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Today, 15th March 2005, was the second & final day of Macromedia MAX 2005 Conference here in New Delhi, India. And it promised to be really cool than what it was yesterday!! ๐Ÿ˜€ I was waiting for the conference to begin, & it began right at 9am IST with Greg Rewis again. ๐Ÿ˜€

Yes, Greg Rewis for 3 sessions. He started off the first session with using CSS for page layout, instead of Tables. Ok, several guys have been pushing me that I should embrace CSS based page layouts & I’ve been kinda avoiding that because of the lack of time I’ll need to put into learning about creating CSS based page layouts. But what Greg showed today in the first 20-30 minutes is that its really easy to do a CSS based page layout, & using a CSS based layout means a lot of flexibility. I mean I never thought that I can create a CSS based page layout so easily, and though he demonstrated this by using DreamweaverMX 2004 & its advanced CSS features, I really don’t need it for that. Its for those who can’t hand code. But I can hand code that faster that it’d take me to do it via Dreamweaver, really cool stuff. I’ll be trying that out next, really many thanks to Greg for easing that out. ๐Ÿ˜€

Then in the second session, Greg went on about using Templates with DreamweaverMX 2004 & Contribute 3, and told us how easy it is to maintain a website if templates are used. He asked about how many have used Contribute & know about it & there weren’t any hands raised except mine, well, I wasn’t surprised, but Greg was, a bit I’d say. I had a go at the trial version of Contribute just to see what’s the buzz all about & what its for. It served no purpose of mine, so I un-installed it. I’d been surprised if there’d been some raised hands on that, I expected as much for attendees to be un-aware of Contribute. Well, since I already knew usage of templates, and what he was telling, so I let my attention wander during his lecture.

There were quite a turnout at the conference, almost a full Regency Ballroom where the conference was being held in the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi. That ballroom is one of the largest, perhaps the largest ballroom at Hyatt Regency, I’m told. ๐Ÿ˜€ But the turnout wasn’t exactly the same as that of yesterday, a bit less infact. The girls were obvious with their bare presence, just 5-6 girls, & unfortunately only one good looking girl. Too bad!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Greg had started the 3rd session on Building Dynamic Applications with Dreamweaver, so I heaved my attention back on him. I just hope he didn’t notice my looking around here & there for 15 minutes, I was sitting in the 2nd fow from the front & quite visible to him as he was wandering near, explaining things as he went on. Ok, so I’ve never really explored the server behaviours & data binding features of DreamweaverMX 2004, so that was a quick refresher into it. Looked pretty easy doing it all through the GUI, creating a connection to a MySQL database, selecting the database & table, then the columns that needed to be fetched & then recordset pagination through recordset browser. But it generated sloppy PHP code, I know that because I try to write tighter & cleaner PHP code & am improving day by day. I wasn’t surprised to see just my hand(maybe 1-2 more, I’m not sure) raised when he asked about the PHP developers present, had he asked about ASP developers, almost all hands would’ve raised. ๐Ÿ˜€ But then you can’t expect all great things from the software. Afterall, it has got pre-stored code which is deployed as needed, its not writing it on its own & is not smart to know what’s sloppy & what’s not. I mean, its ok, for those who don’t know programming in a language. Now they can build a database powered application right from Dreamweaver GUI without knowing the language actually. So if I need to put together some database stuff in ColdFusion, then I can use the Dreamweaver GUI for that, as I don’t know ColdFusion, but after Chak’s session on ColdFusion yesterday, I’ve got a stonger urge to learn it, looks like I’ll learn it before ASP.NET ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, as I was saying that though these dynamic data features of DreamweaverMX are great, it produces sloppy code(PHP code atleast), so I know I’ll be coding by hand again, much faster than doing it with Dreamweaver. Besides I use a data-abstraction class for database access, instead of repeatedly using the mysql_ functions to get & parse recordsets or execute queries.

