How easily can rumor become news? GoLive and FreeHand appeared to be headed for the scrap heap until Glenn Fleishman did some multilingual digging. Also in this issue, Adam reviews J. D. Lasica’s book "Darknet" and comes away with a better understanding of how people interact with copyright and intellectual property, while Joe Kissell looks to the future of Palm handhelds as reflected in FileMaker Mobile 8. Lastly, Apple patches some holes with QuickTime 7.1.1, and we announce "Take Control of iWeb" and the "Macworld iPod and iTunes Superguide," along with a DealBITS drawing for SmileOnMyMac’s TextExpander.
QuickTime 7.1.1 Released — Apple posted a small update to QuickTime last week that is a big deal for some Adobe customers. QuickTime 7.1.1 fixes a problem that interfered with installation of Adobe Creative Suite 2 (CS2) on Intel-based Macs. It also corrects an issue with exporting Keynote presentations to iDVD and "addresses an issue with 3rd party start-up items on Intel Macs." QuickTime 7.1.1 is available via Software Update or as a 49.4 MB stand-alone download. [JLC]
One of the most venerable categories of utility software is that of the abbreviation expander. It’s not surprising – computers are supposed to save us work, and who wants to type their entire snail mail address by hand every time when you could type "sm" and have a utility replace that with the full address? SmileOnMyMac recently acquired and updated Peter Maurer’s highly regarded Textpander utility (and renamed it TextExpander), making it an excellent choice among these programs. Its expansions (which it calls "snippets") can include formatted text and graphics, are sensitive to the case of the abbreviation, and can themselves contain abbreviations that will be expanded too, thus providing nested snippets. It provides a menu in the menubar and another in the Services menu for entering snippets, repositions the cursor after expansion, and it can both export snippets and import them from competing utilities.
Officemate and TidBITS Managing Editor Jeff Carlson yells out, "Hey, GoLive is dead!" I shout a long, lingering, "Nooooooooooo!" and then say, "All-right-y then." (We wrote several editions of "Real World GoLive" together, so it’s a program we’ve followed closely for years.)
Following Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia last year, a cloud of speculation has hovered over the fates of Adobe GoLive (whose stronger competition was Macromedia Dreamweaver) and prodigal child Macromedia FreeHand (whose stronger competition was Adobe Illustrator). With the release of Creative Suite 3 scheduled for sometime in 2007, it’s still unclear how the two companies’ product lines will be merged. So, news that Adobe would be dropping these two less-successful products wasn’t necessarily a surprise.
But the surprise, however, wasn’t that the news turned out to be false: it was the Babelfishy route the rumor took to become news. Following the story, it’s hard to figure out whether anything was announced purposely or not.
Chasing the Rumor’s Tail — The trek began at MacUser, Macworld’s forum site, which featured a story that says the two products are dead and offers some good analysis. It stated that no further development was planned, but future support is promised. However, there were no Adobe sources, just a link.
That link took us to Macsimum News, which reported that Robert Raiola, an executive at Adobe Systems France, commented at the Adobe Live conference in Europe that the two products would no longer be developed. The article went into some analysis, but had no Adobe sources – just a thank-you to MacGeneration, a French site.
Fortunately, I can read some French. Winding my way to MacGeneration, I found a report that was basically translated at the Macsimum News site – without the note, "thanks to Frederic for the information." That meant MacGeneration wasn’t at the event, but was reporting what a reader or colleague told them. At my count, MacUser was fourth-hand news, no?
I used to be fluent in German, so I also read that MacGeneration noted further that their colleagues at Macnews.de spoke to Alexander Hopstein, the PR manager for Adobe’s central and eastern Europe operations. Hopstein, Macnews.de wrote, said that reports of FreeHand’s demise weren’t correct; GoLive wasn’t mentioned. He was quoted saying, "FreeHand will continue to be offered as a stand-alone product."
