When I decided to no longer maintain my WP-Cumulus plugin a while ago, one of the reasons was that the project was in disarray. I wanted to improve so many things at once, that I ended up finishing none. One of the plugin’s parts however, the actual Flash movie, was 99% done. That’s why I’ve decided to put it on Github.
Note that this is “Cumulus”, without the “WP-“. It’s a new version of the movie, that uses a different, more generic XML format, and supports new things like unicode and device fonts. It’s not a WordPress plugin. If you’re looking to revive WP-Cumulus or incorporate the effect into other projects, it’s the ideal start. It’s the best incarnation of the effect, and I invite you to write stuff around it.
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
I’ve been promising a new version of WP-Cumulus for a long time. I’ve tried working with more experienced PHP developers, but it’s been hard to find a really good one who’s able to devote time to the project. I still think a plugin like this should be a team effort, but for now I’m going to kick things back into motion again myself.
What’s ready at this point is a much cleaner rewrite of the plugin files, with the display logic in a neat little class that port authors will hopefully be able to reuse. I’ve also got a Flash movie that uses a user-defined system font, as a result is much smaller, and supports unicode tags.
More WP-Cumulus 2.0 is finally in development (again)
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
Less than two days ago, Blondmonster asked me to review a haiku she’d written for (if I remember correctly) her employer’s Christmas greeting card. We both love haikus and we immediately started brainstorming. “Cow” stanslates as “koe” in Dutch, and we’d joked before about a “haikoe” (which is pronounced just like “haiku” in English). Sometimes you just need to act on impulses like this, so without further ado, I present to you: Haikoe.nl.
The website is extremely beta, and was hacked together from Snapatar leftovers, the Twitter API and some great artwork by Blondmonster. It will break. Possibly even today. But I’ll fix it when it does, and I hope that in the mean time you’ll feed our little bovine friend some haikus. Simply tweet a haiku and tag it #haikoe. You’ll then need to refresh the page to update.
Please update your copy of WP-Cumulus to 1.23 asap. For most users it should only take two clicks.
The should not affect how WP-Cumulus works on WordPress blogs. But there have been a number of ports and other projects that use the Flash movie. I urge the authors of those projects to examine the new Flash movie, and see if it still works in/with their product. The exploit is not unique to WordPress, and they may need to modify the security check to fit their project.
Over the last few months, I’ve not been able to dedicate as much time to the WP-Cumulus project as I’d hoped to. Freelance work has been keeping me pretty busy, and I’ve had to deal with acute issues rather than be able to focus on new features. That’s why I decided to look for help. Just around that time, Luke Morton launched a spin-off version of the plugin that implemented something I’d been meaning to work on too. I contacted Luke and I’m very happy he’s agreed to help develop WP-Cumulus from now on.
Some of the things we’ll be working on are pretty major. We’ll finally move to SWFObject 2.x, look into internationalization (both for the plugin and the Flash movie) and make improvements to the admin screen. We hope to be able to release a true 2.0 version sometime this year.
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