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A wave to an old friend February 2, 2010

Posted by anthonyleonard in blether, collab.
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You know that hour long Wave video that everyone’s seen? Maybe you know someone who has? It’s a video of a conference presentation by one of Google’s brightest stars – Lars Rasmussen, the co-inventor of Google Maps – showcasing a fascinating new technology called “Wave” which just might usurp the leviathan that is email and take over the world. It’s big. It’s also made for lots of cheap “wave” puns in posts everywhere recently.

Well those who have watched the video can’t fail to observe that Lars is almost as big as the revolution he’s just unfurled, in every sense. His shoulders are as broad as his smile, and his kindred spirit with his team, his audience, and for the wave project at large shows he has a big heart. He’s a man in his element, excited to show off years of effort, who still manages to be both natural and composed, with a result that the talk is entertaining and inspiring, leaving aside the overabundant “woo hoos” which grated on some of my British pals.

Why should I care? Guess what. Back in the day, before he was famous, before his shoulders got so big, I knew Lars. I met him off the train as a do-gooding meet-and-greet volunteer when he first set foot in Edinburgh to start a PhD on “algorithms”, which I think he had to explain the meaning of to me. I remember clear as day his delight at seeing the castle in all its splendour as we hauled his baggage up out of the station. Lars was great to be with and we became friends for a while. He persuaded me to run up Arthur Seat with him a few times, and I’m sure he mentioned big plans one day. Ultimately I didn’t share his ambitions for work or exercise and didn’t keep up contact.

Imagine my surprise this summer, over 15 years later, when I saw my old pal take centre stage without a glimmer of forewarning. I had no idea he and his brother invented Google Maps! It made an already arresting presentation a special pleasure. And I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to know that one of these tech gods that you and hear about is nothing more than a real person I could, and once did, speak to as a friend.

Congratulations Lars. Here’s wishing you all the best for you and yours, and all your projects, big or small.


Fin d’une année, et ennui? December 23, 2009

Posted by anthonyleonard in blether.
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Well it’s been a busy run-up to Christmas. I’ve been busy putting finishing touches on our streaming service now due for launch next year which I’m pretty excited about. It’s a nice integrated solution with some neat features that I hope to write about once it is a little more established. There’s still work to be done, but at last we’re on the home strait after some three years of exploration and false dawns.

In the meantime we’ve become engrossed in discussions over fairly big architectural directions for the coming year. Why? Well like most Universities, at some point we have to accept what’s happening in the world of the web and whether we can’t do things differently. Why doesn’t our university have centrally supported wiki and blog services? Why doesn’t it have a thriving community systems allowing ad-hoc group formation and personal/group activity streams a la Facebook? Why don’t we have personal dashboards with mini tools that are sharable with friends? More importantly how come we don’t when the University of Jones does? We now have new management who are either ambitious or crazy enough to be asking these questions. “Software as a virus”, they say. “Impress the students”, they say. Whether this lasts with a long funding winter looming is another question.

Throw this type of thing on the table and techies get to thinking infrastructure. Do we want a University API? If so should it secured using delegated authorisation or Shibboleth? Should we go bigtime for Gadgets and Shindig? Should our principal IDs be in-house, or some federated convention like Open IDs or email addresses, and if its the latter should these be real name based, and recycled? Should we invest in large off the shelf integrated systems, or grow and interleave our own?

To be sure 2010 looks like being an interesting year. Happy Christmas & New Year to you and yours.

(With apologies for my French if it’s rubbish.)

Lets try again November 12, 2009

Posted by anthonyleonard in blether.
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Right. Same blog, same guy, new start. Now I’ve got a pretty banner and a Twitter feed and a little bit to say I hope. The big idea this time is to try and write while on my half hour train journey home from work each day. It’ll be great: the discipline of the journalist. It has to be quick, pithy, readable and out to press before I have to unfold my bike and get off the painted crate that’s propelling me home. No, that’s not what my view from the train actually looks like, but this is meant to be fertile ground after all.

