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16.01.10

PTEX&OpenCL - or How Steve Jobs Companies Are Changing 3D

Something amazing came through my ticker today something that is a game changer and together with another technology will change the way I work and make much more enjoyable.

First some basics to understand what I am talking about for those that have no clue about it all. There are basically the following six steps to get to a final 3d picture.

1. Modelling: Multiple Approaches get you to a mesh model that consists of - in the end mostly - polygons. You can scan you can push little points in 3d space you can use mathematical formulas to create substract or add simple forms or other formulas to make edges round revolve lines or extrude other lines. The end product is mostly always a polygon mesh with x amount of polygons - the more the higher the resolution of the model the closer you can look at it. About ten years ago a really nice way to model high resolution meshes came into existence called SubDivision Surfaces which lets you model a corse resolution model which is much easier to understand and alter and then generate a highres model out of it - that was the first real game changer in the 3d industry and the reason why character modelling became so "easy" and so many people doing so many great models.

2. UV Preperation: Now a model out of triangels looks less then realistic of course so you need to tell the programm what kind of material is on the model - here a lot of option are available - but especially for film work and characters you want something that is realistic and you do that by getting something realistic - like a photo - and alter it in such a way that it fits on your model - or you paint from scratch - now that such a picture can be put onto the model you need to flatten out the model into a two dimensional surface. You can imagine this like taking a dead animal and skinning it then make the skin of the animal flat. Like so:
hide.jpg
(there is actually a programm that stretches the "hides" pretty similar to this very analog process). Its a very dull process to do this on a complex model - mostly you have to take your nice model apart and do all kinds of voodoo to get it artifact free. No fun and certainly not really creative.

3. Texturing: Ones you have your nice model with a more or less nice UV map you start to apply your texture - photo or programatic or a mixture of that. Here is a lot of "fun" to be had as you add little bumps, tell the software how shiny the model will be how reflective how refractive and lots of other things I don´t really want to go into - but its a nice step in general. +

4. Light & Camera: Without light there wouldn´t be anything visible. So you set up some virtual lights which act and react just like different kind of light sources you find in reality + some more other tricks that aren´t in reality but can add to a realistic picture. You also set up a camera or your virtual eye - which again acts just like a photographic camera in real life (almost). Both a creative and fun process.

5. Animation: Then you animate your model - push objects around, apply physics, deform your model. You can either do that by hand or get some animation data from MotionCaputure - like you might have seen these people with a black suit and pingpong balls attaced to them - or faces with dots all over them for example. This step is both fun and frustrating - with hand made or captured data. The human eye is so susceptible to small problems in movement that to get it realistically convincing not even a certain 500 Mio. Dollar production can fully perfect this step.

6. Render: Then comes the process that is mostly free of human intervention but not free of hassles and frustration. The rendering. Can take up to 50 hours per frame in Avatar on a stock normal computer. 24-25 frames per seconds (or in case of 3d double that) and you get an idea how much processing power is needed. And if you do a mistake - render it all over again. Also rendering is a complex mathematical problem and there are bound to be errors in software so prepare for the worst here.

Now why I am telling you all this? Well one step it seems has just been eliminated. Progress in the field of visual effects is very eratic - you have 2-4 years no progress at all and then all of the sudden a floodgate opens and something dramatically changes or multiple things. I would say we had a quit period the last 2-4 years - mostly because the development of the real cool stuff was "inhouse" meaning - that really smart programmer people where hired by the big VFX companies to program them certain things for certain needs and problems - a lot of problems in the above pipeline are already solved I think but have never seen the light of the broader world and instead stayed and sometimes even died within certain companies. Its really frustrating as the software companies struggled with the most basic problems (plagued by slow sales and a bad economy) and then you see Pirates of the Caribbean for example and they completely figure out how to motion capture live actors (record their movement) on set with no real special equipment - that technology is still only available behind the looked doors of Industrial Light & Magic. For me as an artist that is a valuable tool that has been created and I could do cool stuff with it but I can´t get my hands on because of corporate policies.
So its REALLY amazing to see that Disney - the intellectual property hoarding company for whom the copyright law has been rewritten at least ones - is releasing a software/API/Filestandard as open source as of today. Code that no less promises to completely eliminate step two of my list above. In their own words they have already produced one short animation and are in the process of one full feature animation completely without doing any UV mapping. I can only try to explain to you the joy that this brings to me. UV mapping has been my biggest hurdle to date - I never really mastered it - I hated it. Its such a painstaking long tedious process. I normally used every workaround that I could find to avoid doing UV mapping. Its crazy to think they finally have figured out a way to get there without it and I think this will drop like a bomb into every 3d app and supporting 3d app there is on the market within a year (a wishfull thinking here) - at least I can hope it does and I hope that Blender, Autodesk, sideFX are listening very closely.
Combine that with the recent advancement of render technology by using OpenCL (developed and released as part of SnowLeopard by Apple and made an Open Standard with ports for Linux and Windows now available) and render partially on the graphic card (GPU) - which speeds up rendering up to 50 times. That means that a frame from avatar takes only one hour to render instead of 50 - or in a more realistic case - current rendertime for an HD shot takes here 2-5 minutes an average to render - thats cut down to 10sec - 1min and would actually make rendering a fun part of the process.
Now we all know who is behind both companies releasing and opening that up: The mighty Steve Jobs. You could almost say there is an agenda behind it to make 3d a way more pleasurable creative work then it currently is - maybe Mr. Jobs wants us all to model and render amazing virtual worlds to inhabit where he can play god ;)
Good times indeed.

Whats left? Well animation is still not worked out completely but with muscle simulation and easy face and bone setups it has become easier over the past years - still hidousely tidious process to make it look right - don´t know if there ever is a solution for it that is as revolutionary as PTEX. Motion sensors might help a bit in the short future also some techniques that make the models physically acurate so that things can´t get into each other and gravity is automatically apllied. High quality texture maps that hold up to very very close scrunity are still memory hogs and burn down the most powerfull workstations. The rest will get better with faster bigger better computers as always (like all the nice lighting models that are almost unusable in production to date because they render too long). Generally we are so much further with UV mapping and rendering problems out of the picture I might get back into 3d much much more.

ptex.us - the official website
The PTEX white paper
PTEX sample objects and a demo movie

Disclaimer: I have been doing 3d since 1992 when I rendered a 320x240 scene of two lamps on an Amiga 2000 with raytracing - it took 2 days to render. My first animation in 1993 took a month to render. Then I switched to Macintosh (exclusively) in 1995 and did 3d on them for a while. It was so frustrating that I did not make a serious efford to get really good at it ever - now I am still doing it alongside Compositing / VFX Supervision but rather as add on & for previz then main work.

27.12.09

26c3 - Here be Dragons!

HereBeDragons.pngThe congress for the crazy ones the wild ones the good ones the ones defending freedom and digital liberties keep the information flowing unhindered without borders the last of their kind - the real dragons. Those who share and know will meet and talk and copy and paste and for so much knowledge brought to a boil the outcome is unknown.

There be Dragons! Dragons Everywhere. I will be one and so should you.

26c3 Official Website

And on the 28th around 23:00 in the smokers lounge the dragons will undertake a special journey through time:
Indian Timetravels - an audiovisual performance by Das Kraftfuttermischwerk & protobeamaz:fALK (hey thats me ;)

21.04.09

Vivace portable music studio - Most Awesome Controller Interface

vivacemusicstudio.jpgThe search for midi/osc controllers knows no limits around the world as everybody is struggling to get some manual control to the thousands of virtuals knobs and sliders and buttons. There are lots of wild tries to cram as many buttons in as portable rigs as possible. I think that most people would agree that there is nothing out there that is perfect. A step closer (until Apple frees us from the controller nightmare with a fully dual multitouch display or such) come the designers Young-Shin Lee & Hae-Jin Jung. They simply made a whole new computer that is just designed to be a musical instrument. I actually think they have something - if it would be ultra cheap and could be used as just a controller. I know that VJs would probably love it - imaging having a second screen with you loops and some nifty controller and some multitouch action and a keyboard in addition to your usual setup.

More info here.
More pics here.

24.03.09

3d in the browser - is it really finally coming?

VRML was once to be said the future of the web - everyone who ever tried that out back in the good days will agree with me that it was deemed to failure right from the beginning on. It went under and was never seen again with the second generation browsers. Modern browsers had other stuff to worry about - like passing acidic tests and such so 3d was not a main concern ever. Now word from the Game Developer Conference hits the street that the Kronos group is working together with the Mozilla foundation to bring accelerated 3d graphics inside the browser window. The Kronos group is responsible for OpenGL and OpenGL ES (iPhone is all I say here) and Mozilla of course for the Firefox. They formed an "accelerated 3d on the web working group" that will create a roalty free standard for browser makers to implement and webdevelopers to use. Hallejulia - now it might take some eons for a) a standard to form b) browser to adopt the standard c) 3d program letting you export stuff in the right format but the prospects for real 3d in the browser in a 3-5 year time frame are exiting to say the least. Personally for me this is bigger then vector (as it includes vector hopefully) - the possibilities are endless and truly exiting. Be sure to hear back from me if there is the earliest inclination of any beta or even alpha warez to try this out.

via internetnews.com

22.03.09

3d Scanner with Lego

scan12.jpgThings that used to cost around a million and one buck just a very short time ago seem to be available for almost nothing these days - especially if you roll your own. Such the case with 3d scanners it seems - while only 5 years ago its was inconcievable to even dream about owning a 3d printer - things started to get interesting 2 years ago when the prices dropped into the sub $5000 range and the first efforts of DIY open source 3d scanners appeared on the ether. Now we drop into the sub $300 range with a laser 3d scanner made out of the Lego NXT system. Oh good are the times.

via make blog.

10.02.09

1234567890 - epoch time

Here you have the countdown for the day hour minute second the universe converges with the standard unix time which then reaches the sequence 1234567890 - the day is (this) friday the 13th.
If you are on a Unix system (like MacOSX) you can see the current epoch time by putting date +%s in the terminal.

7.01.09

Modbook Pro: Multifingertouch Tablet not made by Apple

You know I get quite the heat in the comments for daring to criticize Apple over their lack of innovation in the Pro sector lately. Yes I was wishing for a widespread adoption of multitouch - you know something radical. I know multitouch works great not only for pros or live artists but for everyone and the conservative stand by Apple to not include it yet.
Now Axiotron comes back to the scene after already converting the plastic MacBooks into tablets they are now converting MacBookPros into finger multitouch tablets as well. For $5000 its yours. Gosh that would actually be a nice thing for VJing. Except for the glossy screen that then is not only glossy but also smeary. Now why apple aint doing it is beyond me - it cant be the smeary screen as they have no problem with glossy which is about as bad as smeary.

Read more about it over at Boy Genius. Thanks Tom for the headups.

Toxic on OSX - Bye bye Shake?

Autodesk is going OSX big time - and its about time. The company that for such a long time has been neglecting the OSX platform almost completely (exception is combustion) and only continued bought in packages on OSX (maya) has been making some big announcements. Toxic - their compositing package - with an pretty awesome keyer and an interface that enhance the node tree interface concept (its really nice) is coming. Now that the market for compositing packages on OSX was narrowed to only to the Foundries Nuke after the long negligence of Shake by Apple itself (what a shame) (and I am not counting After Effects as a serious compositing package) Autodesk has seen the light and brings over Toxic. I wont complain at all - competition is great - even so Autodesk could use some of that themself especially in the 3d market where they bought up all major 3d packages over the last two years (they posses now 3DStudioMax (its always been theirs), Maya and Softimage). Speaking of 3d - Mudbox is also coming to the Mac and I really really am happy about that announcement. ZBrush has abondend the Mac platform and lost all Mac users in the process for once and all by promising to port version 3 forever (2 years and counting) and never delivering on their promise - just last year Mudbox was catching up to ZBrush and even surpassing it in some features (real time displacement and realtime HDR is just the bomb) now its coming to my current workplatform and it will be probably a nice addition to the toolchain.
As for imagemodeller - never really used that program can´t really comment on it but the more the merrier I would say.

6.01.09

Screw you Apple - seriously just screw you

Macworlds come and go. Mostly they are disappointing because the hype has been too much - that did not used to be that way - there where some Macworld keynotes which had this one more thing moment that actually rocked the boat. Over the last years - you know the time when apple got mainstream - they got worse and worse - and this one I didn´t even bother to watch - luckily - it easily hands down the most disappointing sell out Macworld Apple has ever done. Even the fanboys are in agreement and that says something. You know when its bad when the most interesting thing is for software apple gives away for free together with their macs. The sad thing is that software and OS wise they don´t really have a competitor - so they are not needing innovation. Jugding from the Snow Leopard seeds the next OS will also be not as hot as one might want (so at least OpenCL seems promising). But what Apple is offering for their "big" hardware announcement hopefully creates a backlash that sends shivers down thin Steves spine.

No removable battery (yes its 8 hours under "apples perfect circumstances that nobody ever can replicate" meaning probably about 5 hour of real life performance). It supposed to last for "up to" 1000 cycles. Well all batteries I ever had from Apple "lasted" 1000 cycles - they became unusable after 400 cycles - thats under my "normal" use about 1.5 years.
Oh and you can now get an "antiglare" option for your screen - you know the ones that some LCD TVs try to get you with - for a whopping $50. Form follows function - that used to be Apple - its now "make it more glossy so more people find it lickable - forget about function" and then when there is a huge outcry "make it an add on that is worse then before and have the suckers pay for it on top".
Oh and the price... Oh forget about it. The market for the next year will be sub $500 lappies. This one approaches above $3000 lappy - you must be kidding Apple. I hope you loose some market share and you loose all your coolness factor because then you might become innovative again and make usable machines that people that who actually use them adore and not just put on their marble desks next to the gold plated pens for other people to look at.

Then again its Apple and I am sure they are brewing something cool and somehow its relieving that you can have a laptop for more then 3 years and not feel you have an old machine (as it will happen with my current MBP which is still pretty much on par with the current line after 1.5 years sans the "battery saving integrated graphic card" which I can happily live without as long as I have a matte screen - and that you can prey off my cold dead hands). There is still multitouch looming to take over or some other gesture control - and I am sure we will see something done with it by Apple sooner or later that is not just a glorified trackpad. Until then farewell Apple I hope you loose some money you have in the bank and get back to basic.

10.12.08

20 Alternative Vector Graphic Programs reviewed

nodeb.jpgAdobe needs some fire under its pants and while those designers in Adobes arms are rarely looking for alternatives its still refreshing to see that there is a thriving market for Adobe program alternatives. I know that there are quite a few photoshop contenders out there that are shaping up to become real contenders (and I am not talking about Gimp which some argue is already there as PS replacement - I don´t), what I didn´t know is the huge market for lightweight vector programs of all sorts and kinds and most are programmable - something Adobe will not include into Illustrator in a million years (except for AfterEffects and maybe Flash (out of necessity) Adobe has avoided direct scriptability that they can´t control). The list in the linked article is long and intriguing and covers not only Mac apps but also a LOT of Linux apps and some Win apps - yes I am eying Linux if people haven´t noticed yet - Apples DRM crap and pure consumer orientation is coming to a tipping point for me very slowly (I have been using Apple since 1994 btw). So back to topic - the list of programs is stunning and includes everything from chart drawing to 2d cad oriented programs to experimental vector programs like NodeBox which lets you Python program your art (something very dear to my heart) and then lets you save it as Quicktime animation or PDF still. If you are a graphic designer and have ever needed a vector program you should have a look at this list and see if you might want to replace the worst program in Adobes lineup or finally put your copy of Freehand 10 to the old peoples home.

20 Vector Graphic Editors Reviewed

2.12.08

Apple miniDisplay port can be licensed - Apples fantasy world

Apple has opened up the DRMed, stripped down propitiatory miniDisplay port that is to be found on all MacBooks for free licensing.
I beg the gods of hardware heaven to have Apple fail with this endeavor. For humans not intelligent enough to learn from past mistakes there is no place on earth.
This "idea" has failure written all over it. First its a display port standard from apple. Something they have tried at least two times already without any kind of success - just leaving a lot of customers in the dust with exotic connectors that you can not buy any adaptors for anymore (I still have a fully functioning G5 with three adaptors dangling on its back just to get to VGA because a ADC to VGA adaptor is hugely expensive and hard to come by (so its ADC to DVI to VGA) . Secondly - I would be all over this spec if they actually managed to improve upon a spec that is far more versatile and robustly designed to begin with - HDMI. They could be in heaven if they would have made display port not broken by design and integrating degrading DRM in it. You know make it the antithesis of HDMI. But but what they do is try to release a new spec just after they have been blasted with criticism all over the netosphere about their inclusion of DRM so this is a now a hostile market and they think anyone is picking in up? HDMI - while having the same DRM problems at least does not have a marketing problem at the same time. Oh and what about freaking audio? At least the novelty of the failed ADC adaptor was to reduce cable clutter. Now apples "mini" version of the "standard display port" is ommiting the audio spec so you still have to add an audio cable to your clinical clean apple desk? (nothing I mind personally I would like to add - cable clutter has its charme ;)
It will be an epic failure again and I am totally unsure why Apple is putting itself in the same hot waters again as they must have learned from ADC at least a tiny bit - and ADC had a LOT more going for it then the miniDisplayPort - no bad press, not broken by design, less cables.

21.11.08

Apple Display Port and the Analog hole

The more I read and think about it I think there is a big issue with the new display port that Apple is trying to put under the rug. They want to plug the analog hole once and for all. I think its not only to do with copyright shit - so I am reasonably believe that is one of the bigger underlying issues - its also the floppy drive issue. Uh? Yes I am actually of the generation where apple removed the floppy drive without asking anybody. A huge outcry and then a year later people applauded them for the move - you know there was nothing really nice about floppy drives and cd burners where just better and looking back it was one of the smarter moves for apple - pushing the whole industry forward - for the few that needed a floppy drive they could just attach one through USB - sure for them it was the more expensive road but it must have been a tiny minority - I know for myself that I never looked back to the floppy era again.
Fast forward eight years later and Apple brings out a Laptop that for the first time is missing any way to connect analog video to it. Mind you I am a VJ and the only way to do our thing is through analog video cables - but also I am vfx professional and go into any professional video studio these days and have a hard look around and I promise you - you won´t find any kind analog video anywhere anymore. Now also the projectors that do not have a digital video input option of some sort also seem to have died out. So in quite general I would say that yes its a move that from a very very far perspective makes sense on Apples part - ditch analog video and the world sees innovation an crisper pictures and maybe soon wireless digital pictures. Now there is only one big big problem with that thinking and I can see that Apple is not seeing that angle - because they rarely come into contact with it - the whole event bussiness needs to bridge ultra long distances with video cables and as of right now the only digitial standard that can bridge 50+ meters is digital SDI - a very professional option that almost no beamer under $5000 on the market supports nor does apple have a video out solution for that either - especially not on their portable laptop line. I am sure with budgets above 10.000 Euro per event you can cook up a all digitial solution already but this is not the market where 95% of events are in - also the whole backend has not switched to an digital format either - unlike the Floppy that was already replaced by the CD burner and shortly later by the USB flash drives - there is no standard in the video world for digital video. It starts with the cables, goes to compression and codecs through framerates and resolutions - there are about a trillian combinations and no market standard has prevailed so far. So forcing a switch over from analog to digital video at the moment is not a clever idea - no matter what your motivations are - and when half your motivations are bad already (DRM evil evil DRM) then this switch is going to alianate a LOT of people - even if the event market might only make up 0.5% of Apples laptop buying population I think people needing analog video still at this moment approach more 5% (old beamers, old TV sets, bars wanting to show a video etc. pp) and that is a huge chunk. I am quite sure Apple has to come out with a native adapter at one point. The current solution when you ask an Apple employee? Get an old DVI to video adaptor and get minidisplayport to DVI adaptor and chain them together - very elegant Apple - very professional - very reliable such an adaptor chain. BTW - just 3 years ago you could just plug a SVHS cable right into your powerbook without any kind of adaptor - apple used to be about simplicity - these days seem to be waning.

18.11.08

New MacBook(Pro) broken by design

Word is out that the new Apple MacBooks and MacBookPros with their new display port technology are lovely looking environmently "friendly" trojan horses of the MPAA (that is the movie mafia of america). When you buy a movie through the iTunes (not only music anymore) store and play it on these new machines - you have to have a copyright safe monitor attached to actually view the movie. That is a mafia approved monitor. If you do not you get a nice little warning sign saying that you are not allowed to play the movie.

Now this raises an interesting question: Is the lack of a miniDisplayPort to analog video adapter something that will never be rectified because it would mean that this would breach HDCP copyright protection? Anyone ponder what this would mean to the Apple using VJs? Not to mention that the movie mafia does the exact same mistake as the music mafia had been doing - by actually forcing people to crack movies just to watch them on their devices - while at the same time teaching millions of people how to actually crack a movie who then find it so easy and enjoying the freedom afterwards that they don´t ever buy one again.

This decision of Apple and the movie mafia is so wrong on so many levels its mind boggling that in the current environment such mistakes are made. What is Apple thinking? They are not above the godline just yet - they must know that these things are creating a huge backlash on the internet - just after their movie store was heralded as something great.
Watch the blog storm about this in the coming days with the citizens demanding DRM free movies and apple apologizing and putting a software patch out in a three month timeframe and the movie industry realising their mistake in less then one year (when they need a bailout).

To the people thinking this stuff up I can only say one thing: Stupid fucking idiots - you must have won your harvard degree in the lottery.

To quote a commenter on the Engadget thread:

I'm not really down with stealing, but when they decide they are going to control how I watch my movies and listen to music they can go die in a fire.

31.10.08

Fuck it we`ll do it live...

I have had enough of doing secretly behind closed door dirty little things with code and such so since the state of affair is at the point where I wanted it originally over a year ago but also much further and somehow not as far I decided to make the future progress on the live site. Now this is all cryptic and such because there is no content - no meat so to say and I will not make more eyes look on it then needed. Generally its maybe a 0.1b then anything else but as right wing newstalker Bill O'Reilly so lovely proclaimed - when technology fails: fuck it we will do it live... So if you know what I am talking about have a look - if not - forget about it there will be a proper announcement when we reached 1.0...

29.10.08

ProtoBlogs upgraded to MovableType 4.2

After getting some frustrations with the old movable type installation and lots of broken links and an outdated spam system I have taken steps to upgrade the private ProtoBlogs to MovableType 4.2.
The installation went smoother then I thought with the exeption that I actually had to restructure the site a bit and that means a devastating loss of links from external sites. If you are an external site deep linking to an article on prototypen.com/blog/ this link will very likely not work anymore, maybe you have the time to find it again and update your link (one can dream right? ;).
The new structure is much better but I would have loved to avoid this problem and it will cost us probably a lot of traffic. In return all articles are now under their category and google is most likely able to rank our content better in the future. Furthermore Categories have their own rss feeds and all the other niceties that I have not dug into that can make it to our blogs now.

Update: old deeplinks working again..... its double content now (old and new links) - I know that google aint liking that much but better then loosing the links I guess...

28.09.08

Blinkenlights: iPhone App released

BlinkenLightsiPhoneSim.pngThe Blinkenlights iPhone application is released and available on the appstore so you can watch the stream of pixels as it appears (or should appear ones its working) on the house on you iPhone with different viewpoints.


iPhone BlinkenSim on the Appstore

29.08.08

Sigraph Paper: Capture Normal Maps with Camera Flashlight

In my ongoing series about absolutely stunning developments from Siggraph this year comes a techdemo /white paper that is so simple yet so powerful. Every serious 3D artist knows that it is hard to capture real life textures and replicate them with lots of details and try to make them appear haptic. Tricks like making fake bump/displacement maps by extracting a range of values in a certain color channel only get you so far and touch up is time expensive.

Now Mashhuda Glencross and Gregory Ward from the University of Manchester in the UK and Dolby Canada in Vancouver developed a dead simple - everyone can do it way to extract the normal map of any photo that is shot twice - one time with normal exposure and one time with the flash turned on. From that the get the depth data of the surface. Look at the video of how simple this is - no commercial product yet but believe me that this takes about two weeks to surface (if it isn´t patent locked in some closet).

Watch the video to see how it works and be amazed:

Original Article over at the NewScientist

And I found this tutorial in the comments over there on how to fake this with 4 photos and a lightsource other then camera flash.

OpenGL ES specs on the iPhone

iPhoneOpenGLES.jpgBesides Apple trying to keep anything and everything under wrap there are things I wish they would just publish loud and open. I had to look about an hour today to find the maximum texture resolution and the general graphic specs for the iPhone implementation of OpenGL ES - since I am not developing but producing content for a developer I have no access to the specs but needed them badly. I eventually found some light info on geeks3d.com which refers to an pretty extensive article called "OpenGL and Mobile Devices: Round 2 - OpenGL ES for the iPhone and iPod Touch" by Richard S. Wright Jr.
that is available from Dr. DobbsPortal:

There are a few limitations you should know from the start:
* There is no stencil or accumulation buffer.
* There are only two texture units.
* The maximum texture size is 1024×1024 (use power of two only).
* The maximum space for textures and surfaces is 24MB.
* Only 2D textures are supported.
* There is no software rendering fallback.

26.08.08

Whats wrong with Adobe Apps?

A website lets users speak out what frustrates them with Adobe apps and the new open Adobe Company is responding in depth and length that I have not seen any other company doing ever - I think thats quite great.

Read the following part about a Linux Port of Photoshop in the discussion:

Linux - there are a lot of people there wanting Linux versions of your leading apps. And yet that's been glossed over time and again. And while it wasn't me that added that particular gripe, Photoshop and Lightroom really ARE the one and only reasons why I can't ditch this POS Windows operating system for Ubuntu.

[I can't speak for other products, nor do I want to give you false hope. Having said that, the architectural investments we're making will make the Photoshop codebase more flexible and portable over time. The fundamental problems with moving to Linux are A) sales to Linux users don't represent growth, they represent replacements of Windows units, and B) Linux use is heavily based in antipathy towards non-open-source commercial software. --J.]

I mean this is some reasonable thought on the issue that Linux users might even understand.

There is much more juice with questions and answers about prices of the Creative Suite, User Interface consistency between apps. While some answers are a bit inward looking instead of outward looking there are so many details in there its hard to recount them all here so head over first to the dearadobe.com website and add your gripe then go to the dear adobe top 25 problems (its a must read and if you ever come into contact with adobe apps I am sure you agree with 26 of the 25 points being made.) and finally go to the official Adobe Photoshop insider blog of John Nack to see a huge company open up to the world in a way I have not seen before. Especially follow the discussion after the blog entry where there is a healthy back and forth between users and developers - I hope there are some other big time developers out there taking a cue.

