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

For week beginning 7 October 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.

MONDAY

Tech Tag Team Together Again: As in much of their working lives, retired Adobe Systems co-founders John Warnock and Charles Geschke will be honored together by The Computer History Museum's equivalent of a Hall of Fame for tech types -- they'll be inducted October 22 as "Fellows of the Museum."

No big surprise really -- unless you've never heard of the Computer History Museum, of course. After all, it was just last week we reported that Computerworld had tabbed the portable document format as one of the Top 35 technologies that helped shape the industry. And Acrobat/PDF is just one part of the Adobe empire the two friends co-founded in 1982, then nurtured and led until they retired respectively over the past few years. It's ideal that they're being honored in tandem, along with another pair of deserving honorees-to-be.

Yes, there really is a Computer History Museum, although as museums go, it's a relative newbie. Then again, there hasn't exactly been a need for such a museum until fairly recently. But there is now:

"Established in 1996, the Computer History Museum is a non-profit entity dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computing history. It is home to one of the largest collections of computing artifacts in the world, a collection comprising over 3,500 artifacts, 3,000 films and videotapes, 5,000 photographs, 3,500 linear feet of cataloged documentation and gigabytes of software."

The museum's collection is housed in a "Visible Storage Exhibit Area" in Mountain View, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley. And -- assuming you have a computer -- you can tour much of it via the Web.

No indication whether the collection includes the very first pocket protector, but it has a wealth of technological memorabilia sufficient to entertain even the modestly geeky. If you need to brush up on the early days of the Internet, check out the Internet Timeline from 1962-1992. The virtual exhibits "track two of the more fundamental developments in computer technology: the internet and the microprocessor." Another offers a "sampling of 10 significant artifacts in the history of computing from the Museum's permanent collection," including objects that "span over 100 years of computing technology and show the diversity of approaches and technologies that make up computing."

If the "100 years" reference seems a bit of an exaggeration, keep in mind the site chronicles computing by methods that pre-date early computers as think of them. The samples include:

  • Cray-1A
  • Xerox
  • PARC Alto
  • ENIGMA
  • (Wehrmacht)
  • MITS
  • Altair 8800
  • Apollo
  • Guidance Computer
  • BUSICOM
  • Calculator
  • Apple-1
  • IBM
  • THINK Sign
  • Altair
  • BASIC Paper Tape
  • Hollerith
  • Census Machine

In its timeline of software history, Warnock and Geschke get their due in a listing for 1985 -- three years after they founded Adobe Systems -- for helping to launch desktop publishing:

"Aldus announced its PageMaker program for use on Macintosh computers, launching an interest in desktop publishing. Two years later, Aldus released a version for IBMs and IBM-compatible computers. Developed by Paul Brainerd, who founded Aldus Corp., PageMaker allowed users to combine graphics and text easily enough to make desktop publishing practical."

Aldus PageMaker 1985

"Chuck Geschke of Adobe Systems Inc., a company formed in 1994 by the merger of Adobe and Aldus, remembered: John Sculley, a young fellow at Apple, got three groups together - Aldus, Adobe, and Apple - and out of that came the concept of desktop publishing. Paul Brainerd of Aldus is probably the person who first uttered the phrase. All three companies then took everybody who could tie a tie and speak two sentences in a row and put them on the road, meeting with people in the printing and publishing industry and selling them on this concept. The net result was that it turned around not only the laser printer but, candidly, Apple Computer. It really turned around that whole business."

The museum also features the use of PDF in several capacities, including its own newsletter. Perhaps the most interesting -- in terms of being relevant to the theme -- is "Computers Before Computing," an OCRed version of a 266-page book that covers the technologies and computing methods that eventually led to modern-day computers. Each chapter is its own PDF, due to the file size of the scanned book pages. If you want to know about the evolution of punch cards [image below], for example, download the relevant chapter and enjoy.

Punch Cards

Just be careful not to get so excited that you knock loose your pocket protector.


