Category Archives: Mobile

Two of the big events of the conference season, Adobe MAX and Future of Web Apps, finished up a couple weeks ago and now most of the recorded talks have surfaced online.

Adobe MAX 2009

Adobe TV has a MAX 2009 channel with a lot of content, with videos divided into three categories – Develop, Design and Envision.

Here’s some of the highlights:

Develop:

Design:

Envision:

Future of Web Apps

Carsonified have only uploaded a small handful of talks over the past few weeks but they’re all worth a watch. So far I’ve only found their London talks on their Vimeo channel, but the Dublin sessions have started to appear on the FOWA site.

Here’s what I’d go for:

I’ll update as and when more work their way online!

The big news out of Adobe MAX 2009 last week was all about mobile and the developments for the Flash platform on devices, the forthcoming release of Flash Player 10.1 and of course the announcement that Flash CS5 will be able to publish Flash files as native iPhone applications!

Flash on the iPhone

Here’s how they broke the news:

It’s a huge announcement.

Rumours of Flash running on the iPhone have been going around for over a year now, with Adobe and Apple ‘officially’ being in talks since November. The Flash team did well to bluff any developments when asked about it at Flash on the Beach this year, so clearly they were keen to save the big reveal for MAX as it deserves.

As you can see in the video, Flash CS5 will make it super-easy for developers to publish their Flash applications as a native iPhone executable, so simply it would seem, as changing a publishing setting at author-time.

This means developers don’t need to make any changes to their applications in order to run them on the iPhone (though presumably the APIs will be limited). It also means that existing applications won’t need to be rebuild from scratch (not even be completely refactored, as before) and can be distributed via the AppStore.

It doesn’t, however, have effect on viewing Flash in the Safari browser. This still cannot be done.

What Adobe have achieved is the ability to compile Flash as an iPhone executable to run as a native application – they haven’t created a Flash Player for the iPhone, or any way for the iPhone to interpret a SWF at run-time. They’ve made their files compatible, rather than the other way round.

There’s already some applications available in the AppStore, these are:

 
Adobe have created an Applications for iPhone Labs page demonstrating apps running on the phone:

Flash iPhone demonstration

There’s also an FAQ (and Developer FAQ) which goes through what can and can’t be done.

Mark Doherty has written about the announcement and lists some of the limitations that will be imposed, for example some typical features you might expect to work with, but won’t be available:

  • Microphone access
  • Camera access
  • Photo selection from file system
  • Contact selection from the address book
  • Cut/copy/paste
  • Maps

 
..actually quite a few limitations.

Ted Patrick is one of the Adobe team who developed some of the demo applications. He has posted an article on his blog with the four sample apps and included full source so you can see, as he says, there’s absolutely nothing special going on – it’s just simple AS3 cross-compiled to iPhone ARM Binaries.

Aditya Bansod has written an article for the Adobe Developer Connection which goes in the technicalities in a little more depth. He also has an hour-long episode on Adobe TV, taken from MAX, exploring the technologies:

Of course, it’s not news that Flash isn’t without sceptics. Not everyone is looking forward to the prospect.

Jeff Lamarche is an iPhone developer who has some very good points on being cautious when developing Flash for the iPhone.

He shares my opinion that you should avoid ‘hammer development’ principles and instead should choose the best tools for a platform. He says:

Flash has always been a compromise that takes considerable overhead to let you create applications that can run on multiple platforms, while feeling native on none and getting native performance on none.

He goes on to make valid points about performance when road-testing some of the applications, also noticing some inefficiencies and possible breaches of Apple’s guidelines.

Presumably when you create applications with the recommended workflow, with XCode, Interface builder and the iPhone SDK, developers are somewhat constrained by them – definitely with regard to the interface, visual components and interactivity. With Flash’s ‘back-door’ sneak of creating apps, these may be breached.

That being said, I haven’t had a chance to play with these applications yet (I don’t actually have an iPhone..) but even then, presumably these are apps for demonstration and are, as proven, purposely uncomplicated.

And as always Flash has its haters.

A comment on Mike Chambers’ post might be a bit knee-jerk and unjustified, but also hints as to some of the feelings that will no doubt surface if the AppStore is inundated with bad Flash apps and games.

Hopefully Apple won’t change their position on accepting Flash.

Flash on everything else

But not to forget – this was really the second big announcement of MAX.

The first announced that the forthcoming Flash Player 10.1 appears to run on pretty much every other smartphone and high-end mobile device on the market too. Which has a lot to do with new commitments to the Open Screen Project.

