Grant Skinner

The "g" in gskinner. Also the "skinner".

@gskinner

Open Source Licenses, JS, and Minification

I’m definitely not a lawyer and I detest reading legalese, but I have a strong interest in the legal considerations of the technology I work with. One area I’ve done a lot of research into in the past is the implications of different open source licenses, which led to this older blog post comparing common licenses.

Recently, one of my devs asked how this applied to JS and minification. Here’s the quick response I tossed together:

Let’s assume we are looking at the MIT license or an equivalent. Remember that ANY third party code requires client approval, and any license other than MIT should be run past me as well.

The MIT license specifically requires that the license is included somewhere in the software, but it does not need to be public facing. Typically, the license is included as a comment at the top of the source files. However, minification strips out the comments and combines source code into a single file. This raises three possible scenarios:


  1. All of the code in the file is under MIT license. In this case, you can inject the copyright statements for each of the libraries followed by the main body of the MIT license above the minified code. We do this automatically for the CreateJS libraries as part of our build process.
  2. Client code & MIT licensed code. I would recommend that all open source code is treated as in #1, and client code is minified into its own file (potentially with a copyright header specified by the client). This is much cleaner than trying to mix them.
  3. Code with different licenses. This gets much more complex, and should be dealt with on a case by case basis.

I’d be interested to hear about how other companies are dealing with this topic, or related ones.

The Great Pumpkin Showdown 2012

Welcome to our most hotly contested pumpkin showdown ever! This year, exciting new teams formed to reshape ordinary pumpkins into masterpieces. Please vote to help decide which pumpkin wins, and which get burned.

For something new this year, the app was crafted for HTML5 using CreateJS. We also continued something old, with the app being built by the newest member of the team, O’Jay.

Continue reading →

Upcoming Talks

I’m excited to be doing talks all over the world in the next couple of months, focusing on two related topics: CreateJS, and the Atari Arcade.

Create The Web, San Francisco, London, Tokyo, & Sydney (Sep & Oct)
I’ll be on an around the world tour with a group of Adobe evangelists (I’m the only non-Adobe presenter), talking about the open source CreateJS libraries, and how to get started creating rich content in HTML5. Adobe is the primary sponsor of the libraries, and is a great partner in helping to actively promote them.

The SF event is full, but you can still sign up free for the other locations here.

Screens, Toronto (Sep 26-28)
Screens focuses on multi-screen content, and I’ll be presenting on the HTML5 Atari Arcade project and some of the challenges we had in making it work well with both desktop and multitouch tablets. You can get more info on the conference here.

FITC Vancouver (Nov 17-18)
Once again, I’ll be talking about the Atari Arcade, and our continuing experiences building games and rich content in HTML5. Despite my (relative) proximity, this will be my first time speaking in Vancouver, and I’m really looking forward to it. More info here.

In addition to the above, I will also likely be hanging out at the MS Build conference Oct 30-Nov 2. I’m pretty excited to see first hand what’s announced with respect to Windows 8, Windows Phone, IE10, and Surface.

It’s going to be a busy autumn, but it should be a lot of fun!

Atari Arcade: Classic Games Reimagined in HTML5

The Atari Arcade has launched! We’ve been working tirelessly with Atari and the Microsoft IE team to re-imagine classic Atari games for the modern web. The games are multi-touch tablet friendly, use the latest crop of modern web standards, are built on top of CreateJS, and run on pretty much any popular current generation browser. We had a ton of fun trying to balance modernizing these games with preserving their iconography and gameplay faithful to the originals.

There’s a lot more to say, but we’re all still recovering from the launch rush, so for now I’d encourage you to check out the arcade, read through the dev center articles on how we built it, and wander over to CreateJS.com to learn about the libraries the games were built on top of.

Update: We have published a Case Study on our site.

Announcing CreateJS

We’ve been working really hard on a lot of great stuff over the last couple months, and I’m thrilled finally to be able to share it with the world.

CreateJS

We’re going to be releasing EaselJS and a number of companion libraries under the new umbrella name “CreateJS”. CreateJS will be a suite of modular libraries and tools which work together to enable rich interactive content on open web technologies (aka HTML5). These libraries will be designed so that they can work completely independently, or you can mix and match as suits your needs. The initial offerings will be: EaselJS, TweenJS, SoundJS, and PreloadJS.

Along with the new name, we’ll also be launching a new site at createjs.com which will consolidate demos, docs, tutorials, community, and showcases for all of the libraries and tools. If you have a project or tutorial you’d like to see featured, tweet it to us: @createjs.

EaselJS

EaselJS provides a display list and interactive model for working with rich graphics on top of the HTML5 canvas (and beyond). It provides an API that is familiar to Flash developers, but embraces javascript sensibilities.

