Doom Ported to the Web

For geeks of a certain age like me, Doom was both a touchstone and a benchmark. I recall fondly hand building machines of the late 486 and early Pentium vintages, installing Doom, and comparing notes on how it ran on the last machine we cobbled together. The deep nostalgia many hackers hold for the game has also seen it ported to a variety of platforms.

The latest port is offered as an HTML5 demonstrator through the Mozilla Developer Network. It is pretty impressive, another strong testament to how far the browser has come. When I tried it game ran incredibly smoothly. My work machine made a bit of a hash of the sound but not enough to detract from the fond stroll down memory lane.

WebGL is not a requirement, the browser version only uses the audio and Canvas APIs exercised with the browser lingua franca, JavaScript. Slashdot, who linked to the demo, had a few more details about it.

The translation was accomplished using Emscripten, a Javascript backend for LLVM. As per the GPL, full source code is available.

Doom Ported To the Web, Slashdot

feeds | grep links > Circumventing Chinese Censors on a Kindle, Open Flash Tool Now Closed, Faced Detection for Web Apps, and More

  • Kindle allowing bypass of Chinese censoring firewall
    Slashdot points to an interesting use for the otherwise not very freedom friendly device. Apparently, however the 3G service is provided locally in China, it isn’t being subjected to the same censorship as regular net access. I tend to agree with Professor Kwan’s interpretation, that those in charge of the firewall simply don’t realize the Kindle can be used for anything other than buying and reading books.
  • Adobe temporarily closes their Flex SDK
    According to a conversation with the product manager initiated by The Register, the public source code repository and patch submission for Flex will be closed for a couple of releases. This stems from the fact that while the tool itself, used for creating Flash and AIR apps, is open, the platform is closed. In order to build against the un-released new versions of closed platform components, it is necessary to also close Flex. This demonstrates one considerable risk of working with a set of tools that isn’t all open.
  • Face detection with HTML5 and JavaScript
    Klint Finley at ReadWriteWeb describes a new library that the developer sees as helping with automatically tagging photos online. Even if it doesn’t evolve from face detection to full on recognition, you could easily see how a distributed, in browser trick like this could be effectively coupled with crowd intelligence to allow web applications to offer almost as good identity based tags. I think it is far more interesting to consider how the library might open up compelling, novel interactions with web applications based on a user’s movements and orientation in space. That avenue of thought is less concerning from a privacy perspective, too.
  • Publisher sells DRM-free ebooks to libraries , BoingBoing
  • OpenBSD 4.8 released, Slashdot

First Results from W3C’s HTML5 Test

The H was one of several sources to report on a new test for the emerging HTML5 standard from the Web’s own standards body, the W3C. The Register crafted the emphasis in their lede a bit differently, calling out the latest beta release of Microsoft’s IE 9 as topping the tests. Both sites, however, go on to clarify just how limited the W3C test suite is. The canvas tag, useful for vector based animations comparable to Flash, is about the only advanced functionality it tests out of the most interesting features of HTML5 or the additional technologies often incorrectly lumped under that label.

I have two thoughts about these test results. First is that they say more about the decreasing relevance of the W3C. This effort just doesn’t reflect the state of the art across all of the modern browsers embracing HTML5 and related technologies like CSS3. How does leaving out key features like client-side rich data storage and more robust models for using multiple processing threads in the browser say anything about the state of adoption? It certainly doesn’t help the web application developers looking for help in how best to deal with the gaps as the specs and their various implementations mature.

The other thought relates to a story on which I initially wasn’t going to comment. Several sources, including ZDNet, have made much hay out of the lack of coverage of Silverlight and the increased attention to HTML5 at Microsoft’s developer conference, PDC. ZDNet in particular spoke with Bob Muglia, president in charge of the server and tools business inside the Redmond giant. He made it pretty clear that Silverlight has not played out as hope, as an effective Flash killer–or even competitor. In praising HTML5 as the more ideal cross platform play, I think it is telling he mentions Apple’s mobile OS specifically. In another six months, given its recent uptick in adoption, I could easily see him adding Android to that remark.

Microsoft got spanked by the open web before, despite trying to crush its main commercial representative at the time, Netscape. I don’t hold out great hope that IE 9 will offer a smoother experience for web application developers than its predecessors but Microsoft’s latest attempt to re-enclose the web has is thankfully dying quietly. For the time being, Microsoft simply doesn’t have a better option than to invest engineering effort into HTML5 and other open web standards. The longer they are forced to do so, the harder any future attempts to subvert or replace those standards will be.

W3C releases first HTML5 test results, The H

feeds | grep links > Microsoft Charging Linux Royalties (Again), Aussie Kids Foil Fingerprint Readers, Adobe’s Flash-to-HTML5 Demo, and More

  • Microsoft charging PC makers royalties for installing Linux
    Slashdot links to a DigalTimes piece with the details, namely that the vendors in question are minority players in the handset and netbook spaces, Acer and Asustek. Given the low volume of units they ship, this is a deterrence move, not for generating any kind of real revenue. Pretty sleazy but also consistent with Microsoft’s patent dealings in other spaces.
  • Aussie kids foil fingerprint readers
    Slashdot links to a ZDNet piece describing students using the already well know ability of gelatin, the main ingredient in readily accessible gummy candies, to bypass not just the pattern matching of scanners but also capacitance sensors. I wonder if card scanners and fingerprint readers really save the schools in question all that much versus a manual taking of attendance, one of the reasons for using these systems.
  • Adobe demos Flash-to-HTML5 tool
    In a post to both Ars Technica and Wired, Scott Gilbertson discusses a demo from Adobe of a tool that really is pretty consistent with past efforts, if you think about its support for exporting from its design tools to static HTML pages. The quality of output in the past has been pretty miserable, apparent to anyone with the intestinal fortitude to wade through View Source on resulting page. From what little can be seen in the embedded video, it looks like the markup generated by the latest offering continues that dubious tradition.
  • China may have built the new number one super computer, InformationWeek
  • Citizen Lab collaborates with users to map Blackberry servers, The Register
  • Chrome web store delayed until December, ReadWriteWeb

feeds | grep links > Framework for Badging Non-Profits, YouTube Experiments with Embeddable HTML5 Video, and More

