Travel to MAX LA from Europe and save $400

Yes, that’s right – we’re offering an extra discount on the registration for MAX 2009 in LA specifically for those living outside the US.

MAX 2009, Los Angeles

The cheaper-than-early-bird price of $1095* is the lowest cost ticket available – as long as you’re based outside the US just enter the code ‘EMA931‘ during the registration process to get the $400 discount.

Hopefully this will go someway to help compensate for there being no MAX event in Europe this year and make it more affordable to travel to the US. For more information on how to get to MAX, where to stay and how to save even more $$$ check out Serge’s blog entry.

For reasons as to why you should attend MAX this year, check out the official site and browse through the full list of sessions and labs that have been posted. MAX is taking place between October 4th and 7th 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

* Offer good for new Adobe MAX 2009 registrants only. Offer good for Adobe MAX 2009 full conference pass registration only. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer, package or registration code. Offer expires at 11:59pm PST on October 4, 2009. Offer is not transferable and valid only for intended recipient. Void where prohibited. Terms and conditions for Adobe MAX registrations will also apply.

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Flash-based Wall of Life aims to save lives

Lightmaker have recently completed an ambitious project for the National Health Service (NHS) Blood and Transplant service in the UK that I wanted to highlight here – entitled the “Wall of Life“, it aims to raise awareness of organ donation and sign-up thousands of new donors to the national register.

The site, which has been built using Flash, presents visitors with an image of a child whose life was saved by a heart transplant – zooming in on the image reveals however that it is constructed from up to 60,000 photos of people who have pledged their support for the campaign.

NHS Wall of Life

We’re used to seeing these ‘deep zoom’-style experiences now, but what’s impressive here is that the mosaic image and underlying image tiles are dynamically recreated every four hours so as to include people who have recently pledged their support – this produces a whopping 1.6Gb bitmap image, the data from which is then processed by a custom ColdFusion backend and served up by Zoomify Enterprise Server, rendering the final experience using Flash Player.

An impressive result that is worth checking out – you’ll see that there is still some way to go until the mosaic is full up, so if you’re prepared to support the campaign and live in the UK you could always help out and upload your photo to the site.

Update: There is also a Flash-based widget that you can share to help spread the word about this campaign – I’ve included it below:

[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”dynamic” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”” width=”300″ height=”270″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”transparent” allowscriptaccess=”always” allownetworking=”all”]Get Adobe Flash player


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Flash on your TV today

Following a recent operation on my back to correct a slipped disc I’ve had to spend a considerable amount of time laying down; this in turn lead me to really use some of the TV catch-up and on demand services offered by the UK broadcasters on my laptop as I didn’t have convenient access to the TV.

Impressed at quite how much content I could watch over the internet, I then started to seriously explore options for getting internet-delivered content through our main 42″ Toshiba LCD screen; the thought of being able to explore a back-catalogue of programmes that are automatically stored by the broadcaster, rather than relying upon me to setup recordings using Sky+ was particularly appealing.

So, off I went (with a slightly improved back)… and I have to say the whole process was actually far easier than I’d imagined; I bought a new Mac Mini with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, connected it to the TV using DVI->HDMI and audio cables, added it to the wireless network and then installed Flash Player and Adobe AIR. Done, nothing else required.

Adding Flash Player enabled me to watch streamed content from all the BBC channels via iPlayer, from Channel 4’s On Demand service 4OD and from Demand Five, Five’s catch-up service – all of which combined gave me a choice from 1000s of hours worth of TV.

BBC iPlayer - version for large TV screen

With the addition of Adobe AIR I was able to use the BBC’s service to download and store programmes for an extended period of time (30 days rather than the 7 for the streaming service) – I’m hoping that in the medium term the BBC might enhance this offering further to automatically download series that I like so that they’re ready for instant playback, but I guess I’ll have to wait for that 🙂

If that wasn’t enough I was also able to watch paid-for TV programmes and select from both new-release and classic films from BlinkBox, a UK-based service that streams content using the Flash Platform.

