Monthly Archives: November 2011

Sneek Peek – Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin

With the Ubuntu developers summit wrapping up last Friday, there is some news of what to expect for the upcoming release of version 12.04, Precise Pangolin (a scaly anteater). Keep in mind that this is a LTS (long term support) release, so there isn’t going to be anything Earth shattering in the announcements due to the fact that Canonical and the Ubuntu development team will spend five years supporting Precise Pangolin in an effort to clean up as many bugs and functionality issues as possible. That being said, there was still some interesting news and features discussed during the week long event that will interest devotees of the open platform.

Larger install ISO and 64-bit images

Precise Pangolin (PP) will give developers a bit more room to work with in the install image for 12.04, as the decision was made to increase the build to 750MB. This 50 megabyte increase means that the install will no longer fit onto CD media, forcing users to either burn to a DVD or use a memory stick to install the OS. This was to be expected and honestly nothing major as DVD burners are now the norm. The only issue will be builds that use older hardware for server purposes or storage, a simple thing to work around.

Another step forward for the platform is the confirmed switch to 64-bit images as the standard download on the Ubuntu site. Currently, because of limitations in running some 32-bit applications on the 64-bit install, users are prompted to download a 32-bit ISO to cut down on issues. PP will do away with this thanks to those bugs being ironed out, allowing all users to take advantage of the larger architecture that comes with 64-bit computing.

Unity here to stay, Ubuntu to push towards phones and tablets

Mark Shuttleworth (founder of the Ubuntu project) made it clear during his opening keynote address that the Unity interface is here to stay, despite myriad complaints dealing with the new addition to desktop management. He also added that he would be pushing Canonical and the Ubuntu development team to have the platform ready to be put onto phone and tablet devices within two years. This does not come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with Ubuntu, especially critics of Unity that claim that Shuttleworth and Canonical are using it to make the move into mobile, rather than making the Ubuntu product better for its users.

Whether or not Canonical has any ulterior motive is unknown, but keeping Unity is not a popular option by any means, and indeed has forced some users to abandon Ubuntu all together. It will be interesting to see what develops out of the statements made by Shuttleworth, and to see if Ubuntu can actually make it to mobile devices.

One cloud and other miscellaneous changes

Ubuntu One is a cloud storage service which allows a user to access their content anywhere they have internet access. Canonical wants to make the login for this service the default for users, allowing them to sign into any Ubuntu-powered machine and get access to their default settings and files. Of course the underlying reason for this change is monetary: If they force all users to sign up for the One cloud service, they will be exposed to the marketing plans to get them to convert from the free 5GB of storage into a paid plan with more space. Pretty typical of the cloud storage industry as a whole, and not surprising in the least.

Miscellaneous changes that were discussed during the week:

  • Improvements in the Ubuntu Software Center were announced, mostly in startup time. Right now the average load time for the application is about 11 seconds; PP will feature a two-second launch which is a drastic improvement.
  • PP will be sticking with GNOME 3.2 as 3.4 will only be released a month before 12.04. It is expected that the update will be put into the build sometime in the future.
  • Banshee, the media player installed as a default application on install, is scheduled to be removed from the build and Rhythmbox put back in. Banshee replaced Rhythmbox, but due to some compatibility issues needs to be replaced for the time being.

As mentioned before, 12.04 is a long term release dedicated to cleaning up the platform. Users should expect no major change announcements until later versions. PP is schedule for release in April of 2012.

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Avid Announces Media Composer 6 with 64-Bit Processing and New User Interface

No one’s denying the power of Avid’s editing systems, but they haven’t been the most accessible or open programs… until now? Today Avid announced Media Composer 6, bringing a brand new user interface, 64 bit processing power, stereoscopic 3D workflow, and new “Open I/O” architecture that interfaces with existing hardware cards from the likes of AJA and Blackmagic Design. Media Composer 6 will be $2,499, with upgrades from MC 5.5 starting at $299. Similar to how Adobe offered 50% off for Final Cut Pro 7 editors disenfranchised by the new FCPX, Avid is making a similar offer for users of Final Cut Pro 7: you can purchase MC 6, with video training included, for $1,499. Here’s a brief look at Media Composer 6 from Alex Walker:

