Archive for January, 2007

I just finished playing with very cool VoIP application that uses Flash/Flex to allow you make calls to any phone right from within your browser: GizmoCall. The app appears to be built on the Flex framework, requires Flash 9 for the interface and audio in and out. You dial, speak and talk right through the application. You get five minutes a day of free calls to any phone line, along with unlimited free calls to users Google Talk, Windows Live, Gizmo Project and any other SIP service. You can also of course register and buy credits for more time for outgoing calls that don’t qualify as free. THey also provide control over your caller-ID (allowing for some mischievousness) I tried it out and called my brother in his cell phone and the quality was great. It was really quite impressive the quality on both ends. I was using a pretty decent noise cancelling headset, a Plantronics .Audio 550 DSP so that certainly helped.

The application is pretty slick in that it does require (at least on the Mac OS X side of things – haven’t tried it on Windows yet) a small Preference Pane plugin that handles part of the communications with Flash and the connections. It appears that the Preference pane app becomes a local server on your machine listening on port 61280 by default, and in turn the Flex app uses the new binary socket capabilities to communicate to the local proxy of sorts and transfer data for calls between the local Flex/Flash app in your browser. I haven’t investigated it too deep yet, but I am guessing that they are using the local server/proxy app as a sort of local FMS server to handle the audio coming from the microphone through Flash and back out. I’m going to have to do a little sniffing and see how its all working a bit more because its a really interesting approach they have taken. I have a fairly decent 16MB down/4MB up connection, but even so, there was no latency/lag at all in the calls I made this evening.

I’ve used IM for voice chats, Breeze/Acrobat, Skype and other VoIP solutions, but this one seems really interesting. I guess for me its because of the tie in with Flex/Flash and the innovative way in which they have utilized the technology to tie it all together. To me this seems like a perfect fit for an Apollo application down the road instead of a Flash/Flex and custom local app, just do it all in Apollo. Hopefully Apollo will be able to support some more advanced local OS integration to accomplish applications like this.

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Adobe has made available a great new application for delivering realtime audio and video through the Flash Media Server –the Flash Media Encoder and it is available now in beta form from It supports the On2 VP6 CODEC for high quality video streams of live audio/video events. Best of all its targeted to be free for those with valid FMS licenses.

I’ve been working on a lot of Flash Media Server applications recently, and undertaking a new big project next week and this application holds a great deal of potential for what I’ll be doing.

Once again I find it really refreshing that Adobe is pushing out products through the labs site – its a great way to get a chance to see what is coming and plan around it. I feel that in particular sharing previews/betas of server based applications and solutions that require more commitment and architectural backend issues from Adobe’s customers, is important to ensure buy in, adoption and critical feedback to make sure things are 100% solid when shipped. Kudos Adobe!

Adobe also released an update for FMS as well taking it to version 2.0.4. Release notes are available here.

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I’m watching notes from Steve Jobs Macworld keynote right now via Engadget’s live coverage and the iPhone looks really amazing. He was just showing Safari and browsing the New York Times site right on the iPhone. That’s when I noticed something that disappointed me a bit – it doesn’t appear that the iPhone supports Flash content in the browser (at least not yet, and I could be wrong) but look at this image. I’ve highlighted the area in question. The image on the left shows a photo of Jobs browsing the New York Times in Safari on the iPhone. The one on the right is an image I just snapped of the New York Times site. In red I have circled the area where there are two Flash based widgets for MP3 and Video on the site and the area with a broken plugin image on the iPhone version….ughh! Well, nothing is official yet and Im sure support for Flash could be added in. Regardless, I’m ordering one the minute they are available. Looks like it won’t be available until June.

UPDATE: 01/14/07
Wow lots of comments on this post! Jobs and Apple really know how to whip up the hype machine! David Pogue Mac Guy Extraordinaire and writer for the New York Times posted up his Ultimate iPhone FAQs List, Part 2. In it he relays the conversation that he and John Markoff had with Steve Jobs during some hands on time with the iPhone. From reading it, and a couple other recent quotes where Jobs seems to purport highly hypothetical situations and respond to questions with answers filled with FUD and seemingly uninformed responses. See for yourself in the FAQ David put together in regards to Flash/JAVA and YouTube, to quote from it:

Markoff: “What about all those plugins that live within Safari now, like Flash or like Java or like JavaScript?”

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Anyone who purchased a LEGO Mindstorms NXT Kit earlier this year may have been disappointed when they got it home and opened the box up. One of the advertised features right on the outside of the box was support for controlling it over Bluetooth from your mobile phone. Well in reality, it wasn’t ready until very recently, and instead there was a note to keep checking a special page about Bluetooth information on the LEGO Mindstorms NXT site.