We’re planning a minor v0.4.1 release soon, which includes bug fixes and some minor feature additions. Following that, work will commence on v0.5, which will focus on some larger features, API clean up and consistency, and improved documentation. If you have features you’d like to see in v0.5, add them to the issue list, or tweet them to @createjs, and we’ll see what we can do.

Along with the CreateJS site launch, we will be releasing much improved examples, and links to resources and tutorials developed by the community. Again, let us know if you’ve written a tutorial, or have something cool you’ve built with EaselJS you’d like us to showcase.

TweenJS

TweenJS is a tweening and animation library that works with EaselJS or independently. It offers a deceptively simple interface, and a huge amount of power with support for delays, easing, callbacks, non-numeric properties, sequencing, and plugins.

TweenJS v0.2 will be tagged soon. It will incorporate some fixes and tweaks, along with a full plugin model. After v0.2 our next focus will be on performance and providing better demos and documentation in preparation for the CreateJS launch.

SoundJS

Audio is currently a mess in HTML5, but SoundJS works to abstract away the problems and makes adding sound to your games or rich experiences much easier.

We have a huge v0.2 release in testing right now. It is a ground up rewrite that incorporates a target plugin model that allows you to prioritize what APIs you’d like to use to play audio. For example, you could choose to prioritize WebAudio, then audio tags, then Flash audio. You can query for capabilities (depending on the plugin that is used), and it offers seamless progressive enhancement (for example, panning will work in WebAudio, but will be quietly ignored in HTML audio). Following v0.2 our focus will move to fixing bugs, and delivering plugins for mobile and application platforms like PhoneGap and Win8 Metro for a v0.2.1 release.

PreloadJS

The newest addition to the suite, PreloadJS will make it easy to preload your assets: images, sounds, JS, data, or others. It will use XHR2 to provide real progress information when available, or fall back to tag loading and eased progress when it isn’t. It allows multiple queues, multiple connections, pausing queues, and a lot more. We’re hoping to get a v0.1 build out in the next couple weeks for people to start playing with, and then will focus on fixing bugs, improving documentation, and just generally maturing things for v0.1.1.

Zoë

Zoë is an open source AIR application that converts SWF animations to sprite sheets. It supports some advanced features, like configurable frame reuse and multi-image sheets (important for mobile).

For Zoë v0.2 we’re planning to add support for reading the symbols in a SWF, and letting you select multiple symbols to include in your exported sprite sheet. It’s also worth mentioning here that Flash Pro CS6 will include direct support for exporting sprite sheets for EaselJS, offering a more integrated workflow than Zoë can provide.

Toolkit for CreateJS

We’ve partnered with Adobe to build a fantastic tool for leveraging all of the existing Flash Pro skill that’s out there to build amazing HTML5 experiences. The Toolkit for CreateJS is an extension for Flash Pro that allows you to publish content (including symbols, vectors, animations, bitmaps, sound, and text) for CreateJS & HTML5 as a library of scriptable, instantiable objects.

We’ve worked really hard to develop a workflow that makes sense, and to generate code that is completely human readable, and very small (in some cases the output is smaller than SWF when zlib compressed). You can even write JS code on the Flash timeline, and it will be injected into your published tweens.

Exciting times! If you’d like to stay on top of CreateJS updates, please follow @createjs on Twitter.

Disable Local Security Errors in Chrome

I’m blogging this mainly for my own benefit, so I can look it up easily whenever I need to:

If you’d like to disable security errors generated from accessing local content in Chrome (ex. reading pixels from a local image), just launch it with the “–disable-web-security” param. So on OSX, you’d type this into Terminal:

open /Applications/Google\ Chrome.app –args -disable-web-security

It lasts until you close Chrome. Handy for testing EaselJS content on your local file system.

Update: I’ve posted a .command file that you can double click in the Finder to run this more easily here.

The Evolution of (Web) Development Tools

I’ve seen a few people complaining about and/or questioning the lack of mature tools to develop content for the modern web (aka HTML5), and it got me thinking about the evolution of these tools, and how challenges are solved for technology platforms in general.

In my (albeit limited) experience, there is a natural progression for a maturing technology stack, particularly one without a single master (ex. Flash and iOS development differ somewhat because the tools and platform are directed/developed by the same entity).

First, you will see the development of a lot of frameworks, starting with micro-libraries that address a single challenge, and evolving to macro-frameworks like JQuery that tackle an entire workflow. Developing frameworks has a very low barrier to entry, and provides an ideal way for developers to explore and share a variety of potential solutions for challenges. Because the libraries are written in the domain language, it also means that any developer encountering a problem can address it directly with a language they are familiar with.

As problems become better defined, and specific solutions begin to emerge as more dominant, you start to see single purpose tools created, often as command-line utilities. These have an increased investment compared to frameworks, and require that the developer has knowledge of both the problem domain, and basic desktop development.

