Planet PDF Weblog for the week of August 19, 2002
A daily chronicle of Acrobat/PDF-oriented newsbits

For week beginning 19 August 2002
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. You can also catch up on last week's Weblog.


Reverse Diversity: Re-focusing on our Specialty: Not unlike the much larger companies within the Acrobat/PDF ecosystem on which we routinely report, at Planet PDF we're always looking at new ideas and opportunities, as well as continuously re-evaluating past decisions. A lot of times the inspiration for ways we might enhance our independent site focused exclusively on Adobe Acrobat and PDF comes directly from you, our readers and visitors -- either as direct suggestions, through helpful feedback to surveys we periodically post or through our own general observations of the user community.

I mention this today to preface an announcement we want to share with you regarding some changes you soon may begin to notice. Actually, the "changes" won't involve -- at least at first -- a lot of new and different things, but rather a return to the familiar. That is, at least if you've been a member of our Planet PDF community for a while -- a user of our Web site resources, newsletter subscriber, Forum participant and/or store customer -- you'll quickly adapt.

A while back we decided to diversify our online software store to include a wider range of products from a broader publishing spectrum, not limited to products related directly to Adobe Acrobat and PDF. Accordingly, we changed the name -- to ePublish Store -- to properly convey our enhanced tools selection. At the same time, we've also continued to increase the number of Acrobat plug-ins and other PDF-oriented products available. Not surprisingly, they remain the biggest draw -- it's what we're known for.

Around the same time, we also broadened our content offerings slightly by launching a pair of secondary "sister" sites to Planet PDF: Planet eBook and (most recently named) Planet Publish. Each site had its own primary landlord and content shepherd, but Planet PDF continued to serve as the flagship site, receiving by far the most attention, staff resources and visitor traffic.

The News: We're rolling back the clock to a simpler time, re-focusing exclusively on Acrobat and PDF, and on Planet PDF. We're shifting all editorial resources back to our main site, which will allow us to expand on the content we provide -- everything focused on Acrobat/PDF uses and users. My colleagues Rich Crocker (Planet eBook) and Craig Kirkwood (Planet Publish) are in the process of shifting much of their efforts to working with me and others on our team to expand Planet PDF. Rich brings a particular expertise in PDF-based eBooks, and Craig's background in graphic arts provides him the opportunity to spearhead our PDF-for-print coverage.

Also, our online, 24 x 7 store is being rechristened the PDF Store, its original moniker (or as some have continued to refer to it: the "Planet PDF Store") and will be returning to its original url: The name on the site actually changed overnight, as some hawkeyes might already have noticed. Likewise, we'll gradually return to hosting exclusively Acrobat/PDF-related products.

We'll continue to bring you the latest and greatest resources to help you understand and harness Acrobat and PDF. Creating Acrobat Forms For example, today we launched another in our ongoing series of promotional contests that offer some of the best books being published, aimed at accelerating your mastery of this powerful, multi-faceted technology. The currently featured book is "Creating Adobe Acrobat Forms," the latest from Ted Padova, also the author of the highly acclaimed "Acrobat 5 PDF Bible." We'll be giving away eight copies of Ted's detailed guide to working with PDF Forms during the next four weeks. As in previous promotions, we offer free sample chapters to give you a taste of the book's content as well as to give a jump start to those of you new to the forms applications and possibilities of PDF.

It's only one aspect of the growing world of Acrobat you can discover at the also expanding Planet PDF.


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Best Laid Plans & the Unplanned: A year ago Gene Gable, President of Seybold Seminars and Publications, and his colleagues and staff were into the final, critical weeks of promoting the organization's annual San Francisco techfest, slated for Sept. 24-28, 2001. Then a disaster not even the most cautious disaster planner ever could have imagined -- September 11 -- struck. On a human scale, the worst damage obviously occurred on the east coast, with the tragic loss of lives in the thousands (and feared much worse) and the financial casualties in numbers so large mere publishing world mortals can't even fathom them.

