Sunday, April 26, 2015

Media Storage Options !!

For a very long time, the best option for storing and transferring large multimedia files was via an optical media device, such as a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or Blu-ray disc.  This was a fairly inexpensive option, but physical media was often susceptible to damage. 

Another option was through an external hard disk drive.  This was another inexpensive option, but again the physical hard disk was susceptible to damage.

Cloud backup has given us another option to ponder.  Cloud backup is a subscription based service that offers the user the ability to backup data automatically and provides offsite storage of the data to ensure recovery.  The cost of Cloud backup can become pricey depending on the amount of data that you need to save to the Cloud.

I think many multimedia developers may begin to opt for Private Cloud Backup.  Private Cloud Backup uses software to save data to a device located on the users network.  Files can be copied automatically and authentication can limit the users that can access the data.  Local network transfer tends to be quicker than the Internet.  Network storage devices can be cost prohibitive and need to be configured on the network, but I believe they are worth the time and investment so that files are securely accessed by only the people that need to have access to them.

Where does good software go to die?

The time it takes to learn new software can be daunting.  It can consume your time to learn all of the tips and tricks of the application.  What happens when you have invested your time and energy into new software and it goes away? 

Case in point, Xtranormal Technology, a digital entertainment company that produced web-based and desktop animation software that turned text into an animated movie.  In August 2013, Xtranormal's online services were dismantled and by October, their website had been taken down completely.

Their software had offered a solution to the non-professional animators to begin to dive into the animation world.     This even included large companies, such as Geico Insurance.

How do you bounce back when a tool is removed from your toolbox and you don't have another one to immediately replace it?

The most important lesson that I am taking away from Xtranormal's situation is to not put all of your eggs in one basket.  Unfortunately, in the technological world that we live in, it is often difficult, if not impossible to see what software and applications are going to make it and which ones are going to be short-lived.  This is often scarier for us in the Information Technology / Information Systems world, because often our career depends on it.  Do I certify in Oracle or another database product?  Do I learn Dreamweaver or another HTML / Web publishing tool?  Companies expect IT / IS personnel to be experts in specific software, but how do we pick which path?  I think it's imperative to become a master at transferable skills.  Is there another comparable software that will be easier to learn because it closely resembles the one you learned and lost?  Can you learn both software  systems / applications at the same time so that if one is no longer available, you can rely on the other one?

In the end, nobody can predict which software applications will be around for the long haul, so it's important that we engage ourselves in learning as many as possible so that we can make an informed decision on which ones are right for us.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Marriage of Melody and Mac !!!

When Edison invented the cylinder phonograph to record and playback sound, the initial thought was that it would become useful as a business tool for dictation. Little did anyone know that this began the long journey to the marriage of Melody and Mac. Many innovations and advances needed to occur at the right time and the right place for us to be where we are now in the realm of the digital media time-line.

During the years of 1840 through 1899, several innovations in sound and music came to life. Emile Berliner invented both the microphone (1877) and the flat record player entitled the Gramophone (1887). Shellac gramophone disks will be developed in 1897 and speeds will vary on disks issued by companies in different countries. Danish inventor Valdemar Poulson invented magnetic wire sound recording in 1889. In the same year, Louis Glass invents the modern jukebox and installs it in a saloon in San Francisco. In 1892, Music Publishers begin renting office space on 28th street in New York City, in an area that would become known as “Tin Pan Alley.” “After The Ball” by Charles K. Harris, the songs' composer and publisher, became the first sheet music to sell a million copies. These years also began the convergence of music and film. In 1895, the Lumiere Brothers use piano music with a motion picture program and in 1896, an orchestra is used with silent motion pictures for the first time.

Mass duplication becomes possible between 1900 and 1924. This mass duplication makes the record industry possible. Edison, RCA Victor, and Columbia become big names in the industry, primarily because they had held the most patents on existing technologies. Disks become the preferred music medium over cylinders. Radio broadcasting begins during this time-frame, and the music industry finds a place for both the new and the old technologies. In 1900, Eldredge Johnson develops the first system of mass duplication of pre-recorded flat disks. RCA Victor's “Victrola” model record player is introduced and introduces a variable turntable speed control that will accommodate the collection of phonograph records that will be produced during that time. The Victrola's speeds ranged from 71-76 rpm, but disks from some countries and from some companies were being produced anywhere in the 66-90 rpm range. US manufacturers will come to an agreement in 1928 to standardize the rate of 78.26, and eventually standard speeds will be used world-wide.

