bingshui.org

the Life of Zim

30th April
2010
written by dzimney

Yesterday, Steve Jobs made a post on Apple’s website regarding his Thoughts on Flash. The article lists six reasons why Adobe’s Flash is not and will not be made available on the iPhone/iPad platform. His reasons are misleading. His logic is murky at best. To a common iPhone or iPad user they may seem, well reasonable. However, to someone with a deeper knowledge of the technologies he addresses, most of what he says is simply false.

“Frist, there’s ‘Open’.”

Jobs claims, “by almost any definition, Flash is a closed system” because Flash is only available from Adobe. This is to say that in order to create a Flash application, one needs to own a copy of Flash. This is simply untrue. Through the use of technologies such as MTASC it is entirely possible to develop full Flash applications without owning the proprietary Flash software. Adobe has never done anything to deter such technologies. It’s also important to note that Flash development can be shared with anyone at no cost to the developer. A developer can create a Flash, Flex or Air application and distribute it however they see fit.

Now let’s take a moment and look at the development process for Apple’s App Store. The iPhone SDK is written in Objective C which is developed by Apple and the equivalent to ActionScript being developed by Adobe. No surprises there. However, in order “to develop iPhone applications, you use Xcode”. Xcode, although free, is, wait for it, wait for it, proprietary. Xcode is used to digitally sign an application with the developer’s digital certificate before it can be submitted to the App Store. This digital certificate costs the developer $99 which is paid to Apple. The best part? If the developer does all of this, it doesn’t necessarily mean their application will see the light of day. This is because Apple individually approves all apps before they are made available in the App Store. A process that can take up to two years.

Jobs goes on to explain that Apple has a firm belief that, “all standards pertaining to the web should be open”. Jobs writes, “rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards.” So let me see if I’ve got this straight, Steve. Apple, while not open itself, supports open standards, but only for the web. And since, in the opinion of Steve Jobs, Flash is not “open”, Apple’s closed system in going to exclude Flash? Maybe a fair point, but also maybe a little hypocritical. Of course this assumes the opinion that, “Flash is a closed system,” is accurate.

“Second, there’s the ‘full web’.”

Ah, yes. The “full web”. Jobs starts his “full web” experience with video. Adobe claims that 75% of all video on the web is delivered using Flash. Jobs rebutes saying that YouTube makes up 40% and the iPhone and iPad are bundled with a YouTube app. Problem solved. Using the YouTube application, you’ll have access to 40% of all video that is available on the web. Of course you won’t be able to view that video in a web browser or see any video that is embedded with Flash within a webpage. But I guess you’re right, Steve. 40% of all video made available through a separate application is practically the “full web”. Lets just forget about any Flash dedicated websites and round that figure up to 100% for “full web”. Done and done.

Jobs continues to brag that the App Store contains more games than God, much less Flash. I understand the point here. Apple and it’s App Store provide a suitable replacement for Flash and therefore Flash is obsolete. That’s all fine and good, but it doesn’t fill the gap between the “full web” and the web as it is on the iPhone and iPad. Furthermore, reason #2 is certainly not, “based on technology issues,” as Jobs claims his reasons are.

“Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.”

Here Jobs actually has a good point. If this was the extent of his article, I wouldn’t be writing mine.

“Fourth, there’s battery life.”

Jobs’ fourth reason is for battery life, but more specifically the way battery life is effected by video as delivered using Flash. He starts here and basically turns his point into a pitch for H.264 video. Battery life has been one of Jobs’ goto reasons for not providing Flash on the iPhone. Jobs writes, “H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours,” while video provided from Flash will, “play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained”. I’m curious. How would Flash video compare to talking on the phone or simply surfing the web? According to the specs on Apple’s website, the iPhone’s battery life will only provide up to 5 hours of internet use or talk time while on a 3G network. Considering Flash video content would presumably require internet use, it’s no surprise that battery life would dip to under 5 hours.

“Fifth, there’s Touch.” (note: Touch is capitalized… amazing he didn’t add the ®)

Here Jobs whines that, “many Flash websites rely on ‘rollovers'” and that in touch-based devices a rollover simply doesn’t exist. He then concludes that as a solution, developers should, “use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.” This, to be blunt, is just stupid. First, let’s establish one thing right off the bat. JavaScript, one of Jobs’ modern technologies, is just as capable of being dependent on “rollovers” as Flash. Second, to suggest that it makes more sense for developers to fully abandon Flash and completely rebuild Flash content as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript rather than reworking them in order to avoid “rollover” dependency is absolutely ludicrous.

