4 December 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Just out from Macromedia is the $450 Dreamweaver 4 Fireworks 4 Studio for Web site design and production. The studio is designed to unify and integrate HTML code and graphics workflow.
Both products feature the Macromedia User Interface, also shared with Macromedia Flash 5, and the two are integrated to manage the exchange of graphics, layouts, and code between applications.
Coming this month from Swedish developer Propellerhead Software, responsible for products such as ReCycle and ReBirth, is Reason, an expandable music system for Windows and MacOS
Reason comes in the shape of a classic studio rack, packed with 16 devices including samplers, analog synths, mixers, step time drum machines, effects, and a realtime multi-track sequencer. It hooks up to a MIDI keyboard and gives MIDI control of all devices, knobs, faders and parameters.
The complete device list reads as follows:
ATI Technologies last week unveiled its set-top box Technology Access Program (TAP), designed to provide third party software and hardware system integrators with the necessary technology to support ATI's set-top box components.
The initial TAP partners are Metro Link and BSQUARE. Metro Link is a specialist in embedded Linux and VxWorks, while BSQUARE specializes in Windows CE and Microsoft TV.
Authorized TAP partners are afforded access to ATI's proprietary set-top hardware and software technology, reference software drivers, documentation, training and equipment. In return, the TAP partners provide development expertise to consumer electronics manufacturers creating the next generation of advanced digital cable, satellite, terrestrial and xDSL set-top boxes.
Typical assignments that a TAP software integrator would undertake include adapting middleware (Liberate, Microsoft TV, OpenTV, etc.) to the ATI reference drivers, developing drivers for specific broadcast standards (ATSC, DVB, etc.), developing applications and user interfaces, developing drivers for other components in the system, and creating board support packages.
Currently in development by On2.com is the company's new VPX narrowband-focused compression technology. VPX is derived from On2's VP3 and TrueCast technologies, reportedly achieving "breakthrough" video quality over 56K modem access lines.
On2 VPX is designed to operate in a default window size over four times the screen area of today's typical narrowband streaming (i.e., a big postage stamp). The technology is designed to continuously stream at low data rates and not resort to the "slide show" characteristics or freezed frames frequently seen with other narrowband products. Using multi-stream encoding and buffering techniques, On2 says VPX ensures consistent frame rate and motion integrity even in difficult, congested network conditions.
The VPX technology will be made available for licensing.
The VPX alpha will be available for viewing at the company's Web site beginning December 18, and be demonstrated at On2's booth, #809, at the Streaming Media West show in San Jose, California, December 12 - 14.
According to its publisher, SurfSecret 3.lets users protect themselves from Website profiling and employee monitoring. Designed to work on Windows 95/98/NT/ME/2000, the $30 software integrates with popular browsers such as Netscape, MS Internet Explorer, and AOL. It periodically removes cookie and cache trails from the system, and cleans tracks in Windows locations such as the Document menu, Run menu, Find menu, and Recycle Bin.
Several new features have been added to version 3.2 as well as continued and upgraded support for the Windows 2000 and Windows Millennium operating systems. An Instant-Messenger cleaner has been added to the portfolio of privacy tools. It cleans IM activity automatically in the background. Java and ActiveX clearing have also been added to this version.
SensAble Technologies' FreeForm hardware/software system lets users model on the computer using their sense of touch. New modeling functionality in FreeForm Version 3 broadens the range of forms that can be created. Users can model in pieces, working on one section of the model in context of the others. Toy makers whose action figures have articulated body parts or footwear designers who create separate outsoles and midsoles now work more fluidly. Lofting and wire cutting capabilities allow product designers to quickly produce compound curvature based on sketch profiles. Tools to create textures or patterns directly on models are of particular interest in the ceramics and jewelry industries.
In addition to supporting polygonal data, FreeForm Version 3 now lets modelers output the IGES surfaces often required by CAD and animation packages. After completing a FreeForm model, users define NURBs patches by placing curves directly on the model.
Other tools said to further speed the production pipeline include parting-line evaluation to identify potential undercuts early in the design cycle when they can be inexpensively addressed without sacrificing design aesthetics. With a new paint capability, users can perform quick color studies by painting directly on finished models.
SGI-owned Alias|Wavefront is making a new, free 3D Paint FX plug-in available to Maya3 software users. 3D Paint FX extends the existing brush-based technologies of Maya Artisan and Maya Paint Effects, giving users an integrated 3D paint toolset. Features include the ability to paint color and bump details directly onto 3D models.
SGI offered a sneak peek of its new SGI Graphics Cluster systems at I/ITSEC 2000, held last week in Orlando.
