Photoshop Express – Photoshop for the iPhone/iPad!

Yes, Adobe has made a version of Photoshop for iPhones and iPads, and the best part? IT’S FREE! Here is a link to a video that demos this new app: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hui0p_qI-Q

This is a great application for photographers looking to edit their photos on the go or for casual user who would like to edit or enhance their photos. Not only does it allow simple editing and enhancement all by touch, but also gives you the option to upload directly to Facebook and Picasa or share to friends via email.

Photoshop Express, I’m sure, will have photographers and graphic designers very excited, but another reason this app is so significant is that it is a precursor to having full desktop applications that have gone completely  mobile. This very well could be the beginning of the end for desktop computing in general.

Quick Tip from Jerome – Dropbox

If you have a Flash or InDesign project that you are putting time into both at work and at home or just have files that you access and edit frequently from multiple machines, then Dropbox is a tool that you should look into. Dropbox is available for essentially all platforms, mobile, Mac, Windows, and even Linux. Once you have installed Dropbox and logged into your account, it creates a Dropbox folder in your home directory. Anything you put in that folder from then on is synchronized over the internet to any other devices on which you have Dropbox installed. For mobile devices you merely open the Dropbox app and you then have access to these files as well. Bear in mind that Dropbox is completely free for up to 2GB of storage, not a bad deal at all!

Now if you are feeling saucy and really want to take full advantage of this great tool, you can further its usefulness by using symbolic links or “symlinks”. What these symlinks do is to redirect anything you put into a folder into another folder. For example, if I created a symlink between my Documents folder and a folder on my Dropbox, then anything I put into my Documents folder will go right into my Dropbox. Pretty slick. Just know that it will remove the original folder from your system. In the case of our example, my Documents folder would disappear unless I removed the symlink. So be sure to back up. (It wouldn’t be a bad idea to know how to remove this symlink either.) Are any other ActionScript 3.0 developers salivating over this besides me? What this means is that you can have all your 3rd party or home brew libraries and classes stored in the ‘clouds’ and any updates you make on one machine goes to all. Now that’s better living through technology.

Need help with this symlink business? Here’s a link:
Symlink Tutorial

The End is Near, Part II

Time is quickly running out for Ascend Training’s regularly scheduled CS4 classes. Our last CS4 hands-on training will be:

Dreamweaver CS4 Level 1, Chicago, Aug 30 – Sep 1, Deerfield, Oct 11 – 13

Ascend Training is happy to put CS4 classes on our regular schedule for groups of 3 or more people. We will also be happy to provide our CS4 curriculum for our on-site training. Any of our students taking CS4 classes are still eligible for 8 months worth of free retakes in the CS5 version of the class. Those retaking a class in CS5 who have originally taken CS4 classes will also have the option of buying the book used in the new class.

Photography through Astronomy

As I was browsing the internet the other day, I stumbled across an article that may interest those of you who enjoy photography. It details a trick where you can use the rotation of the earth to create neat, long exposure photos. First, you need to know how to go about finding the North Star (Polaris), which is made easy by this picture:

Now with the north star located, you can create background designs with the stars. Over time, all the stars rotate about the North Star so the direction of your camera in terms of the North Star will change the pattern of the star movement in your photo. For example, angling your camera directly at the North Star will produce a circular effect whereas directing your camera to the left will produce arcs going from top to bottom in your photo. Chicago, obviously, wouldn’t be the best place to experiment with this, but the suburbs, and certainly while camping, would be great opportunities to experiment with this. Then once you get some photos you like, fine tune them or toy with them in Photoshop until they are to your liking. Get more details or see examples here.

The battle behind the screens – Flash vs. Silverlight

It’s definitely a war–it’s just that it’s a Cold War.

Since Microsoft released Silverlight, (and by the way, watch what happens when you surf over there) their answer to Adobe Flash, in 2007, there’s been a (sort of) silent war going on behind the two software giants about who gets to play your movies.

When you go to a site like Youtube or Hulu to watch videos (and who among us does not, these days?), isn’t it awesome how fast it is? How clear? How the videos you watch don’t take up space on your hard disk or really even slow down what you’re doing in the background? That’s because when you go to those sites (and soon others like Vimeo and possibly Dailymotion), your browser loads a plugin to let you read the Flash Video that someone has posted and that the website has slightly reconfigured–and plays it right from the source, like you’re looking through your computer to where the video really is, somewhere else. This means that anyone, anywhere can see it, which is good news for video producers and marketers alike. Just as Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux can all (usually) read the same types of files, now we can all see almost any type of video–the trouble is that not everyone feels like they’re making enough money this way.

Any guesses who? (*coughSilverlightcough*)

Well, you’re mostly right, but it isn’t JUST Microsoft. There are plenty of people out to get Flash, now that it’s the standard for video playback on the web: Sun Microsystems (who makes Java), plenty of open-source proponents, and Apple have either resisted or worked around integrating Flash into their video products (iPhone, anyone?) but more than ever, Adobe is realizing that if they want their product to stay at the top, they’re going to have to get into some heretofore unexplored venues. To that end, the rumors are flying about new tools for developing iPhone apps using Flash, putative Flash support on the theoretical Apple Tablet (if it exists, right?), and more.

Microsoft is responding to this by leveraging their power toward pushing Flash out of certain areas; ever notice that the streaming function of Netflix is run on Silverlight instead of Flash?

So here’s the question: both Flash and Silverlight are proprietary software, and both are the big boys when it comes to video playback on the web–now whom would we prefer as the keeper of our vids? Because someones’s going to win this battle–and either way, it’s going to mean a lot about how we get (and what we can do with) our video.

What do you get for the phone who has everything?

iphone, rumors, questions, next

What to do next with the coolest phone Ever?

So ok–it’s going to be a while until we get Flash for the iPhone, but I think we can all agree that it’s still pretty cool. The question is: now that you can do almost everything on the iPhone, like getting GPS Driving directions, reading e-books with the Kindle App, checking your email, stock quotes, and weather forecasts, and watching movies…what’s next for this niftiest of devices? I know! NEW APPS for it!

When the iPhone came out in 2007, most users were impressed and pleased with the number of cool applications you could get for it; in fact it’s this that makes the iPhone more of a palmtop computer than strictly a phone–you can load new software and get upgrades just like you can with your laptop or desktop. That said, the idea of WRITING software for the iPhone was, and still is for many, a black box. What’s involved in writing an app for the iPhone? Do you have to learn a new language? Does it mean you have to HAVE a Mac computer…or even own an iPhone?

With the meteoric takeoff of Apple’s App Store, it’s become clear even to the comparative luddite that someone is creating all these apps, and with the iPhone gaining (still!) in popularity, it seems likely that more and more people will learn how–but how?

Well, as far as that goes, there are a couple of ways to get going, but the best we can think of is a class on iPhone Application Development – how to use Objective-C, how to upload and test the apps, and how to get the most out of what you create.

Since the much-touted PastryKit is only a theory at this point, and since it’s gotten even easier to market new Apps with all the upgrades to the App Store, we think now is a fantastic time to start learning to program for what is STILL the coolest phone out there…and what can only be made cooler by a new app…by You!

Cloud Computing then and now; a look at how far we’ve come

About a year ago (specifically last February), “Cloud Computing” was a fairly new techno-buzzword. In fact, when Jori blogged about it then, we got a fair few comments asking what it was. At the time, the “cloud” was a nebulous thing true to its name; when something went into the electronic “cloud,” just where was it going and how were you supposed to get it back?

For those who don’t know: the “Cloud” is the general name for the dynamic, functional space on the internet (so on servers all over the world) where data can be stored and accessed by anyone through the web. Think of your Gmail account; your messages live online somewhere, and when you log into Gmail to get them, you go out to the web instead of the messages coming to you. The same functionality can be applied anywhere, and we see it being used more all the time. Apple’s MobileMe (formerly .Mac) essentially rents subscribers a chunk of space on Apple’s servers to post photos, host a website, send and receive email, etc. Practically, the user doesn’t really do anything she or he didn’t already; you still put in a username and password and there’s your stuff, whatever it is–the difference is that all of that stuff used to have to be on a hard drive somewhere, and now it’s in the aether, floating around between computers, easy to access but impossible to locate-and for some, this is troubling.

But not everyone sees it that way; many respected institutions including universities, government agencies, and even corporations are beginning to see Cloud Computing as a way not just to maximize investment but a way to reach more people. In September of this year, the White House announced a multi-billion-dollar initiative aimed at streamlining the transition of much of its data into “cloud-accessible” form. Even NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) uses the Cloud, and in a way that would have been impossible without the architecture built by Google, IBM, Apple and others; Satellite data from multiple government agencies are aggregated together in “constellations”, or mini-clouds, so that anyone behind the firewall can see it all at once.

Speaking of making our jobs easier, I’d love to mention the success we’ve had at Ascend using Adobe’s Acrobat Connect, which in addition to being incredibly cool (think of a Wiki, only everyone can work on it at the same time), is incredibly useful. Ascend uses Acrobat Connect to hold online training sessions on Adobe’s own software–so now, thanks to the “Cloud” in which the class data and all the various users’ information can be temporarily housed, students in London can tune in and take a Photoshop class with students in Phoenix, which is good news, since most companies are going global faster than we can keep up.

Personally, I think the Cloud is awesome; I use MobileMe and Gmail for my email, PhotoBucket to share photos, and YouTube to express myself and get my daily dose of entertainment–but you know what? For the moment, I’m still making back-ups of it all on my external hard drive, and that sits on my desk…so I can keep an eye on it. Know what I mean?

For further reading:

White House unveils cloud computing initiative

Microsoft’s Azure

Photoshop CS4 Solution: Show All Menu Items

While working in the beta of Photoshop CS4, it became apparent that there were many menu items that Adobe deemed not necessary and had hidden. What was a annoyance at first has become a full fledged speed bump since many of those items I use every day. While it is possible to go to Edit > Menu and edit each individual menu item, Chris Koerner has kindly created a one-step workaround to turn on all the hidden menu items. This is a much needed addition to Photoshop CS4, and hats off to Chris! 

Adobe Announces CS4 World Wide Webcast

With the campaign “It’s Going to be Brilliant,” Adobe has announced the release of the newest Creative Suite, CS4. The broadcast can be viewed at the Ascend Training Chicago facility with the Chicago Area Adobe User Group Sept. 23rd at 11am, or viewed online.

The release of CS3 saw major modifications in the original Adobe apps such as Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. While there were improvements in Dreamweaver and Flash, since the purchase of Macromedia occurred in the middle of the development cycle, the biggest change there was just getting these apps into the Creative Suite.

With the release of CS4, we can plan to see not only major leaps in the web apps, but tighter integration between the entire CS4 family. According to a Comscore report, 82% of online video viewings in the US and 73% worldwide use Adobe Flash technology. With the newest release of the Flash 10 Beta, code named Astro, expressive features and visual performance improvements.

Register for the Adobe Webcast at Ascend: http://www.ascendtraining.com/events.php

- Jori Curry