After much agonizing and soul searching -- and feedback from the industry -- Gable announced that Seybold SF 2001 would go on. He knew full well it would not go on as once planned -- there was far too much lingering uncertainty and fear, coupled with corporate travel bans and a personal reluctance to fly for many other would-be attendees so soon after 9/11. Conference organizers forged on with modified plans for what Gable later described as "A Different Kind of Seybold" -- dramatically smaller but with a special seriousness of purpose.

Fast forward nearly a year: Gable and associates are busy stumping for Seybold SF 2002, now a few weeks away. Once again, there are questions about 9/11 -- *not* so much in reference to lingering concerns from last year's devastation, but rather about September 11, 2002. Memorials are being planned across the country this year to reflect on the national tragedy as well as to remember acts of heroism, with national media expected to dedicate much of the day's coverage to the event and topic. By a stroke of fate, Seybold SF 2002 is scheduled for Sept. 9-12 this year, with the 9/11 commemoration landing squarely -- Wednesday -- in the middle of the expanded, three-day Seybold PDF Conference program.

Gable noted and explained the scheduling glitch in a letter to the media and analyst community earlier this summer. Seybold books its annual event at San Francisco's Moscone Center "many, many years in advance," he wrote, adding that they were "unable to secure any substitute dates this year." Gable says Seybold is making plans to accommodate anticipated interest from some attendees in watching, marking and/or reflecting on the 9/11 events nationwide.

"We will have extra TV monitors in the building on Wednesday the 11th so our guests can watch news coverage if they like, and we have a special 'Where Do We Go From Here?' session that morning. We are making every effort to be respectful and businesslike during this time, and will provide information on local services and events going on around San Francisco."

In a recent interview with Electronic Publishing magazine, EP Mag published in its August 2002 issue and available on the PennWell publication's Web site, Gable reflects on the history of the Seybold conferences and publications from humble beginnings several decades earlier to its present form. Gable ascended to his current role in 1999 after serving in the mid-90s as publisher of the now-defunct "Publish" magazine.

"Throughout the history of the Seybold brand, the emphasis has been on education -- the commerce aspects of the marketplace naturally fell in place, but we still define ourselves by our conference and the subjects we cover, not just by the exhibitors at our trade shows. We believe that if you bring people together to discuss problems, standards, and successes, there will be economic support from the vendor community."

According to Gable, conference attendance peaked in 2000 with 3900 registrants. With fewer attendees for more recent events, Seybold has learned to "focus even more on delivering the right educational opportunities." And what focus will the upcoming SF event have? Gable says:

"We believe strongly that the next big developments are in collaborative workflow -- content management, rights management, print-on-demand, electronic document formats (such as PDF), and related issues having to do with how folks interact with the document. I want to see the creative community become more involved up front in planning for all uses. Publishing is no longer a linear process, and the creative community should be targeting a wide variety of media. It's a huge challenge for them."

As to the future of industry conferences, given the current economic climate and other relevant factors, Gable says Seybold must constantly reevaluate its offerings to "make sure it is positioned correctly."

"No doubt there will be some fallout -- there are too many shows today for the industry's purpose," Gable tells Electronic Publishing editor Keith Hevenor.

Earlier this year the first re-vamped Seybold PDF Conference was held in New York, offering a modified program (from previous "PDF Day" events) and a change of venue (a move from Boston). Dates were published and announced for a future Seybold NY 2003 gathering. However, those dates have now been removed from the Seybold Web site. Fallout?

A Seybold Seminars spokesperson confirmed that the original March 10-13, 2003 dates are no longer valid. "Our NY 2003 dates at the Javits Center were not optimal for our Seybold Seminars spring needs. Having to share the venue with another event producer, and the current economic climate all played roles in this decision."

