sábado, 10 de dezembro de 2011

Why Apple Is Winning the Mobile Video Format War … For Now

Why Apple Is Winning the Mobile Video Format War … For Now:

Jeroen Wijering is the creator of the incredibly successful JW Player, which has generated millions of downloads since its release in 2005. In 2007 he co-founded LongTail Video, focusing on a full-fledged online video platform that includes encoding, delivery, syndication and advertising.

The mobile video space has begun to consolidate. In early November, Adobe announced it would stop developing its Flash Player for mobile devices (read: Android). Going forward, HTML5 will be the only method to play back video on mobile phones and tablets.

This is a big win for Apple, the company to most strongly oppose Flash over the last few years. The company is indeed beginning to dictate the industry’s future. In addition to defeating Flash in the battle for video playback, Apple continues to innovate with its H.264 codec, since WebM is still nowhere to be found.

The company has also taken the lead in video streaming. Apple’s homegrown streaming protocol, HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), has always been the one and only way to stream content to iDevices. Now, due to the popularity of iOS, many tool vendors and even competing platforms are starting to support it too.

Playback and Encoding

According to Adobe, Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) will be the last mobile platform to use a Flash plugin. The OS is launching without one, though. Given Flash’s terrible track record with mobile, it wouldn’t be surprising if it never arrives. Therefore, video publishers should ensure their Android video works in HTML5.

In terms of encoding, the H.264 codec is baked into the CPU of every single mobile phone today, while WebM is still confined to a software-only (and non-HTML5) implementation on some Android devices. Google is working on hardware, but the path from reference designs to phone integration, and eventually market share, is a long one.

Until WebM hardware decoding is supported by a decent slice of mobile devices, video publishers will continue to focus on H.264. Seeing this, Google continues to support H264 in Chrome, despite announcing that it would drop it almost a year ago. For all intents and purposes, H.264 is the baseline codec for HTML5 video at present.

What Is HLS?

The acronym HLS stands for HTTP Live Streaming. It is a protocol that allows publishers to stream video using plain HTTP web servers, as opposed to using expensive and hard to scale dedicated streaming servers. This streaming is achieved by chopping up the video hosted on the server into small fragments (usually 10 seconds), and then stitching them together again in the browser. The browser only requests the next fragment in line, instead of loading the entire video and wasting bandwidth, which is how vanilla HTML5 operates. See the diagram below for a single fragmented stream.

A video streamed through HLS is usually encoded into multiple qualities, ranging from a mere 180px to full-blown 720px and beyond. Every time the browser returns to the server to load the next fragment, it decides which quality level to load. Thus, the browser continuously adjusts the quality of the stream to best match the available bandwidth. This is hugely important in mobile, because devices perpetually swap between 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connections. See diagram below for an adaptive fragmented stream.

In addition, the fragments of HLS streams can be encrypted for secure delivery. Users who intercept these fragments will not be able to play them at all. This is a big security advantage over plain HTML5 video, in which every savvy user can find the URL of a video and download for his own use.

Why Use HLS?

Today’s wide usage of the HLS protocol is a result of iOS success. Apple designated the protocol as the one and only way to stream video to the iPhone and iPad. No Flash, no Silverlight, no RTP or RTSP. On top of that, HLS is required for in-app video. Even simple MP4 downloads, which work for in-browser playback, are not allowed in iOS apps.

Every major publisher, therefore, needs to use the HLS protocol. Every major encoding tool (e.g. Encoding.com or Sorenson Squeeze) and streaming server (e.g. Flash Media Server or Wowza Media Server) supports it nowadays. This broad ecosystem, in turn, now has many devices that support the protocol as well. Nearly every popular set-top box (Xbox, PS3, Roku, Apple TV, Boxee) can play HLS, as will Android phones running the new Ice Cream Sandwich release.

Are there are any competing protocols? Absolutely. Dynamic Streaming from Adobe is one, but requires the (now desktop only) Flash plugin. Also, Smooth Streaming from Microsoft requires Silverlight, another desktop-only (and soon to retire?) plugin. HLS is deployed on top of HTML5, which is easily implemented by both browsers and devices.

A standardization effort is on its way as well, in the form of MPEG DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP). Supported by many companies (including Apple) and boasting a rich set of features, DASH may well become the single video streaming protocol to replace HLS, as well as RTMP and RTSP. However, progress is slow and broad support is years away.