9.07.08

OSX Leopard Finder 100% CPU usage fix

I have had a problem that bugged me since weeks. The finder on my MBP (dual 2.4GHz) was taking up about 100% processor speed - always. That not only reduced my battery life to about 30 minutes it also helped fry the graphic card (which I am still not sure if it is actually fried or just acting up occasionally).
You boot up and have nothing on and still your computer feels like it has a single 100Mhz processor in it. I was about to replace the finder with some other finder like tool today when I accidently stumbled upon the fix - on the mac rumors forum. (Somebody say those rumors sites are not good for nothing).
Anyway the fix is simple - the problem it seems is that something is calculating all along - the theory is its calculating the volume size of your main volume all the time. It only happens so (and then repeatably) when you have "Show Item Info" on your desktop turned on and showing your volumes on your desktop (don´t know if that can actually still be turned off - you used to be able to).
So the fix:

1.) click on your desktop
2.) go to "Show View Options" under your "View" menu or hit cmd+j
3.) unselect "Show Item Info"

voilá cpu usage drops from 100% down to 0.2%

Now dear Apple FTFF.

24.06.08

Snow Leopard: Auto Font Activation through Spotlight

This OS is going to be my darling I can say that already. Something that I have made a feature request in every major OSX release since 10.0 is coming finally true.

from roughlydrafted:
Sources also indicate Snow Leopard will expand upon Font Book to provide full Auto Activation of any fonts requested by any application, using Spotlight to track them down.

and its even better then one thought. Imagine the computer to be intelligent enough to find fonts on your harddrives or servers for you instead you firstly trying to put fonts in an orderly fashion then upgrading systems then a year later opening a document then figuring out there are fonts missing then searching for the fonts on all your available resources then putting them in the font book app then activating them. (yes I am also using linotype font explorer - but the autoactivation feature is so buggy its almost unusable and I lost the organizational database twice after reinstalls already and remaking that takes a lot of time). Now open a document and its activates all the fonts if they are somewhere on your mounted disks - hope that this will be fast and stable.

10.06.08

Quicktime X

After awaking from the enormously boring keynote this morning I actually headed over to the Snow Leopard page that apple put up and what do my weary eyes see? Quicktime X. It really does seem that Snow Leopard is the OSX version that OSX should have been from the beginning - 8 years after its introduction. Yes we got a ton cool interface features in the past years, some great functionality and stuff - but OSX lacked speed right from the beginning and never quite recovered (I still think my Titanium Powerbook running OS9 was way way faster (in everyday use that is - of course not rendering) then the current top of the crop Powerbook running Leopard). Then also it seemed that some very important core components have been left out of the development cycle all together just fixing them up to run on OSX and the modern computers but still the behind seemed to carry so much baggage and if you went a bit deeper then a normal user would you felt this baggage dragging you down into the muddy bottom of the ugly code sea.
Two of these components - for me at least - are so essential for my work and everyday normal use that sometimes I was questioning the sanity of the OSX developers for overseeing these components so long. Its the much hated Finder and even more importantly Quicktime.
Now last year they announced an "all new Finder" and everyone was filled with joy - yet what we got was a great new interface for the finder - that still lacks the spacial OS9 Finders quality - but definitely got visually/interface wise on the right track - yet the core of it seemed to be the same old and the Finder is still sometimes idling with 50% processor use now and then (that is me doing nothing and the finder using 50% processor for doing nothing or so it seems - that is happening daily and I witness that even on an 8 core mac not only on the Powerbook -> MacBookPro). So I really really do hope the Finder get new underlying code for SnowLeopard but thats not the topic of this post - the topic is Quicktime.
Now Quicktime is a GREAT tool in itself. Lets split out what Quicktime actually is.
What a normal user normally sees as "Quicktime" is the the Quicktime Player - that is just a fancy front end to the underlying core technology called Quicktime - this technology is capable of producing and playing Quicktime containers - and a dozen and some other Media enclosing container formats - such as MPEG1,2 or 4 (video or audio) but also picture files (go ahead and see for yourself how you can open a JPG with Quicktime Player). Hence quicktime is pretty much responsible to display something or create something whenever there is an audio, video or picture involved on OSX. In this day and age where "MultiMedia" is something people need as much as oxygen (ok I am exaggerating for dramatic reasons here) Quicktime is the Oxygen mask to make you survive in the toxic environment that is riddled with format wars and thousands of different formats.
Quicktime - through extensibility - is one of the best technologies out there because it simply can play such a HUGE range of formats right out of the box - going back to play videos created in 1990 (yes I have one and it still plays). The codecs support (codecs are algorythms that compress video or audio to smaller sizes) is tremendous and it includes every codec ever delivered on Quicktime itself. Yet as we know with windows - backward compatibility comes with a price. Making upgrades without breaking stuff becomes harder and Quicktime has felt this. I would venture to say that Quicktime has not seen a significant update since 1999. I am not sure as I am not a developer but I would say that raw multiprocessor support was built in back then already (for two threads that is). The only update since then worth mentioning is Javascript support slapped on so you could actually interact with Quicktime films through webpages - if you have used this feature you know why Apple is not trumpeting it more on its front page.
Now what is missing? Why am I so happy to see that Quicktime gets the full overhaul?
1. True multiprocessor support.
Video encoding is the single most CPU intensive task beeing done by more then one community (only trumpeted by the Scientific Community with its hardcore calculations and the 3d community by its rendering tasks). As it stands it seems some codecs are capable of more then two threads but most Quicktime tasks are tied to two threads and that is unbelievable.
2. Bugs, crashes, bugs, slowness. Demandingly working with quicktime (meaning opening and rendering 100 videos or 2 hours videos or 2 hour enhanced podcasts etc) you can just wait for spinning beachballs outright crashes, files that stop at two gig when rendered over network and outright causing kernelpanics (try opening 600 movies in QT player (yes that is something I do have to do at times)).
3. The web...
Apples neglect has most cetainly cost them a huge opportunity to overtake the online video deliver market - now completly dominated by Flash - which is about the worst container for video performance wise. You know right after the browser wars in the mid to end 1990s you had the media wars which where basically fought between Apple with Quicktime, Microsoft with Windows Media and Real with Real media. There was no clear winner but then everything changed. Real - the clear front runner completely fall back with having not enough resources to throw out for free services without overloading them with ads - which turned off a lot of people, Windows Media also somehow lost contact with Microsoft concentrating on Windows Vista and Apple clearly had an opening but blew it because Quicktime on the web sucked bad, the quicktime plugin just used soo much resources - still out of this race Apple came out on top (supported by the success of the iPod and the improved installed user base of Quicktime as a result) but somewhere in between Flash added video capabilities (based on the old sorenson codec apple used to push 4 years earlier). The thing it what gave flash video tracktion was the installed user base which has always been much higher then any other plug in. Then came YouTube and embraced FlashVideo and the battle seemed over. Then Adobe bought Macromedia and included MPG4 (baseline) and shortly later MPG4 (h.264) into Flash - making Flash a pure player application rather then a container format. Apple in the meantime has grown the installed user base through iPod and more importantly the iPhone - which does NOT include flash (for a reason I will tell you) yet.
Thing that was problematic for apple with quicktime on the web was not even quicktime itself so much but rather the lack of information of how to embed quicktime and how to make pages without Javascript that don´t load the whole movie itself before the user is clicking on the play button (that still has not been ironed out yet btw). And a customizable player interface (that is rather halfheartedly ironed out through Javascript which sometimes even works).
These are the most important things Apple needs to adress to make me a satisfied customer when it comes to Quicktime. There are probably more things - mostly relating to

Now Apple has one absolutely tremendous asset to actually turn around things and that is the iPhone. The phone is set to become the defacto standard to browse the web on the go (and if you have used one ever you know what I am talking about). Apple has not included flash in the first gen iPhones and while I believe that speed was a concern (the one they put out officially as the reason they didn´t support flash) as this can be witnessed by much faster Laptop computers spinning their fans with two youtube videos open - I still think the bigger picture is that they see the iPhone as the Quicktime on the web comeback device. Lets be clear - I actually have a lot of love for Quicktime as a container format - its so extensible it has great support for interactive media even outside its own container (I would argue that Quicktime is the only system that can play the MPG4 interactive spec as it is on paper) and the number and quality of codec is unrivaled - the encoding quality is maximum of what a codec can deliver and the usage is easy as pie even for more complex stuff. So Quicktime on the web will have another shot and I truly believe I will see a Quicktime version of Youtube in my lifetime.
So Quicktime X has to clean up the underlying codebase (a rewrite comes close and has already started with Quicktime becoming a core component). It has to make this Javascript stuff work 100%. The latest iterations have been better all around but still when you are going outside safari it lags a bit. Especially if you want to make your own controller - to get a feedback from the plugin you have to sprinkle some serious voodoo and then it still fails at points (try scrolling through a window on apples site with apples controller - I mean stress test that scrolling - it will fail at one point or get sluggish or crash your browser or whatnot and that is the best implementation there is on the web - everything else I have seen is even worse).
And QTX has to be fast fast and as bug free as possible and utilize all threads and the graphic cards (maybe even with CUDA pretty please).
And QTX has to come with more authoring application. A QTXCode would make me dance. What for? Interactive content! Quicktime has great capabilities with QT VR, Tracks, Sprite support and whatnot to actually replace websites (yes you heard me right) the potential is tremendous - I tried that once and I loved the general idea but making it work with like walking barefoot on ice-spikes while your head is worked on with a flamethrower. Now the Javascript is there to make an interaktive quicktime (or MPG4!) interact with an HTML page. And while Quarz composer is great to make neat animations and interfaces it does not replace an actual timelined authoring tool.

So in general for me Quicktime X is the announcement of the day and I hold out big hope for it to become THE media plugin surpassing Adobe Flash in a heartbeat (and I believe they will have true vector support in Quicktime X too . it would make sense since OSX itself already has vector support throughout). And there is no problem with installed user-base as mentioned above - iTunes need Quicktime - iPod iPhone needs iTunes.

5.06.08

Apple: Snow Leopard - speed and stability...

I just read an article on Ars Technica making the case that the next MacOSX version will be called Snow Leopard and I didn´t need to read any further to see what it is about (i did read it in the end of course). Apperantly (and no I am not in the know as of yet) OSX gets a much much much needed codecleaning. I can not say how happy I would be if thats indeed the case. No more featuritis just a clean lean fast stable system. And while I think there is going to be an outcry of die hard old time Mac users for the dropping PPC support I think its a good move to consolidate the code base (less code to watch over mean less bugs creeping in). And what I would cheer as loud as I could is the dropping of Carbon - about fucking time. And to you three carbon developers - get a grip - you earn money with programming you can surely learn something new and make your codebase meaner, leaner, cleaner, faster in the end and everyone will be happy (yes that means work - no free money is there?).
I really pray to the finder gods (who are utilizing ridiculous 40% of the processor pretty constantly at the moment) to make this rumor true and bring us a true new finder (not just a new interface), a quicktime that doesn´t suck, graphic card drivers that actually use the graphic cards fully, stopping ram leaks, stopping hanging system calls etc etc etc.. If thats true its one heck of a smart move on apples part - but then again I believe it when I see it - we were promised a new finder since 10.0 (that was 8 years ago)…

19.05.08

Ubercaster: Credit where credit is due...

Small software developers are great. You communicate with them tell them your wishes your frustrations and they listen, they implement they remain calm they even consider outlandish feature requests and tell you reasons why they might not work - you can engage with them in a chatter and see a program grow to your liking in front of your eyes - and in the end everyone benefits.
Ubercaster qualifies definitely for that. Eberhard - the guy writing the app - has now answered my third feature request filled mail in a row going into detail on every piece - it feels great to be a customer that is not a number and in return be able to do your thing more efficient.

So if you are doing a podcast - especially if you are doing an enhanced podcast I can suggest Ubercaster as a great solution - its not quite 100% there yet but with such an aware developer I am sure this is going to be THE podcast program on the mac hands down when it hits 3.0.

Find more information at ubercaster.com.

8.05.08

Autodesk buys Realviz

AutoDeskLogo.pngWell everyone ever comlaining about the lack of development on the 3D tracking market can rejoice. Autodesk just bought out Realviz - known mostly for their Matchmover 3D tracking software but recently also for their Stitcher VR panoramic stitching application (you know shoot photos all around and get a QTVR stitch - the new hype in 3d animaton at the moment) and their pretty new Movimento Motion Capturing Solution that works with real camera input (instead of the expensive other mocap solution called VICOM that uses highspeed infrared cameras to try and capture body movement).
Seeing that matchmover will not coma as a standalone product anymore under the autodesk brand it gives hope that we see this technology integrated into the two flagship autodesk 3d programs - Max and Maya. As for Maya finally replacing the "Maya Live!" tool that has not been updated for over 5 years (and is about the worst solution if you want to do any serious 3d tracking that you can find).
I really think that is one of the first aquisitions that I read on in a long time that actually makes a lot of sense and will actually help moving things forward - especially since matchmovers interface and core program also lacked development even so the underlying algorythm are said to be some of the best out there. I really look forward to have a 3d tracking solution that works inside Maya - the confusion with scale, different interpretation of how 3d cameras work, 3d data exchange that still has no real standard that actually works etc have been driving me nuts. Working integrated uncomplicated 3d tracking together with a simple and cheap motion capturing solution is one of the last core things missing before the whole 3d world can move to realtime rendering ;)

Read the press releasehere.

28.04.08

Perian - The Quicktime PlugIn to solve all codec woes

This is something the mac community might have been looking for for a long time without realising the need - a quicktime component that solves most codec woes and put your personal Quicktime Installation into the "I can play ALL codecs" category without VLC or other 3rd party apps that are fine but never good enough for some reason...

Download it here.

Its piss easy to install, no restart required, you get a very nice pref pane where you can update the component when you feel like its necessary or have it done automatically for you and it just generally works great and feels very integrated and doesn´t lag the quicktime app with difficult files.

From the about page:

Perian aims to provide a single package for all your playback needs. It is a collection of QuickTime components incorporating several libraries:
• libavcodec, from the ffmpeg project, along with code from the old FFusion component:
• MS-MPEG4 v1 & v2
• DivX
• 3ivx
• H.264
• Flash Video
• Flash Screen Video
• VP6
• H263I
• VP3
• HuffYUV
• ffvhuff
• MPEG-1 & 2 Video
• Fraps (up to v4)
• Windows Media Audio v1 & v2
• Flash ADPCM
• Xiph Vorbis (in Matroska)
• MPEG Layer I and II audio
• DTS Coherent Acoustics audio
• Snow wavelet video
• libavformat, from the ffmpeg project. along with AVIImporter.component:
• AVI file format
• FLV file format
• libmatroska, along with matroska-qt.component:
• MKV file format
• Subtitles:
• SSA file format
• SRT file format
• liba52, via A52Codec:
• AC3 audio

12.02.08

Benchmark One

Cinebench

old desktop:
OGL: 2268
CPU-MP: 2760

new desktop:
OGL: 6125
CPU-MP: 18579

:)

5.02.08

3rd Party WiiMote with location capable gyroscopes

darwin-white_x220.jpgMy love for the WiiMote goes way beyond Raymans Raving Rabbits and other fun games as I embrace the gyroscope filled controller for next generation interfaces and 3d tracking in various forms. 3d tracking with the WiiMote has but one big problem. While it is quite great to get the bank and roll data out of the white brick it is only possible to know where it is using infrared lights. Infrared lights tend to behave like real lights as they can get obscured or not in the right place when you need them. Sure you can try to get the location of the WiiMote by using the accelerometers and gyroscopes but the result - and I have tried that - is quite bad. You get what people call a drift very very badly especially when you move around the room with the thing and attach a camera to it.
Now the Boston USA based company Motus Corporation claim to have developed a WiiMote of their own that can be used without the infrared sensor bar and still get the location right. They developed it in the form of a Samurai sword handle and made it primary for the target group of golfers (their are known for golf training gear) but if any of their claims hold true this is the revolution of the sensor revolution. The gyro package send new data every 30 Milliseconds is called Darwin (probably because the software to read out WiiMote data on the computer is Darwin Remote?) seems semi compatible with the WiiMote (the protocol is the same but there is different data available). The firmware has error correction build in and my uneducated guess is that they slapped another 5 or so accelerometers in there to get a more accurate average reading. Surprisingly the price is "in the range" of not beeing overly gold encrusted (its going to be somewhere between $79 and $99) and if the claims hold up its a bargain because then you can build a real realtime camera tracking solution and with a couple of these also a motion capturing solution that rivals about everything out there in the price range 10k+. Lets hope they find a distributor soon (or figure out that in these days you can self distribute this and still be successful)

4.02.08

How to build a Mac for $350 - if you like an unstable fiddly system

I am not the fiddler when it comes to computers as I am already pissed off to no end with crappy buggy software all day - so I like it clean and as stable as possible. Every time I put in stuff in my mac that was not 100% spec approved it made the machine more crashy in the years to come (and I have tried to mod my macs as much as possible in the past).
But for those who just want a computer to play around with and want to try out MacOS X or those who just don´t want to fork out the Apple premium to get OSX and have no problem with some weekly kernel panics and general hacklery along the line (especially if they want to stay up to date on their OS) there is an article on wildwobby with a detailed description and not so legal links to all parts you need to build a beigebox mac for ultra cheap. Also the article points to a forum thread for more help if you get stuck building your ultra cheap mac over at the InsanelyMac Forum.

15.01.08

MW08: The UltraConservative SteveNote

Keynote over and I think I was pretty spot on with the MBNano - äh Air. 1,6 Ghz, No Tablet, 5 hours battery life, no FunkStrom - sadly - otherwise "thinnest" notebook on the market - great - pricey - not great. Its geared toward executives, those that actually show off with their macs, those who need a mac to work on will choose one of the other two options.
Only "surprise" was that the trackpad is now "multitouch" which it of course already is - its just a software hack as the trackpad on all MacBooks already recognize a second finger. So I see this coming - at least via a hack - also to the other Books in the line - and I think its sweet but ultraconservative of Apple to go down that route - but this is how they are nowadays. I still hope that the developers catch on and put multitouch gestures in their apps.

AppleTV I was right - no mouse, no new iApp.
What I found great about todays keynote:

A company admitting they made a mistake (Apple TV 1.0) and saying exactly how they combat that mistake - it was very well presented and made sense.

Movie Rentals - ja we want to rent movies and ja you are in the ballpark pricewise - in the upper ballpark but you know you wouldn´t be apple if you wouldn´t. Signing all Major Hollywood studios must have cost some sweat. I say its a success on their hand - finally no forgetting of bringing back a DVD (poor DVD rental places). Of course there needs to be IndyMovies somewhere for a bit cheaper as SOON as possible because your early adopters are more the people renting Indy Movies then the Hollycrap.

what i didn´t like:

A overpriced basestation with a harddrive inside - not even a freaking raid 1.

Conservative Apple goes the save route - don´t want another cube do we?
I am not sure if the MacBookNano will sell its one of those products in between that noone really cares for - only Higherups with lots of dough would love this - but seriously 1.6Ghz in 2008? I don´t like it and I also don´t like the form somehow...

Generally -> Yawn.. but lots of dough coming towards Apple in 2008 anyways.

MW08: SteveNote Predictions

Well I can not help myself but to give out my predictions for the Steve Keynote this year. Its a very difficult matter to judge whats behind the black cloth covering the ads in the expo buildings in San Francisco today. What is almost certain is that there will be a new line of portables coming out of Cupertino. The question is just how portable it will be. The wild predictions on the net make it this über slim multitouch capable tablet book with flash harddrive, BlueRay, Wireless USB and Wireless Power and an antigravitation device (hence the name AirBook or MacBookAir), I think judging from apples past 3 keynote that everyone might be hugely dissapointed when the ultra slim MacBook with 1,6Ghz Wireless Power and no DVD drive, no multitouch and non tablet with alumnium foam casing (hence air?) will be released. It will probably be ultra sexy, ultra expensive (for its speed), have xxx amount of battery hours and can play HD film on its "backlit on demand" screen - but no multitouch no tablet. Wireless Power via an induction pad might come but I highly doubt it (yet I could see this coming as a marketing gimmik "look this comp doesn´t need any cables" - kinda thing - you know you gonna read in all those nontech newspapers "Apple has done it again and released a cable less computer as a worlds first" along those lines). But why the f*$k don´t I think multitouch is coming? Its developers stupid. To make the multitouch truly usefull and therefore a computer with it truly usefull the whole User Interface Experience must be though over. Coverflow in the Finder is something that is definitely going in this direction but not much else. If Apple brings out just one computer in its offerings with multitouch there is almost no incentive for software developers to make use of such a novel idea - hence Apple would have to supply all apps that take advantage of this themself for the time beeing - that would not incite people to buy the machine (the anti theory to this is that this computer is for developers to make such apps but I doubt it) - multitouch comes across the line or not at all. That would mean if the MacBookAir or whatever it will be called has multitouch then we also see an iMac with Multitouch and an Apple Cinema Display with multitouch, because the pros would love multitouch more then anyone else (see my earlier posting about the autodesk lab). I highly doubt that the technology is at that point yet - but hey would I love it :)

So if the new Book is a tablet then across the line updates (iMac with Mutlitouch and CinemaDisplays with multitouch).

Will the Book be Dockable? Its a very Apple like intriguing idea, BUT with the docking concept that was floating around you "through away" 13 inch of viewable display area and you would have to pay for much thicker screen that does nothing without the book - while nice idea I don´t see that coming, except if the screen in itself is an imac and the adding of the book gives the iMac more power and you can somehow flip open and use the screen of the Book in addition to the one in iMac - even then its a small small market and would be hugely costly in R&D - seeing the ultra conservative road apple takes after the cube massacre I don´t see it coming.

What else will we eventualysee? Maybe a sneak peek at the New OS 10.6? That would be lovely but I think Apples OS developers are on a break after the horrendous busy 2007 - I think we will see that at WWDC in Juli. AppleTV update? Very likely or they will forget about this idea and slowly phase it out - I vote for an update here with specs similar to the current offering but a build in blueray player (or maybe even recorder) and some extension capabilities (like playing other video codecs (unlikely) and generic browsing (with a innovative interface). Generally I think Apple is seeing the TV as the centerpiece of entertainment as NOT the strategy to move forward (but what do I know).

A new mouse similar dissapointing to all Apple mouse over the past 9 years but with wireless power.

A new iApp that manages all your media needs and adds automatic metadata in an iFriendly manner.
:
A 3G iPhone - given Apples traditional product update cycle one is in the cards - but who knows. Maybe with wireless power but its unlikely as this would piss off people in Europe and with the piss off lecture they already had with the iPhone price drop they rather not go down that route again and just delay the announcement until spring time.

iPhone Nano (Air or whatever they call small scale devices these days) is a likely possibility if they manage to cram the interface on half the screen and make it still usable - half the price half the storage - but I think the keyboard functionality would go out the window and that might be the show stopper for such a device.

So quite generally I see not much coming other then an ultra thin but otherwise pretty conservative MacBookNano (and if they called it Air I will still call it nano because its unlikely as light as air ;) everything else is a complete wildcard today - but be prepared to be underwhelmed with the new conservative Apple.

11.01.08

Autodesk Applications to integrate WiiMote and Multitouch?

I just had a very inspiring email exchange with Scott Sheppard from the deep underground laboratories of Autodesk Inc. - makers of two major 3D applications (Maya - Max), all major CAD Applications (AutoCad, Studio) and some much more professional application in the design and visual fx market. I stumbled across a post on the Autodesk Labs_ Blog concerning the use of the WiiMote to be used as an input device for their applications. I asked him about the possibility of making the headtracking I posted yesterday available inside Maya (and on OSX). Never expected a reply but I eventually got one. Basically he is saying that they see the WiiMote as a big step forward for a cheap revolution of interfaces and that he actively discussed this with the person responsible for MultiTouch in the lab. They come to conclusion to integrate something like this it would need an interface inside Maya that is not there yet. I kind of disagree as it probably possible to integrate this with Python - but sadly my Python skills lack "a bit" to make a proof of concept.

Anyway what was important is that a major software developer (I would say they rank in the top 10 if not even the top 5 software developing companies in the world) is understanding that the current method of interface input devices need a big overhaul, that they embrace going the "cheap" route instead of developing stupid proprietary stuff and that its not only the WiiMote that is of interest but also multitouch (they even had a mutlitouch summit). Now if the headtracking I posted yesterday together with multitouch input doesn´t make for a great input future of computing devices I don´t know what would. Just imagine how "clay like sculpturing" would work here. You move around and closer just by moving your head and use your ten fingers to sculpt the model...

I am greatly exited.


Video of WiiMote controlling Autocad
corresponding blog article
Multitouch and AutoCad Video on Youtube(A must see if you are a designer and can´t envision what wultitouch brings)
We Have the Touch introduction of Multitouch at the Autodesk Lab

10.01.08

Make a true 3D window out of every screen with a WiiMote

Holy Crap. If you thought that your flat screen TV is just flat and that to get into the 3rd dimension you need a new screen that is about 10 years off this video will prove you wrong.
Made with the unbelievable useful WiiMote and the sensor bar or sensor bar "like" safety goggle which have their white "headlight" LEDs replaced by Infrared ones you can make a headtracker. Then you can make your normal screen look like its an actual 3d window by analysis the motion of the head and translate it to you "virtual camera".

How much its only perception that makes you "think" 3d is demonstrated enormously well. Besides using it for games I SO WANT THIS to work in Maya. Moving around an object or getting a closer view by moving your head has to be the second coolest interface since äh - since - multitouch of course ;)

14.12.07

Nvidia buys Mental Images -> Realtime realistic rendering to come soon.

mentalImages.jpg
Ugh... Berlin company Mental Images - mostly known for its Mental Ray Rendering Technology which is included in the three biggest 3D applications out there (max, maya, softimage) and used in a lot of major film productions throughout the world has been bought out by NVIDIA the one of two graphic cards company (not only but you get the point).

The combination of mental images and NVIDIA united some of the greatest talents in the visual computing industry. This strategic combination enables the development of tools and technologies to advance the state of visualization. These solutions are optimized for next generation computing architectures and create new product categories for both hardware and software solutions.

This means only one thing: Realtime Raytracing - or less technical Realtime super duper photorealism - is around the corner very soon now - otherwise this takeover would not make sense. I love Mental Ray for its realism - the rendertimes are unbelievable high at the moment - even for small scenes. Now that NVidia has snatched the code I expect that they put the turbo in the rendering software via their graphic cards that have become more general purpose processing devices then graphic cards lately.

This is good. :) Hail the day when there are no rendering times anymore.

NVidia Press release

1.11.07

SVG, the sorry state of vectors on the Web

Everyone knowing me knows I am a Flashhater since day one. I saw flash as a dying species when it first came out as the arcane nonstandard scripting language (why not use javascript or python?) never appealed to me, neither did the "plug in to the web" approach instead of an "open standard" open code open everything approach. Also I did not like the interface mentality of macromedia (and a recent look at firework cs3 has gotten me those flashbacks) so I never felt good working in Director or Flash or any other macromedia app - except for freehand (which I used before it was a macromedia product - Aldus anyone?).
But I do like vectors and especially do I like fonts - especially crazy nonstandard fraktur fonts. So the ability to include fonts into Flash files and make a layout that playes exactly as the author intended on all computers is an appealing one. My hatred for Flash has trumped the need for alternate fonts and true vectors to this day and will likely into the long long future.
Then about a couple of years ago (1999) Adobe System proposed a standard to the W3C - so did Microsoft to break the Flash supriority on the web with an open standard - both standards fused in t one and became SVG. SVG sounded good back then and still does - true open documented XML document format, truly open source of the generated files, and backed by the W3C - easy to generate with just a text editor if you are so inclined. I was dancing on my chair back then when I remember correctly.

