Archive for ‘September, 2007’

DEC Alpha Engineers….We salute you…..

datePosted on 12:25, September 28th, 2007 by Many Ayromlou

Hallelujah, Intel has finally milked us enough, that they are now ready to give us Quickpath. Woohoo. Fresh squeeze from IDF, the Inquirer reports that intel has started handing out details about it’s upcoming Nehalem family of processors and QPI (Quickpath Interconnect). This is of course a reaction to AMD’s announcement and implementation of HT (Hypertransport) v3. All this might sound brand new to you and you might be thinking wow, aren’t these guys cool…..Well, NO….QPI and HT are the Alpha EV7 architecture bus, rebranded.

You see there used to be a company called DEC (Digital Equipment Coorporation) who’s brilliant engineers designed this processor called Alpha 21364 (aka. EV7) and the associated bus structure wayyyy back in 1998/1999. Sometime after, a group of idiots (most likely accountants) decided that the company should merge with the Compaq computers , who themselves were sold to HP later. So to all you “original” DEC engineers…..we salute you. It’s just too bad that it took 10 years for your visions to become mainstream.

You can find out more info about these heroic nerds and their company on wikipedia.

SONET and Telecomm buzzwords explained….

datePosted on 23:28, September 26th, 2007 by Many Ayromlou

So this is just a short tutorial, so I don’t have to repeat this to every person who asks about the difference between T and E circuits. Here is the whole thing (more or less), (hopefully) once and for all.

It all starts with the Nyquist’s Theorem and Pulse Code Modulation. PCM is the way telephones digitize audio (your voice). Nyquist’s Theorem (named after Harry Nyquist) says that “When sampling a signal, the sampling frequency must be greater than twice the bandwidth of the input signal in order to be able to reconstruct the original perfectly from the sampled version”. Another way of putting this is that to accuretly encode an analog signal (your voice) you have to sample it twice as often as the total bandwidth you wish to reproduce (your voice on the other side).

Now the phone system carries frequencies between 300-4000 Hz, so according to Nyquist, a sampling of 8000 samples per second will be enough to reproduce any frequency within the bandwidth of an analog phone.

Now fast forward past a bunch of engineering mombo-jumbo (keeping the 8000 samples/sec in mind) and we get to DS-0, the magic designation of the foundation of digital communications. You see the standard way of to digitize a phone call is to record (transmit) an 8-bit sample 8000 times/sec. This PCM encoded stream requires a bandwidth of 64,000 bps. This 64-kbps channel is known as DS-0 and is the foundation of all digital telecommunication circuits.

So now that we have our base unit (DS-0) lets look at one level higher, the T-carrier circuits. You’ve probably heard of a T-1 line, right? Well a T-1 line is actually 24 DS-0 lines multiplexed into a 1.54 Mbps line. The proper definition of a T-1 line is actually DS-1. Now for your trivia question…..what’s a E-1? Well it’s similar in concept to a T-1 except the Europeans actually used 32 DS-0s to define E-1 (rather than 24 like in North America). BTW the really confusing part is that an E-1 — despite having 32 channels rather than 24 — is also called DS-1…..go figure.
Usually T-3 is the max and it’s pretty uncommon to find higher T-carrier circuits (ie: T-4, 5’s). That’s where Optical Carriers (aka OC) come in. The SONET (Synchronous Optical Networks) were developed to push the T-carrier systems to the next level (ie: Fiber). SONETs are based on the bandwidth of a T-3 line (44.736). Actually the are exactly 51.84 Mbps, the difference being attributed to overhead. This is what they call OC-1 or STS-1 which is the basic unit of measure here.
So now you know all there is to know about the telecomm buzzwords, but please keep in mind that the industry is changing and as we speak Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) schemes are jepourdising the future of the above technologies (anyone remember ATM?)

Problems with new iMacs and Panasonic AG-DVC30

datePosted on 15:31, September 25th, 2007 by Many Ayromlou

So from our testing in house we’ve found a definite problem with the new iMacs (brushed aluminum) and Panasonic AG-DVC30. The camcorder does not get detected by the system under OSX 4.10 and/or Windows XP. The problem seems to be hardware/firmware related. Almost every other camera inhouse seems to work except this one.

We’ve also gone ahead and reconfirmed our tests at the apple store in Toronto. Same results, the new iMacs do not like the Panasonic AG-DVC30. BTW, the camera gets properly recognised by every other mac in the store (including our inhouse G5/G4/Power Book/Mac Book/Mac mini/MacBook Pros).

