DivX, the new king

(January 6, 2009)

Today, DivX Inc. released the new version of its famous video codec. Usually, this is utterly uninteresting news, but not this time: Version 7 is actually not an MPEG-4 ASP codec like its predecessors, but a H.264 one, based on the implementation of MainConcept. This makes the codec a lot more interesting, especially since the decoder part is free (as in beer).

The H.264 software decoder situation on Windows was a bit complicated: There just was no perfect decoder. The InterVideo and CyberLink come only with their respective Blu-ray player applications, the one in QuickTime is complete crap, the Nero one doesn’t want to work in applications other than Nero’s own. So we only had ffdshow, which is open source, cool, but a little bit slow, and CoreAVC, which is blazing fast, but you need to pay for it.
As of today, this problem has been resolved once and for all: DivX 7 is the ultimate H.264 software decoder on Windows, period. I ran a little benchmark today and the results are very impressive: DivX 7 is always faster than CoreAVC, usually about 10% for CABAC sequences. ffdshow, on the other hand, is always slowest and makes the least use of multi-core CPUs.


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2008 demo retrospection

(January 1, 2009)

Like last year, I’d like to give some recommendations what demos of 2008 are worth watching. As usual, this reflects only my personal opinion. That means if you totally love MFX demos, you won’t like my selection ;)
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Ubuntu 7.04 »Feisty Fawn«

(April 20, 2007)

The long-awaited release of the new Ubuntu version, 7.04 alias »Feisty Fawn«, was done today as scheduled. Just after work, I downloaded my copy (rather slowly, just 100 KB/sec, even though I used BitTorrent) and installed it into my Linux playground partition. Here’s what I noticed.
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An excellent DVD: Mindcandy Vol. 2

(January 3, 2007)

At tUM, I received a Freax Art Album book and a Mindcandy Volume 2 DVD as prizes for the vector graphics compo. The book isn’t as interesting as the first volume (which I loved) – it’s a picture book after all, not a text book. The DVD, on the other hand, immediately got my interest. It is a selection of 30 representative Amiga demos: Technological breakthroughs and trend-setters from 1989 to 2004. While the Amiga was still alive, it somehow went past me and never caught my attention. But one year ago, I started to read a lot about old computer platforms – mainly out of technical interest, and to be able to judge demos better. During this process, I realized how great the Amiga was and started to feel sad that I wasn’t part of this hype back then. So the DVD fills exactly this emotional gap: Without buying an expensive A1200 from eBay and/or fiddling around with the intricacies of WinUAE, I could watch at least some of the masterpieces I missed.
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Ubuntu 6.10 is totally messed up

(October 26, 2006)

Today’s long-awaited release of Ubuntu 6.10 »Edgy Eft« was a good opportunity for me to restore the inactive Linux installation on my main workstation. This computer mainly runs Windows and since the installation of Vista RC1, the experimental Linux installation there was inaccessible. In my distribution tests carried out for the LinuxTag, Ubuntu always was among the top three distros, so installing the newest and coolest fresh release seemed like the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the installer is so severely broken that I didn’t even manage to get the thing on my hard disk …
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Windows Vista RC1 reviewed

(September 14, 2006)

Not even three months after the Beta 2 version, Microsoft released the first Release Candidate of its forthcoming Windows Vista operating system to the public. My Beta 2 test lasted only one week, because Vista simply wasn’t ready for everyday use back then. But according to numerous other reviews on the net, RC1 made much progress since. I was a bit sceptical about that – how far could they have come in just twelve weeks? So it was time to do another test with the current public pre-release version. The bottom line this time: Vista has indeed become a somewhat usable system. I’m not going to ditch XP in favour of Vista soon (simply because I’ve already installed too much applications on the »old« system), but in a year or so, I think that will be an option.
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»Snakes on a Plane«

(September 12, 2006)

There has been quite some hype about this movie: Having a title that is both straightforward and funny (because »snakes on a plane« seems to be some American proverb whose true meaning I haven’t found out yet), it gained very much popularity in the Internet. The huge fan response even made New Line Cinema re-shoot some scenes so that it got a R rating instead of a modest PG-13. There were even some dialogue lines written by the movie’s fans.
All in all, »SoaP« is said to be a B-Movie with an »A« budget. I expected exactly that when I entered the cinema, but the movie turned out to be completely different – in a positive sense.
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3DRealms is alive and kickin’

(June 27, 2006)

Believe it or not, 3DRealms is about to release a game Really Soon Now. And I don’t mean the kind of »RSN« they kept telling us for the last ten years – this time, they have released a demo of the game!
Of course, I don’t mean Duke Nukem Forever (DNF). I’m talking about Prey, the other vapourware product of 3DRealms. It’s been in the works since 1995 (two years before DNF was first mentioned!) and it’s finally finished. While development of this title was not as twisted as DNF’s, it’s nevertheless interesting. The project used a very, very ambitious graphics engine that generated stunning images back then. In 1999, development stopped for some reason, and in 2002 the lead programmer died. Development was then assigned to the external company Human Head Studios, who kept true to at least parts of the storyline.
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Yet another Vista Beta 2 review

(June 13, 2006)

Testing, reviewing and ranting about Windows Vista Beta 2 seems to be all the rage lately. Normally I don’t like trends like this, but I’m into eye candy and wanted to see if the Vista Desktop really proves to be usable on my normal desktop system. And I had that 32GB empty NTFS partition on my hard drive that really needed to be filled :)
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Hype and Reality

(April 22, 2006)

In the last few days and weeks, it was rather hard to escape one »important« news: Tomb Raider: Legend, the seventh installment of the legendary Tomb Raider computer games series, is finally there. All the news media praised the game for its great graphics, story, controls … whatever. Finally there is a worthy successor for the venerable parts 1-5, after Core Design did most of its job wrong in part 6.

I decided to give all this hype a reality check (a playable demo of the first level is available). Read more …