21 January 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Macromedia was recently elected to serve on the Java Community Process (JCP) Executive Committee. Macromedia was elected by members of the Java community to serve a three-year term to the committee that will shape the future of the Java 2 Platform, Standard and Enterprise Editions. The 16-member committee makes key decisions concerning Java technology specifications as they progress through the JCP program.
Macromedia recently announced that "Neo," the next release of ColdFusion, will support a new Java technology-based architecture to enable developers to deploy ColdFusion applications on Java (J2EE) servers. The company also recently released a tool to help Java programmers integrate its JRun application server with their preferred development environments, including Sun Forte for Java, to create distributed Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) applications. Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev provides a visual development environment for creating JSP-based Web applications. Increasingly, developers are building rich client-side applications with Macromedia Flash that leverage the back-end power of J2EE.
Since its introduction in 1995 as the open, inclusive process to develop and revise Java technology specifications, reference implementations, and technology compatibility kits, the Java Community Process program has fostered the evolution of the Java platform in cooperation with the international Java developer community. More than 150 Java technology specifications are in development in the JCP program, which has over 400 company and individual participants.
DMOD, Inc. a provider of secure distribution solutions for digital assets, last week announced the DMOD WorkSpace, a new software application for secure digital media collaboration and distribution. The product uses real-time encryption technology to let digital content creators collaborate more freely and efficiently across geographic distances. The DMOD WorkSpace is available in two offerings: the DMOD WorkSpace Desktop, a peer-to-peer application, available today; and DMOD WorkSpace Gateway, a client/server architecture available in Spring 2002. Both offerings are sold directly by DMOD.
DMOD WorkSpace Desktop, a peer-to-peer implementation, lets individual users connect directly to other desktops for the purpose of browsing and downloading digital media files. It offers controlled access on a file-by-file, folder-by-folder or project-by-project basis.
DMOD WorkSpace Gateway, a client-server implementation, is scalable for projects involving a larger number of participants. It provides secure file transfer and access control features in a client/server environment.
Just out from Macromedia is an update to Macromedia Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio, the authoring software used to create Shockwave content. In addition, a native Mac OS X version of the Shockwave Player will be available later this month. The free update to the studio adds Windows XP compatibility.
Also included in the update is hardware- and software-based anti-aliasing support. Anti-aliasing improves the visual quality of 3D objects by adjusting the pixels to eliminate "jaggies" and soften the contrast between objects for a smoother look. Anti-aliasing support is also included in the new version of the Shockwave Player.
The free player and software updates can be downloaded from http://www.macromedia.com/support/director/download/dir851_updater.html.
Appeal Virtual Machines, a developer of virtual machines for the Java platform, last week released version 3.1 of the company's JRockit product line, available for download from the company's Web site. The free trial license allows for 30 days of testing, benchmarking and production evaluation.
JRockit Java Virtual Machine is designed for server-side Java execution. The new version features performance enhancements such as improved code generation, a newly designed parallel garbage collector for multiprocessor systems, and faster startup.
eMotion, Inc. last week released version 4.1 of its digital media management software. MediaPartner 4.1 Enterprise adds new capabilities in workflow, collaboration and integration.
The new, customizable brand-management project workflow lets users assign specific, definable phases to each project, with a timeline that can be manipulated to reflect potential changes in a project's progress and completion. The software can also automatically send email reminders to members of a particular project group when a stage of the project is due. Also part of the enhanced project workflow is the ability to create sub-projects or a nested hierarchy within a master project, which lets users turn the spotlight on specific segments during the project and use the timeline to keep the overall objective in sight.
The updated eMotion Viewer lets users view, simultaneously, all annotations made to a media file, for every user and every annotation session. With one of the new customizable drawing tools called an Outline, users can hide or show annotations by user, by date or by time. The enhanced Viewer handles MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video files with SMPTE time codes, allowing for accurate editing by providing a direct reference back to the original source tape.
Discreet last week began shipping combustion 2, a new version of its paint, animation and 3D-compositing software. New features include multi-format project capabilities for film and video, including 64-bit image-processing, advanced film grain tools and color Look-Up Table (LUT) management. The software also includes new toolsets such as an editable, interactive schematic view; an integrated 2D particle system, an expanded interactive text-and-motion-graphics module, and rotoscoping technology. Compatible garbage masks, grain tools and color LUTs further expand compatibility between combustion and flint, flame, and inferno, Discreet's visual-effects systems.
Other performance enhancements in combustion 2 include an optimized 2D software renderer, OpenGL support for the new particle system, and a 3D compositing environment.
Software developer Darkling Simulations last week released SimbiontTS 2.0 and SimbiontAM 2.0, the latest versions of its material plug-in solution for Caligari’s trueSpace5 and Hash's Animation:Master for Windows, respectively.
The software features an improved interface and new custom controls for each included procedural material. These high-level controls (for example, Crust Level, Rustiness, Pit Size) give each of the over 100 materials a wide range of looks. Simbiont 2.0 also includes 23 new "primitive" procedural materials that can be applied to the color, bump, or transparency shader channels and layered with other materials. Five specialty reflectance shaders round out the package.
