Video and Software Patents
It's a strange article though. It's misleading to say "no new MPEG-4 licenses are available" when talking about codecs, when the reference is that the systems patent suite is currently unavailable during negotiations. MPEG-4 visual and AVC suites are still available under the normal terms.
And then there's a long, verbatim quote from one of the XviD developers. I'm always interested to hear the attitudes behind such projects expressed clearly, and in this case the thinking seems to be that software patents are evil, he doesn't know anything about them, so everyone should ignore the issue completely because everything potentially infringes. Wow.
There's a huge difference between vague assertions that Linux in general must be infringing hundreds of (unnamed) Microsoft patents, and a very specific list of patents considered by their holders to be required to implement a specific specification. Pretending we can't make distinctions here is just FUD.
I complained about this to a colleague and he said, "Well, it's not a rah-rah theora article, if that's what you wanted." But actually it is. After describing the patent issue as unimportant, it then goes on to say how theora is "good enough" using mp3 as an example. But the codec that's most analogous to mp3 is h.264, not Theora. They are both patented. They both feel like "good quality" at file sizes that are convenient for use. And there is a huge push on to standardize on h.264 (aka MPEG-4 AVC) as a standard codec for from hardware vendors, software vendors and the file-sharing community. If software patents don't matter, and h.264 is technically superior, why does the article recommend theora at all?
The article does acknowledge that software patents can't be ignored is some other jurisdictions (the Xvid developer lives in Germany) and I actually agree that's the reason to use theora over h.264. But it's a big reason, one that isn't going away. And while the mp3 patents start expiring in the next five years, h.264 will be encumbered for a long time to come.
The last section is spot on though. Free formats will succeed by having excellent support in all tools, not by being free. We need to improve the reference implementation, and improve tool support if we want to get somewhere.
Quirks & Quarks Ogg Podcast feed
The CBC Radio weekly science show has for many years provided Ogg Vorbis files on their archive page. It's been great to see them doing the right thing with respect to free formats, and being able to listen to this excellent show when we when we weren't living somewhere where we could get CBC over the air.
But, since the invention of podcasting, clicking through a few webpages to download the media files has become inconvenient, and while they are providing a podcast feed for mp3 versions of their show, they're not doing it for the Ogg version.
So I made one. A little cron script looks up the current show's index page and builds an rss feed with enclosures for all the .ogg links. It's very basic, without proper titles, or descriptions for the segments, but it's enough to get them downloading in rhythmbox and iTunes.
If you work for a government that owns any, or work with them, please submit a request for the source code under the GPL. If that doesn't work, try the AFPL (for older versions). Let us know how it goes?
Terminal titles and line wrap
On a couple of remote systems, I've been annoyed by line wrap problems in the terminal. As in command lines would wrap at a strange place, and then cursor movement is all messed up, and I'd have to count (not look) when editing a line.
Today I finally figured out what was going on: prompt version skew!
On those particular systems, I'd at some point set my prompt to put the hostname and cwd into title bar of the local terminal application. I was using an invocation like PS1='\u@\h:\w\$ \e]2;\u@\H \w\a'. To set the prompt to username@host:cwd$ on the command line, and something similar in the title.
But looking at the faq this morning, I noticed it lists \[ and \] as quoting non-printing characters. I thought hmm...and added them around the xterm escape sequence. Sure enough, the problems went away.
I swear this used to work, but apparently now the terminal somehow counts the non-printing characters when calculating line lengths, and the square bracket quoting makes it not do that. Some kind of hack for i18n?
Most recipes suggest \033]2;<title goes here>\007 for setting the title, but bash supports \e for the escape character and \a for the bell, which delimit the xterm controls. You can also use \$ for a prompt character that switches based on whether you're root. So a less noisy suggestion is something like:
if [ "$PS1" ]; then if [ "$BASH" ]; then PS1='\u@\h:\w\$ \[\e]2;\u@\H\a]' else if [ "`id -u`" -eq 0 ]; then PS1='# ' else PS1='$ ' fi fi fi
In other news, setting the "Delete key sends backspace" option on the MacOS X terminial no longer seems to be necessary for reasonable remote editing, which is nice because it makes backspace not work at all on local apps. fn-delete for delete-char-right (delete instead on backspace on US keyboards in linux) still doesn't work locally though.
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
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If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!