TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mar 00 Online

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 3
Column Tag: MacTech Online

MacTech Online

by Jeff Clites (online@mactech.com)

The MP3 Phenomenon

It's nearly impossible today to pick up a magazine or newspaper and avoid seeing an article about MP3s. They're popular and surrounded by legal controversy - all the makings of a good media festival. And if you go to VersionTracker and run a search, you'll quickly find out that the Macintosh community is no more resistant to the craze than anyone else, if you didn't know this already. Hype aside, this is the sort of thing which should grab a developer's attention, because there's a big market for anything which plays, produces, converts, organizes, streams, or finds MP3s.

There's a second reason for Macintosh developers to be excited, beyond the sheer popularity, and that's QuickTime. There are three things which everyone agrees that Apple does like no other company: interfaces, multimedia, and consumer excitement. There's no question that QuickTime is right at the intersection of these strengths (despite the questionable design of the QuickTime 4 Movie Player's interface), and their quite lucrative investment in Akamai is a strong statement of their commitment to be a leader in streaming media.

On the other hand, Apple's direct pursuit of the MP3 market has been weak. QuickTime isn't the best MP3 player around, either in terms of playback quality or features (although the QuickTime 4.1 update improves this somewhat), QuickTime doesn't do MP3 encoding out of the box, and their Movie Player doesn't receive, nor does their QuickTime Streaming Server produce, MP3 audio streams in the popular SHOUTcast format. So what's going on?

There are a couple of ways to read the situation. One is that Apple is merely steering clear of the craze-its momentum is centered in the Windows community, there are legal issues with the distribution of MP3s and copyright violations, and there are licensing fees required for encoders. While this may be true, it's only half of the story. Like many of Apple's winning strategies, this one may center around a single revelation, both obvious and at the same time completely overlooked: the MP3 format is irrelevant. Not digital audio, but the idea that the consumer cares at all about the format of their files, or even what "MP3" stands for. (For the record, it's "MPEG-1 Audio Layer III," not "MPEG 3," which doesn't exist.) What they really care about is quality. The QuickTime Star Wars trailer taught us that-although it was available in a variety of sizes, almost everyone chose the largest, highest quality version, and you can bet that most of them were pulling these multiple megabytes painfully over a modem. The truth is that there are better audio formats than MP3 out there, both in terms of file size and sound quality. (This is of course subjective, but many have high praise for the QDesign Music 2 format, which tends to be used for the audio track of high-quality QuickTime movies.)

This is just speculation, of course, but moving forward consumers will certainly choose to listen to whatever sounds best, and this is also what artists will want to produce. Does this mean that MP3 will vanish as a format? Of course not. What it does mean is that consumers will be best served by products which are codec agnostic, and can adapt to play a variety of formats. Some of the newer MP3 hardware players are supposed to support upgrades to play future formats, and of course QuickTime has always supported multiple formats, because it's a completely modular technology; third parties can easily produce their own compressor and decompressor components. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if some day we have a portable QuickTime player, supporting video as well as audio.

So what does this all mean to the Macintosh developer today? It means that in the short term Apple has provided an opportunity for developers to step in and fill a need. In the long term, it means that the Macintosh can take the lead in the digital audio arena. If you are doing anything in the MP3 arena today, you'd be wise to use QuickTime. If you write your own encoder or decoder, implement it as a QuickTime component, and if you license one, favor one that is implemented this way. Automatically, you'll be able to support other formats that QuickTime currently plays and formats that it will play tomorrow, and you'll be able to extend its capabilities without rewriting the application itself. This will give Macintosh applications (and Windows applications which embrace Apple technologies) a unique ability to keep apace with changes in the industry.

This month I am going to leave you will a relatively small set of links to some key resources. First off is Apple's QuickTime developer site, which contains the key resources you'll need to integrate QuickTime into your products. Second is Fraunhofer, who for better or worse holds patents to key algorithms involved in MP3 compression, and they are enforcing their rights to licensing fees. They have a web page (or a place holder for one) devoted to licensing, and you'll want to acquaint yourself with the issues involved. On a positive note, they do have arguably the highest-quality encoder available, and their place as an originator of the technology shows. They also have a few pages of introductory information about the format. Next on your list should be the MPEG Audio News, a small site which tracks news relevant to the Macintosh, and has several interesting articles, including an introduction to MPEG audio, a review of the QDesign Music codec, an encoder quality comparison, and an interview with Rafael Luebbert, the author of the historic MPecker encoder. For a look at the other formats out there, Terran's Codec Central page has information on a variety of multimedia formats, and the SoundApp site contains a page with a brief explanation of the many formats supported by this application.

