31 March 2003
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Web Crossing, Inc. last week shipped Web Crossing version 5.0, with a new customization and extensibility architecture that offers appearance themes, page component options, and plug-ins. Web Crossing v5.0 is designed for administrator control of the appearance and functionality of its collaboration tools, including a new WebFiles system for mirroring files from a browser. Several free plug-ins, themes and customization modules have also been made available.
The new plug-in architecture in Web Crossing v5.0 lets administrators add and update software modules. Plug-ins are available for an array of functionality, such as Weblogs, RSS feeds, personal and shared calendars, WebMail, visitor comments, polling, brainstorming, rating auctions, wiki Web and more. Other plugins are available that let administrators provide extra functionality to their end-users.
The WebFiles mirroring system allows for managing server files by mirroring the file system from a Web browser. When used with Web Crossing's new built-in Web publishing feature, users can create and edit home page directories via most browsers. All files that are added or modified via WebFiles or FTP are automatically synchronized in real time with the host file system.
Administrators can customize all or part of a site with new themes and layouts using the "one-click customization" manager. A site's look can be customized across the entire site or within an individual section, such as a single discussion area or distinct HTML directory. Overall appearance themes now include a new default "tabs" theme with editable dynamic tabs, cartoon colors and pinstripes themes, and an empty theme. Standard page component options provide choices for folder views, message views and toolbars.
Also new from the company is Web Crossing Express, a free integrated Web Crossing Web/Mail/FTP server platform. Web Crossing Express runs on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and other Unix operating systems providing Web, FTP and Email (POP/SMTP/IMAP) servers in Web Crossing's integrated environment.
Just out from Macromedia is Flash Communication Server MX 1.5 for interactive, rich-media audio/video applications such as on-demand video, live event broadcasts, Webcam chat, and recorded video messaging. New features include support for HTTP Tunneling, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Linux, and MP3s; enhanced audio support and administration; and a new, improved model for adding capacity.
Macromedia also announced a free Developer Edition of Macromedia Flash Communication Server MX 1.5. The Developer Edition is a fully functioning, but capacity-restricted, version of the server that application developers can use to learn the product and author applications.
Parasoft last week released WebKing 4.0, software that automates error-prevention practices for Web development teams: static analysis, functional testing and load testing. It's designed to let organizations automatically verify the functionality, performance and accessibility of their Web sites and applications, as well as verify specialized requirements, without scripting.
WebKing's new automatic static-analysis feature serves as an automated code review, inspecting source files to pinpoint code that could reduce application accessibility, functionality and usability or impair transformations and updates. During static analysis, WebKing analyzes Web sites to automatically:
New functional testing and regression testing features verify that designated user paths execute correctly. WebKing can record an application's most popular paths by analyzing server log files, and can automatically generate unique paths or record paths defined using a path-creator browser.
An enhanced load testing feature provides virtual users and ready-to-run load test scenarios to test the scalability of Web applications. This feature can customized to use different user paths, tools, traffic combinations and load distributions, and can include realistic scenarios based on an analysis of server log files. It can also distribute virtual users across remote server machines to simulate extremely large loads or test from different locations.
New data source support allows users to populate forms with values from an existing data source, streamlining the form population process and increasing the scope and comprehensiveness of functional testing. WebKing can populate form input elements with data sources such as CSV files, databases, Excel spreadsheets, and tables created using WebKing's internal table editor.
New integration with the Parasoft Global Reporting System (GRS), a component of Parasoft Enterprise Solutions, which collects and synthesizes results from WebKing and other Parasoft or third party tools. Team members and leaders can view and analyze activity related to a given team, project or developer.
New from Macromedia is Flash Player 6 for Pocket PC 2002, enabling developers and publishers to deploy content and applications to Microsoft Windows Powered Pocket PC 2002 devices.
Developers can publish standalone Macromedia Flash device content and applications that can play full-screen outside of the browser, such as games, applications, and kiosks. Developers interested in delivering executable Macromedia Flash projectors can license this version of the player for $499. There is no cost to end users.
Also new is the Macromedia Flash Player 6 developer kit for Pocket PC 2002. The kit includes a content development kit, an interface design policy kit, and a set of optimized user interface components for the Pocket PC.
