… ‘don’t matter to me, I design experience sites in Flash’. ;-)

Nintendo Wii + Internet Channel + Youtube + Flash Player = All the kitty videos my 2 year old can stand.

All jokes and mathematical equations aside, with the number of Flash video sites out there now and the Nintendo Wii, is IPTV here? Do we have the abilitiy to watch network/broadcast shows? Check. Can you view the latest videos? Check. How about Jon Stewart and Colbert? Check. News? Check. Silly Cartoons? Check. Sportscenter? Check. High Def capabilities? Sort of.

Now with the new Flash Media Media Encoder, we’re even closer. Content should be flyin’ out of the decks now.
What are we missing? DVR capabilties? Do you need em with everything a click away? Am I missing a part of the equation? I know I’m pretty happy with the arrangement I have. Now granted, it’s not Joost or something like that, but hey… content is content.

My favorite little tweening prototype is all grown up!

Congrats to Zeh and his accomplices on putting together an AS3 version of mcTween. He posted a link over at his blog on the new codebase and it looks great. I have been using this bit of code for about 3 years now and I can’t imagine creating a UI or Flash app without it. I have used it throughout virtually all my work at Iona Group, and when I teach Flash to my intermediate students we always use it.

It’s great to see the same author take his code to the next level and I know when I finally get my hands on the Flash 9 IDE I will be using “import caurina.transitions.Tweener;” instead of my old standby “#include”… The code is still missing some ability to control the Flash 8 filters, but for projects that don’t require it, I will be using the AS3 version whenever possible.

Many thanks Zeh, and you’re right… It does save the world!

Percentage of people out there using webcams? Flash 8+ users specifically.

WebcamAnyone have metrics on percentage of people out there with webcams on their computer? I’ve bee looking around for this number, but can’t find anything concrete. I’m looking to possibly build a flash site for a client that uses some webcam technology, but want to make sure that a good chunk of the audience can use the functionality I’m planning.

I know I have seen some great stuff out there (games, mostly) but no one really using it as an interface element or main site focus ( excluded)… if you have some examples of it being used for site navigation, etc let me know… I’d love to see it. I know Grant Skinner and Mario Klingemann have some great stuff out there.
Of course, what I am planning would also be usable via standard keyboard/mouse UI but a little something extra might be a cool trick.

What is the realized value to your organization/company for you to be Adobe certified?

I have been working with Flash since version 3. My skills have grown with the application, and the things I primarily produce with the tool have grown and changed as well (From simple animations to full blown apps). I haven’t really ever had difficulty finding work related to Flash, even when I was freelancing. I haven’t really ever had difficulty in achieving the project at hand using Flash either (No more than most, of course ;-) ).

All these things considered, I have never been certified in any version of the tool, though I have sometimes contemplated it. I have little doubt I could pass the test with some studying/prep, so uncertainty hasn’t really formed that decision for me. Ultimately it comes back to ROI, I guess… I just haven’t been able to quantify it. Are you certified developers/designers out there reaping the rewards of putting that little badge on your site? Does it add anything to the bottom line of your company that employs you if you aren’t a freelancer?

On that note… the exams up there are currently for the MX2004 family of products, is there a Flash 8 series of exams coming soon? Just in time for the release of Flash 9/CS3 I suppose. I guess the certified professionals out there will need to recertify, does anyone have more info out there to share on that process? Is it $150 again? Is the test given for it the same one as the first timers must take?

This post isn’t meant to belittle anyone or the program itself, or anything like that. I am genuinely interested in learning more about what the Adobe certification program can bring to me, my fellow developers/coworkers and ultimately the company I work for. If you have feedback, please let me know.

And to this I say… “Beeyah!”

Adobe is winning developers and MS is losing them… Ryan Stewart’s article sure makes the future seem bright to me… My company is located in a region where most companies are developing using C#, Java and C++, etc. for their RIA/desktop apps. I see a lot of potential to make inroads using Flex and Apollo.

SIDEBAR: I am really looking forward to dropping Multidmedia’s Zinc. Have I mentioned that lately? Sorry, a little bitter here. Anyone out there using that app? While the capabilities it adds to a Flash projector are really cool, it comes at price. More difficult debugging, versioning issues, etc.

Back to the topic at hand. Being a Mac user, WPE/WPF isn’t really a development option for me… Especially since I’m still on a PPC based Powerbook for my primary machine (I could use bootcamp or Parrellels/VMWare then).

This post over at Robert Scoble’s blog is interesting… just what is Adobe showing next week? Something juicy I bet. Apollo Community Preview (Probably.)? Flash 9/CS3 Release Date (Possibly)? Flex/Flash IDE for Linux (I know that’s crazy – But just think about what that could do for the developer community for one second)? Seems like every chance they get they are stealing MS’s thunder and spoiling the .Net3.0 coming out party.
Very interesting times indeed.

Dx3 Conference In May… Anyone Going?

This Event looks pretty interesting. A broad mix of people from Adobe, Microsoft and other web technology companies and technology advocates (Web Standards and AJAX). I think I’m leaning towards attending this instead of Flash Forward this year. If for no other reason than the broadness and platform agnosticism.

Though I doubt I’ll ever switch from the Flash Platform to developing WPE/WPF multimedia… I would like to get a good idea of what the technology is capable of to see if it takes care of some of my larger pet peeves with Flash player performance and capabilities. The fact that MS is giving away Expression Web Designer there seems like an interesting hook. Perhaps by then we’ll have Flash 9/CS3 and Dreamweaver 9/CS3 in our hands and we’ll definitely have a preview version of Apollo (By the way – I preordered the pocketguide preview book).

I’m really interested in the following sessions:

  1. Beyond Web 2.0Having trouble separating hype from reality? Where is the Web really headed? In this presentation, Jesse James Garrett looks at the deeper trends driving the latest innovations in Web development and considers the broader implications for the skill sets Web teams will need to invest in to successfully leverage emerging Web techniques and technologies.
  2. A Better Way: Agile Software Development - Agile software development aims to reintroduce sanity and common sense into the creation of software (be it software for the desktop, Web, devices, etc.). In this session you’ll learn about agile practices such as Extreme Programming and Scrum, and what agile can do for your organization, your employees, your products, and your clients. You’ll learn how agile can add value, improve communication, allow for rapid correction, and make software development fun again.
  3. Experience by DesignCreating a great experience doesn’t typically happen by accident. Learn some keys to communicating and working with complex technology in a fluid visual environment. A great idea is the best way to start a great project, but how do you transfer that vision through design, development and deployment with all the pitfalls and roadblocks to come? Focus on the strengths and understand the limitations of each phase of the process, and push the boundaries to ultimately deliver a compelling experience. The target will be rich interactive applications, that use both high design, and cutting edge technology.
  4. Designer-Developer Workflow - No description for this yet, but this is an issue I wrestle with all the time. I would like to see some other peoples perspectives on it.
  5. What’s New in Flash Always good to know what’s new on the scene.

With 40+ sessions I’m sure other things will bubble up, too. Really getting psyched for this… It takes place just after my teaching responsibilities at Bradley University end for the semester, too, so getting away will be great at that time of year!

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