10th Dimension: October 2004

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

BitTorrent & the Beeb - Edge of the Network

I read a couple of articles pointed out by Derrick Oien from the $250 Million Radio Show, about Disruptive Technology and MegaMedia and the way that these technologies are about to change everything. The links that Derrick provided follow a logical progression, but the two that meant the most to me were, an Article in the latest Online version of Wired, and an article by Mark Pesce.

The first article in Wired, goes into the changes that are being made in the way we experience Media and how its marketed, and how that is being achieved. eg: When you go to Amazon and search for a title, you get suggestions made to you of similar titles by subject or titles that others who bought this title also bought. This has changed the dynamics of product sales for items like books so dramatically that it is estimated that the top 10,000 titles sell as many,but often less than the next 10,000 tiltles. This means that there could be a market for all kinds of things like books and film and music that is twice as big aspreviously thought, maybe even bigger.

The second article (Warning: Some of the Languge may cause offence.) goes onto explain in another way how media distribution has effected us and what we can do about it. It also gives an example of what the BBC is doing to make distribution of its content more effective using web technologies that take advantage of technologies like Peer to Peer networking and BitTorrent. Making it possible to brake the mold of the old broadcasting format of transmitting one program at a time at a predetermined time.

Here's an excerpt from Mark Pesce article discribing a trial being run by the BBC:

BitTorrent & the Beeb.

The BBC doesn't have the bandwidth to netcast its programming to all 66 million of its viewers. Fortunately it doesn't need that kind of capability, because the BBC has cleverly designed the Flexible TV application to act as a node in a Peer-to-Peer network. Anyone using Flexible TV has access to the programs which have been downloaded by any other Flexible TV client, and can get those programs directly from them. All BBC need do is provide a single copy of a program into the network of P2P clients, and they handle the work themselves. More than this, because of the P2P technology used by the BBC (more on this in a moment) a Flexible TV user can get a little bit of the program from any number of other peers; rather than going through the process of downloading an entire program from one other peer, the Flexible TV client can ask a hundred other clients for small sections of the program, and download these hundred sections simultaneously. Not only does this decrease the amount of traffic that any clients has to handle, it also means that it produces a virtuous cycle: the more popular a program is, the more copies of it will exist in the network of peers, and therefore the more easily a peer can download it.

In other words, the BBC has cracked the big problem which has prevented netcasting from taking off. In this system of "peercasting" the network is actually more efficient than a broadcast network, because more than one program can be provided simultaneously, and failure in any one point in the network doesn't bring the network down. In other words, this network can't be hacked, can't suffer from a power outage (unless it spans the whole network, which is very unlikely) and achieves unheard-of efficiencies in the distribution of audiovisual programming.

How is this bit of technological magic achieved? Through the use of a new technology known as BitTorrent - something some of you may have already used. BitTorrent is a P2P filesharing system specifically designed to prohibit one of the biggest social ills which plague P2P networks - a phenomenon known as "leeching". A leech grabs files from a P2P network without providing anything in return. With BitTorrent your download speed - how fast you receive your data - is determined by how much data you're sharing. This means that a torrent starts slowly - because you haven't much to share - and then increases nearly exponentially; as you have more of the file, you have more to share, so your bandwidth increases, until the file is fully downloaded.

Edge of the Network.

I think that Podcasting with BitTorrent is the way to go then you can subscribe to a peer to peer feed, and take full advantage of distibuted computing. Dave Slusher already has a BitTorrent feed for his Podcast, and I had a look at that the other day and was going round in circles. I will have to have a closer look at that again.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Desktop vs Handheld

I'm still new to this Podcasting phenomenon, and as I've pointed out already, I don't have a handheld device. So I'm still trying to find a setup that enables me to use this technology, as a PC user. I should also point out that I am one of those unfortunate people who upgraded just before PC's reached the 1 Gb mark, and I got WinME with my machine. Otherwise I would be installing iTunes, and trying that out and using iPodder.

I have now removed Jaeger, which kept updating everything I've subscribed to everyday, instead of only what I had'nt already downloaded. I've installed Active Web Reader as my news aggregator, and I've already discovered that I have 4 compulsory folders of feeds, oh well I suppose thats why it's free.

