Planet PDF's AcroPDF Weblog
A daily chronicle of Acrobat/PDF-oriented newsbits

For week beginning 20 May 02
By Kurt Foss, Planet PDF Editor

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday


NOTE: Previous Weblogs will be archived at the end of each week, and start fresh here.

MONDAY

May The Reader Be With You: The summer movie season is quickly into high gear with the recent release of, among several expected blockbusters, the latest episode in the Stars Wars family of futuristic, intergalactic flicks. A continuation of the original trilogy from producer George Lucas, "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" features more adventures from a "galaxy far, far away," involving the likes of characters such as jedi warriors, jedi maters, galactic senators, droids, wookies, gungans, naboo royalty, dictators, clones, spiritual guides and more. In addition to several light years worth of technical and technological wizardry, 'Clones' (the first large-scale feature film to be shot entirely on high-definition, digital video) also reveals to dedicated fans some additional insights into the plots, sub-plots and forces of various sorts that run through the entire storyline.

For the less-dedicated movie viewer, however, this fifth-in-the-series film -- the original was first released about a decade ago -- may create as much confusion as it resolves. Unlike conventional theme movies that tend to build sequels on previous ones while adhering to a forward-moving chronology, the Star Wars series actually began with the later episodes -- the original "trilogy" -- and now is backtracking in the last two releases to fill in the blanks, while building toward the already produced climax. So certain key characters -- and parents of characters yet-to-come (chronologically speaking) -- are now being introduced, developed and immersed into the likewise-reversed storyline. Darth Vader A casual viewer may well be challenged trying to decide which Skywalker is parent to which "sci-fi soap opera" offspring -- Luke, Anakin, Shmi, Leia -- much less, who is this stocky guy clad in all black who sounds like James Earl Jones, and where/how does he fit in?

If you're having trouble telling a wookie from a gungan, we've discovered a graphical guide to "The Skywalker system" available in PDF that illustrates and describes the primary figures in the Stars Wars family tree. This color illustration is based on the official "New Essential Guide to Characters" from Lucasfilm, Ltd. -- there'll be no more confusing Qui-Gon Jinn with Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Chewbacca with Watto. (However, if you've been confusing Yoda, the 900-year-old Jedi master, with *any* other characters in the film series, this one-page, 500 kb PDF may not offer sufficient guidance!)


Star Wars

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TUESDAY

Maximized Mini returns to U.S.: You could easily make a case that the last thing the U.S. needs is yet another new car model. Judging by some of the odd names with which a number of recent new model introductions have been saddled, the well of creativity seems to have run dry wherever it is these auto monikers are dreamed up. So perhaps it's a good thing that a 'new' car that began appearing in select showrooms around the U.S. last month isn't so much newly created as reborn. And the name describes it perfectly.

Since a carefully selected set of U. S. dealers received their first shipments of the 2002 Mini in late March and first sales reported in April, it's possible you haven't yet spotted one cruising -- or "motoring," in true Mini speak -- the highways or local streets near you. But judging by the extremely positive reviews it's garnered so far, it likely won't be much longer before you positively identify the distinctive, abbreviated profile of a UK-bred "New Mini."

Mini Cooper dimensions

If on sight it looks a tad familiar, you may have known its predecessor. While it has flourished worldwide since its launch more than 40 years ago, the original Mini vanished from the U.S. car scene in the late '60s, reportedly as a result of various changes in American law pertaining to safety, car design and environmental factors. More recently, it might have disappeared altogether from the global automotive landscape if Germany's BMW Group hadn't decided to remake (still built in England) and reintroduce the renowned classic, retaining much of what made the original Mini of the most-beloved cars among its owners, while utilizing BMW's own legendary engineering to update and modernize certain aspects of the car.

In the market for a new car, I recently experienced the new Mini's popularity -- and scarceness -- firsthand while trying to investigate the possibility of test driving, and possibly buying, a Mini Cooper. The nearest dealer 90 miles away had a couple in the showroom in early May, but by the time we arrived the next day they were sold and gone. We were resigned to test driving nothing more than a brochure, only to discover that the dealer's entire stock of printed information had also been depleted. In the spirit of this Weblog, it'd be great to report that the Mini USA Web site offered an unlimited supply of PDF-based brochures for download. Alas, it offered only a form for requesting a copy of the same printed version we'd already driven nearly 200 miles roundtrip in hopes of obtaining. [Stay tuned -- there's still some good PDF news!]

