Moving images to the next level

 Moving images to the next level

Let’s start this week with a couple of software and technology announcements. The first is from the developer Dominic Szablewski. He has developed a simple, new image format. You will have heard of PNG, JPEG, MPEG, MOV and MP4, which he calls complex. Enter the Quite OK Image Format (QOI). Most of the older formats are closed, need libraries and a lot of computing power to implement and use.

– QOI is not quite as good as an optimised PNG encoder but it will generate lossless compressed images to a similar size, but at between 20-50 times faster encoding and 3-4 times faster decoding speeds. Even better this all fits into around 300 lines of C code with a one page spec, my favourite kind. It has been embraced by the Open-Source community and there are already plugins for Gimp, Paint.NET and XnView MP with more arriving. It has been implemented in a variety of language libraries and native applications to view .QOI files are also appearing. If you want to know more visit qoiformat.org.

– Not sure where Wi-Fi is up to these days? According to MediaTek in Taiwan they have demoed Wi-Fi 7. They also claim that when implemented it will challenge Ethernet for high-bandwidth applications. For those that take note of such things, it is based on the IEEE 802.11be standard that will support connections in the 30-40Gbps range. For reference, optimised Wi-Fi 6 currently runs at around 1.5Gbps speed, with a theoretical limit of around 9.5. The latter is essentially unattainable in real world applications. MediaTek claims this will be the first time Wi-Fi could realistically replace wired connections in the home, office and industrial networks.

– That said, real business networks are scaling up to 400Gbps. Covid taught organisations about working from home. This has meant an increase in the size of data centres and the demand for better and faster switching systems. According to the research firm Dell’Oro, the growth and demand for 400Gbps ports has doubled in the last year as companies needed more bandwidth for those large video meetings. With the supply chain issues, having some higher speed kit on hand can only be a good thing.

– As a general question, when do global services no longer become a true service? For example, your phone company should not be monitoring everything you say in your phone calls and making decisions about whether you can continue to use their services if you say something the management doesn’t like. This may be the norm in say China, but not in general. The latest real-world example is Visa and Mastercard cutting off all services to a large country in the Northern Hemisphere, affecting normal people not involved in any conflict. If they can do it there, what is stopping them doing it somewhere else in the future? The whole concept of a service seems to be changing. The converse of this is ICANN refusing to revoke all web domains, shut down Russian DNS root servers and invalidate associated TLS/SSL certificates for the aforementioned country. The RIPE network co-ordinating centre agreed.

– Finally there is some good news on the web browser front. Developers including Apple, Google, Microsoft,and Mozilla, along with software consultancies Bocoup and Igalia, have agreed to work together to make web design technologies perform in a more consistent way across different platforms. This will be based on the Interop 2022 benchmark that you can find here, wpt.fyi/interop-2022. The plan is to smooth out any differences so that web apps will work and behave the same way across devices and operating systems. As of now this is not the case and many of you know how something will work in one browser but not another. Until now companies like Apple have gone their own way for design attributes, but at least now they have all come together.

– Testing the current browsers against the new standard, Edge and Chrome score 61 out of 100, Firefox 69 and Safari a poor 50. Their upcoming browsers score 71, 74 and 73 respectively indicating Apple has true buy-in. The real winners apart from the users will be the developers who will have less worry that their products will work on all platforms. I have been writing about these problems for years, as some readers will know.

– How safe is Alexa from Amazon? Without the latest critical update, the Alexa could wake itself up and execute audio commands sent by an attacker. One secret is to hack a smart speaker but in this case the exploit used audio files that contained voice commands for Alexa to action like buying goods, eavesdrop on those in the location or mess with connected appliances. This could be done via say an internet radio station. Hackers are clever and will always be looking for ways to get into things they shouldn’t be able to.


James Hein

Related post