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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mpeg4 compatible DVD player

I was thinking the other day that it would be cool if someone made a DvD player that would playback mpeg4 video (including H.264). Its not so much that I want one for myself, which would be cool, but I would like friends and family to have one. The idea being I could burn home video to CD-ROM or DVD-RW and take it to friends houses to show people on the TV, instead of having to crowd around the computer in the home office.

So a little googling and I get this list:
  • The JVC XV-NP1SL Plays DVDs, DVD-R, VCD, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, JPEG, WMA, MPEG4, SD Memory card reader.
  • Technosonic MP-101 supports MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, DivX and XviD.
  • Samsung HD850 supports MP3/WMA/JPEG and MPEG4 Playback
  • GoVideo D2730 Networked DVD wireless and wired ethernet support for streaming "MP3 and WMA audio files, JPEG, Tiff, PSD, PICT, and Bitmap image files, and MPEG1, MPEG2 and MPEG4 video files from your PC to your Living Room."
  • AKAI DV-PX8000 supports DVD/ MPEG 4/ VCD/ SVCD/ CDR/ CD-RW/ MP3/ CD/ Photo CD (JPEG).

That GoVideo networked player looks pretty interesting. It doesn't say it will play mpeg4 off of burned disks, but the networked streaming support means that it could be the front end for a pretty cheap distributed home video server.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Notes from ApacheCon

Last week I attended ApacheCon US. Now I have a little time to write about that experience. Earlier this week I found myself describing to a friend over lunch what I thought were the main points of Jaron Lanier's closing talk. I didn't agree with everything that Jaron said, but I do think he made some interesting points.

  • Game developers are not getting the performance they expected from multi-core processors. This is largely seen as a result of poor advancement in compiler technology. Jaron thinks this will only be an issue for people doing gaming work and working on realtime systems (he gave robotics as an example). That is where I disagree, as will probably anyone who has edited home movies on their PC. There is definately room for improvement in video and image editing software.

    Back in the mid-1990's when I was in graduate school I kept thinking that parallel processing and compilers to support it would be the next big thing in Computer Science. By that I mean parallel systems moving into the main stream of computer use, instead of being for specialized scientific computing systems. Ten years later I think my prediction is about to come true. (So I was a decade early.)

    Now I think we might need a new programming language that makes more parallel optimizations by the compiler possible. C and C++ don't allow compilers much room to perform optimizations because they are so low level you can't make assumptions about what the programmer intended.

  • Jaron thinks hard set protocols are limiting the advancement of software. He seems to prefer what I would call, for lack of a better term, fuzzy logic protocols. He indicated that fuzzy protocols are what is needed when computer systems interact with real world processes.

  • The other point that I thought was very interesting was that he believed open source software might be where the next break through happens, if there were to develop an open source gaming community. His thoughts are that open source game development would bring a wildly creative group of people into contact with the problems pushing the envelope of hardware performance. That creativity could lead to radically new ideas in how to develop complex high performance software projects.
    After all serving up web pages is a function we would call trivially parallel. Projects like apache therefore in his eyes will not lead to news ways of developing software.

    Here I agree with Jaron. I think open source software (OSS) projects free the developers to do what is right with out political management problems causing compromises that shouldn't be made. One of the keys of successful OSS projects is that they be cool enough to attract good developers. A hot game is probably about as cool or sexy as software can get. So who can start the killer OSS game?

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Photo tour of the Transparent Factory

VWvortex has a fascinating photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden where Volkswagen assembles Phaetons. The factory is just beautiful. Both aesthetically and mechanically. I think if Steve Jobs were to ever see these pictures or tour the factory, he'd order a Phaeton right away.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Honda's solar ambitions

Honda to produce Solar cells. For a company of Honda's size this is a small market (they only plan to sell between $40Million and $70Million US in solar cells per year). But it does show the interest that major companies are taking in alternative energy systems. You can see the markets interest by looking at a two year stock price graph for Evergreen Solar (thanks to Yahoo).

Disclaimer: I own shares of Honda, but only wish I had bought Evergreen two years ago when I started following their stock price.

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