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Archive for November, 2008

Portfolio: Leanne Marshall

Project:

Leanne Marshall website

URL:

http://www.leannemarshall.com

Synopsis:

Leanne is a fashion designer who recently won season five of Project Runway - a reality competition show on the television network Bravo.

Before the show had ended and Leanne knew she had won, I was approached to help build her a new website to display her collections. I immediately asked my friends over at Transport if they would help out by designing the site.

Working with the extremely talented team at Transport, we designed and built this site in about five weeks. As Transport notes, Leanne needed something up quick, but she also needed it to last more than a season. The design works as any portfolio should: by putting the artist's work up-front and center. When a visitor comes to the site they are immediately presented with two large, randomly chosen photos from Leanne's various collections.

The entire site is controlled via a simple CMS system, based on XML files, which Leanne can edit whenever necessary. This allows her to update images, add collections, add stores and modify her bio without needing to know any technical details. For even more customization, Leanne can even control the pop color that is associated with each collection.

The site was built using the Gaia Framework for Flash, in ActionScript 3 and PHP.

You can view a video recap of the final runway show, held at Bryant Park during NYC's fashion week, which includes Leanne's winning collection here. Leanne has also recently been featured in magazines such as Dwell, and I'm glad to have been a part of her start to a successful career in fashion design.

Adobe’s CS4 Free Gift of Layers Magazine a Bust

When you purchase any of the Adobe CS4 suites and register the product, Adobe gives you a free gift. Incentive to register, I suppose. They had done this in prior versions (I believe starting with CS3-I could be wrong), but they offered fewer options last time around and I ended up choosing a free Adobe font set.

Over the past year I had decided one can indeed have too many fonts, so when prompted to choose my free gift after installing and registering CS4 Master Collection, I chose the two free copies of Layers magazine. What a great opportunity to get some professional introduction to the new tools and features in CS4, right?

Wrong. And really, there are three problems compounded here.

First, the Layers issues which I was emailed (see problem number two) were for July/August (four months old) and September/October (two months old).  Why give away two issues of a magazine so old that they can't contain any CS4 information? How does this benefit users for the new software they just paid well over $2,000 to purchase? I understand some people might get upset that they didn't get their free gift right away and they have to wait up to two months for the next issue to be released, but they did choose a magazine. And I'd say it is fair to assume that people know they will be waiting for the latest issue to arrive if they choose to order a magazine. Either way, it took Layers (or Adobe) about 3 weeks to even send me an email to "pick up" my digital copies... which were up to four months old. This leads me to my second point.

Second, I received an email from Layers and Adobe saying that my two free issues of Layers were "now available" and I should "pick up the Jul-Aug-08 issue now". Reading through the email it is more trying to get me to subscribe to a fairly expensive magazine (even with the 60% discount) then anything else, but clicking on the pick up link takes you to a third-party digital delivery provider. When I got to the site I was fairly annoyed. If I chose to get a magazine as my free gift, why am I being provided a digital copy? I suppose I missed something when choosing my gift that notified me it would be a digital "download"? Even saying it is a "download" is incorrect, because as far as I can tell you can only view it online and when connected to the internet, without resorting to some hackery anyways.

Third, once I did "download" my digital copies, I was even more surprised to find that they contained no CS4 content, but rather all old CS3 content. So much for that introduction to the new tools and features in CS4 I was hoping for. A table of contents from the 'latest' issue is at the right.

All in all, I probably would have been better off taking the free fonts. Don't make the same mistake I did.

MAX 2008 Sneak Peek: ActionScript 3 as a Server-Side Language

While I wasn't able to make it to MAX this year, I did follow Serge Jespers and Andrew Shorten's live blogging of the keynotes and the sneak peek session. Lots of amazing sneaks revealed tonight, but by far the best announcement for developers (in my opinion) was ActionScript 3 as a server-side language. I had actually blogged about how I wish this would be released back in July, 2007.

What does this mean for developers?