Actually, I found that the Macnews.de people were pointing to MacBidouille, which is apparently the original source of the news item. That report said that Frederic wrote in from Adobe Live to tell them about the death of FreeHand, but it didn’t say GoLive was dead. Rather, it comments that there’s no doubt we’ll be saying goodbye to GoLive, which didn’t sound to me like a PR quote from the event. In an update to the item, a note says FreeHand’s development is halted, but GoLive will continue to be developed for "specific applications," which might be embedded modules in other software. It was all a little vague.
Adobe’s Response — As the news spread, Adobe responded by saying, essentially, "No, no, no, and the French office didn’t say what they’re paraphrased as saying." Adobe’s official statement reads:
"Adobe plans to continue to support GoLive and FreeHand and develop these products based on our customer’s [sic] needs. Clearly Dreamweaver and Illustrator are market leading when it comes to Web design/development and vector graphics/illustration. Customers should expect Adobe to concentrate our development efforts around these two products – with regards to future innovation and Creative Suite integration."
(I’ll assume that the singular usage of "customer’s" was a typographical error, and not an admission that Adobe is basing its product development plans on one person using GoLive and FreeHand.)
This episode was a fascinating (and slightly amusing) look at how what appeared to be an offhand comment in one language turned into news that, frankly, a lot of people had already assumed. Although Adobe’s plans to "develop these products based on customer needs" still gives them enough wiggle room to kill or sell off GoLive or FreeHand, the fact that Adobe is quick to stand up for them hints that 2007 could be quite an interesting year for Adobe watchers.
As someone who earns a living from the written word, I keep a close eye on all that’s happening in the copyright wars, that is, the ongoing skirmishes between the large companies that own the copyright on various types of media and the general populace who consume and use such media. I fundamentally disagree with the way these companies – known by some as the Content Cartel – conduct their business and treat their customers, but I’m far more worried by the ways in which they use their deep pockets to affect legislation such as the truly troubling Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). But as much as I’ve participated in innumerable online discussions in which theoretical situations showing the inanity of the current copyright regime are batted back and forth, I’ve never actually collected real-world stories in which copyright, the DMCA, and the tactics of the Content Cartel impinge upon the media-related activities of normal people, activities that meet the common sense standard of fair use.
Luckily for me, well-known blogger J.D. Lasica spent two years amassing those stories, and he’s woven them into a book, "Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation." Lasica does a fine job of explaining the DMCA and other efforts to clamp down on any use of media the Content Cartel doesn’t want to see, and I’d recommend that anyone who is unsure of the harm being done in those ways read the book for that reason. But what made it a compelling read for me were his stories of the real people who have run afoul of the copyright regime in various different ways. He tells the story of a pastor of an evangelical Christian church who uses snippets from movies and television shows in his sermons, and whether or not a case could be made for what he’s doing being "fair use," the fact is that he’s ripping the scenes from DVD in violation of the DMCA. Similarly illegal is a homemade DVD created by an Intel executive for his son’s Pop Warner football team, because the guy added a snippet of fans cheering wildly from the DVD version of the football movie "Rudy," along with some scenes of NFL players doing touchdown dances and audio from the song "Who Let the Dogs Out?". Amusingly, Lasica describes the executive’s homemade DVD to MPAA head Jack Valenti, who says flatly, "He’s committing a violation of federal law." And then there’s the Tennessee musician who wanted to create a limited run CD-compilation of some obscure southern blues artists of the 1920s to help preserve their music, which has been out of print for decades. When Sony Music demanded $40,000 for the non-profit endeavor, he took the effort underground, violating copyright in the process.
But not all the stories are so, well, obvious. Lasica also relates the story of the kids who – starting at age 10 and continuing over the next seven years – created a shot-for-shot adaptation of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" that you will never have a chance to see because of fear of legal reprisals (a work that bears a "substantial similarity" to an original copyrighted work can be punishable by a year in prison and up to $50,000 in fines, even if it’s never shown commercially). And in an ironic twist I hadn’t previously heard about, Lasica tells of the Utah family that wants to be able to watch R-rated movies without any scenes of sex or violence, an activity that’s made possible by movie filtering technology that can edit out or modify scenes and language on normal DVDs as they’re being played back. The companies that created such technology have attracted lawsuits from Hollywood, and at least one has been forced to close its doors for lack of funding after investors were spooked by the suits. (For even more amusing stories of copyright inanity, read or listen to the "Fair Use Follies" segment of the NPR radio show and podcast On the Media that aired 19-May-06.)
