Editorial


Falcon Editorial 5.0 White paper

 

Advanced Publishing Technology is proud to release the latest version of its Falcon Editorial system: Version 5. This version features a new, more-powerful core technology, the Kestrel Engine. The Kestrel platform is the foundation for our next-generation features and streamlined maintenance and deployment tools.

New Features

User Productivity Tools:

A) Falcon Editorial Online (FEO), our Web browser interface, will incorporate a native editor for story editing. Style formatting will be preserved and recognized by all word processors and pagination programs supported by Falcon.
B) Tablet applications for iPad and Android will allow users to edit or read stories securely in the Falcon system.
C) On-demand transformation and photo processing -- including resizing, color-space shifting and DPI adjustments -- fully integrated with existing processes.
D) Instant placement (instead of placing a story, then the sub-elements -- such as headline, photo, cut-line etc. -- all will place together at once).
E) Support for attaching and managing both text and photo sub-elements through FEO
F) Extensive ability to define custom interfaces to gather business-specific metadata for any assets in the system attached to most existing user interfaces, such as New and Details.
G) Importing of e-mail directly into Falcon Editorial
H) "Self-formatting" agate. With the new Universal Agate feature, users will no longer need to format most agate by clicking on the respective buttons in our toolbar. Agate, such as sports box scores, will be formatted at the time the stories are ingested into the system from AP, before the users open them.
I) Dramatically improved automatic client-update features, including the ability for clients to automatically discover a new server when next launched in the case of fail-over, without any local changes by IT to client machines.
J) Ability to publish to Apple’s Newsstand on the iPad (requires custom development based on local needs). Publishing to Kindle is also available.
K) Support for OpenOffice, the free open-source word processor (for anyone who would like to use it instead of Microsoft Word).

Administration features:

Here is an overview of some of the improvements that concern mainly IT and system administrators:
A) New configurations can be used to tremendously lower the size of your db.  For example, the News Publishing Company ran the beta version of Falcon Editorial 5.0 and their database went from 120 to 23 GB.
B) Portions of the Kestrel Core on the application server can be updated individually and restarted, leaving the rest of the server running and users unaffected -- new changes can be rolled out without interrupting basic functionality (Applies only to new subsystems powered by the Kestrel Engine).
C) Improved logging provides even better debugging tools.
D) Falcon 4.0 and 4.1 were very strong on network security, and in 5.0 we added even more possible security configurations.
E) New export process.
F) Improved performance as an SaaS (Software as a Service) solution in the cloud.
G) The new Flex output system, which allows easy manipulation of content exported from our system, with complete local control so that it can match any specification with ease. It is fully integrated with our routing, ElementScript and custom user interface capabilities. It can be configured to support ANY format, to ANY specification, gathering information from ANY part of the Falcon system.
H) Most application server (Mother) updates can now be done on the fly, without users having to exit the system for a restart..
I) Ability to delegate authorization to Active Directory domains, for both local Client and FEO access.
J) Unprecedented level of behavior customization, with the ability to attach user-friendly and extensible ElementScripts to virtually any action which occurs throughout the system, with a level of granularity on what determines when the scripts run that is as specific or as broad as you need.
K) The utility to configure the system (SysConfig) has been greatly expanded and now lets you configure many other parts of the system, such as Statuses, Templates, Purge Cycle, etc.

Browser Access - FEO:

In 2009 we released our browser interface, FEO. It is simple to set up and even easier to maintain.  It has been hugely popular, therefore, we added many new features and improvements, including the ability to write and edit stories right in the browser window.  You can now also do all necessary functions to send a story to the Web right in FEO, including attaching all components that go with a story (headlines, subheads etc.), submitting photos and adding metadata.

Many customers have used FEO to consolidate multiple operations at different locations onto a single server (as many as 15 papers running off of a single centralized server). With these new features, this type of consolidation is now even more efficient.  

