Reasons to be Creative: Day 3

September 7th, 2012 by Slav

Wednesday started with Gimme5, ( a.k.a. former elevator Pitch)

Twelve speakers: Anders Figenschow, Adam Onishi, Tom Platten-Higgins, Tim Murray-Browne, Reece Millidge, Luke Whittaker, Maikel Sibbald, Mark Skinner, Matt Stuttard Parker, Emre Koc,  Pete Hotchkin, Jean-Marc Le Roux.

Each of them allowed to speak for 5 minutes only.  Speakers were mostly introducing personal projects or sharing some workflows or experiences, some of them really interesting ones. It was great to see what other creative people are working on and getting inspired!

Next session I went to was with Simon Widajaja..

His talk was dedicated to Adobe Edge (now called Edge Animate).  Like most of the people I too played with early previews , and like most of the people I too gave up on it, as it was quite simple and primitive tool at the time, reminiscent of Flash 3 or 4. Since those times it came a long way and it looks like it’s becoming quite a capable tool for visual HTML5 authoring, motion design and animation. It’s very expendable and Simon wrote a couple of extensions for it that can be found at Edge Commons. These extensions offer support for stuff such as:

  • Advanced Logging (different levels, log group and additional log targets)
  • Configuration (external or internal Configuration layer)
  • Script Loader (JavaScript and CSS with simple callback)
  • Sound (integration of CreateJS/SoundJS by Grant Skinner)
  • Adaptive Layouts (Different Layouts for different Sizes)
  • Data Injection (inject Data from HTML into the Edge composition)
  • Drupal Module to load Edge compositions and inject data easily (by Timm Jansen)

Simon demonstrated how Edge can be used to easily animate elements on the existing site, how you can implement flexible layouts for a website that needs to resize for a different device sizes. Although current Edge version doesn’t support media queries he has written extension that does. Another nice feature he demonstrated was support for item renderers. If you haven’t played with the latest release, I recommend you definitely give it a try!

Martin Beeby was next in Pavilion

Martin is from Microsoft and talked about new Window 8 and Windows Marketplace coming this October. More importantly he showed us how easy is to build a new Metro apps with javascript for a market reaching around 600 million potential customers. There are great similarities with apple with what their doing regarding their marketplace.

To develop apps for the store, you will need to have a developer’s membership licence (should cost around £35 per annum) , there will be an approval process, but (unlike with Apple ) there will be a testing tool available for download that the store itself will use for QA, so you can test you app forehand and check if it is eligible. Quite flexible licensing policies as well (see slide above)..

You can download the building tools for free : Visual Studio Express 2012 for your coding needs, designers will have Blend for Visual Studio for more visual way to build and fine-tune. The main resource for window apps developers is available at : dev.windows.com and for designers at design.windows.com.

When building these apps for windows store, you can use variety of languages such as C, C++, C#, Visual Basic but also Javascript.

It is fairly easy to build basic apps using JS, the tools are a great help, the part that connects your app to system is a special javascript library that exposes OS layer capabilities.

Great thing about building these windows store apps is the environment – which will stay the same, (so there’s no need to optimise for different browsers), performance , even with javascript is amazing – identical to native apps.

Johanna Kollmann

She shared some interesting ideas of how to create environments in which the creative collaboration is supported, some of them very simple but effective.

For example, if we do changes in postures it may promote the shift of the focus in mind. Or a moving body could mean a moving mind – this can translate to: ” better thinking while walking”.  The environment in which we have our meeting is also important. There are some sitting schemes that promote the hierarchy (one seat is more important the other). In our ancient history we used to sit around camp fire and shared stories. Recreating this can help sharing, all you need is to create a circular seating arrangement in which everybody will be on the similar eye level and perhaps some focal point (“fire”) in the middle.

Grant Skinner

Grant talked about the Atari Retro games project. It was a great insight into a mature’s company workflow for producing the highest quality html games and a website.

