FlashCamp Birmingham #fcbuk

Submitted by Falken on

Mike Jones, Adobe
Mike is an evangelists for games at Adobe. A shift of focus I think Adobe is still making. Mike shows there are a massive number of devices, and you can target these all with HTML5 but Flash has a unique opportunity to innovate on all of these platforms. Mike has a nice time line graph to back this up over the last 15 years.
Mike demoed some neat stuff like native mouse cursors. And talked about the 10.3 beta. Mike's demos are all branded with 'version 11 incubator' though and someone asks where he got that. Seems the information about that release didn't get that far.
Mike then talked about how Flash can innovate faster than browsers because browser's have to watch other stuff and do that too.
This drives adoption and in turn you can inspire your users. But now this also leads to standardisation i.e. HTML5 video tag. Mike then shows a clip of Ben Forta on 'technology street' mediating between HTML and Flash puppets, as well as a Wallaby .fla-to-HTML5 demo.
Mike also showed something called Edge which was new to me; basically Flash Catalyst for HTML5.
Mike then got back to the version 11 he had and talked about how the purpose of incubator is all about early feedback. It'll be released later this year, and we should expect rapid adoption i.e. auto upgrade just like with v10.

Mobile design takeaway
James Whittaker, Tweetdeck
James started out saying he was trying to be agnostic about platform and technology and he managed to stick to it.
James's point was that people don't understand why their asking for a mobile application or web site very often, they've just heard it on the news.
Applications are not the same as 'apps' (as in 'App Store'). Apps have a single primary function, offer a tailored experience, are task focused, and have super-clear navigation. The days of a Symbian-style menu hierarchy to get lost in is behind us.
Then he talked about things to think about when designing for mobile. This includes connectivity, orientation and your user personas. He even touches on sketching, and is the second person to big up uistencils in a month (last time was Rob Rawlins at [node:1632]).
Then he mentioned cross device issues like a variety of sizes, resolutions, and touch target sizes.
The comfort zone he talked about is interesting. It's the bottom left/right corner depending on if your left/right handed that you can reach naturally. This is why the main button is in the middle bottom on tablets. And so it should be in your app :-)
Then there was a great piece on something a really agree with - ditch the settings- you don't need them. Its your app that is wrong if it requires them.
In summary: don't build for early adopters and build for the 80 percent.

My mother stole my joystick
Mike Jones, Adobe
Back for a longer talk about Adobe and gaming, Mike started by saying his mother isn't a 'hard core' gamer. But now she is on the internet, she does play games. Space invaders was hard core when the game out. But now it is 'casual'.
Mike used that as an example where gaming has and is evolving (on Flash of course.).
We demo was a game called Fortune Online. It looks like an 8-bit bitmap isometric game, not Flash. This is because it is, it's one big bitmap and uses old school blitting to it from sets of sprite maps.
But needed to do that to get good performance... Until Molehill with it's 3D acceleration. !
Mike gave a good developer level intro to the hows and whys of hardware acceleration. And then showed us Zombie Tycoon. Pity it isn't that accelerated on my linux box (yet ?).
Then there was a bit of a talk about frameworks on top of Molehill and shows the MAX Racer (video, not live).
There are a few tools like Copper Cube and Prefab that support the work flow. Unity 3D will handily have a Molehill exporter.
Mike also says the Molehill low level 3D API is also useful for 2D, and talks about M2D built by Ely Greenfield for blitting etc. It has a  DisplayList style of programming so it very familiar, comes with a physics engine and works with Box2D. And then he showed how you can build Angry birds in 50 lines of ActionScript :-)

Bugs gotta fix them all
Niqui Merret
Niqui had an amusing start as she trys to convince us bugs are interesting, and talks about debugging steps.  Basically identiry, clarify, fix and understand the fix implications.
There was an interesting categorisation of bugs along a sliding scale of complexity - compile time vs run time vs unexpected behaviours vs crash.
It was interesting to hear about tools like DConsole which runs in your app, so works even on mobile.
Niqui also says 'Pen and Paper v1.0' works well too, apparently, but I  didn't hear a compelling example of why keeping a 'notebook' is better than a wiki or creating a new issue in your issue tracker.
It was surprisingly good to hear my art being talked about from above, like a long distant view.
As a note on ego and personalities, Niqui says to choose battles (i.e. over white space) and explains how bad it is to see 5 different code styles in a class. But reformatting makes diff's hard to read. So you could use FDT or a Builder plugin to format code to an agreed guide line.
I also need to subscribe to geekandpoke.typepad.com as it's great geeky humour.