So what's next on the Seybold conference agenda after SF 2002? Perhaps there's an indication in Gable's interview comments about the future:

"You'll see some smaller, more intimate events added to our schedule and more focus on personal services like consulting and custom publishing. As the industry moves away from desktop-based systems to enterprise workflow publishing tools, the buying cycle and complexity of decision making is much more intense. That will require more focused seminars, articles, and services to help people through very long implementation periods."

Seybold PDF Conference Update: Harry Vitelli, Senior Director of Acrobat Product Management for Adobe Systems, Inc., will replace Joe Eschbach as one of two keynote speakers. Vitelli is responsible for all aspects of Acrobat desktop product management, including current product versions and future technology directions. He joined Adobe in October 2001. Vitelli joins Guy Gleysteen, Director of Printing for Time Inc., in the Tuesday morning session.


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'Where have you gone, Joe ... ?': Simon and Garfunkel may have been wondering about the whereabouts of New York Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio in their 1967 song refrain from the movie "The Graduate," but the same ditty -- with a minor twist -- could work equally well for long-time Acrobat users wondering about the recently announced departure of Joe Eschbach, formerly Adobe Systems' ePaper VP and prominent Adobe PDF spokesperson. As you may recall from a previous Weblog entry, Adobe slipped an extra sentence at the end of a recent news release announcing the hiring of another senior executive, curtly noting that Eschbach had left the building -- and company. No mention of why or where he was headed, leaving room for wonder ... if not speculation.

No more. Today we learned the answer/destination.

In its Business section today, the Seattle Times includes a news brief headlined: "Microsoft adds pair of vice presidents," apparently as part of an expanding business and productivity software division at the Redmond, WA-based company. The short item includes a familiar name:

"Joe Eschbach was hired as vice president of the information-workers productivity group. The former head of San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe System's 'e-paper solutions group,' he will lead a new sales and consulting group promoting products such as Microsoft Office."

Interesting change of scenery, at the very least. But does Eschbach's hiring indicate a positive development concerning Microsoft's interest in PDF? Probably not. But consider this comment from an article "Perfect Partners" published some time back (but still available) on, which featured the subhead 'Microsoft Office and Acrobat - an ideal marriage' ...

"Microsoft Office is the foremost authoring tool for digital documents," says Joe Eschbach, vice president of Adobe's ePaper Solutions group. "Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations hold the information that makes an ePaper workflow valuable."

The problem with being a highly visible voice in a competitive technology marketplace during the Internet era means everything you've uttered is readily available online -- for better or worse. As an Acrobat/PDF advocate, Eschbach at times in the past found himself viewing the Adobe-Microsoft relationship as something less than symbiotic, especially in areas where they competed directly, such as eBooks. For example, in an August 2000 article in Wired titled "E-Books' Full Court Press," Eschbach said Adobe's unique experience gave it a lead over other e-Book competitors.

"We have a strong position with the publishing industry," Eschbach said. "Microsoft is unknown, unproven, and not trusted."

With Adobe's PDF format, users can download e-book content across multiple platforms to distribute content on a wide variety of devices. "Cross-platform ability is hugely important," Eschbach said. "Just supporting a Windows platform is not enough."

"(Microsoft has) been behind the industry in calling for secure content delivery," Eschbach said. Microsoft's push for open standards on digital rights may not be as inclusive as it appears. "It's open as long as you're using a Microsoft platform."

We suspect the Microsoft eBook Reader and Microsoft's .LIT format eBooks are probably looking a lot more appealing to Eschbach from his new Pacific Northwest vantage point (on a Windows-based PC).


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The PDF Commandments: Recently we referenced an apparently new Adobe marketing campaign for Acrobat after noticing a two-page color advertisement in an issue of The New Yorker magazine early this month. For what it's worth, we weren't overly enamored with it, suggesting in this Weblog that it -- both visually and thematically -- didn't quite click.

