Mobile Devices

February 25th, 2011 – 3:05 pm
Tagged as: PGCHE,Work

Lecturer: Zayd Junglee
Module: MU120
Observers: Nina Reeves, Mike Brooks and Mark Loon
Date: 24/02/2011
Time: 10:15 – 13:15

Topic: Mobile Devices (presentation link)

The topic of mobile devices has been one to develop greatly, especially in the last couple of years. In particular, the inclusion of application development has been made easier for the user, by using software packages such as Adobe Flash Professional CS5.

The focus of the session carried out on Thursday 24th February 2011, was to give the students an insight into the advancements of technology and how Flash CS5 (which the students are now familiar with), is a tool which they could also use to develop mobile applications.

This area of teaching was new to both the Multimedia Web Design course and to the students – so firstly – I felt privelaged to be the first to deliver the most up-to-date advancements of this topic! However, I had to ensure the processes about to be shown, were all correct! Additionally, I had to ensure the testing and compatibility these processes were possible in the computer labs – and mind you, those computers are not the best of machines to keep up with the latest tech! Thankfully, it was!

Before delivering the lecture, the more I researched / investigated into the topic, the more I considered this lecture as a  “cutting-edge”  topic which students would hopefully be interested in. It was important to consider how to engage the students with the topic, so by giving them a brief history at the start of the session, I set the scene by introducing the development of Flash and mobile devices.

The plan of the session was to spend approximately 35 minutes going through the theory using  a PowerPoint presentation, followed by 60 minutes of demoing how to create an application from scratch, export it for Android OS and uploading it to the Android Marketplace.

This process actually resulted in a 2 hours and 50 minute session!

On one hand, the content of the lecture gave a very high and detailed impression on how a student should approach and complete a task assigned to them, i.e. the module assignment. On the other hand, it was a risk in trying to retain their attention. In spending a long time trying to figure out issues that may arise, meant time was ticking and the students may become restless. Sitting down and listening to the lecturer for 2+ hours is definitely situation which should be broken up in some way.

I believe the first part of the session delivered to the students, gave them the background knowledge and enlightened their mood as to what one could do with Flash CS5 and mobile devices. However, to give the session more of an interactive feel (knowing that they would be sitting down for quite a while!), the session could involved giving their opinions on  post-it-notes, followed by reviewing what they have written down. This would most likely increase their participation / responses, rather than verbally responding to questions that I ask the class – something which does not seem to happen often (i.e. no verbal responses to the questions!).

The biggest challenge was to create a mobile application “on-the-fly” in front of the students. The aim of the practical element of THIS particular lecture was to demonstrate how to build an application from scratch, whether it be for a mobile device or for a desktop machine. It should be made clear, that alternative structures to sessions have meant students listen to theory, then attempt a practical exercise.

However, my intention for this session, was to put my feet in the student’s shoes and help them realise that the tasks the lecturers set them or ideas which they want to achieve, are difficult. Most importantly, they require some clear thinking. And no doubt – this takes time!

The application chosen to build was a “matching pairs” game (see below). It was interesting to see how engaged the students were with the process of building the application. Their ideas came flourishing in with concepts that would give the game a much more interactive feel to it. But, for the students – what was important to make them realise, was these ideas all build up on the foundations. It is those foundations which need to be built first before figuring out how to additional extras of the final product.

So by noting down the ideas, I emphasised how before doing any of them, we had to consider the foundations – that being, how to get the computer to understand that a matching pair has been selected! No doubt, this process resulted in opening up their minds a little about how to approach a task. There were many moments where issues arose in attempting to create the application’s logic.

Logic was an important term to get across to the students. To do this, I attempted to contextualise the process of logic by creating this application in front of them.

The application involved a variety of steps, including planning, storyboarding, asset building, logic construction (programming) and testing. Whilst these processes could be seen as an iterative approach to design / achieving the task – the more errors that were encountered  in front of the students, the more the students began to realise this iteration process of re-capping on what has just been done. And it was a process that required patience!

The interaction of the class became more apparent when the issues arose. Approximately 20% of the class contributed  in trying  resolve the problems encountered (many of them were the same students giving suggestions). However, their input seem to raise the interest of those who seemed “lost.”

Nevertheless, the program eventually developed into a functional prototype (1hour 20minutes later!). Upon completion, the reaction of the students seem to imply a “sigh of relief” from two points of view. The first being it had taken at least 1hour 10minutes to complete. Secondly, the task had actually been achieved – achieved not only by me creating it at the computer, but by all the students input. Their reaction felt like a breath of satisfaction.

