Friday, October 11, 2002

JRun Service Pack 1 now available. This page links to the download, a FAQ, and a technote.
Authorware 6.5 Mac packager: New files can now be delivered to Macs... just went live this week.
Matt Liotta on evolt: He wrote a long op/ed... can anyone tell what he's asking for? "[A] person could find one’s self both praised and criticized by different members of the company." That's true... different people have had different experiences of the speaker. "The MX product line holds great potential, but its managers need to better take into account what the users are saying." Say something... it'll get in. But if you spend a lot of time saying other people should listen instead of saying something, well, that tends to not get as far...!

"Macromedia started out as a developer of animation products for the CD-ROM world only to find that market being quickly replaced by the burgeoning World Wide Web." Actually, the various parts of the original Macromedia were based around interactivity on personal computers. This was long before CD or web arrived as distribution mechanisms. Small point, but important: it has always been about interactive application development. When you look at this, Allaire fits exactly the same mold.
New Architect: Can Public Web Services Work? Article discusses possible business models for providing raw information... there's no info-formatting, so ad banners won't suffice. The third page has the meat: (a) if you can make a buck today go for it; (b) if you're not sure, examine whether the app requires constantly changing data that can survive normal TCP/IP latency; (c) if implementing, carefully consider the protocol in use. Me, I've got a gut feeling that there's value in being a preferred info provider, but it's hard to quantify such a position ahead of implementation... I don't think I could yet argue the point to someone who pooh-poohs it, but my gut says it's strong.
CNET on political sites: This is good, as far as it goes, but it seems to be missing some recent changes in the way that political contests have used the web. First, most candidates still use the web to talk at people, rather than listen to people or explore possibilities... it's brochure-ware, not interactive communication. There are also "fanboy" sites, like Democratic Underground and Free Republic, which do have forums but which frequently degenerate into name-calling. The independent blogs have had a bigger impact on me, though, because of how you can quickly check and counter-check observation and opinion... Glenn Reynolds links to everything eventually, and James Lileks describes how blogging has changed political debate (do a text search on "Internet access went out" to scroll directly there). Even bigger may be blogging candidates, such as Tara Sue Grubb... not for what blogging does directly, I suspect, but more as an indicator of how candidates could eventually listen and respond.

If I wanted to just look at something I'd use TV or a newspaper... I use the web to do things, and we're moving towards doing things with other people at a distance, no matter where we are. It's going to evolve.
Henpeck MSN chat vulnerability: A chat system included URLs, one of which pointed to a file which, when clicked, was downloaded and executed. Some malware may have been left behind for a future coordinated denial-of-service attack. I'm not certain how the IM architecture could have permitted such foreign-code execution in the first place..?
John Dahlsen storytelling in OZ newspaper: This Flash presentation caught my eye... I can't recall a similar style before. The ABC Online news from Australia interviews an artist who creates sculpture from litter found on the beach. The presentation is a 1.4M SWF file, which holds 4+ minutes of spoken audio. The visuals use a pronounced videography style (cuts, dissolves, camera angles), but all the source material seems to be still photos... I don't see any video feeds in there. I'm not even sure whether this is saved as Flash video, or whether it's actually a series of stills composited at runtime in the Player. If the latter, there are some great overlay techniques used to simulate breaking wavecaps, moving clouds, etc. If you do visual stuff in SWF then this presentation seems worth a look.
Java Developer's Journal interviews Jeremy Allaire: The article itself is an overview of the current technologies, but I was particularly struck by this concise distinction in the comments section: "The reason to use CF over pure JSP is the coherence of the tag set. You can certainly cobble together various JSP libraries to achieve the same functionality as CF, but it will take time to get them working together properly and efficiently, and the skills you develop will be shop-centric. Remember, we're talking RAD here. I like using CF as a tag set for a rich, core functionality which can be extended by adding other JSP libraries." A big, coherent library... makes sense to me.
[via Mike Chambers]
WIRED moves to XHTML & CSS: " Wired News isn't the first website to be written in XHTML and to utilize CSS; many weblogs and designers' sites have already converted to these standards. But it may be the first major, heavily trafficked, constantly updated site to adopt them."
Update: There's more background info available from Jeffrey Zeldman, and the WIRED redesign is currently the #1 topic at Blogdex, with these sources listed.
More update: On the Hesketh web-design list, Holly Marie points out this lengthy interview of Douglas Bowman by Eric Meyer at Netscape's DevEdge.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Nameneko: This isn't MX-related, it's totally off-topic. I visited Cam Barrett's blog and caught the above gallery of kittens dressed as humans. It reminded me of that "Viking Kittens" SWF that was linked around last week, but these images mangled my brain a bit more. A coworker said that there was a similar craze back in the 1930s-50s. The current wave apparently is popularized by Satoru Tsuda, and there's an English overview at the Calvin Pelorian Cat Project. Whew, now that I've blogged it I think it has released its hold in my brain, but I hope no one else gets snagged like I did here.
Sports webcasts: Article in SF Chronicle about economics of video on web. This ties in with yesterday's item here about baseball data displays, as well as Jeremy Allaire's piece on integrating activities with chat. A linear, non-interactive video feed may indeed be best suited to broadcast to TV receivers. Why duplicate that on the web? A baseball scoreboard can divorce the data from its presentation, and so be suitable to one-on-one serving through a web page. Neither of these has any relation to the multi-person interactivity Jeremy describes, which *demands* two-way connectivity.