The Apple Standard

For the foreseeable future, we’ll watch our mobile video the Apple way: HTML5 embedded, H.264 encoded and HLS streamed. Any platform seeking broad support for quality video (Windows Phone?) must implement HLS. And any publisher seeking mobile viewers must encode in H.264, embed using HTML5 and stream using HLS.

Is this a bad thing? Quite the contrary. The alternative is fragmentation: multiple plugins, multiple codecs and multiple protocols. This is an annoyance for large media corporations; it increases their development and delivery costs. However, it’s disastrous for smaller video publishers, since the companies lack the resources to build and support multi-platform video delivery. Ultimately, that is a detriment to mobile video. Like the web in general, mobile video thrives on broad availability of a wide variety of content.

A more open set of standards (WebM and DASH) should come in time. For now though, Apple is the standard.

More About: apple, contributor, features, Flash, iOS, mobile video, Video

For more Mobile coverage:

Some famous people you never knew were in Star Trek

Some famous people you never knew were in Star Trek:

Submitted by: peterwut

Posted at: 2011-12-09 16:48:36

See full post and comment: http://9gag.com/gag/966739

Is the Earth Special?

Is the Earth Special?:

Hugh Pickens writes "Planetary scientists say there are aspects to our planet and its evolution that are remarkably strange. In the first place there is Earth's strong magnetic field. No one is exactly sure how it works, but it has something to do with the turbulent motion that occurs in the Earth's liquid outer core and without it, we would be bombarded by harmful radiation from the Sun. Next there's plate tectonics. We live on a planet that is constantly recycling its crust, limiting the amount of carbon dioxide escaping into the atmosphere — a natural way of controlling the greenhouse effect. Then there's Jupiter-sized outer planets protecting the Earth from frequent large impacts. But the strangest thing of all is our big Moon. 'As the Earth rotates, it wobbles on its axis like a child's spinning top,' says Professor Monica Grady. 'What the Moon does is dampen down that wobble and that helps to prevent extreme climate fluctuations' — which would be detrimental to life. The moon's tides have also made long swaths of earth's coastline into areas of that are regularly shifted between dry and wet, providing a proving ground for early sea life to test the land for its suitability as a habitat. The 'Rare Earth Hypothesis' is one solution to the Fermi Paradox (PDF) because, if Earth is uniquely special as an abode of life, ETI will necessarily be rare or even non-existent. And in the absence of verifiable alien contact, scientific opinion will forever remain split as to whether the Universe teems with life or we are alone in the inky blackness."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

C#, Objective-C and JavaScript Move Up in TIOBE Index

C#, Objective-C and JavaScript Move Up in TIOBE Index:

tiobe.jpgTIOBE Software has released its programming community index for December 2011, and the numbers show that C# is gaining in popularity.

According to TIOBE, the most popular languages right now are Java, C, C++, C# and Objective-C. (In that order.) There's no movement at all in the top 3, though TIOBE says that C++ has lost a bit of popularity since December 2010. C# moved up from 5th place to 4th, and is just a hair behind C++.


JavaScript moved into the top 10, up two slots from December 2010. Considering how much more prevalent Web applications are becoming, it's surprising that JavaScript hasn't moved up farther. Objective-C, jumped three spots to 5th place. Given the use of Objective-C for iOS apps, it's not surprising that it's gaining popularity quickly. The "losers" this time around are PHP and Python. PHP dropped two slots from the 4th position last December to 6th this year, and Python dropped from 6th to 8th.


The TIOBE Index from the TIOBE Software Site

The TIOBE ratings are based on the number of page hits for languages by searching for "languagename programming" in Google, Wikipedia, Blogger, Bing, Baidu, YouTube and Yahoo. The full description of the ranking algorithm are on the TIOBE Programming Community Index Definition page.

Their long term trends are interesting to look at as well. Java continues to dominate, but it has slid a bit since the index started in 2001. JavaScript was barely a blip on the chart until mid-2009. C++ has been on a steep decline since late 2003.

Alternatives to TIOBE

Though TIOBE is frequently cited, it's been criticized and there are a number of alternatives that are worth looking at as well.

For example, the Transparent Language Popularity Index, which is an open source project that anyone can examine and run on their own. According to the most recent query from December 1st, the top five are:

  • Java

  • C

  • Objective-C

  • C++

  • PHP

If you look at the top five scripting languages, it's PHP, Python, Perl, JavaScript and Ruby.

