Archive for May, 2002

Today is the last day of the conference and I have a bunch of goodies to review and post about over the next few days. Couple of cool things for right now related to Flash. First, Macromedia announced that all new HP iPaqs (Yes they will be called HP iPaqs due to the merger between Compaq/HP, I predict they will start getting called HPaqs) will ship with the Macromedia Flash 5 Player for Pocket PC already installed! This is great news for developers as you will have a new, very interesting market for your content and applications. Second quick thing, fellow author from Flash Enabled, Steve “Leo” Leone made it onto Macromedias Site of the Day for the the companion web site he designed for the book. Leo’s personal site www.unplug.tv shows off some of his other Flash related projects and design work.

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Entries are going to be sparse for the next few days while I am attending the Pocket PC Summit here in Philadelphia. I will try to post some interesting stuff from the conference. There should be a lot of great stuff about the Flash 5 Player for Pocket PC coming out of this show. Phillip Torrone is one of the keynote speakers and will be delivering his keynote on Thursday from 1-2pm. If you can make it, just prior to that from 11-12 in the Commonwealth A, B room you can get a sneak peak at an application I worked on for a client that utilizes the Flash 5 Player for Pocket PC. Several of the other authors of Flash Enabled besides Phillip and I will also be there. Mike Chambers, Bill Perry and Steve “Leo” Leone. are all attending. I believe Mike will also be speaking at the conference on Wednesday about the Flash Player 5 for Pocket PC’s.

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The Flash portion of my site is now synchronized (for the most part) with the html blog. There are a few features in the Flash version that used ASFUNCTION to jump to specific areas of the site that I still need to revisit to get working the way i want but at least the items themselves are now synched up so you can visit either site and not miss any entries. The way I did this might be of interest to other bloggers who are using Pivot as your backend and want to integrate it with a Flash front end.Originally my news was driven via a mySQL database along with PHP and Loadvariables in Flash and a custom Flash based admin GUI I built to edit and add entries. Then I started up this blog using Pivot which I stumbled across thanks to Branden Hall’s WaxPraxis.org The nice thing about Pivot is that it doesn’t require a database, it simply writes flat XMl files of your entries and comments and makes everything static pages. I needed to synchronize the two so I hacked together a PHP script that dynamically reads through the index and all the XML files created by Pivot and then converts them to whatever format I need. Right now I have a version that converts all the entries to a single summary page in html and it also can output a version that takes everything and converts it to a large URL encoded variable for use in Flash. It will be very easy to edit it a little further and have it convert everything into an RSS feed or other form of XML (which I plan on doing shortly so that I can syndicate this site). Try it out to see for yourself.
HTML Version – http://www.impossibilities.com/blog/blogvert.php
Flash Version – http://www.impossibilities.com/blog/blogvert.php?type=flash
It also will allow ranges of items by date/etc. or a specific number of entries to be returned in the results. I just have a few more things to tweak and take care of and I will release it for everyone to play with or incorporate into their own Flash/Pivot blog.

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I saw that Macromedia is running a contest in their Designer Developer Area where you can submit tips for using Macromedia products and possibly win an iMac! Well I tried to think of something I could submit and came up with this and submitted it a few minutes ago. Hope its useful!
Introduction: A new parameter for both OBJECT and EMBED, FlashVars, is available for the Flash 6 player. It allows a much greater amount of variable information to be passed from your html document than previous methods reliably allowed…View the full tip here.

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Is this a behind the scenes photo from a new Intel Pentium Ad? Or did one of the members of the world famous Blue Man Group simply hold up a copy of Flash Enabled and shoot a photograph of me and one of the other Blue Men after a recent show in New York? Or is this simply a clever fake for publicity? How come the Professor could make batteries from coconuts but couldn’t fix a hole in a boat?

These are questions that may never be answered.

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Due to the extra traffic I got from having my blog show up in a few other blogs yesterday and today, a lot of you heard the dynamic text to speech stuff that is played back on my main Flash site. If you havent been to it or heard it, your IP address and date and time and some other info is dynamically converted to synthesized speech and delivered/played back to you via Flash .swf files. In my user forum you can also select individual message threads to be dynamically read to you. Hopefully the extra traffic and load wont kill my server. Be nice. :)There are literally hundreds of uses for this type of technology. I think it compliments the new accessibility features of Flash MX nicely. This is especially true if you must meet certain ADA requirements and you need to reach browsers and other devices that dont yet have screen reader technologies available to tie in with the accessibility features of Flash MX and the Flash 6 player. Take a look at Macromedias Accessibilitiy Resource Center and also make sure to read the first link on that page which has a lot of good information on what exactly Accessibilitiy is and what defines disabilities.

