The Bitstream Blog :: Seneschal Technical Profesional Services

MacWorld 09 — A Particular View

Hello happy reader,

This time around, I’m writing about some of the stuff I found interesting at the show; storage, IT infrastructure, tools to aid creatives, and just plain fun stuff. Here we go…

First up, The Omni Group had current versions of their apps at show special prices. I use their OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle quite often, and I like ’em!

Next, Creaceed demo’d v2 of Hydra, their HDR image comp’ing app. I’ve been doing this manually since Photoshop got Layers but, it’s nice to see some smart ’ware to speed the process. They gave me an ad at the booth with a 25% discounts until the 11th, but I couldn’t find any mention on their site…Go fish.

At the Micromat booth, I got a demo of TechTool Pro 5, a soon–to–be released version that a complete overhaul of the app. In conjunction with the stellar DiskWarrior, TechTool Pro complements Alsoft’s app with deep hardware diags and benchmarking. Thet’ve got a free upgrade if you buy now.

The folks at Pantone showed off ColorMunki, an easy, all-in-one color profiling toolset for digital workflows. One nice feature that stands out, especially at its price point, is its ability to profile a projector as well as a monitor and printer.

One print–on–demand vendor, Blurb, showed their books. Glossy pages, with satin, casewrap covers, these puppies are a narrowly focused alternative to my pioneering favorite, Lulu. Not sure who’s cheaper but, always good to have some competition in any particular vertical.

Sun Microsystems promoted their VirtualBox virtualization technology. It seems to have most all the convenience and under–the–hood features of other packages, like VMware’s Fusion, but it also runs on a wider set of platforms and hosts a much wider variety of OSs, including DOS, OS/2, Windows back to NT, Solaris and OpenSolaris, along with many flavors of Linux and OpenBSD. Oh, did I mention it’s free?! BTW, if any of youz guys out there have any experience with VirtualBox, please jump in and give us your thoughts.

I’m beginning the process of researching a book, so my interest was piqued when I rolled by The Storyist booth. Turns out their Storyist app is a story development tool for novelists and screenwriters so, not so good for me but maybe cousin Ann could use it? I’m stickin’ with InDesign for now…you may want to use the “MACWORLD2009” coupon code at their store.

For those of you who just can’t seem to get enough screen real estate, NEC was showing their curved, ultra–wide 42″ display with 2880 x 900 native resolution. That’s a 3.2:1 aspect ratio! This $6500 puppy is not a trad LCD unit so the depth is quite substantial relative to what we’ve come to expect. They also showed what appeared to be a reference monitor for broadcast applications but, for the life of me, I can find no mention of it on their web site. Again, if any of youz guys out there have any knowledge of this piece, please jump in and comment.

Storage–wise, ioStorRocstor and CalDigit all had a nice variety of Firewire and eSATA enclosures and shiny boxes to stash your files. I found out that Rocstor and Verbatim both have 3 year warrantees on their turnkey desktop products, which is nice if you’re the type to buy pre–built, off–the–shelf drives. CalDigit demo’d a very slick, small form factor, quad interface product, their VR, that houses two removable drives in a very quiet, hardware RAID’d enclosure. The price is very nice as well, considering their competitors offer something similar at a substantially higher cost.

Are we having fun yet? I had good fun listening to Focal’s XS 2.1 multimedia sound system. If you like the sound of Focal’s products, which I do, and need an all–in–one desktop audio solution, then you’ll love this system. It includes Burr–Brown DACs, two small, stand–mounted 2×30 W satellites with an integrated, USB–attached iPod dock and a 70 W compact sub that crosses at 130 Hz. Very nice overall sound quality; neutral, effortless sound at reasonable loudness from a well thought out package. The dock works without your computer, includes iTunes sync’ing, and cost $100 less than a B&W Zeppelin.

WebDNA promoted their server–side Apache/IIS enhancement that, according to them, “…replaces server-side scripting languages as well as database systems like MySQL.” If you shy away from PHP or Perl, then take a look at their stuff. Use the “MacWorld_09” discount code at checkout if you decide to jump on it.

I’m getting hungry so, last up, I’ve been tracking Livescribe’s Pulse SmartPen since before it was out of the oven. The Win version has been released but drivers for Mac OS aren’t out of beta yet. It’s close though and, at the booth, they confirmed that a 3rd party is building a handwriting–to–text recognition add–on for the product, which is what many people want.

Well, all for now…Until next time, continue to geek.

Santa Baby

Hello happy reader,

Usually I stick to more buttoned down subjects but today, at the tail of the conspicuous consumption cycle and cusp of the new year, I wanted to let you know about an interesting gadget that will debut at the upcoming CES… South Korea’s LG Electronics Monday unveiled what it described as the world’s first video phone in a watch form factor. Normally, I link to the primary source material but, in this case, LG doesn’t have a press release on this, that I can find anyway.

So, as my friend Duane said, “Dick Tracy watches for all!” An appreciative nod to Chester Gould and, are you listening, Mr. Claus? Until next time, continue to geek.

For the Common Good

Hello happy reader,

I spend a fair amount of my time wrangling assets or, should I say, helping clients to improve their ongoing imbroglio. For those who can’t afford commercial packages, there are several open source asset management systems available. Consumers, on the other hand, have neither the expertise nor dough to hook up and run any asset management rig. Instead, they turn to one of several consumer oriented services, at least for their happy snaps. Yahoo!’s Flickr is one of these and recently they’ve teamed up with the Library of Congress (LOC) on a fascinating collaboration. For the Common Good: The Library of Congress Flickr Pilot Project is an experiment, as their final report states, to “…participate directly in existing Web 2.0 communities that offer social networking functionality. Reaching out to unknown as well as known audiences can attract more people to comment, share, and interact with libraries.”

More is good since the Library of Congress, “…like many cultural heritage organizations, faces a number of challenges as it seeks to increase discovery and use of its collections. A major concern is making historical and special format materials easier to find in order to be useful for educational and other pursuits. At the same time, resources are limited to provide detailed descriptions and historical context for the many thousands of items in research collections.” The Library also faces competition from the “ever-expanding choices” for the attention of web–savvy consumers. Since the program’s debut, there have been well over 10 million views of the LOC photos, while average monthly visits to all PPOC (the LOC’s Prints and Photographs Online Catalog) web pages rose 20% over the five month period of January-May 2008, compared to the same period in 2007.

I’m one of those folks who enjoy learning about the past and, for me, the Flickr Pilot Project is a doozy. Along with the Library of Congress, fifteen other institutions have lent their assets and expertise in creating a fascinating glimpse into the past. The LOC’s contribution alone illustrates the daily news from 1900 to 1920 with over 1,500 photographs which “richly (document) sports events, theater, celebrities, crime, strikes, disasters, and political activities, with a special emphasis on life in New York City.” New York City? Isn’t that where they make bottled salsa?

Anyway, you’ll find all sorts of crazy shots, from early zeppelins to publicity stills of historical figures, such as Calbraith “Cal” Rodgers, an inexperienced pilot who, in 1911 made the first transcontinental flight across the United States in a Wright (Brothers) EX biplane. George Washington’s choppers even make a showing! Really interesting stuff and, in the spirit of open source goodness, The Commons is designated as an area of Flickr where cultural heritage institutions can increase awareness of their collections by sharing photographs that have no known copyright restrictions.

Check out The Commons for yourself. I think you’ll find something to pique your interest…Until next time, continue to geek.

Copyrant

Hello happy reader,

As a media producer, tool vendor or, consumer of art, literature and entertainment, copyright law should be an important facet of your day to day. In fact, most businesses, regardless of product or service, are impacted by copyright law whether they recognize it or not. Here in the US, copyright law has gone the way of most other recent governmental trends in that laws now protect corporate interests, not the artist who creates a work. Nowadays, not only works of art are grossly overly protected, but naturally occurring organisms, gene sequences and patently prior art are as well.

Beginning in the 1960s and over a forty year period, the legal definition of “public domain” became increasingly restrictive, a shadow of its former self. This march toward unreasonable protection culminated in the 1998 DMCA, a misstep in oh so many ways. In June of this year, when Canadian officials began the process (with a long “o”) of crafting their own version, they received an unexpected storm of public input. In essence, constituents said, “Let’s not screw the pooch the way America and the EU did.”

Canadian copyright crusader Michael Geist, along with media dude/lawyer–in–waiting Daniel Albahary, recently made a film which asks Canadians from a wide range of public and private sectors the question, “Why Copyright?”. Do yourself a favor and carve out some time to view this piece as I think it will cause your to reconsider the myriad issues surrounding intellectual property protection and how you are affected.