   

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TUESDAY

Pioneering Principles & Priorities: As we noted in yesterday's Weblog entry, Adobe Systems co-founders and long-time colleagues John Warnock and Charles Geschke garnered some headlines again this week by being selected to receive a prestigious industry award, only the latest of many that Adobe's dynamic duo have garnered during their stellar careers and deserved publishing industry legend status.

Both having retired in recent years, they understandably have faded from view in the tech press, surfacing occasionally in reflective commentaries or tributes such as the recent one with the Computer History Museum.

But both have appeared recently in select non-tech press coverage, in each case illustrating that old CEOs -- especially ones who also founded a company -- still maintain a hand and a considerable interest in its continuing success. (NOTE: Both Warnock and Geschke retain their respective Chairman of the Board roles at Adobe)

A recent article titled "Adobe founder extols integrity" in the Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT) shared some of Warnock's words of wisdom presented at the University of Utah, from which he graduated. Clearly mindful of the damage done to the public trust by executive management at companies such as Enron and Worldcom, Warnock said that "At the end of the day, if you run a company, the only thing you're going to have left is your integrity." He continued:

"You have multiple constituencies. You have customers, you have employees, you have stockholders, you have partners, you have whole different groups of people that every company has to deal with, and the only rule that has consistently been true is you treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. It's very important to have a very high regard for ethics in business and keeping integrity in business. It's very easy to slip down a very slippery slope and make bad decisions that will do somebody in."

Warnock shared some of the lessons learned at Adobe: "hiring smart people, keeping employees informed and motivated, keeping customers happy and having multiple products instead of just one." According to the article, Warnock acknowledged that Adobe has made a few mistakes, most often in the case where product developments came before there was a market for the technology.

Warnock challenged the audience, noting that "if you really have a passion to provide a product or service that you think is going to change the world, go for it." He added the following verbal footnote:

"If you get people to just try to use their imaginations, ideas come out of the blue. The trick is recognizing when an idea is sort of core, when that idea has lots of ramifications in the world around us and can be built upon. Then you have an idea that might turn into a business."

Geschke & Warnock 1994

Earlier this summer, Geschke offered his own reflections on life at Adobe for another captive -- and slightly ironic -- audience: Adobe employees. Not those based at the company's San Jose headquarters, however, but rather those across the border at the company's most recently acquired facilities at the Accelio Corporation in Ottawa, Canada.

In August, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper published an article titled "The Adobe Way," an account of the retired co-founder's visit to mingle with and ideally to inspire the troops. The newspaper sets the scene:

"Geschke, 62, appears completely relaxed. He introduces himself and quietly challenges the crowd to take their chairs, plates and glasses and move towards him. 'That way, you and I can have a conversation,' he said. It was an important clue that his 'welcome to Adobe' speech might include more than just the usual corporate platitudes."

"The employees complied, after only an instant's hesitation. For the next 30 minutes, Geschke spoke plainly, without notes, about what it means to be part of the 'Adobe family' as he called it."

Geschke talked about how he and Warnock founded Adobe, the article relates, "but most of all, he talked about values."

"'The only way you can get fired from this organization,' he says, 'is if you lie.'"

"Geschke urged Accelio managers to be civil -- to praise their subordinates in public and to criticize them only in private. 'That's the Adobe way.'"

Another aspect of the Adobe way espoused by Geschke is the company's attitude toward philanthropy, especially important and especially challenging goal with the tech industry struggling with through a global economic downturn.

"'We expect vice-presidents at any level in this company to be on at least one non-profit board,' Geschke said. Not only that, but California-based Adobe encourages each of its outside offices to set up a philanthropic council to channel employees' donations into programs for the disadvantaged."

At the same time the industry hails the Adobe co-founders for their products, it also must acknowledge their equally important principles and priorities. Their long-term success -- by any measure -- is based on an equal blend.

Warnock and Geschke will join current Adobe Systems president and CEO Bruce Chizen on Oct. 16 at the Churchhill Club in Palo Alto for a discussion of Adobe's past, present and future.


