Archive for June, 2002

Pineapple RSS Aggregator

Posted on June 30, 2002 by:
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For you RSS feed junkies using Mac OS X, you have got a new tool to add to your arsenal: Pineapple by Chris Cummers of Postal-Code, Inc. Lately, there has been a lot of coverage of developers creating Flash MX based RSS aggregators and with each iteration they are getting better and better, but I really like the features of Pineapple. Very fast and flexible. It would be nice to see some of the functionality of Pineapple integrated into the Flash RSS Aggregators out there as I very much like the way the feed data is presented.

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Flash and ATM Machines?

Posted on June 28, 2002 by:
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Just a quick note about a press release that was sent out today by Fujitsu (Ranked #52 on the Fortune Global 500) on a partnership they formed with the company I work with, mCom LLC. We have been working with Fujitsu for the last 2 years on developing 3rd generation ATM machines. One of the coolest aspects (besides all the underlying technology), is that the presentment and interface layer users interact with is done entirely with Flash on a touchscreen interface. If you are interested in learning more about this, contact me. Here is an article I wrote for Macromedias Edge Newsletter a year ago on this topic that generated a lot of discussion.

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You have got to see this excellent example of the integration of Voice XML and a telephony application with Flash MX that Matt Rice of SWF News has put together. This is a perfect example of integrating additional accessibility features into your Flash applications. What a great example. Basically Matt has built a system that allow you to dial a phone number and interact via voice commands (he is using a free service for developers provided by (TellMe) to control a Flash application on screen. Just amazing! Kudos to you Matt!

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Yes, thats the title of the new Flaming Lips album due for release here in the states on July 16th. Yep, they are one of my all time favorite bands and they just keep getting better and better. They really have a very diverse body of work in their back catalog and are hands down one of the best bands live. What does this have to do with Flash? Well they finally have a new website that is Flash based with a nice player where you can listen to the new album via streaming mp3’s in Flash. Very cool feature. I am dissapointed they opted to use Windows Media player for the video instead of the new features of the Flash 6 Player. Lets hope now that Sorenson Squeeze is down to $119 buckeroos they’ll adopt it soon.I really enjoy their design sense for their album covers, artwork, flyers and promotionals. George Salisbury, also known as Particle is their man behind the art, with Wayne Coyne the frontman/singer/ and the rest of the band also contributing. They really are truly one of the most unique bands on earth. What other band conducts an orchestra of hundreds of pre-made tapes playing in multiple cars in a parking lots and then tours around with about 70 boomboxes and invites audience mebers on stage to control them and then conducts the playback of the boomboxes. just amazingly brilliant. I was lucky enough to get onstage and be a member several years ago when they came through Philadelphia. Also who else would then later try to capture a similar experience by later releasing a 4-CD album titled Zaireeka where all 4 CD’s must be played at the same time for the full effect, but can actually be listened to individually. In 2001 when they were touring in support of their last album The Soft Bulletin they provided everyone at the shows with portable FM radio receivers and headphones. During their show they had everyone tune to a special channel where they broadcasted extra stereo information, arrangements and harmonics that just made everything sound incredible.

Funny story: Back in 1993 I met Wayne Coyne after a show in Fort Lauderdale, FL. It was merely just about 2 or 3 minutes of conversation between he and I. Fast forward to 5 years later in 1998 when I was at the boombox experiment show at the Trocadero theatre. Wayne was standing on the stage arranging the seats for the audience members who would be on stage holding the boomboxes. I motioned to him and he walked over to the edge of the stage and remembered the conversation we had, my name and even the girl I was with at the time when we spoke. Truly an unbeliveable memory and incredibly friendly guy. If you ever get the chance to see them play live, by all means do so.

They are currently part of a very cool lineup, The Unlimited Sunshine Tour with Cake, De Le Soul, Modest Mouse, Kinky and The Hackensaw Boys. If you visit The Unlimited Sunshine Tour site you can get a shot at really good seats with special collectors tickets designed by John Mcrea (the lead singer of Cake). If your tired of getting crappy seats from TicketMaster, help them pull a Pearl Jam and support SCI Ticketing which works with the artists directly. I was able to score 4th row center seats at the Mann theatre in Philadelphia this August, via SCI Ticketing. I can’t wait to see the show and test Wayne’s memory again. So yeah, I dig their music. πŸ™‚

Unbelieveable coincidence, I was in the middle of updating this entry, and my trusty Apple Multiple Scan 20″ Monitor I purchased in 1993 and has served me well all these years finally crapped out tonight. They weird coincidence part is that the part that failed is the green electron gun. Whats coincidental about that? Take away the green electron gun from your monitor and suddenly EVERYTHING IS PINK! ARGGH! Anyone know where i can score a 21″ Apple Studio Monitor for cheap?

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The W3C issued a press release today announcing that their current proposed specification for Speech Recognition Grammar has reached Candidate Recommendation status. What does that mean for developers? It means that along with the spec announced today and things like Voice XML, we are getting closer and closer to having a defined standard for developers to allow communication, and interoperability between disparate systems that provide text-to-speech synthesis, voice control, and web based telephony applications. Obviously this is of interest to me because of the work I have been doing. Interested in some other ways to tackle this along with Flash? Read on…There are a couple of other interesting things going on. Microsoft recently made available their Microsoft .NET Speech SDK 1.0 Beta available (which might have some very interesting uses with the recently announced beta of Macromedias Flash Remoting for .NET). Microsoft uses their own Speech API and their own proposed industry specification called SALT (Speech Application Language Tags) This is similar to the system I have implemented. I however, don’t use SALT or Voice XML because they are just too verbose for me and for many applications it is overkill for the developer, which is what my system tries to avoid. It is geared toward the developer who doesn’t want to learn a new standard, you just want to get it to work, and a quick setup of the server to power it, and flexibility in implementation.