Next, you will see partial workflow tools, which aggregate and leverage the single purpose tools (either directly, or by borrowing approaches). These put a UI on top of a number of solutions to make them more accessible to users. Again, these involve increased investment, and require additional capability (UX/UI design, more advanced desktop development).

Finally, you will see the emergence of full-scale workflow tools. These represent a major investment, generally require a team of specialists to create, and are built over the course of months or years. As such, they need to build on top of standards, approaches, and frameworks that have been well vetted by real-world use. Even then, their early releases will be limited, and will require a huge amount of community feedback and multiple revisions to “get it right”. With this in mind, early release with rapid iteration is a critical practice for any tool that aims to be successful in this space.

As an aside, code editors tend to follow an accelerated path, simply because the problems they are solving are less tied to a specific technology platform, and have been thoroughly explored for other languages.

Of course, none of these steps happen in isolation. In the JS world, you can see all of these underway simultaneously. There is an unending stream of new frameworks, as developers explore challenges, with a number of more mature ones gaining traction. There are a number of popular single-purpose tools (ex. LESS, Closure Compiler, Zoë). There are a few partial workflow tools (ex. CodeKit). And finally, there are a number of early entries in the more robust tool category (Edge, Sencha Animator, Flash Pro’s Wallaby, etc).

Further, this evolution is massively complicated and slowed in the HTML/JS world by the constant flux of the technology, the non-trivial issue of supporting multiple browsers/platforms, and the question of legacy support. Tool makers need to wait for a standard (or more frequently, a collection of standards) to stabilize and be broadly adopted/accepted before they can risk the investment to build on top of it.

This is obviously a simplified look at the problem, but hopefully helps illustrate where things are today, and why we don’t have access to fully mature tools for HTML5 development yet. They are coming, but it’s going to be an incremental process.

Updates to EaselJS, SoundJS, TweenJS & Zoë!

I’m very happy to announce that I’ve pushed major updates to a number of our javascript tools and libraries for developing rich content with HTML5. It’s very exciting for me to see these starting to realize some of the vision I’ve had for them over the past year, both as individual pieces and as a suite of tools to make great interactive content using web standards.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what was released:

EaselJS v0.4.0
The latest release of EaselJS (our HTML5 display library) has a completely reengineered sprite sheet engine, which includes a host of new features: multi-image sprite sheets, variable frame dimensions, frame reuse, image preloading, and a new data format. Note that this change will require some minor updates to existing content using sprite sheets in EaselJS.

We’ve added filter effects, and a few sample filters, including a box blur filter by Mario Klingemann, who has agreed to write a number of other filters for the library.

There’s also a fantastic new build system, built on top of Node.js by Adobe’s own Mike Chambers. And, of course, a whole pile of other feature additions, optimizations and bug fixes. Check the VERSIONS file for full details.

Zoë v1.5.0
We’ve released a major update to Zoë, our tool for exporting sprite sheets from SWF animations. It supports EaselJS’s new data format, and adds some great new features like variable frame dimensions with more optimal rect packing, and intelligent frame reuse. The latter allows you to set a threshold for how similar frames can be, and Zoë will automatically remove similar frames and reuse them in animations. Testing on some old content, we saved 20-50% on file size with this feature, with virtually no decrease in animation quality.

This release was a bit more rushed than we would have liked, so you should expect to see a v1.5.1 release before too long that polishes things up and adds additional features such as multi-image export.

TweenJS v0.1.0
This is the first “official” release of TweenJS. TweenJS uses a simple API of chained commands to sequence tweens and actions to create complex animations and timed events. For example:

Tween.get(ball).to({x:200},500).wait(750).to({alpha:0,visible:false}).call(onComplete);

TweenJS makes a great companion to EaselJS, and also has some basic support for working with CSS properties, which will be extended in future versions.

SoundJS v0.1.0
This is also the first official release of SoundJS, our library for working with the HTML5 Audio tag. Sound in HTML5 is a complete mess to work with, and this library aims to make it a bit easier. It handles preloading, allows you to assign a fixed number of tags to a specific sound, provides volume control, and manages sound interruption.

This library is still a little rough, but we’re planning to continue to clean it up and add functionality (ex. WebAudio support) as time permits.

in summary
All of these projects are free and open source, released under the highly permissive MIT license, and are hosted on GitHub. I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to these releases, even if just by providing feedback or encouragement. Hopefully people find these useful in their own quests to build amazing content for the web!

As an aside, now that these releases are out of the way, I’m considering doing a series of posts or videos on getting started with some of these libraries. I think it would be particularly relevant as Flash developers start looking to create content in HTML5, and web developers look to create more interactive content.