There was two major problems - no easy way to generate content (other then a text editor) and no browser compatibility.

Adobe themselves tried to eliminate the first problem by putting out the ill fated program "flame" or whatever it was called. It sucked - it sucked hard - and it wasn´t for the mac. Then there was years and years of silence until there was an obscure "export to svg" menue point in illustrator in CS1 (I think)

On the browser side it didn´t look better - Adobe did offer an SVG plugin - but this eliminated one of the biggest superiorities over flash. Neither first incarnation of Firefox could play SVGs neither did Safari do a good job using SVGs (so it did at least recognized it in some sort or form without putting out horrendous errors all over the place) - Internetz Exploder I have no idea but my guess that it does not even know what an SVG is to this date without the adobe plugin.

Then Adobe bought Macromedia and one of the biggest reason for the takeover was Flash. Adobe must have seen that not being able to deliver platform/client independent interactive vector graphics with embedded fonts would sooner or later give them a big disadvantage and that making such a technology from scratch is not as easy as it sounds - especially with the browser developers trying to get the basic W3C standards to work first before implementing something flashy as SVG.

As my heart jumped at the introduction of SVG my heart plummeted when I heard about the Adobe takeover. I thought that thats it and flash is taking on the world without anyone stopping it. Flickr and PooTube just have aggravated these fears - I was waiting for adobe trying to make Flash a W3C standard or something along the line - yet something else and surprising was happening all of the sudden. Firefox and Safari started to add build in SVG support - unusable at first but nevertheless progress. Also Illustrators SVG Export became more and more sophisticated and - CLEAN.

Then we entered the post AppleIntel Adobe CS3 Microsoft Silverlight (why they did not choose SVG I can not figure out) world. A world where Safari has full SVG 1.1 support Firefox claims it has 1.0 support and Adobe Illustrator CS3 outputs clean sufficient SVGs.

Thats the day I jumped into it to see the true power of it unfolding before my eyes. I stumbled into it accidently. All I wanted to do is making a form that I use very often in Indesign more "interactive". The form in question is a template to fold you DVD cover out of a single piece of paper without glue and be able to print on the front and back side. Its one of these great origami secrets :)
Well that form has one big problem - all text and graphics are printed out at an roughly 35.3 degree angle.
First obvious choice was to make it a PDF form. After trying it out with Acrobat 8 and whatnot of small utilities I gave up because - you can can only rotate form fields in a PDF 90, 180, 270 degrees - no 35.3.
Ok I was about to give it up but I really want this form that I use so often with an easy interface without opening Indesign everytime I burn a DVD.
Next I was thinking about a database solution - Filemaker in special. Obviously I tried to angle a field there right in the beginning just to find out that there as well you can not do so either.
I did not have a solution in my head anymore. CSS? hmmmm no. CSS3- hmmm is supposed to have a rotation value but the support is rather sketchy even if you are developing for just one browser (which would be sufficient for this form as only I wanted to use it and I use Safari all day all night).
I tried to get the idea out of my head - unsuccesfully. Then I remembered SVG and briefly looked into the documentation of Illustrator CS3 and found lots of good things about - I thought that is worth a try.
I layouted the piece and exported through the "Save for Web and devices" dialog. The first thing I saw made me smile "Include Font - for used Glyphs only - or for all Glyphs or none or commenly used Glyphs". YEY fonts!!!!
Then I looked at the code - XHTML :) I was feeling all home right from the beginning.
But how do I make it interactive? I decided to go a PHP, Javascript route.
Then is when it became apparent that even all looks rosy it isn´t. There is virtually no documentional howtos on SVG on the net. The W3C documentation is so geeky that its over my head and the few howtos available where either extremely old and didn´t work or just didn´t work. I delved into it.
Four long days later I figured it out - scrapped the Javascript route and went a pure PHP route - after I found out how to integrate PHP into SVGs and after I figured out how to manipulate the DOM tree in an SVG with Javascript that sits outside the embedded SVG. In short: it was a pain!
The coordinate system in SVG is not easely understood and I had to print out 40 pages to make the resulting SVG print out correctly (only on Safari3final I might add - it does not work on any other browser) because safari scales stuff so it fits on a page - which was counterintuitive with this document. The code is intermangled and inside to outside javascript integration is not robust in Safari. Dom updates are not as straight forward as in plain vanilla XHTML. Deleting parts of the dom tree and reintroducing it also did work only after extensive fiddling (the main reason I went with pure PHP).
But the biggest biggest problem was the handling of text - how can any standard that displays text in any sort or form NOT support a line break! Yes you heard right - for having multiline text you can NOT use something of the < br > sort - you have to calculate the linespacing yourself and make new lines through < tspans > with a "y" value that specifies where you next line of text is! HOW INSANE!
In the end though I am impressed at the output because I could include a font in the document and now have a nicely working form to print out my DVD labels. And changing Layouted text on the fly through a webinterface is something novel and great.

I surely hope SVG is making progress now that its at last almost usable - but I do not expect it to gain widespread adoption until the linebreak issue is resolved - its a HUGE showstopper.

One big question that came to my mind was a copyright issue. Fonts are to design what RIAAsongs are to the ear - its a copyright regime fighting hard against the users since day one.
So if I use my owned copy of Solex and embedd it into an SVG do I break the licensing?

Why? - you might ask - Flash has done this for years - Yes, - I reply - but in Flash you do not have the easy option to extract the font from the files - in SVG every vector of the font is being readable in plain text - you can even change vectores around if you want to - its just a matter of time until someone writes an easy to use "font translator" plugin that can read the SVG and generate a TrueType font out of it. Fontshops galore will have want to have a say in this I am sure!

Overall the future for open vectors with embedded fonts on the web does look brighter after this year and death to flash and all :P

Next project regarding SVG for me will be to try to embed video in it.

26.10.07

An inside look at the hot dotted mac cat

Or the nitpicky Leopard longtime user review

As some of you know I am actively involved/enrolled with the Appleseed which is apples closed beta testing group for a lot of their software. I have been doing just that since about seven years now and its always a lot of fun mixed with a lot of frustration and a lot of pleasure if you see the bug that you reported fixed or that enhancement request you did make it into the final version. Recently I have been actively involved in Leopard testing - for the last 14 month that is.

As we Appleseeder are halfly lifted from our non disclosure agreement with the release of the final version I would like to talk about a user perspective in the OS for a short paragraph.

Its been a slow coming and a lot of builds I could not test because my equipment was not compatible but in the end just a month before the release they send us a build where magically a lot of problems went away - yet the first time I installed Leopard I got this urge not to go back - even so I did not see any major improvement that would justify this reaction. But its the small things and now after the 14 month I can safely say that I have never ever seen such a productivity improvement when upgrading to an OS.

My absolute favorite - and once you get used to it you gonna see why - is: SPACES.
Designate spaces for different work conditions (one for 3D, one for video editing, one for still picture editing, one for office stuff, one for system stuff f.e.) assign programs to these spaces and remember what space number is what and all of the sudden all messy window overlapping is past – forever. I can not stress how great this works and urge everyone to take the time to set up individual spaces (drag and drop apps you use into the space preference panel and assign a space number). Spaces is whicked fast even on my old (now dead) Titanium Powerbook 1Ghz.

Time Machine is a mixed blessing – while I like the idea the whole thing is a typically 1.0 version. I personally would not use it and I know that some testers had serious problems with it. The lack of fine graned controllability is a real bummer – an "advanced setting" button is missing – I hate it.
Safari had been a surprise – I though it would suck first but the new search is amazing. It is the first search that real gives you a visual feedback – I love it totally.
Also the new DEBUG menu goes long ways – not Firebug yet but already very close with full inspection of boxmodels, load times, page code etc – great (you have to enable the debug menue to see this in action).

Bluetooth and syncing is vastly improved in speed and stability.

The new dock is a step up I guess but nothing revolutionary. I do like to use the stacks as launch managers for programs – for anything else they are useless as they only display a certain amount of files and I find myself to just use the open in Finder button inside the stacks all the time for folders that change content a lot – spaciality is not Apple core competence these days and as soon as you do serious stuff that is still a big problem.

BUT they are making headway's here and there. The "new" finder had been a huge disappointment for me at first as they put up a new face without fundamentally change the underbelly – this seems to have changed a tiny bit so in the latest releases after a big backlash inside the seeder community. I can care less if we have coverflow in the finder, but I see the reason why it in there. For me the only possible reason to put coverflow inside the finder is to use it with a multitouch input device because coverflow with a mouse is just painfully slow but I can imagine it to be great to flick you fingers through your files this way. Generally the finder window is MUCH better then before. It seems more ordered and once you get over yourself and accept new things bring change it is actually quite usable. And, hey, individual windows REMEMBER there setting now. So when you set folder to list view next time you open it it actually opens in list view. It took them 7 years to get this functionality in since the seeders posted a million and one Enhancement requests about it but hey better late then never. Sadly so it still does not remember where the window was placed last time you opened it – this is still the single biggest problem for me in the finder interface. Oh and still no tabs in finder windows :( The underbelly of the finder did improve magically in the last two - three builds. Still no "live" finder but you can at least reliably force reload folder contents by reopening the folder (no that did not work before). And generally it seems a tid faster when copying and it does not lock up when there is a server missing (at least not more then 20 seconds – much better then the 10 minutes it used to under tiger).
Screensharing rocks - its solid mature and fun. Not much more to say about it. Its one of the things you ask "why not earlier" but the clean integration and the speed and the quality of the screen cast is just what you would expect nothing more nothing less and all without installing anything – I can see Apple going a "virtual desktop" route with this sooner or later, I strongly expect more on this front (true virtual desktop as they had in NeXt). I have a space with my server and my two g5 on my Powerbook and can control the whole office with just clicking "ctrl 5" which gets you to space 5 and to full c to your comps – again GREAT.
The rest is all small things scattered throughout the system. Especially the System Preferences have seen some great improvements, like better Networking features. An advanced tab for user management to set you home folder to somewhere different (YAY! no more netinfo mangling). Filesharing with access lists also works incredibly well and you can set sharepoints which is an appealing concept (so it does have its rough edges).

There is a LOT of things for developer, since I am not one I can not comment to detailed on them. But one thing that is great for me is that you can now use RSS in Quarz Composer files that are not Screensavers (something that was disabled in Tiger because of the fear of intrusion through that door). So you can make a Quarz Composer Composition with an RSS feed and have that play through Quicktime on a webpage.

And while I am at it: Quicktime. Its the same old f*$k s%&t under the belly – even worse I have reason to believe it has seen a serious performance decrease. If you open lots of movies (above 200) it crashes it drags down the system and generally I would hope one day Apple takes the gagantuan task to replace it with modern code - they might do just that with the QTKit but its not beeing used by QTPlayer yet it seems or they just copy and pasted code from old Quicktime to QTKit. They should just use the codebase of VLC and make Quicktime opensource and have the coder/decoders closed or something - the current state of affair is not acceptable.
BUT I do like the new overlay interface acrros the board. Very great interface desging not getting in the way and absolutely minimal but usable. Great. Same goes for the new DVD player overlay interface.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention QUICKLOOK. As with spaces it seems to be a small addition but it is one of those productivity boosts that you do not see at first but once you use it more then three times you can not let go of it. Select any type of file hit the space bar and you see a nice overview of all the files or a bigger preview of just one file (you can scroll through all of them). It previews about everything a normal user uses and is extendible via plugins to preview even more - it can go fullscreen. Next time you get a USB stick full of photos and text files and pdfs and movies (yes it playes QTMovies faster then QTPlayer ;) and whatnot you see this as the most incredible thing to save you some time looking for the right thing.

Another thing I want to talk about is Mail. The epicenter of love/hate inside me. Its been improved A LOT in my opinion. That it just "sees" dates and adresses inside a mail and lets you easily add those to the calender/adress book is just damn splendid. Overall it also seems faster and more reliable. But the new features are a bit on the slow side – especially RSS feeds. So I do love them inside mail much more then inside Safari (a hot debate I can tell you among us seeders), its just not quite there yet, but I see mails interface as the better one for managing and archiving the feeds. Notes are also great but I have not found extensive use of them. A very welcome addition is the new small activity monitor that you can enable in mails main window bottom left corner.

New iChat is a very nice evolution with tabs seeing the day of light (finally) but in typical apple fashion are integrated just lovingly. Conference videostreams are going to be hip especially as you can show someone you vacation video through iChat while in the conference :) iChat theater supports any fileformat that Quicklook supports btw. - on the server side. The client side does not need all the Quicklook plugins to see the content as its streamed as plain ol video.

Calender has been missed in most reviews I have seen yet it has seen a fundamental shift. First of all third party application can now seamlessly communicate with it (that was a pain under Tiger if you ever used a TimeTracking program). And the general editing a date interface has changed for the better, in general its MUCH much faster in the interface.

Other smaller improvement of note to round this up is tabs and better visual presets in Terminal. A better cleaner console.app with color/icon codes of errors and a vastly improved automator with a record function.

Overall I do not see this update as a "minor" one anymore even so it seemed like it at first. All the small improvements combined do make for a much improved experience - especially for power users (I do not see normal users benefitting THAT much). I do not have the final final build so I can not judge stability in general but I can say that it might be rough on the edges still and if you want a fluently working system wait until 10.5.3 at least.

My only wish to Apple at this point – put in the full ZFS! (oh and FTFF and the FQT).

If you have any specific questions you may ask in the comments and I try to answer them.

Oh and ONE MORE THING: Backup EVERYTHING before you install this cat it bites at times!
(this is not just a simple "backup always before you install new software" warning - this is a serious "you better back up" warning!)



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12.09.07

Apple starts to piss me off

They should have never entered into the iPod bussiness. Even so its great for shareholder they are on the right path to become what they so long have tried to avoid becoming - another microsoft. Not only is Leopard shaping up to be the most underwhelming piece of Operating system coming out of cupertino since system 7.1 its also - if they are eying for oktober release - one of the buggiest - and there is not even that much stuff in there that new. Certainly not more then there was in Tiger. So this is sad. But not only this - there core major down to earth bussinness was selling ultra cool laptops. Well... I am waiting the 5th week now for mine - they said it would ship in 10 days (which I thought at the time was already unacceptable).
Apple - the company that once was great and is becoming more mediocre by the minute. There is nothing excellent, nothing revolutionary, nothing for the crazy ones, nothing for the odd ones anymore to get even a tiny bit excited. Its only for unexperienced the mom and dad the once who have no clue. Its sad.
What is even more sad is that unless you are a masochist there is no other choice out there. Because the choices are either configuration hell on the command line and then having a stable and secure OS or another mom and pop approach and having an unstable bloatware os. Sadly OS X is going to be unstable piece of bloatware in its next incarnation.
I hope there will be outrage and apple thinks about its core values and business sooner rather then later because they are in to loose massive user-base if Linux/UbuntuLinux becomes just a tiny bit more useful.

So there I wait until the piece of metal arrives and then I probably have to turn in for service after a month as I have done for any other powerbook I owned, just this time it will probably take 3 month until they fix it. Maybe I should cancel the order...
But yeah sure an iPhone with the capability of 15 years old computers will bring human kind forward.

11.07.07

Gimp User Interface Study

The Gimp is arguably the biggest thread to Adobe and the biggest hope for a Linux on every desk as the biggest argument by most people that I know is: I can not run Photoshop on Linux therefore I have to stay with MacOSX/Windows - its a bigger problem for the adoption of Linux in my opinion then the lack of games. But then the Linuxusers are telling me "oh but there is the Gimp. Its even more precise and much more powerfull then Photoshop." Yes that may all be, BUT its coherently unusable. The interface is - like most Linux user interfaces that I have seen - total rubbish and absolutely unusable unless you like to inflict wounds upon yourself. Its unorganized, it gets in your way, its ugly (as in "its not clean and coherent"), its unusually complicated. My opinion has been for years "fix the gimp user interface to something dramitcally great and the rest of Linux will follow and Linux might have a chance on the mom and pop desktop and at the same time break the monopoly that is Adobe". A new attempt is under way as this slashdot article points out that installs a surveillance plugin to gimp that reports what you are doing inside gimp to a central server where it is then evaluated by a team of researchers at the University of Waterloo lead by Prof. Michael Terry. While I think its a novel approach to the problem I don´t see how it would fix it. The much better solution would be to get a sample group and watch them work as this is the solution for every userinterface out there. Ask them tons of questions and then GET AN INTERFACE DESIGNER to make the interface and NOT a group of researcher and NOT a group of programmer hippies, because have proven over the last 15 years that they are incapable of making good interfaces. I had a call out for an open interface design guideline manifest a couple of moons ago and I still think that would be a great idea.

24.06.07

My Computer Class 1987 Kleinmachnow East Germany

my_computerclass_1987.jpgI know this might be amusing to some so as a sunday laugh I post a photo I just found while cleaning up. It shows part of the Mr. Aschbrenners Computer class anno 1987 in deep red socialistic Kleinmachnow / East Germany. Its me sitting in the middle on a kick ass KC85/II sporting 8 KiloByte RAM, a NO SMALL CAPS rubber round keyboard, a whopping "HD ready" 320x256 pixel screen, a "save me 10 times and you have one functioning copy" cassette recorder and an operating system called CAOS (Cassette Aided Operating System) with lovely BASIC. When I remember correctly this photo appeared in some kind of newspaper at the time. I actually programmed an animation on this thing back then even so there was no direct graphic access - I hacked around it by creating a custom font set and then cycling through the typefaces... ah the old times...

Movable Type 4.0b its back to OpenSource baby :)

Years ago I decided that I wanted to have a real blog after doing some "offline blogging" with .mac and an application whos name I have forgotten. Back in the internet eons there was only ONE viable platform to do blogging and that was Movable Type. It was great and did what you wanted. Until the spam invasion came and a big gaping hole became apparent - the lack of anti spam technology in the movable type core. The plugin engine was too weak and the "fixes" available not good enough. Then SixApart - the "company" group of people who programmed movable type made a big "nono" in the free internet and made the once for free blogging software available only if you pay them hefty money - the problem was to make any use of your comment function you better upgraded - or switched. At that time the comment spamming took levels never seen before.
So at that time my movable type installation hosted six blogs and a couple of secret personal ones. It was a do or die decission. The only viable other option was of course WordPress but at the time there was no converter available that easely would have converted the 2000+ messages on these blogs into its own format. So the decision went to go with a "noncommercial" "cheap" license from Six Apart - with a lot of teeth grinding. I learned to live with the decission and am still quite happy with Movable Type.
Now 4 years later it seems - in a rare moment of luck - the patience and all the ground teeth might pay off. Six Apart has announced Movable Type 4beta. First of all its going to be Open Source if it will be available for free they don´t say (one is NOT the other) but my guess is they might as SixAparts main income seems to come from support and from their LiveJorunal, vox, typepad services these days and I guess the actual salesprice of MT is not such a big thing on their endbill - but I could be wrong I have not found information on this on their site.
Anyway the opensource thing is good for plug ins and that brings us to the next big development - widgets as "easy writable plugins" - say "write a Quicktime Uploader" in under 5 minutes and I am sooooo sold as EVERY OTHER BLOG APP OUT THERE does not have this or if it has it the usage is very restricted to "special pages burried under a load of internet tubes".
But this does not stop it because they will include all features of LiveJournal, TypePad and the multimedia (ah so 90s) VOX service. This is great - because if you ever tried to publish mp3s, videos in various formats and other type of documents on the same blog you should have an MA in programming and then your content will very likely look crap because you had too much programming to do to take care of the content.
A new template language that listens to real world booleans "Do not show me posts by "AppleBasher101" in category "microsoft" - yes thats a valid template. Oh and you can use templates to publish single pages - making this not a blogging software anymore but a light CMS system.

All new features can be found here.

I will install a test version on a test site soon and will probably write something about it at one point.

You can test out the beta yourself if you head over to www.movabletype.org

15.06.07

Chiming in on the iPhone SDK discussion

There is a lot of bubble talk lately about the decision from Apple to make "Web 2.0" the only SDK the iPhone will get - for now. Nobody on the big news sites talking about it seems to be looking deeper into the issue. Its all so apparent.
Steve specifically mentioned "sandboxing the applications" in his keynote to be the biggest problem with an open iPhone SDK. The last - very last - things Apple needs are any kind of malware on the phone that starts dialing your sprouse and connect her to a sex line while the phones speakers are turned off and the phone is in your pant pockets. Thats a VERY big concern because if that happens its a marketing backlash that will drop the Applestock back to $10 in less then a month. So especially for the first round its all about making this device secure as hell therefore overly controlled. Giving users the ability to run Web 2.0 apps is already a wide stretch in this security model but then some other developments that steve talked about in his keynote are very interesting things.

The original iPhone released end of this month will run Mac OSX 10.4.10 (or 10.4.9 or some other chimera in between) Mac OS 10.4 and earlier does not have any systemwide secure sandboxing model in place as is. BUT Leopard - according to Apples own developers talking "publicly" at the WWDC - will have a system wide sandboxing mechanism for all apps. So an iPhone 2.0 which will probably run a spec'ed down version of Leopard will maybe bring an SDK where all 3rd party apps run inside a sandbox.

Safari 3 is probably on the iPhone and Safari 3 might run its own ultra secure sandboxing mechanism (windows version seems not to)?!

Until then I am sure there is a way to "hack" this thing easily as this seems Apples way of doing things lately, because if it is a hack then Apple does not have to support it until they have figured out a way to do things right (which not always works of course).

I for one think that MOST application that might be usefull for a PHONE could be small widgets (and dashboard widgets are basically what will become "Web 2.0 iPhone 1.0 apps"). Exception is of course games and media managment and manipulation stuff.

Very interesting would be to know if it runs Quartz Composer Compositions (if the Quicktime for the iPhone supports these that is) because if it does then media manipulation can be done without any core level functioning (at least to the degree where the iPhone makes sense). Leaves us with games...
For those I think Apple will initially sell some through a trusted partner network (iTunes store) (EA games anyone? ID with its "we have another mac related announcement at the next games conference" Carmack comment?) to then with iPhone 2.0 and sandboxing modell of Leopard opening up the platform to any developers? (next years WWDC?)

As said it all makes a hell of a lot of sense and seeing the immense news coverage for this phone Apple has to pull out all its legs to make sure this thing is absolutely secure and bug free in its first iteration. There will be enough people complaining about the keyboard and "Video loading times" etc to manage a virus outbreak or similar on the device is absolute publicity hell.

So I will still not get a Apple 1.0 product no matter how cool it is EVER again in my life and a lot of Mac diehards who have been with Apple gear for more then 5 years probably are going down the same route. Its nice to have unsuspecting windows users betatesting apple hardware now :)

PS: And noone says that the Safari Web 2.0 SDK has some iPhone specific extensions to like read out the iPhone sensors etc. It already has the "transparency window mode" for dashboards so that seems like a clear path.

15.04.07

Apple props Red One

red_one_in_action.pngIn a bold move Apple showed a Red One logo at their NAB keynote presentation.

"You can take 4k files, plug it directly into a MacBook Pro, and see and edit them right there. The industry is going to change. You will be able to work with this whole new breed of moviemaking." (engadget).

WOW. 4k on a powerbook 4:2:2 and it is actually real. I mean that is basically absolutely every motion picture artists dream come true — BiG period for a while (until 3d comes along).

The video is now also on apple.com.

13.04.07

Apple delays OSX 10.5

What can be described as a victory for betatesters Apple has delayed Leopard until October. NDA prohibits me to say anything other then that we (the Appleseeders) are very very relieved and we think this is the right decision for Apple to make. For once the quality department has won over the marketing department.


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12.04.07

Software Company Ethics 2.0 and the pleasant surprise I had today

First and foremost: I am a very skeptical person and I am very cynical especially when it comes to today companies and their policies but what happened today shattered a small part of my world view about kapitalism in a very positive way.

A little background story: As most of you dear readers know I am doing lots of 3D animation visual FX and similar virtual pop art media work. I do this since 1992 where I started with a program called Silver3D (that then became Imagine) on an utlra fast Amiga 2000. Anyway this backstory is getting out of hand already. I love doing 3d - or at least I love what comes out in the end because it allows me to put into visual form for other people what I see inside myself (even the boring small stuff) so for me its the only way to share my inner vision. The big problem is the technical side. It consumes so much energy that I can´t just pump out stuff. Things are getting better on a grand scale in this field. Jez – I can´t keep focus. Anyway one of the coolest things that I love to do is integrate 3d into real life footage. Its lovely and puts my innerpictures right into clash with reality (and I love it). BUT for doing that you either have to take a camera on a tripod (boring) or try to recreate a real world camera move inside your computer through a process generally called "tracking" today. While there might be a third way that I will hopefully talk about soon the tracking is the state of the art thing to do. Now as easy as it sounds it is not. Its a thing that until a couple of years ago you did by hand (yes I did that by hand in a 1996 project for a local bar commercial with a flying dragon - 30 seconds handtracking 3d is something you never forget in your life as a BAD experience). Of course it was the military that developed computerized tracking guides for their missles and some Hollywood studios got to think that it would be cool to use these algorithms and created half intelligent match moving programs. Now as it is with hollywood and its inner circle - they do not like healthy competition purely based on artistic merits (some bad tongues might interpret this as they would loose their monopolistic propagandistic business model) so in good american manner they keep competition out by either completely shutting out the public (they only use "inhouse software" thats never released in any form) or they price software at sums where any independent artist would need to sell both kidneys half a liver and three quarters of a heart to get their hands on it (outside the wrath of the studios that is) - oh and its not just Hollywood its the whole entertainment "industry". But I am loosing track again (pun pun). Match moving is no exception and in the early days matchmove software cost you the sum you would pay for a house and a garden. Match Mover I think it was that cost like upward of 50.000 USD until like 2 years ago then it all changed. First a university project came to the "market" called "icarus" and it rocked (and it was available for the mac - the only one at that time). It was a very crude interface and all but what it did was generate very accurate 3d tracks. The absolutely shocking thing was: It was free. Yes some student/prof hackers did something for free that the close to hollywood developers where charging you the price of a house for. (Just for the record about the same time it was when Alias|Wavefront|nowAutodesk Maya was dropping in price from like 20.000 USD for the "small" version to 1.500 USD). So the monopoly of big industry studios in terms of 3D was falling like the sky on a doomsday. Then when all independent 3D artists where dancing in the street filmed by shaky cheap DV cameras and later accompanied by their 3d visions the software disappeared. Speculation and conspiracy theories emerged in the whispery hallway chatters in rundown artist mansions all over the world. Did a big hollywood post house bought the right to the software, did a rival company made "contribution" to the University were the software was developed - nobody really knew until a small message on the icarus website hinted that the developers where going to become independent developers and form a company called The Pixel Farm (I am not so sure on that part, PixelFarm might have existed before, but for the drama lets say they created it). The company was also based in some English country side rather then on the self-dominating westcoast of the US of A. So they brought out Icarus under the new name PFTrack (PixelFarmTrack) und they did so for a far lesser price then the original about 4500 Euros and on top brought out cheaper siblings like PFMatch (750 Euros) and PFHoe (150 Euros) that seemingly put the 3D in reach the indy artist. Just last year another app entered the market called SynthEyes (crude interface not good project management but good tracks) which sells for like 350 USD. In the end if you are serious about 3D tracking you need the big PFTrack or one of the other big two (Matchmover boujou) that came down in price to match (pun again) PFTrack. PFTrack for me would still be the choice as it offers about every option available for 3D tracking and matchmoving and scene reconstruction and track project management available and you really want all that for a good workflow without boundaries. Still I mean 4.500 Euros come on, what artist is gonna be able to pay that chunk of money?

