Archive for January, 2003

Webcam MediaTemple.net Test

Posted on January 16, 2003 by:
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I have been playing with the Flash Communications Server MX for some time now via my account at MediaTemple.net and I thought I would do a few little tests with the internet at large. The first one is that I have added a small webcam view to the top of all the pages in my html based blog. I think I will leave it up today as I run around the office. It will probably go down near the end of the day, maybe not…its a test after all. Post a comment and let me know what you think of my shiny cranium.

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I read about that taking place today via an article on news.com. (Read the official press release from W3C) So the W3C has given its stamp of approval to SVG as the graphical language of choice for cell phones, PDAs and other handheld devices. An interesting quote from the article, “SVG, which is intended to supplant Macromedia’s dominant and proprietary Flash animation technology, has been wending its way through the W3C for years in one form or another. The original specification grew out of a quartet of early contenders, including Microsoft’s Vector Markup Language (VML), and won its recommendation in September 2001.”

This is especially interesting to me as I just did a presentation last night on Flash MX, Remoting and Flash Communications Server to a group of 20 people who from what I gathered primarily do work developing databases and using java to create web services. Most of the experience they have with creating UI or interactivity is with Java and swing. During the presentation there were some interesting questions:

1) What about SVG? Can you do the same stuff with SVG that you are showing us with Flash?

2) How come there is not more of a representation from Macromedia on setting vector graphic standards?

I thought the questions were interesting and I answered them as best I could, giving pros and cons for both SVG and Flash, with my hindrance being that I don’t know nearly as much about SVG as compared to Flash. I posed the following questions to a group of folks I know as food for thought:

How would you answer those questions?

And more importantly, what is the set of criteria that should be used to determine whether one solution is better suited than another when contemplating creating an application or project that is destined for a device?

I welcome comments and feedback on this.

Regarding the presentation I gave, the folks who attended really seemed to like that Flash can be used to consume web services and serve as a front end for backend data sources. They also really liked Flash Communications Server, they loved that two other folks in different parts of the world were able to video/audio conference in just by using the Flash plugin and the fact that the demo I created was made in less than 10 minutes from start to finish using premade components. They also liked the idea of remoting and sucking binary data streams into Flash. Using Flash as an interface/front end to their webservices and java beans/classes was also very appealing. Many of them had never been exposed to Flash as a Rich Internet Application solution, only to cartoons and animated ads. They didn’t realize a lot of the potential for presenting data and rapidly developing and deploying applications on devices.

Special thanks to Christian Cantrell and J, AKA SubCulture06 of the Philadelpha Flash Macromedia Flash User Group for showing up via Flashcom for the demo.

UPDATE: I found this interesting FAQ about the use of SVG 1.1 and SVG Mobile. What are your thoughts about SVG 1.1. and SVG Mobile as compated to the Flash Player for Pocket PC?

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I just caught this info thanks to an entry on Greg Bruch’s blog . Greg posted a question to the Forum at ScreenweaverMX and got a quick reply and answer which also addresses some of the concerns I had in my previous post about embedding the Flash OCX in your projects. The effort and support that the folks at Rubberduck are putting behind this application is really great and I encourage anyone who is looking for ways to extend Flash should definitely take a look at their product especially since their is a free trial version available for download. I plan to post some examples of things I have been working on shortly.

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I am very happy and excited to see tools like SWMX coming out. This one in particular looks very promising for allowing developers to extend the capabilities of Flash to interact with the underlying OS, applications and peripherals. Tools like Flash Studio Pro and SWMX are going to make for some very interesting apps in 2003. I only wish that feature rich tools with advanced frameworks and functionality like this were around about 2 years ago. It would have surely reduced the time it took for me to build the custom ATM and CoinCounting container applications that give Flash the ability to be used as a GUI and talk to the OS, peripherals and devices connected to them on those two projects. I feel that other than the use of Flash on wireless devices such as smartphones and PDA’s, that this is where some of the most innovative uses of Flash are going to be popping up from over the next year. Expect to see more advanced kiosks and standalone applications being built with these tools once folks begin to see how empowered they will be. I feel with these type of tools available to developers that we will see even better examples of Rich Internet Applications.

