Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

11 July 2005
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)

--Web Publishing Tool Nvu 1.0 Released

--ionForge Releases Free GameDev Tool
--Dan Ritchie Updates PD Pro Digital Painter
--Alias Updates SketchBook Pro
--Alias Releases 64-bit mental ray Standalone
--Bionatics Updates natFX 3 for 3ds Max
--Toon Boom Studio V3 is Released

--O'Reilly Releases "Swing Hacks"

--GameDev.net Acquires NeHe Productions
--MTV Launches New Game Division

--Indie Games Con '05 Registration Opens

--About Spectrum



Web Publishing Tool Nvu 1.0 Released

Nvu 1.0, the latest version of the free Web authoring system for desktop Linux, Macintosh and Microsoft Windows users, is now available. Nvu (pronounced "n-view") is the open-source equivalent to programs such as Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia Dreamweaver. Designed to let non-technical computer users create, edit and publish Web sites without requiring programming or HTML coding skills, the software is available for download at www.nvu.com


New features and improvements include better performance and stability, a default in-line spell checker, a new user guide, and an expanded help section. In addition, Nvu 1.0 now complies with strict HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 standards, producing even cleaner code than before and ensuring that Web sites developed with Nvu function across a wide number of browsers.

Nvu is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor, meaning users can create Web pages similarly to creating a word processing document. Instead of typing in HTML code and guessing what the published Web site may look like, Nvu lets the user constantly see how the site will look before it is posted online. While the user works in a visual environment much like a word processor, Nvu creates the HTML code in the background -- code that can also be easily previewed and directly edited.

More advanced users or those wishing to learn HTML programming can toggle between the WYSIWYG editing view and the HTML code view. These users can observe the interaction between the HTML code and what will actually appear in the Web browser. Nvu also includes a cascading style sheet (CSS) editor, which lets users transform and control the look and feel of their Web sites.

Linspire, Inc., producer of the popular desktop Linux operating system Linspire, started the Nvu project as a complement to the other desktop Linux Web browsers and tools offered by leading open source innovator, The Mozilla Foundation. Since The Mozilla Foundation has most recently poured most of its efforts into the development of the hugely successful Firefox browser and Thunderbird email program, there were fewer resources available for advancing a Web authoring tool based on Mozilla Composer. Linspire contributed to this part of the project by providing more development resources and capital to the Composer-based product -- renamed Nvu -- to round out the Mozilla Internet suite. Along the way, Linspire partnered with several individuals and companies in the open source community, including Disruptive Innovations (www.disruptive-innovations.com) and Mozdev Group, Inc. (www.mozdevgroup.com).

Nvu 1.0 is available in many different languages, including English, French, Russian, and Dutch. The cross-platform Web editor works on numerous operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Apple OSX, OS/2, FreeBSD, Linspire, and many other Linux-based systems.



ionForge Releases Free GameDev Tool

As games have become more and more sophisticated over the years, so have game design development tools. Game development teams that create rich graphics for consoles like Game Boy Advance and Sony Play Station 2 have to keep track of image changes throughout the project. Until recently tracking these subtle changes has been a time consuming procedure.

Now ionForge, a provider of source-control and configuration-management tools, has released its imageDiff software as a stand-alone product. Previously only available as part of ion Forge's Evolution, imageDiff is available as a free download for a limited time at http://www.imagediff.com/ .

imageDiff lets the user compare images of different formats with each other, including JPG, GIF, BMP, TIF, PNG and track changes across different file formats.

While ionForge has made the download freely available to artists and developers at this time, the company requests that anyone who downloads the software make a donation to the Jamaican Cancer Society to honor one of the original members of the ionForge development team, Francis Salmon. Salmon and his father both passed away this year from pancreatic cancer. Throughout the later stages of their illness, and afterwards, the Jamaican Cancer Society (JCS) was very helpful and comforting to the Salmon family, as they are for many families every year.

