Archive for July, 2009

Episode 093 – Circular Arrows

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Episode 093 is now up. In this relatively short screencast, I address one viewer’s email by providing one method of creating a set of circular arrows. But this concept could be used to create a set of arrows or objects along any arbitrary path.

Hope you find it useful.

Theora Video with Flash Fall Back

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

By now some of you have read the news that W3C has dropped the specification of OGG Theora in the HTML5 video tag. I was a little disappointed by this because I thought Theora was a safe bet. It is free (patents/licensing) in comparison to H.264 no matter how Apple tries to convince us otherwise. Of course, in typical fashion, we got this news right after Richard and I switched formats from Avi, which had H.264 inside of the container, to Theora. [sarcasm] Awesome! [sarcasm]

Nevertheless, Richard and I are committed to Theora. Ain’t no goin’ back now. Avi’s served us well because of the container. It’s easy to put video and audio inside of it and there are plenty of video applications that work well with that container. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the Avi container is my favorite but it is popular (think xvid). If you have been with us since the beginning then you’ll remember that we started out using xvid until we noticed the quality of H.264 and switched to it.

We chose Flash as our online viewing format for pretty obvious reasons. Whether you like it or not Flash is everywhere and by now most people are accustomed to installing the Flash browser plugin so they can watch those cute squirrels water skiing on YouTube. However, for every good argument in favor of Flash, there is a good argument opposed to it. Personally, I don’t have a problem with Flash. It’s always worked well on all of my machines and 90 percent of those run a Linux distribution. On the other hand, some of my Linux using peers have always had problems with it. This I cannot fully understand because I have always been lucky, I guess. Maybe because I don’t run 64bit distros. I ‘m not here to debate Flash anyway.

The point of this blog post is to make viewers aware of a recent change in our online viewing experience. All of you viewers…have you noticed something different now in your non-HTML5 video tag supported browser? You guessed it. We’re using Flash as our fall-back format. Same format that we have used for the last 2 plus years. Theora will still be there for the Firefox 3.5 brethren so don’t be worried (klaatu). And this means that we’ve kicked that darn Java applet known as Cortado to the curb. I don’t like it. I never did. And it doesn’t work nearly as well as the Theora player in Firefox 3.5 or any Flash player that I have seen. We tried it, it worked somewhat but not so well in Linux. That means failure to us. I applaud the Fluendo people for putting it out there as an option but it could use some attention. 😉

So, we hope this change makes everyone happy. Richard and I will have to encode a second video in Flash format but we’re willing to do this for our viewers. Besides, we were used to it anyway. We’ll continue to do this until Theora gets a little more steam behind it. Perhaps again in the future we can try dropping Flash when browsers make it easy for us to do so. We were close but perhaps we tried a little prematurely. Enjoy. 🙂

Episode 092 – Custom Markers

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I posted Episode 092 a little early. Could use some more feedback on the video format (OGG).

Once we get settled in with Theora then we will slowly start converting all past episodes over to OGG instead of AVI/FLV.

Theora/Vorbis Is Now Our Official Video Format

Monday, July 6th, 2009

After much experimentation, Richard and I have decided to officially move to the Theora/Vorbis format for all past and future screencasts. This comes right on the heels of the new Firefox 3.5 release which supports the HTML5 video tag allowing one to watch Theora/Vorbis videos (and audio) in the browser natively…without any plug-ins installed (I think I’m the king of run-on sentences).

What this means is that we will no longer provide H.264/MP3 – AVI videos and Flash videos. OGG is the only video type that we will provide. Nothing will change on the viewers end. You can still download a video to watch offline or you can choose to watch a video directly in your browser for online viewing, provided that you use a browser with HTML5 video support (Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, Opera 10, Chrome SVN). VLC is still a pretty good media player for watching our screencasts offline but it’s not a requirement. Use anything that supports Theora and Vorbis playback.

We understand that this change might be inconvenient for some, especially those who enjoyed watching our Flash versions. Flash remains very popular and has its benefits. On the other hand, if we can do everything with just one format then we save time. This will hurt the Microsoft Internet Explorer users the most. If you are using this browser then you’ll have to download the videos to view offline. That is unless Microsoft gets it’s act together. We highly recommend using Firefox 3.5.

We’re sure there will be some growing pains but overall we’re pretty satisfied with things. The quality of our OGG files is slightly less than our AVI and FLV formats (EP001-EP090). There is some pixelation but that is only because they have been transocoded. Our new episodes, EP091 and EP092, had not been converted to AVI first before being converted to OGG. The quality of those two episodes is much better. Furthermore, the file sizes for all past and future screencasts will be much smaller now…as much as 30-40% on some videos. Who doesn’t like smaller file sizes? If you raised your hand then Richard will give you a Canadian head-butt. 🙂 We also dropped our video size from 912×684 to 880×656. It’s an odd size, we know, but it has more to do the Inkscape application window.

Our intros deserve some attention especially when the OGGs are played online. They need to be tweaked so that they play smoother. Things are a little choppy at the moment. We may or may not work on a new intro that works better with Theora and is a little less CPU intensive…but we’re not making any promises.

We’ll continue to keep past episodes posted in the AVI and FLV format for some time in our video repo but we will no longer offer new episodes in those formats. Eventually, we will remove the AVI and FLV videos to save space on our server. EP091 will be the debut screencast for Theora/Vorbis. It’s posted already so check it out. Please give us your feedback…but send all bad feedback to Linc from The Linux Link Tech Show. 😉

Episode 091 – Comic Bubbles

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Episode 091 is now up. This was a fun one. And while it was nice and relatively short, I spent quite a bit of time chit chatting back and forth with Heathenx, fooling with video codecs, resizing, tagging etc. because it’s the first since our switch to Ogg video format. By all means, watch it streaming on any HTML5 capable browser or download it and watch it offline. Let us know how it works for you.

Since this one was resized to be slightly smaller, the quality is likely a shade or two lower than those that will be recorded at the new resolution. Expect it to improve a bit. Also, I’m not at all impressed with the sound quality on my casts (compared to Heathenx’s which sound much better). I’ve got to work on improving that. Right now I’m using a Logitech headset, but I think I have the recording levels too low. I’ll do some actual testing and see what I can improve for next time out.

Hope you enjoy it (or at least hope it doesn’t put you to sleep). 😉

Inkscape on FLOSS Weekly

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Inkscape rock stars Jon A. Cruz and Ted Gould are on the latest episode on FLOSS Weekly. Check it out. 😉