Ever wonder where Manuel Clement and Samuel Wan (hi guys!) have been working on? Yep, the secret Microsoft project code-named Sparkle has been announced at the Microsoft PDC yesterday.

The official name of Sparkle is Microsoft Expression Interactive Designer, which is one of three products in the Expression family.

Check out the hour-long video at Channel 9 (Windows Media), where you get to see Manuel (and Sam briefly), with others of the Sparkle team (hi Pete). It’s a rare occasion to see the “pre-pre-release” product in such details.

What’s interesting in particular (compared to Flash) are the scalable IDE, native OS controls, data-binding, roundtrip XAML, interface (property panels, timeline, object transformations), 3D, and rendering effects.

Sparkle generates XAML code, that can be used directly with Visual Studio or rendered in Avalon (with graphics hardware acceleration). It is a tool for designers to build interactive UI and animations for next-generation Windows applications (or Internet Explorer applications).

The platform (Vista) that Sparkle runs on won’t be out until late 2006, and the adoption rate of the next generation Windows OS will be much slower than the adoption rate of the Flash Player (which is free and has auto-update and express install to guarantee a much quicker rate than previous versions).

Flash’s ubiquity (cross-platform/browser/device) is the strongest reason that it will be around for some time. Of course, Vista will be the dominant OS one day; but that will be at least two years away. In the mean time, Flash designers, developers, and users have lots to look forward to with the current and next-generation Flash Platform, and all these other tools to explore.

Here’s an interesting read from a former Sparkle product manager (Jon Meyer) on Sparkle, Flash and AJAX.

Events News

Memories and photos from Flash in the Can

This year’s Flash in the Can was another great success, with over 900 attendees and 80 speakers from around the world. Here’s a recollection of the event.

When I got to the hotel on Friday evening, I met Veronique, Chafic and Grant at the lobby. They got into my Odyssey with two students from Grant’s workshop and we went to the hip Drake Hotel for dinner. There I found Andries Odendaal, Branden Hall, Craig Swann, Guy Watson, Hugh Elliott, Jason Chesebrough, Kai König, Kevin Towes, Pascal Leroy, Shawn Pucknell and many others. After dinner, most people went downstairs to the party, but I had to pick up my wife and son so I left early.

On Saturday, registration began in the afternoon and speakers were invited to the Spin Gallery for dinner and VIP mixer before the awards. I met many old friends and ran into others whom I’ve only met online: Brian Lesser, Chris MacGregor, Paul Ortchanian, Phillip Kerman, Robert Reinhardt, Sam Agesilas, and Snow Dowd. The place was packed when the awards drew closer.

Later that evening I arrived at Colin Moock‘s party just when Robert Reinhardt and Snow Dowd were leaving. Erik Natzke, Joshua Davis, and Kevin Lynch were sitting in one corner, another group of people whom I did not recognize were sitting nearby. Branden Hall was helping someone on the computer, and Jared Tarbell came over and introduced himself. I have been a fan of his work and it was great to meet him in person. Also at the party, I bummed into Drew Trujillo (Dr. Woohoo), who is working on some very cool projects. I went down to the basement game room and found Chafic Kazoun, Daniel Dura, Guy Watson, Andreas Heim & Eric (also from Smashing Ideas), Michael Manh, Mike Chambers, Sean Voisen and Veronique Brossier. Apparently Branden brought over a great multi-player game: Pac-Man vs. for the GameCube and it was a blast. Upstairs, I met Vera Fleischer just before eight of us left and went back to the hotel in my minivan. For some reason, they found the automatic doors of my Odyssey rather amusing.