In 1906, John Ambrose Fleming, a British scientist developed the first vacuum tube that was called a valve. In 1907, Lee de Forest is granted a patent for the first three-element vacuum tube. The third element of the tube was called a grid and allowed the tube to amplify signals which made radio with voice and music practical. In 1908, the double-sided phonograph record are introduced. In 1909, experimental radio station broadcasts were attempted by Charles Herrold and his assistant Ray Newby and by 1912, they begin the first regular public radio broadcasting of voice and music. In 1912, disk recordings overtake cylinders, which leads to the Edison Company introducing a disk player.

Recording technology continued to advance and analog sound reproduction improved. Radio joined the ranks of entertainment media in the home and recordings and radio became intertwined; allowing broadcasters to play records over the radio. In 1926, the National Broadcasting Company becomes the first radio network, followed by the Columbia Broadcasting Network in 1927. In 1928, manufacturers begin standardization on 78.26 rpm phonograph records. Although RCA begins work on a 33 1/3 rpm record during this time period, it fails as it is not capable to stand up to repeated plays and it will be many more years before a LP record is developed that is good enough for consumer use. In 1940, New York City sees FM radio broadcasting become regular. Captured German magnetic tape recorders are brought to the US and are copied for commercial use in 1946. In 1948, the commercial 33 1/3 LP disc is introduced by Dr. Peter Goldmark of Colombia Records and in 1949 RCA Victor develops 45 rpm phonograph records. This was intended to replace the 33 1/3 LP discs, but failed to do so. 45 rpm discs did become the preferred media format for singles.

1950 through 1974 was a period of time that revolutionized the fields of sound and broadcast technology, television and magnetic tape. The “space race” launched advances in digital electronics. The development of the integrated circuit that allowed holding thousands of transistors on a single “chip” led to large scale integrated circuits which made the development of microprocessors and memory “chips.” This was the beginning of personal computers and other embedded systems.

The Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) created a program to connect university research labs. This project was called DARPANET and eventually led to the Internet.

In 1950, RCA gave in and began producing 33 1/3 LP's to compete with Columbia and other manufacturers. By 1955, larger 12” LP's overtake 10” LP's as the preference and by 1957, compatible disk and record players are offered for sale. By 1963, compact tape cassettes and players are developed and in 1964, the 8-track stereo tape cartridge is developed for use in the automobile.

In 1981, the MTV Music TV Cable Network debuts and in the same year, the first IBM PC is released. In 1982, the digital compact disc (CD) was introduced by a Japanese company and the first CD released in Japan was Billy Joel's “52nd Street.” In 1983, CD titles are released in the US and by 1985, the CD starts to gain market ground on the LP, reducing LP sales by 25%. By June of 1986, CD sales had taken over LP sales in the US and by 1988 CD sales had taken over the LP sales world-wide. DVD technology is created in 1996 and increases capacity of digital storage.

Tim Berners-Lee finishes programming the first practical web browser that incorporates both FTP (file transfer protocol) and HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) in 1990 and allows his browser into the public domain in 1993 with the dream of furthering the World-Wide Web. By 1994, the Internet begins to take off and personal computers outsell TV sets for the first time in the US.

During this same time, the moving picture experts group MPEG-1 Audio Layer III, also known as the MP3, compressed file format becomes an international standard, and eventually will become the format that is primarily used for distributing audio files over the Internet.

In 1999, Internet Service Providers introduce consumers to broadband that offers faster and smoother downloads and streaming media and in this same year, recordable CD-R digital audio technology becomes part of personal computer systems. In 2000, Napster, an Internet site for sharing music is created and when record sales declined, the record industry blames online music swapping and begin to look into digital copy protection options.

In 2001, Apple introduces the iPod music play for playing MP3 files. Even though the iPod was not the first MP3 player available commercially, it does become the best known one and when Apple introduces the iTunes music service in 2003, they prove that people will pay to download music legally. On February 22nd, 2006, Apple's online music store has been fully integrated into their iTunes Software and iPod hardware, and sells their one-billionth song, which proves that consumers are open to a non-tangible form of media.

Consumers are now obsessed with their increasingly growing music collection and pay attention to securing their libraries for years to come.

I must admit that I am likely one of the few that does not have a large music collection in MP3 format, but I do enjoy music and listen to streaming music via iHeartRadio on a daily basis. I still do miss the anticipation of the old days; I remember waiting over a week to watch the epic release of Michael Jackson's Thriller Video on MTV in 1983. I also miss the antics that could occur from hearing a song for the first time and having to drive to the record / cd store and sing the song to the clerk to see if they knew what song we were talking about (this was before you could instantly Google the words or have the radio display the song and artist name as the song was playing). My favorite memory was my mother singing Red Dog Love to a clerk, only to find out that she was really referring to Radar Love !!!

Please see the below website for the entire technology timeline: