Monthly Archives: December 2007

ASTRA: ActionScript Toolkit for Rich Applications

I followed a link to ASTRA from Flashbookmarks.
Strangely I never heard about ASTRA althrough I already knew Yahoo! had a Flash developer center.

So what is ASTRA? Well,

ASTRAASTRA, the ActionScript Toolkit for Rich Applications, is Yahoo!’s collection of Flash and Flex components, libraries, toolkits and advanced applications. These libraries are open-source and available under the BSD license.

You will find some:

Flash CS3 Components Library:

  • Tree
  • Menu
  • TabBar
  • AutoComplete [Nice!]
  • Charts [Nice!]
  • Flash Kit:

    The Badge Kit is an XML-based framework for rapid development of small interactive Flash applications. You can learn how to use the Badge Kit very quickly, and most of the usage scenarios require no knowledge of Flash.

    So that is not so much for us…

    Web APIs Library

    Yahoo! AS3 API libraries are a set of wrapper tools that facilitate access to Yahoo!’s Web APIs from Flex and Flash. These libraries create an abstraction layer above the communication protocols used by Yahoo! servers, enabling Flash and Flex developers to send and retrieve data without any additional parsing. The AS3 libraries are easy to install and all accessible methods are fully documented. These libraries are open source and available under the BSD license.

    Libraries available by now:

  • Yahoo! Answers AS3 API
  • Yahoo! Weather AS3 API
  • Yahoo! Search AS3 API
  • Yahoo! Upcoming.org AS3 API
  • Yahoo! Maps AS3 Communication Kit
  • Interesting, isn’t it?

    Ahmet

     
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    Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) Passes Acid2 Test ?

    It seems that the Internet Explorer team from Microsoft is working hard to improve the quality of the much criticized non standard compliance IE generation (5 – 6 -7).

    With respect to standards and interoperability, our goal in developing Internet Explorer 8 is to support the right set of standards with excellent implementations and do so without breaking the existing web. This second goal refers to the lessons we learned during IE 7. IE7’s CSS improvements made IE more compliant with some standards and less compatible with some sites on the web as they were coded. Many sites and developers have done special work to work well with IE6, mostly as a result of the evolution of the web and standards since 2001 and the level of support in the various versions of IE that pre-date many standards. We have a responsibility to respect the work that sites have already done to work with IE. We must deliver improved standards support and backwards compatibility so that IE8 (1) continues to work with the billions of pages on the web today that already work in IE6 and IE7 and (2) makes the development of the next billion pages, in an interoperable way, much easier.

    But IE is from far not the only browser that does not pass the ACID Test 2:

    Firefox 3 beta 2
    Firefox 3 beta 2 Acid Test
    Internet Explorer 6
    Internet Explorer 6 Acid Test
    Internet Explorer 7
    Internet Explorer 7 Acid Test
    Opera 9
    Opera 9 Acid Test
    Reference result
    Acid Test Reference

    According to Dean Hachamovitch the result for IE8 would be smiling:
    Internet Explorer 8 Acid Test

    The Acid2 test has been ignored by Microsoft IE for so long that it was quite a surprise to see them make an effort in that direction, certainly the rise of Firefox (who does not passes the Acid2 Test but is more standard compliant) is not for nothing in that move.

    An Acid2 test is simply a complex web page using basic feature of HTML4, CSS1, PNG, and Data URLs.

    * Transparent PNGs — The eyes are encoded as transparent PNGs.
    * The object element — The eyes of the face are attached to an object element. Being able to use object (which can have alternative content) is one of the oldest requests from web designers.
    * Absolute, relative and fixed positioning — Being able to position elements accurately is important for advanced page layouts.
    * Box model — The original Acid test focused on the CSS box model. Acid2 continues in this fine tradition by testing ‘height’, ‘width’, ‘max-width’, ‘min-width’, ‘max-height’ and ‘min-height’.
    * CSS tables — There is nothing wrong with table layouts. It is a powerful layout model which makes sense on bigger screens. However, the table markup is troublesome as it ties the content to these screens. Therefore, being able to specify table layouts in CSS is important.
    * Margins — CSS defines accurate algorithms for how margins around elements should be calculated.
    * Generated content — The ability to add decorations and annotations to Web pages without modifying the markup has long been requested by authors.
    * CSS parsing — Acid2 includes a number of illegal CSS statements that should be ignored by a compliant browser.
    * Paint order — We test that overlapping content is painted in the right order. This is not a feature in itself, but a requirement for other features to work correctly.
    * Line heights — The Acid2 test checks a few key parts of the CSS inline box model, upon which any standards-compliant Web page depends.
    * Hovering effects — One of the elements in the face changes color when you “hover” over it. Which one?

