The Amazon Fire Symbolizes Android's Worth

amazon fire

I have defended Android for years. I own a Nexus One, which I still consider to be one of the best Android phones made. I also strongly believe it does not hold a candle to anything past the first generation iPhone. Much to my dismay, my phone attracts conversations about why don’t have an iPhone. Before a week or so ago, I could speak in theory and philosophy, but now I have a concrete answer. Continue reading “The Amazon Fire Symbolizes Android's Worth”

Introducing coordy – An Actionscript 3 Layout Framework

After an extremely long wait, the Layout Organizers I began working on so long ago has finally been released as a full-fledged library named coordy. The code and documentation has finally reached a level of maturity where I feel comfortable offering it up to the public. The code is MIT licensed and begging to be used. Continue reading “Introducing coordy – An Actionscript 3 Layout Framework”

Why I (Still) Think Silverlight Should Fail

A while back, I wrote a small article about why I felt Silverlight should fail. The writeup generated a lot of good conversation and a bit of ire from Silverlight supporters (such as this example) so I thought it would be beneficial to write a followup. Let me try to make this clear, I am not a Flash fanboy. While I use Flash to pay the bills, I have written about my concerns with Flash. It is my belief that use of Flash on the web (and other RIA technologies) will continue to dwindle as open-source solutions that provide similar solutions take their place. Even if Silverlight usurps Flash (something I greatly doubt), there may not be much of a kingdom to reign upon once they do. I think Adobe sees this shift, I am unsure if Microsoft does.
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What Annoys Me About Flash

Earlier this week, I asked readers what they disliked about Flash. The post spearheaded a large and helpful discussion on the various issues where Flash needs improvement. Many issues brought up were well know and expected, while others were things I had yet to consider. While I tried to respond to each person’s thoughts, I felt it may be interesting for me to lay out what does not excite me about the Flash technology as a whole. Let me preface this by stating, once again, that I make a living in Flash and there are many, many things that I like about it. I have spent time defending it – however, until some of these issues are addressed, I will continue to have my doubts.
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What Annoys You About Flash?

I spend a large majority of my work day working with or designing for Flash-based interfaces. Flash is essentially how I make a living on a daily basis. That said, there are many personal/philosophical issues I have with Flash on the web that I struggle with everyday I work with it. Flash has almost always been a divisive technology for the web community. Most people fall in either the love or hate camps with few not holding a strong opinion about it. I am planning to go into my thoughts about Flash – my likes, my dislikes and everything in between later this week. But first, I wanted to hear what your frustrations are with the experience of Flash on the web. Your thoughts can hit any subject – vague to specific. I just want to hear from the people whose opinions are the most important, the users.

Recently I posed the question to myself of how many sites I visit on a daily basis that use Flash. When I really thought about it, the answer really shocked me. I would love to hear if my personal experience mimics yours.

Your comments are going to greatly impact how I direct my article, so please lend me your thoughts.

Update: – You can now read what annoys me about Flash.

Why Silverlight Should Fail

Silverlight has been quite the buzz around the internet lately. Microsoft’s new product explicitly takes aim at Flash as they try to take on the rich media arena. Up to this point, Flash has basically stood alone at the top as the rich media standard for the browser. I will explain why, from my point of view, I do not see Silverlight changing that reality any time in the near (or far) future.
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Flash Faux Font Weights

I am a bit of a stickler about keeping my swf files as small as possible. One of the biggest hurdles I run into for keeping swf file sizes low is the embedding of fonts. There are best practices you can follow, such as using system fonts for large amounts of copy and not embedding characters that will not be used. Still, a couple fonts and/or a couple different weights and your file size is considerably higher. It was during a project where I was having this very problem when I came up with a little trick to help lower the embed size of fonts – and it is extremely easy to do.

One of the new features that fell under the radar for me was the custom anti-aliasing of fonts. The custom anti-alias feature allow you to control the thickness and sharpness of text within a text field. This feature can really be helpful for when type rendered by Flash appears blurry – something I run into quite often. During my playing around with this feature, I noticed that the thickness setting has a dramatic impact on the rendering of the type. I then came up with the idea that I could simulate the weights of a font family by changing the thickness of a textfield appropriately. For instance, if your Flash project uses three different weights (light, medium & bold), you can use one weight to simulate all three and cut your font embed size by two-thirds. This trick is very basic – just select the textfield you want to alter and, in the properties window, select the character you wish to embed then click the anti-alias dropdown and select ‘Custom Anti-Alias’.

From there, you alter the thickness to match the weight you want to achieve. The maximum range for thickness is -200 to 200. In my usage, I have noticed that the normal weight values (i.e. Medium, Heavy, Bold, etc.) equal about 75 to 100 thickness points. For example, if original font weight was Medium, a thickness value of 100 would resemble Heavy and a thickness value of 200 would resemble Bold. I experienced a much better result with increasing the thickness than decreasing it. In most instances, I will only drop the thickness to -75 as any lower begins to distort the typeface. Ultimately, this technique is all about feel and will vary from font to font. As you can expect, there is an Actionscript equivalent to the custom anti alias feature. This can be nice because you can simulate weights dynamically.

With a range of font weights this high, I had to use two fonts to cover the full range. As I mentioned before, my experience is that you can only take a font two weight up, but only one weight down. Still, one font can cover four different weights. Therefore, I used the Thin and the Bold as my base weights to generate the all other faux weights. As can be expected, the results improve the smaller the font’s point size. Helvetica is a perfect candidate for this method as it is a very uniformed typeface and has many weights. As can be assumed, other large families such as DIN, Interstate, Univers, Frutiger and Futura and perfect for this as well. I have not spent much time using this method of serifed fonts, but from the little experience I have, the results are quite similar, even with greater contrast between thicks and thins.

This easy little trick can shave quite a bit off of a swf’s file size. If you are ever in need of using many different weights from a font, I highly suggest giving this method a try, it may just make your swf lighter and its users happier.

Dreamweaver Regular Expressions Are Your Friend

I will be honest, I enjoy enjoyable work. Monotonous chores are a major turnoff. Like everyone else, I have had the displeasurable job to take nasty HTML and make it clean(er). There are a multitude of methods to accomplish this goal, but they basically fall into two camps: take the pre-existing code and clean it or start from scratch. Both are time-consuming as clearing out unnecessary tags and attributes can seemingly take a lifetime as can re-inputting all the information page per page. We should not have to do this, but it is a part of life. Instead of complaining, I decided to do something to help. Continue reading “Dreamweaver Regular Expressions Are Your Friend”