Archive for the ‘sharing’ Category

Holy Grail of Digital Video and its presence and sharing on the web

March 16, 2008

Video is a media form that includes both moving pictures and sound. As a result it is multi modal and provides a rich sensory experience that grabs the attention of the viewer through the orienting effect.

It is also the most demanding media type in terms of CPU, memory and storage utilization. There are many encoding schemes to reduce the size of the video. Even within the same family of the encoding scheme there are incompatibilities. This causes problems when digital video is shared across different software systems and different computer systems.

Video Encoding and problems with multiple formats

I have some old videos that were taped in a live class room setting. We used Sony DV camcorder when it just came out in mid nineties. These tapes were captured by using theMiro video encoder that uses a non-lossy 5:1 compression scheme and uses the standard dvd size picture per frame. This process creates large files. We are looking at 100meg of data for one minute of play back time. Therefore, these files were further compressed using the MS Windows media encoder, real media encoder, Apple quick time encoder and sometimes with mpeg-1 encoder. This helps but now we have five different files that will play on some computers and some stopped playing when the encoding scheme became obsolete by the same company.

Recently, I decide to re encode these files with newer encoders. I do not have the original masters because those were too big and they were erased to free up disk space because disk space was not as inexpensive back then as it is now. The windows media format looses too much information so once a original is encoded with wmv format it is not worth to resurrect this file for further encoding. It is final no future editing is expected. Also, if you upload it to a service like youtube some of them failed to convert at the youtube web site into flv format used by Youtube. Having all these problems I went back to the saved files in apple .mov format. They had the most information and re encoded them into mpeg-1 format with audio amplification because for some reason the original videos had low sound volume. Every thing worked and I was able to upload these files on the Youtube.

This solved the problem of sharing videos but is it complete solution? No? I also wanted to upload these videos at Apple University because they have a very innovative solution in the form of video ipod/iphone that facilitates m-learning. I got apple Qick Tme Pro and reencoded the videos with apple encoder so that these videos can play on apple devices that is desktop, ipod/iphone and old mobile phones. It created three separate files at different streaming rate but now for some reason these files have poor quality of audio again. I am working on it to improve it and it is possible but the question is that why does it has to be so much work to take a simple video from a Digital Video camera and encode it and place it on these video distribution channels so that it can be shared with others in my case mostly with the students in my classes and they can be commented  on. Why can’t we have a video editing program that acquires video, improves it and uploads it at all these channels? instead of having whole set of programs to do one specialized job.

It also raises the issues of archiving the information and future access to it. We can still read old clay tablets from the ancient times. Can we be able to do the same for digital information? The attempts of archiving digital information are very basic such as archive.org

Video Share ability , treating video as a social data

For example example I wanted to embed some digital videos from TED conference into my WordPress blog. The WordPress for some reason will not accept the flash videos and I could not do that. So I went to my old blog on the blogger and tried embedding these videos. It worked with one hitch. When you copy paste the html the blogger editor did not like the embed tag. It will complain and will not save the posting but you can also force the blogger editor to accept it if you just ignore the warning and close the warning window. It is hard to believe after 15 years we still have to use “Object” and “Embed” tag to deal with the incompatibilities between Internet Explorer and Firefox/Mozilla on how they load an application.

We can conclude that WordPress does not like embedded video but that is not true either. They allow video embedding and from some web sites you can embed video in your WordPress blog with one simple click on the shareable video. How does that happen? I am still trying to figure out. So far it seems to me that MyStuff from gigya.com is the best widget it has worked for me across all the web sites. Others claim that they allow one click embedding but so far it has not been true. They can made to work with some tweaking but not with one click as they claim.

Facebook allows you to import notes from one rss feed only. It polls the rss feed and if it detects any changes it will modify the notes accordingly. It is a nice feature but what if some one wants to import notes from two feeds? It could be done but not easily. Also, Facebook do not allow video embedding at all in the notes so the blogs with embedded video only show the text but no videos.

So the moral of the story is that if you like digital video and want to create your own videos and share it with other people across different computer platforms it will be a challenge. It is not as simple as sharing of some 7 bit ASCII text strings that are the easiest universally sharable data type.

Talking of programs Corel acquired Ulead and doubled the price of programs Ulead was selling successfully through it web site for a while. Now the Corel/Ulead web site is hard to navigate. You can not even find a phone number if some one needs a live salesperson. It is hard to believe that Corel is still in business and have money to acquire small successful innovative companies. If the consumer oriented companies dealt with their customers the way the software companies deal with their customers they will be out of business in no time but companies like Corel who will create software like  grafigo that I thought was  very innovative software and then failed to support it stay in business. Amazing.