   

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WEDNESDAY

Adobe's Opportunities & Obstacles: Staying on the Adobe CEO track for another day, Bruce Chizen turned up via RealAudio to talk briefly on Bloomberg.com today about sales of the company's software products, market conditions and the outlook for growth. Calling the software sector a "tough environment," Chizen said the biggest opportunity continues to be around Acrobat, which Adobe expects to remain its "fastest-selling product." With more than 400 million of its free Acrobat Readers distributed worldwide -- available for a growing number of platforms and devices -- Chizen told Bloomberg.com's London office that the strategy is to deliver solutions that help companies and organizations move from traditional paper-based workflows to electronic, PDF-based ones.

Chizen says in its current planning for the next fiscal year, Adobe looks for the economy to at best remain flat overall in its top three markets -- the U.S., Germany and Japan. Accordingly, Adobe intends to pursue increased marketshare (rather than just increased sales) for business process management software solutions, Chizen says, a reference to the product integration, realignment and expected enhancement coming from Adobe's acquisition of Accelio Corp. earlier this year. Adobe has shown a number of server-based "technology demos" in recent months, suggesting the direction the company may be headed in its product development efforts. In addition, based on its previous product life cycle, some analysts have speculated that a new version of Acrobat could be on the horizon for early 2003.

The bulk of Adobe's business in Asia is in Japan, Chizen says, hard hit by economic woes. One problem for Adobe in some of the other potentially larger Asian markets is the astronomical software piracy rate -- around 94-95 percent in China, he says. Asked how the company planned to combat the piracy issue, Chizen posed a two-pronged solution: education and enforcement. "We encourage honest people to be honest," he says, adding that those who don't eventually grasp the concept that it is illegal to copy software may face prosecution "when appropriate" within the presiding legal system.


   

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THURSDAY

Politically Minded PDFs: It seems difficult to believe but barely a year since the horrific September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., alleged mastermind Osama bin Laden has been displaced -- at least in the minds of the heads of government in the U.S. and the U.K. -- as Public Enemy Number One. While there are inconclusive reports suggesting bin Laden survived the subsequent attacks intended to reunite him in spirit with his suicidal followers who piloted airplanes to destruction, the focus has shifted from Afghanistan to Iraq. Madman of the moment in Washington, D.C. and London is Saddam Hussein, who leaders from both countries allege is busy stocking his weapons of mass destruction arsenal ... someplace no one can seem to positively pinpoint.

And that's been the dilemma for U.S. President George W. Bush and his British counterpart Tony Blair. Their efforts to rally world support -- or at east that of other key United Nations member countries -- to help bring about a "regime change" in Iraq have so far come up short of their mutual desires. Iraq dossier In an effort to prove their case that Iraq's dictator poses a serious threat to global security, late last month Britain made publicly available on the Web in late September a dossier outlining its best assessment of Iraq's stash of chemical and biological weapons, and outlining its efforts to add a nuclear threat to its sinister capabilities.

According to the BBC, the 56-page document available for download in PDF has proved wildly popular:

"UK Government websites are struggling to cope with demand as large numbers of people attempt to access its dossier on Iraq online. Originally put up on the Foreign and Commonwealth site, public interest in the document meant many surfers were unable to access it. The government has now created nine mirror sites to carry the document which purports to provide evidence on Saddam Hussein's military plans to use chemical and biological weapons."

It may well be the most popular official government document in PDF since the infamous, graphic Starr Report that chronicled Pres. Bill Clinton's unpresidential relations with a young White House intern. Despite its unwieldy size, the inexplicably scanned-from-paper (an electronic version was available) PDF was more than 17 MB in file size. In comparison, the Iraq dossier is a mere 429kb.

Its release hasn't turned the public tide of support -- at least not so far -- in favor of a proactive attack to oust Hussein from power. And some groups strongly opposed to getting involved militarily at this time are also relying in part on PDF to rally support for their cause and beliefs.

One of those is TomPaine.com, a public interest journal "inspired by the great patriot Thomas Paine," author of Common Sense and The Rights of Man. According to its Web site, the non-partisan TomPaine.com "seeks to enrich the national debate on controversial public issues by featuring the ideas, opinions, and analyses too often overlooked by the mainstream media."

