Saturday, December 21, 2002

Anil Dash on net identity: Good article on the social effects of Google and other engines making more of your reputation available to more people on demand. Note in the "comments" the disparity of experience, often based on how common or unusual your name is! "One of the biggest benefits of that reality is that I now have control. The information I choose to reveal on my site sets the biggest boundaries for my privacy on the web. Granted, I'll never have total control. But look at most people, especially novice Internet users, who are concerned with privacy. They're fighting a losing battle, trying to prevent their personal information from being available on the web at all. If you recognize that it's going to happen, your best bet is to choose how, when, and where it shows up."
New media book blog: Karl-Peter Gottschalk has his full blog here, but one of the nice features of Radio is that it offers separate category pages for entries, such as this set of news and reviews on recent books on information architecture and related subjects.
Jeff Jarvis video blogging: Jeff comes out of the publishing and news community (background), rather than the web development community, and on Dec 18 he started experimenting with video blogs. He was a critic for TV Guide for awhile, so his perspective on what works and what doesn't will be usefully different than what we-all have here. I'm not able to evaluate his vlogs at the moment (I'm on a Mac now, and he's using ASF format), but if you're working in this area then keep an eye on him and what he comes up with. (I've already given him a cross-link to our work, in his comments here.)

Friday, December 20, 2002

"But It's Free!" Hot article by Ben Forta on ColdFusion... he has discussed this so often that you get the pure, distilled essence of his replies to "What is ColdFusion anyway?" and "But something else is free!" His point in there about CFQUERY is the archetypal example of differences in the total costs of development. Summary:"So, why buy ColdFusion when ASP (or JSP or PHP or Perl or...) is free? Well, if they were indeed free that would be a very good question."
Macromedia holiday hours: Most staff here will be gone from Dec 23 to 27, and again on New Years Day. Lots of us will be stopping in to the office through that week, and the online staff will also be up here in the cloud at the usual odd hours.
ColdFusion on Linux update: The app recommends a standard distribution, but staff is continuing to research and test additional configurations too. This updated document describes application and OS updates and procedures. (If you're on Solaris it's also recommended to use current OS and application versions for best results.)
Gordon 1.1: This is a SWF decompiler and optimizer for Mac OS 10.1 or higher. I haven't used it yet myself, but Bjron Seeger dropped a note to FlashCoders today about it.
Local law on the internet? In the spirit of the Australian defamation case against Barrons, could The Magic Coffee Cup now be banned in Frisco? I guess all these 8-balls should be banned links too.... ;-)

Thursday, December 19, 2002

SF Satellite photo: This shows current cloud conditions for the San Francisco Peninsula... helpful these days if you're timing your expeditions for the rain. (It's a full moon tonight, so even if it's dark it shouldn't be too dark.... ;-) I got to this image through the regular Weather Underground page for San Francisco, and was surprised to see that you could specify any latitude and longitude in their URL. You can't use their data for your own purposes, of course (see their ad-free offer instead), but I'm fascinated by being able to look down on myself in realtime.... ;-)
Andrew Stopford's Weblog: I first "met" Andrew in the Macromedia Generator community, and his skills extend into a range of other areas as well. I discovered his blog through a link-check at David Sifry's Technorati, and noticed that he's also commenting on some of the articles that caught my eye today, with an interesting intersection between PHP and .NET.
Marriott to add Wi-Fi in 400 hotels: Let's see, building railroads required a couple of big companies to stretch coast-to-coast... building highways required an Act of Eisenhower... I don't know the history of telephone networks but I bet it's interesting... yet these wi-fi networks are built by many, in their own best interest, lilypondishly...?
[via Rick Klau]
Director MX trial back online: We had to take it down for a bit yesterday because the trial wrapper apparently interefered with the accessibility extensions somehow...? (Director's new Text-to-Speech Xtra offers programmatic control over spoken word without requiring a screen reader like WindowEyes or JAWS... more info here and here.) Lots of folks just directly purchased it -- early sales are higher than for any previous version of Director -- but if you're in a trial version and trying commands like "voiceSpeak('I'm crushing your head!')" without success, then this is the reason why. All clear now, though.
Realtime 3D nav in SWF: Florian Krüsch has done something great... a set of 40K scripting instructions which (a) reads an external model file of a room and reconstructs it in memory; then (b) uses Flash's Drawing API to create a drawing for this room multiple times per second. It uses polygons, ambient lighting and flat Lambert shading... all rendering is done in scripts! Very cool. (To compare with Shockwave's rendering, try Risky Whisky or Snowglobe) I don't know if Florian is offering this library for sale, or if it's part of a project and is not available separately, but this is a cool piece of work to explore.
[via Todd Hopkinson]
Holiday cards in SWF: Guy Watson over at FlashGuru has sparked a list of over two dozen ways to say "Season's Greetings".... ;-)
MX on Linux: If you're on Linux you're probably aware of this, but if you're considering a move then this could be a valuable resource. CodeWeavers Wine handles Windows APIs on Linux, and the app database documents how it works for various Windows apps. Dreamweaver MX is their top-rated application, Macromedia Flash MX is successful for many, and most Macromedia tools have records here too.

