Friday, October 25, 2002

Upcoming schedule: I'll be attending the Macromedia Developers Conference next week, followed by a few days off, and then possibly jury duty the week of Nov4. I have unsubscribed from many mailing lists to lessen the download time when I return, but will be blogging here through most of next week. Matter of fact, the Macromedia DesDev Center will be pulling extracts from various blogs next week... keep an eye on it. (I'll be at the Disney Dolphin, near a TV if the Giants are playing, blue vest and black straw hat, with a pipe of Esoterica Dorchester if circumstances permit.)
Are you in the phone book? If you've got a publicly listed number, try typing the ten digits (no spaces or hyphens) into a Google search. May be US only... a bit weird... I didn't know they connected these data sets...!
[via Jon Udell]
Munsell Palette: My apologies if someone already blogged this in the Flash-specific blogs... I caught this link in the general Web-Graphics blog. I don't understand the theory or the advantages, but I like the interactivity right in the browser, instantly.
SWF6 specification: Woo-hoo... SWF6 docs are online! I haven't gone through them yet, but understand that this version put more effort into the docs themselves and less into providing code libraries... it's more a spec than an SDK this time. Please note the license bars redistribution... we want to make sure that each person agrees to the other terms and that there's a single, known download source. Any comments would be welcome here, or directly to the Flash Format team themselves, thanks!
[via Mike Chambers]
Vienna Sausages, powered by ColdFusion: Okay, so this is a trivial use, I just got a kick out of seeing all these little sausage cans with that ".cfm" in the URL, it's Friday.... ;-)
Human Transcriptome Server: Click on that "Genome Browser" down on the right... they feed genome data into a SWF viewer. I am pretty clueless about the data itself, but this looks like an awesome interactive presentation. (And people think *computers* are hard...! ;-)
New Macromedia FMA: Check out the front page of the Macromedia site... it's got a new "Flexible Messaging Area" piece from the certification team with short quizzes on Dreamweaver, Flash and ColdFusion. This is a good example of how lots of interactivity can be presented quickly and elegantly to the visiting audience.
Viewlet demo-maker: Qarbon makes a screen-capture utility with SWF as native delivery format. This page contains a fleet of demo demos. (uhh, "demo demos"? ;-) I haven't pulled apart these SWFs, but from the appearance I'm guessing the cursor is handled as a separate sprite, rather than just as a series of sequential screen captures. Nice site, too. If you're showing how a computer program works, then this offering may be helpful.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Forced linking? I've been thinking about this Google delisting of certain politically-repressed sites... it goes along with the debate on the lists last week, the actions against Operation Clambake, others. We already know that various tightly-controlled countries reduce what their populations can view, but what of individual firms which don't use force to keep their constituents in line? Should Google in turn be forced to either link or not link, depending on who holds the current monopoly on legal use of force? Me, I'd be happier if Google didn't advertise sites which rip off me and my partners (see "macromedia crack warez" in that engine, eg), but I'd hope they'd do right on their own, without threat of force. Big puzzle, no solution... how to influence what others link to, or don't link to...?
Nordic Ombudsman site recommendations: These don't carry force-of-law, but may be a good checklist of polite practices, and could be a very useful resource if a client wants to do something that you think may bite them later. I got the link from Poynter E-Media Tidbits, which offers a good readable overview of the officialese language.
hive-brain Another blog by a Macromedia staffer, Charlie Cordova, on the Flash engineering crew. I'll add it to the sidebar next time I dare open the template.... ;-)
Update: I was wrong, Charlie works with Flash in an independent company... see comments for more.
Mario Klingemann's "What's Related" feature: Mario's "Quasimodo" blog has something that took me awhile to understand. If you watch carefully, the full HTML page displays, and beneath each entry is an empty SWF. This quickly says "Searching Google for 'blah-de-blah'" or whatever, and then he pulls in live links of websites that turn up in Google for terms related to that blog entry. The info is in a scrolling field, so it's compact but you can retrieve more info if desired. Unlike a server-side compile, this client-side pull lets you start reading the page without having to wait for all the info to arrive.

