Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage

Feb 21

HTML5 Video: “Cap’n! The CPUs Won’t Take Much More O’ This!”

Posted: under new media, Online Video.
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Dep’t of Vaporware: New Super-Duper HTML5 Video Players Will Solve All Your Problems

I’m starting to get more than a little annoyed at the incessant blithe assurances that keep coming up around the (now) universally agreed-upon proposition that Flash Is Bad, All Right-Thinking Humans Must Avoid It.

Here's the problem: Playing video in a browser using the (still nonexistent) HTML5 standard is far more resource-hungry than you realize.

The problem is that the people making these statements haven’t really gotten their hands dirty with the actual workflows that the (non-existent) HTML5 video standard has inflicted on us poor A/V dorks trying to keep up with the chaos in the online/mobile video space. What’s getting my goat, you ask?

Check out the strain on system resources that playing video using the HTML5 tag puts on a Mac Pro with 8 cores, running at 3 gHz, with 9 GB of RAM and a upgraded ATI Radeo 4870 video card. Note the system temp. The fan was blowing hard enough to power a C130 cargo plane.

By means of comparison, this is what I got for usage stats when playing a Flash video in a web browser. Note the system temp. Also, the little blue graphs to the right of CPU are not pinned to the max for all eight cores, the way they are in the HTML5 playback example, above. Each one of those little graphs is a representation of the amount of strain being put on a core from the dual quad-cores.

Well. I keep seeing & hearing about these new players that will supposedly make it possible to custom-design a video player into a web page that will then adapt & play that video on any device, on any platform. The latest: thePlatform. Viz:

thePlatform is pushing cross-platform compatibility with a new offering that will let its customers create one video player that can be delivered to any device or browser that is trying to access it. That capability is being rolled out due to increased demand for HTML5 video, despite a lack of real standards across browsers for the display and rendering of video players.

(from GigaOm)

OK, fine.  What’s the big deal, right?

I shot the video below at the Social Media Club-LA meeting in January – it shows Tim Street, one of the early adopters of mobile video monetization, talking about the challenges of trying to deal with video across the profusion of platforms we’re now having to deal with.

My test of an HTML5 player, taking this video, putting it into a sandbox page in Dreamweaver, and playing it in a web browser returned the kind of usage stats seen in the screen captures above.

Flash had a lot of faults. I still think that it’s responsible for some of the heinous memory leakages that cause Firefox to take up to 1.6 Gigs of memory space if I leave it open for more than a day in the background as I do work. But fer crissake, at least it’s not melting down my CPUs when I’m just trying to play one video. If the average user starts seeing this kind of load on their systems just for playing a video, that means that there is going to be serious hits on the battery life of laptops/tablets, and some pretty bad lag times when trying to multitask – or even fast-forward, pause or (shudder) rewind.

Let me know if you get any of the same warning signs on your machine when playing back this video, eh?

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Jul 20

Mobile Web Design for Dummies — DONE!!!(eleven)1!

Posted: under Uncategorized.
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UPDATED WITH NEW COVER: Like any project, the last 5% takes 50% of the effort. So here is the new&improved cover of the book, which shows the essence of what we want to communicate — that it is possible (if you take the time and know what you’re doing) to achieve a consistent good design look&feel, even across a variety of mobile devices.
While this does not quite rank up with “Our long national nightmare is over…” I assure you that the relief that Janine and I feel over finally putting the finishing touches on the book we’ve been co-writing for the last six months is truly special. We knew going in that writing about designing web pages for mobile devices was going to be a difficult and intense task — but we didn’t know it was going to be THIS difficult.
Cover of Mobile Web Design for Dummies book by Janine Warner and Dave LaFontaine

Contrary to what you might see on, this is what the cover of our new book will look like.

But the upheaval and changing standards in the mobile web space in just the last year have been, from a designer’s perspective, a real handful. What was once the conventional wisdom – create a dumbed-down, simple website that will work on any device – has been supplanted by a much more nuanced approach, involving using sophisticated scripts to detect what device is accessing your site, looking up what technology that device supports in a vast (you hope) database, matching your content to the capabilities of the device (that means video in Flash, 3GP or MP4 formats), and then assembling a site on-the-fly and delivering it quickly and cleanly.

If the struggles of Apple with their antenna (see the Mobile Web Design Blog for more on this) have provided us with a stunning example of how even the market-leading mobile device company can stumble, well, trust me, we have had our moments these last few months. I’ve felt like the digital/authorial equivalent of Dr. Stanley searching for Dr. Livingstone, hacking my way through the dense underbrush of acronyms like WAP, WML, 3GPP, LTE, GIS and many more guaranteed to make your head spin.

We have worked extremely hard to ensure that the book is as current and accurate as possible; re-reading it one last time before it went to the presses last week was a real moment of pride for us both. We are going to deliver some real value to both designers that want to figure out how to jump on the mobile bandwagon, and for business owners who want to look beyond the “Gotta get an App!” frenzy that is leading so many down what is increasingly apparent as a blind alley.

By the way – the cover illustration above is only the placeholder – we redesigned it to feature our grinning faces. At least in Janine’s case, it should help spur casual walk-by sales (cue soundeffect: “Awwww…”).

We now return to your regularly scheduled online media-commentary snarking. The last six months have kept me hopping so much that I’ve really had to de-prioritize my blogging. I’m looking forward to being able to devote some more time to writing about all the developments in the content monetization & distribution space.

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