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Kurt Zenisek Kurt Zenisek wrote:May 28th, 2013

GitHub & Contributing in an Open Community

GitHub LogoI’m not sure how, but the first thing I ever saw of GitHub was their mascot, Octocat. Now it’s a face I, and many other developers, see quite regularly.

At its core, GitHub is a place where people share code & collaborate with others. It is currently the largest code host in the world. I personally have the Smart Web App Banner project I’ve written about on there, and contribute to ThinkUp among other projects.

GitHub also functions as a version control system, issue tracker, and discussion platform. I won’t go into too much detail, but these features are amazingly powerful on their own. Some projects have chosen to be private to protect their work & assets while enjoying these features.

Meanwhile, you will find countless projects that are 100% publicly visible (every line of code, every image, etc.), open to outside contributions, and allow people to fork their work to be customized in a way that someone else will be responsible for managing that version of that project (read more about forking here). Code merging can be done if the work done to a fork (big or small) is worth adding back to the main project.

If you’re a programmer, you should definitely browse & search through some of the great work on GitHub (some of these great tools come directly from Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Then you know that project you’re using is open to being improved by you whenever you happen to find a bug or want a new feature to be added. That freedom is valuable to have.

Kurt Zenisek
Web Developer
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Kurt Zenisek Kurt Zenisek wrote:September 6th, 2011

HTML5 and Online Games

Cross-browser & cross-platform online gamesIf you’re reading this, then it’s safe to say that you’ve probably played a browser-based game before. It might have been while waiting for a download to finish, during a break, or even is something that you like to come back to fairly regularly. The sheer ubiquity and pleasant simplicity of these games have allowed the online game market to grow immensely over the years. Tie-ins with the Facebook community (ie. Farmville & Mafia Wars) have generated quite a lot of hype fairly recently with some of them reportedly reaching somewhere around 60 million users each month.

Good ideas tend to spread to other mediums so we’re now seeing some of these games being ported to mobile devices. Games like Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and Bejeweled have found their way to the iPhone and other mobile devices even though their predecessors were simple Flash-based games that gained popularity with people who played the game in their web browser.

Biolab Disaster

Here's a teaser of the Biolab Disaster game with an encouraging quote from the Guardian.

With the introduction of HTML5 comes another viable platform for creating these games. Parallels to the great flixel Flash-game library are being released that solely use HTML5 and other functionality built into every modern web browser. One that caught my interest is the Impact game engine. It comes with a library of common game-related functions, a level editor, and various other tools so that making a game in HTML5 doesn’t have to be done from scratch each time. You can check out the first game created using the Impact engine, Biolab Disaster. Impact is a commercial product that sells for $99 so I’m definitely curious to see if this catches on, and if it allows for further development.

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Games have been a part of the advertising repertoire for some time now. Companies like Nikelodeon, Adult Swim, PETA, and countless others offer web-based games while companies like Burger King and Doritos have even made the leap over to game consoles (XBox 360 owners should probably check out Doritos Crash Course. It’s free and yet tastefully Doritos-branded… sorry about that awful pun). The big companies aside, these HTML5 game libraries empower the web designers of the world (with knowledge of JavaScript & a good idea) to create games, and I can’t help but be excited about that.

Kurt Zenisek
Web Developer
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Kurt Zenisek Kurt Zenisek wrote:June 8th, 2011

Update on HTML5 Video Usage

Boxee.tv Intro

I’m going to kick off this article by sharing what sparked my interest to write this article about HTML5 video useage. I recently went to boxee’s website (a company that offers Internet-based TV products and services), and I was happily surprised by the clever intro they’ve added to their site. It takes advantage of HTML5 video so people using web browsers not yet capable of HTML5 will have to see it second-hand, or you can (as always) choose to download Google Chrome or Safari to take a peek at it yourself. I’ve embedded a screen recording of the HTML5 version below so you can take a look (screen recording makes it look choppier than it really is).

Did you see the intro? You can skip this paragraph if you haven’t seen it yet, because I’m going to proceed to break-down what about this intro made me instantly know it was done with HTML5 video (honestly, the first thing I did after seeing it was look at the site’s code to verify my thought that it was indeed HTML5). The first thing that tipped me off was how fast it loaded. Flash videos take time to load up the Flash plugin instance (commonly causing a splash of color/white to be shown for a split second where the plugin will appear) and load the video player/skin portion of the Flash file (since Flash requires a “helper” file alongside the actual video file in order to display it) in addition to loading the video itself. Instead of requiring that whole process, the only thing that needs to be loaded using HTML5 is the video itself, and that means videos can start to play in less than a second. Another thing I noticed was how responsive my browser was even though it was playing a rather large video. Flash videos of that size typically cause my scrolling to become more choppy and are more CPU intensive than what was seen on this HTML5 version. Another, less obvious, thing I noticed was how well integrated the video was into the website design. The tabs at the bottom have a nice translucent look to them and there’s various pieces of the page such as their logo and login form in which part of the video takes place behind (this is something that is commonly problematic when using the Flash plugin), and the video compensates for the dynamic width of the browser really well.