Is there one teller of the story? If so, then sure, broadcast it. Can the viewer choose the order in which they view the info? If so, it likely requires a web display. Can people interact in realtime? If so, then you need to tie those mutual creators together somehow.... a web application, rather than a broadcast display, or a web display.
WIRED on wearables: Short article on items from 6th International Symposium on Wearable Computers in Seattle. Some of these seem silly, some startlingly practical, but we need a variety of ways to consider the eventual implications of continual access to connective computing.
Borders Books adds wireless: The article focuses mostly on computer use, but as more local nodes spring up this becomes increasingly useful for pocket devices as well. This is an internet dating service which uses the Macromedia Flash Communications Server. Makes sense, huh? (More info at CNET.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Seven Illegal Search Engine Optimization Techniques None of these will likely be surprising if you've gone through this subject before, but this could be a good reference page if you get a client request for a suspect SEO technique.
What's on your drive? This WIRED article discusses this Aberdeen report on the increase in malware on computers. Where a virus seeks to explicitly replicate itself, malware often piggybacks in on "free" software, then monitors actions taken on that computer, among other goals. These days, you really do have to trust the code you execute on your machine. (btw, the astute reader will realize the following is not a page of Macromedia MX crackz, serialz, and warez. zzzz indeed.)
Major League Baseball Scoreboard: Speaking of sports sites, the US baseball series is coming to a close, and there's still a chance to examine how they present live game data through a web browser. Games will start at 5pm PDT today and for much of the next two weeks (mid-day on weekends), and this page with box-score displays links to a richer Flash-based data display. You can compare it with the full-page-refresh method used at Yahoo Sports. I'm not certain which has the lower server costs, but I do see far more information presented in the graphic display than in the text display.
CHris MacGregor on football UIs: I really like it when he gets into detail like this about a particular site's interface.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Searching blogs: Google trawls many blogs. If you wish to check its archives for a given blog, try adding the "inurl:" term to your query, along with an argument that's unique to the blog you'd like to search. For instance, to get everything I've written on "security", try "security". Or to find what Mike Chambers has written about video, try "video". If you then click Google's "repeat with the omitted results included" you'll get pretty much everything in the archives. (Sidenote: I tried making a bookmarklet to search the Macromedia staffers' various blogs, but Google has a limit of ten terms per query.)
Liorean bookmarklets: These are quickie browser-utilities that let you do things like toggle between stylesheets, inspect scripts and more. I've used some, not all, and am not sure of browser dependencies. (Google for more info... bookmarklets are great.)
[via Web Graphics]
Fox River Paper: They've got a new SWF front-end for their paper catalog. Instead of paging through pages or columns, they let you choose five parameters and see an instant update of those options (paper grade, color, weight, finish, size). It's a fast way to get an idea of the total possibilities available and choose a set of options. I don't know how they've got the back-end set up. (NB: I've got a slow machine and got a "slow script" alert at startup... seems like they're parsing a lot of data in. Your machine is probably faster than mine.)
CNET on spam: There have been many articles on the subject, but this one uses an ecological model to compare spam with general parasitism, and raises the warning sign on how new types of things may be perceived as spam. My take: In every design we make, in every advance we introduce, it's useful to look at the whole system surrounding it and to imagine how other elements in the system may seek to take advantage or misuse the advance. It's not enough to say "oh, no one would send ads to a newsgroup", because history has shown this is not the case. We need to make bulletproof or adaptable implementations if we hope for them to have any kind of real sustainability.
MX polling method: Looks like a cool, functional implementation. ABC7, a TV station in the San Francisco Bay Area, works with Hertz Research to create a polling system using in-page video with Flash Remoting and ColdFusion. This intro page presents a multi-video explanation of their online polling system. Note how the video is integrated within the presentation, how the context remains the same even when you load in new information, how the text reinforces the video and gives you two ways to get the message, the clarity of the FAQ layout. (I'm not certain how public this site is yet, or whether the final polling mechanism is actually hooked up yet.)
Update: Ian Chia has behind-the-scenes details here.

