Silverlight 2 Released

Silverlight 2 has been released. This is the real silverlight release.  The release last year 1.0 was just a javascript release and only had one object, the downloader, not even a text input.  But now there are real tools like rich ui controls, services support (REST), DLR (C#, Linq, ironpython/ruby) and Sockets which are much needed for games and game platform development.

There are also much better tools at this stage:

Bam. Silverlight 2 is out. There’s the expected stuff, like the final SDK, Expression, and Silverlight tools:

And from Tim’s blog:

But there’s also http://www.eclipse4sl.org/. Yes, that means you can code Silverlight in Eclipse. Details and progress at the Eclipse Tools for Silverlight Blog. It’ll be licensed under the EPL 1.0 License.

I have done lots of Silverlight initially when 1.0 came out as well as the agency I was working at.  We did video players, mini-games, demo apps and even the Halo 3 online manual at silverlight.net.  But it wasn’t really ready until now.  It still has a long way to go to really be an alternative to Flash but it is capable platform at version 2 for applications, mini-games and video apps for sure. But in the end it just provides competition to make both the Flash/Flex platforms and Silveright compete for developer support.

Good Usable RIA Applications in Flash and Silverlight

Flash and Silverlight allow developers to make amazing tools, they allow creative expression and they also are usually a bad user experience many times.

Lots of that is changing as more applications are made and frameworks like Flex and Silverlight progress. Much of the needed performance is now available for Flash/Flex in AS3 and the AVM2 virtual machine that runs it, making full applications much faster for all actions that might have been a drag in AS2 and vector based application’s of the past. Some great tools were made with this still that were usable like gModeler a flash based UML modeling tool but the performance boost will make these applications even more usable for mainstream.

Some great examples of user friendly apps where the flash or the silverlight element doesn’t blind the developer from usability. These applications might really have a market for general users of applications from advanced depending on feature set as long as they are usable.

buzzword (Flash/Flex/AS3)

Is a word processor that is really well done. This is made with Flex and everything from validation to the toolset is very usable and clean. I use Google Docs and haven’t looked back for about a year but this application is a nice change to web editors for documents at the current state. It included all the usual basic functionality and great new zoom, revision history and sharing tools that web office tools like word processors has come to expect. Be sure to try this one.

scrapblog (Flash/Flex/AS3)
scapblog is a bloggy/presentation that is a great template editor and the tools are broad and expected from users including great integration with the web for photos and video at major sites such as photobucket, flickr, etc.

Google SearchMash (Flex/Flash/AS3)

This is a Flex 2 (actionscript 3) application that is very fast and usable in vector.

Sample Textured 3d Vista demo(Silverlight 1.0)

This demo showcases the speed of Silverlight and a usable OS like interface that performs well. It showcases Silverlight but also has great usability in expected user actions and results.

tafiti (Silverlight 1.0 demo)

Tafiti is a search tool that uses SIlverlight and live search to represent search results in a rich way. They did a pretty good job with usability and especially considering the Silverlight 1.0 lack of good input controls. Little bit laggy.

The point is solution developers should use technology but most importantly make it functional and usable to what users expect. RIAs will succeed very well as long as you can select text, hit back buttons, deep linking, use menu systems, integrate services, have all the features of apps not in vector engines like Flash or Silverlight and to make it mainstream friendly they need to have a low bar of entry and just work. RIAs have an advantage right now as office apps move to the web and photo apps as well, many of these apps above would appeal to general computer users in addition to advanced users.

Silverlight Mouse/Tablet Handwriting Recognition

Dojo Adds Silverlight Effects Support

Dojo Toolkit, a robust javascript library similar to my favorite js kit mootools, recently update and added some support for Silverlight effects. This is one really cool aspect of Silverlight in that it allows you to script/code it in many languages in the DLR (Dynamic Language Runtime) including ironpython, C#, IronRuby, javascript and others. Where as with Flash you only have Actionscript3 available.

Check out the Silverlight demos here:

butterfly.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 33K
circles.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 4.0K
clock.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 7.3K
lion.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 22K
tiger.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 100K

DojoX

  • high quality implementations of previously experimental features: gfx (portable 2D drawing), data wires, offline, storage, cometd, etc.
  • dojox.gfx now includes Sliverlight support
  • many more features and improvements than there’s room for here.

