Posts Tagged ‘apple’

Apple releases iPhone Software v2.2 (AppleInsider)

Friday, November 21st, 2008

[Editor's note: Cool new features in the iPhone 2.2 update include enhancements to Maps enabling Google Street View, public transit and walking directions, automatic reverse geocoding for addresses on dropped pins, ability to turn off auto-correction (still no way to manage the cx list), and my favorite: tapping the home button when in a screen of apps other than the home screen to return to the first page of apps. Useful when you have more than 3 screens of apps (don't you!?).]

Republished from AppleInsider.com from 21 November 2008.

Apple early Friday morning released iPhone 2.2 Software Update, which delivers a number of improvements and adds Google Street View, public transit and walking directions, and more. A similar update is available for iPod touch users without the new Maps enhancements.

New Features

The update includes all of the features that were outlined in recent weeks, including Emoji icons for Japanese users. Apple has published a page on its website dedicated to the release, and specifically highlights the following enhancements:

  • Enhancements to Maps
    • Google Street View: Street View takes you on a virtual walking tour: Navigate street-level photographs of places you’ve located in Maps.
    • Public transit and walking directions: Get walking directions, find public transit schedules, check fares, and estimate your travel time.
    • Display address of dropped pins
    • Share location via email: Tap the Share Location button to send an email that includes a Google Maps URL.
  • Decrease in call setup failures and dropped calls
  • Enhancements to Mail
    • Resolved isolated issues with scheduled fetching of email
    • Improved formatting of wide HTML email
  • Podcasts are now available for download in iTunes application (over Wi-Fi and cellular network): Get access to millions of free podcasts on the iTunes Store via Wi-Fi or your cellular network.
  • Improved stability and performance of Safari: A new search-friendly user interface, better performance, and more stability make Safari even easier to use.
  • Improved sound quality of Visual Voicemail messages
  • Home screen shortcut: pressing Home button from any Home screen displays the first Home screen.
  • Preference to turn on/off auto-correction in Keyboard Settings

iPod touch Software v2.2

Apple has also released a similar update for iPod touch users, however the accounting principles adopted by the company require that it charge for ‘new feature’ additions to the digital media player. As such, the iPod touch version of the software does not include the Google Maps enhancements and there’s no word on when or how Apple plans to ultimately deliver those features.


An iPhone with v2.2 vs. and iPod touch with v2.2 | Image Credit: Gizmodo

Upgrading

To update your iPhone or iPod touch to version 2.2, make sure you are using iTunes 8 and then connect your iPhone or iPod to your computer. When iTunes opens, select your iPhone or iPod under Devices in the Source List on the left.

In the Summary pane, click “Check for Update.” Click Download and Install. Do not disconnect your device until the update has finished.

HyperStudio Returns, Supports iLife, Webcams, Video (MacNN)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

[Editor's note: I first fell in love with computers in my 7th grade science class when I saw a pizza box Mac LCII running a program called HyperCard. Think of it as the grand daddy of Flash and the hyperlinked web. I had dabbled with computers before but they had never seemed so cool, or able to accomplish such nifty tasks. I remember creating one of my first "stacks" for my social study class that same year. Everyone else drew out their "choose your own adventure" story with pen and ink, but I turned mine into a computer game. There were some problems, of course. First among them color was not supported. But you could get around it (in fact I did my science fair project the next year on how to do exactly that). Ah, good times. Long abandoned, HyperCard makes it's return as HyperStudio and a new generation can discover the joys on both the Mac and now Windows, too.]

Republished from MacNN.com.

Software MacKiev and Roger Wagner have reintroduced HyperStudio as HyperStudio 5, the first new edition of the software in over a decade. The software is used to organize information (stacks) into a structure that supports storytelling, commonly used in education. The new version includes iLife support and includes webcams. It now has live object support, allowing editing of any action, even brush strokes. HyperStudio 5 has advanced graphics effects and text options and has a customizable toolbar, displaying the most frequently used tools.