Ryan Stewart has a run-down of the news, which announces Flash will run on Blackberry, Palm Pre, Windows Mobile, Android and on Skyfire browser for Nokia Symbian OS (links via InsideRIA).

Google have joined the project, see the post on their blog and Adobe’s press release for more information.

At Flash on the Beach, Mark Doherty’s spoke about the improvements to Flash Lite and how advances in Flash technology outside of the ‘main’ Flash Player have beneficial effects overall, to the platform as a whole. One such advancement is that the new multi-touch and gestural events in Flash 10.1 will be completely available for non-mobile applications too.

Daniel Dura and Matt Bugbee‘s Multi-touch and the Flash Platform on Adobe TV discuss and demonstrate what can be achieved with these new events.

I’ve just noticed that InsideRIA already have a ‘Getting started’ primer for multi-touch Flash, too.

As I say, advances in one technology can propagate development in another. That said, Adobe have also announced that they are developing a lightweight Flex framework for mobile devices, called Slider.

Slider is a mobile-optimized version of the Flex 4 framework, allowing developers to leverage their existing Flex skills but benefit from optimised performance and a streamlined user experience for devices with less memory and slower processors.

There will also be a new set of user interface components.

Going full circle, a greater presence of Flash and Flex on mobile devices puts more pressure on Apple to adopt the Flash player for their Safari browser.

Hopefully some time soon, seeing this screen will be a thing of the past:

As Serge says, there’s lots of things to get excited about and it’s a great time to be a Flash Platform developer!

Note: this post is a continuation of my previous two articles on FOTB: The Beach and Day Two.

Here it is – the third and final day of Flash on the Beach!

Contextual Application Development

Mark Doherty

Mark Doherty started the day filling in for the absent Serge Jespers, who would have been presenting ‘The Flash Platform in a multi-screen world‘.

Mark, known at Adobe as ‘the mobile guy’ gave what sounded to be a very similar talk, focusing on the contextual practices of cross-platform application deployment, rather than (I think) the development of those applications and the devices now available to us.

He outlined Adobe’s three vectors of innovation; Rich Internet Applications, the Cloud and Devices – exploring for each the opportunity to create Flash applications and introduced their newly adopted paradigm and tag line, ‘Single experience, multiple devices’. It’s their wish to enable full engagement of RIA experiences across any device and platform.

He talked about Flash Lite and improvements gained over the previous six years of development. Flash Lite is fast becoming a very powerful tool and it’s Adobe’s intention that it should take leadership of mobile application development over the likes of Java.

But the talk covered more than just mobile devices, for example Mark spoke about Flash for the television. On that he made an interesting point that would run the length of the talk, about the importance of being aware of platform context.

He pointed out that devices like the television are never intended to be turned off, so, similar to Grant Skinner’s note on applications behaving as good system citizens yesterday, these kind of applications need to be aware of memory usage and simply cannot have any memory leaks.

We need to redefine our notion of ‘Flash applications’ and readdress our habits formed as a result of only developing browser-based and non-persistent applications.

Another assumption that cannot continue is that we can get away with deploying an application that can simply dynamically resize for different screen resolutions. This is Mark’s idea of ‘contextual applications’ comes in.

Applications should be platform-aware, true – detect it’s screen resolution, but also be aware of it’s computational capabilities, graphics and data support, it’s interface mechanic and tailor our applications specifically to those.

We saw Gamesplaza.mobi, which detected Mark’s touch-screen phone and served touch-screen games accordingly.

The New York Times have a collection of applications that think along the right kind of lines.

For the NYTimes, there’s the popular AIR desktop application, the Kindle version that serves the paper in PDF form, iPhone and Smart phones can browse the mobile website and there’s a version for the Chumby. Each platform offers a tailored experience and each has its own business model (some have paid subscriptions, some serve ads), but each is powered by the same service.

We saw UVLayer, a cloud-based virtual desktop and media sharing service funded by the Open Screen Project. UVLayer comes in two forms, visited in the browser or on a mobile device and the pair demonstrate this idea of contextual applications very well. The desktop is a place to administrate, manage an organise your media, but on the mobile the interface is remodelled and prioritise for the tasks you’d most likely want to carry out on a mobile – like watching and sharing those videos, photos and messages. It’s a different view of the same service.

The bottom line from Mark and Adobe now; don’t just scale or appropriate your application, recognise that platform, choose and serve content specifically for that platform and that context.