As far as Podcasts go I'll continue with iPodder.NET and I'll manually edit the config file to incl/excl the feeds that I want updated. There is a checkbox in the prog that doesn't seem to work, which I'm assuming is to toggle the feed.
Maybe it's just good luck that this prog works the way I want, it could be it is designed only to sync an iPod with playerlists as well.

I am looking into a hosting package with a company in NZ, because if I need support I can call their free 0800 number. They offer 100mb space and 4Gb traffic/mth, for $12.49 a mth (US$10.45). Then I can at last podcast some content, instead of just listening to everyone else's great stuff. My ISP recently offered to reduce my "All you can eat." dialup package by $8 a mth, which would offset some of my hosting costs.

Just a note about the fact that I'm concentrating my efforts on a desktop deployment of this idea. I think that there might be two markets for this application. The mobile and the desktop/lounge, I mean its going to get more like Tivo and therefore become a Home Media app as well. And the mobile market might tend be listening to Podcasts that cover all subjects, while a less mobile market might tend to listen to more specialised subjects.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

To Podcast or Podcatch, that is the question.

Well both is the answer, of course, but how.

I listened to the first 3 Trade Secrets Podcasts this morning, after installing Jaeger and leaving it running all night with my 56k connection. I don't have a handheld to sync it to, and I'm not sure there is one that I would pay for anyway. Dave Winer and Adam Curry were discussing a wish list for a device for Podcasting (I assume it's for creating and listening.) and Podcatching.

That device would be:

- 60Gb Hard drive
- Wireless
- Be able to rec multiple simultaneous sources
- Dock to a computer / becomes router of audio (audio for one app and rec another.)

This is something that is similar to a handheld that I have envisaged for several years now.
After hearing about 802.11 and sniffing and mobile wireless base stations, and reading about hotspots and about some amazing apps people have created (Like Skype and Audacity and iPodder and Jaeger). I have been looking at all this and thought a handheld that runs windows Pocket PC (and the other handheld formats and OS's I've heard.) can do all that and if it has a hard drive big enough can run anything. Being a PC user running Win I've looked at solutions I can use.

So this leads to the question of how.

Well at the moment an iPod has a 40Gb hard drive, but its USB not Wireless. I've heard that soon a video capable iPod is to be released, (When - Days).

An Ipaq has wireless capabilty but uses Flash memory (upto 1Gb I'm told).

So the storage and Transfer of data seem to be on different OS's and different devices. How long before someone pulls the guts out of these devices wraps 1000 mile tap around it and calls it a PodPaq (or OneHand) and runs everything from both in one hand.

Where I live a 40Gb iPod is NZ$799 (thats about US$556.) a 2nd hand one is upto NZ$530.
an IPaq is around the same price and of course there are alot more 2nd hand at around NZ$550. So at the moment just playing with the idea of combining these two devices on the cheap would appear to be a $1000+ exercise, then you have to do all the work of getting it to work as one device.

Well from where I am standing this looks like something that will happen either in a market where these devices are cheaper 2nd hand, or in the future when they are superceded by newer technology and therefore become cheaper. At the moment a computer Desktop or Laptop, for NZ$250 (US$175), can do all the things required to Podcast.

So the solution to this question is a smaller computer, is it really that simple. Isn't that what a handheld is?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Fill her up with diesel. - Nanotech Cellphones.

Cell phones and other devices like laptops and handhelds may be powered by small jet engines in the future that run on diesel. A miniscule stack of coils and a magnet on a silicon wafer, can produce enough energy to power a cell phone, as the magnet spins it generates power.

Nanotech is the science, outlined by Eric Drexler in his book "Engines of Creation", which is, creating engines like this and other microscopic devices. An example would be a tiny robot that could be inserted into a human to do exploration of the human body and send data and video back to a controller.

Other studies in progress are manipulating atoms to create similar engines, which would be even smaller. Forget the top of a pin you could fit 100 on the top of a pin and still have room. It has been proposed that by creating small machines, that create smaller machines atom by atom, these microscopic devices could be manufactured successfully.