In doing my research of other systems out their that deliver text-to-speech via the browser, most if not all require either specialized plugins (typically large downloads) and are usually limited to Internet Explorer, or are even further limited by specialized software or underlying operating system requirements on top of specialized plugins and markup language. This is where my system has the advantage, The only other solution that has interested me besides my own version is IBM’s WebSphere voice server. this is interesting for many reasons. On April 29th, Macromedia announced that ColdFusion MX can be deployed on IBM’s WebSphere Platform. The marriage of the two could yield some pretty cool applications and services. The deal breaker for many of you will come when you find out the cost of IBMs Voice Server: How does $15,000 per processor sound to you? Yikes! they are targeting this at the VOIP and Telephony markets who have the deep pockets, not the average web developer or company looking for ways to comply with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). To be fair, IBM’s version has support for many languages and does have a free SDK but you will still need the pricey server. They also have a pretty good demo online. Their demo relies on a JAVA applet that loads into your browser and connects back to their Voice Server. Their response time is a bit better than mine, but if my solution was running on the unlimited bandwidth and power of an arsenal of IBM heavy iron, and at the low sampling rate of only 8Khz, I guarantee it would be just as fast. πŸ™‚

Even with all their eggheads with doctorate degrees, patents galore, and celebrated genius scientists, it looks like IBM still managed to overlook a wide open directory on their TTS demo server. OOPS! Hope they don’t mind that anyone on earth can see what folks have been typing into their demo. From a look at that log file, folks just can’t seem to get enough synthesized dirty talk in their lives. Sorry, couldn’t resist that. πŸ™‚

I do like IBM’s approach to using JAVA on the client end. It would be interesting to see a comparison chart showing all the various devices and machines that can support the required JAVA applet as compared to all the devices and browsers that can support my Flash based solution. Thats something I might spend the time to create in the near future. To sum up I think there is room for all three systems (and others). I believe the system I have implemented can fill a specific need or niche in between those, let me know if you think it could fill your need. In the next week or so I am going to put up a full blown interactive demo of the features that my system incorporates and supports. Stay tuned…more to come. – Rob

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Another very cool RSS aggregator has been released. This one courtesy of Nicholas S.-Roy. Nicholas has added some cool features to his viewer which are definitely worth taking a look. He also has plans on releasing the finalized source .fla files. On the same topic, Phillip Chung has recently updated his RSS aggregator with a handy feature of truncating extra long entires at a user specified length and also limit the number of entries show from each feed. [Via Jarle Dahl Bergersen]

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As mentioned previously here and elsewhere, Eric Dolecki has put together an extremely useful Flash based mobile event guide for FlashForward 2002 New York this July 10-12th. He has made some more improvements and tweaks to it, and Macromedia awarded him the Site of The Day for his work on this very cool application. Way to go Eric! Macromedia is really taking the mobile device area very seriously as part of their current strategy. Eric and his app were also mentioned in a press release by Macromedia on June 19th discussing the momentum the Flash MX is gaining. This year keeps shaping up to be more and more interesting. Its also worth mentioning that you should take a look at Bill Perry’s Pocket PC site Bill was one of the first folks to really explore the mobile event guide format for the Pocket PC with Flash. Bill maintains many many examples of what you can do with Flash on a Pocket PC and his site is an excellent resource for those of you looking to get your feet wet in this area.

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Speak My Blog Entries

Posted on June 19, 2002 by:
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I wanted to show off how the dynamic text to speech solution that I have been working on can also enhance html pages and provide extended accessibility via Flash. The result is that I am currently testing something I built today to allow all the entries on this main page of my blog to be read aloud via this system. You’ll now notice the “Speak” button and icon. Its Flash, click it and it will take a second (Be patient, I am adding the preloader tonight) to hit my server, process your request, dynamically synthesize, generate, deliver and read back to you the blog entry which you clicked. All it requires on your end is the Flash plugin for your browser , no screen reader or special software required. Pretty sweet huh? I am currently limiting the amount of characters that will be processed for each entry to about 1000 characters and then I tack on a “Truncated” message since its just to show off, and also to keep the server from melting. We will see how long it can hold up. More to come on this soon….In the meantime, email me and tell me what you think about this or just post a comment.

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So, if anyone out there has a method for harnessing, manipulating and possibly attaching a carrier component to a negative mass tachyon field, I would like to speak with you immediately as I am serious need of a wayback machine. Not to recover lost files or a hard drive, but rather I would like to get back every minute of my life that I did not use judiciously enough at the time, because I need every single one of them right now! I have had overwhelming feedback from visitors to this site and many of the readers of the books I was recently involved in (Flash Enabled and Flash MX Magic) Also from the participation I have been making lately with the Flash community, and projects I have been attempting to get off the ground, thus I am currently buried under a mountain of email and work.This is a great thing! So this is just a heads up that there might be a slight delay for me to get back to everyone who has contacted me recently. Keep the feedback and requests coming, just know that I am behind a bit on things as well as the number of updates to this blog, so bear with me. I’ll be putting up a summary of recent events and news later this evening, till then make sure to check out the links on my site to get your news and update fixes. Thanks for all your feedback and support!

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Philip Chung has added some very cool new features to his Flash based RSS Feed Aggregator. Now with version 1.5, you an add your own favorite custom feeds (that comply to the RSS 0.91 or 0.92 spec) which are remembered and stored with sharedObjects, there are more defaut Flash blog feeds, and some improvements to the very cool scrollbar implementation he has put in place. There is also an info item now showing recent changes, features, etc. Take a look, as its sure to be a great starting point to get your daily fix of news. Great job Phillip.

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