I've seen blogs with a little "Google It" button at the end of each entry, and I've got a little "copy link" thingy in my sidebar here to find related items, but this SWF seems like it could offer some nice serendipity. (Every now and then I open my Mozilla sidebar and watch the "What's Related" display, but I still haven't actually used it... intriguing, but I'm not sure yet.) Anyway, this is a nice implementation, once I realized it was "Searching Google for 'they call it fasl'" or such.
What does "Macromedia Experience" mean to you? Michael Gough of Macromedia wants to learn what you find common in the applications and designs people create with these tools. He's got a thread in the forums, or if you're more comfortable posting here then I'll make sure he's alerted, thanks. Pull quote: "Are these great experiences completely dependent on the talents of the author, or can we identify recurring design patterns that can help bring the creation of these experiences more into the mainstream? Can we help everyone achieve consistently better results by documenting best practices and providing enabling technology in the form of components, frameworks, and tools designed to make it easy to create a great user experience?"
Can't "View Source" in IE/Win? There was a thread on Evolt today where someone had this symptom... turns out it happens in a couple of IE/Win versions when your local cache fills up. Going Tools > Internet Options > Delete Files clears it again. (This is one of those wacky symptoms that are hard to research... there was a Netscape awhile back where you couldn't select text if there was a right-aligned table or some such... file this away and you may become Instant Guru if someone you know hits this symptom.... ;-)
Player Developer Release -- test it now! Mike notes that we're getting few problems reported on new Mac and Win Players. That might mean that folks here have done everything perfectly. But, historically, it could also mean that there's more attraction in downloading something which has whizzy new features. Once a new Player goes into public distribution, it cannot be recalled! The reason why we run a Developer Release cycle is so that you can make sure your stuff works in it. It would be too late to catch something once it gets on millions of machines worldwide. It's vital that you test it now, thanks!
Zing! environment: Ambitious, looks good... reminds me of The Palace but lighter download, more features. The "tour" takes 5-10 minutes, and it's worth exploring how they tie newsfeeds, interactions, graphics and features all together in a single screen.
[via Flazoom]

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Geoclip map demo: Wow, this is a great piece of data-visualization... a US map can be customized to show population density vs. age groups, much more... check out how the "ranges adjustment" lets you control which part of the data you're looking at... nice piece of work! (I picked this up in a thread on an SVG list... there's also a set of SVG maps here, which I think require either IE/Win or NS4.7+Java and the Adobe SVG Viewer.)
FootJoy site: I caught a news reference, and the site is indeed interesting... the poll transmits just the data instead of a whole other HTML page... the "product finder" similarly cut bandwdith by moving just data on demand... I did not register to try the "My FootJoy" features (hmm, "my footjoy" sounds a little odd.... ;-) If you're creating commercial sites, and particularly if you help clients figure how they can get best value from the web, then this site would be useful to examine. (The UI sorta looks like MX, doesn't it...? ;-)
ZDNet: "Know your code": Interesting op/ed about the increasingly vital need to be confident of the instructions you execute on your computer. I don't agree with all its conclusions, but we need to weed the zombie machines off the net. (Objections: I expect open-source servers will increase security measures to avoid contamination; the ActiveX vulnerabilities are that components have sytem-wide scope instead of application-level scope; identity certificates are not perfect and have already been stolen.) Those who intentionally install software from known criminals obviously have a higher likelihood of being parasitized... there are alternatives to "Macromedia cracks and warez" installations.
Yahoo & SBC adopt FlashCom: I think this is significant. When a major connector settles on a video format it's usually big news. In this case they also get interactivity, text feeds, cam-chat and such all integrated into the same display, instead of having just video, separated into its own little window. Get a flavor of their SWF style in the current promo piece for the service. You could consider SBC Yahoo DSL to be an additional new platform for your work....
More info: Internet News.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Reporting security problems: "GreyMagic Security Research" achieves headlines by notifying the press of IE problems the same day it notifies Microsoft, but their reasons for doing so are fatuous and self-serving. Even if Microsoft could release an update tomorrow morning, it would take the general public quite awhile to update to it. In this case it's even worse because Microsoft's current updaters already address the vulnerability, so their press releases serve no true public purpose. These people are making the world less secure by putting out press releases about how to control connected computers. (If you find a way to hack Macromedia software, please let us know about it ASAP so we can fix it... security is a major effort from all those who create distributed software.)
Massive coordinated denial-of-service attack: I strongly suspect this was an exploratory attack, rather than an end in itself. Anyone motivated enough to go to this work would likely want to coordinate it with an attack in the physical world, to break up emergency and general communication services. On the flip side, such probes stimulate us to find defenses as well, but for goodness sake, please do check with people you're in contact with to make sure that their machines are not controllable by remote agents. Don't run untrustworty instructions... there really are bad people out there.
Update on MM conference call: Last week I jotted down notes I took during the quarterly Macromedia conference call for financial analysts. In the comments here we were talking about using the Flash Communications Server instead of a telephone conference, and how analysts may not be ready yet to talk back to their computers.