One of the journal's primary methods of motivation is the distribution of so-called "Op Ads," editorial advertisements that are placed in major media such as The New York Times, and supported by in-depth articles. Uncle OsamaEach Op Ad on the TomPaine.com Web site has a link to a PDF edition meant for redistribution. A recent topic was opposition to the drumbeats of war against Iraq titled "When Did Iraq Become More Important Than America?" To make its point that Hussein is "a convenient political distraction wielded by the White House" and a diversion from dealing with problems at home, the editorial-minded ad portrays an illustration of Osama bin Laden in an Uncle Sam-like pose saying "I Want YOU to Invade Iraq!," taunting the U.S. to sends more soldiers to the perpetually troubled Mideast:

"Go ahead. Send me a new generation of recruits. Your bombs will fuel their hatred of America and their desire for revenge. Americans won't be safe anywhere. Please, attack Iraq. Distract yourself from fighting Al Qaeda. Divide the international community. Go ahead. Destabilize the region. Maybe Pakistan will fall -- we want its nuclear weapons. Give Saddam a reason to strike first. He might draw Israel into a fight. Perfect! So please -- invade Iraq. Make my day."

The Osama-starring Op Ad has been immensely popular, according to the journal's Web site, including many request to re-publish it. TomPaine.com is currently promoting re-use by newspapers:

"Our recent op ad, 'I Want YOU To Invade Iraq,' has generated many requests for copies. And a number of people have asked if they can reprint it, at their expense, in their local newspaper. Jan Wenner, founder and publisher of ROLLING STONE, even asked if he could run it in the next issue of his magazine. We happily agreed. First off, you can print endless crisp copies of the ad by clicking here, which will bring you to a PDF file. (You need the Adobe Acrobat program to view the PDF -- click here to get it free from Adobe.com.) If you'd like to run the op ad in your local paper, we can offer it in three different sizes (all in PDF format). Our only terms: you may not alter the ad in any way."

PDF Sermon #19: Contrary to what TomPaine.com states -- and as we've pointed out numerous times in the past -- you do NOT need "the (commercially available) Adobe Acrobat program" to view this or most other PDF files; you need only the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (current version always preferred).

Like the Iraqi dictator's fate, which side's PDF-based persuasions are most effective is yet to be decided.


   

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FRIDAY

Free Reader, Free MIT Education: If you've ever felt the need to be able to boast -- honestly -- that you studied at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT), here's a chance of a lifetime. And you don't need to be able to cover the $26,960 annual undergraduate tuition.

Other than the actual motivation and dedication, you'll need just two things -- an Internet connection and a copy of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader -- to commence your MIT studies in a wide variety of subjects, including:

  • Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Biology
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Chemistry: Quantum Mechanics
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
  • Engineering Systems Division
  • Linguistics & Philosophy
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Physics
  • Political Science
  • Sloan School of Management
  • Urban Studies and Planning

A couple of weeks ago MIT launched the first phase of its OpenCourseWare project by putting online at no cost and no strings attached the syllabus, lecture notes, exams and answers, and in some cases, videotaped lectures for more than 30 of its actual academic courses. According to published reports, MIT plans to publish the course materials for virtually all of its 2,000 graduate and undergraduate courses by the 2006-2007 school year.

You won't get a free MIT degree or any course credits by utilizing the OpenCourseWare resources, just access to much of the same educational material many select students pay (considerably) for the privilege of acquiring.

One of the project's few technical requirements is Acrobat Reader version 4.0 or greater, for accessing many of the course-related documents.

If you might be wondering why MIT is pursuing this "Open Source" educational effort, the answer came in President Charles M. Vest's commencement speech last June:

"And let us also resolve that our new technologies -- the Internet and the World Wide Web -- will be used as tools of empowerment and democratization on a global scale. Next fall, the MIT Faculty will launch its MIT OpenCourseWare initiative-a program that will make the basic educational materials for 2,000 of our subjects available on the Web -- available to anyone anywhere free of charge."

"Why would we do this? Because we see it as part of our mission: to help to raise the quality of higher education in every corner of the globe."


   

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