Jobs goes on to claim that, “most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices.” A claim that is equally true for “most” JavaScript driven websites. Here, Jobs is making a claim that he simply can’t support.

“Six, the most important reason.”

Jobs’ final and most important reason, “why [Apple] does not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads” has nothing to do with running Flash as an application or in a browser on the iPhone, iPod or iPad. Instead he goes to explain why, Apple’s new developer agreement mandates that developers use Apple’s API and only Apple’s API to develop applications for the iPhone. This blocked the most substantial new feature of Adobe’s recently released CS5 Suite, which would have allowed developers to generate iPhone applications through the Flash IDE.

Before I get started, to say that not allowing this feature in Flash is in line with keeping Flash off of Apple’s mobile devices is simply inaccurate. The new feature provided by Adobe would have published applications as native iPhone apps. There would have been no emulation. We’re not talking about a Flash app disguised as an iPhone app. Flash would have compiled ActionScript code into an actual iPhone application.

Apparently, Jobs is concerned that the ability to develop iPhone apps through Flash would create a bottleneck of Apple’s technologies. Jobs says, “we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.” That’s like not selling a computer to someone unless they have internet access because they won’t be able to use it to its full capability. If developers want to develop with the lastest innovations and enhancements, they’ll learn to develop in whatever platform is needed. The ability to develop applications in Flash in no way effects the ability to develop applications using Apple’s SDK.

Is Apple within its rights to mandate how the applications in the App Store are developed? Yes. Is doing so a proprietary move? Absolutely.

“Conclusions.”

Flash is a widely accepted multimedia tool that has yet to reach the mobile realm. Soon it will reach that realm and with it, it will bring the single most cross platform development tool that exists. It is already able to generate desktop applications on both PCs and Macs with Adobe Air and is widely used throughout the web.

Apple iPhones, iPods and iPads are a closed box system. They are not multiplatform. They are proprietary. And in that respect Flash has the potential to be one of their biggest competitors. It is in Apple’s best interest to keep Flash from reaching that potential. That’s what Reason #6 is all about.

I understand why Steve Jobs and Apple don’t want Flash running on their devices. I think that concerns for performance are very legitimate. Those concerns are exactly why Flash has yet to be made widely available on any mobile platform.

What I don’t appreciate is reading a misleading statement from Apple’s CEO that attempts to smear Flash. This is either a personal grudge between Jobs and Adobe or Apple attempting to muscle Flash out of the mobile market. Regardless, it is being done at the expense of both Apple and Adobe’s user base.

Daniel Zimney
April, 2010

19th November
2009
written by dzimney

So I’m in Adobe Acrobat today and find that my regular toolbars aren’t present. Naturally, I go to the view menu and begin selecting items that I think may be the correct set of tools that I’m looking for. The first item to grab my attention in the View menu is “Menu Bar”. So I select the item and what happens? The system menubar is no longer available along with my dock. I’m not talking about any of the toolbars in the Acrobat. I’m talking about the Menubar that lists (Apple Menu), Acrobat, File, Edit, View, etc. Now how do I get my menu back? I have no idea because I just hid the way I made it go away.

You would think ‘esc’ might bring things back similar to when in Fullscreen view, but nope. Frustrating. After doing some research online I found the hotkey to bring back the Menubar. So to help anyone else to have this issue,

the default hotkey to bring back the Menu Bar is: Shift+Command+M

Hope this helps someone. And thanks again, Adobe, for your flawless user experience.

[EDIT]

on Windows

From a comment below, posted by Andrew:

F9 toggles the menu bar off and on in windows (acrobat 8 pro)

on OS X Lion

Thanks to commenter John:

F8 (Fn+F8) toggles the menu in Mac OS X Lion for Adobe Acrobat Pro 8.

[/EDIT]

5th August
2009
written by dzimney

I’m starting to think I should change the title of my blog from “the Life of Zim” to “the Rant of Zim”.
It’s amazing how disconcerting Corporate America really is. Actually, I take that back, I’m not
amazed by it at all. It’s simply disturbing.

So, next up on my shit list is Adobe Systems Incorporated.

If you haven’t been following along on the blog, we were recently robbed. Someone came into our house and took our shit. It sucks. We’re still dealing with it a week later, and I’m sure we’ll still be dealing with it a month from now. Once again, it sucks. With that, I should point out that I do not blame Adobe for the burglary or think that it is their responsibility to compensate us for said burglary. My frustration with Adobe is rooted in their Customer Service, or rather lack there of. I’m am deeply disappointed by every aspect of their customer service that we have received up to this point.

