September 27, 2006
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Seminar with an evangelist

MHenry is the webmaster for a technical services VAR in California, and the Page Editor for Adobe and Macromedia products. He is also a musician of some note and a prolific camper.

What could be better than spending a nice, sunny day in San Francisco? Attending a seminar on video for Flash 8 in San Francisco!

So, that's what I did. I managed to convince my boss at the day job that this was a seminar I needed to attend. I got the day off and drove to San Francisco. With flowers in my hair. Only took about two hours to get there, even with the rush hour traffic.

Why did I want to attend a seminar for beginners? Well, getting out of the office is a start. And I always pick up something from these seminars. And this one was no exception. I learned a lot. The seminar was presented by Greg Rewis. Greg is the Worldwide Senior Evangelist for Web Tools for Adobe Systems and he put on one heck of a show. He was entertaining, knowledgeable, and expert in Flash, After Effects and Premiere.

It was a four hour show. The first two hours dealt with how to acquire video. And it was essentially two hours of commercials encouraging the purchase of Premiere and After Effects. Don't get me wrong, I use both products and love them. And I did learn a couple of things about both that I didn't know before, but when I drive a couple hours for a seminar on Flash, I want a seminar on Flash!

The next two hours though, made it all worth while.

I'm not an early-adapter. I have been using Flash 8 at home (and not all that often), but at work I'm still using MX 2004. When I'm working on a video for web delivery, I still go through the same process: get the video, use Sorenson Squeeze to get it down to size, save as progressive flv and link to the file from Flash.

There have been some improvements.

Flash 8 has a native compression tool that uses On2 VP6. The same compression that Sorenson charges for is included in Flash 8. The major difference is that Sorenson offers a two-pass conversion and the Flash 8 version offers only a one-pass. Rewis pointed out that many users had indicated that the one-pass Flash 8 tool is sometimes more effective than the two-pass offered by Sorenson and other third-party vendors. He also indicated that compression is an art, not a science. Many times, he said, you need to try several different compression techniques in order to come up with the best combination of size and quality.

I can vouch for that. I've spent hours tweaking settings and trying different video formats. Up until now, I thought I had locked in on the best combination and figured I didn't have to waste hours of my time. Should have known better.

So, what else did I learn? How about this: Did you know you can add a drop shadow to a video inside Flash 8? I didn't. Rewis took a clip of a girl with the background keyed out, turned that into a movieclip, copied it to another layer and then, using the filters inside Flash 8, created a drop shadow. No, it's not something I'll use every day, but it was pretty darn cool. In fact, when he completed the effect, the audience burst into spontaneous applause.

Rewis also showed us how to get rid of the stage in a video. You know how some of those ads on Yahoo! and other sites don't have a background? Yep. He showed us how to do that as well. It's a very simple trick in Dreamweaver. Once you have placed your swf in your webpage, select the swf and look in the Properties window. Next, find the Parameters button. Click on that and the Parameters window pops up. Now click the "plus" button. In "parameter" type wmode, in value, type transparent. That's it. You're done. If you're not using Dreamweaver, all you have to do is add <param name="wmode" value="transparent"> in your code for the swf object.

Sure, I know many of you already know these tricks. And I'm sure some of you are way more advanced. After all, you're Experts, right? In my case, being a late-adapter isn't always a good thing. That's a lesson I've learned at least twice this year. I use an image viewer to find images when I'm working. I've used the same one for at least eight years, ACDSee. Problem was, I was using the same version from six years ago. If it ain't broke, don't fix it right? And despite all the emails touting the benefits of upgrading I would get from them as a registered owner, I simply deleted them and went on my merry way.

Well, it WAS broke. It would take forever to see files on the network. I figured it was just the file sizes in the directories that slowed the application. I finally upgraded a couple of months ago and the difference is phenomenal. It's blazing fast now, regardless of file size.

