Archive for December, 2004

What Are You Hoping For This Holiday Season?

Ok, I’ll admit that I get just as excited on Christmas morning now as I did when I was a kid. The only difference is that I usually don’t have time to get excited until late Christmas Eve whereas when I was a kid, I started getting excited days and even weeks in advance. Still, it’s a great time of year of many reasons, but I’m not ashamed to admit that in addition to spending additional time with my family and especially with extended family, I also love getting presents!

The problem is that my tastes have gotten too expensive and specific for most people who give me gifts, so unless I’ve asked for something by model number, I never know what I’m going to end up with. I’m hoping for a new watch or two. Although my taste in watches is getting a pretty esoteric (and too expensive), there are always some nice Casio, Fossil, Timex, Swiss Army or Swatch models to be had. And I’m hoping for some Sopranos DVDs since I’m determined to own them all some day. I’ll probably get a Star Wars DVD box set even though I already have two. And I wouldn’t mind getting Start Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, though I think I might have added that to my list too late, so I’ll probably have to get it with the Best Buy gift certificate I’m certain to get from someone who didn’t know what the heck to get me. I think I’m actually ok on computer equipment this year, and none of my essential devices (digital camera, GPS, MP3 player, etc.) need updating. Too bad the PSP isn’t out yet, or that would probably be at the top of my list. Anyway, I hope I’m not coming across as too materialistic, but I love getting new toys now as much as I did as a kid, and I will be giving plenty of toys to others to make sure they are equally surprised and excited.

So what are you hoping for this holiday season, and what kind of clever gifts did you get for others?

Who Would Use a CFCONTINUE Tag?

This isn’t an official survey (or even unofficial one, for that matter), but I’m wondering how many people out there would use a CFCONTINUE tag if there were one available. Personally, I find the ability to continue (to jump to the next item in a loop) very useful, and occasionally my ColdFusion code suffers without it. 90% of the time I easily get by with CFIF tags inside loops, but when there is a great deal of processing going on, and a lot of decisions being made, I’ve found myself having to nest a lot of CFIF tags when a CFCONTINUE tag could have simplified my code. What are your thoughts?

Holiday Fun From Macromedia

Make time to play! Check out this holiday game from Macromedia:

http://www.macromedia.com/macromedia/holiday2004/

The water is video, mixed with bitmap images and vector art, and the entire game is coded with ActionScript 2.0, giving more realistic movement and control of the penguin during the dives. Apparently there‚Äôs an easter egg in the game (for the “truly gifted” but I haven’t been able to find it yet.

Macromedia Product RSS Feed Updates

You may have noticed there were some technical problems with the Macromedia product RSS feeds recently (I know a lot of you noticed because I got a ton of email about it). The problem was actually a bug in the tool we use to generate the feeds. The bug has been fixed, and now all the feeds are successfully parsing once again.

Also, we are going to be adding dc:subject tags to each item in the feeds pretty soon which is something several people have been asking for. It will allow developers to programatically distinguish between tech notes, security bulletins, Developer Center content, and product update information. I’ll let everyone know once the changes are in place.

Cool Tool Friday 2: Google Suggest

Check out the latest project from Google labs: Google Suggest. As you type search terms, it will offer keyword suggestions in real time.

Cool Tool Friday: MSN Direct Watches

I’ve gotten a few emails asking me what ever happened to Cool Tool Friday. Sorry I’ve been remiss. It’s not due to a lack of cool tools so much as a lack of time. Anyway, enough excuses. On to my newest toy.

If you’re a regular reader, you know how much I love watches. I’ve loved them all my life. All kinds of watches, too, from Timex to Rolex. I like traditional mechanical and automatic analog watches, as well as the bleeding edge digitals. So when I first came across Microsoft’s SPOT watches, I was dying to try one, but there weren’t any models available yet that I really liked, or that were cheap enough to buy as an experiment. Then Swatch introduced the Swatch Paparazzi and I made the leap.

The Swatch Paparazzi is a fantastic watch in and of itself even without the MSN Direct service. It has just about every time-related feature you could ask for in a watch from support for multiple time zones to a countdown timer to two programmable alarms (meaning you can set the date as well as just the time) to a full calendar interface. The backlight is every effective, the buttons have a perfect feel, and at $150, the price is right.

