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Industry info Software

AIR: what is it good for?

Still trying to figure out the practical usefulness of the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR). Interesting points in the second paragraph of this Adobe blog: AIR as “PDF of the Web 2.0”. He’s proposing that AIR do for all (other) mobile devices what the App Store is doing for the iPhone.

AIR bascially lets you take anything you’ve created for online (HTML and/or JavaScript and/or Flash) and, fairly easily, turn it into a cross-platform (Win/OSX/Linux) desktop app. I went through the tutorials at the Adobe Community Summit in May ’07. As a former long-time Director user, it seemed useful but maybe late to the party.

Plus, for CD delivery to a client (we still get these jobs), they still need to download the AIR runtime itself. I’m thinking that from an end user’s point of view, this is one too many steps.

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Flash free resources Software

Good free, online video utilities

Even though we use all the high-dollar professional video editors and encoders at my work, for personal stuff and recommendations I always try to watch for what’s out there free, keeping track of them in my Google Notebook. A recent article on this subject on Lifehacker reminded me of some of these, and the comments on the article added some more good links. When my wife wanted to download some videos from YouTube (non-copyrighted, of course) and edit them in iMovie, here’s some of the things we used:

Desktop FLV Players

For anyone who works with Flash video, the annoying lack of a proper Adobe FLV desktop player has not been relieved by the Adobe Media Player. AMP is more of a sell-TV-show software than a simple FLV player. The VideoLAN VLC Media Player is a good, simple FLV desktop video player. For Mac users, even better, installing the Perian QuickTime component lets you open and view FLVs, and a bunch of other formats, directly in QuickTime Player.

Format converters

We tried vixy.net’s Online FLV Converter first, but the server was always busy. So we used the excellent free desktop video format converter, and alternative to the $30 QuickTime Pro, MPEG Streamclip for Mac and Windows. This does all kind of quick and dirty conversions, including converting FLVs back to MOV and other formats too. We found that using the inpoint/outpoint keyboard shortcuts (I and O) made it simple to convert just the clips we wanted to bring into the editing software without having to convert entire long videos.

Downloading from YouTube

For downloading FLVs from YouTube etc., there’s a bunch of ways, but I’m liking viddownloader.com, a simple online tool done in Flash.

ASF to MOV

A while ago we impulse-bought a $99 video camera. It’s amazingly good for the price in every way but one—it shoots in ASF, an old Windows streaming format. Still keeping an eye out for a simple, free way to convert these into an editable format.

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ActionScript Flash free resources links online training

Learning Flash/ActionScript

We had some discussion at the last meeting re. Flash and its scripting language, ActionScript. Flash started as an animation program, using a keyframe/timeline model, and it can still be used this way. But to achieve the full power of the modern Flash, you’ll want to learn some ActionScript.

ActionScript is now at version 3.0, which came out about two years ago. I still use AS v.2 but will move to v.3 as soon as practical, project-wise (the only Flash project I’m working on now is an extension of a two-year old AS2 project). I’ve also delayed because I’m careful about forcing users to upgrade Flash Player versions (AS3 requires FP9, now almost two years old) unless really required.

I’ve recently read some discussion of the ‘difficulty’ of learning AS3 as compared to previous versions. What’s the difference between v.2 and v.3? Short description heard at last fall’s Adobe MAX conference in a session titled Intro to ActionScript 3: “AS3 is harder to learn at first but easier to work with once you do.” So, check the links in this post and dive in to one or the other.

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BVAUG meeting notes free resources Industry info Software training conferences

MAX 2007 Report

Thanks to everyone who came to the meeting last week for the MAX 2007 Report. Here’s the presentation file: MAX 2007 Report PowerPoint. This file is a summary of my conference notes. Here’s the discussion outline/intro screen:

  • Intro
  • Keynotes/General Sessions
  • Selected Sessions
  • Special Interest
  • Conclusions
  • Questions/Comments
Here’s the conclusions/summary screen:
  • AIR is the current Big Thing
  • ‘The web, your way’
  • Mobile technology still being stressed…
  • Adobe/Apple tenseness (under the surface)
  • Less overt ColdFusion promotion, but the ‘How to Promote CF’ Birds-of-a-Feather session was a hot topic on the UGM forum
Since these are just speaking points, email me if you have specific questions.

