Flash: What were they thinking?

Okay. One major downside of linux is Flash. Or rather, one major downside of Flash is linux.

Adobe (Macromedia) are supposedly going to release the next version (9, formerly 8.5) for linux, after they release (“ship”) for Windows & OSX. Great. They have stranded linux on version 7 for far too long, are skipping support for 8 and going right to the next version. Wonderful. And they still won’t ship it at the same time. Spectacular.

It makes you wonder why they even bother to support it at all? But it also makes you wonder why so much of the web is enamored with this beast. Is it too much to ask for open standards? Aren’t we all better off? Rather than giving all our resources to a single company (which makes it a defacto monopoly), we could have many tools for online animation. We (windows and mac users included) would all be better off.

But the real bitch is that if Macromedia/Adobe opened the source for the linux plugin, or even invited some experienced developers to come help out for a bit and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, this entire post would be moot. It isn’t and shouldn’t be this hard for them to port to linux. The logical conclusion is that they are unwilling to fund proper development; it just isn’t a priority.

This is why we need competition. If they had to compete with another similar product, or similar implementation/toolset that did support linux they would want to. Because they’re the only dog in town they feel empowered to ignore linux. It’s sad and speaks poorly of a company that many consider to be wonderful for their tools that enable so much artistic expression.

Since there’s already a beta out for Flash 9 on Windows/OSX, we can probably expect a shipdate sometime late this year. That puts decent linux support for Flash in the late-spring 2007 range. I can only hope that between now and then SVG will see more implementations and Adobe will have something to worry about.

Mexico’s Plight is its Neighbor

Several weeks ago the US had a hand in coaxing Mexican President Fox to hand a bill that would decriminalize minor possession of drugs back to the Mexican Congress.

Put in context of this story it is a curse for them to have us as their big brother. To wit:

A poll published Friday in Excelsior newspaper found 50 percent of respondents feared the government was on the brink of losing control. The polling company Parametria conducted face-to-face interviews at 1,000 homes across Mexico. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Sure. Contest the accuracy of polls. You can’t contest the fact that drug lords have a heavy hand in Mexico, and that isn’t going to change the way we’ve tried to. Making it illegal will not make it go away. Only had they passed the decriminalization would the linchpin be pulled, the tensions eased. Mexico has a drug problem. Their drug problem, like ours in the USA, is illegalization. If you decriminalize, you greatly reduce the black market, and with that you reduce the violence. Had that law passed it would not be surprising to see Mexico turn around in many ways. Their economy would certainly be better for it.

If Mexico’s economy did improve, we would see less illegal immigration. They aren’t coming here to bother us. They are coming to earn money. When the economy of Mexico is strong, they will come as tourists. When the economy of Mexico has been put right, we will be setting up partnerships, and tearing down the fences that the shortsighted “leaders” who helped stop Mexico’s salvation from taking place will put up.

Mexico’s plight is the myopic United States political scene. And so the USA reaps what it sows.

Anyway

So the width of the page is now 980 meaning you should be viewing the site with at least 1024×768 resolution. If you _are_ viewing at that resolution and it’s still too wide, please leave a comment and I’ll make it a little narrower.

The good news is, I’m now running debian linux. Aside from enjoying the ends and outs of the operating system, it also makes it much easier for me to run a local clone of this site (which makes tinkering less of a pain). So hopefully I’ll be able to do some better stuff in terms of layout/design in the future with it.

(ignore if you’re not interested in linux, and probably even then)
I’m running gnome on Xorg with alsa for the sound; finally got fglrx to compile (though I had to switch out the symlink of gcc to do so). I’m pleased to discover VLC has debian nightlies. For now it’s still a pretty vanilla setup. Whenever I actually get further into themes/skins I’ll post a screenshot. It’ll probably still be cleaner than not though; as pretty as some of the skins/themes you can find are they aren’t functional for me. And I guess I (try to) put usability over aesthetics.
(okay, it’s over)

Of course, for now I just stretched out the existing header background to accomodate the new page width… I also made the sidebar a little wider as I noticed the search button was wrapping under the searchform. Not a big deal (apparently it (did?) that with IE too). I haven’t booted to windows lately so I haven’t checked to see if it still does.

Anyway, if you have any usability issues/comments on the design of the site, or anything, drop a comment and let me know. Even if you just hate the color green.

Thanks, and goodnight.

Yellow Lightning

Just a short (~2 pages printed) story I wrote for my mom for Mother’s Day.

“Mom! I’m going with Rob to his house to get supplies!”
Mrs. Conway looked up from her desk. The clock said 11:30.
“Danny, come in here.”
“But Mom, I hafta hurry!,” he yelled back.
“Hurry where?,” she asked as she walked down the hall, only to find him in his Sunday clothes standing in the half-open front door.
“Close that door until we finish talking. It’s almost lunchtime, and where do you think you are going dressed like that?”
“Rob’s mom is makin’ lunch, we’re opening a lemonade stand. Gotta dress nice for the customers.”
Mrs. Conway rolled her eyes. “Okay, go on. But please don’t you mess up those nice clothes.”
“I won’t Mom. Don’t worry,” Danny trailed off as he shot out the door, leaving it open.
Faye Conway sighed as she closed the door. She called Rob’s mother Carol to make sure Danny would be home for supper.