Pixologic last week released new “MaterialPack” and "MaterialList" scripts for ZBrush. The "MaterialPack" ZScript supplements the default ZBrush materials with 100 new materials. It includes a material selector, which lets the user browse and find a suitable material for a project. These materials can further be modified to achieve variety of other custom materials.
The "MaterialList" ZScript lets users store materials in icon-based lists that can contain up to 100 materials each. A user can create lists containing variety of materials or create lists that are theme-specific and switch between these lists as needed. The MaterialList and its materials can be published and shared with other ZBrush users.
"MaterialPack" and "MaterialList" ZScript are available at http://www.ZBrush.com and are free to current ZBrush users.
LightWork Design, a supplier of computer graphics software for rendering, simulation and verification solutions, last week launched LightWorks Real-time Plus. The software reportedly lets developers create applications that can render large and complex models in real time.
LightWork claims that software developers integrating Real-time Plus into their applications will be able to offer their users interactive, smooth real-time navigation of large and complex 3D models without hardware acceleration.
Applications that incorporate LightWorks include ArchiTrend from Fukui, FormZ from auto-des-sys, Madric 2000 from CPU, VectorWorks from Nemetschek North America, Truespace from Caligari, CDRS from PTC, PowerShape from Delcam, SolidThinking from Gestel, SolidWorks from Dassault, ThinkReal from Think3, Unigraphics from EDS PLM Solutions, and Vellum Solids from Ashlar.
Rhythm & Hues, a film and production studio, will offer 3D models from its inventory on Turbo Squid's online digital asset marketplace. The collection, which will be sold both individually and as collections, includes a variety of models such as animals, military, office, household, and transportation items. The first collections to be released are: Office Volume 1, Home Pack Volume 1, Military Volume 1, Transportation Volume 1, Animals Volume 1, Farm Animals Volume 1, and Marine Animals Volume 1.
Among Rhythm & Hues' projects are the Coca-Cola “Polar Bear” commercials; Babe, which won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects; Cats and Dogs; Planet of the Apes; Hollow Man; Fantasia 2000; Stuart Little; Armageddon; and the recently released hit, Harry Potter.
Communique Partners, an online panel and market intelligence consulting firm, last week launched "The Gamer’s Voice," an online panel of gamers for the interactive videogame industry. The panel will consist of over 5,000 gamers, representing a cross-section of platforms, genres, age and gender. The panel will be tapped for online surveys and discussion groups that will provide answers to a variety of industry and vendor issues. These include 1) product, title and plot tests, 2) future purchase plans, 3) platform acceptance, hot buttons, and their future role as digital entertainment centers, 4) broadband connectivity potential, and 5) marketing bundles that will drive volume, as well as many other keys to success.
An annual subscription service will include quarterly reports, tele-briefings, and analyst queries. Subscribers will also be able to tap the panel for custom proprietary surveys covering usage and attitudes, purchase intentions and influences, satisfaction and loyalty studies, online focus groups and discussions, as well as product and promotion testing.
The panel will attempt to provide answers to such questions as:
The panel will represent a balanced sample of the U.S. interactive gaming population comprised of key sub-segments divided by criteria including videogame platform type (Playstation, Nintendo, etc.), level of sophistication, location (major US metropolitan areas) and demographics (gender, age). Sources for the panel will include industry publications, websites, newsletters and clubs, as well as selected vendor customer lists, randomly drawn and representative across the customer base. Incentives such as cash, sweepstakes, and game discounts will be offered.
Although it may seem as if Java programmers are trying to take over the world, the truth is that Java's versatility leads it naturally into new frontiers of technology where, rather than encroaching on the turf of existing technologies, Java has a way of complementing them. Now that Java has come to the wireless arena with the advent of the Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) from Sun Microsystems, the possibilities for new wireless applications and over-the-air distribution models for handheld devices are beckoning to Java programmers. "Learning Wireless Java" by Qusay H. Mahmoud (O'Reilly, US $34.95) was written to bring these programmers up to speed with wireless Java.
"Wireless Java can be used to develop any kind of application you can think of," says Mahmoud, "including financial, such as mobile commerce, games, healthcare applications, and others." Organizations will see the benefit of wireless applications when their employees can access critical business information efficiently from anywhere they go. Mahmoud, who has written dozens of articles and tutorials on developing wireless applications, contends that the next big shakeup in the technology industry is wireless, and wireless Java will play an important role in it.
According to Mahmoud, there are numerous advantages to using Java for wireless devices, including the dynamic download of applications that will run even when the device (say, a cell phone) is disconnected from the wireless network or out of the coverage area. A second advantage is that wireless Java provides support for disconnected operations. And, true to Java in general, wireless Java applications are platform-independent: they run on all wireless Java-enabled devices in the same manner.
"The wireless applications we see now are mainly written using the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). One major difference between WAP and Wireless Java is the interaction model," Mahmoud explains. "The Wireless Markup Language (WML) provides the tags and the possible presentation attributes, but it doesn't define an interaction model. For example, WML defines a SELECT element for providing a list. Some WAP-enabled devices interpret the SLECT tag as a popup menu list while others interpret it as a menu that can be used for navigation. Therefore, there is no standard interaction model defined for this element. If a developer uses it, the application may run well on some devices and poorly on others. Wireless Java applications, on the other hand, provide a clearly defined standard for interaction, using commands that are mapped to soft buttons."
