Friday, November 22, 2002

Offline this weekend: I'll be back here on Monday -- have yourself a good weekend. (I think I also need to move my "Archive" links to a separate page, looks like there's a limit of some type on the page itself. October & November entries are still archived, just not linked on this page. I usually do a Google search, with term "", to get the name of that week's archive correct.)

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Conference in Australia? Geoff Bowers noted this in a comment to an item earlier today, but I wanted to push this up to the top... if you're near Australia, then there's an excellent opportunity to get together with others in this field in Sydney in February. Being connected online is great, but getting face-to-face is invaluable... events like these can be springboards for getting things done.
Interview with Mark Fiore: He does political cartoons for local newspapers in Flash. "Specific to animated political cartoons, I'm amazed at how much you can do with sound. With music and sound effects you can add an incredible amount of depth and emotion to an animation, and the improvements in Flash and MP3 technology have really helped on this front. I'm sure someone from a film background would say, 'Um, duh!' to that comment, but coming from the world of (silent) print cartoons I revel in the new tools at my disposal thanks to sound." But then again: "The most important factor in making an animated editorial cartoon effective is having something to say," so maybe putting more thought into the idea can help too. Interview contains illustrations of Mark's cartoons, but for some reason they've been translated to GIF...? ;-)
Photoshop plugin debate: This article by Harald Heim was published while I was on sabbatical, and I wasn't aware of it until today's MacCentral article which referenced this "Canvangelist" article [warning: bulky PDF file]. Those who use Fireworks or other pixel-editing graphics tools have seen such external functionality change over time. I first came across this when Director 5 started animating such plugins only to see the ability disappear with later plugins. It's not like this really helps them... maybe they would consider handing the plugin spec over to the W3C or some other community...?
Internet to rural Laos: Jhai Foundation brings together technologies to connect people in the remote countryside: flash memory rather than moving hard drives; bicycle power to charge batteries; wireless access cards to hilltop relays to a town 30km away for connectivity. (Telephones and television eventually went worldwide, but this new dispersion of connectivity is occurring far, far faster.)
Conference in Canada? MXNorth will be in Toronto in March... from all reports the last TODCON was a very valuable experience. Details will be posted there soon... Las Vegas in June.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Shockwave for FreeHand: I wasn't aware that we passed these on, but I think it's great... Greg Olson is hosting the original Shockwave for FreeHand plugins and documentation. This was back towards 1996, for Netscape 2.0 and Windows 3.1, and may have been the first vector-graphics viewer on the web... my memory is that Adobe shipped Acrobat-for-browsers after a long delay, and there was some type of CGM viewer back then, and I'm not sure when SmartSketch or FutureSplash made a web plugin. (FreeHand later exported SWF to take advantage of the wider viewership of the Macromedia Flash Player.) Cool! 8)
What are people searching for? I've always been fascinated by search engine voyeur engines... realtime displays of anonymous search queries. The Ask Jeeves voyeur is fun because people ask natural-language questions, and there are guides to additional voyeurs. But Disturbing Search Requests is a selected list from terms used to reach various weblogs, complete with wiseacre context. Your own sites will probably turn up on one of these lists.... ;-)
Help Net Security on Flash ActiveX vulnerability: Just a heads-up if you get a question from your clients on this (it's indexed by Google News today)... we had already been talking with this security service in Croatia and are not sure why this alert was subsequently posted. (From what I understand their first concern was addressed in a Player release last March, and the potential crash from a buffer overflow in malformed HTML params is addressed in the current beta. Neither had any actual control exploits; worst was that bad inputs would fail.) Anyway, we're back in contact with these folks, trying to see if they have new concerns, which is why there's not a separate article for this report at the Macromedia Security Zone.
Simple PayPal buttons: This caught my eye... Paul Davis offers a Dreamweaver extension which just makes a variety of PayPal buttons. If you have even a single gig which uses PayPal then the automated consistency alone is worth it. (See his full list of extensions here... includes commercial as well as free extensions.)
Simputer, sustainable connectivity: This Scientific Article describes Simputer, a PDA-sized, language-neutral knowledge device for people in poorer rural areas. Possible future work includes driving it by wind-up power rather than by batteries, or using mobile-phone connectivity rather than land lines.
[via Gizmodo]
Liberating technology: Nick Denton summarizes this BBC article about how more people around the world, in more segments of society, now have the option to connect with each other. Reminds me of Ben Franklin's original public libraries. I'm fiercely pro-choice here. Is it "imperialism"? I don't think so, because no one is forcing you to log on. Some would argue that people are indirectly forced because it's blatantly disadvantageous to remain technologically repressed, but the choice still remains with each individual, each voluntary society. It's sure better than beating people who don't wear burquas....
Blogger hiccups: If you can read this message, then you'll know that it's publishing messages again.... :(
Designer & Developer Center survey: When you visit the Center you may see a message asking if you'd like to take a survey about how we can improve those services. If you can find the bandwidth to fill it out it could really help us fine-tune what's delivered there. Thanks in advance for any feedback you can give us!
Overview of virtual keyboards at Technology Review: These are optical projections onto a desktop, and are received by a PDA. Maybe you could get tactile feedback via a thin adhesive metal strip with bumps on the ends to center the middle fingers...?
Tech recovery date: National Semiconductor CEO Brian Halla at Comdex: "Using complex mathematical models, neural networks, historical patterns and an eye toward current events, Halla--with a dose of Vegas showmanship--predicted in a keynote speech at Comdex Fall 2002 on Tuesday that the tech industry will be at the apex of a wild growth swing on June 21, 2003, primarily driven by embedding radio and semiconductors into a wide variety of items." By my own calculations, on that date Felipe Alou and the San Francisco Giants will have won 53 games.... ;-) (Interesting stuff in that article on teeny sensors and processors, though... worth a read.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

