Saturday, July 24, 2004

Antares Dual Core 970(G5) coming?

Thinksecret and Apple Nova both have interesting information on "Antares" aka 970MP. Antares is a Dual Core(DC) version of the IBM 970 CPU which powers the Apple Powermac G5. The current CPUs run at up to 2.5Ghz but each processor is Single Core requiring two CPU sockets and two distinct Front Side Bus connections to the memory controller. Apple moving to DC 970MP systems would allow them to offer a system with the same power that they utilize today but using only one CPU socket and one FSB connection to the memory controller. The cost savings would have to be rather signifant as the motherboard complexity goes down. This also opens the door for very high end systems based on 2 sockets running 970MP in each socket. That would give you a 4 CPU system for not much more complexity than what we have today.

This is very exciting to me because it means within 2 years we are likely to see DC systems available in consumer Macs like the iMac. High end systems will have 4 cores total running and believe me I know plenty of Final Cut Pro users or even Emagic Logic users who would welcome the extra two processors for processing CPU hungry plugins or encoding video.

What this could also mean is that the POWER5 derivative(the current 970 is a POWER4 derivative) might not hit until 2006. If we must wait that long I'm sure the wait would be worth it. It may even be fabricated on a smaller 65nm process.

The march in computing is moving on at the same quick pace. Rather than a fight to clock the CPU as high as possible we are simply scaling horizontally now adding more cores. I think this is smart since our modern operating systems allow us to multitask more efficiently. Thanks for reading.

New idea for iLife 5

I love Apples iLife concept. Bundle digital lifestyle apps together in a nice integrated fashion. I think this is a very powerful concept and one that entices people to be more creative. There is life beyond cranking out boring word processing documents or creating boring presentations. Audio and video surround us everyday via TV and AM/FM radio. iTunes in particular has become the crown jewel of iLife. It is the gateway to the iTunes Music Store. Being that it's so popular there should be some additional protections put in place IMO.

I think Apple has the perfect chance to take a step forward and take advantage of the security advantage that OSX has. I think the next iLife component should be a mini version of Apple Remote Desktop . This would come along with the come along with the iLife Family Pack. Apple Remote Desktop is very cool because it allows you to monitor the screens on multiple networked computers. It allows software distribution as well. The iLife version would be of course scaled back to support 5 clients total and there would be hooks into "iTunes 5" that would allow the "Master" to control the iTunes display of "Explicit" content on iTMS. Parents would then utilize this feature to make sure that their children aren't listening to inapproprate songs. A log would be available as well to make sure unsavory websites were not being visited as well. As a parent myself of a child that is not of computer using age I can easily see where I will have to protect my child from making the mistake of accessing an adult site like versus Security from external virus and worms is no less important to parents as the security from adult content forcing its way into your computing life. Apple could make some significant usability strides here by making a security component to iLife.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

MPAA offensive on movie piracy

If you haven't noticed yet the MPAA just launched an offensive on movie piracy. The attack was swift and precise perfect in its calculation. It is now the MPAAs turn to whine about piracy. No doubt they have watched the RIAA go through growing pains while taking copious notes on what not to do. Here is a sampling of links with choice quotes.

Guide to Home Theater

The Motion Picture Association of America has issued a strident warning that "a growing global epidemic" of Internet movie piracy is harming the motion picture industry. Citing a survey of 3600 Internet users in 8 countries conducted by online research company OTX, the MPAA reported that one in four Internet users (24%) has downloaded a movie and that 17% of those who had done soreported lowered attendance of theatrical films or purchases of licensed DVDs or videotapes.

These are rather obtuse numbers and fairly meaningless coming from a paltry 3600 users who bothered to fill out the survey. As for lowered movie attendance you have to find it odd that the MPAA regards movie going as some birthright bestowed upon them. Quite honestly I've stopped purchasing so many DVDs when I discovered Netflix was a better way. However the MPAA will soon find that theater going drops even more due to non-piracy related issues. Hollywood has come out with some real stinkers lately. How excited were you to go see Van Helsing after reading the glorious reviews. I'm a fan of Home Theater and I love to hang out at the AVS Forums and I can tell you that with confidence that today’s movie experience can easily be surpassed at home. With front projector systems and high quality DVD players rivaling the average movie theater, what incentive do these people have to hop in the car, find parking, wait in line and pay $40 a pound for popcorn have? To add insult to injury you are now a captive audience to be bombarded with Coca Cola advertisements followed by endless movie trailers.

The MPAA hasn't figured out the as the quality of equipment improves at home so does the experience. The expectations for theaters are much higher than before. We expect to see good movie content on large screens with a great picture and sound. What we get is Hollywood fluff like Troy and Van Helsing played back on sub par screens. Matinee prices are creeping past $6 a ticket killing the incentive to go see a movie that you are on the fence about.

as proof of downloading impact on the industry, the MPAA cited a 4% drop-off in ticket sales.