The new release can publish to MobileMe, export to iPod video formats, and import media from YouTube, iMovie and iTunes. It can also import old HyperStudio stacks. Future improvements, including extended options for podcasting and recording and displaying live video, are in progress and will be made available without additional charge to HyperStudio 5 users.

HyperStudio 5 includes over 1300 clipart graphic elements, 500 background images, 280 sounds, 200 animations and 30 movies. It supports common file formats like JPG, MOV, M4V and HTML for export and can import PDF, PNG, JPG, TIF, MP3, AAC, WMA, AIFF, MOV, AVI and more. The software requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher and a G4 400MHZ or faster processor. It requires a minimum of 256MB RAM. It is available for order now, costing $90 for a single-user license and providing volume discounts for multiple users. Windows version is also available.

iPhone Insurance from SquareTrade (Kelso)

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

When the iPhone first came out, AT&T decided not to include it in the list of devices they would cover with optional accident insurance. There was speculation as to the reasons, but the bottom line was still: if you broke your iPhone you’d be responsible for the full replacement cost. Even when the cost dropped to $400 for a first time purchase the replacement cost is still $500. That lower price is just a promo for new customers. An expensive toy to break!

I purchased an iPhone 3g the morning of July 11th, 2008 and it was love at first sight and we had a great honeymoon. But then I took the phone to the state fair up in Timonium, MD mid-summer where it succumbed to the centrifugal force of one of the amusement rides and the screen glass cracked. Phone still worked, but glass shards prevented easy use of the touch screen digitizer.

Normal computer insurance providers like SafeCo or home owners insurance would not cover the loss. What to do?

Enter SquareTrade and BestBuy / GeekSquad.

BestBuy’s plan is only available for phones purchased in-store and their rates ($15/month) is more expensive than SquareTrade where an 8 gig iPhone 3g will run you $5 / month and the 16 gig model $6 / month.

Please note that your credit card MAY provide some protection as noted at iPhone Atlas where they have a good survey of insurance options and where to buy new digitizers or glass screens. (I bought a new glass screen and installed it myself, not for the feint hearted!). You can also purchase an Apple Care plan for the iPhone but it simply extends the warrenty and does not cover accidental damage. iPhone Atlas lists WirelessSafegaurd.com as an insurance provider but I do not see this device in their list of supported smart phones.

To summarize:

SquareTrade:
$5 or $6 / month for iPhones within first 30 days of original purchase (any outlet).

Best Buy / GeekSquad (1 | 2):
$15 / month for original instore iPhone purchase only.

If you are a klutz or know an iPhone owner who is, seriously check out these insurance options! The SquareTrade plan also covers battery problems. You and only you can decide if such a plan is worthwhile for you. Both of these options were not available to me.

If you have any experience with either of these extended warranty / insurance providers please leave it below in the comments section!

All information below directly from SquareTrade.

  • Covers both accidents (drops and spills) and normal use failures including battery life.
  • Pays you full replacement cost if iPhone can’t be fixed – up to $399 on the 8GB and $499 on the 16GB

What is covered:

  • 2 years of coverage (or more) The SquareTrade iPhone warranty covers your iPhone for 2 years, starting on the date of purchase. You have the option to purchase a 3rd year of coverage for a bit more.
  • Accidental Damage from Handling (ADH) 80% of all iPhone failures reported to SquareTrade are caused by accidents. The SquareTrade iPhone warranty is the only coverage option that protects against drops, spills, and other accidents!
    • Deductible: There is a $50 deductible when claiming on an accidentally damaged item (e.g. drops, spills). If your issue falls under the standard warranty terms (i.e., a mechanical or electrical failure), no deductible applies.
    • Exclusions: There is a 30-day exclusion window after you first purchase your item. ADH does not include loss, willful damage or damage occurring through gross misuse of the item. The damage must have occurred unintentionally while the item was being used as intended.
  • Extended coverage of the manufacturer’s warranty The SquareTrade iPhone warranty also extends the same coverage as the manufacturer’s warranty. This covers all mechanical and electrical problems that arise out of normal use. This includes most hardware failures and power/charging failures.
    • No deductible: If your iPhone fails because of a manufacturer defect, there is NO deductible to claim.
    • Battery: If the iPhone battery life drops below 50% of the original, it’s eligible for a replacement.

