Flash Player 10 Officially Released

Mike Chambers posted that Flash Player 10 is officially live. This completes your 1-2 punch of RIA/game platform releases of Silverlight and Flash this week.

We have just released the shipping version of Flash Player 10 (Mac, Windows and Linux). You can find more information on all of the new features on the Flash Player product page.

You can download the player for Mac, Windows and Linux players from here.

You can grab debug and standalone players from here.

You can grab the release notes from here.

Flash Player 10 is great news. There are so many things in it from a new data structure (Vector), to local FileReference, to Matrix and 3D helpers, to speed improvements and video enhancements being able to play other video types and more (this was actually in a late version of flash player 9 as well but will be used more here). It does take time for flash versions to get out in the wild, about 9 months to where they are in the 90%-95% range where you can convince people to use it in production, but getting those skills now is good.  The scripting platform is still Actionscript 3 so anyone still making Flash Player 8 and AS2 stuff is now two revolutions behind.

Another thing I am looking forward to soon (next week) that is missing from both Flash and Silverlight, is the ability to develop for the iPhone, which Unity3D is dropping the iPhone kit on Oct 22nd. Unity3D has effectively taken Director’s 3d game development (hardware accelerated) market lead away this year and late last year and is a great platform. Director who?

Lots of great tools and platforms to create the innovative new applications, games and markets that are so needed right now. Go create!

Flash 10 Security Changes Good and Bad, Mostly Good (Full Screen Input, RTMFP, Clipboard, Local Save and Load)

Flash 10 security changes requiring user interaction are pretty breaking but they are for good reason.  Still though, the user could be inundated with prompts much like UAC on Vista. But, it is necessary otherwise security holes can be troublesome with the flash player and the “sandbox” of the web.  Much like Java signing, Active-X acceptance, and thus local file access, these actions need some user approval, it is that liability thing.

But what is a bit lost in this is some of the new support specifically for game development and app development.

Support for things like RTMFP which is bringing UDP support to flash.  UDP and reliable UDP (ordered) is really needed when it comes to larger scale networking applications and support for p2p apps.  Games for instance, that are large like MMOs and highly interactive real-time engines, need UDP to be able to scale.  So this is pretty useful, yet it currently looks like it is tied to Flash Media Server.  It appears Adobe is staying ahead of SmartFox, Red5 and OpenFMS with stuff like this.

Another great move in the way of security updates for Flash 10 for games is the allowing input from keyboard keys while in full screen mode. All these games and apps look pretty sweet in full screen until you try to use them.  There is only support for “Tab, the Spacebar, and the (up, down, left, right) arrow keys” but that is a start.  Enough keys for a casual game.  But still most keys could safely be used it must be a multi-platform support thing.

Limited full-screen keyboard input

Currently Flash Player does not allow keyboard input when displaying content in full-screen mode. Flash Player 10 beta will change this, allowing for a limited number of keys to be usable in full-screen mode. These include Tab, the Spacebar, and the (up, down, left, right) arrow keys.

Flash 10 is getting local save and load, this is great for any type of online editor, game or application. The ability to work on a file immediately without the server round trip initially is great.  I hope this is extended much further to local save and load with very high limits, there has been some confusion on the file size limitations here. Ideally this would be extended much further if the product direction is right. Typically making apps or games with more than 5-25MB of content quickly become non-economical in bandwidth such as gaming assets due to browser cache size limitations (defaults IE=50MB, Safari 5-25MB, FF3=50MB), I wish there was a better way to allow local saving for long periods of time.  Almost installing apps via flash with extended cache, talk about killer app feature. Downloading 10 MB of gaming assets that you know will be there for the month rather than the day.

Paste events can read the clipboard.  Using the clipboard is another great useful tool in applications and online editors.

Data can be read from the Clipboard inside a paste event handler

In Flash Player 9, the system Clipboard could not be read at any time. With Flash Player 10 beta, the new ActionScript 3.0 method Clipboard.generalClipboard.getData() may be used to read the contents of the system Clipboard, but only when it is called from within an event handler processing a flash.events.Event.PASTE event.

