Iona’s Chad Udell to speak in NYC

The Iona Group’s very own Chad Udell is scheduled to speak at the first-year conference, Flash and the City, on May 15 in New York City. This is an incredible opportunity, as Chad will be speaking about technology that Iona created for a recent project for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.
Speaking to a sold-out conference, Chad will be presenting “Hacking Robots for Fun and Profit.” This is an inside look at how Iona developed the advanced technology to allow Flash to drive model “rovers” that travel on a fabricated planet surface in the exhibit at Adler. Conference attendees are application developers and programmers who will have a strong interest in Iona’s innovative thinking and creativity.
You can discover more about Chad’s presentation and Flash and the City at the conference website: http://tinyurl.com/2akbccd.
To learn more about the Adler project or how Iona can make their creativity work for you, call Scott McCormick at 309.263.4662.

Does HTML5 need JavaScript2?

Does HTML5 need JavaScript2?

More Cowbell
As a long-time web designer, I have had lots of love affairs with various technologies over the years. GIFBuilder, BBEdit, Photoshop image-slicing, tables, HTML and CSS, Quicktime, VR, Shockwave, JavaScript, Flash 4, Flash 5, Flash MX2004, Actionscript 3, Flash Video, JQuery, DOM Storage… the list goes on and on.

Some of these have been long forgotten and swept under the rug of ancient things in my brain like stuff I learned in my chemistry classes or college psych 101. Other things churn, get their lives extended and get refreshed again and again. With our recent foray in mobile, one of those things for me right now is JavaScript. Often maligned, sometimes heralded, it’s obvious people have lots of opinions on what is one of the most widely deployed programming languages on the web.

After leaving my first job at Rollingstone.com (which consisted of making a lot of Flash minisites and games using Flash 4 and Flash 5), I renewed my interest in JavaScript and the dynamic DOM (I think it was called DHTML at the time). I was very concerned about SEO and machine readability around this time, so I stopped doing a lot of Flash for a couple years. Finally, around the time that Actionscript 2 came out, I started to like JavaScript less than I had previously and also started doing a lot of freelance game development for the web using Flash. Browsers were somewhat inconsistent in their rendering/parsing of it, it lacked the basic OOP and syntactical sugar of AS2 or even PHP for that matter, and debugging it was tough (Firebug wasn’t around yet). Shortly thereafter, JS frameworks like Prototype and JQuery began to emerge, making writing JS a lot less painful. It didn’t really help you get around some of the advanced development issues like true OOP or native data types like JSON, but it was certainly better than writing raw JS.

After AS3 hit the scene in 2006, it was tough to get me to want to develop anything of real complexity with JavaScript given just how awesome it was finally having an ECMAScript based language like AS3 that used strict typing, offered true OOP and provided compile time errors. Add to that, the fact that IE6 made dependable JavaScript a crap shoot compared to Firefox and there is no wonder why Flash enjoyed its heydays from 2004 to 2009 or so.

Fast forward to today and the constant bickering between anybody on the web about the slow death of flash or the rise of HTML5 or need for standards or whatever the tech press or bloggers will have you believe about what is going on behind closed doors between Google, Adobe, Apple and MS about the web’s next steps in media design and development tech and you still have to wonder… how will games, deep experiences and the like be built in HTML5?

Most demos of the tech are pretty frivolous or only prove that yes, you can play video without Flash. Who cares? Could I use HTML5/JQuery to build Sliderocket? Gmodeler? A top tier experience site for the latest blockbuster movie?

The answer, ‘possibly’… but would it be as easy to build and debug or render as fast as using Flash/ActionScript? Most likely, no.

Some of that has to do with the tools. Flash is made to create rich spectacles complete with detailed animations, rich interactions and precise graphics. It’s over 10 years old and is pretty mature. CSS (even CSS3) and the average rendering engines in a browser just can’t match up to it in power, speed, display uniformity across platforms and overall flexibility. But furthermore, building rich apps in JavaScript 1.x is still a pain. Some IDEs are better than others at it, but the language is still pretty much crap for heavy duty coding. Runtime errors galore, esoteric debuggers, a lack of strict typing and advanced data types in general, no formalized approach to MVC/ design patterns… the list goes on and on. Why are we going back to what many developers would call an inferior technology to Flash or even Silverlight. The drive is largely mobile, but there are some other politics at play as well.

