Planet PDF Weblog for the week of July 22, 2002
Daily chronicle of Adobe Acrobat and PDF-oriented newsbits

For week beginning 22 July 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. If you missed it, catch up on last week's Weblog.

MONDAY

Apple sells PDF Security Fix: A flaw (or perk, depending on your perspective) in Apple's Mac OS X software that currently allows Apple's built-in "Preview" feature to improperly open protected PDF files -- because PDF security is not honored in Apple's initial implementation of PDF as an integral part of its latest operating system -- will apparently be fixed in its upcoming update to Mac OS X v10.2, dubbed "Jaguar." [NOTE: Our use of both the letter "X" and the numeral "10" follows Apple's own seemingly redundant usage.]

That's the good news, at least for PDF authors who'd prefer that their secured PDFs actually stayed that way. For current OS X owners, the news is less pleasant -- the forthcoming upgrade will cost $129 (according to some reports, it doesn't matter when you purchased your current version of OS X).

Quartz Extreme Oddly enough, Apple describes the PDF security "fix" that's part of its enhanced Quartz Extreme functionality as among the "improvements to the Mac OS X graphics subsystem" available in its next release.

"Everything you see on screen is the result of millions upon millions of calculations by Quartz, the revolutionary composited windowing system in Mac OS X that uses the Portable Document Format (PDF) as the basis of its imaging model. Quartz delivers crisp graphics, anti-aliased fonts, and blends 2D, 3D and QuickTime content together with transparency and drop shadows."
So far, so good.

Apple continues its justification for the $129 fee, enumerating the many new features that will be available in Jaguar, such as Quartz Extreme:

"Jaguar delivers numerous other improvements to the Mac OS X graphics subsystem. The new Quartz delivers device-independent and resolution-independent rendering of anti-aliased text, bitmap images and vector graphics. In addition, Quartz can both save and print transparency ..."
I'm still with you; but then ...
"... and the Preview application honors PDF file security."
OK, stop the show. This is *not* an added "feature," but a make-good of a flaw in Apple's original implementation of PDF within OS X. But Apple seems to think it is -- or wants us to believe so -- since you only can get this fix/feature if you pay to play.

In other words, users that for any reason decide to stick with the current version of OS X apparently will continue to have unfettered access to PDF-based content meant to be protected, courtesy of Apple. While technically speaking this doesn't entail actual decryption of PDF files, the enabling of which constitutes a violation of the DMCA, the result -- as far as a content author is concerned -- is certainly the same. Apple should be making this fix available to all current users of OS X now, not adding it to an upgrade that must be purchased for $129. (There's a certain irony here - selling a software tool to decrypt PDF security is considered criminal, but selling a product that restores intended protection is considered a feature.)

As a long-time Mac user and advocate -- and an OS X user -- I'm all for "Thinking Different." But this is "Wishful Thinking" (at best) on Apple's part. I urge other Mac-based users of Acrobat to let Apple know they need to apply some "Different Thinking" on this particular matter. For the sake of its many Acrobat users who rely on PDF security, Adobe ought to reinforce the point with its Apple associates.

Otherwise, PDF authors distributing secure PDFs should take note of -- and 'think differently' about -- Apple's own advice in its Tech Doc #75262:

"The only way to ensure a PDF document with security features is always secure and cannot be modified is to add a user password. Any PDF document without a user password should not be used in situations where the security features need to be enforced."
Until Apple freely distributes a fix, consider OS X to be one of the "situations" where document security is not enforced -- where, despite your intentions, the use of a user password offers no protection whatsoever.


   

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TUESDAY

Back to Bootcamp: Presumably the reason for becoming a technology-oriented writer is that one maintains a personal knowledge base about the latest and greatest tools, and the ability to communicate accurately to those with less tech aptitude (or at least with less time for tracking developments). Granted, it's an ever-widening -- and thus challenging -- arena in which to claim expertise. But there have to be some basic expectations and requirements, especially when one's focus is on helping newcomers make sense of the maze.

"Bootcamp," a weekly column published as part of the Daily Telegraph's www.connected.telegraph.co.uk/ Web site, is such an information vehicle. It covers a broad spectrum of software-related topics, seemingly aimed at a non-tech-savvy audience. The July 22 column, titled "Old Faithfuls and Must-Haves," offers a review of some of the most popular shareware and freeware programs.

"Shareware and freeware can be a difficult concept for newcomers to computing to grasp," the author begins. He prefaces his listing of a selection of "shareware and freeware 'Top Tens' ... that quite simply no Windows PC should be without" by noting:

"Computer hardware and software can be expensive and everyone in the industry is there to make money, so what's the idea behind companies and individuals giving away software; what's the catch?"