So yes, the security user interaction changes do break current features but it also takes this platform a bit more into secure applications and game features from security changes, hopefully these features are extended much further but they are on the right track.

Amazing New Feature for Flash 10 – FileReference Runtime Access

I have been consuming all the great additions to Flash 10 this weekend and one that really jumps out after you get past the visual, text and sound features (which are spectacular btw and most of what the community was asking for). But one feature snuck by, this is the one that ByteArray (Thibault Imbert) mentions/pointed out for managing files directly within Flash.

File Reference runtime access — Bring users into the experience by letting them load files into your RIA. You can work with the content at runtime and even save it back when you are done through the browse dialog box. Files can be accessed as a byteArray or text using a convenient API in ActionScript without round-tripping to the server. You no longer have to know a server language or have access to a server to load or save files at runtime.

This greatly lowers the bar to using Flash as a photo editor, document manager, customized application experiences, marking up content and saving locally, all without the need for server side script. I am a big fan of server side technologies and develop with them but even for bettering performance this could be huge.

Scenarios where this might be useful is editing applications, note taking (download a book with your notes), editors for docs/games/3d/textures,,, the possibilities are endless really.

Flash 9 just got mainstream and production ready (flash 9 penetration) at the tail end of last year but there are so many great things in the new version that I hope it comes out very soon. Flash it turning into quite a platform.

Alternativa Platform also has updated their engine for Flash 10 already (they must have had some inside early accessibility to it) and there are great possibilities here.

It is only beta (Flash 10) but there are great market opportunities to prepare for when this launches. Keep your eye on where the puck will be, not where it is currently at. I was concerned when Adobe bought Macromedia and the future of Flash but it appears they are taking this bull by the horns.

If you are ready to play with Flash 10 here is Flex and FlashDevelop updates to help you get started.

Also here is some code posted at ByteArray from Pleh for testing the new FileReference runtime access, usage is extremely simple and rests on this

var data:ByteArray = fileRef['data'];

/*
  FileReference Load Example By Pleh 17/05/08
*/

package {
	import flash.display.Loader;
	import flash.display.Sprite;
	import flash.events.Event;
	import flash.events.MouseEvent;
	import flash.net.FileReference;
	import flash.net.FileFilter;
	import flash.utils.ByteArray;

	public class Flash10Test extends Sprite
	{
		private var fileRef:FileReference;

		public function Flash10Test()
		{
			fileRef = new FileReference();
			fileRef.addEventListener(Event.SELECT, selectFile);
			fileRef.addEventListener(Event.OPEN, openFile);
			stage.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK,stageClick);
		}

		private function selectFile(e:Event):void {
			fileRef['load']();
		}

		private function openFile(e:Event):void {
			var data:ByteArray = fileRef['data'];
			var loader:Loader = new Loader();
			loader.loadBytes(data);
			addChild(loader);
		}

		private function stageClick(e:Event):void{
			fileRef.browse([new FileFilter("All Formats (*.jpg,*.gif,*.png,*.swf)", "*.jpg;*.gif;*.png;*.swf", "JPEG;jp2_;GIFF;SWFL")]);
		}

	}
}

Adobe Opens Flash Format Specifications for SWF, AMF and Flash Video FLV (Open Screen Project)

Adobe is taking the inside lane in the industry it seems with the Open Screen Project. What does this mean? It seems like SWF and FLV formats are now largely open and licenses removed. With the XFL format possibly on its way (probably based on mxml) to replace closed .FLA files it is pretty clear that Adobe and Flash will see a large uptick in the mindshare. As well as looking to create a broader mobile platform for the flash player.

The Open Screen Project will address potential technology fragmentation by enabling the runtime technology to be updated seamlessly over the air on mobile devices. The consistent runtime environment is intended to provide optimal performance across a variety of operating systems and devices, and ultimately provide the best experience to consumers.

