Archive for January 15th, 2007

The trouble with fruits

Like all Greeks, I refer to all mandarin oranges, clementines and tangerines as “mandarins”. But each time we go shopping with my JBQ, this is a problem and it has started to anger me.

Eugenia: Sweetie, get some mandarins.
JBQ: They don’t have mandarins, they only have clementines!

or

Eugenia: Sweetie, want a mandarin?
JBQ: Oh, this is not a mandarin, it’s a tangerine.

We don’t classify them differently in Greek, and there is a good reason for that: they all look exactly the same. And be assured that we produce all these varieties near my home in Greece in large quantities (we export to Russia too), so we are not talking about clueless harvesters here. We are talking about practical people instead. If there is not a really good reason to call a fruit a different name, we simply don’t. Why complicate matters? I let all the botanists to call each variety the way they want to, but in common language I see no reason to distinct between these fruits. There is a reason to distinct between the blood, sweet or bitter oranges, because it has a major impact in the taste and looks, but in the mandarin’s case this is not really an issue.

VLC rant

Most people love VLC because it supports a lot of media formats. Indeed, it has saved me from frustration a few times too, being able to playback videos that no other app could.

But VLC has major problems in every other aspect. I mean, its Win/Lin preference window is one big mess. The rest of the interface is not great either. But what REALLY bothers me is its streaming ability (doesn’t really work most of the time) and its stream-rip & transcoding ability (it NEVER works).

Remember the guy I sold the LG Chocolate to a few days ago? He emailed me this morning asking me “how did you put these ipod ads videos in the phone? I would like to put some anime fan videos too, but they don’t work“. Apparently, the videos he was trying to upload to the phone were too high resolution for the phone to handle, but most importantly, they were encoded in the uncommon AVC1 MP4 format that QuickTime or even the 3GP-Encoder utility would not recognize. VLC was the only app that recognized and played back the sample file! Trying to use VLC to transcode the video to ANY other format though, it would result in either scrambled video or no video but just audio (I tried at least 5 video format/encapsulation options). Absolutely nothing worked.

I wonder, do these guys actually TEST their bloody apps before they offer them for public consumption? I don’t think so! Or, they simply “user-tested-it” instead of having a real PROCESS to QA their code. You see, if you just “user test” an app, only the most obvious bugs will be found, because users only tend to test their most required feature, in this case “playback”. But just about anything else, goes to hell. This kind of non-QA testing is common in the open source world, which is why after you actually try to seriously use most apps found on distros (or on gnomefiles.org), you will stumble from one bug to another, and from one crash to another.

Anyways, at the end, the SUPER application managed the transcoding to MPEG4-BASIC just fine. And then, I had to use Quicktime PRO in order to re-transcode it to the 176×144 resolution that the phone requires (SUPER would not go below 320×240 in their MP4 option).

The importance of backwards compatibility

From the mouth of Ian Murdock, the creator of Debian. I wish more developers in the OSS community understood the importance of keeping the users (and the IT dept) happy. And Apple should as well (OSX is not more than 60-70% compatible between major releases).