The real story (god I wish I would stay on point better): Having an ok start into my after school career at the moment and with some 3d projects that need tracking lining up on the horizon I decided to try out some demo versions to see what I really need and what tracking software would work with me best and so applied to PixelFarm to get a 3 Day fully functioning version of the app — and I loved it a lot.
After 4 days I got a lovely formulated email saying something like "thank you for testing of our product if you have feature suggestions, saw bugs or have general commentary please let us know". Needless to say that the inner betatester came out in me and I gave them a long detailed answer of my experience, send them some crashlogs and a very repeatable bug report and about six feature suggestions. A mail came back thanking me and while I planned the bank robbery to pay for the app the communication went silent. That was all about two weeks ago.

- a little pause for the suspense factor -

Today the phone rang with a number somewhere from germany that I had never seen before. Now normally those numbers only call to sell me something (like lottery tickets or "free" bankaccounts for all the money I don´t have or a vacuum cleaner or such shit). So I was reluctant to answer at first. But I do like to hear their sorry attempts to actually win me over (just so I can cruelly hang up on them) so I picked up the phone. A nice voice in broken german answered and ask if its me on the other end. I said sure that it was me already wondering why they get so personal. Then right in the second sentence he mumbled something that I understood - PFTrack. AHA...

- pause for more suspense -

Now I was preparing to ward off a reseller for PFTrack who probably got my contact details from the trial signup. First I offered him to switch the conversation to english (his german was not very understandable) so the conversation went on. He turned out to be really caring and listening and wasn´t in the slightest way pushing for a sale — a new tactic I though (I already mentioned that I am cynical and skeptical right?). Once we were over the smalltalk part of the conversation (great programm blah blah) I told him quite blunt that there is no way in hell that I can afford the program at this stage. Then (and I spare you another suspense pause) something happened that I have not ever witnessed in this capitalistic society. He offered to me that if I have a project coming up that needs 3d tracking we can talk about it that I would get PFTrack for that project for free.

O.O

He said they intend to multiply market share and get into the Industry and they need artists that can use the program and a bigger installed user base so that PFTrack can become the industry standard. Ok thats quite a capitalistic thought process but in the subsequent talk he acknowledged that companies need to care for the customers and see their needs to expand themselves and a lot of other things that normally would sound like marketing talk but sounded for once very honest. He also said that whatever I need we work something out - also for a permanent license in the future. Some more niceties and the conversation ended.
I am baffled - I mean we are talking not about a free Donut or something like that but about a 4.500 Euro software. No they won´t give it to me completely for free but help me establish my business. Something that makes SOOO much sense from my and their perspective its unbelievable.

Conclusion or that means the following: Software companies are start to realize that code can´t be sold like hardware. That there are different needs for the same product out there that deserve special treatment. That your installed user base with lots of experience using your software is more important then a single lost(or never to be done in the first place) sale. That leads to a completely new software sales paradigm for the future - the call today was definitely a right step into that direction and I will surely take them up on the offer rather sooner then later. It is a SURE way to get along with piracy or making the reason for piracy mood. I would always pay for software if I earn money with it but I can´t pay 5.000 euros for a software for projects that - at least in the beginning - only garner 500 euros - there is no relation in my not so humble opinion. Software needs to become an individual product that earns money through services (see all and every big opensource project where this works quite well already).

So thanks to Marcos Silva-Santisteban from FES Media GmbH - the german Pixelfarm reseller - for the enlightening conversation.


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11.04.07

Quicktime MacRumors and Reality

Today I stumbled upon a note from a german "mac news site" with the bold headline:

Big Update of Quicktime and OpenGL soon

And my heart jumped like that of probably a lot of others plagued by legacy quicktime that brings the most powerfull of apple computers to a standstill and that makes even "pro" graphic cards run painfully slow. After the Finder Quicktime is the least modern part of OSX and OpenGL while up to sniff with current standards seems awefully slow in games but even more so in pro 3D applications. Now as fast as my heart jumped it dropped because when I read the first line of the article the source cited was a well known unstable rumors site and you seeing me here blogging means that Quicktime is FAR away from a big release because otherwise I would be under NDA and not be able to tell you that Apple prepares a Quicktime 8 or X or revive the CoreVideo brand. I have no idea about OpenGL and can´t talk about whats happening inside Leopard in regards to those two things. I would be delighted if Quicktime gets a major revision until Leos release but from what I am allowed to tell at the moment there is no sign (well I hope I am allowed to talk about things that are NOT beeing tested right?). Given Apples quality control in software and Appleseed betatesting this is either a hidden feature noone has seen other then mighty Steve or this is a completely made up statement to garner some clicks through deep sitting fear of most professional video mac users.
In the end its pretty clear that Apple needs to update the Finder, Quicktime and OpenGL to ward of millions of hate mails in the future and fend off bad press – if it happens in Leos initial release remains to be seen - I for one would be the most happy person if all three would make it, yet I think its a hard push to include those three things into the OS and ship it in three month as a fully tested version, but there is a secret rumor that thinks Apple holds a secret underground facility in North Korea where nuclear mutated people do nothing else then test the Leopard.


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30.03.07

Pimp Shake Command Line Renderer with Python

In a perfect world all software would work in all situations and all Scripting languages share the same syntax. In the real world my love for shake erodes at the command line and I need to learn Python (on top of Javascript, MEL, PHP and Perl).

The Probelm:
While Apples Shake as in Version 4.1 supports command line rendering through

shake -exec shakeScript.shk 

and employs methods for adding a sFileIn node and adding a fileOut node it lacks in an important area. There is no way to do the following from the command line:

a) change an existing sFileIn node or change an existing fileOut node
b) change the inPoint and outPoint to be rendered to reflect a sFileIn's node frameRange

So any serious batch processing from the command line that takes different input movies with variable length, processes them and outputs them to different output movies with a descriptive name (like a version of the input movies name) is not possible in Shake at the moment.
But Shake is such a Unix beauty of a program and the shake script documents are easily readable text documents. So I set out to make a small Python script that adds exactly that functionality to the command line: a simple batch renderer.
After trying with a normal shell script that in the very early stages got scrapped because I got some kind of permission error while reading out the movie length information. Then I had a brief try in Perl but realized that my Perl is not sufficent and that if I learn a new script language it should be Python because - well - god and the world swears on Python these days. Especially the recent inclusion of Python into Autodesk Maya 8.5, Python beeing included into Blender 3D and about any and all cool new program in the visual FX area putting the python in the tamers basket it is quite clear that I should get familiar with it rather sooner then later.
So eight hours later I can release my first Python script which is a bit crude but does what its meant to do simply and well. I have not figured out why out of all the languages it must be Python that seems to win the script wars and some of the Python logic is not absolutely clear to me yet but coding was indeed almost fun at points (those where things worked as expected).

Preperations:
1.) make a Shake Script that does what you want to do.
2.) The Shake Script should have exactly ONE sFileIn (preferably you want to use one of the movies out of the batch so everything is set up right (pixel size, aspect ratio etc etc)
3.) and also the Script should have exactly ONE fileOut. While it doesn´t matter what path or name the FileOut is referencing too (it will be replaced in batch)
4.) it DOES matter that you make the fileOut a Quicktime Movie with your desired compression settings - otherwise the script will fail.
5.) save the Shake Script with a descriptive name

How the batch works:
1.) make a folder
2.) put the Python Script into the folder
3.) put your Shake Script into the folder
4.) put all the movies you want to have processed by the Shake Script into the folder
5.) navigate to the folder in the command line and make the folder current

cd drag`n`drop folder
(for the non terminal users)
6.) execute the script by
'./ShakeBatchRender.py'
7.) Watch your movies being rendered

Features:
1.) The script creates a Shake Script for every input movie. So f.e. you make a bluescreen key and it works on 9 out of ten 10 shots you can just open the one shot it didn´t work and adjust settings and render from within shake. So the sFileIn and the sFileOut and the frameRange is set correctly when you open the script for the problematic scene. The Shake Scripts are named

MasterShakeScriptName_InputMovieFileName.shk
2.) The scripts makes descriptive filenames for the output movie
InputMovieFileName_ShakeScriptName.mov

Caveats:
1.) the script only supports .mov for sFileIn
2.) the script only supports .mov for sFileOut
3.) the script should only be run ones. If you need to run it multiple times (to correct a problem) make sure you delete all the newly created ShakeScripts and Movies, otherwise you end up with multiple versions and duplications and a general mess.
4.) if the script does not run make sure the permissions are set correctly. Do this by typing the following in the command line:

chmod 744 ShakeBatchRender.py

Conclusion:
Its crude but I might develop it into something more interesting if Apple is making future versions of Shake (which I really really hope). If not then this is a crude hack to learn Python.

License:
Script is under GNU General Public License v2.0. See enclosed document called "COPYING_LICENSE.txt" for more information.

Download:
Download the Script with documentation and a tutorial folder here. (700kb)


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24.03.07

Web Development in 2007

Or: Does Internet Explorer suck intentionally?

I have just completed a small webproject — nothing life changing, nothing fancy, nothing ridiculously cool and generally a very very small project — perfect to fiddle around with some technology that I wanted to employ for a long time. Me — not having done semi serious web-development since I redesigned this blog — was curious on a number of questions especially "What is wrong with the Internet Explorer and why is it wrong?" but we get to that way way later (the most interesting part but the rest leads to it) first was some basic fact checking:


"Whats the backwards compatibility path used these days?"

Browsers change, get recoded, dissapear, reappear and fight with each other — thats generally the situation each and every webdeveloper on the planet faces on it first website. There is no way to support every browser on the planet in every version number ever released — period. Everyone who looks at Internet Explorer 4 Mac Edition and makes a website work on that the same way this website works on a Firefox 2.0 installation is getting a lifetime "you waste your time" award.
Generally I approach this question with a very certain bias. First and foremost I want to push technology to the edge but because — as stated here before — only used technology gets pushed forward and gets redeveloped, reused and generally more useful.
But I am sidetracking. So being in the beginning of 2007 someway into a new fresh awesome millennium full of (sometimes) exiting technological advancements how far does a normal "mom and pops" website that needs to reach a broad general audience across the full spectrum of age and technological knowledge needs to push it with webbrowser compatibility. Since this websites intents to sell you something it needs to work — easy clean simple and perfect. Now if we look at browser statistics these days (which I don´t believe any of them, but I generally don´t believe statistics that I haven´t come up with myself so that point is mood) the field is WIDE and open. General consensus is that there is a total four browser engines (as for computer web browsers that is — more on that in a minute) on the market that are worth looking at.

1. Internet Exploder
2. Mozilla/FireFox/Gecko
3. Safari/KHTML/Konqueror
4. Opera

For me personally and for this specific project one browser falls out right away from consideration. I am really sorry my open source, we make everything different then the next door guy just so we are different and are percieved cool friends — Opera is a nonevent for me and I would venture to guess about 99% of webdevelopers. Yes according to statistic Opera has a whopping 1.5% market share. I meet only two persons in my whole life that use Opera and if those two persons (totally unrelated to each other) give a picture of the Opera using population then its save to say that they are technology savvy enough to figure out that when a website doesn´t run it might be the browser and I am sure they have 10 other obscure browsers on their machine to access the site. That goes also to the Opera Team — if you want your browser to be used make it 100% CSS/HTML/XML standard compliant 100% Javascript/DOM compliant because the webdevelopers have a life and really there is enough problems to fix then looking at every obscure "me too" browser on the market. I really do love and try to support small software rebells but my prior experience with Opera was so BAD (in development terms) that I am absolutely sure ditching this will not cause any ripples in the space time continuum and give me at least 10% more time out of web development to rant here.
With this out the way you dear reader might say: "Hey but what about Safari/KHTL its similar obscure and has a similar small market share." Yes, dear reader on the first look that might seem so, from personal experience I can name about 100 ppl (compared to the operas two!) using Safari daily, because it comes with a pretty more or less widely used operating system called MacOSX and as it is with these bundled apps — some people think they have no choice as to use them. The great thing about Safari — besides being bundled and forced down mom and pops throat — and totally unlike Opera (never used 8 but used 7 and 6) its about the most standard conform browser on the planet — yes even better then Firefox. Its even recommended as a standard reference platform (where ever I read this if I find I post a link). So even with a tiny market share that I personally would think is really at least five times as much as in the "statistic" the developers of KHTML/Konqueror together with the enhancements of Apple did something Opera has utterly failed — eliminating the need to specifically test for this platform — when you adhere to the standards set by W3C you can be 98% sure that it runs, looks and works beautifully. Thats in Javascript/DOM, CSS, XML, XHTML.
Another great thing about it is, that its automatically updated (the Safari variant — Konquerer users prolly are also very up to date as Linux users are in general) with the system so you can be sure that most people using Safari are also on one of the last versions. So testing is constraint to 2.0 and onward.

Moving up the percentage ladder we approach the burning fox. While I was not very impressed by the early siblings (first Camino f.e.) Firefox is now a stable mostly standard conform plattform and with the FireBug Plug-In has become my main webdevelopment choice (this might change with OSX 10.5 but I can´t say anything — NDA). So its clear that my developments will work out of the box with Firefox and hopefully all Gecko compliant browsers. So how much versions back you need to test? I don´t test anything before 1.0 because before 1.0 most people using Firefox are assumed intelligent fast technology adopters and they prolly have the latest version of Firefox installed. Actually I am not even testing on later versions then 1.1 at the moment because I think the majority will only upgrade to X.0 releases and they hopefully didn´t break things that were working (and you can not under any circumstances be responsible for any and all nightly builds there ever are for any open source browser anyway).

With those out of the way we get to a point where things are starting to get ugly. This point is the internet venom called Internet Explorer — or nicknamed by about every serious web developer: Internet Exploder. In case you have not heard of it — its the browser that Microsoft "pushed" out the door in the mid 90s to combat Netscapes dominance in the early internet. Its the browser that started that browser wars, killed off Netscape (temporarily) and has since earned Microsoft a couple of Antitrust lawsuits and A LOT OF HATRED among web developers of all kinds. The problem is: Microsoft won that browser war (temporarily) and the antitrust lawsuits have done nothing stopping the bundling of that browser on the most used Operating System in the world — namely Windows that is. So with about 60% browser market share as of last month (if you want to believe the linked statistics) it has more then double of Firefox and just can´t be ignored no matter how much you swear. Now all this would only be half as bad but those 60% are quite unevenly distributed between the three main version numbers 5.0, 6.0, 7.0. And looking at the individual percentages, each has more then double the percentage of Safari so you better support em all. Heck I would even throw in 5.0 Mac edition for the fun of it because I have personally witnessed people STILL using that! Now a person not experienced in webdesign might say "hey its all one browser and if you don´t add any extraordinarly advanced function 7.0 should display a page like 5.0 and everything should work great.
Well without going any further down a well worn path I can only say this: It fucking doesn`t. If you need to support people using Internet Explorer you need to go back to at least version 5 including the Mac Edition.
Now if Microsoft would have tried to support web standards like they are kinda set in stone by the W3C this would all be only half a problem. Microsoft has chosen to go down their own path and alter little things in the W3C spec — mostly known is the box modell difference in CSS.
(I am going to get inside that in a second — just need to find a way to round up this section.)

What I haven´t touched yet — because a clear lack of experience — are phone and other device browsers (gaming consoles). For this specific project this was no issue as I think the people using a phone to order a highly specialized documentary DVD is close enough to 0. Gaming consoles are definetly not the target group of this DVD either. For up and coming sites out of this office I will clearly look into the "outside of the computer" browsers and will surely post my findings here — generally I think they all going to move to an open source engine like Gecko/KHTML sooner or later (iPhone will drive that, Nokia already decided to use KHTML f.e. the Wii is using Opera - tried browsing on the wii and it sucks bad compared to all the other stuff thats beautiful on that machine).

To round this up: If you want to reach the mom and pop majority of the Web I concluded you have to test on Internet Explorer back to version 5 (including Mac Edition), Firefox 1.0 and upwards, Safari 2.0 and upwards. You also may want to check your site with a browser that neither does Javascript, Pictures or anyhting in that regard to make sure your site is accessible for the blind and readable by machines (google robots f.e.).

Now with that out of the way the next question formed in my head:


What content management system should I use?

While this specific project has little content updates, it still has some (adding new shops that sell the dvd to the reseller list f.e.) and more important — it had to be deployed bilingual. So both of these consideration prompted me go with a CMS. Now I don´t know if anyone has looked at the CMS market at the moment — I have done some intense research (also for a different project) and its quite a mess. There are basically two types: Blogging centric and Classic CMS centric and a lot of in between breeders.
Since I don´t want to bore you too much: most of the Open Source CMSs can be tested out at the great site opensourcecms.com.
Personally the only CMS I have used (and I am still using for various reasons, but basically I really do like it) is the blogging centric Movable Type (not open source and costing some dough). But Movable Type is so blogging centric that doing anything else with it is counter productive (but can be done). So me — feshly in the CMS game with knowledge that "blogging centric" is not something I want here — looking at all the options found out that its very hard to decide on one from pure looking. The user comments on opensourcecms.com are very helpfull already in siffing out all the once that had pre beta development status. Left over are basically the big three CMSs Typo3, Mamboo, Drupal and Plone. All with their own good and bad sides. The one from pure technological standpoint and feature wise and stability wise that I really really liked was Plone, but Plone depends on Zope and for Zope you need a very heavy duty server that runs just that — I don´t have one. The learning curve for Typo3 seemed much too high for me — thanks I am already used to PHP/Perl/XHTML/Javascript/CSS etc. and I have no need to learn another obscures description language on top of that just to use a CMS.
This left with Mamboo and Drupal as the likely choice. Mamboos architecture seems dated and is at the moment in a state of flux and recoding — I do not like unstable software and have no need to beta test more warez then I am already doing — so mamboo called out. Drupal came out as the winner in the CMS field at the moment — but NOT SO FAST my friend. I installed it used it. It has a flashy web2.0 interface with lots of usefull functions. Well there are SOOO many functions that would never been needed for that project. Also it is very heavy on the server (and I had no urge to get into the 200 page discussion on optimization techniques for drupal on their forums) in the default install. It became clear that this CMS is not the solution, the only function that I was really looking forward too was including Quicktimes and MP4 in an easy way. It turned out that including these is easy — having them show up in the way I like it and not the Drupals developers vision of "another tab in a tab in a window in a frame" proofed also extremely difficult.
Now this left me with either going with a fast hardcoded website that I would need to maintain the next 5 years or dig up a CMS that I used before and had almost forgotten about — x-siter.
This CMS is written by the fellow CCCler Björn Barnekow and is totally unsupported in any way other then "ask him and he might reply". The beauty of it is that it is ULTRA lightweight — he himself describes it as the smallest (code wise) CMS out there. It is totally PHP and even if you have no plan on PHP its very very easy to understand what it does. From an enduser perspective who needs to maintain the site, the approach is unrivaled and beautiful, because you just edit paragraphs of text, add pictures etc on the page they belong to. So no fancy metastorage system for all the pages or folders containing the pages you edit it right inside the individual page. Now this has a huge advantage if the person you need to explain how to update the site is you general secretary or such because she browses to a page she wants to change then logs in edits it and logs out — its very very close to WYSIWYG editing and very easy to explain to everyone.
The layout possibilities with x-siter are also well thought out, giving you an adjustable typographic raster that you can put pictures in or text etc. A very nice approach. So why is not everyone with a small website using x-siter then and why has nobody heard of it? Well first of all its more an internal tool for Björn that he shares without any official support and not much documentation inside the code either. He thinks you might not need to touch much code and generally he is right, sadly design realities are different and I have a concept of how a website needs to look like in my head and if the CMS tries to get me to do it differently I rather adjust the code of the CMS then adjust the look in my head. And this is where the x-siter shows big weakness because the code is not very modular and not very good commented so I had to change quite a few stuff and now the code can not be easily upgraded. But generally if you need a very fast small site that needs to be updated now and then x-siter is definitely worth looking into. Even one Max-Plank-Institute switched from Plone to x-siter because its soo much faster and actually scales quite nice and has a good user account management. So it does lack some advanced things from Drupal, generally I do not miss those feature (and most can be added through different things anyway).

So I employed x-siter and heavely modefied it to get my certain look that I wanted (taking some headlines out of tables and into css divs etc). Since the site is pretty simple I needed an excuse to implement at least one advanced cool dynamic function in there.


What cool "new" "web 2.0" technologies are really cool and worth testing out and are generelly usefull for this small website?

Well I couldn´t find much. First I thought I rewrite the whole CMS to make it fully dynamic (without any full page reloads — imagine that) but thanks god I did not go down that route. There was one function of the page though that definately needed some design consideration. Its a function that on return kinda breaks the whole look and feel of the full app by generating an ugly error/confirm html page.
That function is a simple formmailer to order the DVD. Now this function — needless to say — is also the function that is most important on the whole page.
So my thinking went down the route of "Hey I want to let the return page of the formmail.cgi replace just the "div" of the form. If there is an error I should be able to go back to the form and correct it (without having to completely fill it out again)."
Great thats a simple AJAX request to the server and putting a returned HTML into the DOM of the current page with the option to return to a saved state of the DOM. YIPPEEE some coding fun — or so I thought.
Generally implementing this with FireBug and SubethaEdit was so dead easy — almost scary (look at code on the bottom) easy. Here is how I did it:

First I replace the normal form button with a ordinary "javascript:function()" link button inside a Javascript below the normal form button. That ensures that people without javascript still can order the DVD through the normal nonAjax/ugly/unintuitive way of doing things in the last millenium. Those people get a normal submit button, while people with Javascript enabled get the AJAX button because those people should also be able to use the AJAX functions.
So user fills out the form and hits the AJAXified "submit" button. The formdata is then send over a standard asynchronous connection through a standard xmlhtrequest. At this point you already add browser specific code but this has been figured out and the code you add JUST for Internet Exploder is already 3 times as long as the code would be if that browser would function normally.
Anyway the data is then processed using the normal nms formmailer.cgi. And this returns a (sadly non XML) html page. I then parse this HTML and look if its an error or if its even a server error or if the result is an "ok" and then let specified output for each case drop into the DOM if the webpage in the only correct way (which is NOT innerHTML!).
Before I exchange the data of the webform with the result page I save the webform with all its content in a DOM compatible way use cloneNode. (its just one line of code I thought!). So if the result is an "ok" I purge the stored data and tell the user the order is beeing processed and this and that data he has send. If there is an error there is a javascript link in the result page that when clicked on exchanges the result page with the form and all its content.
So far so good. This part coding with learning the whole technology behind it took me three hours.

So the website looked great the functions worked as expected and since I am hyper aware of the CSS box model issues of Internet Exploder it even looked great in Internet Explorer 5 on the Mac. At that point — a point of about 20 hours of total work (including digging PHP of x-siter!) — I considered the site done.
BAD idea.


Problems with Internet Explorer 5.0, 6.0, 7.0

First thing I noticed was that IE 5.0 Mac Edition does not support xmlhttprequest AT ALL, also it does not do any DOM. That made me aware that a very very few users might have browser that a) has javascript b) but does not support any of the modern AJAX and DOM functions.
Well that was easily fixed by trying to figure out in the very first called script (the one that replaces the submit button) if xmlhttprequests can be established. If not its the ugly normal nonjavascript version — if yes then the browser should be capable of getting through the whole process.
Again a sigh of relief from my side and 5 minutes of coding later I closed up shop for the day. The next day would just be some "routine" IE 6.0 and 7.0 testing on the windows side and then the page would be done — so I thought. I was very happy because I had very portable future proof code that was small and lightweight and easy to understand. There wasn´t even a bad hack in there except for the xmlhttprequest check.
Opening the page on the Windows PC with Internet Explorer 7.0 my heart dropped to the ground like a stone made out of lead in a vacuum on a planet the size of our sun.
Nothing worked. The layout was fucked (I am quite used to the CSS box model problem so I avoided that in the first place!) and the submit thing did not work at all - clicking on the button didn´t do shit.
The CSS was fixed after fiddling with it for two hours, there seems to be a "bug" in IE 7 with classes vs. ids and z-depthes. Fixing the Javascript was much harder. I couldn´t use FireBug to get to the problem — because in Firefox the problem didn´t appear. The IE7 debug tools are as crude as ever (a javascript error console, which did not produce any errors).
So I placed strategic "alert"s in the code to see how far it would get an what the problem was. It turned out the first problem is that it can not add an "onclick" event listener to something I changed inside the DOM after the DOM was drawn (Add 3 hours to the time total). I struggled for a solution and rummaged the web for any clues. It seems that IE up to version 7 (that the current one!) can not do "setAttribute" as the W3C says but instead you have to set every attribute through (object.attribute = "value in stupid string format";) so for a link its (object.href = "http://your link";) instead of just putting it all in through object.setAttribute("attribute", "value");
Now if you think you can also add an event listener this way by doing "object.onClick = "function";) forget about it. It seems through extensive testing (2+ hours) that there is currently absolutely no way to add an event listener through normal means to an object that was created after a webpage was build — in Internet Explorer that is — again Firefox and Safari this works wonderfully. So my solution was to use the "fake" onclick through a href="javascript:function();" thanks god that this existed otherwise I would have been forced to either write 200 lines of codes for custom event notifiers (which I am not sure that they would have worked) or abonden the already working approach alltogether.
If this still sounds too easy as to call a serious deterrent yet — this was not all that solved the problem. Because creating an object and then before writing it in the DOM setting the href attribute to the "javascript:" also does not seem to work in Internet Explorer. I had to actually write it in the DOM pull the object ID again and then change the href attribute. This doubled the code for this portion of the javascript.
Now the problems were far from over yet. As you might remember from earlier I save the part of the DOM containing the form with content so I can get back to it in case there is an error with the form. This worked great in my two standard conform browsers. So I am at this point where every important browser can get the form mailed out. If you have an error you get the "back" button which through the object.href="jvascript:" way I could also make work in IE. Now I was sweating that this whole "cloneNode" might not work in IE and I would have to parse the whole form and rewrite it, but clicking on the now functioning button did in fact work as advertised (by me) and I returned to the form. But the trouble was far from over because now my "submit" button didn´t work again. Imagine that — I am cloning the DOM as in CLONING that means I take each object with all attributes and values and CLONE IT into memory. Then when I put in this CLONE this should be just like the original — well it is in Firefox and Safari. Internet explorer seems to choose which kind of attributes and values it clones and which not because the values of the field had been cloned and correctly copied back, yet the href attribute seems not clone worthy and is completely forgotten. At that point I had been sitting a full day at debugging IEs Javascript/DOM implementation. So on the third day I just made the dirty "grab the object again and change the href manually" hack and let it be.
In general I have a recorded 27.4 hours of development/design for the whole page including php scriping (that I have no clue off) and 13.6 hours of IE CSS/jacascript debugging (where I have a very thorough understanding). My code bloated 1/3rd just for IE hacks and is less easily readable or manageable in the future. And it definitely runs slower, not that you notice in this small app but extrapolating that to a huge webapp like googles spreadsheets I think the speed penalty is mighty.


