When I launched my Flickr Widget a couple of years ago, I decided I would host the tiny little Flash file that is the heart of the widget. I didn’t want to bother end users with downloads and installs and such. I put the file on Amazon’s S3 service, and offered an embed code generator form on this site. This worked well for a while, but more and more people started using the widget. Soon, Amazon started sending me hefty monthly bills.
I experimented for a while with hosting the file on the same server that runs this blog, but my host did not like that idea. Their terms of service don’t allow me to host non website-related files. So I moved the file to a friends VPS (Virtual Private Server). By then, the 5 KB Flash file was being served millions of times a month, causing around 30 GB of monthly traffic. I needed a more permanent solution.
More New adventures in hosting a single file
Because WP-Cumulus is open source software, the source files are available online. I didn’t package them with the regular plugin download, but you can download the Flash files from wordpress.org and my blog. Included in those downloads is a file called “tagcloud.xml”, which is mainly used to test the Flash movie locally, within Flash’s IDE. Unfortunately, that file sometimes ends up online. And, in most cases, it shouldn’t.
More Using Cumulus? Please check your tagcloud.xml!
Just a quick post in case anyone else ever runs into this and manages to find their way to my blog.
I just came across this in a client project I’m working on. I was using a TextField in Flash CS5, and needed to know the width of the actual text inside it for positioning purposes. What I found was that in about 50% of cases, the textWidth property would return zero instead of the strings length in pixels. I tried using autoSize on the TextField and found that it would shorten half of its instances to a single character or less, causing the rest of the line to be invisible.
At first I thought there was something wrong with the font file, but the same happened with Verdana. So I started randomly changing settings, and it turns out that the “anti-alias for readability” setting was causing this. As soon as I changed that setting to “anti-alias for readability” the textfields were being autosized properly, and reported their actual lengths through the textWidth property.
More Erratic behavior with Flash’s textWidth property
Recently, I came across discussions on Twitter, and a blog post about ‘hidden links’ in my WP-Cumulus WordPress plugin. Quite frankly, I’m a little embarrassed by this, and I’d like to explain how the situation came to be, and what I plan to change in upcoming versions.
More About the ‘hidden’ links in WP-Cumulus
There’s been a lot of controversy over Apple’s decision to ban Flash (and Java for that matter) from the iPhone since the day it was released. Now, with the iPad about to hit retail, there’s been more debate on whether this was a technical decision or not, and whether it’s a severe limitation for the devices, or a blessing. Being both a Flash developer, an iPhone OS user an open source advocate, I thought I’d weigh in on the conversation.
Before I get started though, let me point out that I’m not a fan of Flash. I think it’s a real shame that there’s no open, official standard that lets web designers do the things Flash can. Adobe has the web in an awkward stranglehold right now, and I’d love to see that change. But the reality is that Flash is an integral part of the web today.
More My thoughts on Flash and the iPad
The one feature I’ve always wanted to add to WP-Cumulus is true unicode support. Flash player 9 made this impossible because it needed to have the font characters embedded into the movie, and unicode fonts are simply too big for that. But with Flash 10, Adobe has introduced new ways of handling text, and those now allow for non-embedded text to be animated quite smoothly. There’s also no longer any need to specify an exact font name, you can simply tell the player to get a sans-serif font. Flash player 10 is on over 93% of computers now, so it starts to make sense to use it to finally add this long-awaited feature to WP-Cumulus.
More Help me test WP-Cumulus unicode support
Twitter by it’s very nature is a very limited service. That’s what’s fun about it. Some people manage to be really clever and witty in 140 characters. But there’s only so much you can express in a tweet. The other main way to express your personality on Twitter is through your avatar image (or ‘profile picture’ as Twitter calls them).
Many of the people I follow have carefully designed avatars that they don’t change very often. But what if you could have your avatar be as current as your tweets. Showing you exactly the way you look today, doing what you’re doing right now? That’s where Snapatar comes in.
More Introducing Snapatar: Update your Twitter avatar from your webcam
I guess it was about time I updated my Tagnetic Poetry plugin. WP-Cumulus’ lesser known brother now has shortcode support, as well as several other improvements. It’s not as mature as Cumulus, but it’s definitely stable enough to deserve a 1.0 version number.
The Flash movie now has support for the ‘xmlpath’ flashvar that WP-Cumulus has supported for a while now. This affects you only if you’re attempting to use it outside of the context of WordPress, but is very handy if you do. Putting more than one instance of the plugin on a page should also no longer cause issues, and several other little issues were fixed.
More Tagnetic Poetry 1.0 adds shortcode support
A while ago I was asked to do a Flex version of WP-Cumulus. Because I don’t know the first thing about Flex, I failed miserably . But the fun thing about open source software is that anyone with the right skills can pick things up and create the version they need. Carlos Carvalha did just that and did a Flex version for use with Drupal. If Flex is your thing, you can download the files from Carlos’ page. Because this is a ‘modified version’ of my WordPress plugin, it is automatically licensed under GPL, and is thus free for you to use.
Carlos’ blog is pretty interesting btw. Definitely the first blog theme I’ve seen that’s built entirely in Flash.
Lots of people have contacted me, asking for a version of my Flickr widget that they could use on their website, without having to use Flickr (or Picasa). Doing such a version was easy enough, but I was hesitant to release it. The DIY version of WP-Cumulus has yielded more support requests than the actual WordPress plugin, and answering all the email has been taking a lot of my time.
One thing I could have done was to simply release the sources for the Flickr widget. But there’s a lot of Flickr/Picasa specific stuff in there that you would need to take out before being able to hook the movie up to another data source. So that would have made things harder for everyone.
More Introducing Photo widget, floating thumbnails for your website