Joeflash’s Enigmacopaedia

Stratus-pheric Confusion

Posted in Enigmacopaedia, Business, Branding, Adobe by Joeflash on the November 20th, 2009

You may have heard the news that last month, Adobe and jointly announced Flash Builder for (which is a great idea by the way).

And it’s codenamed — are you ready for this? — Stratus.

Gosh that seems familiar… isn’t there already a product with that name? Why yes, it’s Status, Adobe’s RTMFP service.

You’d think that if someone were to introduce a product using Adobe’s tools, they could at least Google whether it had been taken.

Maybe next time they should use a codename generator ;)

HTML5: Yet Another (yawn) Flash Killer

Posted in Enigmacopaedia, Flash, Geekness, News, Web 2.0 by Joeflash on the July 8th, 2009

Every few years (months?) there seems to be a newcomer on the block who incites cries of the next “Flash killer.” First there was Silverlight, then JavaFx, then Unity3D (at least until Flash 11 ; ) — and now it’s HTML 5 which is inspiring people to take pot shots at Flash.

All I have to say is: I DON’T THINK SO.

(And I’m not the only one who agrees.)

Don’t believe me? Check the timetable.
Or if you want a good laugh, the short and sweet version:

Oh, so you’re looking for a better reason? Have fun waiting then! :)

How I Bought My Perfect XP Laptop

Posted in Enigmacopaedia, Geekness, Tools, Personal by Joeflash on the April 13th, 2008

So I wanted to buy a new laptop. My requirements were: has to have XP because I’m a PC user who’s not convinced Vista’s features and performance gains outweigh the hassles. It has to be a workhorse for infrequent onsite development. No bloatware, just the OS and drivers and maybe some OEM software. And a high res, matte screen, with a screamin new processor and maxed out 4GB memory. And it had to be a Dell.

Dell has some pretty good laptop offerings IMO. The XPS 1730 is a nice machine, and I particularly like that I can have XP installed, and have a RAID 1 drive setup for data security, and it’s definitely a workhorse I could use to get some serious work done on the road, but it’s also a bloody brick, weighing in at 10.6 lbs6 (4.81 kg) — holy crap, I want a laptop, not a portable computer.

The Inspiron series is is just too old and busted IMO for my taste, and problems in its older models which I’ve had first hand experience have left a bad taste. It’s still not a good looking machine IMO, no matter how fancy the cover is. And more importantly it didn’t quite have the power I was looking for.

I was particularly taken with the new XPS 1530 (the XPS 1350 being slightly underpowered for my taste), but what threw me was three things:

  1. You can’t get XP as an option anymore. I guess I waited too long.
  2. There is no opt-out of the bloatware in Canada for the home machines, only in the US, which really sucks.
  3. All Dell’s new laptops use TrueLife displays, which are the shiniest, most awfully glare-prone screens I have ever seen. My god how can people buy screens they can’t see unless they’re in a darkened cave? No wonder they need a backlit keyboard!

Having seen the XPS laptops first hand, that last one killed it for me. Dell really needs to work on this if I’m ever going to buy an upgrade.

Now, I’ve bought a few laptops from other places before, and their customer support and warranty policy has always left a bad taste in my mouth. Mind you it’s all relative: if I were a corporate customer with a dozen or more of their machines to support with some wildly expensive premium plan, I’m sure I would get decent support. The reason I chose Dell over all other brands, is primarily customer service and support. With a premium support package, I can drop this baby down a flight of stairs, and it be my fault (more or less), and they will replace the entire machine, no questions asked, and come to my door to deliver it. That’s how good the warranty is.

But one of the main criticisms lobbed against Dell is the amount of bloatware preinstalled on their machines. I had to buy a Dell de-crappifier utility to remove all the junk that came installed on my previous machine, and although it worked quite well, I still had to remove a few things by hand. Still, it saved me reinstalling the entire OS, which I didn’t have time for.

In Canada, the only way you can opt out of the pre-installation crap is to buy a business machine, which is what I did. I got a brand new laptop with only the OS and OEM CD drive software installed.

