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Weekend Aantel’s Blog » IOTA

Archive for the 'IOTA' Category

Update #2 on “FOSS multimedia authoring doesn’t quite cut it”

Friday, March 5th, 2010

This post is the reply from Shri Anindya Banerji, multimedia developer to the clarifications sought by Dr Mandar Mitra. I’m posting the Shri Banerji’s clarifications verbatim.

Legend : [MM] = Mandar Mitra; [AB] = Anindya Banerji. AB’s clarifications are italicized. The text in bold-italics are from the original mail from Mr. Banerji.

===========================
Audacity (as a substitute of Audition)
===========================

> Codecs are very poor

[MM] Poor in terms of supported formats? What format were you decoding from / encoding to?

[AB] formats and standards including ASIO, VST, DirectX, and ReWire.

> MP3 cannot be edited properly

[MM] What problem did you face? Again, I have used Audacity to edit mp3 files without issues.

> Cannot be converted into MP3 properly

[MM] I usually do my editing on wav files, and use lame separately to encode to mp3. I know audacity can be set up to use lame directly.

[AB] problem regarding transparent sample rate conversions of files from a wide array of sources and deliver them in the audio format including Windows PCM (WAV), OGG, AIFF, MP3, and WMA with customizable dither settings whether converting material to 44.1kHz, 48kHz, or 96kHz for CD, video, or DVD to get great-sounding results

> Conforming process frequently crashes

[MM] What is a conforming process? I have been using Audacity for several years now, and cannot recall a crash.

> Unsafe rendering

[MM] What does unsafe rendering mean?

[AB] no convenient batch processing feature to convert large numbers of files that have different formats, sample rates, and bit depths to one common format, or to apply scripts to multiple files

crashed many times while problems regarding rendering realtime, while overlaid ( not punched ) numerous sub-takes and saving multiple audio files faster with simply specifying the file format, location, filename template, and more, and these parameters to be applied to each file in the batch synchronization between audio and video playback over projects of any length

> Too few tools to operate

[MM] What tools were you looking for that you did not find?

[AB] looking for :

- quick mix files together by dragging clips and controlling automatic crossfades with on-clip handles

- effects including Convolution Reverb, Analog Delay, Mastering tool and Tube-modeled Compressor

- looping tools

- phase analysis tools

- effects Paintbrush tool

- spot Healing Brush tool

- phase Correction tool

- adaptive Noise Reduction tool

- spectral Frequency Display tool

- lasso tool in Spectral Frequency

- delete Silence feature

> Recording in full duplex cannot done properly

[MM] What is recording in full duplex? Playback during recording? What “improper” behaviour did you observe? In any case, for archival quality recording, you want to leave the processor as lightly loaded as possible. When I feel really uptight about this, I switch to single user mode (telinit 1) and do my recording using arecord, and edit later using Audacity.

> Dubbing facility is not available

[MM] Did you mean adding an audio track to a video recording? AFAIK, Audacity does not have a video component, so yes, I agree that’s not available. But why would you use an audio editor to do dubbing? Or maybe I am misunderstanding the problem.

[AB] problems regarding,

- display video while scrub, keyframe view, and edit sound automation in it, match up audio with the action onscreen.

- editing the soundtracks for videos

- Stretch effects or dialog to fit a video clip by simply dragging the edge of the clip in Multitrack View

- synchronization between your audio and video playback over projects of any length

- editing soundtracks for video and then export the enhanced video in AVI, MPEG, DV, or WMV format

- digitally extract tracks from audio CDs to hard drive for project use

- Seeing level meters that are in use for the master track as well as for multiple input devices, and for multiple output devices

- listening audio inputs through the software, including effects applied to the input track, then modify parameters after recording, if desired

- quickly fixing recording errors by punching in corrections on-the-fly as you rerecord, Toggle the record button to punch in new take only where to replace the old one. Punch in and out as many times as you want

- altering tempo without changing pitch, or change pitch without tempo distortion

Update #1 on “FOSS multimedia authoring doesn’t quite cut it”

Friday, March 5th, 2010

First, let me thank all my friends and colleagues in the FOSS community for coming out so strongly in support to my call for help on this matter. You guys rock! :D

Yesterday evening there was a mail from Dr Mandar Mitra (of ISI, Kolkata and IOTA Board member), wherein he posted counter arguments to Shri Anindya Banerji’s (the multimedia expert whose comments on inadequacy of FOSS tools for CBT development lead to this series of posts). Dr Mitra also asked from Mr. Banerji to clarify further on his comments.