FEO is a web application making use of Ajax and other cutting edge technologies. It can be run over a WAN or from anywhere with Internet access. It is designed to be extremely secure so as to provide your Green Zone with proper protection while still making Falcon Editorial accessible outside your firewall.

With 5.0, FEO can also authenticate remote users against your Active Directory domain, while allowing your local users to continue to automatically log in or use their existing internal password, allowing for enhanced security.

Customizations:

Users and IT will benefit from the tremendous flexibility of 5.0 mentioned above. Falcon Editorial 4.1 already provided several ways to customize the software. One of the few customers who tested the limits of 4.1 customization was Variety in Los Angeles.  In 5.0 we are not only increasing the ways Falcon can be customized, but we are also making it easier so that in some cases the customization can be done by local IT or authorized Power Users.  

Through our ElementScript system, you can attach scripts that are easily editable by local IT -- even without a programming background -- that are capable of responding to any kind of change in the system and acting accordingly.

You are not limited to attaching a series of actions to a queue or writing a hook for a very specific, pre-defined situation; instead you can create an ElementScript in our convenient and well-documented maintainer, and attach it to any kind of event that occurs in our system. It can be narrowly defined such as, “a text element is moved into this certain queue”, or “any element is moved out of this other queue”, or even “an element is about to be sent to the Web”. Or it can be very broad, responding to the creation of any element, creation of a certain kind of element, placement of an element on a page, anything. You decide.

ElementScripts are easy to write, and capable of invoking any number of built in actions, including logic such as IF-ELSE tests to further refine behavior. They require no programming experience to manipulate. If you need to do some kind of action which we have not thought of yet, you can load custom commands into the system which are capable of doing almost anything in the Falcon system. All without restarting or updating the server or clients.

Some examples:
  • You attach an ElementScript to an event which is run before any element is routed to the Web. This will scan through the subelements of the element, looking for any which are of type Photo. It will convert, on the fly, each into a new sub-element of type WebPhoto, transforming the photo from a CMYK print-scaled photo to an RGB 72-DPI photo more appropriate to the web -- with intelligent resizing, as well.
  • You can attach a script to the creation of an element, to set any sort of default metadata you like ... or, you can attach a script to the creation of any wire element, instead (requires AP WebFeeds support). You can change that behavior to only run the script when it is created in certain queues, if that’s what you need.
  • You can trigger complex actions as a result of very simple things: the changing of status, the moving to (or from) a queue or queues, the finalization of an element, the desire to route or place an element, and more.

In Falcon 4.1, we could support a limited form of these customizations through hooks, but in 5.0 they are accessible by local IT, with a complete maintainer to manage them.

We’ve also included the ability to define custom Datasets, for local, site-specific, business-focused data that is context-sensitive and distinct from the needs of others. Datasets are defined by the site, allowing them to specify the type of data, valid choices for the data (or freeform), defaults, and more.

Datasets can be rendered as a custom user interface almost anywhere in the Client, and in 2012, in FEO as well. You can use them for internal tracking information, or for specific pieces of data you want to gather and send to the CMS or web provider of your choice during routing.

Furthermore, while stories exported out of Falcon can be in many different formats, we continue to get requests for new ones we have not seen before. Ninety-eight percent of such requests can now be filled with no development, through our configurable Flex format.

The combination of the Flex format and Datasets allows us to fully replace all existing output options -- and expand each to new possibilities, all without any deeper concerns of compatibility. Anything you want in these formats, we can do -- and, almost always, with entirely local changes, and no core application development or update cycles required.

Front-end and Web CMS


Falcon Editorial now includes a Web CMS module that is seamlessly integrated. No longer is there any need to prepare content for different types of news platforms.  Whether you are publishing to the Web, print, Newsstand, Kindle, mobile app etc., the software will take care of it.  Or maybe you would like your stories that go to Web to be longer and more detailed than the ones going to print.  Maybe you’d like your photos to be RGB for online viewing while using CMYK for print.  We’ve also heard that, in some cases, newsrooms would like changes made by the Web editor to appear in their printed version.  

