14 February 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Just out from AgentSheets, Inc., a provider of agent-based authoring environments for learning, is its new software environment called AgentSheets with Ristretto. The Mac-only interactive authoring environment creates Java applets that run on all Java-enabled browsers and platforms without plug-ins.
AgentSheets' system is based on three integrated components: end-user programmable agents; spreadsheet-like workspaces; and Ristretto, an automatic Java code/applet generator. Users program agents to collect/report real-time information from Web pages and databases, play videos and MIDI sound, speak, compute formulas, or react to mouse and keyboard commands.
Programming uses the system's "If... Then" rule-based programming tool, Visual AgenTalk. The tool introduces a "tactile/visual" programming approach that based on interactive interfaces and visual representations so end-users can write, understand, and share programs.
The system's spreadsheet-like workspaces enable users to organize and manipulate agents in a grid called the "agentsheet." The agents then communicate with each other directly or via spatial relationships provided by the agentsheets. End-users can drag and drop any language components onto agents to test new conditions and experience the consequences of actions.
Entera, Inc. last week unveiled its TeraCAST Streaming Server family. TeraCAST Plus is described as a standards-based, multi-platform streaming server software solution with unlimited streaming capabilities. Content providers and developers can use it to serve active Internet content, such as audio or video files, in a continuous transmission. It utilizes the QuickTime player and Java 2.0.
Entera offers two versions of the TeraCAST Server:
A just-finished IDC report forecasts the worldwide information appliance market to grow from 11 million units and $2.4 billion in 1999 to a market of 89 million units and $17.8 billion in 2004.
In its bid for a piece of that action, Be Incorporated last week announced BeIA, previously known by the code name Stinger, a software platform for appliances that deliver information and entertainment over the Internet. BeIA is billed as a device-independent software platform for post-PC era Internet appliances focused on the personalization of multimedia and information-rich products.
Be has already announced partnerships in support of the BeIA platform with leading hardware and system manufacturers including Compaq, National Semiconductor, Qubit and leading motherboard manufacturer First International Computer (FIC) of Taiwan. Additionally, Be has developed relationships with technology partners including Opera Software and RealNetworks.
Features reportedly include:
Be expects to make BeIA available to device manufacturers later in Q1 2000. Commercial products based on the BeIA platform are expected to begin shipping in Q2 2000.
Music hardware/software specialist Steinberg last week announced Reason, a set of software synthesizers developed by Propellerheads. Reason is a combination of an analog synth, a sampler, a drum machine, mixer, effects, pattern sequencer, ReCycle!-based loop player, and more. In addition, Reason is an expandable MIDI studio with its own realtime sequencer.
The studio setup is stored along with the music. Samples, loops and drum kits can be included in the file, allowing for Web publishing or email distribution to other Reason users.
Each unit in Reason's virtual rack is edited from its own on-screen front panel. All the sliders, knobs, buttons and functions of the equivalent hardware are there. When another piece of gear is needed, the user can choose it from the Create menu, and it will appear in the rack, logically patched into the signal chain. Pressing the Tab key turns the rack over, revealing inputs, outputs, CV and Gate connections. On-screen patch cords can be used to set up complex routings and cross-device modulation patches.
Reason's features include:
There's much more; check it out at http://www.us.steinberg
Simson Garfinkel, the author of the just-released book "Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century" said last week, "We should applaud Clinton for the order he issued yesterday that prohibits federal agencies from using genetic information in any decision to hire, promote, or dismiss workers. Since Americans do not technically own their own genetic information, there is no way for them to legally prevent the spread of their personal genetic information once the genetic tests have been taken. Private companies must follow the President's lead, and institute their own policies to prohibit genetic discrimination."
"Most Americans consider their medical records to be the most sensitive pieces of personal information they have," explains Garfinkel, "Medical records are beacons into our past. They reveal secrets about families. They strip us naked, as if we had been prepped for surgery.
Breakthrough advances in genetics make it possible to predict disease, behavior, intelligence and many other human traits with differing levels of accuracy. Genetic discrimination is already happening. What we really need is federal legislation to protect Americans from this serious threat to one of our most fundamental civil rights--the right to personal privacy."
Garfinkel's book was just released by O'Reilly & Associates in hardcover, for $24.95.
Chapter 6, which deals with medical issues, is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/dbnation/chapter/ch06.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and sample chapter, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/dbnation/
TurnSafe Technologies, Inc. announces the release of SafeWrite, an email security product said to provide the most advanced encryption technology available.
Features include the ability to:
SafeWrite secure email service is available to individuals for 2 years at a cost of $39.95 US, and includes product updates during the subscription period. The SafeWrite service can be extended for $14.95 US a year. Multi-user and domain rates are also available.
Newly available from Digimation is Head Designer, a parametric tool for the creation of humanoid heads. The 3D Studio Max plug-in was developed by Applied Ideas.