Some things I’ve learned:

  • teach your clients to use bug trackers, it will save you a lot of time and a headache in the long run
  • if you’re doing multiplayer game, use authoritative server (i.e. one server that all clients connect to and has all of the control over game data)
  • JS frameworks used for this project :  jQery, Backbone, Underscore, Modernizr for the website, CreateJS toolkit libraries for all the games.
  • you can use  IcoMoon to convert your vectors into a glyphs (letters of a font), hence be able to use vectors in your game
  • nice way to create sprite sheets is to use Zoë and flash, plus a JSFL script that makes it possible to have your animations in nested timelines!
  • use compression parameter on http headers to reduce the filesize of the images you’re sending to the browser
  • to drastically reduce sprite sheet filesize while keeping full alpha channel use ImageAlpha tool. (mac)
  • use CodeKit to write “object oriented css” using sass/less (mac)

Conclusion

Reasons to be creative is a great conference to visit whether you are a designer or a developer or a creative technologist or other kind of hybrids. With so many sessions going on, there’s always something to choose from. With the daily work stress and a big workloads it is easy to be submerged inside your world, working on the same kind of projects, using the same kind of approaches and same kind of tools. This conference offers a change to resurface for a breath of a fresh air, and a nice vista of what’s present above the surface and what lies ahead. To see where others are and what are they doing, how are they doing it as well. Will be back next year if I can!

Posted in Personal | 8 Comments »

Reasons to be Creative: Day 2

September 7th, 2012 by Slav

Tuesday kicked of with a true webdev geek by the name of Christian Heilman of Firefox.  If I were to summarise his talk into a single sentence soundbyte, I guess it would be : “You have the power to change the web“. Web vendors nowadays are ready to listen to users and developers as long as you go through right channels – bug trackers not tweets and emails.

One of the things that he mentioned were the problems with technological demos: We tend to get into something he called “Inspiration loop”. Building things for ourselves only. (ourselves = developers) , leaving “the real world” outside of this loop.

Here are some future-prof principles he mentioned:

  • design for use (don’t force the way your stuff work on end users)
  • enhance progressively (escalator vs lift. .if there’s no electricity, escalator can be still used as stairs)
  • build for next person (leave comments, document the code, don’t assume only you will ever maintain your “clever code”)
  • be technology agnostic (don’t just stick to one technology, sometimes it’s ok to use flash )
  • best practices are FOUND in use, not DEFINED.

Christian put frustrations with IE6 into a funny metaphor: “You wouldn’t force a 65-year-old gentleman into a vigorous cardio workout, so why do you want IE6 to handle all the new html5/css3 stuff.. Just feed him some basic HTML and leave him alone.

 

Jake Archibald‘s talk was about Application Cache and douchebagery that comes with it.

It was an example of an exciting HTML5 feature, that is great on the surface, but when you start digging deeper and implementing it into a real life situations, you will encounter a number of problems. He went through quite a few of those problems with us and showed us some useful solutions for them.

 

The next session’s speaker was Bjarke Myrthu.

Really reminded me of  Woody Harrelson.. but I digress. He was the man behind the website called StoryPlanet.

StoryPlanet is a quick and easy way for non developers to tell stories, using images, text, video and audio. A bit like easy to use modern looking powerpoint on a web. It enables users to create storylines with sub-timelines, easily add sharing functionality etc. Good looking project. He gave us some examples of web storytelling that has been done in a better way , rather then replicating the print media with little or no changes to the web. Getty images made this APIs mashup project called Moodstream. A good example of interactive story telling via video is Jenifer Live Concert YouTube Project.  Pinepoint is a well executed mixed media project as well.

 

Joa Ebert talked about his multi-platform / cross-platform compiler project Hiddenwood.


Unlike Haxe, where you need to learn a new language, his approach is to take Java bytecode and turn it into a C++, javascript, flash, android or iOS app.. Slide above illustrates a top-level process. This was very fascinating talk and can’t wait for this project to be out so we can have a play with it. I think Joa should get much more recognition for his work, his swf optimisation tools are godsend, and I couldn’t imagine working with AS without them. Thanks Joa, you’re genius!

