Friday, June 07, 2002

ISITE Design is starting a collection of web services, developed in ColdFusion MX. The first batch includes charting and a caching newsfeed for Slashdot.
Dean Jackson on SVG: "As an aside, if Macromedia Flash exported SVG today, it could be one of the best SVG authoring tools in existence." Actually, you can do this today, at least on PC... copy a shape to the clipboard and use SVGFactory to turn it to XML curves.

"Adobe has publicly stated a distribution for the Adobe SVG viewer in excess of 150 million, and that is just one of the many SVG implementations around today. If you didn't already know, the Adobe SVG viewer is bundled with Adobe Acrobat Reader, and will be bundled with Real Player in the future." Where's the Adobe citation? (Recently Acrobat has started including an old version of their SVG plugin, ASV2, which has some DOM and scripting differences from the Adobe's ASV3.) Where does that "150M" number come from?

If anybody knows of a gallery of good SVG deployments it would be great to pass the link, thanks.

Recap: Vector graphics are great. Flash's goal is a bit beyond that, though.
Yahoo redesign: "The page's redesign would further accentuate interactive types of advertisements on the site, according to sources familiar with Yahoo's plans. "
Adobe CEO says "It's clear Macromedia has done a good job in creating a standard with Flash." Thanks, but it's really the developers out in the world who drove that phase of the revolution forward. Now we're getting to the interesting part -- the struggle has changed from "How can I count on predictable power in visitors' browsers?" to "How can I most efficiently deliver usable and useful applications with this technology?" What happens when video evolves from a one-way presentation medium into a two-way communication medium, for instance? I'm convinced the next few years will be extremely interesting!
Shirley Kaiser raves on TopStyle, among other things which caught her eye this week. Dreamweaver likes TopStyle, and TopStyle likes Dreamweaver too. I'm watching the lists for people who describe their new workflow when using both tools together, thanks in advance.
HomeSite & Unicode: There's a thread on Evolt about someone trying to write Chinese text inside HomeSite. Doing a search of the HomeSite Support Center with term "unicode" pulls up the Release Notes right away. (This also comes up on Google.) It's much faster to search than to have people on lists tell you something can't be done!
Macromedia forums re-org: Some minor changes here, in both the newsgroups and mirrored webboards. The special "Preview Release" groups are still available as read-only for a while, but will go fully away soon. There's a new Dreamweaver AppDev forum for discussion of database related issues. The older macromedia.ultradev group will eventually merge into this. In the next week or so there should be additional cross-product groups for people focused on government or academic delivery. Full list will be in your newsreader's "Subscribe" dialog or on the gateway to the webboards.
Mozilla and plugins: If you install Mozilla over Communicator then it should naturally pick up your Flash and Shockwave Players. But if you try to go to the Macromedia site to get a new Player in Mozilla, then, uh, the site's browser-detection don't work. You'll see a link and a message "We are unable to locate a single Web player that best matches your platform and operating system." If you follow the link you'll be able to choose your download. Embarrassing, I know, but the Macromedia web team has been very hard at work on a big revamp of the site, so minor changes have been deferred, that's the background. (btw, there's another article on Mozilla and plugins here, and I've got some more in the archives here.)

Thursday, June 06, 2002

"Bad Flash" humor: That old "Flash 99% Bad" article by Jakob Nielsen is still in the Daypop Top 40, and among its citations there are nice soundbites at "The 1% is just not good enough" and "Sites that try and build interfaces completely in flash are not only inefficient but tend to be resource whores." What's funny is when you examine the page on which this opinion appears.... ;-)

(Speaking of citations, why is MetaLinker so hard to find in Google? I've seen those little "[b]"s inserted into some blogs, but I'm really doubtful about the usability... you may occasionally wish to pursue a reference, but good gosh your eyes get tired ignoring all those little nits while reading. The citation utility in the sidebar on this page requires a context-click to copy a link, then a click and a paste, but considering the frequency of actual use this seems like a more workable flow...?)
"Why use SWF?" poll at SWFNews: Matt Rice & Co. ask whether it's browser independence, retained-state, interface abilities, multiple devices or what it is that you find advantageous in going to a single predictable renderer rather than multiple HTML/JS renderers. I know this isn't scientific, but I'd be interested in the results myself. (btw, we're also seeking info about how you navigate the Macromedia Designer & Developer Center... if you have a few minutes for the survey on the front page I'd appreciate it, thanks!)