That is to say, it wasn't one I'd have felt compelled to clip for my office wall. On that note, one of my favorite PDF-related snippets over the years was a makeshift cartoon fashioned by a former colleagues from an ad promoting another product -- (storage or security, as best I recall). It featured the familiar image of Moses carefully negotiating his way down the mountain, bearing several heavy stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments of biblical fame. My colleague flatbed-scanned the ad and digitally replaced the advertiser's intended slogan with the phrase: 'Have you got that in PDF?' We figured Moses would have loved having a "Digital Master" on hand. It was a featured and favorite image in our Acrobat-enlightened office for quite some time. It's long since been lost.


In this week's issue of The New Yorker -- actually, it's a combined two-week issue for both August 19 and 26 -- Moses as Product Pitchman has returned. And this time no doctoring will be necessary -- he's hawking Acrobat/PDF! (No, not Ted Padova's "Acrobat 5 PDF Bible.")

In what appears to be the next in a series of single-benefit-themed ads for Acrobat, Adobe has all but revived my favorite cubicle comic. The featured PDF feature this time is "Document Security," with a full-page color image of the bearded one and his famed carved tablets which, with a slight slip of a sandal, might easily be reduced to tiny pieces of stone. In addition to security, the image seems to work well for illustrating a number of other benefits of the portable document format: accessibility and portability for sure.

No, Moses is not portrayed in this bona fide Acrobat ad as asking if there's a PDF version of God's Top 10 list available -- but the ad's headlined message is reasonably similar:

you don't
want messed
In smaller typesize further down on the page, the supporting text says:

"Circulate documents, presentations, and even contracts that can't be altered, rewritten or changed. Adobe Acrobat. Create an Adobe PDF and do more with your documents."

Pardon me while I run for (not with) the scissors. Thanks, Adobe!


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Not going by the Book: Wired opines on its Web site today:

"You would think that the owners and programmers of Moscow software company ElcomSoft would want to stay as far away from electronic books as possible."

Apparently not so, according to Wired's article titled "Russian Coding Firm Back for More" published online today. ElcomSoft executive Vladimir Katalov explains that the company, currently under criminal indictment for developing and selling software capable of decrypting Adobe PDF-based eBooks, has plans for developing additional eBook-related products he believes will be not violate any laws or patents. (As we reported earlier this week, the pending trial date in California has been pushed back from August 26 to October 21.) According to Wired, "At least, Katalov hopes the new software his company intends to offer for Adobe and Microsoft eBooks is legal."

According to Katalov, ElcomSoft recently approached Microsoft for an opinion on the legality of one product under consideration at the Moscow-based company, but Microsoft allegedly responded that it doesn't offer legal advice to third parties.

Speculation on one type of product ElcomSoft might have in mind could easily be nourished by a request for information Katalov posted on the microsoft.public.reader.developer newsgroup this past April seeking insights on Microsoft's digital rights management technologies and its .LIT eBook format:

"Does anybody know about the software (free, shareware or commercial) that allows to create DRM3 (inscribed) LIT-files? Or convert DRM2 files to DRM3? If no, is it possible (technically and legally) to write one using MS Reader Content SDK? Or one have to purchase Microsoft Digital Asset Server?"

Despite the apparent uncertainty about the legal ramifications that might cause the company to stumble -- again -- into legal quicksand, "ElcomSoft plans to continue to market exactly the sorts of products that led to their entanglement with the U.S. legal system," says Wired.

In some sense, they already do. The product ElcomSoft was forced to remove from the market -- Advanced eBook Processor (AEBPR) -- was capable of decrypting a variety of computer-based security solutions available for eBooks, including Adobe's high-end Content Server commercial system used by many commercial publishers for selling Adobe PDF-based eBooks online. (AEBPR did not decrypt Microsoft .LIT-formatted ebooks.)