Using Head Designer, it is possible to create and modify a head within seconds. The user controls the overall head shape, nose, chin, cheeks, eyes, and jaw. The plug-in starts with a high-quality “baseline” head model and provides over 38 parametric controls to fine-tune the model. Head Designer's Crowd Generation utility lets users generate crowds of heads with random features with a click of a button. The baseline models are medium resolution and contain approximately 3,000 vertices and 5,000 faces.
French publisher NeMo S.A. recently announced its collaboration with Munich-based game physics engine maker Ipion Virtual Physics GmbH to bring real-time dynamics to its NeMo interactive 3D authoring tool. A free downloadable demo of physics at work in NeMo is available on the NeMo website www.nemo.com. This demo features a user-controlled car driving through an arena of obstacles, showing the various effects allowed by physics simulation. NeMo users will be able to manipulate the new behaviors in NeMo’s visual interface, to learn about the supported features.
Next month (March '00), Macromedia expects to ship Macromedia FreeHand 9, its vector-based Mac/Wintel design and layout software for "cross-media" publishing. New features and enhancements include Flash integration, improved productivity, and new tools.
Productivity enhancements include an improved visual management environment for multi-page documents and time-saving workflow features. Illustration features include three-dimensional perspective grids and "live enveloping."
Visit http://www.macromedia.com/software/freehand/ or call (800) 457-1774.
At NAB 2000 (April 10-13, Las Vegas) SynaPix, Inc. will demonstrate a new NT version of its 3D matchmoving software, SynaMatch, as well as the latest developments in the company's SynaFlex 3D compositing system. Both products will be on display at the Sands Exhibit Hall in Booth #S6557.
SynaPix SynaMatch, formerly named MatchMaker and now available on both the NT and SGI Irix platforms, recovers 3D camera-path and scene geometry on various types of shots including hand-held shots, long image sequences, archival footage, helicopter shots, and shots with objects entering and leaving the scene. Features include:
AT NAB 2000, SynaPix will also demonstrate SynaFlex, the company's system designed to integrate 2D compositing and 3D animation. Currently undergoing beta testing at post production facilities, the software will reportedly let artists manipulate live action and computer-generated elements as 3D objects in an interactive layer-free environment.
Criterion Software last week shipped a Maya world/object/animation exporter plug-in for RenderWare3, its 3D game-development toolkit. Available for RenderWare3 on both the PC and PlayStation2 platforms, the plug-in will allow RenderWare3 and Alias|Wavefront's Maya users to build game levels and characters using an integrated solution.
Criterion also plans to support Maya's procedural materials, skinning and weighting tools, and motion-capture data in the next version of the plug-in.
Right Hemisphere Ltd. last week announced a risk-free upgrade program via which users of Metacreations Painter can purchase Right Hemisphere Deep Paint software (download) at $79, a savings of $170 below the regular price.
Adobe has apparently thrown in the towel and given up its attempt to develop a competing vector-graphics standard for online. In a keynote address delivered last week by executives from Macromedia, Adobe, and Quark at the Seybold Seminars conference, John Warnock, chairman and CEO of Adobe, previewed technology that indicated support for the Macromedia Flash standard.
Adobe demonstrated support for the Macromedia Flash format in the forthcoming Adobe product and an upcoming version of Adobe GoLive.
"Flash has become a standard, it really is out there," admitted Warnock.
Also, Macromedia and Corel jointly announced support for Macromedia Flash in CorelDraw and distribution of the Macromedia Flash Player with CorelLinux.
(See also related story in Happenings)
The new site www.bioanim.com is billed as an educational aid for teachers and students of biology or medicine. Visitors can learn about the structure and function of the living cell, tissue and human body. It contains VRML animations, plus drawings and images that enhance the understanding of biological structures and processes.
Fresh outta Kenwood Technologies (USA) is the 72X TrueX CD-ROM drive ($130), said to deliver a sustained transfer rate ranging from 6.75MB/sec. to 10.8MB/sec. across the entire disc. The "TrueX" means the drive reads seven tracks of data in parallel. It employs Partial Constant Angular Velocity (PCAV), said to provide optimum performance.
Salon.com (www.salon.com) plans to launch in early March a Web site dedicated to the free-software movement, also known as "open source" and recognized for its application in Linux-based operating systems. The Free Software Project will draw largely on the reporting and commentary of Andrew Leonard, senior technology writer for Salon Technology.
For the past few months, Leonard has been channeling his reporting toward a full-length book. As Leonard completes each section of the book, it will be uploaded to the site and subjected to the intense scrutiny and criticism of the Linux community. Discussion software will allow readers to post their comments directly to the text of the book, and Leonard will respond to their critique, editing the text in an ongoing fashion.
iEntertainment Network, a provider of online games and communities, is acquiring a series of Internet-based children's games from InfoMedia, the developer of Yahoo Classic Games. The company also announced the launch of "Kid's Corner," a children's entertainment area that will be available later this month at iEntertainment Network Websites.
