Say It Ain't So

As noted on Slashdot, The Register is running an article in which they state that Microsoft “is believed to have trained its acquisition crosshairs on Macromedia” in the hopes of out-flanking Java.

At this point, the story is still speculative, and as we are in the midst of the holiday season, no one from either company was available for comment. I tend to avoid commenting on stories such as these as I prefer to keep the knee-jerk reactions to a minimum, but this prospect is rather frightening to me and to many in the Web Development community.

Macromedia produces many amazing tools, most of which are available for both Windows and the Mac platforms. Some, like Flash are available for Linux as well. Flash, which is a true cross-platform and cross-browser development environment is poised for explosive growth as it prepares to jump to cell phone screens.

In addition to Flash, Macromedia produces several other major product lines including ColdFusion, Dreamweaver, Director and HomeSite (the functionality of which is being rolled into Dreamweaver). All of these products, save HomeSite are available for the Mac platform in addition to the Windows platform. I’m not so sure that would remain true if Microsoft purchased Macromedia. Future support for Linux would be a pipe dream for all but the most delusional of Web professionals.

Even worse, the browser-dominance of Microsoft and its browser would be further extended into the tools that so many of us use to build sites. I, and many of my colleagues avoid Microsoft’s FrontPage as it produces very poor code, which is oriented towards IE, thus causing more time to be spent on cleaning up its work than it would take to develop the page by hand. Would the new products continue to provide support for alternate technologies like PHP, JSP and MySQL in their products? That’s a hard one to call.

Now, personally I use quite a few Microsoft products and am quite happy with them. The machine at which I am sitting runs Windows XP Home Edition, and I regularly use Microsoft Office. The keyboard and mouse that I use are both products of Microsoft as well. But, I also have a Linux file server (running Mandrake Linux), and my wife Sarah uses a Mac.

If Macromedia is purchased by Microsoft, we as developers and designers will eventually be pulled into their methodologies and requirements, or forced into searching for alternate products which may not be nearly as good as the current offering, or may not survive as competitors to Microsoft’s dominance.

Ultimately our clients and our audience will suffer.

Trunk Rattling Bass

Apparently one of the neighbors five houses down and across the street has a buddy who likes heavy bass. A buddy who doesn’t turn down the volume while talking to the neighbor for ten minutes solid. My insides shudder in a near-rhythmic pattern, not quite enough to be uncomfortable, but easily enough to be annoying.

This is annoying in and of itself, but what really annoys me is the fact that when I went outside to locate the source of the sensation I could hear the trunk rattling. Even more pathetic than the desire to let everyone in a half-mile radius know what you are listening to, is the lack of quality when doing it. How hard is it to mount a subwoofer properly and secure the trunk lid to ensure that your precious music isn’t marred by the dull metallic rattle of your car falling apart?

Personally, if I was trying to make a musical statement, or just listening to my tunes really loud I would be embarrassed by a half-done job. I almost walked over there to explain the concept of “quality” to the guy, but decided to leave it well enough alone.

When Did My Home Town Move?

As I was driving around today I was reminded of the fact that I’ve lived in Austin for a little over 11 years now. Waiting for the shift of a light from red to green I tried to determine a specific point that my “home town” shifted from San Antonio to Austin. Failing in that I tried to work out a general span of time that the location shifted. I accelerated alongside my fellow Austinites.

Perhaps it was shortly after high school. I had finally made some true friends and was meeting a few more. Those few friends I’d had in S.A. had faded back for the most part, and other than visiting my dad and going to The Wild Game Dinner, I had no reason for venturing south on I-35 for 90 miles.

As I turned into the driveway of the house, I realized my definition of home isn’t as tangible as I believed.

Document Organization

Rebuilding this front page in XML requires much more planning than I had expected (and I’m still in the early chapters of the book). At this point my brain is coping with this new way of thinking about pages, and more importantly the way they are built. As I define the tags to be used and the actual structure of the information (as opposed to the visual layout) I feel a small rush of freedom.

Sams Teach Yourself XML in 21 Days

I’ve had this book for more than a year. Shortly after purchasing it my work-life got slammed (one of two company rebranding efforts) and I had to set the book aside. As noted in a previous post, I have decided t solidify my knowledge of XML, and as this is the only book (of the five) I have which starts from the beginning, I picked it up once more.

So far it has been easy going, I completed the first three “days” yesterday and feel that I have a decent grasp on the fundamentals covered. The Sams “Teach yourself…” series seems to be pretty reliable and easy to stick with for the most part, thus encouraging me to follow the lesson plan instead of skipping ahead, which I have a tendency to do.

The author relies a little too much on future learning for my tastes, (often stating “in future chapters you will learn…”) which is fine in small doses, but it crops up a bit too often.

All in all I’m happy with the book and I’m looking forward to the in-depth lessons to come.

XML & XSL

Well, as I have a pretty solid hold of XHTML, I think it’s time to focus once more on XML and it’s companion XSL. In addition to learning the language itself, I have a couple of projects which I will be creating to reinforce the lessons.

An alternate version of this site (and perhaps my other ones as well) should be challenging as I will have to wrangle with layout issues, markup issues and information architecture. It will also encourage me to learn more about the interactions of PHP and XML.

A Flash app which pulls XML docs as a new interface for Apocalyptic Dreaming. This should turn up some interesting challenges as well.

I have a number of books about XML, most of which were given to me; I’ll post info about each in the next few days as time allows.

The Food Chain

I was recently reminded of Cafe Press and decided to tinker around with it. I became quite wrapped up in it and created the first of what is likely to be many Web shops for me: Food Chain: a store for carnivores.

The offering is simple, and I’m not expecting to make any money off of it; but I’m excited about the idea of bringing to life some of the ideas floating around in my head. And it’s possible someone else may find them enjoyable as well.

I’ll mention new stores as I create them.

Running from Suitors

“It soon became very clear to Eleanor that while she remained single she would be at the mercy of fortune hunters. Twice, as she was making her way to Poiters, would-be suitors, with covetous eyes on her vast inheritance, attempted to abduct her. At Blois the future Count Theobald V was plotting to seize her on the night of 21 March 1152; forewarned in time, and protected by her escort, she was forced to flee under cover of darkness, taking a barge along the Loire towards Tours. Farther south, at Port des Piles, near the River Creuse, where she intended to make a crossing, Geoffrey of Anjou, younger brother of Henry, lay in wait for her. Again she received a warning from ‘her good angel’ — possibly a member of her escort — and narrowly evaded capture, swinging south to where she could ford the River Vienne and, avoiding the main roads, make a dash ‘by another way’ for Poiters.”

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir.

Sarah's Art Section

Well, SarahJoy.com now has two major areas; in addition to the photography section there is now an area displaying her art. Sarah is able to update the site herself and has added quite a good bit already!

The Domino Effect

Well, as I was working on the song-list project, I realized I had a fix for an issues the Brightwells were having on their site. It’s pretty amazing how easily one idea topples into another and presents an answer.

Looking Everywhere but the Obvious

As noted earlier, I am revamping the way Winamp communicates with this Web site to update the list of songs in the side bar. I’ve spent a few hours researching different plugins for Winamp, sure that the one I currently use wouldn’t do what I would like.

After several dead-ends I took a closer look at my current plugin (Do Something) and it appears that it has the exact functionality I need!

Let’s hear it for ignoring the obvious!