"We are hoping that by making imageDiff easily available it will not only help game development and entertainment projects with their image comparison and configuration management, but also assist the JCS reach out to even more families," said Nick Ni, founder of ionForge.


Dan Ritchie Updates PD Pro Digital Painter

Dan Ritchie, author of PD Pro Digital Painter and Project Dogwaffle Paint and Animation software, has released a new update patch for users of PD Pro 3.x. Version 3.2 contains new speed optimizations for built-in brushes, as well as faster interactive panning and zooming for working on large projects.

"The main goal of this release is to deliver on the promise of realtime performance.", said Ritchie. "The update is a broad one, with code throughout the application receiving speed optimizations."

The undo system, screen refresh and alpha blending, as well as dozens of individual features have been updated or completely rewritten. In one case, a filter (the color replacer) was rewritten five times before it was fast enough. Many filters are being 'real-timed' in this manner. The brush system is said to feel much faster with most built-in brushes.

New features include:
* added a halftone filter, real-timed and integrated it
* new gain control for the brightness of particle brushes
* caps lock now switches to secondary color (erase)
* Windows snapping makes it easier to lay out panels
* added mouse wheel support for zooming
* home key as shortcut to center the image
* a menu item is created if Martin Writes multi-print plug-in is installed
* the Mosaic and Quilt plug-ins are integrated and real-timed
* many features may experience speedups, including plasma noise, bumpytoy, etc.
* added 'Old Film look' filter in the timeline editor.
* added a couple of new papers textures
* you can also save animated brushes in the media manager

More improvements and a few bug fixes are listed here: http://www.thebest3d.com/dogwaffle/whatsnew

The 3.2 update is a free patch for those using PD Pro 3.0 or 3.1

It can be downloaded from http://www.thebest3d.com/dogwaffle/patches

PD Pro Digital painter 3 offered for purchase on several online stores for around $97 USD. There are also entry-level and free versions available



Alias Updates SketchBook Pro

Alias recently released SketchBook Pro 2, a new version of the $199 paint and drawing software application for Windows and Mac. The program offers paint and drawing features and a gesture-based user interface. Version 2 offers new features including:
* Enhanced Brush Controls: Users can resize each default brush or create and store up to 28 custom brushes.
* Image Layers: Users can create and work with an unlimited number of image layers. A layers window provides Marking Menus to add, hide, lock, clear, name, move, order and change the transparency of layers or move, rotate, scale, mirror and flip layers.
* Image Types: SketchBook Pro employs layered TIFF images but also reads and writes BMP, GIF, JPG and PNG files. Users can now save a layered PSD file for use in Adobe Photoshop.
* Add Images: Users can now import images into a layer stack, and move, scale or rotate to fit.
* Lasso Select: Users can select any arbitrary shape and copy the selection to another layer. Selected areas can also be scaled and rotated using a modified version of the pan/zoom tool.
* Interactive Brush Resize: Floating tool lets the user change the size of the brush without the need to open a dialog box.
* Image and Canvas Resize: Users can adjust the size of the canvas and the size or resolution of an image.
* Undo and Redo: Users can undo up to 75 brushstrokes or actions. One-flick undo is available from the tool palette.



Alias Releases 64-bit mental ray Standalone

As the initial part of its 64-bit plan, Alias is shipping mental ray Standalone 3.4 64-bit, which is fully compatible with the Maya 6.5 software. The 64-bit software reportedly offers faster processing times and the ability to create and accurately render more complex scenes and images for film, games, broadcast, digital publishing and design visualization.

mental ray Standalone from Alias leverages the expanded capabilities of 64-bit hardware. Rolf Herken, CEO and CTO of mental images, says the additional addressable memory space improves performance for large scenes. “This can lead to speed improvements of up to two orders of magnitude (100x) over 32-bit machines and absolute execution times in the order of minutes rather than days for global illumination rendering of scenes with several hundred million triangles on dual and quad processor machines with 8GB to 16GB of physical memory. We expect this to finally make virtual cinematography a practical reality.”