 

Andreas Ronning talked about the game development with Haxe and NME.

There was no shortage of superlatives and it was quite clear he likes the platform. I would be surprised if any flash developer present in that talk that haven’t had a go at haXe, didn’t have a go after that talk. He showed us a really good looking game performing well on variety of platforms and devices all thanks to Haxe and NME. The nice thing about developing with this platform is its openness, so if there’s an issue with some of its functionality or features you can go in , write your own implementation and fix it!  (That’s what they did to fix the sound issues on some browsers or platforms.)

Posted in Personal | 6 Comments »

Reasons to be Creative: Day 1

September 5th, 2012 by Slav

Here are some very subjective highlights from monday’s sessions I went to.

Kevin Warwick
Kevin is a professor of cybernetics at the Reading University here in the UK. He talked about how are electronics being embedded in the human body and what possible application and consequences this might have for human enhancement. Entirely jaw dropping and fascinating stuff. This is as close to a Ted talk as this conference ever got.

Mat Berringer
Mat works at CNN and was recently forced to switch from pure flash developing to using html. I had a lot of empathy for this dude. I found myself in similar situation these days. Stuff just have to work on iPads, just because very few stakeholders own iPads… You would love to use newest toys in the box like canvas, but half your target audience uses IE. And yes, you could make a version that uses canvas as a progressive enhancement but there’s no time and budget to make 2 or three versions of the site, one that makes use of animated divs, one with canvas and perhaps one in flash. One important takeaway from his session is mention of a software called Mr. Data Converter . It’s a software that converts excel sheet to a various formats including xml, json, as, mySQL, php, html. This is a funny thing about this conference. Sometimes is a single mention of a software or a book that can enhance your workflow tremendously. One of the best tips for a book I got from some of the past Flash on the Beach conference was a tip to a book Don’t make me think. This book transformed the way I approach building sites or web apps.

Inayli de león
This talk was a bit less technical and more of a lesson in interpersonal communication. She talked about difficulties that designers have communicating their ideas across to their colleagues.  How often we do not give our full attention to a colleague that’s speaking to us and rather than truly listening we’re desperately thinking what are we going to say next. Often we express our ideas to client in a jargon that we assume their understand but often they have no idea what are we talking about. How often we hide our work from the coworkers go and work on it in the corner and come back with finished product, instead of letting them to be a part of the process and getting them invested in it from the beginning.  She also mentioned interesting looking software called Onotate. Plus a few books I will definitely check out: Rework from 37 Signals, Design is a job by Mike Monteiro and Design Professionalism by Andy Ruthledge.

Dan Mall

Dan is an excellent speaker, his talk was referenced a lot by the other speakers throughout the conference. Among the other things he talked about us making client just an extension of our team instead making the a true part of our team. How in brainstorm we often shut down other people’s ideas eve n though they aren’t properly understood by us. The problem is that we don’t really know what the idea is, it is just OUR INTERPRETATION of their idea , but often we don’t really make an effort to properly understand what they mean. He talked about concept of adjacent possible, when two unlikely people may produce unexpected results when putting them side by side. Some good links I took away from this talk : The Genius of a tinkerer and An Important time for Design.

Mario Klingemann

As there are mostly  3 concurrent sessions going on in a day, you would normally have to look at schedule , talk description and then decide to which venue you will go and to which speaker you will listen to. With Mario , at least for me, choice is always clear. He is one of the 2 or three speakers I will always go to no matter the topic. He has very brilliant and inquisitive mind, great eye for detail and process, and is always fascinating to hear him speak. This year he spoke about FabLab they put together in Munich and the joys and tribulations of working with lasers. Admittingly this isn’t something you can copy and paste and use in your next html5 project, but it inspires you to step away from the computer and try to make something with your hands for a change.

