12 June 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Macromedia last week shipped Dreamweaver UltraDev, its visual solution for Web application development. The title enables visual creation of data-driven Web applications across server technologies, such as Sun Microsystems JavaServer Pages (JSP), Microsoft Active Server Pages (ASP), and Allaire ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML).
NeMo, a developer of authoring tools for interactive real-time 3D, last week announced the development of their Web plug-in and player for the Macintosh platform, including Mac OS X, Apple's next generation operating system.
NeMo Creation allows users to create interactive applications through a building-block, object-oriented paradigm. The more elaborate NeMo Dev, with its open-source model, lets programmers create new building blocks that fit into the NeMo graphical interface.
An early version of the NeMo Web plug-in and player was shown on Mac OS 9 at the Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference. The final version will also run on Mac OS X, and is planned for Q4 2000.
Macmillan USA last week released its programming tool kit for developing gaming software. Tools include a compiler, 3D rendering capabilities, a 3D animator, and a developer's guide by game developer Marc Saltzman.
Game Programming Starter Kit 4.0 includes the introductory edition of Microsoft Visual C++ 6.0, which provides a compiler that gives users the power to create their own applications in a flexible environment designed for viewing and manipulation of code.
The kit also contains Genesis 3D SDK 1.1, offering a 3D engine and level editor that supports Direct3D and 3Dfx Glide drivers. Microsoft DirectX 7.0 SDK equips the user with 2D and 3D graphical development libraries to enhance a game project. Finally, Macmillan incorporates Shadow Realm Games Animator, a 3D animation application that enables the design of game models to include 3D meshing, skeletal structures, and animation capabilities.
The Game Design: Secrets of the Sages, Second Edition from BradyGAMES provides an insight into the gaming industry and development trends. Written by gaming guru Marc Saltzman, this book provides a complete understanding of key topics -- from game design theory, through production and post-production, to advice on how to best break into the industry. Using interviews from over 150 industry specialists, Saltzman reveals their perspectives and design secrets on a variety of topics for different game genres. The guide fuels ideas on storyboards, programming, adding music/sounds, artwork and animation, and artificial intelligence. Creative marketing strategies, finding an agent or publisher, and selling the product on the Web are topics also covered.
Game Programming Starter Kit 4.0 (ISBN: 1-57595-413-3) is available now with an MSRP of US $49.95 wherever books and/or software are sold, or it can be purchased online at http://www.macmillansoftware.com.
Open Door Networks last week began shipping version 2.0 of its DoorStop Firewall, Personal Edition. The new release of the personal firewall for Macintosh provides users with detailed information and advice about access attempts to their Macs. It also provides advanced features such as a Control Strip module, self-test window and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) protection.
The DoorStop personal firewall helps users increase the security of their Internet-connected system by letting them block, either selectively or globally, access attempts to their machines from the Internet. DoorStop Personal is designed for Macintosh users on cable modem, DSL and other full-time Internet connections. DoorStop Personal 2.0, a free upgrade for all users, goes beyond basic protection by helping users understand the day-to-day access attempts that are occurring with ever-increasing frequency.
The key aspect of DoorStop 2.0's access analysis system is the Access History window and its associated "Learn More" Web site. The Access History window provides seven key pieces of information about every access attempt DoorStop logs: date/time, action (allow or deny), service and port the access attempt was to, access mode (UDP or TCP), and accessor host name and IP address. Any line in the window can be passed to the "Learn More" Web site for further analysis. The "Learn More" Web site is an expert system running at Open Door that analyzes the access and provides immediate, detailed, Mac-focused information and advice about the access attempt.
Other new features include:
WebSideStory, Inc., a provider of Web audience analysis, last week reported that Lycos has risen to become the third most popular referring search engine on the Web. Within the past 18 months, the percentage of search referrals generated by Lycos has surged from 1.12% on Jan. 8, 1999 to 5.28% on May 27, 2000, according to WebSideStory's StatMarket reporting service. As of that date, Lycos ranked just slightly ahead of Excite and behind Yahoo! and Alta Vista.