That's much the same experience I had at this seminar. It's amazing how many times I have to learn the same lessons. In my defense, I don't do a lot of video in Flash ---maybe two or three times a year -- so I didn't really research it out as if my livelihood depended on it. But the lesson is the same. Generally, I like to wait for at least one version to pass before I upgrade. Being a cheapskate may have something to do with it. Not having an expense account for software may be another. But the lesson is the same: If it's going to make my life a little easier and reduce development time: UPGRADE!

One other thing of interest I learned at the show. As you may have heard, Adobe is including Dreamweaver 8 in the latest version of Adobe Creative Suite. One of the attendees asked Rewis how that would affect GoLive. Rewis said that Adobe is currently developing a new version of GoLive. He also said that as long as there is market demand for GoLive, he expects Adobe to continue support the program. Good news for GoLive users. And if it's any indication of Adobe's marketing strategy, it's good news for users of Freehand as well.

All in all, it was a great show. Rewis even stayed around for an hour afterwards fielding questions and waving the Adobe banner. If the show is going to be anywhere in your area, I recommend going. Even if you've already learned the Upgrade lesson.

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Secret Realities

skirklan is a master designer who has a strong attachment to the MacIntosh -- which is a good thing since she is one of our Page Editors for the Mac TAs. This article is reproduced from her blog.

Professional artists, designers and illustrators eventually grow weary of the client Xfactor. The Xfactor, a predetermined intellectual quotient formulated by combining capacity, exposure and education, becomes the grease or grunge of client interface. It's grease if they have the stuff required to communicate what they need and what they want. It's grunge if it clogs up communication pores and impedes progress. Even sixth graders know about "constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the mouth." Those are the clients who prefer to play the game, "Can you guess what I'm thinking?" Eventually creatives wonder if civilians are worth the trouble.

Let's take Joni Mitchell, a good example of an incredibly gifted, well-rounded creative. She paints, she writes, she sings; or at least she did until the money infiltrated her dealings with those who sold her creative product. She made an interesting comment about changing her artform of choice: "I believe a total unwillingness to cooperate is what is necessary to be an artist-not for perverse reasons, but to protect your vision. The considerations of a corporation, especially now, have nothing to do with art or music. That's why I spend my time now painting. When money meets up with art, there is a lot of pain, and it's the pain of ignorance, and I don't want to meet up with that ignorance again." (Los Angeles Times, September 5, 2004) Douglas Eby is my source for that wonderful quote -- he has a site that celebrates creativity so we shouldn't count him as a civilian.

There are many examples of a "total unwillingness to cooperate" such as every gifted person who chooses to dabble in their free time instead of choosing to make a living with their art. They pay a heavy price of never reaching full potential because they practice part time. Then there are the professionals who either abandon their art to play the game or show their disdain by what they produce (or don't produce). Andy Warhol figured out the game and milked it for all it's worth. After ten years as a hard working commercial artist, Andy sat alone in his studio with a single can of Campbell's Tomato Soup. Apparently, the soup can convinced him to paint its portrait instead of scarfing down the vile contents. Here's an interesting review of the PBS special on Warhol from his home town.

Let's face it, there are days when artists can afford nice thick porterhouse steaks and plenty of days when jello is the entree. One guy I went to art school with worked at a fancy restaurant every summer so he could eat his fill every day. He intentionally put on 30+ pounds, which he gradually lost during the year when the cost of oil paint drove him to a regular diet of Cream of Wheat. So it's not hard to imagine how Andy Warhol, a Mother Hubbard with bare cupboards, decided to paint his last remaining food stuff. Funny that he later called his studio The Factory. Not so funny when you realize Andy applied the rules of commerce to the kind of art he felt the public deserved-after all, he knew their tastes were in the can. This leads me to another artist who worked part time at a Campbells Soup factory and warned us off ever eating the stuff. "If you knew what they put in it, you wouldn't eat it either."

