Archive for March, 2005

We had a great Philadelphia Flash MMUG meeting tonight. Thanks to all the students from the Flash and mCommerce classes at the Art Institute, we had close to 70 attendees at one point. Great turnout. The first half of my presentation was about Flash Lite 1.1. I had a chance tonight to use an idea I came up with a while back when the Flash MX first came out and introduced the Camera object. I wanted to demonstrate applications running on a real phone (my Nokia 6600) while also showing code and info on my desktop. I also didn’t want to have to switch video feeds on the overhead projector since I’m just a one man show up there in front of everyone. I wanted it to be as seamless as possible, yet still provide a real feel for how things work and appear on a device. I wanted a PIP or picture-in-picture effect if you will. I only have one regular projector that I bring, but I needed an Elmo style projector to even come close. Unfortunately, I cant rely on one being everywhere I present, so I built my own with Flash, the Camera object and my Pyro DV Firewire webcam. I had used this method before to show some brief Pocket PC Flash content, but it really worked great with the form factor and size of my Nokia and Flash Lite 1.1 content. I also spruced up the application a bit to make things even more flexible. After building the application in Flash to show the video from my webcam at a resolution of 640×480 at high quality, I used a trial version of the Mac OS X release of Screentime’s mProjector to turn the .swf into a “widget” application that floats above all other windows and applications.
Note: You could also accomplish this same floating trick by hacking the Central Trace Panel application that Mike Chambers put together, by replacing the .swf in it with mine. On a Mac simply open the Central Trace Panel package and find and replace the Central Trace Panel .swf file with mine, renaming it to match the original. alternately you can use the source Mike released to modify and build your own with Xcode.
So after everything was working, I had my webcam on the small tripod it came with, aiming down onto the table at my Nokia. See this photo and this screenshot of it in action. I used the tiny Symbian Torch application to keep my backlight on all the time for a better view and lighting. The Virtual elmo app I made, allows you to rotate the video to adjust for which side you have your camera on. By rotating the video 90 degrees to the left or right you can show video in a similar tall portrait format that most phones/devices follow and allow the extra keys, and input buttons/controls to be seen as well. I am right handed, so I set mine up to my right, with the camera to the right of my phone. It took a little practice to not shake so much, but a little duct tape to hold things down makes it easier to control and keep your eye on your screen at the same time. My Pyro camera supports high resolution and high frame rates thanks to its firewire connection. I set the app up just to use 15fps and that still looked great. You might experiment to see what works best for you. I could have gotten fancy and added sliders, etc. but wanted to keep it simple since I was going to have other apps and my presentation running at the same time. I’m sure other cameras like the Apple iSight and other USB 2.0 based camera offer comparable quality and performance. So, if your doing any presentations and want to show devices, but don’t have access to an Elmo do yourself a favor and download this 112k, tarred, gzipped source file with compiled .swf and give it a whirl.

Right now my version does only a few things.

  • You launch it and it pops up the settings dialog so you can set permissions and your video feed.
  • It starts showing local video from your video feed at a 90 degree angle – portrait mode.
  • Click anywhere in the screen (except for the bottom 40 or so pixels) to pause the feed and show the rotate buttons.
  • Use the rotate Plus 90 or Minus 90 buttons to adjust for what side and orientation your webcam is aiming at your device
  • I didn’t have a need for a landscape mode, but you could add that in rather easily. The rotation uses ActionScript based tweening classes for some smooth movement when you rotate the view.
    Again, it works best if you use something like mProjector or Mike’s Central Trace Panel to make it a floating widget, but it doesn’t have to be. Actually you could simply drop it in your Panels folder to allow it to appear directly in the Flash IDE itself. Let me know what you think, if its useful or if you improve upon it at all.

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    Be sure to stop by if you are in the area. Tomorrow night we are going to go over a couple topics, mainly Flash Lite 1.1 and some demos and info about MakingThings.com Teleo Kit. We will go over resources, the Flash Lite 1.1 CDK, a deconstruction of the ASL Finger Spelling Flash Lite 1.1 application I put together, and then a few demonstrations of some stuff I have been tinkering with. As always its going to be casual, questions are welcome and encouraged. We will also have some nice little goodies to give away courtesy of Macromedia. For time, location, etc. see the events page on the Philadelphia Flash MMUG site.