    More information about IE8
    More information about Acid2

    That is one more good move from IE after deciding to remove the “Click to activate” by April 2008.

    Ahmet

     
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    Adobe Bordeaux: no it’s not about wine…

    This new codename from Adobe hide a nice move from Adobe. They seem (as it is not confirmed yet by Adobe) to be preparing a software that would simplify Flash for the none coders:

    Adobe Bordeaux is the codename for a new product for graphic designers, art directors, creative directors, and others who don’t need all the capabilities of Flash Professional and want to create flash content easily without knowing ActionScript or programming.

    Bordeaux enables graphic designers to efficiently create site openers, rich media banners, microsites, portfolios, and other small-scale Flash projects. Art Directors and Creative Directors can use Bordeaux to add interactivity motion, and video to Photoshop comps or InDesign layouts to create interactive moodboards and concepts, making it possible to communicate ideas more effectively to clients and design teams.

    Bottle of Adobe Bordeaux
    The features would be:

    – Easily create buttons, menus, slideshows, video controllers and other interactive components
    – Customise the look and behavior of interactive components included with Bordeaux
    – Visually convert artwork to interactive elements without coding
    – Trigger actions and events from markers you add to your video and audio
    – Create multi-page microsites as easily as dragging and dropping
    – Make objects and text move, spin, resize, reveal, slide, bounce, fade, and more without using keyframes or code
    – Easily control how motion responds to mouse events
    – Import, trim, and encode video files into FLV
    – Add audio and trim and adjust levels
    – Import native Photoshop files as layers
    – Import InDesign files with pages and objects preserved as individual elements
    – Output efficient SWF or Adobe AIR files

    [via: Visualrinse]

    Some people who commented on Chad’s blog argued that it was a good move as the learning curve of ActionScript (especially AS3) was too high…
    But I really do not agree on this point, we can still do spaghetti coding with AS3, you don’t have to make OOP. In my opinion the effort for promoting AS3 is too much oriented for developers, there are so few tutorials about using AS3 without an Object Oriented view.

    I really think that teaching someone programming without explaining OOP is a big mistake, but if you just want to teach using Flash it is another question.

    A graphic designer not experimented with programming can still use AS3 as he would with AS2, he doesn’t need to understand about the OOP core concept… So please stop saying that learning AS3 is harder than AS2, it may be only harder to teach!

    Ahmet

     
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    Getting RSS (or a XML) from a server without a crossdomain.xml

    I just added a new feature to my blog, it display my RSS feed from StumbleUpon. Everything worked well as long as I did not upload it to my server. Once uploaded I got an error coming from StumbleUpon. It appears that they don’t host a crossdomain.xml (or I did not found it)…

    The only way I found to still be able to get my RSS working was to do a small server side script (with php) that get the content of the page and then display it.

    PHP:

    $theUrl = $_POST['theURL'];
    $content = file_get_contents($theUrl);
    echo $content;
    

    In Flash you just have to make an URLRequest:
    AS3:

    var loader:URLLoader = new URLLoader();
    loader.addEventListener(Event.COMPLETE, onXmlComplete);
    var request:URLRequest = new URLRequest("http://[yourserver.com]/getanyRSS.php");
    var variables:URLVariables = new URLVariables();
    variables.theURL = "theURL2Extract";
    request.data = variables;
    request.method = URLRequestMethod.POST;
    loader.load(request);
    function onXmlComplete(e:Event):void
    {
    //handle your RSS - XML
    }

    And voila!
    Now the question is why the security sandbox is interfering with accessible content from Internet? Flash and AJAX technologies both have this issue and really it does not make sense IMHO in most of the case. I would prefer if all external content was accessible until we deny the access.

    Ahmet

     
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    When Military Technologies help Protecting Humans

    A bit off topic for this blog but this news from Wired is still interesting IMHO.
    A Geo-Information technologist, has been using satellite photography to help NGOs document atrocities in isolated crisis zones like Darfur, Zimbabwe and now in the Union of Myanmar.

    […]To catch human rights abusers in the act, Bromley will need a heads-up from the NGOs, who usually know what’s about to go down. “If enough groups learn of the satellites,” he says, “the odds increase that we can collect useful pictures” — pretty much anywhere in the world. Though the impact of such photos is uncertain, in matters of human rights abuse, global attention is never a bad thing. “Right now, we take what the NGOs already know and prove it,” Bromley says. “But my job’s not done until we put a stop to it.”[…]

    Although it is obvious that military research in technologies can brings positive points for the humans society (remember ARPANET?) they tend do hurt more than they help (accept this one like a personal comment without statistics proof).