HTML5 Video Usage as of Oct. 2010

HTML5 Video Usage as of October 2010. Courtesy of Mefeedia.com

With all of that whizzbang out of the way, we can now start to cover how the landscape of the Web has changed now that people are adopting the use of the HTML5 video standard. Part of the recent announcements was that Boxee has embraced HTML5 and switched over to using Webkit for it’s built-in web browser functionality. This definitely seems to the the trend since Boxee isn’t the first or the only company to switch over to the Webkit engine (most commonly known for it being what powers the Google Chrome and Safari web browsers) in an effort to provide the best support possible for the latest Web standards. Mefeedia (a video search engine) said in lastt October that 54% of web video is now available in HTML5 (doubled in 5 months), and they attribute the growing market of “smart” mobile devices as being the primary driving factor. These numbers are a good sign, but I still can’t believe the fact that bands and restaurants continue to use sites built for the Flash plugin even though their websites are most commonly accessed on a mobile device by people looking for a place to go while they’re out and about (costing them potential attendees/business with no real benefit as a trade-off).

It’s not all perfect though, because one thing that many people are still anxious to see the result of is if copyright-protected video providers decide to switch over to HTML5 or not. Currently, sites like Hulu and Netflix use Flash as it provides an encryption method that prevents people from ripping the video directly from the service. I personally think that’s actually a non-issue considering the people that want the content for free already have multiple avenues for acquiring the content (download via bittorrent, use a screen capture program [such as the one I used for the video embedded above] as a loophole around any protection the site might have, etc) and the protection methods that are available to be used in conjunction with HTML5 are actually enough to thwart off anyone looking to get the content from that particular website. A sticking point that affects web developers is the lack of agreement on which video codec is the official standard for HTML5 video, and this means that they need to offer multiple video files for various browsers (Firefox is looking for an open-source OGG video, Webkit is looking for a higher-quality H.264 video, and some are hoping WebM catches on as the official format). These issues can all be agreed upon eventually, and websites will continue to switch over to using HTML5 video so the future is looking pretty bright for a web video standard.

Kurt Zenisek
Web Developer
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Kurt Zenisek Kurt Zenisek wrote:November 12th, 2010

Adobe Previews Their HTML5 Software

Adobe® HTML5 software previewAdobe® is one of the few companies that provides great software tools to professionals spanning multiple career fields. They’re definitely being watched under a microscope lately as details emerge regarding the future of Flash now that it’s no longer the only technology capable of providing rich, interactive, online content. Flash has established a prolific user-base, but these latest developments have both users and developers questioning if they should be learning and building Flash-based software instead of the emerging open standard.

There’s no denying that Apple has given them quite a headache by not supporting Flash on their iPhones®, iPods® and iPads®. Apple® has valid reasoning that the battery life suffers immensely while users browse sites that contain Flash content (something that people have become used to being able to do without having to worry about battery life consumption). It also leaves the door open for security issues and crashing (for example, Apple just released version 10.6.5 of their computer operating system where 134 CVE IDs are included as fixes to vulnerabilities; 55 of those are for Flash Player alone).

Last month, Apple reported that they have sold over 120,000,000 iOS devices to date, and most of the functionality of those devices is derived from the fact that they have access to the Internet. Everyone was left wondering how Adobe would respond to Apple standing their ground. Many people forget that Adobe is actually in business as a communication company first and a company of their products second. This means that they change their product line-up to suit the most appropriate communication technologies rather than getting into a legal war to try and force us into keeping Flash alive against the will of other businesses and many of their customers. This isn’t the first time I wrote about Adobe embracing HTML5 either. Kudos to Adobe for how they’re handling this situation.

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Previous versions of Flash Professional (the tool used by web designers to create Flash apps/animations) used to be able to export out to Java, but the demand for Java has declined over the years so it was removed. The rise in demand for the new open HTML5 standard has Adobe coming up with ways to utilize it. A recent blog article by an Adobe employee gives a video preview of this new tool that converts projects made with Flash into HTML5 and also provides some great insight into some of Adobe’s problems and philosophies. People that learned Flash are not left in the dust simply because the industry moved on, but rather empowered to use what they know best to create things using the latest standards and Web service technologies.

