Saturday, October 21, 2006

Virtual Worlds with ABNet

I've been looking at the products available for real-time 3D chat worlds. While Blaxxun continues to be the commercially licensed leader, other vendors are stepping up to provide communications servers and hosting. Today I am looking at ABNet from Kimball Software. The main man at this company is Rick Kimball. You can click on this blog title to go to the VRMLWorld site and play with some sample worlds in their chat windows. It requires an Active-X control and as usual, thanks to our dear friends at EOLAS (#@#@$), you have to accept the control using IE.

I'm running on a 56k dial-up here (yes, Virginia, some of us still do), and had no problem running these worlds. However, I was the only one in there so this is not a very good test. For those who want a low-cost/no-cost approach to building 3D chat worlds, ABNet is a good place to start and may prove to be a commercial survivor. The site describes the software thusly:

ABNet is a communication framework that happens to let you create 3D multi-user chat worlds. It isn't limited to this application but 3D chat shows its flexibility. The communication framework of ABNet provides an asynchronous low-latency publish and subscribe environment using XML messages.

The communication server of ABNet is written in Java allowing for deployment on any platform running a Java VM. The client side of ABNet uses Javascript on an HTML page to turn a single-user VRML or X3D world into a Multi-user Virtual World environment. 3D Avatars can interact and use shared events to provide a virtual experience much like the old blaxxun community platform. ABNet is the software that powers

ABNet can be used to build your own chat site that uses very little bandwidth. It is feasible to run a 3D chat site from your personal computer.

The software supports both the Contact 6.1 and MediaMachines browsers.

Some useful URLS:


Setup the Software

Download the current ABNet 2 ActiveX client from here:

Download both the client and java server from here:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

XML Knitting and Stitching

At the XML conferences I attended that Lauren Wood organized, there were walls of XML cross-stitching and knitting. I wondered about that until I was sitting here for the first time in a while doing some XML data design work for a new project.

Developing XML data systems is like knitting and stitching: it is only tedious if done for hire. When done for a topic that one has a passion for innately, it becomes a relaxed passion.

I'm not an expert, but I suspect that this relaxed passion is one reason that many knit and stitch to relax and others can relax when they do data design work on documents with content they love. It is satisfying to work with the threads one loves for passionate content.

The real-time memory that captures this for me is Lynne Price at SGML standards meetings knitting her dogs' hair. That was an ultimate expression of making structure from the threads of the universe productively and passionately.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Stuck On Standards?

Stuck on standards?

When it was ISO, it wasn't a standard because it wasn't the W3C. When it is ECMA, it isn't a standard because it came from Microsoft.

The not so deep but ever abiding truth about standards is that either some group of self-selected companies and individuals are or are not making money applying technologies conforming to some standard or specification. The right or wrong of which organization produces the standard was forfeit with the rise of company-organized and pundit supported consortia such as the W3C. When these groups began to pillory existing organizations such as ISO and burgled the standards they had produced shifting both the center of standards activities by nations and the leadership in favor of the individuals so inclined by their own careers and goals, they derailed any chance that the Internet would evolve toward fairly constituted groups in favor of their own.

That set the rules by example and everything that has followed has followed predictably and logically from those examples.

So how does a company, agency or individual choose among the offerings of these more or less equal offerings? By doing what has been working successfully since HTML and its siblings were offered: select by the size of the following. If one is using Microsoft products and the majority of one's peers are using Microsoft, use the Microsoft specifications and standards. If one is using Sun products similarly, choose what Sun supports.

It quit being about fair and balanced for all parties when the XML Working Group and ERB blew off ISO in favor of their own self-selected parties. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Any XML can be transformed into any other XML with some degree of loss. That was the promise; this is the outcome.

Sad, but so. Quit whining about it.

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