Monday, October 07, 2002

Not just chatting, but doing: Jeremy Allaire discusses an InfoWorld article on business messaging, and brought up the point that most IM and other messaging is stuck in its own silo... you can talk about stuff in a little window, but you can't really do tasks together. Actual rich internet applications are a superset.
Mactaquac Golf Course: Al Johnstone mentioned this interactive map on a Yahoo Flash list... you can zoom in and out on the parts of the course, and the text description synchs to which hole you're viewing.(I wish I knew of a sound way to find all such interactive maps... the Google query "interactive map filetype:swf" will show some-but-not-all of these entries. Some type of catalog...? Not sure.)
The False Binary of Copyright: Reid Stott brings up the point that actual creators seem to be invisible in the current copyright debate -- he's a photographer, but this seems to hold as true for web designers and developers. The article is long, but has a couple of zingers... Sonny Bono's "death+70 years" extension clearly benefits corporations rather than creators... a corporation can subsidize the creation of a work, but cannot create in itself... the 11 extensions from the US Congress each came when "Steamboat Willie" was about to enter the public's domain. If you're reading this blog, odds are strong you create digital content yourself... who owns what you create, and who creates the definitions for ownership of what you create?
Notorious Flash: First Democrats attack Bush as pushing grannies down stairs, now Rush Limbaugh turns the tables. Has gotten press at Poynter, CSPAN, ABC's "This Week", others.
Mighty worm for Apache/Linux: If you're running OpenSSL older than 0.9.7-beta, 0.9.6e then you'll want to update... 1600 infected as of Friday.
Interesting Playstation tidbit: An Australian broadband news site mentions a Macromedia connection with Playstation2, but doesn't offer details. All I know is what I read in the papers, myself.... ;-)
WIRED on LIFT: This article ran last week, and doesn't seem to contain much new info, but offers pro & con on this utility which checklists a site for improved accessibility and usability. This Norman-Nielsen version is apparently a superset of the two versions already offered by UseableNet... they also offer free Dreamweaver extensions there too. (My take: If a software ticket price offers you a good return on investment, then it's a good investment... I've seen plenty of sites that can benefit more than $500 worth from better usability, and goodness knows sites cost much more than $500 to implement in the first place....)
Yankee Candle Company: They feature a new rich internet application for creating a custom candle. I suspect they're getting a lot of traffic today -- I've gotten some server timeout messages this morning when making my own -- but here's another example of how using one screen beats using many when you're asking people to do things online. (Click on one of the choices to call up the applet in a new window... more info about "why we did it" in the press release... they cite turning 20-minute two-person phone orders into a 5-minute one-person online order, with greater customer satisfaction from being able to see the result.)
Sony Clie, Flash for Palm: Phil Torrone reports that Sony is advertising the Macromedia Flash Player 5 in this new Palm device (more info at FlashMagazine, and I'm sure others have picked up on it too). I wish I had more info on this... the main Flash devices page doesn't list this here, and I'm always hesitant to ask staff about unannounced stuff, because then there can be a tug-of-war on what I'm allowed to say. It certainly looks plausible, and sweet, but I've got no additional info on the implementation yet, sorry. :(

That said, the momentum is building, bigtime. Granted we're still a version behind, but getting the first inclusion on a device is always the hardest bit of work. The 6.0 Player has all the neat connectivity and communications features, and I just can't wait until you can carry around this power in your pocket.
Been blogging light: Apologies for light volume here recently... after I came back from sabbatical something seemed just different, and this weekend I realized it was that we're past the introduction for Macromedia MX, and it's a very different part of the news cycle now for what can be important and useful in a blog. Just a small acclimatization, think I'm on-track now. (I'm still on the fence whether to stay with Blogspot or move to another blogging system... I've lost some content in another one of my blogs, and am always a bit scared to adjust the templates here... I'm looking forward to building in commenting and other features, but am still not settled on how I'll implement it.)