James Ward at FUGN today

18 Sep08

Adobe evangelist James Ward did a packed session at JavaZone in Oslo yesterday. There was hardly room to stand in the room, so Flex sure seems popular with the Java crowd. Tonight, he will visit Flash User Group Norway (FUGN) for an informal session about Flex - a rare chance for Norwegian Flex users to get some info directly from the source (and maybe grab a beer or some pizza as well?).

Unfortunately, I can’t go there myself tonight, but I’m posting it here so others will know what’s happening.

Pretty, additive cubes

18 Sep08

Just read about this Flash Player 10 test. Thought the cubes looked nice and wondered how Away3D stacked up using the current Flash Player 9 version. Plays pretty well? (Source)

cubes.jpg

Review: Building websites with ExpressionEngine 1.6

17 Sep08

BuildingWebsitesWithEE.jpgExpressionEngine (EE) is the CMS system I use for Flashmagazine and other sites I build these days. While not related to Flash (as most of the content on this blog is), EE is a flexible way to create advanced websites fast. I review a lot of Flash related books for Flashmagazine and when asked by Packt Publishing to review a book about ExpressionEngine I felt that it could also be of interest to the Flash users reading this blog. Most of us build websites as part of our job and this book provides a basic introduction to a great CMS system.

There are not many books about ExpressionEngine. This is in fact the only book that’s listed on Amazon that covers EE exclusively so that’s certainly what one would call a competitive edge. The only other book that I’m aware of is Michael Boyink’s PDF book that I’ve also read.

TITLE: Building Websites with ExpressionEngine 1.6: A clear, concise, and practical guide to creating a professional ExpressionEngine website
AUTHOR: Leonard Murphy
PUBLISHER: Packt Publishing (August 8, 2008)
ISBN: 978-1847193797
PAGES: 373 pages B/W
CD: Not required as the code is simple enough that you’ll just type it yourself
PRICE: £23.74 UK / $32.97 USA / $42.29 CAN
Click here to order

This is a book for the complete beginner. The only requirements are that you know a bit of HTML and CSS. The book is well written and throughout the book you’ll build a website that sells - guess what - Toast. While a fun example, this book does not dwell a lot on design but if you know your CSS you’ll have no problem building something that looks better looking than the example in the book. Not focusing much on design is probably a good move as well since that would detract from the main purpose of explaining EE.

Content

The book starts off with a quick introduction to EE and what it can do. The next chapter explains setting it up on a Windows development machine. Here the concept of hiding “index.php” from the URLs is covered. Having that at the start of the book is an odd choice. I’d rather stick that in the Appendix as editing .htaccess files is not for the faith at heart.

Next up is the start of the main exercise in the book - building the Toast website. Working with weblogs and templates are well covered and important side-issues such as defining a custom 404 page and static pages are also explained. Chapters 6, 7 and 8 cover the modules for Members, Calendars and Galleries.  Since I already know the basics of EE, these were the only chapters that I really learned anything from as I haven’t used any of these modules yet. Each module is well explained and I gathered that I’ll probably never use the Gallery module. Using custom weblogs with Lumis Image Sizer plugin is just so much more powerful.

The last chapter rushes through the concepts of Plugins, Modules and Extensions. It delivers brief explanations of the Discussion Forums, the E-commerce module, the Wiki, searching, status groups, categories and related entries. Up until this point in the book, everything is very well explained, but I feel that the end of this chapter is kind of a rush. Too many things are touched upon and not explained well enough.

What I am missing

The dynamic nature of EE is not well explained. Every EE user will be bummed at how this works initially and a little on this would be of great help for the beginner. Basically, the URL decides a lot when it comes to what EE displays, so when your URLs get long, some content may no show up as expected. This is usually solved by adding the “dynamic=off” parameter to your weblog:entries tag.

A very powerful feature in EE is related entries and reverse related entries. The book offers a good example of this, but it is not explained well enough. A quick search for “related entries” at the EE Forums will tell you that this is something that is hard to grasp.

The book provides little discussion around how to structure your site. Beginners are usually confused by all the new lingo and it takes a bit of explaining to get this all correct. When it comes to building sites, how you combine Weblogs, Templates, Template Groups, Field Groups will decide how flexible your setup is.

Embeds and Segment variables are explained, but only briefly. These are such an important part of building an EE site so more info on this would have been useful.

Another thing that I would expect in a book like this is some information on how to import an existing site / blog into EE. Many readers will come from a different CMS and while this is explained on the EE wiki, an example of importing for instance a Wordpress blog would be helpful.

Conclusion

This is a beginners book. It explains all the core features of EE and each feature is well explained. It provides insightful information on all topics and if you’re setting out to learn ExpressionEngine, this is a good place to start. The book could certainly do with more real-world examples and better explanations of the more complex things with EE (as mentioned above) but this is a solid book for a first time author.

In the next edition of this book (for EE 2.0?), I’d cut down on the last chapters that just rushes through features of modules such as the forum, gallery and e-commerce and rather explain more of the intricacies of the weblog module. This is after all where most of the work will be done and just rushing through provides little useful information.

A small introduction to online sources of information could be a good idea as well. Here one could briefly mention useful plugins/modules/extensions with links to more information.

Awesome Peacock example

11 Sep08

Mario just posted an extremely cool example of Peacock - the Pattern Generator in the Aviary suite. I can’t help myself re-posting this as I love Lego’s and this Peacock “filter” will let you take ANY image and have it built with 3x2 Lego blocks. It’s amazing how powerful this online Flash based application has become, just check out the video below to see how it is done.


Plastic Block Fishy from mpeutz on Vimeo.

PS: I still have two more Peacock invites to the first commenters on this post :)

Invites are now gone :)

Icanhaz flashburger?

08 Sep08

Going to Flash On The Beach? I’m so looking forward to this conference and I’m hoping that as many as possible will join in on the Flashburgers the day before the event! See you in Brighton!

catburger.jpg
(image courtesy of icanhascheezburger.com)

There she is!!

07 Sep08

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a really good and original Flash animation, but today I found one: There she is!! It’s a beautifully drawn story about forbidden love. The timing is incredibly good and there’s a lot of attention to detail despite the very simplistic style.

ThereSheIs.jpg

The team behind is three Korean artists calling themselves SamBakZa. The series started back on 2004 and up until now, four out of 5 episodes have been posted. The series has more than 7 million views on Newgrounds.com so it’s certainly popular. They’ve also managed something few have done before them - out of 2747 reviews for Step 3 on Newgrounds, the average is 9.7 (out of 10) and Step 4 has an average of 9.8 out of more than 3000 votes! The story is cute, but full of action as well. Go check it out!

ReferenceError: Error #1056: Cannot create property

02 Sep08

Quite often, I do projects where I do the code and somebody else do the graphics. I usually set this up so that the designer can work in Flash CS3, whereas I do my code in Flex Builder. I set my class to be the Document Class and then set the FLA to not “Automatically declare stage instances” so I can reference the animators MovieClips inside my code.

Today I got an error that I’ve also gotten on a couple other occasions and I thought I’d blog the solution here for future reference.

This is the error:

ReferenceError: Error #1056: Cannot create property anim1 on Bynett.
	at flash.display::Sprite/constructChildren()
	at flash.display::Sprite()
	at Bynett()

By default, I usually set all properties in a class to “private”. This error will occur if you set a MovieClip to “private” when it should have been “public”. What happens is that since the MovieClip is set to private, the Flash CS3 environment won’t have the required access to this clip. Just make sure that all objects that the designer will control is set to “public” and all is fine.

(Thanks to Kadazuro for reminding me of the solution!)