I run Logitech Media Server (LMS) on a Synology NAS. It works very well, better than when I used a Windows VM.
There is an annoyance though. Synology has been slow to keep its LMS package up to date and the official release is still 7.7.6. There are a few issues with this release, but I lived with it, until I discovered that LMS 9.x can play DSD files, using a DSDPlayer plugin that adds DoP (DSD over PCM) support. This means you can output native DSD provided you have a DSD DAC (and some DSD files to play). DSD is the format used by SACD and some audiophiles swear it sounds better than PCM.
I then discovered that Synology is showing signs of updating LMS and has a beta release of LMS 9.0. You enable beta versions in the Package Center and it will offer to update.
I installed, then added DSDPlayer and, hmm, I could see the DSD files but they did not play.
I found a fix for the DSD issue. A user has updated the plugin, and if you add the following plugin repository:
you can update DSDPlayer and it works.
Now I can play native DSF files through Squeezebox Touch (you also need the EDO modification) and a Teac DSD DAC. Great.
However, I then discovered that the LMS 9.0 UI does not work in Microsoft Edge, if you have the Creators Update. The links are not clickable.
There is a fix described here. I found the commit on GitHub here. However this does not update the Synology package. I logged into the Synology over SSH and made the change manually in @appstore/SqueezeCenter/HTML/Default/slimserver.css.
It works. I’m glad because I have LMS on the Edge favourites bar, and the alternative (opening LMS in IE or another browser) is less convenient.
And yes, I use Edge, in part to keep in touch with what it is like, in part because I’m resistant to a Google Chrome monoculture, and in part because it’s pretty good now (the initial Edge release was hardly usable).
There is still a problem though. The LMS Settings page does not work in Edge. I can live with that (open in Internet Explorer) but would like to find a fix.
Update: I fixed the settings issue by installing the latest LMS 9.0 with this patch. Many thanks to LMS user pinkdot on the LMS forums. However I still needed the manual fix for slimserver.css.
So what is changing? Adobe says it will be focusing on digital media and digital marketing, while investing less in “certain enterprise solution product lines.” In line with this strategy, Adobe acquired video advertising company auditude last week.
Here are the things which Adobe says are “important elements” in its new approach:
Creative Suite extended with tablet apps and delivered through the cloud
Greater investment in HTML 5: Dreamweaver, Edge and PhoneGap
Flash positioned for “advanced” web, video, and mobile apps
Digital publishing solutions
Document services such as electronic contracts and signatures
So what will Adobe be doing less? This is harder to discern as the releases, naturally enough, say less about it. The key remark is that:
the company will reduce its investment, and expected license revenue, in certain enterprise solution product lines
We can conclude, I guess, that the Digital Enterprise Platform once known as LiveCycle is going to get less attention as the company focuses more on digital content and less on providing a platform for enterprise applications. I would guess that this will impact the middleware services more than things like the Flex framework and Flash Platform tools, but I am speculating. More information is coming in a financial analyst meeting tomorrow in New York.
Although the announcement refers to apps that actually make use of AWS, this does not seem to be a pre-condition:
September 7 – November 15: Android developers who submit an app that is approved to the Amazon Appstore for Android through October 15 will receive a $50 promotional code towards the use of AWS products and services
The move ties in with reports of Amazon developing its own Android-based tablet/Kindle. Exactly what Amazon will offer is still under wraps.
Amazon is an interesting contender in the mobile wars because it has its own instant ecosystem – millions of customers who are already signed up with accounts and stored credit card details. Add in Kindle eBooks, the MP3 store, and the Amazon Instant Video Store for streaming video, and it amounts to a comprehensive content offering that approaches that of Apple.
The AWS element is also significant, and in this respect Amazon is ahead of Apple. Of course there is nothing to stop you using AWS with apps for iOS or other platforms, though there is synergy when it comes to payments.
The relationship with Google is interesting, in that Google controls Android but Amazon is not hooking into Google services or the official Android Marketplace. Amazon is showing no sign of developing its own search engine though, so Google will still get some benefit if Amazon devices are popular, provided Google remains the default for search.
