Harry the Head Is Dead

On Friday, I heard through Roger Jones of Throbbing Media that one of the biggest names from the early days of Director development, Jim Ludtke, had died.

Ludtke was a pioneer in many ways. His work was not only rich and complex, but it was incredibly strange, as well. His association with the band The Residents led to one of the most memorable CD-ROM projects ever, the 1992 3D environment/art gallery/avant-garde rock experience called “Freak Show”. For a couple of years, it was difficult to pick up an issue of “WIRED” or any other multimedia-oriented publication without running into a reference to Jim Ludtke.

He did amazing things with 3D back when that was a far more complex task than it is now. I’m sorry to see him go.

Scripting Xtras Updates

Developer Valentin Schmidt has freeware scripting Xtras for Windows that do things like create PDF files, manipulate MP3s, and more. He announced on DIRECT-L that he’s made some modifications to them for DMX2004 compatibility and they’re available for download.


I’ve always been a fan of the homage — or parody.

Listening to the bumpers between stories on NPR can often be enlightening. I just about burst out laughing when I heard the Youngblood Brass Band’s “Pastime Paradise”, a horn piece incorporating the theme of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” (I hope he doesn’t get as mad at them as he did at Wierd Al for “Amish Paradise”). You’ll hear the chorus come up about a minute in. They’re going to be in Europe most of April and May.

For the eyes, check out “Good bye, Lenin”, a rather touching yet pretty funny film about a son’s dedication to his mother. The trailer tells you pretty much what you need to know. There are a couple of Kubrick references, some Fellini, and other stuff I don’t know, I’m sure.

Flash Lockdown

In a DIRECT-L post Tuesday (titled “FlashMX2004 List + DMX2004 = FREEZE”), John Mathis of Inplicity documents 11 steps to lock up Director on Windows:

  1. Open Flash MX2004, create a new flash document.
  2. Drag a List component out a List component.
  3. Populate the List component manually with 5-6 items.
  4. Adjust the size of the List box. Just make it a bit bigger.
  5. Export a SWF file.
  6. Open Director MX2004…create a new movie.
  7. Import the test swf file & place it on the stage.
  8. Play the movie. Click line items & observe that it works fine.
  9. Stop the movie, and set the sprite to Background Transparent.
  10. Play the movie.
  11. Click line items and the system becomes unresponsive.

John’s results were on a Windows XP system. I was able to reproduce on Windows 2000 Server in both authoring and in a projector. Bizarrely — considering the Flash playback issues on the Mac in general — OS X seems unaffected.

Morph Demo

Anton-Pieter van Grootel wrote to the Director 3D list that he had a demo movie of a morphing terrain mesh. Peter Bochan has graciously posted it on his site for public consumption.

Drag the model to view it from different angles. Choose a new terrain by clicking on one of the images at the bottom.

Director OS X Field Ink Bug

Andrew Keplinger of Left Brain Games reports an easily-reproducible bug in Director MX 2004 with text fields under Mac OS X.

Basically, if you use the Darkest, Lightest, or Blend inks on a text field sprite, the visual display is garbled and stretched horizontally as in the image above (the lower sprite uses the Normal ink, the upper uses Blend.

Gretchen Macdowell of updatestage verified that this is not an authoring-only issue — it happens in projectors as well. And I, well, I found it in Director MX. No verified sightings under Windows or OS 9.

To find it for yourself, try these steps.

  1. Create a text field with at least a few characters in it (that’s text field, not a text cast member).
  2. Put the field on the Stage or in the Score.
  3. Set the text field sprite ink to Darkest, Lightest, or Blend (Darken and Lighten don’t cause any problem).

Index We Trust

In the spring of 1996, when I was writing my first book and the Web was young, I posed a question in WIRED magazine: “How are we going to find stuff?” Particularly, how are we going to be able to search multimedia formats like Java applets, PDF files, and Shockwave movies? (Flash movies hadn’t made their appearance yet.)

Within a couple of years of my brief article, the better search engines had incorporated PDF parsing engines. For most other formats, the answer was to use meta tags in the headers of the enclosing HTML document that contained text for search engines to index. But — depending on who you talk to &mdash meta tags are obsolete, and their content is no longer indexed by Google or any of the remaining major search engines.

I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve always thought the various people selling their “services” to “tune” your web site and get it ranked higher on search engines were a fraud, precisely because much smarter people at companies like Google worked to make their systems more efficient and less prone to “gaming”.

But the question remains (and came up in a DIRECT-L thread titled “dcr, swf and google” initiated by Quixadá) of just how we can easily get text from our DCR and SWF movies into the memory banks.

Now Where’d I Put that Application Data?

Daniel Plaenitz writes today on DIRECT-L (in a message titled “DMX2004 windows appData path quirk”) that DMX2004 uses a hard-coded (English-language) path to place the configuration settings, rather than determining from the system where the appropriate place would be in localized Windows systems. (He doesn’t address the Mac version.) His concern is that other modules use the correct path, e.g. the activation module. Good detective work, Daniel!

Eternal Darkness of the Spotless Mind

Doesn’t anyone at the White House read? Or have they been using the Lacuna device?

Former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke went on “60 Minutes” last night and described the Bush response to 9/11 as “botched”. In his efforts to discredit Clarke, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan questioned why Clarke is only now bringing the matter up, asking
“If Dick Clarke had such grave concerns, why wait so long?”

I know Ari Fleischer was the press secretary in the summer of 2002, but McClellan must have been living in a political hole to have missed “Could 9/11 Have Been Prevented?”. It was just the COVER STORY IN TIME MAGAZINE for August 4, 2002, less than a year after the attacks. It’s full of stories about Clarke’s attempts to clue the Administration to the problem, like this one describing a meeting a couple of months after Bush took office:

By now, Clarke’s famously short fuse was giving off sparks. A participant at one of the meetings paraphrases Clarke’s attitude this way: “These people are trying to kill us. I could give a f___ if Musharraf was democratically elected. What I do care about is Pakistan’s support for the Taliban and turning a blind eye to this terrorist cancer growing in their neighbor’s backyard.”

Vice President Dick Cheney told Rush Limbaugh (also referenced in the CNN article) that Clarke doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he “wasn’t in the loop” on major decisions. Let’s examine that for a second. Either Cheney’s telling a lie in an effort to deflect Clarke’s rather damning accusations, or he’s telling the truth, and the adminstration was making their decisions on how to combat terrorism without consulting their counterterrorism chief. Not a good set of options.