Will HTML5 leave Flash extinct?

Will the Ipad make Flash extinct

On a recent trip to London, in a quiet pub, a fellow punter unboxed their shiny new IPad to the coos, aahs and oohs of a growing love-struck crowd surrounding the lucky bugger. Anyone would have thought a new born giraffe was taking its’ first cute stumbles judging the reaction from the awestruck lunch time drinkers.

Practically every digital billboard in the London underground featured provocative shots of the iPad’s lusty particulars, male and female eyes just couldn’t avert their gaze. One thing is for sure, the iPad is an object of exquisite technological beauty, and we are rapidly falling in love. Even die-hard PC fans may not be able to resist the temptress for long and could soon be bowing down in submission to Apples’ evangelists.

You only have to check out their HTML 5 showcase (you will need to browse in Safari, as the showcase uses non-finalized web standards) to see how Apple are going to take the driving seat in pushing the web and mobile technologies of the future. But Steve Jobs has confirmed that Adobe Flash will definitely not be coming along for the ride.

Jobs’ statement may seem a little harsh, and the ending to this ‘will they, won’t they’ storyline between Apple and Adobe isn’t a happy one,  but it’s difficult not to appreciate the logic behind the decision to not support Flash on the Apple mobile OS. Pixel perfect transitions, slick animations and  video are all achievable through the open standards of HTML 5, CSS3 Javascript. Free, openness and sharing are all concepts synonymous with the web and Apple at least seems to be embracing these with their development strategy.

If developing in open standards is the only way you are going to get an application on the iPhone and iPad – where does this leave Adobe’s licensed development platform?

If I were a Flash developer for web, I might be starting to rethink my long term career path. One reason is most Flash sites depend on hover-overs – an alien concept to the growing number of devices using touch screen navigation. So there will be plenty of companies looking to redevelop their Flash sites…………. just not in Flash when there are more accessible options available.

Power consumption is an issue every mobile device manufacturer faces, and how to get the most out of a single charge. So even the rise of the non-Apple smart phones that will support Flash, does not look likely to be throwing a lifeline when it comes to mobile, as the technology is more demanding on power. Large, battery heavy devices will not survive in the market and besides, manufacturers have to keep making devices smaller – so we keep losing them and buying more!

But where do the users loyalties lie? YouTube and all the major content providers support H.264 codec, so non Flash users aren’t missing out on much when it comes to video. Most of us couldn’t care less if we are viewing content using Flash or Javascript and the majority of us don’t know what this geeky nonsense even means!

So the allure of the Apple style mobile OS will swoon us in the end, and non Apple developers will be following the leader when attempting to emulate the Apple experience. They already are. Flash looks likely to retreat away from the web content arena but that doesn’t mean it’s multimedia applications are dead and buried, Flash still has it’s niches.

Before the pro-Adobe rent a mob (and the Flash team at my agency) get their backs up – there is no doubting Flash’s capability to create gorgeous animated web content, but recently the Adobe developer community seem to feeling the heat in advertising  the fact more than ever. Perhaps this will drive Flash developers to create even more innovative content. But open web standards are catching up – fast.

Sorry Flash, I think  it might be over. It’s not you, OR me. It’s Apple.

Flash slider Cu3er – Free 3D image carousel

Flash slider Cu3er – Free 3D image carousel

A flash slider can add an enticing element of engagement to a homepage. Whether you are looking for a random image generator, banner rotator or featured content gallery – Cu3er is a free download that offers something unique.

Download Cu3er for free

Image carousels are nothing new, which is why yours should capture attention with something your user hasn’t seen before. Cu3er adds a touch of the unexpected with it’s  3D transitions between slides and this free download is pretty easy to implement, and edit via XML. You will need to know a HTML few basics, and be able to edit your images to size.

You can add featured content and navigation text, add styles, control shading and colour – there’s even a helpful customization guide to get you started, and a more detailed manual for advanced users.  If you have a WordPress blog and want to feature Cu3er, read on.

Flash sliders are not always the best way to engage  your target audience  and do raise accessibility issues, so don’t expect to show case your new slider to your iPhone audience just yet, but Cu3er is worth considering for an image switcher or banner rotator if you are looking for something fresh.