Microsoft announced today at CES in Las Vegas that the next version of Windows will run on ARM as well as Intel CPUs. But why? The reason is that ARM CPUs have huge momentum in mobile computing, thanks to their low power consumption. Microsoft wants Windows to support System on a Chip (SoC) architectures such as NVIDIA’s Tegra 2, which has two ARM Cortex-A9 CPUs combined with an HD-capable graphics processor in a single package. In its press release, the company is careful not to upset established x86/x64 partners Intel and AMD too much, emphasising that Windows will run on SoC packages based on those CPUs as well.
It is an interesting announcement, but one that raises as many questions as answers. The first concerns Microsoft’s mobile strategy, with Windows now seeming to encroach on territory that you have thought belonged to its embedded operating system, Windows CE, which underlies both Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7. With all its legacy APIs, full-blown Windows does not seem ideal for low-powered, resource-constrained mobile devices; yet the company seems set on bringing full Windows rather than something based on Windows Phone 7 to the emerging tablet market.
The second issue is that applications will need at least re-compiling, and in many cases some re-coding, in order to run on ARM CPUs. Microsoft says it will deliver Office for ARM:
Sinofsky: Microsoft Office is an important part of customers’ PC experience and ensuring it runs natively on ARM is a natural extension of our Windows commitment to SoC architectures.
Windows and Office alone is enough for a decent business device; but customers who buy Windows on ARM expecting their existing games or applications to run will be disappointed.
We have been here before. In the early days of Windows CE, devices ran a variety of processors such as MIPS or Hitachi SH3, and developers had to compile multiple binaries and create setups that installed the right one on each device. In an attempt to overcome the friction this created, Microsoft introduced the Common Executable Format (CEF) with Windows CE 3.0 in 2000. This was an intermediate language format which was translated to native code by a “translator” when it was installed onto a device.
It sounds a bit like .NET or Java; and it was indeed a forerunner of the .NET Common Language Runtime, which appeared in 2002. However, CEF never really caught on. Although it solved deployment issues, it introduced performance problems and was troublesome to debug. Most developers preferred to stick with true native code.
Today though .NET is mature; and we also have Silverlight, a cross-platform implementation of the .NET Framework combined with multimedia player and graphics framework. If Microsoft includes .NET and Silverlight in its ARM build of Windows, that would solve some of the deployment problems, especially for business devices. Many custom applications are built for .NET; and these would in principle run without any need to recompile, since a .NET executable is intermediate code which is compiled to native code at runtime, though any code which includes “platform invoke” calls to native APIs would not work.
It is surprising therefore that neither .NET nor Silverlight is mentioned in Windows president Steve Sinofsky’s Q&A about Windows on ARM. Still, we should not read too much into that. It would be madness if Microsoft did not support its .NET technologies on this new platform, would it not?
Microsoft’s president of Server and Tools Bob Muglia has posted a response to the widespread perception that the company is backing off its commitment to Silverlight, a cross-browser, cross-platform runtime for rich internet applications. He is the right person to do so, since it was his remark that ”Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted” which seemed to confirm a strategy change that had already been implied by the strong focus in the keynote on HTML 5 as an application platform.
Muglia says Silverlight is in fact “very important and strategic to Microsoft”. He confirms that a new release is in development, notes that Silverlight is the development platform for Windows Phone 7, and affirms Silverlight both as a media client and as “the richest way to build web-delivered client apps.”
So what is the strategy change? It is this:
When we started Silverlight, the number of unique/different Internet-connected devices in the world was relatively small, and our goal was to provide the most consistent, richest experience across those devices. But the world has changed. As a result, getting a single runtime implementation installed on every potential device is practically impossible. We think HTML will provide the broadest, cross-platform reach across all these devices. At Microsoft, we’re committed to building the world’s best implementation of HTML 5 for devices running Windows, and at the PDC, we showed the great progress we’re making on this with IE 9.
