Some interesting posts this week (September 22-29 2008):
eWeek has a long interview with Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch, covering areas such as the open source aspects of Flash, the competition Adobe Air is facing from Google Chrome, Gears and possibly from Microsoft and Silverlight, and a bit about new features of Creative Suite 4 (CS4). Josh Catone does a good job of covering the Adobe Air part and the competition from Google Gears and Silverlight. In conclusion Josh thinks that Microsoft might play an important part in the cloud computing/rich Internet application (RIA) arena, something that Adobe's Kevin Lynch doesn't fully recognize.
On open source, Lynch points out how Abobe is gradually embracing the open source movement, and he gives several examples of Adobe's contribution to OSS:
We already open source the core of Flash, the virtual machine, Tamarin. Ten years ago we published the format that Flash uses called SWF. And for a while that format had a license agreement around it where we asked that people not make their own Flash players. And the goal of that was to maintain consistency of the runtime. [...]
we actually removed the license restriction this year from the SWF format. So anyone can go create anything they want around that format, including a player if they want to. [...]
But we need to balance openness and consistency. So we're very open about what goes into Flash Player, the bugs in Flash Player, the code and scripting engine in Flash, the format with Flash, the protocols with Flash.
On completely opening up of the Flash player Lynch is more hesitant:
[That] would be somewhat challenging in that there are some codices in Flash that we don't have the rights to all the source to. That's one challenge with that. The other is that I think in terms of what's best here for consistency of Flash on the Web, having multiple implementations and having forking and splintering of that code would be a big loss for the Web in terms of that consistency.
Well, there might be some truth in that, but there for sure are a multitude of OSS projects that have managed to keep control of the core development, without sacrificing consistency.
I think the amount of innovation that we were trying to do with ECMAScript 4 perhaps was too big of a leap for some and they wanted to see a more collaborative approach on that. So the standards process is a collaborative one where there are lots of points of view. And we're happy to continue working in the process to advance ECMAScript. But we're hoping that innovation can happen faster and that we can raise the level of scripting on the Web. So we're going to continue innovating in Flash Player. We're not removing features that we've already deployed because people are relying on them and we think they're good. And we'll keep developing it further. And at the same time we'll keep working with the standards process.
Web 3.0 means seamless 'anytime, anywhere' business, entertainment and social networking over fast reliable and secure networks. It means the end of the divide between mobile and fixed lines. It signals a tenfold quantum leap in the scale of the digital universe by 2015. Europe has the know-how and the network capacity to lead this transformation. We must make sure that Web 3.0 is made and used in Europe.
Chrome continued to be of interest this week, with a Web 3.0 conference as a bonus (September 15-21 2008):
Google Chrome will eventually support Add-ons and User scripts à la Greasemonkey, said Google Engineer Ojan Vafai at the Web 2.0 Expo last week. They hope to make a stable implementation, he said, referring to the less stable experience of Add-ons with Firefox. Personally, with Chrome I miss the Google Toolbar, with the Gmail notifier and the PageRank indicator. Hopefully it will be released for Chrome soon.
At the same Web 2.0 panel, Microsoft's IE platform architect Chris Wilson, hinted that IE might add support for vector graphics and the canvas element, a part of the HTML 5 standard I wrote about last week. Tags: Add-ons, Chrome
If you want to stay on top with the latest updates to Google Chrome, you can join the Dev Channel and get access to more recent but potentially less stable updates to the browser. Tags: Chrome
A Pew Internet Project report shows that 97% of all (American) teens, ages 12-17, play some kind of video game on a computer, console or portable device. Further, nearly 50% of all boys visit game related web sites or forums, and 14% contribute to those sites. For girls, the corresponding figures are somewhat lower. The study also shows that about one third of teens play mature or adult rated games. Of those teens, boys are in majority, 79% vs. 21% girls. In conclusion: regulations will always fail, and boys are still boys (phew!).
Where I think the study fails, is that it does not distinguish online Flash-based games as a separate category, despite the fact that it is an important genre, and presumably popular by younger teens at least. Tags: gaming
An assortment of the most interesting posts this week (September 8-14 2008):
Stack Overflow launches, a Q&A site for programmers, who can ask questions and get answers from other programmers. The site is community driven, good answers get voted up and rise in the list of answers to a question. As a result, any discussions among the answers are discouraged, as these will be scrambled, explains Joel Spolsky, one of the founders. Community members can build a reputation by earning points and badges in response to good answers and other activity. Marshall Kirkpatrick liked Stack Overflow in his review, and I think it could be a useful service. Marshall requested subscribable feeds for answers to a question. I found a link to an Atom feed for each question, not sure if it is optimal though. There are also feeds for a users top answers and questions, and the top 30 questions for a specific tag. A chronological feed with all questions belonging to a tag would perhaps be more useful. Tags: programming, web development
Webmonkey has an article about HTML 5, the next specification in works for the HTML language. The latest specification 4.01 was completed in 1999, and we probably will have to wait at least another 10 years for a completed version 5. In the meantime some browser vendors have implemented parts of the HTML 5 draft, e.g. the canvas element, and more recently the video element, as I wrote about last week. Browser extensions like Gears, and plugins like Silverlight and Flash also find a niche, where the current standard is lagging behind. Tags: HTML5, web standards
Scott Hanselman writes about the use of multiple processes in the Chrome browser and in IE8. Separate processes create a greater degree of isolation between tabs: If one process/tab crashes, the other processes/tabs stay unaffected. The potential overhead of processes vs. threads, and the inter-communication between processes, are really no problem nowadays considering the rapid development of computer hardware. Tags: Chrome, IE8
A new tool dubbed CookieMonster will soon be released to the public. It is able to get hold of user credentials submitted to secured sites via a man-in-the-middle attack. Several banks are identified as insecure. The tool utilizes a programming flaw, where the website developer has failed to designate the authentication cookie as secure. Tags: security
Finally, Ted Dziuba challenges my comparison of Chrome to an operating system last week, though he probably didn't read my article, instead he mainly goes after a post by Michael Arrington who labels Chrome "a full on desktop operating system that will compete head on with Windows." Though that expression might be somewhat over the top, I enjoy the vision in the post that eventually the need for a stand-alone desktop operating system will disappear, and that basic OS features might as well be integrated into the browser. A possible solution could be based on a stripped-down version of the Linux OS combined with Google Chrome. Tags: Chrome, vision
I've been enjoying a fast and minimalistic browsing experience with Google Chrome for about a week now, and I'm not switching back to IE7, which I admittedly have been using before. Why I'm not using Firefox could be that I've never got dependent on plugins, and the experience with Firefox is somewhat bloated and unpolished in my opinion.
Anyhow, when I first tried Google Chrome I was bothered by occasional periods of high disk and CPU activity, which could last for minutes, or at least it felt like that. Since my hard disk is very loud when reading and writing, it really was bothering. Also the CPU activity was high at those occasions, which raised the CPU temperature, causing the CPU fan to spin, contributing significantly to the noise. This was a real showstopper for me, which felt a bit sad, since I had otherwise enjoyed the experience with Chrome.
Fortunately, after poking around the limited options settings in Chrome, I found a solution: Disable the "Enable phishing and malware protection" option, which is found under the Security section of the "Under the Hood" tab. This solved the problem completely, and Chrome is now very light on CPU and Disk usage. Total CPU usage for a days worth of work only amounts to a few minutes, which is very satisfying.
Of course, disabling a security feature is at your own risk. But in my case it was a matter of being able to use Google Chrome at all.