Users can download the free developer kit at http://www.macromedia.com/go/devkit_fp6_ppc/.
Flash Player 6 for Pocket PC 2002 is available as an ActiveX control, or developers can license the standalone Macromedia Flash Player for creating projectors for $499, available through the Macromedia Online Store (http://www.macromedia.com/go/buy_fp6_ppc/).
WebWare Corporation last week released ActiveMedia Access, an enterprise-ready digital asset management system for under $50,000.
ActiveMedia Access is engineered for the enterprise but designed for the needs of the workgroup. It enables enterprise workgroups, creative agencies, video post-production facilities, and similar environments to create a digital library for rich media: key graphics, layouts, illustrations, slide presentations, and video.
ActiveMedia Access is built on the Web services-based ActiveMedia 4 content management engine, used by marketing and sales portals at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Scripps Networks, Charles Schwab, and Boeing.
ActiveMedia Access lets project managers assign business rules to a company's digital assets at the workgroup level without the need for database administrators or outside professional services. It also allows authorized users worldwide to access, approve, track, audit, and transform key product and marketing content instantly and securely over the Internet. As needs change, the software can be scaled to become a global enterprise digital asset management repository.
Workgroup features include:
Pinnacle Systems last week announced Liquid purple version 5, a software-based networked DV editing and effects solution designed for broadcasters and video professionals. Like Pinnacle's new Edition v5 software, Liquid purple v5 delivers real-time 3D as well as 2D effects, integrated DVD authoring, background processing, and analog video output. In addition, Liquid purple v5 includes support for Pinnacle's Palladium Store networked storage systems and Vortex networked news systems for easy deployment in collaborative workflow solutions. Liquid purple v5 can either be deployed as a desktop solution or on a laptop for mobile editing.
New from Turbo is AfterBurn 3.0 by Sitni Sati, $495 software for rendering of realistic effects ranging from clouds, smoke, dust, and explosions, to liquid metals, water and various procedurally defined "hard" objects.
New features include:
Global Haptics, creator of the spherical Georb controller for working with 3D graphics software, recently announced more programs it's compatible with. Compatible software spans both open-source and commercial products, including Rhino3D, Java3D, VTK, ParaView, and VRPN. This is in addition to the OpenGL and DirectX interfaces already developed.
The plug-in to Rhino modeling software was created by software partner BEAR Code.
Java3D is Sun Microsystems' 3D API (application programming interface) for use with scalable, platform-independent Java applications.
VTK (Visualization Tool Kit) is an open-source 3D toolkit used for scientific visualization applications
ParaView is an open-source 3D scientific visualization application built upon VTK. It was developed by a consortium of three national laboratories, for use in visualizing large 3D data sets generated from parallel computing applications.
VRPN (Virtual Reality Peripheral Network) is an open-source VR program that creates an interface between virtual reality programs and user interface tools, including interface devices such as VR headsets and position trackers.
New from Digital Anarchy is 3D Assistants EZ for Adobe After Effects. Based on the 3D Assistants Pro package, the $99 EZ version is a collection of six keyframe assistants that let users manipulate, animate and arrange layers in 3D space.
The 3D Assistants EZ are keyframe assistants that are integrated with core parts of After Effects and allow manipulation of attributes and properties of layers within After Effects.
Autodesk division Discreet and Anark Corporation have partnered to bring media artists a multimedia and Web 3D toolkit. The Anark Studio / Discreet plasma Bundle is available now and sells for the suggested retail price of US $995, a savings of US $700 versus purchasing the products separately.
Discreet's plasma software and Anark Studio together give artists, designers and developers 3D tools for creating real-time, interactive, 3D experiences, including corporate multimedia communications projects, interactive learning projects, and entertainment presentations across a variety of mediums-such as DVD, CD-ROM, kiosks, and the Web.
Users can leverage cross-product integration, sharing 3D models, interactive 3D, video, audio, and 2D images.