Then add on the MSN Direct service, and you have a very powerful tool. In addition to all the features I just named, I now have news headlines, news alerts, stock quotes, customizable watch faces, movie information, and weather. And there are several other “channels” I could add, as well (like sports and horoscopes) if I were interested.

What are the downsides? Well, you pay yearly for the MSN Direct service. I got the $40 plan (which doesn’t include Outlook synchronization) which I personally think is fairly reasonable. And the other downside is the size of the watch. Since it has a built-in antenna, it’s not exactly subtle, and doesn’t quite say the same thing as a Seiko, Citizen, Omega, or a Tag Heuer. But it’s a fun watch, nonetheless, and definitely a good addition to my collection.

For more information on the Swatch Paparazzi, you can read a review here. Also, anyone else out there wearing an MSN Direct watch right now? If so, what do you think?

Time For a New Browser Survey

With the release of Mike Chambers’ Macromedia News Firefox Extension, I figured it was about time for another browser poll. A year ago, I created a browser poll and found that IE was in the lead (among people who read my weblog, at least) with 49.55%. Firebird was in second place with 17.68%, Safari in third with 15.73%, and Mozilla was in forth place with 10.14%. The total number of responses were 1,233. If you have a second, take the new poll to the right and let’s see where we are a year later.

Why is this information important? If you’re a web developer, which I’m guessing you are if you’re reading this, you already know the answer. Although we all try to make our work accessible to as many people as possible (which often means on as many different browsers and platforms as possible), it’s almost always necessary to draw a line somewhere, especially now that many of us have made the transition from tables and fonts to CSS and styles, or even Flash or DHTML. Which browsers do you spend time testing on? Which browsers get highest priority? Is it ok if your app is broken or maimed in certain browsers? In order to answer any of these questions, you have to know the numbers.

I know that this poll is not necessarily representative of the demographic who uses our applications, but it’s been my experience that the trends we see with technologists are often the trends which eventually make it into the mainstream.

Macromedia News Firefox Extension

If you use Firefox (which you should), and you like to keep up with Macromedia news (which you should), check out Mike Chambers’ new Macromedia News Firefox Extension. I’ve been using it in various forms for about the last week, and I’m totally addicted to it.

Submitting Flash Forms Without Refreshing

I’ve been working on a way to submit Blackstone Flash forms without refreshing the page, and I have it working quite well. The code lets you either submit data to the server without re-rendering the Flash, or submit the data to a different window (the CFFORM tag supports targets, but the target attribute doesn’t give you a way to submit to a different window).

I’ve only tested it with Firefox, but I’m pretty sure it will work on all modern browsers. It’s a bit too early to release the code just yet, but once Blackstone is live, I’ll release the code along with a tutorial.

What do you guys think of what you’ve seen of Flash forms so far?

Macromedia Launches New Support Knowledge Base

So how many of you have had trouble finding a tech note, security bulletin, or Developer Center article on Macromedia’s site? Adding search powered by Google has helped tremendously, and now Macromedia has just added a second very powerful tool: the Macromedia Knowledge Base.

The idea of the Macromedia Knowledge Base is that it focuses specifically on support documents as opposed to indexing the entire site. In addition to returning highly relevant results, the Knowledge Base gives you a great deal of additional control over your search, and offers categorized alternatives to help you narrow down and further focus your results. If it sounds complicated, it really isn’t, and if it sounds powerful, it certainly is.

During a test this morning, I did a search for “jrun flash remoting” and although I only got back 53 results, they were 53 highly relevant results like “Consuming Web Services with Macromedia JRun 4 and Flash Remoting,” “Configuring Flash Remoting with JRun 4,” “How to connection to a JavaBean using Flash Remoting and JRun 4/J2EE,” and “Flash Remoting checklist for JRun 4 users.” I was also presented with several related alternatives as well as the ability to search within my existing search results. Very nice.

For more information, have a look at the Macromedia Knowledge Base FAQ (which includes a cool demo), or just jump right in!