Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Announcing dmedia 0.2 "feature frenzy"

Announcing dmedia 0.2 "feature frenzy"

I'm happy to announce the 2nd release of the Distributed Media Library (aka "dmedia"). At this point dmedia is really just for developers and highly adventurous end-users, but the design and implementation are both progressing quickly.

You can download the source tarball here: dmedia-0.2.0.tar.gz

Packages are available for Lucid, Maverick, and Natty in the Novacut Stable Releases PPA (although note that 0.2 has only been well tested under Maverick).

What's new in dmedia 0.2

For the end user, dmedia now brings some eye candy. Utilizing NotifyOSD and Application Indicators, this release implements most of our pro file import UX design. Not everything is implemented yet, but hopefully one thing is already clear: we really really care about design! To see the file import UX in action, checkout this video.

Unfortunately, James Raymond's beautifully designed HTML5 video browser didn't quite make it into this release (I blame the flu I've had). In the meantime, checkout this teaser to get a taste of what's coming. The video browser will be completed early in the 0.3 cycle.

Other major changes:

  • dmedia runs as a D-Bus service
  • Imports have a rich audit trail, including tracking individual imports, batches of imports, and the computer they occurred on
  • Many improvements have been made to CouchDB views
  • The Python dmedialib package has been renamed to dmedia
  • The Debian python-dmedia binary package has been renamed to dmedia

For additional details, see the bugs fixed in the dmedia 0.2 milestone.


These people made commits to the dmedia 0.2 release:

Special thanks

And a special thanks to:

  • Akshat Jain for his tireless efforts promoting Novacut
  • Martin Owens for helping me understand what Application Indicators can and can't do over the D-Bus API, and for letting the RenderMenu ride the coattails of his upcoming progress indicator
  • David Jorden for bringing his unending enthusiasm to #novacut and helping us all dream big
  • Eric Adler for bringing his considerable broadcast engineering experience to #novacut
  • Shane Fagan for professionally hanging out in #novacut and always offering a thoughtful, interesting perspective
  • Antonio Roberts for making frequent celebrity guest appearances in #novacut, filing great bug reports, and doing some adventurous beta testing

Contribute to 0.3 and beyond!

We do monthly time-based releases, always releasing on the last Thursday of the month. That means we promise to make a release on time each month, but never promise what exact features will land.

dmedia 0.3 will be released on Thursday January 27 2011, and development is already underway. To see the bugs targeted for this next release, checkout the dmedia 0.3 milestone.

That's all, folks!

Thanks to everyone who is helping make this dream a reality!



Monday, December 27, 2010

The Magic of Crowdfunding

Last week-end I came across "Nasty Old People" - a full length, Creative Commons licensed film written and directed by Hanna Sköld.  Sköld took out a bank loan to fund the making of the movie, and then distributed it through Pirate Bay.  She was just able to pay off this loan because of crowdfunding that she did through her blog.  Inspired by the willingness of "pirates" to donate to her fundraiser, Sköld has decided to fund the production of another CC film the very same way.  It's called "Granny's Dancing on the Table" and it's set to release in 2012.

Excited by Sköld's commitment to the Creative Commons way, I tried to find any information about her that I could.  I wanted to know more about her creative process, and how the CC concept shaped that process.  Luckily, an organized group of entrepreneurs wanted to know the same thing, so they invited her to Good Morning 2020 to speak about her bold decision to CC license "Nasty Old People".  Here she spoke very candidly about not having the perfect mathematical equation to prove that giving content away for free is a monetarily sound move.  But in spite of this lack of data, she emphatically supported the "movement of sharing" (Sköld: Good Morning 2020).  She's a believer in the CC idea and free access to content because she has seen it work first hand.  More to the point, she's a believer because of the personal connections she made with her audience.  She experienced the power of active consumerism - the enthusiasm and loyalty of fans that's generated when art becomes a "process that facilitates a meeting between people" (Sköld: Good Morning 2020).  This experience was so powerful, in fact, Sköld has taken this process to a deeper level, choosing to write "Granny's Dancing on the Table" in an interactive format where she poses specific existential questions to her fans and then incorporates their responses into the story's plot and character development.  

Sköld seems to think that not only the interpersonal magic of crowdfunding a CC licensed film, but also its economic viability is rooted in a "space where people feel needed" (Sköld: Good Morning 2020).  In general, we're all searching for a way to become a part of something that's bigger than ourselves.  Judging from Sköld's success, crowdfunding is fast becoming the way for many.  Novacut's excited about this new way, and Sköld's willingness to allow us to help her create a space through which she and her fans can communicate.  We're excited for her to launch with us in April 2011, as well as for her mentorship in the creation of an interactive platform that "facilitates a meeting between people."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PayPal - encoding like it's 1994

By default, PayPal will send Instant Payment Notifications encoded in the "windows-1252" encoding.  Which means that for many languages, the customer's name will be hosed before it even reaches you.  What PayPal should do is use UTF-8 by default, as PayPal does after all have a global customer base and it's not freakin' 1994.