All this and more will be possible in Falcon Editorial 5.

APT can host your company Website seamlessly by managing print and Web publishing. The Web module is designed to minimize the need for Web specialists. It is fully featured with article and photo galleries, video, calendars, managed comments, blogging, and search-engine optimization. It’s content management system (CMS) module also offers a new Social Media solution, allowing publishing to Facebook, Twitter and other such sites, along with managing advertising content (both display and classified). The CMS product, based on user log-in and profiles, can manage commenting, advertising, content and reviews on the site.  Also offered is a pay wall that can be integrated with a circulation system (such as our Falcon Circulation) to control access to content.

Technological Improvements:

This is the most groundbreaking release since Falcon was entirely reprogrammed using leading-edge programming tools and techniques five years ago. The programming team continues to adopt the most versatile and productive programming tools available today.

Slimming the db:

At some customers sites, the users demanded to keep thousands and thousands of pages in the system. That was ballooning the database making it harder to replicate, backup etc. Two new features makes it possible for pages to be stored in the system without making the db grow huge.

This is also useful for customers whose pages are very large, which in some cases can exceed 300 MB, especially at magazines.

Memory improvements

The Falcon Editorial 4.1 server application (Mother) was engineered to be extremely multi-threaded and redundant. As a result, we were able to accomplish 99.9% uptime. In an effort to improve this even further, the server application in Falcon Editorial 5 is engineered to make use of more memory.

Logging

One of the big improvements in 2005 was that Falcon Editorial 4.0 came with a lot of logs. Different parts of the system wrote out different logs making debugging any kind of difficulty infinitely easier.  Now we are taking logging to a whole new level. Many more logs with more details allows us to easily and rapidly deal with issues that might arise.

Security:

The Kestrel Core uses a new fundamental communication layer which brings many benefits, but also uses a defined set of ports so that the server can be further locked down and allow access only to specific, needed ports. This applies only to new services, however. With 5.0, the Falcon Application Server is fully backwards compatible to 4.1 clients, and so the impact of this more secure layer will only be felt after the legacy support is dropped in later 5.x releases.

Security is important to us. In addition to moving towards a goal of allowing servers to be more secured via firewalls, we are also allowing more secure authentication methods.

Most sites, by default, want the Client to automatically authenticate based on the user that is currently logged into the machine. We support this configuration completely.

However, with 5.0 we also allow the system to authenticate against an Active Directory domain directly (and, to a less-tested extent, any LDAP server). You may now use Falcon securely on a shared machine with non-unique logins.


Effortless Implementation:

Not only did we make technological changes to bring many new features, but also to make implementing this new version easier than ever before. All changes have been implemented on top of the existing technology that has been running for years. This means that should anything fail, the old code is still there and will continue to run. This is done without using additional resources, and actually results in greater efficiency.

Over time, the old infrastructure will be phased out. The purpose is of course to make it easier for IT and our support personnel to upgrade your existing Falcon Editorial installation to the new version. Also, the server and client applications do not need to be upgraded at the same time, making for easy testing in the production environment, with no negative impact.

Improved compatibility

Falcon Editorial version 4.1 already supported all the latest versions of software, including InDesign CS 5.5 and Word 2010. However, further steps were taken in Version 5 to make the integration with Word's latest 64-bit versions even better.  

Open Source:

Falcon Editorial relies heavily on Open Source technologies. In doing so we occasionally run into limitations of those technologies. In those cases we write the necessary code for our use but provide it to the Open Source community all around the world. We are strong supporters of Open Source communities such as Python, Apache Foundation etc.

Kestrel Core:

At the core of the improvements in Version 5 is the new Kestrel Core.  It is a combination of technologies which either did not exist two years ago or were just in their infancy. All of them by now are matured and in use by some of the biggest tech companies.  One of the many benefits of the new Kestrel Core is the ability to implement certain changes with ease that in the past would have required major upgrades to the software due to backward compatibility issues between different components.

 

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