The 17 new games include Tournament Pong, Mimic-A-Smiley, Zapoids, Don't Bonk the Giggle, Chip Shot, Splatberry Pie, Find Sticks, Bitzo in Space, Jukebox, The Laughnator, and Side Swipe. iEntertainment Network anticipates that these new Java- and Flash-based titles will increase both traffic and advertising revenues at their entertainment sites. In January, the company announced that 4th quarter advertising impressions at its Websites increased 43% over impressions delivered in third quarter 1999.
Microsoft last week announced the availability of its new, $20 Links 2000 10-Course Pack. Using the game engines of Links LS 2000 or LS 1999, the add-on pack includes 10 upgraded versions of the most popular courses in the Links series, optimized for tournament play.
Players will be able to relive the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina and feel the serenity of Pennsylvania's Latrobe Country Club in fall foliage. The PC golfer on a tight schedule can enjoy a new fantasy executive course, Three Canyons, set in a challenging desert bowl. Additional courses are Firestone Country Club in Ohio, Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado, Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia, Kapalua Plantation and Kapalua Village in Hawaii, and Entrada at Snow Canyon and Bountiful Ridge Golf Course in Utah.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided last week to "reverse and remand" a Preliminary Injunction on sales of Connectix Virtual Game Station on all counts. Shipments of Connectix Virtual Game Station for Macintosh began shortly thereafter at www.connectix.com. A Windows version will ship shortly.
Connectix Virtual Game Station is software said to enable PlayStation games to run on G3 or G4 Macintosh computers (including iBook and iMac) and soon on Pentium II Windows PCs. Sony brought suit to suspend sale of the product claiming copyright infringement and tarnishment of the PlayStation¨ name and other marks. Based on these claims, in 1999 a U.S. District Court temporarily blocked further shipments of the Macintosh version and the release of a Windows version. Connectix has won the appeal at the Federal appellate level on all counts and may now resume distribution and sale of the products. The case has been remanded to the district level for final resolution.
The 25-page finding is available under case 99- 15852 at www.ce9.uscourts.gov/Web/newopinions.nsf
The latest installment in Acclaim Entertainment's Turok series, Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion, is currently in development and will be ready for a late summer 2000 release. Created by the Acclaim Austin Studios, the sequel is based on objective- and mission- based gameplay. Gamers also start out with the ability to play as one of two lead characters - Joseph or Danielle Fireseed, Joshua Fireseed's siblings. New areas open up to each character depending on the player's choice, yet each character is dependent on the other's capabilities in order to complete the game.
Turok 3 features 24 upgradable weapons and over 40 enemies, which never reappear in the same place twice. The game also uses dynamic lighting, and will include over 48 multiplayer maps and 8 gameplay modes such as Blood Lust, Monkey Tag, Color Tag and Capture the Flag.
According to Maxis, The Sims is the company's fastest-selling game ever. So far they've shipped well over a quarter million copies to stores in North America. The Sims has been selling twice as fast as SimCity 3000, reportedly the top-grossing game of 1999, when it was released a year ago.
Last week Maxis posted a new set of free downloadable objects that can be imported into players' games. These include a set of five character skins: a warrior man and woman, two children dressed as sprites and Sherlock Holmes. Players can also download a set of new lights for their homes as well as a slot machine (reportedly very loose). There are also some Maxis-designed mansions.
Homeworld, a real-time strategy game developed by Relic Entertainment and published by Sierra Studios, was recently granted PC Gamer magazine's "Game of the Year" for 1999. Editor-in-chief Gary Whitta lauded the game's innovation, playability, graphics, music and art direction.
Homeworld lets players to command a massive starfleet on a journey to the heart of the galaxy. The title offers 16 missions and two races in 3D environments, along with eight-person online multiplayer gaming. Homeworld is the premier release from Vancouver, B.C.-based Relic Entertainment.
Zeros & Ones, Inc., a broadband technology and content provider, last week filed multiple patents to protect its proprietary real-time 2D/3D television technologies, which have been in development under the code name "d3D."
The Company also announced today that it would be holding a series of luncheons for brokers, analysts, and investors in February. The luncheons will be held on February 14 at the Jonathan Club (Los Angeles), February 15 at the Westgate Hotel (San Diego), and February 16 at the Marriott Newport Center (Newport Beach).
To attend, contact Investor Communications Company at 800/511-4219 for an invitation.
Macromedia CEO Rob Burgess and John Warnock, CEO, Adobe Systems, will keynote Flashforward2000, the first-ever Flash conference and exposition, March 27-29, 2000, at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco, CA. The three-day event features creative and technical presentations, plus hands-on workshops and a Flash Film Festival.
Conference attendees will:
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