Now their home and home office support is not bad, never had any complaints in the seven years I’ve been buying Dell through four machines, but the wait times can be a little long. So this time, because I purchased it as a business user, I get connected inside of one minute, and get to talk to a person who is NOT based in Bangalordesh… and have their direct extension if I need to talk to them about a previous issue (which is unheard of in customer service).

Mind you, you pay for that level of service, like around $300, but considering the hassles I’ve had to put up with warranties, customer service and tech support, it’s worth every penny. Even with my XPS 400 system I bought two years ago, I’ve had to replace my 24″ monitor three times, twice because of dead pixels, once because of a broken power button… and because I paid for the best support package, they replaced it no questions asked, right to my door. So I’ve been very impressed with Dell in that regard.

So I wanted to buy a Dell, but I could not get past the awful screen, and I didn’t want some cheap adhesive film or bulky filter plate just to simulate a matte screen.

So what did I do? I bought an “older” model, with new insides.

I went with the Latitude D830, which some of my former co-workers were using, and it’s not a bad looking machine. Even got some decent reviews. Definitely no worse than the Inspiron. And I guess because it’s an older line, it’s available with a matte screen, with XP installed. And because I’m buying it from the business section, I can opt out of all the bloatware.

The Dell Latitude D830

The video card is nothing to write home about, which seems to be its only major weakness, but I’m also not running WoW on it either. And it didn’t have a RAID option, but SSDs are going to come down in price in the next six months anyways, so I’ll upgrade when that happens. It also only has 3 USB sockets and no integrated webcam, but the bluetooth, wireless, fingerprint reader and the great specs make up for it.
Which BTW are:

  • 2.6 GHz Dual Core, 4GB RAM
  • 15.4″ 1920×1600 Matte screen
  • XP SP2 x64 Pro
  • No preinstalled security software, or any bloatware of any kind

For about $1000 cheaper than the XPS 1530, at around $2500 including 3-year full warranty and support.


So my guess is that the Latitude is a no-frills-powerhouse-XP-lovers’ best kept secret, because I’ve not heard of anyone raving about this machine, but it’s pretty solid, and will do everything I want it to.

But if you’re going to buy a Latitude with XP and a matte screen, better do it soon, cause they’re replacing the whole line in June. With TrueLife displays of course.

I’m going to enjoy working on my screamin’ machine running circles around all the more expensive, Vista-bloated fancy-pants XPSs. :)

And that’s how I got my dream XP laptop.

Flexers and Flashers and Writers, Oh My!

Posted in Enigmacopaedia, Flex, Community MX, Employment by Joeflash on the January 14th, 2008

I thank Adobe for aggregating this blog on the MXNA. Without aggregation, posting on a blog feels like whispering in a desert: someone may hear you, but you’ve got to shout, so to speak. :)

For those of you new to this blog, here are the most recent posts:

Zap & Tickle for my Brain: What I Got For Christmas 2007

Posted in Enigmacopaedia, Geekness, Gaming, Personal by Joeflash on the January 1st, 2008

I’m the kind of guy who’s proud to be a geek, and more particularly a board game geek. As a kid I played everything from Clue, Twister, Six Million Dollar Man, Monopooly, Trouble and dozens of others I can’t even remember right now. Risk was the gateway game for me when I was 10, which quickly turned me on to all the Milton Bradly games like Axis & Allies, Shogun and Fortress America by the time I was twelve. A few of my buddies were military strategy buffs, so I’ve even played those SSI games on a huge sheet of hex paper with the little cardboard markers that would take a few days to finish. When I was a kid I would play Risk, Axis and Allies and D&D at my cousin’s place almost every single weekend during the summer. I even won a Dungeons and Dragons tournament and placed third in an Axis competition.

Being in my 30’s, I don’t get much chance to play anymore, but I still have a particular fondness for the genre. So this past summer, when it was revealed that I’d never played Cranuim, there was a collective gasp in the room.

