Friday, September 20, 2002

MX Developer Resource Kit: It's selling like hotcakes, thanks for the validation that this is useful! It really helps justify the case that there is real demand for information and tools to speed development.

We're still seeking guidance on what you need in the future along these lines, so please do add any feedback you've got to the DRK forum. (One thing I've been wondering about is navigational systems as the material accumulates over time, for instance.) Even rants are appreciated because they can show where the hot points are, and besides, I get a kick out of rejoinders like "Unfair to Sell Gasoline!!"

Anyway, my thanks to those of you who have purchased this first Developer Resource Kit, and if you've got any guidance on how you'd like this to evolve in the future then we're all ears, thanks.
Negroponte on Wi-Fi: Concise and exciting introduction. "802.11 systems... do not stop at the walls of your home. Depending on the intervening materials, a vanilla Wi-Fi can radiate more than 1,000 feet. Since I live in a high-density area, my system reaches perhaps 100 neighbors. I do not know how many use it (totally free) -- frankly, I do not care. I pay a fixed fee and am happy to share. Because further down the street, beyond the reach of my system, another neighbor has put in Wi-Fi. And another, and another. Think of a pond with one water lily, then two, then four, then many overlapping, with their stems reaching into the Internet."
Hal Helms on Scope Creep: Useful perspective... it's likely unrealistic to believe you'll capture all project requirements before work begins, and feedback is more accurate against a visual model than against abstract text, so feature creep is likely inevitable. He details a few ColdFusion tools to help clients visualize and test an application before it is fully constructed, so you can reap more feedback earlier in the process.
Flashmagazine reviews Discreet Plasma: Good lengthy article. But you're missing something if you're using Flash instead of Shockwave for this... Shockwave can render these scenes in realtime! You don't have to guess which views will be used and then send them all down the wire... you just send the geometry info and let the client render views on demand. (Some 3D uses can be well-served by Flash, but it's like correspondence-by-formletter rather than real writing, to use one tortured analogy.... ;-)
Gestures across cultures: I came across this while searching for Palm Graffiti info... this is a set of anecdotes about how common physical gestures are interpreted differently in different parts of the world. For web developers, you may know what you're saying, but what is the audience hearing...?
Nx2 Learn and FlashCom: This "Learning Content Management System" is a hosted service which uses the Macromedia Flash Communications Server. (Some clients want to own and control their own serving components, while some prefer to use hosting... as an application developer you can help them either way.)
Wanadu iConference: I missed this news while on summer vacation... it's a Flash-based conferencing system for businesses. Features include PowerPoint conversion for directed-viewing (audience sees what speaker wants), as well as text chat, cam chat, whiteboarding.It's pricier than the raw authoring software and servers, but it's a tested implementation which fits many corporate needs... good to bookmark if you have corporate clients.
Cursor-to-text in SWF: Very cool... Grant Skinner implements the Palm Graffiti gestures in Flash. Trace out a letter on the screen and the algorithm recognizes it as a regular text character.
[via Branden Hall]
Update: Todd Hopkinson previously posted a link to Andy Black's implementation... I don't immediately understand the interface, but the Flash source file can be downloaded.
What's the frequency? In an article on web accessibility today:"Flickering or flashing animations that at certain frequencies can trigger convulsions in susceptible individuals." I've heard this reported various times, but haven't been able to find source info. Anyone know what framerates to avoid for health reasons? Thanks in advance for any forwards! (Mailing lists and blogs are best resources... I'm still working on renovating this blog here for comments.)
Adobe Rebrands Web Site for Designer and Developer Community: Validation is always sorta nice.... ;-)

