A journal that focuses on Flash Platform development, and a little bit about what I am up to on any given day.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

ITunes XML

Right now at home I am working on a little personal application. I have always wanted to try and build a little home media app that integrates content from ITunes as well as Flash content piped in from Flashcom. the destination for all this content is my television in which I have a Flash interface running on a box connected to the TV.

I have finally got started on it and things are looking cool. But I wanted to point out something I came across. ITunes library XML is brutal! I am not sure how many people out there have actually tried to utilize it for anything, but it is honestly the most awfully formatted XML I have ever seen. I wrote a little application that runs on my server that actually rewrites the whole thing. The exact same data, with just a format change achieved the following:

1/ Easier to parse and filter using E4X/XPath
2/ 1/3 the file size of the original file.

Anyways I am not sure if Apple made it a pain on purpose, but damn it is bad. The reason I find it so bad is that it does not reflect true data heiarchy. Name and Value pairs are not grouped together, they are grouped as siblings, and that just feels sketchy to parse. More than that, technologies like E4X start to fall apart when data is represented like that. XMLList filtering does not work nicely like it is intended.

Anyways, the issue has been overcome, but I was just suprised that Apple would publish the xml from ITunes in such a poor format. Take a look at it, and tell me what you think. I am interested to know why they would have chosen to format it that way. I you have any insight, let me know.

You can find the file in : My Documents/My Music/Itunes

Friday, December 30, 2005

Video IPod - Review

So I posted right before christmas about the aquisition of my new Video IPod. Since, I got it, I have been gathering content and working to fill it up with as much as I can.

As a result I have started to build a little IPod wishlist as well as a list of goods and bads about the IPod/Itunes as it stands now.

1/ Video

I am actually really impressed with the video on the new IPod. If you have a good quality video it will look awesome on the little screen. I have always had my IPod linked up through my television at home. I have a 27 inch Sony Vega and the video also looks awesome on it. Certainly at least TV quality in most cases depending on the quality of the video.

Total thumbs up for the video.

2/ Migrating Content....

Unfotunately this is the snag. Moving your own video content to the new IPod is a royal pain. The Ipod only takes mpg4 h.264 at 320x140. ITunes will not allow you to copy the video to the IPod if it is not that format.

Itunes will not do conversion for you either. That feels awkward, compared to how ITunes usually works with content, doing everything in the background for you.

Instead, you either use your favourite video encoder with the above settings, or Quicktime Pro has a built-in IPod export option. I had a tonne of old music videos, clips of my old band playing shows, and just other weird stuff. I proceeded to begin encoding it all, and got really annoyed at how long it takes to do the encoding. It is really slow.

Now even though Quicktime DRM is something that we must live with, it frustrates me when it comes to the IPod. I downloaded a few videos awhile ago that the band(or label) was certainly offering up for free download off their sites. For example, there are quite a few bands on RoadRunner that I really like. They offer a variety of video sizes for each band's video, and it even asks you to right-click to download it.

So I do, and once it is downloaded, QuickTime Pro grey's out the export option, so I am unable to put the video on my IPod even though they are giving it away for free. Argggh!

Migrating Content sucks.....

3/ Podcasts

Video Podcasts are awesome. While there are so few right now, I can certainly see this taking off bigtime. The cool thing about Video Podcasts is that while there are tonnes of news and technology podcasts in video, there are also other types of content that are really cool. There are neat little amateur TV shows like TikiBar. It is a series of short episodes about a doctor that owns a little bar where regardless of the plot, they end up making a drink at some point. They teach you how to make it or whatever.

There are also cartoon series like FlashTV. It seems to be Flash Animations, published as mpg4, in which many Flash Animators contribute to. Very cool idea.

On the same tip is a little Video Podcast called Happy Tree Friends. It is an itchy and scratchy style series of shorts.

They just have to convince the Homestar Runner creators to join the pack.

Anyways, as time goes, I really think some great content will exist in the format of Video Podcasts.

4/ Synchronization

There is one thing that really frustrates me when it comes to ITunes and the IPod. It is actually directly in relation to Podcasts:

My IPod is synched to main computer at home, for Podcasts. At work though, I also may want to download an episode here or there to put on my IPod.

If I try to download at work without the Podcast synched to the IPod, if I copy the episode manually onto the IPod, the files goes on, but is not listed as a member of the actual podcast, just as a standalone file.

