Authored Content

Authored Content, Episode 15: Unity, Netflix, WordPress Post Formats, One Less JPG, and the Success Loch Ness

This week’s Authored Content became a sunsetting edition of sorts. Joined by Lisa Larson-Kelley the team talked Unity sunsetting Flash, Netflix sunsetting Silverlight, the huge controversy surrounding Post Formats in WordPress 3.6, whether one less JPG will make up for un-minimized JavaScript and finally Twitter sunsetting the Fail Whale.

Links aplenty:

Watch the video and join the conversation.

You can watch all the episodes of Authored Content on YouTube (playlist), like Authored Content on Facebook, and join the Authored Content Community on Google+.

Browsers Expression Web My Book Silverlight Tutorials

Previewing Silverlight Applications in Your Browser With Expression Development Server

If you’ve tried placing a Silverlight application in a HTML page in Expression Web 2 (or any other web authoring application for that matter) and previewing it in your browser you know it doesn’t work. Here is a small exerpt from my upcoming book Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression Web 2 in 24 Hours that explains how you can use the Expression Development Server to trick your browser into previewing Silverlight applications without having to run them off a server:

To make sure everything is working properly, you should preview the page in your browser. But if you do all you’ll see is an empty white page. This is because Silverlight is a server-side script that must be running on a web server to work properly. In other words technically you need to upload your files to a web server and test them from there. Fortunately there is a way around this problem: Because a big part of Expression Web 2 is the ability to create advanced dynamic websites using Microsoft’s server-side script language ASP.NET, the program comes equipped with a small application called Expression Development Server. This application creates a virtual server on your computer that behaves like a web server and lets you run server-side scripts in pages even though they are only stored on your computer. You will be introduced to the Expression Development Server in more detail in Hours 22, “Beyond the Basics: PHP in Expression Web 2,” and 23, “Beyond the Basics Part 2: Building a Site with ASP.NET.”

The problem at hand is that the Silverlight script will run only on a web server. So to be able to preview the application you need to make Expression Web 2 think that the page you are currently working with is actually an ASP.NET page. That way it will be previewed using Expression Development Server and the Silverlight script will run properly. Doing so is surprisingly simple: Open the HTML file that contains the Silverlight application you want to preview, select File, Save As on the menu bar, and change the file extension to .aspx – the extension for ASP.NET pages that can contain regular HTML code. Now when you open the page it will be previewed in the browser through Expression Development Server and the Silverlight application will run properly.

Clever eh? Now go crack open your piggybank and buy my book!


Silverlight in Opera (but no Silverligth 2 – at least not yet)

Silverlight is supposed to support the excellent Opera web browser, but there is a long road between theory and reality. As of right now, a clean instal of Silverlight will not function at all in Opera, even with the “masking” or “cloaking” feature. According to Opera themselves, Silverlight was supported already in version 9.22, but I’m running 9.26 and it doesn’t work for me.

Crazy Boomerang Blog has come up with a snippet of JavaScript that seems to solve this problem by cloaking Opera and pretending it’s Safari (!?!?) running on Windows. This works to a degree but depending on the SL app will cause the browser to crash. So far there is no support for Silverlight 2 and if you try to apply this smart little JS app, all you get is a blank space. I can’t say for sure, but it appears that this is actually an Opera problem and not a Silverlight one. Regardless, I hope the people at MS and Opera can get their heads together and get this app running on what is possibly the best (and definitely the fastest) browser on the planet.

[Crazy Boomerang Blog]


Is Silverlight the end of Flash?

I got a couple of emails about my post yesterday from angry web devs who wanted to complain about my Microsoft Fanboi attitude toward Silverlight. I won’t post the emails themselves here (let’s put it this way: had they been comments I would have deleted them) but I’ll reiterate their overall message:

Microsoft is already dominating the PC world and with Silverlight they are trying to take over and dominate the web world as well. Since Microsoft by default is an evil monopolistic corporation, noone should support their new scheme to monopolize the internet.

I realize this is a common sentiment among a lot of programmers, especially those that use Open Source software heavily, and it should come as no surprise that Mac users also share these attitudes (ironically because to describe Apple as a company you need a whole new definition of the word “monopoly”). I also understand the sentiment to some degree but at the same time I think it has more to do with the built in hatred we as humans have for those who do better than ourselves. For the most part, the ever-so-popular pass time of Microsoft bashing is wholly undeserved and misguided. But I digress.

In light of these emails I did some quick searches on the web for articles on Silverlight vs. Flash (because even though the two apps are two entirely different animals, they are still direct competitors). What I found was not too surprisingly a whole whack of misinformation, assumptions and good old fashioned propaganda.

There seem to be two fronts: Those that have tried and tested Silverlight and love it on one side and those who think Silverlight is a Flash rip-off and therefore are not interested in testing the application on the other. What I found most striking is that there are very few Silverlight-deniers who have actually tested the program – they just hate it by default and predict it’s demise purely because it is a Microsoft creating (and thus should be full of bloatware, holes, bugs and other garbage). I think that says a lot. If my theory is correct, most developers and designers who get their hands on this incredibly powerful application will be blown away by how much better it is than Flash. And I highly doubt anyone in their right mind would predict it’s demise once they realize what it can do. One noted exception is Lee Brimelow whose expertise in Flash ActionScript and authoring is unparalleled. He is thoroughly unimpressed by what Silverlight has to offer and considering his background and skill level it would be stupid of me to question his attitude. It is worth noting that he is an Adobe Evangelist so his views will be slightly biassed to the rival, but nevertheless I think it important to include his objections. Brimelow’s main stance is that Silverlight has little to offer that Flash hasn’t already done. And that might very well be true. But what Silverlight has that Flash is lacking is an accessible code language. While Lee and his kin will have no problem churning out hundreds of pages of ActionScript that can make Flash do pretty much whatever they want, most devs and almost all designers don’t have the chops (nor the time) to do this. Silverlight on the other hand has a more approachable code language and though this alone it becomes a more usable application. And when it comes to video handling, I think he will agree with me that what Silverlight offers is lightyears ahead of the Flash status quo (though his custom video player, which I painstakingly emulated some time ago, is amazing).

One interesting feature in Silverlight that is getting very limited attention is the ability of the apps to interact with common navigation tools in browsers. Anyone who has surfed through a Flash based website will know that hitting the “back” button on the browser by mistake is a big mistake. At MIX one of the Silverlight guys showed me a simple code set that let the application interact with the navigation buttons so that they functioned within the application itself rather than on the browser window as a whole. This is a huge feature that will make life a lot easier for devs and designers and I think once people start messing around with it they’ll realize it is something they have missed in the past. I know I will.

But like I said before, it’s in the video handling Silverlight 2 truely shines. And I can see a future where the grimy, buggy, crunched and artifact-riddled video provided by Flash will be a thing of the past. The fact that Adobe is working on new codecs and YouTube is playing around with a HD feature might very well be a testament to what a threat Silverlight is becoming. Because regardless of the success of Flash as a video platform, any serious video content producer will agree that compressing video for Flash is like running it through a shredder. Sure you can make it look good, but only by following very strict guide lines. The VC2 codec in Silverlight 2 is the difference between old VHS rental tapes and Blu-Ray. And for people like me who want high quality streaming video on the web that’s music to the ears. Ad to that intelligent streaming and scaling, full meta-tag integration and endless expandability and it really starts looking like something.