Trapster for iPhone alerts users of speed traps (Macnn.com)

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

[Editor's note: Would be great to combine this user-submitted speed trap database with an accident database that would sync with weather reports to alert you of, say, approaching road sections with high rate of accidents when wet with rain. Republished from Macnn.com.]

Trapster.com has announced that its speed trap notification app is now available on the iPhone. Trapster allows users to post places where they have previously encountered traps, alerting other drivers of where to slow down. Trap reports are also updated instantly as users enter them, keeping map information accurate.

The software uses Trapster’s new Virtual Radar technology, which follows a person’s position on a map and provides both an animated visual representation of traps and corresponding audio alerts as the user approaches them.

Trapster has also integrated a new private messaging system, allowing users to communicate about the traps they report. A Trusted Groups feature, finally, allows car clubs and other organizations to create private data-sharing communities. Trapster is a free download from the App Store.

Clueless in Cleveland? Use Your Thumb [iPhone] (NY Times)

Monday, September 8th, 2008

SURE, you can turn your iPhone into a Star Wars-like light saber, a virtual pet or an interactive mug of beer. But did you know that those newfangled applications can also tell you the nearest sushi bar in London, the wait time at La Guardia’s security checkpoints or how to say “Where’s the toilet?” in Cantonese?

As Apple’s iTunes App Store continues to grow with hundreds of titles, the iPhone is proving to be a useful travel tool — and not just for when you’re bored on that 18-hour flight to Singapore. The best programs take advantage of the iPhone’s location-aware feature, tailoring the information to your whereabouts. Say you land in Baltimore and you have a sudden craving for crab cakes. With a few taps, iPhone apps with names like Yelp, Urbanspoon and iWant can quickly guide you to Faidley Seafood or Obrycki’s Crab House. Other apps can point you to the cheapest gas station, book a hotel and even call a cab.

Below are some of the handiest apps for travel. Many are free, though some cost from 99 cents to $24.99. Warning: Some apps require data downloads that may incur roaming fees if you’re overseas. To avoid such fees, turn off “Data Roaming” and look for Wi-Fi hot spots.

Getting There A number of airlines are creating mobile-friendly versions of their Web sites, allowing iPhone users to shop for flights, buy tickets, check in, select seats and modify reservations. Now, at least one, British Airways, has a free downloadable iPhone app that makes finding the next red eye to London as easy as flicking your thumb.

Frequent fliers might want to download Flight Status ($3.99). It gives the status of thousands of flights, as well as the arrival gates and baggage carousels. Another app that can be useful for today’s delay-plagued skies is AirportStatus (free). It displays a list of airports in North America with delays or closings.

Travelocity (free) takes an all-in-one approach, letting you check flight schedules, gate numbers, security wait times and — if you booked through Travelocity — your itinerary. The app also lets you search for “Hotels Nearby Me” — a feature that could come in handy in travel emergencies (or, perhaps, for some other purpose).

Where to Eat Looking for a place to nosh on the road? Urbanspoon (free) recommends restaurants in more than 50 cities using the iPhone’s location-aware capability and offers reviews from newspapers, blogs and fellow users. While suggestions (and prices) can be out of date, the fun and easy-to-use app looks like a slot machine and is activated by shaking the phone.

Foodies, however, might prefer Local Eats (99 cents), an iPhone version of the guidebook series “Where the Locals Eat,” which ranks what it considers the top 100 restaurants in 50 American cities. Tapping “Near Me” finds places nearby from that list, along with reservation numbers and directions.
 
