aled's cyfle

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Flash training...

Posted at 12:17 pm. 0 comments

This week we've been learning to use Adobe Flash with Neil Jenkins. He's been teaching us all we'll need to know for our Flash industry brief.

While I've had previous experience with Flash, I hadn't used it for a long time, and this serves as a nice refresher course.

One thing I didn't know Flash had the ability to do was to simulate download speeds of a movie on different connection speeds - you can test from a fast T1 connection down to a retro 14kbps modem connection. It also has a feature called a Bandwidth profiler which gives you various handy statistics relating to the load times and status of the movie - I love this!

We have been working on a flash mp3 player that loads music in from a URL and plays it. I decided to extend it a little, and build the Cyfle AMP, or Camp for short. At the moment it uses hard-coded variables to display various information, but it could easily be modified to import an XML file and parse the data from there. It's far from perfect - it hasn't got a volume control (though I'm not sure how important that is - wouldn't users just use their speakers to control the volume?), and there is a bug with the slider bar.

When flash imports an MP3 file, it can't tell how long a song is - only how much it has loaded so far. This works great when you stream it, because you can (as I have) applied a loading bar to show how much has been preloaded. You can't code it so that a positional slider will accurately show you how much of the song has been played. My solution to this was to fade in such a slider once the file had finished loading, and this is where I ran into a bug. I can't quite work out what went wrong, but it isn't working (it appears when it shouldn't sometimes, it doesn't disappear when it should, etc.).

Anyway, here's my MP3 player:

...that is, if you have flash (and aren't looking at it from an rss aggregator)

If you're interested in the music, you can click on the links in the flash player to take you to the websites where I got them - they were free to download, so I can't see a problem in allowing them to be played in this player.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006


Posted at 11:10 am. 1 comments

Just a quick note to say that I spent a little time last night re-designing the blog. I thought that the older design was a little too bold and "in your face". This version's more calm and subtle in my opinion.

If however you're reading my blog from an aggregator (and according to my Feedburner stats, there's about 5 of you), you won't see any change - but check it out anyway!

Friday, 24 November 2006

Sound design...

Posted at 11:33 am. 0 comments

Yesterday and today we had John-Paul Jones in the office, giving us a workshop on Sound Design. We learned the basics (much of which most of us used creating our Digital Story), and we spent the afternoon creating a mash of words we had all recited. The words were a line each of the opening paragraph of Moby Dick (which I hadn't read, nor want to now).

My mashup ended up a little crude - many words in the opening paragraph of the book can be mashed up to create something quite innuendo-sounding. I might make it less crude and upload it here sometime.

John-Paul talked of the mashes of William S. Burroughs, who I can see possibly influenced groups like the Avalanches (his work is very similar to Frontier Psychiatrist). Even though he himself may not have created some of the funky-sounding mashes you can find (however I'm not certain about that), he was a "spoken word performer", whose spoken words were incorporated into the music.

I also found some audio interviews with Burroughs on the BBC Four website (from 1963) - I'm going to check these out when I find some spare time.

Thursday, 23 November 2006


Posted at 12:58 pm. 0 comments

gVisit is a very interesting application. It's basically a Google Maps mashup - combining Google's API with a simple tracking system. Using it allows you to see where your visitors come from on their map.

So simple to use... makes me so jealous.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Sooo Kule!

Posted at 12:17 pm. 0 comments

Kuler, the brand new colour tool from Adobe Labs, is awesome.

It's built in flash and has a community where you can share your schemes.

However, the most impressive part of this site (apart from it being built totally in flash), is the ability to create a complete colour scheme using only one colour. You can choose from 6 rules (I've also listed Adobe's descriptions for each one):
  • Analogous: Match colours with adjacent hues.
  • Monochromatic: Focus on one colour with varied intensity and lightness in a single hue.
  • Triad: Space your colours in a triangle around the wheel for a contrasting theme.
  • Complementary: Oppose two colours on the wheel for a simple theme based on two hues.
  • Compound: Combine interesting colours from multiple hues.
  • Shades: Create subtle variations of the base colour's hue.
There is also of course the option to customise all the colours yourself, but for someone like myself who really struggles with creating nice colour schemes, this tool is fabulous!

You must have an Adobe ID to use this tool, but its free to sign up.