Connecting the Dots

Mario Klingemann

Mario Klingemann is a self-confessed ‘maths groupie’, likening his attraction to not being able to play the music, but loving the band.

His talk intended to reignite all of our lost love for maths, expelling all our bad feelings of the dry and boring maths taught in schools by delving into the beauty of geometry, the intricate patterns of computational design and the universal truth that only mathematics can behold.

He drew colourful metaphors of maths versus art, likewise of famous mathematicians and artists, before diving into number theory; his investigations into prime numbers with the Ulam spiral and Sacks spiral, before returning to geometric art with the tessellating and tiled designs of Islamic culture.

He offered some recommended reading on the various subjects, for example Daud Sutton’s Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Robert Dixon’s Mathographics and Jay Kappraff’s Connections: The Geometric Bridge Between Art and Science.

Mario reunited us with cellular automata and algorithmic based systems to create some impressive visualisations. Making a connection with Flash, he plugged in Pixel Bender and created controls to alter system rules and introduced randomised variables to look for reoccurring natural visual phenomena, analogues of cellular or organic formations.

Another book recommendation – Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science.

Then he went on to talk about a bit of a game he had with Ralph Hauwert (UnitZeroOne) on Twitter, when he saw that he had sent out a Base64 encoded image message (explanation), where he tried to find if there were any other techniques he could employ to compress more complex images.

He applied a number of algorithms, encoding and compression techniques, then went on to exploit Twitter’s UTF-8 encoding and use Chinese characters, so it eventually ended up looking like this:

Mario Klingemann's encoded tweet

All very interesting, even though a lot went over most of our heads. He ran out of time eventually, but finished off the talk later in the day at the Jam Throwdown.

My colleague Adam Cousins joined me on this third day, he has written about Mario’s talk on his blog. He plans to write about rest in the coming week.

Union and MegaPhone

Colin Moock

Colin Moock‘s session looked at multi-user interactive activities and how he believes that multi-user activity is the future of all applications.

He questions how many of us would still be using computers if it were not for the Web, or an Internet connection. He thinks in the same way that the Internet adds value to computers, multi-user activity will add value to applications in the future, if not be the main use for those applications. In fact, that they’ll be pretty rubbish without it.

It’s something he’s felt for a while, he pointed to his Unified computing lecture of five years ago as an example as to how long he’s been thinking about it.

So Colin has developed the Union Platform. Currently in an alpha state, Union is a development platform, server architecture and protocol for creating such multi-user applications.

The Union platform breaks the complexity of multi-user application development down into a small group of digestible, familiar concepts; clients, the server, messages, rooms and attributes. It enables rapidly produced systems and supports Actionscript 3.0. Read more on the Platform Overview page.

We saw a demo created by Clockmaker, a 3D multi-user Tenori-on, deployed and ready to play with right now, and then he quickly coded a simple chat application which could send and receive real-time chat messages.

Writing it live, at one point Colin’s code had an error – of course with everyone watching there were plenty shouts from the crowd as to what was wrong. He said we just proved his point as to the value of introducing multiple users :) .

Then he talked about MegaPhone, a product that enables multi-player games and activities in public spaces by turning your mobile phone into a ‘universal controller’.

The idea comes from the assumption that pretty much everyone has a mobile phone nowadays (in the Western world, I guess), that we’re all ‘connected’ in the sense that we all have a device of this kind in our pocket – so why not enable us to converge with them and interact with each other, or with an interface in a public space.

MegaPhone enables any phone to work on any screen because it doesn’t require any kind of installation on the hardware, it uses the features that all phones share – dialling, voice and the keypad. It;s just a facilitator service, it’s not app that’s pushed onto the user – thus, it is the universal, and universally compatible, controller.

We saw the concept demos, a big screen Whack-a-mole that required lots of synchronised shouting and ‘Grabber’, likewise a relatively straightforward volume-controlled game where the user shouts in an attempt to get their character to grab various objects displayed on a big screen.

Colin is the core technologist at MegaPhone, so aptly he showed us some code. It is intentionally very straightforward, six or so listeners that refer to calling, hanging up, key presses and volume detection, all with custom event handling.

There’s contact details on the MegaPhone site to apply for a developer key now!

Jam Throwdown

Grant Skinner, Mario Klingemann, Julian Dolce, Andre Michelle, Jer Thorp, Joa Ebert

The Jam Throwdown premise is simple, six speakers have ten minutes each to do whatever they want – presumably to do the best they can to impress us. We were told to expect demonstrations of some of their best work or greatest failures, previews of as yet unseen apps or experiments, perhaps even some live coding – and undeniably every speaker succeeded in their task.