What to Do Need an A.T.M.? Thirsty for a sakitini? Shopping for a Marni purse? Several location-aware apps are vying to be your mobile concierge. Among the best are Yelp (free), which has a fanatical base of reviewers who weigh in on everything from dry cleaners to karaoke bars. Where (free) lets you scroll through different services (like Starbucks, gas stations and restaurants) and plots them on a Google Map, along with your location. And iWant (free) offers a similar service, but in a streamlined interface with clean black-and-white icons: a martini for bars, a projector for movies, a hanger for clothing stores, and so on.

Traditional travel guides are getting into the action, with mixed results. Frommer’s has turned several of its guides, including New York, Paris and London, into iPhone apps ($9.99 each). The e-guides offer many of the same maps, reviews and suggested itineraries as the bulky book. But unlike Yelp, Frommer’s doesn’t take advantage of location-aware technology; you still must look up the suggestions manually, as with a book.Washingtonpost.com’s City Guide app (free) is smarter; it lets users easily navigate through 2,000 bars and restaurants, many with well-written reviews. Unfortunately, it is limited to the Washington area.

How to say it A handful of apps seek to lower the language barrier. Lonely Planet ($9.99) offers phrasebook apps in 10 languages including Czech, Italian and Vietnamese. In addition to translating phrases like “I’ll buy you a drink,” in written text, the app also translates it verbally (“Te invito a una copa,” it says in Spanish, in a suave male voice).

A different approach is taken by Babelingo ($5.99), which may appeal to those afraid of mangling pronunciations. After choosing a phrase like “Please take me to the airport,” it displays the translation in big bold type, making it easier to show to someone, like a taxi driver. Babelingo offers 300 phrases in seven languages, including Italian, German and Japanese.

How to Get Around Numerous subway and mass-transit apps are available for major cities, with the best offering clean design, location-based station finders and service advisories. Worthwhile apps include CityTransit (for New York City, $2.99), Tube London City ($9.99) and iBart (for the San Francisco area, free).

Taxi! (free) has a yellow cab-inspired design and finds taxi services throughout the United States based on your location. Just tap one of the companies, and the iPhone dials it for you. It also offers user ratings, whether the company accepts credit cards and, according to the App Store’s description, a prescreened list based on hotel referrals.

Cool Tools Until Skype creates an iPhone app, Truphone may be the closest thing. It allows you to make cheap international phone calls over Wi-Fi (about 6 cents a minute to landlines and 30 cents to mobile phones), especially when compared with roaming rates. Some kinks need to be worked out — voice quality can be poor and calls didn’t always go through.

How much is that Chinese wardrobe in dollars? Currency (free) is a frequently updated converter for more than 50 currencies. Easier to use is MOMPF Currency Converter (free), which has a funny-looking cartoon for a mascot, and allows you to easily switch among currencies and to store favorites.

OpenClip copy-paste for the iPhone (GeekBrief.tv)

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

[Editor's note: Why Apple didn't include copy paste functionality out of the box on their iPhone is beyond me. GeekBrief.tv demos a 3rd-party developer solution to add this functionality to apps. Developers using this copy-paste technology for upcoming releases include Twittelator, WordPress and MagicPad. Let's hope version 2.1 of the iPhone firmware update in September makes this even easier.]

Republished from GeekBrief.tv.


Cut and Paste for iPhone from Cali Lewis on Vimeo.

When Apple released the iPhone, the praise was consistent and so was the criticism. The praise was about the revolutionary interface and the criticism was about the lack of 3G, GPS and Copy and Paste. Apple made 3G and GPS happen, but they said Copy and Paste isn’t a priority. The first place we saw copy and paste for iPhone was on an application called MagicPad. The guy behind that app, Juviwhale, met a college student, Zac White. Zac White figured out how to implement copy and paste on any iPhone App without violating the iPhone SDK agreement.