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Theft of digital movies: If the problem is that a company which does not recognize the social contract is in a territory which does not recognize the social contract, why don't Sony and Disney just spam them to death? If someone wants to take advantage of the network, yet does not respect the network, then I'm not sure whether the network should respect them...?
Evolving viruses threat to many platforms - Tech News - They're righting a rear-guard action, by continually trying to identify bad digital content. The key questions should instead be "Whose digital content are you willing to accept, and what permissions do you allow them to have?" This is related to "How can you tell whose digital content is *valuable* to accept?" Search engines and blogging and navigational systems... theft of software and websites and music... email inundation and spam... we're still in the phase of "hey it's great that we can send all this stuff around!" and haven't yet fully moved to "hey which of this stuff is useful for me, and which do I trust, and how can I feedback so others produce more similar stuff?"
Commentary on UI lawsuits: Marc Zeedar has an interesting take, because as a developer himself he sees both sides, including the backstage side. "I would urge developers to tread lightly. Focus on adding capabilities and being competitive in features, not in the courts. The courts are infamous for misunderstanding technology and few of their technology-related decisions are rational."
List of resources for SWF components: Cool, Mike pulls together addresses of various articles, tutorials and commentary on using those encapsulated components in Flash files. (A "component" is a built of pre-built functionality which you can customize, like a scrollbar you can drag into a textfield, a popup calendar and so on.) That's like how he pulled together links on Flash history awhile back. I like that because now all I have to do is Google on "flash history mesh" to pull up an evaluated list of resources.... hmm, hey, maybe that's a way to use Google better, to use some type of unique keyword system so you can easily navigate to evaluated lists of links...?
Text editor in SWF: Stuart Schoneveld does something wild... builds a text editor in less than 32 kilobytes. I picked up the link while reading Dave Winer's page (at 107K of text, with many images and complex tables to render), who got it from Jon Udell, who picked it up from a lengthier entry by Timothy Appnel.

Jon writes: "Does the tightly-managed Flash kernel have room for a full-featured WYSIWYG editor?" It doesn't have to... there's this tiny rendering engine massively deployed in the world, which can accept arbitrary instructions for various sandbox'd tasks. You can think of it as similar to how Java class files can provide additional instructions for a Java Virtual Machine, except that SWF files tend to be smaller and the Macromedia Flash Player is more predictable and faster to start.

I'm not sure if Stuart's current example delivers the data to the server or to the hosting application... the former may be more practical considering that IE/Win and Java-enabled NS3.x & 4.x on Mac & Win are the only browsers which realistically support script/object intercommunication yet. Edited data could also be saved to disk via Flash's "shared objects", used in this case as a cookie-like mechanism.

(I wonder how Stuart is handling the blinking cursor... seems like it might be a tight repeat loop rather than a frame loop, or is there something else grabbing processor cycles in that SWF...?)

I think the core question here is "Is it possible to build a SWF which can function as a visual text editor for a blog?" If so, then I don't see any outstanding roadblocks. But I'm not sure why you wouldn't do the writing/layout in a regular visual HTML editor, outside of the browser. Is the problem here that Dreamweaver is too expensive or complex for such use? Or is it more like the advantage to an in-browser editor being that you can change machines or locations easily?
Discreet ships plasma: This is a 3D creation tool from the makers of 3D Studio Max, which exports to either Flash or Shockwave formats for delivery. I haven't used it yet but it sounds intriguing. (Flash export just gives you a lot of symbols, but Shockwave 3D is real geometry & scene description for rendering-on-demand, and would be much smaller and more interactive than the static SWF renderings.) The plasma product page has not been updated yet but should have more details later today.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Jon Udell picks up on Phil Chung's client-side categorization of a news feed. Dave Winer objected that the type was too small, and Ben Hammersley opined "pure evil" but without details. The specific interface needn't be the final one -- Phil did put this together pretty quickly -- but I'm excited by the possibilities of showing only selected info on demand, rather than having to wade through large amounts of text.
WIRED: RTFM This starts as an article about software documentation, but the real meat is in the anecdotes about cultural translation. This could be a good bookmark for future client negotiations.

