Archive | November, 2016

The slow climb of HTML5

27 Nov

The slow climb of HTML5

Many people I meet these days ask why I still use Flash as a base for development of applications and games. It is downright scary to hear that virtually all these people still don't know that you can author your apps in Actionscript and then easily cross-compile to very performant native code for iOS and Android. Targeting the desktop with Flash has been around for more than 10 years. Using AS3 as the language and Adobe AIR to export gives you great performance and access to really advanced tools that allows for proper debugging, even directly on the GPU.

Using this stack comes with an overhead, but I would say that it's only 5-15% slower than pure native code. Perception of speed is of course subjective, but my Arduino Companion app have now been installed on more than 60.000 devices and both major app stores show a 4.5 of 5 rating. This app is currently not using any form of GPU acceleration, but the users still love it. I am currently in the middle of a cross-platform game that IS using acceleration and I'm really happy with what I'm seeing this far.

When it comes to HTML5, I see lots of good stuff happening on the desktop. HTML5 has replaced Flash for many purposes on the desktop and I don't mind this. In fact, I encourage it. I've always been a huge fan of using the right tool for the job. That's why I switched Flashmagazine to HTML more than ten (!) years ago. Flash became big because there were no good alternatives and it's only natural that it's role should change.

HTML/JS/CSS is part of my toolset and it has always been that along with PHP for the serverside. However, if you are one of those that think that HTML5 is a good solution today, you should read this great article by Ben Savage of Spaceport.io. It summarises most of my experience from the mobile HTML5-game I made for NASA recently. My biggest problem with HTML-based apps is that they're slow and have little contact with the device they run on. I absolutely hate going to a website that asks me to install it "as an app". All this does is add a desktop shortcut and the poor developers can't even know if I already did install the shortcut. Due to the lack of this they keep nagging me with their stupid "install-me" dialogue every time I visit their site (yes - I'm looking at you Google Calendar).

I'm sure that omissions like this eventually will annoy enough mobile vendors so they create a way to reliably detect if a shortcut has already been installed. The problem is just that this is but one of many things that need to fall in place before HTML5 is really useful. I also got a shock recently when a friend bought a brand new MacBook Pro and Safari couldn't show the default HTML5 video. All he got was green flickering squares. The fix was simply to install Chrome, but this highlights a core point in Ben's article - browser vendors have no interest in making Browser apps really good.

My other experience is that doing an app as HTML5 adds development time. I've discussed this with others and their ballpark is about the same as mine. 30-50% extra time is required to make a good cross-platform HTML5-app. Most developers ignore mobile for this very reason, but come on... Isn't the whole point of HTML5 to get that extra reach? To actually make it work Mobile first and fully responsive?

So why do I still use the Flash Platform for apps and games? I use it to deliver on my promise of real crossplatform apps. I can use the very same code-base to make a game for iPhone, iPad, iPod, desktop, Facebook-apps, Web as well as all the funky flavors of Android. All I would want extra at the moment is Windows 8 support. That would make my toolkit complete.

Now if only Adobe could start telling the world how good this stack really is...

Microsoft just don’t care…

18 Nov

When I got a Mac one and a half year ago, I never thought I’d become an Apple fan-boy. I still have my gaming PC that I keep upgrading and it’s caused my a lot of griefs lately. The power supply on my uber-fancy gaming case broke down. The machine had to be restarted 10-15 times until XP booted. All this restarting while booting screwed up the harddrive. So, now I’ve spent a bunch of $$$ on a new case, PSU and harddrive but I still can’t get it up and running - because of sloppy programming.

After installing XP, I started installing the required drivers, but I have just one problem:
You need a mouse to install the mouse!

IMG_0813.jpgNo, I’m not kidding. You have to click the device found, but it is not possible to navigate to it using the keyboard. I order to install Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer for Bluetooth, you need to have a wired mouse! I don’t have one since my kids played with the old wired one I had and now it’s broken. Not only are the batteries this mouse requires expensive, now I’ll have to buy a mouse to use my mouse? Seriously - the reason why I think Microsoft is going down the drain faster than you can say “OSX” is that their coders simply does not care about the end user. They just don’t care if they make crappy software.

Being a gamer and a mac-lover is kind of problematic, so I guess I’ll keep the gaming PC for now. Here’s a fun reminder to myself why I have a gaming PC:

Apple is improving somewhat in this area though, but it’s far away from a gaming platform. Too bad Microsoft snapped Bungie/Halo back on 2000….