Big thanks to former Cyfle trainee Mei for blogging about this.

Links for November

Posted at 11:56 am. 0 comments

I've decided I'm going to follow in the footsteps of Tom Coats (among many), by posting links here and there. It won't be as often as he does it, but I'll try. It'll give me some incentive to blog more often. Here goes!
  • The Web Developer's Handbook - a mammoth collection of categorised link that relate to all aspects of web development for people of all abilities.
  • Web 2.0 Developers - another handy resource, though poorly designed. Don't let the Web2.0 fool you however.
  • Screenfluent - Yes, yet another "CSS" website showcase/gallery, but this is beautifully simple. It's nice that Thomas Marban has kept it "Web 1" for a change and avoided user interaction.
  • Launch Feed - A blog that simply tells people about services and websites that have launched. An original idea, well done.
  • What are microformats? - They're a good idea, but it takes a bit to understand. Tantek Çelik explains in a presentation
  • Rebekka's Flickr Page - I subscribed to this a while ago, and every time she uploads a picture, she gets instant attention.... for a reason. Stunning photography in Iceland from a very very talented Photographer.
  • - Simply put, it gives you nice wallpapers. For free.
  • Kuler - a color scheme site... from Adobe Labs.

Monday, 20 November 2006

countdown to one of the best advent calendars....

Posted at 11:59 pm. 0 comments

24ways is only 11 days away from starting again... Yipee!

I found this site about half way through december last year, and I was immediately hooked with its range of topics and its clarity in explanation. Hope this year's will be as good!


Sgrîn brief finished

Posted at 10:20 am. 0 comments

As I posted a few weeks ago, Carol and I have been working on a website for S4C's viewers magazine, Sgrîn. They don't (to my knowledge) have a current website, and our site won't go live. Mainly due to the fact that its our first brief and it may not be up to standards, but also due to licensing issues (we've been using software with educational licenses).

We had three weeks to complete it, and we just managed to get it done in time (with about 10 minutes to spare!!!) You can see the completed website up and running (for the moment) here.

Carol's design is brilliant, and it was really easy to work with her - not sure if she could say the same about me!

I programmed an ajax interface for people to subscribe easier to the mailing list, and created a back-end for the website, allowing people to easily manage new and current issues, competitions, and send out emails to the mailing list subscribers.

Because the content management system's admin section won't be available for anyone to log in and browse, I've created screenshots of what it looks like. Click on one of the images below to see a larger version:

Log in interface Overview of the Issues Overview of an Issue's articles
Editing an article Preparing a newsletter The sent newsletter in an e-mail client

Thursday, 16 November 2006


Posted at 10:47 pm. 0 comments

This week has been hard - I've been trying to split my time between our dreamweaver brief and our lunch-hour mockup brief... unsuccessfully. I've noticed I've been working way past the 9-5 hours we do in the office, just to finish in time (I hope). It made me think how truly poor I handle my time, and that the work I do (in a real-world situation) would mean that I'd charge a lot of $$$ (freelance work, for example), or undercharge myself.

As I wondered about this issue, i stumbled upon, Stuart Brown's slice of the web pie (through Mei Gwilym's post-cyfle Welsh-language blog). Stuart had been using software packages to track his time, all of which got him a little pissed off because they were'nt easy to use. His solution? Build his own time-management/timesheet application. That became Loggr.

Despite its tedious Web 2.0 name (he agrees), it is and does exactly what it says - its a dead simple AJAX timesheet app. That's right, AJAX. The beauty of it is its simplicity - no signups, nothing stored - all it is is a webpage containing code that keeps track of your time. It can save it (using cookies) and print it.

Words cannot express how impressed I am with this - I only with it had a way of storing what I did in the work and take it home with me - maybe this is something that will come.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Joe Clark's Micropatronage

Posted at 4:33 pm. 1 comments

Patronage: It ain't just for the Medicis anymoreJoe Clark is on a mission, and he needs help. He wants $7777 Canadian to help him live for 4 months while he looks for $7 million Canadian to fund a research project into the four fields of accessibility - captioning, audio description, subtitling and dubbing.

While these aren't strictly for the web, they are for interactive media on a wider scale. I'm not too certain of what exactly the project will do, but it is something to do with standardizing the accessibility fields and running training and certification programs for building accessible things.

