Sorry, but this post has been vandalized by spammers that somehow altered the post text. If anyone has a saved backup of this post, please give it to me.
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.
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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This post and the software described in it were originally planned to be released before or on December 24th, but I didn’t manage to finish either. So consider my random wallpaper generator as a late christmas gift.
The idea for this program was born rather quickly: I wanted to have some nice and fancy desktop background images (»wallpapers«), and I wanted them to change every day. This is nothing new, I already did that in the past by writing scripts that choose one random image from a certain directory, scale them to fit on the screen and use them as wallpaper. This approach is simple and common; it’s supported by all major desktop enviroments now, if I remember correctly. However, it has two drawbacks: First, you need to update the pool of available images every now and then so it doesn’t get boring. Second, everyone who’s looking at your desktop (maybe because you do a presentation, or you want to show something, or you requested some help) will be distracted by the wallpaper. You’ll likely end up talking about the things that can be seen on the wallpaper rather than the real subject.
A proper solution for this is having a generator that procedurally creates random images that are suitable as background images – that is, nice, soothing images that don’t distract too much. Basically the kind of background images that shipped as default in Ubuntu up to 7.10 and Mac OS X up to 10.4. My program is trying to do exactly that.
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I want to apologize for the lack of posts here. I know that many people want to know the outcome of the Apple thing and the status of the two jeopardized programs. So, to finally break the much too long period of silence, here’s the current status of the projects:
The presentation program is online again under its new name Impressive: http://impressive.sourceforge.net. Currently, there’s only a rebranded 0.10.2 version, but I hope to move forward with a new version in the first quarter of 2009.
The iPod management tool has been renamed to rePear: http://repear.sourceforge.net/. Along with the rename, the brand-new and much improved version 0.4 has been released.
I find it unfortunate and unnecessary that the issue needed to be settled involving layers and lots of money. It would have been easier for both sides (and certainly more civilized) to simply write an e-mail to state the problem. I am willing to co-operate. You can still call your lawyers if I don’t comply, but I don’t see any reason why there should be money involved from the start.
I know it’s a little bit late, but anyway, here is my small party report from this year’s Evoke. Like every time, the atmosphere and ambience was excellent and we had very much fun at the party, but there were also some disappointing aspect about it.
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The short answer: Because Apple didn’t like the names of some of my programs.
The long answer
A few years ago, a fellow student and I had a great idea for a nice, effect-rich presentation program. We combined my own nickname and the name of a another popular presentation program to form the name of that program. The program itself did very well and became quite popular. That was possibly enough for Apple, the company who produces the presentation program whose name we took as a baseline, so they decided to send me a cease and desist letter. The result of this is that the program has to be renamed.
In the meantime, I also started another project: I bought an Apple iPod nano music player and since I’m not satisfied with iTunes, I wrote a program that made it possible to use that nice MP3 player without that not-so-nice-software. I gave it a name that was derived from a normal english word, except that there was one upper-case letter where a lower-case letter should have been. That might have been too much for Apple’s legal department, though, because they threatened to sue me because of this, too. That’s why this program also needs to be renamed.
It could have been a nice evening today, but to my great surprise, I found a not-so-nice e-mail in my Inbox – and at the same time, my parents found the same thing as snail mail in their mailbox at home.
To cut a long story short: Apple Inc. sent me (via a German lawyer) a »cease and desist« letter. They believe that the names CENSORED and CENSORED-s (sic!) violate their trademarks »Keynote« and »iTunes«.
Frankly, I do have a little bit of understanding in the first case. In fact, I saw it coming. I couldn’t expect that the uppercase letter »J« I put in the middle of the name, radically changing both the look and the pronounciation, was enough to stop Apple from sueing me, or could I?
The other case is a little bit more awkward because there simply is no such thing as CENSORED-s. I have written a program with a name that looks like the one they’re accusing me to use, but there is no ‘s’ at the end of the name! In the first two pages of the lengthy mail the lawyers sent me, they even did spell it correctly. But then, in all places that really matter, like the cease and desist form itself (»Unterlassungserklärung«) and the explanation why they think I’m violating their trademark, they constantly write the name with the additional ‘s’. So, in fact, even if I would sign that letter, I would commit myself not to use a product name I never used! (That flaw aside, I also don’t think that there’s a sufficient amount of similarity between »iTunes« and CENSORED.)
To make things worse, they chose an insane amount in controversy (»Gegenstandswert«) of 50,000 € each in both cases. That seems to be quite a lot, considering that both programs in questions are FOSS, meaning that I did neither pay nor earn anything for making them. Out of these 100,000 € in total, they compute a fee (»Geschäftsgebühr«) of nearly 1,800 € I’d have to pay if I sign the form.
Also, they set up a ridiculously short time frame to sign it: If I don’t send it back and pay the fee until 2008-06-26 (this Thursday), they’ll likely be sueing me. Mind you, I got the letter this evening (2008-06-22), because they sent it late Friday (2008-06-20, the e-mail is dated 16:09) and I was neither at home nor did I have internet access this weekend. That’s 6 days of time, but since it’s around a weekend, it’s effectively only 3.
The great question is now, what could I do? I can’t just sign the letter and pay the bill, because it’s factually wrong. On the other hand, if I take myself a lawyer, it might be too late to change anything in the matter and would maybe double the fee (assuming that my own lawyer would also use the ridiculous 100,000 € value as a baseline for his/her payment). Seems as if I’m screwed either way.
The only thing that’s clear is that both my presentation program and one of my iPod tools will be renamed soon. If you have a nice new non-Appleish name for these projects, please let me know :)
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After a long, long time I can finally (and proudly) present a nearly finished new version of CENSORED, the iPod management tool. The main highlights in this release are support for some new models (iPod classic and »fat« nano), AAC and (experimental) video support, import of Play Counts and upload to last.fm and a lot of other new features and bugfixes. Though the code is already finished, I can’t publicly release a full version yet because of two reasons: First, the documentation needs to be updated and second, I need an official Client ID from last.fm to legally upload (»scrobble«) play statistics, but the guy who is responsible for those seems to be very busy with other stuff at the moment.
So instead of releasing CENSORED 0.4.0 straight away, I’m doing a non-public beta test now. Users who helped me with the new version or otherwise expressed interest in it have already been invited. If you are also interested and have not received an invitation yet, just send me an e-mail.
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