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Archive for April, 2007

Flex Quickstart Guide for PHP Developers

I just came across another great write-up on Adobe.com: Flex Quickstart Guide for PHP Developers. I've been using PHP for probably four or so years now, and this article really helped to drive some key points home about Flex. It shows you PHP and MXML/AS3 code side-by-side to clearly demonstrate key web application needs such as submitting a form with GET and POST, uploading a file to PHP, and populating a Flex DataGrid with XML produced from PHP.

It is nice to see Adobe tailoring to the web development group with Flex, and not just the enterprise Java and C/C# developers. Check out the article here.

Treo 700w, Bluetooth, Mac OS X, and BMW iDrive

Ever since I got my MacBook Pro I have been trying to find a way to connect my Treo 700w Windows Mobile phone to OS X for a mobile internet connection while on the road. Verizon has amazingly fast EVDO service for my phone, and I wanted to take advantage of tethering it to my laptop. Syncing data (contacts, etc) on Windows Mobile phones in OS X is possible through 3rd party software, but until today I hadn't been able to figure out how to use my 700w as a modem in OS X. I searched Google for over an hour when I first got the MacBook, but was unable to find a workable solution. This past weekend I was finally able to see success and I thought I would share for everyone else out there trying to use their Windows Mobile phone as a modem in OS X.

I actually found the solution more or less by accident. The lease was up on my car, so I turned it in and decided to get a BMW with their iDrive system. Windows Mobile phones with Bluetooth will connect to the system for hands-free calling, but you can't browse the phone book, recent callers list, etc, out of the box. After some Google hunting I was able to find a blog post by Jason Langridge about Bluetooth car support for Windows Mobile devices. In his post he points readers to an add-on from JETware Mobile Software that opens up a lot of additional Bluetooth functionality on Windows Mobile phones, allowing systems like BMW's iDrive to access additional features on your phone. Installation was extremely simple, and it is only $15 to boot, with a free 30-day trial.

My phone now connected perfectly to the iDrive system, allowing me to scroll through and dial from my phone book, view recent callers, view my current reception level, and more. This got me to thinking -- if I now had more open Bluetooth on my phone, maybe my MacBook Pro could now play nice with my Treo 700w (or, more likely, the other way around). I set my phone next to my MacBook and it connected without a hitch.

When you are pairing your phone to your MacBook, OS X will ask you for a username, password, phone number, and modem type. It is crucial that you leave the username and password blank, and enter "#777" for the phone number (without the quotes). For the modem type, select "Verzion compatible" from the list. At this point you should be able to connect and use your phone as a modem.

I should note that in addition to the JETware Bluetooth add-ons and pairing the 700w with my MacBook Pro, I had already installed PDAnet's software which allows you to use your Treo 700w as a modem on Windows computers. This installs and runs on both your Windows computer and your phone, and the software it installs on your phone could be an integral part to the equation for Mac OS X. If the first two steps above do not allow you to connect, I suggest trying to install PDAnet as well.

Hope this helps others to avoid the frustration I have had for the past six months or so. Enjoy!

[Update 07/07/2007: Verizon has released a software update that seems to include lots of extra bluetooth functionality. I would suggest installing the free update and testing the new bluetooth capabilities with your iDrive before installing the JETware add-ons. Can anyone else verify if this works in the comments, please?]

“Did You Know” Presentation Sequel at XPLANE

At XPLANE one of the projects we're currently working on is a new version of the popular "Did You Know" video from Karl Fisch (read Karl's post on the upcoming sequel) and Scott McLeod (...and Scott's post on the sequel). If you haven't heard about this video, the gist is that it provides you with some extremely provoking thoughts on the world economy, education, and general globalization. The original has been viewed over 2 million times on various video postings around the web, including YouTube.

We're taking what was a PowerPoint presentation (turned video), updating the content with new stats and thoughts as provided by Karl and Scott with some consulting help from us, and then redoing the graphics/design. Instead of limiting ourselves with PowerPoint we're designing in Illustrator, animating in Flash, then exporting to QuickTime. That said, I'm excited to have a project that will allow me to try out several parts of the new CS3 workflow so quickly.

I believe the original video has been accepted to a film festival in Telluride, Colorado, and the organizers will be taking a look at the new one once completed and possibly presenting it. So keep your eyes peeled to Karl and Scott's blog, YouTube, and of course here for more information as we wrap up this sequel.

This is an exciting project, and I'm glad to be a part of it!

Is There a Definition of Web 2.0?

A while back when Dave Gray, the founder of XPLANE, was in town he asked me how I would define Web 2.0. I suppose I hadn't thought about it before then, or I should say haven't tried to distill it down to something simple. I have seen and heard hundreds of definitions for Web 2.0 over the past year or so, and my response was to start spewing those definitions in hopes of tying them together for a conclusion. Obviously, that didn't go so well.

So, after some thought, I've decided on the following as my personal definition:

"Web 2.0" describes sites like Digg and YouTube, where the audience itself provides material for the Web site.

But, what does the rest of the internet community use as their collective definitions? Tim O'Reilly has claimed in the past that he coined the phrase "Web 2.0" - if you can coin something this generic. Here is Tim's definition, which takes five pages to distill. Five pages? Too long-winded. Give me the elevator pitch (at least let us at XPLANE distill is for you). Maybe his second approach is a little better:

"Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I've elsewhere called "harnessing collective intelligence.")"