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Mickey Mouse vs Dover Books: Steven Levy in WIRED offers a profile of Larry Lessig, whose case against the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act goes before the U.S. Supreme Court in three weeks. This page is a succinct introduction to the issue. Context: We're all grappling with ways to protect digital content from copying... a rules-based approach may not be as savvy as an incentives-based approach... we've still got to sort all this stuff out, though.
Robot vacuum: Finally. And it's cute, too.(It's already in the Hammacher Schlemmer and Sharper Image catalogs... has gotten a good amount of press this week too.) More sensors, more effectors, more connectivity, I'm ready for all this stuff.... ;-)
Wi-Fi theft, or deployment issue? I'm not sure why Nokia just doesn't authenticate users, as the majority of comments subsequently suggest. (Sidenote: Spammers have been reported to have been dropping off huge bundles of stupid ads on the wireless connections of unknowing businesses... there's a real issue here.)
Werner Sharp Export Xtra: New, free... allows Director Projectors, on Mac or Win, to export JPG, PNG, or BMP/PCT graphics. (For a wider list of Director Xtras, see Gretchen Macdowall's Mile-High Table.)
Newspapers urged to make best use of their media: Steve Outing, in Editor & Publisher magazine, urges media sites to give higher prominence to their rich-media presentations. If you made something good and the client isn't highlighting it, this article contains good ammo. There are links to a variety of praised infographics. Pull quote: "At, more than 100 multimedia features were produced during the month of April 2002, generating 3.2 million page-views (which rose to 4 million the following month)."
Flash ad stats: This is a set of Nielsen/NetRatings stats showing how many SWF ads various types of sites were viewed during the week of July 28 2002. I was surprised that financial sites showed over three times as many ads as entertainment sites (131 million SWF ads that week vs 43 million). Over a billion served during the week total, whew.
Chilling Effects Clearinghouse: Looks very useful... info for webmasters on topics such as "Copyright & DMCA", "Linking", "Parody & Criticism", "Anonymity", current news and samples, and more. It's sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other groups.
[via Dave Winer, whose absence apparently caused General Magic to fail.]
Blog reader discounts: Mike Chambers notes in the above comment to his blog that the offer for 10% off for Macromedia blog readers at the Macromedia Store (see Matt Brown's blog for info) has been 'way more popular than expected, and that we're looking for ways to extend this offer.

There have been some implementation issues -- credit card validation in certain areas, eg -- but staff are working to resolve these. I was sort of surprised that some blog readers used this to save $9.90 off the cost of a Developers Resource Kit... I mean, I'm glad you find the DRK of value at $90, but I was expecting that people would use those limited number of slots for more appreciable savings. Anyway, the offer is popular, thanks for the validation, and we're looking to get more slots open for it soon.
Microsoft pushes 802.11b: This could be significant on several levels. If they execute, and their offerings actually become popular, it will increase the number of Wi-Fi installations. But even if these implementations don't pan out, just the increased attention and validation can help the effort. (More info at CNET, Glenn Fleishman's 802.11b blog.)
Software jihad? "I think there is an epic battle between good and evil going on behind the seemingly tranquil doors of Macromedia Corp. The righteous forces of Jesus and his followers, the dreamweaver developers, are engaged in an epic battle against the Satan-lead forces of Flash." Hmm. And how does L. Ron Hubbard play into all of this...? ;-)

(Seriously, good criticism can be very useful... if there's a specific change you want, then let the developers know, but don't bother ranting religious theories at 'em, thanx. 8) (btw, I'm blogging this because it came up in a search and I found it a novel rant, your own mileage may vary.)
[via Dave Humphreys' flog aggregator]
Behind the Flash Audio Blogger: Short article by Jeremy Allaire on the construction of his audio blog-commenting example. The downloaded front end is 13K; the chosen audio codec (Nelly-Moser?) is optimized for voice; the web services for authentication and account info are executed by ColdFusion; the voice operations require no server-side code themselves; most of the entire project was done by ready-made components.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Google DesDev search bookmarklet: I don't know if this will work after passing through Blogger. The link in this title is a "javascript:" pseudo-URL. I keep it as a bookmark in Mozilla, so I can search the Macromedia Designer & Developer Center for either the text I've selected in the current HTML page, or a phrase that I type in to a JavaScript prompt. I haven't tested it across a range of browsers, but if you're familiar with bookmarklets then you'll see the regular structural elements. Here's another copy of the script, in case the link didn't work... assuming it didn't get changed during publishing, then just paste this as the address in a new bookmark in order to call up this search yourself.
javascript:Qr=document.getSelection();if(!Qr){void(Qr=prompt('Google DesDev search:',''))};if(Qr)location.href= '' +escape(Qr)

