Saturday, June 29, 2002

Away from keyboard: I'll be offline next week, having some fun with an accordion, and will be back here Mon July 8. Don't do anything too exciting while I'm gone.... ;-)
Flash-based ATMs: Interesting note and references from Robert Hall about Fujitsu's work in this area.
New thin displays: 240 pixels by 160, half the thickness of a credit card, flexible, expected consumer production in 2004. Currently seems to be one-bit colordepth, with a stable display that only requires power for a change. Things are changing even more quickly....
[via Jenny Levine]
Mapping visitors: Mario Klingemann maps the IP owner's location of recent site visitors, using a PHP script on the backend. (There are also web services available for similar data.) Details of individual visitors can be displayed on demand via mouseover. I think this particular build may use a very high framerate, which claims more processor cycles than SWFs re-rendering at a few frames per second... my typing is slow while it's running, unfortunately. Note how the page loads and displays, and then there's a subsequent data request... more responsive than waiting for the server to retrieve distant data and merge it into the page before transferring and displaying anything! This may also be a more efficient method of displaying forward links to blog items... only retrieve and transfer referring links if the reader actually wishes the data. Cool stuff.
[via Jarle Bergersen]

Friday, June 28, 2002

MX call home? There are two ways I know of where Macromedia MX applications will request a network connection at startup:

  • There's a local network serialization check, where the app will check whether a duplicate serial number is running locally. On some configurations this could be interpreted as a log-on request.
  • Some of the panes in the Answer Panel automatically request freshest data if they're open. (The Answers Panel is a live data pane, and what's in the apps right now is pretty much a rudimentary implemenation of what we think will eventually be a pretty cool resource... more news on this soon.)
CNET on messaging: Businesses are using centralized messaging services, but want to retain control over security. "Many companies have recognized that instant messaging is an important tool for communicating with other employees or clients. But companies, especially in the financial world, aren't so happy about using popular consumer IM services that let their employees chat with the rest of the unruly Internet." This is one of the reasons I think the Flash Communications Server will offer great opportunities for developers....

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Smoking, or non-smoking? Two news articles from Slashdot about wireless connectivity. The first is about merging local wireless with long-distance phone networks for portable connectivity with less regard for supporting superstructure, while the second outlines an easy way to protect an area from unwanted phone conversations. (The first article also contains an incidental mention of home-automation.)
Central New York Cold Fusion User Group: It's a nice site, obviously, with many incoming feeds, but if you click on that WDDX icon on the left you'll come to an outgoing feed page too. If you're doing work in news delivery then this is definitely worth a look!
Live baseball: Check for a game that offers "Live Play to Play" on this scoreboard page (depends on when you look). This brings up a new window which shows a good distinction between SWF and HTML... the right pane holds mostly static text data, while the left pane regularly retrieves and displays live data. This isn't really an application -- you're watching stuff rather than doing stuff -- but I thought it was a good illustration of using both delivery formats together.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

The universal client This InfoWorld article is a little off-course... rich internet applications don't replace browsers rendering markup, but they offer something which markup cannot. Docs aren't apps. Docs aren't dead, there are just new opportunities in apps. It's simple, but sometimes people like a conflict.

"In return for our loyalty...." Tom, it's not an MX-only approach, it's a Swiss approach. It's not like we're only linking to our own articles or something.... ;-)
Pet Store discussion at The ServerSide: Interesting impressions about stateless web applications. Sean Neville from Macromedia It's easy to see the user efficiencies, but there are also developer efficiencies in the background too.
New CourseBuilder Extension: "CourseBuilder" is a free extension for Dreamweaver which adds the ability to create and track quizzes in HTML pages. It's one of the more complex extensions, and needed some rewrites to work with Dreamweaver MX. There's a new build up for download today, but if you author on Win98 or WinME we've still got some more engineering for those platforms. If you're on MacOS or NT and use Dreamweaver MX then go to the Exchange and search on "coursebuilder". If you're on Win98 or WinME then it would be good to continue creating those courses in Dreamweaver 4 until we get the new builds posted, thanks.
DevCon schedule up: This is at the end of October in Florida, and it's jampacked with sessions across the range of skillsets. There's a pre-registration discount through the end of August. There are often ancillary events scheduled around this get-together, so you might want to hold off on scheduling airline tickets until September. General overview of DevCon is here.
[via Mike Chambers]

