Hello? is this flash video on my phone?

mobile_flv.jpgAdobe announced in the 3GSM Congress that the next release of Flash Liteā„¢ (Flash for mobile phones & devices) will support Flash Video (FLV), to be available in the first half of 2007 – that’s really soon!This means the same video we view with our browsers will soon be viewable with our smart phones, making the FLV a dominant standard for delivering streaming video content to all devices.This also means future potential in terms of the smart phone’s User Interface, giving another strong incentive for implementing Flash Lite in the phones, also holds a possible answer to Apple’s iPhone User Interface coolness factor, as flash also allows really cool stuff. hmm, good news for flash developers.

The technological edge myth


Dealing with ideas and startups, we get to talk with entrepreneurs, VCs and BizDev guys, very often we are asked what is the technological edge in the idea? what will differentiate it from imitations and prevent competitors from copying the idea? hmm, how about nothing?

In todays reality, what makes a product hot often has nothing to do with pioneering technology, what was Flickr’s technological edge? what was YouTube’s? yes, yes, I know, both these examples have deep technological aspects in their solution/product/service, but Flickr really did not invent something new in terms of technology, neither did YouTube. for each example I can name a better reason for succeeding other than a technological edge, mainly Timing, face it, many of those web2.0 companies are really implementing OLD ideas, in a better circumstances, as today the users are more willing to accept & participate in “advanced” concepts.

So what is the importance of a technological edge in the chances of a new idea to succeed ?

Since It is simply not necessary today to have huge development departments in order to make applications people want, it is time to omit the technology from the phrase – the edge may be the user experience in your product (e.g. iPod), integrating well with other services (mashup), or being open for enhancements from third party players (open API), and more important – successfully integrating these in your business plans & objectives.

I value the user experience the most because this is what counts for users at the end, I use Flickr, Skype, de.icio.us, because it is easy and convenient, not because they use this platform and not another, and this counts for success – how many users are actually using it, and what impact it has on our life.

What’s your Bookmarks system?

One of the interesting differences between people is how they organize their bookmarks – I have a folder based system for my bookmarks, sorted by activities (see my example cap) I find this system fairly intuitive for adding new bookmarks and also finding it later, but I guess you couldn’t as it’s very subjective.bookmarks.gif
My friend Amit has a never-ending single-level list of bookmarks (yea, I know, he’s using a PC, he calls it “Favorites”), he doesn’t mind scrolling up & down as long as he is not dealing with folders and names. I can respect that, though probably could never get used to it myself. This kind of system relies on your memory & is somehow closer to the History, since we (well, at least me) can’t remember over a week back of browsing, it is very limited. My system is closer to categorizing or tagging, yet much simpler than del.icio.us tagging system, one thing I know for sure – my system requires maintenance, Amit’s not..Speaking of del.icio.us, two things bother me with their service:1) wouldn’t it be cooler if the submission interface was a small rectangle hovering over a portion of the page, instead of wasting time and loading the submission page and then reloading the original page back?2) there is no way to efficiently search through someone’s bookmarks, I find it annoying searching through tag clouds for something specific, its more of a statistic highlight view, especially when that someone has many many bookmarks and tags.

Communicating with Flash – External Interface method

Be warned, I will discuss ActionScript in the following words, you may want to eat something before reading any further. Any way, this may not be “hot news” but will still open my ActionScript category :)From time to time when I have more than one flash site open and they play sounds or music, I get confused which window produce what music? Since I am using a Mac where all the windows sounds just blend, it is really hard to tell.I expect flash authors & developers to handle this issue, especially in flash website, by adding a script that will stop the sound in the flash when the window is loosing focus. This is an example of a need for communication between flash and the scripting environment, invoking JavaScript functions from flash and vice versa, actually it’s also relevant in applications embedding flash player, and maybe Apollo soon?.
I will start with legacy methods:
The good old Flash Methods is pretty simple but very limited, all it can do is set/get a property in the flash object, or send flash few basic commands. The other direction – invoking JS functions from within Flash was done using fscommand that can pass one argument, so by using some kind of formatting (heard of Jason?) enabled passing few values in one string. However, fscommand does not return any value to flash, and therefore required using listeners for utilizing in more complex applications.
The new method:The External Interface Class Is a more matured method for communicating between ActionScript and the environment, available for flash version 8 and above, all major browsers.

From ActionScript, you can do the following on the HTML page:
Call any JavaScript function, Pass any number of arguments, Pass various data types (Boolean, Number, String, and so on), Receive a return value from the JavaScript function.
From JavaScript on the HTML page, you can:
Call an ActionScript function, Pass arguments using standard function call notation, Return a value to the JavaScript function.

It works by registering a function for external use by the browser, the registration is done using the ExternalInterface class and basically dedicates a unique name for each function.
This example shows an event (Page loosing/getting focus) that triggers a function in flash (stop/play sound), you can download sources here.