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free resources links Software training conferences upcoming BVAUG meetings

Notes from MAX

I’m at the Adobe MAX convention this week and will give a report on the Adobe announcements etc. at our October meeting. In the meantime, here are the notes I’m taking in a public Google Notebook. The sections show up in reverse chronological order (newest first). I’ll continue to add to it through Wednesday.

Hope to see you all on the 19th. ‘course, we’re drawing for the software, whatever Adobe package the winner chooses up to $2100 in value. We’ll be doing this every six months while Adobe continues it.

Categories
BVAUG meeting notes Software

Tom Dent CS3 presentation

Here are my notes and observations from today’s meeting. Since there was a lot of info, I pretty much just wrote down what was new to me (or what I’d remembered hearing before but forgot). Therefore, please send any additions/corrections and I’ll add them and credit you:

  • It was the best attendance I remember at a BVAUG meeting; I counted 22 people.
  • Re: Adobe apps will be available through SELL. From a follow-up email from Tom:
    The Student Licensing program is for TAMU students only. The web site isn’t up yet, but will be in the next couple of weeks from what I am told by Romona Stites, my contact at SELL. Three products offered: Design Premium, Web Standard (CS3 edition of the former Studio 8), and Acrobat Professional. Pricing is a much better deal than purchasing standard Education shrink. For example, Education shrink for Design Premium is $599, TAMU student pricing is $395. They may add more products, such as Master Collection, based on the initial success of this new student perk.
  • Fireworks:
    • for quickly creating web graphics
    • new prototyping tools— using hotspots, ‘Share Layer to Pages’ command, etc.
    • .pngs can be multi-page (like Freehand documents)
    • pretty strong integration between Fireworks, Photoshop and Illustrator: layers, transfer modes, layer styles.
  • Bridge: allows live previews of Flash animations and video (.flv, .mov, .avi)
  • Dreamweaver:
    • native .psd import; Dreamweaver automatically opens a dialog like Photoshop’ ‘Save for Web’ when a .psd is imported. This graphic will be updated automatically when the external .psd is updated in Photoshop (like ‘Publish’ in Illustrator or a similar feature in After Effects).
    • Browser Compatibility Check feature and its integration with Adobe’s CSS Advisor. This is actually useful; I’ve used it exactly as presented. Of course, you don’t need CS3 to browse or google the CSS Advisor on Adobe’s site.
    • Spry: quick demo of Adobe’s implementation of AJAX. The question about whether it’s accessible brought this answer: ‘No.’ Perhaps he was correct. They’ll fix this, of course. See below for some books I’m currently reading and recommend on JavaScript and Ajax techniques.
  • Flash
    • you can choose to keep .psd vector layers as vector shapes
    • can specify these files’ text layers as bitmaps, vector outlines or editable text
    • can assign instance names in Illustrator for addressing with ActionScript
  • Device Central: amazingly well-developed mobile device emulator for Flash, Dreamweaver,and other CS3 apps. Supports some 200 phones etc., with so far one notable, and perhaps sticky, exception (actually two: the iPhone and iPod touch).
  • a new certification process featuring interactive (presumably Captivate-created) quizzing with an emphasis on workflow across products, rather than on full mastery of any one.
This was a strong and packed presentation for a lunch hour. As I presented on in June, I received a three-day version of this presentation at the Adobe Community Summit. Thanks to Tom and Patrick for coming and presenting! If anyone didn’t get Tom’s contact info, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me posting it here: tdent@adobe.com.