Also fascinating is Lasica’s jaunt into the movie trading underworld, including iChat interviews with highly placed figures who explain in detail how "release groups" parcel out the time-intensive work necessary to acquire, decrypt, encode, and distribute a movie. It’s more of a social network than anything else, since no money changes hands anywhere in the process, and the release groups often span the globe. Members freely admit that what they’re doing could hurt studios, though they say that they still buy movie tickets and DVDs all the time, at least for movies that are worth watching. (You can read the full interview, in inimitable IM language on the Darknet Web site.)
Lasica is by no means an uninterested bystander. He’s also known as the founder of Ourmedia, an open-source project and Web site whose mission is to host and archive – for free – any works of personal media. But if that means the representatives of the Content Cartel don’t manage to come off as the protectors (or even the creators) of our cultural future in "Darknet" (much the opposite), it also means that Lasica doesn’t content himself merely with documenting the problem and its accompany slippery slope. At the end of the book, he offers a 10-point roadmap to creating a digital culture that serves everyone’s needs – if nothing else, it’s a excellent place to start.
- We are users as well as consumers.
- Artists must be compensated for their works.
- The public’s digital rights should be affirmed.
- The DMCA requires a dramatic overhaul.
- Celebrate participatory culture. Don’t outlaw it.
- The Darknet is the public’s great equalizing force.
- The Internet is not an entertainment medium.
- To make file sharing and the Darknet irrelevant, innovate.
- Trust the marketplace.
- Efforts to enrich the public domain should be encouraged.
If you’ve felt the confusion and tension surrounding the entire topic of intellectual property and copyright protection, as many of us have, I encourage you to pick up a copy of "Darknet" as a way of solidifying your thoughts on the matter. It’s an important book, and an issue that won’t be going away any time soon.
Palm recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of the original PalmPilot PDA. I was among the enthusiastic early adopters. I was thrilled that, unlike the large paper organizer it replaced, it featured fast searching and synchronization with my computer. But I didn’t use my PDA only for storing contact, schedule, and note information. I answered email while sitting in boring meetings; I hooked up a wireless modem and bought movie tickets over the Web; I used an encrypted note program to store my passwords and personal info. In short, I did my best to use my PDA in lieu of a laptop, even though it had a tiny, non-backlit, monochrome screen and no keyboard. Its compactness masked many evils.
Over the years, though, I (like most other Palm users I know) gradually found my cell phone taking over PDA functions, while feeling increasingly constrained by my handheld’s limitations for tasks that I’d normally perform on a full-blown computer. So I used the Palm less and less – even the newer version I now own that features a color screen, more memory, and better handwriting recognition. It’s still better than my phone for playing solitaire and writing notes, but only barely. And I began wondering whether there’s any good reason left to pack a stand-alone PDA. Although I don’t personally fit the profile for users who would benefit from a smart phone based on the Palm or Windows Mobile operating systems, I understand their utility for some people: if you’re going to carry a cell phone anyway, you might as well carry one that gives you more computing capabilities and get some work done on the train. But what of the conventional Palm PDAs, the ones that aren’t also phones? Could there be any reason left to use them?
It was with that question on my mind that I took a look at FileMaker Mobile 8, a product designed to enable you to view and edit the contents of FileMaker Pro databases on your Palm or Windows Mobile PDA and sync the data with your computer. I could imagine any number of situations in which it would be helpful to have an editable database in my pocket, and that just might give me a good reason to keep the Palm in active use. I assumed, somewhat naively, that the Palm version of the program would approximate the functionality of its desktop sibling, in much the same way that Documents To Go gives you reasonably full-featured editors for Word and Excel documents.
I’ll cut to the chase: FileMaker Mobile 8 was a great disappointment. Even though it’s the fourth major release of a program introduced in 2000, its biggest selling point seems to be that it has fewer limitations than earlier versions.