Graphics Clusters will support real-time 3D applications in the training and simulation market through features such as Image Sync precision channel synchronization technology and integrated software such as multiprocess OpenGL Performer to increase performance and realism and SGI Advanced Cluster Environment (ACE) to simplify Linux cluster administration. These features will be incorporated into a low-cost Pentium processor-based system capable of driving multiple channels of high-resolution display through a cluster environment. Product deliveries are planned during the first half of 2001.
SGI will offer two customizable Graphics Clusters models to meet diverse cost and performance requirements. They will support a variety of PC operating systems as well as today's leading off-the-shelf graphic subsystems, APIs, and accelerators, delivering the top graphics performance and flexibility in their class.
Kaon Interactive says it has developed an efficient 3D Java viewer that eliminates the need for plug-in download, works across operating platforms, and offers collaborative features including measurement, diagramming, and interactive chat.
According to Kaon, vendors can display virtually any product in 3D at a cost similar to capturing two-dimensional images for catalog sales. The HyperSpace Viewer's collaborative features offer a "true virtual" trial experience. Additional applications include collaborative developments from CAD models, Web-based customer support, and distance learning and training. Kaon also recently announced the development of its HyperSpace Planner Version 1.0, a Java-based interactive 3D application used to create and display truly realistic 3D space planning scenarios.
Coming this spring from MultiGen-Paradigm is SiteBuilder 3D, a new $1,995 3D geographic information systems (GIS) product. An extension to ESRI's ArcView GIS desktop mapping program, SiteBuilder 3D transforms 2D map data into 3D environments allowing users to conduct virtual fly-throughs while simultaneously tracking their position in ArcView.
SiteBuilder 3D can generate a 3D terrain skin directly from common elevation data sources, including digital elevation models and contour maps. These terrain skins are then draped with aerial photography, satellite imagery or any ArcView map. Point, line and polygon features are projected onto the 3D terrain with 3D models and textures that are supplied by SiteBuilder's model library. Once the 3D scene is created, the user can conduct virtual fly-throughs or walk-throughs in realtime using a computer mouse as a pointing device. Clouds, fog and time-of-day options are available.
Canada's Dynamic Digital Depth showed glasses-free 3D TV on a giant 50-inch screen at Motorola's booth No. 1401 at last week's Western Show 2000 in Los Angeles. DDD's OpticBOOM 3D technologies enable the creation of 3D content for viewing on the display, which was developed by 4D-Vision of Germany. The relationship between DDD and Motorola began in June 1999 when Motorola's Broadband Communications Sector invested in DDD and entered into a development agreement to bring 3D programming to cable television.
Credo's 3D character-animation software package, Life Forms Studio 3.9, is on special until Jan 2, 2001. Credo has reduced the price to $299, which is 40% off the regular price of $495. The stand-alone movement tool offers a solution for character motion for animation on both Macintosh and Windows platforms.
Life Forms features include:
Test Strip 3.0, an upgrade of the Photoshop plug-in for color correction, is coming soon. Described as Photoshop Variations on steroids, Test Strip is a color-correction tool that includes traditional photo-darkroom techniques, plus other features designed to make Photoshop more productive.
New features include:
It's not up yet, but the company promises a demo soon at http://www.thepowerxchange.com/PowerXChange/showdetl.cfm?&DID=6&Product_ID=11294&CATID=25
A new philanthropy Web site, StarGiving.com, lets Internet users send money from corporate sponsors to charity and, at the same time, enter a sweepstakes to spend time with a celebrity.
Visitors log on to the site (http://www.StarGiving.com) and click on the icons of their favorite celebrity or cause. Every click generates more money for charity, and the winners of the raffles get to hang out with the stars.
Prizes at StarGiving.com include golf with a rock star, dinner with a basketball coach, a fashion shoot with a supermodel and backstage tour with the cast of a Broadway musical. Corporate sponsors each donate between one and ten cents per click to the charity selected by the celebrity.
Following is a listing of some of the new book titles from Peachpit Press, one of our favorite multimedia book publishers:
Newly available in a third edition is The XML Handbook by Charles Goldfarb, creator of SGML, and developer Paul Prescod. The book includes a 100-page non-technical introduction, 11 sections of core applications illustrated with case studies and implementation tools, and 140 pages of tutorials on newly revised and finalized W3C specs like XSL, XSLT, XLink, Xpath, schemas, and namespaces, plus a five-part, 110-page tutorial on the XML language itself. The two bonus CD-ROMs contain 175 free XML software packages, trial versions of major XML products, and a library of XML-related specifications.