To support this mission, and as part of Adobe’s ongoing commitment to enable Web innovation, Adobe will continue to open access to Adobe Flash technology, accelerating the deployment of content and rich Internet applications (RIAs). This work will include:

  • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
  • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
  • Publishing the Adobe Flash® Cast™ protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
  • Removing licensing fees – making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free

This is big. It has mutiple prongs. Adobe would like to make Flash a common mobile standard, hrm no Apple on this list (it is probably a slight move there against that).

Adobe would also like to continue their lead of web video. And they finally are recognizing the closed format of SWF is not as desirable as an open one, there is still considerable control for Adobe over the player. But they get insights and contributions from many large companies to help make it work on their platform, engraining the format further. The providers, especially mobile and internet tv, will want to provide good user experiences to compete with the iPhone and regular T.V. respectively. Flash being open helps both of those markets.

Adobe is also moving further to open source key formats and technologies like the recent Flex 3 SDK and now the AMF format which was a roadblock. This is probably good news for servers like Red5 and also many other media servers and remoting services in many more place. AMF is particularly nice because it is a binary, extremely compact and limited bloat format. Without it being open it loses much of its benefit as a standard. Being open and a further crunching from the XML bloat services, this can be very good for many reasons such as throughput and faster services, apps and games with remote data.

Another reason is the desktop market. They want Flash to work flawlessly on Linux but they don’t’ have the manpower for a 2% market share. So this is a very smart move for the desktop players (AIR, and Linux Flash).

The only thing that partially makes it scary is the line up, Sony, Verizon, etc. As long as these are contributors and not partners in DRM crime then we have something. Hopefully they are in it to make better entertainment and mobile platforms cheaper.

Being able to peer into the code and a move to allow better open integration makes it a better platform, where better stuff can be built on top of that. Let’s hope it is done right. Everyone is making Apple look really closed and locked down lately.

Flash/Flex Application Proofs: Adobe Launches Photoshop Express

If there ever was a proof that more intense applications like word processors and image manipulation software are capable of being built and some aspects even better than their desktop counterparts with flash and flex then Scrapblog, Buzzword, Picnik and Photoshop Express are that (in fact Photoshop Express is a direct competitor with Picnik it seems…).  

Adobe launches Photoshop Express today to add to that set that are very usable, quality applications built with Flash9/Flex and most of all actionscript 3 (as3) and the new AVM2. These apps just weren’t possible with AS2 and with Flex they can be easily managed codebases (one major problem with old skool flash actionscript is it was throwaway many times because it was so scripter specific and full of optimizations just to barely perform – now these are actual code bases made by programmers and you see the results).  The great thing about buzzword, picnik and photoshop express are that they are easy to use. Flash/Flex make sense in their case and they tend to mimic and use very good usability patterns.There is no way an AJAX app (even though I build lots of those too) can come close to this integration of style, usability and expected results on all browsers.One important point of this article on news.com mentioning this:

The service will go live in beta test mode on Thursday. Mack said that the company intends to use the test period as a way garner feedback from customers.Adobe intends to offer more features to consumers who pay a yearly fee. Some planned features include a printing service, more storage, support for audio and other media, and the ability to read additional image file types (the service works with .JPGs now.)Adobe also plans to build an offline client using AIR (the Adobe Integrated Runtime) so that people can edit photos offline, executives said.

A couple things here.  First there is going to be an AIR version for the same experience on the web and the desktop for a major application.  Second, flash IS limited to certain file types JPG, SWF, PNG, GIF, and a few others for sound and video.  So why an online photoshop is great, it is still only web based photos, simple edits, etc.  Photographers and users above 72dpi in the 300 600 ++ ranges will still be using Photoshop.  Users with EPS,RAW, etc will still have to use Photoshop until Adobe figures a way to either proxy an image and handle the real source (be it another format) behind the scenes.  Or, improve the flash player to handle other raster and vector image types.A project a while back we had this issue where it was a approval system of media types but the types could be PDF or EPS in addition to web image formats or on occasion other formats and it became a challenge where the content was marked up with flash.  Eventually it was in a div overlay so we could load in the unsupported types behind and sync them with javascript, where flash was just a canvas or screen on top to put notes and markings.  But when it comes to editing that is different, you expect to edit. Also, working with the real source in image manipulation is extremely important so a proxy to the real image seems unlikely a good choice except for simple web uses.In any case, Photoshop Express is a great web based image tool but there are limitations that prevent it from taking any large swath of share from the normal old desktop Photoshop any time soon.

