CRANK IT! February 2012
Welcome to the February 2012 issue of CRANK IT! — the newsletter for UI designers and embedded systems engineers. We have cranked out a number of articles for you this month.


Crank Storyboard 2.0 Release

Storyboard Suite is growing up so quickly and it seems like yesterday that Crank Software released Storyboard Suite 1.0. Time is flying by and Crank is very excited about the upcoming Storyboard Suite 2.0 release this coming March. Two of the major announcements about Storyboard 2.0 is its ability to export native Android applications and support for 3D object files.

Storyboard 2.0 brings with it a number of features and updates. Here are a few worth mentioning.

3D Models

Storyboard Suite 2.0 will initially support obj 3D modeling files with other 3D file formats coming in the future. This enables customers to combine 3D and 2D content together in their application to deliver an even greater rich user interface for end devices.

Android Exporting

One of the incredibly easy things to do with Storyboard is to run the same application on multiple operating systems for prototyping or evaluating before physical hardware is available. Storyboard 2.0 continues that ease of use with adding the ability to export your Storyboard application into a native Android .apk package.

Consolidating Images

Creating a UI involves working with many images. You might go through 15 or more iterations of the same image before deciding which is the final image approved for shipping. The issue sometimes is that all those previous images still reside in your project or you might be unknowingly using the same image with a different name in one area of your project and another somewhere else. Storyboard's new Consolidating Feature enables you to do a pixel compare of your images to make sure you only have the one needed image in your application. It will also modify your project to only reference that one image throughout your application. This makes sure you only have the necessary images in your application so that you are not using up space and needed memory on your resource constrained embedded device.

Multicontrol / Table Templates

Storyboard supported templating in the past but only for single controls. With Storyboard 2.0 you can now create templates using multiple controls and tables as well. This new support enables you to create more rich templates to re-use in other Storyboard applications.

Spoiler Alert! Crank Software will have a Template Warehouse available on our website to enable customers to download Templates to help them get to market quicker. Stay tuned as details develop!

New Action Dialogue

Crank is always striving to make Storyboard easier and more intuitive to use. One of those changes in 2.0 is modifications to the Action Dialogue. We have consolidated some of the steps in setting up an event so that more information or options are included on each dialogue eliminating unnecessary clicking of next buttons.

Navigation Chances

Another change in 2.0 to make things a little easier is the Application Model View. Crank has added more information under each control so you can very quickly at a glance see what variables or scripts are associated with them without having to open up the properties, variables or actions views.

Custom Render Extension / Action Definitions

As many of you already know Storyboard is plugin based therefore you only have to run the individual plugins that you require in your final product. This enables customers to have their application as small as possible and only include the individual components they require.

In the event Storyboard does not have functionality the customer needs, they can use our SDK to create their very own Storyboard plugin. They can then define action properties in xml and import them into Storyboard Designer so they can be exposed to the developer.

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Upcoming Events

Embedded World, Nuremberg Germany, February 28th - March 1st 2012


Crank Software Inc. will be exhibiting at this years Embedded World in Nuremberg Germany. We will be demonstrating some of the new features in Storyboard 2.0 like Android and 3D support. You can find us in Hall 4 booth 4-127.


Design West, San Jose California USA, March 26th - 29th 2012


Crank will also have a booth at Design West in San Jose California. Make sure to checkout Jason's presentation on "Collaborative GUI Development" while you are there.

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Dithering 16 Bit Images

Creating images to look impressive on embedded panels is not an easy task. The images might start out looking great on a Graphic Designer's desktop but changes usually need to be made to either fit them on the embedded device or look best on a 16 bit display, regardless, at some point you're probably going to run into banding.

What would have been an awesome looking image all of a sudden looks terrible. The complicated explanation of what banding is .... it's a Limited Colour Palette :) With a 32 bit image you have a huge colour palette available for your image to use to transition from one colour to the next making a smooth gradient. For a 16 bit image the colour palette is limited and therefore your image doesn't have the vast amount of colours to use to make that smooth gradient resulting in banding.

The best way to eliminate banding is by dithering. One way to dither an image is with NOISE. From Adobe Photoshop select your image then from the menu FILTER > NOISE > ADD NOISE

Then, add 1% click OK and you are done.

As you can see from the blown up banding section of the image, there is a very defined line between the colours.

By adding noise to the image you soften the hard edge between the colours eliminating the banding.

There are also two great plugins that have been specifically created for dithering an image.

Telegraphics 5_6_5 filter

Graphest's Depth Dither

Depth Dither is only available for PC but the Telegraphics plugin is available for PC and Mac CS2/3/4.

Adding Noise or using plugins are only a couple of options to use for dithering. There are other approaches to use such as Diffusion, Pattern and Error Diffusion. I wish I could say that there is only one option that solves all banding issues but there is not. Every image is unique and how the image is dithered by adding / mixing / moving pixels around will yield unique results. Some images will appear better than others on a 16-bit display. Good luck dithering!

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Fujitsu Jade Support

MB86R01 'Jade' is a highly-integrated device for embedded automotive graphics applications. Incorporating an ARM926EJ-S CPU core, together with an enhanced version of the successful Coral PA graphic processor and a number of external interfaces, this 90nm technology device is highly optimized for various types of applications which require outstanding CPU performance in combination with sophisticated 2D/3D graphics features in a compact SoC. MB86R01 'Jade'Target applications include on-board and mobile navigation systems, graphical dashboard systems, HUD (head-up display) units, rear seat entertainment systems, Point of Sales terminals and industrial control panels.

Here is Storyboard running on the Jade.


 

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Android Support

Storyboard Suite 2.0 brings with it the ability to export a Storyboard Project as a native Android Application. Here are a couple of easy steps showing you how to do that.

When your Storyboard Project is complete and you are ready to export to Android, right click on the application .gde file and select Export as Native Android Application.


Next you will be presented with the Export Selection dialogue. Here you will be able to change the application name, specify which directory you want the package to be exported to, and how your application will be orientated and scaled. You will also have the option to select how your application with be signed … either by your existing keystore or one created by Storyboard.

Next you will see the Export Manifest dialogue box. Here you can personalize your application by specifying the icons to be used with the Android application. By default Storyboard includes its icons.

There you have it. After clicking Finish the Android package (.apk) will be in the directory you specified earlier on. I used the default setting and that places it in the current project directory.

The next step is to copy that apk file over to your Android phone or tablet and install.

 

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More Stuff

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