If I do temporarily synch a podcast at work, it wipes out all my podcasts synched from the home machine.

The annoyance is that the Podcast listings on the IPod will not work unless a synchronization is applied from ITunes. This makes it really annoying when you are an IPod organization stckler like me.

5/ Folders

The IPod does not see ITunes folders.... Again, being an organizational stickler, this really annoys me. It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult of a feature to add to the IPod software.

6/ Music Videos

One extra note about music videos. When you are encoding your own music videos, and applying all of the meta data there is a setting that you have to set to make it behave like a regular song. When you first start putting these videos on, you will notice that they do not show up in your regular music listings, and they do not appear in the "music videos" section under "videos".

To make this work, select the video in Itunes, then "Get Info" on it. In the tab labeled "Options", there is a combo box labeled "Video Kind". Setting this to "Music Video" will make it behave properly.

Anyways, overall I am really happy with the IPod. It is so cool once you get the content on there. My only qualm is that it seems that Apple hasn't made it easy for people to get their own content on there, and that to me is a crucial factor that needs to be addressed.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Alot of Flash people out there (mainly the Toronto heads) know that quite a group of us from Ottawa are big Senators fans. Flash in The Can in 2004 turned into quite the clash between the Leafs and Sens fans.

Anyways, we have season tickets this year and I have already been to quite a few games so far. Last night I went to the game against Carolina. I sported my new jersey in the pics below:

Go Sens Go!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

SNL Merger Model Demo - Update

We have added a use case scenario for the SNL Merger Model to our demo area. For many that have no background in analytics (like me for example, till this application), it can be very difficult to figure out how to use the application at all.

We have had a walkthrough created that shows how the application is actually used featuring a real test case. To view the new Captivate demo select "Visual Walkthrough" on the demo page:

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Holiday Memory Game

Over the last few days a few people in the office spent a little time putting a little holiday Memory game together:

Give it a try!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

SNL Merger Model RIA now public!

Earlier this year we announced the launch of the SNL Merger Model 2.0. It was a Rich Internet Application simulating mergers in the financial sector, created for/with SNL Financial. The application was cited as an example of one of the best RIAs out there in the Flash Platform Whitepaper written by Kevin Lynch earlier this year.

I am now proud to anounce, that we now have a live public preview available for anyone to try out.

SNL Merger Model 2.0

This application is quite complex, so you might want to take some time to go through the quick tour as well as the help docs within the application. Many of us are not analytics experts, but you can still get a feel for what the application does after a quick read. The application in demo has reduced functionality, and has access to a fraction of their actual database.

We have really been pushing hard to get this public preview, as there are not many great examples of Rich Internet Applications for big business that are not locked in behind a firewall.

Hopefully this may assist some of those out there trying to convince others that Flash can be very effective in the enterprise.

I pulled Xcalibur from the stone last night.

So I have had it on my list of things to get for awhile, and last night I treated myself to a brand new Video Ipod. When I bought my Ipod Photo last year I had hoped that it would eventually play video, but nope, instead I had to buy the new one.

I must say though, that they are a beautiful piece of machinery. The feel is so much nicer than my old one. I got the black instead of the white, cause it looks nicer amongst all my other gadgets.

Anyways, I dubbed it Xcalibur, and as we speak my whole Itunes library is on it's way onto the new device. Re-encoding all of my music videos is a pain, but hopefully worth the effort. I haven't got a chance yet to see what they look like on the TV.

Anyways, Xcalibur will take over as the harbringer of Punk and Metal madness as I proceed into this new year.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Cards!

I have got some weird and funny Christmas cards so far this year.

My uncle Clarke is a bit of a weird guy. He went out and bought this 5 foot tall santa claus that sings and dances. He then decided to record it using his webcam and then send the resulting mpg4 out to everyone.


I re-encoded it in FLV to post on the net for him, but it is pretty impressive for a guy that 2 years ago said he could never see himself using a computer at all. However, even with the fact that he is excelling in his computer knowledge, it doesn't make this clip any less weird.

My other favourites Christmas Card this year is from Stacey (Bitch Who Codes):


That card came with a six pack of beer! Woot! Love ya Stace!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Everyone Seriously Underestimates Adobe. Relax everyone.

I have been reading post after post about the Macromedia and Adobe merger, and everyone seems so worried that Adobe is going to ruin everything (especially server tools) that Macromedia has developed.

