Sunday, August 31, 2008

Windows Vista: Program Files x86... wtf mate?

Ok, so everyone "knows" Vista is the next version of Windows ME... which was just plain awful. Gates is tying to put a positive spin on it using the Mojave Experiment ads, which I found a hilarious outtake version.

The Basement recently made some upgrades and switched over to Vista 64 bit. Initially, I was a bit frustrated trying to find where things were. Enough was changed that it is going to take awhile to relocate everything. Its not a huge deal tho... whether or not its for the better I am not sure, only time will tell.

My only real beef so far is the multiple program file folders. The second one being called "Program Files (x86)". At glance I had no clue. I was like WTF mate? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

It only takes a second to search around to find out that the x86 is for 32bit programs and the regular folder is for 64bit programs. And then with a little digging you can figure out their reasoning behind this here. I was somewhat relieved to find out there was a reason behind this, but seriously, how many people are going to take the time to understand this?

1. Why does there need to be two folders in the first place? (Possibly so you can install 2 versions of one program, but still I think you could do that within that software's folder instead).
2. Most people don't know the different between 32 and 64, they just use the computer that is given to them. How are they supposed to know where to install or find programs? It definitely is not intuitive.
3. The people that do have some understanding of the two different systems seem to mainly refer to them as 32 and 64, why not use those numbers instead of the more obscure x86?

So far I am one for one. One Day of using Vista... One Blog Rant. We'll see if that becomes a trend of if they will finally win me over.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I want a good website but I don't want to pay for it.

Sound familiar? I did my fair share of time doing freelance and I know what it is like to work with small budget companies. Fortunately I am done with those days, but unfortunately I can't say the same for the majority of the internet...

Judging by the amount of crap out there it seems that most companies do not value their website. They see it as a burden, or at least it comes across that way.

A website is your first impression for many of your potential clients, therefor your website should be the best possible representation of yourself. Think about this, would you dress in the same manner that your website was put together? Would you throw on a ratty tee that you got from Goodwill for your sales pitch? Don't get me wrong, I love Goodwill just as much as the next person and I enjoy a relaxed dress code, but there is a difference between being relaxed and being sloppy. Companies will spend money on their suits, on making their lobby comfortable and contemporary, and on their big expensive building... but really, how many clients are going to see you or your building before they check out your website? By the time they are in the lobby (if they get that far) their first impression has already been made.

I think companies make two major mistakes:
1. They don't budget enough for their website. This usually ends up in corner cutting which results in a crappy template site that needs to be completely redone the following year. Lesson: Spend the money and do it right the first time.
2. Companies ask for more than they can afford. They try to make their site large and have all these bells and whistles that they don't need. If you are stuck with a small budget then make a small site. Get rid of the clutter, get rid of the paragraphs of vague mission statements with even more vague lists of services. I would much rather see a 1 page website that is well laid out than to have someone use a template to make ten pages of crap. Treat it as a resume. Include your logo, your purpose, your contact information, and a call to action. Thats it.

Alright, I am done ranting... for now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

SWFAddress: Back Button Not Working? I may know why...

I have been working with swfAddress today to incorporate into all of our future sites. Everything seemed pretty straight forward:

1. Use SWFObject... check.
2. Import swfAddress javascript... check.
3. Add a SWFAddressEvent.CHANGE handler that updates the SWFAddress title... check.
4. Create Buttons that set the SWFAddress value to new pages... check.

Upon testing it, the buttons would cause the address bar to change which would trigger the CHANGE handler and update the title of the page. So far so good. Now click the back button. DOH! The Address bar changed, but the title of the page did not... the CHANGE event was never dispatched.

After comparing files with the samples I eventually figured out it was because you need to make sure you set a Flash content id in the swfObject. The content ID is what the javascript uses to refer back to the Flash object. In hindsight this makes perfect sense and I feel like an idiot overlooking it. Hopefully this post will prevent you from making the same bonehead mistake.

Monday, August 18, 2008

SoThink SWF Decompiler (Thoughts, Bugs, Suggestions)

I recently had to use a SWF Decompiler to recover a lost FLA and code library. This is my first experience with a decompiler so I am not sure how SoThink compares to other companies. I chose SoThink because they seemed to have a solid reputation and active forum.

I was a little scared at first when I had trouble getting my registration key and noticed there were many similar posts in the forum, but their support reacted within the first 24hours as promised and I was good to go.

I was able to grab my FLA and then separate my code library without trouble. But when I went to try to compile I found out I was in for a ride... Compared to redoing the entire project, every issue I list below is minor and petty. However, it would be nice to have everything working right out of the box.

Issues with the FLA:
All of the MovieClips, Layers, etc were renamed to things like "Layer 2" or "Sprite 255". I realize most of this is unavoidable since the Flash IDE ditches any unnecessary info when it compiles. However, instead of naming it Sprite 255, it would be nice if it named it to the Class Name. If it was based off of "some.package.DropDownMenu" I don't think it would be hard to call it "DropDownMenu 1". Better yet, why not make a folder structure in the library mimicking the package? Create a folder called "some", another called "package", and then place the DropDownMenu movieclip there. I think its pretty standard for most developers to follow a similar file structure, and if not, it would at least be easier to understand than looking through a few hundred sprites. Just a thought... or wish for next version.