Needless to say, I have been thinking about this technology ever since and today many of you visitors wrote me to ask me how it was done. Here is some background:

I showed this presentation during last years FlashForward 2001 in New York when I demoed the solution. It provides the basic 30,000 foot concept, how the idea came about and how it came to fruition, but no real details for rolling your own version. It does however provide a lot of good hints and starting points.
The original version that I worked on with Mike Chambers requires Macromedia Generator which is being/has been phased out in favor of newer Macromedia technologies like ColdFusion MX and Flash Remoting, etc.

I do have a newer version close to completion that:

1. Does not require Generator
2. Has the potential to be much faster and more robust.

It also has some other interesting features and applications. It doesnt show it off on my site (due to not wanting to destroy my server with extra load) but even the current version I have working has the ability to sing, change voices, pitch, tempo, and sound out things phonetically by using phonemes and this can happen withing a single request.

I have not had the time nor interest from enough third parties to really justify spending a lot of effort (read: I need to get paid because I am poor and I like to eat and pay my rent) to complete the new version. From the few emails I got today there are more of you out there that are interested in deploying something like this. If there are more of you, please drop me a note with your potential application and why you think it would be cool to have this feature. This just might be the inspiration I need to take this to the next level. If you would $$ PAY $$ to have something like this definitely drop me a note! We can be friends!
UPDATE: 06/19/02 – Take a look at the main page of this blog for a new example of how this technology can also enhance an html page.

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I have had a webcam feed embedded in the main Flash based portion of my site for some time now (take a look here, click on the webcam option in the menu). You might catch the top of my head in there during the day. I have been working on an article, to be published soon, that explains how to implement something very similar with Flash MX and ordinary household appliances. 🙂 You’ll be surpised how easy it is to do. The thing that really gets me excited is reading about Macromedia Flash Communication Technology and pondering the possibilities. Has everyone seen this: The Dream Domain ? It was the Macromedia site of the day on April 20th, 2002. Take a look through it and I’m sure it will trigger questions like, “How the heck did they do that with Flash!?” I also just today ran across this thread: “Flash Cam Test” in the Macromedia Flash Handhelds Forum Take a look at the example URL posted in that thread showing off what can be done with Flash 5 and a Pocket PC. This is the kind of stuff that gets me excited about working with Flash. Keep an eye out for my article with example code soon.

Update: Someone else replied to the same thread. Take a look at this Flash based webcam of a lab at the Chungnam University in Korea

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Blog Links in Flash

Posted on May 23, 2002 by:
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Played around with this last night trying to come up with ideas for a nice navigation menu system to tie in with this blog for the links on the right. Just tossing ideas around. This was based on the free Resource Menu Component available from Macromedia > Designer & Developer Center > Flash MX Application Development Center. Take a few minutes and download this and hack away at it for yourself. If you are new to components you will learn a lot just by fiddling with things. IMHO, often times its the best way to learn something: Throw away the manual, rip the sucker apart and put it back together.

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YAB (Yet Another Blog)

Posted on May 23, 2002 by:
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Wow, John Dowdell has a good eye for examining his logs! I had only started tinkered with this thing around midnight last night and wasn’t going to let anyone know about it till I thought it was good enough for public consumption. Apparently John found my site from his referral logs and posted a link to this area on his blog. Looks like I am going to have to clean this up a bit faster than I thought. 🙂 Excuse me for a second as I capitalize on this new found visitor traffic and direct your attention towards two excellent books about Flash MX. I am a bit biased as I was a contributing author to both of them, but don’t let that stop you from taking a look at them, Flash MX Magic and the just released Flash Enabled (Check the archives and older news for more info from me on these) Both are available from a fantastic publisher New Riders

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Might as well Blog

Posted on May 23, 2002 by:
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Considering all the blogging going on I didn’t want to be left out in the cold. So I spent an hour or so tonight and whipped this blog into shape. I sucked all my previous entries out of my homebrew mySQL database that I was feeding to Flash and dropped them into this system, Pivot. It has some nice features. I am going to redo the Flash based version of my site to utilize the static XML files and generation capabilities of Pivot so that they will sync up. I use some custom functions in my Flash version along with asfunction tags in Flash to jump to specific areas of the Flash site. I am going to have to revisit that for this new blog. Stay tuned more to come.

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