StatMarket's search referral statistic reports on the amount of traffic a search engine directs, or refers, to other Web sites. Said Geoff Johnston, vice president of product marketing for StatMarket, "This may be partially attributable to the consolidation of Lycos and HotBot."
Service providers will fall short on free DSL promises if they are unable to overcome challenges that are currently inherent to the industry, according to Cahners In-Stat Group, a high-tech market research firm. Despite public enthusiasm, free DSL has proven to be less glamorous than once heralded. While the service itself will be free, consumers will still have to purchase DSL modems. Additionally, subscribers will be subjected to a constant barrage of advertisements and bandwidth-hogging streaming messages that could slow down network performance. Moreover, free DSL will be provided at slower ADSL speeds, with providers hoping to upsell end-users to higher speeds later.
Even if consumers accept these conditions, they will have to wait a while before they can get free DSL service, as providers are still in the early testing phase and have yet to deploy in any market. Companies such as Digital Broadband Group, iNYC and Staruni are optimistic and claim to have thousands of users lined up for service. However, In-Stat predicts that free DSL providers will have a difficult time meeting expectations.
In-Stat has also found that:
The DSL market will experience exponential growth, amounting to approximately 5.4 million ADSL and 3.1 million SDSL subscribers by 2003, a 77% growth year-over-year.
At present, it costs $150 to $200 per year plus initial installation costs to support a single DSL user, a cost that cannot be supported solely by advertising revenues.
Broadband Digital Group was the first to announce free DSL and reports that it currently has 700,000 registrants for its service.
In-Stat's $995 report, Free DSL (#TX0003SP), examines the challenges and opportunities of the free DSL model and its potential impact on ISPs and telecommunications carriers. To purchase this report or for more information, visit http://www.instat.com/catalog/cat-ia.htm#is0002sp or call Courtney McEuen at 480.609.4533; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autonomous Effects recently released version 1.2 of SceneGenie, its $995 plug-in suite for match-moving and combining live action and animation.
Highlights of the new release include:
* CameraGenie utility for camera match-moving
- 3D tracks from moving cameras
- requires no on-set measurements
- integrated user interface
- generates camera track and point locations in seconds once 2D tracking is complete
- also handles tripod-mounted cameras
- special feature for outdoor scenes, with as few as four unmeasured trackable points.
* Fast Spot Sensor Interface
- keyboard accelerators, mouse motions for heavy-duty use
- speed-optimized spot-tracker code, includes MMX
- memory optimization, can keep whole shot in RAM
- partial image loading on large Targa & Cineon shots.
As part of an ongoing campaign to educate and drive the adoption of wavelet-based image compression and the emerging JPEG2000 standard, LuraTech, Inc. has released free software called LuraWave SmartCompress Lite. As LuraWave is based upon wavelet compression technology similar to the emerging JPEG2000 image standard, the public can now test the compression efficiency and features that will be the driving force behind JPEG2000.
LuraWave SmartCompress Lite is free for non-commercial use and can be upgraded to a Professional version with added password protection and area-of-interest compression features for $19. LuraTech says its free software offers a scalable, lossless-to-lossy image format. In contrast to previous releases, LuraWave SmartCompress Lite and Professional have no restrictions on importable file sizes.
Autodesk division Discreet last week began shipping version 2.1 of mental ray, the photorealistic, programmable, and scalable interactive rendering software from mental images, and the mental ray connection to 3D Studio MAX software. The mental ray renderer is integrated directly with 3D Studio MAX software.
mental ray is high-performance, photorealistic ray-tracing and scanline rendering software that supports the physically correct simulation of the behavior of light for effects such as refraction, caustics, and a form of radiosity. Other features include support for incremental changes of scene modifications and host and thread parallelism. The mental ray server can float across a range of platforms such as Microsoft Windows NT, Linux, and numerous types of Unix, including Solaris and IRIX.
