Saturday, November 30, 2002

Dick Tracy Wrist Radio: Finally. Now all we need are those flying garbage cans he used to avoid traffic jams....
[via Gizmodo; review at TechTV]

Friday, November 29, 2002

Testing browsers' current OBJECT implementation: Anthony Johnson has set up a test to see how well the range of current browsers support the W3C's subsequent desired OBJECT implementation, as described in Drew McLellan's recent article at A List Apart. So far, with the range of browsers presumably used by this group of web developers, just over 10% do not yet support this syntax in the OBJECT tag to present a simple animation. This test does not measure additional browser-supported abilities such as query terms in URLs of passing along FLASHVAR params.

(Background: Netscape 2.0 implemented an extension mechanism for plugins, and the browser invoked these through the EMBED tag. Most other browsers followed this scheme, save for IE/Win, which introduced an OBJECT tag to invoke ActiveX Controls. A few years later the W3C opted to standardize this and specified a slightly different syntax on the OBJECT tag, but left unspecified how browsers were to migrate to this new use, or what web developers should do to help their audience slowly migrate across to this different syntax. Drew's article is the first I know of to assess how well this W3C-desired syntax works in the world today.)

Thursday, November 28, 2002

MIDI Synthesizer in Flash: Martin Wilde does something incredible. "An outline and demonstration of the steps necessary to make and use a software MIDI synthesizer within Flash. At its core is a MIDI interpreter, written in ActionScript. It steps through the SMF using the setInterval timer, and starts and stops sounds attached to individual movie clips to play back the score. We compensate for timer inaccuracies by padding each sound with 10 mS of silence and playing catch up in the MIDI score. We map sounds from the library onto specific MIDI channel and note locations in an array of note objects, and perform note stealing to keep the number of simultaneous notes within the 8-channel constraint of Flash."
[via Ian Chia]

Wednesday, November 27, 2002 It's still gearing up. Once there's a sizable archive, it would be interesting to data-mine post office addresses out of there, sort them geographically, and then make these addresses available to people in that area....
Barbie blog: From Mattel. Flash-enhanced. A little strange. Her phone is nice, and a webcam for a cartoon character must be a cartoon rather than a video feed, right...?)
Use a browser, go to jail: Amnesty International says China has imprisoned 33 people for saying the wrong things, going to the wrong sites on the net. Two have allegedly already died while in custody.

The more I think about this the more there is to think about... was it internet access per se that is being repressed, or is it just general repression about expressing any un-PC opinion, and the net just happened to be the means? What types of technologies are companies from freer nations providing China, and are they examining the effects of their actions? If China has surveillance equipment, then maybe the answers are in reducing the size of their government and not stopping voluntary individuals from surveilling the government in turn?

"The report is the first in which Amnesty International identifies Internet users as a new class of dissident - alongside the religious, political, and minority rights dissenters already targeted by China." I'm not sure about that... if someone has a particular belief or ancestry and others use force against them for that reason, then that's one class of violence, but just because someone uses the internet (or a telephone, or fax machine) doesn't automatically make them a dissident. The net is the means, not the content. Hmm, will think on this some more....

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Internet not a highway: It's better visualized as a set of footpaths, unplanned, decentralized, organic. This BBC article discusses simulations of attacks upon a few critical network nodes. Redundancy isn't needed in good times, when "shortest distance between two points" applies, but during stress, diversity is a distinct advantage.
Naval expulsions: I know there's already a lot of bloggage around about copyright, but something in the real world has to give soon. I've seen people get expelled for theft before, and it's not pleasant. But then again, check out this op/ed in the National Review: "The Founding Fathers wanted that term to be 14 years, with an additional 14 years if the author were still alive. After 28 years, they figured you'd had your chance to exploit your creation, and now it belonged to the nation at large. That way we would never end up with a system of hereditary privilege..." And this debate about "file-sharing" is a subset of the discussion on "application sharing", because the latter contain executable code of suspect origin.
O'Reilly editors debate Rich Internet Applications: I came across this yesterday, but had to push it to paper to read it to try to get the main points. Tim O'Reilly brought up the interesting point that RIAs can benefit from breaking free of the browser (see "Director" item here earlier today). There is apparently some concern that things other than approved browsers may be talking together. In the "Comments" someone says "Anyone still using Flash simply hasn't tried SVG, or is engrossed in Macromedia FUD." [ oh, well ;-) ]

