September 30, 2002
OS X.2 installs Flash 6.0r29?
I've been working a lot with projects using Flash remoting, which appear to be failing with r29. More on this when I've had some time to more fully investigate -- for now, heads up for all Jaguar users and testers.
September 27, 2002
Win IE 6 SP1 Released
Better late than never—Microsoft released the PC IE 6 SP1 update on September 9th. Just like the more recent Mac browser updates, security and stability fixes mark this release.
I don't see anything in the mile-long fix list that will impact current designs, but there are plenty of closed bugs that no doubt caused some hair-pulling among developers. I've listed a few worth noting, some of which also existed in earlier IE 5.x releases.
Some interesting fixed bugs in Win IE 6 SP1:
New Mac IE updates
Microsoft pushed out two new Mac IE updates on the 25th, Internet Explorer 5.1.6 for Mac OS 8/9 and Internet Explorer 5.2.2 for OS X. As far as I can tell, these are strictly security and stability fixes and offer no new features or differences in rendering behaviors.
September 26, 2002
Tinic Uro's Flash Vid Tips
Surfing Macromedia's excellent Designer & Developer Center pages, I came across Tinic Uro's Tips for deploying video in Macromedia Flash MX. A Senior Flash Engineer, Uro should be intimately familiar with the video syncronization issues plaguing developers who have experimented with video delivery via Flash MX.
This article well addresses the issues, starting with a bit of history and ending with recommendations and best practices, one of which was new to me and worth noting in and of itself.
His strategy for successful video delivery in Flash MX can be boiled down to two major areas of attention; memory and synchronization:
The former deals with the fact that Flash was originally designed to load all of its media into memory. Video can be quite large at roughly 1MB for every minute of "web quality" video (much larger for CD-ROM quality video) and can quickly exhaust a users memory availability. A workaround for this legacy issue is to "chunk" or "stitch" your content; a technique for segmenting your video into shorter pieces and stringing them together for serial playback. Later chunks replace earlier chunks, keeping your memory requirements from growing out of hand. The latest version of Sorenson Squeeze for Flash MX supports automated stitching.
The latter and new area of attention is that paid to frame rates in your Flash content. If I understand this properly, Flash video synchronization can be detrimentally affected by the way Flash internally handles the math for audio samples and frame rates, creating fractional frame rates that then cause sync slippage when the fractional value is lost in calculations.
To get around this, Uro recommends using "whole" frame rates, and provides a list of recommended frame rates to use:
10, 15, 18, 21, 30.
He also steers us away from the commonly used 12 and 24 FPS, warning that "these settings may cause your elements to play at an accelerated rate".
Check the article for more details and tips.
September 20, 2002
Free Image Export Xtra
Werner Sharp, the person responsible for Director's Imaging Lingo, bestower of alpha channels, quads, and other fun imaging toys to the Director toolset, has generously released as donationware his Sharp Export Xtra.
This free xtra for Director 7 and up allows member exporting in the following formats: BMP(Win-only), PICT(Mac-only), or the crossplatform PNG and JPG formats.
sharpExport -- to export a single member or imageObject sharpExportSelection -- to export the castlib selection
The xtra is not Shockwave-safe, probably due at least in part to the costs of the required certificates from Verisign, which would be prohibitive for a free product, and the additional work it might require from a security perspective, and so its use is restricted to projector implementations.
Very cool stuff -- these guys should be commended for their continuing contributions to the Director developer community.
September 17, 2002
AOL HTML Email
AOL's webmaster.info site has some good info on which AOL clients can handle rich email, the appropriate headers to use, and what tags/features are supported. If your sites offer newsletters, special offers, etc., and you want to provide a rich mail experience, then this information is going to be valuable to your team.
Teaser info excerpted from HTML Email:
Following is the break down of which text is accepted with each client:
-AOL 7.0: HTML, Rich Text, Plain Text
-AOL 6.0: HTML, Rich Text, Plain Text
-AOL 5.0: Rich Text, Plain Text
-AOL 4.0: Plain Text Only
The former is subtitled "How to diagnose and avoid common web site problems with Netscape, AOL for Mac OS X and other browsers based on the Netscape Gecko embeddable browser", and that pretty much says it all. Besides the common problems, info here you might not easily find elsewhere is how to test AOL from behind a firewall, and how to challenge your browser detection scripts by using a Mozilla-based browser configured with the UA bar XPI to identify itself to your server as some other browser type.
Anyone who has had to build a browser detection script knows what a maintenance headache this can be. Many newcomer browsers like Opera and Omniweb by default allow useragent spoofing in order to gain access to sites that improperly assume only IE or Netscape traffic.
The latter document explains why detecting useragents is generally a bad idea, and recommends to "Target the standards and not particular browsers." Starting with the history of browser detection techniques, the article critiques common approaches and makes recommendations toward more inclusive and less maintenance encumbered detection schemes.
September 8, 2002
Netscape 7 Report
Netscape/AOL released Netscape 7.0 (Mac/OS X/Win) on August 29th. Based upon Mozilla build 1.0.1, from which it inherits the wonderful Tabbed Browsing feature, this release is worth looking at if you've been unimpressed with previous Netscape 6.x releases.
If your usage habits are like mine, you might have three or four browser windows open at the same time along with a source view or two. Add to this mix your various editor and authoring tools, and things quickly become messy, even for folks blessed with multiple monitors. Tabbed Browsing allows for the easy management of your browser windows by collapsing the chaotic mess into a single window organized by a row of tabs marking each open page.
Bundled plug-ins include Flash 6.0r29 and Real Player 8, the latter of which supplies the tech behind Radio@Netscape.