Apple - Developer – QuickTime
http://developer.apple.com/quicktime/
Fraunhofer IIS-A - Licensing
http://iis.fhg.de/amm/legal/
Fraunhofer IIS-A - Layer-3 Info
http://www.iis.fhg.de/amm/techinf/layer3/
MPEG Audio News
http://www.raum.com/mpeg/
Codec Central - Info on Multimedia Codecs and Technologies
http://www.terran.com/CodecCentral/
SoundApp Formats
http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~franke/SoundApp/formats.html

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't point out icecast. It's an open source streaming audio server launched in January of 1999, and it streams MP3 audio in a format compatible with SHOUTcast, the distributed streaming audio system by Nullsoft, makers of the popular Winamp MP3 player for Windows. Since Apple's Darwin Streaming Server is open source as well, one wonders if some enterprising developer will unify the two technologies. Icecast is under the GNU Public License, so there may be a licensing mismatch there, but that doesn't prevent one from enhancing the Darwin Streaming Server to serve icecast-compatible streams without actually using code from icecast (after all, it was developed without the code to SHOUTcast). After all, we can't let the Linux DJs have all the fun.

icecast
http://icecast.org
Apple - Public Source - Darwin Streaming Server
http://www.publicsource.apple.com//projects/streaming/

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

FileMaker Pro 19.4.2 - Quickly build cus...
FileMaker Pro is the tool you use to create a custom app. You also use FileMaker Pro to access your app on a computer. Start by importing data from a spreadsheet or using a built-in Starter app to... Read more
Adobe Illustrator 26.0.3 - Professional...
You can download Adobe Illustrator for Mac as a part of Creative Cloud for only $20.99/month. Adobe Illustrator for Mac is the vector graphics classics in the design industry. It is a digital... Read more
WhatRoute 2.4.9 - Geographically trace o...
WhatRoute is designed to find the names of all the routers an IP packet passes through on its way from your Mac to a destination host. It also measures the round-trip time from your Mac to the router... Read more
Notion 2.0.20 - A unified workspace for...
Notion is the unified workspace for modern teams. Notion Features: Integration with Slack Documents Wikis Tasks Release notes were unavailable when this listing was updated. Download Now]]> Read more
Monterey Cache Cleaner 17.0.2 - Clear ca...
Monterey Cache Cleaner is an award-winning general-purpose tool for macOS X. MCC makes system maintenance simple with an easy point-and-click interface to many macOS X functions. Novice and expert... Read more
Firetask Pro 4.6.8 - Innovative task man...
Firetask Pro represents the next generation of easy-to-use, project-oriented task management apps. By combining David Allen's powerful Getting Things Done (GTD®) approach with classical task... Read more
Smultron 13.0.4 - Easy-to-use, powerful...
Smultron 13 is the text editor for all of us. Smultron is powerful and confident without being complicated. Its elegance and simplicity helps everyone being creative and to write and edit all sorts... Read more
Box Sync 4.0.8057 - Online synchronizati...
Box Sync gives you a hard-drive in the Cloud for online storage. Note: You must first sign up to use Box. What if the files you need are on your laptop -- but you're on the road with your iPhone? No... Read more
Audio Hijack 3.8.10 - Record and enhance...
Audio Hijack (was Audio Hijack Pro) drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio... Read more
Direct Mail 6.0.1 - Create and send grea...
Direct Mail is an easy-to-use, fully-featured email marketing app purpose-built for macOS. Create, send, and track great looking email campaigns that get results. Start your newsletter by selecting... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Hopefully Not Jared’s Last Show – The To...
My suspicions from last week were correct, and after my two kids tested positive for Covid last week both my wife and I have now tested positive as well. It seems you just can’t escape this stuff lately. Thankfully the two little ones are pretty... | Read more »
TouchArcade Game of the Week: ‘Micro RPG...
I feel like idle games are one of those perfect fits for the mobile platform. Not that they replace more involved gaming experiences when you’re in the mood for that, but they do fit in alongside other types of games just fine as a “go to" when you... | Read more »
‘Phantom Blade: Executioners’ Closed Bet...
Phantom Blade: Executioners is holding a small-scale technical test that lets players get first dibs on the KungFuPunk action RPG. Offered to selected players only, S-Game’s first Closed Beta Test will provide players with limited edition in-game... | Read more »
New ‘Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus’ Video S...
Back in September Snowprint Studios, who you may know from their previous Legend of Solgard or Rivengard, announced that they’d partnered up with Games Workshop to put out a new tactical game in the Warhammer 40,000 universe titled Warhammer 40,000... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Pokemon Legends:...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for January 28th, 2022. We’ve got a bunch of new releases to look at today, with a few big hitters, a few mid-level diversions, and a healthy supply of compost. Since it’s Friday, we... | Read more »