We're using this already for internal conferences, though. Today we tried to roll it out for a company-wide post-quarterly meeting, but both it and a telephone backup folded simultaneously. That failure is actually a good thing, because it shows that conferencing technology in general needs to be much simpler to set up, use, and troubleshoot. Early adopters right now are able to use this low-level toolkit successfully, but we've also got to make it easy for anybody in an organization to use. Early adopters with good skills will always have an edge in customizing and extending such solutions, and if we can make it easy for anyone to hook up a basic solution then that ubiquity can benefit the early adopters too.
Update on Shockwave stats: Last week I noted that consumer Shockwave viewability did not increase quarter-to-quarter. Today I received word that we've got this unique occurrence under active investigation, to see whether it's just a margin-of-error anomaly, or an actual decrease in all non-Flash plugins due to increases in Windows XP, or something else. No details yet, but folks here are digging into those stats, if that info is helpful.

On the Director mailing lists I was struck by how many said "that's okay, I'm doing mostly presentations and CD work right now." Some opined that more projects are being done in Flash because of its increased capabilities, which in turn results in less pressure on consumers to update their systems. While I'm glad these developers are achieving their own goals regardless, I still don't want to give up that majority consumer viewership... it's a hard thing to achieve, very valuable, and folks here in the shop want to continue to increase overall viewability for high-performance graphics. More news on this front as it arrives.
Flash to Video FAQ: Looks very useful. I picked the link up from Todd Hopkinson this morning. I wasn't sure of the person behind the name, and a Google Groups search showed that this has been available for awhile. In one message Mike Chambers points to a related article on Microsoft's site.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Chris Nott on DHTML evolution: A few years ago cross-browser DHTML was a rare skill, but right now we've essentially got browser monoculture, and yet the job demands Flash. Interesting anecdote.
Joe Crawford on Ben Forta: Joe details a recent San Diego user group meeting where Ben Forta gave a presentation on Macromedia MX.
Ruling in SWAir accessibility: "In the first case of its kind, U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz said the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies only to physical spaces such as restaurants and movie theaters and not to the Internet." No word yet of an appeal. I'm wondering whether increased use of telephone interfaces could trump the rules anyway.
Seeking Norwegian developers: Jarle Bergersen is seeking to connect people in the area together... drop a note at his blog here to do so.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Case-sensitivity in ActionScript and #pragma in new Player: Peter Hall discusses potential conflicts with this, if a clip or component specifies ECMAScript-style case-sensitivity while the host movie does not. I'm not sure how often this would come up myself, although I could see it being an issue if you're loading arbitrary instructions. He also references a thread on FlashCoders-L about certain bytecode instructions operating differently in the new Player. For both of these concerns, please do make sure the feedback goes directly to the development team, thanks!
DevShed series on software development: This first installment is on writing a requirements document... seems like a good resource if you're suddenly thrust into creating a solution for a client.
[via Cameron Barrett]
Flash Usability Panel summary: Chris MacGregor describes a session at the User Interface 7 East conference in Boston, where he spoke along with Josh On, Eric Pressman and Christine Perfetti.
Prefetching in Mozilla 1.2: An HTML page can contain hints which let Mozilla 1.2 download specific things in the background for faster viewing should the visitor click a link. (You can do this manually for a range of browsers via JavaScript or hidden scaled images on a page... I'm not certain of the relative efficiencies.)
[via Blogzilla]