Mark Boulton
This was another interesting talk on the topic on failing as an integral process of professional growth. We often get really emotionally invested in our work as we give part of ourselves to it. We often see a success stories but almost never fails, but those are important as well. To fail better we need to communicate a lot we each other become our own project managers, be agile (no Agile) , be able to receive critique, with clients, it needs to be about value not time. Critique should always be about work and not a person and in public. Useful critique is an art and it’s mostly about listening but also about having conversation. Mark thinks it should be done in public, although I’ve heard other people talking about it being done in private as well..

Posted in Personal | 7 Comments »

Flash on the Bea.. I mean Reasons to be creative

September 4th, 2012 by Slav

I’ve been going to Flash on the Beach conference for something like 5 years now, and at the end of last year’s, John Davey, who is the main organiser announced that Flash on the beach is over. In retrospect that was quite a remarkable foresight of the things to come. By things to come I of course mean slow choke grip of death from beyond the grave of a certain CEO of fruit related company. So as it is in life, when something old dies something new begins.

The new thing being “Reasons to be Creative” conference. Can’t imagine the brainstorming process for this title, but probably identical to one that came up with the : “Snakes on the plane”.

So .. how does it differ from Flash on the Beach?

Most noticeable difference, is probably, there’s much less Flash. In previous years you’d have maybe 70%-75% flash related sessions, now maybe 15-25? Now the focus is more on general creative work. This translates mostly to design, but also to wider aspects of creative work.

Creative Sunday workshops were dropped.. Not sure why is this, perhaps money is reason behind this, but for me this was a bit of a letdown. John could have asked previous attendees via email if they are interested in workshop and what topic do they want to learn about.. There are any hot topic besides the flash that I’d gladly learn about: Haxe and MNE, javascript frameworks, Unity3D..  well.. maybe next year!

Another difference was absence of Adobe. No Adobe keynote speakers, no Lee and other evangelists, no asking Adobe panel to fix flash IDE this year. They were still listed as one of the top sponsors BUT.. no presence.

There was another presence though. All the way from the Dark Side. Little known small company by the name of Microsoft. They came bearing gifts i.e. Atari Games t-shirts, and a competition to be be won by playing Asteroids. First prize : Cool Acer laptop. Ado-who?

Number of attendees dropped as well. Not by too much , max perhaps close to 10 percent. This is only a subjective estimate when looking at the Dome sessions.. to me there were fewer empty seats in the previous years. This is of course understandable , giving the decline of the flash coupled with recent economic downturns. Companies are trying to save money where they can and tickets to this event aren’t exactly very cheap..

At this point I don’t think I can say whether the r2bCreative is better or worse than FOTB. All I can say with certainty that it is different.

More on the individual days in next posts!

Posted in Personal | 6 Comments »

HTML 5 Particle Demo

September 16th, 2011 by Slav

This is my first HTML 5 demo

It was build using Canvas so should work on most of modern browsers that support HTML5.

Just a simple particle wall, with randomly coloured particles of red-ish hue, reacting to mouse movement (or ‘wind effect’ if you will) also if you press and hold the mouse, they will change in intensity.

I’ve started building this demo as a part of the “playtime” during the HTML 5 workshop called “Intro to creative Javascript and HTML 5 Canvas” with Seb Lee-Delisle at FOTB conference in Brighton, finished it today, (added a background and a dynamic resizing based on the window dimensions).

The positive thing about working with HTML 5 is that it made me very thankful for Flash plugin. No hacking around for unsuported features, no shims, no version degradation fallbacks… Just works in every browser. Haven’t really appreciated this until I’ve experienced html 5. Another thing that I become to appreciate is ActionScript as a language. OOP features that creates supports for encapsulation such as strong typing, private / protected variables, supports for real classes.

It felt like traveling back in time , to a time of flash plugin version 5/6 and AS2, when its scripting capabilities were quite limited, and flash multimedia / display capabilities were quite crude, compared to it’s current capabilities.
Fortunately , there seem to be a solution! It’s strongly typed modern language / platform called haXe (similar to C# or Java) which can output to several target platforms / languages, one of them being JavaScript. Good news is that my programing IDE of choice (FDT) will support this in the next version which is comming very soon!