Elsewhere on the Web we found a number of independent testimonials, reviews and road tests, owner clubs and newsletters, a "digital paper car" model of the (original) Mini, as well as other miscellaneous matter -- such as a graphic artist who uses the original Mini as the subject of some of his Photoshop-enhanced landscapes (No, as popular as it might be here in our southern Wisconsin locale -- aka "America's Dairyland" -- the Mini doesn't come in a "spotted cow" color scheme). Further proof that the Mini aims to inspire a spirit of fun and enjoyment among its owners, last fall the company apparently offered a downloadable "Halloween costume" in PDF -- a 125-page file intended for the *car* -- not the driver!

An even better use of PDF, we eventually discovered on the Mini USA site, is a free, downloadable copy of the complete 2002 Mini Cooper Owner's Manual -- I've now got a copy on my Palm handheld.

Owner's manual

The handy guide is completely indexed (active links) and all content uses Acrobat's article-threading feature to make navigation and on-screen reading of the manual especially easy. You'll have to take my word on that because, at least at present, this file is only available in the "Owner's Lounge" section of the Web site, accessible by registered Mini owners.

At last I can concur with what most reviews conclude: The Mini is a pure joy to drive!


Road test Mini logo Cow Mini

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WEDNESDAY

PDF Defined ... and re-defined: A couple years back we published a light-hearted item titled "The definitive answer to 'What is PDF?'" in which we listed more than 30 different possible phrases that could be identified by the acronym "PDF." Acronym Finder Most were located by using the Acronym Finder Web site, with others added from a variety of other searches, with a few others submitted. While to enthusiasts of Adobe Acrobat the correct -- or at least most common -- meaning is "portable document format," to others it could represent something wholly different, such as Pig Dog Farm, Panamanian Defense Forces or the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (which owns and uses the PDF.org domain).

After exploring some of the fun search utility demos currently available at the Google Labs site this week, we decided to re-visit that theme using one of the experimental tools -- "Google Glossary: Find definitions for words, phrases and acronyms" -- currently available from the SearchMeisters of the popular Google site. Google Labs [NOTE: As a "technology playground" area for showcasing a few "favorite ideas" of Google engineers, some of the prototype search utilities available for testing at the Google labs site may change or even disappear over time. In fact, earlier today the site was temporarily closed, with a note explaining that the "experiment got slightly out of hand."]

There's no explanation posted regarding how Google Glossary actually works, but the premise is straightforward -- enter a term such as "PDF" and a search produces a bounty of sites where a definition for that term exists. The glossary search for PDF turned up around 50 matches/definitions from different Web sites, oddly enough none of which was Adobe.com. For starters, if it *had* included Adobe's own official definition -- note that in recent years Adobe has come to prefer the (marketing) term "Adobe PDF" rather than simply "PDF" -- it would have listed the following:

"Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF) is the open de facto standard for electronic document distribution worldwide. Adobe PDF is a universal file format that preserves all the fonts, formatting, graphics, and color of any source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it. Adobe PDF files are compact and can be shared, viewed, navigated, and printed exactly as intended by anyone with free Adobe Acrobat® Reader® software. You can convert any document to Adobe PDF using Adobe Acrobat 5.0 software. Adobe PDF is the emerging workflow standard in the $400 billion publishing industry. It also plays a key role in financial services, regulated industries, and government, with more than 155 agencies worldwide sharing Adobe PDF files."

The Adobe Solutions Network (ASN) also offers a briefer definition in its "Acrobat Glossary" document, available in PDF:

"Portable Document Format. A platform-independent, operating system-independent specification for documents."