A reminder of why I switched from XP to OSX

27 Jul

This eve, I was going to install the C&C3 Map Manager on my WinXP gaming PC to play some community created maps. Every time there’s a new Blizzard game, I’m wasting way too many hours on them and C&C3 Tiberium Wars is no exception… Anyway - I try to install the app, the install crashes and suggests I click the Details button. I once installed a beta .NET framework 2.0 and this is supposedly the cause. I try to uninstall it but get an error message with a long un-clickable link and then the uninstall fails.

Odd. I then try to uninstall the beta version of Microsoft Max that I once installed with the framework. When I try to uninstall this photo viewer, i get one of the wackiest popups I’ve ever seen. It says “If Microsoft Max is removed, these programs might not work properly. Do you want to continue?” and then displays a list of every single software installed on my computer. Supposedly, even the Flash Player Plugin could be affected by removing beta software from Microsoft.

Next, I run the uninstall again and type that long unclickable link from the error message into my browser to find that it’s really .NET 3.0 that is the problem? You gotta be kidding me. I have to uninstall .NET 3.0 to uninstall the 2.0 Beta? Well, that will certainly break an application or five? So - I’ll have to reinstall 3.0 afterwards. Did I mention that these installs require reboots? I bet this whole thing took me about an hour, just in figuring out the error and resolving it. Great way to spend your evening - you and WinXP in perfect disharmony…

On my Mac, some programs come with custom uninstaller software. These are the really complex ones such as Photoshop and Flash that put files into multiple locations. For all other programs, you just drag the App-icon into the trashcan and the app is gone. Isn’t that just beautiful? It just works…

BTW: I’ve recently read a few blog entries that indicate that there is a new generation of Mac users/switchers - the ones that have tried using Windows Vista wink

Ohh! While I was typing this entry, DrWatson (the MS debug software) crashed while debugging the former attempts at uninstalling .NET 2.0 and it took the whole Windows GUI with it. Yet another reboot… Brilliant!

Supreme Commander on MacBook Pro

26 Feb

256px-Supreme_Commander_Box_Art.jpgThis friday I joined Paulo to pick up a WII controller at a gaming store. He asked the guy at the counter for a demo disk of Supreme Commander, an RTS that I’ve been eagerly awaiting. Back at the office he had a look at the specs required and then gave me the disk as his gaming PC wasn’t up to it and he mostly plays WII these days anyway. Back home I found that my own gaming PC also struggeled a bit but then I remembered that Apple released an update to BootCamp the other day.

The MacBook Pro is quite a piece of hardware and it has a better GPU than my gaming PC so I thought I’d try BootCamp again to see what kind of performance I’d get. Easier said than done as my 120Gb harddrive was almost full and Bootcamp would need about 12Gb of space to install the game and XP. After a lot of cleaning and backing up old stuff, I had more than 30gb free, but BootCamp still wouldn’t install since there wasn’t enough contiguous free space on the drive. OSX has this funky Unix filesystem that supposedly does not suffer from de-fragmentation so there’s no tool in the OS to compact what is on the disk. After a bit of researching, I found this tool called iDefrag that did the job in two hours for $30. I now had 30Gb of contiguous space and BootCamp installed smoothly.

It’s kind of funny - updating XP after the install takes longer than the install itself. I must say that after using a Mac for such a long time, it really feels messy with all those balloons popping up in the lower right corner telling you that you don’t have any antivirus installed, windows update needs to be updated, I need to activate my XP, I need to prove that I have a Genuine copy, a bunch of updates must be installed and so on. OSX is just so sleek and “wise” compared to that. Anyway - Supreme Commander runs beautifully on the MacBook so I’m picking up a copy of the full game tomorrow. Great Fun and the zoom from World View to Battle is amazing! Runs pretty smooth on the native 1680x1050 resolution on the MacBook Pro.

Too bad that I didn’t try this before ordering a new motherboard and a MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB for the gaming PC. Guess I’ll install Vista then since I’m soon the owner of a DirectX 10 capable Graphics card or maybe I should cancel the order? Hmmm…

Sketching is in?

03 Dec

Linerider has sweeped the inboxes, filled up Youtube with insane rides and proven that super-real 3d is really not required for a good game (if one can call it a game). Along comes another great game in the same style: SketchFighter. Not done in Flash, but looks like heaps of fun!

I just can’t wait for the Revolution!

17 Sep

revolution-control.jpg

Make sure you view the video to fully grasp what this could do to future gaming! This is bound to be more fun than any other console! Here’s a good read about the Nintendo showcase.

(via Lessrain )