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Your Mid-Morning Shot

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And of course you can’t become if you only say what you would’ve done.

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Unnatural Disasters

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Hello, party people!

I don’t know what got me started thinking about this but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a natural disaster. I’ve been in the middle of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and one plague of locusts but nothing that had ever caused massive devastation so I wouldn’t classify them as natural disasters since nothing was destroyed to a large degree.

I guess my experiences with potentially disastrous natural phenomena has left me a little disappointed because I never got the chance to be in those situations so I was never “tested” to see what I would do.

This is why I become so enthused when inclement weather is on the way, “finally! Something is going to happen!” But nothing of consequence ever does.

The last event that held the most potential was an earthquake.

I felt the building shake and I thought nothing of it. “It’s just a passing 18-wheeler,” I thought. The shaking didn’t stop so I got up and looked out the window. I was very confused and I didn’t realized I was in any danger until I saw the glass walls of neighboring buildings ripple like water, then I and everyone else got the fuck out of there.

There were no earthquake evacuation procedures so clearly no one had a clue as to where to go. Initially we took shelter in a parking structure but we thought it would collapse so we took to the streets where we could be crushed by multiple buildings.

Eventually I learned it was just an earthquake. I was extremely disappointed because I had already built up this idea in my head that it was a monster attack. I was waiting for Godzilla to come crashing through the buildings like in those old movies where a guy in a dinosaur costume would clumsily waddle through impressive-looking models of cities and towns.

I still hold onto hope that we do see our first monster attack soon. With all of the naturally occurring threats in the world that are not weather-related (read: viruses, bacteria, other pathogens) I think it’s just as likely that some beast will bring about the end of the world before something like a planet-wide cataclysmic flow does.

Flash, Part 2

Greetings, my wonderful fans! I realized the other day that I hadn’t quite finished my story on Flash before my brain went on a terrible rampaging diatribe so before I continue I’ll apologize for the tangent. My mind isn’t usually prone to fits of spiteful angst, but we all feel strongly about one thing or another, don’t we?

With that out of the way, let’s continue our journey.

Flash rose to a ridiculous level of mainstream popularity in the late 90s through the early 2000s with whole sites being completely built in Flash, aka “shocked” as we used to say because the platform was called Shockwave. It was truly a marvel of Web development and ingenuity as people created more and more complex and dynamic websites completely in Flash! Don’t believe me? Here are some examples:

Each of these sites (along with others that no longer exist) laid the groundwork for what would become an era of Flash proliferation and innovation on the Web.

Keep in mind that this short list represents only a fraction of a fraction of completely flashed sites. Digital creatives had found a new toy and were unleashing never before seen levels of awesome to the point that you couldn’t click through ten links without landing on a site done completely in Flash.

Even I was seduced by the hotness that was animated vector graphics. So much that I endured the unforgiving learning curve to teach myself this technology and used it on my first website (I created an animated navigation menu).

Later I moved on to create Flash intros which became a thing in the early 2000s. I made a few for friends and for freelance work. I felt like I was riding high on some very marketable skills!

For a time I thought Flash was the future. All website would be built in Flash!

Oh, how naive I was.

The most obvious problem has to do with SEO. How does a search engine index the content in a Flash site? It was also around this time that search engines began to rise out of the primordial ooze to begin their unending quest to index everything on the Web so many people were familiar with the likes of Hotbot, Lycos, Dogpile and [early] Yahoo and used these services to make their way around the booming landscape of the Web.

Unfortunately, unless you submitted an entry for your site to any search engines it was very unlikely that a direct link to your Flash site was going to appear at the top of the results.

Another issue with Flash sites is the amount of effort involved in maintaining them. Building a site in Flash is a deeply involved process which directly calls upon your graphic arts skills, information design skills and content management skills all at the same time. It’s like building your site in Photoshop except you also have to worry about animations and working with the lovely language that is ActionScript.

Of course there are ways to make your Flash site dynamic so the content can be streamed in from external resources and databases but if you wanted to change some visual aspect of the site you had better set aside a few hours.

The last problem many ran into with Flash in the early days was the lack of first-party support. The top two browsers at the time, Internet Explorer and Netscape, did not install with Flash support. If you wanted to run Flash media in either browser you had to go to [then] Macromedia’s website to install the Flash Player (known as the Shockwave Player in those days).

The installer was probably only a few dozen megabytes large but remember that broadband didn’t exist. We were all rockin’ out with our 28.8 or 56.6kbps modems or, if we were made of money, ISDN Internet connections. Only true Flash aficionados would tolerate the wait to update their browsers and install the Shockwave player so they can get their animated vector graphics fix. The other 90% of the connected world wouldn’t even bother.

Now, despite Flash’s widespread adoption and use, things are even more dire for the multimedia platform.

I first realized Flash was on its way out in 2007. Steve Jobs introduced the first modern smartphone, iPhone, to the world in January of 2007 and it was only shortly thereafter that I began to read reviews, articles and opinions on Apple’s latest magical device. Out of everything I read the one thing that stuck with me as a developer was the lack of Flash support.

Why? Why would you leave Flash behind? It enables new and innovative experiences and interactions on a desktop, imagine what it could do on a touch device.

While this decision was probably motivated by business-imposed technological limitations and Apple’s trademark stubbornness to play nice with others, I’m willing to give Steve the benefit of the doubt and say he genuinely wanted to push Web technology and standards forward by dropping Flash support in favor of HTML development.

It was as bold a move then as it is now, except now we have even more reasons to ditch our friend, Flash.

