Archive for January, 2008

Federal Court Recognizes Copyright Rights In Cease And Desist Letters

This is why I will never file for a US citizenship. Because of crazy things like that. We are poor and single-minded in Greece, but at least basic rights and common sense prevails in such matters (but not for other matters, of course). Yes, I am still pissed off over the fact that I can’t place a tripod in New York without going through legalities.

Multi-facial

Vin Diesel wrote, directed and starred this short movie in 1994, before he got rich and famous. He raised money to shoot this by working as a bouncer in NY clubs. It was the movie that Spielberg got impressed with and wrote Diesel in “Save Private Ryan”.

The guy is actually very talented and in fact very underrated just because many people can’t see past the muscles. In the movie “Find me guilty” proves his talent big time. I got to say that “Multi-facial” is really well done, considering the budget and equipment. In today’s world where buying an HD camera is so cheap, people should be able to do better, but they don’t necessarily do.

Diesel is also directing (for the third time) and starring in the new “Hannibal” movie, in which he speaks ancient Latin and Greek. He also has a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie coming out this year, “Babylon AD”.

Michael Jackson No2

This is Sly Stallone’s 86 year old mother. For a moment I thought that she was Michael Jackson.

Hardware acceleration in HTC phones

If you follow the news lately there’s a chance that HTC will be hit with a class action lawsuit from its customers because all their latest PocketPC phones don’t have hardware acceleration. HTC has the nerve to say that they won’t cater to their users, and that there might be a possibility to have a driver on future models. Their current phones are running on a default safe mode graphics driver, with no acceleration at all for the UI, video playback, games etc. This is particularly disturbing as some of their phones have been advertised as multimedia powerhouses.

Now, many people online are putting the blame to HTC for not being as serious regarding the software they are including with their devices. To me, HTC is like any other Asian company: products with short life cycles, not many official firmware updates (if any), poor software engineering. And Microsoft knows this. Which is why I personally put the blame to MS and not to HTC. HTC is being HTC, just like LG is being LG (which is even worse in comparison). Microsoft on the other hand, they hold the upper hand by owning the operating system. They should have never given HTC a license if HTC (or MS) didn’t have a fully working accelerated driver for the ATi graphics chip HTC used.

But of course, both companies went after the easy money. Both HTC and Microsoft should take responsibility for this and either offer refunds, or sit down their asses and complete the driver and offer it as a free download.

I don’t claim to know what’s in the contracts between Google and their Android Alliance, but I surely hope Google takes precautions in the future, because most Asian manufacturers are as care-free as HTC is (and usually, worse).

I wrote this blog post purely as an affected owner of a TyTN-II smartphone btw, and not for any other reason. I am just venting out because spending $800 for a phone that has a driver speed equivalent to 1990 with Windows 3.0 is unacceptable.

Iceland complains to US about treatment of tourist

This incident is abuse of power and it must be corrected. That’s all I have to say about this.

French cheese fondue

This (originally Swiss) recipe is directly from JBQ, who as a good Frenchman is cooking Cheese Fondue for us regularly during winter. You will need an electrical fondue pot, which costs about $50.

Ingredients (for 6)
* 1 day old French bread or 2 days old country style white bread
* 1 kg of cheese (1/3 emmental, 1/3 comte, 1/3 beaufort)
* 1 bottle of dry white wine
* 1/5 teaspoon nutmeg
* pepper

Execution
1. Grate the cheeses, or just cut them in very small pieces.
2. Cut the bread in medium size cubes and set aside.
3. Turn ON the fondue pot on high heat. Add the cheese, wine, pepper, nutmeg and using a wooden spoon keep stirring to melt the cheese and evaporate the wine.
4. When the cheese is all melted a few minutes later, lower the heat to medium-high, and place a piece of bread at the tip of your fondue stick. Using the stick, dip the bread into the fondue pot to get some hot cheese on it. Enjoy!

Cheese fondue

Beef Stroganoff

JBQ loves this traditionally Russian dish, I cooked it again tonight after a long time…

Ingredients (for 2)
* 220gr beef fillet, cut in strips
* 2 cups of thick-sliced mushrooms
* 2 shallots, chopped
* 1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
* 3/4 cup sour cream
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 3 tbspoons butter
* 150gr fussili pasta or egg noodles
* salt and pepper

Execution
1. In a large pan add water and cook the pasta/noodles as described in its packaging directions.
2. In a large frying pan add the butter and chopped shallots and fry in high heat for 2-3 minutes until browned.
3. Add the beef strips into the pan and stir continuously. Fry the strips for 3-4 minutes until browned.
4. Add the mushrooms, salt, pepper, nutmeg and stir occasionally, for about 5 minutes, in medium heat.
5. Add the wine and cook for an additional 5 minutes, also in medium heat. Stir occasionally.
6. Add the sour cream, stir vigorously, and cook until the sauce has thickened. Serve hot with the pasta/noodles, although Stroganoff is freezer-friendly too.

Beef Stroganoff

Confusion and video editing

There are three situations that most amateur video users just can’t put their head around. On online forums these are the most common exporting issues.

1. Pixel aspect ratios
I bet that trigonometry might feel simpler to some people. No matter how many tutorials are on the web about pixel aspect ratios, users just don’t understand them. I really hope that camera manufacturers stop using non-square pixels because it confuses the hell out of people, and most of the time they f*ck up their web exports resulting in youtube videos where people in them have heads looking like eggs, or in videos with vertical letterboxing.