Adobe Kuler – color schemes made cooler

For those who are not subscribed to the Adobe Edge newsletter, Adobe recently released Kuler – a really cool free on-line platform for creating & sharing Color schemes.Creating the color schemes is really easy & fun, colors can be defined in RGB, CMYK, LAB, HEX, making it applicable to all kind of implementation. Kuler provides predefined “Rules” which are actually preset relationships between colors, so you can change the range of your scheme on the spectrum and keep same relationship, really nice and cool!From designer point of view, these rules are replacing the “human touch” with technology. Enabling unexperienced users to reach good successful color schemes, and enjoy the experimental way.
The interface is simple & easy, however performance is not so great, every act that requires communication with the server (saving, searching, sharing) takes too long in my standards, I wanted to create few schemes to share with others, but after saving the first two I gave it up. The community features are also limited, currently only browsing and ranking, I found it painfully slow to browse other’s schemes as kuler displays 9 schemes each time and takes ages to load.

Spend a night with Geni – a new Genealogy site

A new genealogy tree creation site has recently been launched, but this one Geni.com is really fun! without presumptuous features, the interface is made in Flash, so easy & strait forward that even my grandma can manage. Yesterday I sent my parents an invitation to see the tree I started, and this morning I saw a forest! this is so sticky, and the great part is that it bring your family closer, in contrary to all the trendy anonymous sharing communities this deals with your loved ones.I love the concept.
Look what my mom did!If you’re into Genealogy you should also check MyHeritage.com, though Safari browsers are not welcomed, it is well worth launching Firefox to find out you look like Fox Mulder…

The Venice Project Interface oddities – a quick review

Before commenting about the interface I must say that the Venice Project client has very good table manners and generally behaves very nice, before installing it checks your hardware and informs you if your computer meets the requirements, uninstalling is also a breeze, very nice guys. Also, the video quality is pretty amazing, especially when compared to the traditional streaming alternatives, the Venice Project has a very fast initiation and almost no disturbances and freezes.The downsides are with the interface, aimed to be viewed in fullscreen mode, and probably later on through a TV, the texts are big (a la front row), the panels are clear and simple. However the interface suffers from few oddities, most annoying is the endless looped scrolling – Hey! this is really confusing, if you’re looping the menu items, let us know, put a loop marker at the end of each balk.
The main panel that has all the ‘Play Controls’ also holds the Application Controls (Quit, Resize), while in the top-right corner of the screen there is a floating icon for hiding the current screen – shouldn’t it be the opposite? It seems that the Quit button should be always present and not associated with the playing controls, furthermore, the Hide Screen is inconsistently appearing inside & outside of panels.
Another issue is the keyboard arrows, while in the ‘My Channels’ screen it is so easy and fast using them to navigate in & out of channels, in ‘Channel Catalog’ moving back to the Suggestion menu is not possible, only Up & Down.. Once I enter the ‘Channel Catalog’, I can only exit, cant go back to ‘My Channels’, even if I got there this way. come on, how will you menage a remote control navigation if you cant eat this?
Beside, it is not clear why the duplicated channels screens is needed, from the ‘Channels Catalog’ it is not possible to launch the channel, you can only add it to ‘My Channels’ – how can I know if I want to add this channel if no preview or description is available? after I added a channel to ‘my channels’ I cant remove it. ‘My Channels’ is also lacking the image/logo preview the ‘Channel Catalog’ has.
In ‘My Venice’ screen, pressing ‘My Venice Plugins’ button brings the ‘My Venice Menu’, hmm. the menu it self is mixing sections and items in the same level – News Ticker Manager along with the Feeds themselves..
Also, from the menu screen I cant know which item is enabled and needs to be clicked, and that’s the menu purpose.The feeds marquee is moving too fast for human reading.I still think that the general experience is great, and that the interface is not that bad for a beta, I hope it will improve in the future, and that we’ll see more content too :)

Cyberduck your files – ftp for mac

I was using all kind of FTP clients along the years, mainlly on PC’s, and my Mac was always neglected because there was no decent client to work with. when I found this great free application – Cyberduck – I was surprized how well it works and how intuitive the interface is.
I contacted David the auther and joined him to translate cyberduck to Hebrew.
If you use FTP on a Mac – it’s a must-have application, Cyberduck 2.7.2 is to be released within the next two days,

The ultimate beta tester?

I like testing new pioneering apps, as a student back in 1999, I was crashing my old G4 with the OS X beta few weeks after it’s release, compiling Apache and php with Unix tutorials ages before binary installations were available, I guess it comes along with using a Mac.Taday it’s the same – I had to try Parallels Desktop beta, and signed up for VMware fusion beta the day they opened the registration form… only to find out that I dont use it at all.Apparently I was the first israeli to receive an invitation to participate in the Venice Project Beta, yes IPTV is close to my heart, but how cold they know?More on my impressions on The Venice Project soon.

Hey, what about Leopard?

The Macworld Keynote is behind us, yea the iPhone looks pretty amazing, and AppleTV would be cool in my living room, but I was more interested in Leopard, where was it?!Beside the expected final knock-out to Vista, and the GUI evolution that was not yet revealed, I was betting on some virtualization capabilities in the OS level – being able to run exe natively, something that will push the competition with PC’s to a different era.There is no doubt that the Apple hardware products are a phenomenal success, but without the OS edge it will not take too long for the competitive market to match and fill the gap. Beside, as a Mac user I am expecting more than what is showcased in the ‘Leopard Sneak Peek’, everything should be better, every detail, for example, before blowing our icons to enormous 512 pixel make them dynamic – why is iCal stuck on July 17th?!