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June 30, 2003

Update on Cover to Cover

There is hope!

Check out the story in today's Chronicle:
This is the story of a San Francisco neighborhood and of what happens when people who love books band together

When the group picture was taken, Peter announced that $100,000 has been raised to save the bookstore.

Colorblind web page filter

Enter the address of a web page, and this Colorblind Web Page Filter will simulate what it may look like to a person with color challenged vision.

Currently, it doesn't process Flash files. I'm curious what would be involved in offering the same service for Flash, including Flash files embedded within an HTML document.

PDF In Blog Aggregators?

When I browse a blog aggregator, I have certain expectations. There's generally a topic involved. But more basic than that, I expect links to web based file formats, not a direct link to a pdf. While the pdf format has it's purpose, blogging really shouldn't be one of them. Launching the plug-in brings the browsing experience to a halt and reminds one of why the Flash player is so great (you don't notice the player itself).

Imagine you're sitting at the table with your first cup of coffee, and the newspaper. A headline catches your eye, and you start reading the article. This one's particularly interesting, so instead of skipping to the next story on the page, you go to page A12. But just as your leafing through the pages, Harry Potter turns your newspaper into a dvd. Rather inconvenient.

Instead of linking directly to pdf files, why not set up a blog for summaries of the content of those files?

June 29, 2003

Jellyfish Extended

Since it's summer, and lots of folks are on vacation, we've extended the Jellyfish Flash Challenge deadline to August 4th.

June Jellyfish! GalaxyGoo Flash Challenge

We're Back

After a few days of downtime for the blog, we're back. We had some trouble upgrading movable type: mainly had to get rid of formatting characters in the cgi files.

June 25, 2003

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Working Draft

The W3C has published it's working draft for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.

After a quick glance, I can't help but think that with Flash breaking out of the browser, we should pay close attention to guidlines on functionality: keep it operable through a keyboard or a keyboard interface.

--Via :: CFOOP :: Object Oriented ColdFusion)

Gibson: meaning depends on context

I try to avoid quoting out of context, but this one is just too beautiful to pass by:

Regardless of the number and power of the tools used to extract patterns from information, any sense of meaning depends on context, with interpretation coming along in support of one agenda or another. ~William Gibson, The Road to Oceania

Mathematica 5 Announced

According to Wolfram Research, makers of Mathematica,

"One of the most significant releases to date, Mathematica 5
offers dramatic speed increases for numerical calculations while
extending symbolic capabilities, providing enhanced optimization
and connectivity, and adding a host of other innovative
features. These improvements take Mathematica to a new level of
capability, with unparalleled speed, scope, and scalability.

I, for one, am looking forward to it's arrival...some time in the next few weeks. At that time, we'll upgrade both the Mathematica kernel and the webMathematica servlets on our server.

June 24, 2003

Blog Categories and Aggregators

Do you blog? Aggregate? Do you use secondary categories?

In an effort to keep our own posts organized by topic, we've tried additional blogs, multiple and secondary categories. We can get things somewhat organized locally, but what about aggregators seeking relevance?

June 23, 2003

Color-Challenged in Flash: a simulation with red and green

A little searching around led me to this great lookup table of how the browser safe palette may be perceived with different types of vision

Here's a quick exploration of how this might be modeled in flash:

7 jelly flash days remain

Seven days left to enter the June Flash Challenge: Jellyfish!


June 18, 2003

Collaboration Tools for GalaxyGoo

The collaboration tools Mike and I have been working on, are almost ready for testing by GalaxyGoo members. The tools include an integrated system with user login, project description and team members, personalized task lists and simple discussion forums. All done with ColdFusion.

If you've got some time folks, we could use some help bug hunting and brainstorming new features to add. Drop me a note.

June 16, 2003


Oboy ... another programming language to learn!

Do you want a robust math calculator onboard, but you just can't seem to find the $2,000+ needed to purchase Mathematica? PARI/GP to the rescue ... and, as a bonus, you can now crunch those numbers 5-100 times faster than with Mathematica (depending on the function)!

My newest book on the shelf, The Algorithm Design Manual, provided the spark to this flame, by including a copy of an older version of PARI/GP on the CD, circa 1993, to be compiled in C. Now, I stumble trying to compile C/C++ programs (self-taught in computereze, I'm afraid!). I read the docs, but I immediately went into 'Confuse-A-Cat++' mode ... then I found the present home link for PARI/GP development in the readMe.txt. I explored the downloads available, and found that the latest alpha (Sept. 17, 2002, v2.2.6) has been packaged in a Win32 .exe ... I love Windows! Point, click, and mathify your world!

There's terrific documentation, as well as a 46-page tutorial.pdf to get you rolling ... the syntax is quite similar to Mathematica, which is a relief, but the UI is presently DOS command. I skimmed the docs and noticed a section pertaining to UI development, but that's for later! I can't get over the power that's available ... type in '\p 1000' (for precision to 1000 digits!), then your favorite function, and watch the sigdigs flow!

PARI/GP home

June 13, 2003

Monday's Poster #8

This Sunday, the 84th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Pacific Division begins in San Francisco. I'll be presenting a poster on Monday, for GalaxyGoo. If you go to Monday's poster session, stop by poster #8 and say hello. The poster sessions are in Room 153, Creative Arts Complex, of San Francisco State University.

