12 Sep 2014

CFScript v2 – go vote for it!

CFScript is an inconsistent mess. Some statements take the form of functions while tags like cfloop are still named as cfloop in cfscript rather than just loop. Take a look at this:

cfloop(from=1, to=10, index=1){
     //stuff
}

Huh? Why shouldn’t a more JavaScript-like syntax be used rather than trying to replicate the tag’s BASIC-like syntax as literally as possible. It’s like trying to fit a square shape through a triangular hole. Sure, if you bang it enough it might go through, but it’s messy and you know it’s wrong.

No new developer should have to learn this conflicting, inconsistent, scripting language. It should be trashed but retain 100% backward compatibility.

How? Adam Cameron raised some inconsistencies of cfscript in his blog and without much thinking I suggested something simple to allow a new, clean scripting language to be used without having to throw away legacy code:

<cfscript version=2>
      // new code goes here
</cfscript>

When the CFML engine sees that version 2 is stated a new interpreter kicks in to compile it to Java. Obviously if version 1 is stated, or nothing at all, the legacy interpreter is used.

This feature suggestion has been added to Adobe’s bugbase. Please go and vote for it!

Adam picked up on my moment of clarity and blogged again with some great feedback from the CFML community.

V2 implemented this way will guarantee backward compatibility and wipe the slate clean to attract newcomers to CF and utilise it based on what they know from a more elegant, universal syntax such as JavaScript. Tagged based scripting and CFScript v1 are both a non-starter for newcomers who want to start a programming career. It's time Adobe think of the future, stop adding poorly implemented features that no one wants to use (cfclient?) and go back to the drawing board and get the language right without having to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Go vote now. You’ll need an Adobe ID to log in before you can vote.

5 Jul 2014

Twitter the Twit – When short URLs are longer

Twitter is being a bit of a twit. I was tweeting a link to a very short domain and Twitter thought it would be a good idea to use its automatic URL shortener which in fact produced a longer URL! How dumb is that?

I typed in http://owl.uk which is 13 characters and Twitter replaced it with http://t.co/jLQcgAzbqX which is 22 characters. That’s 9 characters longer. What a waste when you’re only give 140 chars in a message.

The problem occurs in Twitter’s web client and also TweetDeck and I imagine most tweeting apps that don’t do a simple sanity check asking itself “is the URL the user types in shorter than the URL I can replace it with?”

I tried to contact Twitter to point this out to them but there’s no obvious contact information on their website. I was going a little crazy searching.

7 Jul 2013

Adobe CC – that really means Continuous Cost

Adobe have moved all their big products over to a new licence called Creative Cloud that means customers will no longer own their own copy of the software. You have to rent it now, therefore the “CC” brand has a special meaning to Adobe’s senior management – Continuous Cost. Photoshop, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Illustrator and many other favourites of creative professionals and hobbyists must be rented from now on. Worse, ColdFusion support for Dreamweaver has been ejected.

So what’s the big deal and the bottom line with the new licencing model?

  • Pay a monthly fee to rent a product
  • If you stop paying the software will stop working (that’s why Adobe connects their software to the cloud)
  • It’s much more expensive for people who don’t normally buy an upgrade each year
  • If you don’t like Adobe’s new way of doing business then tough, it’s Cloud or nothing from now on
  • If you’re a small business and fall on hard times you must choose between buying food and electricity or your monthly Adobe licencing bill. If you choose the former then your Adobe software stops working and you can’t do any work at all.
  • For students, you too must find money to pay Adobe every month.

Example Pricing

Single product monthly cost = £17.58 x 12 months = £210.96 per year.

Upgrade from CS3+ to latest Cloud version = £8.78 x 12 months = £105.36 for first year only. For the second year onwards the price reverts to the full cost of £210/year or whatever it is at the time.

If you’re one of those people who religiously bought every upgrade for the desktop product then you might not experience a price increase moving to the new licencing model (you get every upgrade when you rent from the cloud). But if you only bought an upgrade when a must-have features has been added, say every other year, then you will be paying nearly double what you previously paid just to use the product on a day-to-day basis.