What seem to make the topic more appealing to the class – was being able to demonstrate the live delivery of the application straight from Flash CS5 to a mobile device (Samsung Galaxy Tab – courtesy of Mike Brooks). This gave the feeling of what had just been constructed in Flash CS5 was now a live application on a mobile device. This was also demonstrated live in the session, using a Visualiser – a tool that projects the image of a camera onto a projector screen.

Again – another “Ooo! Ahh! Eee” *that was cool* reaction emerged!

The lecture was also filmed for reviewing and reflection at a later stage. Feedback has also been given / written by Mark and Nina and attached at the end of this post. The video will also be available for students to review / stream online. The video will help to demonstrate the timings of the session and how these could have been managed better. And finally it will also help to explain specific terminology covered at particular intervals – and how the students reacted to these explanations.

Third & Seventh

January 18th, 2010 – 11:46 am
Tagged as: Work

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

Flash CS5 to support iPhone Application Development

October 19th, 2009 – 11:27 am
Tagged as: Life

So I was browsing around the Internet and I happen to stumble across a small article by Aditya Bansod from Adobe, regarding the development of iPhone apps in the next release of Flash.

With my colleague asking me to recommend a new smartphone (for quite some time now!), I decided to take a bit of time to look into the next generation of Mobile Application Development. Initially it’s been a bit of a tough time to narrow down what kind of smartphone should be bought: BlackBerry, iPhone, HTC Windows Mobiles, Nokia, Samsung?

There’s quite a lot of choice on the market, but it’s evident that mobile application is booming. And it’s not just that there’s a lot of choice, but nearly every month there’s a new “upgraded” phone with an additional feature, e.g. bigger processor, with keyboard, OS type. But with this new introduction to iPhone app development in Flash CS5 it’s going to be exciting time for Flash developers.

So, I just thought for those considering a new phone, consider whether Flash is going to be compatible on it, because at the end of the day, Flash is one of the key visual enhancements to Web sites in today’s WWW.

Here are some extracts from the article, I found interesting:

We enabled this by using the Low Level Virtual Machine (LLVM) compiler infrastructure. LLVM is a modular, flexible compiler system that is used widely in a variety of projects. The key reason we choose LLVM is its flexibility and applicability to iPhone development. We created a new compiler front end that allowed LLVM to understand ActionScript 3 and used its existing ARM back end to output native ARM assembly code.

Seems like the porting of Adobe apps was used in conjunction with this LLVM. Sounds like it’s quite a complex process, but at the end of the day, if it does what it’s been programmed to do, then us developers are happy developers : ).

You have access to nearly all the AIR 2.0 and Flash Player 10.1 APIs. For example, you can use APIs such as RTMP, Remote Shared Objects, and AMF as well as AIR APIs like SQLite and filesystem access.

Wow, that’s some flexibility to really kick in to your mobile applications! Having used most of those already in some of my general windows/web app development, I already envisage the usefulness for all this support!

Finally, Aditya goes on to explain three main concepts which should be considered when developing an iPhone app:

1. Start by creating your application on the desktop that fits the screen size of the iPhone. The iPhone’s display (like many smartphones) is 320 × 480. When the app is not in full-screen mode, 20 pixels are taken up by the status bar, so consider that when building your application.

2. Second, your finger is your pointing device. You can use mouse events (and touch events) to track the user’s intent, but remember that the finger is an inaccurate pointing device. Sometimes a finger goes down on the screen but moves up elsewhere. Certain behaviors that you may often employ in desktop application development will not necessarily apply to the iPhone.

3. The third and most important consideration when building your application is performance. Performance, performance, performance! The iPhone is most decidedly not a desktop computer. It has very powerful and sophisticated hardware, but there is a wide spectrum of capabilities between the different generations of device, the amount of memory available, and the amount of processing power your application has at its disposal.

Haha, I’m so glad he mentioned point number three! The number of times I struggled with that! That was and still is, one of the most difficult to consider. But reading on, I also found one final point which seemed relevant to any Mobile app dev:

If you have any experience developing applications with Adobe Flash Lite or other mobile platforms, you can use many of the same tricks and techniques—such as caching bitmaps, limiting the display list depth, and so on.

Nice to know!

Overall, I found that article a very useful insight to consider when buying a new phone. In summary, Windows Mobile Devices, and now the new Android device are the best options should you want Flash on your phone!

In my opinion, Flash mobile browsing is probably going to be the next generation for an everyday user on their iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android device (maybe BlackBerry, Nokia and Samsung (although their OS’s are limited compared the the other three)).

