Behavior, Content, Money – 3 Things you should never give away for free!!!

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HTML Tutorial and Web History lesson

Posted by bryan on May 21, 2016 in AJAX, Flash, HTML, JSON, XML with No Comments


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Today, something unexpected happened. I had the (somewhat unplanned and impromptu) pleasure of showing the ropes to the “new recruit” at work, a student here for a work term over summer break.

Now, we’re not necessarily doing that much coding here yet, as we’re still in the process of bringing back large portions of IT functionality in-house. We do, however, do a lot of software configuration, release management, testing/QA tasks, and, we are ramping up to use a major enterprise CMS to be able to create front-end content quickly (HTML/JS/CSS backed by JSP & EJB following OSGI structure).

I’ve always wondered in the back of my mind, if I were “in charge”, how would I more gently introduce the younger generation to the world of “enterprise programming”? Certainly the “enterprise world” is often significantly different, if not completely far-removed, from the real-world of cutting edge software development based on agile methodologies and lightweight web frameworks, co-developed with the customer in real-time, or implemented competitively overnight at a weekend hackathon. It is also far-removed from the naiively specialized world of “academic coding”, where “programming problems” (albeit sometimes very tricky ones) are assigned with a very clear set of up-front requirements and well-defined metrics for acceptance, where every assignment is given a certain amount of time to complete and graded for completeness and of course for “originality” or “ability-to-follow-the-book-without-copying” (where copying any minor component is seen as the devil’s work, labelled plagiarism, and ostracized).

Enterprise application development on the other hand, often times has no clear-cut requirements, no well-defined acceptance criteria (other than customer happiness) and is both behind schedule and over-budget before coding even begins. That thing about the no copying? Yeah that’s tossed out the window in favour of cutting corners and “getting it to market” as quickly as possible, often at the expense of quality (or in some cases even the development team understanding the solution, the most recent case that comes to mind is this hilarious StackOverflow verbatim copy “programming faux pas” from a Nissan connected car developer). All that being said, enterprise application development isn’t that hard, just more complex and frustrating than greenfielding, open source work, or even consulting. So it turned out to be a good opportunity to take a stab at it, as the student in question only had a year of Computer Science so far and despite some exposure to Java had not much in the way of Web development yet as those courses were coming later in the program. He did however, have a healthy interest in the Gaming industry, an industry which is increasingly finding an audience and monetization options for its wares on Mobile and Web platforms.

 

“The only thing constant is change”

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HTML5 Audio Player Jukebox

Posted by bcmoney on May 16, 2014 in AJAX, Flash, HTML, JSON, Multimedia, XML with No Comments


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A jukebox icon

A jukebox icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a piece of work I did on a freelance basis back in early 2012 for a client who allowed me to retain the full rights to the code as a “library” which I could distribute. (I offered them two prices of course, one cheaper rate where I retain the rights and one premium rate in which the code was exclusive to them and I would not distribute). After explaining that based on their request, I would be building it as HTML5/CSS3/JS front-end code that lives in the browser client and regardless of which choice they made it would be entirely possible for someone else to simply hit “view source” and/or sniff out raw traffic packets to copy it in full, they of course chose the cheaper option; they knew from all the hype around HTML5 in 2012 that they wanted it done in HTML5 and browser-based without relying on Flash (using Flash as a fallback only). Of course, the ease with which it would be copyable would depend entirely upon how well they protect their site through SSL-certs/code-signing/code-obsfucation/disabling-ViewSource or for example, put it behind a web viewer in a Mobile App or RIA viewer (Flex/Silverlight/JavaFX) and hiding URLs, if they really want it private. But that’s another point altogether!

They chose the cheaper option so I’ve been sitting on the code and until now I had been a combination of “too lazy”, “too busy” and “out-of-respect-for-them” not bothering to release or advertise the existince of said code. However, the time has come to unleash it! For those who’ve been at this for as long as me or longer, you may recognize that it is inspired heavily by some earlier 2009-2010 HTML5 audio demos done by the Mozilla development team as far as the look & feel; but I’ve added quite a few new features to it (for example the Flash-based fallback for old browsers like IE 5-8), CSS for a slick flat direct-link playlist if both HTML5 & Flash are missing, and the main feature which is support for both XSPF and JSPF playlist formats, which are by far the most popular open playlist data formats which really should be supported by all Online Music services (but that’s another story).