I always thought columnists had the best life. Consider it. You knock out a few words in your own voice about subjects you love or hate, without criticism or review, preferably in the bath or in a shed next the to the rose bush you can totter outside to carefully cultivate when the mood arises, or sitting in a Caribbean rock pool with sea horses tickling your feet as they skip amongst the corals. You can syndicate your work in periodicals all over the world, hire an agent, get beefy advances and after ten years get a book deal and be nostalgic over your own utterances. Not bad. I can prove it’s great as some of my favourite books are collections from columnists – a clear favourite being Ron Ferguson’s commentary on Scotland and its religions: presbyterianism and football. The best by far though happens – and I really am very proud of this – to be in the family. My grandmother’s maiden name was Nolan, and she was a cousin of Brian O’Nolan, who wrote under the pseudonym of Flann O’Brien, who wrote as the wildly fantastic character of Myles Na Gopaleen, poly-character of polymaths and the picturesque – which takes some saying – and the source of an epic column that ran for 40 years in the Irish Times of truly Joyce-like genius – though the author would squirm at the comparison, regular as he was at lampooning the master – and which is legend throughout Ireland. Further explication of this awe inspiring reference is for another journey (not that I’m on a train at the moment, but that’s neither here nor there). One thing though – my second uncle twice removed or so, Brian, Flann, Myles, would write occasional columns as if in conversation with others awaiting some form of Dublin public transport. They always ended abruptly, having set out the absurd. Begob there’s me bus. Cheers!

Flash on 3d October 5, 2007

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Flash Media Server – Future Support Questions September 18, 2007

Posted by anthonyleonard in Uncategorized.
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I’m currently more convinced than ever that FMS 3 is the way forward. here are two questions I need to sort out though:

  1. Flash support – how are tickets supported? Is it really £100 per ticket?
  2. Is H.264 broadcasing with FME subject to MPEG-LA licensing payment?
  3. Do we need Flix? Platform?

Hope these points don’t scupper my enthusiasm for all things Flash!

Google Videos = really low resolution September 14, 2007

Posted by anthonyleonard in h.264, streaming, video.
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I’ve been uploading the IWMW videos into Google Video at 640×480 (H.264 MPEG-4), a reasonable resolution suitable for Apple TV, and was shocked to find it streamed back at me at 320×240 – half the resolution. This is fine for an iPod where you expect to be squinting, and for your average home video this might be reasonable, but for side-by-side video of presenter and screen on a laptop it looks blurry and cheap.

Apparently if you download from Google Video you get slightly better resolution. Still not the original quality though. More like what you’d get on a iPhone/iPod Touch. Unfortunately, though I’ve specified that these videos can be downloaded, am I getting a download link? Not on your nelly. The sooner we implement interactive screen/presenter switching on our streams, and get people to see what we’ve recorded at full quality, the better.

H.264 + FMS is the future of video streaming September 14, 2007

Posted by anthonyleonard in flash, h.264, streaming, video.
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Adobe has announced Flash Media Server 3. Flashcomguru point to a cool recorded session discussing it at the anouncement. Find the FMS presentation by Kevin Towes. This follows the recent announcement of Flash Player 9.

Seriously those recorded sessions are cool! 🙂 Nice to see the interactive switching between presenter and screen, something I’d like to do with our videos. Google video will never do that!

FMS3 and Flash Player 9 will do H.264 and better security. Long story short it’s game over for ON2 VP6 and Real Helix, I think.

This is a first September 13, 2007

Posted by anthonyleonard in noise.
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Actually it’s not. I’ve started blogs a few times before, and each time I say to myself, grandly, “this time it will be different.” Ahem…

I work as a Systems Integrator at the University of York, UK. Although this blog is intended to cover work-related items, it reflects my own personal opinions and interests, and not those of the University I work for. Indeed I’ll try to refrain from discussing University of York projects directly if at all possible.

Over time topics should include:

  • e-learning
  • library systems
  • video
  • web 2.0
  • java
  • standards