In the fourth session, we had Chak Ming Fai back, this time explaining about Macromedia’s Web Publishing System & using Contribute 3 with it. He explained that managing a website by several people is quite easy by using the Web Publishing System & Contribute 3. Now as you know(or if you don’t know), Contribute is for managing a website, you can think of it as a Content Management/Publishing System, with which you can edit existing websites(to which you have access to) & add/remove pages to/from them. But what happens if you need several people to work simultaneously on a same website & you don’t want each to have access to every content. Here comes in the Web Publishing System with which you can define roles for publishers and or content editors etc. allowing different permissions to different users. The Contribute 3 connects to the Web Publishing System on the server & access the role(set of permissions) assigned to the user & the allowing access to website accordingly. He gave us a real world example of the website of the University of Rochester Medical College where they needed to publish the content to a staging server & then to the main webserver. Chak said that this is not possible currently with the Web Publishing System. But he said that there’s an API provided which can be used via Web Services in custom components made in ColdFusion or any other language in which you can then listen to the events passed on to the Web Publishing Service, like whether the content was published or not, a new page is created or not. If the content is published, then it can be pushed to the webserver by this component of ours. Apparently things are being done that way at URMC, he explained. ๐Ÿ™‚
I admit, that was quite boring stuff & I had a deep urge to doze off!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

But I didn’t & that’s what proved out to be lucky for me. Yes, he asked questions after this & I was lucky to get a chance to answer one & I won a Microsoft Optical Mouse for that. ๐Ÿ˜€ Here’s the photograph of the Mouse, still packed.

Microsoft Optical Mouse that I won!! Continuing in the pre lunch fifth session, Chak demonstrated the Breeze, yes, Macromedia Breeze & that was an eye opener for me. Until now, I thought that it was all about having presentations in Flash instead of Microsoft PowerPoint, but it turned out to be much more than that. With Breeze, you make presentations as usual in Microsoft PowerPoint, but you get a plugin in it, with which you can enhance your presentation by adding audio(can be recorded using a microphone), quizzes/surveys, Flash Video, & a whole bunch of other stuff. When you are done with it, just save the PowerPoint file. Now to publish it in Flash. For that, you need to have the Breeze server up & running, and a valid username/password to access & publish to that server. With a click in PowerPoint, the files are uploaded to the Breeze server in a specified directory which you or the administrator can specify for you. Now you login to the Breeze server & go to your presentation, select a few options about customising the presentation & click Finish & voila, your PowerPoint presentation is converted into Flash & you are given a unique URL on the server to access that presentation. Now as Chak explained, there are 3 modules available for Breeze & you needn’t get all of them. Just purchase what you need. The modules are for creating presentations, for making & managing/tracking eLearning Courses & for doing Internet Meetings/Conferences. He ofcourse demonstrated all of them. In the eLearning, you get some options of allowing registered users to participate in a course or everyone, whether to allow on-spot registrations(I bet its free registrations, they haven’t provided a way by which you can accept payments through a Payment Gateway like Paypal or 2Checkout & then register the user, heck– I forgot to ask that) or not. Then it can track each question & its answers which users gave & that can be filtered at the user level, giving reports of each user’s performance & the answers he gave. The other attendees were fascinated by all this stuff & there were oohs & aahs and all the while I was laughing silently at how dumb & ignorant people really are. The features of the eLearning module that Chak demonstrated, are all standard features of an eLearning solution and are not that difficult to make, if you know a programming language that is to say. The only thing cool until now was the way Breeze converted your standard PowerPoint presentations & quizzes to Flash. The rest is standard stuff you expect from a web application, nothing to be fascinated about or impressed with. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And the you consider that about 90% of the attendees were from IT education institutes like NIIT.

You can wonder why business is going down for them as far as imparting IT Education is concerned & why their study centers are vacant, simply because the managers present at low levels who recommend/implement/design stuff are ignorant about what’s out there, what’s happening. They know that C# is the hottest language around as far as .NET is concerned, but they don’t know what a typical eLearning Application consist of. That’s why when people graduate from these institutes, they know how to use stuff like HTML,ASP, ASP.NET but they don’t know what to use it for, how to implement it, the logical stuff. That is not taught to them, frankly the instructors don’t know it so how can they teach it. And people pay heavily at these institutes for this sub-standard education. Well, I’ll save the rant for some other time, lets get on with what happened next. ๐Ÿ˜€

Now, the next on Breeze that Chak demonstrated almost blew me away. A live conferencing or net meeting through just a flash enabled browser!! ๐Ÿ˜€ Cool!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ As a presenter or administrator, I needed to create a meeting in the Meeting module & start it. I have this new window open with a Flash Application. I can position the elements, have my WebCam connected to it & broadcast my live video though it. Now as a meeting is created, a unique URL is given for that meeting & restrictions can be applied just like in eLearning, whether registered users can attend, or can everyone attend, whether the administrator approves an attendee or are attendees invited by sending out customised eMails with custom URLs. As attendees login to the meeting URL, they are presented with a new window having the same Flash Application as the administrator has, but minus the admin controls. Now the attendees see the administrator broadcast his audio & video from his webcam & push on written messages, drawings drawn live, polls, all the stuff. Users can also broadcast from their webcams if the administrator allows them to.
This is really a cool piece of module in Breeze & if not anything else, its atleast worth getting it if you do frequent net meetings. The audio can be broadcasted via a seperate cable or via VoIP, Chak informed us. ๐Ÿ™‚

