Archive for February, 2006

I have been a long time subscriber and reader of Juxtapoz Magazine, as well as a really big fan of David Lynch and all of his films. I got a treat when the mail came yesterday with the March issue of Juxtapoz. On page 37, there is a great interview with Lynch on the topic of “Dumbland” an eight-epiosde DVD of cartoons Lynch created with Flash. There are some great quotes from Lynch about his self taught usage of Flash, “I didn’t know anything about Flash. I’d just recently gotten going on a computer, so it was pretty strange. When you see Dumbland, you can see how I learned as I went along, and there’s a real progression in sophistication from the first to the last episodes. I love Flash animation.” Another cool quote, “Getting the tweening down was really difficult too. Tweening is the process of taking a single frame and using Flash to move it along automatically in the sequence.” I love the fact that one of my favorite filmmakers and artists is sitting somewhere teaching himself Flash. Someone needs to send the man a copy of Flash 8 Professional with the better control over tweening, or maybe even give him a lesson or two on ActionScript based tweens. I hadn’t been to his site in sometime, but its dominated by Flash content now. I stop by every once in a while to watch and listen to his daily weather report, yes he does daily weather reports for LA, and they are great, turse, laconic, bereft of extraneous details, just the real meat of the weather. I was dissapointed though to find out I can’t watch “Dumbland” without subscribing to the member portion of his site, I really want to see it. I’m just going to have to subscribe or purchase the DVD when its on sale.

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This entry is a two parter. Part 1: User Group Meeting Round Up:
Its been a busy week for user group meetings! Started off Sunday with the first Make:Philly meeting, Monday night Ben Forta came to town for a Flex 2 talk (and we had great attendance with 60 members present beating back San Francisco, and New York and all other stops thus far on Ben’s tour), Tuesday night I had off. Tonight, I wanted to check out the Flash Lite 2.0 seminar that Scott Janousek and Alessandro Pace did tonight for the Adobe Mobile User Group of Boston, but I was in the middle of my own Breeze presentation “Flash on Every Screen” for Brian Meloche and the Cleveland MMUG, which went rather well for my first time trying to shoehorn that presentation into Breeze. Tomorrow night, Thursday, there is an interesting meeting, “Architecting Classes with Flash Lite 2” that James Talbot is presenting for the BFPUG (Boston Flash Platform User Group). Pheww….so many meetings so little time!

I thought a summary of Bens visit was in order:
Our pal Steve Rittler manages PACFUG – Philadelphia Area ColdFusion User Group, did an amazing job getting this last meeting together. The meeting took place at Huntsman Hall – one of Wharton School of Business Buildings (part of the University of Pennsylvania ). It was one of the best venues I have ever been in for a meeting – awesome AV equipment, comfortable stadium style seating with desks and room to spread out a bit. Parking was convenient right across the street or off-street if you could find it, and of course Steve kept us all well fed providing dozens of pizzas and beverages for all the attendees. Headcount at 60 was really great.

Bens presentation was top notch, and I really got a lot out of it. His presentation style is really easy to follow, and he engages the audience right away and encourages interaction and questions from the group. I learned a number of thinks about Flex 2 that I wasn’t quite sure about prior to the meeting. The examples that he walked us through step by step were really well done, and the steps he took through them to explain things made it very easy to follow. They really showed the power of the Flex 2 framework for building the type of applications he put together during his presentation. Compared to the amount of code you would have to write in the Flash IDE to get similar results by hand, there is just no comparison. I think it really drove home the point about Flex being a great choice for certain types of RIA apps and really complimenting traditional Flash IDE development. Im not much of a ColdFusion developer (I’m more of a PHP guy), but the examples Ben showed on how to tie in the datasources, and some new wizards that aren’t quite ready yet, were really compelling and would certainly make me consider taking on ColdFusion for a project if a client required it.

Ben drove home that this was going to be very accessible release for developers with the new price points, and business model surrounding Flex 2, and the fact that the Framework/SDK/Compiler will be free and that individual developer seats are going to be under $1000. I think this got a lot of people excited and perked them up right away. Ben started off his presentation with this information and I don’t think a lot of people had caught this info yet although its been out for a bit now.

Before I forget, the Wharton/Penn team showed off quite a number of very cool things they are doing with ColdFusion/Flex and Flash for the universities portal and internal resources for the campus. I really liked their mobile implementation of info and class schedule/location requests through the use of mobile devices and the ColdFusion SMS event gateway – really cool idea and quite handy for new students during registration and the first few weeks of classes when everyone is running around clueless or overwhelmed.

Overall it was a really great meeting, good turnout and plenty of interest in Flex 2 was generated. If you have a chance to catch one of Bens meetings along his tour – do yourself a favor and don’t miss it!