The problem seems to stem from the initial handshake (atleast that’s what we’ve been able to figure out until now), since the introduction of a LaCie firewire drive in the middle of the chain seems to solve the problem (atleast the initial recognition issue). So we are all wondering why it is that if you hang the camera off the LaCie drive and plugin the LaCie drive into the iMac, everything works?

Something to keep in mind if you’re planning to buy this camera and the new iMac. I’d be interested in hearing from people having issues with new iMacs and other camera’s.

CineGrid GLIF Demo….

datePosted on 14:44, September 23rd, 2007 by Many Ayromlou
From CineGrid GLIF…

Well many of you have probably been wondering why N.E.R.D. has been a bit slow for the past couple of months. Well, August was a bit of a nightmare month (although an enjoyable nightmare for the most part). I got a chance to go to Siggraph’07 in San Diego, followed by a European trip to end the other project I’ve been working on (Comedia II) at Ryerson. That trip passed through Amsterdam (WOOHOO) and ended in Stuttgart with a succesful demonstation of our high-resolution low bandwidth screen sharing app which was a part of Comedia II deliverables.

The screen sharing basically uses a Blackmagic Design Intensity card to share/deliver/encode the DVI output of a CAD/CAM workstation to a remote site and with the addition of our home-brew pointer control system, to allow multiple remote audiences to have collaborative engineering design review sessions.

September was pretty much spent planning and implementing our demo for the GLIF conference in Prague. This was a demonstration put together by some of the CineGrid consortium members. The demo involved connecting three sites (Ryerson University‘s Dcinema Lab, Calit2 at UCSD and Barrandov studios in prague) via 10GigE optical connections in a layer-2 network. Below you’ll find the overall net diagram prepared by Alan Verlo.

From CineGrid GLIF…

The idea behind the demo was as follows (point form to make it a bit easier to visualize):

1) DCinema footage was shot in Prague last weekend (Sept. 15-16) using a DALSA Origin 4K DCinema Camera.
2) The 4K raw imagery from the camera was “shipped” to Calit2 overnight via the network where it was “developed” into a series of RGB files on their Compute Cluster and shipped back to Prague via network.
3) The finished frames where loaded into a Baselight 4 system. This system was literally chopped in half with the backend/storage in Prague and the front-end control panel at Ryerson University in Toronto.
4) The front-end and the back-end were linked via 1x1GigE links at both sites (Toronto and Prague) over a vlan440 (see diagram above).
5) The output of the back-end system in prague was split. One link for Prague team (ie: Director of Photography) connected to their Sony SRX-R110 and One link for Toronto (ie: Colourist).
5) Since the Toronto team needed to see the output of the material they were manipulating, we used the iHDTV system developed at University of Washington/Research Channel at both ends to transport the HD-SDI 2K 4:2:2 imagery back to Toronto over 2x1GigE links. This signal was fed into the Sony SRX-R110 projector residing in the DCinema Lab at Ryerson.
6) The iHDTV systems at both ends (sender in Prague and receiver in Toronto) were isolated on vlan442 (see diagram above) since interpacket timing was found to be crucial for proper operation of our QVidium conferencing system and an isolated vlan for iHDTV turned out to be the solution.
7) In Addition to the above the Colourist and DP needed to have low latency video conference link in order to achieve an acceptable level of realtime collaboration. To that end, we also deployed two QvidiumHD 1394 IP Gateways with two Panasonic HVX-200 HD Camcorders to encode video/audio at both ends. Additionally two PC’s with QVidium decoding software w/ DVCProHD codecs were installed at each end to setup a complete two-way low latency HD conference. The HD conference system ran at ~2x120Mbps on vlan440.
8) The main connections between all three sites was running at 10GigE over a layer-2 network and was split into individual 1GigE connections for the various parts of the project.

From CineGrid GLIF…

On Tuesday morning we started the two way HD conference, connected the front-end of the Baselight system to the back and after some adjustments had the system up and running with 2K proxy output in Toronto and Prague. The Demo was a “First in the World” and will be (atleast I think so) the first of many more to come out of our lab and it’s collaboration with CineGrid partners around the world….So stay tuned. I’ve included a bunch of pictures I took during the build and the actuall demo, official CineGrid press release is coming soon and I will try to post the video that we shot at our end of the first session soon (it’s in DVCProHD and I need to book one of our suites to edit it together).

Do you Mango?

datePosted on 13:15, September 23rd, 2007 by Many Ayromlou

From the pages of really useful, well designed websites comes Mango. The webapp (flash 9.0) is simple to use, well layed out and generally works well. It offers 11 Free language courses (Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, Spanish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Pig Latin and Russian). So head over, sign up and learn something new. It’s FREE!!!