When you look at the press coming out, or get phone calls from clients requesting HTML5 apps, alarm bells start going off in my mind. How are we going to handle this transition to a post Flash world when device manufacturers like Apple seem to be forcing us to use a hammer and chisel to produce pale imitations of sites that we built two years ago using great tools? Is the Flash platform perfect? No, but it’s better than pretty everything else we have tried so far for building examples like the ones I pointed out above.

What are the next steps? Well, to see some of the docs coming out of the standards crowd and the browser developers, not much. Ugh. If my tools of choice (Flash and Flex) are really going to lose ubiquity in the player realm, marginalizing their effectiveness due to lack of ubiquity, then please at least give us some tools to build JavScript apps in that are at least as good as what we already have. Get JavaScript 2 out there, please and make it good, not hobbled like the next gen of ECMAScript looks to be. And please, bring hardware accelerated SVG rendering to all browsers, not just IE.

This is not meant to be a “HTML5 sucks” or a “Flash rocks” post… there are plenty of those already. I am interested in hearing what you think though… Does HTML5 need a better DOM scripting partner if it is going to take over for Flash? What does an ideal HTMl5 authoring tool look like? Do these questions matter as much as I think they do to the average designer/developer?


Adding Some Books to My Evaluation List… Guess What I’ve Been Up To.

Adding Some Books to My Evaluation List… Guess What I’ve Been Up To.

I’ve got the SDK. The IDE. The devices.

Now, some reading material. These look like some great titles, and I have them enroute.

iPhone App Dev null

I guess I have drank the kool-aid. Who am I kidding… I did that a while ago. ;-)


Does Everyone Have iPhone App-opia?

Does Everyone Have iPhone App-opia?

You may not need an “app for that”… Let’s have a sense of reality and use proper judgement before jumping into dedicated application development, shall we? Read the full article on this in my latest post at Float Mobile Learning’s Blog.

BTW, this may be my favorite image from our illustrator, Matt, yet.
iPhone Goggles


The Alder Planetarium Interactive Design and MSI Science Storms DVD Design

It is very important that a designer grows and develops at every moment in their career. When I began my career as a designer, my media knowledge was limited to only interactive design and print. Over the past three years, I have become knowledgeable in compositing, motion graphics, DVD authoring, compression, video editing, and web design and development. Recently at Iona, we completed two projects that really helped myself and the team advance our skills.

First, The Adler Planetarium Planet Xplorers exhibit recently opened as a permanent exhibit in Chicago. The Iona Group supplied all audio visual and interactive elements for integration with the design by Kraemer and Associates and fabrication by Murphy Catton. The Explorers Club exhibit is a high-energy, interactive experience with the educational goal of teaching children ages 3-8 about exploration that is happening all around them and its connection to their everyday life as well as to explore space. I was able to help create, design, composite and edit some of the interactive exhibit’s videos and Flash elements. This project allowed myself to advance my video and interactive design skills through the challenges of video integration into Flash.

Secondly, The Iona Group developed a DVD that would extend the experience of the physical Science Storms exhibit that has just recently opened at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). This type of DVD format allows the Museum guest to have an inside look at the exhibit, sparks memories of the exhibit and its “wow” factor and also allows someone who was not able to visit the exhibit to still have a dramatic and compelling experience. I created the graphical user interface design, DVD authoring, jacket design and motion graphics for the DVD. The DVD includes the making of the exhibit, how they built the exhibit, the exhibit media, facts about the exhibit and scientist interviews. I treasure this project because it provided me with the opportunity to learn a new media (DVD authoring), allowed me to advance in my interactive design skills, challenged my motion graphics skills, and re-live my print design days.

I believe that if a designer has the drive along with design and fine art skills, they can achieve any media. I plan on growing and continuing to achieve in these skills for many years to come. Below are screenshots of the Adler Planetarium interactive designs and the MSI Science Storms graphical user interface design from the DVD. I also have included the MSI DVD jacket design.