discoveries in digital audio, music notation, and information encoding

Archive for the ‘laptops’ tag

using Expression Encoder 3 to create WMV, Flash, and Ogg Theora screencasts

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My Dell laptop died.

I fried the motherboard trying to reduce the fan noise … long story. The computer was a couple years old and was pretty low-powered, so I don't feel too bad.

I got a new laptop. It's a Lenovo T510 – pretty much the only laptop I could find under $1k that had a matte screen. I just can't look at those glossy screens.

Anyway, I've been playing around with having a more powerful computer so I dowloaded Microsoft's Expression Encoder 3 (formerly Windows Media Encoder). Besides the encoder, it also has a screen capture function. The free version limits you to 10 minute captures, but I'm guessing you could merge several screencasts in the Encoder component to make a longer video.

Anyway, on the downside of course is that the free version limits you to WMV (Windows Media) format. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but it isn't the best format for widespread deployment via the Internet. But you can easily upload the video to YouTube or the much classier Vimeo. That way you can get the file converted to something that can be viewed in-line with Flash and hosted for free. And those sites offer easy ways to share and embed the videos into your blog, website, or Facebook page, etc.

Now another option if

  • you have the bandwidth to host the video yourself
  • and you like open standards

is to convert your WMV file to Ogg Theora via ffmpeg2theora. All I had to do was dowload the Windows version of ffmpeg2theora (version 0.26) and then place it in the same folder as my WMV file.

Let's say the file is called "foo.wmv" and that it's in my root C drive.

The WMV can be converted to Ogg Theora via the following command line code:

C:\> ffmpeg2theora-0.26 foo.wmv

I should mention that I seemed to only have any luck with this if I first set Expression Encoder to export to VC-1 Simple/WMA for the respective video/audio output formats.

Anyway, the new file called "foo.ogv" gets made and you can open and play it straight from Firefox which has native HTML5 <video> tag support for Ogg Theora video files.

By the way, here's an interesting bit on the impending battle between Ogg Theora and the H.264 video codec.


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Written by nitin

April 25th, 2010 at 10:25 pm

LS-598 #3: web demo update

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Before I provide a quick update on the status of the web demo for my MusicXML digital library delivery mock-up, it goes without saying that I haven't been bloggin per my original intent. That is to say, the initial idea of writing my paper with a modular approach fed by blog posts, has essentially been scrapped. The idea of it all seemed a bit too piece-meal to me. Instead, I'll write the paper and post it in its entirety when it's been written.

As for the web demo, it's more or less completed from a programming p.o.v at this point, but there are a few things I want to mention:

  • The software has a name in MXMLiszt, i.e. "MusicXML List". It's pronounced "maximalist" and happily references my favorite composer in the process.
  • It should run "out of the box" (after you install all dependencies) on Windows servers running XAMPP or at least an Apache installation on a Windows server with the same folder configuration as XAMPP.
  • It will utilize open-source software only, with the ironic exception of the OS.
  • MXMLiszt will be released with a BSD license approximately 6-8 weeks from now after the documentation is complete and my paper is finished.

Eventually, I'll port MXMLiszt to Linux (in all likelihood for Ubuntu specifically), but that will entail some work I'm not willing to be distracted by just yet. With Linux, I'll have more homework to do before I can distribute it and ask people to expect it to work.

Other problems are finding a server to support MXMLiszt. Given all the software requirements and that I *do not* want to have to rearrange  – for either a Windows or Linux server – all the paths to the various executable I utilize and - for Linux hosting – the fact that I can't control what Linux distro a web hosting company offers, I have only two options:

  1. Use my own laptop as a server. The downside of this is that I can't leave it on 24/7. I'll only be able to offer it from roughly 9-5 EST Mon-Fri since I'll need my computer to rest and/or be available for personal use while I'm home.
  2. Run MXMLiszt from a Virtual Private Server (VPS) – i.e. instead of a typical web hosting plan, I'll rent out a virtual machine running Windows from a hosting provider. This gives me total control of the VM and I don't have to make compromises and/or rearrange folders and paths to executables, etc.

I've decided to go with the 2nd option for now using KickAssVPS. I'll report back how that works out, but I want to close with the economic dilemma all this presents.

It's roughly $35 a month to have a Windows VPS with KickAssVPS. And that's on the low end of VPS pricing. That's not that expensive but when one factors in that for that rate I could finance a brand-new really high end laptop, I have to ask myself "Why not just use my current low-end Dell laptop as a server and use the $35 bucks a month to get a really nice laptop?".

Good question. For now I'll try the VPS, but I have a feeling that my narcissistic need to control everything will lead me back to running a server from home. And I think in the end I just won't be able to justify the cost of renting (VPS) vs. renting to own (financing a new laptop).

If you're asking "Why get an expensive laptop? Why not get a really cheap one or better yet a used headless server?"

Well, my friend, it doesn't get much cheaper than my Dell Vostro. If I buy a low-end laptop, it'll end up being comparable in price and specs to my Dell. It doesn't make much sense to essentially have two of the same thing. As for headless servers, that would be better from the p.o.v. of running a server 24/7 but I'd need a monitor at some point and I don't want to get into buying more peripherals …

… unless someone can tell me how to remotely control a headless server from a laptop without *ever* needing a monitor for the headless.


This blog post is part of a semester-long investigation into digital encoding of symbolic music representation (SMR), its context in libraries, web-based delivery, preservation and metadata, and search and retrieval technologies.


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Written by nitin

March 17th, 2010 at 2:43 pm

high school students in NSW get laptops with MuseScore

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Last week I learned via Facebook that the open-source, cross-platform music notation software MuseScore will be provided to to New South Wales high school students via the NSW Department of Education and Training’s Digital Education Revolution program. The open-source, cross-platform audio editor Audacity will also be included.

The program provides laptops to high school students. If they make it past their last year, the students get to keep the device.

That’s not bad, especially considering that most people’s computer needs are tapering off and a solid machine from 2009 should be good for quite some time.

Interestingly, the machine will be powered by Windows 7 and will come loaded with Microsoft Office and various Adobe sofware – i.e. this won’t be a banner example for the open-source and Linux communities.

For the machine’s specs and a software list click here.

Of particular interest is the fact that students and parents have to sign a Laptop User Charter before they can take the device home. Otherwise, they can only use it in class.

Still curious? You can watch the snazzy promo video below. If you want, you can skip ahead to the part that discusses the charter.


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Written by nitin

August 29th, 2009 at 10:51 am