On Sunday, the first day of the festival, I spent the early hours finishing my presentation. At noon, I went to the Ask the Pros session on OOP in AS2, to co-chair with Branden Hall and Grant Skinner. Unfortunately, Daylight Savings Time started the night before and the clock was an hour ahead. There was no sign of Branden and Grant; so there I was sitting all by myself answering questions from the audience. Shawn Pucknell asked Jason Nussbaum to join me shortly after. Later Grant joined the two of us and answered some questions on the EULA, and we also talked about components and using inheritance. Later Branden came into the room, blamed the clock, and joined the discussion. 😎

My presentation on OOP in AS2 was in the afternoon that day. Before and during the festival, I talked to many people who intended to join my session and they said they have never used ActionScript 2.0, and would rather get an idea of what to expect than listening to in-depth topics. As a result, I tuned my presentation to a more basic level. It was a challenge to balance the content level and present it within 50 minutes to a wide range of audiences. I know it was impossible to satisfy everyone in such talks, but I was glad to see a full house, with many people standing and some sitting on the floor through out the whole session.

Met a couple of people inbetween sessions: Glyn Thomas, Joey Lott, LordAlex Leon, and Jeremy Thorp.

That evening a large group of people gathered and went to dinner in the theatre district. Unfortunately, the restaurant was overwhelmed by over 60 people showing up together. It was a long dinner because nothing (except bread) showed up for two hours, and then the manager told us they ran out of food! Chafic had a $28 Kobe burger that wasn’t worth $28. Luckily for Hoss Gifford who ordered the same, no Kobe burger was left and the restaurant gave him a big juicy steak instead.

After dinner, we went to a nearby pub to play some pinball where I met Simon Wacker for the first time. We got back to the hotel rather late; I think I went to bed at around 4 am.

Set the alarm at 8:15 am hoping to see Grant Skinner and Sam Agesilas‘ sessions at 9:00. By the time I hit the snooze button a few times it was almost 8:45. After cleaning up and packing (had to checkout at noon), it was already too late for their sessions. So I dropped off my luggage in my car at the parking lot and went back to the hotel. Met Jared and we went across the street for breakfast. He introduced me to Edward Tufte, who inspired his work. Went back to the hotel to catch some sessions, and later had lunch with Andreas and Eric at the same deli across the street.

Caught a bit of Brian Robbins‘ session on the multi-player game Cowboys & Engines. It’s a good-looking 3D game created with Maya, 3D Studio Max, Director and Flashcom. He talked about latency and problems encountered during the development of the game.

Afterwards, a few of us went to see Colin talk about multiuser experiences. It was a fun session because he showed a couple of great examples: XBox Live in Project Gotham Racing 2 with Hoss in Edinburgh, family video chat,,,,, and Colin’s own uAvatarChat and uPresence (with some popular recurring visual patterns). Colin also ran his Unity workshop after the festival.

Chafic‘s presentation on v2 component development was next. It was a great session as he demonstrated steps in creating a component from scratch and shared essential knowledge in building components. Later, he hosted an Ask the Pros session on the same topic and invited Andreas Heim to join him. Although there weren’t many people in the room, we had good discussion on components. Chafic had to leave early to catch his plane, and the rest of us stayed to chat. Carl-Alexandre Malartre (from Montreal) showed Mike Chambers and I his documentation app that runs inside the Flash IDE. Mike just released his Flash Resource Manager, which is a standalone app on .Net.

The closing ceremony was next where freebies were flying across the room. Speakers received the Camtasia Studio/SnagIt Bundle from and a FlashInTheCan flashlight, thanks guys.

A few of us went to a nearby sports bar for dinner where we said goodbye. It has been a wonderful few days and I’m already looking forward to next year’s Flash in the Can.

Here are some of the photos I took. Enjoy!

News is back online

I’m back! The complete blog has been rebuilt from scratch after the hard drive suddenly disappeared from the BIOS (probably the circuit board on it fried). I’ve never seen a hard drive went out like that, and it wasn’t even a very old drive.

Every post and comment has been recovered from backups. Since the index of the blog entries have been reset, some links (here or external) may not be pointing to the correct blog entries. I’ve fixed all the links found, please let me know if you see any problem. One thing I learned: the backup from MovableType does not fully back up everything, leaving much recovery to be done by hand.