A note for those of you that are unfamiliar with Adobe products and specifically CS4 or Creative Suite 4: You should know that the version of the Creative Suite that Laura had was Adobe Creative Suite 4: Design Premium, which costs $1,799. There is no comparable alternative to Adobe. For the line of work we are in, you use Adobe; it’s that simple. Now, it’s not Adobe’s fault for being the best at what they do, but I think it is important to note that they have a loose monopoly on the market. That said, between the high cost of their product and their dominance over the market, I believe, Adobe is in a greater echelon that ought to be held to a higher standard for the level of service they provide to their customers.

After the burglary, Laura bought a new computer. Upon attempting to install her copy of CS4 the software told her that the maximum number of machines (2) had been activated for her copy of CS4. The first activation was lost when the video card went out on her computer, which Apple replaced with a new MacBook Pro. The second when that replacement MacBook Pro was stolen a week ago.

CS4 comes with a License FAQ html file regarding possible issues you might run into. If you are on a Mac and have CS4 installed in the default location, you should be able to find the FAQ here. I was unable to find the FAQ on the Adobe website. The FAQ reads:

What happens if my computer is stolen or damaged and cannot be repaired?

If your computer is stolen, damaged beyond repair or the hard drive is completely re-imaged, the activation will be lost. In either case you can install and start using the Adobe product on your new computer, which will automatically detect the problem if you already had two computers activated. The activation process will guide you through the new activation, even if the prior computer is no longer available.

Both activation instances should totally be covered here. I’m sure that Apple re-imaged the laptop that was sent back, and the other installation was stolen with the computer. So naturally, after reading this, we thought, “Oh, great! Looks like there shouldn’t be any problem at all.” Wrong. Opening any program of CS4 prompts for activation. Upon activation a message displays saying that the maximum number of activations has been reached and that you have 30 days — the trail period length — to resolve the issue. There is no direction on how to solve the issue other than deactivating the other installations — which you must have the computer that the software is installed on to do — and in our case is impossible, but apparently covered according to the FAQ?

Next step: let’s call customer service. Hopefully you’ve never had the need to contact Adobe. Navigating their website and specifically their contact information is fairly difficult. Links are difficult to find, and over all it’s a counter-intuitive site architecture. Once you finally find the list of phone numbers, there’s the question of which number to call — in our case a tossup between Customer Service and Technical Support. I have yet to find any email address to contact, which is very surprising to me. I suppose with an email they can’t just put you on hold until you give up.

Preface to calls to customer service:
All of the service representatives we spoke to were in India. I don’t have any problem with Adobe’s customer service department being based in India. I don’t particularly like that Adobe is outsourcing as I would prefer they kept jobs in the United States, but fundamentally I can’t blame them for it. Outsourcing is a cheaper way of doing things and I can understand how a company that grossed $3.58 billion in 2008 would need to save money where it can. However, speaking to someone with an Indian accent — as well as someone from India speaking to someone with an American accent — can cause some serious communication barriers. Additionally, for the level of service we received, I want to say that Adobe’s India employees are so far removed from the company that the quality of service has suffered. Of course that assumes that this isn’t all intentional on Adobe’s part.

First Call
Laura calls customer service and explains the issue she’s having. The woman says, “Open CS4, click on the ‘Help’ menu and select ‘Deactivate…’.” Laura says, “No, the computer was stolen, I can’t do that.” The woman replies, “Open CS4, click on the ‘Help’ menu and select ‘Deactivate…’.” — “No. Do you understand that the computer was stolen!?” — “Open CS4, click on the ‘Help’ menu and select ‘Deactivate…’.” — “F***!!!”

Second Call
Laura calls customer service and explains the issue she’s having, hoping that this customer service representative will be a bit more competent, sure she just got a bad apple. After explaining the issue, she is told that the CS4 has been deactivated on the other computer and everything is gravy. Great. Laura asks for the woman’s name so that she can have some record of her conversation. “Nancy.” — “Okay… do you have an employee id number? Or is there a confirmation number for this call? Anything?” Nothing. She hangs up. Opens up CS4 on her laptop, and the issue still exists. — “F***!!!” — to our knowledge the woman flat out lied to us and in fact did absolutely nothing but put Laura on hold.

We wait a day.

