Flash is one of the most important media formats in the history of personal computing. It will never be accused of being technologically advanced, resource-efficient, and optimally compatible across multiple versions and platforms, but undeniably Flash is the de facto animation standard on the Web. Tools to create Flash programs and animations have varied in depth of features and quality of operation, but nothing has ever been able to compete with the original Macromedia Flash development environment. Now in the hands of Adobe after its acquisition of Macromedia almost two years ago, Flash is finally alive and fully operating under a new corporate banner. Unlike previous releases, Flash Professional CS3 offers a number of must-have improvements, but it also has a larger number of marginal or meaningless enhancements, and the elimination of Flash’s 2D counterpart, FreeHand, is a huge negative point for veteran Flash developers and artists.
OpenBSD 4.1 was released on May 1 with its usual mix of new hardware support and enhanced operating system features. OpenBSD releases generally represent a large collection of small changes plus a few new administration and networking tools. Beyond the standard “many little changes,” the big news with 4.1 is a working native port of OpenOffice.org, the elimination of the Simtech StrongARM “cats” architecture from active development, and improved greylisting capabilities in the spamd spam filter.
It’s been more than 6 years since the last release of Microsoft’s Windows desktop operating system. In that time, the operating system market has changed dramatically. No longer are there simple, standard PCs — we now have tablets, handhelds, set-top boxes, and network appliances. We have low-end “email and Web” desktops, high-end gaming machines, and superpowered workstations. Having tested Windows Vista Ultimate Edition — the most aggressively-featured edition of Vista — I have to wonder if the Microsoft software engineers have been paying attention to any of these markets, because Vista, though an improvement over XP in many ways, doesn’t seem to fit into any of them. It performs poorly, has substandard software and hardware support, and is prohibitively expensive. That’s not to say that there’s nothing to like about Vista, but the negative outweighs the positive.
After making a lot of progress with Mandriva Linux 2007, I thought perhaps Mandriva had turned over a new leaf, and was using that release as a starting point for an overall better quality operating environment. I was totally wrong. Both the PowerPack Edition and Discovery/LX have slid so far back with version 2007.1 that I have serious doubts as to the future of Mandriva’s viability as a commercial desktop operating system. Though some small but noticeable bugs were fixed and all of the usual packages have been upgraded in this new release, so much important functionality has been removed from it — and new, more serious bugs introduced — that Mandriva Linux 2007.1 has no hope of competing with other recently-released desktop operating systems.
What started as a good, inexpensive word processor and later an equally good spreadsheet application has evolved into an office suite that rivals the low-end editions of Microsoft Office and Corel WordPerfect Office, while harrowing OpenOffice.org and StarOffice with better performance and Word document format compatibility. The TextMaker word processor and PlanMaker spreadsheet have been updated with new functionality, better compatibility with file formats from competing office suites, and better inter-program communication between both applications. It’s the best cross-platform (Windows, Linux, BSD, Windows Mobile) office suite I’ve yet used.
Sending large quantities of files over the Internet can prove to be a challenge, particularly when you’ve got many megabytes worth of photos from your recent family reunion and many aunts and uncles (as well as Grandma) awaiting their arrival via email! Sure, maybe you could attach some of this content to an email from your regular email client, but even if you’ve got the patience to upload each image one at a time, how many of your family members will actually be able to receive a digital package of that size? Just before this realization led me to start burning DVD’s and prepare for a mass delivery throughout the United States and abroad, along came Tirminal.
Many changes have gone into the SUSE Linux operating system since version 10.1, including a name change: the entire operating system is now known only as openSUSE. All of those changes appear to have been for the better — openSUSE 10.2 is as great a release as 10 was — but despite the improvements and bug fixes, there are still several underlying problems that prevent openSUSE 10.2 from being competitive with commercial desktop operating systems. As far as free (of charge) operating environments are concerned, openSUSE is among the best. It’s also comprised mostly of free (of licensing restrictions) software, but it’s neither free enough to be totally restriction-free, nor proprietary enough to be maximally useful.
For several years, Win4Lin has offered a virtual operating environment whereby you can run Microsoft Windows inside of GNU/Linux. The first several generations of Win4Lin were limited to Windows 98, difficult to install, and had requirements that were difficult to satisfy, such as a proprietary kernel module and various acts of command line kung fu. Version 3.5 still has some of these problems, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be.
As an experienced writer, I can say with certainty that it is difficult to keep track of all of the various aspects of a fiction novel. I’ve known other writers who use various gimmicks and techniques to remind them of events, story elements, and character progression. I’ve used index cards pinned to a corkboard above my desk, and a notes file open in a separate tab of my word processor window to keep track of odds and ends in a story. When I first reviewed NewNovelist several years ago when it was in its 1.1 release (the review is no longer online), I said that it was a valuable tool for fiction authors, but wasn’t all that it could be. Now in version 2.0, NewNovelist has seen a gigantic overhaul, now including nearly all of the suggestions I’d originally made. Can there be a more useful software tool for fiction writers?
Dreamweaver is the world’s best-known and most technologically advanced WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) Web design and development tool. Unfortunately for Adobe, the Web development market has exploded in two different directions, neither of which require a tool like Dreamweaver. On the low end, people use blogging software and content management systems; and on the high end, Web developers are working with complex logic in non-traditional Web languages to create dynamic sites. Though Dreamweaver can be made to work with either approach on a limited basis, there are other, cheaper, more task-appropriate tools on the market, leaving Dreamweaver as a relic of the static site era. With a market challenge of this proportion, Dreamweaver CS3 had to be an impressive new release with innovative, must-have features. For the most part, it has not met that requirement.
If you’re a software enthusiast who has never used OpenBSD before, you might enjoy installing it by yourself and figuring it out as you go. If, however, you’re looking for a more practical approach to using OpenBSD 4.2 on a desktop or server machine, here’s a quick guide to get you started in this spectacular operating system.
Among vector drawing programs, Illustrator has traditionally had a dominant market position, in no small part because of its Adobe brand name. Unfortunately for Adobe, vector drawing programs are easy to create, and the market now offers several Illustrator competitors on a variety of different platforms. In an effort to focus sales on Illustrator, Adobe killed off its recently acquired (and popular) FreeHand product, but to FreeHand fanatics, Illustrator is no replacement. Being under attack from all sides from free and inexpensive alternatives and FreeHand non-defectors, Illustrator CS3 really needed to be an amazing new release with important features and outstanding FreeHand-replacement functionality. It still is no replacement for FreeHand for Web graphics, but unlike the majority of its Creative Suite 3 counterparts, Illustrator has succeeded in adding important new features and making itself a must-have upgrade for graphic designers.
The good news about Fireworks CS3 is, it’s still the best tool for designing Web graphics and for rapid site prototyping. But like nearly every other Adobe product in the Creative Suite 3 series, it just doesn’t offer enough new features to justify the high cost of upgrading.