Bye Bye PayPal, Hello Paymill

I've recently started implementing Paymill's online payment processing service for scribblar with the help of Richard Herbert's excellent cfPaymill wrapper for Paymill's API. The main reason for this is the fact that I am totally and utterly fed up with PayPal and their 'customer service'.

To be honest I do not know how much I've paid PayPal for their services over the years (I suspect it amounts to several thousand dollars) and I would have happily carried on if I felt like a valued customer there and the company would take my customers' user experience seriously. It would also help if they were a generally pleasant company, but after more and more horror stories I am packing my bags.

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Introducing membermeister.com - Super Simple Member Management

membermeister - super simple member managementApologies for the recent lack of posts, but I have a great excuse which is also the topic of this latest update: I've been very busy trying to get my latest product membermeister (my latest project) up to MVP stage. Membermeister is an online membership management service targeted at small business owners that have to deal with a large numbers of members - for example sports coaches, childcare providers, dance teachers, personal trainers and so on. It allows them to keep all their member information in one place, create groups, schedule sessions and classes and most importantly produce invoice and track payments amongst other things.

Together with my friend Paul Bou-Samra we have been busy building this Rails based application for the last few months and we're now at a stage where we have something at hand that resembles a usable product.
We've learned a lot along the way, but the journey has only just begun and my intention is to write more about our experiences and ongoing learning in future blog posts.

Paul has taught himself Ruby on Rails in record time whilst I have tried to get to grips with the front-end development (not sure what I would have done without twitter's bootstrap) and heroku/ deployment. I've also got a good handle on the Rails asset pipeline now... don't ask. Heck, I've even dabbled in Photoshop and Fireworks to create graphics and designs - in a nutshell we are bootstrapping this baby 100%.

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Combine Multiple .vcf Files Into One - Google Contacts

Today I needed to move some contacts (about 100 or so) from my wife's phone into a new Google account I set up for her. Unfortunately the upload page on Google's site only allowed individual uploads and it would have taken hours to upload all contacts one by one.

If you are, like me, on OSX (or Linux) you can quite easily combine a folder full of .vcf contacts into one by using this command (navigate into the folder which holds the .vcf files first):

view plain
1cat *.vcf > combined.vcf

I'm sure you can do something similar on the Windows command line too. In fact I've Googled it for you. :-)

Enjoy.


LiveCycle Collaboration Service Gets a New Lease Of Life

Adobe's LiveCycle Collaboration Service has been rescued and given a new lease of life by Influxis. Now called the Influxis Collaboration Service (ICS) it gives existing LCCS customers the chance to migrate their applications over to ICS. If you recall, Adobe previously announced that they would shut down and discontinue the LCCS service without any obvious ways for existing customers to keep their LCCS based products and services online - ICS is therefore good news for many of those customers.

ICS will be comprised of two different account types, dedicated and shared accounts, with various price points starting at $25/month for a 10connection shared account. An extensive FAQ can be found on the Influxis site.

As you may know, LCCS (or now ICS) enables you to build real-time collaborative applications quickly using a variety of pre-built modules including FileShare, Chat, Whiteboard, Webcam and of course - dare I mention it - screensharing.

Let me know if you're building any applications with ICS and I'll link to them here.


2012 - Onwards And Upwards

As 2011 is drawing to a close (seriously, where has this year gone?) I think it's time for a quick look forward.

It's been a turbulent year, especially for the Flash Platform. We have some ups, and definitely some downs, and at times it felt as if our beloved community was imploding. Some folks have moved on and are quite likely never to return - 'sinking ship' comes to mind. Whilst I'm not the captain of that particular ship, I certainly hold the rudder for my own little boat and despite what Adobe may want us to believe it is clear to everyone that Flash has had its peak. I feel a bit sad about that, and it's not really because of the technology but because of the aforementioned community; I just don't feel that I'll find the same mix of creativity, problem solving and 'thinking outside the box' spirit elsewhere. The Flash community has been and still is one of a kind and I hope it will stay that way in 2012 and beyond.

In terms of new technologies to pick up next year there are plenty to choose from. Too many almost, and I for one feel a bit overwhelmed at times. I have a feeling I am not alone.