First up was Grant Skinner who demonstrated some physics and collision detection experiments he had been playing with, eventually combining them with the sound spectrum API to create a pretty cool dynamic audio visualiser.

Mario Klingemann continued showing the results of his image encoding techniques from his earlier Connecting the Dots session.

Julian Dolce demonstrated a handy tool to compile multiple FLA files, using Eclipse, by way of an ANT task.

I was probably the only one excited about this – generally I use a PC and I’ve heard you can write AppleScript to do this on a Mac, and Flex can do this anyway but Flash usually can’t. Good news is, it’s all available on his website and it can handle straightforward publishing, debugging, FLP files, intelligent error handling and is also available from the command line.

André Michelle extended his ‘Kling Klang’ talk on manipulating sound and run-time audio processing from earlier that day. He devised various algorithmic techniques for sound manipulation, creating delay effects and playing with feedback. There were some incidental sound experiments, a Tenori-on sequencer, more visualisations and a very cool graphical synthesizer tool.

View the slides on his site.

Jer Thorp showed us a piece of his work commissioned to design an accessible playground, but for which he employed very unconventional design techniques, largely by designing using Processing both in 2D and 3D.

Then came Joa Ebert, who had an incredible session on Tuesday which was already the talking point of the conference, anyone who hadn’t seen it had definitely heard about it.

Where everybody else had spent the full time talking and presenting their work, Joa just said “Hello,” queued some thumping dance music and immediately sat down to speed-code for the whole ten minutes, wowing us by creating a fully-realised 3D sound visualiser written in Processing.

Needless to say it was outstanding, not to mention that he afterwards revealed that he uses a keyboard without glyphs.

You can see the whole video on Vimeo:

Seeing Sound – Sound Visualization in Nature & Code

Jared Ficklin

With a DIY mindset, Jared Ficklin explored sound visualisation with and without code in a Maker Faire/Brainiac-style session.

Using smoke, fire, oscillators and costumes he worked through the physics of sound and waveforms and how they can be visualised.

We saw some of his work with the sound and sound spectrum APIs, visualisations he’s created in the past and a few by other artists such as Annika Hamann’s Fowl Owl and Robert Hodgin.

He offered tips and best practices on how to work with sound in Actionscript specifically.

Although the talk was very hands-on, he couldn’t do everything he wanted to do on stage. Especially set fire to things.

He had a enactment of a Rubens’ Tube, with a long hollow PVC tube filled with bean-bag polystyrene balls, passing a sound through the tube to watch the air pressure change the shape and form of the balls as it passed down the length, modelling the balls mimic the sound waves.

Do see the real thing in action, with fire, he showed us one he prepared earlier:

Space

Joshua Davis

Flash on the Beach closed with an exceptional talk from Joshua Davis who explored the notion of Space. Not so much space as Astronomy, although apparently 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, but of course with regard to design.

He talked about design technology, his approach to computational design and his past pioneering work with Macromedia Flash.

He talked about his work with other artists such as Stefan Sagmeister (as did Hillman Curtis on Monday) and Branden Hall, with whom he created Hype – an Actionscript framework for creating visual and generative art.

To see Hype in action, there’s some nice examples here and you can watch Joshua and Branden’s discussion with Carlo Blatz on Powerflasher’s blog.

Joshua went on to consider the notion of the physical design space, showing some work from various exhibitions, some interactive installations and his work with printed art.

As with every of the inspirational talks of FOTB this year, I’m going to cop out and say you really had to be there. Joshua is a funny guy and had everyone hugely entertained, as I’m sure you can imagine if you’ve ever seen him speak.

His presentation is also online now on his site (in zip format), which shows some of his great work.

See you next year!

And that was the end of Flash on the Beach 2009!

Needless to say again, it was a great conference. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect before going, this being my first year, but if offered so much more than I would have imagined it could. I go to plenty of other conferences, groups and conventions and this beats the lot.

John Davey insists that Flash isn’t a product, it’s a mindset – and Flash on the Beach captures that.

As for the organisation, it was flawless, and there was a huge amount of freebies thrown in too.

Thoroughly recommended, I’ll definitely be going next year!

Update: I’ve now written up my thoughts on Day Two and Day Three.

Now in its fourth year, Flash on the Beach has quickly grown in to one of the most popular Web conferences in Europe. This week hundreds of developers, designers, gamers and animators (you name it) have arrived in Brighton to see and hear the latest news and innovations in the Flash world. I’m here and until Wednesday, trying to get to the best of the packed schedule.