From what I read in the live blog, it allows you to write ActionScript 3 which runs on the server by defining a .sas file containing your AS3 code. In the same file you can also define code to run both on the server and in the client by setting a runat variable: runat="client" for client side code and runat="server" for server-side code.

As you can see in the photo above, pulled from the live blog feed, you can run ActionScript code on the server from within your normal client-side application code. If you can't quite make it out, the photo is showing MXML in Flex Builder.

And in this photo you can see how ActionScript can be embedded within HTML, just like PHP, etc. Notice how both client and server-side code allow calls directly to databases with an executeQuery() function, passing in an SQL statement.

I'm eager to hear more about this, but from what I can gather, unfortunately not much else was mentioned at the sneak peek session. Nothing on Adobe Labs yet, either. As more details become available, I will certainly be sure to blog about them.

Update: Looks like it is coming with the next release of ColdFusion server, codenamed Centaur, which makes a lot of sense. Some additional details can be found over at this blog post.

FDT Tip: Turning Off Error Notices for External Classes

I've been using FDT for quite some time now, and I keep having a recurring issue when using external, third-party, open source classes/libraries: if the code is not strictly data typed and/or contains some other small issue FDT's parser doesn't like, the folder containing the classes shows up with a red 'x' symbolizing there is an error.

This is annoying for several reasons, the biggest being that if your custom classes are in the same folder you cannot determine at a glance if your code is error free.

I had blogged about this exact issue when using BulkLoader a while back, and in that case I had resorted to altering the code so the errors would go away. However, I typically do not like to go in and alter code for open source projects which I know work perfectly well because updating them later becomes a crap-shoot at best -- you no longer have the option of just simply copying over the old classes with the new version.

However, I recently had someone comment on my post about BulkLoader issues in FDT with a much better solution.

First, setup a new folder in your FDT project for all your external classes/libraries. For instance, call it "external" or "classes" and put libraries such as BulkLoader in that folder.

Next, open the properties panel for your FDT project as shown in the following screenshot:

Once in the properties panel, select "FDT Build Path" from the left-hand menu and then select the newly created project source folder ("external" or "classes") and un-check the check box next to "Generate Problems/Tasks".

Hopefully this will help others out who also like to maintain an overly clean FDT project setup. :)

I am thinking about posting a series of small FDT tips including how to get it setup for use with Flash CS4, so if you'd like to see them please comment or send me an email at info -at- jonnymac -dot- com.

Lastly, to avoid any confusion I should note that Arthur Debert, the creator of BulkLoader, did make the necessary change to the project's code after my post on the subject so BulkLoader no longer throws errors in FDT. Made for a good example, though, since I had blogged about it at one point!

Tracking Flash with Google Analytics ActionScript 3 API

Yesterday Google made a significant announcement which seems to have gotten overshadowed by all the MAX Conference goodness: the Google Analytics team has released an ActionScript 3 API for tracking user events within Flash.

Yes, you could track events prior to this announcement by manually calling the JavaScript function embedded within the HTML page via ExternalInterface and passing it a unique identifier, but now you have two new options: either use the simple Flash or Flex component, or use the Flash or Flex AS3 tracking library. It should be noted that all four of these methods are being released as open source under the Apache 2 License.

Also, it looks like Rostislav will be looking at including this new GA library in his SWFAddress project (which already has support for tracking page views via the method I mentioned above).

The project is being hosted on Google Code where you can download the source and find documentation.

Flash on the Beach ’09 Miami Tickets Now on Sale

If you haven't been to a Flash on the Beach conference yet because you had a hard time justifying the cost of travel to Brighton, your chance to experience the best Flash-centric conference has arrived stateside! Tickets for FOTB Miami to be held April 6th-8th, 2009 are now on sale. And, the first 199 people to buy tickets will get them at the unbelievable price of $299.

On that note, I've been adding up some numbers for my annual conference pricing comparison post - so check back soon for all the details on which conference is the best deal of 2009.

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