In any case, whether you’re on the underground in London browsing the latest fashion in a Flash gallery or purchasing items on eBay which have video previews on the plane (although phones should really be turned off!) or even in India on an elephant lost in the middle of no-where (hopefully with a signal!) trying to navigate your way round a Flash map interface, Flash is will be essential requirement to mobile technology development.

Full article: http://www.adobe.com/devnet/logged_in/abansod_iphone.html

Job life…

October 2nd, 2009 – 7:26 pm
Tagged as: Life

I’m taking a few minutes to update my Web site with a few bits and bobs (you probably won’t notice anyway!).

I thought I’d let those of you who may happen to stumble across this weblog that I’m progressing relatively well now. I am now in the wonderful life of – “the world of work!”

Yes, that’s right, during this bleak time of employment in the UK (damn recession!), I still managed cobble my thoughts together and get set up with a job at the University of Gloucestershire.

My role is as a Post Graduate Assistant. I am undertaking a PhD, a PGCHE and assisting in lectures. I am teaching mainly Level I and II students in the fields of Computing, Interactive Games Design and Multimedia. It’s been about two weeks in now and I’m enjoying every moment of it.

I’ve got stuck in with assisting the lecturers develop their programmes for the courses and in fact, today, I gave my first lecture! To my surprise, my colleagues (who both filmed me on camera and sat in the lecture), pointed out how I stood out well in front of the Level III students and more in particular, their attention span towards me was suprisingly very good. It was nice to hear that!

I could get used to this new career, something I didn’t really see my self getting into so early on in life. But given the opportunity has arisen, I’ve passed the first test for getting it and now I need to stand up high and try my best throughout its duration. I get really excited in helping people (both tennis and now lecturing) because of the similar interests within a particular subject. It’s enjoyable to share those experiences and to develop on them, learning new things everyday!

The other day I helped out a deaf person (rather unexpectedly). With his sign-language interpreter trying to translate every technical word I said, about a software the deaf individual had never used before, was a VERY interesting challenge! He felt very anxious about taking the module at the start of his 2nd year at University, having had no prior experience in the software interface (Level I covers some basics about the software which unfrotuantely he missed out on). However, the outcome of the two-hour one-to-one session I had with him, convinced him to stay on the module! I felt very satisfied and now can’t wait to meet him again next week!

I’m only experiencing the start of this wonderful life. But it’s also interesting to see it from the eyes of an experienced lecturer (my colleagues). They are just as enthusiastic, but I can imagine how over time, procedures may become a little on the lines of “*sigh*, here we go again!

But to be honest, I think it’s more about meeting the individuals you teach year after year and seeing them progress in their own development – it’s just that feeling of having done something good for someone I suppose.

It’s all good!

University over! Hire me!

July 22nd, 2009 – 4:38 pm
Tagged as: Life

Hey all! It’s been a while since I’ve updated (I don’t know how many times I say that!)

But just to let people who randomly come across my site and for the regulars that come to see my work – a big thank you for all your support! I got the grade I wanted for my degree *cough* 1st *cough* with an average (top 6 modules at Level III) of 85% as my final mark.

I’ve been taking quite a bit of a break from the whole working-with-multimedia, but now I’m ready to get back into it all. I’ve taken on some personal projects and they are coming along really well.

I did a nice tidy dynamic XML banner in AS3 the other day. That can be seen here. And a few web sites are underway. None-the-less, I’m looking for employment in this bleek time of job hunting (damn recession!).

I’ve been eagerly preparing my work and I’ve decided to update my web site too. Anyway, going to continue with updating the rest and nose a bit on Facebook.

Back to tennis for a little bit…

October 10th, 2008 – 4:47 pm
Tagged as: Tennis,University

I decided to start up University tennis practice again today. I missed the first 2 weeks, as that was essentially me getting back in to uni mode!

Got all my modules sorted, been given all assignments and sorting out my time. It’s already feeling tough trying to prioritise, but today I kind of felt like leaving some of the work side of things and just going to Uni tennis practice.

Some good players there and hopefully I’ll be playing once again in the Men’s Uni team. I’ll probably be only able to do the home matches, or, if need be – the closest would be Bristol or Swindon.

But we have some good players this year. One rather large guy who hits the serve rather hard! But just got to start getting back to grips (get it! Grip!) with things. I enjoyed taking over half the session today! As much as my fellow friends who haven’t seen me in a while were doing well in organising 22 odd students to play tennis on 4 courts, it did get quite difficult at times.