C6, a virtual reality theater designed to immerse the audience in images and sound, will open June 19 at Iowa State University. Located in the atrium of the College of Engineering's Howe Hall, the space is aimed at pushing the boundaries of virtual reality (VR) technology, as well as turning VR into a more useful engineering tool.
A preview of the $6 million C6 for the media is scheduled for 4 p.m., June 19. The formal unveiling will be at 7:30 p.m. C6's unveiling is being held in conjunction with the International Immersive Projection Technology 2000 workshop, a conference on virtual reality and immersion technologies.
C6 has a 10-by-10-by-10-foot room of workable space. Entrance will be through the back wall which, when closed, will have no noticeable seams along its surfaces. High resolution color images will surround the user via six, rear-projected high intensity projectors. Four wall projectors provide images directly on the surfaces. The ceiling and floor projectors will bounce images off mirrors before reaching the surface.
C6 will use SGI Onyx2 computers running special software to create simulations, produce sounds, track feedback and generate images. The computer system can process more than 14 billion instructions every second.
Coming soon from Right Hemisphere is Texture Weapons, texturing and UV-mapping tools for 3D artists. Thanks to its MercatorUV and Projection Paint technology, the software reportedly offers:
Texture Weapons supports only 3D Studio MAX 3.X and above, Maya 2.X and above.
Softimage users can work via the .OBJ/MTL file while the company works on direct XSI support.
Silicon Valley-based research firm SRI International last week announced GeoVRML 1.0, an extension of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). GeoVRML is designed to enable accurate rendering of geographic data, giving Internet users the ability to integrate all forms of 3-D content into real world scenes.
GeoVRML 1.0 can integrate any landscape, feature or phenomenon that can be expressed with geographical data into the delivered content, accessible from any home, school or business. It is offered as an open-source solution and is freely available at http://www.geovrml.org/, allowing its capabilities to be expanded further through community-based innovation.
GeoVRML provides users with an adjustable, three-dimensional bird's-eye view of lakes, streams, hills, mountains and buildings. Such perspectives can be essential for building projects or studying the effects of land change over time. The technology enables users to place buildings in geographically accurate three-dimensional scenes or create an inside look at volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. With GeoVRML 1.0, people can model hurricanes in three dimensions, allowing examination of the storm structures from several perspectives so they can determine the timing of emergency procedures. Additional examples include a rendering of the Monterey Bay seafloor and weather data studies. GeoVRML 1.0 also opens up a Web-based virtual universe to users by enabling them to move beyond Earth to explore the planets.
SRI International computer scientists, funded in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), have succeeded in developing this technology where previous industry attempts to render geographical information on the Web have met with little success. The Web3D Consortium has unanimously approved GeoVRML 1.0 as a "Recommended Practice," establishing it as a standard in three-dimensional Web technology. This honor, coming from a group at the forefront in its field, reaffirms SRI International's position as a leader in Internet innovation.
Spatial Inc. last week released version 6.2 of the ACIS 3D Toolkit and Husks. The update is said to feature across-the-board performance enhancements and added functionality to the ACIS 3D Toolkit including faceting, sweeping, and the Visualization Management (Visman) component. Additional enhancements have been made to the ACIS Advanced Surfacing Husk, ACIS Healing Husk, and Deformable Modeling. ACIS is a suite of 3D modeling tools for the CAD/CAM/CAE industry with more than 570 licensees, 217 end-user applications and an estimated 1.5 million end-users worldwide.
Highlights of Release 6.2 include significant speed increases in blending, faceting, skinning, and Repair Body Intersections in the ACIS Local Operations Husk. Additionally, in response to high-end, process-intensive modeling requirements, large-model processing speed has been improved by multiple factors. Overall performance increased an average of sixteen percent over Release 6.1 and an average of twenty percent over Release 6.0.
MGI Software Corp. and MPEG-2 encoding specialist iCompression, Inc. last week debuted a working prototype and reference design for a universal Windows PC-based personal video recorder (PVR) solution.
