Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Author iBooks, heir to HyperCard

The new edition iBooks have a little deja vu. They have a lot to remember the CD-ROM encyclopedia and the cultural heyday of multimedia.

Killed by Internet, multimedia CD-ROM launched an entire industry that will really lived a short decade. Encyclopedias such as Encarta, but also more or less specialized titles such as the Louvre or The Anatomy Lesson, or true UFOs as Xplora and Eve by Peter Gabriel, or The Book of Lulu Roman Victor Pujebet: these to digital works that were the "good book" were editing.

The Web was quick to kill his grandfather to meet the cultural needs of users and encyclopedic: always up to date, and offering too much content so they can fit on a single slab of plastic, it has everything to supplant without difficulty his predecessor. Almost everything, since to date no site has actually proposed the same richness of interactivity or even simple artistic management. A revolution launched by Apple.

Apple's Macintosh has had three critical technologies that helped launch the multimedia CD-ROM that was one of the first to adopt in its machines, QuickTime, which allowed the rise of digital video (QuickTime read, 20 years of digital video), and HyperCard, a new kind of software comes free with every Mac since 1987.Créé by Bill Atkinson (also contributor of the Mac operating system with QuickDraw and MacPaint creator), it was the first "authoring software": it simply allowed to create interactive applications using a graphical interface and a language "natural" for programming. HyperCard has rightly attracted many teachers who have used it to prepare their students for being original.

If HyperCard, using extensions to the management of video and color, has created the first CD-ROMs (Cosmic Osmo, the Manhole, Myst, Xplora ...) is Director who succeeded him to fully dominate the market for creating interactive content.

HyperCard, with its democratic side of allowing anyone to create digital works, has not kept under fierce aficionados who have never really recovered from his killing in 1998. In fact, many contenders have tried to take over from SuperCard to LiveCode, still available today.

The second life of the CD-ROM

If the Web has replaced the CD-ROM, it has not yet offered to date equivalent to the experience of multimedia. In fact, the capabilities of layout and content of the same type have long been more limited, and only the HTML5 can consider doing about as much, at least when a majority of the installed base will likely to convince site publishers to take advantage.

If the new iBooks presented by Apple, in their approach and navigation, clearly call for the legacy of the book, the fact remains that the content combining text, sound, video, 3D and interactive tablets in a container marked recall old memories.

The same method of creating these books, with Author iBooks (Free), is reminiscent of HyperCard: just as free, it is even better by offering interactivity without writing a single line of code, by through the presentations made with Keynote (15.99 €) - which is however not free him. The similarities end there, however: even though he allowed HyperCard a linear navigation among the "maps" a "stack" (like the pages and chapters of an iBook), it was also possible to developer to control the navigation, but nothing like this is possible in an iBook: the interactive parts are confined to their strict thumbnails. As to 3D models, it will issue as to observe them from all angles, without more interaction possible: it is only the support of the COLLADA format, a standard created by Sony for the PlayStation 3 and offered to the Khronos Group. 

It is also natively supported by Mac OS X (either in Preview or at a Glance) from Snow Leopard. This format can actually do more than simply rotating every angle: in the version 1.4, it is possible to attribute physical characteristics to 3D models, which can be interpreted by a physical model to run simulations, but this feature is not supported for now. About illustrations, Author iBooks supports the open SVG vector format (ironically supported by Adobe Flash to address before it merged with Macromedia). The vector format is particularly suited to didactic illustrations and diagrams, and will also allow the definition of independence of the display, future devices that can read iBooks can do so on as many pixels as necessary. Like the format of Flash, SVG also allows animation and interactivity, but only the animations are supported in iBooks, and yet, this format is imported only through the HTML.

Nevertheless, it is possible to push beyond interactivity by creating widgets with DashCode, mixing HTML and JavaScript. But this simplicity is not without compensation: the format of digital books, laminated page to page, remains essential. Also the pinch remains exclusive to the passage at full screen of various vignettes, without the possibility of exploiting it to handle interactive content. What is even more regrettable that the gesture is particularly suitable for all types of handling three-dimensional objects. The format will remain imposed on designers of all stripes who wish to seize this new model, but they will always be the flexibility of apps automatically. And in fact are nothing less than CD-ROMs that are past, such as CD Audio, by paperless box. For those nostalgic for this format and its implementation, Flash will maintain the tradition of IOS, until the venerable Director not followed. In image of HyperCard, iBook Author does not create executable code, respecting Rule for the Apple App Store in general: its JavaScript rendering engine built into IOS that will do the job. And image authoring software by Bill Atkinson, Author iBooks allows anyone to create interactive content for its own iPad, bypassing the check for certification as Apple apps. Thus, the torque and iBooks iPad could be abused for promotional purposes, for example, to present an interactive brochure and carry anywhere without having to publish it anywhere.

This way of working, as yet unpublished on IOS, one step closer to the iPad that some give meaning to the term "computer", since everyone is able to create interactive content for it, in the independent Apple. It remains to create an iBook power directly from the iPad to deserve a little more this term (purely semantic nuance if any, any machine with a processor being able to earn the title). It would not be surprising that Apple allows doing so in the future, although the management of files from various sources and types of IOS does not lend itself particularly. Knowing that iWork has been successfully converted and iOS iBooks Author borrows many, this seems a logical progression.

Put together, the various items managed by Author iBooks can offer rich interactive experiences, and doubtless a thousand miles of old textbooks. There is no doubt that ecosystem customizable widgets will be created to add as many strings to the bow of authors. In its peak, the media was seized by the education community, who saw it as an effective means of Investment students. Such software require only very little ability to use them, and therefore no specific training for teachers or students could fill a role found in national education. The iPad meanwhile spontaneously attracted the educational environment, yet the "mammoth" is not deemed to be part of "early adopters" of new technologies. Of sad memory, in France the plan "IT for All" has equipped all facilities which have TO7 that take dust, lack of training and educational goals. 

Precisely the iPad requires no maintenance or training. It is immediately usable without loading times and battery widely held a full day of classes, all at a price below that equip machines with ordinary schools. Apple does not even make a special effort to the educational environment, it claims 1.5 million iPad in the educational environment, a thousand is entirely devoted to a student each. With iBookStore new version, textbooks Author and digital iBooks, Apple has dramatically amplify the spontaneous tendency, and increase enthusiasm for his education platform. This market has always been seen as strategic by the firm at the apple, not only for its values ​​(the machines used by everyone), but also hoping that students once accustomed to its solutions will continue to use beyond their school. With over 20,000 educational applications on the App Store, and announced the partnership with specialist publishers, these innovations could well snowball.

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