The key problem here is Apple’s iOS, which Muglia mentioned specifically in his earlier interview:
HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including (Apple’s) iOS platform.
Muglia’s words are somewhat reassuring to Silverlight developers; but not, I think, all that much. Silverlight will continue on Windows, Mac and on Windows Phone; but there are many more devices which developers want to target, and it sounds as if Microsoft does not intend to broaden Silverlight’s reach.
Faced with the same issues, Adobe has brought Flash to device platforms including Android, MeeGo, Blackberry and Google TV; and come up with a packager that compiles Flash applications to native iOS code. There is still no Flash or AIR (out of browser Flash) on Apple iOS; but Adobe has done all possible to make Flash a broad cross-platform runtime.
Microsoft by contrast has not really entered the fight. It has been left to Novell’s Mono team to show what can be done with cross-platform .NET, including MonoTouch for iOS and MonoDroid for Google’s Android platform.
Microsoft could have done more to bring Silverlight to further platforms, but has chosen instead to focus on HTML 5 – just as Muglia said in his earlier interview.
Whether Microsoft is right or wrong in this is a matter for debate. From what I have seen, the comments on Microsoft’s de-emphasis of Silverlight at PDC have been worrying for .NET developers, but mostly cheered elsewhere.
The problem is that HTML 5 is not ready, nor is it capable of everything that can be done in Silverlight or Flash. There is a gap to be filled; and it looks as if Microsoft is leaving that task to Adobe.
It does seem to me inevitable that if Microsoft really gets behind HTML 5, by supporting it with tools and libraries to make it a strong and productive client for Microsoft’s server applications, then Silverlight will slip further behind.
It’s the time of year when hopeful gadget manufacturers lay out their shiny new wares in the hope of a bumper Christmas season; so this evening I attended a multi-vendor press event for that purpose.
What I found both interesting and disappointing was the lack of innovation in what is on offer. There was table after table of iPod docks and USB drives. On the iPod side, it shows I guess the extent to which Apple has taken over the home hi-fi market as well as the portable market. Although Apple does not make the docks, it gets a royalty for use of its proprietary connector, as well as enhancing the value of its iTunes/iPod/iPhone ecosystem.
It is not quite all iPod. I did have a lengthy discussion with the man from Arcam about its new rDAC digital audio converter. “Don’t all DACs sound the same?” I asked him, whereupon he drew diagrams to convince me that there are still challenges in making a high fidelity DAC, that CD-quality sounds better and high resolution 24/96 audio better still through an rDAC. I am hoping to get a review sample in order to test his claims.
Another item that caught my eye was the 5.1 headphone set from Roccat, a Hamburg-based company you most likely have not heard of. The headphones are called Kave, are aimed at gamers – though I imagine they should also be fun for movies – and are not too bulky considering their six drives. They also include a microphone for live gaming, though they cannot connect to an Xbox without an adapter. I will be reviewing these – if they work as advertised, it is rather a good idea. Roccat also offers a range of gaming mice with extra switches and customisable lighting effects (honest). If you have the patience to set up commands and macros for the additional button combinations that are available I guess these can be productive for a variety of computing tasks, not just for gaming. Sorry Mac people; this one is Windows only.
I am not sure what FileMaker was doing at a predominantly consumer event; but I was glad to catch up a little with this Mac database business (owned by Apple). With both the Mac and the iPad increasingly making their way into business computing, FileMaker has the opportunity to grow its market share a little. FileMaker 11 has been out since March, and in the summer the company released FileMaker Go for iPhone and iPad. FileMaker Go is a client for FileMaker applications, and one of the things that intrigues me is that it does apparently run scripts that are part of the application. Doesn’t this breach Apple’s guidelines which prohibit runtime interpreters? It is a moot point, and I suppose you can argue that FileMaker scripts are so specific to FileMaker database applications that it does not count as general-purpose scripting. Still, it strikes me as a sign of flexibility in Apple’s restrictions – unless it is only because FileMaker is owned by Apple and gets a special pass, which the man from FileMaker denied.