There’s potential limitations to exporting from a program built with the intention of using a different technology, so Adobe has recently posted a video preview of their new program that’s built from the ground up with the intention of using HTML5 as the primary technology. Watching the video reveals that it’s very reminiscent of Flash Professional, but with subtle changes based on the various things that they’ve learned over the years (changing the interface of a well established application is much more of a headache than implementing the new/improved interface as a whole in a new program).

Adobe has been presented with the problem of their customers having to decide: whether or not to use Flash due to it not being able to run on over 120 million (otherwise very capable) Internet-enabled devices; whether or not to use the HTML5 standard to create something just as good as what is capable through Flash; or whether they can create both (if the client is willing to pay for the two versions). Their philosophy that “Adobe lives or dies by its ability to help customers solve real problems” seems to hold true with their latest announcements. When these tools are  released, clients will be able to get what they want and the developers will be able to use the latest tools for the job to create it so that it’s viewable by as many people as possible.

Kurt Zenisek
Web Developer
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Kestrel Henry Kestrel Henry wrote:August 18th, 2010

The Top 5 Lessons HRB Has Taught Me

Kestrel scootin' off to college!When I think about my experiences and relationships with HRB and the people here, it’s incredible to believe I won’t be around them every day come fall. My internship has given me numerous  programming projects but they’ve also supported my nonprofit organization. They’ve worked around my finals, trips, dance rehearsals and plays. They’ve taught me about advertising, programming, people and life.

Here are the top 5 lessons HRB has taught me:

1. Communication is key. Our conference room has glass walls. Nothing is hidden behind closed doors and the entire company participates in every staff meeting. Everyone has a voice.

2. An office atmosphere can make or break productivity. Laughter and camaraderie are some of the best tools for creativity.

3. Teamwork should be automatic.  It shouldn’t be a forced “group project.” Collaboration should simply happen because of coworkers’ varying levels of expertise.

4. Advertising is about people and feelings and finding what is truly above and beyond about a product. It isn’t about manipulating facts.

5. Blog ideas are unlimited and ubiquitous. All you have to know is how to come at that can of Mountain Dew or a squirming baby.

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The thing about HRB that’s so different from other companies is the aura of flexibility and responsibility. As an intern, I am entrusted with tasks of importance to the company and expected to blog about my experiences on the company Website. With this responsibility comes freedom to explore and create what I envision. It also, however, comes with a duty to perform and be willing to change my vision based on others’ input. I am encouraged to develop my ideas and to consistently use creativity to better my portfolio.

As advertisers, we know that limited time offers bring in better sales. As humans, we know that not having enough time can sweeten the time we’re given.

To put it simply: I’ve been lucky.

Kestrel Henry
Internet Operations Intern

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Kestrel Henry Kestrel Henry wrote:August 4th, 2010

How to Parent Your Website for the "Real World"

Cultivating GrowthIt seems as if college is rushing at me. As a kid I’d frequently count down the years until I’d be free of my parents’ watchful eye, but most recently I’ve found myself counting down the days until I’m finally considered an “adult.” I’m not sure if I’m ready to take the next step toward the “real world,” but I’m definitely excited about the new growth opportunities that come with it.

Websites, too, “grow up.” They start as nothing more than a simple idea, but before long they’ve undergone hundreds of changes and blossomed into new versions under the guidance of their programmer’s hand. Is there a checklist to follow before you’re able to launch your Website for the “real world” to see and judge? How can you ever be sure that when you surrender your code to a client they’ll nurture and protect it to the best of their ability, that they’ll teach it new things and update it alongside the relentless tide of technological change?

The people that utilize the Websites I create aren’t always up-to-date on programming requirements, browser updates, how to fix a bug or even how to protect them from unwanted data. They hire HRB for our ability to teach them new skills and programs. This fall I’ll also venture into an unknown territory as a college freshman, but the difference is that I won’t know which source to turn to for guidance, let alone trust with my future well-being.

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As a Web designer, I “parent” sites from birth to release. I’m always anxious about whether others will like my design, whether the site will find its niche on the Web and whether its content will be appreciated and celebrated by online users. It’s always scary to give it that final push, but when I do, I’m always confident that I endowed it with the tools it needs to succeed. I know that outside opinions and influences will inevitably shape each Website over time, but the foundation will remain the same.

I take pride in creating the foundations I’ve build for myself and the company during my time here, but I’m confident that HRB’s team members will continue to successfully “parent” our clients’ sites long after I’m gone. I trust that they’ll treat each programming task as if it’s the most important item on their daily checklist and that our clients will appreciate the end results of their work and dedication.

Like the Websites I create and release, I too am ready to enter the “real world.” Let the countdown begin!

Kestrel Henry
Internet Operations Intern

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