Just received an email with information on a great competition Adobe are holding for UK and Ireland residents:

“People can win a MAX Barcelona pass and copy of Flex Builder or Flash CS3 everyday this week and on Friday they can enter to win the whole package – MAX pass, flight and hotel!!”

Today’s question is very easy, and the prizes look great, so find out more and enter over at Andrew Shorten’s blog.

Opera Mini

Opera have just released beta 2 of their Opera Mini 4 mobile browser. Considered by many the best mobile browser out there. They’ve also published an article on the dev center on designing sites for mobile. There is also a video of Opera Mini 4 in action.

Download the beta here.
View the article here.
Play with a live simulator here.

Base64 encoding is a very useful technique that allows for the sending of binary data, such as an image file, over the wire using plain-text. This means it can be embedded in XML (plain, SOAP or XML-RPC), it also means the binary data can be stored very easily in a database. It works by reading in data in packs of 6 bits, and turning each one of those into a character in a simple 64 character alphabet. This input data can be text, but it can also be binary data stored in a ByteArray; perhaps the contents of a file, or an MP3 your Flash application has constructed in memory.

Here’s a quick tip that might save you some time and bother. If you are doing any Base64 encoding in ActionScript (for example when sending email attachments or uploading images to a blog over XML-RPC) make sure you split your string up into lines of 76 characters (as is defined in the MIME spec), and add an extra line break at the end. Some Base64 decoders do not require this, but in a lot of common cases for Base64 it is required.

There are already several implementations out there of Base64 encoders/decoders for AS2 and AS3, I was under the impression there was an mx.utils.Base64Encoder class in the Flex but I was not able to find it. This tool is very handy for comparing your results. It also gives the option to upload and convert a file, and specify how many characters to use per line (76 being the common case).

“You do computers don’t you?”. That’s the phrase I and no doubt many of you have heard from family members or friends of the family over the last however-many years. Any time anyone bought a new computer, had computer problems, setup a new WiFi router (what am I up to now, 20?), or even problems with a VCR it was my job to fix it because “I do computers”. Let me tell you, for a cup of tea and a few biscuits the daily rate you are missing out on fades into insignificance.

But this does illustrate how easily the geeks can sway the mass market when it comes to purchasing decisions, people trust them, and I think Apple are reaping this reward with their Macbooks right now. Of course they’ve laid the groundwork with some truly superb marketing for the iPod, as sales have shown over the last 6 years, and that has given them a name most people associate with quality products. But every day I see more and more colleagues and developer friends switching to Mac, with the option for BootCamp there’s very little reason not to, and once you do you start to really appreciate the power and ease of use OS X gives you. It could even be the case that Apple’s most die-hard audience is shifting in volume from designers to developers, but I have nothing to back up that statement.

ComputerWorld has an article which tells of Apple selling more than 1 in 6 laptops in the U.S., that even beats Gateway. It was surprising in that I didn’t expect this to happen for a few years, but not completely unexpected.

Personally I tell anyone that asks that if they can spare the extra couple of hundred, a Mac gives you greater value. You can get a dirt cheap “Vista enabled” laptop from Dell, a friend got one just recently because of the price-point, but it runs slower than a computer from the last decade with Vista pre-installed and that just won’t do from a brand new PC, such a terrible experience. With a MacBook the hardware is built to suit, you can install the free NeoOffice software, and you have a Mac with everything your average consumer will need a computer for (video/web/casual games/email/office). The ease of use and integration between most of the applications is second to none and it looks to be improving with the subsequent release of Leopard.

When switching from PC to Mac it’s very easy to think you are losing many of the applications and utilities you have gotten used to. You are, but then you step back and realise it’s because you don’t actually need them, they were there to fill a gap in your workflow. The other mental shift to get over is the difference between navigating OS X and navigating Windows. The keyboard shortcuts differ slightly as do several other things, but there’s a lot built in under the surface to make it a faster more enjoyable experience, look into features like Expose to boost your productivity.

So let’s see whether this trend continues. For the moment I cannot see a reason why not. All that leaves me to say is John Grden needs a Mac and he’s half-way there.

This demonstration is pretty incredible. The software performs calculations on the entropy of an image (amongst other things), to allow you to resize it whilst maintaining key visual entities. Some examples include mountains, tree-lines or people.

Other features include the ability to assign positive and negative weights to areas to make sure they are not distorted too much, or drop them out of existence entirely.

View the video here (or hi-res version here).

Update:

Just a quick update to say that we are also recruiting for New York, San Fran and DC, so if you are interested please feel free to get in touch via the email to the right.

(original post as follows…)

Some good news, we have a lot of exciting projects coming up and are currently looking to expand the team some more with fresh talent. So if you are interested in working for clients such as Nike, Coca-Cola, Fiat and XBox as part of a great team please read on.

Our team is known as CRD (Creative Research and Development) and we use technologies including Flash, Flex, AIR, Silverlight and WPF on a daily basis as well as real-world pieces for integrated campaigns and tacticals. Anything cutting edge, we’ll be the ones to use it. Feel free to check out the latest work over at AKQA.com and drop me a mail at the address over on the right.

NASA have released a Java component called World Wind that enables developers to build something that includes Google Earth-like 3D map data. This component can be added to for example a Swing application and the developer can create a mashup in any way they see fit.

These applications can be launched via Java web start (an app that launches from a web page as long as the Java JRE is installed, they state 1.4 onwards with some minor trepidation) or distributed as a standalone desktop app (again JRE required).

The terrain is 3D, so you don’t just zoom in and out on a flat image you can roll/tilt/yaw, it’s mountainous; in one example they have a flight sim that lets you fly a plane over some real mountains which turns a globe into a game.

See the vid (recommend the mp4):

http://java.sun.com/javaone/sf/media_shell.jsp?id=193627

Normally this kind of tech is very expensive, so it’s great of them to donate this data and it opens up a world of opportunities for developers.

Later on in the video (near the end) Sun shows what looks like a Java-based competitor to WPF(well Silverlight really)/Flash, an in or out of the browser hardware accelerated 3D rich GUI with fullscreen capabilities… They challenge anyone to “do the same in any other browser technology”). They don’t state whether it is JavaFX, doesn’t look like it from the 1 min you do get but I could be way off.

Some good news, we have a lot of exciting projects coming up and are currently looking to expand the team some more with fresh talent. So if you are interested in working for clients such as Nike, Coca-Cola, Fiat and XBox as part of a great team please read on.

Our team is known as CRD (Creative Research and Development) and we use technologies including Flash, Flex, AIR, Silverlight and WPF on a daily basis as well as real-world pieces for integrated campaigns and tacticals. Anything cutting edge, we’ll be the ones to use it. Feel free to check out the latest work over at AKQA.com and drop me a mail at the address over on the right.

There was a time when Nokia was the style icon in the mobile industry, the 3210 widely considered one of the best phones of all time (I can’t substantiate that claim), it was good looking, worked flawlessly and was as tough as old boots (if I remember it was also the first with Snake). In particular the foray into smartphones has left them looking a little bit… purely functional, leaving the Samsungs and the LGs to take the crown for best looking in the last few years.

Nokia made a few valiant attempts to stay original, but left me personally feeling they had lost some of the quality. Nevertheless they are certainly fighting back with some pretty daring new styles in the Prism range, not to everyone’s tastes, but it shows they are still willing to seek out new directions:

http://www.nokiaprismcollection.com/

The “lighting effects” and the “living wallpaper” (I would guess this is likely Flash Lite) are two features that make this collection stand out from the rest and provide user feedback in a new subtle way that sits well with how we like to use technology in a more passive fashion. The phone itself reminds me of the monolith from 2001… must have then. :)

Possible gotcha with the XML class, but I’d like to get this confirmed if anyone has a second to try this out.

It seems that the XML class is converting " to its literal ASCII representation (i.e. the quote mark ) when converting a String into a new XML object. I’m sending this data over XML-RPC and I cannot have quotes being sent as plain-text, they need to be XML/HTML encoded.

Here’s a quick test that shows it:

var str:String = "<string>Here is some text, with an image...
&lt;img src=&quot;http://www.google.co.uk/intl/en_uk/images/
logo.gif&quot; /&gt;</string>";

var xml:XML = new XML( str );
trace( xml );

At this point I’d be sending the xml object over the wire with HTTPService. The problem is that trace()/Charles/Fiddler etc is showing that the " is being converted to a real quote (literal) and that can cause a problem with the server which wants encoded copy, and being XMLRPC, I cannot use CDATA in this case. This is not the same behaviour as appears in Flash 8, it also appears that it differs when compiling with the Flex SDK and the Flash CS3 IDE in terms of whether it also turns the < and > entities to their literal representations.

Does anyone know a workaround for this? Can it be expected behaviour? I think I’ll have to be sending things as a string internally to avoid the problem for now but it would be good to hear other opinions.