Lightweight yet powerful, Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript) from Microsoft is used by developers in four main areas: server-side Web applications using Active Server Pages (ASP), client-side Web scripts using Internet Explorer, code behind Outlook forms, and the automation of repetitive tasks using Windows Script Host (WSH). In spite of the popularity and utility of the language, the documentation that accompanies VBScript can be described as lean, at best. "VBScript in a Nutshell, Second Edition," by Paul Lomax, Matt Childs, and Ron Petrusha (O'Reilly, US $34.95), offers reference for programmers and system administers who want to develop effective scripts in any of these four areas.
Updated for VBScript 5.6, WSH 5.6, and ASP 3.0, the new book includes introductory chapters, a new chapter that introduces the Windows Script Component for creating binary COM components, and an appendix that documents the Script Encoder. The main part of the book is an alphabetical reference to the VBScript language and the Scripting Runtime Library. Each entry has a standardized listing with the following information:
Chapter 7, "Windows Script Host 5.6," is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/vbscriptian2/chapter/index.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bios, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/vbscriptian2/
Scheduled for April 21-24, 2003 at Oregon3D is a four-day "MaxBustion" class that emphasizes the combined use of Discreet 3ds max and combustion software for an integrated 2D and 3D production pipeline.
Taught by Gary M. Davis, topics for the class include workflow for creating 3D renderings with the compositing process in mind, using combustion as a paint tool within 3ds max, and the different advantages of RLA/RPF images versus rendering elements.
Additionally, the MaxBustion class focuses on using 3ds max to generate footage for the tracking and particle tools in combustion. The Backburner network rendering system will also be discussed in detail. Students are encouraged (but not required) to bring footage and/or projects of their own and should already have a fundamental knowledge of Discreet's 3ds max prior to this training session.
Developers, system administrators, IT managers, and power users are invited to submit proposals for the second annual O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference, taking place at the Westin Santa Clara in Santa Clara, CA from October 27-30, 2003.
The conference program committee is seeking a range of presentations, from overviews of cutting edge projects, to practical, hands-on advice from presenters who are immersed in the nuts-and-bolts operation of Mac OS X, as well as those who are creating its future. They're also looking for proposals aimed at CIOs and design managers evaluating a switch or trying to understand the latest tools and techniques. Proposals on scripting, particularly AppleScript, as well as topics that address applications, hacks, sys admin Mac style, Unix relationships, networking, and the iApps are especially welcome.
"Without a doubt, Mac OS X is the coolest and most powerful platform around today. We want this conference to capture what people find exciting about Mac OS X," observes O'Reilly & Associates founder and president Tim O'Reilly. "Individuals and institutions are 'switching' in droves, and innovative applications are appearing first on the Mac."
The conference begins with one day of in-depth tutorials, followed by three days of sessions covering the landscape of Mac OS X development: technologies, methodologies, and techniques, oriented to two principal audiences:
The conference program committee also hopes to have a substantial number of talks aimed at power users.
Individuals, companies, and project teams interested in making presentations, giving a tutorial, or participating in panel discussions are invited to submit proposals. Proposals will be considered in two categories: tutorials and conference presentations (sessions). Session presentations are either 45 or 90 minutes long, and tutorials are either a half-day (three hours) or full day (six hours). Presentations by marketing staff or with a marketing focus will not be accepted; neither will submissions made by anyone other than the proposed speaker. Session proposals should be a thoughtful summary or abstract; outlines are preferred for tutorial proposals. Please provide enough information for the committee to understand the topic being covered.
Proposals are due May 14, 2003. Speakers will be notified of acceptance by June 30, 2003.
If you're interested in joining or moderating a panel discussion, or otherwise contributing to the conference, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For complete proposal submission details, visit: http://conferences.oreilly.com/macosxcon/
Sony Computer Entertainment America last week released Primal, an action-adventure developed for PlayStation2 by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Cambridge Studios, creators of the MediEvil series. Combining exploration and puzzle elements with an advanced combat system, Primal plunges players into a battle between order and chaos.
The game features two playable characters: Jen Tate, a modern-day girl who is discovering her own supernatural origin, and Scree, a stone gargoyle who is Jen's ally in the immortal universe. In order to succeed in the adventure, players must control both characters and determine in each situation whose skills to employ: Jen's combat skills that take shape in one of her four different demon forms or Scree's power to possess statues, absorb energy, translate demon language and climb and explore areas.