This topics brings to light many questions regarding the licensing of the Flash Player/OCX/DLL. as its obviously needed at some point in order for your projects or installers created with these tools to work. What are your thoughts on how Macromedia should handle the licensing of the Flash player for these situations? Is this an issue? Should Macromedia allow developers to distribute the player or DLL with their app for a fee? Should it be a one time fee? What kind of licensing model would most developers look for in this scenario? Should the end user continue to be responsible for having the correct Flash player for your project? Should it be a special version just for this purpose? Should it contain extra features for binding to a specific developers apps, similar to signed ActiveX controls? These are all things we should be thinking about as tools like this become more widespread in their usage and deployment. One good place to look is in the Macromedia Shockwave and Flash Player Licensing. Would love to hear feedback on this topic in particular.
UPDATE: Make sure you read the comments that go along with this entry where some points I raised are more clearly laid out.

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The title says it all. Take a gander at this 1600×1200 screenshot from my home Mac. I captured my desktop showing Apple’s new browser Safari displaying the admin pages for both JRun 4 and ColdFusion MX J2EE running locally under OS X. Having this stuff running alongside BBEDIT, Apache, PHP, MySQL and my terminal window and I don’t need to touch anything but my own box for 80% of my development work. The 20% I’ll spend on my Win2k boxe now is strictly devoted to the few things I do with Visual Studio Enterprise 6, .NET related VB work and Pocket PC tools I need to run on a Microsoft based platform. Very cool indeed.

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Another cool thing to report: Christian Cantrell is the new Macromedia Server Community Manager. Christian has a great article in the DesDev center today about ColdFusion MX and Jrun4 for OS X. Christian also has a brand new blog up which contains more info and links on this topic. I personally am very happy to see Christian working with Macromedia as I have been fortunate enough to meet and talk with Christian thanks to attending FlashForward and working on Flash Enabled together, and he is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Best of luck to you! You can all expect great things from Christian.

Here are a few more Christian related items: An interview with Christian at FusionAuthority.com. Some of Christians work also appears in the new Macromedia DRK 2 in the form of the MyPhoto sample application utilizing Flash MX, Flash MX Remoting and ColdFusion MX.

Useless trivia: If you squint real hard at the screenshot here of the MyPhoto app you can just see part of my bald head behind Phillip Torrones fully follicled head. 🙂

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Some more exciting news out of MacWorld and Macromedia is that starting today, JRun 4 and the J2EE version of ColdFusion MX are available for Mac OS X. Being able to do my development for ColdFusion MX on my OS X boxes makes me very happy indeed. I spent the last few hours downloading and instaling things and it went pretty smoothly. One thing I had with my config is that I needed to modify the permissions of my httpd.conf for Apache to allow the JRun wsconfig app to modify it and do its thing for setting up the bridge between Apache and JRun since I want to use them together on my development box. I havent had much time to test things out other than get it installed and working, but its very promising. I have an OS X 10.2 server I want to put this on and put it through its paces with some ColdFusion based sites I have developed. I am curious to see how it performs with MySQL on OS X as compared to a Win2000 box wth MS SQL server that I used to do most of my ColdFusion work on. I have high hopes of ditching that completely now that I can run this on all my Macs. Thank you Macromedia!

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I am posting this entry using Apples newly announced Safari browser and yes it it VERY FAST and of course it supports the latest Macromedia Flash Player Plugin, which is great news. It also allows blocking popup windows, is standards based, scriptable, and open source. Lots of very nice features wrapped into it, but did I mention that its fast? I mean really fast. Lots of other cool announcements from Apple during Steve Jobs keynote, like new laptops with bluetooth and 54MB 802.11g wireless, etc., but this new browser is one that will affect us all. Luckily it looks like it does a very good job of supporting standards from the sites I have browsed to. Great job Apple!
UPDATE: I have had a chance now to play around more with Flash content, and the framerate/playback speed of .swf files is unfortunately much slower than IE, Netscape or Mozilla. HTML rendering is still very fast on the two machines I have tried it on, a 450mz G4 and dual 500mhz G4, just Flash playback is slow. Hopefully this issue will be worked out by both Apple and Macromedia during this beta period.

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