As a note regarding the Spry/lack of accessibility note above, here’s some books I’m currently reading, and recommend, on standards-based, unobtrusive, accessible, and gracefully-degrading JavaScript:

Categories
Industry info Software

Adobe, mobile devices, and the iPhone/iPod touch

As I’ve mentioned before (in April, June, and July), Macromedia and now Adobe have been strongly emphasizing the importance of developing for mobile devices for years—since at least the 2003 MAX conference that I remember. But I’ve been hearing some discouraging words regarding Flash—i.e., the lack of it—on the iPhone and iPod touch.

From Roughly Drafted: though there’s a few out-of-date and/or questionable interpretations here, he makes some points to consider:

Excluding Flash is a huge slap in the face of Adobe, which is pushing Flash as the basis of its AIR and Flex web application strategies. Adobe likes to advertise that nearly every PC has a Flash plugin installed. Suddenly, nearly every mobile that has access to the real Internet won’t have Flash, making it far less attractive across the board.
Of course, even Steve Jobs’ own prediction/goal for the iPhone market share isn’t anywhere close to “nearly every mobile”; it’s 1% of all handhelds (10 million by the end of 2008). But at $300 for an iPod touch, I don’t see how “nearly every” person wanting to surf on a mobile device wouldn’t get one—with or without Flash.
In any case, the iPhone is Apple’s best shot at killing Flash, and Apple appears happy to be using it as such. The company just recently removed all remains of Flash from its corporate website, implementing everything that had been Flash-based using standards-based Ajax techniques instead.
I haven’t tried to check this, but the “standards-based” rationale is interesting. Here’s a comment from another Flash-disparaging article:
… today we ponder one of the most interesting questions about the future of Flash, iPhone and web standards. Despite assurances by Uncle Walt [Walt Mossberg] that Apple and Adobe are hard at work on a Flash Player for iPhone, plenty of naysayers, skeptics, and player-haters have voiced strong speculations that Flash will never appear on the iPhone for strategic, practical and technical reasons. A quick scan of comments on various iPhone related entries across the web reveals an almost universal plea amongst everyday users indicating that the only missing feature from Mobile Safari is the presence of a mainstream multimedia plugin. In fact, the world’s most popular piece of software, in history is well known to be absent from iPhone.

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Software Uncategorized upcoming BVAUG meetings

O’Reilly book on Adobe Integrated Runtime: free PDF download

AIR book cover

A new pocket guide on Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) from O’Reilly is available on Amazon but also as a free PDF download from Ajaxian.com.

Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) for JavaScript Developers Pocket Guide covers:

  • Introduction to AIR
  • Getting Started with AIR development
  • Working with JavaScript and HTML within AIR
  • AIR Mini Cookbook
  • Command line tools
  • Aliases
The cookbook section looks especially interesting. Not only is the book free, but since AIR and its authoring tool Flex 3 are both still in beta, they’re free as well, on Adobe Labs.

Categories
BVAUG meeting notes free resources Software training conferences upcoming BVAUG meetings

Adobe Community Summit report

The following is an HTML version of the the PowerPoint file from today’s presentation. These are talking points only; if you have questions email me or check the Adobe site.

What’s in it for you?

  • Make professional plans based on what’s coming up in the future
  • Download beta apps sooner to evaluate, and perhaps influence
  • Free stuff for community members and leaders NOTE (added 7-4-07): not gloating here; rather, inviting my replacement. If you’re interested in the substantial perks of being BVAUG manager (e.g., this year, AUG managers receive the full CS3 Master Collection etc.) that come with the relatively easy and enjoyable responsibilities involved, please ask me about it.
  • labs.adobe.com/community – forums etc…

Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR)

  • Beta at labs.adobe.com
  • What is it?
    • creates desktop aps using HTML/CSS/JS or Flash/Flex
    • unlike web apps (though Flash apps have a sandbox/temp file access), allows access to files on the hard drive/network (like Director’s FileIO Xtra)
  • Desktop version of web apps needed? Google must think so (Google Gears)
  • Includes SQLite
  • Comparison with Director
  • Comparison with RIAs; plugins
  • How do you get and use an AIR app?
  • How do you make an AIR app?
    • coders can do it for free
    • best (easiest) way: Flex Builder 3; beta available
    • DW extension to develop HTML-based AIR aps