I took a quick look at the latest SSD (solid state drive) drives from Kingston and Buffalo. I would like to fit one of these in my netbook, for improved speed and battery life, but for a typical netbook, installing a 128GB SSD will more than double the price, so they are still a little expensive.
So what about all the USB and network attached storage, is there anything to say about it? Some of the portable USB devices have built-in encryption, which may be handy for businesses. “Try 10 times with the wrong password and the data is wiped,” one vendor told me proudly; I’m afraid I immediately thought of the case when it is your data and you have that forgotten the password.
I did like the storage solutions that offer access to files over the internet. Pogoplug is one; just attach a drive to the Pogoplug, connect the Pogoplug to your router, and then you can access your stuff from anywhere via the company’s web site. The innovation this year is a wi-fi model that no longer has to sit next to your router. There is even an iOS app for mobile access. You can also give access to specified external users.
Another variation on this theme is Hitachi’s LifeStudio, which supports backup to cloud storage. You get 3GB cloud storage free, with an option to purchase additional space by subscription.
Nuance was showing its Mac speech input application called Dragon Dictate. I have been trying Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11, which is most impressive, and spoke to Nuance about the difference between the two. According to the folk at the event, the Windows version is still a little ahead technically, but it is getting close.
Finally, VMWare and Parallels were there showing their desktop emulation solutions for running Windows on the Mac. VMWare showed me its physical-to-virtual utility, which lets you migrate your old PC to a virtual machine on your Mac. It is an excellent solution if you need to run Windows apps on a Mac.
The most eye-opening demonstration at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference last week was from Adobe’s David Salesin (Sr. Principal Scientist) and Todor Georgiev (Sr Research Scientist), who showed their Plenoptic Lens along with software for processing the resulting images.
There was a gasp of amazement from the audience when we saw what the process is capable of. We saw an image refocused after the event.
For anyone who has ever taken an out of focus picture – which I guess is everyone – the immediate reaction is to want one NOW. Another appealing idea is to take an image that has several items of interest, but at different depths, and shift the focus from one to another.
So how does it work? It starts with the plenoptic lens, which lets you “capture multiple views of the scene from slightly different viewpoints,” said Salesin:
If you have a high resolution sensor then each one of those images can be fairly high resolution. The neat thing is that with software, with computation, you can put this together into one large high-resolution image.
In a sense you are capturing a whole 4D lightfield. You’ve got two dimensions of the spatial position of the light ray, and also two dimensions of the orientation of the light ray.
With that 4D image, you can then after the fact use computation to take the place of optics. With computation you have a lot more flexibility. You can change the vantage point, the viewpoint a little bit, and you can also change the focus.
To resolve that, to take these individual little pieces of an image and put them together into one large image from any arbitrary view with any arbitrary focus, it turns out that texture mapping hardware is exactly what you need to do that. Using GPU chips we’ve been able to get speedups over the CPU of about 500 times.
Note that the image ends up being constructed in software. It is not just a matter of overlaying the small images in a certain way.
There is a good reason NVIDIA showed this at its conference. Suddenly we all want little cameras with GPUs powerful enough to do this on the fly.
Looking for a mini PC, maybe to plug into your TV without taking over the living room? I’ve just been looking at the range from Giada, here at the NVIDIA GPU Tech conference, and like their handy size, which makes my Toshiba netbook look distinctly bulky, and quiet running.
The latest Giada N20 measures just 160 x 175 x 23mm but still packs in an Atom D510 CPU, NVIDIA ION GT218 with 512MB RAM, 2GB main memory, and 320GB hard drive. Ports includes two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 2.0/E-SATA combo port, four-in-one card reader, Gigabit LAN, wi-fi, Bluetooth, HDMI and VGA video output, and both analogue audio and SPDIF digital output.
Price with Windows 7 Home Premium is $449, though it is not yet available in Europe.
NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsung Huang spoke to the press at the GPU Technology Conference and I took the opportunity to ask some questions.
I asked for his views on the cloud as a supercomputer and whether that would impact the need for local supercomputers of the kind GPU computing enables.