Based on that definition, maybe the fact is that "Web 2.0", as I stated above, is inherently generic and broad. I wonder if the term "Web 3.0" will come to have a consensus definition. But, until then, what do you think Web 2.0 means? And what do you think Web 3.0 will come to mean?

Link Round-Up: Adobe’s Treasure Trove of CS3 Information

I have been spending a lot of time on Adobe's website going through their treasure trove of tutorials, videos, and white papers on CS3 while I impatiently await shipping of my Web Premium CDs (I knew I should have gone with the download edition!).

In particular, Adobe has put a lot of effort into a short, topical video training series, and then put the videos out there free for all of us. In the past I always found the articles on their website lacking relevance or just plain outdated. These short videos are about one particular topic and there are almost 300 of them, so chances are that the feature you want more details on is covered. It is also worth noting that Lynda.com produced the videos. Thanks, Adobe - you hit a home run with this one.

When I was at Via I ended up taking on the role of "early adopter", which usually resulted in me being the knowledge holder for the likes of Studio/Flash 8 and other new software at the time. I've tried to continue in that role at XPLANE as much as time allows. That said, a lot of friends and colleagues have been asking me about CS3, knowing that I actively pursued becoming a beta tester and placed my order the day it was released. So I've compiled a list of the CS3 (mostly Flash-oriented) articles and videos I have been reading and viewing over the past few weeks:

+ Article: Migrating from Flash 8 to Flash CS3 Professional, by Jen deHaan
This is a great writeup giving you an overview of the major new features in Flash CS3. It is written for those who use Flash on a day-to-day basis, so the write-up is a bit long (8 pages), but you'll enjoy the details of each new feature followed by a short how-to.

+ Video: Importing Illustrator Files into Flash, by Mordy Golding
Mordy has his own great video podcast, so he knows what he is doing when it comes to a short training video.

+ Video: Using Symbols Effectively Between Illustrator and Flash, by Matthew Richmond
With about 90% of the design files coming to me at XPLANE as Illustrator files, finding the best workflow between Illustrator and Flash is essential. Learning about symbols and when to use them in Illustrator should help to reduce the amount of time I spend converting graphics for use in Flash.

+ Video: Exporting QuickTime Files (from Flash), by Abbas Rizvi
At XPLANE one of the projects we're currently working on is a new version of the wildly popular "Did You Know" video from Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod. In addition to updating the content and graphics, we're taking what was a PowerPoint presentation and turning it into a video. With CS3 the designers can hand me Illustrator files (which I can now import flawlessly) and then I can work my animation magic (on the timeline or through code) and output to QuickTime with ease, without any nasty Flash 5 workarounds.

+ Video: Understanding the Fireworks and Flash Workflow, by Alan Musselman
Fireworks is now a great design comp tool complete with multiple "pages" and a shared component set with Flash and Flex. This video shows you how to take the best advantage of the more integrated apps.

+ Video: Copying and Pasting ActionScript from an Animation, by Chris Georgenes
Now a designer can animate on the timeline and developers can copy it to and for use in ActionScript 3 code!

+ Adobe Flash Design Center
Don't forget this page with links to some additional helpful tutorials, articles and launching points to additional materials.

Like I noted above, there are almost 300 videos in the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Video Workshop, so I suggest you dive in and find the ones most relevant to your daily work flow. The interface makes it a breeze to sort and find the videos that best suit each user, and taking advantage of the tool nets some interesting topics that you might not have known about.

I'm interested to hear what your favorites are as well - I'm sure I am missing some good ones with all the choices - so comment on what you've found!

Wondering Where the Adobe CS3 Trials Are?

...me too. I was surprised to see that Adobe hadn't posted the trial versions of the newly-released CS3 applications yesterday -- the day they announced shipping. With previous versions (CS, CS2, Studio 8, etc) the CD that came in the box was basically the 30-day trial version, and the serial/activation number lifted the 30-day restriction.

Yesterday John Nack posted about CS3 shipping and made a mention to the trials being available "shortly", so I posted a comment asking John for clarification about when they might be posted and he was kind enough to respond:

- - -

Heya John, could you please define "shortly" in terms of the release of the CS3 trial downloads? After looking on Adobe's site, all I could find was a blurb saying: "We expect trial versions of each of the Adobe Creative Suite 3 editions and component products to be available within six to eights weeks of the product’s shipping." I'm hoping I'm missing something, as I'd love to start using trial editions while I wait for my boxed copy to arrive.

[I'm with you, Jon. I'm beating a drum about this right now. At worst it'll take another three weeks, but I'm trying to make it happen sooner. --J.]

- - -

I'm a bit surprised that Adobe wouldn't just go ahead and post the downloads if they are indeed available. Can anyone answer if there are some legal or other reasons for waiting 6-8 (or even 3) weeks to post? I imagine this will have an even larger effect once the beta of Photoshop CS3 deactivates itself.

[Update - John Dowdell has posted a bit about this as well on his blog.]

[Update #2 - They are now available for download!]

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