Archive for March, 2003

I hate missing FlashForward 2003 this year and getting to see in person all these cool announcements about new and updated products. First, Macromedia has updated and added content to the DevNet, so take q quick look there. Then, take a look at this new section of DevNet for Macromedia Central to get the lowdown, a white paper, and to sign up for the SDK Beta program. I can already tell that even with what little that has been shared about Central, that folks are already seeing the tremendous amount of potential it promises to deliver.
Flash Communications Server MX 1.5 was also announced. The licensing is better, it now supports http tunneling, streaming of MP3’s, and the coolest of all features: A version for RedHat Linux 7.3 or higher! This will certainly open the door for many by reducing the licensing costs associated with the server OS that Flash Com has to live on. Phillip Kerman has a great article on 1.5 that gets into more depth on 1.5.
Another section of the DevNet that has been updated is the Mobile Topic Center which includes the release of the Flash 6 Player for Pocket PC 2002 and The accompanying CDK or Content Development Kit. A lot of work was put into this release by all the engineers at Macromedia who spent so much time making sure this would be a rock solid product. Bill Perry did a great job on the CDK. Besides excellent examples, and info, the CDK also includes special UI compoments optimized specifically for usage on the Pocket PC. The Flash 6 Player for Pocket PC 2002 has some special system.capabilities built in to make it easier to detect if the device is online, grab a username, check the volume, battery-life, and even RAM availability on the device, plus some other cool features implemented specifically for Pocket PC Flash developers to make their lives a bit easier and their apps richer.
Distributing your content just got a lot easier to, Macromedia has also announced a special Standalone Flash Player 6 Playerfor Pocket PC 2002 for $499. This might seem steep, but this price allows you to quickly and easily create a standalone version of your applications which you are then free to re-distribute for multiple projects. Since the files you make have the Flash 6 Player embedded in them, you dont have to worry about the end user needing to get the player or getting two downloads. Everything is contained in your package.
Quite a day for news about Flash wouldn’t you say?

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If you visit the main page of my blog with a web browser capable of using the Flash 6 Player and the FlashVars param tag, you can click on the Speak Icon and the individual blog entries will be automatically read back to you via some server side text-to-speech technology I have married with a tiny 3k Flash application. Been working on this in fits and starts and stops over the last few years, and I’m trying out some new techniques and speech engines to see how well it works on the new web server I am hosting this site on now, at MediaTemple.net. Just testing things out.There are many of you who I have spoken with about obtaining this service or feature for your own site, well I am still working on making something available for you all. Hope to post more soon.

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Several articles up already on the pending introduction of Macromedia Central.

  • news.com
  • crn.com
  • maccentral.com
  • Kevin Lynch even made a direct post about it.

    I am very excited about this as a developer, having a centralized method for distributing applications is going to drive the creation of Flash content immensely. This is a feature that I feel should have been built into the Macromedia Exchange from the very begining. The other aspect of Macromedia Central, the additional client environment is going to further push the adoption of Flash as being a capable solution for full blown application development. I have had many conversations and thoughts on these very topics and I am extremely happy to see Macromedia going down this path. I can’t wait to get more details tomorrow for the keynote at FlashForward, hopefully there will be a live feed somewhere as I couldn’t make it out to this one.

    I would like to point out that the model for this new idea/product Macromedia Central has already existed on some level in the Flash world. Several companies already sell specialized high end components for Flash MX, even Macromedia has begun selling components and code for its tools via the DevNet subscription. However there already existed something close to what Macromedia Central could be, case in point: Animated Today 2002 for the Pocket PC 2002 platform which utilizes the Flash 5 Pocket PC Player. It is a central offline or online application that takes modules (Flash applications) and via a place like www.pocketpcthemes.com provides a centralized source where developers can place and consumers can buy the modules which add functionality to the container application. Hats off to folks like Stephen Eddy, and Phillip Torrone and many others who have proven this model works for Flash content and applications. Glad to see the mothership continue to learn from, embrace and listen to those using thier products. I know there will be a lot more details coming out about this and other cool stuff tomorrow.

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    Still doing a lot of cleanup on things throughout my site, so I went ahead and rewrote my RSS feed generator so that it outputs 1.0 spec feeds. It validates fine wiith several validation tools, but I’ll keep an eye out to see how the aggregators like it. Also implemented the new 0.5.0 release of the AMFPHP project, got my databases back online, still a few more things to catch up on, then I’ll be writing up a summary on the mediatemple.net switchover.

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    Online with MediaTemple.net

    Posted on March 22, 2003 by:
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    My DNS changes should be propogating to just about everyone by now and pointing to my new IP with MediaTemple.net. I am still in the process of moving over all my content, getting databases reinstalled, double checking everything, etc. For right now all my Flash based content normally found at my main URL will simply redirect to the html blog until I can go through it and make sure its all working as well. all my extra articles, photos, downloads, etc. will be back up shortly. So you might notice a glitch or two here and there. Hope to get everything resolved by this evening. I’ll post a more detailed entry about my experience moving over to MediaTemple.net later on.

