It Done Broke.

Mozilla And The Cost Of H.264

John Gruber over at Daring Fireball makes a good philosophical and practical case for why Mozilla’s position on Ogg Theora and H.264 is poorly placed. I’d like to see an equally solid business breakdown on how the proposition of using H.264 affects those companies (Microsoft, Apple, Google and Mozilla) respectively financially.

I honestly don’t know how Mozilla’s organization actually makes money.  But I do know how the others make money and the fact that they have a reliable revenue streams from other sources that could support the licensing costs of H.264 (at the point when it starts costing) is not a trivial consideration, I would think.

Update: Gruber now seems to have started painting himself into a corner.  Like,

“I don’t know what the MPEG LA will do come 2016.”

Not much to make business decisions on then, is it?  And,

“Perhaps they will attempt to charge web publishers for licenses to distribute H.264 video. But if they do, web publishers will react the way they did to Unisys’s GIF threats: by switching to another format.”

Well then, why not do it now?  But the clunker is:

“But if Mozilla’s position were really about idealism — tough love for the good of the web in the name of free, open file formats — then in addition to not supporting H.264, they’d drop support for plugins like Flash Player. I believe such a move would just drive Firefox users to Chrome and Safari (or even back to IE), and I suspect Mozilla knows this, too, which is why dropping plugin support isn’t being discussed. But they can’t say Firefox only supports free and open video formats while still supporting Flash.”

This makes no sense.  The entire debate has nothing to do with plugin support.  Plugins aren’t the issue.  The issue is native support for formats.  Mozilla isn’t saying Adobe shouldn’t offer the Flash plugin.  They’re saying they don’t want to support H.264 natively for the <video> tag.  That’s a big difference.

You can take whatever interpretation of Mozilla’s statements you like – tough love, idealisim, open format philanthropy – but it still doesn’t make sense for Mozilla to support a format that they’re at risk of being charged for licensing if it doesn’t fit into their business model.

More Adobe Hilarity

Choice quotes from Adobe’s CEO in this article:

“Considering the amount of content on the Web that uses Flash — not allowing your consumers to access that content isn’t showing off the Web in all its glory.”


“Apple’s business model is more trying to maintain a proprietary lock.”


“the 10.1 version will do what Jobs wants it to do.”

I can hear the canned laugh-track as I read it.

Adobe: Too Little Too Late?

I’m not particularly fond of Steve Jobs’ accusations that Adobe devs are lazy.  It sounds a bit peevish and personal and just because he thinks he’s Superman doesn’t mean he gets to be a dick.  I did like him calling BS on Google, though, there are a lot of things that Apple’s done under his command I think were questionable (“evil” even).

I’m also not saying that Adobe is a shining star when it comes to some of the choices they’ve made but overall, I’d say they’ve done a pretty good job at holding up the bar in the design world (even if they’re responsible for making drop-shadowed text ubiquitous).

It takes a lot of guts for Emmy Huang, the Project Manager for Flash Player, to write this post.  It displays a humanity, although I’m sure Jobs wasn’t implying they’re lazy robots.  It also highlights problems in their process.  But I do wonder about this:

“I want to reiterate that it is our policy that crashes are serious “A” priority bugs, and it is a tenet of the Flash Player team that ActionScript developers should never be able to crash Flash Player. If a crash occurs, it is by definition a bug, and one that Adobe takes very seriously. When they happen, it can be the result of something going on purely within Flash Player, something in the browser, or even at the OS level. Depending on where an issue occurs we work to resolve the crash internally or with our partners.”

She then goes on to outline the timeline of how the wheels fell off the wagon.

Some points:

  • crashing bugs should be fixed and released immediately, i.e. the day they fixed it.  Telling me that it was fixed 3 months ago and we’re only going to see it with the next release which is…when?…only makes me froth.
  • it’s not as if Flash 10 is the first version where the player has had serious issues and caused crashing.  It’s almost a defining characteristic of the platform since version 1.

No amount of denials from upper management is going to make the existence of problems untrue and no amount of apologies from the developer level is going to change the fact that if it’s not in our hands, it’s not fixed.

Adobe needs to fix their process, like a decade ago.  I know it’s complicated, and I know the software’s a crazy rat’s nest.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Flash will ever completely go away.  Flash as a video delivery vehicle always kind of bother me as over-engineered and overkill.  But as a platform for other things I think it will still have a place, albeit with a much lesser presence.  Nonetheless, Adobe, I don’t think it had to be this way.

Steve Jobs: “Change your apps name. Not that big of a deal.”

It’s been reported that Steve Jobs responded to an iPhone app developer who was told by Apple legal to change his app’s name. Apparently, he suggested that changing the name of the app as demanded wasn’t that big of a deal.

In the same spirit, I’m going to start a company called Apple. I think they’ll understand when my legal team demands they change their name. Not that big of a deal.

Gamma Correction

There’s a posting on TUAW about how to set your display’s gamma in OSX Leopard to match Snow Leopard’s.  It describes in detail how to go about doing it without actually telling you what you’re messing with.   It’s a concept that isn’t Mac-specific, though.

When I was working at an animation studio back in the late 90s, I was introduced to the avuncular Charles Poynton who has made a career out of sitting on panels, making recommendations to technical boards and writing books on video, color and especially gamma.  I took a course from Charles along with some colleagues because we needed to implement color correction and set a mutual standard across our studios around the world.  So knowing what it was we were trying to achieve was somewhat key.  We had digital ink and paint and compositing people on SGIs, color artists on Macs, a renegade CGI team that switched from Maya to 3D Studio Max and then editors on Macs in Avid but did their viewing through expensive Sony Evergreen reference monitors.  Finally, an art director who looked at the work on all of these systems and wondered why everything looked different.  The majority of people don’t need to ever concern themselves with this stuff and should probably just move on.

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