Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Silverlight 4 Release, Moonlight 3 Preview, and InScribeX Web

Last Thursday Microsoft released Silverlight 4, a significant milestone for the InScribeX Web project since SL4 brings a useful set of new functionality for delivering the InScribeX Web approach to Ancient Egyptian. Silverlight 4 runs on Windows (XP, Vista, 7) and Mac OSX (Intel systems). No platform change since version 3 beyond Google Chrome web browser now officially supported.

Meanwhile Novell continues development of Moonlight, the open source Linux equivalent to Silverlight. Moonlight is running several months behind Silverlight with the current release Moonlight 2 corresponding to Silverlight 2. Moonlight 3 release is expected sometime this Summer although previews have been available since February and the latest version (preview 6) made available last week is in pretty good shape.

With that background, I thought it would be useful to state now how these changes are affecting InScribeX Web.

InScribe Web Preview 2
I made this version available in July last year to run on Silverlight 2 not long before Silverlight 3 appeared. This version is still available and runs with Moonlight 2 on Linux as well as Silverlight 2, 3 or 4. I expect this version to remain live, unchanged, until a few weeks after Moonlight 3 release. At that point I expect to retire this version as there will be no need to continue Silverlight 2 compatibility.
InScribe Web Preview 3
This version is written for Silverlight 3 and tested to work with Moonlight 3 previews and Silverlight 4 release. I've held back on making this available until Silverlight 4 was released and out in the field for a couple of weeks so probably an early May release date. As it stands this version is not greatly enhanced over preview 2 although I've changed the interface to make more effective use of screen space and added a bunch of behind the scenes changes.  This redesign especially benefits netbooks and other low resolution devices. I'll probably migrate some features of Preview 4 back into Preview 3 for the sake of Linux users once Moonlight 3 is available and before the Moonlight 4 release. In particular some UMdC support. Once Moonlight 4 is available (Winter?) this version can be retired and Preview 4 used cross platform.
InScribe Web Preview 4
Preview 4 requires Silverlight 4 or later and makes use of some of the new functionality, notably to enable rich text editing and printing. Probably late May/early June for the first cut then some incremental changes to follow during the rest of the year. Preview 4 introduces and supports a new file format for texts incorporating Ancient Egyptian, namely UMdC (Unicode Manuel de Codage).
About UMdC
The question of file formats for hieroglyphs and Ancient Egyptian has been a thorn in my side for some time. The problem is not how to devise ways of representing Egyptian in interesting and more powerful representations but rather how to evolve current ways of working with hieroglyphs without adding unnecessary complications in forseeable future directions. I've finally settled on this UMdC approach as the simplest solution to remove this blockage.  A topic I hope to cover in more depth tomorrow.

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