The joint MGI/iCompression solution, available as an external box that plugs into a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port or as a plug-in PCI card, includes a TV tuner combined with iCompression's MPEG-2 single-chip audio/video and system encoder. The hardware processes the incoming TV signal, converts it to an MPEG-2 stream, which is then passed to MGI's personal TV software, Pure DIVA, for processing. The Pure DIVA application lets users pause live TV broadcasts (real-time time-shifting) and digitally record shows, and is reportedly similar in functionality to consumer PVRs like TiVo.
On June 28, Exploration Place's CyberDome Theater will open, placing it at the forefront of interactive theaters. In this 170-seat theater, audiences control the outcome of the show by manipulating computer-graphics images projected on a 60- foot dome, which surrounds and immerses them, using a five-button keypad on the arm rest of each seat.
Each keypad is connected to a computer that averages the audiences' choices, and inputs the information into an image generator that continuously redraws a full color scene as visitors make their choices in real time. Using four color video projectors mounted around the dome rim, the image generator provides 3D objects that can be moved by the audience. Another projection element adding to the audiences' immersive environment is Digistar, an image generator that draws objects in real time, including the night sky as seen from the Earth and also from other positions in the galaxy.
CyberExplorer, the first original show produced for Exploration Place, takes visitors on a three-part journey using real-time computer graphics generated by Evans and Sutherland's StarRider system.
In the first sequence, visitors travel from Earth to Mars and attempt to land their winged space vehicle on the surface. Working together, the audience can do everything from making a three-point landing to executing a crash. As they fly around Mars, they will learn about the geological features of its surface.
In the second sequence, the audience watches as a mosquito infects a human arm with bacteria. Quickly visitors are transported inside the arm itself and can chose to become one of five white blood cells. They have two minutes to locate and engulf as many bacteria as they can, thereby competing against the clock and other teams.
After hopefully defeating the bacteria, the third sequence finds the audience swept back two hundred million years when the continents were one solid landmass scientists call Pangea. Following a dramatic trip through the center of the Earth, the audience selects one of five Pangea sections and attempt to move them to their present day locations of the continents. Next, the audience can move the continental plates to where they believe the plates may be over the next 60 million years.
Finally, with the help of StarRider and Digistar, the audience voyages through the universe visiting star clusters, giant gas clouds like the Horsehead Nebula, providing a unique glimpse of the capabilities of the projection system.
Another experience audiences will encounter while waiting in the CyberDome Lobby for the show is viewing Exploration Place staff in the Digital Design Studio as they create graphics for future features using such programs as 3D Studio Max and Bryce.
Web3D RoundUP is the high-speed, high-tech shootout where 3D content developers and tools providers demonstrate latest Web3D technology and applications. Web3D RoundUP is now inviting content creators and Web3D tools/technology producers to submit demos for juried review.
In less than an hour and a half at Siggraph, over two dozen developers have one to five minutes to demonstrate their latest Web3D content and applications with the goal of not crashing and winning over the technically demanding crowd. The audience will choose the winners of the honored Web3D RoundUP Golden Lasso Awards.
To win a Web3D RoundUP Golden Lasso Award and prizes at Web3D-VRML 2000, submit entries for the following categories:
The judges will choose the top five submissions from each category to present at Web 3D RoundUP. Some past presenters have been selected to be published in the upcoming special Web3D RoundUP issue of Siggraph's quarterly journal, Computer Graphics.
Criteria for submission:
XML has been the biggest buzzword on the Internet community for the past year. But how do you cut through all the hype and actually put it to work? XML and Java share features that are ideal for building Web-based enterprise applications: platform-independence, extensibility, reusability, global language (Unicode) support. And both are based on industry standards. Together Java and XML allow enterprises to simplify and lower cost of information sharing and data exchange. The latest O'Reilly release, "Java and XML", shows how to put the two together, building real-world applications in which both the code and the data are truly portable.