Wowza Media Server
Steve Carpenter
Steve showed us this product that's like Flash Media Server but runs on Java. And also does other stuff like supporting Sliverlight streams, quicktime for iOS devices and 3gp for mobile. It also runs on more cores with the cheapest licence.
It's used by some big names, and has some compelling prices. Like only $65 a month, or on Amazon EC2 you pay for usage, this saves around $1000 for a perpetual license. If you just needed to stream a single event, for instance...
WMS works with the Open Source Media Framework (a Flash-based player) from Adobe. It does seek, fast play and allows record and stream at same time.
The real power is in remote shared objects where any client gets a synchronised copy of a servers object.
As WMS is also a Java platform you can replace the need to use ColdFusion and FMS separately, and build anything from chat room to game.
FMS doesn't support debugging apparently but Wowza does.
Steve showed in some detail how to use these RSO to support a chat room by having a list of people in an RSO. Clients can send an 'istyping' event and all the others see that suer typing. An RSO contains many slots, and the Java code mostly just decodes and copies arguments into a slot.
WMS auto sends sync. events when the data is saved into a slot.
It's much more efficient than HTTP. You can push enough x,y pairs to make a shared whiteboard very very real-time. And not much code !

Seo, mobile and cms for flash
Neil Nand
Neil explained that Flash is great at engaging and evolving, but hard to manage content - there is no Drupal for Flex.
Until now that is ! Neil's program writes html, mobile html and Flex. The Flex layouts can be customized.
Each page is saved as an XML blob to the database (make you wonder why bothering to use a database....).
He uses Anthony Head's browserdetect.php to redirect users to the mobile or other content automatically, optionally with a nice JQuery prompt). If you ask for just domain.com you get Flash unless you are on mobile.
PHP generates the HTML/mobile content, but I think just provides services for Flex to use.
There's no need to upload differing sizes of images, as a nice touch it automatically does it.
Kinda a hard talk to follow though- it wasn't layed out with a technical overview of what all the bits did and briefly how, then a drill down into each, which 'I built my own CMS' really needs. And it's not available for download (yet ?).

Sanyu Kiruluta, Blackberry
This eagerly anticipated talk starts with a big slide saying how big they are; 20,000 apps downloaded 3 million times a day.
I remember QNX from their bootable floopy disk that contained a whole O/S, modem stack and web brwoser back in the dot com days, and here it is again. QNX always used Flash for apps, so writing AIR apps yourself is a really natural fit.
It's powerful enough for real media too, with HDMI out, a one gig CPU etc.
As well as AIR and Flash, it also runs (the surprisingly open source !) WebWorks environment that you can use to convert a HTML/CSS/JavaScript to a native app. These are designed for always on connected apps. There are some extra JavaScript APIs to the native apps, to put yourself into the background etc.

Then Seb Lee-Delisle gives a great fun talk, without slides just the #fcbuk twitter feed. It's a reprise of 'What the Flux' about the rise of Flash, the rise of HTML5, and was followed by the famous Flashy Fortunes game show, which everyone had great fun at.

Then is was off to the bar round the corner, where I got to fondle a Playbook for real and let of a bit of steam at Blackberry about how hard their sign up process was.


Edit: My photos are up


Thanks for the blog post!

I just wanted to add a correction: The Open Source Media Framework (OSMF) is a pure AS3.0 library - the Flex SDK is not required to use it. Flash Media Playback is a hosted player built on OSMF that you're free to use. You can configure FMP here: http://www.osmf.org/configurator/fmp