Pablo Picasso was a great artist, and he couldn't resist a good game, either. At the height of his success, he paid for everything with a check. He had discovered early on that no one would cash his checks since anything with his signature was now art. What a great conman. And then there was Mark Rothko, an artist who spoke about the cretins who bought his art. He mourned the separation and eventually stopped sharing his art with the public. No, he didn't stop painting; he just stopped expressing himself on canvas and slowly moved from vibrant expressions in color to vast fields of dull medium gray. Shortly before his death, he revealed in private conversations that he accepted the commission of the Rothko Chapel under duress. He needed the money. So in spite of his abhorance of the public, in spite of strong feelings of resentment, he took their money and gave them big blank gray canvases; which they blissfully adored without realizing it was the product of his contempt. This served to validate his opinion that they knew little or nothing about art.

There's always an inside and an outside. Watch what Ed Sullivan would call "a really big shew" on Andy Warhol on PBS and see how much reality filters in. One things for sure, Andy Warhol was from Pittsburgh, and that's a real factory town.

On the road again...

ericpete is the editor of the Experts Exchange newsletter. He considers the main benefit to doing that job to be the opportunity to write -- something he has done professionally since he was a young boy.

We would be lying if we said we have been in every airport in the United States, although over the past couple of weeks, we have been in quite a few of them. Kansas City is still our favorite; it has free wireless (just look at All Available Networks and there it is), is easy to get into and out of, and the curb is maybe 100 feet from both the gates and the baggage claim. Given that the Department of Homeland Security had the alert level at Orange for our entire sojourn, MCI gets high marks all the way around.

So we read with great interest the c|net poll on whether cell phones should be allowed on airplanes, and thought back to the flights we have taken over the past few weeks.

We have no particular objection to the idea of cell phones on airplanes (golf courses, yes, but airplanes, no). We do have an objection to being forced to listen to someone arguing with her children over the idea of flying to somewhere other than their children's homes for three and a half hours, but that's another matter. We would be significantly more in favor of it if all wireless communications were equal; it seems to us that if people can make and receive cell phone calls (at presumably no extra charge) while traveling at 40,000 feet above ground then we should also be able to connect to the Internet for the same fees the airlines would charge for cell phones. Call that our vote for Net Neutrality -- but in our book, if you can create a series of tubes that can deliver voice to one person, you can create a series that can deliver data to any available port.

What bothers us much more is that the airlines don't enforce their own carry-on rules. It's one thing to haul a laptop bag onto a plane; it's another thing to haul a suitcase big enough for a week in Florida along with it. Check the damn thing, please -- and if you want to carry your laptop bag, that's the only one you get. Better yet: if you have one carry-on bag, then the normal security stuff is implemented (take the laptop out of the bag, and run it through the machine separately), but if you have that second carry-on, then you not only get your underwear rummaged through, but you get a pat-down search by a surly ex-WalMart greeter in a white shirt with patches and epaulets.

Of course, if the folks who attended a conference last week at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA, have their way, all of those annoyances will become a thing of the past. Our better half, whose knees set off the scanners every time, has often wondered why the airlines can't keep track so she isn't treated like an axe-murderer every time she flies.

Then there's the rule that says that ALL electronic equipment has to be turned off during take-offs and landings. We assume the rule is in place for a reason; presumably, it has to do with interference with the electronics on the plane. We think that if you can't abide by the rule, then your cell phone should be confiscated RIGHT NOW and stomped into pieces no more than half an inch square, PERIOD. There is NOTHING that you can do about anything when you are on a plane going 500 mph over the Utah desert, so there is no reason you should still be talking on the phone as the pilot is moving the plane away from the gate. The fact that you are having your assistant pick up your new Ford tomorrow (while you're somewhere else) is not a reason to put the rest of us ask risk. When they say "turn it off" they mean "turn it off -- NOW", not when you've finished reading yet another email that you can't respond to anyway.

Speaking of travels, we spent a lot of time in that part of the US known as the Heartland. Of particular note is the state of Iowa -- not known as a technological hotbed, but unique in our travels in that the roadside rests along the Interstate highways in that they all have free wireless Internet connections. Top that, California...

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Page Two: More News and Notes
Nata's Corner: Fixing your relatives' computers

woman in specticalsA study conducted in Denmark says that employees surfing the Internet are a bigger source of problems for company networks than emails, and after spending a few days looking at the stuff on my sister's computers, I would be willing to bet that the same is true about most home computers as well.