Cu3er is now available as a WordPress plug in

If you run a WordPress blog, there is a Cu3er plug in available, I’ve tested it and it works great, but read on for some tips on implementing it.

Cu3er Elements for WordPress Tips

  • Cu3er Elements takes the first image and excerpt of the post and adds it to the carousel. So make sure your image is added to your post at a large enough size to to fill your carousel, then scale it down within the content editor.
  • I’ve seen a  few complaints about Cu3er Elements in that you can’t specify the post you want to feature, it just takes the last X number of posts. BUT you can set the Cu3er elements to only show posts from a specific category.
  • Create a new category called “headlines” (or whatever you like!) , set Cu3er to only show the posts under it and apply this category to only the posts you want in the gallery. Hey presto – you have control over the posts you want to feature.

Cu3er Elements – Free 3D image slider for WordPress.

If you have any problems adding Cu3er Elements to your WordPress site, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help… 🙂

Edit pictures online for free – Splashup and Pixlr

There are a few open source options out there allowing you to edit pictures for free featuring some Photoshop goodness. Gimp and Krita both offer solid alternatives to Adobe’s flagship image editing software, but they involve a lengthly download and install if all you need  to so is quickly edit an image on the fly.

I recently stumbled upon a couple of great online photo editing sites – Splashup and Pixlr . Both of these  systems allow the PS features we love like layers, drop shadows and gradients. Splashup allows both online image editing and a download  of a lite version of the software and cleverly allows you to start editing images from Flickr, Facebook, Picassa etc.

You should find Splashup particularly user friendly, with the additional social platform integration and downloadable lite version, it has  has the edge.

10 WordPress magazine theme resources

Having project managed a couple of corporate WordPress magazine theme builds recently, I loved the end result and the lack of technical headaches even more. So I thought I’d get my head under the bonnet and set up this site:

Wordpress magazine theme

I’ve worked with a few heavy duty content management systems and have to take my hat off to Matt Mullenweg and all the open source contributors –  WordPress is a triumph.  Follow these steps and you can set up a site like this in an evening with next to no programming skills. There are countless great plug-ins out there, but others are a bit dated and cranky. This should help you sort the wheat from the chaff and save the time I spent on trial and error. Best of  all, these WordPress magazine theme downloads are 100% free:

1. Getting set up

  • Sign up and download WordPress – this gives you the basic frame work and back end to upload your  theme to
  • Buy some hosting –  one.com currently offer a year’s hosting and and a domain name for peanuts
  • Notepad – Not vital, but very handy for cutting and pasting code. You should always paste your articles from Word to Notepad, then from Notepad to the WordPress CMS. This ensures you are adding nothing but clean text, and don’t get any weird renderings on page
  • Firebug –  Again, not vital, especially if you do not want to change things too much. This is a fantastic developer plug in for Firefox that allows you to select and locate code and CSS for easy editing. I could not have customized this site without this tool

And finally, the most important thing of all:

Content, content, content. Don’t blog because you want to say something, blog because you have something to say. Brainstorm ideas around something you are passionate about. Try and come up with a unique angle so you can offer new, helpful,  insightful, funny or informative content. Then write a couple of two hundred (ish) word articles to get you going.

2. Choose a WordPress magazine theme

Wordpress Magazine themeThere  are zillions of free WordPress templates out there and some excellent premium themes available for a nominal fee. I was after something that didn’t scream “I AM A BLOG!”, and that offered a rich navigation and structure. After a  lot of  researching, Arthemia seemed like the best free wordpress magazine theme out there.

This theme’s featured content area and thumbnailing works really well, the navigation coding is slick, Micheal Hutagalung has even created a drop down menu if you need it.

Download Arthemia – Free WordPress Magazine theme

I will write up an Arthemia customization guide separately to make your WordPress theme unique – leave a comment and hassle me to get on it!

