Debbie's New Role, Home Movie File Server

After having a few more days to "digest" the lessons learned from dealing with the Gorilla's FREE web site deal and how it relates to Debbie's situation, that of system server, I think there are definitely some points to incorporate into my system.There are two schools of thought for Web site design.

After having a few more days to "digest" the lessons learned from dealing with the Gorilla's FREE web site deal and how it relates to Debbie's situation, that of system server, I think there are definitely some points to incorporate into my system.

There are two schools of thought for Web site design. The first one, the more traditional, is to push most of the work onto the web client. Serve a file to the client that the client is expected to render into a useful form. The second form has the server doing a lot of the work to render the page into a form the client is expected to just display. More than likely the content being viewed is under some DRM restrictions so that using a proprietary browser application is necessary. That is where Microsoft and the rest of the Internet development communities differ in varying degrees.

With my FREE Dead Office web site I was able to figure out that I had to have IE6/7 to make the tools work. I couldn't make a connection with the management site with FireFox2 and do anything meaningful. Even to just connect with the site itself, about half the time I got the error page indicating that I had to have IE6 or 7 as my browser. The period of time that my FREE web site seemed to be dead or removed might have been the time that the web site administrators did some sort of an upgrade.

Behavior after the web site came back was slightly different and that was when the IE6/7 browser error message page stopped popping up when I used FireFox to just view the pages. I'm not expecting the website programmers and designers to stand still but it would be in best interests of their customers to design in features that fall back gracefully and be able to serve pages for older and alternate browsers. It looks like at least some of the Dead Office programmers are aware of that.

I have found hundreds of commercial and private web sites that flat out will not work properly with anything other than the last 2 or 3 versions of Internet Explorer. Even those web sites often require that the user open up the security options or open the browser to pop-ups. I've gotten in the habit, as I suspect many others have, of opening both IE and FireFox so I can do my browsing with FireFox and my website use with IE. What was especially interesting about at least some of the Kraken functionality was it didn't break when accessed by FireFox 2.0.

The implications for Debbie (the Debian 4.0 server on my home system) is that she'll have to become the lowest common denominator, a file-server, since I expect her to be compatible with whatever browser and whatever operating system versions come out in the next few years. She'll be able to serve files but not render them. Debbie should be able to stream some files but I don't expect the server to support DRM encrypted files, let the Microsoftie websites store them. Debbie is going to be modified slightly to serve up ISO's as a CDROM/DVD cache/player. My daughter has asked me more than once why I don't buy one of the new digital mini-DVDR cameras for home movies. Having the ability to serve up the video files from Debbie would be an excellent use of the hardware. Leaving them as ISO's keeps the video files in their original coding and would allow for different forms of playback. Here is an area where I know for certain my knowledge is out of date having gotten out of the video business in 1991. I assume that a form of MPEG is being used but not I'm sure about the file formats etc.

Linux and Windows both have player applications for MPEG3 and I'm assuming that most DVD playing software can play home movies. Nero and other CD/DVD burner programs have utilities to make images. The ability to playback MPEG video seems to be more tightly connected to the OS than to the browser so its best to leave them in near original form. That would allow my daughter, the tweener drama queen, to access her productions on her Win9X box. My son could view music videos direct from the Web or from Debbie, depending on the state of the DRM license on the video.

The trick is going to be writing an automated Windows application that can allow my family users to transfer an ISO image file to the shared folders on Debbie for later access without requiring a complicated process. For playback, a web page interface to the shared folders with an automated shortcut created when the ISO file is created on the volume. The shortcut, when pressed later, will trigger off a Linux mount command on Debbie and a Windows connection script (on the Windows client) to the mounted ISO volume. The Windows clients will then playback the video on the Windows client using some media player. For Linux clients, the mount command will be sufficient to allow a Linux playback application to play the program or home movie.

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