Category Archives: News

Apple’s HEIF and HEVC

At this year’s WWDC, Apple introduced a new format for still images and video. The container is called High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF), and it uses a codec called High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). HEIF files can store still images, video, or both at once. Apple doesn’t have proper documentation on its site, as far as I can see, but a slideshow on HEIF and one on HEVC provide a lot of information. Kelly Thompson provides a technical overview.

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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 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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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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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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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 now redirects to the Fraunhofer website. MP3 licensing is a thing of the past.

MP3 licensing officially ends April 23

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wrote to the contact address on about why the site still said licensing was required. Today I got this response:
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MP3 patent holders haven’t conceded

Update: Technicolor is conceding as of April 23.

Although it appears that all patents on the MP3 encoding have expired, the people collecting the licensing fees haven’t conceded. The FAQ on still says:

Do I need a license to stream mp3 encoded content over the Internet? Yes.
Do I need a license to distribute mp3 encoded content? Yes.

For developers and manufacturers:

I want to support mp3 in my products. Do I need a license? Yes.
I have my own/third party mp3 software. Do I need a license? Yes.

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MP3 Freedom Day, April 16, 2017

Get ready to celebrate! The last MP3 patent is about to expire! I think.

The Wikipedia article on MP3, as I’m writing this, claims that “MP3 technology will be patent-free in the United States on 16 April 2017 when U.S. Patent 6,009,399, held by the Technicolor[73] and administered by Technicolor, expires.” OSNews doesn’t list any patents beyond April 16. If they’re correct, then Easter will be MP3 Freedom Day!

Or maybe not. The “Big List of MP3 Patents (and Supposed Expiration Dates)” lists a patent which won’t expire until August 29. The Library of Congress cites this list in its discussion of the MP3 encoding format, though it doesn’t have any special authority. That patent looks dubious.
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