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MacEdition ProNews : 20th February 2002: Standards, sillyness, stupidity, and even more stupidity

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QT6, MPEG-4, and counterFUD

Last week at QuickTime Live, Apple previewed QuickTime 6 but is delaying the commercial release for licensing reasons. Apple states:

Although the QuickTime 6 software is complete and ready for release, Apple is delaying its release until MPEG-4 video licensing terms are improved. The MPEG-4 licensing terms proposed by MPEG-LA (the largest group of MPEG-4 patent holders) includes royalty payments from companies, like Apple, who ship MPEG-4 codecs, as well as royalties from content providers who use MPEG-4 to stream video. Apple agrees with paying a reasonable royalty for including MPEG-4 codecs in QuickTime, but does not believe that MPEG-4 can be successful in the marketplace if content owners must also pay royalties in order to deliver their content using MPEG-4.

The MPEG-4 Industry Forum has opened a public debate on the licensing terms, which is a good move because the sooner these issues are worked out, the better. Apple’s stance on this matter is a very sensible and workable one and, quite frankly, streets ahead of the ridiculous licensing terms put forward by the MPEG LA. Under the license proposed by the MPEG LA, as well as licensees paying a royalty (US$0.25) for every product unit they ship that uses the standard, end users will have to pay a “use fee” dependent on the content length on every piece of content created using these licensed products (US$0.02 per hour, per copy).

One could argue that’s just a pittance but it isn’t when economies of scales kick in. Let’s suppose you license this technology to promote, say, a two-hour keynote speech, with a million viewers tuning into the stream. That’s a cool $40,000, thank-you-very-much. Getting the picture?

The MPEG LA has said it hopes to finalise its licence by May this year. One can only hope it’s sorted out a lot more quickly than that, because proprietary alternatives are gaining momentum and shenanigans like this only contribute to the FUD spread about adopting standards. To counter that, the MPEG Industry Forum has produced an excellent piece of counter-FUD about the value of MPEG-4 and standards.

It’s a small silver lining on what looks like a big black cloud, but an excellent pointer for anyone who may be sitting on the fence about what content medium to choose.

Awww, ain’t it cute

On the topic of QuickTime, there are some great animated movies of the LCD iMac available at Apple’s site (QT5 required). They’re produced by Pixar Studios as a tribute to both the new iMac and Pixar’s mascot, Luxo, Jr. the lamp. No, this is not earth-shattering news but it’s just good to see that Apple has a sense of humour and is taking all the “iLamp” jokes in stride.

You couldn’t imagine Microsoft making jokes about, say, the Blue Screen of Death, could you?

Awww, ain’t that dumb

On the topic of iLamps, a very interesting note appeared on Daily Mac concerning the somewhat eclectic RAM requirements for the new LCD iMacs. Apple’s specs (and the PDF) state the machine has a 100MHz system bus, factory installed SDRAM and one user-accessible SO-DIMM slot. Trying to get to the factory-installed SDRAM is a messy job and strongly discouraged by Apple with a stern “Do not touch!” No problem, so far so good — you would assume that PC100 SO-DIMMs of some description would be what the doctor orders for the user-accessible SO-DIMM slot, right?

Well, hold your horses — it ain’t that simple even though it really should be. According to the story, Apple has apparently decided to standardise all its RAM on PC133 stock — possibly to get better prices for greater volume, maybe so the factory workers don’t get confused — who knows? If this is indeed the case, you’ll need a slightly more expensive PC133 SO-DIMM (the same modules used in the PowerBook G4/667) to play nicely with the factory-installed PC133 SDRAM. This is despite the system bus being limited to 100 MHz.

And that, dear reader, is dumb.

We’re sincerely hoping this story is wrong, but confusion currently reigns supreme and the Apple TIL isn’t giving a definitive answer. Can any reader who has successfully installed third-party PC100 SO-DIMM memory in an LCD iMac let us know below as there’s at least one MacEdition staffer nervously holding a PC100 SO-DIMM…

Where did you used to work?

And the topic of dumb brings us to our final item for the day. The recent USENIX FreeBSD convention has been covered in the press with all sorts of unique Apple angles being explored. But here’s one snippet from a MacDirectory article that really piqued our curiosity:

…Apple’s Ernest Parbakar and Jordan Hubbard were part of the BSD State of the Nation panel at the conference in San Francisco, where participants discussed the future of BSD and Darwin.

Parbakar told attendees, “The Macintosh has always been very fascist, but we’re now starting to embrace the diversity of BSD. We’d love you to bring your X11 application to Mac OS X.” We’re not quite sure what that means, but it probably makes the Unix folks very happy. And that makes us happy.

Fascist? Well it may make the Unix folks happy, but we’re not sure if the fascist comment makes many of the Apple top brass very happy. Now, we’re not quite sure of the context in which Ernest meant that quote but we doubt Steve Jobs would like his li’l baby to be called fascist in any context.

One can but wonder if Ernest is collecting his pink slip as we speak, with a small handwritten note inside stating, “A closed mouth gathers no foot.”

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