BlinkBox offers paid-for streaming of TV and Films using Flash

In terms of free programming, the BBC service undoubtedly offered the best quality with regular streams at 1500kbps and HD streams at 3500kbps – both looked really good even scaled up to 1920 x 1080 and were certainly indistinguishable from the quality offered by over-the-air or satellite TV. In fact, if you’ve ever questioned Flash Player performance on a Mac, take a look at full-screen streamed HD content playing back on a low-spec Mac Mini – it is really impressive. Only Channel 4’s service left me disappointed in terms of quality, the video really isn’t encoded at high enough a bit-rate to watch on a large TV without obvious distortion, but maybe there are commercial reasons for this decision.

I’ve been running this setup for about a week now and am still really impressed by how the experiment has gone, so impressed in fact that I’ve come to several conclusions:

  • other than for watching breaking news I have no need for broadcast TV
  • internet-connected TVs are the future and the future is not that far off
  • multi-screen services really do need discrete user interfaces – one size fits all does not work

Each of these conclusions raised a number of interesting thoughts… firstly, I’m amazed that the recent Digital Britain report didn’t propose a radical redefinition of the BBC license fee. Right now, a household requires a TV license only to watch broadcast TV in the UK, not to own a television – using this setup and switching to an alternative source of ‘live’ news I’d technically no longer require a TV license. My aim is not to evade paying for a TV license, but rather to suggest that the ‘value’ is in the content that I’m consuming, not the distribution method. It feels to me like a re-think will be required as to how the UK population are asked to pay for the (generally) great output that the BBC produces.

The main factors I see that will significantly affect consumer take up of “next generation TV services” are provision of high-speed broadband (I am fortunate to get 7.2Mbps out of the quoted 8Mbps on my phone line) and cost of the hardware required to access and playback content. For the tech-savvy, purchasing a Mac Mini (or if you must, a low-cost Windows Media Center-equipped PC) and connecting it up is all well and good, but really this needs to be “plug and play” or built in to the TV itself – hopefully the work that Adobe is doing with set-top box and TV manufacturers as part of the Open Screen Project will help to make watching Flash-delivered video content just that simple and projects such as the proposed BBC “Canvas” platform will make low-cost, wide-scale distribution of network-equipped set-top boxes possible.

Finally, whilst I’m happy to persevere with using a wireless keyboard and mouse to navigate web pages to access content, we are going to need specific UX expertise for TV-based interfaces, just as we will for mobile – again, I think Adobe can help by providing frameworks (Flex) and tooling that provides consistency in the process for creating, developing and testing user interfaces, but a one-size-fits-all approach design isn’t going to cut it. My wife still isn’t completely sold on my new “toy” because it is harder to use than the Sky+ PVR…

There are no doubt exciting times ahead for designers and developers who’ll see the range of content, services and devices continue to expand, but equally there are going to challenges for those who provide infrastructure to support this vision and those who need to charge for content.

So, if you’ve got some spare cash and want to get Flash on your TV today then this is a great setup; wait a bit longer and hopefully it will come as standard right out of the box 🙂

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Flash Platform blog launched

The official Adobe Flash Platform blog launched last week and is definitely recommended reading for those wanting a regular feed of the latest Flash-related news and information – you can read it here or grab the RSS feed.

Flash Platform Blog

As an alternative, if you’d prefer to get a regular email with a summary of the all the latest Flash Platform news then you can sign up for the News Flash Newsletter here.

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AIR 1.5.2 offers improved application install process

Last week we released an updated version of the AIR runtime, version 1.5.2, which includes bug fixes related to reliability, compatibility and security – the details of which can be found on the Adobe AIR team blog and in the developer release notes.

This minor update does however also make a change to the install dialogue that is displayed to the user when installing an AIR application. In versions prior to AIR 1.5.2, the user would be presented with the following dialogue when installing an application that had been signed with a certificate-authority issued certificate:

AIR application install dialogue, before AIR 1.5.2

We received feedback from some end-users to suggest that this dialogue, which verified the publisher identity, but which also warned of unrestricted system access, made them unsure as to whether or not the application should be trusted, even if they recognized and trusted the publisher of the application.