I have put up some some photos from the event here in case anyone wants to
take a peak:

Thanks to Adobe for sending Ben out to travel around and speak and get the word out about Flex 2, and thanks to Steve for the props to the Philadelphia Flash User Group (soon to be Philadelphia Flash Platform User Group) and other plugs he popped in there for me and other local groups.
Part 2: Flash on Every Screen meets Engage with Flash

My own presentation tonight for the Cleveland MMUG group went pretty well. It was originally designed to be done in person because of all the devices, interactive examples, and natures of the videos and demos I have put together. Not all of them work the best through Breeze as some of the content is difficult to share without mega-bandwidth on both ends. Overall though I compromised by referencing a lot of supplemental content I have online, and just hitting the major points for each piece. I was able to show some of the devices and even demonstrate a laser barcode reader by holding it in front of my webcam while controlling the Flash application (a Creative Commons licensed piece available here). It worked pretty well. It wasn’t as nice as seeing it in person or projected high resolution via an Elmo or similar device, but it gets the point across and is pretty decent. The whole point of my presentation was to expose people who may or may not be familiar with Flash, to all the new exciting opportunities for Flash development in areas other than the web and desktop, from kiosks and mobile devices to interfaces for consumer devices and everday gadgets. I got some great feedback from the group, and have some ideas on how I can really tailor this to be more effective when presented via Breeze. My favorite link this week came from Adobe/Macromedia – Engage with Flash – this short Flash/Video demo/presentation is precisely what my presentation is all about and actually hits on every major piece that was in my presentation. Introducing people to the other type of content and devices that Flash is capable of running on, and complimenting. The videos are really well done, and accurately and quickly convey the message that Flash really is a platform and can be used for more than just the web/desktop. I like to think my presentation back in October at MAX 2005 inspired this 😉 Seriously, it covers the iRiver U10, Flash Lite 2.0, the Jaguar XK Alpine GPS mapping system, the Kodak EasyShare-One WiFI camera, the Leapfrog Leapster, and even a cable box programming guide/menu system like the Orca SUI system I covered in my presentation, with some kickass videos. I’m really pleased to see something like this. It looks like Adobe/Macromedia are finally putting together a more cohesive message about the Flash Platform and providing some cool content and marketing materials behind it to drive home their point and really get the word out. Fantastic keep it up Adobe, I like where you are headed!

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Last night was the first official meeting of Make: Philly. A Philadelphia based group for like minded Makers. Whats a Maker? Visit O’Reillys Make Magazine and take a few minutes to look around and read about it. I highly recommend you dole out the bucks for a subscription – you wont be dissappointed. Our old pal Phillip Torrone is the Associate Editor of Make and along with our other pal Natalie Zee, pump out the voluminous entries for the Make: Blog. (Many of you might know Phil and Natalie from their involvement with the Macromedia/Flash/design community over the years.)

So more about last nights meeting: It was at the Dark Horse Pub just off South Street in Philadelphia – perfect place for a meeting and to grab a beer – we had a private room in the back and it held just the right amount of people who showed up. For a first meeting it had great attendance about 17-18 people in all. (It might have been more, but the meeting had to be postponed a week ago because of the nearly two feet of snow we got hit with last week) Harris Romanoff and David Thorsrud are responsible for coming up with the idea to start a local Make group and organizing the first meeting.

On the agenda was to come up with a plan for how often the group should meet, what types of resources we have and each can contribute and where everyone envisions the group heading. We also talked about the mission statement and everyone also introduced themselves and gave a little bit of their background and interests and current projects. About 25% or more of the attendees have a background in Electrical Engineering, lot of folks with software development background, and quite a few with design and art backgrounds. It was a pretty diverse group and fairly well rounded. We got to see a couple projects that attendees had brought with them, some very cool 3D paper sculptures from CAD designs, and some Rapid Prototyped toys/sculptures, really great stuff. Everyone was there to learn more about what folks are up to in this neck of the woods and to provide peer review on projects and make friends with other who might be able to push them to complete that last 2% on a project that always takes 98% of your time on a project to finish.

There was also talk about a First Friday project that members of the group might collaborate on. We also discussed potential for a group space, and ideas for resource sharing, and information exchange through a website/wiki/forum/maillist, etc. A great deal of ground was covered. Then we got down to some fun stuff:

Harris and David had put together a great idea – a Makers challenge, just like the monthly challenges in Make Magazine, you are given a scenario and a parts list and a challenge. We were given a tupperware container full of random parts and electronics, and 30 minutes to make a musical device that we could play a few bars of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” – the scenario was “Your in a Pub with strangers”. We divided up into groups and went at it. There was a mini breadboard kit and parts and a cheat-sheet schematic for wiring up a 555 timer based wet sponge circuit. I set about trying to wire up the circuit, the other groups with the electrical engineers knocked that one out before I could, for some reason the diagram needed a slight revision and I had to bridge a resistor across a different set of pins, but then it started working (Flash video of circuit in action). Our group also went the manual wrote and used the tupperware container itself to build a cigar-box style guitar. The winning group had a great idea to get more resistance and range out of their circuit by using one of their members own bodies like a giant human potentiometer (Flash video of winning performance). This provided a greater range of resistance than the wet sponge, so they were able to play the tune pretty well in a unique way.

Overall it was an excellent first meeting and a great start for what I hope to be a wonderful group to participate in here in Philadelphia. Very cool to see and meet other like minded creative individuals in the same area. Kudos to Harris and David for getting the ball rolling on the group!

More photos from the meeting that I shot can be found here.