Why is Internet Explorer so bad?

Throughout that project (and many before) I have asked myself this question. I am no programmer and have no degree in computer science, yet I think that it can´t be THAT hard to make a good standard compliant browser. Microsoft had about seven years time (yes SEVEN YEARS at LEAST) to make Internet Explorer standard complient, listen to the complains of the million of webdevelopers and redo the whole thing from scratch — in the meantime Firefox has made it to version 2.0, Safari has made it soon to version 3.0 and even a small shop can churn out a browser with version 8 — even so its not perfect Opera is still MUCH better then IE ever.
Now Microsoft is swimming in money and has thousands of coders in house who all probably are a million times smarter then me when it comes to programming. The bugs that are present are enormously obvious and waste millions of hours of webdevelopment/design time. The box model problem should have been just adjusting some variables and the javascript engine — well after a rewrite of the program with native DOM support (at the moment its a hack I would say at best) all the problems should be gone.
Now Microsoft had the change of fixing this with Internet Explorer 7 and while transparent PNG support (a hack) and finally a fix of the box model problem (also not 100% fixed so I heard) has been touted as breakthroughs in supercomputing or something the whole DOM model Microsoft uses does not work (and they admit that on the IE dev blog — promise to look into javascript/dom for 8.0 — in 10 years). That at a time when the whole web wants to use DOM model stuff to make rich web applications with great consistent interfaces. I have looked into some of the AJAX make my webpage move and look all funky frameworks and I can tell ya -> they have the same problems as me and sometimes more then half the code in them is to get around IE limitations — which slows them down to hell I guess.
So IE 7 is almost a non event — I am asking now even louder WHY COULDN`T MICROSOFT FIX THOSE THINGS.

First my personal take on this — they have no clue — this multibillion dollar company has no idea why someone would want to consistent interface on a website that doesn´t reload just because a number changes some were down in the text of the webpage. The reason I think that: Look at Vista. Vista is flashy, has an inconsistent interface (I just say 10 functions to shut your computer down!) and uses every processor cycle available on your CPU and GPU just to run itself (so much that not even cheap modern laptops can run the full version flawlessly and fast). So when they not realize that this is important for themselves why would they realize that these are important concerns for developers outside the Microsoft bubble.
Now pretending that a multimillion dollar company is too dumb to make such assumption is probably as dumb as to think that the Bush administration has no advanced hidden plan on what they are doing (well you know as with microsoft — they could be just plainly dumb or have some greater goal that nobody fully understands or if they understand are not having a loud enough voice to make it public).
So since we are not dumb over here we stumble upon ideas why this is all the way it is. The best take is by Mr. Joel on Software in his blog entry called API Wars. Joel is a software developer writing Bug tracking software for Microsofts Operating Systems. He is very known and very respected by the developer industry and his sometimes controversial statements cause quite a stir now and then but he — being very much inside the OS and probably able to read Microsoft assembly code backwards — is most of the times right spot on. In the linked article he talks about how Microsoft has always been about protecting their main treasure — their API. The Office API with the closed document structure the crown jewel above everything else. Well he also talks about how they have so many APIs that developers are getting confused and since most of the APIs are for sale developers nowadays turn away from the APIs Microsoft provides and are turning TO THE WEB to develop especially small applications — the reason most shops are on windows is believed to be exactly those simple small application only available on windows + office.
Now I said "the web" — the web has the notority to run on any OS somehow and manages to circumvent Microsofts monopoly in a nasty uncontrollable way — poor Microsoft.
Now you probably understand where Joel and I am are getting too — yes Microsoft does anything to stop the web from spreading too fast and get too usefull before they haven´t found a way to completely control it — and they try so hard, DRM, TCP etc etc are all designed to control webcontent — good thing that webapps are not content and Microsoft is acting too slowly. When you read through Joels entry you get quite a clear understanding that Microsoft is not interested at all to make webdevelopment easy and the longer their Javascript does not work and their interactive DOM Model does only work in some strange emulated way (change something in the DOM and look at the HTML source — you will not see you change reflected there) the longer they have a monopoly — and that their monopoly is threatened by webapps is apparent by Googles spreadsheets and word app — sadly for Microsoft these already run even on a broken IE 7 (poor google guys who had to debug that).
I do see that Microsoft will try to "fix" these problem — because a) this gets into a publicity backlash that not even Microsoft can hold out against (the BOX model problem circulated for years but then gained so much steam that Microsoft HAD to do release a press release stating that they are working on IE 7 that adresses some of those things — that was three year ago or so). Because so many developers/admins/techddicts/etc. suggested to friends that using Firefox is more secure (thanks god IE has had soo many open doors for viruses) that Firefox usage exploded and is now eating slowly but steadely into the IE market share. Now Microsoft faces a very big problem — a problem so satisfying for webdevelopers that I would sell my kidney to see this unfold (maybe not but I would hold a party just in case of that event). Microsoft understood in the mid 90s that if they have large enough a market share they can force any competing browser out of the market by introducing proprietary standards (ActiveX, own implementation of CSS and many more) because the webdevelopers are going with the browser with the biggest market share. That worked quite well and played out like they intendet — almost. The webdevelopers are a strange bunch of people and some are using Linux and other evil stuff so they ensured that big companies tried to stay cross browser compliant (I am one of those who wrote about 100 emails to big companies telling them their website doesn't work on browser xy and the millions others doing that are responsible that we do not have ONLY Internet Explorer today — Microsoft really almost completely won — this was close). Now back to the point and to the happy future lookout. If Internet Explorers market share would drop below — lets say — 10% I am the first person who would drop Internet Explorer support completely and rather debug small things for Opera in addtion to the two nicely working Firefox and Safari browsers. My thinking is that the hatred for Internet Explorer among webdesigners/developers has grown to such proportions that I would NOT be the only one — heck I would even say this browser fades from visibility in less then a year. This would satisfy so many people who have lost so much time in their life just because some stupidly rich multibillion dolllar company wanted to get richer on their backs. Now this is not unfolding right this minute but I can see that if they wait too long with IE 8 and fixing the aforementioned javascript/dom problems this might go faster then everyone think. The webtime is a hundredfold acceleration of normal time and a monstrous creature like Microsoft might not be able to adjust fast enough — one can really hope.

21.06.06

Shake 4.1 : $499

Shake.pngThe one thing that I love about Apple is that they are liberating prices for HighEnd Markets. When you have an inside look into the Pro Video Editing World you have a sense of what I am talking about. With the introduction of FinalCut and pricing it below $1000 you can now get a highend editing station for about $8.000 total that is about 100x as capable as a $150.000 AVID system just 5 years ago. AVID has felt the heat the most while their prices dropped considerably as well they have lost about half of their market in less then 6 years - tendency downward. Now Apple is doing it again. After bying the (Film) Industry Leader in compositing application - Shake - they originally priced it at 1/5th the original price - still around $3000 for a mac version - $5000 for a Linux version. This still seems high but we are talking about a Highend floating point perfectly stable compositing app that is used in all of the high end hollywood productions - only rivaled by the discreet line of Apps with the one coming closest to shake costing about three times the price of the Linux version - its a steal.
Now in a surprise move they pitch Shake 4.1 - the new version released today - as a "plug-in" to Final Cut and lower the price for the Mac version to $499. This will create quite a stir in the compositing community and will start a price war that is only benificial to the customers. I dropped After Effects for most compositing work in favor for Shake quite some time ago and can just tell everyone to have a deep look at it - the interface workflow makes a hell lot more sense, its much faster, more precise (tracker must is likely one of the best 2D trackers on the market), integrated network rendering (not through some lame hack ala AE), fully Unix scriptable. Interesting move for sure - now if Apple would do the same it has done with the video market with the 3D market I would be a happy camper indeed (I guess there is no need as they wouldn´t need to rip out the internals of a 3D app to put into one of their own as they did with shake/motion).
A 30 day fully functioning trial is available.

Shake Homepage

Update: It appears this is the last version of Shake in this form and shape. Apple is planning a complete rewrite of the App to incorporate newest OS technologies. This would likely mean a merger of Shake and Motion (one would hope not) or as "Pro" part that is fully integrated into Final Cut (again one would hope not). Anyway new things can´t be bad and if it means this programm is going to rock even more then all the better.

28.05.06

prototypen blog upgrade soon

Comments are not working on all prototypen.com blogs at the moment until I am able to buy the new movable type 3.2 hopefully early next week (they only have one single payment system for it which sucks, but its just the only maintainable (with minimum labour efford) multi author multiblog system out there. I looked at others and they all have the one or other weak point which just would make it uncomfortable to use over here - I need minimum maintainance for the blogs - easy to add new blogs and kill old as well as have no limit on authors. And yes the spammers are the source of the problem with about 45.000 spam attacks per day in the last week the unmaintained spam blocker that was in the otherwise fully functioning nice version of movable type that has powered these blogs til this day killed itself taking with it the spam database that it was checking against (with over 100.000 entries). I am still not convinced that this problem has been solved in movable types 3.2 or any other blog system - either its restricting active commenting from unknown sources or allowing the spammers to get through. I really liked the shared blacklist idea as it allowed anyone without registering or stupidly punching in capcha codes to post a comment without thinking on how to do it and still the number of spams getting through vs. the number of spam trying to get through was extremely minimal. I personally do not post on other blogs who tell me to register or go through a plethora of arcane "verifying" steps until my comment is posted and I think others are acting the same. Basically spam has defeated the free spirit of blogs and if you are a conspiracy theorist you could think that this is its intention and its why there are no stronger enforcements against spammers (especially since 90% of the spam on here came from the US) or it could be "other wing" bloggers giving out addresses in retaliation for blog posts that they don´t like or it could be the corrupt "money rules all" system that every single spammers craves for every single cent and disabling a lot of things that brought them money in the first place - whatever it is it sucks and if I ever meet a spammer on the street I put his head in pile of printed out spam until he drowns in it. So I hope it has not caused much inconvenience for people I will tell the world when all is back to normal again.

17.03.06

The "MagSafe" or why I will never buy a Apple 1.0 product in my life again

magsafe001.jpgApple is overall a great company - at least better then 99% of its competitors in many fields - but there are things this company never ever seems to get right and most of it has to do with its self imposed secrecy. By not allowing user testing on a broad scale in fear that their "revolutionary" products will be revealed to the public they are taking the risk of huge failures on any new technology they impose. After the Titanium G4 Rev 1 fiasko (the frame has now been shattered multiple times, the motherboard has cracks the hinges have completely fallen off - all after 3 years of using - the machine lies in a grave now) I decided to never ever buy a Rev 1 product again - I fall for the G5 - I thought "well its a tower what can go wrong" and bought the G5 dual 2.0 Ghz Rev 1 - and until this day I have a loud noisy tower under my desk that has "chirping noises" that have never been resolved - sometimes they drive me insane. This time around so - also because I lack the funds - I will not jump the gun as the stakes are much much higher then ever before for Apple and that a component failure at a complete architectural change is almost unavoidable. The iMac Intel did fare well until today and there have been only scarce reports of any MacBook problems - but as I reported a couple days ago in my own hands on MacBook review the "all to apparent problems" have shown up in this guys MacBook already - the same chirping "drive me mad" noise that plugs my G5 and the too easely unplugged "Safe Poweradapter". Yet today must be the official Intel Switch Rev 1 GAU for Apple. Readers report of froozen USB devices on the Intel iMacs - especially happening in games - yesterday a guy showed photos of the "you are safer with our easier then smashing a cake unpluggable poweradapter" that was completely fried and also fried the machine! I can clearly see how this happens - if you have the machine on your lap and the powerplug is just slightly tilted it would get off the contacts and a electric arc would form as it does with any other electric plug system that is not 100% attachted - sometimes you see it on old wall plugs when you plug in a connector you get a bright spark - now you can sustain that spark if you plug in the connector not 100% just like 99.9% and a powerfire will occur shortly later. I for one hope to god that apple pulls that feature - as said before in a live performance setting this thing is the absolute problem on a table fully of wires and never enough space or time to setup your thing. Also I think Apple should test technologies like this with its target group and not only its high paid engineers who never seem to use their laptops in a "bed" setting. I like the idea of the MacSafePlug but it is just not working at all in its current incarnation - maybe a round version that plugs in a little deeper would be the way to go?
Anyway its absolutely not surprising to see what happened to Apple as this has happened every single time Apple made a new enclosure or had a vastly different architecture inside their machines - Powerbook 5300, iBook G3, PowermacG4 PCI, PowerMac G5, Powerbook G4. Lets see what Rev 2 brings and maybe just wait until they bring out a real outstanding machine and not just a bridge to go from old to new.

11.03.06

Hands on with a MacBookPro

Yesterday I had the chance to have a hands on with bigger version of the Apple MacBook Pro. First impression is that its just like a G4 Powerbook. Apple really did some miracle thing by just swapping out the internals and for the normal user everything seems to be the same. If you look closer there are some prominent differences that seem awkward. First of all the poweradapter is HUGE. I mean its about half the size more then the original leaving you to lug around a brick that seems heavier and bigger then my Apple Newton! Second its quite loud. The fan sounds like the fan in my aging Titanium - and that is really loud. Then its hot. I wouldn´t say its hotter then the G4 but the heat is spread over the whole enclosure and using it on my lap made me sweat. I am not so keen on the magnetic powerplug. While it seems firmly attached wants you slightly jank it upwards - something that regularely happens when on your lap - it unplugs right away. You just ask why you don´t have any battery left after a while until you noticed the automatic plug has been pulled out. Looking at a performance setting in a club with lots of cables on the table and the powerbook cramped in small space I see that as a HUGE problem - I really have better things to do then check for the powerplug every five minutes... I just see VJs and musicians gaffa the sucker onto the enclosure.
The computer did impress its new owner who just had an aging old PC before. So I would call him switcher and almost first time computer user. The iSight that wanted his photo in the registration prozess, photo booth, keynote and the templates of Pages have impressed him - he is studying bussiness stuff so thats what is his main concern. He was amazed that he actually wanted to make a presentation because it was so much fun -applaud to Apple in the category "Impress First User Experience". As a bussiness student he could "see his investment worthwhile".
I did not have the time yesterday to check the speed of the machine, will do so more thouroughly next week. The UniBinaries that come with it (iLife, iWorks (is that even Uni?) etc) where as fast as the normal G4 (purely subjective) and didn´t seem to cause any problems. Impressive was the OpenGL speed and the quality of the realtime rendered output - good graphic card that sits inside is responsible for that and billion lightyears ahead of the one in my Titanium. What Apple - after 8 years of complaining from my part - still has not understand is the "OpenGL beam sync issue". Connecting the sucker to a DVI flatpanel and choosing a high resolution and then playing some quicktimes resulted in always present "tearing" of the pictures with fast scenes or brightness changes - its just a simple flag to set and most 3rd party apps do that now even in VJ programmer amateur land why can´t Apple enable that flag? Its really disturbing detail. Other then that the machine is of the G4 aluminium quality with the exception that the displays open easier and probably will hold better on the hinge (yes there are people with a G4 powerbook where after 1 -2 years the display breaks off the hinge). I for one will wait out until they have friggin version with Firewire 800 or a similar capable interconnect technology otherwise the HD will be the limiting factor in the multi channel full rez videomixing that we are looking toward.

10.03.06

Rosetta speed A concern for majority of Mac Users!

Even as Macworld spreads the fud of the Rosetta developers after an interview at the Intel Developer Forums I strongly believe that 1/3rd speed slashing Rosetta and the whole transition has deep implications for Mac users that do more then using the machine as a modern typesetter or an expensive HiFi part.
There are still virtually no Intel versions of ANY professional Programm out there. No Publishing, No Vector art, No Video, No Audio, No 3D. What this means that in the last 3 month all vendors of such product either have a wait and see stance or are actively porting their huge codebases over to intel. Apples claim of a "seamless transition that takes only half an hour for the average application" can be called as extreme fud... What else that means that at the moment there is SubZeroInnovation to be found in any Mac version of such programms. That means that in the last three month and the coming three to six month we will see SubZero features added to the High End market of professional applications. With Apple still making over half the money in computer purchases on pro equipment I would counter the claim that "Rosetta speed is of no concern to the users" as MacFUDworld does. Its not that there is a huge demand for UniBinaries at the moment with apple shipping only one Pro Hardware that is even crippled (no FW 800) for Pros just about this week. The more fundamental problem is that a lot of really Pro Apps not coming from Apple have already a feature set that is way behind their Windows counterpart or are highly more unstable then Windows versions. Another six month away those will be even more buggy and have even less features because the developers needed the time to get the code running on two different platforms a daunting task for programms like Maya for exemple that has more lines of code then MacOSX. Also this kills the possibilities for new Apps coming to the mac before the transition is complete. Take the renderer market for example. Multiple render solutions exist for Maya on the PC side yet on the Mac only the absolutely too slow for a small company Mental Ray that comes with Maya or the Pixar/Jobs/Apple owned Renderman that is highly expenisive is available. Other renderer where forthcoming but seem to be put on hold to come out probably Intel only in six month leaving the PowerPC users in the dust - a PPC/Intel devide is propable in six month creating a compatibility nightmare for the current small office mac users.
Not all is bad so. There will be new Apps writen in the meantime especially with Apple tech as UniBinaries that have the potential for true innovation against big players and some decade old codebases will finally have to be cleared (photoshop?!) and put into modern programming metaphers using modern day OS technology. I still have a very mixed feeling and think the next two years will be a mess on the Mac if you are a pro and rely on lots of software to get your thing done.

9.02.06

The Year of the MacOSX exploit

There is this easy going among mac users that we are invulnarible against worms, viruses and hacker attacks. I personally can attest this - in my whole life I had only a few boot sector viruses on my Amiga system back in 1991 - since then and especially since I am a Mac User (ca. 1994) I am absolutely virus free - I have never had a security breach nor did any of the worms touch my system - and I like everyone else I know in the mac community becomes reckless. I have no virusscanner running - partly because the mac virus scanners made the system unstable and in the light of no virus entering my machines I deinstalled them all . like many others have done. Yet the market share of the Mac grows steadily and with that growth the threat matures that we become a target of a virus, a worm or evil hackers or governmental attacks - and such a thing would be devestating - to Apples reputation - its market share and for its users. If I where Apple I would snap up a virus developer, make the software water tight and stable and put it into the kernel forcing autoupdates everytime the user connects to the net to stall such a threat before it becomes reality. A security expert got his system already hacked by some unknown entity without any trace how this hack was done.

7.02.06

Mini RFID - Swallow your trackers

rfid.jpgAs if RFID is not scary enough already Hitachy makes it so ultra small that it is almost invisible. 0.4mm x 0.4mm in size it could be served for lunch and you would not notice it. Then with the right amount of secret trackers someone can plot your waypoints during the day until you go to the toilette - Oh wait they can already track you through your cellphone - well then "they" (as in the evil empire) can track things you carry - like seeing you money end up with large electronic drug dealer (as in MP3s or DVDs) or the such. Well I just can´t see a legitimate use that is not scary - some tech would likely need to be put on a list of "bad technology advancements" or the such and that list would go to the UN as an addition to the "bad weapons" list they have.

2.02.06

Google between God and Death

An interesting article on CNNMoney that is talking about the future of the Search Engine Emperor that we all have that addiction to when it comes to expanding our mind with more or less usefull information from THE net. They interview Ray Kurzweil and a couple of other researchers, futurists and bankers to foresee the future of google. And it goes like this: Either its becoming the evil Media Mogul, or it becomes the Emporer of the Internet, or it will become God once we are ready to upload our soul into the GoogleCollectiveBrain, or it will simply die under its own weight. I would say after seeing the recent discussions on how they do in China and how they would bow down to any government other then their own the active netizens are already becoming aware of the Google gatekeepers power and only one small solution somewhere that would rival the search engine - which is still the core of Google - would take them out immediately leaving shareholders running away as fast as possible leading to a total crash. My bet is here on the distributed search engines like YaCy taking the google crown - especially in the fascist american reality.

20.01.06

MacIntel: Its all about the drivers stupid!

I am refraining from reciting all the Mac News regarding the Intel switch. I still have very mixed feelings - of course I want the faster processors - but I would like even more is clean code running on my computer that is optimized and if the switch killed one thing its architecture optimization and clean programming. I let the developers surprise me with their marvelous code that runs on two architectures as fast as it runs on their native one.
What just struck me so and I have not heard much discussion about it yet is drivers. Of course there are all the printerdrivers a normal mac user ever needs included and most point and shoot cameras have drivers as well, but the professional crowd has things attached that even in the age of plug and play need a driver installation. Scanners, Midigear, Video Output Cards (Firewire IOs) etc etc. Now most of those drivers need to communicate with the kernel on some level and this is where it gets nasty because Rosetta - even in its newest G4/Altivec compatible mode - does not support ANYTHING that talks to the kernel - including 95% of all drivers. Now device makers - especially those that offer products on Wintel and Mactel - are known to be not very fast and responsive when it comes to driver updates - especially for slightly older gear. I can remember waiting for an OSX Scanner driver from Epson about two years. In that regard past transitions in the Mac world did not bode well and the tiny market share had a lot to do with it. I do fully expect a big hassle in this area in the coming six to nine month. At the moment I just would tell everyone with a professional need for their computer equipment that goes beyond the "iApps" to sit out the transition for a while - no matter what Apple says it will not run totally smooth.

16.12.05

Bluetooth Proximity Media Server

or how to spam all bluetooth devices around you at once - that is Consola a new open source application that uses Bluetooth object push to give guerrilla advertisers a better tool for bluetooth abuse. Mac OSX Tiger only.


Consola is a 'Bluetooth Proximity Media Server' application for Mac OS X 'Tiger'.

It detects all Bluetooth enabled devices in range and sends them data such as text, images, animated Gif´s, audio, flash, video, java, or vCards.

You can administer the content you send, and avoid spamming users with repetitive media, and may also schedule and automate the entire process.


PS: As one of the developers of Consola contacted me (look at the comment below) I want to make sure there is not that bad aftertaste on this article: I do think the program is great - yes it has potential for "misuse" but also has promising feature that I did not comment on when I was writing this rushed out article. The tool can be used in museums and interactive installations and city information system etc. as well as in guerrilla spamming. I do not think that any tool is bad just because you can use it for something not so desirable - you can use a brick to kill someone but that doesn´t mean that we should outlaw or blackmail the use of bricks in general. The programmers obviously did a fine job with the program - its stable robust and clean and the idea is entering new grounds - I just played the devils advocate a little too much and apologize for that. I sincerely hope that Consola is continuing on the idea and tell me how their blacklist works on my phone so I can lock out notorious bluetooth spammer (not that I have encountered any but you never know)

30.10.05

HELLO !.. Vwb Evymrjvqibdunb

unknown.gifSpam these days - my filters work very good and it seems to get less in general judging my junkbox filled with only 15 mails over the last week - an all time low. At times so some spam filters through that is absolutely bizarre and I can not understand why someone is wasting time sending it in the first place. The best one since ages (right next to the one without content, subject or sender) is the one with the subject you see in the title. Apparently it comes from "dqjfwjzikgjffiaz@singapore.net". Now the only content it contained is the picture you see on the left. I did not alter it to any degree it came as you see it. Now someone tell me please what purpose this serves - that the sender is expecting me to go into photoshop and un-skew a unsolicited email? All I can read is that its "new!" and only $3.00. Anyway cryptologists of the future will have fun de-scrambling this nonsense in 50 years trying to see the deeper message within.

22.10.05

Cellphone on a Chip

sim_ura.jpgIts more and more confusing if I should put certain products into the "ComputaStuff" or the "FutureIsNear" category as some products seems to be straight out of Sci-Fi movies of the past. Now Sharp has introduced something that is so übercool (yes with umlaut :P) that its hard to not say "FutureIsNear". After seeing all Cellphones in the world shrink and getting smaller and even having photo cameras in them or MP3 players or both or even tv receivers you might ask how small the cellphones can actually get. Well Sharp has the definite answer for now: about the size of a SIM card - yes that card that hold your mobile phone account information might soon pack everything you need to make a call - except the battery, the screen and the antenna. Now you think "why would I need this silly thing" and the clarification for that comes from the consortium that develops these. According to engadget the following companies sitting on the "W-SIM" forum that oversees the development on cellphones on a chip: Casio, Kyocera, Sanyo, Toshiba, Tomy, IBM Japan, Bandai, Fujitsu, Microsoft, Apple and about 40 other big industry players. Now the implications are manyfold. Have a phone on a chip and pop it into anything that has a numberpad and a screen and maybe an antenna and surf the web or make a call over existing cellphone lines - byebye cellphones? Maybe not so but having especially Apple sitting on that board proofes the most interesting thing - while sony is pushing its MP3 handies down your throat (and yes I might be getting one soon instead of on iPod) Apple might just push from the other side - making your phoning experience an addition to the iPod - in form of a plug in card - if you want it make it an option. The W-SIM seems the most appropiate thing for that approach - oh and while you are at it just plug in the same card into you computer and surf the web.
Not so fast. As with any new tech there is a catch. Right now the cards can only do PHS. What the heck is PHS? Its like GSM or UMTS but has a much smaller range and is only in widespread use in Japan - where seemingly doesn´t matter if you have an antenna every 300 meter to make this system work spotless. I just think that the W-SIM will be available for UMTS as well very soon - otherwise it just won´t make any sense to have such a large international industry consortium overlooking the development. Interesting to follow and watch indeed.

