Sunday, October 23, 2011

Streaming Woes

I'm sitting here watching the rugby world cup final. Sure, I'm not normally a rugby fan. But then, I'm not such a nerd that I haven't figured out the rules.

Unfortunately, I'm at school. I didn't bother trying to figure out how to stream the sky decoder out to the TV's and so I'm watching it via a live stream on the Internet.

Who would've thought that after all this time, and all that investment into the technology, that it would be so utter crap. Low resolution, with loads of stutters (the video, not the sound). The first couple of streams I tried failed after a little while. The first one cut out during the national anthem. Not happy.

France's first try came about in a rather unpleasant slide show. I'd yell and shout only my 'puter's microphone isn't working anyway. If I yell and curse and no one is around to hear it, have I really yelled? I guess that's what this blog is for....

Anyway... Flash. It's rubbish. The user experience is compromised in favour of security. Why can't we have it cached for a few seconds in order to avoid that stuttery badness? Because content companies don't want you to have the opportunity to be able to save that cached data.

I remember back in the mid-nineties the big craze was high definition content being delivered over the Internet. (There's a few more crazes that I keep hearing are going to happen - things like RFID tags in all of your groceries!). This hasn't happened. Instead of going to the local DVD shop you could just view it online. Internet TV's have now come about! (In 1994, a subsidiary of Acorn Computers called Online Media sought to capitalise on the projected Video on Demand market with a range of set top boxes that turned your TV into an "Internet TV").

So the technology isn't a new idea. We've probably had the technology for a good long while now. We've had load balancing for a long time. Pretty good video compression. Delivery mechanisms. But it's all for naught.

Instead we have Flash, and the up and coming Silverlight.

Let's look at Silverlight for a second. It just can't succeed. There is only one way I can see it happening. If they were to concentrate their efforts into moonlight, the open source plugin, they might actually win out over Flash.

Flash is a closed technology that leaves a sour taste in most people's mouths. The plugin often fails on Linux machines, or, if not failing, is inconvenient. It doesn't integrate at all well with Linux's sound system. The way that most distributions have found to get around the license conditions - by not actually packaging it but rather, packaging a script to download it from Adobe - is known to fail frequently. What's more, it's not offered on Apple's iOS platforms.

If either Silverlight or Flash were to become open source, support on all platforms could be done in a transparent manner and would ultimately result in more support for more platforms with less cost. And some of those smart cookies in the FLOSS world could even integrate some level of caching for Videos! Imagine it. A streaming experience that didn't suck!

And hey - who knows! People might actually stop pirating quite so much if the content they wanted wasn't hindered in stupid ways. i.e. TV on demand that didn't feel like watching TV through a pin hole camera.

Oh the possibilities...

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