Archive for November 12th, 2006

The other side of the coin

We all have seen the crashed Windows pictures of monitors on airports that Linux advocates always mention on their blogs. Here’s the other side of the coin: an MS employee mentioning a Linux-crashed server, in-flight. Moral of the story: there is no crash-proof OS out there, except if it’s NASA we are talking about.

Two cool sites

I found two cool sites this morning.

LabPixies can add gadgets to your online homepage, e.g. at Google. While I hate gadgets/widgets on my desktop, I actually find it kinda cool having them on my online homepage. Opera, WebKit and IE for WinMob5 (and up to a degree Netfront 3.3 and Openwave 7.2.6) support heavy javascript and Ajax, so it might be an idea for the LabPixies guys to create mobile-sized versions of their widgets with optimized graphic filesizes and resolutions.

LabPixies on my Google Homepage

Nokia and Discovery Channel have come together and published the MobiFilm web site. In it, you will find the MobiFilm Academy section which takes the user by the hand to step-by-step teach him how to direct movies and clips! If you are interested in doing some serious clip movies using either serious or not-serious video capture hardware, definitely check it out.

partyStrands mobile site

Here is another example of a web developer who has no clue about mobile web development. He hard codes his CSS to 400px(!) wide, and then tells the browser that the media target is “handheld”. This will have the result in most CSS-enabled mobile browsers to respect the 400px width instead of reformatting the content, and hence, create horizontal scrollbars. It just shows how much its web developer tested his creation. NOT.

Choose Panasonic over Canon for digicam video capture

I am personally a fan of Canon digicams. And as you know, I am vigorously advocating that compression rates used on digicam video captures are really bad and they should not be used for that purpose. But if you really have no other alternative and you must shoot some good quality video with a digicam, get a Panasonic camera and not a Canon one. While this was a shock for me, Panasonic had their screw tightly screwed ON when they decided which shooting resolutions they would support.

Canon’s brand new SD900 and G7 for example use the also brand new Digic-III chip which is able to shoot XGA video at 15 fps. Unfortunately, the resolutions supported are XGA (15 fps) and then goes down to VGA/QVGA/QCIF resolution (at 15/30 fps). There is no interim SVGA/30fps option and there is no HD 480p widescreen capture mode either (848×480 for HD’s version of 480p, or 720×480 for DVD’s version of 480p).

Enter the also brand new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 and DMC-FZ50. Both are able to shoot: 1280×720/15fps and 848×480, 640×480, 320×240 at 30/10 fps. While I don’t like the fact that it only offers 30 or 10 fps (15 fps is more standard), the fact that it fully supports 30 fps at HD 480p resolution and 15 fps at a full 720p resolution, is amazing. Who needs an HD camcorder that sells for $1200 when you can get something equivelant for $400?

Please note that except Canon and Panasonic no other consumer digicam manufacturer offers such high-res video capture yet (they all go as high as VGA usually).

Given the fact that now you can even shoot a good quality music clip with a camera phone and that these digicams I mention above are many-many times better than the Nokia N93, it really blurs the picture between professional hardware and consumer one. I personally find this not only technologically interesting, but I also find it SOCIALLY interesting. You see, our first ever (cheap a$$) film camera at my home we bought in 1989. We never had a camcorder (my brother bought one just last year for the first time). Having grown up away from the luxuries of such gadgets and sudenly finding myself in a world that you can can get amazing quality hardware for so cheap, to me, this is amazing social progress. No longer you need to buy extremely expensive equipment to do video art, or to shoot test movies as a student director. These days, it can be done real cheap — as long as you have the right talent.

TV Networks Need to Wake Up

Digital Journal has an interesting editorial on the situation with TV Networks and online video. I really don’t understand why FOX or ABC or NBC or CBS don’t have their TV feed in VGA resolution torrent-like streaming for free 24/7 using QuickTime’s h.264 (to save bandwidth while retaining good visual quality), along a lower-quality QVGA feed using Flash video (for maximum compatibility with browsers) and maybe –just maybe– a 176×144 (QCIF) resolution in 3GP/MPEG4 streaming format for mobile devices.

This is the first thing I would personally do if I was to get an exec job (!) in one of these networks. Why don’t they wake up and smell the coffee? I mean, they could even make extra money out of this with video-on-demand. For example, did a viewer missed the episode of “Lost” last night? Well, below the live TV feed list your most popular shows. When a user clicks on one of those, a list of episodes, with descriptions and original air-dates, is listed. When the user is clicking to view the episode he/she missed, must pay $0.99 to view the ad-free, uninterrupted episode via streaming-on-demand. There is money to be made here (my streaming-on-demand suggested price is half of iTunes’ able-to-download price).

Is this so difficult to build a business case? I wonder what the TV Networks are afraid of. I think what they are afraid of is themselves. They can’t do the next bold move. They don’t have the guts, or the imagination to do so. They are all fine and daddy with what they already have, but you know, ta p??ta ?e? (”everything changes, nothing stays the same”, ancient Greek wisdom), especially in the tech business.

Regarding proprietary software on distros

I have recently stated that it is my opinion that non-commercial Linux distros must ship with only Free software in them, however, they should make it really easy for their users to install the most popular proprietary software. That they should offer a choice.

A Fedora kernel hacker –being a kernel guy he proves to have no clue about sales and marketing– wrote an angry blog post a few days ago targeted at reviewer Jem Matzan: “rather than file bug reports, the standard procedure these days is to ‘write a scathing review on the internet’“. What Dave Jones doesn’t understand is that reviewers are writing reviews, not bug reports. Their job is to find problems with products and report them, not to make the lives of the developers easier.

Anyways, I replied to Dave’s blog and we agreed to disagree. He has the attitude of “if we make it easy to install proprietary software and these are buggy, we will be swamped with bug reports“. I honestly think that he is overreacting. First of all, a GUI that downloads and installs some proprietary software it should come with clear alert windows that this software is unsupported and it’s provided only for the convenience of the user. Secondly, such a GUI would bring a lot of new users aboard the community. And users come with bug reports. It’s part of the package, as my JBQ always says. If a developer doesn’t want bug reports, then he should not offer the ISO for free and have a bugzilla.

Just tonight, while browsing Digg, I found two separate recent blog posts of users (here and here) discussing exactly that problem: the difficulty of installing must-have proprietary software (e.g. Flash).

The whole deal reminds me of the generation schism. Old people want to stay home and watch TV, and young people want to fall from an airplane. Same thing with this situation, developers only see their own point of view, and users only see theirs. What’s missing, is the marketing/sales people, that OSS distros simply don’t have. You see, these (”useless” by some) profession categories are the GLUE between the user and the development team. Without them, we have this schism and eternal debate. But with them, we have their market studies that they should be the defining factor as to if a feature must go in or out of an operating system.

Ubuntu is the first non-commercial Linux distro that actually has a small marketing team. They don’t do much, but they do report their findings. And this is why Ubuntu wants to bring back proprietary kernel drivers in their offering and they even want to consider my idea (according to an email from Mark Shuttleworth). The Fedora guy, Dave, saw these news and he almost puked in disgust. But you know, that’s the difference between the distro leader and the followers. If Fedora can’t go with the times, then it will perish in the hands of Ubuntu.