3. Cumulus – 3D spinning tag cloud
Tag clouds have had the tendency to appear a little cluttered and ugly, that is until  Cumulus came along. This sexy flash based widget renders out tags or categories or both with in a 3D spinning tag globe.   A super simple back end allows you to customize colours of background and font, size and the speed of spin. You can insert your cloud in the predefined Widget docks or place code anywhere in your template.cumulus

Download Cumulus

Make sure you read the readme.txt files in each of the widget downloads, but here’ a quick tip on adding Cumulus outside the usual widget place holders:

You will need some tagged content loaded into the CMS to fill your cloud, but you can choose to pull in the categories just to check it out and have a play with the customization tools.

  • Once you have installed, activated, set the size to 300pixels wide, width is up to you, but the developers recommend 3/4 of the width (225).
  • Int he  left hand navigation, go to Appearance/Editor/ then select in the right hand menu sidebar.php
  • In the sidbar.php text, paste this code<?php wp_cumulus_insert(); ?>

in the place of the following

< ? php echo get_option(‘home’); ?>/wp-content/themes/arthemia/images/banners/square.jpg” alt=”” width=”300px” height=”250px” />

4. Dynamic content gallery

Any WordPress magazine theme can be brought to life with a dynamic gallery of images and post titles. Easy to configure and create on the admin panel,   you can insert this flash gallery by pasting the code line next to the Cumulus code.

Download dynamic content gallery

5. Sexy bookmarks
It’s so important in blogging to make it as easy as possible for your reader to bookmark and tell others about your site.  The trouble is most of the social book marking plugins out there do not look very enticing,  and are not complimentary for a slick magazine style site. Sexy bookmarks allows you to render up to 40 tasteful social bookmarking icons at the foot of your articles, and feature an enticing roll over effect.

sexy social bookmarks

Download Sexy Bookmarks

6. Find me elsewhere
Blogs are becoming more of a community based environment, so you should try to connect with your readers. Again there are lots of choices out there,  I found Find Me Elsewhere most complimentary to the theme although I need to edit it a little so the links are nofollow.

Social Media links

Download Find Me Else Where widget

The next four plug-ins are not completely necessary to create a magazine style  WordPress theme, but highly recommended to optimise visitor numbers and page views, and if you are looking for lots of control over your template.

7. Query posts
Easily create recommended article links and related posts. The various customization channels allow a dizzying number of options. Query posts adds a dynamic links list that pulls in posts dependent on the page, tags, category, template etc etc.

Download Query Posts

8. Custom widgets
This gives you complete control over your widgets – where they do and don’t appear. Particularly useful as you can tailor the right hand sidebar depending on your users’ journey. Whether you want to only have a widget appear on the homepage, on posts or page ID’s, custom widgets is a fantastic Worpdress plug-in.

Download TS Custom Widgets

**Combining the functionality of both Custom widgets and Query Posts gives you an amazing array of options. The possibilities are almost limitless, but bear in mind when you have a lot of content the extra queries will effect the site’s speed and performance.

9. Contact Form 7

A neat and tidy widget that allows super fast addition of a contact form to your website. You can create custom form fields and play with the styling.

Download Form Contact 7

10. All in one SEO Pack
With the number of blogs reaching ridiculous levels, you have to do all you can to get your blog found and read – so search engine optimisation is vital. This plug in will create search engine friendly titles for your pages and allow easy creation of  the usual meta data, you can just plug in with the standard settings and forget about it if you don’t know much about SEO.

Download all in one SEO Pack

Please leave a comment or ask a  question!

Rise and fall of the robots

It’s no surprise Japan lead the way in robotics. The answer to a rapidly aging population and shrinking workforce is relatively simple to the most cyber punk of nations. Build whiter than white droids to take care of our every need. The home of almost one half of the world’s entire industrial robot population, Japan

Japan’s robot revolution has spread into sectors from health care, emergency services and even entered the home. Although ninety thousand dollars seems a bit too much to come home to fresh teppanyaki and a “welcome home” from a Cylon, compared against the cost of a full time carer this may well be an unavoidable reality to many. Which is why Japan is also leading the way to redefine our relationship with robots. A machine can not to replace human contact, can it?

Unfortunately we are some way away from attaining