Phantom Blade: Executioners, S-Game...
S-Game has kicked off its first Closed Beta Test for Phantom Blade: Executioners, inviting a selected few to get first dibs on the upcoming KungFuPunk action RPG on mobile. The CBT officially begins this January 28th, and beta testers will receive... | Read more »
‘Infinite Galaxy’ First Anniversary: Cel...
Cultivating a new generation of valiant commanders across 240 countries worldwide, Infinite Galaxy has quenched players’ thirst to explore the vastness of space – and there are only more intergalactic adventures to embark on from here on out. Camel... | Read more »
War and Order: How to brave the cold in...
War and Order's 6th-anniversary celebrations are underway, and all in good time too - this season not only brings about fabulous festivities, but it also lets players experience the harsh winter in an entirely new way. [Read more] | Read more »
‘Hidden Folks+’ Is This Week’s New Apple...
The original Hidden Folks from Adriaan de Jongh is an excellent hidden objects game featuring hand drawn visuals. It is an absolute joy to play, and it has now released on Apple Arcade in the form of Hidden Folks+ () as an App Store great. If you’... | Read more »
Mini Metro’s First Big Update of 2022 Ad...
Last year saw great updates for Dinosaur Polo Club’s Mini Metro ($3.99) which is also available on Apple Arcade as an App Store Great. | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple has clearance 2020 13″ MacBook Airs ava...
Apple has clearance, Certified Refurbished, 2020 13″ Intel-based MacBook Airs in stock today starting at only $719 and up to $370 off original MSRP. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with... Read more
The cheapest iPhones for sale today at Apple...
Apple has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished iPhone 8 models starting at only $359. Each refurbished iPhone comes with a fresh external case, standard Apple 1-year warranty, and free shipping.... Read more
14″ MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Max CPU now in...
Looking for a new 14″ MacBook Pro with an Apple M1 Max CPU? Stock is finally trickling into Apple resellers. B&H has Silver 14″ M1 Max MacBook Pros in stock today for $2899 including free 1-2 day... Read more
14″ MacBook Pros with Apple M1 Pro CPUs are i...
Amazon is reporting stock of 14″ MacBook Pros with M1 Pro CPUs today with a $50 discount. Shipping is free, and delivery is available by February 1st for most configurations. Be sure to make your... Read more
Apple has restocked 13″ M1 MacBook Pros for $...
Apple has restocked a full line of 13″ M1 MacBook Pros available Certified Refurbished, starting at only $1099 and up to $230 off original MSRP. These are the cheapest M1 MacBook Pros for sale today... Read more
Apple’s AirPods Max headphones are on sale fo...
Amazon has Silver, Blue, and Space Gray Apple AirPods Max headphones on sale today for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and all models are in stock today. Their price is the lowest currently... Read more
Open a new line of service at Verizon and get...
Verizon is giving away 64GB Apple iPhone 12 minis or your choice of an iPhone 11 to customers who choose one of these phones and open a new line of service. Offer is available online only, and no... Read more
Open-box 13″ M1 MacBook Airs now available st...
QuickShip Electronics has open-box return 13″ M1 MacBook Airs in stock and on sale for $200-$400 off MSRP on their eBay store right now with free express delivery. According to QuickShip, “The item... Read more
Verizon’s 2022 iPad promo: $100-$310 off any...
Verizon has cellular-capable iPads on sale for $100-$310 off MSRP when purchased with an Unlimited service plan. Sale price is applied to your account monthly over a 24 or 30 month period, depending... Read more
Sunday Sale: Apple AirPods are on sale for up...
Amazon has Apple AirPods on sale for $10-$100 off MSRP today, depending on the model. All are in stock today with free delivery: – AirPods Max headphones (Blue): $449 $100 off MSRP – AirPods Max... Read more

Jobs Board

Registered Nurse (RN) Employee Health PSJH -...
…is calling for a Registered Nurse (RN) Employee Health PSJH to our location in Apple Valley, CA.** We are seeking a Registered Nurse (RN) Employee Health PSJH to be Read more
Systems Administrator - Pearson (United State...
…and troubleshoot Windows operating systems (workstation and server), laptop computers, Apple iPads, Chromebooks and printers** + **Administer and troubleshoot all Read more
IT Assistant Level 1- IT Desktop Support Anal...
…providing tier-1 or better IT help desk support in a large Windows and Apple environment * Experience using IT Service Desk Management Software * Knowledge of IT Read more
Human Resources Business Partner PSJH - Provi...
…**is calling a** **Human Resources Business Partner, PSJH** **to our location in Apple Valley, CA.** **Applicants that meet qualifications will receive a text with Read more
Manager Community Health Investment Programs...
…is calling a Manager Community Health Investment Programs PSJH to our location in Apple Valley, CA.** **Qualified candidates will be invited to do a self-paced video Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.