Other software (other than CS3)

Flex 3 / Flex Builder 3

  • Flash for making great experiences, Flex for creating applications
  • Watch a Flex app being built (12 minute video)
  • Leverages UI elements called components
  • Components now much easier to customize
  • Will be made open source
  • Examples: Yahoo Maps, Harley Davidson, NTSE Marketrac, various customize your car sites… showcase page

ColdFusion 8

  • Beta available now
  • Adobe store is a CF app: 30% performance gain by upgrading to CF8, even before any further integration
  • Ajax integration
  • CF goal: make backend/frontend integration as easy as possible.
  • Skinnable forms, using CSS
  • Adobe will list ‘gotcha’s’ (quote from attendee question )
  • binding syntax modeled on Flex
  • CF integration with Exchange calendar; with read and write
  • local DB integration being looked at, will not be in CF8
  • pdf forms processing—dynamically building custom PDFs on the fly
  • now CF can prefill PDF forms; on the server side
  • handles concurrent user record modifications

CS3 Applications

  • Tool palette improvements throughout—much easier for a laptop or single monitor
  • Bridge: a little faster, a lot cooler, intended to be a hub for all CS3
  • Improved cross-application file compatibility (e.g., import layered .psds into Flash; copy/paste into DW)
  • Feature overload issue: now ‘trying to make it smarter for what people are already using it for’
  • (unspoken: costs what it costs)

Observations / Trend Chasing / Forum Fending

  • Adobe is addressing the trend toward the social aspects of video. Flash Media Encoder is impressive.
  • Adobe has been consistent in maintaining and growing Macromedia’s commitment to mobile technologies. If they’re big-time successful in this, they’ll have earned it.
  • And they keep saying there’s a lot of money for developers who get into developing for this market.
  • Open sourcing (Flex 3)
  • Getting apps to users sooner (labs site)
  • Adobe really wants our feedback.

Discussion Topics

Categories
Software

Where’s Director?

Director 11? This year? Ever?

Director CS3 icon

(added 6-17-07: Adobe is offering a Director MX2004 eSeminar this Wednesday June 20 and again on July 24. Doesn’t sound like anything new in itself, but the fact that it’s occurring does indicate the program isn’t dead.)

On Tuesday, Gary Rosenzweig said yes, Director 11 will be out this year.

Glad I read the above before reading the first paragraph of John Dowdell’s column linked from there (‘I don’t expect much further [Director] evolution’). But look at the third comment, and his response. Other comments:

There will be a lot more information on Director 11 as we start the home stretch to the release in H2 07 … We are also getting ready to start the discussions on the Director 3 year roadmap … the news of Director’s death is highly premature and highly ill-informed. Tridib Roy Chowdhury, Director of Products at Adobe
Frankly, I think you are bluffing. response to the above
Silence on the part of the Director community on the D11 pre-release program does not mean that Director development is stopped … They are silent because they are bound by NDA … Let us put the speculations and grapevine on D11 to rest. Expect the D11 in 2H07. You can contact me at venkatk@adobe.com. K Venkatesh, Senior Program Manager, Director-Shockwave
On the official site, Adobe is releasing specific maybes. Here’s what they say about features:
Adobe is in the process of determining which features will be included in the next version of Director. Some of the features being planned include multiuser support, user interface and workflow improvements, support for Intel® based Mac computers, and Unicode support.
They have a feature requests and bug reports form linked from there; fortunately, Director is included in the product pop-up list. Another option, linked from the site Director @ Night, is a survey to petition Adobe for features.

D11 icon included in the CS3 Icon Collection

Apparently, the CS3 Director 11 icon (shown above) has been ready since last fall. This article regarding the CS3 icon collection is from John Nack, the Photoshop Product Manager. If you can’t figure out what products all these icons represent, here’s a key.

Here is the full CS3 icon collection in ICNs and PNGs, including Director’s.