Zac started a non-profit, open-source community project called OpenClip. When a developer adds the OpenClip framework to an iPhone app, that app gains copy and paste functionality. On Brief 410, I demo copy and paste on the iPhone using un-released versions of Twittelator, WordPress and MagicPad.

Apple forbids applications from running in the background because it would take up too much of the iPhone’s resources. Also, developers are not allowed to create plug-ins that make their apps work with other apps on the iPhone. Zac White’s Open Clip framework uses a shared space on the iPhone. Any application that includes Open Clip can then access the common area and write to it, and read from it, thereby enabling copy and paste between participating apps.

The key to making OpenClip work is adoption. Zac’s framework is non-profit. It’s open-source, and his project makes the iPhone even more useful. I recorded an audio interview with Zac so if you want to listen, it’s here. In our audio conversation, Zac talked about the ideal implementation and problems to be solved. Developers who are interested in finding out more can find the video here.

Continue reading at GeekBrief.tv . . .

Privacy and GeoTagging Photos with GPS-enabled iPhone

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

flickr geotag example map

Being able to record where a photo is taken one of the key features of the new iPhone. Not only does the phone capture a great picture but there is no residual “Now where was I”. You can instantly see where the photo was taken on a detailed map. This is great for geocoding when surveying, but what are the social implications?

Do you want to share this level of detailed personal information?

Why wouldn’t you? Consider this:

Upload a week’s worth of photos.

  • One taken on the way into work of that cute gal you always see at your metro station
  • Another in your office for a coworker’s going away party
  • Another taken at your favorite dance club
  • Another taken at the great brunch place you go to on Saturdays and
  • Another of the pile of laundry you’ve been ignoring all week

Normally you are adding captions and keywords that someone who already knows you can piece together and perhaps guess or already knows where all these physical places are. But you’ve gate-keeped based on “you need to know me and know enough about me” to get it.

Up until now, you’ve controlled the information flow based on how much you tag the photo in the context of how well your online “friends” know you.

Related links: adding GPS locations to photos when you don’t have a GPS (one) (two) (three) (four) (five).

GPS tagged photos are game changing

Now someone who doesn’t know anything about you, and with whom you might NOT want to share that level of personal information, can instantly become your first stalker. They know exactly where you live, exactly where you work, exactly how you get to work, and exactly where you relax and have let down your guard.

Something to consider as an adult and perhaps lock-down if your child has a GPS-enabled cell phone.

Of course, if you’re on a tourist trip and taking pictures of Yellowstone and the Statue of Liberty and are never going to be there again it’s perfectly fine to include the full GPS coordinates since that doesn’t disclose personal information and you’ll not routinely passing by there again. However, if you visit Aunt Mildred in Brooklyn on the same trip you might want to limit access to her home’s location.

I’m invincible, right? What do I care?

Consider the following two situations:

  • I was at a friend’s house party on Friday and took a few pictures and was about to post them when it hit me: I’m potentially compromising her safety, not just my own. If I post those GPS enabled photos some random person could view the photo (hey, it’s up on Flickr for anyone to browse) and know which front door to be waiting at. Skechadellic, dude!
  • I have a swimming hole I’d like to keep on the down-low but when I go out there I take a few shots with my camera to remember the scene. If I post those on Flickr with the GPS coordinates suddenly anyone that views my the photo tagged “My secret swimming hole” can see it placed exactly on that blue map polygon and route directly to it. Not so secret after all. Oops!

So it turns out Flickr has a way to moderate this to an extent. There is a setting to control this, sort of. Screenshot below:

flickr geotags

Notice how I do NOT have this option checked. But my GPS information is still being read in and placed on my account map somehow. Bad!

User Solution 1

The best, fail-proof option is to not record the GPS information when the photo was taken. But then you loose that information for your personal record. The iPhone asks the first time a GPS enabled application is launched if you want to allow it access to the GPS. Press “Don’t Allow” and you’re set.

