Sunday, 29 November 2009

Microsoft enables Silverlight video streaming to iPhones

Apple hasn't suddenly changed its mind about allowing browser plug-ins for the iPhone, but Microsoft worked some server magic to enable Silverlight-encoded video to be served to an iPhone using the standard HTML5 <video> tag.

At PDC 2009, Microsoft demonstrated Silverlight video streaming to an iPhone. While Microsoft user experience platform manager Brian Goldfarb said that Microsoft "worked with Apple" to make it happen, don't expect plug-ins for Mobile Safari to start flooding the App Store. Instead, Microsoft worked to make its IIS7 server software capable of sending an QuickTime-compatible stream to an iPhone embedded with a HTML5 <video> tag.

Though Silverlight is more than just a video format—it's more of .NET authoring runtime for web-based applications, much like Flash as become—its media delivery features are what content providers wanted on the iPhone. "The promise of Silverlight is that it's a cross-device, cross-browser, cross-platform solution, and it works the same on Macs as it does on Windows," Goldfarb told BetaNews. "The iPhone is a unique scenario. We talked to our customers...and they said, 'Look, we just need to get our content there, and it's mainly in the media space like broadcasting, and we want to put it on the iPhone.'"

The true extent of "working with Apple," though, has more to do with making sure the system would work and that Apple didn't disapprove. "We did all the work," Goldfarb said. "We just made sure Apple was comfortable with it. We have to have a strong partnership with our partners, we have to have trust, and that's key."

What Microsoft did was enable IIS Media Services respond to requests from an iPhone and transcode on-demand to H.264 format in an MPEG-2 transport stream, the exact same format used by Apple's proposed HTTP Live Streaming protocol. "So it's the same IIS smooth streaming content, the same server, the same point of origin, but now I can get that content to play without any code changes, without any real work, on the iPhone," Goldfarb explained. "That's the critical thing for our customers."

We won't be seeing an Silverlight runtime (nor a Flash one, for that matter) popping up on the iPhone. But content providers already using or considering IIS Media Services won't have to encode video separately or maintain a separate content delivery system for serving their content to the hottest mobile platform. So the real question is, when can I start streaming Netflix to my iPhone?

10 Alternatives To Mininova

After nearly five years of loyal service, Mininova disabled access to over a million torrent files when it partly shut down its website. Starting today, only approved publishers are able to upload files to the site, but luckily there are plenty of alternatives and potential replacements BitTorrent users can flock to.

With an impressive 175,820,430 visits and close to a billion page views in the last 30 days, Mininova set a record that they will be unable to break in the near future. Last August a Dutch court ruled that Mininova had to remove all links to ‘infringing’ torrent files, with disastrous consequences.

Since it is technically unfeasible to pre-approve or filter every potentially infringing torrent file, the Mininova team decided to throw in the towel and only allow torrents to be submitted by approved uploaders. This move resulted in the deletion of more than a million torrents, many of which were not infringing any copyrights at all.

Thankfully, there are still plenty of alternatives for those BitTorrent users who are looking for the latest Ubuntu, OpenSUSE or Fedora release.

Below we provide a random list of public torrent sites that are still open, but there are of course hundreds more sites we could have included. If your personal favorite is missing, feel free to post it in the comments below – preferably with your reasons why it should be included in any upcoming lists.

1. Torrentzap

2. Fenopy

3. ExtraTorrent

4. KickassTorrents

5. BTjunkie

5. Monova

7. isoHunt

8. yourBitTorrent

9. The Pirate Bay

10. ShareReactor

Update: The owner of Monova, told TorrentFreak that he has reserved all Mininova usernames for people who want to make the switch to his site. The account names can be claimed here. Also, I replaced some sites in the original top 10 because they went down or started to serve trojans,or viruses.

Comparing nuclear power, wind, and solar on land use efficiency

I'm a bright-green environmentalist (meaning that I'm pro-technology, pro-growth, etc. and not a crazy anarcho-primitivist type) that has recently joined the movement promoting nuclear power as the most practical solution to mitigating the worst effects of global warming.

As an environmentalist, I think that global warming is the most serious threat, but we also need to take into account the destruction of land to provide our energy sources. Obviously, coal is terrible on both accounts because it is a heavy carbon emitter and mining techniques such as mountain-top removal are destroying the environment.