To be fair, FileMaker Mobile 8 does what it claims to do. The data travels between computer and PDA correctly. I experienced no crashes or other serious bugs. The problem is simply that it does far too little.
For example: with FileMaker Mobile, your PDA can’t display calculation, summary, or timestamp fields, container fields (such as photographs), radio buttons, checkbox fields with more than one value, multiple tables (or relationships that depend on them), custom form elements, or graphics of any kind. There is no support for scripts, buttons, or validation when entering data, and in fact if your desktop database has a field with strict validation settings, an incorrect value entered on your PDA can cause an entire sync to fail. (In other words, FileMaker Pro respects your validation settings, but FileMaker Mobile doesn’t.)
I could list numerous other limitations, but my point is that what you get on your Palm is the merest shadow of what’s on your computer. If you happen to have simple, flat, text-only databases with little or no need for validation, calculations, scripts, and the like, you might find FileMaker Mobile perfectly serviceable. For example, it could easily hold recipes and give you a handy (and editable) reference in the kitchen. It could track inventory for someone like a plumber or electrician working offsite every day. It could make a handy bibliographic storage tool for students or researchers. But I expect far more for $70, and far more from FileMaker, Inc.
FileMaker’s marketing materials trumpet the new capabilities of FileMaker Mobile 8, such as syncing with databases hosted on a server, and I won’t deny that that increases its usefulness from previous versions. You can also run scripts before or after a sync, potentially working around some data-entry issues. But again, these changes amount to fewer limitations rather than more features.
Initially, I wanted to give FileMaker Mobile the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps, I thought, the kinds of things I wanted to do were simply beyond the meager processing power of a PDA. That turned out to be untrue. A Palm application called HanDBase offers relational databases, form design (right on your PDA), calculations, cascading pop-up lists, support for (grayscale) graphics, and most of the other features FileMaker Mobile is missing. Unfortunately, development on the Mac OS X version of the HanDBase Desktop application has ceased, and their conduit for syncing with FileMaker Pro is woefully out of date, requiring Classic (and older versions of both Palm Desktop and FileMaker Pro). Another Palm database, JFile, also has greater capabilities on the PDA itself than does FileMaker Mobile, but again, its conduit to sync with FileMaker Pro is obsolete, requiring FileMaker Pro 6 or earlier. In other words, for syncing a Palm database with a modern version of FileMaker Pro under a modern version of Mac OS X, FileMaker Mobile is, sadly, the only game in town.
For years, FileMaker, Inc. has emphasized that the real power of FileMaker Pro lies in its extensive customizability, its relational capabilities, its scripting, and other fancy features. That’s true: FileMaker Pro is a fantastic application, and I can’t say enough good things about version 8. But if you’ve taken advantage of all these great features and built yourself some truly complex databases, you may be out of luck when it comes to mobile syncing. This is the crux of my complaint: what FileMaker Mobile is good for is something entirely different from what FileMaker Pro is good for. If you rely on all the bells and whistles of FileMaker Pro, as you have every reason to do, you take yourself out of the target audience for FileMaker Mobile.
This brings me back to the question I raised earlier: could ubiquitous access to my FileMaker Pro databases be the killer app that keeps me packing a stand-alone PDA? Or, could it be the enticement for buying a Palm- or Windows-based smart phone when I need to replace my current cell phone? My answers to both are clearly no. Were I a Windows user, I’d have more options – and yes, I know, I can run Windows on my Mac, but the fact that I wrote the entire "Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac" ebook still doesn’t mean I wish to make a habit of using Windows. Even then, I wouldn’t have what I thought I really wanted, essentially a pocket equivalent of FileMaker Pro that integrates seamlessly with the desktop version.
In the end, I’m forced to wonder if perhaps FileMaker’s inability to produce a sufficiently capable version of FileMaker Mobile isn’t a reflection on the market’s enthusiasm for conventional PDAs in general. The Blackberry, Treo, and other devices designed primarily as communication tools are gaining momentum in the market, while sales of PDAs that can’t communicate in real time are languishing.