Dijit

  • unified look and feel for all widgets
  • ambitious a11y and i18n features in every Dijit widget
  • a mature CSS-driven theme system with multiple, high-quality themes
  • huge improvements in system performance
  • data-bound widgets
  • Declarations for lightweight widget writing
  • a new page parser that allows instances of any class, not just widgets
  • no magic

Core

  • reduced API surface area (easier to remember and use)
  • dojo.query() always available, returns real arrays
  • from-scratch high-performance DnD system
  • Base (dojo.js) is 25K on the wire (gzipped)
  • dojo.data APIs finalized
  • new build system
  • new test harness for both CLI and browser use
  • dojo.behavior now marked stable and based on dojo.query
  • excellent animation APIs with Color animations in Base (always available)
  • all the features you’ve come to count on from Dojo (RPC, JSON-P, JSON, i18n, formatting utilities, etc.)

[ source ]

3D Textured Silverlight and Silverlight 3D Engine

Sample Silverlight textured 3d in a pretty slick Vista Silverlight theme. It is a pretty impressive demo that is full screen app and a slight performance test with the 3d in it.

I would love for some kits like papervision3d, Sandy etc to be ported to Silverlight. There are some other early 3d works from bubblemark, a 3D engine recently released in early stages called Balder (source at codeplex), pageturns, and more but it is still pretty young.

Sample Textured Silverlight 3d Vista demo

3D Engine for Silverlight Alpha 1.1

But until Silverlight is available in the market it will hard to justify projects in it unless they are demos or technology show pieces. When it hits around 85% market availability and is finalized (it is currently 1.1 Alpha) it could be dangerous.

WPF Animation Kit

Darren David has posted a WPF animation kit to help bring it to Actionscript level of one line animation calls such as to packages like Tweener for Flash.  

Essentially this kit helps to take most of the quirks out of learning animation in WPF early on and making it more like Flash code animation which is a requirement for anything like games, random, visualizations that have no limitations.  I am happy to see this toolkit and more like it soon.  It may help crossover but it also provides a base level platform that allows developers to ride and make solutions in either platform with similar syntax (hrm like the Java to C# toolsets).  Good solutions are not only on one platform but this is only for WPF so far. Found via Zeh.

Pageturn in Silverlight

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHere’s the first pageturn in silverlight.  It runs pretty smooth. 

Silverlight 3D

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBubblemark has posted a 3d version of the bubble test in WPF/E which will just be called Silverlight now, that compares the new vector render engines Flash9/Flex, Silverlight and DHTML/Javascript.    

Note: I think my processor just melted after this test. 

Bubblemark has been kind to share the source.

Download source code

“Silverlight” 

Personally the names WPF and WPF/E and now Silverlight really didn’t make sense but  Alexey Gavrilov puts a spin on it.  Personally, the Blend, Expression, Slilverlight, WinFX, WPF, WPF/E, Live marketing is a total blitz but I just don’t know that its working much. Here is Tim Sneath’s take on the naming (he works on the project).

I like the technology though but sticking with only Windows Video (which does conform to a standard VC-1 that allows video to be played on mobile, directx and xbox but in a windows only world yes but) after FLV has really taken over it might be tough.  

One thing is for sure the competition between Adobe and Microsoft on these vector tools and development environments will benefit the solution providers and developers who can learn both.  DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS!

Silverlight.com Goes to Apple

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I was doing some SEO research into how well the Silverlight name is positioned. I was surprised that http://www.silverlight.org goes to a Microsoft placeholder site but http://www.silverlight.com/ goes to an Apple placeholder.

This is probably a MAC user that owned this domain its whois has a contact with an @mac.com address. I wonder if they just his it big in a domain sale.

UPDATE: Well someone worked quickly it now has some business information and products. 

Silverlight (formerly WPF/E) Officially Launched

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Adobe vs. Microsoft Vector Wars/Development platform heats up

Silverlight, formerly WPF/E, is a cross platform competitor to flash that launched today.  The new name leaves something to be desired but this is a new technology battle over vector application for RIAs, interactives, 3d, games, etc. 

The great thing about Silverlight is the use ot .NET and C# to code the interaction rather than Actionscript 3 in Apollo/Flex/Flash9.  I like both languages but with a .NET language to code in flash this opens up the development of interactive to a whole batch of developers not into Flash.