Long before it developed and began offering AEBPR for $99 in June 2001, ElcomSoft began marketing -- and continues to sell -- a wide range of password recovery software products that work with some of the most popular commercial applications, including many from Microsoft (including Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, Outlook Express, VBA, PowerPoint and Visio) and Adobe, among others.

Among ElcomSoft's listed products are two versions of a tool that can discover passwords in secured PDF files. Advanced PDF Password Recovery (also available in a "Pro" version) has legitimate uses for an author who intentionally uses the "User Password" to lock a PDF document against opening, but later forgets the password needed to view it, or who utilizes the "Master Password" to disable a range of other document-specific capabilities e.g. printing, copying, etc. But it can also be used by a non-author to instantly open a secured PDF document where only one of Acrobat's two available passwords has been applied. The "Pro" version offers some advanced techniques, as explained in the product's ReadMe file:

PDF Document Security
"Advanced PDF Password Recovery Pro (APDFPRP) is a program to decrypt protected Adobe Acrobat PDF files, which have "user" ("open") and/or "owner" ("security, "master") passwords set, and to recover these passwords. Owner-level protection allows to prevent PDF file from editing (changing), printing, selecting text and graphics (and copying them into the Clipboard), or adding/changing annotations and form fields (in any combination); user-level one locks the file so the password is requiored to open/view the file. If only "owner" password is set, decryption is being done instantly; decrypted file can be opened in any PDF viewer (e.g. Adobe Acrobat Reader) without any restrictions -- i.e. with edit/copy/print/annotate functions enabled. Alternatively, "owner" password can be recovered using brute-force or dictionary attacks; for "user" password, these attacks are required in any case. In addition, files with "user" password can be recovered in a reasonable time using "key search" attack. Please note that some limitations still apply (see help file for more details about Adobe Acrobat encryption levels and complete description/limitations of attacks mentioned above). All versions of Adobe Acrobat (including 5.0, which features 56..128-bit encryption: PDF 1.4 specification) are supported."

As Katalov explained in a May 2002 response to a "Unlocking & Printing PDFs" query posted in the comp.text.pdf newsgroup, ElcomSoft's password recovery software for PDFs can also be used to restore permissions disabled by the publisher or author for certain Adobe PDF-based eBooks -- those where only the standard security built into Adobe Acrobat is used (as opposed to the high-end Content Server system or other third-party security products and methods):

PDF Standard Security

User Query: I have purchased a PDF eBook. I want to print it for easier reading. However, when I load it into Acrobat, the print option is greyed out. Is there a way to modify this document so that it is printable?

Katalov: "If that file is encrypted using standard security handler -- yes:

Both versions of ElcomSoft's PDF password recovery products are listed as available for purchase online from the same U.S.-based company (RegNow) that once briefly sold -- but was forced to withdraw it after a DMCA violation warning from Adobe Systems -- ElcomSoft's ill-fated AEBR product. RegNow is based in Issaquah, WA.

Despite what Wired terms as ElcomSoft's "nagging legal concerns" -- more often referred to as the first criminal indictment in the U.S. under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) -- it's been pretty much "business as usual" at ElcomSoft this past year, according to Katalov. All things considered, he indicates, sales are up slightly while the company has experienced some not-unexpected customer turnover as a result of its much-publicized DMCA encounter. He notes at least one other liability.

"But our legal expenses, of course, are very high, and so we had to cut our investments into research and development," Katalov tells Wired.

However, some might conclude that ElcomSoft's "R&D" hasn't been trimmed enough if the company has the time and resources -- and nerve -- to explore additional eBook applications (and expanding to target Microsoft's in addition to Adobe's technologies) that they can't be certain won't further boost their legal expenses. And depending on the trial's outcome, the associated costs -- including financial penalties -- could escalate considerably if the U. S. Government prosecution proves successful.

Perhaps the ultimate irony: If it wasn't for ElcomSoft's 'nagging' indictment and the related news coverage and associated public activities during the past year, few people would be concerned about eBooks at all.


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