    Nevertheless I’m always happy when technologies help people and not injure them… Now the reasons of this post is to gather some comments about the possibilities to use Internet for Humanitarian (2.0 ?) goals? I’m sure their must be more useful things to do than just donate (but do it!). In my point of view donating is always admitting our fails in preventing a unacceptable situations.

    Any idea?

    Ahmet

     
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    Flash – ActionScript is part from the Top 10 Marketable Web Development Skills

    Read/WriteWeb has published a list of the Top 10 marketable web development skills. I’m happy to see that Flash and ActionScript are part of the list!

    Even if I don’t fully agree with this list I do think that it is interesting to make such a list, so here the list of skills I found important for a web developer.

    • XHTML Valid Skills

      That can sound obvious but the number of so called web developer that does not develop according to standard is huge. Being someone writting valid XHTML code is a very important value IMHO.

    • OOP & UML

      I’m not so much interested by the programing languages a web developer know, but I am interested by the knowledge of Object Oriented Programing and communication of the architecture of a web service. That is why I added UML to OOP, one without the other may be useless in a team.

    • Flash & ActionScript

      Obviously for me it is a must have skill, the Flash Player has a so deep penetration in the market that to not have knowledge of Flash UI or ActionScript is really a bad point.

    • JavaScript & AJAX

      In my point of view we must not accept the culture of totally AJAX or totally Flash. Most of the time a nice combination of both gives the best result. Obviously knowing JavaScript and AJAX is a must!

    • Design skills

      The world of web developer can be split in two: Developers VS Designer. I think to be an “Interactive Designer” (a coder that understand design or a designer to understand code) is the best skill you can market, it also opens a lot more of position!

    • User Experience

      It is not enough to be a talented you need to understand how will your web pages be used. So for me capabilities like Usability, Accessibility and Navigation Design worth gold.

    • Database Understanding

      When developing web program we need mostly to rely on database, understanding the structure and architecture of Database helps to think about deep new way of presenting information and to architecture well all your web pages/services/programs.

    By the way, if you have all those listed skills, don’t hesitate to contact me (ahmet AT MBA-Exchange DOT com), we are opening a new position at my work (MBA-Exchange.com & Careernomics.com & MBAGCF.com & LondonBankingDays.com).
    We are located at Geneva / Switzerland and speak mostly French and English.

    Ahmet

     
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    Ads for Adobe Pdf powered by Yahoo! – A Bad Idea?

    Adobe Ads powered by Yahoo!On 28th November Adobe and Yahoo! announced their partnership to display ads in generated pdfs.

    […]an opt-in service that enables online commercial publishers to drive new revenue by including timely, contextual ads next to Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF)-based content[…]

    […]Ads can only be displayed within Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat, in a panel adjacent to the content so that they do not disrupt the viewing experience. Every time the PDF content is viewed, contextual ads are dynamically matched to the content of the document. The publisher can then monitor performance through detailed reports.[…]

    You can read the press release here.

    I think in terms of business it is a great move from Adobe and Yahoo!. Free content are mostly based on advertisement (who says that free cannot be profitable ?) the world of Ebook stayed until now an island free of advertisement, soon going to change but maybe for the good of knowledge.

    My concern is more coming from the popularity of Adobe Reader, by reading some comment in the blogosphere I noticed that most of the people were not so much interested by the ads but by the Adobe Reader times of launching.

    GED: […]Adobe locks up my browsers 3 out of every 4 times it loads in a browser[…]

    Patrick: […]Don’t forget about new viruses being created and filtering through Adobe Reader. It’s going to be a whole new can of worms to deal with. I hate when Adobe locks up in the browser until it decides to load the document for viewing…. it’a already almost like a trojan horse in that respect[…]

    Eli: Awesome! I was wondering how Adobe was going to make Acrobat Reader even more of a bloated monstrosity than it already is. What a better way to expand its memory footprint than to integrate some kind of ad management function. I hope they use Flash ads for this. I can smell the sweet aroma of burning RAM already!

    Comment from different part of the web…

    It is interesting how security related questions comes when talking about Adobe Reader, also some people wonder how will the ads behave in an offline mode. Will there be a default ads displayed and that will update itself if online? Can the ads be block by changing the proxy settings?

    Those comment make me think that it maybe a good idea for product but not for customers, and that the Adobe Reader really needs to get improved. It is still a mystery for me why Adobe cut the distribution of Macromedia Flash Paper (used to be distribute in Studio 8 but I couldn’t find it in any CS3 pack). The idea of embedding pdf document in a web pages was great and useful and could also solve the problem of ads by staying in a advertised environment.

    If however you want to test this advertisment program, and you are located in the US, the beta is here

    Ahmet

     
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