Saturday, December 07, 2002

Boeing trials on plane connectivity: British Airways and Lufthansa will be testing internet access during translatic flights in early 2003. Japan Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines System will also be testing such access.
[via Samizdata]
Traffic info by site or voice: The San Francisco Bay Area now joins the 21 other areas which feature live on-demand traffic information. Dial "511" and navigate the menus by voice. The associated website is still under development. (If you've got usage or interface anecdotes, whether in SF or other areas, then I'd enjoy hearing about them in the Comments, thanks.)
Christophe Leske's Director blog: Christophe used to work here in San Francisco on the Director team, and now lives back in Germany. He focuses here on realtime rendering through the 3D engine within Director and its Shockwave Player. (The standard disclaimer about "undocumented functionality" applies... if something's not in the docs there's usually a reason, whether it's a cowboy feature, experiment, etc. This may not matter as much if you're distributing a self-contained project, but when you're relying on a web player it's safest to stay with mainstream techniques.) Christophe knows his stuff, and it's great to see him keeping a public technical diary like this.

Friday, December 06, 2002

"hong kong terrorist kill the hong kong people" spam: The net produces odd things. I had seen this message posted to various Yahoo groups, and after finally Googling on the phrase found it was posted to many MSN groups too. It doesn't show up much on UseNet, although it may have been cancelled wholesale by now. I don't understand it, but someone went to a lot of effort to get this out there...? [Security note: I scanned the GeoCities source and didn't notice anything threatening, but some of the images apparently contain data in their addresses... visit only in a browser you trust, or try this cleaned copy at 8-Bit Joystick.]
Glenn Fleishman on 802.11 Planet conference: Notes from the recent WiFi get-together in Santa Clara, California. Look for live coverage in the entries from Tues Dec3 to Thu Dec5. (I'd offer highlights from my own reading, but those long skinny columns make scanning-with-context difficult... I may reformat and print his notes.)
Case study of pseudonymous posting: The Register carries an article on people who have conversations with themselves in an online group under multiple pseudonyms, kill themselves off and come miraculously back to life, have affairs with themselves, etc. There could still be something of value in an anonymous conversation, but it's richer mining conversations where people own their own words.
IBM buys Rational: Consolidation continues in the tools market. One of the reasons I like being involved with Macromedia is that we work with a variety of technologies... ColdFusion skills function at a level atop .NET or J2EE concerns, for instance... you're covered no matter which way the underlying technology goes.
"Strandbeest" in SWF video: I knew intellectually that the video-capable version of the Macromedia Flash Player had as high a viewership as any other video solution, and was easier to install across a range of environments than any other. But this is one of the first examples of a pure-video play that I've stumbled across -- where the content is just video, and someone happened to choose SWF for its convenience. (I'm wondering whether it may first have been compressed for some other format, though, from examining the artifacts.) Anyway, Dutch scientist/artist Theo Jansen makes simple machines which walk to the wind. (btw, if you know people who want to put video on the web who don't work in Flash, then Sorenson Squeeze does it directly... check out their Learning Center for tips, too.)
[via Cory Doctorow, via Popular Science]
CNET year-end predictions: " CNET has assembled some of the best entrepreneurial and research minds in the technology industry to share their views on five rapidly evolving technology sectors: security, Web services, open source, personal technology and wireless communications." I always enjoy finding what's important to the people magazines think are important. I tried reading this online but kept skipping to other, more interactive work... I broke down and registered to get a PDF to print out, and it's 88 pages with large type and graphics which is working at the printer now. Consequently, I'm not yet sure what "the meat" of these viewpoints may be. But if you're interested in this kind of thing, then here's the link for your own text-wading.... ;-)
Spam: a dish best served cold Newspapers have run stories recently about spammers who buy large houses and new cars with the fruits of their pollution. The boasting apparently has a cost, as one such spammer gets a higher-than-expected poundage of Unsolicited Commercial Snailmail.... ;-)
[via Slashdot]

