Conquer the command line with a hands-on bash workshop!

2005-04-19: adobe + macromedia = what, exactly?

About Adobe - Adobe to acquire Macromedia: Adobe Systems Incorporated has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Macromedia in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $3.4 billion.

So, what does this mean? Well, up to this point there were two serious players in the web production arena: Macromedia and Adobe. Microsoft's products are all but irrelevant for interface design; their foothold is in application development (ASP, .NET, Java) and associated servers.

Adobe had the all-conquering Photoshop and ubiquitous PDF format; along with Illustrator and Acrobat (not to mention its print powerhouse PageMaker/InDesign). Macromedia had the all-conquering Dreamweaver and ubiquitous Flash format (including Flash Paper, Breeze and RoboDemo); along with Fireworks and Freehand. Macromedia also had Cold Fusion, although it's popularity has been waning.

So what was the state of play?

  • Macromedia was unlikely to ever pip Photoshop for popularity; no matter how popular Fireworks got it didn't seem to make a serious impression.
  • Adobe was unlikely to ever pip Dreamweaver for popularity - GoLive just doesn't cut it in comparison.
  • Adobe and Macromedia both have a well-established encapsulated content format - PDF and Flash, respectively. Despite Adobe's huge advantage with PDF's deep establishment, Macromedia was starting to challenge with Flash Paper - faster load times, ability to embed within a page, smaller download, etc.
  • Both companies had a wide range of lesser-known products catering to specific markets, including several directly competing products.
  • Both companies had investments in new/emerging technologies, eg. they are both involved to some degree in investigating SVG.
  • Both companies have workflow products, although neither has a world-beater.
  • Both companies have server-based products, although again neither is super-strong in these areas.

Now what? Well, a read through the acquisition FAQ (PDF, of course) makes for interesting reading - particularly if you attempt to cut through the marketing-speak (you get a "synergy" and a couple of "vision"s in the first couple of paragraphs alone). Reading between the lines:

  • Adobe is very clearly taking over Macromedia, it's not a merger and Adobe will be calling the shots.
  • They won't disclose who proposed the idea, suggesting it wasn't as amiable as they're saying in public.
  • "Macromedia" will not exist after the takeover is complete, although some product names will stay the same to maximise their value to Adobe.
  • Unsurprisingly, low-profit products (and associated staff) are going to get the chop.
  • They are somehow planning to use Flash and PDF together. Possibly turning the Flash plugin into a PDF reader, since Acrobat 's load times are one of its bugbears.
  • Macromedia's habit of running blogs is likely to end after the takeover; Adobe likes communicating with customers, but mostly via marketing droids or directly in person. Blogging is a bit... common for Adobe's general image.

One interesting quote: Post closing, we believe the industry will remain as dynamic and competitive as it is today. I'm not sure exactly what the competition is going to be..!

So what can we expect? The concern for Macromedia users would have to be that Adobe built its empire on print, whereas Macromedia has always been an electronic media company. This is a fundamental difference which should not be underestimated. The web is not print, so a print mindset is lethal if you're trying to build products for web production.

The concern for users either way is that their favourite product may not be continued; or, more generally, what will happen to various products:

  • Does Adobe really want to continue Flash as it is now, or do they really just want to turn it into a lighter, faster PDF reader?
  • For that matter, do they really want to continue any Flash-based product? Adobe clearly wants PDF to be the format for all things - they seem to think there's nothing it can't do (apart from download quickly, perhaps).
  • Does Adobe really want to continue Fireworks or Freehand, which compete directly with two of its flagship products?
  • Does Adobe really want to continue with Cold Fusion? They have no serious background in web applications platforms and Cold Fusion is on the outer in many sectors. Do they want to compete with more popular and/or free solutions?

It's going to be interesting to see how this shakes out. We now truly have the Microsoft of the web production world.

Not to mention my freebie Macromedia backpack is now "retro".

whats news?

2005-04-18: the simple things

We "all know" that using relative units of size is a better idea than fixed units, right? Well, sort of. Browsers should resize whatever they're given according to user preferences, so it shouldn't matter. But they don't, so it does, so to speak.