Though thankfully with a background full of drills, I decided to step in and help them out! Turned out pretty well, as the whole tennis club now knows what I do and at least feel like they are going to have some fun at each session. Problem now is to grab a tonne of drills to perform at each session…

Unfortunately I might not always be able to make the 1:30pm to 3:30pm slots every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But I will try my utmost, given that I was asked eagerly whether I would be down on Monday. But yeah, I’ll hopefully have some nice involvement in tennis this year from a University perspective. From a coaching perspective that is limited.

But in this case, it will be a nice break from time to time to get my head around all this work!

I’ll snap up a few drills ready for Monday – which also reminds me – I will be starting my own Web site on that accord! I can’t wait!

Well done to all at the session though! I’m pretty sure we all enjoyed it!

What happens in Heaven?

September 28th, 2008 – 10:51 pm
Tagged as: Life

A short story I extracted from a family member’s Facebook notes. I liked it, so I thought I’d share it with you:

I dreamt that I went to Heaven and a Malaikat was showing me around. We walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with Malaikats.

My Malaikat guide stopped in front of the first section and said, ‘This is the Receiving Section. Here, all petitions to Allah said in prayer are received.’

I looked around in this area, and it was terribly busy with so many Malaikats sorting out petitions written on voluminous paper sheets and scraps from people all over the world.

Then we moved on down a long corridor until we reached the second section.

The Malaikat guide then said to me, ‘This is the Packaging and Delivery Section. Here, the graces and blessings the people asked for are processed and delivered to the living persons who asked for them.’

I noticed again how busy it was there. There were many Malaikats working hard at that station, since so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.

Finally at the furthest end of the long corridor we stopped at the door of a very small station. To my great surprise, only one Malaikat was seated there, idly doing nothing. ‘This is the Acknowledgement Section,’ my Malaikat friend quietly admitted to me. He seemed embarrassed ‘How is it that there’s no work going on here?’ I asked.

‘So sad,’ the Malaikat guide sighed. ‘After people receive the blessings that they asked for, very few send back acknowledgments’.

‘How does one acknowledge Allah’s blessings?’ I asked.

‘Simple,’ the Malaikat answered. ‘Just say, ‘Thank you, Allah.’

‘What blessings should they acknowledge?’ I asked.

‘If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

And if you get this on your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who has that opportunity.’

‘Also…

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness… You are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day.

If you have never experienced the fear in battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation… You are ahead of 700 million people in the world.

If you can attend a mosque meeting without the fear of harassment, arrest,torture or death… You are envied by, and more blessed than, three billion people in the world.

If your parents are still alive and still married… You are very rare.

And if you can hold your head up and smile… You are not the norm, you’re unique to all those in doubt and despair.’

‘Ok, what now? How can I start?’

‘If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you as very special and you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.’

Have a good day, shukur and count your blessings, and if you want, pass this along to remind everyone else how blessed we all are.

Attn:Acknowledge Dept.: ‘Thank You Allah! Thank you Allah, for giving me the ability to share this message and for giving me so many wonderful people to share it with’.

ActionScript 3.0

August 24th, 2008 – 12:11 pm
Tagged as: Life,Work

I’ve always wondered when I’d start to learn AS3.0. Trying to move away from the classic AS2.0 is quite hard esepcially having experience in it and actually getting results! But I read around a bit, grabbed a few books on AS3.0 and watched a few tutorials online.

Lee Brimelow (a guy who works at Adobe – an award-winning interactive designer) wrote some factual information which I thought I’d post on my Web site too. Just to remind me and you as to why we should take on AS3.0:

Reasons to use ActionScript 3.0

The following are what I consider to be the primary benefits of learning to use ActionScript. I’ve listed them in no particular order.

1. Your skills will be in high demand

This, in my opinion, is the main reason anyone who currently works or is planning to work as a Flash developer should switch to the new language. All major Flash work is now exclusively being built in ActionScript 3.0. You just don’t see many jobs looking for ActionScript 2.0 skills. So if you plan on working with Flash in your job, learning ActionScript 3.0 is essential.

2. Everything you build will be faster

Developers who have been working with Flash for a while have often been frustrated that our new, super-cool idea just couldn’t run smoothly because of the limitations of Flash Player. ActionScript 3.0 offers up to a 10-fold increase in performance over previous versions of the language. In some cases, the performance has increased even more. This means you can control more objects on the Stage at the same time. If you want your project to look and perform at its best, moving to ActionScript 3.0 is the ultimate way to achieve this goal.