Flash on the Beach 2009

Keynote

Richard Galvan and Mark Anders

The conference opened with a keynote from Adobe’s Richard Galvan (product manager for Flash Professional) and Marc Anders (Senior Principal Scientist).

They started with the usual kind of Flash Player boasting, statistics, looking at the penetration and speedy uptake of the past versions for the last view years and looked over some of the feature successes of 2009 before outlining what we can expect in the near future.

Of those success stories they particularly highlighted the prevalence of 3D, the perspective API in particular and the new drawing API. With both, celebrating the growing power of the Flash platform in their ability to handle these developments as they’ve promised years previously.

They talked about the forthcoming release of Adobe AIR 2.0, demonstrating some of the popular applications that have surfaced this year in TweetDeck and Fanbase.

Elsewhere on the Flash player, the new text rendering engine looks impressive. The forthcoming update easily renders ‘print quality’ text in any reading direction – not only bi-directional right to left, but supporting languages such as Thai, Hebrew, Arabic and Asian languages horizontally and vertically.

We had a sneak preview of what else is to come in the CS4 update. Inclusive of the above text advances; authors will have a far greater amount of control over editable properties, more toward the likes you would find in Photoshop (kerning, ligatures, etc) as well as the TLF (Text Layout Framework) improvements which can link multiple text fields like columns, as to what we’re more familiar with in Adobe Illustrator.

There’s a keen initiative to make life easier for newcomers to Flash – and designers ;) .

For example, there are now a number of code snippets bundled with the Flash IDE which, whilst not being anything brand new at all for most workflows, has been lacking in Flash for some time. These will beparticularly beneficial for those experiencing migrations problems from Actionscript 2.0.

Alongside those, the code IDE also has both auto-completion and code introspection for custom classes.

As has always been Adobe’s intention, there’s a continuation of tightening the integration of programs across the Creative Suite.

Flash Professional and Flash Builder (the renamed Flex Builder) have a partnered workflow between coding and design environments. Documents can be created within the Flash IDE and a document class be generated and automatically be launched within Flash Builder. Flash Builder in turn has compile and debug shortcuts via the toolbar to switch back and forth with Flash thereafter.

The keynote concluded with Mark Doherty joining Richard and Mark on stage to demonstrate some of their developments with mobile devices. Showing Flash running (almost) natively on a few mobile devices and even promised their first television platform support – though poor cabling let down the demonstration.

Advanced Desktop Development with Adobe AIR

Mike Chambers

The first talk proper I attended was with Mike Chambers exploring some advanced techniques with Adobe AIR. Since it’s release 18-odd months ago, there’s been plenty of entry-level talks and tutorials at conferences I’ve attended, so I was looking forward to a more advanced demonstration.

Mike went through some of his contributions to the AS3corelib, a must-have library of tools that came around last year.

The first was the FileMonitor, straightforward enough, is a handler class for monitoring changes to a file on the system marked for observation. The class dispatches events on modification and movement (or if it is deleted) by polling the file regularly and, basically, looking for changes to the last modified date. Mike noted that this class and the VolumeMonitor, which he demonstrated next, essentially facilitate what AIR natively ‘cannot’ really do. They’re not particularly hacks, but workarounds until the runtime supports these functions natively.

Mike also talked about the AIR 2.0 release, that as well as having the performance improvements you’d expect, checks off a few of the most popular feature requests, which was one of Adobe’s highest priorities.

He demonstrated the StorageVolume API, which monitors for USB mounted hard drives. He recorded a video with a flip camera and handled the file transfer within an AIR application which detected it’s mounting and read the file contents.

This really made AIR look like it could eventually be a very powerful desktop runtime (and already it’s pretty damn good as it is). But with it’s seamless connection with the hardware devices and by seeing it confidently carry out the kind of tasks you’d expect more traditional proprietary software to perform was really something.

Likewise, Mike showed some examples of storing persistent data for applications by creating custom file types. He also utilised the application cache, by way of the ResouceCache class, to optimise processing. This of course also allows you to access these kinds of assets whilst offline, which after all is half the deal with AIR. It too really made AIR look like a far more serious, or at least a more mature platform than it’s young age may otherwise suggest.

Finally he talked about forthcoming changes to running native processes and applications – and this is a huge deal.

I’m sure this is would have been the most requested feature by far – that AIR should be able to launch files in their native apps and run other applications or processes securely from within it’s own runtime.