The traditional approach for environmentalists has been to promote wind and solar power. Although they are significantly better options than coal, it is probably not possible to replace our entire energy grid with these technologies. The main reason is the intermittent nature of wind and solar that would require large grid energy storage technologies that aren't very mature yet to stabilize the system. The second reason, that I think is often overlooked by environmentalists, is because of the massive amount of land required to meet our electricity demand.

I am selecting three reference plants for comparison. To keep everything fair, I am only using plants currently online and not planned future plants. I attempted to use the largest plants in the world, but that really doesn't matter too much because I am concerned with power/area. If someone finds a plant that is significantly better in power/area than what I cited below (and it would change the implications of what I'm trying to say), please let me know. To make this comparison simpler and make it more favorable towards wind and solar, I am ignoring any issues related to intermittent generation.

The Roscoe Wind Farm in Texas is the the world's largest wind farm. It covers about 100,000 acres and generates 781.5 MW of electricity using 627 wind turbines.

The solar plant in Jumilla, Murcia, Spain is currently the world's largest solar plant. It covers about 100 hectares (247.105381 acres) and generates 23 MW of power with 120,000 solar panels.

Finally, the world's largest nuclear plant is the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. It generates 8,212 MW of power and uses 4.2 km^2 (1,037.8426 acres) of land using 7 Advanced Boiling Water reactors.

If we simply divide power output by land usage, we get the following ratios (which is in MW/acre):

Wind: 0.007815

Solar: 0.093078

Nuclear: 7.912568

This means that wind energy requires 1012 times more land than nuclear energy for the same power output and solar requires 85 times more land than nuclear energy for the same power output.

For example, to build renewable energy with the same power output as the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, 1,050,297 acres are needed for wind and 88,217 acres are needed for solar. This is a lot of land that has to be completely dominated by wind turbines or solar panels. Also, keep in mind that all of the material covering this land has to be mined and manufactured, which also has a footprint on the environment.

Finally, let's look at how much land is needed to supply all of the power consumed in the United States (I'm American, so that's what I'm working with). According to Wikipedia, the US consumed 29,000 TWh of energy in 2005 (which is obviously higher now). This number includes everything (transportation, electricity, heating, industrial processes, etc.). I am assuming that a future economy will use electricity for everything (electric cars, heat pumps, etc.) for simplicity. If I divide by the number of hours in a year (8,760), that is about 3.3 TW (or 3,300,000 MW) of power needed. Obviously, this is a bit simplified, but I am just doing this for illustration purposes.

Therefore, to generate all of our energy using current technology, we would need 417,058 acres of nuclear plants (which corresponds to about 402 nuclear plants like the one mentioned above), 35,454,135 acres of solar panels, or 422,264,875 acres of wind turbines. To put things in perspective, we would need to cover all of New York State in solar panels or all of Alaska in wind turbines to generate our 2005 energy usage. We also have to build a grid that can distribute all of that power from places where the wind blows (e.g. the great plains) and the sun shines (e.g. the sun belt) to where it is needed (primarily the Northeast corridor, California, Chicagoland, etc.).

Please also keep in mind that our energy demand is continually rising (which I view as a good thing because more energy = higher standard of living). Solar panels still have lots of room to get more efficient (such as through advanced nanotechnologies) and wind turbines may have some more improvement in efficiency. But I do not think the improvements in efficiency will make the land needs any better.

Overall, going all renewable is pretty much impossible given the massive amount of mining, manufacturing, and land required to do so (as well as dealing with the problem of intermittent generation). Also, using that much land would be incredibly disruptive to the environment. Nuclear power can solve climate change and do it within practical constraints. We should be doing it ASAP.

Finally, if you are going to reply and talk about the disadvantages of nuclear power, please don't waste your breath before you learn all about the Thorium Fuel Cycle, Molten Salt Reactors, and Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) in particular. I was once like you and preferred wind and solar over nuclear power because of the risks of nuclear technology. The LFTR technology I cited resolves the vast majority of the problems with nuclear power that you are concerned about (proliferation, nuclear waste, nuclear meltdowns, cost, peak Uranium, and most others) and this technology has been tested since the 60s. Please learn about this.

If you believe I made an arithmetic mistake, a factual error, or a bad assumption, please respond and I will correct it if I agree.

Friday, 20 November 2009


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