Boston MoMo Does It Up!

The Boston Fairmont CopleyAs a developer, I spend a lot of time scouring the net for resources on whatever I’m working on at the time. It’s really cool of course the community of developers and business folks that I come across, in a virtual sense. So I was excited when I learned about Mobile Monday Boston (MoMo), a mobile tech industry networking event where I can actually meet people people. (I need to get out more.)

So there was a MoMo Boston tonight at the Boston Fairmont – not too shabby! After first taking a stroll along Newbury Street on what was a gorgeous spring day, my disappointment of having to go back indoors turned into an “oh yeaah” moment when I realized the event had an open bar! During the mixer, I was amazed at the number of people I’ve come across from past jobs. I guess it’s a small world, but then again I’ve been in the Boston tech community for 15 years now. It was actually amusing to observe that people were either drinking, talking or twittering (though not necessarily in that order).

Things kicked off with a pep speech by Governor Deval Patrick. It was great to see Patrick acknowledge this community, but I’m certain he recognizes the potential tax revenue the mobile industry can bring to the Bay State. There were more than a handful of companies that gave presentations, two of which caught my attention. The first is eInk, who is responsible for the paper like display panels for Amazon’s Kindle. Started out of MIT, the technology utilizes electronic ink and paper like substances that mimic the visual characteristics of ink on paper. They even have flexible displays. eInk sees a future where half the world’s newsprint can be published through this medium. When you consider how much pulp is required for making newspapers, that seems pretty environmentally compelling. What I’m really waiting for now are flexible display t-shirts to impress my hipster friends.

I had known Viximo for doing virtual goods, like what you would find on Facebook. Who hasn’t gotten a virtual beer at one point? So when they gave a demo for VixML, it definitely raised some eye brows. VixML is their markup for developing graphical content for iPhone apps. It seems that they have a SDK that supports the rendering of 2D/3D sprites and a motion physics engine for animation. They are targetting graphic designers who are tired of having to deal with snotty programmers to make things happen. In all seriousness, I’m going to have to look into this. Well really the clincher was they had the coolest swag I’ve come across in a while: GelaSkins for the iPhone.

The Andrew Swaine Portfolio iPhone App

For years I have known fashion photographer Andrew Swaine. He had done photo shoots for recording artists I’ve worked with, namely Iyeoka Okoawo and Omega Red. When I was trying to determine a “first” iPhone application to submit to the Apple iTunes store, I wanted to rapidly develop an application that would allow me to explore the inner workings of the iPhone SDK. As I’m focused on creating marketing type iPhone apps, it seemed logical to go with Andy as he had high quality content on hand.

Andrew Swaine iPhone App Gallery Table

Although this application appears to be relatively simple, there are a lot of implementation details that were definitely non-trivial. As an iPhone developer, you have to be mindful of limited system resources on the device. As Andy had over a 150 photos to display, I had to create a memory buffering scheme to load photos, otherwise the app’s memory could be maxed out and then the application could crash, which of course is something that should be avoided.

As a C++ developer, learning Objective C was a relatively straight forward although admittedly there were some new ways of doing things I needed to get used too. It turns out that a lot the great hurdles new iPhone developers have to deal with relate to the iPhone App Store itself. There’s an obtuse sequence of steps required to provision and securely digitally sign your application in which if you mess up any part of the process, you’re up the proverbial creek! It’s amazing the number times I’ve come across the word “voo-doo” to describe this process when I was researching this on the web.

Also frustrating is the approval process for application submission to iTunes in which there are no formal guideline requirements. Unfortunately as of this post, the application above is not available on iTunes yet and I submitted the app 12 days ago! The only feedback I’ve gotten back thus far was that things were “requiring unexpected additional time for review”. Fingers crossed that it will be approved the first time through, because I would hate the prospect of having to go through another round of this. In the mean time, I do have the video reel above. It’s a screen motion capture of the application running though an iPhone simulator provided by the iPhone SDK. I promise, there were no pixels photoshopped in this process!

Borders Magic Shelf and Alltel Phone Selector

This video reel demonstrates Adobe Flex application projects I was invovled with when I was at Allurent. This reel features applications for Borders Books and Alltel Wireless. What you see here is a result of hard work by teams of people that include product/project managers, graphic designers, software developers and QA engineers.

Borders Magic Shelf Flex AppBorders Books wanted a home page application that would feature timely merchandised product items such as books and DVDs arranged in categories. So exactly what was I responsible for? For Borders, I was the principal graphic user interface developer. Anything that you can see and interact with is a result of programmatic action, in this case developing in ActionScript3 within the Adobe Flex framework.

The application development begins it’s life as a visual design mocked up by a graphic designer. She also described the “vibe” of how the application should behave from the drag motion inertia of the books to the transition effects when various visual elements appear or disappear. These behaviors need to be programmed. Then there’s the motion implementation of shelves and the items within them. For this I must acknowledge the guidance of my Flex mentor Joe Berkovitz!

Alltel Wireless Selector Flex AppThe Alltel Phone Selector is similar to Borders in which merchandised products are featured, but in the form of a motion carousel in which motion of the items appear to be traveling in a circular path. For this project, I was part of a larger team of developers that handled user interface development. I did have a specific role as the “skinner” where I was responsible for ensuring that the application was “pixel perfect” to the graphic designer’s specifications.

The cobbler’s children have no shoes

It is with this post that I would like to officially welcome you to Phanai Media Group and our brand spanking new website! It’s taken a little longer than I would have liked (thus the title to the post) but nevertheless I’ve finally put a stake in the ground! As you have probably noticed I’m using WordPress, which will be really fantastic for self organizing all the left brain / right brain activity going on here. As time goes by, so will the content on this site.

Phanai Media Group has evolved from a record label to a multimedia interactive agency. At first, this might seem a bit incongruous. The reality is that I have a passion for creating music and software. Why should I sacrifice one for another? You can find that there are parallels between these two worlds: creating something fresh, understanding what’s needed, problem solving, attention to aesthetics, making crazy deadlines and ensuring happy clients.

People often ask me exactly what a music producer does (and it’s not DJing, but I’ll leave that for another post!) Quite simply a producer takes an abstract concept (a song) and goes through a process to create a final recorded product that meets stylistic parameters, target specific demographics, delivered on time on budget and with a ribbon on top. Now certainly there are sundry details about being a producer I’ve left out (yet fodder for another post) but as you can see everything described earlier really is the essence of client services in the software world.

Well that’s all I have for now. Welcome again and hope you check in from time to time, or better yet subscribe to our RSS feed!