Posted in FDT, html5, particles, Personal | 39 Comments »

End of Google’s Translate API.

June 1st, 2011 by Slav

Last week Adam Feldman Google’s APIs Product manager announced on the official Google Code blog that they are announcing some new apis but more importantly shutting down some old ones.
Among them a very popular Translate API.

This decision came as a big surprise to many developers, myself included. I have used this api in an CMS Flex App caled SiteManager.  SiteManager has a copy module and it’s used as a copy source for multilingual flash campaign websites. I used it to quickly generate non english copy for other versions of the site, to have a good idea how the multilingual labels and text would sit within the website whether there are any space or alignment problems etc.. It was just a great way to preview site in other languages before the officialy translated copy arrived from the client.

Now this is gone and while there are other alternatives (I recommend checking out the Microsoft Translator V2 ) this decision raises some questions about Google as a company and their relationship to developers.

I personally like(d) Google a lot, they were an example of a great open and innovative company, with a real love for developers. This love wasn’t just proclaimed but proved by many free APIs they provided for us developers.

But after this how can you trust Google API ever again ? What if this project I am working on and my customers will depend on it will be no longer working in half a year when Google decides to shut down a particular API the project uses? How am I supposed to explain that to my customers. What am I to do if they all demand their money back?

And what about their motto : “DO NO EVIL” ? Shutting down translate is clearly hurting many developers and many project, some of them non profit and designed to help other people from different countries. How is that NOT evil ?

And what’s next.. Google Maps ?!

The sad thing is , they have other alternatives like limiting the amount of queries per couple hundred a day for a free version and licencing projects that need more traffic.  Or to simply find a way to prevent an abuse. Shutting down this API is simply uncharacteristic of Google, very sudden and unkind decision. I’d expect it from Facebook but not from them. What’s going on with Google?

Posted in AS3, flash, Flex, Personal | 7 Comments »

Problem with CS5 / Flex 4.5 : Installer has detected that a machine restart is pending (solved!)

October 26th, 2010 by Slav

Few days ago , Flex 4.5 Burrito and SDK Hero was again  available for download so I went and downloaded the whole half a gig enchilada.  After running the installer there was a warning : installer has detected that system restart was pending but that could be ingnored so I went on fit the install.

Install failed miserably about the time it tried to install some microsoft libraries. Oh joy. Well , at least ALL it’s needed was a machine restart, and all would be jolly good right ?. Or so I naively thought. I couldn’t be more wrong.

No joy. The same error message. The same install fail :(

After unsucesfull googling and restarting couple of times I gave up and went to bed as it was well after my usual bedtime (1 am)..

Evening of day two…

More googling. Finding out many more people have the exactly the sameproblem with other CS5 installers , but none of them had actually any luck in resolving the issue (or bothered to write about it).

Official Adobe solution to this problem is :

a. Choose Start, type regedit in the Search box, and press Enter.

b. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager.

c. Delete the InProgress key

as stated at : http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/828/cpsid_82829.html

Now that would be awesome, if there was actually any “InProgress” key in my registry. If you read comments, that was mostly the case with most users so this advice was pretty useless.

OK. to make a long story short, I did find somebody suggesting to erase : “PendingFileRenameOperations” from registry from a certain location.

I did not find any keys in that particular location, but searching troughout the entire  registry for “PendingFileRenameOperations” revealed couple of instances.

I deleted them all and voilà ! the installer ran like a charm!

So if you have the same problem with the CS5 installer, try it, might help you as well.

Word of caution . Make sure your registry key has a NAME that matches “PendingFileRenameOperations” as there might be some keys that have this string as a data/value.

in my case it was :  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\BackupRestore\KeysNotToRestore” key which value/data contained string “PendingFileRenameOperations” .

Do not delete those :)

Posted in Flex, Personal | 26 Comments »

My Flash on the Beach 2010 Schedule

September 15th, 2010 by Slav