Palm took the world by storm with the PalmPilot 10 years ago, but even at geekfests like Macworld Expo, I rarely see anyone using a Palm handheld, and those I do see in use are integrated with cell phones. The convergence of cell phone and PDA wasn’t really a merger of equals, and mobile communication devices have subsumed the PDA concept almost entirely, providing just the basics of calendar and contact management, which would seem to be all that most people really want from their PDAs.
"Take Control of iWeb" Helps iWeb Users Work Creatively — Apple’s new iWeb application aims to help you build a Web site quickly and easily, but if you’ve found yourself stuck on the basics or unhappy with amateurish results, turn to Steve Sande’s 123-page "Take Control of iWeb" for ideas and assistance. Steve provides step-by-step instructions for building an iWeb site and uploading it to .Mac or to your own Web host, and you can look over his shoulder as he works in iWeb’s templates with a designer’s eye. Steve teaches you the best ways to make the basic iWeb pages, including blog, podcast, and photo pages (via integration with the other iLife applications), but he also offers special coverage that goes beyond the basics. You’ll learn how to create eye-catching graphical effects, encode podcasts and videos for use with iWeb, edit graphics so your site loads faster, make image maps, and even set up an online store. For those with multiple sites or multiple Macs, Steve explains how to edit one site on two Macs and how to store multiple sites in multiple iWeb files. Learn more and pick up your copy today!
If you pre-ordered "Take Control of iWeb," now is the time to click the Check for Updates button on the PDF you downloaded; from the Web page that loads, you’ll be able to download the full ebook. Thanks to the hundreds of people who pre-ordered, and special thanks to those who made comments or suggestions in the pre-release drafts.
Master Your iPod: "Macworld iPod and iTunes Superguide" — Our friends at Macworld Magazine are back with the brand-new "Macworld iPod and iTunes Superguide," an 88-page collection of the best of Macworld’s coverage of iTunes and the iPod, written by experts like Chris Breen, Dan Frakes, Kirk McElhearn, and Jim Heid. In 22 detailed sections, the ebook covers getting music onto your Mac (including picking the best encoding settings and how to import from tapes and LPs), managing your music (with a focus on large libraries, classical music, and podcasts), working with video (including conversion to the iPod), making the iPod connection (with one or more iPods and computers, even!), troubleshooting iTunes and iPod problems, and finding the best iPod accessories. It’s too much to summarize here – read the expanded table of contents and foreword for the full scoop.
If you just want help getting the most out of your music, iTunes, and listening on an iPod, the "Macworld iPod and iTunes Superguide," has you covered. But, if you’re also curious about uses of an iPod that go beyond listening to tunes, you can take your iPod to the next level with our ebook, "Take Control of Your iPod: Beyond the Music," on which you can save 25 percent when you buy both ebooks at once.
Macworld’s ebook design is different from ours, so be sure to download the sample to see what it looks like (and prints like, if you want to print it yourself). If you would prefer to buy it on paper, Macworld now has full-color printed copies available for $24.99.
The first link for each thread description points to the traditional TidBITS Talk interface; the second link points to the same discussion on our Web Crossing server, which provides a different look and which may be faster.
Security Update causing Mail to crash? Readers detail a few problems following the latest Mac OS X security update, though the issues don’t appear to be widespread. (8 messages)
QuickTake to iPhoto — An owner of one of Apple’s early digital cameras wants to bring those photos into iPhoto, but what’s the best way to convert the old PICT format into JPEG files that iPhoto can read? Apparently it takes more than just a graphics conversion program to do the trick. (8 messages)
SE/30 in Ethernet LAN — Where else are you going to find expert advice on connecting a Macintosh SE/30 to a modern Ethernet network? And where else will you find people willing to send the hardware required? You get one guess. (14 messages)
Mac OS X Font Mistakes — Sharon Zardetto Aker’s article on avoiding the most common Mac OS X font mistake prompts discussion of font management tools. (2 messages)
Sudden Motion Sensor Hacks — Following Adam’s article on recent software that takes advantage of the Sudden Motion Sensor in Apple’s recent laptops, readers discuss the sensor’s accelerometer and whether a MacBook can double as a very expensive carpenter’s level (yes!). (9 messages)