So what do you do if you want to use EMs but you're used to pixels? You refer to the Approximate Conversion from Points to Pixels chart over at Reed Design. The interesting thing to note is that you can use EMs for everything, including widths, heights, etc.

A nifty trick is to start out by setting a percentage font size on the body, then use EMs for everything else. It avoids having to use decimals for smaller text.

2005-04-07: who's responsible?

When the question of web standards and accessibility comes up, people often attempt to put the blame on someone else; they try to claim that it's "someone else's responsibility". Designers say it's the developers, developers often blame the browser manufacturers, managers blame major vendors and so on. Some people blame the W3C for "making it too hard" and "not going with the browsers' additions".

A common theme is the idea that, somehow, responsibility falls to just one group. Recently on the WSG email list, a comparison was made between web developers and architects - being the poor sods in the middle of everyone else, trying to please everyone.

What follows is a refined version of my original response, with an added quote to provide context:

Date: Feb 11, 2005
From: Bob McClelland
Subject: Re: [WSG] accessibilty and responsibility

[Quoting Christopher K]

Possibly so, but is an architect being given the short straw by being required to include ramps and elevators in the design of a building? It has to be done because of the 'shortcomings" of my assistive technology, my wheelchair, that cannot climb stairs or levitate.

With respect Christopher, I think you're missing the point. To take your analogy further, it seems to me that making web designers solely responsible for dealing with accessibility is like telling architects they're off the hook with regard to ramps etc, and getting the decorators to carry the disabled into the buildings... Until the ramps are built, we decorators do carry folk in and out, but the ultimate responsibility is with the architects, not us. And that often doesn't seem to be the case.

[Original in WSG email archive]

Jumping in on all these architectural analogies... nobody seems to have made this point: ultimately everyone has some level of responsibility, since everyone is and will remain involed.

Let's continue the analogy, for a new building:

(1)

The government sets out physical access requirements for buildings in broad terms (there are also other bodies which produce building standards but we'll keep this simple). Web equivalent is the W3C. Their responsibility is to get the standards right and communicate them in such a manner that people know what to do. They also need to keep things in the realm of possibility - W3C has a checkpoint to ensure that a proposed standard is actually possible, governments do not specify that venues provide levitating wheelchairs.

(2)

The architects (and possibly structural engineers) have to interpret the standards and apply them correctly in the design for the building. They will have to find the balance between the goals of the building and the many standards the building will have to meet. They also have to make sure the building won't fall down ;) The architect will probably also have to wrangle the interior decorators to ensure their wonderful additions don't contravene critical requirements.

The web equivalent is the web developer, who has to sit between the client, the W3C, the graphic designer and the application developers/programmers. Some people might call this the Web Producer, but most of us don't get the lofty title nor the lofty pay ;)

(3)

Then the builders/tradespeople come into the picture. They are responsible for the actual physical creation of the building according to the plan. If they don't follow the plan they have failed in their own responsibility (ignoring the legal horrors of real-world architecture). Web equivalent is the web/application developer(s) who actually put the whole thing together.

(4)

The government inspects and enforces the standards. This area is starting to take shape for the web, with test cases appearing in various countries. It is a very weak area, though.

(5)

Then the public comes into the building. They will be arriving in wheelchairs which don't levitate, shoes with no grip, they might be drunk, who knows. Nobody who built the place can make them all wear decent shoes (so they don't slip on the stairs) nor can they make everyone's wheelchair levitate. Ultimately people should be allowed to choose whatever shoes they wear. But, they also have to accept falling down if they turn up drunk wearing shoes with no grip.

The shoe/wheelchair manufacturers might be grossly negligent but they'll get away with it. Just like browser manufacturers get away with failure to comply with standards.

No matter how well any one group/individual conforms to the overall goals; they will always have a responsibility since their part of the process must still be done well.

Even if wheelchairs do start levitating, buildings will have to be designed and built with enough space allowed for them to fly around.

Nobody will ever become free of responsibility.

So....