There is no catch, the columnist says, explaining that freeware and shareware exist in part "because the authors and publishers mostly distribute their products over the Internet, avoiding the high costs of packaging, marketing and distribution."

Given the theme of this Weblog, you may already be speculating that the free Adobe Acrobat Reader merited Top 10 honors from Bootcamp. If so, you'd be wrong. But another of Adobe Systems' PDF-enabled applications *did* make the cut, listed -- and presumably thus ranked -- fifth:

Adobe Acrobat is freeware

A Bootcamp-enlightened newcomer visiting the Adobe.com site will, of course, discover there *is* a catch after all -- Adobe wants to be paid for Acrobat! As the column had accurately noted about "everyone in the industry," Adobe develops the vast majority of its software products "to make money."

We've acknowledged the awkward branding of the free Acrobat Reader and the commercial ("full") Acrobat in previous Weblog entries and articles. Whether it's too late now -- nearly a decade since both products were launched -- to try to differentiate more between them (the products share not only name similarity, for better or worse, but also have the exact same application icons) is debateable. At the same time, you can't lay all the blame for name confusion and misuse at Adobe's feet. Acrobat and PDF are no longer "cult" technologies, as some have labelled them in the past -- today they're definitely mainstream tools.

No one being paid to write about software products in 2002, especially when writing for an audience in part lacking the knowledge to understand and overlook blatant inaccuracies, should have a problem differentiating between the free PDF-viewing tool and its related commercial, full-featured namesake. If software-beat journalists don't understand and appreciate -- and thus accurately inform others on -- the differences, it may be time to return to technology bootcamp.

By the way, for any newcomers tuning in here, "PDF" stands for "portable document format," not "portable document file" as referenced in Bootcamp. And its potential usefulness is far greater than just for "illustrated documents and product manuals." HINT: To say "PDF format" is redundant; "PDF file" is more common and acceptable.

Bootcamp's description of Adobe Acrobat as a freeware product is, on the other hand, unacceptable.


   

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WEDNESDAY

On Second Thought: Seems we may have been too hasty in our criticism of Apple Computer in this Weblog on Monday for its apparent decision to sell as part of its forthcoming OS X "Jaguar" update something it should be delivering as a fix to all current owners of its latest operating system, not marketed as a new feature. As we reported, Apple appears to be finally addressing a glitch in its initial implementation of PDF as the graphics engine for OS X -- Apple's "Preview" application does not honor PDF security. At present, any protection or restrictions a content author might have set in a PDF is ignored when opened with Apple's built-in, PDF-viewing application.

Apple notes in its pre-release hype for the so-called "Jaguar" update that PDF security will be respected beginning with this new release of OS X -- which is available only by purchase, at a cost of $129. On Monday, we maintained that Apple should be releasing this particular "improvement" for free to all users. Jaguar may or may not be worth Apple's asking price -- that's a separate, debateable issue.

Having now read in detail Apple's recounting of what's included in Jaguar, we think Mac-based PDF fanatics will be getting their money's worth. See for yourself some of what's included in the $129 offering:

OS X Jaguar Acrobat 5.0.5

Had we known earlier in the week that Apple is planning to bundle a copy of the full, commercial Acrobat 5.0.5 software with its "Jaguar" update, we'd certainly have sung the company's praises rather than finding fault. The oversight on our part was brought to our attention by an attentive friend within the Planet PDF community who'd read (and agreed with) our commentary on a different topic covered in the Weblog this week: a technology columnist promoting Adobe Acrobat as freeware, as was detailed here on Tuesday. He cited the listing of Jaguar's included applications (above) as shown today on Apple's Web site. Our correspondent's implication seemed to be that Apple was guilty of the same boneheaded blunder as the careless UK tech writer -- confusing Adobe's commercial Acrobat software with its free Acrobat Reader viewing tool.

We were about to communicate back to our sharp-eyed friend that a company such as Apple certainly wouldn't make such a gaffe, and that the apparent Acrobat 5.0.5 giveaway -- actually, part of the $129 deal -- was almost certainly another example of "Thinking Differently." Then we checked the main Apple Web site once more. Things had changed.

Gone was Acrobat 5.0.5; now listed as part of "Jaguar" is the already free Acrobat Reader 5.0.5. Gone, too, is our brief re-consideration of thinking differently about the need to pay extra for Apple's state-of-the-art operating system software to honor PDF security. As we urged on Monday: Complain to Apple!

Or order "Jaguar" from the Apple Asia site -- at this time, it's still promoting the full Acrobat 5.0.5 as being included in the next release!