What's most interesting to me is that the phrase "Rich Internet Applications" is starting to be used by some folks as a phrase that pre-exists Macromedia usage. I'm not sure how to do a time-sorted search of the web itself, but I know it's easy to find the first occurrences of "rich internet application" on UseNet. RIAs are getting Kleenex'd and Scotch-Tape'd...? ;-)

Anyway, this O'Reilly article is a good overview of the current discussion points on this subject.
Does Flash watch you? Someone with a blog named Tom wrote how they just noted the Macromedia Flash Player 6 can ask your permission to turn on your cam or mic. This got Slashdotted half-a-year ago. Someone called "Chuck" quickly set him straight today (thank you, mysterious stranger ;-).

But now I see that both Dave Winer and Doc Searls have pushed the visibility higher, phrasing it as "What does DoubleClick see when they look at you through their ads?" Read it again, fellows... think it through. With the traffic you give to links you do have a certain responsibility.

Recap: If you've got a cam, then the Flash Player is capable of using it, but only if you give permission to that site to do so. Do a context-click in the Player to see your current permission settings. These permissions are stored on your local drive and are under your control. Click that little "?" button in the Player's settings to learn more.
Director MX announced: I held off on blogging entirely yesterday, despite this good news, because I didn't want to shoot my yap off without thinking. Happy news first, disquieting news after that.

Director MX is a superset of Flash abilities. It now includes all of Flash MX and adds a bunch on top. It's particularly useful when you're creating standalone applications rather than browser-based applications.

I've been thinking about delivery engines -- the actual software which displays a presentation. In Dreamweaver you can create text and light interactivity for delivery to various browser engines. Once your presentation gets too demanding for various browsers, you can step up to Flash for delivery to that predictable, capable and ubiquitous engine. But once your presentation's needs surpasses what the small ubiquitous engine can do -- extensibility, media management, hardware acceleration, arbitrary media types, incorporation of ActiveX content, realtime data visualization -- then the Shockwave web engine and Director standalone applications come into play.

There's overlap in each of these three engine types -- DHTML can do some Flash-y things, Shockwave can do webby things, Flash extends into each side of this spectrum -- but browser delivery, web application, and standalone application describe a spectrum of delivery modes.

With Director moving into the MX generation, I believe it will be easier for people to cross over from one application into the other... it will be less expensive in total development costs to take full advantage of this spectrum of deliveries from browser, to web application, to standalone.

So why didn't I write about this yesterday? Because I saw some comments that implied that if code wasn't entirely "Made in USA" then there was something wrong. This ticked me off, but I wanted to think it through before saying anything.

The language someone speaks, where they live, how they look, that doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is how people treat each other -- how they treat themselves, how they treat their environment -- what they do.

Macromedia's customers live all over the world. Our engineers come from all over the world. Our beta partners come from all over the world. Macromedia has used off-site engineers on many projects in the past, and I don't care if they're offsite in another country. Matter of fact, it's great if we have people working together across national boundaries.

What matters is whether they do the job well and have a positive impact on their surroundings. Code ported to Mac OS X still needs to be checked against the same QA standards, still needs to be accepted by the global beta team, still needs to be accepted by customers and their clients.

I'm used to some trash-talk on the lists with every new release... mailing lists and newsgroups are an information resource, but they're also a recreational resource, and debate is normal. But this debating-point of making judgments about people depending on where they live... that just rubs me the wrong way, particularly with all these other fundamentalists out there threatening other human beings. I'm tired of it; it's past time to be that small.

Anyway, I'm working on an article for DesDev on how Director MX can help people using any Macromedia MX technology to expand their delivery options. There's lots of comment and news articles on Director, which you've probably all ready by now considering how late I am with this blog entry.... ;-)