Macromedia last week launched Macromedia Exchange for Flash, a Web destination for the Flash developer community. On the site, developers can share Macromedia Flash 5 extensions such as Smart Clips, ActionScript samples, Macromedia Generator templates and source files. These resources enable Macromedia Flash 5 users to leverage the efforts and knowledge of the community including developers, third parties and Macromedia.
Free extensions on the Exchange range from ready-made building blocks of interactivity to sophisticated server-side technologies. New button libraries and Smart Clips for HTML-style user interface widgets (scrolling text windows, tool tips, tabbing between fields) make it easier for developers to create usable, high-impact user experiences. ActionScript samples reveal the secrets of programmatic animations, while 10 new Macromedia Generator objects enable automated production of menus and data-driven content. A new open-source Java-based server takes advantage of XML sockets in Macromedia Flash 5 for exchange of structured data.
The Macromedia Extension Manager is the key utility that facilitates the sharing and installing of extensions and is available as a free download from the Exchange for Flash site. Once installed, the Extension Manager is accessible directly from within the Macromedia Flash 5 software.
The Macromedia Exchange for Flash adds a key component to the more than 45 existing Macromedia Flash community sites. By enabling developers to search, rate and review extensions, participate in focused discussion threads and receive e-mail updates, the Exchange provides an infrastructure as well as quality control. For example, "Macromedia Approved" items on the site are tested by Macromedia to ensure they install correctly and behave in a manner familiar to Macromedia Flash users.
Web developers can now make their sites accessible to anyone with a standard telephone. That means a potential audience of 1.5 billion people. The O'Reilly Network has just published an article about a new XML-based technology that can do this. The article is: Voice on Your Web Site? Now You're Talking!, by John Paul Ashenfelter
The tech called CallXML and VoiceXML, and there's a company, Voxeo, that (at least for now) will help Web sites get set up at no cost. Ashenfelter introduces the ins and outs of this technology, with instructions on getting started.
Nvidia Corporation revealed last week that it developed and licensed enabling 3D features to Microsoft Corp. for its new DirectX 8.0 3D application program interface (API). NVIDIA contributions were in the areas of programmable vertex shaders, programmable pixel shaders, and rect/tri-patch support for high-order surfaces. These features are designed to let software content creators use more elaborate artwork and flexible 3D rendering techniques in their applications and games.
This agreement is part of a relationship between the two companies, aimed at delivering a lifelike interactive 3D experience. Other activities include co-training of Microsoft DirectX developers, DirectX VA development, and development of two key processors, the Media Communications Processor (MCP) and Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), for Microsoft's Xbox.
LucasArts Entertainment last week announced Star Wars Galaxies as the formal series brand name for its massively multiplayer online role-playing games. The Star Wars Galaxies Web site offers three active community relations message boards and a list of frequently asked questions fielded by the game's development team. Each message board provides a forum for feedback to and from the Star Wars Galaxies' team in the following areas: A General Discussion Board for all game-related issues, a Developers Board for game development queries, and a Role Playing Board for "in character" discussion.
The Star Wars Galaxies game series is being developed by Verant Interactive, a division of Sony Online Entertainment, and will be distributed and sold at retail by LucasArts and available for play exclusively online at The Station@sony.com (http://www.station.sony.com). The game is expected to go into first round testing in late 2001.
Sierra Studios has made its Ground Control: Dark Conspiracy, the official expansion for the 3D RTS game Ground Control, available exclusively by mail for a limited time. Developed by Chicago-based High Voltage Software, in conjunction with Swedish-based Massive Entertainment, Ground Control: Dark Conspiracy is available free of charge to all North American owners of Ground Control.
To obtain a copy of Dark Conspiracy, gamers can complete the Free Expansion Offer Form found at http://darkconspiracy.sierra.com or included with specially marked copies of Ground Control. Proof of Ground Control ownership is not needed; however a $4.95 (USD) shipping and handling fee is required.
Dark Conspiracy features 15 new single-player missions, new environments and terrains, a third faction with new playable units, and additional Crayven and Order of the New Dawn units and special weapons. It also offers new multiplayer maps and modes.
Intercap specialist WildTangent last week launched SabreWing, a space-combat game developed using its Web Driver technology. The browser-base 3D game brings interstellar dogfighting to the Web. Set against a backdrop of a war between civilizations, players must fight and drive back the alien Grom armada. Weapons include laser and ion cannons, tracking missiles and explosive torpedoes.
Gamers can prepare with two training missions and two space combat missions. A new mission will be available every Friday for three weeks.
