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Bill Gates touched my MacBook Pro


[ writing ]

For a good part of my tech career, writing has gone hand in hand with coding. Early on, I was writing tutorials and have had very active blog for many years. I even wrote several magazine articles. But writing books was a big part of what I did too. I found myself looking at some of my old books recently and wanted to do a recap. Most of these are based on Flash and versions of ActionScript. This might explain why my output has slowed in recent years.

The following list is complete (I think), but very definitely NOT in chronological order. More in stream of consciousness order.

Flash Math Creativity

Flash Math Creativity

This is the one that started it all. 2001. I had written a few Flash tutorials that had gotten a lot of attention. I was contacted by Friends of ED, a prolific publisher of Flash and web related books. They asked me if I wanted to write a chapter for this book they were starting to work on. Each chapter would be some creative, math-based idea, with lots of imagery, included code, and a write up of the inspiration and mechanics behind the piece. I said yes of course. And that started everything.

Flash Math Creativity, Second Edition

Flash Math Creativity, Second Edition

This is not the next book I worked on, but I’ll put it next because it’s a follow up to the original. It’s actually basically the same book. The original was written for ActionScript, later to be called “ActionScript 1.0”. The second edition was rewritten for ActionScript 2.0. I did the entire rewrite. I converted all the code to AS2 and then went through all the text and updated the technical descriptions to reflect those changes. It was a bit strange rewriting the chapters that these other great authors (many of whom I looked up to and admired) had written. I limited myself to just changing the technical descriptions only and touching as little of the rest of the chapters as I could.

The Most Wanted Series

Flash MX Most Wanted Effects and Movies Flash MX 2004 Games Most Wanted

Flash MX Most Wanted Effects and Movies and Flash MX 2004 Games Most Wanted were part of a series of books Friends of ED put out where they got a bunch of authors to write a chapter or more on related subjects. To be honest, I’m not sure where the “most wanted” part came in. It was a long time ago, but as I recall they just asked me to submit some ideas, which I did, and wound up writing those chapters. I think I did two or three chapters each for these two books. I don’t remember what the other ones in the series were, but I’m quite sure there were more.

Other Chapter Books

Byte Sized Flash Flash MX Studio Fresh Flash

Friends of ED loved the whole chapter book idea. And I guess it worked for them. These were a few other books I did anywhere from one to three chapters for.

Bite-Size Flash MX, Adventures in Design Optimization was early “size coding” I guess you’d say. I used have PHPBB forum on my site and each month I’d sponsor a “25 lines” contest. The idea was to write the coolest possible Flash piece in 25 lines or less of ActionScript. It was freaking amazing what people did. Of course eventually it got out of hand and people were really bending the concept of what 25 lines was and it got caught up in rules and became less fun. Anyway, this was along those lines. 4k or less.

Flash MX Studio was I guess some kind of professionally targeted book on how to do cool stuff in Flash. I don’t remember much more about it at this point.

Fresh Flash, New Design Ideas with Flash MX was um… who knows? New design ideas with Flash MX I guess. I wrote some chapters for it apparently. I couldn’t tell you what they were about.

Extending Flash MX 2004

Extending Flash MX 2004

Flash MX 2004 was an IDE that included an extensibility layer. You could write various extensions for it - plugins, basically. It was all in a language called JSFL - JavaScript Flash. You could create your own UIs within the IDE, create new drawing tools that let the user draw custom shapes, script actions that automated the whole IDE, etc. It didn’t get used all that much, which was sad because you could do some pretty amazing things with it. I created an extension that let you play Asteroids right in the IDE. And another one that gave you a drawing tool for creating 3D objects. Another Flash developer I knew at the time, Todd Yard, was one of the few other people who was into this stuff as well. So we pitched this book and wrote it. It was very cool, but hardly anybody ever used JSFL ever. And I think they removed the whole layer from the next version, Flash 8.

New Masters of Flash, Volume 3

New Masters of Flash, Volume 3

Being invited to write a chapter for New Masters was, for me, at that time, the best thing that had ever happened to me. It was like winning gold at the Olympics. I had the previous two versions of this book and had poured over them for years. The people in those books were my heros, my role models, eventually many became good friends too. So when I got into volume 3 it was huge. I wrote a chapter on particle systems, which was an obsession I had at that time. And lots of background on myself and my journey as a creative coder. I re-read it recently, prepared to cringe. But it was actually not bad. I enjoyed it.

Making Things Move! The Quadrilogy

ActionScript Animation, Making Things Move

For some years I’d been writing tutorials, writing books, doing daily experiments, seeking out cool new techniques for coding all kinds of visual, interactive, physics- and math-based Flash stuff. I wanted to put this all in a single book. I knew it would be a great book. I pitched it to Friends of ED (by then shut down and reincarnated by Apress). They were not interested. I pitched it to a couple of other publishers. No deal. I pitched it a couple more times to Friends of ED and finally I got a YES!

This was the first book I wrote cover-to-cover by myself. It took months. It was an amazing process. It was the culmination of years of daily obsession with Flash, vomited into a single volume. It’s the professional accomplishment I am the most proud of.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

AS Animation Intro

Though Flash is now very officially dead, I still keep a copy of this book on my shelf and regularly find myself looking up techniques I wrote about nearly 20 years ago. Others have told me the same. The techniques and formulas are timeless.

The book went over quite well. For a while it was the best selling book on the ActionScript language. It sold a lot of copies. The title “Making Things Move!” was my initial idea. The publisher wanted to put the book in its “Foundation” series, so the title became “Foundation ActionScript Animation”, with “Making Things Move!” a subtitle. But it’s always been “Making Things Move!” to me.

Funny story, one of the initial cover images they came up for the book was a group of zombies. Get it? Making things move? Luckily, they iterated a bit on that one and came up with something quite nice.

Like Flash Math Creativity, it was written for an earlier version of ActionScript, so eventually I had to write an AS3 version.

AS3 Animation

By then I’d learned and thought of some more stuff I wish I’d put in the book. I kept a list of subjects and when it became long enough, I wrote a sequel, AdvancED ActionScript Animation.

Advanced AS3 Animation

This was just more cool techniques. It fit in well with the original.

Some time later, when Flash was breathing its last breaths, I was asked to convert Making Things Move to JavaScript. I said no. I regret saying no, but it is what it is. They got another author, Billy Lamberta, to do the conversion. I endorsed it, got my name on the cover, and even got royalties for it. But I should have written it. Oh well. Billy did a great job.

HTML5 Animation

ActionScript 3.0 Cookbook

ActionScript 3.0 Cookbook

This was the first book I worked on that wasn’t for Friends of ED / Apress. I wrote it with a couple of friends, Joey Lott and Darren Schall. We each wrote roughly a third of it, as I recall. Maybe Joey wrote more. It was cool I guess. I’m not a huge fan of the cookbook format. It was less fun to write than a less structured project.

iPhone User Interface Design Projects

iPhone User Interface Design Projects

This was also for Apress, but not part of the Friends of ED line. I was doing iPhone development for a while and got asked to write a chapter (maybe more than one?) for this book. I don’t remember what I wrote about. I also spoke at some iOS conference around that time (not WWDC or anything, just a smaller conference put on by some people I knew). I thought iOS dev was going to be my next big thing. I had a number one game on the early App Store - Falling Balls. But I got fed up with how Apple controlled everything and was already becoming developer hostile. I got an Android phone, moved to Linux for a while and that was that.

Playing With Chaos

Playing With Chaos

This was the last actual book I wrote, more than ten years ago. And it was the first book I self-published. I’d done a talk by the same name in Cologne, Germany at the Beyond Tellerand conference, hosted by my good friend, Marc Thiele. It was all about coding Mandelbrot and Julia sets, strange attractors, IFS fractals, cellular automata, etc. It was very well received and I thought it would make a good book. I sat down and wrote it and published it on Amazon Kindle. I also published it on Gumroad. It still sells copies and people say pretty good things about it. So that’s nice.

Coding Curves

This is not really a book, but it might be some day. I had this as an idea as a follow up to Playing With Chaos and it was going to be called Playing With Curves. I started writing this book every year or two. And I would generally start from scratch each time and get a chapter or two before giving up.

In 2022, I decided to do it as a series of online chapters. Here it is: Coding Curves. It wound up 14 chapters long, written and published one by one, from November 2022 to February 2023. I’m glad I finally got this done and doing it as a series of blog posts was a good technique. If I hadn’t done it that way, it would probably still be something I planned to do someday.

As I said, I might eventually gather all the chapters together and publish it as a single book. Maybe even for free at this point. Another project on the pile.

Coding Colors

This is a future project. It will be along the same lines as Coding Curves. I have a table of contents, but there’s a lot to figure out on how to do this one, to make it language/platform agnostic, since different languages and graphics APIs represent color very differently. I’ll get there someday.

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