Maybe this time for good


I was lying in bed doing something on my MacBook Pro when up popped a message indicating that there was an update to the Flash player. Say what? I thought that I had deleted that thing a long time ago. After all, the world has moved on and Flash was finally going to go away.

Adobe lays Flash to rest

The message to update this time around was just a big different. It indicated that this would be the last ever update and there actually was a button that would allow me to delete it from my computer. So, apparently, there still was an instance of Flash on the computer and it flagged itself as being eligible for the update. I did the uninstall again. For the last time?

I tried to think of when and how I had installed it. Those that know me know that I’m a harness racing fan and the Flash video player was a popular option for race tracks to broadcast live and playback races. I checked with a track that is winter racing a couple of hours from here and, yes, it was still providing its playback through the player. In a weak moment, I must have agreed to install the player just to see the races, I guess. That seemed a little bizarre since other tracks have moved to their own broadcast media or play directly through YouTube.

The writing on the wall for the player seemed pretty clear when it was announced that it wouldn’t and would never run on an iPad. I seem to remember that the rationale was that it would run the battery down so quickly and take up all kinds of resources just to run. People searched for alternatives, particularly for broadcasting over the web, and HTML5 made that possible.

I’ve had a long history with the program from Shockwave Flash to Macromedia Flash to Adobe Flash. It, quite honestly, has been one of the more annoying pieces of software. Since interactive and media elements were easy to develop in Flash, it seemed to be everywhere in the beginning. Every time you’d install an application it seemed, you were either asked to install Flash or it would just be done anyway. And then, of course, when you’d use it, you’d be asked to upgrade to get the latest and most bug-free version.

If I only had a dollar for every time I was asked to upgrade.

Building images for school computers required getting your head around this. In the beginning, the IT folks didn’t want to even install it. Then, it was always a challenge to get the latest version in time for the summer image and it had to last a year.

Programming with Flash was a popular after-school and full-day professional learning event. Many school webmasters wanted to incorporate Flash elements into their website. Usually that was an active banner or a navigation bar. Computer Science classes like to add an element into their program. Using the Government of Ontario licensed Dreamweaver, it was easy to incorporate into web pages. People would always leave the workshop with a book from Rob Scott and Rick Kitto to help continue the learning.

Recently, though, Flash really has become the target of a lot of ill will. Hackers found it a target and frequent updates to patch holes were common. It probably was more hassle than what it was worth to Adobe, especially now that there are alternatives.

We’ve had advanced notice. Adobe has let us know that this was coming years ago.

There are still sites devoted to the tons and tons of games that were written in Flash. But, there’s a whole generation of iPad tappers that may never have experienced it or the feeling of being on the cusp of something new as multimedia came of age.

I’m not going to miss it, I suspect. But, in the bigger picture for those of us who grew up (or at least older) with the web, it’s an integral part of our learning and one experience that will go missing.

Ultimate Flash Face


One of the things that I get a kick from is watching crime television shows and the victim sits with a police artist to draw an image of the bad guy.  I always have a tough time making the connection between the drawing and the bad guy.  Plus, in real life, it might go by so quickly and you’d be under so many emotions.

I don’t know how they do it.  Hopefully, it’s never needed but we do live in a world where we all pretty much carry digital cameras and there are security cameras everywhere.

Today, I stumbled upon the “Ultimate Flash Face” program.  Written in Flash, it’s good to go for your PC but fortunately, there’s an app for it at the App Store and on Google Play.

I tried it out trying to draw myself but the real to live images kept looking like Tom Cruise.

So, I decided to give it another shot.  During a dog walk today, I took a quick look at a guy and tried to remember his features.  When I got home, I drew what I thought I remembered.

guy

I’ll be honest here – he had a toque on and it wasn’t very bright.  Regardless, the above image bears absolutely no resemblance to the image that I was trying to remember.  This is much more difficult than it looks!