Complementing the combat scenes are the sounds of L.A.-based 16 Volt, an alternative rock band that supplied nine tracks, including three songs specifically written for Primal from the album "SuperCoolNothing V2.0" released by Dark City Music.
Primal is set within a large environment featuring four realms surrounding a central hub. The realms are equally divided between two separate rulers of chaos and order, each populated by a unique demon race living in a habitat that enhances its demon abilities. After Jen acquires the demon form specific to each realm, Ferai, Undine, Wraith, and Djinn varieties, she is able to transform at any time into that demon in future quests. A dynamic loading system allows for uninterrupted gameplay between levels, and magical portals act as links and "windows" into other worlds. Additional technological features include seamless character morphing between Jen's human and demon forms, particle effects, and environmental effects such as fog and mist.
Blizzard Entertainment last week began shipping The Lost Vikings for Game Boy Advance - the company's first title under its recently formed Blizzard Classic Arcade label.
Players employ the skills of three unique Viking characters cooperatively to solve puzzles, conquer enemies, and navigate the Vikings' treacherous voyage back home. Features include over 35 levels, numerous enemies, and hundreds of puzzles.
In order to advance through levels, players must learn to master the abilities of the powerful runner Erik the Swift, the burly defender Olaf the Stout, and the unyielding swordsman Baleog the Fierce. As the adventure continues, players will encounter many different worlds to explore, including Prehistoria, Egypt, The Great Factory, and Wacky World.
Just out from Sony Computer Entertainment America is Amplitude, a music-gaming title for PlayStation2 developed by Harmonix Music Systems. The rhythm-action game lets players to test their skills in mixing and remixing hit songs by shooting musical notes in various musical environments in both off- and online gameplay.
Surrounded by interactive environments with graphics and video that are synchronized to each artist's song, players re-create their favorite songs in a spaceship that shoots and captures vocals and instruments such as drums, bass and guitar. In addition, players can create custom remixes, in single- and multi-player modes.
With six different game modes, including online play, players can mix music, play against four other players without a split screen, participate in an online multi-player live jam session, or just play solo remix mode.
New from Electronic Arts is The Sims for Xbox and GameCube. Players can create and control their Sims with level-based gameplay, two-player modes, and dynamic 3D graphics.
Players can create and explore in a new 3D world of The Sims. The title features a new level-based mode called "Get a Life," where players can start with just one Sim and move him or her through life's big moments including moving out of Mom's house, getting a job, and having a family. As players progress through new challenges, they will unlock console exclusive objects. A love tub and aromamaster are some of the items Sims will discover and use to spice up their lives. Both versions will also feature the classic Sim-style open-ended gameplay.
GarageGames last week launched Marble Blast as the premiere download from Lindows.com's Click-N-Buy Warehouse. Marble Blast was first available on Linux in February, and now Lindows.com is the first site to distribute directly a GarageGames game.
The Linux platform so far has accounted for nearly 20% of the game's online sales. This was the first game built on GarageGames' own Torque Game Engine to be published. Originally based on the technology behind "Tribes 2," the Torque Game Engine has multi-platform support for Windows, Mac and Linux built-in.
Arush Entertainment and Groove Games announced last week that developer Digitalo's first person shooter Devastation is shipping to North American retailers at MSRP $39.99. The game features 22 single-player missions and 14 levels for multiplayer, plus the ability to choose to play in either Arcade mode or Simulation mode, each with varying degrees of difficulty.
Developed with the Unreal Engine technology and enhanced with Digitalo's own OFX particle system, Devastation pits a team of Resistance fighters against armies of corporate shock-troopers in a battle through a dark and desolate future Earth, trapped in a technological dark age. The single-player game plays through linear story-driven missions in the first half, and then more open-ended combat with a true team-centric focus in the final missions.
Online multiplayer game types include Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and a new team-based gamestyle called "Territories." The game also ships with an editor so fans can build and play in their own maps. Devastation also incorporates MathEngine's Karma physics system, allowing for ragdoll deaths and giving players the ability to interact with their environment. Players can pick up objects and move them around to block pathways, throw items to cause distraction, and make improvised weapons.
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- David Duberman
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