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Monthly Archives: december 2007

I’m not a GUI designer, but (…) I still get ideas every once in a while. My last post on the subject turned into an OpenMoko client based on the sliding GUI idea thanks to Anders. This time I present to you three more ideas.

First out, an MTV-isch OSD.

The idea behind this is obviously MTV. Over the years they’ve outdone themselves in the design of new fresh OSD’s to present their artists. The OSD’s are often animated, and always very pleasant to the eye. When looking at the OSD’s available for different music players, none of them comes near. Som just print text on the screen, that disappears after a couple of seconds, some add fading to make it a bit prettier, some use the notification area of GNOME to present the current artist, and some use Growl on OS X, and none of these look very pretty, they just look like half-assed attempts at presenting the current song.

A year or two ago I was into writing C# bindings for XMMS2, and I whipped up this example that made an attempt at creating an animated OSD.

Here is the screencast.

This is obviously butt ugly as IANAGD, but it shows a glimpse of what may be the future of OSD’s. Perhaps using EFL might be the way to go to get thos animations blinging. Anyway the code and the tools are of no importance without a good design, so copying designs from MTV to start with, and then evolve those to something new, fresh and free could probably lead to something interesting.

Another interesting design is the flowers from the Moppi Productions Assembly 2004 invitation demo, linked to the music. This could definitely be written as an OSD to XMMS2, as we now have a great visualization API thanks to the Google Summer of Code. The demo is for Windows, but works great in wine. In an OSD these flowers would grow out around the OSD box, and then anti-grow back when the box is to be closed.

Second out, drag-n-drop cover art.

I have no idea why many of my ideas are related to cover art, as I don’t really think they are that important, but here is another good thing to have. The ability to drag an image from Firefox, drop it in the cover art area of the client, and the client downloads the image and sets it as the default cover art of the current song (or album). The point here is that it should be as easy as possible to set the cover art. It’s a changeable target, and it should be easy to change it. Other than drag-n-drop it should definatly support copy/paste too. Drag/drop, copy/paste should ofc both handle urls, and data pasts/drops.

And here’s the obligatory screencast.

Third out, LastFM buttons.

The way LastFM works is a bit disturbing to the music player. When a LastFM stream is activated you either have to change the GUI, or be dysfunctional. The last alternative sucks a bit, as the power of LastFM is only unleached if you can skip tracks, otherwise you could just aswell listen to regular shoutcast. I prefer music players with three buttons for playback control, [prev, (play|pause), next], so some days ago I realized that this happens to be the same amount of buttons required to control LastFM, so why not combine them? I still haven’t decided in detail how this should work, but I wrote a small demo application that, when a LastFM stream starts, the three playback-buttons become LastFM buttons. You can access the original buttons by holding the mouse over the controls for a few seconds, this could also be handled with holding shift or something.

Anyway, here’s the obligatory screencast.

And this is all for this time, hope some of the ideas are put into use in some clients.

Time to indulge in all the Christmas food. Merry Christmas everyone! \o/

In January this year I rearranged my living room. After the furniture were in position and cables were starting to find their new routes, I realized that my TV-antenna cable was too short.

At the time it wasn’t unusual for me to get cought in front of the TV, zapping channels, watching random crap, and by doing so I also polluted my brain with those evil commercials that NOBODY wants to watch, but most of us watch anyway.

Instead of going out to buy a new one (so that I could continue to destroy my brain, bit by bit) I decided to simply ditch oldschool TV, and consume all content on demand.

Most series I follow were already available for download from great websites that really understands how to treat a consumer. The missing piece was my absolute favorite TV-station, Swedish Television, that has given me hours of interesting content since I was a kid.

At the time Swedish Television was accessible only through the webbrowser, by Real Media, or Microsoft Media Player, but after browsing some HTML source I managed to grab the URL to the Windows Media stream, and was able to play it successfully with Xbox Media Center. By using the python scripting interface to XBMC I could replicate the web interface as a browsable directory tree with all content Swedish Television decided to put online (which is quite a lot of material). I eventually released the script on the XBMC scripts portal for others to download and it seemed like others liked the idea too. To this day I’ve had 16804 downloads, and lots of positive emails that made it all even more worthwhile.

I’ve been free from commercials for almost a year now, and I must say it feels great. Visiting friends who still watch oldschool TV feels like walking through a time portal, and it’s kind of scary to watch commercials when you’re not used to them, they feel pretty offensive (which of course is the purpose).

Ok, so the year of 2007 has been a great year, but what about 2008? The future of Swedish Television on the web is uncertain. This weekend I had to update the script because the short news clips are now distributed using Macromedia Flash. Luckily the url to the .flv-files could be found in the HTML-source, and XBMC can play all formats known to man, so I still have access to all content I’m interested in. But using Macromedia Flash isn’t the only new addition to the webportal. A couple of months ago Swedish Television started to distribute some content with Move Media Player that would allow for higher quality streams, but required the consumer to install additional software on their competers. When I saw the news I did a little digging to see if I could access the stream, unfortunatly without much luck (may still be possible to find out where to reach them). During the digging I found out a bit more about Move Media Player and it seems to be using the VP7 codec which FFMPEG currently doesn’t suppor (but hopefully will soon). So using VP7 on the Xbox is a no go, for now at least.

FFMPEG not supporting VP7 isn’t that big of a deal. The frustration lies in that Swedish Television is produced by tax-money, and obligatory TV-licence that you must pay if you have a TV or a computer with a TV-card and you live in Sweden. We fund the production of their content, and they repay us with restrictions on the content by using proprietary and patent damaged solutions.

This is NOT ok!

Swedish Television put pride in their claim to be Free as in Freedom. I fully agree to this when applied to their content, but by locking that Free as in Freedom content into proprietary and patent damaged distribution forms they completly invalidate their claim.

Their locked down agenda also stretches outside their own web portal. In an attempt to gain more publicity in the younger crowd of Internet-addicted kids they started to publish some of their content on YouTube which offers really crappy video quality, and uses the non-Free Macromedia Flash format for distributing its content. I can see why they do this as a LOT of people use YouTube, by creating a link between YouTube and their own web portal they are likely to get more publicity, at least to some degree.

However, YouTube isn’t the only external site with damaged distribution forms they’ve looked at. The latest way to gain more viewers has been to establish a relationship with a new site called Joost. This site is run by the founder of Skype, and is even more closed down by requiring you to create an account to watch the TV programs that the population of Sweden has collectively funded. Sorry, I don’t see the public interest in associating a person with a tv program, maybe someone can enlighten me? I haven’t verified what codec Joost uses, but as Skype uses VP7, that is probably a good bet. But to play content from Joost, you have to blindly implement their P2P technology too which most likely will never happen.

I wonder how much money has poured into the pockets of Microsoft, Real Media and Move Media for providing the current solutions, and Joost for the new sidetrack, and the project of uploading their content to YouTube. I wonder how many hours of developer time those price tags could have translated to if Swedish Television had hired a group of good programmers to write the necessary tools and modifications to get a Free solution using Theora or Dirac up and running.

So, in my eyes the future of video on demand from Swedish Television using Free software without steping on patents is in grave danger, specially when (and it’s probably just a question of when) EU opens its arms for US patents. For those who agree with me I strongly suggest you sign this petition in hope of seeing the Free as in Freedom content using Free as in Freedom distribution forms:

The Xbox Media Center script, Sveriges Television 0.94, can be found here.