Third Call
Laura calls customer service and talks to the first person that appeared to be of any use. She explains the issue, again. The customer service agent, Enrique, takes down much of her information to confirm her account and in the end says she’ll have to call back tomorrow because their “Activation Queue” is down he is unable to deactivate the installation of the other computer(s). At this point Laura insists on speaking to Enrique’s manager, which he resists. Finally she is placed on hold for a considerable amount of time until she gets the manager. The manger explains that the “Activation Queue” is down and she needs to call back tomorrow. Laura asks again for names or call numbers and is told that the customer service representatives are not allowed to give out their information for their own protection. Keep in mind they are in India. If they need to protect themselves from people getting upset enough to fly across the globe, they’ve got some serious problems. She gets no customer ids, no call numbers. Nothing. She asks to speak to the manager’s manger. No such thing. The line stops there.

Meanwhile…
…at Analog Interactive, my boss Shawn Sheely has been dealing with my installations of CS3 and CS4. Luckily, my CS4 had only been installed on one other computer (the one that was stolen) and so it activated fine. However, my CS3 had been on two machines previously — same story as Laura except I had a pixel out on my monitor instead of having the graphics card fail — Go Apple! Either way, Shawn had to call and deal with Adobe to sort out both copies, first so we could get CS3 working, and second to avoid future trouble with our copy of CS4. Shawn decided to call Technical Support instead of Customer Support. He called, talked to someone in India, and had the issue resolved almost immediately. Note, he made this call within two hours of Laura being told the “Activation Queue” was down and to call the next day.

Fourth Call
Laura now calls Technical Support. They add another activation to the account. CS4 runs fine. They give her a case number for the call. She also gets an email regarding the call with the case number. Everything is dandy.

WTF!?!?!
Adobe is a not a fortune 500 company, it only ranks 601. Even with such a low standing in the realm of the largest corporations in the world, I expected more form Adobe. I have been so utterly disappointed at this point that there is no possible way I will be able to look at Adobe the same. I thought they were one of the “good” corporate giants. Turns out I was wrong. Their customer service department purposefully gave us the run around three out of three times. If they actually knew how to do their job they simply could have told us to call Tech Support. How f***ing hard is that!? Why couldn’t we get a case number or an employee number for the customer service calls? Either Adobe has no idea how shitty their customer service is or they are promoting the behavior. It’s just bullshit.

Continued Ranting…
I hate that we, as a society, keep falling to the lowest common denominator like this. I would think, that a company in Adobe’s shoes, with such a huge dominance over a market, with such a high end product, would take that profit and continue to develop the best product possible with the best customer service available. You would think after spending $1799 on a software suite you would be treated like f***ing gold. Instead you have these huge corporate giants like Adobe or Microsoft or Apple, just to name a few, that seem to have a breaking point for integrity. Microsoft started out as amazingly innovative company that was the best at what they did; and slowly but ever surely they ended up taking nearly a decade to develop a worthless piece of shit like Windows Vista. As for Apple, I generally believe they have a superior product with, relatively, superior customer service. However, with their growing success I truly feel that Apple is starting to slip down the same path — specifically the bullshit that has come with the success of the iPhone and their affiliation with AT&T.

The best customer service I have ever received was from the Zippo Manufacturing Company. Zippo has made a vastly superior product with the most outstanding customer service I have ever come across in the course of my life. Their lighters are great. So great in fact that Zippo stands by the quality of a Zippo and will replace any Zippo if it breaks or fails for any reason, ever. I used to have a Zippo; I lost it to an airport post 9/11 — don’t get me started on the bullshit of Airport Security. At one point the hinge of the Zippo broke. There’s a pin that holds the top of the Zippo on, and that pin broke. I could have sent the Zippo in and had them repair it, but since it had some sentimental value, I didn’t want to send it through the mail. Instead, I emailed Zippo, telling them I just needed the pin and could probably fix it myself. Immediately, no questions asked, Zippo mailed me a package with two replacement pins, a few extra flints, some info on Zippo, and a prepaid envelope that I could use if I wished to send in the Zippo to be repaired. They also sent a keychain what was an encased penny, and the casing was engraved. It said: “The penny you’ll never spend to replace a Zippo.” They didn’t ask for any proof that I owned the Zippo, they didn’t care. To them I was a customer that needed service and they provided the absolute best service possible, going above and beyond my requests, and it didn’t cost me a thing. I bought the Zippo for $20 and it got me the best customer service in the world. Why should I expect any less from anything else I buy, especially if it costs nearly 100 times as much? I do wonder though, what would Zippo be like if 90% of all people who owned lighters only bought Zippo’s. Would Zippo still have the same level of integrity? One would hope so, but based on experience, I wouldn’t bet on it.