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

For week beginning 9 December 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.


Free PDF Service Aids Important Cause: With the year-end holiday season upon us, we hear a lot about what's important -- or at least what should be. High on most people's lists of what's most valuable to them is family. Yet for others, holiday events can also be a sad reminder of important things absent from their lives. That's true if what's missing *is* family, and perhaps most especially when it involves a child who's possibly been abducted and never found.

The scenario that every parent dreads happened in early January 2002 to the family of Rachel Cooke, a Texas teenager who disappeared while jogging and hasn't been seen or heard from since. Some time after official investigations and organized searches provided no clues, a local television station launched a special section on its Web site devoted to keeping the effort alive. KVUE-TV invited the missing girl's father to write a personal journal. Robert Cooke has maintained "The Search for Rachel, a father's journal" on the site since late February. He writes it in part as part of a promise he made to find their first-born daughter, but cautions readers that "I do want to warn people that the journal is not an easy read. I wrote the entries from my heart and there are many painful comments enclosed."

But the Web site is designed to serve as more than just a source of painful reflections -- Rachel Cooke posterit's a chance to keep hope -- in the form of ongoing communication and a continuing search -- alive. One aspect of that are the downloadable posters offering a $50,000 reward, containing photos of and information about the missing girl.

Cooke turned to a free online resource to create the PDF posters, later sending a message to BCL Technologies thanking the company for its free "Go BCL" online document publishing service, which allows users to publish documents in PDF or HTML. He later sent a note of thanks to BCL:

"I have been using to create downloadable pdf documents of my missing daughter Rachel's reward flyer. More information may be found on

I really appreciate the free service."

- Robert Cooke

We wish there was a happy ending to share, but Rachel Cooke remains missing. In his December journal entries, her father references the "National Center for Missing and Exploited Children," a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide "assistance to parents, children, law enforcement, schools, and the community in recovering missing children and raising public awareness about ways to help prevent child abduction, molestation and sexual exploitation." It provides a range of helpful information and publications, many free to download in PDF.

Congratulations to BCL Technologies for providing a free service that in a small but important way continues to offer hope to families like the Cookes.


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Modern Moses Puts Faith in Tablet ... and PDF: He's been espousing the religion -- of electronic "new media" -- for a couple decades. But the recent (Nov. 7) launch of the Tablet PC has added new fervor to Roger Fidler's preachings. Tablet in hand, the modern-day Moses of digital journalism most recently took his sermon to the Tablet PC Digital Publishing Conference in New York last week.

First, a brief flashback. Some years back I was very involved in an annual journalism technology workshop that brought together tech-savvy graphic designers, photographers and writers using state-of-the-art hardware and software to conduct real-world publishing experiments. Initially the goal -- and end result -- was a traditional printed newspaper. After several incarnations, we began adding tools and assignments designed to explore a future scenario of non-print newspaper publishing. (It was at this annual workshop where I first encountered Adobe Acrobat 1.0, as we were among the first to digitally publish and globally deliver a traditional newspaper in PDF at that time.)

For one of these annual fall tech gatherings in the mid-90s we invited Roger Fidler, then heading up the research-oriented Information Design Laboratory for the Knight-Ridder newspaper group, to share some of his work with and thinking about the current state of ink-free newsgathering and publishing, a topic he -- and almost he alone, it long seemed -- had already been contemplating and prototyping for at least a decade. My recollection of Fidler's talk and demonstration was that he was so far out ahead of the vast majority of the newspaper industry and its ink-oriented technologies and attitudes -- and associated rising costs (newsprint) -- that to most workshop attendees at that time he was selling the equivalent of tickets to the moon. 'Looks great, but probably not in my lifetime.' In addition, tools well-suited to his premise and presentations were few and far between, and therefore his primitive prototypes lacked a real sense of excitement and 'high-tech' appeal that might have created more enthusiasm.