Roughly nine percent of online households in the U.S. use some form of broadband for Internet access with the two most common forms of broadband access being DSL and cable, according to Cahners In-Stat Group. The high-tech market research firm predicts that the number of consumer cable modem and DSL access subscribers will grow 77 percent between 1999 and 2004. Subscriber revenues from these two services will also grow from just over $1 billion U.S. in 1999 to $13.3 billion U.S. by 2004.
"The biggest broadband consumer application is home networking, with 33% of broadband users using that function," says Daryl Schoolar, industry analyst for In-Stat's ISP service. "Streaming media has not yet emerged as a major broadband application. That's due to the high cost of delivering content per user-only 5% of U.S. households currently access broadband-and technical hurdles such as the time to download large media files, quality of picture and small size of the picture on the monitor."
In-Stat's research also identifies the following consumer broadband trends:
The report, Broadband Consumers - Profiles and Strategies (#IS0005SP) provides market forecasts, demographics, online user habits, and strategies for ISPs to increase their broadband consumer customer base. To purchase this report or for more information, phone Courtney McEuen at 480.609.4533; send mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.instat.com/catalog/CAT-IA.HTM#is0005sp. The report price is $2,995 USD.
Stainless Steel Studios, a developer of strategy games, announced last week that Jason "The Rasher" Dillman has joined the Empire Earth Strike Team. The Strike Team is a group of hardcore gamers who will design, build, and play test Empire Earth's single-player scenarios. Jason is designing a single-player campaign that will follow a portion of British history. He will also add his expertise to the development of the other planned campaigns and learning scenarios.
At 16 years of age, Dillman has substantial experience designing scenarios. He created the "Magnus" campaign series for Age of Empires. He was a finalist in both the Rise of Rome Campaign Design Contest and the Mongolian Campaign Design Contest, each sponsored by the Age of Empires Heaven Web Site, and the Winner of a Scenario Design Contest sponsored by the AOE2.COM Web Site. More recently, his Age of Kings scenario "Roland's Quest" received a 4.8 out of 5 rating from AoK Heaven.
Dillman is currently a home-schooled grade 12 student living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Additionally, Jason has been working for over a year at the Age of Empires Heaven and Age of Kings Heaven Web Sites, where he moderates the Scenario Editing Forum and writes scenario reviews (over 75 so far).
Stainless Steel Studios, Inc., headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a game design and development organization. Founded in 1998 by Rick Goodman, lead designer and creator of Microsoft's Age of Empires, SSSI will produce advanced real-time strategy titles.
The winners of the inaugural Online Journalism Awards (OJAs) were announced Friday by the Online News Association (ONA) and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. The contest, which honors excellence in Internet journalism, drew more than 600 entries from over 200 English-language media outlets around the world and was judged by a team of distinguished journalists.
Salon and MSNBC.com won for general excellence -- Salon for a site original to the Web and MSNBC.com for a site done in partnership with another medium.
Salon was also the winner in the category of enterprise journalism original to the Web, making it the only site to win two prizes. For enterprise journalism done in collaboration, the judges named co-winners, The Associated Press (for coverage of the killing of Korean civilians by the American military during the Korean War), and The New York Times (for a series on race relations on the Web).
Find a slide show of the winning sites at: http://www.onlinejournalismawards.org/winners1/screengrabslides.html.
The winner: http://www.salon.com.
Finalists, in alphabetical order:
Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, will address thousands at the Graphic Communication Association's (GCA) XML 2000 Conference on the latest developments in the quickly morphing world of the Web. Berners-Lee will address his vision of a Semantic Web as he keynotes the Knowledge Technologies Track on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 11:00 a.m.
Complete conference and registration information is available now at http://www.xmlusa.net.
Additionally for XML 2000, more than 150 visionaries of the "new" Web and over 90 exhibitors will demonstrate new technology to date at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washinton, D.C., Dec. 3 - 8. The conference and exposition are designed to appeal to all Internet enthusiasts with tutorials, seminars and demonstrations for newcomers, management and seasoned Web developers.
Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in late 1990 while working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. He wrote the first WWW client (a browser-editor running under NeXTStep) and the first WWW server along with most of the communications software, defining URLs, HTTP and HTML.
Agraduate of Oxford University, Berners-Lee is now the overall Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and a principal research scientist at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science.
Spectrum is an independent news service published every Monday for the interactive media professional community by Motion Blur Media. Spectrum covers the tools and technologies used to create interactive multimedia applications and infrastructure for business, education, and entertainment; and the interactive media industry scene. We love to receive interactive media and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.
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