It all looks innocent enough: someone sees a banner ad for a new toolbar to "help" them search, or a cousin from somewhere sends a funny link, or a cousin thinks that screensaver is REALLY cute, and all of a sudden your sister's computer starts slowing down, or the monitor starts going blank, or your niece can't connect to the Internet at all.

So here's some advice to make your visits to your relatives a lot more enjoyable:

While I'm on the subject of threats, a study conducted by the Anti-Phishing Working Group has found that the number of brands that are exploited by phishing emails has more than doubled in the last year. Most of the emails mimic financial institutions, and almost a third of the phishing sites are in the US.

I've been back and forth on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger since he was elected; he does some things I like, and then he'll turn around and do something bone-headed. But he's moving back up the good guy list lately, because he has promised to sign a law that bans talking on cell phones while driving. The law allows "hands free" talking, won't go into effect until July 2008, and somehow, one of the cell phone companies managed to get "push to talk" exempted until 2011, but it's a start. Still, while the California Highway Patrol says that 775 accidents in 2004 were caused by people using cell phones, an insurance company study says that it's the cell phone conversations, and not the handheld sets, that cause the problem.

Inside the numbers
ameba, one of EE's prominent Experts, provides us with a list of newly earned Certificates. His list of all of the Certified Experts is located at his site. The list below covers the period from September 11 through September 25.
Expert Certified in Topic Area
jjafferr mpmccarthy cquinn Mr_Peerapol DireOrbAnt deroby regbes puranik_p nauman_ahmed TornadoV GaryFrancisLond mrichmon jjaqua allanau20 weichunglow joeposter649 CtrlAltDl SunBow busbar Callandor johnb6767 younghv garycase davexnet SysExpert callrs TedInAK mvan01 pD_EO geordie007 Genius Master Master Genius Wizard Guru Master Master Genius Guru Master Master Master Master Master Wizard Master Master Master Guru Master Master Master Master Master Wizard Guru Guru Master Master MS Access MS Access Visual Basic Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP ASP Networking Networking Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP JavaScript JavaScript JavaScript JavaScript JavaScript
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jensfiederer ivostoykov gregoryyoung Idle_Mind anyoneis jjoseph_x kjanicke vadim63 Mamtha1982 gladiatorno9 ElrondCT mastoo MacNuttin Ajay-Singh colr__ Jay_Jay70 MrManderson mpfister dooleydog binary_1001010 PeteLong Jay_Jay70 amit_g stormist bonmat86 ozo fostejo kode99 callrs MohanKNair Master Master Genius Wizard Master Master Master Guru Master Master Master Master Master Guru Master Genius Master Master Master Master Sage Wizard Master Master Master Guru Master Master Master Guru JavaScript JavaScript C# C# C# Exchange_Server Exchange_Server VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET Java Java Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Windows 2000 Windows 2000 PHP PHP PHP Programming Programming Hardware Hardware Oracle
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techji dbrunton lrmoore Raynard7 yodercm Tintin dragon-it SysExpert racek mjcoyne Steggs Dave_Dietz bk_jreinstein sunnycoder sjef_bosman ozo rpggamergirl keith_alabaster SysExpert nobus Callandor garycase rama_krishna580 Nukfror war1 ravenpl Gns simon_kirk Master Master Guru Master Master Master Master Master Master Guru Master Master Master Master Genius Guru Guru Sage Guru Wizard Wizard Wizard Master Guru Master Master Guru Wizard Oracle Operating Systems Microsoft Network PHP and Databases PHP and Databases Linux Applications Storage Mysql Perl CSS Windows Security Miscellaneous Miscellaneous Lotus Notes/Domino C Security Firewalls WinNT Net. Laptops/Notebooks Laptops/Notebooks Laptops/Notebooks Apache Solaris Modems Linux Security X-Windows DB Reporting
2333 experts have 3939 certifications: Genius: 114 Sage: 174 Wizard: 259 Guru: 704 Master: 2688
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