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

Great Pumpkin Showdown 2017


Hallowe’en at gskinner means two traditions:

The first tradition is our annual pumpkin carving afternoon. Earlier in the week, we announced some teams, and on Friday we brought in food, drinks, snacks, and some classic Tim Burton Hallowe’en movies. The day was punctuated with visits from Dodo, our office dog for the day, on loan from Chris K.

The second tradition is the design and development of our Pumpkin Voting App. This privilege falls on our newest team member(s). They manage all the project stages, from initial sketches and ideation, right through deployment! It’s a great opportunity to provide some training and practice with real deadlines.
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Great Pumpkin Showdown 2016

It has been a few years since we did it, but this year we decided to spend an afternoon carving some pumpkins.

Last week, our newest team members Chris and Matthew found some time in their very busy schedules to build a voting app. You can check out the app at pumpkin.gskinner.com/2016/.

Please jump in and vote for best pumpkin! Instead of the usual “select your favorite”, this app uses a face-off model. If you don’t like where you end up, start again. We will cut off voting on Friday at 5pm.

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The Lab: Experiments From the gskinner Team

Sharing code and visual experiments has always been a huge part of my professional life. Experimentation in Flash launched my career, and remained an important theme in my presentations for years. I exhorted audiences to make time for play, but ultimately forgot to follow my own advice.

As the company grew, and life got busier, I lost the habit of building things for fun. I’d dabble now and then, but there was no real concerted effort to create something worth sharing.

This seems to have affected much of the industry. The lab section used to be an integral part of every agency’s site, now they are rare, and when they do exist, tend to be really sparse.

Come visit the gskinner lab.

Hex grid experiment.

It’s time for that to change, at least for us. We’re launching our lab section today. It has a decent smattering of experiments already, and we’ll add to it as time goes on.
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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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Introduction to the Flash CC HTML5 Canvas Document

With Adobe Flash Professional CC® you are able to publish HTML5 Canvas documents directly. Initially this was done using the Toolkit for CreateJS extension, however it has now been completely integrated into Flash, configurable from the Publish settings. Those who are familiar with publishing content with the Flash IDE will find themselves able to create HTML5-ready content using traditional Flash Pro timelines and tools. Even with little to no HTML/JavaScript experience, you can publish interesting and dynamic content within seconds.
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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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RegExr v2: Build, Test, & Learn RegEx

RegExr is exactly six years old today. Built in Flex and AS3, it was a largely accidental outcome of exploring a few technical concepts I was interested in at the time (tokenizers/lexers, advanced text interactions, regular expressions).

RegExr v1 circa 2008

I thought the end result might be useful to others struggling to learn or work with RegEx, so I released it online. Its popularity took me by surprise, with around 10M hits and 150K patterns saved to date. This is despite being essentially abandoned since 2008.

I’m happy to announce that the neglect is finally ending, with today’s release of RegExr v2. Rebuilt from scratch in HTML/JS, and (hopefully) improved in every way. I’d like to believe that RegExr v2 is the best way to learn, build and test RegEx online today.

RegExr v2

Key features:

  • clean, modern design
  • video tutorial
  • expression syntax coloring
  • underlines expression errors in red
  • contextual help for all regex tokens and errors on rollover
  • updates matches as you type
  • support for testing substitution/replace
  • full reference of all JS RegEx tokens, with loadable examples
  • searchable database of community submitted patterns
  • drag and drop text files to load their content
  • save and share patterns with others via direct links
  • undo/redo
     

I also dug through over 240 comments on the original blog post, and implemented a ton of suggestions:

  • larger monospaced text and support for browser zoom (my eyes are older, my monitors are larger, and 10pt font just doesn’t seem so cool now)
  • vastly improved tokenizer, that is (hopefully) 100% accurate to JS RegExp standards
  • improved documentation, now with examples
  • support for pasting full expressions (including flags)
  • save includes your sample and substitution text
     

Now that it’s released, we’re going to try not to let it stagnate again. The first order of business is to clean up the code and commit it to the RegExr GitHub repo, so that it becomes a living project with community support.

We’re also going to try to clean up the existing community patterns – likely scrubbing any that now have errors (due to differences in AS3 and JS for example).

Following that, I’m going to be taking a look at different options for wrapping it in a desktop installer, so you can run it offline and save your favourites locally (input on this is welcome). I’d also love to make it usable on mobile devices, not because I think there’s a huge demand for testing regular expressions on mobile phones, but as a challenge to see if it can be done well – I think the “click to insert” feature of the reference library could work really well.

I’m also planning to write up a blog post exploring some of the technical challenges and decisions that we made while building this.

If you enjoy using RegExr, you can help out by tweeting, facebooking, gPlussing, blogging, or otherwise sharing/linking to it so others can find it. Version 1 disappeared almost completely from Google a few months ago (I believe they downgraded pages with only Flash content), and I’d really like it to recover in the rankings.

As always, I’d love to hear what you think of the new version of RegExr, and any feedback on how to make it even better.