My friend John recently asked me about a visual element for his web site here. It was supposed to look like a scroller sort of thingy that should show stuff. Brilliant, eh? I couldn’t readily come up with a suggestion that would satisfy all those requirements, so I looked into creating something for him. Of course, being the cheap bastard that I am, I wanted to use Flash for this (oh sure, there’s Silverlight, but it always appears to be out of date on my own machine, and I’m afraid its market penetration doesn’t seem to really cut it right now for simple boring animated stuff on web sites…) but not pay for any tools.
I tried a bunch of different things with varying success. As is often the case with free and open source software (not the big projects of course, but the small stuff), some programs are really only made to be used by the guy who wrote them in the first place, since they lack any useful form of documentation.
Anyway, the thing I found to be working pretty well is a library called Ming. I’m sure that from a Flash guru’s perspective it is rather restrictive, but at least it works. The docs aren’t generally fantastic, but there are language bindings for PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby and I think a few others, and some of these have their own documentation. So if you’re able to read code samples in any or all of these languages, you can find quite a lot of information and piece things together. I decided to use Ruby, just for the fun of it, and did this brilliant scroller that you can now see in action on John’s page. Try it yourself, it’s fun!