Macromedia ports servers directly to Linux, and the Flash Player is there too, but the numbers haven't worked out yet for porting an authoring tool to any flavor of Linux yet. Still, if you're considering having Linux on your only computer, then check into the Wine App DB to see how people can use these tools on it today.
Why JSP Sucks So Hard: A good rant like this is more enjoyable than a poor rant, particularly as Marc does describe what he wants. On a first read, I'm wondering whether their entire team is aware of what Dreamweaver can actually do, but I'll have to re-read the three-screen post and the comments to be sure.
[via Blogdex]
MX hidden story: Tim Anderson interviewed Macromedia Software Architect Edwin Smith at DevCon... there's lots in here I didn't know about what drove some ColdFusion decisions, technical aspects, Dreamweaver integration, JRun and Kawa and Flash and more. I'm going to print it out and reread it to remember it.

(This link and the following SD Times link both come from Waldo Smeets, whom many of you may know from the Flash online communities and who is now a sales engineer for Macromedia in The Netherlands. Lots more good info on his blog here.)
SD Times on MM: The Software Development Times has a nice op/ed by Bola Rotibi... nothing you don't know, but seeing the awareness spread in the IT community can't help but be a good thing. I'm glad she closes with this point: "We are entering into a more pervasive, interactive and communicative world, from both a consumer and enterprise standpoint. In this environment, the user experience—developer to end user—is paramount."
[via Waldo Smeets]

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Chicken liver update: I visited the new Gawker blogazine about Manhattan life, and saw a link for Amazon's beta restaurant service. Now, this does give useful results for chopped chicken liver in San Francisco (caution: URL may not work?). But look how it's implemented... you mail them a paper menu! I guess it's true that many restaurants don't have RSS feeds yet, but geez, get with th' program already.... ;-)
Ryan Junell's "Creative Commons" intro: Good use of narrated animation to explain the fed's "all rights reserved" copyright compared to the "some rights reserved" ofCreative Commons. (They offer predefined contracts and labels for various combinations of "you can use it if you credit me" and "if you make money off it I want a cut" and "you can or cannot remix me"... you can choose which rights you reserve for your work.)
Chicken Liver RIA: Facetious title, I know, but hear me out.... ;-)

This morning I had a yearning for some chopped chicken liver. I would have been happy with a bagel schmear, or croquettes of chopped chicken livers and gizzards, or even a good liverwurst sandwich -- any of these would have satisfied the craving. But I didn't know anyplace in my neighborhood or on the way to the office that offered such things. Like cole slaw, liver is getting harder to find.

