Don’t Use the Force, Luke!

DSC_0754I am happy to announce an update to the Amalgamation Project, adding basic direct printing support.

I struggled for a while with printing, and discovered that many others on the world wide web struggle with the same issue. Site after site asks the same question, screams the same outrage: How does one make Adobe Flex print in landscape mode? How do I force the FlexPrintJob class to a certain behaviour or effect? How do I get control over this process?

Funny, that. The simple answer is that you don’t.

The user choses the print preferences and page orientation, and the printer hardware may dictate a particular format or further restrictions. You, and I, and the Flex software, aren’t supposed to enforce any particulars. We are supposed to deal with it.

In terms of software architecture, this is an interesting and welcome shift of policy. Once I realized that this is what happens, the printing solution falls out just so.

One never stops learning, and one shall never stop re-thinking things once learnt.


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Full Circle

DSC_0323One for the technical folk today, but maybe not without a general morale:

I can’t help wondering how software design for graphical user interfaces came about over the years. Back in the early days, you’d use a text editor to describe the graphical design in a cryptic language (hey, who remembers AES and GEM?).

Then Borland came with a barely audible Poof! and introduced true rapid application development, a click, drag and drop approach that supports the design of graphical user interfaces in a WYSIWYG way. Delphi and C++ Builder were great, I thought. In hindsight, Borland accomplished little: they coined the term RAD (or, at least, they were among the first to have one), and then lost Anders Hejlsberg to Microsoft. Borland has gone out of business (I think), and Embarcadero Software looks after the leftovers.

Then came .NET, Microsoft’s first true RAD tool. Anders Hejlsberg’s design in a different framework, and finally adopted by the mainstream, how nice.

I am now looking at declarative languages. Well, everybody is. It’s quite the hype. Adobe’s Flex with MXML, or Microsoft’s Windows Presentation Framework (WPF with XAML) and Metro. Brilliant. I love both (with an inclination towards WPF and C#).

It’s just so very nice to see that we’re now free to choose a method of describing the graphical design in a cryptic language (hey, but it’s XML! Must be cool!), just like in the good old days.

Something definitely came full circle here.

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Amalgamation Update

baby-lottieJust a little note to say that the Amalgamator has been updated with its third-generation algorithm. It’s a surprisingly tough challenge, but I am well pleased with the current engine.

Error-free amalgamation of the demo text with an overall ratio of 0.76, compared to the previous algorithm, which reached an overall ratio of 0.84 on the same text (and not without errors in the general case) – I am well pleased.

The Amalgamation site is right here.

Amalgamation ‘r’ Us

baby-lottieNow here’s is something that kept me both excited and busy for quite some while. It is no wonder that I am both very excited and pleased, therefore, to announce the beta release of the Amalgamation Project.

The Amalgamator Project is a little digital visual arts project of mine, and it goes like this:

Consider a versatile greetings card, containing all the greetings, congratulations and condolences you’d ever want to send. The words are listed such that by crossing out the unwanted words (or circling, or highlighting, the desired ones), all the original greetings, congratulations and condolences can be created.

The picture shows one of these cards with crossed-out unwanted words. We made this “by hand,” and discovered that the manual process is highly error-prone and brain-wrecking. You will alwaysbe expected to do the crossing-out or highlighting by hand, make no mistake. But the merging of messages into one jumble of words “by hand” is quite an effort.

I am pleased to announce the first release of a software solution. The amalgamation algorithm takes your greetings and get-well messages, your thank you notes and condolences, or any other message you’d want to convey in any language you can type on your computer, and amalgamates these messages into a jumble of words of the quality described above.

This first version of the algorithm has a known inefficiency, but it doesn’t appear to cause severe errors. I think of this release as a starting point only, but since it cost me quite some sweat to reach this point, well, I’m pleased.

The Amalgamation site is right here.

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Fruits of My Labour

polluxHere are the first fruits of my labour: at long last, the W7 Petcam is live! You can see it right here, in the right side bar of the main page.

The view isn’t great because the boys are under a reflecting acrylic sheet to keep them dry. I’ll think of something, maybe move the camera. I have now thought of something, and moved the camera. You can now look them into the eye, if they happen to look into yours.

For now, I am pleased with the current state of affairs.

You can manually refresh the image, or switch to Auto mode. In auto mode, the image refreshes automatically every few seconds, but the longer you watch, the slower it gets. You can’t make it bigger or change to live video, however. This is designed on purpose to preserve my Internet bandwidth.

Castor and Pollux say “hi.”

A Standing Ovation

2011-01-03 009After a brief excursion into the world of the whacky and hopeless, I return to play with the big boys. I play a lot with Microsoft during paid time, so this is one good reason to look elsewhere in my spare time, and begin learning Adobe Flex 4.6.

Boy. Man. Cheeses. They must have some sense of an uphill struggle against Microsoft, and they must have thought that developers out there need any help they can possibly get to adopt this exciting platform. What an inspired idea! I am flabbergasted. The introductory PDF alone is a mere 2574 well-written pages (free download). There’s a week’s worth of reasonably well-made video training and exercises right here, and tons after tons of good documentation, dictionaries, tutorials, you-name-it, an inexpensive but well made development tool, … I am impressed. Seriously impressed. Just go to the Adobe Developer Connection and find out for yourself.

It’s very hard to beat Microsoft’s .NET platform on any account, but I am amazed to see how far (and close) Adobe has got. In many ways, they are way ahead of .NET (like, in terms of target platform support). Looking at the documentation alone, it comes at no surprise that the fringe, including, but by no means limited to, Runtime Revolution’s LiveCode, stand no chance in real life.

I can see room at the fringes for specialised exotics such as MIT’s Scratch (programming for kids), Processing (2D and 3D animation) and many others, but it’ll take some real innovative punch to break into the market with a new general purpose language such as LiveCode.

I have always thought it is those hopeless souls that need most attention, as they harbour most novel and exciting ideas. It is sad, in a way, that the world of software engineering appears to be governed by a few big players, but as it happens, this is the rightfully earned case.



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