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The nuts and bolts for
Creative web development

Verisign removes "SiteFinder"

We reported in our newsletter a week ago that verisign were routeing all browser requests for non-existent .com and .net domain names to their pay-to-list "search engine" that broke spam filters etc. Fortunately, they've now been told to remove it by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). A victory for common sense.

October 6, 2003 Author: Ian Blackham

Free Accessibiliy kit, speech synthesiser for Linux

Allan Kent, DMXzone Flash and PHP tutorial author, found Skipper at Sourceforge (the place to be if you're into OpenSource stuff, and not only for Linux - much of it has Windows versions too).

Skipper allows you to build very cheap sensors, has a program to translate body movements picked up by those sensors into controls for programs, provides word predictors, dictionaries etc, and interacts with screenreaders. And it's free!

Skipper is a free package for Linux that:

  • Describes simple sensors that can be built at home, or re-used from other applications, to enable people with severely limited or involuntary movements to signal to a PC - for about $15!
  • Interprets each user's available movements uniquely to make the best use of them, and translates the signals into full keyboard and mouse control.
  • Provides word predictors, specialist on-screen keyboard layouts for a variety of user abilities, specialist on-screen menus for application control, user definable phrase books, an interface to the free Festival voice synthesiser, and many other features to make full access to all the resources of the PC and Internet a practical reality.
  • Reads to the user! People who have had impaired movement from birth often have limited reading skills, because they never had a chance to learn. So there's a program that uses Festival to read electronic books from Project Gutenberg to the user, and highlight each sentence as it reads it out. (That's the way most people learned to read - now everyone who needs one can have a retired office computer to read to them.)

The "manifesto" is also brilliant.

October 2, 2003 Author: Ian Blackham

CS vs MX: Adobe release new integrated suite

Today, Adobe announced their new "CS" bundle (Creative Suite). The standard version (estimated at $999, or $599 if upgrading from Photoshop) bundles Photoshop CS, Illustrator CS and InDesign CS. The pro edition ($1299 or $749 if upgrading) has GoLive CS and the Acrobat PDF authoring tool.

We hear good reports of GoLive; the other Adobe tools have significant upgrades, and the CS suite comes with a useful new file browsing system called Version Cue. Could this be why Macromedia was so anxious to get MX 2004 out of the door?

September 30, 2003 Author: Ian Blackham

Net guru peers into web's future

The inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, outlines his ideas for a more "intelligent" web in an interview with the BBC programme, Go Digital.

Go Digital: The worldwide web (WWW) transformed the internet from an academic reference tool to an everyday source of information as useful and almost as easy to use as the telephone.

Tim, take us back to the time when the web was little more than a twinkle in your eye. At the time, what dreams did you have for it and did you ever imagine that it would take off in the way it did?

September 26, 2003 Author: George Petrov

Microsoft to close European chatrooms

As cases of child abuse rocket, the Microsoft Network, MSN, is to close its chatrooms in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and most of Asia from 14 October. American chatrooms will be accessible by credit-card subscription only. More at The Guardian. The BBC reports some worrying facts from Cyberspace Research Centre:

  • One in five children aged nine to 16 regularly use chatrooms
  • More than half have engaged in sex chat
  • A quarter have received requests to meet face-to-face
  • One in 10 had met face-to-face

As a parent and ex-teacher, I'm glad that  MSN wants to help protect its users - but at first, this total closure seemed like an over-reaction to me.  But then I considered that there are parents out there so lazy or irresponsible that they allow nine year olds to chat or surf the Web unsupervised. If the parents aren't willing to parent their kids, it falls to the chat room provider to do it, however much it smacks of censorship. (Bruce Lawson)

What do you think?


September 24, 2003 Author: Ian Blackham

New virus preys on old IE flaw!

The worm is programmed to send an official-looking e-mail that says it contains a "cumulative patch" for several Internet Explorer, Outlook and Outlook Express vulnerabilities.

A Microsoft representative noted that the software maker does not send out patches as e-mail attachments.

September 19, 2003 Author: George Petrov