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    I was just writing up a long post about my personal iPod experience and had a great idea that I wanted to share with everyone. iPod accessory makers, feel free to write this all down and run with it. You can send me royalty checks down the road. 🙂
    So here it is: Just about all car stereos nowadays can pickup and display a radio stations call letters and extra info using RDS (Radio Data System). Nice little article on RDS at HowStuffWorks.com and a much deeper article here. Essentially RDS transmits data simultaneously with a standard FM stereo (or monophonic) radio broadcast. Possible uses include transmitting song titles, station call signs, and signaling when traffic or weather reports are being broadcast. Does anyone else think that this is a perfect add on to all these FM wireless iPod transmitters? The current track, song info, etc, could then be constantly updated and sent via FM where the stereo display would then be able to show this extra info from my iPod. My stereo in my 2003 Chevy Trailblazer supports it, and it’s just the plain vanilla stock model. The iPod dock connector provides access to all this information, seems like it might be worthwhile to investigate, maybe the cost is too prohibitive and the market is too small? I don’t know – anyone else think its a good idea? Half baked? Already exist?
    Well, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Griffin, Monster, Belkin, and all you other iPod accessory makers of the world, I challenge you to take this idea now and go build it before Phillip Torrone builds it for the next issue of Make or just to kill some time one afternoon. 😉
    NOTE: I’m putting together a proper review of Make for an upcoming entry.
    UPDATE:After quick dig on google – sure enough, I’m late to the game with this idea. Adam Siegrist has an entry on his blog where he mentions this as in idea as well….at least he is in or near Philadelphia as he is attending Villanova – also found this entry from 2003 – yikes. Also managed to find an RDS broadcasting kit, so the foundation is laid and the challenge is still good.

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    One thing I’m proud of is that I am a skateboarder at heart. When I was a lot younger, I was sponsored by a few local companies down in Fort Lauderdale, FL where I grew up. Even did pretty well in a few local contests back in the day – late 80’s early 90’s. When I was about 19, I started developing really bad calcium deposits and bone spurs in my ankles from all the abuse, by the time I was 21 or so, I had to severly cut back on things just so I could walk. I would still skateboard but not nearly as much. I’m 33 now and still have dozens upon dozens of old decks, plenty of bone spurs in my left ankle, I walk down stairs kind of funny even to his day, and yes, I still look at curbs and benches and handrails a little different than the average person. I dont get to ride my board like I used to – but I still really enjoy watching others skateboard, the videos, the parks, etc.
    So, that is why I’m really excited about the Schuylkill River SkatePark Project. This project is designed to complement other efforts spearheaded by the Schuylkill River Development Corporation to revitalize the once-neglected tract of land along the eastern bank of the Schuylkill River near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This tract of land will be used to create a comprehensive recreational facility that will provide an outlet for active Philadelphia residents in addition to contributing to the physical appearance of the area. There is a public meeting this coming Friday – March March 18, 2005 at 6:00pm. Its at the University of the Arts, Terra Building at 211 South Broad Street in the Connelly Lecture Hall, 8th Floor. At this meeting the design team will unveil to the community two conceptual design schemes for the project and review the opportunities presented by each scheme for integrated design with the landscape and creative skateboarding terrain. The meeting will be your chance to respond to the ideas presented in each scheme before the design team proceeds with a single approach for the design. Come on out and show your support. It is especially important since skateboarding at Love Park and City Hall were banned in 2002 we need to develop more public areas where skateboarding is encouraged.
    I’m also curious to see how this will compliment and bring extra traffic to one of the future parks immediate neighboors, the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center. We developed all the interactive exhibits for the FWWIC and in fact just began installing a couple new exhibits today to allow visitors to watch fish migrate up the fish ladder in the Schuylkill River. I can imagine some really cool interactive pieces being developed for the skatepark.
    BONUS TRIVIA: So you have heard of the Six Degress of Bacon before right? Well how many of you knew that it applied to Love Park as well? Kevin Bacons father Edmund Bacon was the architect responsible for making the park a reality in the 1950’s and even hopped on a skateboard in 2002 at the park to protest the skateboard ban at Love Park put in place by Mayor Street.

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    I wanted to mention that my friend and colleague Jonathan Kaye of Amethyst Interactive and FlashSim is having another series of online classes. A 5 week “Online Simulator Developer Class” starting March 21, 2005 – June 6, 2005. More information and signup can be found here. Make sure to note that Macromedia User Group Members (not just Philly members but most MMUGs) receive a special discount when registering for the class. I’ve seen some of the course materials Jonathan has put together and they are top notch. I’m not sure there is anywhere else where you would be able to learn this type of information that Jonathan has put together, if your in the market for creating simulations with Flash – this is the resource you should investigate.

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    Once again Intellifit is getting TV coverage – tomorrow morning on Good Morning America there will be coverage of the body-scanning system, with the Flash powered user interface. An Intellifit machine will be at the Levi’s SoHo store, at 536 Broadway NY, NY, tomorrow- through Monday, March 21st. Intellifit is doing a 5 city tour across the country with Levis. So far here are the dates:

  • Chicago Michigan Avenue/ April 5-11
  • Dallas Galleria / April 19-25
  • Santa Monica, CA / May 3-6
  • San Francisco Union Square / May 17-23
  • Intellifit has been getting a ton of press lately – they made a huge impression recently in Scottsdale, Arizona at the DEMO@15 conference last month, winning a DEMOGod Award.

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