Click Networks - IT Support Glasgow

Click Networks - IT Support Glasgow
Click Networks - IT Support Glasgow

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

IE9 Platform Preview - SVG, HTML 5, CSS3; looks like pigs do fly

Microsoft released a preview of their next browser at the MIX conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Although it can only muster a 55/100 score in the ACID tests I must say I'm impressed with Microsoft's progress to put right years of piss-poor browser releases. The JavaScript engine is fairly sprightly too beating Firefox 3.6 on the SunSpider benchmark.

CSS3 support is there but without too much digging I don't know if this is an MS implementation or if they have followed standards (suggestions on a postcard please) but given the commitment to SVG, which is a direct competitor/replacement to Silverlight and Flash it's likely the browser devs are actually listening to users.

On the edge of the blade side of things we see the IE engine using the Direct2D API's to offload graphical processing tasks to a compatible GPU; a nice touch. They have also added some neat new DOM events and objects and support for a multitude of HTML 5 goodness although we don't currently have evidence of the <canvas> tag support everyone is looking for, here's hoping eh?

If you want to give the preview a shot and check out the differences between it and MS's old browser engines (IE6 - 8) then click below:

If not then, like me, you already have a better, more compliant browser which you are probably using to read this. But still, kudos to MS and the IE team, keep up the good work.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

RE: Hard drive evolution could hit Microsoft XP users

The BBC's released an article last night entitled: "Hard drive evolution could hit Microsoft XP users"

Read it here:

This article seems to have caused a lot of excess worry and confusion for people still using Windows XP. So allow me to briefly put your mind at ease.

What does this actually mean for Windows XP users?

First of all, you do not need to worry about any of this until you have to buy a new hard drive. Nothing will change on your existing computer.

If you are about to buy a new hard drive; There are very few of these "Advanced Format" hard drives out at the moment - and all of them have a "switch" (jumper at the back of the drive) which allows you to run the drive "in compatibility mode" (the original 512-byte format) which will work happily with Windows XP.

In the near future (2-3 years) there is nothing to worry about, hard drive manufacturers should provide this "compatibility mode".

In future (more than 4-5 years time), hard drive manufacturers may begin expecting customers to have an operating system (such as Windows 7) that can support this new format.

As futher reading, I'd highly recommend this HotHardware article for a good introduction to the new Advanced Format:

Exploring WD's Advanced Format HD Technology

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Converting DVDs for YouTube – apply the HandBrake!

Our client Epilepsy Scotland has recently announced a new educational DVD "Taking the Tablets" created in partnership between five UK epilepsy charities (Epilepsy Action, Epilepsy Bereaved, Epilepsy Scotland, the National Society for Epilepsy and the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy).

As part of it's promotion Epilepsy Scotland asked us if there was any way we may be able to provide their video online for people who live with epilepsy who may be considering anti-epileptic drug treatment so that they can be better informed whilst making their decision.

The most cost-effective options were to use either one of the charities' existing web hosting space or a public video sharing website. As this video was created equally between all the charities a neutral-territory option was preferred, so it was decided that YouTube would be the ideal host for the video as this mitigated any individual responsibility for the video's hosting.

The job set out for us at ClickNetworks was therefore to provide the DVD in a format compatible with YouTube and to upload the video for the world to see.

Whilst the YouTube website states it “accepts a wide range of video formats”, it goes on to say they have specific “recommended video file formats” in order optimally convert the videos into their own Flash Video format.

YouTube distinctly discourages any changes to the resolution, bit rate or frame rate of your existing video so it can be presented in as much of its original glory as possible, the recommended codec was H.264 or MPEG-2 within an MPEG-4 container.

After searching through countless “shareware” “one-click” solutions that provide DVD to MPEG-4 conversion, we finally stumbled across HandBrake – an open source, multiplatform (yes, that’s Mac OS, Windows and Linux) video transcoder.

Available from this wonderful software provided an easy to use GUI that allowed us to convert nearly any file format (as well as the DVD itself) into either the MPEG4 or H.264 format with a multitude of different options. After closely following YouTube’s recommended guidelines and adjusting the options on HandBrake’s easy to use interface – the final result was perfect.

The “Taking the Tablets” DVD was in its entirety, approx. 24 minutes long. As YouTube limits you to a 10 minute maximum, we had to split the video into it’s separate chapters. HandBrake provides this option straight from it’s main screen which made the task quick and painless.
The handy queuing option also allowed the whole job to be setup and then left to run in the background while we got on with other jobs.

Our hats go off to the HandBrake developers for making a great efficient application that gets the job done.

So, if you need to get your band’s new music video (provided to you on a cumbersome DVD) or you have an existing video that just won’t upload to YouTube nicely, HandBrake could certainly be a great helping hand in getting your content onto the web.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Browser Wars - The European Commission Strikes Back

From today, if your a UK or European user of a Windows machine you may be asked if you would like to switch to another browser. Microsoft is to release a software update via its Windows security patches website prompting users to select a default browser for their desktop.

Microsoft has made the update for XP, Vista and Windows 7 users. Users of Firefox, Safari, Chrome Opera and other alternative browsers will apparently not receive the prompt.

Only those users who have IE set as their default browser will get the pop-up window outlining the alternative choices available for installation. The prompt window is the result of a deal Microsoft cut with the European Commission after its antitrust investigation.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer already has a 60% share in the world browser market so it remains to be seen how effective the new patch will be in providing an opportunity to Redmond's growing list of competitors.