Based on the exposure I'd had with Acrobat prior to his talk, I recall telling some workshop colleagues that PDF seemed to offer some promise for the sort of digital news product he was predicting. I cite that not to sound prophetic, but rather only to note that it's interesting today to see where Fidler is with his epublishing crusade. For one thing, he left the direct employment of the newspaper conglomerate quite some time back, and has been affiliated with Kent State University since 1996. In addition to being a KSU professor, Fidler founded and runs the Institute for CyberInformation, housed at the university. One of the financial backers of his ICI research into electronic books, newspapers and magazine is now Adobe Systems, which after a year-long pilot project agreed to a six-year contract beginning in 2001. Fidler's pilot included the creation of a PDF-based issue of "Crain's Cleveland Business" magazine, making considerable use of Acrobat's built-in features for navigation and interactivity. Advertisements in the prototype allow readers to directly access additional layers of information about the featured products.

Fidler has long maintained that periodicals, books and other documents will eventually be viewed on small, portable "tablet" devices. Roger Fidler Tablet PC So it was no surprise to see him listed among the featured speakers at last week's Tablet PC conference, presenting on the theme of "Tablet PCs and e-Newspapers: The Next Step in the Digital Transformation of the Newspaper Business." The session showcased Fidler's current work with the Los Angeles Times to develop a true PDF-based newspaper formatted for and ideally suited to the Tablet PC computers, technology now ready for prime time as of Microsoft's November 7 rollout of its Tablet PC operating system software, followed closely by the launch of a range of notebook-sized, third-party hardware devices on which to run it.

Adobe's Worldwide ePaper Evangelist Jonathan Knowles recently told Planet PDF that the Tablet PC is the "ideal digital document platform," adding that it's an ideal mate with and device for interactive documents distributed in Adobe PDF. Roger Fidler LA Times Fidler obviously concurs, based on his most recent presentation outlining and demonstrating his so-called "KENT format," which features non-scrolling, PDF-based newspaper-like pages that can include a considerable use of other multimedia formats. For example, still photos can be linked to video clips of the same story. Pages are also designed to deliver optimal readability on Tablet-sized screens. The format resembles a traditional newspaper, in part to preserve and benefit from well-established media brand identity. Headlines, summaries and graphics are hyperlinked to complete stories. As importantly for publishers who struggle to see how they can profit from Internet-based news and information delivery, Fidler says the business model for his electronic newspaper solution is more like the printed newspaper than the World Wide Web, while the format provides some of the interactivity people tend to associate with the Web -- even though Acrobat has offered live Web-linking capabilities for most of its nearing-10-year existence.

Of course, hitching his decades of new media research to the widespread adoption of the Tablet PC means their respective, potential successes are intertwined. The early reaction by consumers to the new Tablet PC computers has been moderate at best, according to published sales reports. And never to be discounted, Microsoft is apparently working on its own epublishing technologies and solutions aimed at the Tablet, with several magazines reportedly interested.

The good news for Fidler: at last publishing technologies have almost caught up to his vision, at least to the extent he can now offer realistic prototypes and real solutions.


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D(MCA) Day for ElcomSoft?: With its defense coming to a quick end on Tuesday after just two days of testimony from its own company witnesses, the criminal case of US v ElcomSoft appears headed to the jury tomorrow following closing arguments from both sides.

Probably the biggest surprise was the "virtual" testimony last week by ElcomSoft programmer Dmitry Sklyarov, who had been tabbed in pre-trial publicity as the government's "star witness" in its prosecution of the Moscow, Russia-based company. Rather than calling Sklyarov to the stand as expected last week, the prosecution team opted to play in court a videotaped "confession" that Sklyarov had given a year earlier as part of an agreement to drop the charges against him personally.

Sklyarov's first "live" appearance in the trial came this week, when he was called by the defense to, in part, explain and clarify some of the potentially more damaging comments made in the videotape. If there *was* a "star" witness in the case, it wasn't Sklyarov -- or Alexander Katalov or Vladimir Katalov, company management also in San Jose to testify in their company's defense.

Rather, the witness whose testimony could have the most significant impact on the trial's outcome -- depending on what the jury decides regarding its relevance to the allegations -- was from RegNow, the American company that briefly served as an online merchant for the controversial Advanced eBook Processor software program developed and sold by ElcomSoft.