Accessible color in flash

While researching for a presentation on communicating science and math online, I started thinking about color and accessibility. Science and math are highly visual and color is an essential part of scientific communication. Something as simple as a liquid changing color, indicates that a chemical reaction has run it's course. In science illustration, color is used to highlight aspects in a complex diagram or to indicate difference between two very similar structures.

But when designing to accommodate an audience that includes people with some degree of color-blindness, the use of color gets a little complicated. I've been toying with the idea of an accessibility "style sheet" for color in Flash--to use dynamic definitions of color for all elements in a swf file. It's good practice to define your colors dynamically, but a little extra effort could greatly increase usability of color.

Some pseudo code:

// create object to hold color values
colorStyles = new Object();
colorStyles.blue1 = 0x0000FF;
colorStyles.red1 = 0xFF0000;
colorStyles.green1 = 0x00FF00;

//assign color to an element in the animation:
ball.color = colorStyles.blue1;

If the end-user has red-green color blindness, then they could use an alternate color style that would highlight elements with color, in a meaningful way. An alternate color-style could be used to redefine all colors defined in the original color-style.

This is fine, in theory, but how would we implement the color style with user control? Is anyone out there working on this?

June 12, 2003

Flash and Java: Silver and Gold?

"Make new friends, but keep the old..."

It's time for me to get out the oil can, turn long neglected mental gears, and start working with Java again. Keeping Flash for the client and refocusing on Java...on the server.

While Macromedia's description of "Royale" is cryptic, perhaps it hints at server-side generation of swf files. They've already got an engine that converts power-point presentation into swf (Breeze). The mind can race through possibilities. My first thought is servlets that dynamically generate flash files for simulations..perhaps even for biochemistry or metabolism models.

Who knows when we'll see the code name "Royale" replaced by a product name? In the mean time, check out the Macromedia - Royale Initiative.

June 11, 2003

June Jellyfish! GalaxyGoo Flash Challenge

It's time for another friendly competition. June's Flash challenge theme is Jellyfish!


This time around the prizes are The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature, by Phillip Ball; and Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel (yep, I really like this book, and I want to share it with as many folks as I can).

Deadline to upload your entry is June 30th, 2003.

--Original post date: 2003-06-02

A Great Week!

Some weeks just go better than others. So far, this has been a really great one.

Monday, was lunch with Jared Tarbell. He's one of my hero's, in the Flash world, and it was a rare treat to talk geek together. This was definitely the highlight of the week.

Tuesday, the new version of webMathematica was delivered. Now I have to get it to Mike, so he can install it on the math server.

Today, galaxygoo blog is listed on the Macromedia XML News Aggregator. If you'd like to get your blog listed, instructions for suggesting a blog are listed on the FAQ page.

June 10, 2003

Sharing Knowledge

What motivates teachers to share? For that matter, what motivates anyone to share intellectual assets? Selfless generosity? Not usually, but through GalaxyGoo, I've met some truly generous minds. They share for varied reasons, but the dominant has been that they like the idea of GalaxyGoo and the company they join.

June 05, 2003

Farewell to Cover to Cover Booksellers

Noe Valley is a community...a small town in the middle of a cosmopolitan city -- a community that contributes to San Francisco's rank of highest spending (per capita) on booze and books. We have great wine shops, and great independent bookstores. But at the end of this month, one of our precious bookstores (Cover to Cover booksellers), will sell its last book. Personally, I am devastated by the news.

In case you are curious, this is the bookstore that GalaxyGoo was going to partner with for selling books online.

Update (June 11, 2003):

There is movement, in the neighborhood, to try and save Cover to Cover from closing. It's early, but I have hope.

June 04, 2003

Breeze: powerpoint to flash and more

I've been curious about Macromedia's Breeze, but haven't had the time to investigate it. This morning, I had the pleasure of visiting the mother ship for a "Breeze Briefing", and now have a better understanding of what it is and what it does. Basically, it's a plug-in for Power Point that preps the presentation for an engine on the server that converts the file to Flash. It also has content and learning management features.

What about the technical side? Once on the server, the power point content is extracted and converted into an XML based swf file. The meat of the application is server-side. For the author, it turns power point into a Flash authoring environment.

The academic discount is pretty good, and I can see this being very useful to schools and universities. When MathML/Flash tools become well developed, they'd make Breeze a great tool for communicating science and math topics. Especially since any flash file can be embedded in the power point slides.

June 02, 2003

AAAS Pacific Division Meeting

Currently, my favorite type of presentation is the poster session. While presenting a talk is also rewarding, it provides little opportunity to speak with individuals at the conference. The poster session, however, is more socially interactive.

Before entering the presentation hall, attendees may review the program, and mark the titles that interest them. With this in hand, they can browse the posters, stopping to chat when so inclined. The actual presentation, when done well, can be read quickly and makes good use of visual elements. As a presenter, my bonus is a steady stream of interesting people seeking information about my work and the opportunity to speak with me.

On Monday, June 16th, I'll be presenting a poster at the 84th Annual meeting of the AAAS Pacific Division. The session runs from 9am to 5pm.