I'm too skint to give him any money myself, but I though it would help if I linked to the cause.

thanks to tom coates for drawing my attention to something truly intriguing.

Monday, 13 November 2006

Being e-green...

Posted at 9:40 pm. 0 comments

James has been talking more and more about climate change (and rightly so - how many years before the point of no return!?). He's put up posters in our office, talked about icount, and been to the protest in Trafalgar Square. Its started to make me think more and more about ways of doing what we do in a greener and more eco-friendly way.

I stumbled across treehugger when surfing, and while I remember visiting the site many years ago, I didn't pay much attention to it. Its a magazine about green lifestyle, aimed at all people, not just your stereotypical tree-hugging eco-warrior hippies. As they sum it up, they're:

"dedicated to everything that has a modern aesthetic yet is environmentally responsible."

Great. They've even started hugg. Think of it as an environmentally focussed digg.

Another site I stumbled on when surfing is AISO web hosting - their web hosts are ran by californian sun that shines on their solar panels. Great for 2 reasons - eco-friendly and guarenteed not to crash if there's a power cut.

And lastly in this post (I'm sure I'll write again on this subject) is the Carbon Neutral Company. Now, I haven't looked for its competitiors, so I won't say much, but its a good thing that they help you cutting CO2 emissions and such.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Standards and accessibility

Posted at 10:11 am. 0 comments

While I'm on a blogging rampage, thought I'd post about a nice little accessibility checker.

Similar to the XHTML and CSS validators, the ATRC's Web accessibility checker is a very handy resource to check whether or not your webpages pass their criteria for an accessible website.

I searched for something like this after seeing the BBC's Click magazine on BBC News24, when they ran a story about accessibility. It uses a blind BBC worker as a case study about the importance of accessibility, and explains the forthcoming legal issues with non-accessible websites.

The British Standards Institution has published a guideline for designers and businesses called PAS 78 - a guide which stipulate all kinds of recommendations when designing (and commissioning) websites. Worth a read for the future!

A day in my life...

Posted at 9:44 am. 0 comments

Sarah Goodey asked us in the first of her workshops to keep a 12 hour (9am - 9pm) diary of what we were doing in order for us to realise how efficent (or inefficent) we managed our time. From my diary below, I can only gather that I'm quite rubbish at time management:

  • 0900 - arrived at cyfle office, checked email. had coffee
  • 0930 - upload a website for testing. begin work on the Dreamweaver brief's control panel interface
  • 1000 - refining website with dreamweaver
  • 1030 - working on control panel interface for dreamweaver brief
  • 1100 - short scope workshop with Gareth
  • 1130 - " "
  • 1200 - working on interface for control panel brief
  • 1230 - " "
  • 1300 - lunch
  • 1330 - " "
  • 1400 - working on interface for dreamweaver brief
  • 1430 - " "
  • 1500 - " "
  • 1530 - " "
  • 1600 - " "
  • 1630 - " "
  • 1700 - finishing off day's work
  • 1730 - beer with James
  • 1800 - getting home (2 buses)
  • 1830 - " "
  • 1900 - food
  • 1930 - finished food, watched TV
  • 2000 - " "
  • 2030 - started to work on code for brief
  • 2100 - " "

Talking of project (and time) management...

Posted at 9:39 am. 0 comments

... I don't know where James found this, but this is one of the most accurate pieces of time analysis I've ever seen. True, so true.

The Brief & Project Management

Posted at 9:14 am. 0 comments

Over the past couple of weeks we've been working in pairs on a Dreamweaver brief that was given to us by industry. The companies range from Sequence to Atticus to the brief Carol and I was given, a magazine for S4C's viewer's magazine, Sgrîn.

We had a meeting with Rhys at S4C last friday to discuss some questions we had, and we came out of there very positive. We've also had short workshop with Sarah Goodey, who's been helping us with Project Management. She made me realise how important all aspects of project management (adj. "Getting something done") are. She gave us a link to an interesting website that have articles on all aspects of project management, and to an article on bad project management in particular.

We've set up a testing server, and I'll provide a link to it once we have something substantial to see (we've got a kick-ass design thanks to Carol, and I'm working on a simple AJAX mailing list and backend Content Management System).