Dec '08

Let’s chat: Flash to Flash, AIR to AIR

One of the coolest demos I ever saw was an app that Brandon Hall created prior to the release of Flash 5, in which he had built a Flash-based chat client. It was really quite simple – one Flash movie with an input field and a dynamic text field, talking (sending messages) to the same Flash movie in another browser (or on another computer). When I asked him how he did it, he said, “well, I’m using an XML server”. When I said that I’d never heard of an XML server (and remember this was many, many years ago), Brandon calmly added, “well, I couldn’t find one either – so I wrote one over the weekend”.

Now most of us aren’t capable of, and probably don’t have the desire to write our own XML server. That’s why Adobe introduced the Flash Media Server to manage communications between clients. But even that has its drawbacks, as we need to purchase the server – and many of us don’t have this option as our sites are hosted by an ISP. Of course, we could sign-up for an account with a FMS hosting partner, but that can sometimes be overkill – because what we’re looking for is a simple peer-to-peer solution. And of course these days, it’s not just about chat, it’s about video chat.

Well, look no further than Adobe Labs, where we have just posted the first preview of a new technology service, code-named Stratus, that will allow exactly that – simple peer-to-peer communication (text/audio/video and more) between Flash clients, whether those are running in the browser or as an AIR application – without the need for a complicated server set-up, because we’ve done all the work for you. Very cool!



Dec '08

An Open Letter To The Airline Industry

Dear Airline Executives,

As a frequent flyer, who has averaged over 200000 flown miles every year since 1998, I have a vested interest in your survival as an industry. I completely understand your need for revenue – however a few recent developments have caused me to question not only the wisdom of your decisions, but also whether or not the people making the decisions have actually flown in the last seven years.

I completely understand that things like water and soft drinks aren’t free for you, but I also know that you get some sweet deals in terms of pricing on these items in return for announcing that “your airline is proud to serve soda X”. I also know that I just paid a hefty price for this ticket. So, it’s a bit ridiculous to ask me to pay $2 for a bottle of water that cost you $.35. Buying onboard food – fine, if I want other food I can bring it from home. Keep charging the $5 for beer and wine too – but don’t rape me for something that was free a few months ago back when fuel prices were, hmm, exactly where they are again now! And especially when that particular item can’t be brought through security anymore.

But even more troubling is the new baggage insanity fee. Again, I’m all for making money – but in a smart and equitable way. Your recent requirement to pay $15-25 for a checked bag has done nothing but cause passengers to attempt to stuff their entire apartment into a roll-aboard and backpack (neither of which can fit into the overhead bin without using a crowbar and personal lubricant). The result is that bins are completely full before even half of the passengers have boarded – a process which is also slowed because of the time needed to wedge all of the oversized duffelbags into the minimal space available. And then your flight crew gets to waste even more time checking the rest of the carry-ons in the gangway – for free!!! I’ve even heard passengers giving each other tips about this very thing!

Let’s get real – there are two far more intelligent solutions to this problem. Feel free to chose either one…

First, charge a carry-on fee instead of a checked bag fee. Charge the same $15-25 for any bag larger than a standard computer backpack or briefcase size. Upon paying, issue a bag tag that is attached to the bag in order to bring it onboard. It’s far less time-consuming for a gate agent or flight attendant to glance at the rollaboards being brought on than to fill out 20 or 30 luggage tags for bags that can’t find an overhead bin space.

Not only would this free up bin space, thereby alleviating the major bottleneck in the boarding process, it also ensures that the majority of bags go through more rigorous inspection than that afforded at most checkpoints – helping to keep us all safer.

Now if you don’t like that idea, how about just tacking on the stupid $15 to the price of every ticket as a fuel surcharge? That is the reason that you’ve said you needed to add the baggage fee, isn’t it? So let’s be fair and make everyone shoulder the burden of the higher fuel costs. We’re all getting on the plane – why does my checked bag cost more in the cargo hold than the one in the overhead bin? And don’t tell me it’s a matter of weight – you already have weight restrictions – and you are able to distribute the weight in the cargo hold much more effectively than you can in the cabin. And a fuel surcharge could actually be decreased or even recended as fuel prices decrease (as if you’d ever actually do that…).

The bottom line is that we all know the economy sucks – but I also know that every plane I get on is packed to the gills. We all want you to survive and even to turn a profit, but nickel and dimeing us in a way that makes the entire traveling experience even more of a headache is the quickest way to lose any goodwill that you might still have following 9/11. And, yes I know, as a frequent flyer I am not subject to the bag fees – but I do still have to get on the plane in a timely manner. And when I can’t manage to be one of the first ones on the plane I still need to find room for my bag. Think about it – or better yet make your executive fly coach (in a middle seat) on six flights this week. I bet we’d see a lot of changes come next week. ;-)


P.S. To my readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my ideas – or any of your own airline stories. Comment away!


Dec '08

Dreamweaver Tip: Instant Background Images

As one of the “experts” on Dreamweaver in the world (at least according to all of you), I always get a kick out of discovering something new in my favorite program. And, since it just happened, I thought I’d share…

Back in CS3 we implemented copy/paste between Dreamweaver and Photoshop, allowing Dreamweaver to then optimize and save the image before placing it on the Dreamweaver page. With CS4, we updated the workflow to allow you to drag-and-drop a PSD directly into Dreamweaver with the same optimization/save process happening.

However, in seminars, I have always pointed out that if you want to use a piece of the PSD as a background image, you needed to do the copy/paste procedure. Then delete the image from the page, create a CSS rule and link to the newly created image as a background image.

Well, here’s the newly discovered enhancement: there’s no need to do the copy/paste/delete! The next time you’re thinking that you need a CSS background image for an element, simply choose to edit the rule (or create a new one if necessary) using the CSS dialog box in Dreamweaver CS4. Select the Background category and click the Browse button to locate the PSD file you’re interested in. Once you click OK to choose the PSD, you should see the optimization window open within Dreamweaver. You can then use the Crop tool (located at the bottom of the window) to isolate the area you wish to use as the background image. Set your optimization format and amount and click OK. Dreamweaver will prompt you to save the file in your site, and then return you to the CSS dialog with the image field filled out so that you can set additional properties (such as repeat, positioning, etc).

The only caveat to this procedure is that your PSD file needs to have been saved in a “useable” state. In other words, if you need to turn on/off a layer or layer group in order to get the “right” image, then this technique won’t work.

Hope this helps… Cheers!

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