Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blu-ray Disc vs HD DVD

When I'm not symbiotically attached to my computer, or haven't got my nose in a book, I like to listen to music and watch movies. It's the latter I want to touch on today (my audiophile habit will have to wait for another post).

DVD is great for watching movies at home: you get to see the whole thing (both in terms of not being censored by overly-sensitive TV networks, and being able to see the whole picture the director intended you to see, i.e., not the half-screen 4:3 aspect ratio most networks still broadcast movies in) without adverts, and the quality is much better than VHS. But the picture quality is still low res, especially here in North America where we a saddled with NTSC (Never The Same Colour) at a pathetic 640 pixels x 480 interlaced lines (the PAL system used in the UK and elsewhere has much better picture quality, and at 768 pixels x 575 interlaced lines, is higher resolution too).

So enter the age of high definition TV. It started out as 720 (or thereabouts) interlaced lines--which I refer to as "medium definition"--written as 720i, but proper high definition is 1920 pixels x 1080 interlaced or progressively scanned lines, written as 1080i and 1080p respectively. The storage requirements for a high def movie far exceed the capacity of today's DVD (about 8 GB for a dual-layer DVD), so a successor with greater storage capacity was required.

Unfortunately, there are two competing standards for high def playback: and HD DVD. While both formats will play CDs and regular DVDs, Blu-ray and HD DVD are incompatible with each other. So, we have a media war on our hands; how to chose?

Both formats support 1080p (although current HD DVD players only go as far as 1080i; Blu-ray players go all the way to 1080p), and both support 7.1 sound in addition to uncompressed Dolby Digital and DTS. But from a technical point of view, HD DVD is inferior to Blu-ray: HD DVDs have a capacity of 15 GB per layer compared to Blu-ray's 25 GB, and HD DVD's bandwidth peaks at 36 Mbps compared to Blu-ray's 48 Mbps.

Perhaps for the end consumer, the most important feature is studio support, and Blu-ray winds the day here too: 7 of the 8 major movie studios (Warner, Paramount, Fox, Disney, Sony, MGM, and Lionsgate) have announced titles for Blu-ray, compared to only 3 (Warner, Paramount, and Universal) for HD DVD--and I reckon it won't be long before Universal announces support for Blu-ray. (Blu-ray is also the disribution medium for games on Sony's PlayStation 3.)

From a geek's perspective, there's one other issue: is a Blu-ray supporter (all Blu-ray players feature Java technology), and Micro$oft supports HD DVD, so there's a good reason not to pick HD DVD! (Can you imagine the uproar if HD DVD players started spreading viruses?!) Given that Sun supports Blu-ray, I guess it's only a matter of time before and support burning them.

Unfortunately, I don't have any cash to spend on these sorts of toys, which from a certain point of view is a good thing: by the time I can afford a high def player, the media war will be over and either Blu-ray or HD DVD will emerge as the clear winner (and if I could afford a player today, I'd buy a Blu-ray player without hesitation). I'm not a gambling man, but if I was, my money would be on Blu-ray winning the high def media war. What about you?

Sun outsells Dell!

Now there's a headline I didn't think I'd be writing for a long time...

As reported in The Inquirer, has just announced that they were the only top-four server vendor to post a year-on-year server revenue growth, surpassing Dull (I'm guessing the other targets to pick off are IBM and HP).

Presumably, most of those servers are running the planet's greatest OS, or . Way to go Sun! To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Sun's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Friday, August 11, 2006

dtterm on GNOME 2.14.1, redux

Last month I blogged about my efforts to get dtterm to play nicely with the GNOME 2.14.1 that ships with recent builds of . I managed to get everything working, with the exception of the default font.

I'm pleased to say that I have finally figured this one out too; just place the following line in your .Xdefaults file:
Dtterm*userFont:    -dt-interface user-medium-r-normal-s sans-*-*-72-72-*-*-iso8859-1

If the size isn't right for you, adjust the "s sans" bit to suit.

That's one big GNOME-usage obsticle gone for me; now if GNOME would provide relief for the other issues I (and other CDE users) have, I'd be happy to migrate...

Sun's new mid-range storage products

So, has announced their new mid-range storage products, the StorageTek 6140 array and the StorageTek 6540 array. They look pretty neat, but rather than going through all the nitty-gritty details, I'll refer you to the blog entry posted by my friend and storage maven, Ben Rockwood.

As I said, these look great, but what I'd really like to see is some low end, direct attach JBOD arrays...

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Solaris developers' holy trinity is complete!

Last Friday (August 4), I received my copies of the second edition of Solaris Internals by Jim Mauro and Richard McDougall, and Solaris Performance and Tools by Jim, Richard, and Brendan Gregg. I've only had a chance to skim them so far (although I did help review part of Solaris Internals), and I have to say: I'm impressed. So much so that I'd go as far to say that these two books complete the and the developers' holy trinity.

What's the third book? With all humilty, I'd say it's Solaris Systems Programming, by yours truely. If you're serious about developing software--be it userland or kernel--for (Open)Solaris, you need these books.

DTrace on MacOS!

I've just read about Apple's port of DTrace to the next version of MacOS. Is that cool or what? Not to mention a poke in the eye to IBM's Ross Mauri. Exactly how is this news not in the true spirit of open source, Ross? I see the Apple team didn't chose to port SystemTap...

Now, if Apple would only adopt as the core for MacOS, they'd be onto a real winner! :-)