Again this is blaming the consumer for not wanting to put up with poor movies. This is taken right from the RIAA handbook. If ticket sales are so bad them pray tell why 10 out of the top twenty grossing domestic movies were released within the last 4 years? Movies goers are still going but the garbage Hollywood is shoveling is getting to be a bit too much. Expect to hear more whining from the MPAA about piracy and attempts to add new DRM features to DVD. Expect to see more brain dead Hollywood trash pushed your way. Until we stop supporting this dreck with our hard earned money our desires for quality will constantly be undermined. Thanks again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Canon announces new XL2 Camcorder

Canon has announced the new XL2 camcorder, Here are the specs. I was mildly surprised that Canon did not go with the HDV format but it actually makes sense. The XL Series claim to fame is the ability to use removable XL Lens for the cam. This flexibility is great but the previous XL1 and XL1s were starting to get a little "long in the tooth". The quality of the DV captured on a XL1s was beneath that of the AG-DVX100A

which offered 410k pixel resolution compared to the XL1s' 270k it's easy to see why the Canon lost. But looking at the same link prior you will see the XL2 offers a nice healthy 680k pixel resolution which it carves up to support 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios yet still keep a nice pixel count. A tradeoff but one that doesn't harm the quality harshly or hamper flexibility. Such a cam is far beyond my price range but it is nice to see some good prosumer stuff that is cheaper than a new car.

Back to HDV. HDV is a format developed by JVC (Japan Victor Company). It uses MPEG Transport Stream to record video at two bitrates. 19.4Mbps and a max( I believe) of 25Mbps. Incidentally the 19.4 stream is equal to what many broadcasters are using for ATSC High Definition broadcasts. Great! So why didn't Canon use it then? Well, that's anyone’s guess but it's likely that Canon didn't want to strand those using XL1s with a bunch of lenses and accessories that wouldn't work with a totally new design. Also DV is far easier to edit than the MPEG2 TS that HDV cams record in. The reason why is because the DV codec uses Intraframe compression. Each individual frame has compression applied within it. MPEG2 uses Interframe compression, which means the compression is applied over a sequence of frames and varies depending on content(i.e. movement etc). Intraframe compression allows the editing software to access individual frames for precise editing and application of effects. Intraframe codecs are generally used in editing. Interframe compression is primarily a delivery codec. It is more efficient in compression because it applies across a series of frames apply the most efficient compression to minimize size. The problem comes when you want to edit these types of codecs and your editing software has to approximate the frame you are looking for to start the edit.

I'm sure I have the basics down here but I'm open to any new knowledge on this subject. I'm excited for what HDV will do for high quality video capture. I'm just a little miffed that I can't have my cake and eat it too when it comes to efficient editing of this high rez HDV footage.

Canon has stated the XL2 will be their last high end Standard Def cam. So I expect that they will have an HDV model no later than NAB 2005( April 2005). Until then I'll be keen on seeing the battle between the Panny and the Canon in reviews. Thanks for reading.

Coming soon the Super Operating Systems. Tiger & Longhorn

I am far too much of a newbie to be able to look at the new OS coming from both Apple and Microsoft to be of any help technically. But I do believe I can see potential and I have to like what I see from both. Apple will deliver OSX 10.4 also known as Tiger some time in 2005. I find it rather comical that many people have downloaded the Preview Release(PR) given to the developers who attended the World Wide Developers Conference June 28th of this year and can't make any sense of it. That's because the PR contains only the necessary functions for "developers" to test the new API and plan their development strategies. If you download Tiger and expect to see a bunch of new life changing features you will sorely be disappointed. Looking deeper at Tiger we see that Apple has remained true to its core competency, which is graphics. Of particular note Core Image and Core Video API allow for image and video processing to happen on the local GPU graphics card at real time speeds. These same effects today would sap precious CPU computing power so this benefits users in 2 ways. It pushes this processing to the GPU, which is much faster than the CPU at processing these effects and at the same time frees up the CPU to focus on other areas.

This is very similar to the speed boost computer gaming received when games were able to utililize the newest graphics card that contained Transform & Lighting on the card itself rather than burden the CPU with this task. Games instantly became faster and quality improved greatly. Look for Core Image and Video to do the same. I've seen Apple's new Motion apps aimed at adding motion graphics to video. It's an amazing app. Rather than make adjustments and view the effect in a small preview window, in Motion your application window "is" the preview window and you simply work in real time or close to it as you build your project. Productivity should skyrocket anytime you can do complex or creative tasks in real time. I predict in 2 years the shift to real time processing will be so swift and complete that we all will quickly forget the "old days" when even iMovie had to render transitions. That's a good thing.