The Transparent Language Popularity Index.jpgTransparent Language Popularity Index

GitHub provides a Top Languages page, which shows the most popular languages in use on GitHub. This is only a good measure of open source projects that are, for the most part, relatively new. JavaScript is top dog on GitHub, with 20%. Ruby is a close second with 16%, followed by Python at 9%. (Note that totals on GitHub's site will likely change.)

Top Languages - GitHub.jpgGitHub Top Languages

My guess is that Java and JavaScript will do very, very well in 2012. What do you think?


Over the Rainbow: The Technicolor Life of the Man Who Created Oz

Over the Rainbow: The Technicolor Life of the Man Who Created Oz:

Once upon a time, fairy tales were dark fables designed to scare children into good behavior. This is the story of one American author who thought kids deserved better.

In December 1900, L. Frank Baum was a struggling, 44-year-old writer living in Chicago with his wife and four children. Christmas was only days away, and Baum was desperately searching for a way to buy presents for his family.

On a whim, Baum went downtown to ask his publisher for a royalties’ advance for the five books he’d written that year. He walked out with a check for one of the books, and promptly stuck it in his pocket. He didn’t bother to take a look at it.

When Baum arrived home, his wife, Maud, was ironing a shirt. He reluctantly handed her the check, and at the same moment, they both discovered that it was for $1,423.98—roughly $40,000 today. Paralyzed with disbelief, Maud burned a hole through the shirt.

That book, of course, was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.


Lyman Frank Baum was born in 1856 in Chittenango, New York. As a child, his weak heart limited his capacity for rough-and-tumble play. So, despite being the seventh of nine kids, he spent most of his childhood alone, indoors, and dreaming.

As a young man, Baum leapt like a flea from career to career. By his early 30s, he’d been a journalist, a printer, a postage-stamp dealer, and a champion poultry breeder, which led him into publishing, with his trade journal The Poultry Record. He also ran his own theater company, where he wrote, directed, and acted in his own plays.

Then, in 1881, Baum met his leading lady—Maud Gage, a sophomore at Cornell. But Maud’s mother, Matilda, disapproved of the union. Matilda Gage was a feminist who marched alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the women’s suffrage movement. She saw Baum as a flake who’d never amount to anything, and she told her daughter she’d be a “darned fool” to marry the itinerant actor. Yet, Baum’s charm, sincerity, and uncanny ability to tell fantastic stories were no match for Matilda, and he soon won her over. He also became a feminist.

Frank married Maud in 1882, but troubles were around the corner. Baum’s theater company went belly-up, and without local prospects, he looked west for opportunity. In 1888, he moved his family to the Dakota Territory, where he opened a store in the town of Aberdeen. (Years later, when Baum wrote descriptions of the Kansas prairie in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he was actually describing South Dakota.) His shop, Baum’s Bazaar, sold Chinese paper lanterns, Bohemian glass, gourmet chocolates, and other exotic items. But Baum overestimated the frontier’s demands for novelty shopping. In a few short years, he’d gone bust yet again.

At this point, L. Frank Baum was 35 with no career. He headed east for Chicago, where he received guidance from an unexpected source: his mother-in-law. Matilda Gage convinced Baum to pursue his one true talent, telling stories. In Aberdeen, children had stalked Baum, demanding story hour from the raconteur. Kids loved his tales because they weren’t thinly disguised morality lessons. Instead, Baum’s stories were fantasies filled with candy, toys, magic, and adventure. Heeding Matilda’s advice, Baum decided to give writing a try.


In 1899, Baum teamed up with illustrator W.W. Denslow and published Father Goose, His Book, a collection of pictures and verse. The collaboration worked so well that it inspired Baum and Denslow to try their hands at a full-length novel.

As a child, Baum had loved the European fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, but he loathed the dark, grisly endings. He envisioned a new American fairy tale in which ingenuity and spunk paid off. In Baum’s words, he wanted to create a world where “wonderment and joy are retained, and the heartache and nightmares left out.”

It was a great idea, but what would he call this utopia? Family legend holds that Baum scanned his office for ideas. While staring at his filing cabinet, he drew inspiration from a label on the bottom drawer marked “O-Z.”

