News and views on the world of interactive media from the gskinner team
Author /Wes Gorgichuk
Alpha video in HTML5 should be easy right? Not quite, certainly not as easy as Flash was. In an article a long long time ago, from an internet far far away … I wrote about alpha video in Flash 8. (remember Flash?). Back then alpha video was a huge new feature that allowed developers to create a .flv with a transparent background that worked in all browsers. Allowing us to do all sorts of fancy effects. With Flash being a thing of the past, modern browsers are not in agreement on what video format we should use on the web. It makes things a little more muddled today.
Choosing what platform to build your new app in is always a challenge. Usually, you’ll default to what you know, be that Angular, React, Vue. etc. Sometimes that decision is made for you, sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can define it for yourself. In my case using TypeScript, React and Fluent UI to build applications has been the best development decision I’ve made in a long time.
Yes, I’m very lazy and proud of it. Most programmers out there will understand that. We’re among the laziest people you’ll ever meet. We’ll work hard and create a vast array of tools and scripts to aid us in tasks that we consider boring or repetitive, all so we don’t need to do extra work. Many of the repos at gskinner have a utils folder that’s full of scripts that serve one specific purpose. That’s a good thing. In daily programming, there are always repetitive tasks that crop up. Some are easy, some are just boring and time-consuming. Here are a few tips to help you also be lazy and save those precious seconds during your day.
When Should you Create Tools?
Is there a group of tasks that’s repetitive? Ex: everyday are you running the same X commands? Make a script to wrap them.
Is there a boring, but labor-intensive task that comes up every few weeks or months? Make a script for that. A good way to know when you should create a script for these tasks is, are you always having to remember those nit-picky details about how to do it? Or are there weird edge cases you know will be forgotten? A quick script will help isolate those dependencies for next time.
Is it a task that’s large and time-consuming? Examples could be data extraction or converting a folder full of files. Make a script for that. Sometimes if you know that one task will take you a few days (or more) to complete. Then, by all means, spend a few hours or even a day or 2 making that script that will save you time in the long run.
A “tool” doesn’t need to be a script. It could be a small, throwaway, RegExp expression. I don’t know how many times the “List” feature on https://regexr.com/ has saved me from hours of tedious data conversion tasks.
Focus on Functionality
These tools don’t need to be perfect. They don’t need to be used by other projects or other people. Sure, if you make something that’s useful, then, by all means, consider making it more portable. But don’t waste time upfront with that extra work. It’s very tempting to over-architect your tool, but it may only be a script that’s only ever used in your project, or potentiality only runs once or twice. Your initial focus should be making it functional and don’t worry so much about error handling. Don’t worry about making the UI or cli interface perfect. Don’t worry about making the code clean. Do what’s fast, do what’s gonna get you to that point of running the script, so you can move past your boring task. You can always tweak or polish your script in the future. Or someone on your team will.
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.
This week, our first public AIR application, DiggTop, surpassed the 10, 000 download mark, thank-you to all who have downloaded it!
We initially announced DiggTop back in April, Flex + Apollo + Digg API = DiggTop!, for the then brand new Digg API. We had hoped to have many new versions and features out by now, but due to our internal work load, free products like DiggTop suffer (an all too common story). But fear not! We have not forgotten about this project and still have great new features planned for (hopefully) the near future. We will also be updating it to match any future builds of AIR. So stay tuned, as our little AIR application will keep wasting your time well into the future.
**Note: Digg has recently updated their api, so any current builds of DiggTop will not work anymore. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. This build resolves that issue, and adds a new images section to match the Digg.com site.
Macromedia has released the second of a series of articles from us Flash developers at gskinner. This article entitled âTrue Alpha Video in Flash 8â gives you the knowledge and skills to create your first alpha video, and how to use that video in Flash. I learned a lot about the new Flash 8 video in researching this article, and I really hope you take away some good knowledge about creating and using alpha video from reading this. You can read my article here. While researching this article we had tons of fun filming Guirellmo the hamster for the goofy demo below. Guirellmoâs whole purpose was to eat, and run across the screen (easier said then done). Just click to drop food in his feeding area and watch him do his thing.