Director 11 Is Released

I was able to download the demo and it is in the store and on Adobe’s site. The new AGEIA™ PhysX™  physics engine and some sort of updated 3D with hardware rendering is nice.

But, Director is like the Rodney Dangerfield of products at Adobe.  Everywhere you have to dig for it, it doesn’t even have updated marketing in most places, the shockwave player link is still from 2002 etc.  I wish that Adobe would support it more, open it up, allow better IDEs, integrate ES4 based Actionscript 3 or 4 into it and keep the 3d market that shockwave supports moving along.

Maybe they will give Director more love but if they don’t allow for some community input and work on the platform like Flex and Flash have thrived on, well they might just lose that piece of the market (3d gaming, hardware).

First impression is the fonts do look much better.  Unicode support is so far so good and I haven’t had a chance to dig into the AEGIS PhysX engine yet but that looks very very fun.

For instance here is a Physics Engine call that creates a rigid body terrain


//JavaScript Syntax
var objTerrain= member("PhysicsWorld").createTerrain("myterrain",terrainDesc,position,orientation,1,1,1);

Or some raycasting:

//JavaScript Syntax
var lstraycast = member(“PhysicsWorld”).rayCastAll (vector(10,0,0),vector(0,0,1));
for(i = 1; i < = lstraycast.count ; i++) {   raycstEntry = lstraycast[i];   put("Name:" + raycstEntry[1].name);   put"Contact Point:" & raycstEntry[2]);   put("Contact Normal:" & raycstEntry[3]);   put("Distance:" & raycstEntry[4]); }[/sourcecode]I use the Javascript source simply because it is much more usable to me. Unfortunately the docs are only partially converted to Javascript.  Lingo is pretty close to it though but it scares people off. What Adobe needs to do is port into Flash the ability to use Shockwave3D (hardware rendering for 3d), AEGIS PhysX, would that not blow up big time or what?

Moock Mentions XFL for Open Flash IDE Source Formats

Colin Moock an actionscript brain since the great Flash 4 advances that brought all sorts of fun to flash, like games, has mentioned XFL an open format for flash from a discussion with Adobe product managers.

This would be a format that would be able to import, export and allow compile to SWF. MXML for Flex does this now but bringing the two together into one common format and allowing for all sorts of open source and third party contributions to making flash will let it literally explode in support.

I recently met with Flash authoring product-manager, Richard Galvan, to talk about Diesel, the next version of Flash (i.e., Flash CS4, or version 10 for those counting). Adobe has already demonstrated a bunch of high-impact features for Diesel, including inverse kinematics, a new tweening model, 3D “postcards in space”, and advanced text components (see MAX 07 keynote, FOTB 07 keynote, and FITC Amsterdam 08 keynote). But Richard was keen to talk about a lesser known feature quietly percolating behind the scenes: XFL.

Since its inception, the Flash authoring tool has stored documents in a binary source-file called .fla. Historically, interchanging source with the Flash authoring tool has been virtually impossible for third-party software because the specification for .fla has never been public. But things are changing in the next version of Flash. Flash CS4 will be able to export *and* import a new source format called XFL. An XFL file is a .zip file that contains the source material for a Flash document. Within the .zip file resides an XML file describing the structure of the document and a folder with the document’s assets (graphics, sounds, etc). The exact details of the XFL format are not yet available, but Richard assures me that Adobe intends to document them publicly, allowing third-party tools to import and export XFL.

If this is a market test or check of interest I think that everyone I know working with flash would be very excited about opening and unifying the flash format and allowing great IDEs and tools to help produce better flash content more quickly. Also, with the competition Silverlight using XAML (uncompressed) this also allows a competitive advantage maybe making Silverlight add better compression and loading tools beyond their downloader object.

I hope this is also in the plans for Director. If they used similar formats it could be very nice and something to watch as an emerging market to prepare for.

Read the full post at moock.org