New Adobe Web Collection: I didn't catch this until someone pointed it out on the GoLive list, but the web bundle announced this week no longer contains LiveMotion. What's poignant is that this new "Compare the Collections" page is a SWF file. (The previous web collection is still cached at Google.)
Links to Bookmarklet sites: Speaking of Web-Graphics, they have a list on the right of 15 "Favemarklet" sites. If you use a web browser, then these intelligent bookmarks can be very handy... I'm already set up, but even so I added a "Who Is?" and "What's Related" bookmarklet. Worth browsing through these links.
Blog component for Flash: Interesting... Vera Fleischer makes a component you can drag into a Flash movie -- then point it at an RSS feed, style it and title it -- then when you run the SWF it grabs the blog contents and shows it in a scrolling textfield. Easy-peasy. I imagine this would also work for RSS newsfeeds or other articles...?
[via Flog aggregator]
Nielsen interview: By Meryl Evans and Nick Finck, at Digital Web magazine. Quick notes: One of the biggest Flash usability issues they've found recently is how the content is linked into the site (over-eager detection? new windows? not sure). Trust and privacy data are big issues (useful citation if you need to make this point to someone!). He's starting to focus on mobile usability. Pull quotes: "Most big corporate websites are still so arrogant that they refuse to communicate to customers and answer their questions in plain language. They still have information architectures that mirror the organization chart" and "Flash is now a GUI construction kit with support for client-server functionality across the Internet, which is something we have needed for years." Towards the end the interviewers ask if he sees himself as authoritarian, and whether a different approach might help.
[via Web-Graphics]
Microsoft bloggers: There are ten folks listed on a sidebar there. A lot of them seem to write about TV shows they like, and there's some anti-Java taunting over PetStore metrics (Sun optimized its example for legibility, Microsoft optimized its example to make the code run fast). Peter Drayton seems to have the most readable one, although his posting has been disrupted recently as he becomes a new hire at Microsoft. (I'm still feeling my own way here, so seeing how someone else does it can be instructive for me.)
NY Times on seasonal commerce sites: [This article probably requires registration] Summary: At first commerce sites tried to kitchen-sink it, then pared back to just what they could run, but now that the backend systems are proven we're starting to see an upswing towards complexity again. Case studies follow. calls forth a fullscreen window, and has an interesting way of peeling back layers of a shoe (can't do that in a store!), but then I couldn't figure out how to switch to examining a watch and I quit the site. It seems like those shoe layers may be bitmaps, though... I guess they're calling pictures on demand? With Shockwave you transmit data once and then can produce an infinite number of views locally.
More SWF searchers: Just caught this in a news search... the "FusionBot" search engine mentions in its promotional material that it indexes within SWF files, along with PDF, MSWord and Excel files. I've lost track of how many search engines have taken advantage of the SWF Search SDK... if you know of a major engine which still ignores SWF content, could you drop a note in the Comments here, please?

Monday, November 18, 2002

New Fossil wristwatch: Includes Palm OS 4.1, two megabytes memory. Test the controls with the Flash demo on main page.
Dan Gillmor, Slashdot interview: Dan has written on technology for many years (see blog), and this Slashdot interview is sort of an overview of the technology field today. After a quick read I saw enough to want to read it again.
Gates' Comdex keynote: It doesn't matter what you feel about him or Microsoft... it's still useful to track what he finds important. In this presentation he brings up the points that connectivity and computation are becoming smaller and cheaper, and dispersed into more devices. He apparently used examples of even keychains and refrigerator magnets being sensors or effectors. Microsoft will apparently have more details about its "smart appliances" program at the Consumer Electronics Show in two months.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

CNET on SVG 1.1: Last week the SVG 1.1 specification moved to "Proposed Recommendation" stage, after passing through various "Working Draft" stages, and is on its way to being an actual W3C Recommendation. SVG 1.1 does not add any new features, but defines two subsets of SVG 1.0 -- SVG Tiny and SVG Basic -- for use on handheld devices.

The article seems to play for drama, trying to pit SWF against SVG, and the Macromedia Flash Player against various proprietary SVG rendering engines. There's no need for such partisanship -- if SVG can be helpful, then it can be helpful.

Personally, I think formats such as SVG-Tiny could potentially be very useful, because they imply that a smaller rendering engine may be possible, which could help in realworld deployment to emerging devices which have limited memory and processing ability. Whether this pans out or not depends on whether the popularity of such devices outpaces the increases in processor ability, and whether device manufacturers include such an engine. Achieving realworld capability is always much more difficult and significant than merely defining an ideal capability.

I can understand how reporters may feel the need to create drama in articles, although such a frill may not matter much to the rest of us. As always, if there's something specific you'd like to do with a Macromedia tool, then the wishlist is the best way to let the appropriate product team know directly, thanks. More comment in an SVG mailing list and Slashdot. (NB: The article's statement "New versions of Adobe's Acrobat viewer support SVG" is no longer correct; this older SVG renderer was quietly removed from Acrobat downloads earlier this year.)