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My Plans for August

Sadly, my plans for August don't include Drupalcon Szeged. Already too much travel this summer, and the dates conflict with a training my partner is doing, so that would be hard on our 4yo.

Back in June, I made a list of personal project plans, so I figure I'll revise that list for the rest of the summer.

First, the status report on the projects from June:

  • I finished writing Drupal Multimedia! And we're about half way through the editing process. The book is scheduled to be published in September, and can be pre-ordered now.
  • The Embedded Media Field port to Drupal 6 is still in process. It's ready for testing on new installations now, but I still need to write an upgrade path from Drupal 5.
  • Morbus Iff and I have made strides with the engine for 5 Second Game. The module allows character creation and the combat engine is nearly ready for play.
  • Except for some experimentation with audio metadata, I ended up not really working on GetID3. I'll probably end up waiting till the fall to work on this, unless I get new inspiration.
  • I haven't written any tutorials yet, but hope to do that regularly once the book has been published and I have more free time available.

New projects of mine in progress and on the horizon:

That's all for now.

Media Player with Dynamic Logo!

Made some progress last night with the Drupal Media Player that I blogged about recently. Dynamic logos!

'/sites/aaronwinborn.com/files/my-logo.png')); ?>

This was created with an hour of tweaking the OpenLaszlo XML, and then pasting the following into this node: print theme('media_player_player', 'http://spindowners.com/files.dm/videos/20051210-w50s.flv', array('logo' => '/sites/aaronwinborn.com/files/my-logo.png');

Couldn't be simpler! I see a dev release as soon as we have an icon for the play button!

Of course, playlists and the like will take more. We've talked about including several players, including a light-weight and one with all the bells & whistles, and have the module call the proper one according to passed parameters.

Home-Brewed Drupal Media Player in the Works!

Here's a sneak peek of the new flash Drupal Media Player, developed by yours truly with OpenLaszlo!

Obviously, it's still rough on the edges, and all the options in the theme function aren't hooked up yet. Although it works already (after a fashion), don't use it yet unless you're willing to suffer the consequences.

When it's done, this module will come with its own player, fully GPL'd, and will support others out of the box as well, such as JW Flash Media Player and Wimpy. But who's going to want those anymore?

The module adds theme functions and a simple API that should be easily usable by other media modules, such as Embedded Media Player, jQuery Media and whoever else wants to jump on board. The other modules won't need to worry about where a particular player lives or how to invoke it; the theme functions provided will be robust enough to handle player colors, sizes, icons (including placement, layout, and other customization options), splash screens, playlists and more. Administrators will be able to override any of the defaults, including player of choice. Additionally, it'll be easy enough to invoke manually as well:

print theme('media_player_player', $filepath);

And best of all, since it's in OpenLaszlo and GPL, with the source included in the module, it's easy for developers to modify even the player, without even needing a Flash IDE. (The whole thing is created with an XML.)

Kudos to EclipseGc for nudges and encouragement to get this project going!

Next on the list: volume controls, playlists, override color/logo/splash options, settings pages, pull in the other players, youtube/blip.tv/other provider support, tie into other media modules

(Cross-posted at gdo.)

Erik Gecas's Art Show

So my brother in law (Erik Gecas) has an art exhibit, Painting Physical Presence, that's just opened in Las Vegas! Particularly exciting for me (though admittedly only slightly relevant to the world of Drupal) is that I created his web gallery a few months ago, with Drupal of course. The show is in tandem with Ayako Ono.

The web gallery is largely created with Views Slideshow (for which I still owe a port to d6). In fact, it was largely for this site, which makes a small appearance in Drupal Multimedia, that I beefed up development for that module (and the Magnifier module, that is also used on the site, though not in the book).

SimpleTests for hook_file in Media Code Sprint (Status Report Two)

The Media Code Sprint has been a great success thus far! We have built a fairly comprehensive test suite for hook_file. It still needs to be rounded out, so that, for instance, all the cases for file saving are covered. However, validation is fleshed out, and the framework is pretty much usable and ready for testing gurus to go in and run it through its courses.

Jonathan Hedstrom (jhedstrom) of OpenSourcery joined us this morning, and created the FileDirectoryTest class, finding and fixing some flaws in the current file api in the process. His help was invaluable. And we all quashed other minor bugs and problems in the documentation, so it's been a most successful sprint thus far.

Tomorrow should prove to be productive as well. It's my last day in Portland before heading back east to Pennsylvania, so I plan to make it a great one. Thanks to Advomatic for sending me out to the media code sprint! It's great to work with a company that recognizes the value of Open Source, and reinvests in the community.

Drewish and I will be taking a break in the early afternoon to present a remote session for DrupalCamp Colorado on Drupal Multimedia, where we plan to talk about the state of the art and our recommendations for Drupal 6, as well as a brief overview of the successes of the Media Code Sprint, and what that means for the future of Drupal. See you there!

Media Code Sprint: Status Report One

As announced, we've begun the Media Code Sprint to put better media handling into Drupal core!

It's been a great time so far. In the morning, drewish compiled a file function guessing game (free beer!), and andreiashu took the bait and completed the first round with great feedback about how unusable the current state is.

Next, we've sat down and begun writing SimpleTests for the hook_file patch. This has been great fun for me personally; though drewish is an old hand at building tests, this is completely new for me. And to top it off, webchick, Queen of Drupal testing, dropped by our table and got involved!

Even the process of writing tests has been helpful; we found at least one case for validation that had been missed in the original patch, and drewish decided that file_scan_directory needed refactoring. (He's currently chasing other problems as well, and cursing about finding himself going down rabbit holes.)

There's more fun to be had for all! If you want a quick 15 minute task that everyone is qualified to do, go play the File API Function Guessing Game. If you want to do more, then ping me (aaronwinborn), drewish, or dopry at #drupal in IRC, or leave a comment here!

Media Code Sprint (Top 3 Goals)

Andrew Morton (drewish), Darrel O'Pry (dopry, remotely), and I are heading up a Media Code Sprint in Portland this week! Come help, in person or remotely, if you're interested in multimedia and Drupal! It has now officially started, and as I've volunteered to help keep folks updated, here goes...

First the reasons.

Number One: Better Media Handling in Core

Dries conducted a survey prior to his State of Drupal presentation at Boston Drupalcon 2008, and number one on the top ten (or 11) list of what would make THE KILLER DRUPAL 7 Release was "Better media handling".

Let me repeat that. Better media handling.

People have done really amazing stuff in contrib, but it is difficult (if not impossible in many cases) for developers to coordinate the use of files, as there is no good means for file handling in the core of Drupal. Thus, we have several dozen (or more) media modules doing some small part, or even duplicating functionality, sometimes out of necessity.

We need (better) media and file handling in Drupal core. In particular, there has been a patch for a hook_file in the queue for over a year, which has been in the Patch Spotlight (for the second time, no less) since May! (And has been RTBC several times during that process...) Come on folks.

One of the powers of Drupal is its system of hooks. We have hooks to modify nodes, to notify changes to user objects, to alter nearly any data (such as forms and menus). Noticeably absent is a consistent handling for files or any sort of notification. We need hook_file.

So goal Number One: get media handling in core. The means? Add hook_file and make files into a 1st class Drupal object. We'll be creating a test suite for functionality in the hook_file patch to validate it and "grease the wheels" to get it committed.

The other goals of this sprint pale in comparison to the first in utility, but are still highly desirable and worthwhile.

Number Two: Refactor File Functionality in Core

As an extension to the first goal, there is a lot of inconsistency with how Drupal currently handles files. For instance, in some areas a function may return an object, and in others a string. Additionally, some functions are misnamed, or try to do too much to be useful as a file API.

Some specific examples: for what it does, file_check_directory may be better suited as something like file_check_writable, or maybe even split into that and file_check_make_writable. Also, for instance, file_scan_directory needs to return file objects, rather than the current associative array (keyed on the provided key) of objects with "path", "basename", and "name" members corresponding to the matching files. (The function does what it needs to, but the returned objects have keys not corresponding to anything else used in core.)

So goal Number Two: refactor file functionality in core. The means? Go through and check for (and fix!) existing file functionality for documentation and consistency.

Number Three: Spruce up Existing Contributed Media Modules

There are several much needed multimedia modules that have not yet been upgraded to Drupal 6 (or which are still in heavy progress). This includes (but is not limited to) Image Field, Image API, and Embedded Media Field. Additionally, some major improvements can be made, both to these, and to other essentials, such as the Image module, such as creating a migration path from Image to Image Field (once that module is stable).

So goal Number Three: spruce up existing contributed media modules. The means? Get these modules upgraded!

I want to recognize the valiant and heroic efforts made by everyone to date, as fortunately, there has already been significant progress on all these fronts. That makes our job (relatively) easy. In some respects, we just need to finish up the jobs that have already been started.

Thus, drewish declared this week the Media Code Sprint!

We need your help. If you are a developer, or want to be a developer, jump on in! If you aren't ready to develop, or consider yourself too new for that, you can still help test patches and functionality. Jump on in! And please, even if you don't know how to apply a patch, you can still help with documentation and other small (but important) tasks. Jump on in!

If you're in Portland, You Have No Excuse®. If not, you can jump into #drupal in IRC any time you're available.

The official dates for the sprint are today (Wednesday July 23, 2008) through Saturday (the 26th). We'll be online and working most of that time. I'll make sure we continue to post progress as the week develops.

Of course, as is the wonderful nature of Drupal, this is an ongoing process. Even if we achieve our stated goals, there will always be more.

Thanks,
Aaron Winborn

JavaScript Theming, a Paradigm Shift

Oleg Terenchuk (litwol) is now developing the JavaScript Theming module. The five second elevator spiel: this will move theming from the server to the client.

The longer explanation is a bit more exciting. This module plans to abstract the core of Drupal theming into a javascript layer. This will allow a JSON feed to pass raw data to a browser to be formatted on the fly for display.

The implications are astounding, and I'm still wrapping my brain around the possibilities. For one, it could mean super fast in place load times, because Drupal doesn't have to mess around with passing everything around the theming system. An AJAX request could just ask for the data, Drupal sends it, and jQuery will format your list, table, teaser, or what have you. In its second day of life, it already works with messages (and item lists, I believe).

A potential problem I see might be that slower computers would see slower rendering times. But this is already happening with some jQuery-heavy sites anyway. The benefit would be most seen with faster hardware, but this is always true with cutting-edge technology. Everyone else will catch up soon enough.

In any case, I have a feeling that by this time next year, I'll be blogging about the killer combo that changed the world of Drupal and is sending ripples through the Internet: Embed Widgets + JavaScript Theming...

PS Come to DrupalCampNYC next month to find out more!

Built a New Widget!

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Neil Drumm and I just launched a new widget with Advomatic, over at MapLight.

This widget is fully customizable, and returns a dynamic image with data created on the fly. I did the image part of things.

I'll do a write up someday soon. I promise! Busy with book editing and work this week...

Edit: I forgot to link to the production version earlier. Sorry... Should be working now...

Magic Local Video Recipe!

If you haven't already, make sure to check out Sean Effel's latest Filefield + jQuery Media screencast! As was his earlier Feed API + Emfield video tutorial, this is a joy to watch: he does things in thirteen minutes that took developers hours or more to do even a few short months ago, and that's with a running commentary! By the end of the video, you will have learned a simple way to upload a video (using the light-weight File Field module) and have it properly displayed without any messy configurations or external libraries. Plus, as the recipe uses the jQuery Media plug-in wrapper module, the display will be cross-browser compliant and accessible.

Next on my plate for jQuery Media is to have it be easily added to nodes on an individual basis, so that a media clip could be linked inline and automatically turned into an embedded display. Additionally, I would like to make it an option for Views as well, perhaps as an additional setting. (Although even without that, my upcoming book Drupal Multimedia, to be published in September, goes into some detail about how this can already be done, to create powerful video and audio playlists.)

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The Society for Venturism has chosen me as the recipient of its charity for this year, to hopefully offer me cryonic preservation when the time comes. And this month, Longecity, an excellent forum for the discussion of issues related to extending the lifespan of humans, has offered up a matching grant of up to a thousand dollars to help out! So help out! Please.