In his book, Mahmoud introduces the Connected Limited Device configuration (CLDC) and the Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP) for developing wireless applications, as well as tips and tricks for using Sun Microsystems' lightweight K Virtual machine (KVM). He leads developers through the basics of MIDlet programming, and explains how to use the General Connection Framework for networking support, the high-level and low-level graphical APIs, and the J2ME record management system for persistent storage.
"Learning Wireless Java" is designed to serve as a quick guide and reference for programmers who are familiar with the Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) and are interested in developing wireless software applications. It assumes that the reader is familiar with Java programming and has worked with the J2SE classes. Discussion centers on building safe, compact applications with the graphical interface, database, and networking capabilities that the J2ME supports. In addition, this book also shows how to download applications to the latest J2ME-enabled devices, including the Motorola i50x and i85s phones and upgraded Palm handhelds.
Additional Resources: "Learning Wireless Java" is also available on Safari Books Online, see: http://safari.oreilly.com/
An article by the author, "Invoking JavaServer Pages from MIDlets" can be found at: http://www.onjava.com/pub/a/onjava/2001/12/05/wirelessjava.html
Chapter 5, "MIDP GUI Programming" is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/wirelessjava/chapter/ch05.html
Jabber is a set of protocols expressed in XML, and an extensible framework that allows people and applications to exchange all sorts of information, from simple text messages to being used to extend the backbone of an enterprise data system. It's designed to let programmers build applications that have identity, presence, and that can take part in conversations.
"This is an era of exploration," says author DJ Adams. "Programmers today want and need to discover new ways of building applications and services that are not islands, but are connected to each other and to their users. People are beginning to realize that Jabber isn't just an Instant Messaging (IM) system, nor [is it] just a system that can connect you seamlessly to different foreign IM systems. It's more than that; a framework, an architecture, and a protocol that arms you with the tools to build all kinds of messaging- based systems."
According to Adams, one of the attractive features of Jabber is the low cost of entry. "By this I mean that Jabber's protocol is simple," he explains. "If you can read and construct XML, and use TCP sockets, you can turn Jabber to your advantage. The open source Jabber server is written in C, and the codebase is fairly small, which means that it's not an impossible task to get a grip on what's going on from end to end. Moreover, there are libraries that make Jabber programming easier in many popular languages: C++, Java, Python, and Perl, to name a few. I've even seen some Jabber stuff in REBOL!"
An article by the author is available online at: http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2002/01/11/jabber_bots.html
Chapter 5, Jabber Technology Basics, is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/jabber/chapter/ch05.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see: http://oreilly.com/catalog/jabber/
Activision last week exercised its option to acquire the remaining 60% equity interest in Gray Matter Interactive Studios, the developer of Activision's hit PC game, Return to Castle Wolfenstein. This doubles the of Activision-owned developers of first-person shooters; the previous acquisition was Raven Software.
Gray Matter Interactive Studios is an L.A.-based game developer founded by designers formerly from Xatrix Entertainment, the developer of games such as Redneck Rampage and Kingpin. The company has proprietary technologies that can be used to create first-person action entertainment experiences. Industry veteran Drew Markham has signed a long-term employment contract with Activision and will continue to manage Gray Matter studios. Additionally, key employees also have signed long-term employment contracts with Activision.
Currently in development is Activision's Return to Castle Wolfenstein for PlayStation2 and Xbox. The new console versions will feature design and technical modifications that take full advantage of each platform's technology. They're being developed by Raster Productions and executive-produced by id Software.
Set against the backdrop of WWII, Return to Castle Wolfenstein involves the player in action, espionage and covert operations, as an American soldier tasked with infiltrating the heart of Nazi Germany and stopping the darkest plans of the Third Reich. Players fight Nazi storm-troopers, undead Teutonic knights and the twisted products of genetic experimentation.
The 7th International Conference on 3D Web Technology will take place February 24-28, 2002 in Tempe, Arizona. The symposium will focus on the frontiers of 3D technologies and multimedia. The goal is to unite researchers, developers, experimenters, and artists in an environment where they can share and explore methods of using, enhancing or creating new 3D Web technology such as MPEG4, VRML, X3D, and Java3D. The program includes technical and commercial presentations, tutorials, workshops, trade show and Web3d art show.
Symposium topics include:
DEMO 2002, the 12th annual emerging technology conference, will take place February 10-12, 2002 at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs resort in Phoenix, Arizona. Sixty-six new products and services will launch at the event, where attendees experience products, talk to developers, and explore new trends. The new technologies range from a PDA device and online music innovation to a wireless platform and extra features for Microsoft's new Tablet PC. In addition to the new technologies, DEMO 2002 will offer sneak previews of concepts still in R&D and panel discussions with industry leaders.
Highlights of the upcoming DEMO 2002 conference will include:
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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