Open Source

The Rise Of Open Data

There’s lots of talk about open source software in use all over the place. Linux runs everything from servers to cell phones. You can find it powering the entertainment system on your next flight. You can find it anywhere you use technology.

We talk much less about open data, but it’s equally interesting. The first and most prominent source is of course Wikipedia which is of course one of the largest sites on the Internet by most metrics. It’s data is widely used in many applications from being accessible on the Kindle to priming Facebook and presumably Quora (I don’t think they have ever confirmed it) with pages. It’s been downloaded and analyzed many times. Even the edits have been scrutinized by researchers to learn how people interact with each other.

Lesser known is OpenStreetMap, a project that may eventually challenge the long dominant Google Maps. OSM is to maps what Wikipedia is (or was) to encyclopedias. It’s website is still a bit crude and if made better would likely encourage some usage from folks who are opposed to Google on privacy grounds. Even more interesting is that OSM’s data is pretty widely consumed. Apple appears to be starting to use it. as they look to break the dependency on Google, a competitor for maps. Laminar Research uses it to generate a “plausible world” (their words not mine) in X-Plane 10. Think about that, a simulator using real street map data to generate a world that looks in many ways like the real world. It’s amazing.

Data has been ignored for so long, it’s just starting to get recognition. It was partly ignored because processing data used to be expensive. Cheap computing means data can be created, stored, processed, sifted and sorted, save and sent quicker and more affordable than ever before. We’re still at the beginning of this revolution.


Always Bet On Standards

An old but interesting interview with X-Plane creator Austin Meyer on Direct3D vs. OpenGL:

…I bet on OpenGL, and used that. As a result, here we are, 15 years later, and the people that use Direct3D can support Windows only. But, with OpenGL, I support Windows, Mac, Linux, Palm OS, Google Android OS, and oh yes: iPhone and iPodOS which are also OpenGL. So having X-Plane in OpenGL let me move over to iPod and iPhone very quickly. The port was done in 2 weeks, to be very exact. And you saw that i have moved 500,000 units on the iPhone and iPod since. I get $7 from each of those sales, and have moved 500,000 units in the last year and a half, so get out your calculator, do some math, and see if i made the right choice to bet against Microsoft 15 years ago.

Always bet on standards. Nobody remains on top forever. When you bet on proprietary tech because it’s in the lead, you’re betting that your demise will happen prior to the leader falling. Never bet against yourself.


Apple To Announce Cash Plan

Apple is said to announce what they plan to do with their giant pile of cash tomorrow. Granted anything is possible, some ideas:

  • Dividend – Boring, but the only thing that will please investors if they return it all. One time large and then reoccurring. Anything less and Wall Street will be disappointed. Obviously.
  • Buyback Stock – Possible, but doesn’t sound likely.
  • Buy A Telecom – This is actually possible, though not likely. T-Mobile’s acquisition by AT&T failed. Sprint has been rumored to be a target forever now. Apple could benefit from owning the ecosystem and making it into a Kindle like environment. Huge investment, but long-term benefits are obvious. The ugly and complicated in the iPhone business is the telecoms. Apple hates ugly and complicated.
  • Build A Telecom – Kinda like the above, but slightly different approach.
  • Buy Up Or Replace Key Vendors – This isn’t impossible. For example, Samsung’s LCD business in-house would mean adequate supply and design opportunities for Apple’s products (MacPro is the loner in major no-screen devices). Battery vendors working in-house would mean emphasis on what Apple needs: more power density and strategic development that would enhance Apple’s designs. It also means ample capacity for Apple’s production needs. Lastly it means a step ahead of the competition. While competitors shop around for something that meets their needs, Apple can build what they dream up. Apple’s purchase of P.A. Semi a few years ago shows this is a strategy they are willing to use.

I’d bet on dividend, but anything is possible.


Listen To The Space Shuttle Takeoff

Space Shuttle SRB During Takeoff

This is an amazing video. You’ve likely seen video of the Space Shuttle takeoff. You’ve likely even seen video of takeoff from the view of the camera’s on the Space Shuttle’s 2 solid rocket boosters. This one is slightly different. Turn up your speakers and listen to this one. The folks at the legendary Skywalker Sound mixed and enhanced this one.

Via Bad Astronomy

Around The Web Open Source

The Case Against 24 bit 192kHz Music

Chris Montgomery aka “Monty” wrote an amazing essay on why 24 bit 192kHz downloads are silly and not worth while. Among those lobbying for it include Neil Young. Given Montgomery’s experience with audio encoding (OGG/Vorbis), he’s without question an authority on the topic.

Articles last month revealed that musician Neil Young and Apple’s Steve Jobs discussed offering digital music downloads of ‘uncompromised studio quality’. Much of the press and user commentary was particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of uncompressed 24 bit 192kHz downloads. 24/192 featured prominently in my own conversations with Mr. Young’s group several months ago.

Unfortunately, there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space.

There are a few real problems with the audio quality and ‘experience’ of digitally distributed music today. 24/192 solves none of them. While everyone fixates on 24/192 as a magic bullet, we’re not going to see any actual improvement.

Go read the rest. It’s worth while. A couple nice jabs at self proclaimed “audiophiles” are included as well.


Built In FM Radio Support For Next iPhone?