Another issue regarding the FLA is that the library assumes everything is based off of MovieClip and is exported on Frame 1. Its easy enough to write a jsfl script to change the export frame, but having to go through and reconfigure base classes was a pain in the ass. Not sure if the compiler ditched them or if SoThink just assumed they would be movieclips.

Issues with the Code:
The compiler keeps the name of any class variable (public, private, protected), but ditches all local variable names. So be prepared to see a bunch of code chalk full of "_loc_1" and "param1". It is annoying, but unavoidable due to the compiler. What is not unavoidable are the bugs created by SoThink's decompiler.

Original Code:
var margin:Number = 5;
this.leftMargin = this.rightMargin = margin;

Decompiled Code:
var _loc_1:Number;
this.leftMargin = 5;
this.rightMargin = _loc_1

Basically, instead of setting both Margins to 5, it sets the Left to 5 and the right to 0 since _loc_1 is never set. No compiler errors, just makes your project look like crap and can be fairly tough to uncover initially.

Another Example...

Original Code:
for(var i:int=0; i<; i++){
// Something

Decompiled Code:
var _loc_1:int = 0;
// Something

For some reason, when ever you try to change a variable by 1 in a conditional statement (if/while/for) it will change it to either -- or ++. This is not good since -- subtracts 1 from the total and then assigns it to the total. So each time this loop is called, is decreased. Therefore if you had a list of 5 items then you would only get through 3.

Granted, without this software I would be behind a couple months of work so I can't complain too much. However, it would be nice to have it not break the code and possibly clean up the FLA library so it is a bit more readable.

Friday, August 15, 2008

3D Flash... Sharikura Could become Open Source

I am sure many of you have seen the very impressive Ecodazoo site. It was a site of the month on FWA and also featured in the August edition of Adobe Edge.

While viewing the site I initially assumed it was either Papervision3D or Away3D. Turns out it was actually done using ROXIK's personal 3D engine called Sharikura.

Hearing/Reading the name ROXIK is a serious blast from the past. I remember his 3D Face portfolio page from a couple years ago... back in the AS2 days, pre Papervision era. He used the same engine to create the popular PicTaps, which used to have a really cool Pepsi rendition, but it seems to be down.

Anyways, he has created some sick projects with his engine that are incredibly impressive. I am not sure if its just his talent or if the engine is actually better than the current open source projects available, but we may soon find out. I recently read that he has not released the source yet since it is unfinished, but hopes to release it as open source in the future. Read the full quote here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Flash User Group: Advice Needed

I am going to try to do something new today. Instead of posting my thoughts or findings, I'd like to request some advice.

I am hoping to get some feedback from the Flash community on what are the do's and don'ts of Flash User Groups. What are some guidelines to follow for planning out meetings and what makes it the most beneficial to everyone involved?

Feel free to post below or send me a note at: mark @ thebasement . tv

Anything and everything is appreciated. If I get a good response I'll compile the feedback and post an abridged version for everyone to see.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Should you drop Flash due to SEO?

I have had a few interesting discussions lately with marketers who were arguing that they would not use Flash due to its lack of support with SEO. Granted, they do have a point that Flash lacks in the SEO category, even taking the new SEO capabilities into consideration. However, what Flash lacks in SEO it makes up 10 fold in user experience, which in my opinion is much more important.

You can put all the time you want into optimizing your site for search engines, but if users do not have a good experience then you've gained nothing. I would much rather put that time and effort into creating an interactive and satisfying user experience that will draw viewers in and keep them there. With any luck, that experience will stick with them and may even get passed to their friends, starting a viral frenzy.

Viral frenzies aside, I realize that you may take a hit on the total number of people reaching your site if you use Flash instead of focusing on SEO. However, the highest total number of visits should not be your goal. If thats what you want, you might as well just buy a list of e-mail address and spam everyone with crap. Sure they will see it, but they won't remember it and they will move on. On the flip side, if you reach fewer people, but give them a lasting experience then you will be more likely to convert them into loyal customers. This is where Flash shines and this is why it should not be overlooked.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Triiibes: Social Network

Update: Just realized that the Triiibes site is based off of a company called Ning. Soooo yeah. So my critique of Triiibes is somewhat of a critique of Ning as well. Looks like it could be some very cool software to use to create a Flash Social Group.

I enjoy following Seth Godin's Blog and have read most of Meat Ball Sundae and the IdeaVirus (I say most because they tend to rehash after awhile and I lose interest. But I love his main points and general ideas).

Seth recently released a private social network called Triiibes. I have only been on it for a day now, but it seems to have some of the social aspects from Facebook as well as some of the professional aspects of LinkedIn. I think the main thing that sets it apart is that it is very focused on Marketing so the entire community should be able to connect at some level.

He says it is invite only until October 2008. I am sure that is a good marketing strategy similar to gmail invites, avairy invites, or even somewhat similar to the constant lack of supply of wii's. You want what you can't have it and creates a buzz.

I just wonder what will happen after October 2008. Once the flood gates are open will it be able to maintain a niche community of marketing professionals? Will people still line up to get in once they find out anyone and everyone can join? It will be interesting to find out.