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Forum Posts Resurrected

Due to several enquiries I've had over the last few weeks I have decided to put the old FlashComGuru forum back online for reference pirposes. It can be found at forum.therealtimeweb.com (or http://www.therealtimeweb.com/forum) and has been put there for reference purposes only. I have no plans to enable new signups again but would encourage people to sign up to this site's mailing list instead.


A Quick Word About Apps

Very briefly: why is everyone these days talking about 'apps' when they are actually referring to websites, games, products, services and real businesses? Maybe it's just me, but the term app seems to be terribly overused and de-values the task at hand.

Is 'app' the small brother of a 'real' application or piece of software? How many apps do you know that are both app and business rolled into one? I can't think of many since most of the time we're all building much more than an app. Would it make sense to not distill our work down to less than what it actually is just because it sounds fashionable?

Nowadays an app increasingly defines a small piece of software that one may use once or twice and then never goes back to again. I also expect an app to be very affordable (read: cheap or even free) and of relatively low value.

I think it's time to go beyond apps and call the things we build by their real name. Unless all you are building really is nothing more than an app...


Getting Started With node.js

I've been spending a little bit of time with node.js in the last few days and although I have not yet built anything meaningful with it I'm already quite impressed by it - despite it being JavaScript based :-)
In case you don't know what node.js is, let me give you a short intro (if you are familiar with FMS's AS1-based server side syntax then you'll quickly feel at home with node). Combine this with node's event based nature (everything in node runs asynchronously with extensive use of callbacks) and you can see how there is also some similarity with the events you may be used to from ActionScript3.
The fact that node is both asynchronous and single threaded means that every operation it runs is non-blocking, making the platform extremely scalable when it comes to handling large numbers of concurrent requests. LinkedIn for example have apparently had great results porting some of their apps from a Rails backend to node. Reportedly they went 'from running 15 servers with 15 instances (virtual servers) on each physical machine, to just four instances that can handle double the traffic'.

For me at least that sounded interesting, although I have to admit that I do not have any scaling or capacity issues using any other (thread based) server technology so far. Instead what attracts me to node is the similarities both in lamguage and syntax as well as in functionality (node is great for building real-time apps with add-ons such as socket.io).

The most-used example of a simple node.js app is probably this http server from the node.js homepage:

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1var http = require('http');
2http.createServer(function (req, res) {
3 res.writeHead(200, {'Content-Type': 'text/plain'});
4 res.end('Hello World\n');
5}).listen(1337, "127.0.0.1");
6console.log('Server running at http://127.0.0.1:1337/');
It almost requires no explanation at all. Once started it will respond with 'Hello World' to every request. But as I said I have not actually got any code of my own to share right now, but wanted to point you to a great resource for getting started with node which is this page from smashingmag. It has a ton of links to other sites, all containing tips and tricks around node. I found nodebeginner.org particularly useful, but please judge for yourself.

Do you use node? Maybe in combination with a Flash based frontend (I think this would make for a great duo...)? Please leave a comment if you do (but don't hesitate to comment if you don't), and include some demo links if you can.


The End for Adobe's Multi-Screen Strategy?

The End for Adobe's Multi-Screen Strategy? - This is a question that Tim Siglin asks in his recent article on the sudden death of the HP TouchPad and WebOS.

My initial reaction to reading that header was one of suspected link-baiting; but since I know Tim well enough I knew that his style of writing goes substantially deeper than that of an attention-grabbing headline (but hey, this didn't stop me from re-using it. You see my standards are far far lower and since you are now reading my post it clearly has paid off ;-).

So does Tim have a point? Does the demise of WebOS and the sluggish uptake of other (non-iOS) mobile operating systems outside of Android really spell bad news for Adobe and its multi-screen dream?

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Why WebRTC Will Power The Real Time Web

Well, there seems to be more to the WebRTC project than first meets the eye. First I thought of WebRTC to be a pure browser play but I'm not so sure now.
A little bit of research seems to suggest that the original WebRTC effort was kicked off at http://rtc-web.alvestrand.com before going to IETF and W3C (and WHATWG). There was an initial workshop in October 2010 to kick the project off, and what's more (and in the true spirit of openness) the agenda, participants and even presentation slides are available. The presentations in particular give an insight into the direction that this project is heading for, and it is clear that browser to browser communications are just one piece to the puzzle.

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