Monday, November 22, 2004

Zuse is a father of Digital Computer?

I just read the biography of Konrad Zuse. Interesting and very encouraging. Apparently, he deserves to be called the father of Digital Computing Machine. His inventions such as Z1 to Z4 had pioneered the uses of digital instead of analog computing. His Zuse-3 was in fact the first operational program controlled calculating machine, using the binary floating point numbers and Boolean circuits. In 1936 Zuse made a patent application on some of its parts, which proves that he had developed various major concepts of the digital computer long before men like Von Neumann or Burks presented their ideas.

He is also the father of programming language. In 1945/1946 he finished his "Plankalk├╝ll", the world's first programming language, thus establishing his name as a software pioneer. It was presented to the public in 1972.

It is hard to trace who is truly the father of computer or computing machine. There is no single person credited for the works. From Pascal, Babbage, Turing, Atanasoff, Mauchley and Eckart and Von Neumann. They all contributed to the invention of computer to what we see and use nowadays.

His name also reminds me about a german-linux distro, SuSe. I believe it is named after him or borrows his name.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Java is going open source?

There is recently a news that Sun is going to make Java Platform Standard Edition Environment as open source, at least to non-profit and academic organizations. This is a breakthrough for Java community and seems another "attack" to Microsoft which is still keeping their Windows private for most people.

Another Sun's plan is to make its Solaris 10 open. The copyright is not under GNU, but seems under similar one. Will it take people out of Linux environment? We still need to see this. But, so far Sun's GUI is far behind than Windows, even Linux in term of quality. The new operating system will work on Opteron, Xeon, and UltraSparc.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

HD (high-definition) video is stalled again

HD (high-definition) video is stalled again. That refrain is familiar to those of us who have waited the better part of a decade to get our HDTV. But this time, high-definition is DVD stuck in the standards conundrum. The situation perfectly illustrates the complexities involved in setting standards for state-of-the-art products—with a global plot twist thrown in for good measure.

The DVD industry’s track record when it comes to standards is far from perfect. Remember when Sony, Philips, and others went against the DVD Forum to establish theDVD+RW format after the Forum shunned the +RW technology in favor of DVD-RAM and DVD-RW? That fight delayed the widespread adoption of DVD recorders for three years.

Now, the industry must address the move toward HDTV-level 1080i (1080-line, interlaced) resolution for DVD content. Consumers who have spent big money on HDTV monitors are waiting.

A product such as DVD involves many standards issues, including factors such as power and interfaces. But two major issues demand the most attention: the recording format and the video-encoding format. Initially, industry players both inside and outside the DVD Forum considered two approaches. The first involved staying with the existing 9-Gbyte format and using more aggressive encoding to pack a feature-length, high-definition movie onto one disc. The DVD Forum, working on what it terms HD-DVD, favored this conservative approach because it would maintain full compatibility with existing discs. Sony, Matsushita, and others favored a move to “Blu-ray” technology. By changing to a "blue"-wavelength laser, Blu-ray would allow a disc to store 25 Gbytes. However, a player would need two lasers—red andblue—to play both old and new discs.

Now, Toshiba and NEC have produced a compromise, which the DVD Forum has endorsed. The duo has developed a blue laser that can provide higher capacity and also read today’s discs. The compromise reduces capacity to 20 Gbytes, 5 Gbytes fewer than Blu-ray.

Of course, the Blu-ray group wants nothing to do with the compromise. This spring, the group formed its own industry body, the BDA (Blu-ray Disc Association). Hey, if you can’t get your way in this industry, just create your own standards body. The game is clearly about getting your own technology embedded into the next standard, so that you can collect royalties on top of the profit that you make selling your own products.

Meanwhile, a battle raged for a while on the encoding side. The BDA initially appeared to be sticking with the MPEG-2 encoding that existing DVDs use. On the DVD Forum side, Microsoft entered the battle, trying to get its Windows Media technology into the next standard. As of press time, a rare outbreak of logical thinking seems to have taken place: Both the BDA and the DVD Forum have announced plans to support MPEG-2, H.264, and Microsoft’s Windows Media 9.

So, for now, we wait. Hollywood hasn’t weighed in with the standard that it prefers. Meanwhile, Sony has proclaimed that its Playstation 3 will use BDA technology. The BDA is also aggressively pursuing datacentric applications in addition to next-generation DVD video. And manufacturers will soon ship expensive, rewritable BDA products.

Enter China. Chinese companies and the Chinese government already had a major dislike for the DVD technology the the rest of the world uses. Specifically, they didn’t like paying royalties to the companies who had key technologies embedded in the DVD standards. And you can bet that Chinese vendors didn’t want to wait for the high-definition conflict in the rest of the world to play out.

So a standards organization of the Chinese government—SAC (Standardisation Administration of China)—rolled out a new spec, EVD (Enhanced Video Disc). The spec is complete, and vendors are shipping early products. North American vendors, such as LSI Logic, are offering EVD chip sets. High-definition Chinese content is trickling into the Chinese market, with some Hollywood content expected next year.

There’s nothing like governments, multiple international standards bodies, and the collaboration of private industry associations to stave off adoption of a compelling new technology.