Thursday, December 05, 2002

REI GPS: It's easy enough to say I don't get out enough, but I was shocked when looking through an REI catalog to see how economical and personal global positioning access has become. Granted, we can't design interfaces for these single-purpose devices, but I'm convinced that there will be increasing demand for multi-purpose devices with software-based interface and functionality.
Colin Moock's ActionScript Guide samples: You can pick up Chapter 10 on events here, or Chapter 13 on movie clips here. Full info on the book is here.
Top reasons search engines don't index: A useful checklist of 21 items from Robin Nobles, at StickySauce.
Google Info for Webmasters: Seems to be a new resource... scroll towards bottom for "Guidelines", "Facts & Fiction", "Choosing an SEO", FAQ, more.
[via Aaron Swartz, GoogleBlog]
GooglePeople: Interesting post-processing of Google results. Enter a "who is" question, like "Who was Elvis Presley's manager?". From what I understand, GooglePeople then massages this into a Google query and submits it, retrieves the top results and compares it with a name database to extract names. This seems like a rich area....
[via GoogleBlog]
Phillip Torrone has a Segway! The lucky dog! (In San Francisco a self-identified "progressive" supervisor is pushing to ban them on the basis of "could be bad". Considering the actual state of sidewalks under existing laws, I think it's just another shakedown operation they're trying to run on people.) Anyway, I'm glad Phil can use that low-impact device!
Chambers' Calendar/Picker example: Mike has an example SWF up that shows the features of the new Calendar component on the new DRK. (Click links there for examples of datagrid component.)
Chris MacGregor on PetMarket: "If you haven't downloaded the Pet Market then you are missing a fantastic Flash developer learning experience." You can download it here, or get it delivered on the new DRK. (btw, the dev center has a new RIA sample app this week... I haven't worked through it myself yet, but if you're working in this area it's a strong resource.)
Wildform Linx: I haven't seen the UI yet, but this seems like it might be useful... an easy way to create SWF for visual displays. See FAQ page for info.
[via Guy Watson]
Trouble installing Dreamweaver update? In most cases it's fine, but we're getting a lock on a particular combo that doesn't work. If you tried to install the updater and failed, could you drop a note titled "Trouble installing updater" at the Dreamweaver forum? Include (a) the build number of Dreamweaver and (b) the version and maker of the anti-virus software you're using. We think we may be able to get this resolved quickly. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Flash Player beta: LAST CALL! We've had this in public developer beta since Oct18, and this is your last chance to confirm that your existing sites play identically or better to previous renderers before we start using this as the default distribution to all consumers. Mike's got more info about the changed areas over here. I realize I'm asking you to invest a few minutes in something that likely won't show any difference, but the risks if we're wrong would be too great, so please doublecheck your sites in our new engine today, thanks!
3-day RIA course: This 3-day intensive on "Developing Rich Internet Applications with Macromedia MX" was introduced last month, and the number of classes in different locations will be increasing sharply as more people become skilled in it. If you're in the UK then keep an eye on this locator, because there should be a number of classes offered in London soon. (If you're in a location that doesn't yet have this class, and desire it, then please use that locator set to "all" to find local trainers in your area and let them know what you want, thanks.)
Popup window overview: Ian Lloyd has a short article on things to watch for when creating popup windows for browsers. He includes specific information for link-management within Dreamweaver.
Adaptation to cell phones: Yahoo News has a Reuters feed on a callback scam, and Matt Drudge picked up on a story about university cheating. In the DMCA's eBook case the prosecutor demonizes the technology, but it's really what people do with technology that counts. You don't blame the air for facillitating a crime....
Different type of software bust: One of the arrests yesterday was for a group which diverted academic software into commercial channels. In this case, someone who paid money to the crooks would be executing genuine Microsoft instructions, rather than instructions which were originally from Microsoft and may have been subsequently altered. (The quote from Robert Stoll about terrorists moving to software piracy was important, but I haven't been able to find other references yet.) Key theme: it's important to know and trust whose instructions you're running on your computer.
Antique Flash Player stats: Someone on FlashCoders-L asked for a way to find old consumer-viewership stats for the Macromedia Flash Player, to chart his own estimate of future penetration rates. I didn't reply and felt bad about it -- the only thing I could think of was to hound people inside to dig up and make new webpages for this archive material, and I'm already pushing them to publicize the Player Privacy pages on the download page. Alex Uhlmann came up with this elegant solution -- use the Wayback Machine! (btw, McNeil-Lehrer had a good spot on Google a week or so ago, and there was a short interview with Brewster Kahle... great to see that there.) This has gotten play in various blogs this week, but from what I can tell of it, I'm still seeking something different. I'm seeking appropriate resource extraction from various syndicated blogs. Unless I'm misreading the texts I've read about this project, it's a distinct blog on a certain topic. I'm seeking an aggregator which breaks out and highlights existing items from various trusted bloggers on certain categories of information. If you're seeking information on "ColdFusion and data visualization" or "Flash and PHP" or whatever, it would be great to get that automatically collected from a variety of sources that either you, or a trusted expert, prefer. (I've read through a lot of text with debates on RSS, but I haven't seen them focus on this type of user experience.) Anyway, John Hiler has a good track record, it's worth checking out this newest work.
SWF Kit: This seems to be a Windows app which invokes the system-level Macromedia Flash Player in its ActiveX wrapper in order to create a standalone, similar to SWF Studio. But the shell apparently supports an ECMAScript-style scripting language to access such system functions.
[via Guy Watson, who picked it up from FlashMagazine]

