Google just made a bold move in the HTML5 video tag battle: even though H.264 is widely used and WebM is not, the search giant has announced it will drop support for the former in Chrome. The company has not done so yet, but it has promised it will in the next couple of months. Google wants to give content publishers and developers using the HTML5 video tag an opportunity to make any necessary changes to their websites.
Here's the current state of HTML5 video: Microsoft and Apple are betting on H.264, while Google, Mozilla, and Opera are rooting for WebM. Although Internet Explorer 9 supports H.264, excluding all other codecs, Microsoft says it is making an exception for WebM, as long as the user installs the corresponding codec. Google developed WebM, but made an exception for H.264, until today's announcement. Meanwhile, Mozilla and Opera refuse to provide support for H.264 because the H.264 patent license agreement isn't cheap.
In addition to being new and thus not being widely supported, WebM does not have any hardware decoders like H.264 does. In the mobile world, this is very important because hardware video decoding allows mobile devices to get long battery life and smooth performance for video playback. As a result, we would expect that Google will address this issue in order to push publishers to switch from H.264 to WebM.
Last month, Microsoft announced an updated version of its Windows Media Player plug-in for Mozilla Firefox that enabled H.264-encoded video on HTML5 by using built-in capabilities available on Windows 7. The HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in is free to download but its release was controversial given that Firefox is a big competitor to Microsoft's own Internet Explorer. Microsoft's goal was to push the world towards H.264. Google's goal is to push the world towards WebM.
"We expect even more rapid innovation in the web media platform in the coming year and are focusing our investments in those technologies that are developed and licensed based on open web principles," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "To that end, we are changing Chrome's HTML5 video support to make it consistent with the codecs already supported by the open Chromium project. Specifically, we are supporting the WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs, and will consider adding support for other high-quality open codecs in the future. Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies."
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
What do you do with 100 player piano rolls but no player piano? You come up with a way to digitize the information for MIDI playback. The rolls have 90 columns worth of holes, 88 for the keys and two more for pedals. Voids in the paper cause a note or pedal to be played, so an optical sensor can be used to transform the analog data into digital information. Simple enough, you’ll just need 90 sensors. But this brings up quite an alignment issue. The solution is to use fiber optic cable to position the IR light source in a hand-made 0.2″ spaced jig. At least the spacing meshes nicely with standard 0.1″ protoboard, which is what was used for mounting the sensors.
Filed under: musical hacks
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Jan. 11, 1:25 a.m. | Updated Clarified the name of the Russian firm that invested in Groupon after Groupon corrected its press release.
Groupon, the site that sells daily coupons for local businesses, has raised $950 million from investors, the largest amount raised by a start-up.
The investment follows Google’s $6 billion bid for Groupon, which fell apart last month. The list of new investors in the company include some of Silicon Valley’s hottest names, like Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Groupon, which is just over two years old and based in Chicago, has quickly catapulted into the ranks of the top tech companies. By selling coupons, like ones that offer $20 worth of books for $10 at a local bookstore, it gives small businesses a way to advertise and find new customers without spending money upfront.
“They’ve cracked the code on a formula for how to basically give access on the Internet as a marketing channel for offline merchants,” said Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz and a veteran of Silicon Valley. “It’s a very, very big deal because there are a lot of offline merchants that have not been able to use the Internet as a marketing vehicle.”
Mr. Andreessen said Groupon can play the same advertising role for small, offline businesses, like dry cleaners and cafes, that Google’s AdWords has played for online businesses.
“That’s why Google was interested,” he said.
Some analysts have questioned whether Groupon, whose revenue has been zooming upward, can continue to grow at the same rate. Local businesses usually heavily discount their products on Groupon, so they may not want to sell coupons more than once or twice, and some businesses have complained that they lost money on Groupon and that the people who bought the coupons did not become repeat customers.
But in an interview last week, Rob Solomon, Groupon’s president, said there were so many small businesses worldwide that Groupon can continue to grow rapidly, expanding beyond businesses like restaurants and yoga studios to law firms, for instance. He also said the company planned to offer other services to small businesses, like tools to manage their relationships with customers. These include running promotions themselves.
The record-breaking amount of money that Groupon has raised gives the company the ability to expand into those new areas — and to cash out earlier investors who may be getting impatient after the company walked away from Google’s buy-out offer.
For the venture capital firms, the investment is a way to get into one of the fastest-growing companies. Kleiner Perkins, which made a name for itself last decade with investments in Google and Amazon.com, has been slow to social media, but is turning that around with recent investments in Twitter and Groupon.
Mr. Andreessen said he considered Groupon, Facebook, Skype and Zynga — all companies in which his firm has invested — to be the four most promising companies in this era of Web start-ups, comparable to Google, Yahoo, eBay and Amazon a decade ago.
Other investors include Battery Ventures, Greylock Partners, Maverick Capital, Silver Lake, Technology Crossover Ventures and DST, the Russian investment firm that previously invested in Groupon.
Computerworld - As more hospitals and clinics plug patient monitoring equipment and other devices into traditional data networks, the closer the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes to regulating the networks as medical devices.
Currently, most hospitals and clinics manage medical devices on discrete networks to better ensure the safety and security of those systems. But there is a trend toward consolidation, particularly onto wireless networks, for easier management.
"We're trying to get away from separate networks and put those medical devices on the IT backbone; the problem is that backbone has never been tested to support these medical systems," said Rick Hampton, wireless communications manager for Partners HealthCare System in Boston.
In 2008, the FDA released its Medical Device Data System (MDDS) proposal, which is aimed at reclassifying health IT. The proposed regulation would define medical devices as anything that provides electronic transfer, exchange, storage, retrieval, display or conversion of medical device data without altering the function or parameters of any connected device.
Health care and IT
- FDA eyes regulation of wireless networks at clinics, hospitals
- When and how to deploy e-health records tech
- Electronic alerts to doctors can reduce unnecessary tests
- AT&T rolls out patient data exchange, mobile monitoring services
- Digital divide plagues slow e-health records rollout
- Feds name last two Health IT grant recipients
- Panel drafts privacy recommendations for health data exchanges
- Smartphones, tablets seen boosting mobile health care
- Feds to spend $144M to train health IT workers
- Verizon creates medical information exchange cloud
"If you take a thing and connect that thing to a medical device as defined by the FDA, and that thing extracts medical data as defined by the FDA ... and it takes that data and transports, displays, stores or manipulates that data, then that thing is a medical device," Hampton said.
Partners Healthcare, which includes Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Dana-Farber/Partners CancerCare, is for now keeping its medical devices on stand-alone wireless networks, according to Hampton. But that's frustrating for IT administrators who would rather manage all of their wireless networks as a single system for convenience. At the same time, "most IT departments look at being regulated with quite a bit of disdain. Being a regulated medical device, you can't make changes to those networks willy-nilly," Hampton said.
The FDA encouraged the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to form a joint working group to draft a standard that addresses management risks associated with medical IT networks. After years of work, the IEC 80001-1 Risk Management Standard was finalized in November by both the IEC and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation.
The standard is aimed at protecting patient safety, patient data security, and effectiveness of care, said Karen Delvecchio, the lead systems designer at GE Healthcare. "Those three things all have some risk associated with them in medical IT networks, and in fact they need to be balanced. Often we do things to increase effectiveness that brings safety risks. Or we may increase security to the degradation to safety risks or effectiveness."