2. Interlacing
Ah, this one is funny. Users who have never seen interlacing before are in panic. They come over to the forums and scream that their camera is dying! There are “weird horizontal lines everywhere” and they wonder if warranty is still good to send the camera back! Again, it’s a matter of the camera manufacturers to stop using freaking interlacing. We are not in the 1950s anymore.

3. AVI and MOV
There’s the misconception that all AVI files are DivX/XViD, and all MOV files are “the same”. People don’t understand that avi/mov are simply containers that can hold any kind of media format inside them, and instead they associate them with specific codecs. I got an email the other day: “why my 2 minute footage is 6 GB, I exported as AVI, it should have been smaller than that”. Ah, well, because you saved using the uncompressed codec. Duh.

The HD war is over

It’s amazing how fast a product can die. After the news broke on the news outlets a few days ago that HD-DVD is dead because of Warner’s decision to move exclusively to Blu-ray (although Blu-Ray was winning slowly but surely), within 10 days the 62-38 percentage of sales went at 85-15. Overwhelmingly in favor of Blu-Ray.

Now, there are those who say that Apple’s new HD renting system will also kill Blu-Ray and Netflix, but it’s not the time yet, and it won’t be for another 10 years. AppleTV’s 4mbps 720p files can’t compete with Blu-ray’s 18-40 mbps 1080p quality (plus the extras on the discs, and the feeling of physical ownership is a driving force to buy/rent real discs). The iTunes/AppleTV deal has its niche, and it’s mostly for those who can’t be bothered a lot with movies and don’t care about quality.

We discussed with JBQ last night over dinner at a local restaurant that a 480p DVD disc encoded in VBR 9mbps mpeg2, has BETTER quality than AppleTV’s 720p HD at 4mbps h.264. H.264 is twice better than mpeg2 in compression, true, but 720p is also more than twice bigger than 480p. From our point of view, it makes more sense from the quality point of view to serve a true 480p anamorphic file at 3 mbps h.264, than the current 720p deal. But unfortunately, 480p is not considered HD (it’s EDTV), and this wouldn’t fly with the consumers. So basically, it’s a marketing problem, not a technical one. Apple decided (no surprise there) to go with a decision that flies high with the clueless consumers rather than delivering the best possible quality. Another problem is bandwidth: at 5GB per movie rent, Comcast won’t be too happy… Bandwidth ain’t free.

Video editor mockup

I am continuing my (agressive) discussion (it started because of my Linux video editor rant) with a particular Linux video editor developer who doesn’t want to face the truth that his application sucks in both usability, features and looks. Of course, I told him so point blank — I never hid my opinions and I won’t start doing so now. When he asked how it should look like, I sat down for 4 hours and made a mockup for him. Here’s the result:

This mockup borrows ideas from both iMovie and Sony Vegas, and it includes features that are easily accessible: e.g. tape capturing/recording, direct editing of DV/HDV/AVCHD and any other format that ffmpeg/mencoder can support, a two-sized timeline (normal and mini), support for any frame rate, track rotation/placing, clip rotation/pan/cropping, plugins, transitions, fade in-out right from the timeline, slow/fast-motion up to 16x (both by CNTRL+resizing a clip’s edges and by editing properties), group/ungroup elements, transparency/overlay support, enough plugins for color correction and more, snapping on/off, automatic fade transitions when two clips overlap, a 3 quality preview window for speed reasons, preview sizes that are only at 1:1, 1:2 or 1:4 so quality is preserved for easier editing, reversing, full screen and secondary monitor support, on-the-fly de-interlaced preview, exporting dialogs like this one, a fork of the Lagarith lossless codec to make it faster/smaller, and other things that I won’t mention here. My design is even SVGA friendly as long as your footage is non-widescreen DV (it will preview at 1:1 size).

Now, you are probably thinking that this is way too much, and it just copies Vegas’ abilities, an application that’s been in development for years and has reached some maturity. Well, not really. Believe it or not, I have left out a lot of features that exist in the consumer version of Vegas: compositing and compositing children, masking, audio recording for narration while video plays back, custom timeline size, velocity engine, keyframing for the plugins and the timeline, a proper audio mixer, markers, regions, pre-rendering of regions, “takes”, trimmer window, image sequence import/export, DVD authoring companion application, different time formats and timecodes, and more. Also, consider that the Pro version of Vegas has a lot more features, like 32bit editing, inverse/telecine, Pro text editing, DVCPRO-HD and lots of plugins.

So, no, I am not being an asshole trying to force “out of this world” difficult features for an OSS video editor. The features I left in are must-have in this time and age, end of story. If you can’t deliver them, then you might as well stop developing your application (as long as you develop it in order to be useful to users instead of just your programming hobby, of course). Another thing I would suggest is to not cut off yourself from Windows and Mac. Download the trial versions of video editors that exist for these platforms and by all means, copy their best ideas from each.

But as I wrote the other day, this is not a one-man job, neither a buddy-created application. It requires at least 10 engineers who know what the hell they are doing, and they are sitting next to each other. Which is why this can only be delivered in any user-friendly fashion by Red Hat/Novell/Ubuntu (or Google, if they want to be more helpful to Linux users). It will take 2 years to get there, $100,000x10x2=2 million USD. That’s the minimum you need to develop such an app (without counting any license fees, we would assume we just use these codecs the way we use them now on Linux: for free). In a more practical, real-life scenario, you need more engineers and at least $5 mil.