Dr Mandar Mitra’s email rebutting the claims and asking for clarifications

NOTE : The Italicized lines are Shri Banerji’s original comments

This is with reference to the problems outlined by Shri Anindya Banerjee. I have first-hand experience only with Audacity and I found the list of problems very imprecise (details below). Perhaps Shri Banerjee could further clarify what he meant?

I think your suggestion that a small CBT be prepared as a proof of concept by competent and interested persons is an excellent one. If such a CBT can
be put together, that will be the best possible refutation of complaints about the capabilities of open source tools. If it cannot be done within a reasonable time frame, then we must decide whether the CBT itself is more important for IOTA than the means by which it is created.

Mandar.

—————————————————————————

> Audacity (as a substitute
> of Audition)
>
> Codecs are very poor

Poor in terms of supported formats? Audio quality of encoded file? What format were you decoding from / encoding to?

> Conforming process frequently crashes

What is a conforming process? I have been using Audacity for several years now, and cannot recall a crash.

> MP3 cannot be edited properly

What problem did you face? Again, I have used Audacity to edit mp3 files without issues.

> Unsafe rendering

What does unsafe rendering mean?

> Cannot be converted into MP3 properly

I usually do my editing on wav files, and use lame separately to encode to mp3. I know audacity can be set up to use lame directly.

> Too few tools to operate

What tools were you looking for that you did not find?

> Recording in full duplex cannot done properly

What is recording in full duplex? Playback during recording? What “improper” behaviour did you observe? In any case, for archival quality recording, you want to leave the processor as lightly loaded as possible. When I feel really uptight about this, I switch to single user mode (telinit 1) and do my recording using arecord, and edit later using Audacity.

> Dubbing facility is not available

Did you mean adding an audio track to a video recording? AFAIK, Audacity does not have a video component, so yes, I agree that’s not available. But
why would you use an audio editor to do dubbing? Or maybe I am misunderstanding the problem.

FOSS multimedia authoring doesn’t quite cut it - A view

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

SInce my posting on the topic of “Making change happen - the case of the IOTA job ad“, there has been interesting additional development.

A multimedia expert was asked to create a feasibility plan for development of the CBT using FOSS tools, and his report is as follows. I figured it would be interesting reading for a lot of people, so I’ve shared it below.

=== THE REPORT ===

I have gone through the most recommended open source software in Linux, to be used as substitutes of the commonly known graphics related software. On basis of the requirement for CBT development project, I have performed dry-run of some test cases. The results from those trials can be stated below.

GIMP (as a substitute of Photoshop)

- No option for true resembling of bi-cubic to bilinear conversion

- Many of the layer comp option cannot be found

- Antialising is poor

- Many of the color correction tools are absent

- Cannot share GIMP comp with INKSCAPE comp and UIRA comp layer wise

- Smart object facility is not available

(There are several other problems are there in GIMP, but those are not mentioned here, only some of the points very much linked with the work procedure of CBT development are mentioned here)

INKSCAPE (as a substitute of Illustrator)

- EPS quality and standard of vector is not up to standard

- Cannot share INKSCAPE comp with GIMP maintaining vector property

- INKSCAPE drawing cannot be used properly to animate with UIRA

- Vector layers cannot be managed with UIRA

- Rasterization of Vector , maintaining transparency and smooth edges cannot be done

(There are several other problems are there in INKSCAPE, but those are not mentioned here, only some of the points very much linked with the work procedure of CBT development are mentioned here)