Of course because they are so small once it could be done you could make billions of them cheaply (scary?). What if they were like transformers and you could program them to transform into all sorts of shapes and machines. Simon says change into a tank, Simon says change into a shipping container, jump.......Splat!

They could land on a planet in a canister and assemble themselves into thousands of bots that do recon of an area. Then when they report back they can reconstitute themselves into a factory that creates building materials from local raw materials for the construction of a base station, where astronauts can stay on missions from an orbital space station.

Sound farfetched, when I was a kid if I had of told my Great Grandfather that I would have a device in my pocket that I play games on and listen to music on, and receive mail with, and talk to people with, he would have told me to stop exaggerating and to eat my vegetables or I wouldn't get any desert. The Net already existed then.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Mr Incredible loves Indy music.

Only two weeks to go till the new Pixar movie "The Incredibles." I'm really looking foward to this, something fresh after all the hype and rehashing of stories that most movies are these days. Plus Pixar has also designed some nice characters and modelled them in 3D, which sounds easier than it is.

For those running XP there is a answer phone type plugin for Skype, the VoiP program that lets you talk to your friends anywhere for free, well for the cost of an Internet account and a phone line. The plugin is called Telecorder, and it is in beta at the moment but definately worth a look, you can also use it to record conversations which of course is great for podcasting an interview.

Adam Curry mentioned Good Music (Indy) today and I found a great place for Good Music, well Mark Vande Wettering mentioned it in his Podcast. The Internet Archive is a great place with heaps to choose from. Check it out if your looking for music for your podcast, and The Indy Feed is another great place, to find music that is not licensed and therefore can be used by everyone.

I also have had trouble installing iPodder, I keep getting a mscvrt.dl error when I try to start it. I think if I had iTunes installed this may not happen or if I used Win Media Player playlists, but I don't wish to go to that extreme, all I want is Podcasts downloaded to a folder so I can WinAmp them, and would like to be able to manage my feeds, so I can download the ones that I want for today without editing the XML.config which is what I'm having to do with iPodder.NET. So today I downloaded Jaeger to try out. I'm sure iPodder will get better as it's only version 1.0, but I thought I'd try this in the meantime.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Sunday - Funday working out a few glitches with posting and text.

I'm not sure why I couldn't see both of my posts on my Title Page , last night but they appear there now, so maybe it was just a slow update thing.

I have two different text fonts and I'm not sure why, when I look at the html for the 2nd post, there doesn't appear to be any html to format the text, so perhaps I've posted the content a different way without realizing.

When I look at the html in this post it appears there are no text formatting html tabs here either, so I'm still confused. Hopefully I can delete this post when I've sorted it out.

Blog to the Blog

First Post: Well I've been looking and listening to Blogs and Podcasts all week, and have taken the plunge and am commiting myself to my own Blog.

I listened to Adam Curry's Podcast of Thurs last night, and you have to admire the way he gets a podcast out everyday even on 56k and by wardriving. I really liked the Bushbite he included from Dave Winer's blog.

I'm going to keep this brief so I can view any mistakes I've made and contribute more later. I'll just test out putting a link to my 3D Projects page and see if I can get it to appear as a kind of Signature at the bottom of my posts.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


Podcasting is definately a great idea, I've been trying to work out how I can use this technology with a PC. You obviously need to create audio (or video) content which I can do based on a few tests that I've done.

I followed some guide lines provided in a video tutorial by Mark Vande Wettering , he used an open source prog called Audacity, which can be found at Sourceforge.

Mark also makes note in the video on a few important points regarding the setup of your recording and playback levels, so check it out.

So once this is done and you have an mp3 you then need to distribute it, as Adam Curry has pointed out recently in his Daily Source Code that can become very bandwidth intensive if your Podcast is anywhere near as popular as his, here's hoping that one day it might be. He mentioned that his usage was somewhere around 35mb/sec or 30Gbs a month ..Wow.

When I first read about this Podcasting phenomena on Wired.com, I thought Oh Yeah! I'd like to know how to do that, and everywhere I went to find info the people that were kindly sharing their knowledge unfortunately knew a lot more than me. So I had to pull the info apart and glue it back together into something that worked for me, a PC user.