In addition to the ability to render large scenes, the 64-bit version of mental ray Standalone is said to offer quality and control. Production facilities can take advantage of its programmability to create custom shaders and produce any desired rendering effect. Physically accurate lighting through global illumination means that advanced lighting effects, indirect lighting, light focusing, translucency, glossy reflectors and radiosity can be achieved and combined automatically.

Hardware and Operating System combinations supported by 64-bit mental ray Standalone are: Enterprise Linux WS 3 (x86_64) and SUSE™ 9.1 (x86_64), running on Intel EM64T, AMD Opteron™, or AMD Athlon™ 64 processors. Support for the Windows® XP operating platform is expected.



Bionatics Updates natFX 3 for 3ds Max

Bionatics, a developer of plant simulation and modeling software for the CG industry, recently released a version 3 of its natFX for 3ds Max. New features include:
* advanced and easy wind animation
* easy pruning of the trees
* new customization & deformation features
* new built-in renderer
* handling of normal maps for realistic relief texturing
* optimized for 3ds Max v7.x
* new productive & user-friendly interface

Hybrid modeling as implemented in natFX is a compromise between 2D and 3D. The user can generate billboard trees, mixing 2d and 3d, while taking into account the performance of the computer and the needs for different levels of detail of the tree according to its visualization and use.



Toon Boom Studio V3 is Released

Toon Boom Animation last week released Toon Boom Studio V3. New and enhanced features include the new Text and Transform tools, as well as improvements to lip synching that ease the process of creating cut-out animation.

Tools that simplify cut-out creation include:
* The New Free Transform tool enables users to apply any combinations of scaling, rotation, skewing to animate faster
* Users can also add text for effective communication in Web presentations, comic strips and more
* Automated lip-sync tools allow fast sound track synchronization
* Improved sound scrubbing enables accurate adjustments to the lip synchronization
* Users can animate with key frames and use interpolation to create animation faster
* The library enables users to save drawings, animation cycles and motions for reuse
* The time line makes it easy to organize layers, set the timing and attach motion paths to elements
* Cell-swapping and templates add even more speed to cartoon creation
* Users can create dollys, trucks, zooms, and other camera moves, with the 3D space and camera

In addition, Toon Boom Studio V3 offers a simplified user interface as the Drawing and Sceneplanning modes are now one.




O'Reilly Releases "Swing Hacks"

It could be the result of faster computers and faster video cards, but users expect more from interfaces today, certainly more than a Web page can deliver. Software developers are feeling the pressure as they hit the technology and interface limitations of Web applications. The movement now is toward new desktop software that promises greater integration between the Web, external devices, and PCs--whether it's RSS readers, iPods, photo collaboration, or gaming with servers or cell phones.

"That's the future of desktop software," claims Joshua Marinacci, coauthor of "Swing Hacks" (Adamson and Marinacci, O'Reilly, US $29.95). "As people use computers more and as more things fall under the general category of 'computers'--such as cell phones and console game machines--it's our duty as developers to make higher quality software. That means applications should look great, perform well, and be easy to use. Java Swing is a great choice. It gives you the potential to build a richer interface."

"Swing Hacks" is not an exhaustive compendium on Java Swing, which contains all the classes and components for creating Graphical User Interfaces, but a handy resource for experienced programmers who want to push the boundaries of what a Java client application can do.

"This book is a reference to the cool stuff," says coauthor Chris Adamson, editor of ONJava and java.net. "We want to show that it's possible and essential to create Java GUIs that are pleasant, even fun to use. Swing is just a small part of desktop Java, but we feel it's the focal point--the place where desktop technology (AWT, Java2D, JavaSound), network technology (Web services, XML, JXTA), and device technology (iPods, cell phones, TVs) all converge. Many of the hacks in this book are not strictly about Swing, but about using Swing to do cool things with the rest of the world."