For me, accessibility, usability, and globalization are all parts of the same puzzle: who is the audience? how can you test whether your intended message is actually received and acted upon as desired? (Sometimes I wonder why accessibility discussions don't get into vocabulary recommendations... we seem to have separated physical and cognitive abilities...!)
QuickTime 6 Public Preview This includes the Macromedia Flash Player 5. If you notice any problems with your existing Flash 5 content, then please get word to Apple here. More info is available in these articles from InfoWorld, Mac News Network, and ongoing coverage at MacFixIt. Discussion forums are here.
MX Executive Presentation is more than just a telling of the expected return-on-investment from MX technologies... it's also a demonstration of the upcoming Flash Communications technology. We're playing this pretty low-key right now, using this presentation in part for load-testing on the servers, but please do take a critical look at it to see the technical problems that are being addressed.

On a related note, I was hunting wristwatches the other day and came across this experimental videoconference wristwatch. It's not in production, but various wristwatch digital cameras are already mass-market items.

I've been trying to think how video communications will change when you can casually broadcast images from your computer's cam. The availability of portable video recorders made everyone a potential reporter, and mass-market TV shows which featured amateur video consequently changed the aesthetics of mainstream video shooting. Low cost and portable digital cameras now let bystanders beam crime-scene details directly to investigators while the trail is hot. There are unintended benefits from making it more economical to connect.

I have a feeling that this Flash Communications technology, when coupled with client-side interactivity and server-side connectivity, and with the prevalence of portable devices, sensors and effectors, may have unintended benefits greater than previous revolutions.

What happens when video changes from a presentation technology, to a communications technology...?

Monday, June 03, 2002

Flash Player for Nokia Communicator: These phones are very popular in Europe, and supporting networks are now being built in the US. The Player is available today: "Macromedia Flash Player 5 ships with every new Nokia 9200 Communicator Series phone including the Nokia 9210i Communicator and the Nokia 9290 Communicator. Nokia Communicator owners can also download Macromedia Flash Player by visiting". There is talk of a set of authoring guidelines for these devices, although I'm not sure of a publication date yet.
SWF usability assistance: During development it's expensive to test whether an application's intended usage matches up with how real people use it, but it's vital to make sure that the correct problem is actually being solved. Jakob Nielsen will be creating a "best practices" document for rich internet applications in SWF. I think this can be helpful reading for developers, but will also help with client communications, and the long-term effect should be to help the viewing audience around the world.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Flash & Unicode: There are regular posts about "unicode don't work" in the Flash newsgroup, but I haven't parsed each to figure out if they've used the documentation in the technotes. This area was not fully documented at initial release, but the docs are online, rather than in the package. (When I see a localization post I generally move on to other posts myself because testing is usually configuration-dependent.)
Dreamweaver MX newsgroup notes: I'm continuing to check for reports of problems, but things seem to be going smoothly so far. There are a few notes down on the Wednesday and Thursday entries to this blog, but I haven't caught anything new over the weekend.
[Keyword: HotIssue, Dreamweaver MX]
Photoshop 7/Mac as external image editor: On DIRECT-L there is a thread about an inability to designate Photoshop 7 for MacOS 9.x as an external editor for Macromedia Director. Shangara Singh posted a note of unknown source from "marc" (maybe Marc Pawliger of the Photoshop team?) describing that the new Photoshop icon does not actually represent the application. Shangara suggests making an alias of the Photoshop icon and then designating this as the external editor in Director's "External Editors" Preferences dialog. I don't yet know whether this path has been confirmed, or how many other applications it affects, but if you're having doing a jump-to-Photoshop on the Mac, then try making an alias of Photoshop and specifying this alias as your external editor.
Listbox usability: If you have a long list of items to display in a browser, then a scrolling listbox or popup menu can present many items in a small screen area. But take a look at Samuel Wan's Fisheye demo... the range of options is always visible, and you can inspect any item without forearm stress from extended mouse-dragging. Sam notes that the relative sizes of the text can be easily customized with this drop-in Flash component, and in the studies he cites there's speculation about which types of list inspection work particularly well for fish-eye approaches. Even if you're not a heavy scripter yourself, Sam's work here can help you easily create more usable interfaces for your own clients.

(By the way, if you get into usability discussions with clients, then keep an eye on the news tomorrow... should be some new info which can help!)