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2009
Jan
31

Flash Shared Libraries: Revisited

Categories: Flash Bingo Games

In a previous post, I mentioned about the use of shared library assets in Flash to lessen the overall file sizes of the games (and a major issue associated with shared assets). I have revisited this problem the past few days, and unfortunately, I still haven’t found an efficient way to solve this on AS3. I know there are workarounds for AS2 or older, but those aren’t applicable anymore.

Basically, I have 3 choices:

  1. Leave it as it is now. There will be a common component which only needs to be loaded once, which decreases the file sizes of the other components significantly. The downside is, there is no way to monitor the loading progress of this shared component. This may result to a few seconds of inactivity while the games are being loaded. Not cool.
  2. Get rid of the common component. It will add about 32K to each of the games, and a few more to the chat area. That means additional waiting time for first-timer players as the games are downloaded, but perhaps in this day and age of fast Internet connections, 32K will be a non-issue already? The games are optimized already, that 32K additional overhead is hopefully negligible. Also, a potential issue of loading order related to shared assets will be eliminated.
  3. I actually found a way around this shared assets problem, however it makes it harder to edit the games during development and design stage. I don’t know if it’s worth it to go this route. However, one of the benefits of doing it this way (and for shared assets in general), is it makes it harder to decode the Flash files as well.

Right now, I’m leaning towards the last 2 options, but I haven’t decided yet. I still need to think about this in more detail, and then I will implement what I think is the better option.

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2009
Jan
26

Windows 7 Beta: My Experience

Categories: Tech, Apps, Gadgets

I have installed Windows 7 Beta to my old notebook the past weekend. The online reviews have mostly been positive, so I was kinda intrigue by all the buzz. Plus it comes with IE 8, so that gives me a platform for testing, to make sure this site (and the games) will not have issues. In reality… that’s just me trying to justify spending time with Windows 7 Beta. 😉

Anyway, it’s mostly a positive experience. It looks and feels a lot like Windows Vista, a notch better perhaps. It boots faster, and the computer is immediately usable after you log-in (unlike Vista or even XP, where you have to wait for some time for all your start-ups to load and kinda “settle-down”). The installation was also fast, and surprisingly, Windows Update installed almost all the drivers I need, including NVIDIA drivers! This comes as a surprise, especially for notebooks, which usually come with its own set of vendor-tailored drivers (unless you go to sites like laptopvideo2go.com).

Unfortunately, the NVIDIA drivers, while recent, are not the latest versions. I’m playing Spore lately, and I wanted to play at a resolution lower than my notebook’s native screen resolution (1280×800), while still maintaining the aspect ratio. The 178+ series driver that Windows 7 installed supports less resolutions. The good news is that, I just downloaded the latest 180+ Vista-32 drivers, and it installed without issues on Windows 7.

I also didn’t have issues with any of the applications, games, and even vendor-specific drivers that I installed. The only missing driver that Windows 7 failed to detect was for the notebook’s audio. Easy fix was to install the driver for Vista. At first, the driver refused to install because it can’t detect the OS properly, but the workaround was to tick the Vista-compatibility in the setup executable before installing. The other notebook drivers I had to install (touchpad, OSD) all work fine with the Vista set of drivers.

The only other minor issue I encountered was the hard drive was being given a very slow score in the Windows Experience Index (WEI). This is surprising, because I have a 7200rpm drive and was expecting a much better score. Upon researching, it looks like this is a common issue on Windows 7 Beta. The fix is to make sure that write caching is unchecked in the drive’s device setting before running the WEI assessment, then just turning it on again afterwards. My hard drive score jumped from 3.0 to 5.6 after this. The score doesn’t really affect performance, but some games may refuse to load if the minimum WEI score is not met.

I don’t really understand why Windows Vista has been met with a lot of criticism. It’s been very stable on my desktop, even the 64-bit version. However, seeing that Windows 7 Beta performs well, if not even better than either Vista or XP, even on slower computers, I think Microsoft is going the right direction this time. My notebooks is quite old, but I think this is the first time that it’s actually booting faster than my desktop. It also feels more responsive in general, even with newer, supposedly resource-hungry applications like Adobe PhotoShop CS4.

Windows 7 is a keeper for me. The beta already looks good. Hopefully, things will only get better when the final version is released.

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2009
Jan
23

Code Libraries

Categories: Site Updates

I have been using a free 3rd-party  javascript library for some client-side coding. Since it’s a general purpose library, the file size may be an issue. However, there are a few benefits:

  1. I don’t have to re-invent the wheel to code certain things. I just need to study the relevant API.
  2. Since it’s widely used, incompatibilities between browsers and versions are minimized. This is important, since it saves me the trouble of making sure the code works in all the different configurations.
  3. The library is hosted at Google. If a site visitor has already visited other sites using the same library, then it may be cached in the browser already and does not need to be downloaded again.

I’ve been using this more lately (getting more familiar with it), especially while doing the forms in the Profiles page, which is still unfinished. Today, I’ve also decided to use another library for embedding the Flash files. Same disadvantage and benefits as above.

I’ve just updated the pages to use this Flash script library as well (which I’ve read will be the official supported one from Adobe later on anyway). There was a minor alignment issue, but it has been fixed already.

The other side benefit is I am now able to detect the Flash version more reliably. I just have to settle on the best way to present this to the players later on (for those who do not meet the minimum Flash version requirement).

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