"I think the excitement around XML is because of one of its most important features: it doesn't say a whole lot about itself," says author Brett McLaughlin. "By contrast, HTML has a very specific set of tools--tags and attributes--that are recognized and processed only one way. XML says, 'We're not intelligent enough to think of every possible way you use your data, so we'll let you use it in whatever way makes sense.' You have to let your document users know your tag meanings, but XML provides for this by defining DTDs (document type descriptors) to give tags concrete definitions, attributes, and all kinds of parameters. This adds true portability. Even with Java, data still has to be represented."
"Year after year, project after project, Java developers like me wind up creating their own little proprietary formats to represent a particular project," says McLaughlin. "When the very next project has different requirements, data must be represented differently. Even though we say Java is 'write once, run anywhere,' really it is not. You can compile your byte code and then move it around, but you have to make sure anyone using your application can support that. XML lets you work a little smarter by defining a standard way for any data to be defined, without defining the particular semantics. XML creates portable code and portable data. For the first time, we really have complete application portability, something we've all been claiming for years."
Java revolutionized the programming world by providing a platform-independent programming language. XML takes the revolution a step further by providing a platform- independent language for interchanging data. McLaughlin's "Java and XML" shows developers how to put the two together to build rich Web sites with dynamically generated content, to write enterprise software that lowers the cost of information sharing and data exchange, and to develop simple and effective solutions to other problems requiring portable data.
This is the first book to cover the most recent version of the DOM specification (DOM Level 2) and the SAX API (SAX 2.0). It's also the first book to cover JDOM, a new API released last April, that makes it easier for Java applications to manipulate XML.
Chapter 9, Web-Publishing Frameworks, is available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/javaxml/chapter/ch09.html
For an article about Java and XML, by Brett McLaughlin, go to: http://java.oreilly.com/news/javaxml_0500.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see:
On2.com Inc., a developer of broadband technology and content delivery over the Internet, last week signed a letter of intent to acquire Eight Cylinder Studios, Inc. of San Francisco. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Eight Cylinders has developed a broadband-specific technology platform, delivering high-quality 3D sound, 3D animation, and 3D interactive content to the broadband market. The platform, known as the Eight Cylinder Engine, offers features such as texture animation, real-time bluescreen, a physics engine, and single-skin meshed characters with bone-based animation. Its development platform consists of authoring and client-side technologies capable of blending streaming video, audio, text, and 2D and 3D graphics with the backend functionality of the Internet.
The acquisition is anticipated to close in 45 days. Middleton and all Eight Cylinders personnel and operations will remain in San Francisco, with On2's San Francisco-based sales and business development staff assuming similar capacities for the Eight Cylinders product line.
Motorola and Sega Enterprises Ltd., Tokyo plan to jointly create a global strategic alliance that will bring entertainment software to Java-enabled wireless phones, pagers and PDAs. Sega has developed an optimized suite of games for J2ME-enabled Motorola devices, demonstrated last week at Sun Microsystems' JavaOne 2000 Conference in San Francisco. J2ME is the Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) Motorola helped develop with Sun.
The platform is designed to let developers write applications that can run on any device equipped with J2ME, giving wireless consumers access to software written by a population of more than two million Java technology developers. Sega and Motorola plan to collaborate to develop wireless game solutions, including Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) compatible with J2ME.
Motorola announced last week that its first device to ship with the J2ME platform will be the iDEN platform, which combines a wireless phone, two-way radio and text pager. This product is scheduled to ship by the end of the year. Motorola's second J2ME-enabled cellular phone is scheduled to ship mid 2001 with additions to its product range throughout the year. By mid 2002, Motorola is planning that all its handsets will have J2ME capability as standard, bringing Java to high-volume mass-market devices.
Blizzard Entertainment announced last week that Diablo II, its highly anticipated real-time action role-playing game, has gone gold. The game, which has initial orders in excess of 1.5 million copies worldwide, will start shipping to retailers worldwide as early as the end of June.
In Diablo II, players return to a dark world plagued by evil forces. After possessing the body of the hero who defeated him, Diablo resumes his nefarious scheme to shackle humanity into unholy slavery by joining forces with the other Prime Evils, Mephisto and Baal. Players face a new series of quests to rid the world of Diablo and his vile brethren forever.