Lightweight Guide to Using HTML5

Once I actually started having to read about HTML, as opposed to reverse engineering it with view source, I pretty much jumped straight to reading the actual specifications. I’ve been hacking on HTML continuously longer than just about any other technology I’ve used, professionally or otherwise. One of those teach yourself HTML in 5 minutes or whatever books is too basic and if I am going to use a reference, I might as well use the canonical one, right?

I will admit that with HTML5 I simply haven’t had the time to read the evolving draft. I’ve been following it at much more of a distance, with few exceptions. I was so happy Pete Wayner’s Infoworld article from a few weeks ago would help me get a better low level handle on this version, but was largely disappointed. I was hopeful when I saw this new Inforworld piece by Dori Smith, via Slashdot.

It is a better, lower level introduction to what is going in HTML5 but still frustratingly shallow. I do appreciate that she breaks out the categories of new tags and features roughly in order of best supported today to most speculative. If I ever crawl far enough out of database land in my professional programming, I think Smith’s article will probably be a good roadmap for reading the actual W3C specification on HTML5. Some Day.

TCLP 2010-06-27 News

This is news cast 217, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, an apology for missing the last news cast.

This week’s security alerts are attacking the attackers and anti-malware is a poor substitute for common sense.

In this week’s news NY meet Silicon Valley, the first report from the new IP enforcement czar and some analysis and some reactions, looking at HTML5 beyond video, and an explanation why Share Alike is open and Non Commercial is not.

Following up this week, the debate around C-32 turns adversarial and judge rules in Viacom case that YouTube is protected by DMCA safe harbors.


View the detailed show notes online. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Yet Another JavaScript Based Flash Interpreter

Haven’t we been here before? I didn’t think using HTML5 and JavaScript for interpreting Flash was anything all that new. I guess The Register’s story on Smokescreen differs from Gordon because it is a proprietary development much more specifically aimed at Apple’s mobile platform.

The article mentions the company will eventually open source the interpreter at which point it will be interesting to see if anyone combines it or parts of it with Gordon to advance the state of Flash replacements. As far as I can tell after just a few minutes playing with demos for both, they seem pretty comparable. I am skeptical having both available openly will improve either one.

Doing a bit more digging into the Smokescreen site, I think I found the difference, which The Register buried a little in their story. The company behind Smokescreen is specifically looking to bring interactive ads to the iPhone and iPad with its interpreter. Not developing a general drop in replacement for Flash. In that instance, I suspect The Register’s view on the slow performance and limitations of Smokescreen, a trait Gordon shares, as being less of a handicap is apt. Their point about Apple’s forthcoming network for interactive ads is also well made–if Smokescreen is serious, they need more than a technology demo.

Unofficial Firefox Build with H.264 Support

I’ve written about the battle for a standard video codec for the web repeatedly, with a special emphasis on the need for that codec to be open and unencumbered. Mozilla has made a principled stand on the issue, specifically excluding support for the proprietary H.264 codec in Firefox. I happen to agree with their decision, another reason why I am still a very proud Firefox user.

On the other hand, I do emphasize with your typical user who may not understand why a browser recommended to them for speed, features and security won’t access a still substantial portion of the rich media on the web. For those users, there is now Wild Fox, a build of the browser that specifically does include H.264. As the author notes, there are many countries where the software patents tied up in H.264 are simply not an issue. This build not only allows users otherwise ignorant of the battle for a video standard as well as those unaffected by software patents to have their cake and eat it too.

I am still a bit conflicted on the idea of the build, even though I can see its legitimate purpose and uses. I think we will need some pretty radical action, like pushing much harder for content sites to support Ogg Theora and/or VP-8 and trying to make a dent in the high usage statistics for H.264 online through outright boycott to see even equal consideration for open and unencumbered options.

feeds | grep links > New Copyright for Chile, Microsoft for HMTL5, AT&T’s Comment to IP Czar and Rumored Patent Attack on Theora

  • Chile gets a new copyright law
    As Mike Masnick explains it at Techdirt, it doesn’t sound as radical as India’s. The new limits and exceptions are no doubt welcome but hardly sweeping. Worse, the come at the expense of stiffer penalties for infringement.
  • Microsoft speaks up for HTML5, against Flash
    Engadget has a link to comments from an IE program manager. I think this is hardly a surprise giving the drubbing IE is taking at the hands of every other browser that is already support parts of HTML5. Since this in the wakes of Jobs’ hate letter to Adobe over Flash, Microsoft touches on that too, conceding some points to Jobs but bowing to the ubiquity of Flash.
  • Surprising comments by AT&T to IP Czar
    As Nate Anderson at Ars Technica explains, AT&T isn’t against three strikes but is for a lesser obligation from 3rd parties, such as itself, and more judicial oversight. It may seem surprising until you realize the costs the carrier would have to bear to process the notices required by a three strikes proposal.
  • Apple rumored to be assembling patent pool to use against Ogg Theora
    It is a very good thing that Google announced its intent to open the VP-8 video codec that it got as part of its On2 acquisition. According to The Register, Jobs plan may have be provoked, or merely revealed, when an FSF advocate contacted him about open video in response to his Flash letter. While this is very speculative, it could slow Theora adoption so having another open codec backed by Google hedges the bets of those of us interested in open standards and open source for video on the web.