MAX 2005: Sneak Peeks (5:30pm, 18 October)

It was another disappointing Sneak Peeks. There was a time not so many years ago when the Sneaks consisted of something more than looks at already-released features, possible UI tweaks, and stuff you’ve probably already heard is in the works if you’ve paid any attention to newsgroups, mailing lists, or (in recent years) blogs.

So perhaps it was apropos that the “Code Hunter” theme for the 2005 Sneaks took its inspiration from a TV show that jumped the croc about the time the movie The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course came out over three years ago.

The Sneaks got underway with Captivate, and a statement that it would remove “the complexity of creating branded experiences.” Major new ability: export to Flash 8. Not too surprising, since it already exports SWFs.

Flex was up next. Macromedia’s partnership with Mercury was announced during one of the General sessions. Flex’s big “sneak” was a feature that enable Mercury’s automated testing tools to be used with Flex applications. In other words, a feature enhancement without which the already-announced partnership would be useless. Be still my beating heart.

One cool item — although not technically a sneak or even from Macromedia — came from James Kellik (sp?) of ESRI, a leading geographic information services company. Kellik showed a “next-generation mapping web service” that generates vector-based maps in SWF format, with features like auto-rotating labels and the ability to upload addresses in Excel-formatted files for mapping.

As I watched the Breeze sneak of a “collaborative journey from Australia to Anaheim,” in which the cursors of both collaborators appeared on map screens with identifiable tags, I wondered how long it would have taken to have written much the same thing with the Shockwave Multiuser Server.

The Flexbuilder application’s going to get a built-in RDS database browser similar to Dreamweaver’s. Also, a hot key that shows container heirarchy, and object browser editor window goodies.

Dreamweaver? JavaScript and XML interaction.

I didn’t write anything down for Contribute apart from the application name. Sue me.

I don’t have anything of significance to add to Tom Higgins’s Director Sneak, which was covered in a much more timely fashion by Gary Rosenzweig and on Macromedia DevNet. I do, however, have have a couple of photos.

Gary Rosenzweig, Chris Griffith, Mark Jonkman, and Mike Weiland in the Director ghetto of the Ballroom.

Tom Higgins demonstrating a preliminary version of the Flash 8 Xtra and its ability to move image data between Flash and Director with a version of Andrew Phelps’s fire demo that uses Flash’s image blurring on the flame bitmaps.

The obligatory Director-will-quit-execution now.

After Tom was off, the Flash team came up to describe the “most ambitous” remaking of ActionScript (again, something that was announced elsewhere). A “torture test” featuring 150 “boids” in a simulation showed a marked increase in speed — from about 4 to 15 fps — under the current version of the 8.5 Player, but I couldn’t help wondering how the same simulation done in Director would run. Nonetheless, I wish that some similar effort had been put into Director before so many of its engineering resources had gone away. With ActionScript 3, the Flash team has grafted an optimized language engine onto their Player as a foundation for the future and maintained backward-compatibility with the past.

Finally, some planned improvements in the mobile emulation engine were shown.

And that’s all I have to say about the Sneak Peeks.