Online Document Creation and Sharing

March 12, 2008

There are many programs such as

Google docs
MS Office Live
ZOHO writer
or for that matter even wiki programs such as Wetpaint

those allow one to use browser accessible editor programs to create documents that can be saved in many popular document formats or they can be shared online for collaboration in completing projects. These programs do not have all the features that one will find in a full blown word processor such MS Word but they provide easy interfaces to facilitate group collaboration and instant sharing of information with fine grained access control. The old Word processor do not have this. With the 20/80 rule where 20 percent features in a program are used 80 percent of the time these programs provide enough formatting capabilities to create web based documents that can be saved in many different popular formats.

Some of you probably are wondering why I included wiki in the same mix as the others because wikis markup to create documents is different than the html markup that other programs are using. That is true but most of the user will use the rich text editor and they will never actually code in plain html or in wiki markup. For them it is not important how the data is internally stored. They just want to use the features of automatic versioning of the documents with sharing and collaboration capabilities. On a side note the computer programmers are incredibly creative people. If there are five ways to mark up an entry they will make sure that they use all of them just to distinguish themselves from others. Otherwise how else you would explain the existence of so many document formats such as rtf, html, pdf, wiki mark up and latex. I know there are historical reasons why they are here and each one of them offers some unique capability but the html and wiki markup are really not that much different. For example html markup fo a paragraph <p>xxx</p> or .p xxx wiki markup only differs in the amount of typing one does otherwise on the screen they are both rendered the same. The wiki markup creator must have hated typing brackets “<>” so he used “.” instead.

Now the graphic designers who have background in printing and want precise location of elements on a page is a different story. Most of their techniques are waste of time for documents that will be viewed on the screen because computer monitor screens do not have enough resolution to be pixel perfect. Compare 90-130 dpi (dot per inch) resolution to the minimum printed page resolution of 1400dpi. There is no comparison and the poor typographers and graphics designers who come from the print background cry when their dot perfect design is horribly mangled on the computer screen or the color fiends who use color maps to display precise colors for his/her design finds out that computer display monitors display the same image differently for variety of the reasons. So what is it that makes us give up our beautifully color printed books to the electronic documents that are of poor quality when compared with the original print media books? It is the ease of creation, use, sharing and collaboration. The original intent of creating printed books was to share information but it was one way street that information flow was between author to its passive readers a hierarchical network between author and the readers where the author sat at the top of the hierarchy pyramid. The electronic documents facilitate creation of flat network where every body can contribute if they desire to do so.

As always MS has its tiered strategy to compete in this space. They have MS Office live a free offering then they their enterprise office suite that does include one of my favorite program formerly known as Groove, a peer-to-peer based group collaboration tool that came from the same people who gave us Lotus notes. The program uses p2p so no need to maintain a large server every node is a client and a server. It uses a advance replication and presence so that the user can work off line and when they come online every other users workspace gets the copy. No need to notify every group member for the new changes the program automatically kees track of all this and keeps all the users in the loop. It was/is a program that was/is way ahead of other programs in this category with an extensible framework. Being part of the University I have access to the entire suite for free but what about the people I teach and I collaborate with. It was bad enough that I have to force them to download and install Groove client and pay some modest amount of $0-$50-$160 depending upon what capability we needed for the group but now they have to buy the whole office suite to get the same capability. Thanks to Ray Ozzie for selling us out who supported Groove when it was an unknown obscure slow and a buggy program in its version 1.0

That is why I am extremely cynical of the startups who when they need you will go out of the way to do things for you but once they made it at the back of their beta testers they quickly forget how they get there. Watch out facebook they will probably be bought out at some point by Microsoft or IBM. My take on this is that never support a company 100 percent and support only the product and companies that support you.

Talking of startup here is this company that claims to be the future of web. I was excited because they CEO was using the right words like “Semantic Web” etc so I made a blog entry and asked them if I can test their software. Guess what no reply. I guess they really have nothing to show except a sweet story for the venture capitalist.

This is the second entry I wrote using ZOHO write. As I said before it has better capabilities than Google docs but definitely needs some improvement. It needs auto sensing of url. It needs automatic spell check believe or not I post the article on wordpress and then use the auto sensing feature for spell check within rich text editor provided by wordpress. SOHO writer that claims to be an authoring tool does not have this most basic feature that helps an author but has gazillion icons to format the text. Also sometimes when I want to hyper link some text it has bizarre behavior of losing the text. Other then that It looks good.