   

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THURSDAY

All Hands on PDF: The U.S. Navy has a proud heritage, one it wants to share. Beginning this summer it is undertaking a project to make "All Hands," the Magazine of the U.S. Navy, available to the public. Not just newly published issues, but the publication's entire historical archive, back to its launch in 1922. Hence this recent announcement:

"We believe it's important to make the Navy's history, as documented in 'All Hands,' accessible to everyone. AllHands 1945 Consequently, we've undertaken a project to archive every back issue in Adobe Acrobat format. Target completion date for this project is Spring 2003. New issues, beginning with June 2002, will be offered in both Adobe Acrobat format and Macromedia Flash format. Additionally, the 1998-2001 issues will continue to be available as Web pages until those issues can be replaced with Acrobat files."

The June 2002 edition of "All Hands" is available for download as a complete 27-page, full-color magazine. Be prepared: as the Navy wants you to be able to print a quality version, the PDF's resolution is higher (150dpi) than needed strictly for Web use. The resulting June issue weighs in at 15 MB; the Navy reasons that the extra resolution is "a better option for archival purposes."

Navy AllHands

The good news is that the reproduction quality is matched by the issue's sterling content. This is no lightweight, inhouse newsletter. The current issue of "All Hands" is a first-rate publication by any journalistic measure. It's visually appealing -- with compelling imagery and pleasingly designed pages -- and contains a nice range of well-written content, all of course with some relevance to Navy life.

Despite the obvious intent to have people download and print the pages, it would be nice to see a few navigational features added so that the option of reading some of the magazine online would be more practical. Article threads, bookmarks and active Table of Contents and URL hyperlinks would have added little extra file size to the already hefty download, but would have offered greater ease in trying to read some of the interesting articles without resorting to ink-and-paper. Offering smaller sections or feature articles as separate downloads would surely increase the appeal.

For example, June's feature on the 100th birthday of "The Bluejacket's Manual" -- something of a Bible of sailor life for several generations -- is a fascinating look at the institutionally significant booklet's long history. According to the article:

"Millions of new recruits, spanning six wars and countless operations, have gotten their first glimpse of the Navy by studying the pages of this classic reference book."

Navy Bluejackets Manual turns 100

The manual covers "terminology, rank structure, jobs, military drill, and proper wearing and stowing of uniforms," among other topics. The manual, considered "the book to read" among Navy types, "gets a major overhaul every four years and is printed every six months." Minor updates are made periodically to ensure the content is as timely and accurate as possible. A newly released 'Centennial Edition' is in fact the 23rd, and accordingly, has some new material among its 23 chapters, such as the "inclusion of many additional Internet links and the focus of chapter two on Naval missions and history."

What doesn't seem to be available, as best we could tell, is a PDF version (at least not a freely available one) of the Bluejacket's Manual. If you long for a personal copy, the latest edition is available for purchase at Amazon.com and likely elsewhere.

Or you can always join the Navy. Remember to pack a copy of Acrobat -- or at least the free Reader -- so you can catch up on future back issues of All Hands magazine.


   

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FRIDAY

PDF Jackpot in Las Vegas: You'll only be taking a gamble on missing a great Acrobat/PDF learning opportunity if you *don't* plan to be in Las Vegas in late November -- for the PDF Conference West 2002. Carl Young and his travelling caravan of Acrobat-wise cohorts -- a solid crew of international PDF experts -- are holding the annual west coast rendition of the popular event from November 22-24. It may be one of the few places in the Glitzy City where you'll get honest value for your dollar (or euro or ...)!

If you've never attended one of Young's PDF Conference events in the past, you only need talk to someone who has to find out what a rewarding and enriching experience it can be -- not only during the conference sessions and workshops, but also in mingling with the assembled experts and other attendees. You'll find out that a lot of people showing up are past attendees -- some who've been to all of the conferences since they began a couple years ago. Planet PDF has been a founding sponsor, and we've been to all of them -- and that's what we hear over and over again. Check out some of our coverage from the east coast version held this past June -- many of the past speaker presentations are available for download.

It's none too soon to register [PDF: 42kb], of course, or at least to have a look at the conference brochure [PDF: 500kb] to see what's being emphasized in Las Vegas. HINT #1: The focus in Las Vegas will be on Web technology and PDF. And if you've got some expertise yourself, Carl Young and his planning team would love to hear about it -- just complete the Call for Presentations [PDF: 65kb] -- a fillable PDF form -- with the necessary details.

And if you're a PDF Trivia buff -- a small, but exclusive group -- here's a question you may be able to win a wager or two on: At which Las Vegas hotel was ElcomSoft programmer Dmitry Sklyarov staying when he was arrested by the FBI last July 16 for allegedly developing a software tool that could decrypt Adobe PDF-based eBooks?

HINT #2: If you attend the conference, you'll be there. (A: The Alexis Park Hotel)


   

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