Holgraphic Storage - the real deal

3060000000050293.JPG.jpg There have been two development in the Technology World in the last ten years that have been fascinating to me but have never produced actual products. The first is the e-paper technology and it seems like we are closing in on final products in that department soon - I expect to replace my nonexistent wallpaper with cheap modifiable video capable e-paper in less then 10 years and play in the first club that is immersed in e-paper screens all around in five years time - optimistic I know... Anyway the second biggest unresolved problem the digital world faces is backing up millions of trillions of bytes. Well there is that new format war on the horizon that promises "up to 100 GB of storage" in the next 5 years. HD-DVD or Blueray is the question and at the moment it looks like the more storage offering Blueray has its nose in front. Then that 100GB in five years and probably more 25 GB or maybe 50 GB next year- I still would need 20 discs (and about 10 hours) to back up all my data and I have virtually no MP3 or Hollywood rips on my HD - its all self made data - and anyone doing MoPics - even in lousy DV compressed Video Resolution - not even uncompressed, HD or 2k / 4k film res - will know that those gigabyte get eaten away fast fast. So only 50 GB? Please please NOOOO. I want to back up ALL my data to something secure in one go and make two secure copies in less then an hour. The hope for me was always on holographic storage since I first read about it in 1998 or something. It sounded promising back then and it didn´t sound extremely complicated - so in 7 years not a single product has emerged. That seems about to change as the company that holds all the patents to holographic storage and has working prototypes of media and recording machines is only looking for investment so they can ramp up their production and go into large scale distribution. What are they offering? Up to 500 GB on credit card sized media or up to 1TB on initial launch on a round DVD sized media - Possibility to go up to 3.6 GB soon. Now who in the world wants to have a DRM controlled 50 GB storage device if for a similar price and size you get 20 times more? The only problem Optware - the developer of holographic storage in form the HVD and HVC (Holographic Versatile Card in Credit Card form) faces is that they need venture capital for production and they are looking for that right now in the US. I for one can´t wait for this tremendously promising looking storage technology that would finally move backup storage back where it belongs - cheap, easy and larger then internal HD. And yes caddies are a good thing if they protect my data from scratches - I was never complaining about floppy disks having a plastic protective shelf around their precious innards to protect my data.

13.10.05

FollowUp: Alias goes to Autodesk - ask the managers

VFX world (free registration required) has asked the three top managers in the upcoming buyout of Alias about the future of Alias products - such as Maya, Motion Builder and Studio Tools. The interview is interesting as both sides see the products complement each other rather then beeing in competition with Studio Tools more for concept design and AutoCad more for prototyping - Maya more for Character Design and 3DStudio more for level editing (games). Motion Builder is seen as bridge between Maya and 3D Studio and Maya is still geared toward entertainment as 3D Studio probably will be more tailored towards the gaming industry. No word on platform compatibility of Aliases products in the future...

12.10.05

Jack the Rippa: Video iPod with universal dock and Apple Remote

videoIpodRemote.pngNow if you thought I am done text blogging today - sorry I get on your nerve one more time. The last post was more about the inside of the new Video centric apple announcements (and I can´t say how happy I am after all this music crap the last four years) the new video iPod comes with an optional Universal Dock that in turn is usable with all dockable iPods and this Dock has an IR (yes that old technology still in use) interface for apple new Remote Control - creatively called the "Apple Remote". With that you can control your iPod from the distance (and the new iMac if you have one - why the - sorry for the strong word - fuck not bluetooth?) Anyway this is better then any DVD player. Just put the iPod in the dock put the dock on top of your home entertainment system and sit back and watch those 150 hours of h.264 encoded video - oh yeah its 320x240 but most DVD rips are 320x240 and are probably of worse quality then the good h.264. This is da rippas dream :)

Video iTunes: 320x240 is IN

iTunes61.pngOh my god... We have now official backing for the half resolution to be the next big thing... after Veoh officially tuts 320x240 as the big innovation in content streaming now Apple does so too - this in the year of HD who would have thought. In addition to the already available Music videos - now $1.99 - you can also download the two best running US-TV-Shows such as Desperate Housewives - for $1.99 per show - and some Pixar short films - yes you guessed it also for $1.99 per episode. iTunes6 is the new version that supports video a little better then before and is now premiering vlogcasts. All videos are secured by fairplay and are not burnable to dvd/cd - you are allowed to put them on any number of iPods and up to 5 computers - not too bad. ALL videos are 320x240 making the number one VJing resolution and the number one vlogging resolution the number one internet streaming resolution. It will be MPEG4 a n d H.264 ... no sweat to change the vjblog over to H.264 just yet (so I will double check). The new video capable iPods costs $299 for 30 gig and $399 for 60 gig. Now someone want to support a poor artist?
The prospect that apple wents with the defacto standard of 320x240 and does not force push H.264 is remarkable - I really thought if they do video iPod they gonna push the envelope - they didn´t and it maybe is again a smart move as they put the poor content developers outside the major production studios in a competitive position as of quality - EVERYONE can produce a professional looking 320x240. Now lets see this interesting development and how it unfolds in the vlogger scene - oh yeah I need to do an entry :P good days indeed...

iTunes62.png

iTunes6: it converted all my videocasts that I subscribed to and imported a couple of normal Mpeg4s - from where I am still investigating and its outright cool.

UPDATE: The video specs for the iPOD (not the iTunes) are as following:

H.264 video up to 768 kbps, 320 x 240, 30 frames per second; MPEG-4
video up to 2.5mbps, 480 x 480, 30 frames per second

I guess everyone will go H.264 with 768 soon as this is good quality with minimal file size but good that none of the vloggers have to make their entries backward compatible (wouldn´t have been much of a problem over here but still good to save the hassle)

Video iPod? No I can not resist ;)

"It has come to my attention that a big video blog has been asked to be used for an Apple presentation tomorrow" This text is circulating the vlogosphere left and right - and in all respect I think - yes we are seeing a video iPod today - and no the vjblog was not asked ;) It will be the "video starter" pod with music videos and video blogs in mind - maybe Apple has teamed up with the BBC archive to provide some more valuable content - an iTunes - Movie - store fully functioning but without much "hollywood content" so they can make the big movie corpos a fully functional offer. What will that mean for the vlogosphere? BIG THINGS as the vlogger would be in the position to fill the videoPods with content that is just fine to watch on the small screen.
But in the end it could be something not iPoddy - or a combination of a videoiPod with a settop box acting as the iPod dock to watch the videos on the Home Entertainment system and this settop box has something like Airtunes for movies build in to fill up the iPod the settop box or whatever and on top the settop box could record tv straight to the iPod. Whatever will come we will see today some times - video iPod would be exiting but scary for the just starting vlogosphere who hasen´t fully found its way just yet...


UPDATE: And yes in addition to a chic new iMac Apple just announced the jump start for the vlogger scene - a video iPod with h.264 capabilities... I dig and report...

5.10.05

Autodesk aquires Alias

We have now officially entered the IT timevortex. If someone a year ago would have told me that Adobe buys Macromedia, Apple moves to Intel Processors and Autodesk would buy Alias I would have called the doctors.
Yes its true the company that makes the coolest 3D program in the world - Maya - is beeing bought up by its biggest competitor who makes the most Windows looking and awkward 3D program in the world - 3D Studio Max. 182 million Dollars later the most talented 3D artists in the world ask if they now have to relearn a new 3D tool from ground up (and yes in todays complex 3D tools that is a task of up to 6 month to be on the same level as before). If Autodesk will kill Maya or only the Linux and Mac versions or fuse Maya and 3D studio (for the worse) or what will happen with Motionbuilder and and and... And so I am stranded again with a new 3D tool in my toolbox that I learned over the past year (trying to catch up to the industry standard) with a platform underneath that makes another fundamental shift and with the outlook that the next 2-3 years everything will just stay as it is and just be "recompiled, adjusted, bugfixed". Now I might have to bite the bullet and look at this pesky Blender 3D or maybe Softimage makes a Mac version soon?

Highend 3D has the most indepth info on the matter

Update: Macnews.de has asked the marketing manager of Autodesk about the fate of Maya and its cross platform develpment. The statement is that at the moment neither maya nor its compatibility with the platforms it runs on are object to the red ink pen - at the moment...

8.06.05

3D Scanning for the Masses

3dscannerexample.pngThrough Hackaday I stumbled across a project that I find very very noteworthy. A 3D scanner that cost you only US$90 and comes with open source software is an embedded system that you can run through a webbrowser - now THAT is what I call real innovation - first it doesn´t lock you in with any OS secondly its really really cheap thirdly its made out of customizable parts and you are encouraged to roll your own. It will not replace any modelling skillz and you will still need a lot of understanding of polygons in your 3d program of choise but it makes a good resource for 3D quickies and Art Projects.

6.06.05

Rosetta inside - PPC Classic Mode

Sorry for the Apple flushing but I think that is overly interesting to a lot of people who don´t believe my claim that the transition will be utterly painful. Rosetta is not the "translating it all" stone that the original has given mankind. Its more a bad hack to ensure that some apps are making it over. Classic environment is what comes close to it but even that seemed to be more backwards compatible then this is. All Applications that require a G4 or G5 (and there are a lot out there) will simply not work with Rosetta on an Macintel box. The kernel extension thing we had in Classic and everyone knows that another ton of apps will be bitten by that. And no code for Altivec - given that Apple almost forced developers to use Altivec there is not much media related applications out there who have not at least a little bit of Alitvec in them.

from Apples universal binary pdf:
page 68:

What Can Be Translated?
Rosetta is designed to translate currently shipping applications that run on a PowerPC with a G3
processor and that are built for Mac OS X.

Rosetta does not run the following:
- Applications built for Mac OS 8 or 9
- Code written specifically for AltiVec
- Code that inserts preferences in the System Preferences pane
- Applications that require a G4 or G5 processor
- Applications that depend on one or more kernel extensions
- Kernel extensions
- Bundled Java applications or Java applications with JNI libraries that can’t be translated

How It Works
When an application launches on a Macintosh using an Intel microprocessor, the kernel detects whether the application has a native binary. If the binary is not native, the kernel launches the binary using Rosetta. If the application is one of those that can be translated, it launches and runs, although not as fast as it would if run as a native binary. Behind the scenes, Rosetta translates and executes the PowerPC binary code.
Rosetta runs in the same thread of control as the application. When Rosetta starts an application, it translates a block of application code and executes that block. As Rosetta encounters a call to a routine that it has not yet translated, it translates the needed routine and continues the execution. The result is a smooth and continual transitioning between translation and execution. In essence, Rosetta and your application work together in a kind of symbiotic relationship. Rosetta optimizes translated code to deliver the best possible performance on the nonnative architecture. It uses a large translation buffer and it caches code for reuse. Code that gets reused repeatedly in your application benefits the most because it needs to be translated only once. The system uses the cached translation, which is faster than translating the code again.
...

Quotes about apple on intel

cnet.com report:
After Jobs' presentation, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller addressed the issue of running Windows on Macs, saying there are no plans to sell or support Windows on an Intel-based Mac..... However, Schiller said the company does not plan to let people run Mac OS X on other computer makers' hardware. "We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac," he said.

www.wired.com
In the PC industry, Apple lost the productivity/office era to Microsoft, but it's trying to get the jump on the next big thing: the entertainment/creativity era, and Apple's going to drag its users, even if they're kicking and screaming, with it.

a comment on burningbird.nets entry
I’m feeling very depressed right now. I hope Apple has a lot of cash on hand to survive the inevitable Osborning of their current hardware.
I hate computers….

two comment on arstechnic.com forums
Even though I haven't owned an Apple box since a ][+, I'm sorry to see this happen. Repeatedly in college and beyond, I came to admire the details of the 68K architecture more than X86, and was happy that at there was at least one major customer for the Motorola lineage. C'est la vie.
Of course, the PC architecture itself isn't anything to write home about either; if Apple can take X86 and wrap it in a better mousetrap, I'm all for it.
- Spacemaggot.

m a small Mac developer (I make a video compositing app), so I can at least speak for myself... I'm incredibly disappointed by this news. I can't see any advantage for either developers or users.
Users will have to put up with a fractured platform - some apps will be PPC only and run only in slow emulation on x86, many other apps will be x86 only and probably won't run on PPC at all. It will be a major negative point against the "it just works" philosophy.
Many developers were relieved that the Mac's transitional period was seemingly over and OS X APIs had just become stable a month ago. Now everyone will have to buy new hardware, rewrite performance-intensive portions of their apps, and suffer for a year while Mac sales collapse - nobody wants a PPC Mac now, that's for sure.
My app uses AltiVec all over the place because Apple has been touting it for five years as a great solution and an integral part of the Mac hardware platform. I'll have to rewrite all that code. Apple has essentially lied to all their developers about their commitment to AltiVec. Yeah, that really makes me excited about a sudden architecture flip-flop, one which looks completely unnecessary to make matters worse...
Intel's roadmap certainly doesn't inspire confidence. I don't see any evidence that IBM would have been unable to make a competitive PPC chip for Apple, had Apple been willing to pay. Instead, Apple's hubris appears to be so great that they're willing to risk the entire platform.
- pavlov

comments on slashdot.org

...The rumors were only half-true.
Apple is adopting Intel, but is not "ditching" IBM.
New G5 towers will still be around for at least another year, and probably at least two. Intel is probably going to start by replacing the G4 CPUs in Powerbooks and minis.
At the Stevenote, he informed devs that they would be supporting both platforms for a long time to come. - Golias

...For Apple's actual customers, this fucking sucks....It took five years or so, but the software library has now gotten to the point where if I suddenly find myself thinking "hmm, I need an app that does blah" I can look on versiontracker and more likely than not find it.
Except now this new transition is going to make that library restart once again at zero... - mcc

....The transition was so difficult for the audio and video industry, that for many people it STILL hasn't happened. You can find workhorse macs running OS9 in nearly every recording studio and post production house in LA..... - soupdevil

...Financially, this is going to be a big bump for Apple. I'm certainly not going to order any more new Macs until the Intel systems are available. This may be one reason why they chose to do it now, when the success of the iPod will carry them through.
It may be the best decision for Apple, but I still think that it would have been better if they'd been able to reach a deal with IBM to develop the PPC further. I would much rather have seen multicore PPC's. - tgibbs

...did he say anything about a two-button mouse? - Nice2Cats

My worry is that the move to x86 will only cause stability issues for the OS. This is from Apple's own transition doc:
"The x86 C-language calling convention (application binary interface, or ABI) specifies that arguments to functions are passed on the stack. The PowerPC ABI specifies that arguments to functions are passed in registers. Also, x86 has far fewer registers, so many local variables use the stack for their storage. Thus, programming errors, or other operations that access past the end of a local variable array or otherwise incorrectly manipulate values on the stack may be more likely to crash applications on x86 systems than on PowerPC." - tu_coates

Apple posted Intel Universal Binary[apple.com] documentation to their website. It's interesting, and everyone should read it. Notable is a caveat that OpenFirmware is going away. That seems to point towards more standard hardwware. - Knytefall


5.06.05

That rumor is on again

For the 50th times in the last 10 years the web is a buzz with the theory of apple switching to Intel processors. Well I don´t like to chime in but: if Apple switches platforms again I am seriously thinking switching to something that has not been invented - or maybe even Linux. I have been through two conversions with apple and each one took 5 years to complete. 680xx to PPC OS9 to OSx. If you like me have been through that you just whole heartily feel that this can not be true. Finally Apple has an Operating System that does not suck big time (it still sucks but much less then anything else out there) Apple is finally on a processor platform that has a future - even though the platform has its pitfalls but we have been through worse times (G4 400Mhz anyone?). To make another switch I do not have the time nor the energy.
I am testing OSX for Apple under the Appleseed program and I know that there are programmers out there who are very relieved that their code is finally working the way they expect this to work. To port this OS to a new platform AND make it run as smooth as it is today on the PPC hardware will take Apple at LEAST 3 years if not the same 5 years it has always took them to make a transition - only to be again at the mercy of a different processor supplier that they have no business experience with - top that off that finally Apple will loose a lot of the faithful souls that have stuck with them because they believed that one day Apple would give them a computing experience that is not getting in their way of working or creating. Not only Zealots but also technology and community leaders - people that also paved the way for successes like the iPod in the first place.
I personally would have a total let down - not because I don´t like Apple having the best processor in their machine - because for another 5 years it will be uncertainty, bugs, crashes, looking for all the cool small apps that haven´t been ported, setting up a new production pipeline, getting new software updates in general, loosing compatibility to a lot of loved tools where there are no developers anymore, loosing a lot of small developers in general, having to optimize the OS to get the speed that is expected - I clearly still can not see why Apple would do that EXCEPT:
They get HUGE amount of cash buy in from Intel because Intel needs a new image. They partner with Intel against the Sonys and Microsofts of this world. Still this would be the last sell out of the Apple soul - if it ever existed.
Again I doubt it. I might see Apple bringing out a super hot settop box that uses some lowpower Intel processor that acts like a wireless (WiMax) external harddrive with some brain or some similar consumer shit but I do not believe with the experience of 12 years on Apples platform now that this switch will happen - ever.
I shouldn´t call the night when its not even day yet. Let us see what the mighty Steve has for its faithful developers tomorrow. A switch to Intel would give him a lot of "buhs" in the audience that he faces tomorrow and he likes handclapping more I think. 7 p.m. CET we will start to know more.

2.06.05

Apple to go WiMax?

Some voices that try to analyze the closed door meetings between Apple and Intel in the past week are now pointing to a commitment to WiMax - the new wireless technology that is spearheaded by Intels development of an integrated chip - by Apple. Apple was one of the first vendors who shipped WiFi - aons ago it seems - in form of the Ufo like Basestations and as an add in option to all of their Powerbooks and iBooks. Now every portable Apple ships has Wifi build in and using it is as easy as opening up you portable. So its not surprising that Apple wants to retain that lead and WiMax - which promises long distance wireless at much higher speeds then todays WiFi - seems to be the right fit. Yes please more radiation to the computers to fry the rest of my wave-bombarded brain.
Generally I think WiMax promises to be a great development but I can already see it beeing regulated down as it would basically mean every person with 200 bucks to spare could have a multiple-mile transmitter and that this could provoke a true uncontrolled "citizens" net - which is never gonna happen with our powerhungry ruling and rich corporation class. Just look how they try to fight open WiFi networks by making everything open = evil because they could be used for terroristic or child pornography activities.
I would LOVE to have a WiMax antenna on my house and be able to directly connect to a few friends in town without the need of the telkos spying and offering me a modest 1 MBit down and 128k up. Now before everyone jumps and says that this would be used for pirating or other terroristic activities - what about the simple desire to BROADCAST - something that I feel I have as much right to do as the mega corpos or the government - something that should be affordable and easy so a lot of people could do this - something that I see as the real reason for limiting my DSL upload bandwidth. Now lets hope Jobs has this little liberal rebel left in him and that he has this vision to empower the ordinary to free their thoughts.

18.05.05

Sharing one Mouse and Keyboard across multiple Computers

Hackaday informed of something wonderful. A small little "hack app"called synergy that lets you use one single mouse and keyboard across multiple computers. The programm also transfers you clipboards across the machines. So just scroll over to the edge of you screen and instantly see you mouse on the other computer and have all your current belonging taking over as well. Sadly the software is not localized for german keyboards yet and also the clipboardsharing only works for text at the moment - but its actively developed and works on UNIX and Windows machines as well. So you can move your mouse from your powerbook over to your Linux machine and see it appear there all while working on your ergonomically keyboard.
Or have two VJ machines next to each other and only one mouse and keyboard in front of your video mixer so you don´t have to cross your arm while performing... ;)

UPDATE: there is also a programm called Teleport just for OSX that does it all in a GUI environment and seems much more polished.

22.04.05

Blue-Ray and HD-DVD to merge?

One has to wonder if the new management at Sony is responsible for a lot of interesting decisions coming out of the consumer and media products giant. While all people had its eyes targeted on a mud throwing adventure alá VHS vs. Betamax Toshiba and Sony seemed to have agreed - after only three years - to unify the upcoming high density, high quality DVD standard. Both of the competing companies now believe that a market adoption is vitally dependent on the simplification of the format - and two are twice as hard to swallow for customers then one. No it will be utterly interesting to see what comes out of this as about any detail of the two specs where different. Once could hold 50 GB (Blue-Ray) one only 25 GB (HD-DVD) one was to use Quicktime Container, MPEG-4 and AAC (Blue-Ray) and one Microsofts VC-9 codec (Windows Media 9). The concept, supporters and believers of both could not be more different - to unify those will be a task not so easy as it looks. I always was hoping for a market shakeout as Sonys format had already a head start with recorders and players available and the "better" guys and the better tech in the team. I always thought that competition would drive better technology even if it means that sometimes you are on the wrong side of the table and have made a wrong investment.
The outcome is kinda speculative - either you have cheap discs that can only hold 25GB with expensive sony drives to burn and read them and Microsoft DRM on em or you have expensive discs that hold 50GB with cheap drives from toshiba and still Microsoft DRM on them. I think the consumer will be the one who will benefit the least from this - but I love to be proofed wrong on this.

old arstechnica take on it:
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20050419-4824.html

new arstechnica take on it:
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20050421-4835.html

18.04.05

Drop da Bomb - Adobe buys Macromedia

What sounds like a bad April 1st joke has really happened. Grafiksoftware maker Adobe buys grafiksoftwaremaker Macromedia as heise.de reports. Everyone working in the creative field will see that this is about the worst thing that can happen as it effectivly gives Adobe the monopoly over the whole creative industry. The only real competitor to them was Macromedia that put some good products on the block to give adobe a worthy competitor. On the other side Macromedia was the more hated company. They subsequently made bad business decisions. The could have elevated flash to be a much more integrated tool by opening it up completely and trying to make it a webstandard - instead they kept it as close as possible did not go away from the binäry format for flash. With dreamweaver promising "WYSIWYG" webpublishing it always failed to produce platform independent code (most sites look good on Internet Explorer but fail to load properly on any other browser out there) but it had a market dominance in that field and LOTS of websites are produced with dreamweaver (look the code of those websites and you see why its always a bad idea to use "WYSIWYG" editors.
Adobe of course is not much better. With Photoshop steering more and more in the direction of an overbloated unstable piece of software that is targeted more and more in the direction of the consumer market (who has no use for about 98% of the functions that are present in photoshop and the Pro market has no use of 90% of the new functions in Creative Suite 2). GoLive might produce some better code in html (still far from perfect) but the usability was about as good as writing the code by hand.
The real battle between Adobe and Macromedia was always in the Publishing market. Freehand or Illustrator is the question when you are going into the field - the two programs in its core have the same output: 2d vector graphics. The approach of both is fundamentally different. One feels more like an addon to photoshop with reduced functionality as much as possible (Illustrator) the other got very bloated with tons of functions over the course of time and can now even do animations(freehand). I for one always liked Freehand - I started out on it and really liked the early versions - recently I switched as the code bloat that went on in Freehand was unbearable for users that just wanted to make 2d vector art. And there is much more about the fundamentals of those two companies and their approach to software.
I think it was just a matter of time that Macromedia got bought up. The first signs of trouble came a couple of years ago when they got bought up by company that produced server database software - a company that never had any experience in the grafiksoftware market. And from that point on Macromedia was about flash - every single decission in Macromedias software updates was circling about flash integration - and that is what made things even worse. Flash is ok - don´t get me wrong. You can make some small vector animation with it - that is great - but touting Flash as THE content delivering platform on the net is a failing approach - especially when you make it closed source and don´t let the web at large have a say on the development. Putting video into flash is like putting a Truckmotor into a Smart (ah the car car comparison). It could do more if it could carry the load in first place. Putting a closed source video codec that is five years old into a binäry container is pure bullshit.
It seems that predictions that Macromedia is tumbling blindly through corporate space seemed right and the only thing that kept them afloat was that the flash plugin was installed with every webbrowser from NS 4.0 onward. That is what Adobe is interested in - either by killing flash completely or by making the flash plugin display SVG code. That would be a good thing about the byeout. What will be bad is that adobe has completely stifled all innovation on the part of the market that was in their hands (it took them 5 years to include stupid RAW support to photoshop, it took them about the same time to include high dynamic range image support - they still have not included floating point support for image manipulation and so on and so on) now they can just sit back and relax and not worry that another company will be able to make a product that rivals Adobe in about the next 5 years - that is about as long as would take any company to make a stable product that could rival the 15 years or longer development of the existing products. Just to secure their income for the rest of all our lives adobe gets all the patents from macromedia which makes development of any other graphic tool almost impossible if you are bound to IP property laws of the US and soon Europe.
All very very bad for the creative space. I just hope Apple can set a counter example with integrating most of the image manipulation code into the OS and then let very small developers (or the content creators themself) create specified application for specific tasks very easily. Its the only way out of a Microsoft like situation on the grafiksoftware market.

13.04.05

Tiger on 29th of April

I have no Idea if I am lifted from NDA yet but the cat is out of the sack as we say here in germany and it will fuse with your loved computer on April 29th. I think personally that it might not be such a good idea to release it now but what do I know right? There will surely be user complains about various things but the general OS is great. The new features are clearly visible everywhere. Apple has put attention to detail - cleaned up the code and has implemented new ideas which is good.
I will report more and have a new version of my special Tiger version of the "Optimizing OSX manual for live video performances" available. There are also some more prototypen gadgets in the pipeline :) I will release some of this right when Tiger ships so you can anticipate the 29th even more.

9.04.05

Get perpendicular - 10x Hardwarestorage on the horizon

Even though I always hope that one day we will get freed from Mechanical moving parts inside a computer its still always a relieve when Harddrives as we know them today are getting bigger, faster better as my job requires LOTS of storage that should be as safe as possible. Well Hitachy - the company that bought IBMs harddrive storage unit - has a solution: Let the bits stand up instead of lay down. Sounds strange but seems an interesting concept. If you have no idea what I am talking about Hitachy has a "geeky, strange, funny, silly, ugly" flash animation that explains it to everyone - even if you have no idea how a harddrive functions. I think they should find better musicians and better hand draw artists but the general idea to transport such a difficult topic to the masses is noteworthy and very interesting concept.

4.04.05

4337 600673

Google in Hax0r stlye:
http://www.600673.com/

also google typed in as cellphone number (not so cool but maybe useful):
http://www.466453.com

31.03.05

Moving OSX homefolder to another partition

During betatesting I need to re-install OSX roughly every 2 weeks. Its all no problem on my big machine where I have a seed partition and just let the OSX installer grab my user data from the old system. Also not much changes on this system inside the /User folder as all my changing things like email etc. are on the powerbook and this machine is only for production.
Yet on mentioned powerbook it has been a real pain. As I get many mails, chat logs and other stuff that changes in my roughly 2.9GB homefolder I have to manually back this up and then reinstall it and correct the permissions. I have been looking for some way to change this by having a symlink /User folder on a different partition. Now the Appleseeders came to help and gave me a link.
Here are the instructions on how to do it from the command line. Works well so far.

http://www.bombich.com/mactips/homedir.html

UPDATE:
After sifting through another beta install I thought I would like to enlighten the world with some more explanations then there are on the original webpage explaining how to move your system folder or how to choose a system folder on another partition without moving...

Obviously the following line (the ditto command) copies your user to "OtherPartition" which can also be a subfolder of said partition (/OtherPartition/Subfolder/User )


sudo ditto -rsrcFork /Users /Volumes/OtherPartition/Users

the next one is the important one that actually sets your user to the new directory in the netinfo utility:


sudo niutil -createprop / /users/username home \
/Volumes/OtherPartition/Users/username

then you delete your original user directory in /Users/... Only do this if you are certain that your moved directory works as expected (logging out and back in)

sudo rm -dr /Users

then you tell the OS and all Apps that your new /Users/ is in the new location via symlinking it.

sudo ln -s /Volumes/OtherPartition/Users /Users


But what if you didn´t copy the user but want to use a user that you moved from somehwere else (or moved before you installed OSX anew)?