Broadcom BCM4330The most interesting thing in the iFixIt iPad 3 teardown is the discovery of the new BCM4330 chip. This chip is specifically a: 802.11a/b/g/n MAC/Baseband/Radio with Integrated Bluetooth 4.0+HS & FM Transceiver. That’s a mouthful.

Apple likes to keep things in sync. It’s a reasonable bet this is part of the next-gen platform for the iPhone. It’s assumed the next iPhone will have a similar if not identical LTE chipset as the new iPad. This gives a little hint of what might be to come. 802.11/a/b/g/n is a given. Same with Bluetooth 4.0+HS. A FM Transceiver on board is a new one.

This is a pretty interesting find. Specifically it receives and transmits FM. I’m guessing this is part of the next iPhone platform. No feature on the iPad so far supports this. While it’s possible Apple will never use it, I suspect they will. The iPod nano already has an FM receiver. This would be a feature parody against an entry-level product. Carriers will obviously love the idea of users getting music in a method that doesn’t need data connectivity (just like they favor WiFi). You’re locked into a data plan for 2 years anyway.

Even more interesting is the transmit ability. This could be the basis of a built-in iTrip car adapter in every iPhone. Just press a button and set your radio to the corresponding FM station. One less adapter, one less thing to fuss around with. Your iOS device now connects to any audio device with an FM receiver. Sure the quality won’t be perfect, but it’s a huge step towards your iOS device being your media solution everywhere.

This is of course a theory, but I think it’s at least plausible.

Google Mozilla

On H.264 Revisited

Once again the debate over H.264 has come up in the Mozilla community. I’ve been a strong advocate of the WebM/VP8 codec given its liberal license and abilities and still am, but agree H.264 needs to be supported. It’s a requirement for mobile (B2G), and becoming necessary on the desktop.

A little over a year ago Chrome talked about dropping support for H.264. To date they have not done so, or given any indication that is even still in the plans as far as I know. In 2010 Adobe said they would be supporting WebM (link in that same blog post). They too have failed to live up to their promises. In either case I’ve found no indication on the internet they ever plan to go forward with those plans.

I suspect in Google’s case they were pressured by various providers and mobile partners who don’t want to encode or support another encoding. Google’s been trying to woo anyone/everyone for the purposes of Google TV and presumably YouTube. It’s likely just not worth it for them to push. There are various theories floating around about Adobe including a lack of clear Flash strategy in an HTML5 world. Adobe does however have a “tools” strategy. Perhaps time will tell.

Furthermore Apple and Microsoft are fundamentally opposed to WebM as they are both licensors for H.264. The odds of them supporting something that hurts their bottom line unless the rest of the web is threatening to leave them behind is nearly 0.

I question however if it should be bundled vs. using system codecs. Windows XP aside, system codecs mean that Microsoft and Apple are essentially responsible for making it work as well as the expense. Plugins could be used for OS’s that don’t ship with the appropriate codecs.

It’s time to put some effort into a JavaScript player for WebM and make that liberally licensed. Browsers still aren’t quite there, but eventually the day will come when that’s workable. The web will then gain the ability to have video play on any (modern) device. Just not natively. That is the backdoor for an open codec.

The real issue is larger than the <video/> element. It’s software patents and their ability to undermine innovation and progress. It’s important to keep this in mind. Just look at mobile. It’s completely possible that the entire mobile industry could come to a halt over patent lawsuits and fear of lawsuits. All it takes is a company willing to press the button. Google spent $12.5 billion in what is essentially the patent equivalent of nuclear proliferation. That’s how real the threat is perceived. H.264 is arguably a fart in a hurricane.

Around The Web

da Vinci’s Battle of Anghiari Found?

Leonardo da Vinci's The Battle of Anghiari

Researchers think they may have found the missing Battle of Anghiari painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

As the story goes da Vinci was commissioned to paint a fresco on a wall of the Florenceā€™s city hall. The experimental technique he used failed and he stopped. Others say it was completed, starting part of the mystery. Years later, Giorgio Vasari was ordered to renovate and paint a new fresco, “The Battle of Marciano”. What happened next is subject to debate. Some believe he painted right over da Vinci’s work. Others believe he built a new wall just a few centimeters in front of the old wall to preserve da Vinci’s work. Supporting this theory is research that found at one point “The Battle of Marciano” contained a tiny green flag containing the phrase “Cerca, trova — seek and you shall find”. Perhaps a hint?

They have now went as far as inserting tiny cameras in a few holes in search of the original work. They found there was indeed an airgap as earlier x-rays indicated. They also found materials that da Vinci was known to use in paint.

Of course an existing work would likely need to be destroyed to expose this hidden work, unless new techniques were created to remove the newer wall, extract da Vinci’s work and replace the newer wall.

File this one under “amazing”.

Audio/Video Funny

Conan O’Brien On New iPad

Conan iPad Display

Conan on the new iPad Display. Amusing as always. Ironically the video Team Coco posted isn’t terribly great quality.

Around The Web Audio/Video

How To Start A Boeing 737 Classic

Boeing 737-500 Cold Start

Here’s an interesting video on how to start a Boeing 737-500 (classic). Lots of detail and explanation as they walk through the process. Lots of older tech there, but this is hardly a glass cockpit and aviation tech tends to be older and more tested.

Via Gizmodo