F4L (as a substitute of Flash)

- F4L is no more

- It is now converted into UIRA with a blend of QFlash

- Both of them are not so professional

- Crashes anytime and almost every time

- Smart clip and nested movie clip system is unstable

- Symbol definition is not OK

- Action script is full of bugs

- File compatibility is not even good

- Authoring property is very bad

- Compatibility with running text in local language is very bad

(There are several other problems are there in F4L, but those are not mentioned here, only some of the points very much linked with the work procedure of CBT development are mentioned here)

KINO (as a substitute of Premiere)

- Codecs are very poor

- Conforming process frequently crashes

- Lightweight screen captured video cannot be edited properly

- Unsafe rendering

- Unwanted loss of project data in time of save and reopen

- Voice-over cannot be taken in form of dubbing

- A little bit long timeline often crashes

(There are several other problems are there in KINO, but those are not mentioned here, only some of the points very much linked with the work procedure of CBT development are mentioned here)

Audacity (as a substitute of Audition)

- Codecs are very poor

- Conforming process frequently crashes

- MP3 cannot be edited properly

- Unsafe rendering

- Cannot be converted into MP3 properly

- Too few tools to operate

- Recording in full duplex cannot done properly

- Dubbing facility is not available

(There are several other problems are there in Audacity, but those are not mentioned here, only some of the points very much linked with the work procedure of CBT development are mentioned here)

Making change happen - the case of the IOTA job ad

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Since reading Rajib’s passionate mails, and Rohit’s (iamhere) email about the WBCS officers’ training on FOSS, I thought of sharing the recent case of the IOTA job advertisement.

The background : IOTA is planning to recruit on contractual basis 2 multimedia developer and 1 project consultant for CBT development. The CBTs are intended for schools across the state.

The case that was : Until 18th Feb, 2010, the advertisement asked for people with work experience on *entirely* proprietary software - Adobe Flash, AfterEffects, Illustrator, Photoshop, Premier, 3D Studio Max. You can see a copy of that ad here below:

iota-pre-ed.gif

The Change : On 19th February evening, a meeting was convened at IT Department under the chairman-ship of the MIC IT, Prof Debesh Das. Clear guidelines were laid out. The minister re-iterated that IOTA can not do such as thing while it has the mandate to take the message of FOSS across the state. A committee sat down on the 20th Feb, afternoon at IOTA office, went through the use-case scenarios around the CBTs to be developed and identified the potential software stack to be used in the changed scenario. The updated advertisement, which is entirely pro-FOSS can be seen here

iota-post-ed.gif

or on the IOTA website. The change was made on 20th evening itself.

The Message : A case where things got “right”-ed in a govt dept, although in Harry Truman style, the “buck” finally stopped right at the “top”.

Upcoming - “System Administration Reloaded” a lecture by Devdas Bhagat on Dec 26, 2009.

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

What : A lecture by Devdas (f3ew) Bhagat, who will be passing through town and was coaxed into giving this talk.

Where : Dept of Physics, West Bengal State University, Berunanpukuria, Barasat.

When : At 12:30 PM on Saturday, 26th December 2009.

Lecture Synopsis - “Most people who end up being system administrators are self taught. There is little formal theory in this field so far. System administration also involves very different sets of tasks, ranging from helpdesk issues to management reports, from wiring to software.

A very large number of people also start off with small numbers of machines to run and few issues to troubleshoot. As the number of machines grows, keeping pace with troubleshooting becomes impossible. Sysadmins spend time firefighting, and then burn out. Hiring is often very limited due to budgetary constraints or simply due to lack of available labour.

This talk deals with the constraints sysadmins work under, and how to work around them so that they aren’t as big a bottleneck. We take a look at the mindset required to do this work, and how to convince management that the solutions you are implementing are cheaper than the alternative. We also take a quick look at some of the solutions available for sysadmins to reduce their workload.”