As you might imagine, the 50 or so non-Adobe results turned up with the Google Glossary prototype search vary widely -- in language and accuracy. Some definitions clearly hadn't been updated for several generations of Acrobat, such as references to "Acrobat Exchange" while a few suffer from errors ("Page Description Format") or errors of omission of omission as to what features a PDF file can include and/or what can be done with it -- i.e. one suggested that a PDF "cannot be changed, only read in that format," while another kept alive the myth that by nature of format alone "PDF documents maintain formatting information better than HTML, but they are slower to download." Others included seemingly opinionated verbiage, such as the increasingly outdated comment that "Adobe PDF files are ideal for documents that are intended for print." Some contained statements that are at best confusing, at worst incorrect, such as the borderline "To create a PDF document, you use Adobe Exchange to print an existing document to a file" comment from one site. Some definitions seemed self-contradictory at times, including one that called PDF "a proprietary format" while in the next sentence describing it as "a universal electronic file format."

On the plus side, among the varied definitions are recitations of some of the format's many virtues, including its cross-platform capabilities (Acrobat for Macintosh deficiencies aside), fidelity preservation, device independence, suitability for high-quality print use as well as online, availability of the free Acrobat Reader, Web browser compatibility, etc.

A footnote: Neither Acronym Finder or Google Glossary turned up any hits for the term "Adobe PDF" now seemingly favored by Adobe. The good news: None of the varied definitions mistook the commercial Adobe Acrobat software with the free Acrobat Reader application, still a frequent source of confusion now five generations and nearly 10 years since they -- like PDF (not "Adobe PDF" at the time) -- were launched.


adobepdf

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THURSDAY

PDF Personified: Upon receiving the Enfocus Software news release a week ago, we knew it wouldn't be long before the company's new "Certified PDF Evangelist" would begin attracting attention for his new employer, and for himself. Michael Jahn, until recently with Agfa, was the first person we'd ever met using the then-novel job title of "PDF Evangelist" in the early years of the technology's now almost 10 year-existence. (Adobe's own internal cheerleader is appropriately known as an "Acrobat Evangelist.") Jahn's moniker was well-deserved, we might add; he was a vocal proponent -- albeit with a sales-oriented mindset on behalf of Agfa and its PDF-oriented products -- at a time when PDF was a lot less popular to promote and defend. NOTE: In case you're wondering, so far as we can tell, Jahn hasn't actually undergone any official certification process to become a card-carrying evangelist, as his new job title might seem to suggest. Rather, it's a reflection of the Enfocus line of "Certified PDF" workflow products and solutions.

It came as no surprise when, a day or so later after Jahn's new Enfocus role was officially publicized, the company organized a promotional conference call to have him serve as the point person to spell out a series of new educational initiatives -- albeit with a sales-oriented mindset on behalf of Enfocus and its PDF-oriented products. The revelations include a series of related activities designed to raise the level of understanding about PDF/X, a subset of PDF that attempts to address specific needs of the publishing and printing industries. Enfocus is launching a discussion forum, a series of online 'Webinars' and developing a set of resources that work in tandem to explain and illustrate the need for, use and advantages of and creation process for PDF/X files.

Always a colorful and witty speaker, Jahn's phone conference call -- which had been preceded by a PDF file with an outline of his planned presentation -- used the analogy of a person travelling internationally to illustrate the path and procedures of a PDF/X file passing through a series of checks -- requiring a passport, enduring a careful customs inspection, etc -- such that all variables are known and controlled. No surprises, which is always the goal, if not the reality, of sending PDF files through a production workflow.

To pull off the analogy visually, however, Jahn needed to find a way to humanize PDF -- after all, a file format doesn't typically make travel arrangements and fly commercially. Enter "Mr. PDF," (not Mr. PDF/X?) who as Jahn conveniently noted, was "born yesterday" in time to play a part in Enfocus' PDF/X Initiative presentation.

Enfocus' Mr. PDF Adobe's AcroMan


As significant observations go, this one is pretty far down the list -- but someone has to note the obvious contrast: The spike-haired, green-limbed personification bears little resemblance to Adobe's own "AcroMan" characterization, the company's large-thighed, buttoned-down fashion plate who's typically portrayed running and juggling. Together, they make for a PDF Odd Couple of sorts (not to infer they *are* a couple, of course) -- the unpretentious dude with a huge proboscis and the seemingly stressed corporate type who dare not slow down for fear of dropping the ball (or font or globe). Is the Acrobat world big enough for both?


PDF/X

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FRIDAY

No Post Today: Off for Memorial Day holiday


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