Diary of a side project

All the way back in January, I wrote here about my goals for 2006. Although it’s too soon to do a full recap, I’m sure you’ll all be glad to hear that I seem to be making better use of my time this year, my software is still improving and sales seem to be on a gentle upward curve. Irritatingly, I’m still waiting to go home, but that one’s out of my hands.

But, the reason for bringing this back up wasn’t for an update on my progress over the last couple of months, it was because of the remaining goal: to learn more. I suggested that rather than trying to learn a little bit of everything this year, I would focus those few spare brain cycles on just Flash and Ruby on Rails.

I tried to get onto the Rails bandwagon late last year, but got distracted setting up my hosting account and getting the basic configuration to work, then distracted again by trying to make Dreamweaver a workable Ruby IDE. So, I’ve already gathered a few tutorials, I have everything set up and ready, and all that really needs to happen now is for me to sit down and use it. That’s where I think Codesnipers can help.

I find it easier to write about a topic as I learn about it, or just after I learn it. A post on Kyle’s blog reminded me of this, and I decided to try a semi-regular series here of updates as I learn. The plan is to write about cool things I’ve learned, tutorials or books I’ve followed, stumbling blocks I’ve hit, basically anything that happens in whatever small amount of time I manage to devote to these technologies each week. I’m saying semi-regular, because it obviously depends on me having some free time and making good use of it. It’s just an experiment, but I’m hoping that it will produce something interesting or useful.

So far this year, I’ve managed to spend a little bit of time with Flash, but it’s Ruby on Rails I’m really hoping to get to grips with.

To get the ball rolling, here are some of the problems I’ve had with Flash so far:-

1. Sound. Providing audio feedback was a whole new ball game for me. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but finding the free open source Audacity sound processing software, along with the freeware sound samples on Flashkit, took the edge off a little.

2. Cross Domain Security. I didn’t think security would be an issue when a Flash movie opens other files from the same directory. I was wrong; as soon as the movie is hosted in a web page on a different server or in a different folder you need to start thinking about security. I think you can get away with it on the same server using relative paths, but issues like the difference between www.codesnipers.com and codesnipers.com can interfere if you aren’t careful. Cross domain policy files on the target server can be used to work around this, but I seemed to have trouble getting Internet Explorer to reliably read mine. I wonder if this is why Flash banner based adverts often run in IFRAMEs?

3. Importing other movies. I wanted to load a movie into a small window of a larger movie, but I found that the loaded movie would inherit the stage size, canvas and coordinate system of the larger movie. It was also impossible to have a different frame rate for the sub movie. I wasn’t expecting all the extra complications that this brought and it kind of threw me off track.

I didn’t think about any of these issues in advance, so they really stood out. Overall, I’m finding Flash to be a great tool, and I can’t wait to a have a good excuse to use it.