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    Just a heads up that there may be some extended downtime for my site over the next few days as I transition my site hosting over to MediaTemple.net. I have had pretty good success with my FlashCom account they have been hosting for me since this past August, so I am going to give them a try for the rest of my hosting needs. My good friend Scott has been kind enough to provide me my web hosting for the past few years on one of his servers, but my needs have grown to the point that I need to find something new. Thanks Scott for all the help the past few years, I really appreciate it.

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    I have no interest in getting into war or politics on my blog, but I thought this would appeal to folks since it ties in with Flash and GPS units. If you have a GPS unit for your car or your Pocket PC, keep en eye on its accuracy. In all likelihood, possibly days, or hours or maybe even minutes prior to a first strike against Iraq, the US military which runs the satellites that provide GPS signals to world, will reduce the accuracy of the signals from less than a few meters meters for civilians to closer to +-100 meters and possibly even greater. This will be done with the Selective Availability feature built into the GPS system. It will remain accurate to the centimeter, for the military and allies via an encrypted signal . The Selective Availability or SA was actually reduced to zero during the original Gulf War. See this article from June of 2000 of Space Industry News where then President Clinton committed to phasing out Selective Availability by 2006.

    So if you want to be the first to know when the US and allies may launch a first strike, then keep an eye on the accuracy of your GPS unit over the next few weeks. My idea is to tie this into a Flash application on a Pocket PC device that could monitor a specific location to see any fluctuations in accuracy from previous readings of a known location. I’ll see what I can come up with and post here soon….

    UPDATE: Wow…looks like Slashdot had already beat me to this idea almost word for word. Check out this posting.

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    A great new tutorial is up on Macromedias DevNet that covers the topic of integrating Flash with Visual Basic. Take a gander here. There is source code, explanations, etc. There is also a nice Acrobat file (suitable for sending to a management type in your organization) titled: Macromedia Flash and VB: A Potent Combination which should help you build a case for utilizing these methods for a project.

    I can personally attest to the usefulness of combining Microsoft Visual Basic and Macromedia Flash as I have used this technique for several projects over the last year and half or so, including ATM’s, Kiosks, custom RIA’s and a handful of other projects.

    I have been using Visual Studio 6.0 Enterprise Service Pack 5 (also recommended in the article on DevNet) for my projects. I am in the middle of migrating over to using .NET. I had heard a while back that folks were having problems embedding the Flash OCX file in .NET projects. I think this has since been corrected by revisions to the Flash Player although I am not 100 percent certain on that since I haven’t had time to test. I would love to hear feedback from folks on their experiences integrating Flash with .NET and any caveats, etc.

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    I was out of town for the last few days, and noticed this morning, thanks to Mike Chambers, that Macromedia has released a Flash Remoting Update SP1 which also includes updates to the Flash Remoting Components. Take a look at the list of Bug Fixes for the components. I haven’t had a chance yet to update mine and try out some of the AMF-PHP services I have been playing with, but will post later if I see any noticeable improvements or problems. Its worth noting also that I found out that there is already a project going to port the AMF-PHP project to Perl, and its called FLAP – Flash Remoting in Perl looks pretty nice already. If your a Perl fan definitely check it out.

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    I finally made some time today to dig into the wonderful work going on over at http://amfphp.sourceforge.net/ Basically it is an open source project that revolves around some very useful PHP classes and scripts for which can encode/decode the binary AMF Flash Remoting stream format. I spent several hours playing and working with it today and I am very impressed withall the effort and work that has gone into it so far. I hope the activity level on the project can be sustained, as this is such a great project. It is SO useful if you don’t have JRUN or ColdFusion MX deployed on your servers yet, or you simply want to learn Remoting but only have access or the skills to work with PHP. It’s perfect for getting your feet wet with Flash Remoting.

    Actually, earlier tonight I used AMF PHP, to enable the very cool MyPhoto application that shipped on Macromedias DevNet Resource Kit Volume 2, to work on my PHP based web server. Here is an example of it runing on my server. being driven solely by the AMF PHP Flash Remoting code. For the Flash .fla file, I only had to modify 3 lines of the ActionScript, specifically the gateway URL and the service connections, so that they reflected the location of my AMF PHP based gateway. That was it for the .FLA. The real meat of the work involved creating a PHP class that replicated the functionality of the ColdFusion Component (com.macromedia.apps.myphoto.cfc ) that Christian Cantrell had written to drive the application. Fortunately it was well commented and fairly simple, so it was very straighforward to re-create it as a Class in PHP for use with the AMF PHP project. It works beautifully. Even the NetConnection Debugger and Gateway Browser in the Flash MX authoring environment work and report all the connections info, methods and services as you test and debug. Really very cool.

    For those of you interested, I’ll package up the myphoto.php Class replacement I wrote and post it here later (after I get some sleep..look for it tomorrow.). Note: I will only be posting the myphoto.php class file I wrote, and the 3 modded lines of ActionScript and short instructions. I will NOT be posting the accompanying .FLA source. You’ll need to purchase a copy of the Macromedia DevNet Resource Kit Volume 2 to obtain that portion of the project.

    Happy Remoting and props to Christian Cantrell, Mike Chambers and Steve “Leo” Leone for their work on MyPhoto application.

    UPDATE: As promised, here is the link to the source class file to use with AMF PHP. Make sure to read the comments in the source for instructions on modifying your .FLA source to work with it.

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