But once you have enabled the camera to know the location you can’t disable it until the phone is turned completely off and restarted, less than convenient and oh so easy to forget about. You can go to the General Settings area of the phone and turn Location Service on and off without restarting the phone, however.

iphone use current location

User Solution 2

There should be a middle way when uploading and displaying on photo sharing sites like Flickr. This way you retrain full GPS location for your private records but only let out an approximate public location for everyone else.

For the Mac you can download PhotoInfoEditor to edit the precision of the GPS coordinates stored in the EXIF information for the photo (or a duplicate targeted for public upload). I had a devil of a time finding this app as most simply report the GPS coordinates; they do not allow them to be edited. If someone knows of a comparable app on the PC please email me.

Notice in the screenshot below that I have stripped the latitude and longitude to display to the hundredth (39.35° N). You could just as well scramble the coordinates down to the 4th or 5th decimal position when in the city and still be in the right neighborhood but no longer be at the right building. Photosets can be batched adjusted.

This puts the photo in the rough vicinity of the actual location but does not reveal the actual location

. photo info editor screenshot

When you do this before uploading to Flickr or Picasa you can have the benefit of placing your photos on a map with some accuracy but just not with a high precision. In other words, don’t zoom too far into the map or the photo locations become inaccurate. But zoomed out they are perfectly acceptable.

How can software be improved?

On upload / display of the photos in a social photo site:

  • Group permissions for viewing Placename tags and GPS coordinates on map with default being NOT to show the geographic location but to apply limits of precision with individual photo exceptions as detailed next:
  • On / off toggle for Placename tags per photo
  • On / off toggle for GPS coordinates per photo
  • Placename precision (country, state, county, town, neighborhood) from Yahoo or Google geocoder as a slider control per photo
  • GPS precision (exact, 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 1 mile, 2 mile, 5 miles, 10 miles, 20 miles, 60 miles) for latitude and longitude as a slider per photo

The GPS precision needs to take into consideration that the number of earth miles at each degree of latitude changes. Simply chopping of decimal places is a crude solution. A more elegant solution would be to add a random ± X decimal degrees to the actual location at the target precision. Even though the iPhone GPS can get you down to 10 meter accuracy, sometimes you don’t want to be that precise.

I’ve already spoken to the developer at AirMe which is my favorite app on the iPhone for uploading to Flickr and he seems interested in making the required upgrades to his application. Please help spread the word to other developers!

Mapping and GPS on the iPhone

Monday, July 14th, 2008

apple iphone promo

So I bought one of those glossy little toys on Friday and have been geeking out ever since. The default Google Maps application that comes with the phone is pretty good and the GPS “locate me” feature works well for me (fast, accurate with good precision).

But there is no way to see the current location in latitude / longitude format while on the phone!? Not quite an ArcPad. But perhaps forthcoming 3rd party aps will improve the situation.

When I take a picture this information is embedded but when emailing the photo the EXIF tags with the GPS coordinates are stripped out. These tags are visible in Photoshop and other advanced graphic software. Only by synching via iPhoto on the Mac gets the photo of the iPhone with the EXIF intact.

airme


I am enjoying AirMe for taking quick shots and uploading them to Flickr. Strangely enough it uses the GPS to know what country, state, and town to tag the images with (heck, it even puts in the weather conditions as tags) but drops the latitude and longitude. But so does the default Photos ap from Apple when emailing photos so there seems to be a larger problem here. None of the photo aps allow me to locate the photos that I have taken on a map while on the phone.

Photo sites that support GPS coords include (source):

Travel / Sports Sites

where iphone

When it works (their servers are getting overwhelmed), Where provides some great GPS-enabled location based services gathering locations and plotting them onto a Google map centered on your current position. These include a general “Local Search”, Zip car locations, Yelp, Starbucks, and Gas Buddy. My favorite is “HeyWhatsThat” (Peak). It uses SRTM terrain information to build a horizon elevation profile and labels significant mountain peaks that are visible.