Update: If your browser has difficulty with that "document.getSelection()", then this link has a version which doesn't use the currently selected text, and which just shows a dialog box. Here's the address as text:
javascript:Qr=prompt('Google DesDev search:','');if(Qr)location.href= '' +escape(Qr)
Dreamweaver & ASP.NET Forum I've lurked here, but haven't posted myself. If you're working with ASP.NET in Dreamweaver then this may be a useful community to visit.
99.9% of Grammar Is Obsolete A parody, true, but I think it's still meaningful... David Wertheimer shows how this type of argument can be applied to communication in general, and (indirectly) how a predefined set of "best rules" may not be as useful overall as an organically grown set of solutions, messy as the latter may be.
xml_look.css: I've seen a bunch of blogs look this way today. Sometimes I feel like I'm the last person to get a joke.... ;-) (Welcome to SF, btw.)
Patent on scripts in email: "[I]t covers technology that embeds a script in an e-mail, which is run when the e-mail is opened. The script then calls for additional data from a server". It would be great if you could patent campaign promises so we didn't have to run across them during the next elections, too.... ;-)
Wearable computers used in Pentagon reconstruction: This WIRED article lays out several advantages to pervasive computing and always-on connectivity. Pull quote: "An inspector checking welds on a support structure can use the camera to take a still image or a motion video of a missing or bad weld, verbally describe what must be done to correct the situation and precisely pinpoint where the problem is by touching the schematic on his screen... All this data goes into the server, and a job ticket noting the problem spot, stating what needs to be fixed and giving instructions for making the fix, is automatically generated, prioritized and assigned to a welder on the next shift." It's expensive now, but these types of uses will become increasingly expensive to not take advantage of.
"Tip of the Week" archive: Sometimes it's easiest to learn by reading, but sometimes it's easier to learn by listening and watching. There are about 30 of these short videos now, on a variety of technical topics. Give the current list a check, and please do log requests for future videos on the link there, thanks.
Flash Remoting with Java and .NET blog: A group blog from the Macromedia Boston User Group. Submissions are invited. (I think it's great to see increasing specialization in technical web logs... as a reader, you know where you can go to get the type of information you're seeking.)
[via Douglas McCarroll]

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Bon Jovi membership: Cool approach to protecting digital content... you're not buying a bunch of bits so much as a relationship.
Slashdot questions "DrinkOrDie" thief: Chris Tresco got busted for software theft, and agrees to a Slashdot interview. There are over a thousand questions and comments, but this URL gives you the 40 or so that Slashdot moderators found most interesting. (I couldn't tell if Tresco actually participated in there.)

Bottom line: If you rip other people off, you lost control over your fate... you may not suffer the consequences, or you may suffer serious consequences, you have no influence.
Software discount for blog readers: This is pretty cool, I think. People who read the Macromedia blogs are offered 10% off on their next purchase through the Macromedia store. We have a limited number of such discounts available, and it's first-come, first-served.

Why? The company is made up of expanding shells of people... there are the staff employees, for sure, but there are also partners like Team Macromedia, newsgroup regulars, people who use technotes, and out to customers who aren't even connected online. People in the blogging community are (imho) pretty darn smart and committed to what we're trying to achieve here.

Anyway, Matt has full info on his blog, and he's got commenting already set up there too. Hope this is of use to you! 8)

(PS: Just in case, please don't pass that code around on mailing lists and stuff... we'd rather have this offer be available to actual blog readers than the public at large, thanks.)
Followup on China Google blocks: I haven't been able to test this myself, but New Scientist reports today that Google is again accessible in China as long as you're very careful about which search terms you use... an unacceptable search term kicks your connection dead.(Hmm, I wonder if we can spoof Chinese military IP addresses to shut 'em down...? ;-)
[via Aaron Swartz's Google Blog]
Update: John Gittings amends some of these statements in The Guardian. Pull quote: "The real question is how long the political will to maintain these controls against foreign media can survive."
MX upgrade ad: The front page of the Macromedia site has a new ad for "See why people have upgraded to Macromedia MX." I like how it integrates quick-loading video within a single-screen presentation... check how a visitor can choose who they'll listen to, and how deeply they'll listen, all without having to wait for a new page to load. (I also like that little "progress" meter along the bottom of the video... good UI convention?)