Mike was the developer of the CommandProxy, a proof-of-concept bridge between AIR and the OS by way of a secondary application (running in the background), but this development now makes that obsolete. This would be able to talk to other applications the correct way, whether that application is something like Photoshop or a command line process.

Apparently though, if you do use this functionality, you can no longer distribute your applications as an .AIR file. Although your app will still be completely cross-platform (this is important to Adobe, he says) you’ll have to export as the platform-specific executable – so a DMG or EXE file, for example – though handy as it is, the compiler will produce these for you :) .

Mike has now uploaded his notes to his blog here.

HelloEnjoy

Carlos Ulloa

Next up was Carlos Ulloa who discussed a selection of his latest work for his studio HelloEnjoy. Founder of Papervision3D, Carlos (as ever) didn’t fail to impress.

The first project was ‘Flowers’, a very intricate visualiser and editor for forms of artistic models of abstract 3D flowers. Whilst offering a very simple interface to manipulate the characteristics of the flower – shape, size, colours, in real-time – it hid some extremely complex mathematics and transformations behind-the-scenes.

Carlos took us through how the project was conceptualised and ultimately built, referring to some of the libraries he used along the way – Flint particles being one of them, as well as the excellent GouraudMaterials for shading.

Secondly he demonstrated EnergyLab – a relatively straightforward game mechanic, but executed to the highest levels of workmanship and attention to detail that I’ve probably ever seen in such an application.

Having visited the site before and being impressed enough simply by the experience it offered (it deservedly won a FWA, too), I hadn’t truely realised how much work had gone into the development of the project – particularly the 3D work more in the combination of Papervision and Maya, than the video production which is arguably more striking.

Carlos went through an extremely complex and lengthy process to achieve the desired visual results requested by the client, who pretty much came to them with a video full of CGI and asked “Can you do that?”. It’s exemplary of the powerful effects that can be created in Flash as boasted in the keynote.

Working in parallel with Papervision and Maya, for weeks scrutinising every detail of the project it would seem, it’s as much also a remarkable achievement of workflow and process. I don’t think that playing the game really represents this.

Finally we saw walkthroughs of HelloRacer, an iPhone application developed with Unity 3D in just a week (the online version of which can be seen on Carlos’ blog), and the popular HelloEnjoy website – newly improved with extra models and sound. By this point most people were already pretty blown away, Carlos made this look relatively simple - he sets a high bar.

Adobe Town Hall

Adobe Flash Platform team

This session was a face-to-face Q&A between the leaders of the Flash platform and the community at large, an open-mic style meeting allowing anybody to fire any questions they had.

The team was Richard Galvan, Mark Anders, Paul Burnett, Andrew Shorten, Mark Doherty and Lee Brimelow.

Most questions related generally to workflow, feature requests or concerns over software bugs, with the odd teething problem with CS4 thrown in. However a few points are worth nothing outrigh.

For one, the panel were asked about threading and whether there are any plans to support some kind of threading in the Flash Player (ever, at all). I thought this would produce an outright “no”, but it seems it is something that they’re considering. No doubt due to the high amount of requests. They said, whilst threading is very hard to achieve and in no-way present in any form natively for the player right now, they’ve looked at other methods of running concurrent tasks seen elsewhere with the likes of HTML5 or Grand Central Dispatch, to facilitate something similar. So although there is a definite interest, what we might eventually see may not necessarily be ‘threading’, per se.

Another (perhaps inevitable) question asked for any update on the status of Flash for the iPhone – both for support in the Safari browser as well as potential to run applications natively on the platform. Disappointingly, there is none. This was an outright blank – although of course, it’s still a target. Adobe will demonstrate Flash Player 10 to the best of its ability at Adobe MAX 2009, but other that that, there’s no new plans. It was actually at FOTB last year that the first announcements were made.

Thirdly Flash Media Server got a mention, FMS is something I have a bit of a soft spot for. The question was asked as to whether it will ever support AS3 – currently it’s a cheap version of AS1, which is basically Javascript. Though unfortunately here too, they had no news to offer – more to do with the fact that none of these guys work on the platform personally, so they couldn’t offer anything. But it was said that the platform is still being developed though, and it’s probably just ‘a matter of time’.

Finally there was a quick conversation about the ‘headless’ Flash player, a distribution for search engines to allow indexing of Flash-based content (SWF files). I wrote about this when it was announced, but it sounds as if it might now be released again but for developers to play with – for the same reasons and SEO purposes so we can see how it works inside-out, but also as a tool that could be used for the likes of automated testing, or anything else that we might be able to come up with.