Then post lunch in the sixth session, in his last session for the conference, Chak went on about the Mobile Solutions from Macromedia, yes you got it right, the Flash Lite. He went on about displaying some Flash Applications & Flash Cast on his Nokia mobile phone(6600 I think). And he told about how its gonna change the way we do things with mobiles & how its catching on, leaving behind Java applications & games. Flash Lite is being embraced quite fast in Japan he mentioned, by way of the telecom provider NTT DoCoMo.

Then we moved on to the seventh session & had a new speaker, Bill Perry. Now he showed us some cool stuff, that is, using Mobile applications with Flash Lite. Did you know how easy it is to dial a number on the click of a button in a Flash Lite application? Let me show you.

  1. on(Release) {
  2.     getURL("tel://+919868445814");
  3. }

You put this actionscript on the button & you are done. Now when you click that button in the Application opened in your mobile, the Flash Player will ask you whether you want to dial that number or not. If you click yes, this number will be dialled. Ain’t it cool? Yes it is. ๐Ÿ˜‰ He talked on about how its gonna be easy for us Flash developers to migrate to the mobile platform & developing for it & how they are collaborating with Handset manufacturers & Telecom Operators & how Flash enabled phones are growing in number.

In the eighth session we had a guest speaker, a Mr.Arron Fang, CTO of iaSolutions, where-ever that is(I assume Taiwan, someone mentioned that I think). He just bored us with lots of statistics & bargraphs & figures on how Flash on Mobiles is increasing in Asian Mobile Market & how its gonna be 2 years from now, in 2007 & how their company is starting on developing Flash content for mobiles as they currently developed it all in J2ME(Java 2 Mobile Edition). Basically all his presentation consisted of nothing but stats & graphs, each & every slide and I think that was just his company’s promotion, don’t know what purpose it served here, as almost nobody paid attention to what he was saying. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The ninth & last session was presented by another guest speaker, Cyril Ferry from IndiaGames. Well, his presentation was something that I paid attention to, even though it was for the purpose of marketing their company. His company, as you must’ve noticed by its name, is a Game Development company with their focus on mobiles. He told that they’ve been doing this stuff in J2ME till now & now they’ve started using Flash Lite & said that its really cool as there are a lot of shortcomings when using Java to create a mobile game. The game is not as interactive as it can be done in Flash, then if you need to change something in the game plan that has already been done, changing it in Flash would be cinch than in Java & I happened to agree. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Then he gave tips & pointers on how should the game development be approached & what should be avoided & what not. That’s all it consisted off. ๐Ÿ˜€

Incidently, Bill Perry said that instead of using many vector graphics drawn in Flash, its better to use Bitmap images when developing for mobiles. I raised a question of file size on that, because if we are using bitmap images instead of vector graphics drawn in Flash, naturally the file size is gonna increase & it is recommended if you keep files sizes below 100Kb for applications meant for mobiles. He answered that its a trade-off, you have to judge what’s better for an application you are making, whether using bitmaps is feasible or nor, it really depends on application to application & the kind of application. He said that vector images mean that the Flash Player needs to allot cycles to calculate & draw images & mobiles have very light processors in comparison to PC processors & the less processing cycles we use the better our application will run, and bitmap graphics are just drawn, no processing cycle is used in rendering it. Cool tip I’d say, first person I’d met who’s saying that we should use bitmap images intead of vector images in Flash, but then, he’s not talking about the typical platform, he’s talking about a different platform & rules of the game change with the platform. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Phew!!!! That was 2 cool days of a cool conference & it took me really long to sum up these 2 posts detailing about the conference. Hope its worth it & you guys read it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photographs in the conference as my mobile’s camera lens is not that good for getting photos of objects at a bit distance(its Nokia 7250i) & there was lighting in the direction towards the camera lens which made all shiny & lighty photos(I snapped a couple & deleted them as they were total waste). So you guys have to bear with me on that. ๐Ÿ˜€