Hmm, the "Site of the Day" may also be a good bookmark when talking with clients... SallieMae use a five-option navigation system, which presents links on a rollover, and each link has an optional description which shows without page refresh. I like that way of navigating a new site. (I don't like how they request the U.S. Social Security Number as an identifier, though... for more info see Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and other resources.)
ColdFusion MX Updater: (Requires registration.) There are also Release Notes and a FAQ.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Identifont and Fontscape: Two interesting web utilities relating to fonts. The first asks you a series of questions about a font you see, in order to find its name. The second is a directory of fonts based on usage.

Fontscape is a directory, like a drill-down catalog. It's nice to see various fonts in a category.

I wonder about Identifont's use of an HTML model, though. The series of questions is simple enough to download once, although the helpful illustrations might be better with on-demand transfer. I haven't seen a case where the sequence of questions change... it seems like you're going back to the server just to get another quiz, and then to update the "number of remaining candidates" number. Could this benefit from being a clientside application, rather than a series of documents? I'm not sure yet, myself.

Good stuff overall, worth checking out.
[via Web-Graphics]
Seeking cam app for cosmetic surgeon: Duncan Burbury has a post on BlueWorlds Dreamweaver-Talk list about a custom webcam communications app he needs for a cosmetic surgeon.There are various additional angles discussed (multiple simultaneous users? a separate billing module?), but if you've worked in this area he may be a good contact.
New download : Rich Internet Application Starter Kit "The Macromedia Rich Application Starter Kit was built for IT development managers who have seen the power of Rich Internet Applications and would like to get started building their first pilot project to evaluate the technology." I haven't worked through it yet myself, but if you know someone who is coming from a app-dev background and wants to eliminate state waits in the browser, this may do the trick. (Online demo here)
Flash Player 6 distribution numbers: In a thread on FlashCoders-L, Dan Switzer notes the results of recent technographics on a website which targets older machines used at libraries. He was surprised to see that the current player has already reached majority viewership, even within this demographic. Wayne Warren offers some perspective from a different angle. (Media Metrix is currently conducting its September consumer audit, and the results should be up on the Macromedia site in October. Note that any one sample audience may not match your site's particular audience.)
Musicians and digital rights management: USA TODAY has a feature article summarizing the quick evolution in how musicians are handling the new abilities and vulnerabilities with the quick transmission and copying of digital content, and particularly how the old distribution systems suffer increasing stress trying to keep up with actual abilities. The New York Times details another approach... EPIC records is bypassing the problems of digital distribution by gluing CDs inside a player, making it a physical good instead of a digital good. (All of us are facing similar types of problems these days, because we're creating and selling services which can be represented as bits.)
[via SlashDot]
Denial-of-service worm: Rogue instructions are being passed among a subset of servers, forming a peer-to-peer network to attack other servers. Much of the recent mainstream press about "cyberterror" has focused on open net access to control systems for hydroelectric dams and other farfetched stuff, but it's safer and more practical for a group of people to just try to block the net from working at a critical time. (Related articles are at Slashdot, Little Green Footballs and Ha'aretz (that "" site has already been suspended).)
Jeremy Allaire on Social Computing: Article discusses how we might use computers, together, through mechanisms like Flash Communications Server. We have some existing models -- chat, whiteboards, group browsing -- but we've just scratched the surface of how people can communicate. He discusses design tools such as permission levels (different people in the conversation control different parts of the display) and changing levels of communication (filling out a form is different from consulting with an agent or peers). We also need to focus on communication tasks which don't need to rely on body language.

Key concept: We don't yet have a lot of experience in designing the usability of group computing... rapid evolution possible here. Keep an eye open for what works, what doesn't... opportunities are great.