Another note taken from the session actually, it seems that Flash on the Beach is unfortunately ‘too close to MAX’, as I heard on multiple occasions. Adobe are obviously holding back from secrets for MAX, fair enough, but it was disappointing to hear this said a few times to the crowd of eager community members who’ve paid their hundreds of pounds for their tickets.

Cybernetic Art Revisited

Dr. Woohoo!

Flash on the Beach has been noted for a being a conference that despite it’s name isn’t solely concentrated on Flash. Although you’d expect the whole platform to be covered (Flex, AIR, etc), which it is, FOTB also hold sessions on technologies only loosely associated with Flash, other Adobe products and pure Web technologies too. They’ve held talks on the likes of Processing for example, and there are talks about technology in general. This was the first of those kind for me.

Dr. Woohoo! talked about his time working with cybernetics and digital art and his paradigm of Art + Science = Serious Fun. He talked about about the people and places that have influenced his work and shaped his career to date.

He spoke about his time at the Santa Fe complex, showed some great recordings of the Art && Code symposium and other exhibitions he’s attended, spoke about the current state of affairs with reference to projects like Computer Vision and more recently Project Natal.

He then demonstrated his latest work with a ZCam and openFrameworks to drive mini-bots around his podium on stage.

There was a lot of name dropping and references thrown in to books and other institutions, recommended reading and quotes from luminaries of the field (far too many for me to write here). His blog is regularly updated, so hopefully his slides will eventually surface there.

Telling Stories

Hillman Curtis

Telling stories was another such session.

Hillman Curtis was the Art Director at Macromedia when Flash was first born in 1998. In his talk he spoke about his journey from then until now, his work with photography, film and Web design and his influences and muses found along the way.

We saw work from his portfolio and part of his latest film; a feature length documentary on David Byrne.

Despite being another code-free talk, it was attended by all event-goers and met with a compelled atmosphere no less.

I actually though this was very well placed at the end of the day, it seemed to encapsulate everything about why we do the things we do, even if not talking directly about our software product itself.

Epiphany

Joel Gethin Lewis

That was the end of the daytime sessions. After a break we returned for the first of the ‘Inspired’ evening sessions of the week. These talks aimed to be free of code too, if not development entirely, hosted purely for inspiration and the feel-good factor.

Joel Gethin Lewis is an interaction designer and artist who previously worked with United Visual Artists.

We saw some of his work there including the brilliant Regent Street Christmas lights of 2007. The huge light installation claimed to be the first ever ‘interactive’ Christmas lights created, the formations and lights changed based upon the density of shoppers below and other factors such as surrounding weather conditions, captured by cameras and climate sensors hidden around the street.

Since then he has founded two new companies, Hellicar&Lewis and YesYesNo.

From the latter we saw their project Lights On (also currently on the YYN homepage at the time of this writing), a massive audio visual performance created for the opening of the new Ars Electronica museum. With YesYesNo, he spoke about his work with openFrameworks and Computer Vision also.

He also worked on another great project called Contact, a floor-based artwork commissioned by the British Council that tracked the motion of those walking over it and generated physics-simulated shapes and objects below them on a giant LCD surface.

The thing is, this project was developed in about two weeks and made possible only by leveraging open source software. It’s with this possibility and ultimate realisation upon Contact’s success that that Joel reached his ‘epiphany’; that in his opinion, all software not only need not be paid for but should be free and open source.

Enthused, he found a whole host of open sourced software and similar successful projects and became set on being a champion of the open source school of thought. There’s a great article from Creative Review earlier this year in which he and partner Pete Hellicar talk about their experience.

All in all, a great first day from Flash on the Beach – all boxes ticked and more, exceeding expectations already.

I do apologise for the lengthy post, worry not – I’m sure I can’t keep this up. :)

For a change, this month’s LFPUG didn’t actually feature any Flash. Instead, we were presented with an introduction to iPhone application development with two single-hour talks delving into developing with Objective-C and the Cocoa Touch environment, but all specifically tailored to take an approach designed for a Web developer’s perspective.

I really don’t know how I feel about iPhone development, as a Flash developer, anyway. There’s been a lot of ‘iPhone for Flash developers’ or ‘Actionscript for the iPhone’ or similarly titled tutorials spring up around the Web lately, which I guess have come about on the back of the over night success stories from applications booming in popularity and the ease with which the App Store lets a small dev team get equal distribution and visibility of their application. But why Actionscript?

