This nice thing was made by Hoss Gifford, who can be contacted by sending an email to hoss atSymbol


Back in 2000 I created a Flash drawing app for called Katakana Guestbook, inspired by a project I worked on with Mark McIntosh at Black ID. Despite the lack of a drawing API I managed to stretch a bunch of MovieClips from point to point and allowed the user to save their drawing. Originally the app appended the drawing data to a text file on the server, but as its popularity grew, the file kept corrupting - I think as a result of two people trying to save simultaneously. Graham Cruickshanks stepped in with his ASP cleverness and hooked the saved data up to an Access database which solved the reliability issues.

Katakana Guestbook was a seminal piece of work for me. The key aspect wasn’t so much that you could draw and save, although these were relatively accomplished technical feats for the day, but instead it was the fact that when viewing a saved drawing it was played back stroke by stroke. I’m an appalling illustrator, so when people from all over the world started creating the most beautiful drawings with the tool I had created, I was transfixed by the power of the medium and it’s ability to not only show me their art, but to tell me the story of how they created it. This shared narrative has been a key theme in my work ever since.

I never did get my head around Access or ASP for that matter, so when I moved to a LAMP server I lost all the saved drawings. I truly regret this, but it taught me the lesson of caring for such potentially ephemeral art.

In 2006 I attended a presentation by Erik Natzke where he talked through his process for the ribbons project he’d done. I loved the fluidity of the curves and immediately saw how this approach could be used to remake Katakana Guestbook. It became a back-burner project that I’d occasionally dip into, but when I was invited to take part in the filming of Colin Moock’s Lost ActionScript Weekend for O’Reilly I decided to really focus on the drawing engine so that I could take it along as a live project to feature in the film.

Work on the project slowed after the filming until I started doing commercial work for clients in Abu Dhabi. The flight from Glasgow takes about eight hours, so I used my MacBook Air’s full charge to get about 3 hours of coding into each flight. The lovely ladies on the Emirates flights keep those little bottles of Sauvignon Blanc flowing, so towards the end of each 3 hour airborne coding session I’d be pretty inebriated, and much tidying up would be needed the next time I looked at the code, but 3 steps forward then 2 step backwards still keeps you moving in the right direction. ;)

The next big step forward was my adoption of the CMS ExpressionEngine. Initially this hasn’t really saved much time. I use it to handle user registration and posting of drawings, both of which would have been as quick for me to hand code, but it will hopefully expedite the addition of future features, such as user generated tags and scoring of drawings. I’ll update this page with how I get on.

As my flights to Abu Dhabi diminished, so did the progress on Blender Ten, and working at home on weekends and evenings meant wrestling with a meaty, but noisy Windows computer. Next came the biggest productivity boost of all — I ditched my Windows puter for a 4 year old Mac G5, complete with PowerPC processor and not very much memory. Windows had become so cumbersome I was prepared to work on this dinosaur instead. What I hadn’t banked on was the lack of memory and processing power limiting the software I could run. Gone was After Effects and Maya, my two biggest distractions from programming. I could only just have iTunes, Firefox, and Eclipse FDT running at the same time, forcing me to focus on the job at hand. Less really is more.

If you’re wondering where the name Blender Ten came from, I’d had the domain name registered for many years but hadn’t used it in anger so decided it would work just fine for my new project. I accept that’s not a very exciting justification but in time I’m sure I’ll post-rationalise something far more interesting.

Thank you.


It’s not exactly a powerful set up, and the monitor’s got a bloody scratch right at the point I always find myself looking, but at least it’s not Windows.

Mac G5.
1.8GHz PowerPC with 1.25 GB RAM.
HP 2335.
23 inch monitor with a bloody big scratch right where I always want to read code.
MacBook Air.
The first generation one that overheats when used while plugged in causing a system process to use most of the processor making it unusable.


FDT Enterprise
Carlo calls it Pure Coding Comfort. I call it the fastest tool for building AS3 apps. I tried Flash Builder for a while, but came back to FDT because I missed all the crutches it gives me. Put simply, I write bug-free code faster with FDT.
Aptana Studio isn’t reliable enough on this old G5 so I use TextMate for all my HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript. Invest some time in learning the keyboard shortcuts and you’ll never look back.
Subversion & Versions
The purists scold me for not using the command line but Versions gives me a visual interface to exactly the same functionality, and it makes life easier than Subclipse does when, like me, you want to include your binary graphic files in your version control regime.
Forget your dock, or digging in the Finder for your Applications folder, install Quicksilver and you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.
Path Finder
Maybe it’s all the years I spent using Windows, but I find the Finder in OS X forces minimalism on me to the point where the lack of functionality makes me feel like it’s an OS for dummies. Path Finder regularly brings a smile to my face. How about that — an OS enhancer that actually delivers joy.
If you’re a designer, or a developer implementing a designer’s work, and you don’t have xScope installed you should be ashamed of yourself. Get it. Now.