May 11, 2009

Monday Adobe news bits: NYT Reader, “Clean” font, & more

  • The New York Times has ditched Microsoft’s WPF technology and has introduced Times Reader 2.0 a 2.4MB Adobe AIR application. The app downloads & displays the entire day’s Times (including an interactive version of the crossword), so you can carry it wherever you go (e.g. planes, trains). Here’s a quick demo plus the download link. [Via]
  • Adobe is getting a new corporate typeface that you’ll be seeing in future product updates. Clean (screenshot), designed by Robert Slimbach, is already used in the two-character application icons. (“PS,” etc.) [Via]
  • Samsung’s new LED flat-screen TV has Flash support built in, enabling developers to deliver richly interactive content on these screens. I’m not sure about streaming HD video, but Adobe’s Digital Home announcement at NAB last month talked about embedding Flash for that purpose. (Flash Player PM Justin Everett-Church recently bought a Samsung TV and discovered that the TV’s documentation ships as SWFs on a USB memory stick.) [Via Mayank Kumar]
Posted by John Nack at 9:38 AM on May 11, 2009


  • Brandon — 10:32 AM on May 11, 2009

    Urgh, I liked the WPF reader.
    [That’s fine. AFAIK you don’t lose anything with the new one. –J.]
    I refuse to install Adobe Air on principle. It gets installed without my knowledge.
    [What do you mean? You can download AIR and install it, or you can install it with various Creative Suite apps (in which case it’s presented as an option during installation). Adobe Reader includes AIR by default in its download package, but it tells you it’s doing so. I don’t know offhand whether it gives you a choice about whether to install AIR.
    In any event AIR is just a runtime (like the Flash Player). It doesn’t do anything on its own, and every time you install an AIR app, you’re prompted about whether you want to proceed. Therefore I’m just not seeing the basis for your complaint.
    And by the way, if AIR got installed without your knowledge, how could you refuse to install it? –J.]
    Why do we have to have so many applications just to run applications. Java, Flash, Silverlight, WPF, Air, .NET……
    [Is competition a bad thing? Are any of these costing you money? –J.]
    It has to stop. Naturally everyone thinks their technology is the best, and rightfully so. But why can’t developers just use native platforms built into the OS?
    [Uhh… because developers want to write software that can run in many places? I mean, why not require people to platform-specific versions of each Web page?
    “Rich” (deep interaction with a platform) and “reach” (running in more places) both matter. AIR isn’t right for every app, and it isn’t trying to be. It’s trying to help developers bring their work to more customers, across platform boundaries. That translates into more apps for more people. –J.]

  • Brandon — 11:16 AM on May 11, 2009

    The fonts and or text clairity in AIR is notably worse than the WPF app. One would think that would be important for an app that is meant to display text. Cleartype seems to affect apps differently.
    I find nothing wrong with developing multiple applications for multiple platforms.
    [Are you a software developer? Even if not, when you do any work, do you prefer to do it once or to do the same task over and over? Do you like creating parallel sets of documentation, training, etc.? –J.]
    Skype does it. There does not need to be a unified experience, but an experience that best fits that platform.
    [Let’s take the example at hand. How would the NYT Reader better fit a platform (which?) by differing? Do you mean, “If there are Aqua scrollbars & buttons in my Finder, then anything that doesn’t have Aqua scrollbars & buttons is bad”? And if so, please tell the iLife teams (not to mention the Final Cut Studio guys).
    What platform integration, specifically, are you missing in the NYT Reader app? Do you think it would work better with a bunch of Core Animation dropped onto it? (One could of course add all kinds of that stuff via Flash/Pixel Bender, but presumably the developers though it unnecessary for the task of reading a newspaper.) –J.]
    AIR will never be deployed to my enterprise computers, so hopefully the few people who like the times reader will be able to use the old version.
    [You’re of course welcome to install/not install whatever you’d like, but you’ve still failed to cite a single valid reason that AIR is a bad thing. (Your earlier objection apparently stemmed from misinformation.) –J.]