Firstly, Flash isn’t responsive. Load up a Flash site and shrink your browser window. Did the Flash media scale? Probably not. If it did I’ll bet it looked terrible. Now imagine looking at Flash content on your mobile device. How long would you stay on that site?

It’s become a massive resource hog! Flash consumes gobs of memory that you should be HAPPY that Google Chrome cordons off memory for each tab individually that way the next time you’re playing a Flash game or indulging in some other time-waster, your other tabs are safe when that tab freezes, then crashes and burns.

Flash is a security risk. We know that embedded Java is a huge exploitable mess but did you know Flash is just as bad? It’s true! Look at this list of patches since October, 2015. Now consider the fact that some of these issues were pretty damn serious and discovered not by Adobe but other security researchers or out in the wild. What’s worse, Adobe was never proactive or even reactive unless pressed for action.

The last reason kind of rolls all the other reasons into one and that’s the fact that Adobe doesn’t really care. Much like how AOL bought Netscape and let it die, Adobe acquired Flash just for the marketshare.

Adobe, however, doesn’t seem too bothered about the fact that Flash (under their management, I maintain) is still a bug-ridden and bloated platform. They are, however, bothered by the stigma that’s been attached to the Flash brand and that is one problem they’ve managed to do anything about. That’s right. Adobe renamed Flash to Animate. Fresh, new name! Same crappy product!

And now, here’s a video showing Macromedia Flash MX (circa 2006) in action.

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You Then, You Now.

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Greetings my beautiful fans! You know, I am so fortunate to have been blessed with the best readers in the entire world. Thank you, each and every one of you, for choosing to spend your time here with me and my thoughts. I know there are a million things you could be doing at this very moment and the fact that you’re sitting there reading this is really life-affirming.

And isn’t that what we all want? Some approval that our existence has been worthwhile all this time? Someone to tell you what an awesome job you’re doing at being you and to shoo away all the self-doubt and everyone else’s judgy opinions?

I’ll admit that even I needed a bit of help in the existential department.

I’ve made more than my share of bad decisions in life and while none have ever come back to haunt me I used to think back and wonder what kind of person I was to have been able to reach those decisions. I used to think back and agonize over it.

It got rough for a brief patch. Every week my conscious would tear my ego to pieces and every week I’d be an emotionally exhausted pink pulp but I eventually learned to see through my own insecurities and bullshit. I was able to free myself from the past and learn from it so that I can make the me of tomorrow even better… and I think I’m doing really well at it.

I’ve since adopted a clearer, better perspective on things and my ego constantly threatens to devour the sun.

OK. I may not be 100% well adjusted (who is?), but I’m happy with me!

Flash (A-Ah!)

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Hi Party People! Today I wanted to talk about Flash!

Yes, THAT Flash.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Flash is a technology platform for the Web that enables vector graphic animations and interactivity. Flash objects are embedded on a Web page much like a video and it’s up to you to install the Flash plugin for your browser before it can load up the media.

Flash is still out there but it is no longer as ubiquitous as it was back in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Back then every other “cool” site used Flash in some way. Typically, Flash was used to create interactive images with clickable hot spots and complex animations and transitions. If you’ve ever seen Flash’s interface all you have is a “stage” area and a series of timelines that you would drop keyframes in to set and animate objects on the stage. The earliest versions I used were unforgiving to new users and it took me the better part of a week just to get a circle to move from one side of the stage to the other.

Let’s talk a little history before we go further.

Flash was developed by a company called Macromedia. Macromedia was quickly making a name for itself as the producers of Web-centric software which already included Fireworks (the first full featured graphics package aimed specifically at creating and optimizing images for the Web), Director (a program similar to Flash except instead of vector graphics Director worked with raster graphics with an emphasis on movie-like productions) and Dreamweaver (the original “Swiss Army Knife” Web editor for anyone who was serious about making a living creating Web pages). Each of these programs were amazing tools in their own right, but it was Flash that turned Macromedia into a household name in the nascent Web industry.

Macromedia went on to produce other great pieces of software and they did very well maintaining the programs that were key to the foundation of the company. Fireworks, Director, Dreamweaver and Flash saw meaningful and powerful updates for a time… and then IT happened.

Macromedia was being sued by Adobe who claimed that the UI in Flash, Dreamweaver and Fireworks was directly stolen from Photoshop. Specifically, Adobe had a problem with Macromedia organizing their tools in floating boxes Adobe called “palettes” (or some such thing) whereas Macromedia did the same but called the boxes “panels”.If you got a screenshot of the latest versions of Fireworks and Photoshop around the time of the suit you’d agree that they did indeed look very similar in their arrangement and organization of their tools.

SO FUCKING WHAT??

Personally, I thought this was a bullshit suit and Adobe was pursuing it as a strategic attack to rid themselves of their biggest rival in the digital creativity space. I also think its asinine to patent your UI, but that’s another post.

This was around the time I started to hate Adobe.

Fortunately, sounder minds prevailed and Macromedia was not destroyed. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before that actually happened. Adobe ended up acquiring Macromedia and this is why you see Adobe [ruining and] distributing programs like Dreamweaver and Fireworks.

This was also around the time I started to wish Adobe would crumble into financial chaos.

Wow.

I really got off track there… but you see where I’m coming from? You may think I’m foolish to feel strongly about stuff like this, but it matters! I think if Adobe hadn’t decided to snuff out Macromedia Dreamweaver may not be the massive pile of shit it currently is! That program would be years ahead of where it is now! Adobe has no idea how to maintain it except bloat it with useless features under their slick UI. Am I the only person who remembers Adobe GoLive???…That’s enough for now. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where I get back to my original point.