Speaker Bio

Devdas Bhagat is just another recovering sysadmin, and is currently playing database administrator for a large domain registration system. In his copious spare time, he works with other business units at his workplace to help tune their systems, add business benchmarks and other general monitoring stuff. He has spoken at the sysadmin miniconf at LCA’09 (Linux Conference Australia) on system automation and on DNS benchmarking. He has spoken at various network operator group (SANOG) conferences on spam control, DNS, operational issues, large scale email systems, etc. He has also been a speaker on databases at FOSS.IN and it’s previous avatar, Linux-Bangalore. When not busy working with computers, he spends time in the hills trekking and photographing.

Organised by : West Bengal University of Technology in association with Kolkata Linux Users’ Group (ILUG-CAL.ORG)

ILUG-Cal collaborates with IOTA @ Kolkata Bookfair 2009

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Responding to the call for support from IOTA (Institute for Open Technology and Applications), ILUG-CAL.ORG team members did a wonderful job of presenting the case of GNU/Linux and FOSS in general at the Kolkata International Bookfair between 28th Jan and 8th Feb 2009.

Here some of the photos from that event:

IMG_0099

From L to R : Rohit, Gaurav, Susmit, Nishant, Mukesh, Shinjan, Sarbartha, Dipanjan, Hemant, Shivam, Debnath, Saikat and me (sitting)

27012009233 27012009234 27012009235 27012009237 IMG_1048 IMG_1050 IMG_1052 IMG_1053 IMG_1054 IMG_1058 IMG_1059

Update on FOSS activities at NIT Agartala

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I had met Aveek Sen, 1st Year student from NIT Agartala during my keynote at Mukti ‘09 at NIT Durgapur. Since then he came down to visit me at my office. We spoke for some time, where I tried to share some ideas on what they could do at their college. Lack of bandwidth is the bane of their existence. He went back to Agartala and here is what he mailed to me on the progress so far.

I received a very good response in my college. I along with a batch mate Swapnil Paratey, seniors-Sushil Deshmukh, Nagendra, Sarfaraj & Rivu , are organising a seminar on Linux & FOSS on 24th February,2009.

We are also supposed to work on the database management system, website & online ticketing system of an auditorium in Agartala-Sukanta Academy.

As I mentioned earlier, I am planning to work on a nanotechnology experiments simulation software & require your help. Please get me in touch with some people as I would like guidance & certain experimental raw data from them.

Also, please let me know about the repositories in a disc. Sorry, I could not get in touch with Mr.Susmit Sanighrahi. He was unavailable on phone that day & after coming back to Agartala, I was a little occupied. I plan to contact him within the weekend.

I am on twitter now & have my blog on wordpress by the name Aveek Sen’s blog.

Blogging from ODF Olympiad (india) prize ceremony at Kolkata

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Just watched Jaijit from Sun announce the names of the winners from India at the Science City Auditorium. Bright kids all, and also from A-list premier english medium schools.

Nothing’s wrong with that, except they are hardly the kids that *really* need FOSS… I was also wanted to hear the total number of participants this year, but only got to hear the details on webserver logs.

More burnt omelette ideas on the way

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

It seems that Adda Bites near RGH has become a regular host for mini iLUG-Cal sessions from days of yore…. Susmit, me and the youngsters would soon be having something online… on the side notes, the next round of high school teachers training conducted by ILUG-Cal on behalf of IOTA will happen on 6 - 7th December.

IOTA Teachers’ Training FOSS Workshop at WBSUB

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Last year, we - the Indian GNU/Linux Users’ Group - Kolkata Chapter, had conducted the highly successful 2-month long weekend program on GCC programming workshops and tutorials at the Rajabazar Science College, University of Calcutta.

Recently there was a call for support and collaboration from the Institute of Open Technology and Applications (IOTA), an autonomous society that has been recently set up under the aegis of Dept of Information Technology, Govt of West Bengal. IOTA’s mandate, afaik, is to identify cases and espouse the use and adoption of FOSS in the state of West Bengal. Towards that end, training in FOSS based technologies of high school teachers across the state, has been identified by the society as one of the courses for immediate action. Several training programs are in the offing. The teachers’ training program at West Bengal State University (WBSUB), Barasat was a part of that.