1. Make a new temporary user with the name of the user you want to use.
2. Set owner of the directory that holds the user you want to use to the user you just created.
sudo chown createduser:admin /Volumes/OtherPartition/Users/wanteduser
3. Set permissions to read.write.execute user only.
sudo chmod 700 /Volumes/OtherPartition/Users/wanteduser
4. Put in the above.
sudo niutil -createprop / /users/username home \
/Volumes/OtherPartition/Users/wanteduser

5. Now you could delete your new User and symlink the new User Directory as seen above... I run it without it and have the created user as backup in there. I think that is a good way to do it...

29.03.05

ANT´s not Television

If you are frequent to this blog you heard my multiple ramblings on how bad i think television is for the population on the planet. Actually I did something I rarely do - criticize without having a handy solution. The world will breath again the solution is here and its even better then I ever thought as it combines two of the three coolest web-technologies and puts it in an interface as easy to use as a TV box. The ANT is here and their slogan is "ANT´s not television". The slogan is a ripoff from "GNU´s not Linux" and could not be better suited. ANT gives you a nice clean interface as easy to use as the Quicktime Player and a TV set fused together.
The cool thing: its actually nothing more then an RSS feed reader. Yes this little "rss feed" or "xml feed" or "atom feed" you see on the right of many blogs and more and more newssites is used to give you an almost TV like experience. You alter the RSS feed a little (for example in movable type you put <$MTEntryRelEnclosures$> in the RSS 2.0 feed template) and then put in a rel="enclosure" in between your link to the movie you post and from that the ANT filters out the movies. You subscribe to the feed through ANT and click on refresh and there you go. You just watch the movies as they come in. You can refresh all of your subscribed feeds during the night and watch true Blog TV in the morning. You have to try it out to see how cool and easy this is.
After you download ANT you have some pre-installed feeds in there. You can just go to add to add another feed like the one for my vj-blog (copy link).
This programs brings you the closest to TV experience on the web while at the same time beeing MILES away from beeing TV as this is truly giving everyone the right to be a publisher of their own TV channel - on demand and fast :)

25.01.05

New Keyboard Layout: Alphabetical?

That the QWERTZ(Y) layout of all keyboards that are connected to the computer is lacking in function might not be so abvious if you have never used anything else. I can only barely remember typing on a very shitty keyboard of some obscure all in one East German Computer (KC87?) that had alphabetical key layout and all I can think of is that it sucked bad. Now a company in the US is attempting to mass market a alphabetical layed out keyborad to newbie computer users. The keyboard is ergonomic and has a good feel to the keys. It has about HALF the number of keys then a normal QWERTZ(Y) (53:101) and is radically different. Will it catch on? I doubt it. The QWERTZ layout has so much lead time and about 99.9% of all computer users are used to this style. Newbies will take the route of the standard. Even though QWERTZ is no the best way to type at least after 10 years I can manage to type blind and that on all keyboard. Introducing new keyboard standards will only make matters worse when you are not at home. Imagine a seasoned programmer going to his uncles house and trying to fix his home PC that has a alphabetical layout with half the keys then he is used to. Maybe will implement it together with the stupidity of the One Button Mouse..

23.01.05

Cell processor part III -> The Apple Connection?

When Steve Jobs invited Kunitake Ando, president of Sony on stage for his annual January keynote every one who read or saw this had its head spinning. What was this? There could only be one more thing that is stranger and that would be inviting Bill Gates on this stage. Rumors and personal thoughts are rampant throughout the net. It would all have made sense when Sonys president would have unvieled some new ultra cool HDV gadget that only works with Mac (or at least works with Macs first). But there was no announcements. The only thing was the pretty cool HDV cam from Sony on stage - but this was about it. Instead the Sony president went into classic japanese philosophical talk about how wonderful the world is and that the cooperation between Apple and Sony - besides some rivalries - is wonderful and all. Happy sunshine... all is about money and market so this had to be something deeper and I could not figure it out.
Then yesterday I read Robert Xs I, Cringerly blog and it talks about how Apple might enter the Movie distribution bussiness with HD(T)V only. That this is the only way to go forward against cable company monopolies and all. And then I look at my lousy 768Down 128Up DSL line and I think download streaming a HDV movie is about as fast as driving to a VideoRentalStore on the other side of the globe. I already wait very very long for a Movie Trailer that is not even normal Video resolution and has only three minutes content. So I guess that is not it - or at least not the full story.
Then I stumble across an article today that desects the Cell processor developed by Sony, Toshiba and (manufactured by) IBM. And then it all falls together... Apple is on board even though through the nature of their secrecy regarding future products they have not made it public. Apple could benefit from the Cell processor tremendously. Its a processor build around distributed computing. So called Software Cells - or apulets - are sending themself around a home stuffed with hardware Cells (the actual processors in a multitude of machines ranging from HDTV sets to Playstation III, Server and PDAs, to Apples minis II or even the future iPods?) .
Now I would go even further. Apple is using a derative of the Cell in all future machines. The Cell is derivative of the Power5 architecture. Now Apples up coming "G6" processor will also be a derivative of the same Power5 architecture. Am I implying that the Cell and the G6 will basically be close to the same thing? Not exactly the same but I would suggest that they are fitting together so well that in an adhoc Cell network a G6 will also be recognized as a Cell and be used as a node.
There is another fitting too close to overlook and its the Vector Unit or APUs (Attached Processor Units) in the Cell Processor. A Cell processor will have 8 APUs (in addition to one Processor Unit (PU)) and they closely resemble what we know today as AltiVec. The difference is that each APU is an independent processor (while AltiVec is always dependent on its host) and it has 128 registers instead of Alitvecs 32 but its likely that the instruction set is very similar and both are clearly vector processing beasts.
Still not very convinced that Apple is going the Cell way the article points out this:

If I was to write Cell code on OS X the exact same Cell code would run on Windows, Linux or Zeta because in all cases it is the hardware Cells which execute it.

That goes that the Cell processor is absolutely abstraction layer free. That means programs that run on Cells are all the same as they run on the hardware and not on some obscure abstraction layer inside the OS. Of course that would mean all the OS´s have to be rewritten to run on the Cell. Now I do think that Apple is the vendor that is in the best position to write an OS for the Cell as the Cell is a derivative of the Power family and the G5/G6 are/will be also - but don´t count out Linux (with PPC Linux) and Microsoft (with XBox development on PPC and VirtualPC software).
Now another thing that connects the Cell with appearance of Sonys president: DRM. Yes we all hate it. Everyone would say no processor with build in DRM will ever get sold etc etc. The thing is the Cell might be THE processor that can establish DRM and free Apple, Sony and the others from ever thinking about bad marketing again. If Cell is very very fast as all specs suggest it will appeal to the geeks and the general market and the fact that there is DRM built in will just get accepted. I for one said once I would never buy a computer with a DRM chip - if the cell processor is as cool as all the specs suggest and Apple supports this platform I will be on board as this adds a whole new paradigm to realtime 3D rendering and HD(T)V video processing. DRM will get broken or circumvented sooner or later I am sure.

The Cell architecture is essentially a general purpose PowerPC CPU with a set of 8 very high performance vector processors and a fast memory and I / O system, this is coupled with a very clever task distribution system which allows ad-hoc clusters to be set up.

Great given the fact that Core Image that Apple develops is capable of running on the Graphic Board OR the main Processor when the graphic board is not fast enough or has not enough memory OR any other helper chip with fast enough interconnected memory the cell processor could elevate Core Image to a true realtime content creation machine.

The first Cell based desktop computer will be the fastest desktop computer in the industry by a very large margin. Even high end multi-core x86s will not get close. Companies who produce microprocessors or DSPs are going to have a very hard time fighting the power a Cell will deliver. We have never seen a leap in performance like this before and I don't expect we'll ever see one again, It'll send shock-waves through the entire industry and we'll see big changes as a result.

So now say Apple wouldn´t be interested to once and for all leave the rest of the pack behind. Get along with Sony who would produce the CONSUMER side of things and Apple fullfill the CREATORs need and soon you see a fit that is more then about iPods and HDCams (of course an iPod army with Cellprocessors to speed up that High Definition Ultra Big 3D rendering would be very welcomed ;)

19.01.05

rel="nofollow" <- death to blogging?

Comment spam is something every blog owner hates as much as the neighboring dogs. We here at prototypen had very bad months last year with about 1000 comment spam messages per day. We took the matter seriously as it was really disrupting our blogs. Since we use a free old version of Six Aparts Movable Type we have not much tools available to us to fight the spam. In the beginning the blacklisting worked out quite well but with the massive onslaughter of comment spams the mt-blacklist broke down before our eyes, its database - full of phrases to look for- made the hosting computer go down to its knees - it seemed - processing mt-blacklists database with waiting times up to 10 minutes for a message delete page to load. So that was not the best way around to do this. What was always clear is that we wanted the comments open to everyone with the least amount of hassle for serious poster to let the voices be heard.
We have now a custom coded solution to the problem - a problem that came because of the hegemony of Movable Type in about 90% of all blogs active on the net. it must have been easy for the spammers to use bots given that the comment spam script is searchable with google and is easily executed externally outside of MT. Anyway our spam problem went away to 99% with some manual spammer coming across now and then but those can be deleted by hand rather easily. Our custom solution can not be applied to all blogs out there (and I already see the day that it gets "broken") and the comment spamming got so utterly bad that googles search algorithm freaked out and you get so many spams on top of so many search terms that this threatens to make google and other search engines unusable.
So they all United in Peace to free the world of the uterly bad. Google, MSN, Yahoo!, Manilla, Six Apart, Wordpress, Flickr, Blogger, Livejournal, Buzznet, Blojsom, Blosxom etc have all joined the efford and are now introducing a new tag to the html header. The syntax is very very easy just type rel="nofollow" and all links on the corresponding page are not attributed to the search engines page ranking anymore.
Great way to get rid of the problem BUT this effectively gives the spam war a clear long term winner - and the winner are the spammers because they successfully harmed our basis democratic blogoshpere that was using comments and blogs to express opinion. This interblog page ranking democracy is seriously crippled with this as now only links that the author of a blog posts are considered worthy and all disagreement or enhancements inside the blogs comment that gets funded with links is out of the loop and will not be considered worthy by Google and Microsoft. Needless to say that we will NOT incorporate this system - at least not as long as our hack works.
That gives room for a personal "conspiracy theory" of mine. The spammers are government funded agents that try everything they can to destabilise the free internet as we know it so the evil governments of the world can step in and - together with their corporate buddies - establish law and order slowly eating away the freedom and voices from otherwise powerless individuals around the world. The more of the "spam links" you click and there are not even corresponding pages on the other side the more this conspiracy makes sense and in a way it seems to be succeeding very nicely. Just put some more "antispamlaws" in place and control the internet a little more every day. Its happening and its creepy.
Don´t understand me wrong. I hate spam - I hate it A LOT but its better to stand up to the spam then crippling and jailing the net as I have learned to love it - free and anarchic - and spam is part of this anarchy side of things - the internet is not the clean shopping mall in the suburb and I hope it will never become such a boring place of mass consumption.

10.01.05

Apples New Year starts tomorrow

Its this time of the year again. All the mac fanatics do nothing else then clicking through numerous Apple rumor sites. The lawsuits are in the air and there seems to be only one god to worship. Well I am just watching the same rituals as every year with a lot of humor. It will be like always lots of hype lots of dissapointed people after the keynote - last hopes until the "one more thing" is done and in a week or two everyone will say how brilliant Apple is or how much they like the new expensive toys they just bought. Its actually the first year that I will make my personal projections public.
Is Apple really getting down low and offering TWO cheap products at the same event? If so that would clearly mean that Apple is after the market share and cares not much about anything else. In case you have not followed the rumors (and they are hard to overlook even if you surf to normal tech sites like heise or the FAZ - one of germanys biggest newspapers or the NewYorkTimes name it and it writes about big ol stevenotes rumors) the pipes are full of "confirmed" rumors of the flash based iPod and the sub $500 mac. It seems that these two items have now reached a state of the most confirmed rumor I have ever seen. I do believe Apple will come out with a "cheap" Flash based iPod. The price you hear is $149 and for that its pretty impressive but I do not see the market. If you shell out a lot of money you get a big iPod if you have no money you go for one of the really really cheap (less then $50) flash based MP3 sticks, but given Apples brand name with the iPod and the marketing power they will sell enough of these to justify R&D cost. So given that this is a go what about the "cheap" mac? I do not believe in that - it would nullify Apples very very long commitment to have high class premium priced hardware that is of certain quality but I would never say never only with a "but" - the "but" is if Apple indeed comes out with such a lowcost machine it will have some kind of killer Application in its bundle that noone knows about yet. Some UeberMediaManager that records radio, TV, plays DVD has a DVD library and makes Toast. I truly believe that if Apple comes out with such a beast it will be more then $499 something like $599 just to be more expensive but then in turn will add DVD burning capabilities realtime MPG2 encoding, Video Input and at least one big harddrive to store all the stuff. For such a machine the subsystem does not have to be totally high end. An older graphic card (if the MPG2 is on a seperate chip) a medium G4 (around 1 Ghz) and some 512 MB Ram would do nicely. It will then have Wavelan build in so because Steve hates cables (maybe the "one more thing" is something we call funkstrom ;).
Realistically I do see Jobs on stage saying "today all the pieces of our digital hub stragedy fall in place and this is the center piece". You know that setup/homeserver kind of thingy that does it all but not much more. I do not see him standing there telling the world "Oh we are entering the cheap PC market here is our beige box for $499" - it will not happen!
As for the other rumors - well Keynote v2 is a given - iLife 05 as well (otherwise they would have never started calling the packages in years rather then with version numbers - it looks old if its from last year you know) as with the wordprocessor well Appleworks needs an update even if its just so it does run under Tiger flawlessly and why not rewrite an app like this in cocoa rename it and release it as part of an office suit that gets its pieces in two year intervals. What about this mysterious firewire audio interface that is not so overly revolutionary but the whistle blower got slapped with a lawsuit. Personally I think Apple has something bigger to hide this year and most of the lawsuits given out try to detract us from the really missing link. I think the Audio Interface might also point to this but different then what people thought. I think it might be a series of Interfaces that will ship with this $499 Mac. Maybe you add the inputs through firewireinterface to your liking. Like want to record TV you buy this firewire interface, want to record radio or other audio you buy the other firewire interface and it all somehow connects beautifully to this mac casing without adding clutter. Could be or Apple is boring again this year and just release a firewire audio interface.
Powerbooks? No G5 Powerbooks for sure. If they indeed announce G5 Powerbooks it will be at least three month until the first person in Europe gets its hand on one and given that Apple got burned in the past for announcing products that it was not able to ship soon enough they rather not announce it at all. I guess a rather modest speed bump, updated graphic card some more memory and make it cheaper? If apple is going the way of introducing cheaper stuff then I think it will make all things across the line cheaper and the Powerbook could really get a little of of its current pricing.
G5 Towers? Noone is talking about them the XServe jsut got updated to 2.3 Ghz the largest Powermac is at 2.5 if there would be faster chips available Apple would have put them in the Xserve so again there will be no major announcement on this front.
So I predict a pretty boring consumer oriented keynote. Those that crave for power will be put off until WWDC in June/July. If you are a fan of the iPod you will have some fun and if you are in the dire need of a settop box or a cheap computer to surf on you might have fun as well.
I am just not sure what his one more thing will be this year. It could be the babyiPod maybe steve throws at least one bone to the pros during the keynote? Maybe the Pros for one time get a one more thing?
What will dominate the keynote will be how well Apple is doing financially and in raw numbers in the music store and mp3 player bussiness. Also what will take at least half an hour will be a Tiger Preview with all the things everyone already knows. There have been times when I was looking forward to the Stevenotes but since this event turned more and more into a consumer oriented show I can care less and less.

5.01.05

In the beginning was the command line update

The very interesting read about the curse and love of the command line interface - a text I based my theoretical work "the lego interface" on - has gotten an update - this time not by science fiction author Neal Stephenson but codemonkey Garrett Birkel. Since the original version is now five years old it was in dire need for an update. So if you are into user interfaces, computing metaphors or generally a computer geek of some sort this read is something you will enjoy. I have to get through it again on the weekend to comment on the comments but what I have skimmed so far sounds interesting.

"http://home.earthlink.net/~android606/commandline/index.html"

21.12.04

Cell processor use part II

Well in my last article about the use of the upcoming Cellprocessor that is a joint development from IBM and Sony for the upcoming Sony Playstation III I was completely ignoring the fact that Apple might use this processor to beef up the G5 workstations. Somehow I personally have the impression that Sony and Apple are not good partners in the corporate world and that they rather would see each other drown then help them. A very informed but also speculative article in Macwelt (in german) talks about such a beast and the possibilities that could lead to a joint venture of the three giants against microsoft namely IBM Sony Apple. I do really not see this happen but would be the most happy person on earth if in fact it would become reality. A G5 with multiple Cells (best would be as user add on for later upgrading -> up to twelfe please) would surely be a renderbeast. Realtime raytracing would have no limit and make things possible that I thought would be still years off. What I do see as a problem as Macwelt lays out is the memory bandwdth that the G5 does not have and is only realizable with a heavy investment of proprietary Rambus RAM - which would make a workstation much to expensive for Apple to sell - maybe they all work out some magic we will see - but I don´t believe it until its under my desk.

6.12.04

Cell Processor use?

There are some mysteries surrounding the cell processor that is a joint development by Sony and IBM and is based on the Power Platform (and the PowerPC platform probably even including some altivec like functions). Originally developed to be used in the new next year Playstation 3 game console it is shaping up to become the "all around" processor to be used in workstations and TV sets as well. What is the idea or strategy behind the Cell? The most important thing is that it can handle distributed processing. Meaning that it can theoretically gather all Cell processors in a network and use them all together to render a character or calculate some prime numbers. Problem and bottleneck is of course the lack of high speed networking capabilities in the Playstation3 or on the consumer market in general. There is speculation that Firewire 800 might be a candidate to get the interconnection speeds to make a distributed computing environment in a household feasible but it might still be way to slow. Regardless of the technical complications WHY would Sony and IBM choose to get this power to the masses? Speculation is rampant. For myself I think they will go after the "AVATAR EVERYWHERE". Meaning a realtime rendered avatar (that you can probably dress yourself and choose how he/she/it should look) that answers your phone reads your news and tells you your dates. Its something that has been mentioned in so many SciFi books and novels and Sony probably thinks they have to be out with that first. So maybe the avatar will get more and more features the more Cellprocessor capable devices you add to network? Like the answering machine, the TV set the Playstation and the Computer all have the cell processor and each takes care of their part? I have no idea if the market will accept such things. I guess they would be better off to offer very cheap home workstations where you can add on cell processors on the way back from the supermarket like you add sugar cubes to your tea.

12.10.04

New IBM PowerPCs to be dual core!

Through an interview with the Power5 chip designer Pratap Pattnaik by arstechnica it becomes clear that IBMs next PowerPC for the AppleDesktops will be dual core.

Nonetheless, he was very explicit about on one thing: a single-core POWER5 derivative for the workstation market will not happen, because single-core for any market but laptops is pointless from here on out. The entire industry is going dual-core across all market segments, so there is no possibility that POWER5 will be stripped of one core in order to be sold as workstation chip. Any workstation-oriented derivative of POWER5 would be dual-core from the get-go.

That is the closest you will get to get insight on whats going on at IBM right now. So we can expect to see prototypes of dual core G6s this time next year.

6.10.04

You ask: Google Answers

i stumbled across something I have not heard about yet. Maybe by accident maybe on purpose. Maybe this is known all along but I have been sitting in the woods for too long.

http://answers.google.com/answers/

Is a paid webresearch. You ask a question and a certified researcher finds the answer for you. You say how much you want to pay for the research and the researcher figures out if he wants to go for it for the suggested price.

This seems to be a new revenue for google. go have a look. I was able to find the answers to questions without paying (so once its payed for it goes public domain? very cool).

24.09.04

Train you own anti data collector bot

A great little site I happened to wander across today is called "maschinen esses sich selber auf" (machines will eat itself). And its simply such a great idea that I want to help promote the thing. To make it short: You tell a little bot program (a program that works by itself) a website that takes personal data (mostly all do this for profit and to save you adress and later sell it or make you "genuine offers", they all seem to want to have the biggest archive of adresses with the most information about the individuals). That is A LOT OF WEBSITES today. Then the bot (and the other 1000+ bots on the side) visits this website and put in its fake personal data, swamping the database with unusable data streams that to clean takes to much times and renders a whole database totally useless. Well thats the ambiguous plan. Right now the bots are hungry they have not enough websites to eat, because that needs to be fed to them so they do not cause to much traffic running through the pages looking for the "forms" of the big datacenters.
Its a computer against computer war. And I want you to be on the side of the bots against mega databases (and mega corporations behind them). Help them - feed them.

machines will eat itself

7.09.04

Apple Motion the After Effects Killer - part 2 Hands on

After having spend some time with Motion to fully test drive it I have to make some comments.
First of all its a lovely Apple Pro App interface, nice clean and seemingly fast (at first). Like all Apple application that I ever tested its a typical 1.0 release: means its still a late beta and should have been proclaimed as a public beta as such. It crashes left and right its very far from stable (testing on a dual 2 ghz first generation G5 with 1.5 GB Ram and two serial ATA hd and the latest greatest OSX 10.3.5) great features you are getting final cut that would make crashing less painfull are missing (auto save, auto recovery etc.). So much for the first impression. Getting into it is EXTREMLY easy if you ever used Final Cut and even easier when you are an After Effects pro. Things are where you expect them, if they are there. And with simple comps its the fastest motha of all out there to do compositing. I would even go as far as to say with the right kind of footage its realtime. Until you add 4th layer with effect - then the program is not realtime anymore and to my surprise does not allow me to have some kind of prerender (ram preview for the AE diehards) how in hell would I judge the timing if its all jumping over frames sometimes jumping from first to last frame in the timeline. maybe I missed this feature if not without it its almost impossible and reminds me of After Effects 3.1 with RAM preview where you had to render your files. Except that the rendering does run FAST with motion even if not realtime for more complex compositions its fast. Stop the preview before you render because for some odd reason it tries a realtime preview in the background while exporting in the foreground with no way to stop the realtime preview while exporting making the export(render) take 3 times as long.
Recording keyframes does crash the program when you forget to turn off the record button and make some non keyframable action like changing a behavior. Oh and there we are. The end off all keyframing is proclaimed by apple. Indeed the behaviors are easier to use then the javascript counterparts in AfterEffects but they lack some needed functionality in the details in the meantime (how would you put the text animation behavior "type on" to a short rest in between without doubling your text and try to rearrange it?). Converting a behavior to keyframes did not work a single time I tried it. The keyframe window is indeed nice and borrowed from the lovely Shake application. Works very smooth and has some choice of how the interpolation is made (natural, spline, constant, linear). The particles are nice and remind me a lot of sprites in Maya so they lack some more functionality but for all your basic particle needs they are very lovely and realtime (until you hit more then 2000 particles on this machine). The presets give you a good waypoint on what is possible. The effects that Apple gives us to put on the video are quite nice (f.e. primatte RT) but also pretty standard. A nice addition I personally thought is the classic slit scan and slit tunnel :) The typographic tool is very good and has a very very welcome realtime font preview (move through your font list and see the fonts applied in realtime!) also some good ways to alter paragraphs and fonts and use livetype fonts (which I never use until someone tells me how to roll my own).
Well this is about it. Yes I told you about the whole programm. Where does this leave us. With a very neat little application and when I say neat and litte I mean it. Its a good addition to a toolbox but its very far from replacing AfterEffects. It lacks multi composition treatment in one project. It even lacks any time manipulation of the clips (no you can not freeze frame a clip without going to an external programm!) The plugins are kinda sparse and it feels pretty uncompleted all over the place. The good thing is that if Apple decides to update it often it has much potential upward so I would wait until 3.0 to put it into a professional production pipeline without room for experimentation.

PS: I kinda see a VJ application in there everytime I got the chance to play with it. The realtime manipulation of fxs is way smoother then anything else on the market (until it gets kinda complex that is)

13.07.04

Tigers Spotlight addition

So after doing some more talking with Tim and reading over various articles from developers who attended the Spotlight session at Apples World Wide Developer Conference I take back some of my uninformed comments below. It seems Apple has managed to put Spotlight ontop of the current HFS+ filesystem. Or better expanding it with an database of metainfo. There are three different things that gets searched when you put in a search query in the shiny flashy UserInterface. First is the the current file catalog type and creator search, then there is the newly engineered metadata database that gets an update for an individual file when this file is moved copied or saved (and it seems its doing the indexing extremely fast). And furthermore there is the fulltext search (SearchKit) which is said to be much speedier then the current fulltext indexing and also is started every time a file is modified. The last two need plugins for each filetype (to read ID3 tags for example), developer are encouraged to roll their own with deep down cocoa and shallower carbon apis.
All in all it sounds like a great deal. It might be the first step into an unordered system where you do not need to make folders or have 255 character filenames to recognize your valuable data. Just make a smart folder that lists all files for a current project and wooosh you can save randomly onto your harddrives where ever you feel like and still see all the files in one place. Of course that would mean that the Application do a good job of categorizing the files (put some info in the metadata). Can´t wait.

29.06.04

Tiger - down to the core

Watching the Steve Keynote today and reading everything I could find I feel the urge to comment on Apples next cat OS release that normal people have to wait until first half of next year. So what is it all about? Well you can read the official Apple promotion on it yourself. I just want to highlight some stuff. 64bit: It seems to be there at least what the memory management is concerned, as far as I could read its still NO complete 64 bit system. Safari RSS: Yawn. Get Netnewswire it will do more for you. Spotlight is cool on the surface but its still no metadata filesystem instead some indexing database tailored onto the OS. It seems fast (on a G5) but I am curious how the indexing will work and if it sucks realtime performance.
On the good front are some amazing things for the moving picture people. First off the the new MPG4 codec H264 looks stunning. I will let you all know once I get my dirty hands on it but having one codec fits all sizes is amazing. And if the quality gain is as claimed this is finally (since sorenson) a codec worth encouraging to use on the web (and dvd and cellphones and cds and ... and ...).
What excites me the most of what is known of the yellowblackwhitestripecat are the Coreplugins for image manipulation and video manipulation. Core Video will let ANY application developer who incorporates video get access to an array of effects that can be applied in REALTIME to any video (or for images in the case of coreimage). CoreVideo is hooked into the Kernel and is executed on the GPU. Yes you read it right it performs all necessary tasks to manipulate your images on your GraphicsCard leaving out the processor to do some more important tasks (ähm decoding DV clips for example). Apple delivers some multiple plugins with the package but you can roll your own of course. Ultra cool stuff and I can not wait until I can test drive motion which already incorporates this technology.
For the Rest (iChat conferencing, Konfabulator knockoff Dashboard etc) its nice additions and I am sure there will be a time when I use it but its not breathtaking. As for Xcode 2 I am sure developer will love the new overview interface and all the little enhancements I personally hope it will just be less buggy.