That’s all for now. Until next time, continue to geek, carefully.

The Automat

Hello happy reader,

When I was little, there was a Horn & Hardart Automat in downtown Providence. For me, it was magical place, a childhood equivalent of Jean Luc’s replicator, where any eats my heart desired was available in a trice…Actually, I doubt they had Earl Grey, hot. For those of you going all Scoobie on me wondering what the hell I’m talking about, a quick explanation is in order. Automats were “automated” cafeterias, somewhat akin to a sushi boat restaurant, where customers chose ready made food items. The fun part was that the comestibles were parked in little cubbyholes, each with a locked glass door and an associated coin slot. You pays yer money, you opens the door and grab yer food…nice.

Anyway, those early fast food establishments and the latter Automatt both link me to today’s posting; Entertainment On Demand 2.0. Earlier this year, Amazon announced they’re picking up the torch dropped long ago by Liquid Audio. Liquid’s hope was to deliver custom CDs, on demand, to your desktop. Nice concept but, a few years ahead of their time. To quote their web site, “Liquid Audio was formed in May 1996 by experts in the music and technology industries and was the first company to deliver secure music over the Internet. Liquid Audio had the first digital music commerce system featuring copy protection and copyright management, as well as the first and largest digital music distribution network. The company’s catalog of music is one of the largest in the world. Liquid Audio became Liquid Digital Media in January 2003 after being acquired by wholesaler Anderson Media, a large media distributor.” By the way, 2003 was the year that Apple intro’d the iTunes Music Store.

Cue the SFX and fast forward to May of this year. On the 5th, business process thought leader Amazon.com announced that, along with Sony BMG and EMI Music, they would “…bring back the music of hundreds of highly coveted out-of-print albums on CD through CreateSpace ‘Disc on Demand’ and to offer these titles on Amazon.com. Formerly out-of-print albums now available to Amazon customers include ‘Hatari Soundtrack’ by Henry Mancini, ‘Earthquake Weather’ by Joe Strummer and ‘Motorcade of Generosity’ by Cake as well as albums from the legendary Blue Note catalog…The new CDs will be manufactured on-demand and shipped when customers place an order.” The CreateSpace division of On-Demand Publishing LLC also competes with self publishing pioneer Lulu in the print–on–demand space, as well as providing DVD discs–on–demand and rich media distribution, no surprise given the fact that their parent is Amazon. In all, a one stop shop for both “I want it now” types and self publishers alike.

Now, file the CreateSpace factoid and consider that, on the 7th of this month, Google announced that they are adding voice search to their iPhone application, allowing people to speak search terms into their iPhones and view the results on screen. Soo-weet! OK, now toss in Gracenote’s Mobile MusicID (another Sony enterprise) or Shazam’s acoustic matching services and you’re well on your way to having several fast, hands–free ways of ID’ing and purchasing content while waiting in line at Starbucks…Can you say “instant gratification”?

Well, Thanksgiving is over, the poultry’s in the fridge, awaiting an extreme makeover so it can materialize, like the Ghost of Christmas present, on weekend groaning boards all over America. This can only mean that retailers have (barely) survived Black Friday and “holiday” retailing is in full swing. In the not too distant future, we can all look forward to parking our keasters in front of the idiot box, mobile computing device in hand, and expending not one whit of hard won, poultry–derived energy in our search for the perfect gift for our loved ones…that’s all for now. Until next time, continue to geek!

Today’s Monday…It Must Be Nehalem

Hello happy reader,

Back in August, I wrote a bit about Intel’s IDF here at Moscone. There’s plenty of coverage out there about the then new Larrabee and Atom processors but, at Intel, nothing stands still for long. At the end of last month, the latest IDF in Taiwan played host to a demo of the new Moorestown platform, a SOC or System on a Chip “…codenamed ‘Lincroft,’ which integrates the 45nm processor, graphics, memory controller and video encode/decode onto a single chip and an I/O hub codenamed ‘Langwell,’ which supports a range of I/O ports to connect with wireless, storage, and display components in addition to incorporating several board level functions,” according to Intel. In other words, Moorestown combines all the stuff needed, included video encode/decode, into one energy sipping part for that new, wafer thin netbook you don’t need but will be lusting for anyway.

Intel says they’re, “…on track to reduce Moorestown platform idle power by more than 10x compared to the first-generation MIDs based on the Intel Atom processor.” MIDs or Mobile Internet Devices are those small form factor, consumer oriented netbooks I mentioned fondling at the last IDF. This announcement promises to radically increase battery life. The first crop of Atom–based Korean and Japanese examples carries a price tag inversely proportional to their size. However, as with all thing ’puter, the second gen from name brands are both larger and, quite reasonably priced. HP’s Mini 1000 and Lenovo’s IdeaPad S Series both start at $400 and weight about 2.5 pounds.

That wide “range of I/O ports” allegedly includes support for several wireless technologies, “including 3G, WiMAX, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and mobile TV.” Mobile TV is a whole topic in itself. The ATSC glossed over mobile reception, along with too many other issues to vent about at the moment by, feel the love that H264 will bring to broadcast television.

Woops, got off–topic…Nehalem or Intel Core i7, as it is branded: Intel showed the first example of the family designed for fancy desktop and enthusiast machines. Future versions will address enterprise computing, including a vPro–optimized, 8 core version (ye hah!), the Nehalem-EX.

 

Kirk Skaugen holds up a “Lynnfield” wafer, Intels second-generation desktop Nehalem, during his IDF Taiwan keynote.

Kirk Skaugen holds up a “Lynnfield” wafer, Intel”s second-generation desktop Nehalem, during his IDF Taiwan keynote.

 

See, I can do pictures…I just don’t like to! According to Tom’s Hardware, the first examples of Nehalem are showing a 25% performance improvement over the Core 2. Speaking of cores, Nehalem has some new power saving features:

• Intel® Turbo Boost Technology – In response to workload demand, adds higher speed to active cores

• Power Gates – Turns individual cores on or off and is transparent to the OS, cores can run at independent voltage or frequencies

If you’re sitting on your hands, waiting for a quad core laptop, you are (almost) free to gesticulate wildly…Intel debuted their first mobile quad-core processors, the Intel® Core™ 2 Extreme QX9300 and the Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Q9100. They “…offer four separate and powerful processing cores to deliver unprecedented multi-threading performance.” Yup, four cores running at 2.53 GHz with a 1066 MHz FSB (Front Side Bus) and 12 MB of L2 (Level 2) cache. Hook it up!

OK, I’m getting overly excited and a bit peckish being at work for 10 hours straight and I need a break. So, that’s all for now. Until next time, continue to geek.

Freak Out!

Hello happy reader,

Tomorrow will see the conclusion to this nerve wracking, patience trying presidential campaign and, to keep from freaking from information overload, I’m posting a brief, light note on the Hirsute One, Frank V. Zappa. Zappa, a card carrying member of the American Melting Pot, was part Sicilian, Greek-Arab and French. He typified our national urge to stand up, stand out and get weird. I was lucky enough to have met him in 1992 when I went to the UMRK to help him with his gear.

Anyway, ol’ Frank doesn’t get much respect because most folks only know his comedy music, not his classical oeuvre of which he was so proud. Back in May of this year, his home town of Baltimore agreed to accept a sculpture of the artist from a group of Lithuanian longhairs who had already raised a monument in Vilnius Lithuania, in front of the Belgian embassy. The bust presented to the city of Baltimore is a replica of the tasteful modern bronze bust in Vilnius.

So far, there’s no word from Baltimore’s Public Art Commission as to who will pay for the piece but, if I ever get to Baltimore, I’ll check in on this. In the meantime, don’t freak out, just get out and vote! Regardless of your political inclinations, a new power structure can’t help but be an improvement to the blatant cronyism, impenetrable opacity and downright abuse of the current administration.

Tech o’ the Week

Hello happy reader,

A couple of interesting bits about new consumer electronics crossed my desk this week. Read more…

Tektoberfest

Yikes, been really busy of late, sorry for the slacking post–wise…First off, a bit more on 3D video tech. Back in March, I blogged about Dolby 3D Digital Cinema. Last month, I was lucky enough to get down to San Jose for a SMPTE meeting at Sony. They had set up a pair of extra large cinema projectors for an evening of RealD demos and discussion.