Monday, June 24, 2002

New Dreamweaver extensions: Paul Davis just sent up a set of four extensions, for things such as random images and links, CSS changing by time of day. It's worthwhile to regularly browse the Macromedia Exchanges to pick the brains of top developers... I know Paul's work, and this latest group of additions particularly caught my eye.
Incidental advantages of personal connectivity: This BBC article outlines an interesting way of sensing slowdowns in automobile traffic: noting changes in the speed of cell phone users switching among base stations. If relays hold onto large numbers of individual callers longer than usual, then this indicates that traffic is moving slowly along associated roadways. This is an indirect measure of traffic speed, but seems more economical to implement than installing large numbers of webcams and employing pattern-recognition software. I believe we'll discover more incidental advantages to noticing how large numbers of autonomous connected humans react to their world....
[via John Rhodes]
XML appropriate for some-but-not-all uses: Geoff Barrall shows how XML is useful for actual text-based manipulation of data, but has transmission and parsing costs for delivery. This distinction is implemented in Macromedia MX by offering client/server communication with either XML or AMF (Action Message Format). The latter is a compact binary format which is directly written from objects and read to objects during transmission, avoiding parsing costs in addition to reducing transfer time and server load. (AMF is now implemented but not yet documented; more info at the Flash Remoting Support Center and product pages.)
[via John Rhodes]
SWF apps sought: Jakob Nielsen is soliciting examples of "Flash-based applications and tools". (Basically, anything you really do something with, rather than just look at.) I don't see it listed that you must be the creator of the site, so it seems like nominating your favorite work from others is acceptable.

"We are more interested in good examples than bad examples because even the best design will include plenty of usability problems." It might be good to look at "bad examples" too, because you could then pick out what they're doing right.... ;-)
c|net interviews Slashdot's Rob Malda: "I think that it really comes down to the content. If you have content people want, they will tolerate a system that is inferior. Now our system is solid, but back in the day, it wasn't. Look at eBay: That system is the most hodgepodge and clumsy user interface that you will ever find. People use it because it was first and it worked. And there are many other Web sites that are just like that." It's not impossible for a poor interface to attract an audience... a smarter interface just makes it easier to attract an audience.
dcCom ColdFusion components: "dcCom is an Open Source framework for building reusable ColdFusion components. Each component is a really a collection of one or more files including coldfusion templates, images and/or flash movies archived in a folder..... All dcCom compatible components are accessed through a single coldfusion custom tag 'cf_dcCom'." I want to spend more time with this, but it looks like a good set of encapsulations from Peter Coppinger.
"Your PC's enemy within": c|net starts a series on spyware. (It focuses on tracking and control software from legitimate sites with a reputation and relationships to protect, and does not seem to get into the increased vulnerabilities of following instructions from admitted criminal sites.)
Shazam: typical remote service 2005? Doc Searls points to an article in the Independent about a new phone service... feed it twenty seconds of music and it returns the name of the tune, band, and other references. Granted, this example contains the difficult additional task of helping a machine recognize a tune from hearing it (how do you recognize a tune anyway?), but it's also an example of how I think we'll be able to connect to remote servers routinely during the day to solve new problems.
Perceived download speed: Christine Perfetti found strong agreement among people about "how fast a site is", but found strong disagreement between these shared perceptions and actual loading times! "If people can't find what they want on a site, they will regard the site as a waste of time (and slow). But, when users successfully complete tasks on a site, they will perceive their time there as having been well spent... When users are complaining about the download speed of your site, what are they actually complaining about? Are you better off making the site load faster or ensuring that users complete their tasks?"
[via Shirley Kaiser]
RNIB complaint, followup: The "letters" section of The Register contains some reactions to the UK's Royal National Institute of the Blind asserting that progress in using system-level assistive routines is unacceptable because older screen readers each use differing proprietary hooks instead. (Thomas Worthington obviously hasn't been paying attention about where HTML works and where it doesn't.... ;-) However, these hot letters pale next to Joe Clarke's mighty screed (link courtesy CHris MacGregor). Recap: GW Micro and Macromedia are two of the first to invest in implementations of Microsoft Active Accessibility, and JAWS and other applications are progressing here too. The goal is practical device-independence for assistive routines. (More info at Macromedia Accessibility Center.)