  • Emanuele Cipolloni — 2:28 PM on May 11, 2009

    Let’s see if this reason is valid enough:
    the minute (the second actually) I launch the reader, both fans on my MBP start to spin like I’m using it in the desert and memory usage goes to 300MB to display some badly rendered text (and some unexpected banners, but that’s not AIR fault, I guess).
    It is difficult that I’m going to this while traveling and not connected. What surprise me, is that processor(s) load stays constant even when I’m using actually not scrolling or touching the app in anyway and the NYT reader is the only running application. In a situation where we encourage people to use technologies that consumes less power, this seems a step in wrong direction.

  • Murrey Walker — 3:03 PM on May 11, 2009

    While the technology of the Reader makes some sense, the vehicle used to introduce it (the NY Times), is questionable at best. The viability of the NYT is shaky as is the entire industry.
    Will be interesting to see if this app has strong and lasting legs.

  • mex webdev — 3:11 PM on May 11, 2009

    I prefer Jquery or Cappuchino for cross platform concerns. AIR is not open source, and it consumes the hell out of a mac resources (don´t know about linux, but i guess it´s not good either) and I also prefer going open w3c standards as well. Long live the semantic web!

  • Jim Pogozelski — 3:39 PM on May 11, 2009

    Isn’t my New York Times iPhone app already a New York Times reader?
    I’m OK with Air — it’s cross-everything and easy to make front end stuff for. I consider it a flavor of Flash (although I probably don’t know what I’m talking about). But like Brandon says, there’s too much of this multi-media “platform” stuff to keep track of (I refuse to install Silverlight).
    It’s not all about costing you money (as JN says). It’s the easy-to-annoying ratio. Must I install a Kindle plugin in 2010 next?

  • Mark Thomas — 4:35 PM on May 11, 2009

    I tend to dislike cross-platform runtimes since the apps always look and behave strangely. I consider the Adobe Media Player to be a kind of abomination in this regard. This Times Reader, however, is simple and easy to use and seems to work well. It even looks nice in a relative sense. However, I have a few gripes. The first is that the Mac version half-heartedly tries, and of course fails, to look like a native Mac app. If you’re going to do this, do it right. Because of the shade of gray used for the window title bar, the app looks like it’s in the background when it’s in the foreground, and the drop shadow is some kind of hack that isn’t smooth (doesn’t anybody at Adobe know how to use Photoshop?!) like a true OS X drop shadow. In fact, judging by the way it prevents the window from expanding to the perimeter of the dock, I’d guess that the drop shadow is actually a part of the window itself. It’s clearly a hack. So on the one hand I like that some attempt was made to make the Times Reader fit into the OS. On the other hand, because of inherent limitations in the way AIR works, it seems as if AIR apps will always look and feel and function like non-native alien oddballs, which is not a characteristic I tend to look for in software.
    That being said, functionally it’s well done. But there’s something about it that still seems like Java to me, and we all know how that turned out.

  • ValkyrieStudio — 6:35 PM on May 11, 2009

    Wow, lotta controversy on the AIR stuff. Think I’ll focus on the rest…
    I like the Clean typeface. Always have, so it’ll be nice to see this when it’s fully in use. You’ve got guts re-posting the wheel o’ icons though – I remember the “constructive criticism” that erupted when that was revealed. Bad memories… despite the fact that the wheel was the best way of showing why the new icons worked.
    I first saw that TV a couple weeks ago at Best Buy, and I fell in love with it. Mostly for the picture, design and anorexically-thin case. I’ve seen you talk about this kind of integration before, and while I’m not totally sold on it (as in, technically, it’s impressive, but I’m not quite sure the real-world implications or what I personally would use it for), I’ll definitely be watching to see where it goes.

  • Mark Thomas — 9:03 PM on May 11, 2009

    Why do we have to have so many applications just to run applications. Java, Flash, Silverlight, WPF, Air, .NET……
    I understand the annoyance. It’s the usual problem wherein complexity is “solved” by increasing complexity. In this case, the problem is having to write software for multiple platforms. Obviously there’s a lot of redundant duplication of effort when software is written properly and natively for multiple platforms — which is what users want developers to do — but things like Java and Silverlight and AIR are attempts to solve the problem of having to support multiple platforms…by creating yet another platform!
    [I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Is the Web a platform? Is it many platforms (HTML, JavaScript, plug-ins, etc.) rolled into one? AIR strikes me as not so much a new platform as an extension of an existing one–namely, the Flash Platform (which already exists in Web browsers & on devices). –J.]
    I don’t want my computer to become a window into which lots of bozo runtimes are dumped so that I can run goofy apps which behave strangely.
    I wish Adobe would spend all this Flash and AIR effort on making better, truly native software. Like they used to.
    [Quel dommage. –J.]