There are also several aps that broadcast your current location to the world. These include Whrrl and Loopt. Sci-fi amazing and creepy at the same time.

River Guide for Kayakers reports real time streamflow information throughout the US via the USGS. Good use of regions and states breadcrumbs / categories to hone down the display when not using the GPS or looking wider afield than your current location

Features I’m looking for in future iPhone photo / mapping aps:

  • Live GPS tracking (storing of the route).
  • Location tagging
  • Attach photos to location (location is created on capture of photo)
  • See all photos in an album on the map as icons
  • Click on the photo icon in map view get a big view of the photo
  • Attach a longer text description to each location, not just the name
  • Export and export to GPX format
  • Export and export to KML format

Mapping sites with other nice features:

  • Nokia Sports Tracker – GPS camera phone makes it easy to record a jog and then post it online. Decent map with Start, Stop, critical points (fastest, slowest speeds; lowest, highest elevations), photos. Includes workout profile (speed, altitude) graph. Includes summary with times, duration, distance, speed, pace, altitude, etc.
  • Panoramio – Good use of location breadcrumbs. Several “modes” showing large photo (with title), local area map, regional map. The actual latitude and longitude are displayed. Includes tags, EXIF metadata, and viewing stats.
  • EveryTrail – Does a better job of recording discussion about the entire trip / route / album. Trip map with photos as clickable icons. Large photo view. Includes lat-long display. Easy to “swip” the previous and next photos, or see in a “list” format.
  • MapMyRide – Ability to tag non-photo locations / waypoints on the map. Display of mile / km markers along longer routes / tracks.

Sometimes the best iPhone “aps” are actually just iPhone optimized websites.

Weather Underground is a perfect example. They have Current weather, Radar, Forecast, and Warnings. The screenshot here is large as viewed on my computer web browser instead of the iPhone. The iPhone’s display is twice the resolution of my monitor so halve the size. Tap the buttons on the phone version to auto scroll to that location on the page.

weather underground

Apple’s open secret: SproutCore is Cocoa for the Web

Monday, June 16th, 2008

sprout core logo 2All this talk of Rich Internet Applications and choosing if one should use Flash, Silverlight, or some Googley “open source” solution can leave the head spinning. Most often it is best just to get the job done with the tools and skill set at hand. But what does the future hold?

Several clues are at hand, revealed at last week’s Apple developers conference in San Francisco.

Safari is about to get much faster at running javascript, the web programming language that powers many neat Web 2.0 style sites. Other browsers are getting faster, too. Why? Because this is the slowdown bottleneck in the Web 2.0 environment. (Example speed increase here.)

Apple has been contributing heavily to the open-source SproutCore javascript frameworks and they form the basis of much of the new MobileMe service that replaces dot.mac. This is their push factor. Almost all vestiges of Flash have been removed from Apple.com and replaced with “standards” focused elements that are just as spiffy.

Why SproutCore? It is being used to deploy Apple’s own Cocoa programming frameworks from the Mac (that’s what gives the Mac it’s look-and-feel) onto the web as open standards that will enable “desktop” like applications (in their look and power) to run in your web browser. And on your Windows PC, to boot. Talk about an end-game run around!

From RoughlyDrafted.com (source):

SproutCore not only makes it easy to build real applications for the web using menus, toolbars, drag and drop support, and foreign language localization, but it also provides a full Model View Controller application stack like Rails (and Cocoa), with bindings, key value observing, and view controls. It also exposes the latent features of JavaScript, including late binding, closures, and lambda functions. Developers will also appreciate tools for code documentation generation, fixtures, and unit testing.

A key component of its clean MVC philosophy that roots SproutCore into Cocoa goodness is bindings, which allows developers to write JavaScript that automatically runs any time a property value changes. With bindings, very complex applications with highly consistent behavior can be created with very little “glue” code.