Hot topic: We have many discussions on accommodating various physical abilities, but there is little on accommodating various intellectual abilities. Physiological reasons can play a role in either. I use a vocabulary I'm comfortable with, but I realize this may make me inaccessible to people on the other side of the bell curve. Then again, a lot of the popular media is similarly remote for people a few standard deviations beyond the target audience. I'm not sure why there's so much more of a conversation on physical differences than cognitive differences...?
Richard Karpinski on Curl: I'm glad to see articles like this, because it validates the field rather than just a product... it helps others to see some of the possibilities just a little bit down the road.

(Getting a distributed capability like a web player is a very hard task. When Fireworks 1.0 first appeared I daydreamed about being able to display files of parameterized brushes in browsers... very tiny files with path info & instructions on how to render each stroke... could make non-photographic bitmaps much, much, much smaller than anything else out there. But getting the renderer into the browser of each audience member is a monstrously hard task... few plugins are as successful as Shockwave, and nothing else is like Flash.)
Dan Margulis likes Photoshop 7 brushes: These now add parameters similar to the brushes in Fireworks. But it doesn't seem like Photoshop lets you edit these parameters after the stroke is made -- you can view a preview of the stroke in a dialog box, but then you lay out a stroke with those parameters. If you've got PS7, is that how it works, or is it more like Fireworks where you can actually inspect the painting parameters of any stroke at any time, changing its shape or pressure-sensitive effects even in a subsequent work session...?

(btw, if you're having new trouble designating Photoshop 7 as an external editor for non-Adobe apps, then there's info on the cause and a workaround here0
Smallest webcam yet? Weighs less than a paper clip, flies 3m/sec with a range of 2 kilometers. Uses TinyOS and has an unnamed transmitter. A swarm of these flies can be more interesting than a single one.
JPEG virus: Article in the San Francisco Chronicle speculates that antivirus companies and reporters scratching each others' backs may be the reason so many people are infected with Klez.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

New "Made With Macromedia" buttons: These contains optional badges for "Made With Dreamweaver" and others, as well as handy "Get Players" buttons and instructions.
[via Matt Brown]
CFGuru highlights: This is a new blog, distilling useful info from a high-end mailing list. Contains links to other CF blogs from Matt Liotta and Spike Milligan.
[via Vernon Viehe]
ColdFusion, MacOS: Longtime CF developer Dick Applebaum starts a three-part series on O'Reily about ColdFusion. This first article is an intro to ColdFusion for people who use other server-side scripting approaches, describing the architecture and some of the developmental efficiencies it offers. Even though ColdFusion MX is based on Java 2 Enterprise Edition, it doesn't really run on the Java 2 Standard Edition on Mac OS X Server... parts do, other parts will not, and connections between various web components are not tested or officially supported (more info here).
Microsoft Palladium: Interesting article from Steven Levy... a hardware-based approach to trust, security, and reproduction of digital content. "They [a few key MS engineers] quickly understood that the problems of intellectual property were linked to problems of security and privacy. They also realized that if they wanted to foil hackers and intruders, at least part of the system had to be embedded in silicon, not software." I'm with 'em that security, privacy, and rights-management are linked, but I'm a little skeptical of the ability to disseminate silicon with fewer abilities than other silicon... just makes it more profitable to own rogue silicon. Simpler changes often "take" quicker than complex changes, and I don't think we've seen the final problems with indiscriminate file-sharing yet....