Here's a breakdown in languge I hope can be understood by anyone thats interested enough to have found their way to my Blog.

The first thing thats required is an XML file with an enclosure that points at the content file.
Ive put a link on my webpage pointing to a file called video.rss.xml which contains the link to the file in an enclosure. If you have been to my 3D Projects file you've probably already seen the file I used to test this.
Right clicking and saving the link to the video.rss.xml file and opening it in notepad or Word or IE 6.0 will enable you to view the code. The red lines can be clicked on to expand the tree of code, if you open it in IE.
This page has a couple of tools that help to generate the code, the RSS Channel Editor is the best to start with, just click on "Try it" and enter the bare minimum of details, starting down the page at Channel Title. If you've already right clicked on the video.rss.xml and looked at it you will be able to compare them when your finished this stage.

Channel Title = Name of the Website
Channel Link = the folder on the webserver where the xml file is located. eg:http://yoursite.com

Then go straight to Item1


Title = Discription of the content file eg:Podcast
Link = the link to the file eg: http://yoursite.com/podcast.mp3

Click the build RSS button next to that item.
that will generate the code you need and take you to an HTML page which displays it in IE for you.
Cut and paste that into a text file and save the text file as podcast.rss.xml

Now just clean it up a bit (I'm no coder so correct me if this is not stable code.)
but you will notice it's not exactly the ame as mine yet.

Remove the blank space at the begining of the first line.
Delete the 2nd line
Change the rss version on the 3rd line to 2.0 and remove the blank space at the begining of that line as well.

You should be able to save this file now as podcast.rss.xml and open it in Internet Explorer by right clicking on it, and choosing " Open With -> Internet Explorer ", you will see the code laid out like it was when it was generated in the RSS Channel Editor

Put this file in the main folder of your website or the folder you chose eg: http://yoursite.com

Now all you have to do is put a link on your site, in this case it would be "Podcast" http://yoursite.com/podcast.rss.xml
and when you paste this link into iPodder.NET it will go to your site find podcast.rss.xml get the link http://yoursite.com/podcast.mp3 from it to the file podcast.mp3 and start downloading the file.

The file will be checked for by iPodder at the interval that has been set in iPodder and if the file on the server has newer date than the last one of the same name podcast.mp3 it will be downloaded.

This brings me back to the means of distribution, obviously if you have more than 30 Gbs a month you can start straight away, and you will not have a problem. But Dave Slusher and a few others have been experimenting with Bit Torrent which is a more decentralised form of distribution. So basically you can post a Bit Torrent link somewhere and the first person that downloads the file from you, even if it is stored on your home PC starts sharing the load as others start to ask for the file. This sounds like a great way to me, it a way of empowering people. I'm not sure how this can be done without iPodder at the moment, and as I said earlier I'm using iPoddder.NET, because I can't get iPoddder to work (Start).

So what I have outlines above is probably written somewhere else but not in this way I hope. It should enable someone with a MAC or PC to create a Podcast (read content - Audio, Video, Art, Text.) and distribute it to people that have subscribed to an RSS feed link on the persons Blog or Website because they want it.

There are already a few different Podcast Aggregators that can be used for this I have used iPodder.NET because I don't have an iPod and it still works for me. All I had to do to get it to work was download an update to the .NET Framework 1.1 from Microsofts updates page.

Links to Podcast related sites that I have found helpful.

The Daily Source Code - Adam Curry
Trade Secrets - Dave Winer
Evil Genius Chronicles - Dave Slusher
iPodder.org - Adam Curry & Podcasting Community Outliner portal
iPodder.Net - Windows based Podcatcher (Aggregator)
Brainwagon.org - mark Vande Wettering
Engadget Guys - All the Technology When and before it happens
ipodderx - a Mac prog Podcatcher
Technorati - Conversation search tool and more
Podcasting.net - Podcasting list

CGTalk - Everything CG and 3D - Animation, Modelling, Rigging, Texturing etc
EekStudios - Eeks website for Rigging
Krishnamurti Costa aka Antropus - Cool cg head rig and short film "The Plumber"