Second Life developers start thinking big…

datePosted on 12:44, September 23rd, 2007 by Many Ayromlou

So this week marks a beginning for Second Life and Linden Lab to truly start to open up second life and think about interconnected worlds and a standards for connecting them. Well, welcome boys and girls, now maybe you can throw your weight in with Intel and HP to further the standards that Croquet has been working on for years. You see Croquet has been doing exactly that for a long time (ie: being truly open source and working towards standards). For those not familiar, here is a short explanation from their site:

Croquet is a powerful open source software development environment for the creation and large-scale distributed deployment of multi-user virtual 3D applications and metaverses that are (1) persistent (2) deeply collaborative, (3) interconnected and (4) interoperable. The Croquet architecture supports synchronous communication, collaboration, resource sharing and computation among large numbers of users on multiple platforms and multiple devices.

Every part of the system is designed around enabling real-time, identical interactions between groups of users. The architecture of Croquet actually makes it quite easy to develop collaborative applications without having to spend a lot of effort and expertise in understanding how replicated applications work. There are a number of simple patterns and rules to remember, but otherwise, it is quite simple to quickly develop very powerful systems. Click here for more detailed information on the technology.

So my message to you, if you’re thinking about developing metaverses and such take a close look at Croquet, they are light years ahead of Linden Labs in terms of a truly open developer standard.


datePosted on 12:13, September 23rd, 2007 by Many Ayromlou

So google does it again, as promised by Eric Schmidt earlier this summer, google presentations was released on the last official week of summer. Now it’s not quite power point yet (remember they have had a couple of years of head start), but is quite usable and actually offers some neat features missing from the standard power point. One of them is sharing and shared editing, the other is online presentation where you can actually invite people to look at your presentation, go through it with them and discuss your points over text chat. Now I know it’s not quite like standing in a room and presenting to real people, but something tells me that voice chat is right around the corner.

My biggest problem — and it’s not so much a problem than a missing feature — is that there is no ppt export function, but again I think those boys and girls at google are busy working on it right now :-).

Now if google can maintain the momentum of this platform (google docs) for another 2-3 years, I predict that people will seriously start to think about upgrading to Office 2010 (or whatever it will be called). With google docs on the market and Openoffice/Lotus Symphony/Abiword killer trio I think the days of expensive/closed office packages are over.

For all your conversion needs….

datePosted on 11:46, September 23rd, 2007 by Many Ayromlou

Head over to I’ve been waiting for something like this since the early days of the web and it seems like these people have done it. It’s simple, go to the site, upload your file and choose which format you want to convert it to. Give them your email address and they will send you a link to the converted file when it’s done. simple.

They can handle more than 70 different types of graphics, 40 different document formats, 7 different types of audio files and more that 10 different video file formats. As a bonus they also allow you to do unit conversion :-)

Slim OSX battery meter for your hemoraging menubar

datePosted on 17:15, September 16th, 2007 by Many Ayromlou

So if your menubar is as packed as mine, you usually have to kill menubar utils just to get to your application menus (specially bad when I run Photoshop). SlimBatteryMonitor comes to rescue. SlimBatteryMonitor is a replacement power gauge for Apple’s Mac OS X that tracks both laptop batteries and many UPS batteries. Multiple-battery systems (e.g. older powerbooks) are supported as well. A graphical icon shows the power remaining, and can be accompanied by a text description (battery charge in percent, or time remaining). Colours can indicate whether the system is fully charged, charging or on battery.

Best of all, you can choose different display options for each battery state (fully charged, charging or on battery). You may wish to see the time remaining while on battery, for example, but show only the icon during charging, and hide SlimBatteryMonitor entirely when batteries are fully charged. SlimBatteryMonitor is a better choice because it presents the same information in a much more space efficient manner, allowing you to fit other menu bar items on the screen as well.

Great little OSX utility….

datePosted on 14:39, September 16th, 2007 by Many Ayromlou

SharePoints 3.5.4 is a little known gem that allows you to REALLY “manage” your samba and afs shares under OSX. It’s free (donationware) and now Universal. No more limits as to who shares what with who, no more editing smb.conf by hand. It’s your machine you paid for it, it came with OSX and samba so why run in castrated mode :-)

SharePoints is an application or a preference pane that makes it easy to add and delete share points like in the old Finder. In Mac OS X, by default, you are limited to sharing only what is in your public folder in your home directory. This program makes it easy to share any folder.
In addition SharePoints also brings back users and groups management to Mac OS X as well as easy configuration of AppleFileServer (AFS) and Samba (SMB) Server properties.