17.06.04

Interview with long time Mozilla Developer

ArsTechnica is running an interview with Scott Collins of Netscape/Mozilla fame. He was also originally on the Apple Newton team and one of the programmers at Macromedia who developed the program that later became FinalCutPro.
He has some interesting views on the fall of Micro$oft and code developing in general.

Microsoft will be the fall of Microsoft, and that's when the little pieces that cooperate with each other will thrive. Will Mozilla beat Microsoft? No. Can Mozilla thrive? Yes. What will make Mozilla thrive? Microsoft's fall under their own weight.

10.06.04

Spam from the right NOT FROM ME

Today a mass of spam email was send out from a group of far right wing NDP followers. The german spam content was quite shocking. I have learned that my email adress was used as a fake returner address. I want to state that in no way do I have anything to do with the spam nor do I agree with anything that is written inside the emails. They just used email address from persons to spoof. Neither my computer system nor my email account have been compromised the same goes for all the Spiege.de, Heise.de and most of the other personal addresses that have been used.
The spam is sent out via a bot net consisting probably of virus infected, trojaned and compromised PC nodes that are connected to the internet. If you are using a windows or Linux machine please install all the latest patches and turn on your firewall protection.

23.05.04

Xgrid Blender Render

Using Xgrid for 3D rendering is something we all know. I have seen it work with the Maya command line renderer and the Xgrid Custom Plugin generator. Now there is an online tutorial for the Blender 3D application here:

http://www.blenderman.org/tutorials/xgrid/

Render away on your home renderfarm.

19.04.04

Update Day. Alias announced Maya 6.0 no word on unlimeted for Mac

Today seems the NAB update day. I have rarely seen so many Motion Graphic professionals announcements on one day. Alias is announcing Maya 6.0 - something I am very eager for as I dived into the program lately and found it lacking some very crucial function while other where overwhelming great. So I have not found a notice if they finally move Maya up to the same status on the Mac platform as it is on others: Maya Unlimited. With mac sales around 25% of all sales they hopefully do not neglect the faithfull Macusers again. Speed should not be the issue anymore with the G5 and top end Graphic cards inside the AItowers. I need the ocean shader. And the Maya:Fur is surely lovely now judging from the demo samples....

UPDATE: NO. Still no unlimited for the Mac... what a shame....

Motion - The Apple After Effects Killer?

Apple today announced that it will be shipping a new professional application called Motion. This application will be aimed soley at After Effects and Combustion Users and will likely have the same impact as Final Cut Express had on Adobe Premiere likely Adobe will stop making an After Effects for the Mac which is Adobes stepchild of the moment anyway (regarding speed and similar things). Especially when Apple markets the Motion app with a $299 price tag compared to a $1000 or $1500 for After Effects Pro. Normally I would welcome a move by Apple that makes things cheaper but this time I have some caution. After Effects has emerged as THE all around tool for compositing in middle and high end Studios as well as THE tool for motion graphics. So one could argue that the interface is clumsy, its not. The keyframe manipulation possibilities inside a timeline have not been duplicated elsewhere, its just lovely but even more important are the plugins (3rd party). There must be 3000 plugins or more for AfterEffects from at least 200 or 300 vendors some of them are NOT available anywhere else achieving looks that are impossible or extremely hard to make with other application. With After Effects gone on the Mac platform there would be zillions of Motion Graphic Designers leaving the platform I can assure, even I would look getting a PC for running After Effects, I just hope Apple did carefully calculate that and made the PlugIn Api for Motion VERY robust and VERY easy to use and port AE plugins over there. And I surely hope this is not another Apple 1.0 version release ridden with bugs and interface failures that almost ALL other 1.0 releases from apple suffer.

On related note Apple is also introducing FinalCutHD (why? didn´t FinalCut already support HD?), DVD StudioPro3 (hmmm a X. release for some feature additions?) and XSAN which is the ONLY real cool announcement that I will not critique. Its a a clustering filesystem to join the filesystems of multiple Xserves (and other macs?).

UPDATE: Adobe has announced After Effects 6.5 priced lower at $699 for standard and $999 for professional. The adressed number one concern: Speed. So getting it all through my head all morning I have to say that apple needs a hell of a job to catch up to the After Effects camp. I hope they do before Adobe axes After Effects. So one other thing of note the After Effects development team is still very much the same as the day before Adobe bought After Effects and very pro mac. So as long as it makes sense for Adobe to produce After Effects I think they will support it for the Mac platform, but still Apple has to be carefull, as nice as an all Apple Hardware/Software platform might be, the graphic user WANTS choice to create their own style otherwise stuff would look the same everywhere pretty soon and After Effects is one of the nicer choices out there.

14.04.04

OpenSource and Interfaces: Again...

The discussion does not stop. This time its a girl who writes why OpenSource (Free Software in general) is not adopted by the masses and reading through the discussion on Slashdot it is again all about the interfaces. Indeed the people seem more calm this time and there are even some interface designer on Slashdot (who would have thought). But why is it not working out? Slashdot faithfull plover has THE reason:

I think she missed the biggest reason of all here: Designing a good GUI is very hard. Wait -- let me further clarify that: it's very, very hard.

Yes and because of that there has to be an open interface inititative. There is nothing that says that what works for programmers (distributed programming) won´t work for interface designer (distributed interface design). The interesting part is, that for the beginning it would help to draft an digitial interface design manual for open source out of which you generate you own interface easily. As said before the status quo is erasable, completely! So what apple has done with its develpper tools, is provide an easy framework to make your own Interfaces and they all look (or should) look equal. So I do say that Apple has gone wrong with brushed metal and all this a similar thing for ALL open source could be a great boon. Not only would the resulting programs be easier to comprehend but also give OpenSource a corporate identity (for that you have to remember that the interface is THE thing people look at so the number ONE branding algorithm in software industry). Imagine a world where the "open source look and feel" is something that can be compared to Apple.

So again I would put proclaim that the time has come for an Open Source Interface Initiative.

2.04.04

Local Youth Institution presents Linux

Our local Youth House that has some fame in the area is presenting its first puplic installation of Linux directed towards all young kids coming to the facility. Its there "as an alternative to the windows platform" and free for all to use as a learning by doing installation. It comes preloaded with some software for video editing and webpage creation. This is - as far as I know - the first public Linux installation in a Youth House in Brandenburg. Combine that with the running "ask for permission because we have to protect the kids" wavelan in the same house – respect - nice place to hang out if you ever get stranded in Kleinmachnow.

26.03.04

Shareware Opensource and the Mac Rant

What is it with these people who wrap some unix commands into a gui and sell this as their own software? No they don´t even design the gui themself they just use apples toolbox. So in fact they are using some FreeBSD tools and some Appletools and then wrap it up and sell it.
Take the RamDisk Creator for example:

Ramdiskcreator

first look and I find out that they are using the EXACT same script that I outlined months ago in my Optimizing for OSX tutorial. Shame on you Mr. John MacDonnel. It should be freeware we have either paid already for the Tools (OSX) or they are open source (FreeBSD). There is no need to make a 20 dollar profit of of that.

For all those who do not want to shell out 20 dollars for that crap I suggest you read the optimizing for OSX tutorial. The Shell RamDisk script is in the appendix and its all free.

13.03.04

Trusted Computing Viruses and Spam

Reading my last post again I think the last stuff needs a little bit of explaining. You know it could be put off as another conspiracy theory but I think there is compelling evidence that it could benefit the big corporates and the media so much that it needs a little bit of attention.
The flood of Spam and Viruses (that seem to work hand in hand and both are getting more sophisticated) is really getting on the internet users nerv. Even those proclaming that the internet should be free and anarchic to a point are now convinced that there needs to be rules put in place to stop this from further spreading. Thinking about this whole topic, reading some spam and all I just can not think that it still benefits people to put out advertisment this way. I mean it is buried underneath tons of scrambled text and even for h4x0R slang literates is sometimes hard to decipher what the spam wants to sell you combine this with hundrets of spam mails in my mailbox I can not believe that its really worth the hassle to send out the spam - at least not by making your buck with selling Viagra.
In some of the latest virus code there seems to be a battle going on with one accusing the others of "helping destroy the internet" and in return the offended party returning fire by saying "you destroy our bussiness and our grand goal". That hit me. What would that grand goal may be and what is the bussiness of Spam and Viruses all about? Then about two weeks later Bill Gates comes out with a solution to all problem. No I will not misstate his claim as other news outlets have, he does NOT want you to pay for email, that would maybe even not such a bad idea. He wants you to install software that would compute a small computation before you are able to send out spam. Hmmmm. aha. Not such a bad idea at first, your computer would perform a small task and then send out the email. Then he goes on, that this could be a small hash string to be created. You mean a small hash string that also confirms that its really you that is sending the email? Its like a trojan put into the email system at large that could just be used to enforce Trusted Computing and I think all the spam and viruses might be a the only way the Computing industry and the Media Moguls have of getting trusted computing into every computer on the planet by making all computers without not usable on the internet. They are the only one profiting from it at large and this secrecy the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA) is acting lately is making me suspicious as they surely have not put there idea to rest. They are just searching for a different way to make it happen and Spam/EmailViruses are playing to their favour.
Just a thought.

6.03.04

Powermac G5 noise? Get real.

I can not stand the constant whining of people about computer noise. Yes noise is generally bad. But having have multiple computers of different brands over the last 15 years the G5 is the most quite of all since the Commodore C64. First people complained about to loud G4s then Apple fixed that with controlled fans - 9 of them - then people complain about chirping noise. Grml yes I have the chirping noise as well. Its especially "loud" when doing network transfer. You know what: Its is so quite that even with some very quite ambience music on you can not hear it. The fan in my powerbook is MUCH louder then the noise. When people are around and talk you can not hear it. If you are so inclined to have a quite computing environment then I guess you better by an Alienware PC (/sarcasm) or put the computer in a closet. The most funny part is something that I noticed a couple of days ago by someone claiming "going insane" because of the chirping noise. He has put the huge G5 tower ON his table right next to his ears. Sorry if you think a G5 is a status symbol you deserve to go insane. Tell me out of the box PC hardware that is more quite then a G5 and as powerful.

22.02.04

700GigaByte inside a G5

After a bit of fizzling I have now fully functioning 700GB G5 under my table. That is with a 500GB Serial ATA Stripe Raid (6Y250MO and 7Y250MO Maxtor) and a 200 GB ATA (6Y200PO Maxtor). I have not done full benchmarking but can report that the Raid is a beast, I had peak out yesterday at 112MB/s read performance. Benchmarking and Pictures will follow.
I just want to say that I hate Apple for not using the room that is available. There is so much space above the optical drive that not only could I put the drive there I could even elevate it with some plastic screws about one cm from the optical, giving me enough safety room for cooling and a way for the wind blowing through the drive fan.
The cable mess is less then expected even with a much too long IDE cable. I had some problems with the optical beeing slave so I reversed it again and it works beautiful with the optical drive (Superdrive) as master.

18.02.04

Windows Source Code Comments

Kuro5hin is examining the comment style in the windows source code. my favorite code snippet:

* CallProc32W is insane. It's a variadic function that uses
* the pascal calling convention. (It probably makes more sense
* when you're stoned.)

12.02.04

ASCII love - removing picture smileys from iChat

Tim has found a way to to remove the pictures smileys from iChat. If there is one thing I hate over everything else its the force use of pictures smileys. I for one LOVE ASCII smileys in all their incarnation, not having the problem as tim to chat much about code where a 8) could be a problem but I actually really like smileys the ASCII way. The interesting thing about the picture smileys is that for instance you use iChat on one side and AIM chat client on the other side and put in the :/ then the actual "feel" is much different on both sides. One looks rather sad the other looks as if it was thinking without a real expression. Both differ completely from the original ASCII version feel.

Under the mac get rid of them now:

sudo rm /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/InstantMessage.framework/Versions/A/Resources/*.lproj/SmileyTable.plist

30.01.04

If you are a bad guy I encourage you to use a Mac

What a comment. and this comes from an FBI agent. This guy says that "if you want to make it hard for law enforcement officials go buy a mac". Mac is secure out of the box he say. Now how do you specify good or bad? Maybe he meant: "If you are a P2P user use a Mac", or "if you are a Filesharer use a Mac", or "if you "are security analyst use a mac." Its hard to get caught if you are on a mac - he says so.

Now who is using a mac? Ähmmm...... no I am a good guy for sure...... :)

11.01.04

G5 internal Hardrive expansion - cheap vs. expensive solutions

Tim send me an email yesterday with a link to a product that expanses your G5 with two more additional internal HDs. Well I need to state that I always thought that the dual G5 under my table is a perfect machine EXCEPT for the two lonely drive bays and NO other way to install more harddrives. The problem is – as a poweruser – you want a dedicated startup drive with your apps on it (at least that is what I want). It does not need to be the fastes drive in the world but should be large enough to hold your system, apps and day to day stuff. Now there is a "professional" solution to this problem from wiebetech. And let me say is that an "ugly" solution. It lets you expand your G5 with two more drives, serial ATA. So that far its great, but it does so by gluing some stupid looking drive bay on the door (that you are supposed to just take away when something goes awkward during a production). Then you have the hds hanging on their cables attached to the computers on one side and to the door on the other. Very ugly to repeat that. But this would all not be so bad, you know solution like this tend to be messy. But you know what they charge for thing? $1.499 for the 640 GB solution and - hold your breath - $2.499,95 for the 1 Terrabyte solution. I hope they have looked at apples website lately because add hundert grand to that and you get a whole new G5, bright and shiny inside out – as it should look like.
Now for the headline. There is a cheap solution for those brave out there. Some time ago, shortly after the introduction of the G5 the mac news rumor now not rumor anymore site MacBidouille posted a very short article about an G5 owner that has managed to squeeze HD on top of his optical drive and then use a new IDE cable with two ends in replacement for the one that connects to the DVD-R drive and a powercable split. The site promised to do a follow up on the story but never did. Me a little nervous about the heat problem this might have and stability and all set out to find the guy that was mentioned on the site. And I found Mr. Jefftrep from Quebec Canada and had a little email exchange with him. After two month in operation all is fine with his G5 that now sports 2x 250GB Serial ATA Raid and a bootable 160 GB Maxtor normal IDE/ATA drive, no heat problems and no failures, very stable and very fast.

he wrote:

Well... Yes it's me, and NO there is no problems at all. Nothing, no glitch, no heathing, no nothing! And I can say I use my machine full time. I edit on it everyday using FCP4 or making DVD with DVDSP2 (and yes they are legits software). The DVDburner don't even know there's someone else on the ATA chain. ---- The ATA boot drive is a 160 GB Maxtor ATA/133 with 8MB Buffer 7200RPM, so even if the bus speed is higher - i'm stuck with ATA133. My 2 SATA drive are both 250GB Maxtor 7200RPM that Apple installed when I order my G5. They are in RAID0 via Apple diskutility ... ... I'm not sure about the ATA speed, but I can tell you that it boot really faster (like 15 -20 sec) than a G4/Dual1.4Gig with the same kind of configuration ...

So this will be my way around the problem and wiebetech and keep their $2.500 junk piece and put it on the moon.

7.01.04

Xgrid - Cluster for ALL of us

Well I have been downloading and reading into the documentation of Xgrid for a bit now. And this application environment is really awesome. I can not thank Apple enough for providing this. If you need high performance computing and have more then one Apple in your house you definately want this and then hope that every application developer jumps on it as fast as they can. Xgrid is featuring fulltime and part time cluster agents - means that it can be run as a screensaver module. The client is sending out a computational request to the server (which can be on the same machine as the client) and this then splits and sends out the jobs to the agents (which can be on the same computer as the client or the server as well, so you do not loose a computer that can crunch when you only have few of em). It has a neat very easy interface and sports a tachometer that shows how fast you are going ;) Now please if any application developer of Shake, Electric Image, Maya, AfterEffects is out there: YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR APPS!

6.01.04

The missing piece in the 1984 ad

1984_2004kl.png Well when I was watching the 1984 ad again and arguing over quality with Tim who showed me an (worse looking but better resultion) Cinepack version I noticed a difference. Its so small and you almost not see it. The version that is featured on apples website is a different version then the original one.
Look at the attached picture and try to find out what the difference of the "2004 might be 1984" version is compared to the "1984 is not like 1984" version... :)

2004 might be like 1984 <-------> 1984 is not like 1984

just one note: the integration is well done wether you like that they mugged around with the original or not

The overshadowed announcment - XGrid

Every time Stevie does a keynote there is a little press release that slips under the radar of the announcments. This time: XGrid. The highly rumored with message list sainted but then ripped apart XGrid. It allows you to have multiple of those lovely XServes (and I suspect any decent Mac running OSX(Server?)) to Grid together to a cluster using Rendevouz. Yes that instant on networking standard pioneered by apple. The one that lets you share ya tunes over iTunes or discovers an Printer on da fly. "Of course" as Tim Pritlove noted "you have to rewrite apps for it". Oh well there is hoping that maya gets it first :) imagine an XGrid cluster with these.

Keynoted - when 2004 might look like 1984

Today there was one of these things. A popconcert... no... a prayer session... ah no... it was a keynote. You know one of these things when a head of a company talks to some press guys about how their company is doing and what great new stuff they have. The one today is one of two a year that is different from the rest. It is held in front of thousands virtual and embodied macheads and the speaker is the mighty Steve J. This years "start of(f) the year" keynote in the Moscone Center in Silicon Valley was something special. No I am not talking about the overpriced iPodmini. No I am not talking about the band in a garage that fits on your harddrive. No also not about the – yummi – XserverG5s (ok I maybe I get a little offtrack here because they are soooo cool if I could just afford a cabinet of those with 40 G5s in them – ah well)... no the real thing is that the Macintosh is celebrating its 20th anniversary and to kick off the keynote mighty Steve showed the ad. You know THE ad. The one that aired only one time ever during the superbowl in 1984 and then never again and still had the world talking and got about every award an advertisement could get. The ad that sold the Macintosh.
Now the uniqueness off the 1984 ad is that it joins politiks and computer in front of the normal joe. It has so much power. I like the fact that Mr. elected but defeated be President and have been Vice President Al Gore is on the Apple Board in the election year that is posed to defeat Bush and that Mr. mighty Steve is showing the 1984 ad in front of his followers. Right at the beginning of this year. Perfekt computerpolitik mismatch at the right timing.

13.12.03

Need help learning *nix?

Since I need to learn some basic Unix commands for a school project and do not want to stress out my knowledgable friends all the time I got on an info hike with Dr. Google and one of the most basic but best helpfull site I came across is this. If you are in the same need for some very basic unix command line understanding this is the site for you. For your geeks out there its not worth visiting.

Powerbook to fragile

Since my Powerbook has broken down again with very psychadelic screen animation (that I forgot to record - duh it was so "nice") I want to raise the awareness question if such highpowered portable computers are to fragile and if we might hit into more and more problems in the future the more crammed the things get. Seeing the recent white spot problematic in the AIBooks and multiple reports of broken portables (not only from Apple) I have the feeling that unless the makers take greater care or have make better protection the thingies will line up in repair and be a loss product in the not to distant future. I love those IBooks they are almost indestructible and I for one would trade the cool TitaniumAluminiumMagnesiumShells any time for the much thicker IBooks if I get a Portable Computer in return that I can drop in the back without great measurements of care and a layer of prototection between Screen and keys. Granted the newer Aluminium Powerbooks are more robust then the Titanium version that I posses but I still think the owner should take care of them. I recommend the pretty expensive AppleCare service because the thingy will break down at one point and by looking at todays reselling prices for powerbooks this might pay off.

I have no point in this post other then to say "I miss you my lovely Tibook come back soon"... I just needed an excuse... sniff

4.12.03

Search for the perfect wiki system

In my search for a perfect wiki system I came across a lot of them. tikiwakkaphpworldtaviwikiwiki. My quest for to find a small, lightweight, fast, stable, extendible, webstandard, css supporting, php/mysql running wiki with a good development community that was active and believed in wikis. "Well thats a lot of things you want from a wiki" you might think. Yes you may be right. I have almost given up. php wiki seemed to be abandoned. tavi wiki I could not get through to the website and the rest was so so. I tried to settle with wakka wiki but too many functions are missing there and I have never seen a php/mysql coded software before so adding to that was to much of a pain, also the wakka wiki website went down on the day when I needed it most -> installing a data upload plugin (installing means in wakka wiki terms getting into the source code and add to it). Well I almost gave up but then I stumbled across this ultra lovely wakka fork - CoMaWiki. Developed by a guy named CostalMartigner who sits in Switzerland in front of his Linux Box and has taken up the task of designing the perfect wiki. Actually I was able to talk to the guy before installing and he helped me with a little problem during install. I really love this wiki. It has all the stuff you need. Picture/File Upload, PlugIn system with Backup Function (you can even save wiki pages as html files to your local harddrive!). Polls, Tocs, CSS and webstandard compliance. A good CSS scheme to alter the look of the wiki. Its very well documented and its free as long as you do not earn money with it. And its actively in development, something that can not be said about many other wiki systems. If you need a wiki system yourself go check it out. I already wrote two CSS (matching prototypen color scheme) one with right site navigation. You can find those on the CoMaWikiCSS site as well.

Archiving - Data Restoring

Computer have gone through the roof in terms of speed. I am happy.

Computer have gone through the roof in terms of powered data storage capacity (ram). I am happy.
Computer have gone through the roof in terms of longer term unpowered data storage capacity (harddrives). I am happy.

Now I can churn out so many data a day its unbelievable. There are no boundaries to my creativity. uh hm but where do I put all this data?... Uhmmm hmm.. Oh yes great those harddrives have fallen in price. Ah no they will loose there data when not used for a 2 years time. hmm.. Oh yes I could back them up to DVD. uh hm wait they hold only 4.4 GB - at times I have an output of 10 - 40 gigs a day. hmmm. They could be compressed. hmmm great I still have this compressed archive from my amiga days sitting on my hd that I will never be able to open again as this was some strange shortlived compression format. hm. A lesson learned that I never will compress any backups ever even so this guy at MIT says so. Oh he tells me I should move my data to a new storage medium every two years. Great, he must live in a timewell or something. Long Term Data Storage is one of the unsolved problems in computer usage today no matter what you tell me. DLT is to expensive, DVD to small, HardDrives to insecure and all other possibilities a longshot (promised to be released to the puplic in 2006, 2008, 2012). Oh you do not have such a big media volume that needs to be backed up. Feel lucky - VERY LUCKY.

G5 harddrives overheating problem

Lately I noticed that my G5 harddrive got louder and somehow slower (just a feeling - you know one of those). Since I really stress this drive I thought it might just be some bad defragmentation and the system tries to compensate or the such. Then today I stumbled across an article on XLR8yourmac that sucked my attention away from work. Quite a lot of people reporting harddrive failures with their G5s and the most likely cause seems to be a problem with the cooling. The article suggests that moving the heat sensor to a different location should help a lot with this problem. I wonder if the new firmware that is in the rumor press soon to be released for the G5 will get rid of this as well? I will surely do both, Apple is good but they fail as well (mostly in the little things). So its sensor ungluing for me now....
On a site note I was pointed to a great utility to monitor the heat inside your mac (not only g5).

3.12.03

20C3: Not A Number

Same procedure as every year? - not quite

Every year the glowing phosphor tubes and glittering liquid crystals enter between burning trees and sparkling skies. This year is no exception. Crowds of knowledge hungry h4xors will flock the mighty halls of wisdomchaos. This year the sci temple gets a golden roof and moves into the heart of the berlin city right next to the former blinken building with a great view from inside of the clan world to the mighty statue of one to many communication. For throwing your braincells into the vortex head over to the official information feed.

6.11.03

Bluejacking

is bluejacking really a new form of hackerdom?


The newest hype around the block is bluejacking. Basically you send a contact to a phone nearby with the name of the contact being the message you want to transmit. All this works without the receivers end ever giving you a password or their number and its free. The only real prerequisite is that the receiver has bluetooth turned on. So when you are in a train or waiting for a bus and that hot chick nearby makes the SMS craze then you might be able to send her an anonymous text telling her she should get her nose down (or the such). Pretty lame to be called a hack but cool anyways :)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3237755.stm

Wavelan in Belize part II - more photos

As you all already know I am observing the wavelan net in Hopkins/Belize that my friend 5T3PH4N and oli try to install there. They have send over some more cool pictures.


the access point antenna


the sky dsl uplink

5.11.03

WaveLan in Belize

You have a helping hand? ;)


5T3PH4N and his brother Oli try to install a wavelan in Hopkins/ Belize. Oli runs the Olis Surfomat surf school there. They have a SkyDSL uplink to some Texan ISP with 1,5 Mbit. They want to make the network available to the villagers as well. If you have a hand to spare to hold the antenna or have any other usefull information on how install a wavelan net in the jungle please contact them

Oli@windsurfing-belize.com

5T3PH4N holding the antenna :)

3.11.03

Professional WaveLan Antennas

In the search for better antennas to support a WaveLan net in Belize

Wimo is one of the best resources I have yet found - with the help from TimPritlove - in regards of professional antennas for extending WaveLan networks and creating hotspots for your neighborhood. They have some good background information on what antenna to choose as well. The site is in german.

http://www.wimo.de/

2.11.03

metadata and geo url

I have added some meta data to my Blog for those that might want to know where I live. If you want to get information on who is near me you can go to:

http://geourl.org/near/?p=http://homepage.mac.com/falk/iblog/

for more information on geourl go to:

http://geourl.org

31.10.03

CubeDynamicCollaborativeMusic

from the department of UberCool Interfaces - SonyCubeMusic


In the constant research of hubtic interfaces and collaborative art sony has come up with something eye-opening simple. it uses touch sensitive brick like building blocks to create musical pattern. The cubes can be arranged in different patterns and can behave as multiple nodes. The whole interface is ON the cubes. A little LED screen provides visual feedback and and is at the same time touch sensitive. Touch it and the function change. Touch it longer or shorter and the music plays faster or slower. The whole concept is a beautiful blend of Cellular Automata research (book-tip: Steven Wolfram - A new Kind of Science) that states that with simple blocks and a set of rules you can yield complex patterns and collaborative art projects and interface design per excellence.

german article at telepolis:

http://www.heise.de/tp/deutsch/inhalt/musik/15938/1.html

d17 - text in democratic collaboration

A new tool for the communities to edit text together and have a fair voting process on the changes in a text document.


3d17 is a tool for collaboration on text documents over the internet. Unlike a wiki 3d17 allows the users to vote for the changes going into a document and make suggestions on what to change. Right now it is tight into 3d17.org but I would guess it will be a free software for you server to be installed on (I might be wrong about this but the nature of this project surely looks like it). If you are into Blogging, wikiing get into 3d17ing NOW:

3d17.org