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Declan McCullagh on device prohibition: He gets to the heart of the problem with Hollywood's current legislative approach -- if digital devices are outlawed, then only outlaws will have digital devices. Prohibiting machines which can copy will only serve to drive up the street value of such devices. It's smarter to keep them in the legal marketplace, and to figure out sustainable ways to deal with digital delivery.
Blog reader discount codes: Matt's got the latest secret numbers here. If you read the Macromedia blogs you can get a 10% discount on many items in the Macromedia store.
Graphics affect site credibility: This one surprised me... in two Consumer Reports tests, half judged a site's credibility by visual layout and coherence. Citing sources and having policy and contact info were also important.
[via Rodrigo Fonseca on WebDesign-L]
Dreamweaver 6.1 updater: In addition to features supporting Macromedia Contribute, this includes about a hundred change-requests that came in after Dreamweaver MX was released. The Extension Manager has also been updated, as well as HomeSite+ on Windows. Please do read this document before installing the updater; you'll need to disable your extensions before installing, and it's good practice to back up your site settings whenever changing the bits.
FPBA "Commflash" ads at NY Times: This is apparently a different presentation for a full-page ad... it is triggered when you leave a page, and disappears when the next page loads... sounds like it wouldn't interfere with reading or make people wait, but could still provide a revenue source for a site. There's more info at the FPBA site... click on "Commflash", then "How It Works" for info.
China's success in blocking access: This graph shows how difficult it may actually be to use some-but-not-all of the network. It summarizes the Harvard Berkman report found here. They have succeeded in blocking many sites, but cannot block more than two-thirds of the top 100 with even an explicit keyword like "tibet". I'm encouraged that the network will still route around damage... decentralism does grow faster and smarter than centralism.
[via Poynter] This site is something about a new technique for making search engines happier with SWFs. I went through over a dozen screens and am not sure of what it is yet... there's talk about making URLs without query strings, which is a technique used among application servers. May be worth spending more time reading if this is currently a hot item for you, sorry I can't readily summarize it.
SWF in OpenOffice: OpenOffice is an open-source project for office software (home page here, more news here). Ned noted that he has added SWF export to the drawing and presentation modules of this suite.Augustus Saunders made the work possible. (This doesn't have an immediate effect on all of us here, but it's great to see the file format being used in open-source projects.)
Developer Resource Kit #2 now available: Some of these extensions are available only on this disc. Click the "next" button on this page for an overview. The main advantage may be having everything in one place, portable with you wherever you go. There's some incredible stuff in here... the "Sitewide Spelling Check" in Dreamweaver could earn the cost of the entire CD... the Fireworks automation gives much higher-level control over visuals... some of the Flash extensions were outside the range of what I expected to be possible... the RIA samples are kits for using all the technologies together.
Contribute ships: This is big news... big demand for it already. But there have also been some frequent requests for future work too: "I want to use more transfer protocols than just FTP or local"... "I want clients to use this interface to change databases as well as files"... "I want more of an approval workflow". There are lots of sites that need easy updating by ordinary people, and with any luck we'll see an incremental increase in the quality of sites worldwide.

Monday, December 02, 2002

GPS tracings produce Amsterdam map: Cool project using new sensors. Volunteers in Amsterdam wore global-positioning sensors. The data for their movements around town were accumulated into a variety of maps. The viewing interface is still a primitive series of JPGs, though... it would be great to be able to navigate through this visual database interactively.

(My theme here is that new sensors, effectors, and ways to mediate the two will let us all do startlingly different types of things over the next few years. It's the development community which will really discover such specific needs and explore solutions... big companies can follow, but individual developers can lead.)
[via Mark Frauenfelder]
"Flash spies on you" wrapup, call for help: Last week Tom Matrullo posted to his blog concerns that the Macromedia Flash Player could sneak peeks at you. (It can't; it needs your permission to access your cam or mic.) In comments to his blog he was informed of the true facts, and these were repeated in the comments here in my blog.

Yet today there's new material there like this: "Flash 6 can turn your computer, via its camera and microphone, into a large bug in your home or office. It's also fairly clear that Macromedia has gone out of its way to downplay this fact."

Tom's blog entry was picked up, apparently without investigation, by Dave Winer and Doc Searls, and because of their link influence, it went out to varied other places. The issue has carried, regardless of its logic.

So, I could use your help. I may not have been successful in identifying a true concern in Tom's posts, but in any case I haven't been successful in allaying his fears. Can other readers of this blog get these basics across to him, or identify something in his posts that we may actually be able to act upon? I would be very grateful if you could.

(In comments here I guessed whether he might want a link to the player's privacy & security pages on our download page, and folks on the product team I contacted today agree that's a good idea. But I've just been guessing at what Tom is trying to get across, or what would be of use to him, and I'm not confident I can get much further with him myself. That's why I'm asking other readers of this blog for help in explaining or identifying. Thanks in advance!)
eWeek article on ColdFusion and Linux: They were good enough to mention that we've been trying to reproduce problem configurations, although without success in achieving similar failures. But it's unfortunate that author put that as "Macromedia officials blame the problems on incompatible distributions of Linux" -- that's just flamebait, putting it like that. If you're on Linux, and are having problems, and if this document does not help, then please do contact the support folks, because we want to learn what's different in those cases, thanks.
Slashdot soliciting accessibility questions for Joe Clark: I scanned through the comments... one asked about designing for cognitive differences, but it may have been a troll. I'm still curious about the bigger picture of determining who the audience is and how to reach them.