But, drawing the face is a piece of cake!

You choose from a selection of images like eyes, hair, nose, chin, etc. and compose your face.

It only takes a few minutes to put together a basic face, but with lots of options and detail adjustment, you could make this a serious endeavour with lots of classroom applications.

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A Flipping Blog


Sometimes, it’s just cool to play around and that’s what I did yesterday.  When I was done, I had produced something that was kind of neat and I could see using it as a summary activity to show off some blogging work.

One of the really attractive things about the iPad is the way that it manipulates documents and Flipboard for iPad does a very nice job of it.  I asked myself the question – could this be done on the screen inside a browser easily?  It turns out that you can with the help of the website, PDF to Flash Page Flip.

Now, what to flip.  The site takes a PDF file as input and creates a Flash object that you can manipulate as output.  Hmmmm.

Then, I remembered my old friend BlogBooker.  BlogBooker will take any WordPress, Blogger, or LiveJournal blog and make a PDF file from it.  It’s a great way to back up your blog.  So, I wondered, could I make myself a flipable version of my blog.  Is flipable a word?  Probably not, but that’s what I want to do.

So, I went to my WordPress site and configured an export of the content.  Details about the procedure were originally posted here.

BlogBooker was still great and quickly created a PDF file of my blog.  It was long overdue anyway.  The resulting file was huge and so for the purposes of this experiment, I went back in and chose just a couple of entries from the blog as a proof of concept.

Next, it was off to the PDF to Flash Page Flip page and I did a quick check of the configuration and uploaded the PDF file.

In a couple of seconds, I was done.  The result was a ZIP file that I opened.  The site had bundled up the whole thing as a webpage that I could flip my way through.  Check it out by clicking here.  Use the arrows to flip forward and backward and zoom in to read the content.

It’s a pretty cool interaction that is created with my own content.

Where would you use it?  Admittedly, it’s a makework type of project but I’m thinking that it would be a nice final activity for a blogging project.  Sure, the students have their original blog but the ability to back up and then flip their way through it just adds a nice little touch to the whole activity.

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Silverlight


You know, I’ve got to stop reading PC World. Every article I read reminds me of how much I don’t know about computers. It’s gone past humbling to embarrassing. Today’s issue was entitled: “Microsoft to Heat Up Battle vs. Flash in ’08” and is at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,140683/article.html?tk=nl_dnxnws.

Now, I had heard of Silverlight but to think that it would become a major competitor to Adobe Flash?

The web is certainly changing. Everywhere you go, you’ll run into streaming video instead of the text and picture presentation from the past. Typically, developers of this content have been converting their documents into Flash Video (.flv) files. The reason is obvious when you take a Quicktime or AVI file and look at the size of it. It would have to be a pretty compelling documentary to expert that visitors to your website or blog will take the time to allow the movie to download and then play. However, when you convert the file to Flash video, you end up with a movie that is greatly reduced in size. There is a price; the quality is greatly reduced through various compression features. However, the bottom line is to get the video to play in a variety of browsers and get it to do so quickly. There have been all kinds of recent enhancements as you’ll note with the frequency of updates and the number of developers that are producing for the Version 9 Player, forcing us to upgrade.

Then comes a competing standard. You’ll need to download a new player to play Silverlight videos and the Microsoft website talks about the “small size” of its player 2MB in size. The trick will be to convince the drive by surfer that it’s in her or his best interest to take the time to install the player to view the content. How do you make it appealing?

It appears as though Microsoft’s plan will be to get popular sites to switch. In the article, they make reference to NBA.com as an example. So, if we have all of these basketball fans with the plug-in installed, who’s next? A quick visit to NBA.com indicates that it hasn’t happened yet that I can see.

It will be an interesting trend to follow. If the net result is that you’ll have a better streaming multimedia experience on the web, it will be worth the 2MB download. Hopefully, the lessons learned about software vulnerabilities will be learned and incorporated into the product.