I tried Googling local restaurant pages with " liver" and got some hits, but most were for liver'n'onions (which I'm not crazy about), and these were mostly dinner menus at downtown restaurants. I tried finding alternate restaurant lists at but that has folded... the menus at don't Google... I couldn't quickly generate other ways to search for a local place which had what I wanted.

Now, I'm sure the info is out there somewhere, but clientside searching of each feed I could think of didn't bear results. What could solve this class of problem is a server operation which regularly polls various source feeds on a subject, parsing the XML or HTML as needed, to feed a server-side database of this aggregate info, which could then be delivered to either SWF or HTML (or even XML) on demand. Matter of fact, a "SF restaurant" web application could also pick up any additional feeds, such as mapping, parking-lot mapping, any exposed reservation services, to construct a specific client-side application tuned to eating in San Francisco, communicating with its dedicated aggregating server.

Right now, I'm using a document browser to try to find documents which can help me to do things. The search engines I use serve every purpose of every person and use all available data feeds. I really want an application, a configurable tool which consults a set of well-chosen task-oriented data feeds, to help me accomplish particular repeating tasks. Documents have their place, but they're no substitute for applications. Or chopped chicken liver, for that matter...! ;-)
Library Lookup Project: I noted this here last week, but Jon Udell adds new wrinkles daily.

Summary: If you're reading about a book in a catalog or other page which contains the books unique ID in its URL, then the bookmarklets on Jon's page will parse that data out and submit it to a local library's web services to determine if the book is currently available on the shelf.

For me, this is a key example of the new development opportunities over the next year and more: figuring out what's on the net and taking advantage of it to perform a real service for people. Well worth examining!

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Another buffer overflow issue: I'm speaking personally here, rather than this being a considered comment for the company, but man, I'm tired of making subtly damaged files which crash "but which could theoretically be used to run instructions" (sans exploits) and then having a scad of press releases about a security service. I can make HTML files which never stop loading or which have JavaScript loops; bad files are bad news, period.

Now, I do think this particular security software house is a cut above the others, and I appreciate that they come to us first, and in practice I definitely like how there's incentive for others to catch any potential flaws in what we do, but if I never, ever hear the term "read buffer overflow" again then I'll be a far happier man....
Dmitry freed: SWF files have a "don't copy" bit too, but I wouldn't dream of prosecuting those who didn't respect it. You don't prohibit an enabling technology for fear of parasitization; it's stronger to either create a better technology or seek redress for any actual parasitization. This practice of demonizing a technology can reduce the amount of choice available to humans worldwide....
Blogging gap: Sorry I went dark here today... long meeting. Lots of good stuff coming up in the spring, that's all I can say now.... ;-)

Monday, December 16, 2002

Three perspectives on privacy: Declan McCullagh on NEWS.COM expands on that idea of decentralized identity authentication, and provides some specific reading resources. Centralizing authentication makes abuse too tempting... look at how technology encourages counterfeiting of government currency. Individual account cards, where your own actions and history replace a central bank, would remove that tempting target of a centralized currency. One-way public-key encryption can help decentralized and faceted authentication. Meanwhile, that "turning the tables" story of Matt Smith researching John Poindexter on the web continues to gather steam. With technology more humans can have more choices and more ability, but social systems will be adapting at the same time too.
Levels of openness: This CNET article discusses XML i/o in upcoming Microsoft "Office 11", and is tracked by Sean McGrath and Dave Winer today. I also believe a DTD would be essential to reliably matching the structure -- you could ad-hoc hacks to particular documents, but longtime you're hosed unless there's an agreement on the scope of the translation. XML can be a great format for exchange and translation, but this doesn't imply that all formatted structured in XML are readily translated.

It's an interesting distinction... because XML has an openly-viewable structure, does this mean it's "open", or can something still be hidden in plain sight...?
Fixing bad ads? Scott Manning has an item at about how obnoxious some SWF-based ads are. At bottom, these result from a series of consensual agreements between sites, their advertisers, and their audiences, but he and I are looking for possible practical ways to improve the situation... got tips?