Lanny McNie

As the dev mgr, Lanny oversees the technical day-to-day details of production and makes sure things get out the door.

@astrostyle

Explaining Patterns and Matches in RegExr

RegExr 2.0 was released a little over 2 years ago. If you haven’t used it, it is a great way to test, preview, and share Regular Expressions. We’re committed to updating and improving RegExr, and in January we quietly pushed out some features to help inspect and explain patterns.

Check out RegExr here.

The New “Tools” Bar

Initially, RegExr only had one tool, the “substitution” panel, which let users show sample text with matches substituted using an expression. It was hidden by default, unless a pattern included a substitution expression. This tool has been renamed “replace”, and is now part of a larger “tools” bar, which we hope to continue growing in the future. In the meantime, it has a few other useful tools that I’ll describe below in more detail. Continue reading →

The Evolution of Video in Flash

Back in the good ol’ days, Flash was very popular among many for playing media. It was used, online and offline, for displaying animations, showing presentations, and general advertising. Though there weren’t all that many options back then, such popularity still came mostly because it was simple. It was able to animate vector art very smoothly as opposed to large, clunky .gifs, as well as allow users to use simple interactions like mouse clicks and keyboard input. Macromedia Flash itself also had a very simple interface and UI, and was used in schools all over to help teach students multimedia and animation.

As the internet evolved, so did Flash. As video playback started to become popular, Flash had no choice but to adapt to keep up with competition and provide its users with the best experience possible. This involved cutting corners, taking back-doors, and even adding a whole new programming language to the mix at one point.

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Keeping it Grounded: Why We Avoid the Cloud (Sometimes)

The Cloud

Don’t get me wrong, the “Cloud” is great. Being able to utilize existing apps and not having to worry about updates or security is a huge time saver. But when it gets down to it, “In the cloud” is a buzz term. When translated to laymen speech it means “Storing your data and running your applications on an offsite server, somewhere”. It’s that “somewhere” that is a legal gray area for us, and for certain clients. For example; let’s say we’re working on a project for Microsoft, but are storing documents and files on Google servers. The two companies can (and do) collaborate, but what if they don’t on this project? And we’re storing sensitive Microsoft information with Google? It could cause legal issues if a dispute ever came up. This is the primary reason why we choose to self-host the vast majority of our infrastructure. The services we self-host include a Git server, bug tracker, wiki, file syncing server, and a custom built timetracker. Having a local server host all these services allows us to be extremely agile in development and with our workflows.

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Technitone.com is back!

Create Music with Technitone (again!)

In 2011, we worked with Google on a Chrome experiment to demo the then-new Web Audio API. Although we were only tasked with coming up with something that could show the new audio features, our (often-excitable) team came up with a project that pushed our capabilities in a ton of technologies, including WebGL, Canvas, web sockets for multi-player, and CSS animations. For a great technical dive into the original Technitone.com we launched with, check out the html5rocks.com article!

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Scripting Google Spreadsheets

Turn your Google Spreadsheets into JSON without doing anything!

A while ago, I did a Flash project that was fairly heavily text-oriented. To help keep track of all the text, all the strings were given labels and placed in a JSON, spanning about 1500 lines and calling almost 4000 different references all throughout the code.

Later on down the road, the client contacted us and told me that they wanted the language of the strings in English and in French. Alright, no problem, just have to manually update these 4000 references and run checks to see what language is being used … no, ain’t happening like that.

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QA for the Modern Web

Most of the products we deliver at gskinner are web-based applications. This means that one of our major goals is to have a QA process which ensures that they look and behave as expected across target devices and browsers, while having a fallback plan for those not supported. It’s a challenge in the modern web, especially when new technologies in the browser landscape are constantly emerging, while others are being refined or completely removed. This is the reason why we have a QA process that continues to evolve and expand. Here are a few ways that we currently approach it.
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Automation in Your Daily Workflow

Automation saves you time, your company money, and your employee’s sanity. At gskinner, we have a long history of building workflow tools to aid with anything from creating a simple button in Flash, to managing the build process for entire web apps or JavaScript libraries like CreateJS. Automation doesn’t need to be complicated. Some of my own tools only have a few lines of code, but those few lines can take hours off any project. For large scale projects spending hours or even days building an automation tool can have the same impact as a small tool. I generally start with a small scope (no more then a few hours) and see if what I’m building is a) Useful and b) Useable. If it doesn’t meet both of those criteria then I can re-evaluate my approach without burning too much time.

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Check. Check. Is this thing on?

It’s been nearly a full year since I last blogged. (Do people still blog? Maybe I should snapchat this instead?) I used to blog a lot, but life became busier, posts became more infrequent, and eventually it stopped being a habit and became a chore.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to say. It’s just that the last few years have been a crazy and exciting ride, and I haven’t had a lot of time to dedicate to writing posts.

Five years ago, Flash as a platform died. For a lot of shops, the migration was gradual. Not for us. Our clients come to us for cutting-edge tech, and almost overnight, Flash didn’t meet their criteria. We went from almost 100% Flash work, to nearly 0% in less than a year.
Continue reading →