  • Daemon — 3:16 AM on May 12, 2009

    Look at all those people bitching about irrelevant things.
    Do you know your Browser is a platform that developers use to deliver content?
    Do you know Windows/Mac is a platform that developers use to deliver content?
    What is the difference between AIR and Firefox? Logically speaking – there is none. They are both engines that interpret other people’s work, and display them.
    If we go into details, AIR is even less obtrusive, since it just sits and does nothing unless app needs it, it silently updates, does not require tons of addons and plugins, etc…
    “Bozo runtimes” – what kind of statement is that? Yes, i will not install “this-is-not-a-virus.exe” that promises to deliver thousands of free movies and pictures, but AIR from a trusted source such as Adobe … seriously. Why do you even visit this blog if you think that AIR is Bozo runtime?

  • Mark Thomas — 4:48 PM on May 12, 2009

    Is the Web a platform?
    The web is supposed to be platform agnostic. Unfortunately, almost since its inception a series of corporations have been attempting to subvert this. Microsoft is the main culprit, but Netscape arguably did it first with Navigator and its proprietary HTML extensions.
    I personally find it very annoying when I follow a link and the website has to start up like an OS. Most of the time I just close the window and never come back.
    [Presumably you consider QuickTime objectionable, despite its corporate parentage. (QT was of course supposed to be far more than a simple movie player.) –J.]

  • Dr.Feinberg — 8:26 PM on May 12, 2009

    AIR is not bad, it just does not feel right. It is clear the my feeling is not unique. We do not need all these runtimes and applications that feel non native. Users are quite sensetive to how an app behaves or feels.
    AIR and Java applications are quite out of place in Windows (with the exception of Vuze).
    I hope you pass this on John, let the people in charge know we want applications that feel native, and produce easy readable fonts. WPF had much better font rendering than this AIR app. If Adobe can compete in the native feel area, they got a winner.

  • Thorf — 10:15 PM on May 12, 2009

    Regarding the wheel of icons – wow, I had no idea there was such a backlash to the new icons. I’ve always rather liked them.
    Looking through the old thread announcing the icons, I have to say I came away with the impression that there are a lot of people willing to state their opinions as categorical fact. Perhaps it’s just that I’m not exposed to that level of criticism on a daily basis, but I’m used to a lot more tact and politeness than I saw in that thread.
    John, you’re an absolute saint for putting up with all that on an almost daily basis. I hope it helps to know that there are people out there who really appreciate what you’re doing too, even if we’re not always quite so vocal about it. ;-)
    [Heh—thanks, Thorf. :-) –J.]

  • Tom — 10:00 AM on May 14, 2009

    AIR is installed along with Adobe Reader, without giving the user a choice. It is, however, uninstallable individually.
    John is evidently unaware of how strong feelings are in the Windows world against programs that install crap on your computer without your permission. For example, he responds to the third comment by tossing out the example of QuickTime. Evidently, he thought the user was an Apple user (which is ambiguous from the comment), and threw in a quick poke at Adobe’s bosum-buddy Apple (“despite its corporate parentage”).
    This is a richly ironic example, because, if you follow the Windows community at all, you will know that QuickTime is *notorious* as one of the most-hated applications on Windows. People have come up with hacks to play QuickTime videos without installing QuickTime, just so they can *avoid* having to install it. Apple has earned a reputation just behind Intuit as one of the most clueless, in-your face, poorly-behaving software developers on the Windows platform.
    Better to be feared than loved? Maybe. But Adobe is playing a dangerous game by building up an AIR installed base through Adobe Reader. Search “disable Adobe Drive CS4” for a preview. When you install CS4 on Windows and uncheck Adobe Drive, the context menu gets added anyway. And users are absolutely *furious*. As they should be.

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