  1. The W3C will always have to make good standards and update them.
  2. Clients will always have to resource projects well enough to facilitate compliance.
  3. Web developers will always have to apply standards properly.
  4. User Agent manufacturers will always have to conform to standards.
  5. Users will always have to maintain a reasonable level of technology to make use of the standards.

The problem right now? Only (1) and (3) are currently happening with any level of success; with (3) carrying the hardest tasks.

It's unfair but life is not fair. That's why web developers and architects like to go to the pub ;)

opera 8 nearly here?

The Opera homepage is no longer focussed on Opera 7; instead encouraging users to download a file which appears to be Opera 8 beta 3 (ow32enen800b3.exe). Although when you view the 'about' information it simply identifies as 'Opera 8.0' build 7522.

Looks like the full release Opera 8 is nearly here!

the latest google beta

Google Maps, which returns map results from search queries (note the 'satellite' link at the top right which switches from maps to high-altitude satellite photos). Currently the service only covers the USA, although there are plans to extend the service later on.

I find it interesting to note that searching for 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View CA 94043 turns up an intersection and not - as you might expect - a building. Trim it to 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway CA and it points to a large empty field a fair way up the road. Either Google doesn't want you to see their headquarters, or this system has some bugs to work out.

So, why is this different from other, existing satellite map searches? Well, let's be honest - it's been done by Google, so people noticed. Plus, it's web-based and doesn't need any software. But then it can give you directions on how to get to the location and where to buy pizza when you're there. Plus, you can search for a company's name and get the address, map and phone number all in one hit.

Not surprisingly, enquiring minds have already discovered that various military bases and other significant locations are blurred out; however they think they've spotted Air Force One and a certain facility in Langley, Virginia. Other nice pictures include the Golden Gate Bridge and Mt St Helens.

last month in What Browser?

  • Netscape Browser: Download The Netscape Browser, v8.0 BETA. WTF are these people playing at? Last we heard, Netscape was not going to be developed any further. Now we're getting a rebadged Firefox being rolled out as 'Netscape Navigator 8'. It's pretty pointless, but the annoying thing is that various lazy-arse large application vendors will now have an excuse to trickle on for a few more years supporting the 'big two'; instead of doing any real work on cross-browser compatibility. Yeesh!
  • Meanwhile, we see the end of Mozilla... Future of the Mozilla Application Suite: No Official Mozilla 1.8, Community Transition Plan Unveiled - MozillaZine Talkback: The announcement confirms that there will be no official Mozilla 1.8 release ... However, the Mozilla Foundation will offer infrastructure support to a community effort to continue development of the Mozilla Application Suite, probably under a different name. So what does that mean? Well, instead of splitting things up, the Mozilla foundation is concentrating on just one browser. If the Mozilla user community feels strongly enough about it, they are welcome to take up management of the product themselves (it's open source, after all). Good thing? Well, hardcore open source types shun Firefox for the much more geek-l33t Mozilla. Plus there are some grumblings that the Firefox project isn't going so well. The flip side of course is that Firefox has reignited browser wars - something most people didn't really expect to see again.
  • Some more on Mozilla - adot's notblog*: mozilla product futures: Firefox and Thunderbird are the Mozilla Foundation's premier applications. ... There is little doubt that these applications have achieved more in terms of industry acceptance and user adoption than anything in Mozilla's history. They are where our future lies -- and so our focus.
  • Netcraft: Firefox, Opera Updates Address IDN Spoofing. Opera and Firefox have to issue updates, just like anyone else. They just don't have to do it quite so often. So anyway, if you use Opera or FF, go download the latest.
  • Finally, an odd one... hacking Firefox to look like IE. The things people do! I can imagine a few people disguising FF to fool adamant IE users into browsing with something better...

2005-04-06: 200 ok

200 OK is the magic HTTP status. It's the one users should never see, since it essentially means 'all is well'.

In a sense, the web developer's job is to make 200 OK status codes happen. So that's why I chose 200ok for my domain name (the .au is me being parochial).

Anyway, this is the obligatory 'first post'; welcoming potential readers to the 200ok weblog. I hope you enjoy reading the site.

Blog Archive