Danny and Rob took their “power lunch” of bologna sandwiches and milk to the back stoop where they had already laid out their supplies.
“We need a good name, first thing. Something to catch the eye of investors,” Rob explained.
“And a logo and a slogan,” Danny said as he chewed the sandwich. “Gotta have a good slogan that sticks in their mind.”
The two sat and ate, brainstorming for the perfect name. Finally, they found it as they finished lunch.

Rob took the dishes in, and set to work on getting the lemonade ready, along with the ice and cups. Meanwhile, Danny got to work drawing up the sign and the logo. They agreed to work on proposals for a slogan and set it down when they got done.

Two hours later Rob was laughing as he plopped down on the back stoop. He looked at the sign.
“Yellow Lightning(TM)” the sign on the top, next to a bright lightning bolt hitting a big wet glass of lemonade with a lemon sticking out the top.
“It really looks great Danny,” Rob said. “What did you think up for the slogan?”
“Well I thought with the lightning, we could use ‘It’s so sweet it’ll shock your feet.'”
Rob frowned. “I don’t think people want to think of their feet when they think of lemonade. The best one I have is ‘Take a minute in the sunshine with Yellow Lightning.'”
The two thought it over, and spat out some new ideas they came across before they arrived at ‘Yellow Lightning — Something to wash those storm clouds down.’
Danny italicized it on the sign below the logo and name, and Rob loaded up the wagon.

Down at the corner Jeff, Will, Cameron, Beth, and George were already waiting for them.
“What took you so long?,” George asked them. “It’s already four. You guys missed the busiest part of the day.”
Danny looked over at Rob and smiled.
“Well you’ll have plenty of time tomorrow and every day if you win the auction. But before all that, my colleague would like to say something.”
Rob jumped on top of the wagon. He quickly pretended to straighten his clip-on tie.
“As I’m sure you all know, you get out of a business what you put in. But everyone knows that. What you need is an edge. An image. You’re not just selling the product. You’re selling you. An image of yourself.
“What we have for you is a name, a sign, and the recipe. Sure, it’s late in the day, but I’ll show you all, right now. Behold the power of…Yellow Lightning.”

Rob and Danny set up the wagon as a table, the sign in front. The next ten cars that stopped, they offered a free cup. Each of them bought a second, and some a third cup, for fifty cents.
The group of potential buyers was amazed.

“That concludes the demo. But we’d like to give each of you a free glass before the bidding starts,” Rob said. He handed each of the children a cup of lemonade.
“We will open—,” Danny started. He stopped himself and jumped up on the wagon. He began again. “We’ll start the bidding at $35.”
“None of us got that kind of money,” George protested.
“Well maybe we shouldn’t do it as a regular auction then. If you guys pool the money you got, become partners like Rob and I did, we can negotiate it. Like my associate has said, you get out what you put in.”

The group moved to the side and huddled together. George walked back over to Rob and Danny.
“We’ll give you $40.”
Rob looked up slowly to George’s eyes.
“$50.”
George glanced back at the other children.
“$45, that’s fair.”
Danny shook his head. “We made over $8 in just half an hour, not even at the peak! You said so. You guys would make that back in less than a week. Maybe even one day if it’s hot enough.”
George relented.
“Okay, $50.”

Rob handed George the sign, along with a slip of paper that had the recipe on it. Danny packed up the wagon.

It was only five when Danny got home.
“I figured you’d stay out there until Dad had to come get you, Danny,” Mrs. Conway said. “The way you were when you left I was sure you had the blood of a businessman in you.”
Danny smiled at his mom. “We sold the business,” he told her. “I made $29.”
“Wow. All in an afternoon, honey? You are a businessman. Who did you sell it to?”
“The other kids bought us out. They saw how much money we were making. It’s a good thing though. That market is getting tough.”
“Why do you say that, son?”
“Rob’s dad was all out of vodka.”

A Word on Audio

If you make a video or audio clip and put it on the internet for general consumption, please make sure there are two channels of audio if it’s stereo.

Why? Because it’s very fucking unsettling to listen to stereo audio that only has either the left or right channel through headphones.

It gives the sensation of being deaf in one ear. You hear fine in one ear, and nothing but some static in the other. The logical conclusion for the brain to make is “hey, something is preventing my hearing in the other ear and I don’t like it.”

I can understand. You use speakers. You can hear one-channel stereo audio from both ears when it comes out of a speaker, because the sound is not directed only to one ear. Maybe most people use speakers. But I don’t, and some other people don’t, and it’s a completely trivial and simple thing to mirror the channel you have over both channels so that I don’t go crazy when I view your video clip.

Thanks.