On June 25, 2001, Adobe Systems warned ElcomSoft that its $99 AEBPR might be in violation of the U.S.' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and insisted that ElcomSoft stop selling the AEBPR program within five days. On June 29, based on a request from ElcomSoft management, RegNow discontinued taking orders for the AEBPR software from its Web site via a publicly available URL. ElcomSoft apparently believed this put them in compliance with Adobe's request, and thus its DMCA accusations would no longer be valid.

RegNow AEBPR for sale
RegNow AEBPR $99 gone

However, as it was later discovered, while RegNow had in fact replaced the order-taking information where the AEBPR program had been available for $99, it had inadvertently overlooked a second Web page on its site that offered the same product -- but at a discount to previous ElcomSoft customers who had purchased its previously released Advanced PDF Password Recovery program. The URL to that private-order page was made known only by ElcomSoft via an email message sent to select customers.

However, as Planet PDF also had discovered as late as July 17, 2001 -- a day *after* Sklyarov's arrest in Las Vegas by the FBI -- the "hidden" $79 offer could also be located using the "Search" function on RegNow's site. The existence of that second product page furthered the perception that ElcomSoft was ignoring the cease-and-desist request from Adobe's Anti-Piracy team and brazenly continuing to sell AEBPR. Only after ElcomSoft made a second request, after realizing the predicament, was the $79 option to order AEBPR finally removed from the RegNow site. A RegNow executive testified Tuesday that the availability beyond June 29 was an oversight on his company's part, and not a reflection of ElcomSoft's stated desires.

RegNow AEBPR $79 7/17/01

How that will play in court no one can say -- except the jurors, who could reach a verdict as early as Thursday, once the judge puts it in their hands.


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Adobe ends Q4, Fiscal 2002 with Sales Surge: For the first time since mid-2001 -- coincidentally the timeframe during which the company became embroiled in a controversial legal skirmish involving the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) -- Adobe Systems is reporting a surge in quarterly sales to finish its 2002 Fiscal year, ending November 29. While the recently completed quarter's sales are still a far cry from two years ago when quarterly revenue was some 20 percent higher and the company's ePaper products were defying odds and analysts, the recent results prompted CEO Bruce Chizen to comment that "the market has stabilized."

During today's conference call with industry analysts and technology press, Adobe's top management group used the short-term upturn to predict a modestly upbeat, upcoming Fiscal 2003, one in which the company plans major upgrades to some of its key products -- including Acrobat -- as well as continues to refocus much of the company's effort on enterprise-related solutions. Toward the latter goal, Adobe plans to begin "aggressively hiring" an unspecified number of new employees in all areas of the company with its enterprise emphasis in mind, executives said during the briefing. Adobe recently eliminated some 230-260 staff (and roughly the same number less than a year ago) as part of its long-term plan to re-orient the company with an even stronger focus on sales of ePaper products, including several newly released, server-based PDF creation and management solutions. They are aimed at -- and priced for -- Adobe's high-end customers in corporations and government agencies.

While no specific reference was made regarding the expected launch of Acrobat 6 in 2003, Adobe did mention during today's statistical recounting that it is already receiving orders for a to-be-released product tentatively code-named "Acrobat Lite. The interest is apparently coming from some of the companies and agencies that have been involved in pilot testing the less-featured product, designed to simplify the process of creating PDFs within an enterprise. Accordingly, Adobe announced that the new lower-end "Lite" product -- for which no launch timeline or pricing structure was offered -- will be sold only through its site-licensing program, not as a stand-alone program that could potentially undermine sales of the fully featured Acrobat product. That approach is part of Adobe's "segmented Acrobat product line," offering a range of products to suit differing needs at different price points.

One forthcoming product that Adobe did announce would ship in the current quarter is an image-management solution that utilizes PDF as a core file exchange and archiving format. Adobe demonstrated and discussed the product during its annual meeting with analysts in October in New York.


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