In the process of rebuilding the blog, I considered other alternative blogging systems because I’m not a big Perl fan. Getting the old posts and comments back was my first priority; so I went with MovableType for now. However, I may switch to one of these: .Text, pMachine, or one using ColdFusion. Any recommendations?

Events News

Flash in the Can presentation

Once again, I’ll be speaking at Flash in the Can this year. The presentation title is Object-Oriented Programming in ActionScript 2.0 (OOP in AS2).

Here is a list of possible topics:

  • What’s new in AS2 for AS1 developers?
  • Brief comparison of AS2 to Java and C#
  • Designing an AS2 OO application
  • EventDispatcher and the event model
  • Design patterns examples in AS2
  • Pitfalls and tips in AS2

Other suggestions? Leave comments and I’ll give them some thought. Remember though, with 70+ speakers this year, each presentation is only 45 minutes long; so I’ll consider the most wished for topics that can fit within this limited time. Thanks!


PrimalScript 3.1 released

Here’s a worthwhile piece of software for ActionScript 2.0 developers. Sapien has just released PrimalScript 3.1, a powerful scripting IDE supporting over 30 scripting languages.

What is especially important in this release is the extensive support for ActionScript 2.0, JSFL, Flex, Flashcom ActionScript and ColdFusion CFML. Some of the new features include:

  • PrimalSense – code hinting, code completion, object member lists, parameter help, function list…
  • Class browser
  • Support for intrinsic classes
  • Integrated Flash and ActionScript help

Check out the press release, and download a 30-day trial.


What a release: Director MX 2004!

Macromedia announced Director MX 2004 today. This is the most significant release in Director’s history. Why am I excited about this? As a developer who used Director since version 3, it’s been an amazing tool for many projects in the last 13 years or so. The new features in this release brings Director back to the spotlight with features that will attract Flash developers.

Although Flash got all the attention in the last couple of years, Director is still an important tool for:

  • content-heavy projects such as CDs / DVDs / kiosks
  • true 3D games / product demos / interface / environments
  • interacting with the local operating system and devices
  • third-party author-time and runtime plug-ins (Xtras)
  • pixel-based access
  • performance

Here are some of the exciting new features in this release:

  • JavaScript 1.5 (SpiderMonkey engine) support
  • Cross-platform projector publishing
  • DVD video/event/content support
  • Sprite and channel naming
  • Improved XML parsing
  • Extensive media support
  • Flash MX 2004 components

By the way, I’m still deciding on what to do with these old Director boxes. There’s both Mac and Windows versions, and even one unopened Director 5! The later versions were electronically shipped so I don’t have boxes to fill up my space, but they also lacked printed manuals that I still find easier to read than on-screen text… well, at least they saved a few trees.

Looks like it’s time to allocate budget for the upgrade again!


Flash Player Updater

Macromedia released an update to the Flash Player today. For browser-only installations, get the player here. Developers who want to update the internal (test movie) player and standalone players can download the updater.

There are quite a few improvements, among them: New policy file location can be specified in ActionScript with this version of the Flash Player. More info in the release notes.


Flash MX Components for Flash MX 2004 released

Macromedia released the basic set of Flash MX components that can be used in Flash MX 2004 and Flash Player 7. Here is the list of included components:

* CheckBox
* ComboBox
* ListBox
* PushButton
* RadioButton
* ScrollBar
* ScrollPane

Given that the new version 2 components are the preferred choice in the new environment, the purpose of this update is to address problems of migrating old FLAs with v1 components to the new player. Get them from Flash Exchange.


Brajeshwar has a new forum

Brajeshwar just announced a new forum:

Events News

Flash in the Can CDs

If you missed Flash in the Can Festival earlier this year, you can now view most of the presentations on CDs. Shawn Pucknell (Flash in TO & Flash in the Can Festival), notified me that my presentation on “OOP and Design Patterns” at the festival has been put on a CD for sale.

CD content:

  • video (QuickTime movies @ 354×240) of the one hour presentation
  • presentation files
  • source files (some require ColdFusion/Flash Remoting)

Here is the CD information page if you’re interested: