The Pied Piper of JavaScript

For a couple of years now, JavaScript has been encroaching into territory traditionally held by Flash. At the BBC’s TVMP department, news of set top boxes making the switch to JavaScript seems to be an almost daily occurrence as manufacturers fall over themselves to jump onto the JavaScript bandwagon for alleged “faster development” and the mythical “build once, deploy everywhere” utopian ideal.

I’ve witnessed the repetition of such claims myself. “We’ll be switching this product to JavaScript in the near future because – obviously – it’s faster” a product owner once said, followed by the nodding heads and murmurs of agreement of other non-developers.

The reality for those of us who have not succumbed to the merry tune of the JavaScript Pied Piper’s flute is that “build once, deploy e...

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Anthony Humphreys vs. Trespass Swift 200 pop-up tent

Over the weekend I was at the Silverstone Classic event with my father and his close friend Anthony Humphreys. The three of us often go to events like this: we’ve attended events in Ireland, the Isle of Man and even France.

For this event, Anthony had purchased a Trespass 200: a new wonder-tent that he proudly proclaimed could erect itself in seconds which would allow him to sit back with a beer while we were still putting ours up. And that’s pretty much what happened. Two days later though when it was time to go home, it was a very different story.

I had watched videos of people struggling with pop-up tents on YouTube some months before and was quietly confident that Anthony was going to experience the same difficulty...

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The Halo Framework (AS2)

Before work on the BBC Events application could begin, a framework was required that would provide the team with a foundation on which to build a robust, memory-efficient app that could be re-skinned for future events.

I completed the majority of the work in an intensive 3 days which allowed the rest of the team to begin work on the app itself. Embellishments were applied over the remainder of the week.

The core framework is designed around the BBC’s One Service UI which is a drive to use a consistent UX across all current and future products.

It allows for efficient use of specialised components which are created and destroyed at runtime based on what the application requires to render each feed...

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The Xenon Embedded Media Player

At the end of November last year the BBC launched the Connected Red Button service on Virgin TiVo, along with updated versions of the iPlayer, News and Sport apps. This package also consisted of a fifth release: an application that is both integral and vital to each of the above apps, yet few are even aware of its existence!

Xenon is a brand new embedded media player that was developed specifically for AS2 embedded devices such as Virgin’s TiVo, to be used by applications like iPlayer, News, Sport and any other such applications that the BBC develops in future.

The development of a new player was actually driven by Connected Red Button...

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Review: SoftPerfect Connection Emulator

Company: SoftPerfect
Product: Connection Emulator
Price: From $149.00

While working on the BBC Sports app for Virgin TiVo, it would be safe to say that I encountered more problems than one would expect to on such a project. Some of them seemed to be bugs in Adobe’s StageCraft (Flash Lite 3.1), others seemed to be inconsistencies in the implementation of the Flash player on the box and still others came from unexpected content delivery network behaviour. As a result there were a number of feature-related tasks that turned out to be more difficult to implement than they perhaps should have been, and as a team we spent a number of days in total investigating causes of unexpected and/or undesirable behaviour in the app that resulted from these issues.

Still, this post isn’t about reflecting on...

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BBC Sport app launches on connected TVs and Virgin TiVo

Just over four months have passed now since I started contracting at the BBC – four months that have flown by like days!

Today the primary purpose of my contract was released into the wild: the BBC Sports F1 application for Virgin TiVo. The public release of this application means that I am finally allowed to talk about it which is a great relief because not being able to talk about such an exciting project was really quite difficult!

The application enables users to watch all the BBC’s interactive coverage for major sporting events such as Formula One, Wimbledon, Euro 2012 and London 2012 with live streams, on-demand video and other additional content.

More information can be found on the BBC’s internet blog.

Finally, if a picture is worth a thousand words then a video must be worth a tho...

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Toshiba Satellite 320CDT

Back in 1998 when I was 16, my father bought me my first Windows computer – a Toshiba Satellite 320CDT laptop from PC World in Chester. It had a 233mhz Pentium MMX CPU, 32MB of RAM and a 4GB HDD with Windows 95 installed.

Although new to Windows, it didn’t take long for me to realise that Windows 95 left a lot to be desired. I upgraded to Windows 98SE at the earliest opportunity and boosted the RAM with an additional 64MB taking it to 96MB in total. For the next few years I used that little laptop extensively and I learned a lot from it.

Tired of BSODs I eventually upgraded again to Windows 2000 which offered a much more stable environment at the notable expense of speed and responsiveness...

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Interview with Ezra Dreisbach of Lobotomy Software

Back in the mid-late ’90s, Sega’s 32-bit Saturn was in the process of losing ground to Sony’s PlayStation, mostly due to a series of stupid decisions from Sega themselves. From hurriedly throwing together a machine that was incredibly difficult to program to asking for £400 for it on release (equivalent to between £600 and £707 today), Sega seemed pretty determined to make the Saturn an unattractive proposition for both developers and consumers alike.

As a result of being both difficult to program and the subject of a much smaller user-base, the Saturn was often the recipient of low quality, rushed games that looked (and sometimes played) terribly compared to PlayStation equivalents...

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iPhone 4G fools Engadget

Yesterday I was reading through my RSS feeds, catching up with the world’s news and this one about the iPhone 4G on Engadget caught my eye.

Engadget had some (slightly blurry) images of what was supposed to be the latest version of Apple’s best-selling iPhone, reportedly found left behind at a bar in a 3G case. The whole article was written in a sceptical tone and an update at the bottom confirmed that the phone was indeed a fake. The update linked to a Twitter page that seemed to be home to several independent sources claiming the phone was a cheap Chinese knock-off.

The tone of the update was pretty bullish because they had apparently been offered time with the phone for $10,000, but had decided not to proceed because they suspected it wasn’t a genuine item...

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Cyclomatic complexity

Cyclomatic complexity is a software metric used to measure the complexity of code. Specifically, it directly measures the number of linearly independent paths through a method. Although not a rule, generally speaking the quality of the code can be inversely proportional to the cyclomatic complexity value, so the lower the score, the higher quality the code.

One of the best programs that I’ve found for quantifying this metric is SourceMonitor. This handy little freeware tool will give you the cyclomatic complexity of your classes as well as the individual methods within those classes so you can see exactly what requires attention in the event of a high score. It also gives other feedback too, such as number of lines of code and the number of methods per class among others.

Why should you ca...

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