3. There’s an abundance of new APIs

As Flash developers, we love nothing more than getting new toys to integrate into our projects. ActionScript 3.0 includes hundreds of new APIs for working with things like XML, regular expressions, and binary sockets. Even better, the whole language has been reorganized into packages and namespaces that make it much easier to find specific language features. When you use ActionScript 3.0, your Flash toolbox is not only much fuller, it is also better organized.

4. The display list rocks

One of the biggest changes in ActionScript 3.0 is the way Flash handles visual objects in a movie. In previous versions of the language, it was practically a black art to manipulate the display order (depth) of the items in a Flash movie. A large number of hacks and workarounds existed that didn’t make any sense to beginners starting to use the language. For instance, it was common practice to place visual assets at an extremely high depth in order to keep them on top of everything else in a movie. This led to a lot of problems in larger projects and required a lot of manual depth management work. The new display list in ActionScript 3.0 is a straightforward mechanism that handles how visual assets are rendered in your movie. Once you start using it, you’ll wonder how you ever developed a project without it.

5. The object-oriented structure is better

Developers particularly love the improved object-oriented structure of ActionScript 3.0. It includes things like runtime typing, sealed classes, packages, namespaces, and an overhauled event model. Programming in ActionScript 3.0 is on the same level as writing in other high-level languages like Java and C#. The new features in ActionScript 3.0 also make your code more modular, readable and extendable. Some of these features may not be used much, if at all, by interactive designers—but it is good to know that if you want to get into more advanced programming someday, the language structure is there to support you.

6. It’s more enjoyable to work with ActionScript 3.0

This may sound subjective, but I believe it is absolutely true. Ask anyone who knows ActionScript 3.0 to go back and program a project in ActionScript 2.0 and they will surely cringe at the idea. Previous versions of the language were filled with so many bugs, hacks, and workarounds that working in ActionScript 3.0 seems almost too easy in comparison. ActionScript 3.0 does take a bit of getting used to, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Farewell Content Master…

July 25th, 2008 – 4:35 pm
Tagged as: Content Master

I took the last week off as a holiday. Not that I planned that! But I just so happen to have four days holiday left. And four days next week were the last days of work for me. So the two fit together pretty well.

Towards the end of my industrial placement year, my workload started to ease off slightly and although there was still plenty to do, the deadlines were not quite as strict.

The main project most people were working on was one for the client Intel. This consisted of more Flash animation courses and presentations from a Microsoft Powerpoint decks.

I took on the role that I had become accustomed to, which involved graphical production for the animations and some synching of audio. This last week gave me a chance to reflect on the year as a whole, what I had learnt technically and how worthwhile I felt the year had been.

I had taken full charge of the certain projects, assisted and also helped to produce an internal advertisement video interview, which helped me gain experience in video recording, sound recording and editing. Coupled with this was the continuation to improve my graphical design skills provided by product group projects and Web site production skills.

And well, that was it. I’d finally completed a whole year at Content Master in working with a team of media producers. What an experience it was.

I’ll miss this time at Content Master. I smile at the fact that I get extra long holidays now!

But at the same time, I kind of miss the fact that I won’t get to see these guys every weekday anymore!

Anyone for Mini Golf?

July 15th, 2008 – 12:55 pm
Tagged as: Content Master

Since November 2007 a new building was being built for the media department, test department and a couple of other individual scattered in Tortworth House.

Nevertheless, I got to spend a few days in the new building, moving my machine across and appreciating the newness smell as well as the expensive layout! It was such a treat for the team. However it was unfortunate, that myself and two others were leaving in a couple of weeks! The team would only be left with six media producers – half of what we originally started with.

Either way the building was awesome. Very modern yet preserved the countryside look and feel and the team was finally all in one building, rather than a ground floor and a basement. Just as Tortworth House was, the new building was placed in the countryside vicinity facing a great view of land, fields and mountains at the entrance door.

Well, I took seat at my new desk and I worked on my final project alongside the media developer in charge of it. IN002 – Intel came to Content Master seeking some professional animation skills, fully storyboarded and explained in detail. This project had already started several months ago, and was an on-going project by only one member of the team.

However M1841 was handed off last week. They were surprised at the quick response time, assuming it would take days for the export of videos again!

And so nine members remained and we all ended up working with Intel.

I didn’t get too involved with Intel’s content, but instead was simply told to draw graphical representations of live products. Therefore, I vectorized several images in my last week at Content Master, chilling out and letting the team appreciate the moments of relaxing after such a long year with myself and a few others who were leaving.

We even had a small mini golf putting championship as a celebration for having so much space at last! However, yes – this would be my last week of work.