September 29th 2010 | John Dalziel
The last day of this years Flash On The Beach kicked off with the 6 of the Best session where some of the speakers were given an extra 10 minute slot to present something. The day ended with a surprise from FOTB organizer John Davey when he announced the Geeky by Nature conference in New York.
To keep with tradition we missed parts of the first session this night due to a long night out the day before, but we caught Seb Lee-Delisle showing off a brilliant video/audio sample machine (as usual with audience participation) and Andre Michelle showing off TonFall - a tiny AS3 Audio Framework.
After telling and showing a bit about how he got to where he is today, Ralph started telling about how he had pushed Flash as far as he thought was possible. He had played with Alchemy, PixelBender and also PB kernels in AfterEffects and found that he couldn't push the player much further. He ended up playing with Cinder - a free and open source library for creative coding in C++ that could give him the extra speed he wanted for his experiments.
When he made distance fields in Cinder, he could do millions of points in realtime - way more than he could dream of using Flash. He also mentioned some work he did on Aviary's Peacock (porting FFMPEG?) and other things that gave him a break.
The fun thing was that after giving Flash a break, he realized that by using some of the things he had learned, he could push Flash even further. He started off by applying his new knowledge to former experiments and while doing this he stumbled onto a way to create 3D clouds. Using some clever tricks, he can now create beautiful particle clouds using PixelBender running in realtime in a browser.
Ralph ended his session by saying that he will spend the time forward doing Demo-stuff along with friends. We're really looking forward to seeing the results!
This session was quite different than the ones Peter usually does, showcasing the Litl webbook - a small computer with no online storage and a few unique features. The OS is a Linux kernel with a browser and Flash Player 10. There's no applications on the device itself, but you can use either Flash widgets (small programs) or online software such as Google Docs and Photoshop Online. Litl is not marketing the device massively, but rather targeting the developer market. For a consumer, the device is $399 but developers can get it for only $199. Unfortunately it's US only, but it's still an interesting device.
The Litl Webbook comes with a full Flash Player 10 and 10.1 is on it's way. You switch between channels (applications) using a scroll-wheel and a single select-button. The device has three modes_ "card-view" for selecting applications, computer mode for using the applications and easel mode that allows you to use it like a picture-frame like device that can show images, weather and most anything else that does not require interaction.
Peter walked us through how the development experience was. The dev-kit comes with lots of examples and Peter used a few of these as examples. All the channels (Flash applications) connect to a socket server on the device with a couple parameters such as name and version. Once connected you can set the main stuff such as the title, icon and other main features. You also listen for a ViewChange event on the socket to detect the device going from card view to normal to easel mode as well as button clicks, server variables, the scroll wheel on the remote control that comes with the device and keyboard input. That's about it.
Next up was testing an app in the Litl simulator. The simulator let's you toggle application state and other things. After a couple basic examples, Peter pulled up a small webcam-app that would publish images taken with a webcam straight to the device. The deployment process was quite straightforward. You simply put the content on a USB drive and the Litl would discover it and display the new content.
Peter also mentioned that Litl are working on a future box for TV (as are several other vendors). Peter then moved on to more general tips for development for these kinds of devices such as:
Peter closed off a very neat little P2P demo that he is working on for Adobe MAX that showed how any device on the same wifi-network could connect directly to each other without the need for a server as long as the router supports mutlicast! The demo wasn't finished but as he went over it I could really see this opening up new possibilities - especially with so many new devices running Flash Player 10.1.
Peter answering questions after his session
Last year Joshua’s talk packed out the Corn Exchange. This year he was back and in the thousand-seater main hall. Just as well as he packed this out as well. A recurring theme this year has been the importance of taking time out to work on your own projects. Big Spaceship have been doing this for a while. Sprints, as they call them aim to deliver a simple project, with a small team in a short timeframe, typically 1 to 2 weeks.
We’ve seen the results of some of these sprint projects before: ‘PrettyLoaded’, is a gallery of Flash preloaders. ‘Hope vs Despair’ mixes electronics and web, and my new favourite site, the ‘Most Awesomest thing ever’, which may well be the most aweomest thing ever.
All experiments carry some degree of risk. Trying anything new is risky but it’s the only path to innovation. This summer Big Spaceship embarked on an experiment they call I.P Fridays. Throughout the summer client work was banned from Friday afternoons. This time was ring-fenced for cross-team internal projects. The output of this was Corpsify, MATE v.2 and the wonderful Taco Finder app for iPhone.
Joshua was very candid about what worked and what didn’t with this experimental working practice. The main positives being that crewmembers knew what to do during down time and it was healthy for them to work with other teams. Maintaining project momentum across mixed teams proved to be the most difficult part. Although he admitted they won’t be repeating this again next year it does seem that this process works best for augmentation of existing work.
As Big Spaceship approach their 10th birthday it seems the innovation and drive that have brought them this far is still a core part of what they do.
The last talk was delivered by Jared Tarbell and this year he focused on the new ways of producing stuff and how he creates things with lasers, wood and paper. For those of us that can't afford our own 3D printer or laser cutter, Jared highlighted several shops offering this such as ponoko.com and shapeways.com. A great and somewhat different presentation than the ones he has delivered earlier. As he has done on former conferences, Jared also gave away quite a few of his really nice wooden cubes with invaders-theme to a lucky few attendees. He had also brought with him almost 400 small and beautiful fold-it-yourself paper boxes so many of the attendees left the session with a souvenir.
As usual, there was a closing ceremony to the conference but no big raffle this year. Instead, conference organizer John Davey showed off the winners in this years beanie-competition that had some quite creative entries. The ten winners each got a pass to next years conference. John then went over to his Mac and pulled up a new website: geekybynature.com. From March 31st to April 1st next year, he will put on a brand new conference in New York! Several of the usual suspects are already confirmed as speakers so this looks to be a good event for the US crowd.
John Dalziel is a founding member of FlashMagazine and regularly reports from community events in the UK. He has also written for Macromedia, New Riders, Actionscript.com and Ultrashock.com.