Between 2nd and 4th October, 2008, 51 high school teachers belonging to 42 different schools from across the district of North 24 Parganas attended the workshop. A team of six ILUG-CAL.ORG members gathered in Barasat (North 24 Parganas) from 4 different districts of WB, worked nearly against time to plan, execute and successfully deliver the program, with less that 20 hours of head-start before the event took off.

The following ILUG-CAL.ORG members were involved :

Susmit Shannigrahi   Fedora Ambassador
Sarbartha Sengupta   Co-ordinator, RCCIIT LUG
Dipanjan Chakraborty   Co-ordinator, RCCIIT LUG
Arindam Ghosh   OpenStreetMap GSoC 2008
Rabi Kumar   Python enthusiast & Phoenix fanatic
Indranil Das Gupta   Coordinator, ILUG-Cal

During the workshop, the team was also assisted by Dr. Subhojit Sarkar, Visiting Faculty, Physics, WBSUB

About the Workshop

The workshop was designed to impart a hands-on, working level familiarity with the FOSS Desktop environment and in using OpenOffice.org as a productivity suite and basics on Internet usage including emailing and accessing educational content from the Net.

Getting ready for the Workshop

The WBSUB is a very recent University (born like 4 months back), so infrastructure-wise nothing was really in place needed to conduct the workshop. And since we had just a 20 hours head-start before the workshop was to start off, Susmit hurried down to the Chandi Chowk market and brought back a WiFi router (WRT54G), CAT5 cable, crimping tool, RJ-45 jacks, LAN testers and other tools of the trade with him.

And so, in the first two hours of Day 1 (2nd Oct), the ILUG-Cal team hurried to set up a complete computer lab - 16 desktop PCs installed using the latest Fedora 9 DVD. We also set up the WiFi network in the lab (triple NAT-ed incidentally) and installed a 50 metre long trunk-line to connect the WiFi router in the lab with the University’s broadband ADSL router’s 100Mbit LAN port.

With all these happening in the background, Dr. Sarkar, myself and Prof Thakur (Vice Chancellor, WBSUB) got the first day’s initial theory session under way. By 1 PM, the infrastructure was ready and in place. Arindam was designated to prepare the hand-out documentation of the lecture schedule outlines. Susmit and myself assisted in bits and parts in the edit process.

I was happy to see the youngsters - Dipanjan and Sarbartha doing really well in their sessions. Rabi was OK, but he really needs a shot of confidence and more exposure. Being a non-native speaker of Bangla, he was ill-at-ease with the participants during his lecture/demonstrations. He was however good when it came to one-on-one guidance during the practical sessions. Arindam was as usual very good in his delivery of the content. As expected from him, he was also very competent in handling the technical nitty-gritty of OpenOffice.org. Susmit has shaped up into a fine mentor himself and a competent speaker.

The training schedule

Between Susmit and myself, we managed put together this training program outline. We based it on instructions from Prof. S. K. Sen (President, IOTA) and Prof. Thakur.

The Participants

The turn-up was good, 51 participants from an expected total of 52 teachers was what we had. Considering that the schools were going in for their annual Durga Puja holidays in another 2 days and with the Pujas starting from the 6th of October, this was indeed *huge* turn-up. What is interesting to note is that the total attendance even for the 3rd day (4th Oct) was still 42.

  1. Participants’ Details (participant name and school name only)
  2. Detailed participants’ registration data (includes age, contact details, subjects taught) available in PDF format.**

** The file contains personal information of the participants and hence it has been password protected. Any persons authorised by the President of IOTA Society may mail me in private for the password.

Our participants were by no means a homogeneous set. Although there was a strong Physical Science / Maths contingent, there were a total sizable number of participants from Humanities / Social Sciences. There were upto 6 teachers in all, who looked after subjects like Physical Education / Work Education / Nutrition. Interesting to note : Only *one* teacher who taught computer applications in his school. Below is the detailed breakup of that list.