Perusing the release notes we find that besides the requisite "performance and stability enhancements" and aforementioned Tabbed Browsing, we find a few more features that should interest developers...
...I'll briefly describe a few I found interesting:
Favicon Click-to-Search Save whole web pages Full Screen Mode Set as Wallpaper Java 2 Viewpoint plug-in
Netscape 7 now supports Favicons, viewable in Tabs and the Location bar. Favicons are an Internet Explorer innovation that allow online properties the opportunity to extend their brand to the browser interface, and IE allows Faveicons to be associated with the Links Bar and bookmarks as well, which can help make your property pop-out of a lengthy bookmark list. Future Netscape/Mozilla versions may also support bookmark and Personal Toolbar branding.
Netscape 7/Mozilla support both the original Windows format Faveicon via:
<LINK REL="SHORTCUT ICON" HREF="/images/myicon.ico">
and a more standards-friendly approach using the PNG format:
<LINK REL="icon" HREF="images/myicon.png" TYPE="image/png">
Note that while Netscape 7/Mozilla can read the IE format (on all platforms), IE can't (as of yet, anyway) read the Netscape 7/Mozilla format. For right now, if you want to have this work across platforms, you should continue to use the IE approach. More information can be found in Microsoft's How to Add a Shortcut Icon to a Web Page and at Favicon.com.
Simply select a word on a web page, then contextual menu-click on the word to initiate a search in the search engine configured in your preferences (changed mine to Google).
-Save whole web pages
This is a developer-friendly implementation of a feature first introduced by Mac IE 5, which allowed the saving of a web page complete with its elements. Where Microsoft's approach stored the result in a single file, inaccessible Web Archive, Netscape 7 saves the html file and a folder containing all the page's elements for easy access.
-Full Screen Mode
The user can initiate this mode to minimize (but not hide) the interface and controls and thus view more of a web page's content. Don't know yet if you still need a signed script to programmatically enter this mode; not even sure signed scripts still exist in this generation, anyone?
-Set as Wallpaper
Available in NS 4.x, we lost this feature in the NS 6 releases. If you have browser specific instructions on your downloadable goodies page, you may need to update them.
This is important to someone out there -- if that's you, can you tell us why?
Here's an interesting 3D plug-in previously bundled with AOL 7, and now with the PC version of Netscape 7. Don't know much about it at this point but plan on exploring the developer info when I get a chance. Nice demos, but I don't know why you'd want to use this over the more widely distributed Shockwave 8.5.x. Although not bundled, there is a Mac plug-in, but not an OS X compatible version.
Misc readings from the release notes:
LiveConnect does not function on Mac OS 10.2 (Jaguar)
Do not share a profile between Netscape and Mozilla builds. Doing this can lead to unpredictable results, some of which may include loss of Search settings and preferences and unchecked growth of the Bookmarks file (large enough to freeze your system). It is best to create a new profile for each or manually copy (and change the name) an existing profile.
I've seen this misbehavior myself, I now create profiles named after the particular browser version to avoid it.
For enquiring minds:
navigator.userAgent = Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en-US; rv:1.0.1) Gecko/20020823 Netscape/7.0
September 4, 2002
Almost Standard / Quirks
David Baron has written an interesting set of articles on the three possible rendering modes in the latest Mozilla-based releases and what triggers each: Full Standards Mode, Almost Standards Mode, and Quirks Mode. His Mozilla's DOCTYPE sniffing article lists the doctype triggers for each mode, Mozilla's Quirks Mode introduces the concept of and Mozilla Quirks Mode Behavior details many of the quirks themselves.
Almost Standards Mode is new to Mozilla 1.01 and above (includes AOL for OS X, Netscape 7, and Mozilla 1.1). This new mode was created to allow for better compatibility with existing sites while still closely following the standards.
It changes our behavior so that we use the quirks mode line-height algorithm in AlmostStandards mode. In all other respects, AlmostStandards mode is the same as FullStandards mode.
This can be seen with screengrabs [png(33k) or gif(44k)] of IBM's homepage using Mozilla 1.0 and Mozilla 1.1. The IBM pages use a special special dtd that triggers Almost Standards Mode in Mozilla 1.1, which then displays the page with the line-height IE would.
September 3, 2002
Flash 6.0r47 debugger available
Macromedia has released the Flash 6.0r50 (Mac/Win) Standalone players, Test Movie players, and Debugger players compatible with the Flash 6.0r47 plug-ins, recently pushed out to address the Macromedia Flash URL Modification Issue.
Flash MX developers will want to install these if they wish to make projectors that incorporate the latest security and bug fixes, or if they need to remotely debug Flash applications running in a browser that has the Flash 6.0r47 plug-in.
From the release notes:
The Release versions of the Plugin and ActiveX control installers are version 6,0,47,0. All other players (Standalone players, Test Movie players, and all Debug players) are version 6,0,50,0. Versions 6,0,47,0 and 6,0,50,0 are functionally identical.
AOL for OS X = Gecko!
AOL for OS X (10.1 and above) is the first release of an AOL product that incorporates Gecko, the Mozilla project's browser rendering engine acclaimed for its un-matched standards support. The OS X version of AOL previously used IE 5.1.x, itself no slouch when it comes to standards support, however non-OS X Mac versions of AOL use the ancient and unloved IE 4.01 engine.
Released on August 12, the browser component is based on Mozilla version 1.01, supports auto-detection of bandwidth in order to deliver broadband content to broadband users, and supports the scripting control of the following plug-ins: Apple QuickTime 6, Macromedia Flash 6 r47, RealPlayer 8 and RealOne.
You can download the latest version here or via AOL using keyword:upgrade.
For enquiring minds, the user agent string is:
Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en-US; rv:1.0.1) Gecko/20020730 AOL/7.0