As usual, UK and European customers pay a premium over US customers. The respective monthly prices are $19.99 (£13.42) and $9.99 (£6.70). So an upgrade for the first year costs £25 more for the first year and £50 more for each subsequent year. That’s a 25% premium for not living in the USA. How is that justified if all the software is provided from the cloud. Do European customers drain 25% more resources from Adobe than US customers? The cloud downloads are probably hosted in the US but even if they were in Europe the hosting costs wouldn’t be different enough to warrant charging £50 extra for a single annual download!

If you need to use at least 3 Adobe products then you can get better value from their full suite. For £46.88 per month (£562/year) you’ll have access to every Adobe product they make. It’s unlikely you’ll use even half the 24 products that are included, and even if you did you’ll have to keep paying £562/year forever if you want to access your Photoshop, Illustrator, or Premier files any time in the future.

I used Premier a lot 10 years ago and if I needed to access the project files I can load them up using my old copy that I still own. But if the Cloud licence had started 10 years ago I would suddenly have to start paying a lot of money again just to load up one of my old files. Think about it. Anything you create with Adobe CC and save in one of Adobe’s native file formats can’t be accessed again in the future if you’re not paying monthly to rent the software back. If you want it just for one month only so you can look at or convert your files, you’ll need to pay a greater premium of nearly double the price!

Adobe Not Listening

Adobe’s Photoshop blog has a post called “Creative Cloud – we’re listening” with over 300 comments that Adobe have not listened to. And we say American’s can’t do irony? Winking smile One comment tests whether Adobe are listening by writing “Wait, they don’t even moderate these comments? F**K, S**T, B*LLS?” There are no asterisks in the original. I wonder how many more weeks it will remain there, unread and unmoderated by Adobe.

Alternative Software

So what can we creative people do about it? Complain to Adobe? Ha-ha, don’t waste your breath. Adobe did a Van Gough to themselves years ago. Start to look at alternative software. Adobe aren’t the only players in the market. I admit most of their software is excellent and people will roll their eyes at the thought of having to learn to become proficient with alternative software. But there’s a lot of other good products out there that will save you money and send a clear message to Adobe’s greedy owners.

Lifehacker has an article suggesting which software you can download for free or for less for each of Adobe’s main products.

Mac owners should check out Gigaom’s article on cheaper alternatives.

A useful site is alternativeto.net that lists potential alternatives to all sorts of software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, Dreamweaver and anything else you can think of. You can filter by OS and type of licence (commercial or free). Obviously not everything listed is good, or even satisfactory if you’re used to the Adobe version, but some options might come close if given a chance.

Dreamweaver CC Degraded

If the licence issue wasn’t enough to give developers unwanted headaches, then you might be gutted to hear that support for ColdFusion and .NET has been ripped out of Dreamweaver CC. Only PHP support remains. You’d think Adobe would retain support for their own server-side language. This has infuriated creative web designers who like the visual strengths of Dreamweaver to design and maintain their sites while incorporating CFML code. The alternative Adobe product, CF Builder, is not on par with Dreamweaver when it comes to HTML design tools. There is a glimmer of hope. I heard that DW CC will let you manually add the .cfm and .cfc file types back and will still syntax highlight CFML and provide auto-complete code hints.

18 Dec 2012

Adobe release details of next 2 ColdFusion releases

Since Adobe acquired ColdFusion from Macromedia in 2005 they’ve been pretty tight lipped about future releases. There’s always been speculation about the future of the product, but Adobe have just shown the first signs that they’re changing their ways and giving ColdFusion developers a really big boost.

What has triggered this change at Adobe? Maybe because their accountants noticed the last quarter was the most successful for ColdFusion since 2008? “More of that please!” I hear them shout from the top of the tower! :-)

First off ColdFusion “Splendor” (that’s its code name for version 11) will be released in 2013 followed relatively quickly by “Dazzle” a year later. Adobe have committed to faster development cycles and lots of new features:

  • Streamlined mobile application development
  • Revamped and new PDF functions (at last, yay!)
  • Easy social media integration for Enterprise
  • Improved installation and deployment
  • Enterprise performance & scalability
  • Responsive multi screen content (erm, that’s client-side stuff)
  • Social analytics
  • Enterprise video portal (whatever that is?)

