PDF 2.0

The ISO specification for PDF 2.0 is now out. It’s known as ISO 32000-2. As usual for ISO, it costs an insane 198 Swiss francs, which is roughly the same amount in dollars. In the past, Adobe has made PDF specifications available for free on its own site, but I can’t find it on adobe.com. Its PDF reference page still covers only PDF 1.7.

ISO has to pay its bills somehow, but it’s not good if the standard is priced so high that only specialists can afford it. I don’t intend to spend $200 to be able to update JHOVE without pay. With some digging, I’ve found it in an incomplete, eyes-only format. All I can view is the table of contents. There are links to all sections, but they don’t work. I’m not sure whether it’s broken on my browser or by intention. In any case, it’s a big step backward as an open standard. I hope Adobe will eventually put the spec on its website.
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A world of emoji misinformation

July 17 was World Emoji Day. Anyone can declare a World Anything Day, but my local library thought it was important enough to give it part of a sign, along with Cell Phone Courtesy Month.
Library sign giving inaccurate information about Emoji They didn’t think it was important enough to give accurate information, though. It does tell us something about how non-tech people think of emoji. Here’s the content of the sign, with commentary.
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The end of Flash — for real this time

We’ve been hearing reports of Adobe Flash’s death for years. But it’s not over till Adobe says it is, and now Adobe has declared a termination date for Flash support.

Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.

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MOBI and other obsessions

The MobileRead Wiki is a great place to jump into if you’re looking for information on ebook formats. It isn’t uniformly up to date; for instance, it says there is “a new version of [EPUB] called ePub 3 but it is not in wide use.” But it covers lots of formats and has some excellent analysis, especially a look in depth at the Amazon MOBI format.

Archiveteam.org points at that wiki page as its reference on the format, so it seems as close to an “official description” as anyone has offered.

Amazon is the one company that uses MOBI and its bastard children, while everyone else is using EPUB, but obviously Amazon can’t be ignored. It distributes Kindle software so widely that you can read MOBI files on any device.
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In a post in May, I wrote: “The patents which gave [Fraunhofer] revenue have barely expired on the format, and they’ve suddenly decided that MP3 is dead.” It appears that I fell for fake news, and I apologize. On rechecking, I’m unable to find any direct attribution of that claim to Fraunhofer.

NPR asserted that they made that claim but didn’t back it up with any citation or quote. The Telegraph did the same. The headline is “Creators of the MP3 declare it dead,” but the article provides no substantiation of that claim. Ditto for CNBC.

I could claim the excuse of trusting major news outlets, but I should have noticed that they all failed to substantiate their headlines. I’m sorry.

See also How-To Geek.

PNG pulls ahead of JPEG

Every month. W3Techs records the percentage of websites using popular image file formats. For a long time, PNG was slowly creeping up on JPEG. In the latest numbers, PNG has pulled ahead, being used on 74.1% of websites, against JPEG’s 73.8%. GIF stands at a distant third with 36%, followed by SVG at 3.8%.

Keep in mind, this isn’t the same as saying more PNG images are on the Web than JPEG images. If pages which hold JPEGs contain more of them, there may be more JPEG images even if they aren’t on more sites. Since galleries of JPEG photographs are common, this is a plausible situation.

You can see the trend by looking at the RSS feed. Unfortunately, all links point to the same URL, but if you can view the RSS preview, you can get the old numbers on a monthly basis. The web page is updated daily, which is why the numbers quoted above don’t match the June numbers in the RSS feed.
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VR180, a 3-D video format from Google

VR180 promises “the world as you see it.” That is, people with normal peripheral vision can see the world in front of them and to the side, but not behind them. Google is looking at it as a way to bring practical 3D video to YouTube. The technical effort comes from Daydream, Google’s mobile VR division.

Limiting the view to a hemisphere lets a video contain denser information in the same number of bytes. It’s also a lot easier to build a camera that takes 180 degree pictures than 360 degree ones. Adobe is joining the effort, promising support from Premiere Pro in the near future.

But just what is the format? Google hasn’t put any technical details on the Web yet. There’s a website for VR180, and you can sign up for a mailing list, but at the moment it gives no clues about the specs. According to Google’s blog, the videos “look great on desktop and on mobile,” which suggest they can fall back to a flat view.
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The strange history of the GIF format

CompuServe introduced it in 1987. It’s limited to 256 different colors (possibly more with some color table trickery). When it was locked down by a patent, people rebelled and invented better formats. Yet 30 years later, the GIF format is strangely popular. Wired’s article, “The GIF Turns 30,” covers its history and the bizarre resurgence in its popularity.

The reason for its survival is a feature that seemed unimportant at first: it lets people create simple animations. That wasn’t a very practical feature on the home computers of the eighties; the creators probably thought of it more as a way to put a slide show into one file, with the image changing every few seconds.
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MP3 is dead. Long live … what?

Update: My statement that Fraunhofer declared MP3 dead was completely wrong. Please read this retraction.

Girl Genius: The old Storm King is killed, and a new one promptly crowns himselfThere’s the blatantly obvious. Then there’s the blatantly cynical, who-cares-if-you-see-right-through me obvious. I’m not talking about Donald Trump but Fraunhofer. The patents which gave them revenue have barely expired on the format, and they’ve suddenly decided that MP3 is dead. They’ve even crowned its successor: not any open format, of course, but AAC, which can provide patent revenues for years.
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The curtain falls on MP3 licensing

The site mp3licensing.com now redirects to the Fraunhofer website. MP3 licensing is a thing of the past.