Key features in the game include:
Diablo II is being developed by the Blizzard North design team and is expected to release on three CD-ROMs by the end of June in Windows®95/98/2000/NT format. A Macintosh version of the game will be available during the third quarter 2000.
Sierra Studios and Valve, L.L.C. last week released Half-Life 1.1, an upgrade of the multiplayer components and developer tools for the popular PC action game.
Half-Life 1.1 includes updated versions of popular modifications (MODs), new versions of the Half-Life Software Development Kit (HL SDK) and the Worldcraft level editor, as well as the Team Fortress1.5. game.
Information on downloading each of these components is available at http://www.sierrastudios.com.
This September, Sony Computer Entertainment America will begin selling a newly designed, compact version of the PlayStation game console.
PS one, incorporating the same functionalities and technology of the original PlayStation game console, is approximately one-third the size of the existing product, reportedly letting consumers comfortably carry the system. The new model will replace the original PlayStation design and include a Dualshock analog controller, AC adapter, and necessary connector cables.
In spring 2001, Sony will offer a four-inch color TFT LCD monitor for the PS one.
Virtuaroids of immense size and power will rule Sega Dreamcast in Activision's new title. Virtual-On: Oratorio Tangram. The sequel to the arcade classic Virtual-On: Cyber Troopers, VOOT is said to be a pixel-by-pixel replica of the frenetic third-person arcade version.
Developed by Sega of Japan (Software R&D Dept. #3), Virtual-On: Oratorio Tangram is set in a sci-fi future that pits giant virtuaroids against each other in a battle royale. Players fight as 11 virtuaroids (and one secret character) in high intensity battles using an array of weapons including bazookas, swarm missiles and lasers in an effort to reach the final and most powerful enemy, Tangram. Each virtuaroid employs a unique combination of weapons, speed, strength and ranges of combat moves.
Gamers must dodge enemy fire behind buildings and obstructions as explosives ignite all around them while they battle through 17 3D arenas including sci-fi cities, an underwater environment, a space station and a desert.
Also last week, Activision secured the publishing rights for the Chicken Run FunPack, a PC CD-ROM game based on the Aardman production "Chicken Run," to be presented by DreamWorks Pictures in association with Pathé. The game will launch simultaneously with the film on June 30.
Developed by UK-based Absolute Studios, the Chicken Run FunPack consists of mini-games, clips from the movie, and screensavers, as well as desktop tools and themes.
"Chicken Run" tells the story of a flock of brave chickens who are determined to escape from the farm before they can be turned into chicken potpies. Directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park, from a screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick, the film is produced by David Sproxton, Lord and Park. It's the first full-length feature produced by Aardman, the team behind the popular Wallace & Gromit shorts.
Zoomgo.com, a new online community site and technology developer, launches Zoomgo Net Connection, a multiplayer based online dating game developed with Macromedia's Flash 4. The game lets users assume and customize online characters, called avatars, and test their knowledge of love, dating, and relationships. Users can choose to host games or be contestants. A live chat is built into the game to further extend user interactivity.
According to Zoomgo, two major differences between Net Connection and other multiplayer Internet games are its dynamically driven database and its development in Flash. The database remembers the user's avatar, profile information, how many games won/lost, and the date they last played. Every time a user logs in, the database serves up the information and dynamically updates it while the game is being played.
Klingon Academy, the latest Star Trek title, from Interplay division 14° East, will be available at retail by the end of June. A prequel to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the title stars Christopher Plummer as General Chang and David Warner as Chancellor Gorkon. Under the tutelage of Chang, players will learn battle tactics and the code of the Klingon warrior. Gameplay features 3D space terrain, a gunnery chair and the ability to command capital ships.
Coming in Q4 '00 from SouthPeak Interactive is the Nintendo 64 title Big Mountain 2000. Developed by Imagineer Co., the arcade style 3D game combines skiing and snowboarding.
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