From an application publisher perspective, there was no option in the AIR deployment process to package an application with an alternative level of system access, hence additional reassurance was often required, in the form of step-by-step install guides or FAQ documents published online, to reassure the end user that the application was OK to install.

With the release of AIR 1.5.2, the install dialogue for all newly installed applications (i.e. not just those that have been updated to work specifically with the new version), signed with a certificate-authority issued certificate, is as follows:

AIR application install dialogue, as of version 1.5.2

This simplified dialogue removes the specific warning about unrestricted access, but still (correctly) challenges the user to answer the question “Are you sure you want to install this application to your computer?”. Most end-users I’ve spoken with understand that “installing” something requires a certain level of trust and I think the revised dialogue is more in line with existing OS dialogues and more appropriate to the level of risk involved.

For application publishers it should remove some of the overhead that was required to support end-users during the installation process and remove a concern that might otherwise have put them off completing the installation.

It should be noted that there has been no change to the dialogue for self-signed applications – this dialogue, quite rightly, makes it clear to the end-user that there is increased risk associated with the installation of the application.


You can download the latest version of the AIR runtime from here.

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Adobe Flash Platform user groups in London

adobe_usergroups.jpgFor those based in or around London, I wanted to provide a quick update on the Adobe Flash Platform user groups that are available and encourage you to find out more about each of the groups and the events they are running…

One of the longest established groups, the London Flash Platform User Group (LFPUG) isn’t an official Adobe user group (so you won’t find it on, but it does offer a unique mix of presentations in an informal setting and attracts a good crowd every month. Meetings take place regularly on the last Thursday of the month near Farringdon – the next meeting is on July 30th, with presentations on UML for AS3 and the Mate Framework.

Next up is the Flex London User Group (FLUG) – with a large membership registered on MeetUp and a history of organizing several successful Flex Camp events, the FLUG is currently undergoing a change in leadership and the newly-formed team is starting to put ideas together for more regular meetings. Without any meetings currently scheduled, I’d recommend that you sign up to the MeetUp site so as to receive information on upcoming events as they are confirmed. If you’re interested in helping out with presentations or can contribute in other ways, then please do let me know I can put you in touch with the user group managers.

Finally, there is a new Adobe RIA User Group, which has been setup by Skills Matter to provide information on Flex, AIR and LiveCycle to more of an enterprise developer audience. I’ll be presenting an ‘Introduction to Flex 4’ at the inaugural meeting on August 19th, with my colleague Ben Forsaith presenting an ‘Introduction to BlazeDS and LiveCycle Data Services 3’ at the follow-up meeting in September. For more information about these meetings and to register visit the event website.

User groups are a great place to meet like-minded developers, watch technical presentations and get information on the latest tools, technologies and frameworks – if you’re developing with Flash in some way I’d strongly recommend you join one. If you’re not based in London, but would like to attend or start your own user group, then you can find more information at the Adobe Groups website.

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Upcoming webcast featuring Morgan Stanley "Matrix" RIA

If my earlier post regarding the Morgan Stanley Matrix application was of interest then I’d recommend that you sign-up for a free webcast entitled “Transcending the client experience” which is being hosted by Finextra and Adobe next Monday.

The 75 minute long session will look at how developers at financial firms integrate real-time data, with the delivery of audio, video, reports and rich interactive charts into trading applications.

The Global Director at Morgan Stanley responsible for the Matrix application will be presenting and taking part in the panel discussion (alongside representatives from Lab49, Adobe, Societe Generale and Credit Suisse) so it will be a good opportunity to learn more about the Matrix project and the experience they gained from implementing a large-scale RIA with Adobe’s Flash Platform.

More details about the event, which takes place on Monday 27th July at 2pm (UK), are available here (note: you need to register for this session).

Posted in Customers, Enterprise RIA, Flex, Rich Internet Apps | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments