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Enlarge / Infogr.am's splash page lets you choose between creating a new design, or accessing previously stored works.

Let's say you want to compare the airspeed velocity of various unladen swallows. You could put that data into a spreadsheet, or present it using a graph. Chances are you'll pick the latter.

The question is, how do you create a graph that not only looks nice, but presents said data in a coherent, easy to understand way? You could go the traditional route, and make something basic in Microsoft Office or your productivity suite of choice. Or, if you have a bit more skill, you could opt for the flexibility of Adobe Illustrator instead. But perhaps you have neither software nor skill, and just want to make a simple graph or chart.

Infogr.am takes the same approach that Tumblr took to blogging, by turning the otherwise daunting task of creating great infographics into a process that's dead-simple. You bring the raw data to Infogr.am, and the site's online tool can help you turn that data into a nice looking chart or full-blown infographic in minutes.  It's really that simple—assuming you have a Facebook or Twitter account required to login—though, at times, to a fault.

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I am no longer committed to supporting any Flash related open-source projects.

Here is why. When I started using the Flash Player it was quite easy to reach its limits. However you were able to get around those limitations with clever hacks and debatable optimization techniques. I was always keen to share my knowledge with the community and to explore all possible options to achieve best performance.

The Flash Player has been hibernating for half a decade now. The only glimpse of performance was finally a set of specialized op-codes which allow you to modify an array of bytes. In layman’s terms this means it was finally possible to do a[b] = c with an acceptable performance. So I wrote a tool which allows you to do just that and many other things. I have spent a good time of my free time trying to improve the performance of the Flash Player and contributing all my code to the community.

As a reminder: I showed some drastic performance improvements at Flash on the Beach in 2009. That was three years ago. It was not necessary to modify the Flash Player and it was not necessary to modify the ActionScript language.

The Adobe roadmap for the Flash runtimes states that Flash Player “Dolores”

  • will support ActionScript Workers
  • comes with improved performance for Apple iOS
  • and ActionScript 3 APIs to access the fast-memory op-codes

This player should be released in the second half of 2012. The “Next” Flash Player will finally include

  • modernizing the core of the Flash runtime
  • work on the VM
  • updates to the ActionScript language

This is planned for 2013 apparently. And what can we expect? Type inference, static typing as a default, and hardware-oriented numeric types. Hooray, so it will be finally possible in 2013 to write a[b] = c without having to use some weird fast-memory op-codes. If we look back to the year 2009 this makes me really sad.

With the introduction of the speed tax you will now have to license your application. No matter if you make money out of it or not. Now I think that 9% is a decent number and I can understand Adobe’s position on this. In fact it is much more friendly than the 30% Google or Apple take. However the AppStore was an invention. What is the invention here? Squeezing money out of an already existing feature, and suddenly making it unavailable after people have been relying on it for years to push the boundaries of the platform and actually innovate?

But for the hell of it, a[b] = c is not a premium feature. Nor are hardware accelerated graphics. That is what I would expect from any decent runtime.

Limiting the capabilities of a runtime — by defaulting back to software rendering for instance — will make it less attractive to use it in the first place. You are probably not interested to go through a signing progress for a small demo. So your performance might be crap, people will complain about the Flash Player taking 100% CPU because its using software rendering (YEY! 2013!), laptop fans will start to dance and you will look like a bad developer because that other guy got the same thing running with hardware acceleration. Or you could use a different technology.

Why is this bad? Because apparently this signing with a $50k threshold targets the enterprise and small developers seem to be acceptable collateral damage. However thinking about the next five to ten years: who is going to write ActionScript code if it is no longer attractive to play around with it in the first place?

We still rely on the Flash Player at audiotool.com. I am still developing for it and we will probably have to use it as long as there is no alternative. Me no longer supporting open-source tools is just me no longer spending my personal time for a platform that I would not use for private stuff. Work is of course not always about fun. But fortunately I am able to spend 90% of my time writing Scala code.

I will finish this blog post with some bad karma:

It’s also worth noting that the new Adobe license will prohibit scenarios where you’d have the first level of a game in the Flash Player, and the full experience inside the Unity Web Player. Alas, this is something you’ll need to be aware of if you were considering such a route.

You will not only pay for the features. You are also welcome to cede some of your rights.

flattr this!

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Chartwell is a set of three fonts that together create a remarkable set of tools for creating bar, line, and pie charts. It uses OpenType ligatures to perform its magic – a series of numbers can be transformed into clean, perfectly rendered graphs, as you type.

In use, the fonts are pretty straightforward, and though it’s an overused phrase, it does feel rather magical: you type numbers, it creates graphics. The formatting for all three fonts is to type the numbers as a sum, with the numbers separated by plus symbols: 20+40+10+30 for example. The fonts have a set of basic numbers and letters (resembling a compressed Trade Gothic) you can use with ligatures turned off to type in and check your numbers. Turning the ligatures on transforms your numbers into charts, and demonstrates just how many glyphs these fonts contain – up to 10,000 in each style.

Each of the fonts has a set of specific features and capabilities. Chartwell Lines creates sparkline-style graphs, while Chartwell Bars creates stacked bar charts. It’s Chartwell Pies that most feels like magic though. Like the other two, it works in whole number increments, from 1–100, but what’s interesting is what happens when you go over 100. Anything up to 100 and you get a single pie chart, go over 100 and the remainder starts a new pie chart, and again at 200, 300, and so on. Magic! Seeing a font interpret your numbers to create graphics like that is pretty remarkable. With Chartwell Pies you can also add a letter to the end of your sum to transform the pie into a ring – ‘A’ for a small hole in the pie, ‘Z’ to transform it into a hairline circular chart.

For all three fonts, you can set each number in a different color and it’ll be reflected in the chart.

Chartwell is the first in a new category of fonts that use ligatures to transform text into graphical representations while leaving the text itself untouched. In terms of a milestone it’s similar to the move from expert fonts to incorporating standard ligatures and swashes into the one font file that OpenType first enabled. The methodology does require you to type in a particular format which slightly limits its flexibility, but the promise is clear: the potential to transform data into graphical forms without losing the original text. It’ll be useful in all areas of publishing, if only to relieve the chore of creating basic graphics. For the web, however, it could be transformative: instead of icons and other indicators as bitmap pictures, they’re glyphs, stored in the right unicode slots, and selected as ligatures for particular words or abbreviations.

Aegir Hallmundur is a type-obsessed web and graphic designer living and working Brighton, England. He also runs The Ministry of Type, a website mainly about type and sometimes calligraphy, illustration, architecture and photography.

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2012 may be the year of 3D printing, when this three-decade-old technology finally becomes accessible and even commonplace. Lisa Harouni gives a useful introduction to this fascinating way of making things -- including intricate objects once impossible to create.

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I just posted my thoughts on the Flash Player team blog, about the recent announcements we have made regarding Flash Player support on mobile browsers.

As a long time Flash developer who loves Flash, I can tell you that what is happening right now is a good thing.

First, we are making bold moves like stopping the development of the browser plug-in on mobile browsers in favor of investing further in Flash-based apps packaged with AIR. Playing existing content sounds like a great idea on paper, but we know it doesn't always work that way -- you need to author for mobile and think for mobile, but from talking to customers and looking at content today, we realize that very few people are targeting the plug-in on mobile browsers.

Flash developers have always created some of the most stunning, immersive, emotional experiences on the web. They've always pushed the cutting edge, with few restrictions. But mobile is different, and developers need to adapt to different constraints and affordances. Flash lets you do that, whether you are taking advantage of efficient hardware accelerated video playback or native support for features like multitouch and accelerometers. But it's costly to create beautiful experiences optimized for mobile browsers — a cost that doesn't make sense if people using one of the most popular mobile platforms can't see the content you create.

Existing content for desktops didn't always look as magical on phones as people were used to seeing with Flash Player on their desktops. Content optimized for desktops with big screens and beefy processors can’t look as good on a phone or a tablet it was never designed for. This really had an impact on the trust that people had in Flash, and this perception made it hard to start new projects optimized for mobile browsers. There was just no appetite to even try doing this.

In contrast, you guys create super nice Flash-based apps packaged with AIR and delivering them to app stores across iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices – by the end of this year, you will be able to reach over 350 million tablets and smartphones. Have you seen an article from a journalist saying that MachinariumComb over Charlie, or TweetHunt are horrible ? No, people love those games. Your work fits the trend the entire industry is seeing: even as we're excited about improvements in mobile browsers, the most compelling, immersive experiences for mobile devices are delivered through apps, optimized from the ground up for mobile. We're helping you guys leverage your talent – the same skills in ActionScript and tooling – to reach that huge, growing market of smartphone and tablet users with amazing apps. Flash makes it possible for developers who craft beautiful desktop experiences to deliver great mobile app experiences. We are going to really focus on that, creating the best solution to build stunning interactive content, games, and video apps across all screens.

Flash Player on the desktop continues to show a path for the consistent, super duper experiences that are impossible to deliver to over a billion people with any other technology. For example, Flash Player 11 was released only a month ago, and it now enables fluid, cinematic hardware accelerated 2D and 3D visuals for more people on the web than any other technology. Flash Player uniquely does for the desktop what apps do for phones and tablets: it helps ensure that what you imagine is exactly what your users will see. Flash Player remains the best technology for delivering premium experiences on the desktop, period. Focusing helps us make sure that we continue to drive that continued innovation.

We are not stepping out of the mobile space with Flash, we are just focusing on what makes sense and where Flash looks great, standalone apps with AIR.

In the long term, we're actively working on an ambitious future for Flash. The implementation details may change, as we've been talking about today. We believe that the DNA of Flash doesn't reside in those implementation details, but in our promise to make it easy to create and deliver the most amazing experiences everywhere. We're focusing on fulfilling that promise, and we’re excited to see what the future – and our community – will bring.

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Starling LogoI am excited to introduce today a new project we have been working on, called "Starling". So what is it ?

Starling is a 2D framework for game development developed in collaboration with the Austrian company Gamua (already behind the Sparrow-Framework on iOS), running on top of Stage3D (Molehill). It allows developers to leverage the power of the GPU without diving into the low-level details of the Stage3D APIs (available in Flash Player 11 and Adobe AIR 3). I am convinced that most of Flash developers will love this initiative, as most developers would like to leverage the GPU while reusing concepts like an event model, a display list, movieclips, sprites, etc.

Most of you, who had a look at the Stage3D APIs understand that this can be complex sometimes. So instead of writing 60 lines of code to draw a textured quad.

You will write the following :

// create a Texture object out of an embedded bitmap
var texture:Texture = Texture.fromBitmap ( new embeddedBitmap() );

// create an Image object our of the Texture
var image:Image = new Image(texture);

// set the properties
image.pivotX = 50;
image.pivotY = 50;
image.x = 300;
image.y = 150;
image.rotation = Math.PI/4;

// display it
addChild(image);

Quite nice hu ?

Of course, as a little obligatory test, find below a bunch of things (yes, sausages!) moving around :

Sausages

Click for demo.

Here is below another demo using Starling plugged with Box2D (for physics) :

Starling and Box2D

Click for demo.

Then, you have complete rendering of the your physics scene on the GPU.

Then of course particles! :

Starling Particles

Click for demo (press right key for starting the particles and change).

Below a more concret example including MovieClip (through spritesheet) :

Sausage Kong

Click for demo.

If you want to learn more about Starling, check the little book (Introducing Starling - 107 pages) I wrote about it, you can download it from the link below, it covers many concepts to get started with Starling :

Starling Book

click to download (Introducing Starling - rev 1.0).

Check the official Starling website to download it and share your content with the Starling community.

I hope you will like it!

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