I got my kit back in late August, and this was also a disappointment to me, although to LEGO’s credit, they did offer (and continue to updated) some great SDK’s and other resources/kits to developers who wanted to go ahead and try to implement their own solutions. They have really embraced the community and other manufacturers allowing them to make extra sensors, language editors, etc. I have been doing experiments with the Mindstorms NXT kits integrating them with Flash and other electronics for a while now, and over the holidays I happened to check the status on the app, and lo and behold they finally pushed it out and made it available for download here. Its a Java app and and they currently list the following phones as compatible:

  • Nokia: 6680, 3230
  • Sony Ericson: W800i, W550i, K610i, K800i, K750i, Z710i, Z550i, K510i
  • BenQ-Siemens: CX75, X75

It might actually be compatible with a lot more phones, those are just the ones they have certified. I can say that it does in fact work on the Nokia 6680 as well as my Nokia N70, so it may work on other Series 60 pack 3 phones from Nokia.

The app allows you to control the three motors, trigger custom applications you have uploaded to your NXT and even have the NXT trigger photo snaps on your phone (unfortunately it doesn’t look like like my 6680 or N70 support that last feature just yet). You can also retrieve information that the various sensors are capturing and see that right on your phone as well, great for doing some remote readings. You can also control more than one NXT since they can communicate with one another, although I only have one NXT kit, so I wasn’t able to test that. Since its a Bluetooth connection you set up a connection and pair your devices one time, and from then on it will remember your NXT. Overall a very cool app, and really handy to be able to control your NXT right from your phone. I am currently looking into a way that I might be able to write a bridge app that could allow a Flash Lite app to interface with the LEGO app to allow me to do even more advanced scripting of the NXT via ActionScript to trigger more advanced sequences. I have already worked out a couple ways to interface the NXT sensors with Flash via a couple different electronics kits.

My only complaint is that they included a startup screen on the app that blasts a really loud intro sound that lasts for almost 10 seconds. There is no way to turn this off in preferences, or skip it, so everytime you launch the app you have to be prepared to deal with that. Quite annoying. The company responsible for developing the mobile app NearCell has a Flash site up, but the option to view it in English doesn’t appear to be functional, but I’ve managed to determine that their main business is some sort of Bluetooth based marketing application. I’m going to try and contact them and see if they could add in a preference to turn off or disable the startup sound.

I’ve also used it to entertain my 7 month old son Owen by controlling a little robot I built to run around him and play sounds, etc. Will post some videos of it in action soon.

So if you have a Mindstorms NXT that you bought earlier this year and a Bluetooth capable phone, check out the new NXT Mobile Application its sure to add some fun to your experiments and robot building.

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Ted Patrick has a great write up here. This is what a lot of us MAC OS X folks have been eagerly anticipating for some time. In addition to support for Flex on Mac OS X, there are a lot of other great improvements (including support for Apollo down the road), which again Ted has some more detailed information on. I just downloaded and installed the trial without a hitch, now I just need to find out if I can use my Windows license on my Mac somehow. According to item #23 on the Flex FAQ – “If I buy Flex Builder for Windows, can I transfer that license to Mac OS when it ships? Final plans are not yet in place; however, Adobe will work to put a simple program in place that meets the needs of our Macintosh developer base.” So I’m hoping we will get some more information on this issue soon. One more reason to become a switcher if you haven’t already.

UPDATE: 01/05/07 5:15pm EST
The FAQ for Flex has been updated to include information about 2.0.1 – the best part is item #39 which now states:

“If I am currently running Flex Builder 2 for Windows, can I trade-in my Windows product for the new Macintosh 2.0.1 product?

Yes. Customers who purchased the English language product via Adobe’s Volume licensing program should email Please include the following information in your email: AOO Order#; Order Quantity; Organization name; End user and/or Ship to user ID #. Please allow up to 5 business days for a response that will include your updated serial number for Mac platform.

Customers who purchased via the Adobe Store, please call Adobe Customer service and request a trade-in at the appropriate phone number for your region at: Customer Service will provide the download URL and a new Macintosh serial number to activate the product.”

Fantastic! Thanks Adobe for making it easy for us Mac users!

I was on hold for just under an hour when I called, and what I had to do was provide my existing serial #’s and they gave me a Case Id #, and then I had to fill out a Letter of Software Destruction for a Cross Platform/Cross Language upgrade with the Cased ID # and other details and email that back to them. You don’t get serial #’s right away, you actually have to pay for shipping of a whole new copy that they will send out once the form has been processed. Shipping was no big deal at $6.36 – I’m fine with that, plus I get the physical media and manual to boot. Not a bad deal at all, and I’ll just continue to use the trial until I get the full product. So if you do plan to switch from Windows to Mac, go ahead and grab that form, have your credit card ready, and be prepared to be on hold for a little bit. Honestly not to bad a process, I know there have been a lot of applications over the years that I wanted to exchange licenses for a different OS, etc. and I can’t remember any time I actually was allowed to do it, so kudos to Adobe for allowing us to do so.

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