Read more on this topic at AppleInsider.com and RoughlyDrafted.com.

Flash Wars: Adobe in the History and Future of Flash

Monday, May 12th, 2008

AppleInsider.com’s Prince McLean produced a three part series earlier this month on the Flash Wars.

Direct links to Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

(Reprinted from AppleInsider) 

Pitted against Microsoft’s efforts to crush Flash using its own copycat Silverlight platform, open source projects seeking to duplicate Flash for free, and Apple’s efforts to create a mobile platform wholly free of any trace of Flash, Adobe has scrambled to announce efforts to make Flash a public specification in the Open Screen Project.

Will it help get Flash on the iPhone? Here’s the first segment of a three part series with a historical overview of the wars between Flash and Adobe, Microsoft, Sun, Apple, Google, and the open source community, the problems Flash faces today, and what future Flash can hope for as an open specification.

A Brief History of Flash

Flash originated at FutureWave Software as SmartSketch, an innovative drawing tool. In 1995, the software was repositioned as FutureSplash Animator, with support for cell based animation. It was pitched as a way to quickly draw and animate vector-based graphics for efficient delivery over the web, as a direct challenge to Macromedia’s heavier and more complex Authorware and its Director-created Shockwave content.

FutureWave pitched the product to Adobe, but it was Macromedia that bought it in 1996, hoping to integrate it as an approachable, entry level member of its content production tools as the company’s business was rapidly pushed from CD-ROM oriented products to the web. Macromedia abbreviated the name from FutureSplash to Flash.

It turned out that the easy to use Flash rapidly sidelined Macromedia’s existing Authorware and Shockwave. Flash made it easy for designers to create interactive content with only minimal development knowledge. The real break for Flash came when Macromedia lined up a bundling agreement with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5, which resulted in the Flash player software being widely distributed.

While Microsoft embraced Flash, it actively worked in parallel to stop Sun’s Java and Netscape’s web browser as threats to Windows. Microsoft’s efforts to sideline Java into a Windows programming language and its strategy to embrace and extend standards-based, platform agnostic HTML into web pages that only worked in Internet Explorer gave Macromedia’s Flash fertile ground to grow as a quick and simple alternative to the more complex and resource intensive Java as a way to create simple, interactive applets on the web.

Adobe Hates, Then Buys Flash

Adobe purchased Macromedia in 2005 largely to obtain Flash, the crown jewel of Macromedia’s web development tool assets. Prior to owning it, Adobe unsuccessfully worked hard to kill it as a competing product.

In 1998, when Macromedia and Microsoft submitted VML to the W3C as a potential web standard for vector graphics (based on Microsoft’s RTF), Adobe teamed up with Sun to push the rival PGML specification (based on Adobe’s PostScript). The W3C developed a new standard that drew from both, called SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics).

Adobe pushed SVG as a competitor to Flash right up until it bought Flash, distributing the Adobe SVG Player as a free web plugin. Microsoft continued to push its own VML, which it built into Internet Explorer. This prevented either VML or SVG from making much progress, as other browsers didn’t support VML, while the SVG open standard saw little adoption given Adobe’s weak presence in web development tools. That let Flash easily win out over both as the way to develop and present animated vector graphics on the web.

Flash continued to develop at Macromedia, gaining a scripting language based on JavaScript and other features that turned it into a full presentation development tool rather than just a way to distribute small interactive graphics. Macromedia even took swipes back at Adobe, introducing FlashPaper as an alternative to Adobe’s PDF as a way to distribute electronic documents in the Flash format.

After buying Flash, Adobe gave up support for its own weak SVG Player rival and has apparently discarded FlashPaper as a PDF competitor. However, the rest of the industry has plenty of reasons to still hate Flash, as will be presented in part two: The Many Enemies and Obstacles of Flash.

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