The book contains hacks for using various Swing components, such as trees and tables, windows, dialogs and frames, transparent and animated windows, text components, rendering, drag-and-drop support, audio components, and more. With "Swing Hacks," readers will learn how to apply the Swing API in situations that require a more advanced touch. In other words, the book teaches how to use and extend the Swing component set in ways that Swing's originators never imagined--whether it's a visual enhancement to make software look better, or a functional improvement to make software do something it couldn't do before.

Several sample hacks, including "Earthquake Dialog," "Create a Color Eyedropper," and "Fun with Keyboard Lights," are available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/swinghks/chapter/index.html

For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bios, and samples, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/swinghks/index.html



GameDev.net Acquires NeHe Productions

GameDev.net, LLC, an online community for game developers, recently acquired NeHe Productions. NeHe (http://nehe.gamedev.net) will continue to operate as an independent Website under the management of GameDev.net.

“NeHe is widely regarded as the top online destination for learning OpenGL and is a long standing partner of GameDev.net,” said GameDev.net CEO Kevin Hawkins. “When Jeff Molofee recently announced his intention to sell the site, we immediately recognized that an acquisition by GameDev.net would ensure that this invaluable resource would be preserved and continue to grow.”

Under the terms of the acquisition, GameDev.net gains ownership of all content assets and copyrights associated with the NeHe Website and brand. Jeff Molofee is granted license of the Website and its content for personal use.

“We recognize that NeHe has a unique community associated with it, so it will continue to operate as a separate site,” commented Dave Astle, Executive Producer and Executive Vice President of GameDev.net. “Although some changes will be made, we will continue to make NeHe's tutorials and other information freely available. We will also be working to add new content to the site.”

GameDev.net features nearly 2,000 articles and tutorials, hundreds of book and product reviews, coverage of industry events, community forums, daily industry news, and job listings.

NeHe Productions is on OpenGL resource focusing on the beginner- to intermediate-level programmer. The site contains over 60 articles and tutorials, 100 downloads, and programming language conversions for most of the content.



MTV Launches New Game Division

MTV: Music Television recently launch its newest division, "MTV Games." MTV says the division will develop, produce, and promote gaming experiences that resonate with its audience. MTV Games plans to incubate original game franchises in partnership with independent game developers. In addition, the new division will forge strategic marketing partnerships with game publishers to connect with the MTV audience across multiple platforms.

As part of the announcement, MTV Games unveiled a strategic relationship with Midway Games to market, jointly sell in-game advertising, and collaborate on soundtrack development for three upcoming games. Under the deal, MTV and Midway will partner in a royalty-sharing structure. The first release from this partnership will be "L.A. RUSH," an arcade racing/car-tuning game with creative design assistance from automotive customization firm West Coast Customs of "Pimp My Ride."

MTV Games is overseen by Jeff Yapp, EVP, MTV Networks Music and Logo Enterprise Group who reports to Rich Eigendorff, COO of MTV Networks Music and Logo Group. Tony Calandra, sr. director of MTV Interactive Products, will manage the new division and Joseph Varet, director MTV business development & strategy will oversee MTV Games' business partnerships and strategic relationships. Jamie Leece (formerly president of Gotham Games, a division of Take Two) will serve as MTV Games' executive producer working with independent developers to identify new projects. Marc Nesbitt, sr. producer of MTV Games, will oversee all project production and creative.




Indie Games Con '05 Registration Opens

GarageGames recently opened registration for Indie Games Con 2005, to be held in Eugene, Oregon, October 7-9.

Indie Games Con (IGC), a gathering of independent game developers from around the world, is designed to be a summit meeting of like-minded developers with the shared goal to focus on collaboration and building community. Along with sessions on game art, technology, tools and business, the event has a central ShowOFF Center where developers can showcase their current prototypes, demos and newly released games. This provides an opportunity for their peers to play and provide feedback.

The cost is $195 for a three-day pass, including sessions, food, parties and a t-shirt for those registering before September 16. Registrations after September 16th will be $250.




About Spectrum

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/online-development tools and end product for review.

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