Although we expect more and more to happen in the cloud, in the meantime we’re going to keep buying devices with more and more solid state memory. The way to think about it is, storage is simply a surrogate for bandwidth. If we had infinite bandwidth none of us would need storage. As bandwidth improves the requirement for storage should reduce. But there’s another trend which is that the amount of data we collect is growing incredibly fast … It’s going to be quite a long time before our need for storage will reduce.
But what about local computing power, Gigaflops as opposed to storage?
Wherever there is storage, there’s GigaFlops. Local storage, local computing.
Next, I brought up a subject which has been puzzling me here at GTC. You can do GPU programming with NVIDIA’s CUDA C, which only works on NVIDIA GPUs, or with OpenCL which works with other vendor’s GPUs as well. Why is there more focus here on CUDA, when on the face of it developers would be better off with the cross-GPU approach? (Of course I know part of the answer, that NVIDIA does not mind locking developers to its own products).
The reason we focus all our evangelism and energy on CUDA is because CUDA requires us to, OpenCL does not. OpenCL has the benefit of IBM, AMD, Intel, and ourselves. Now CUDA is a little difference in that its programming approach is different. Instead of an API it’s a language extension. You program in C, it’s a different model.
The reason why CUDA is more adopted than OpenCL is because it is simply more advanced. We’ve invested in CUDA much longer. The quality of the compiler is much better. The robustness of the programming environment is better. The tools around it are better, and there are more people programming it. The ecosystem is richer.
People ask me how do we feel about the fact that it is proprietary. There’s two ways to think about it. There’s CUDA and there’s Tesla. Tesla’s not proprietary at all, Tesla supports OpenCL and CUDA. If you bought a server with Tesla in it, you’re not getting anything less, you’re getting CUDA more. That’s the reason Tesla has been adopted by all the OEMs. If you want a GPU cluster, would you want one that only does OpenCL? Or does OpenCL and CUDA? 80% of GPU computing today is CUDA, 20% is OpenCL. If you want to reach 100% of it, you’re better off using Tesla. Over time, if more people use OpenCL that’s fine with us. The most important thing is GPU computing, the next most important thing to us is NVIDIA’s GPUs, and the next is CUDA. It’s way down the list.
Next, a hot topic. Jen-Hsun Huang explained why he announced a roadmap for future graphics chip architectures – Kepler in 2011, Maxwell in 2013 – so that software developers engaged in GPU programming can plan their projects. I asked him why Fermi, the current chip architecture, had been so delayed, and whether there was good reason to have confidence in the newly announced dates.
He answered by explaining the Fermi delay in both technical and management terms.
The technical answer is that there’s a piece of functionality that is between the shared symmetric multiprocessors (SMs), 236 processors, that need to communicate with each other, and with memory of all different types. So there’s SMs up here, and underneath the memories. In between there is a very complicated inter-connecting system that is very fast. It’s nearly all wires, dense metal with very little logic … we call that the fabric.
When you have wires that are next to each other that closely they couple, they interfere … it’s a solid mesh of metal. We found a major breakdown between the models, the tools, and reality. We got the first Fermi back. That piece of fabric – imagine we are all processors. All of us seem to be working. But we can’t talk to each other. We found out it’s because the connection between us is completely broken. We re-engineered the whole thing and made it work.
Your question was deeper than that. Your question wasn’t just what broke with Fermi – it was the fabric – but the question is how would you not let it happen again? It won’t be fabric next time, it will be something else.
The reason why the fabric failed isn’t because it was hard, but because it sat between the responsibility of two groups. The fabric is complicated because there’s an architectural component, a logic design component, and there’s a physics component. My engineers who know physics and my engineers who know architecture are in two different organisations. We let it sit right in the middle. So the management lesson learned – there should always be a pilot in charge.
Huang spent some time discussing changes in the industry. He identifies mobile computing “superphones” and tablets as the focus of a major shift happening now. Someone asked “What does that mean for your Geforce business?”