The profitability is understandable, I just think it’s strange that specifically Flash developers assume that iPhone development is something they can or should be laying claim to, that it’s something within their domain or their right to be creating these apps? It’s gotten to the point where a Flash platform meeting is hijacked (hijacked isn’t the right word, it wasn’t unwelcome and it drew the biggest turn out I’ve ever seen) – is it selfish (?) that there’s such a demand for tutorials to be made easily digestible for them, when traditionally any other kind of development is usually approached by everyone else peaking in?

I’m not sure, I can’t decide. Maybe it’s more honest – that instead, for example, it’s the look and feel, the slick presentation layer and the interactivity of the interface that’s so attractive (it’s Flash-like) – and a lot of people do start playing with Flash because it looks good. Flash is inherently a visual platform. Maybe Flash just is the closest platform and Flash development easily lends to iPhone development.

Whatever the case, thinking as a platform-agnostic programmer, I was looking forward to the meeting. I have an addiction to learning (or trying) new languages even if I needn’t, plus it was honestly disclosed that this week there would be no Flash content an iPhone 101 bent into shape for Flash developers to understand, it would be was tailored for Web developers generally – I was hoping for more conceptual comparisons rather than perhaps just pointing out syntactical differences – either way, curiosity had the better of me.

First up was Masi Woermann starting with An Introduction to iPhone Application Development. He introduced the broad concepts of iPhone development and the different approach developers must under go to create applications mainly looking at the workflow. Being primarily a Flex developer, Masi maintained comparisons between the architectures of a Flex app and an iPhone app – drawing parallels between Objective-C and Actionscript coding and their relationship to the UI components created with Interface Builder versus MXML.

He introduced the development tools and iPhone SDK, discussed some basics of Objective-C (pointers, memory management, classes) and eventually produced a very simple application – demonstrating the basics of interacting with visual components, straightward methods, getters, setters – some simple OOP.

It was good to see some hands on coding and that, obviously, although it’s a completely different kind of development – it might be intimidating but it’s not impossible. Watch it here:

Masi Woermann - An Introduction to iPhone Application Development

Then Matt Biddulph presented iPhone Development for Web Developers. Matt is primarily server-side developer working with the likes of Python, Ruby and Rails, but instead of going into any code expressed that his real interest in iPhone applications lies in the device’s connectivity, specifically the capability to connect to the Web and interoperate and network with data and objects found there.

He looked at the applications that Twitter and Facebook developed, quoting Joe Hewitt‘s development wisdom with his work at Facebook.

He also criticised some of the failures of the current SDK, as Hewitt also did, specifically that some of the native features that you’ll see in Apple’s applications still aren’t available for third-party developers to utilise. I hadn’t realised this was the case, or would have thought Apple would hold back on anything – I guess with later releases more features will become available. The iPhone OS 3.0 SDK is due for release this summer, perhaps more will become available then.

Watch Matt’s talk here:

Matt Biddulph - iPhone Development for Web Developers

Matt also mentioned Phonegap, an open source cross-platform mobile framework for building apps with JavaScript. It’s been labelled as being ‘like AIR for the iPhone‘ and operates on Android and Blackberry, too. Again, maybe it’s just be another means to cut a corner and not develop with the native environment, but it looks impressive – and it seems powerful. You can take advantage of all the core features of the various platforms – geo-locations, the accelerometer etc.

It’s also created entirely by by Web developers. As the video on their site claims, there’s not many Objective-C developers but there are a lot of Web developers – so in keeping with the rest of these observations, there really are more and more opportunities and points of entry for Web developers to get into mobile and iPhone app development, it’s purely demand that has created these.

All in all, whether it’s ‘in favour’ or not for Flash developers to want to develop iPhone apps is probably irrelevant – whether its a for profit or to expand a skillset probably doesn’t mater either. Hopefully all the attention will cause a shift in the perception of developing for mobile devices in general, I know I still cringe whenever anyone mentions Flash Lite – but it seems that’s starting to enjoying the beginnings of a resurgence too.

Then I think of initiatives like Adobe’s Open Screen Project and think this could be a really exciting time for mobile devices regardless, maybe there’s just so much fuss over the iPhone right now because it’s the iPhone.

As I write this post an email has just arrived in my inbox announcing there’s new group meeting specifically for developing iPhone, the London iPhone Bootcamp – ‘part seminar, part hackathon, part workshop’ – they too, are looking for the next killer iPhone app!

Thoughts?

Dance just like a Casanova.