Major features

• Rebuilt from the core 64 architecture
• Modern sleek and efficient User Interface
• Full industry-defining stereoscopic workflows
• Avid Marketplace with on the fly access to footage and plug-ins
• Avid Artist Color support for high performance color correction
• Support for AJA, Blackmagic, Matrox, Bluefish, MOTU products
• AVCHD and RED Epic with AMA
• DNxHD 444
• Apple ProRes encode
• 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound with Pro Tools AAF exchange, and Dolby E support
• New dual chip DNxHD or AVC-Intra Nitris DX box for full res stereoscopic 3D
• Buy Avid Nitris DX and Mojo DX without software for easy expansion
• Significant price reductions make Avid hardware more attractive than ever
• Symphony is now available as a software only solution – perfect for high end color at an indy price
• NewsCutter is now the same price as Media Composer
• Choose software only and hardware only solutions, or bundle for great price/performance
• Avid Open I/O makes Media Composer compatible with AJA, Blackmagic, Matrox, Bluefish and MOTU – easy to add it to existing hardware setups
• A planned price permanent FCP cross grade, price $1499 US MSRP
• Inclusion of Sorenson Squeeze, Avid DVD, and Avid FX in all products

Developer ports Siri to iPhone 3GS

(Credit: Image Composite by Joe Aimonetti)

A follow-up to 9to5Mac’s report on developer Steven Troughton-Smith’s porting of Siri to an iPhone 4 reveals that another developer, Ryan Petrich, has created a scenario for Siri to function on an iPhone 3GS, though performance is not very good.

Last week Siri was hacked to run on an iPhone 4 by jailbreaking an iPhone 4S to recover the files necessary to run Siri on the iPhone 4. 9to5Mac provided a great interview and video showing the iPhone 4 running Siri next to an iPhone 4S.

Now, according to developer Ryan Petrich, Siri can run on the iPhone 3GS as well, though with some quality issues. Petrich tells 9to5Mac that the port really only works when no ambient noise is present.

It would appear then that some of the issues with Siri being brought to older iPhones in the future may depend on the quality of the microphone–a hardware issue. With all the other features of the iPhone 4S being trumpeted I do not recall seeing any analysis of the microphone, a piece that may be integral to the success of Siri, especially when accurately interpreting voice input.

Below is the video from Petrich showing an iPhone 3GS running Siri in a sound-controlled environment.

The Modern Way of Searching – Retrieve a piece of information from our past

In our day-to-day lives, we are surrounded by contextual cues. The websites we visit, the files and applications we open, the music that is playing, meetings, phone calls, tweets and even our location. And as we try to retrieve a piece of information from our past, human memory leverages these contextual cues for recall. And in many cases, these contextual cues are not semantically related.

“What was that PDF I was looking at yesterday? The name escapes me, but I know that AC/DC was playing when I was reading it,” or “I know that I read it during that meeting last week, what was it’s name?” All users have had moments like this, yet modern computer systems do not support this type of contextual search.

To address this need, we have  YouPivot.[have a look at this super tool at http://youpivot.com/.still in beta though].YouPivot is a novel approach to personal file and activity search. If you had lost your car keys, you would think “where was I when i last had them?” With YouPivot, you can ask the same thing of your digital items.

Wait for the time when you can explore THE TIME with your search.

Html 5 Video player Demo

As browser vendors work hard at implementing various features of Html 5 in their browsers, they’ve also been enhancing support for the video tag. We’ve been monitoring their progress closely and have been simultaneously developing our own Html 5 video player and ensuring that it works in all major browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera). In addition to desktop players, our Html 5 video player is also compatible with mobiles devices such as Android based devices, Windows phone 7 based devices and iPhone/iPad.
 

Html 5 Video player Demo

The Html 5 video player demo page attempts to show off some of the capabilities of our Html 5 video player. We’ve got multiple versions of the video you see there. In addition, these videos are encoded at a much higher bit rate than the normal. So if you don’t have the bandwidth and/or processing power pick a different version. You will need the latest/beta versions of the major browsers in order to use the Html 5 video player.

  1. 1080p encoded at 7,000kbps
  2. 720p encoded at 4,000kbps
  3. 480p encoded at 2,600kbps
  4. 360p encoded at 2000kbps (same as current Md version)
  5. 270p encoded at 500kbps. (same as current Low version)
The demo page should work for all major browsers. Please check it out and let us have your feedback. There is a known issue with Safari on Windows and that is the browser downloads the complete file before playing the video.

Browser Support

While all browsers don’t yet support all of the features we need in our player, we’re happy to report that the ExposureRoom Html 5 video player boasts support for all the features you’d expect in a video player, including full screen support.