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I am excited to announce that Ben Forta of Adobe (formerly Macromedia) is coming back to Philly again to visit the PACFUG – Philly ColdFusion User Group. Ben will be here on February 20th at 6:00PM to talk the group about Flex 2 for ColdFusion developers. Ben will introduce the new Flex Builder 2 and new ColdFusion Flex integration features. Ben is a great speaker so you definitely don’t want to miss out on this, his last visit to Philly was great and I’m sure this one will be no different, in fact, this one will be very special. Why you ask – well lets just look at some strange coincidences:

  • Ben Fortas initials: BF – they happen to be the same as Benjamin Franklin whose 300th birthday is being celebrated year long in Philadelphia, and Ben Fortas presentation will be at the University of Pennsylvania, the University Benjamin Franklin founded
  • The Four F’s: Forta, Franklin, Fusion, Flex
  • Ben Franklin invented bifocals because of his own poor vision – Ben Forta wears glasses
  • Ben Franklin invented the odometer, Ben Forta literally wears out at least 3 odometers a year traveling around the world to talk about ColdFusion and Flex
  • Ben Franklin, a technologist and writer, founded the first public library in 1731 – 275 years later, Ben Forta, also a technologist and writer, wrote 3 books that can be found in that library

Coincidences? I think not.
So make sure you register for the event at the brand new PACFUG – Philly ColdFusion User Group site so PACFUG manager Steve Rittler can get an accurate head count and can provide the right amount of food and snacks!

Important Info for the event:

I am encouraging all the Philadelphia Flash User Group Members who are interested in Flex 2.0 and AS 3.0 to attend as well.

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I wanted to announce a great new resource for the Philadelphia Area and individuals and businesses involved in creative professional services:
The Philly Creative Guide which launched in early January. I have been meaning to post up an announcement for some time now, but as you might have seen from my previous post I have been a bit busy. (Disclosure: I am on the advisory board for this site.)

So without further ado, a little snippet of info for you taken directly from the Philly Creative Guide “About” page: “The Philly Creative Guide is the region’s most complete directory of creative professionals, firms and resources. Its purpose is simple: To help foster relationships within one of the most vibrant creative communities in America.
The Philly Creative Guide is for everyone whose livelihood is centered in the creative arts including individuals, firms and organizations. It’s the place to turn to when you want to find or be found.” Its a great place to find other creative professionals, indiviudals and companies alike, and a perfect place to list info about yourself and get your info out their to right people in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas.

As of a bit earlier today there is also an article I wrote as a guest columnist about my experiences moving to Philadelphia, and what an impact the local User Group organizations and Flash community have had on my life – take a look here to check it out. There is also a great article by Zave Smith a fantastic local photographer about passion for what one pursues in life and work, and an equally compelling article by Christopher Ovdyenko, the current President of the Art Directors Guild of Philadelphia on the topic of organic networking – both articles are in the archive section of the site. Take a peek at the site and see what you think.

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It has been several months since I last posted an entry to this blog, I have been incredibly busy to say the least. Here is a short bullet-point list of some things I have been up to:

  • Ramping up my contracting and consulting work, which fortunately has been going like gangbusters
  • Preparing for the arrival of my first child due May 17th, 2006 (Very excited about this!)
  • After looking for over a year my wife and I found a house we fell in love with, and we close on March 3rd – woot!
  • Playing with Flex 2 and Flash Lite 2, and loving Adobe Labs (Formerly Macromedia)
  • Working on a new version of this site, and a major overhaul to the Philadelphia Flash MMUG site – both to launch Q1 2006
  • Presenting to various User Groups about Flash as a Platform
  • Writing some small articles and working on some projects for IFBIN
  • Spending more time with my wife and preparing to become a father

There has been a ton of other things going on as well, but those are some of the biggies. I have really enjoyed the last few months working with several of my new clients. Being able to set my own schedules and priorities is a great perk. The challenge of feeling out the areas and types of projects that I am best at, and working on the areas where I have weaknesses is challenging but definitely rewarding . If there is anything I can say to sum up working for myself full-time is that I wish I had done it several years ago. If there is any advice I can give to anyone on the fence about doing work on their own – go for it! it is so much more rewarding. Its not all a piece of cake, running your own business means a lot of paperwork, forms, taxes, etc. but at the end of the day you are doing it for yourself and no one else. It is a great motivator and much more rewarding when jobs get completed and clients are happy. I really enjoy getting to work with some of my friends as well. With my more flexible schedule I have a lot more time to spend with my wife as well, which is number one important to me especially with a baby on the way.

Our new house is awesome, I can’t wait to move in. We finally found one we just love and right on time to be settled for at least a month before the baby arrives. We couldn’t have timed things better if we tried. I’ll post some pictures up of the house once we move in. I’ll be attempting to take a bit of a break the next few weeks as my wife and I pack up all our stuff for the move. As a result it might take me a bit longer to get back to anyone who emails me after the 24th of this month when we are down to the last few days of packing before we close and begin moving. I’ll try to put up a few interesting posts over the next few weeks i have been saving up the last several months, but expect some more down time as we close on the house and make final preparations for the baby over the next month or two. Wish us luck!

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