Physics   9
Chemistry   10
Mathematics   7
Statistics   1
Biology /Life Sciences   8
Computer Applications   1
Sanskrit   1
Bengali   4
English   3
Commerce / Economic Geography / Biz Org   2
Economics   3
Geography   4
History   1
Nutrition   1
Work Education   1
Physical Education   4 **

** Some teachers look after for more than one subject, hence totalling the count of teachers in the list above will result in 60 instead of the 51 participant count.

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The program was delivered and over by 3:30 PM on the 4th October 2008, with the Registrar of the University - Prof. Kamales Bhaumik distributing the certificates and the Vice Chancellor - Prof Thakur addressing the closing session and and interacting with the participants, telling them how they can collect the hand-outs and software CD / DVD after the University opens after the holidays.

A total of 38 participants of the 42 attendees on the final day of the workshop opted to put in their feedback to the following questions (see the charts below), most of them also provided detailed personal remarks / suggestions / comments (it has been presented verbatim, except for possible typos during data entry)

The feedback

A Few Observations

  1. During the training sessions, nearly 25% of the teachers stated that they regularly need to input unit test marks, prepare marksheets, tabulate them, generate individual report cards, often using proprietary software or by a partially manual laborious process. They would like learn if OpenOffice.org can be used to largely automate such tedious but important every day work and if so, then how. They have expressed a keen interest in the idea of a separate workshop / training focussed on such school administration specific use of OpenOffice.org and other FOSS packages.
  2. The Birati High School team of 3 teachers, particular Mr. Sajal Kumar Banerjee expressed their interest in exploring free/open source school information system (SIS). Birati High presently uses a locally developed, highly popular but closed-source proprietary SIS product. The entire team expressed their helplessness about the vendor lock-in and annual maintenance contract, including horror stories about the product stopping to work when the annual renewal is due. If a viable alternative is available or is made available they are ready to shift.
  3. The biggest mindshare winner for FOSS was the realisation by the participants that Windows-based viruses and worms are rendered harmless on GNU/Linux platform, with several participants showing a keen interest in installing Linux on their personal and/or school systems
  4. Participants expressed a need for a resource centre or access to resource persons that they can turn to, post-workshop. So that when they run into problems in installing / using FOSS software they can be assured of help.
  5. Several of the participants expressed their helplessness about their inability to convince their school management. The argument went like this - “We have understood the benefits. But we are very new to this, how are we going to explain this properly to our management? Can you help us in anyway?”

Acknowledgements
Without question, this teachers’ training program, was at the end of it, one of the most hastily organised and yet most successfully delivered programs from ILUG-Cal. As a team working together, it had literally left us with zero room for error. Nearly everything has to be done on-the-go. The largest portion of the credit for the success goes undoubtably to the ILUG-CAL.ORG team. It goes to Susmit and Arindam who had just returned to Kolkata from VNIT - Nagpur on the 30th September where they conducted a hectic 3-day workshop on behalf of the Fedora Project (India). Arindam again came down all the way from Durgapur, even if it he had just gotten home and the Pujas were around the corner. To Dipanjan and Sarbartha, who inspite of personal engagements, came down to Barasat everyday all the way from Belur. To Rabi for being there to help out as needed, which is easy to get overlooked until you miss it. To Prof Sen and Prof Thakur for the advice, encouragement and constant support. Prof. Bhaumik for helping smoothen the administrative wheels and temporarily loaning the cash to buy the urgently needed networking supplies. To Sushil-babu, the soft-spoken Finance Officer of WBSUB for his quiet efficiency and helpfulness. To Bapi, Pinto, Sanjay and other support staff at WBSUB who helped in shifting materials, arranging them and for putting up with my demands for incessant cups of tea.

On a side note : On the second day of the workshop (3rd October) the ODF Olympiad information sachet from IOTA was also distributed to the participants. More on that later.