Major features of the ExposureRoom Html 5 video player

The following are the major features of our Html video player that are supported across all major browsers. We highlight them here because most websites that have an Html 5 player don’t support these features.
  1. Skip ahead – The ability to skip ahead even though the video stream has not downloaded to that point yet. Similar to streaming video behavior.
  2. Change version while playing – The ability to be able to change the version (Low, Md, HD) while the video is playing. Unlike most other implementations, our player seamlessly changes versions starting from where you left off.
  3. Full screen – The ability to switch to full screen mode. You need to switch your browser to full screen mode (hit the F11 key) to get the best viewing experience. Safari users can simply switch to full screen mode (there is no F11 key option anyway)

In addition to the features above, the Html 5 player also supports or will support the following additional features:

  1. Theme support – The ability to change the color theme of the player as you can see on the demo page.
  2. Built-in Share/Embed options – The player itself will surface the options to share and embed.

Video Playback performance

We did some extensive tests during the course of developing our player and find that the playback performance of IE 9 and Safari are extremely good (almost as efficient as the native players on their respective platforms). So much so that they are far better than any Flash based video player (including ours). So MAC/Safari users can gain some real benefits here because typically Flash player performance on a MAC is pretty bad. Safari on Windows performs equally well. Microsoft will be releasing IE 9 in beta on September 15th so people can begin to use various Html 5 features including video soon. The speed and performance of the new IE 9 browser is simply awesome, leaving every browser far behind. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can do so here. IE 9 Platform Preview

Mobile devices

The new player is compatible with mobile devices too. In addition, you’ll have the option to choose between all available versions. Devices such various Android devices and the iPad should be able to play all versions (bandwidth permitting).

H.264 and WebM

At the moment, H.264 and VP8 (WebM) are the two primary codecs in the Html 5 video space. Only Chrome supports both these codecs (with IE to follow soon). The others browsers, Firefox and Opera, support WebM but will probably never support H.264 and we’re not quite sure if Safari will support WebM (it support H.264).

At the moment all of our recent videos (in the last year or so) are encoded using the H.264 codec. None are WebM encoded (except the ones on the Html 5 video demo page) and we’re not quite sure if/when we will support WebM as encoding multiple versions twice over has implications of requiring double the processing power, double the time it takes and double the disk space required. So Firefox and Opera users will have to continue to use the Flash player.

Sync Flash version with Html 5

At the moment the two players (the Flash based player and the Html 5 player) are not synchronized in as far as their feature set is concerned. This will change shortly. That is both players will have the same features. In essence, the flash based video player will be enhanced to have the same features as our Html 5 video player. So those of you using older browsers or Firefox or Opera will still get the benefits of the features the Html 5 player has.

Hidden “Drop Box” feature in Mac OS X Lion

While Apple advertises iCloud’s ‘Documents in the Cloud’ service as a way of keeping iWork files in sync across devices, its been discovered that Mac OS X Lion users can also leverage the service to sync all types of files across multiple Macs.
Hidden in the ~/Library of Macs running Mac OS X 10.7 is a Mobile Documents folder that Apple users to sync iWork files between multiple devices registered to the same iCloud account. However, Macworld discovered that the feature is not limited to iWork documents — any file can be placed in the folder and will be synced to the same folder on every Mac connected to the same iCloud account with Documents & Data syncing activated.

What is of use is that any files put into the ~/Library/Mobile Documents folder will automatically upload to iCloud and push to any other Mac you have that is signed in to the same iCloud account and has the ‘Document & Data’ iCloud preference checked. Lion even notifies you of version conflicts and allows you to resolve them when you open the document.

The feature is similar, but much more limited, than the popular Dropbox cloud-based file sharing service that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs unsuccessfully attempted to purchase for a reported 9-figure sum before ultimately beginning Apple’s own cloud initiative.

Currently, the hidden feature lets users sync files only between Macs, as files are not pushed to iOS devices.

Still, the discovery offers concrete proof that Mac OS X Lion already includes the architecture required for Apple to not only replicate services like Dropbox that offer more advanced sharing privileges, but also to allow third party developers to have their applications easily work with iCloud by saving their data.

To enable the feature, you must activate the “Documents and Data” setting in iCloud’s setting preferences. Navigating to the ~Library folder, you’ll find a folder named “Mobile Documents.” (If you don’t, create and save an iWork document ). You should now be able to make an alias of the “Mobile Documents” folder (or a subfolder in that folder) on your dock or Finder sidebar favorites for drag and drop syncing.

How to use iCloud to sync files across Macs:

Step 1: Enable iCloud “Documents and Data” syncing.

iCloud Settings

Step 2: Navigate to ~/Library/ in your Home folder.

Go to Library

 

Alternate Go to Library

Step 3: Find folder “Mobile Documents.”

Mobile Documents

Step 4: Make folder alias or drag and drop “Mobile Documents” to sidebar or dock.

Create Alias

Step 5: You should now be able to drag and drop files into “Mobile Documents” and sync with all Macs associated with your iCloud account.