Real D is an offshoot of Lenny Lipton’s work at Stereographics. Now, let me state that I cut my teeth on Lenny’s Independent Filmmaking when I was in high school working on a 16 mm documentary. Guess what, I was the sound guy…no surprise there. During my time at Sonic Solutions, the San Rafael office was only a short walk away from StereoGraphics but I never managed to drop by… Anyway, I have the max respect for Lipton’s work. However, for digital cinema, the RealD process is just plain weak. With too much inter–ocular crosstalk for my taste, it detracts from the experience by constantly reminding you that you’re watching a movie. Granted, it’s a relatively cheap approach to 3D but, sorry, no award. Nonetheless, I had a good time, munching on the proffered junk food and snarking with my buddy Smythe.

Next up, I had a trade show to deal with earlier this month, the 125th AES here at Moscone, and now that’s done with, I’ve gotten back to some semblance of normalcy. The show went very well, by all accounts, with thanks going out to Michael Romanowski and Paul Stubblebine for their significant effort and expenditures!

Lastly, been reading up more on Class D amplification. I did a Bitstream on that subject back in ’05; the column, not the blog. While researching background on a new Class D DIY amp article, John van der Sluis at Hawk Audio supplied a nice 2006 AES paper on the subject, only to find that it was co–written by Bruno Putzeys, cohort of Eelco Grimm. Small world…

Anyway, that’s all for now. Until next time, continue to geek.

International Domain of Mystery

Hello happy reader,

OK the title of this week’s post may seem a bit obscure. However, I’ve been watching John Drake in Danger Man, the precursor to I Spy, The Prisoner, Man from UNCLE and Get Smart. Fun stuff…Anyway, today I’d like you to think a bit about the non–English speakers throughout the world and what the internet means to them — not much, I’m afraid.

To address that current shortcoming of the present English–only TLD or Top Level Domain system, of which seneschal.net is an example, ICAAN is working on the IDN initiative for internationalized domain names. This would allow most major language groups, worldwide, to participate in the great experiment that is the ’net.

If you’re curious about this, head over to ICAAN’s IDNwiki, where you can see some of this mechanism in action. On my rig, all browser’s (Safari, Firefox, Opera, RealPlayer) mishandle both Hindi and Tamil. Still, it’s great to see Arabic, Chinese, Greek and Persian URLs that work.

The internet is a powerful tool for discovery and understanding, as well as mischief and hatred. My overly optimistic view is that, given sufficient information, one can make right choices, though righteousness itself is up for debate. However, if you are barred from participation, you can’t gain from that activity. So, IDNs should, in the long run, be a subtle but powerful agent of change…

All for now. Enjoy your time here on Planet Earth and, until next time, continue to geek.

Buzz Kill

Hello happy reader,

The autumnal equinox is fast approaching, that biannual event when day and night are of equal duration. From there, the days shorten and we slip into winter…I wish I were more excited about the upcoming fall but, alas, here in NoCal, fall looks a lot like, nay, is indistinguishable from most of the rest of the year. I’ll have to head East to where fall is Fall!

Anyhoo, this post is a quick and quirky; I present, for your approval, the Mosquito, a “solution to the eternal problem of unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping malls, around shops and anywhere else they are causing problems.”

This is according to the manufacturer, Compound Security Systems, developers of “unique security solutions.” Based on age–related hearing loss, the device generates a high frequency sound that is “audible only to teenagers.” Humm, insert your own comments here…

According to the North America importer, almost 1,000 units of the US$1,500 device have been sold in the United States and Canada after the product debuted last year. CNN reported that the product has “roiled civil liberties groups in countries where it’s in use, including England, Australia and Scotland. England’s government-appointed Children’s Commission proposed a ban. That group describes it as a weapon that infringes on the basic rights of young people and claims that it could have unknown long-term health effects.” The town of Great Barrington, in far western Massachusetts, has already banned the device after a movie theater owner installed one.

The manufacturer claims the device is harmless, having been designed to “run at 5 dB-A (5 dB SPL A weighted) above background noise levels. This is done by using an onboard VOX system that measures the ambient noise and adjusts the Mosquito’s sound output level accordingly.”

Well, you know what they say about kids these days…yup, the same things “they” have been saying since the rise of civilization itself! I hope that municipalities find a better way to engage “youths,” rather than resorting to such draconian measures. Fat chance…

Until next time, continue to geek.

MacWorld SF Pass Time

Hello happy reader,

Just a quick reminder to head over to the MacWorld expo site if you want a free pass to the show here at Moscone. They only give you a few weeks to get a free pass, then the US$25 price kicks in…If you’ll be in town for the show, lemme know, we can hit the Thirsty Bear!

’Till next time, continue to geek…