Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's Football Season! Schmidt Computer Rankings Have a New Home

The calendar says it is almost September, the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler.  It must be football season!  And with football season comes me spending my weekends trying to get my computer ratings going again.

This year, rather than muddling up this blog with the occasional entry on my computer's ratings, I've created a computer ratings blog that I'll do my best to diligently keep updated each week.  I've already posted last years season ending college ratings and the NFL will be there soon.

Go take a look and let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Snow Leopard is here! My initial review.

My Snow Leopard DVD arrived yesterday but I didn't have a chance to install it until this evening.

I actually did an upgrade, upgrading a MacBook Pro from 10.5, and the upgrade itself took about 45 minutes.  One strange thing was during the middle of the upgrade the screen went 90% dim and I could hardly read how much longer it would take.  But alas everything completed without a hitch and the machine rebooted.

Since one of the perks of the new OS is improved performance, I had done a few very unscientific tests on the machine prior to upgrading and then did the same tests post upgrade.  The tests I performed and timed were:

  • Boot and login.
  • Start NeoOffice.
  • Open a simple .ods file from a fully closed NeoOffice.
  • Start Safari pointed to the default page.
  • Start Firefox pointed to
  • Open Eclipse.
  • Re-open Eclipse from fully closed.
  • Transcode a .wmv video to .ogv format.

After these tests I also looked at memory usage to see where things stood.

I did perform the tests on Snow Leopard twice since I was a bit surprised by a few the first time.  Note that in each case the tests were performed in order so everything started from a fresh reboot.

Action Leopard Snow Leopard (1) Snow Leopard (2)
Boot to login screen 40 33 35
Start NeoOffice 23 17 20
Open .ods in NeoOffice 10 12 9
Start Safari ( 8 5 4
Start Firefox ( 8 8 6
Open Eclipse 17 36 19
Re-open Eclipse 7 7 7
Transcode WMV to OGV (wall clock) 4:52 5:14 4:51
Transcode (user time) 4:48 4:55 4:46
Free (GB) 2.43 2.03 2.14
Wired (MB) 153.5 304.4 162.8
Active (MB) 376.68 524.7 403.3
Inactive (MB) 45.21 157.3 310.7
Used (MB) 575.39 986.4 876.8
VM size (GB) 30.2 104.04 107.73
Page ins (MB) 243.07 916 224.6

  • So Snow Leopard boots a little faster, but not dramatically so.  Further, on the first reboot, completing the login took about 5 seconds whereas with Leopard it was just a second or so.  The second test on Snow Leopard was in the 1-2 second range so perhaps it was just something with the very first login.
  • It would appear NeoOffice itself starts a bit quicker under Snow Leopard, but opening a spreadsheet is roughly the same.  I'm not sure if anything can really be concluded here.
  • Safari certainly starts quicker, I'm not sure if there is a new version that is faster or if they sneakily have it partly loaded/started behind the scenes.  Firefox took basically the same time to start but was perhaps slightly faster under Snow Leopard.
  • Oddly, the first time under Snow Leopard, Eclipse took much longer to open than with Leopard.  This was the big reason I did a second test and in that one it was closer to the same time.  I'm not sure if there was something about running Java the first time or what.  In both cases re-opening Eclipse after a full close was the same time.
  • Surprisingly the transcoding of the video was slower under Snow Leopard the first time.  The second time it was just about the same.
  • The memory management with Snow Leopard seems to be quite a bit different as performing the exact same steps resulted in over 50% memory being used, although in the second test the bulk of this increase was inactive.  But the VM size was over 3 times greater in each case.
As I said at the beginning, not terribly scientific, but at the end of the day it appears the only noticeable improvement is in the Safari initial start time which is less than I had hoped for.  I'll certainly be reading other reviews and looking for other improvements there might be in the coming days.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

HTML5 in Action; Plugin-free video and browser geolocation

I mentioned HTML5 in my links entry from yesterday and reading about what is coming is great, but seeing some of it in action is even better.  So I've created a few examples of a couple new features that I describe below.

The first is the ability to have video in web-pages without requiring any plug-ins.  This is done with the new <video> element, an example of which can be viewed below or here which happens to show Galen Rupp going sub-4:00 earlier this year.  But take a look at the source of that page and see how simple it is:

<video src="RuppMile.ogv" controls/>

Isn't that easier than relying on plugins and or much more complicated HTML that has to download and use Flash?

Now, a few caveats are that (to my knowledge) this only works in Firefox 3.5 and Safari 4 and the video has to be in Ogg Theora, Ogg Vorbis, or WAV format.  The Ogg media formats are not patent encumbered like other formats are so look for their growth and adoption to increase.  Learn more about it here.

The second is the use of some geolocation APIs that are not part of HTML5.  This can open a whole host of possibilities for applications to take advantage of location and deliver innovative applications for consumers.  I've created a simple example that uses the information provided to create a Google map centered on your location.  Try it here.

The source for this is a little more complicated due to the Javascript and use of Google's APIs but it boils down to the following:


function showPosition(position) {
var latLong = position.coords.latitude + ',' + position.coords.longitude;
document.getElementById('latLong').value = latLong;

The first line of code registers a method to be called when the location is known and when that method is called it can retrieve the coordinates and do with it what it wants.  In my case I load the map.

Again, this requires Firefox 3.5 where it uses a service to get your location from your IP address which is somewhat accurate, or you can use Safari on your iPhone which tends to be much more accurate with its cell tower triangulation and GPS capabilities.

Grab Firefox 3.5 and start giving HTML5 a try!

Galen Rupp video requiring no Flash, Silverlight, or other plugin!