Read all of Adobe’s announcements about CF at their blog and checkout the roadmap PDF too.

Well done Adobe, no one expected to hear so much about the next release, yet alone the release after that as well!

Smile

5 May 2011

Buying online from Slow-dobe

Here are some observations and tips for buying software direct from Adobe.com and a warning.

  1. Don’t expect to download your newly purchased software on the same day you bought it. Adobe are very slow to release your product’s serial number. Imagine someone working in a tiny room somewhere in India printing out orders, using a ladder to stack them, as his grandmother slowly keys in serial numbers into another computer. The pair have been doing it for years and like it that way; they think their customers must be patient and wait their turn.
  2. For UK consumers it’s cheaper to order a boxed copy than to go for the download-only option. Go figure that one out!
  3. The US price is much cheaper than the UK price, but that’s no surprise. It won’t let you buy from the US store unless you register a valid US postal address. (I’m not sure if it would reject a credit card registered in the UK, but you could try using PayPal.)
  4. If you are a business you can sometimes get a better price by going to Adobe’s Business Store – even taking VAT into account. This store also has the download and boxed options at the same price.
  5. Adobe’s website is slooooow. The product pages are slow, the store is slow and the licensing site is slow. I hope the public don’t think this is a reflection of ColdFusion. They may get loads of traffic but that’s no excuse. They may be the market leaders and pretty much have a captive audience for many types of product but that’s no excuse either to be complacent.
  6. If you think you can side step Adobe and buy from a reseller then think again. Downloads and the release of serial numbers for certain products (especially upgrades) must go through Adobe.
  7. It’s been this bad for as long as I can remember. You should plan to make your purchase as early as possible, don’t leave it to the last minute.

I’ve just bought Dreamweaver in case you’re wondering. Previously I bought ColdFusion several times.

18 Feb 2011

Genius Tech That Blew My Mind This Week

I stumbled upon two things this week that blew my mind. The first is a Xbox Kinect “hacker” who writes his own software to fully exploit Microsoft’s amazing hardware add-on. (Yes, I know it’s a few months old but you may not have seen it.) First check out this video. Keep in mind the Kinect is sitting stationary on his desk.

Genius video manipulation in 3D

A couple of months later he’s discovered how to link 2 Kinects together. What you will see is video from two stationary Kinect cameras. They do not move.

Super genius manipulation in 3D space with 2 Kinects

Taking this to the next level but with practical gaming in mind, look at what he did with a Kinect set up in two remote locations, a network connection between him and his colleague, a Doom 3 map and lots of clever code.

Augmented virtual reality taken to a new level across a network

Lastly, I was really impressed to see that a radio controlled hummingbird has been invented that uses nothing but wing-flapping to propel itself and behave remarkably like the real thing. It’s only 19 grams in weight (0.7oz) but can carry a camera to transmit live video back to its base.

The video of it flying in action is at NewScientist.com

16 Aug 2010

Critical CF hotfix must be applied pronto!

Adobe released a security hotfix on 10th August 2010 and classed it as “important”. However, if security is even moderately important to your ColdFusion server, the file system, database and network then you must think of this hotfix as CRITICAL. Just to clarify, this is CRITICAL. An HP security expert has blogged about it and It also caught the eye of The Register.

Hackers have proven how easy it is to use a vulnerability in CF 7, 8 and 9 to gain access to the CF Administrator. Code to perform the hack has been made freely available (which I won’t directly link to, but others have). Mike Bailey tweeted “It works and it’s scary.” Someone else chimed in and showed how you don’t even need to hack the Administrator’s password by using a cheeky bit of JavaScript.

Why is this really bad? Well, once you have access to CF Admin you can run scheduled tasks to access the OS. Someone has kindly(?) written an FAQ explaining how it works and why it’s so bad.

Now that the world knows how to hack it, everyone running CF must now patch their server. Adobe need to hammer home the seriousness of this problem and how critical the hotfix is. “Important” doesn’t stress it enough.

If you have already made the “administrator” directory inaccessible to the Internet or IP protected it then you should be safe, but it’s a good idea to still apply this critical hotfix.