Spotlight is another great technology that on the surface looks rather pedestrian.Some Mac users today don't understand what's so special about Spotlight when we've been indexing in Mac OS for years. Rather than give you a diatribe I'll point you to the excellent John Gruber article that explains the wonder that is Spotlight. Searching is a learned behavior, I frequently have heard people say they wouldn't use Spotlight. This is because people have been told for years that searching was going to improve and quite frankly is has not. The Internet makes robust search tools paramount today. I'm not talking about Google but rather the ability to download insane amounts of data to your hard drive. 5 years ago broadband didn't have the penetration it does today. Places like Korea and Japan have insane broadband penetration and speeds( up to 20Mbps dl). Clearly the robustness of local search tools is important as hard drives store more data. Lacie just announced a 1.6 Terabyte Big Disk Extreme yes someone will fill this drive up and woe to he/she who has poor organizational skills. Spotlight and its metadata search methods coupled with google's popularity will change the way the average person retrieves information from their computer. This is much welcomed.

Longhorn- As a Mac fan I'm supposed to hate Microsoft even though their campus is literally 20 minutes from my front door. To be honest I have two homebuilt PCs and two older Macs. Windows XP is quite honestly not a bad OS. It's rather bland in many areas but it is far more stable than the junk we called Win98 and more flexible than Win 2000 (IMO of course. I run both). I have never been overly impressed with any Windows OS but that might change. Although they are only "concept" video I am impressed with the scope of Longhorn. Watching these Longhorn Videos was an eye opener. Microsoft's strategy seems to be clearer today than the first initial hype of .net. Their "4 Pillars" foundation of Longhorn seems to be well thought out and extensible as well as technically impressive in many areas (WinFS, Indigo). Where Apple has flexed its muscles in graphics in Tiger, Microsoft seems to be flexing their muscles within the context of business tools and workflow. Both OS seem to be moving away from a developer paradigm where every app was beholden mainly to itself, to a new model where apps share data and link seamlessly between each other guided by the OS framework. This ideology should really positively impact how consumers utilize the OS. While as a developer it should allow applications to focus more on their own respective specialties rather than duplicate core functionality that now reside in the OS.

Admittedly I'm just taking my first new "baby steps" in learning development and OS architecture. I'm sure I'll know far more in 2 years but for now I'm extremely positive about the direction of computing in general. Thanks for reading. HM

The next Apple iMac

Well now that the infamous "iMac shortage" is upon is there is renewed discussion about the next iMac and what features is may contain. Unfortunately I believe that many are setting themselves up for future disappointment. The iMac LCD in its current form is a very cool computer but it just lacked that special something to be a huge hit like its forbearer. People marveled at its lamp like shape and gawked at its sharp and bright LCD. However after first reflection the weakness began to show. The graphics were barely adequate by industry standards at the time of launch and it wasn't the fire breather that the original iMac was in relation to the Powermac lineup( I think the original iMac was within 30Mhz or so of the Powermacs at the time of launch). Thus the iMac sales took off then them promptly slid in sales over the following quarters. What must Apple do to reinvigorate this once proud lineup?

I believe they must make the iMac a two-piece system. Consumers are a bit more computer savvy now making the benefits of an All-in-one computer a bit superfluous today. What I propose is that Apple creates a base that is distinctly not a minitower and then connects a standard DVI 17" widescreen LCD display. The DVI connection would be behind a shroud so that it looks like an integral part of the iMac3 base but a few screws would allow easy access to the actual connector. Apple would utilize a similar connector that is used on the new DVI Cinema Displays. What are the advantages of such a setup? Well it calms the fears of the buying public that a failure of the monitor or CPU means a destruction of the whole computer. It allows for future upgrade possibilities. And for Apple it allows them to reap the financial rewards of revenue generated by a monitor sale, which they crave. Yes people would ask Apple to ship a "headless" version but Apple would not do that because they realize that headless requests are made by those people who either have a current monitor they wish to use or wish to shop around for the cheapest price on a 3rd party monitor. Apple creating a two-piece system can therefore meet users halfway. If a person purchases a iMac3 but does not wish to utilize the monitor all is not lost because that monitor supports the industry standard DVI connector and thus can be sold to almost anyone with a DVI connector on his or her computer. Considering Apples design smarts and cachet, I wouldn't be surprised if you could fetch quite a nice price on eBay for these monitors if push came to shove.

Next pricing. Forget a $999 iMac. The eMac is solid at that price point and it would make no sense for Apple to create that competition. Therefore I think we'll see something akin to this:

PowerPC G5 1.6Ghz
17" Widescreen LCD with built in speakers.
256MB RAM/120GB HD
AGP 8X upgradeable graphics(Base 128MB)
Digital I/O, 10/100/1000
8X DVD-R burner


PowerPC G5 1.4Ghz
15" LCD with built in speakers
256MB RAM/ 80GB HD
AGP 8x upgradeable graphic(Base 64MB)
Digital I/O, 10/100/1000
8X DVD Burner


Again a two piece design so that you have flexibility in placement or you can swap out the LCD someday. Nice coverage between eMac at $799 and $999 segueing to iMac3 15" at $1299 and 17" at $1599. Now these systems would get peoples attention.

Well that was easy.

Well this Blogging thing just may take off. I've always loved to hear myself ramble.