Tools to Develop with Expression Studio and Silverlight here

One major glaring problem is that Flash won the internet video battle with FLV video but Silverlight only runs windows video.

All in all this is great news in that two of the biggest companies are going to be pushing Flash and Flash-like Silverlight, meaning mush more possible interactive work.  Some are buying into the Microsoft vs. Adobe game but it just means better tools for smart developers that know how to leverage multiple platforms for their solutions.  This usually leads to the best understanding of solution development when technology has your allegiance rather than a specific platform or company. 

Maya to XAML Converter

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMy friend Thomas Goddard over at Illuminated Pixel created the first Maya to XAML converter.  Its pretty robust and works great exporting from my favorite 3d program Maya to XAML and into WPF.

Thomas being the cool guy that he is was nice enough to OpenSource this badboy to share the love.

Check it out at HighEnd3d here

Comparison of Widget Libraries for Flash Desktop Widgets

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Widgets are here!

Widget libraries for the desktop are beginning to be more prevalent with OSX, Vista and many widget toolkits such as Yahoo Widgets (previously Konfabulator). 

Here’s a great blog post(on yahoo so its slightly biased) but its pretty even handed on comparing the widget libraries from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Desktop Widgets, Cross Platform please… 

However, if you are trying to create a desktop widget (flash or AJAX based) that is for the desktop that is cross platform (in terms of Windows and MAC) the list quickly filters to the following types of tools:

  • Yahoo! Widget Library or other widget library
  • A Flash Desktop App Creator such as MDM ZINC (Embedded Flash in an application, ZINC is the best in my opinion)
  • Adobe Apollo (RC Alpha, this has been in development and usable for developers for a couple of years but should launch by Q3/4 2007)
  • Microsoft WPF/E(Not out for a while, now called “Silverlight”)

Widgets that are too platform specific 

Essentially the Vista and MAC OSX widgets are cool, but unusable if we are only developing one codebase for all platforms. 

Google Desktop Widgets (http://desktop.google.com/plugins/) don’t work on a MAC, Windows Gadgets (http://microsoftgadgets.com/) do not work on a MAC and MAC OSX Widgets to not work on Windows Vista.  If we are only considering cross platform widget libraries these are all nixed.

So that leaves us with essentially three choices from before.

Pros and Cons

1) Yahoo! Widget Library
PROS:

  • Good user base already (Konfabulator has been around since 2002-2003)
  • Familiar name (for download support)
  • Easy to use
  • Fairly easy to develop/design (have to learn the XML/DHTML lib of Yahoo Widgets which can be limiting)

CONS:

  • NO VIDEO SUPPORT (videos would have to be linked to)

2) A Flash Desktop App Creator such as MDM ZINC
PROS:

  • Allows Flash to be wrapped with a flexible skinnable application.
  • Develop in Flash Actionscript and minimal integration calls
  • Supports playing Flash Video FLV

CONS:

  • Each user would need to download the application.
  • Would only work when downloading from a trusted site.

3) Adobe Apollo
PROS:

  • Allows cross platform support for one file type .air.
  • Develop in Flash Actionscript and minimal integration calls.
  • Excellent toolkits and development power.
  • Supports playing Flash Video FLV.

CONS:

  • Each user would need to download the Apollo runtime.
  • Not out fully yet.

4) Microsoft WPF/E
PROS:

  • Develop in .NET C# or other .NET languages
  • Excellent toolkits and development power.

CONS:

  • Each user would need to download the WPF/E runtime.
  • Not out fully yet.
  • Lack of support for FLV video which has become the Internet standard essentially.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Conclusion…

If you had to build an application that would run on the user’s desktop and this application woudl need to support FLV video and be cross platform in terms of Windows and MAC, the choice is down to Adobe Apollo and A Flash Desktop App Creator such as MDM ZINC simply because WPF/E is too large a download currently for the runtime.  

Apollo is more of a risk in the interim due to the lack of the Apollo runtime not being propogated but a very large technology company is behind Apollo (Adobe) and in a short time it will be prevalent.  Using MDM ZINC the user will still have to download the program to run and does not provide the tools for the desktop as good as Apollo. 

My opinion, Apollo might be better for cross platform simple apps that can be widget like or bigger.  A smart development might be developing the widget in Flash and then putting it into BOTH Apollo and MDM ZINC to offer users both ways to download only supporting one codebase in the main core application/widget.

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