I don’t think like that. The way I think is, “what is my personal computer business”. The personal computer business is Geforce plus Tegra. If you start a business, don’t think about the product you make. Think about the customer you’re making it for. I want to give them the best possible personal computing experience.
Tegra is NVIDIA’s complete system on a chip, including ARM processor and of course NVIDIA graphics, aimed at mobile devices. NVIDIA’s challenge is that its success with Geforce does not guarantee success with Tegra, for which it is early days.
The further implication is that the immediate future may not be easy, as traditional PC and laptop sales decline.
The mainstream business for the personal computer industry will be rocky for some time. The reason is not because of the economy but because of mobile computing. The PC … will be under disruption from tablets. The difference between a tablet and a PC is going to become very small. Over the next few years we’re going to see that more and more people use their mobile device as their primary computer.
[Holds up Blackberry] There’s no question right now that this is my primary computer.
The rise of mobile devices is a topic Huang has returned to on several occasions here. “ARM is the most important CPU architecture, instruction set architecture, of the future” he told the keynote audience.
Clearly NVIDIA’s business plans are not without risk; but you cannot fault Huang for enthusiasm or awareness of coming changes. It is clear to me that NVIDIA has the attention of the scientific and academic community for GPU computing, and workstation OEMs are scrambling to built Tesla GPU computing cards into their systems, but transitions in the market for its mass-market graphics cards will be tricky for the company.
Update: Huang’s comments about the reasons for Fermi’s delay raised considerable interest as apparently he had not spoken about this on record before. Journalist Nico Ernst captured the moment on video:
Today was a significant event for the UK broadcasting industry: the announcement of YouView, formerly called Project Canvas, which is backed by partners including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and BT. It will provide broadcasts over IP, received by a set top box, include a catch-up service, and be capable of interactive features that hook into internet services.
Interesting stuff, though it may end up battling with Google TV. But what are the implications for media streaming services and media players? One is that they will have to run on Linux, which is the official operating system for Project Canvas. Google TV, for that matter, will run Android.
If you look at the YouView specifications, you’ll find that although the operating system is specified, the application player area is more open:
Application Player executables and libraries will be provided by 3rd party software vendors.
What is an application player?
Runtime environment for the execution of applications. Examples are Flash player, MHEG engine, W3C browser
I’d suggest that Adobe will do well out of YouView. Microsoft, on the other hand, will not be able to play in this space unless it delivers Silverlight for Linux, Android, and other open platforms.
Microsoft has a curious history of cross-platform Silverlight announcements. Early on it announced that Moonlight was the official Linux player, though in practice support for Moonlight has been half-hearted. Then when Intel announced the Atom Developer Program (now AppUp) in September 2009, Microsoft stated that it would provide its own build of Silverlight for Linux, or rather, than Intel would build it with Microsoft’s code. Microsoft’s Brian Goldfarb told me that Microsoft and Intel would work together on bringing Silverlight to devices, while Moonlight would be the choice for desktop Linux.
Since then, the silence has been deafening. I’ve enquired about progress with both Intel and Microsoft, but vague rumours aside, no news. Silverlight is still listed as a future runtime for AppUp:
Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform and cross-device browser plug-in that helps companies design, develop and deliver applications and experiences on the Web.
In the meantime, Adobe has gone ahead with its AIR runtime, and even if Silverlight eventually appears, has established an early presence on Intel’s netbook platform.
There have been recent rumours about internal battles between the Windows and Developer divisions at Microsoft, and I cannot help wondering if this is another symptom, with the Windows folk fighting against cross-platform Silverlight on the grounds that it could damage the Windows lock-in, while the Developer team tries to make Silverlight the ubiquitous runtime that it needs to be in order to succeed.
From my perspective, the answer is simple. Suppressing Silverlight will do nothing to safeguard Windows, whereas making it truly cross-platform could drive adoption of Microsoft’s server and cloud platform. When Silverlight was launched, just doing Windows and Mac was almost enough, but today the world looks different. If Microsoft is serious about WPF Everywhere, Linux and Android (which is Linux based) support is a necessity.