Quite a few of the people we have working here did come from a print background, and have alot of experience in working with Adobe products that probably many developers in the web/application development scene have never even heard of before.

First off, to be fearful that Adobe has no idea how to manage platforms and server oriented technology is totally 100% false. Adobe has a much larger product base of server technology than Macromedia does. The Acrobat family alone has a huge array of server products like Extreme that are well respected and widely deployed.

Even here in Ottawa the former Accelio/Jetform company that was purchase by Adobe is totally server focused.

I am absolutely positive that Adobe will welcome ColdFusion into their product lineup, and I see it being very unlikely that they would take such a powerful and well respected tool and wreck it. Many people were very excited about the addition of and I only see that getting much better in the future.

Now as for developers and programming languages, I also get baffled by those who believe that Adobe will screw all that up. You are talking about the company that is responsible for the creation of Postscript, as well as the evolution of it that is now PDF. You are also talking about the company that created the SVG plug-in, and also created the closest thing to a Flash competitor there ever was. I think that they are fully competant to keep pushing Flash/Flex and Actionscript to higher and higher levels.

In regards to PDF and SWF coming together, word around the community is that it will do so in Apollo (the Universal Client) that we have yet to see, not the Flash Player itself. I just cannot picture Kevin Lynch sitting in meeting and seeing him going along with any decision that would make the Flash Player even 500k bigger.

So relax everyone. Adobe are not idiots, and they are way more experienced in many of these fields than many of us even know. There is no chance that they would work so hard to aqquire Macromedia and destroy all the momentum their work has built up.

In my mind, things are only going to get better.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Well I have been very busy over the last 8 or so months. Everyone that I know out there in the community has been talking with me, and asking what I have been up to, and I would always say “Something big, but I can’t tell you”. Everyday I would be heads down in it, and I would be ignoring all my daily chat friends to try and get this all ready. (Sorry Jeff).

Anyways, no need to hide it anymore because as of today we are going into public preview:

Welcome to PermissionTV!:

Press Release:


Engdaget Post October 5th:

PermissionTV Blog:

If you go over the main site you will see a whole lot of stuff in there, but let me sum it up for you:

1/ It is broadband media distribution platform designed primarily for distributing Video.
2/ Any media owner can create and manage their own channel.
3/ Channel subscribers download a desktop application that is their access to the content.
4/ The desktop application features the ability to play: H.264, WMV, and FLV 1 and 2.
5/ The entire application interface is designed on top of the Flash 8 player.
6/ Channels feature 2 components of the UI, a Content Browser and Show Player.
7/ The user interface is completely customizable using a combination of CSS and an NCVml
8/ NCVml is an incredibly useful XML-based markup language that allows the application to be fed content and advertising as well as configure the interface.
9/ Advertising can be delivered across channels in both the player and browser in any format that the Flash Player supports.
10/ High quality video can also be included as commercials in any of the supported video formats.
11/ Video is marked up with data that makes it fully searchable as well as giving it the ability to interact with the user interface.
12/ Direct download and P2P technology used in combination used to acquire assets.

And so much more.

Our focus was working with the NetCableTV engineering team to create the white-label user interface for the front-end application. We also produced some video content for them that you will see on the homepage of the site.

We still have quite a ways to go with this project, but it is really nice to be able to talk about it finally and get people to try it out. I have learned so much personally working with these guys. The engineering team is incredible, and when working with them there is nothing that cannot be done digitally. The sales, marketing and management teams have also been incredible to work with. A real creative group, with a lot of vision.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Uncle Tone =)

My sister Kerry(Cubby) is a funny character. Everyone in the office here knows her well, and everytime she comes in she rallies all our employees and tries to get a union started(as a joke, we aren't mean or anything)! Anyways, her and I are very close.

On thanksgiving (canadian one) the picture below was taken. It is me and her comparing our bellies. Obviously she is well into her pregnancy (7 months) at the time. We were trying to determine if it could be possible that my beer belly was bigger(I am sticking it out by the way, I am not really that fat). That is my mom in there in the middle.

Anyways, it is a bit hard to back up that image, but here's the big news,

As of Saturday December 3rd at 12:10 AM I became an uncle. Cub had her first baby, named Joseph. he was 8lbs 4 ounces. Below are a few pics taken on a camera phone:

Yeah!!! Uncle Tone!!!!