Fortunately, you can at least change it to UTF-8 in your PayPal preferences.  But it's not easy to find.  Here's how to do it.

Log into your PayPal account and click Profile to edit your profile.  At the bottom of your Selling Preferences you will see Language Encoding.  Click that.  There will be a More Options button.  Click that.  Now change the Encoding to UTF-8 and click Save.  If you leave the "Do you want to use same encoding..." option at the default Yes, you only have to change the encoding to UTF-8 in the top drop-down.

Here's what it should look like right before you click Save:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Go Skein, thanks Hagen!

The Skein cryptographic hash has been selected as one of the five NIST SHA-3 finalists, which is great news for dmedia and Novacut as this is the hash we hope to use for the long run.  I'm certainly no cryptographer, but I had good feeling about Skein, and this is a nice confirmation that I wasn't totally off my rocker.

I've been exchanging emails with Hagen Fürstenau, author of the excellent Python Skein implementation PySkein.  He has informed me that PySkein 0.7 will be released shortly, which will include the final Skein tweaks.  This is great news because it means the values of Skein hashes should remain unchanged, so it's a perfect time to get serious about using Skein in dmedia.

I've already done a rough packaging of PySkein, and I'll be working on getting PySkein officially into Debian and Ubuntu (with the help of a sponsor).

At this time it isn't possible for us to move to Python3, so we do need to get PySkein working on at least Python2.7.  From what I understand, this is something reasonably easy to do, although I don't have experience with it myself.  If anyone could help out with this, please shoot me an email or just make a branch on Launchpad.

Anyway, congratulations to Bruce Schneier and the rest of the Skein team on making it to the final round!  And thank you Hagen Fürstenau for the excellent PySkein implementation and for being an all around friendly and awesome guy!

P.S. - I also setup an unofficial PySkein presence on Launchpad, including a VCS-import of Hagen's upstream HG repositoryrockstar got me totally addicted to source package recipes, and I just can't live without them now.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A New Laptop for Akshat: The Fundraiser Continues

Akshat's fundraiser is still going strong!  So far Novacut has collected $408 for Akshat's laptop.  Hopefully, by winter solstice, there will be enough in the coffers to buy a laptop worthy of the incredible work Akshat has done for Novacut!  Whatever happens over the next few weeks, we are definitely committed to buying Akshat a laptop before he starts school in a new city.  He's going to need fast hardware to maintain his G.P.A. while surfing IRC channels for talented people who might be interested in what Novacut's doing. 

Thanks to all of those who have contributed to the cause so far.  Not only have your monetary contributions been helpful, but also the advice you have given us about the best approach to take in terms of avoiding the pitfalls of customs and delivery services in India.  We're seriously considering everyone's input, so by the time of purchase we'll be ready to make a wise, informed choice.  And don't worry Akshat, we'll of course keep you in the decision making loop.  We want to keep our super-star happy.

Thanks again to all of Akshat's wonderful contributors:

Matthew Ames
Martin Owens
Horia Ardelean
Ante Maretić
Eric Sauve
Ludwik Trammer
Alessandro Tocci
Ian Hills
Andre Hugo
Aaron Hastings
Kevin Quiggle
Kaushik Iyer
Chris Wilson
Billy Reynolds
Manu Järvinen
Alexander Fougner
Nathan Weber
David Nielsen
Steffen Christensen
Mark Shvets
Eike Benedikt Lotz
Oleksii Raiu

Friday, December 10, 2010

My First Ubuntu Install!

Jason, Novacut's lead developer and my husband, has always taken care of what I consider the dirty work in our household (i.e. computer maintenance).  When Jason's brother offered to let me use his super-fast workstation to edit my documentary about the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando, Jason encouraged me to try installing Ubuntu on my own, only asking for help if I needed it.  Although Jason is a good teacher, I wasn't excited about the chore facing me.  I use the word chore very deliberately because I'm a recovering Windows user.  It took me over two hours to install Windows XP on my Toshiba laptop years ago.  Between the wait time on Microsoft's "help" line for a pin number, and the ridiculous amount of clicking that I had to do to make the install happen, I have been left with an intense dread for the installation of new software.

Over the past two years, I've been using OSX to mainly manage and edit photos.  Poor Jason was the unlucky bloke who was stuck with the task of installing Aperture on my iMac.  He spent about the same time installing Aperture as I did Windows on my Toshiba.  OSX and Windows - they're both end-user torture devices in terms of their stupid installation hoops.  So I was definitely able to sympathize with Jason as the vein down the middle of his forehead became more and more prominent as Aperture's install ran into the wee hours of the night.

Fortunately, history didn't repeat itself during the Ubuntu install on my new workstation.  The install instructions were very easy to follow; no "doh" moments to speak of.  But most importantly, I spent only thirty minutes total on the project of great disdain.  I got to go to bed on time, and I didn't wake-up pissed the next morning because I had wasted all of my free time the night before.  The install went so well, in fact, that I'm almost looking forward to reinstalling for the fun of it next Ubuntu release.