And so, at Christmas was a shiny new copy of Cranium Wow Edition, waiting for me under the tree. (I was later told my wife got it at Starbucks ;)

Cranium Wow boxCranium Wow game

(images courtesy of Board Game Geek)

I have to say, gosh is it fun. It’s like a combination of Pictionary, Scene-it, Trivial Pursuit and Charades. There’s something in it for the exhibitionist, the intellectual, and the artist. Finally, a whole brain game. I love it.

The only down side is that you need minimum of four people to play, as it’s a team game. The good news is, the more the merrier, so it’s great for parties. You could conceivably play 20 people at this game, with four teams of five people, as one person in each team is always drawing, sculpting or acting out something for the other team members to guess before the timer runs out.

We had so much fun playing this at the family New Years’ gathering, I’m going to see if I can rustle up a regular group to play this every once and a while. What a great way to ring in the new year.

Happy New Year everyone. Hope yours started as good as mine.

Getting Zen on the Desktop: the FFAIR Wallpaper

Posted in Enigmacopaedia, Design, Adobe by Joeflash on the December 31st, 2007

A few months ago I decided to get all zen on my desktop, tired of the clutter of icons. Then, as if by serendipity, I discovered Kevin Suttle’s FFAIR Desktop Wallpapers, and I thought, perfect! But none would fit my Dell 24″ monitor’s 1920×1600 resolution. So I took my favourite one, and expanded it a bit.

my FFAIR desktop

Feel free to download it here.

Da Joeflash Blog Lives Again!

Posted in Enigmacopaedia, Personal by Joeflash on the November 17th, 2007

Over the years I have toyed with the concept of having my own blog to post Flash tips and tricks encountered in my travels, first as a “deseloper” in my early days, then as a hard core “developer” from 2004 onwards. I even started one in 2003, but being somewhat of a perfectionist, never quite got around to launching it. The list of things I wanted to to write about got quite large over the years, comprised of notes like this:

Blog Topic: Variable Listener - About Handy to keep in mind.
See this thread.

… but I never quite got around to actually installing Wordpress properly and writing about all of them. In the interim, I got a gig as staff writer or ‘partner’ with Community MX, and so all of my writing energies that were not funnelled into community forums went there for the first few years.

Recently, I looked up the idea of getting down to it and just getting ‘er done. Now that I find myself programming mainly in ActionScript 3.0 and Flex, I look up all of my old notes for blog topics and realize that writing about ActionScript 2.0 seems… outdated for me. Maybe later, when this new blog is firmly up and running with sufficient content, I’ll revisit all the old code and share the tips and tricks of AS 1 & 2 from an old-timer. :)

For now, the new site still has the same old storefront, but the inside just got a new coat of paint. ;)

Why did I suddenly decide to start blogging about my main passion, Flash? Well, first, it seemed kind of silly to be involved in the community for so many years, teaching courses, attending user group gatherings, conferences, and writing weekly articles, without also having my own blog. Until now I’ve procrastinated, telling myself there was no time in between community involvement, project development and technical writing to contribute enough posts in a blog to make it worth while for my readers, and not be just another half-hearted attempt by a flash developer to “be out there”. I also didn’t want to start a blog just to say I had a blog, posting everything flash-related that travelled through my brain just to say “look at me, I’m blogging, even though a thousand other developers have already covered this!!” :P (okay, I’m being facetious, but you get the idea)

Second, the forums on Community MX where I am a staff writer are members-only forums, and there have been some really good tips posted there that I’d like to share with the community. And I realize there are a few things I’ve noticed/used just this past year while dealing with ActionScript 3.0 and Flex that no one seems to have blogged about much, which are a little too advanced for a CMX article.

So here we are. And when and if the MXNA or other aggregators deem this blog good enough or complete enough or relevant enough to include in their list, well great, but that’s not why I’m doing this. As far as fancy blog widgets and other links, I’m still getting my feet wet once again with Wordpress after a long hiaitus, so please bear with me while I try out a few things.


Joseph Balderson