Ironically enough (as I blogged about benefits and annoyances of skeumorphs last year) it is more of a skeumorph for my old iPod shuffle which had two simple arrows (left for “previous”, right for “next”) than it is for an actual Jukebox, but I’m still calling it a jukebox where you can pick from multiple albums as long as they are all aggregated to the same XSPF/JSPF Playlist. Either way, I rather like it and think it borderline qualifies as a flat-design, web-based version of a Jukebox. It was also a disproportionately lot of work to put together considering I did the work for quite cheap and it was ultimately only going to be used to play a specific band’s few albums they had at the time online. As mentioned, it can pretty much support up to 1000’s of songs at a time (though I haven’t tested its limits or ran any browser comparison benchmarks or anything fancy-pantsy like that). Either way, it should theoretically fit as many as could fit into a single XML/JSON file without bringing your browser to a griding halt when trying to fetch, load and parse it, which is definitely in the hundreds if not thousands of lines of items.

Here it is, with a modest 4 sample albums (only one song per album for rights purposes) with royalty-free music I downloaded from Jamendo before they went under and/or re-focused their “open music community”.

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Skeumorphs – Good, Bad or Ugly?

Posted by bryan on May 31, 2013 in CSS, E-Learning, Flash, HTML with No Comments


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Nifty elevator interface. #skeumorph #nasig13

Nifty elevator interface. #skeumorph #nasig13 (Photo credit: BryanAlexander)

What are Skeumorphs?
In designing and developing new software systems and applications, a common strategy is to attempt to approximate device user interfaces to mimic or look like real-world physical objects. This is called a Skeumorph, or a skeumorphic design.

Some of the biggest problems with Skeumorphs are that they are time-sensitive and may not actually do a great job at approximating a particular item or interface from the real-world. For example, we still use the floppy disk to represent “Save” activities, when an entire generation of computer and internet users have grown up without the use of Floppy Disks.

This approach to implementing software solutions has been propagated by Apple in particular, as well as a number of other companies such as Adobe and Microsoft of late. On the other side of the fence is Google and Microsoft who have traditionally had very non-Skeumorphic designs that feel more like using a software interface than approximating any particular object in the real-world.

 

Where do Skeumorphs work?
Here are a few examples of types of interfaces for which I think Skeumorphs tend to work well (for the most part):

 

What are some non-Skeumorph design elements?
Some examples of non-Skeumorphic designs and Flat Design features would also be useful for comparison:

 

Side-by-Side Comparison

So let’s see some side-by-side examples of Skeumorphs .vs. Flat Designs that are each relevant in their own rights: Read the rest of this entry »

Google Video deletes all uploaded videos

Posted by bryan on April 29, 2011 in Cloud Computing, E-Business, Flash with 7 Comments


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GoogleVideo

Google Video BETA, now BEATUP and shutting its doors (likely due to pressures from MPAA and prospective YouTube Video Rental partners)

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…

That should be the moral of the story with Google Video, which this month became the latest in a slew of innovative services to hit the chopping blocks in Google. Google Video Search, however, will still be sticking around; just don’t expect to find many videos other than YouTube user-generated content (and illegally ripped/ content), to which I suspect many content publishers will migrate their Google Videos if they haven’t already.

Google’s plan was executed (almost) flawlessly:
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Interactive Web Graphics: A look at HTML5 Canvas .vs. SVG .vs. Flash .vs. Silverlight .vs. Unity .vs. Java .vs. VRML

Posted by bcmoney on February 9, 2011 in Flash, Mobile, Multimedia with 1 Comment


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Earth

Image by tonynetone via Flickr

Something has happened recently on the World Wide Web that really impresses me. The web has finally begun to come alive with rich, interactive, high-performance, animated graphics. Not only are these graphics becoming comparable to any previously achievable only in a Desktop Application running on the OS, but they are also pushing the boundaries in terms of what’s possible in UI design, HCI and Data Visualization. From graphs and plots for mathematics to 3D maps and models for architecture, and from immersive panoramic real estate tours to high fidelity gaming engines for emergency healthcare scenarios, the possibilities are endless.

This all serves to help in bringing about a ubiquitous Semantic Web not just for document archiving and sharing information, but for the development of a shared understanding (Knowledge Base), that has long been envisioned by the World Wide Web’s founders. These new interaction platforms offer an incredible venue for cutting through immense amounts of data and explaining complicated ideas in an easy to comprehend manner. Now is the time to take stock of the leading technologies and attempt to make sense of which technologies will be most useful going forward towards a 3D Web. The obvious leaders are Canvas, SVG, Flash, Unity, Silverlight, Java and VRML.

 

Side-by-Side Comparison

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BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money

The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:

1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.

2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.

3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.

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