Baum’s book was turned down by every major publishing house. Finally, a distribution company agreed to take on the novel about Oz, but only if Baum and Denslow agreed to shoulder the printing expenses. The bet paid off. Today, the masterful integration of color illustrations and text is heralded as a pioneering achievement in literature, a precursor to the graphic novel. Denslow’s drawings were unique in that they not only reflected the plot, but also furthered it. His vibrant pictures spilled over from one page to the next.

More importantly, children loved Baum’s story. By the end of 1900, Maude had burned a hole through her husband’s shirt, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was the best-selling book in America.


Over the next 20 years, Baum would pen more than 70 books under several pseudonyms. Unfettered by gender restrictions, he often wrote under female names, including Suzanne Metcalf, Laura Bancroft, and Edith Van Dyne. Baum also tried his hand at science-fiction, demonstrating a knack for predicting the future on par with H.G. Wells. A running theme in Baum’s work was the triumph of technology over distance and time, and many of his fictional inventions—televisions, satellites, cell phones, laptops—eventually became realities of everyday life.

In 1902, Oz was transformed into a Broadway musical, shortened simply to The Wizard of Oz.

At first, Baum was taken aback by some of the changes. For instance, Dorothy’s faithful companion on the stage wasn’t Toto, but a cow named Imogene.

But when the play became a Broadway hit, Baum softened. He tried to return to the theater to produce his own plays, but all his efforts, including The Whatnexters and The King of Gee Whiz, were flops. He also tried his hand at a vaudeville show, “Fairylogues and Radio Plays,” but that foundered, too.

The truth was that Baum wanted to stop writing about Dorothy and do something new. He intended for the sixth Oz book, The Emerald City of Oz, to be the last in the series. In the story, Baum seals off his fairyland, proclaiming it unreachable from the outside world. But when a film project he was pursuing collapsed, Baum quickly found himself strapped for funds again. He wrote another Oz book, and from then on, Dorothy and the gang kept resurfacing every time Baum needed to pad his wallet.


In 1919, Baum died of the same heart condition that had kept him indoors as a child. But even death couldn’t stop the Oz stories from flowing. Baum wrote the 14th book in the series, Glinda of Oz, on his deathbed, and it was published posthumously. After that, various authors churned out 26 official sequels, which have been translated into 22 languages, from Tamil to Serbo-Croatian.

In 1939, the Oz legacy hit a turning point when MGM released The Wizard of Oz movie. Based on Baum’s original storyline, the plot and characters remained relatively faithful to the book, although there were plenty of changes, too. Most of the quotables (“And your little dog, too!”) were Hollywood additions, as were the musical numbers and dancing little people. There were some changes to the story, as well. Dorothy’s slippers, which were silver in the book, were changed to ruby in the movie to show off the new technology of color film.

The key difference between the two versions is that in the movie, Dorothy’s adventure was “all a dream,” while in Baum’s book, Oz was very much real. In fact, later in the book series, Uncle Henry and Auntie Em move to the Emerald City to dine off jeweled plates and converse with talking animals. As it turned out, nobody really wanted to go home to Kansas.

(Image from the NeatoShop)

The movie established Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion as cultural icons. Flying monkeys and yellow brick roads became part of the national psyche, and today, Oz’s popularity shows no sign of waning. The movies, the spin-offs, the Broadway musicals, the plays, and—more recently—the pop-up book just keep cropping up. Much like Dorothy and the gang, Baum took the long way to finding his true calling, but there’s no denying that he left behind an enduring legacy. By writing the quintessential American fairy tale, Baum proved that even late bloomers living in their own fantasy world are entitled to happy endings.


The article by Kelly K. Ferguson is reprinted from the May- June 2010 issue of mental_floss magazine.

Be sure to visit mental_floss‘ website and blog for more fun stuff!

Infographic: What Tools Developers Actually Use

Infographic: What Tools Developers Actually Use:

info-bv-150.jpgThe folks at BestVendor.com interviewed 500 developers and compiled this profile of the tools that they actually use. A few stalwarts predominate, such as Git, Eclipse, AWS, Dropbox, MySQL, and Google Analytics. But there were a few surprises too, including 23% using Notepad++ as their text editor and 8% using Heroku to host their apps. Many of the categories are wide open. All of those surveyed are from companies of less than 100 people from around the world.


BV Developer Infographic.jpg

(Click to enlarge.)


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