Category Archives: Microsoft Silverlight

YouTube using Silverlight instead of Flash for March Madness

It appears that YouTube is using Silverlight instead of Flash video for March Madness.  That’s awesome news for netbook owners and lower end computers because Silverlight is so much more CPU friendly than Flash video.  Now if YouTube will convert the rest of the site over, at least for all of the 720P content, that would make the site so much more friendly because flash 720P simply chokes on lower end computers such as netbooks.

Here is why Microsoft Silverlight is superior to Adobe Flash

This is a good test for a netbook to run to show that 720P Silverlight works on a slow netbook while Adobe Flash 720p will not. Oh and what do you know, this even plays fine in Google Chrome.

This same clip on YouTube in Adobe Flash 720P won’t work on any low end graphics chipset computers which includes the vast majority of netbooks on the market and also many lower end desktop systems with integrated graphics. Try the video below on your netbook or low-end desktop and watch it choke. I can’t even get the supposed hardware accelerated beta 10 Flash player working on netbooks.

The Silverlight clip is encoded with VC-1 compression at 2.25 Mbps and the Youtube version is 2.25 Mbps H.264. Silverlight plays fine on the Asus 1000HE netbook I’m reviewing and that says a lot about the coding efficiency of Microsoft Silverlight. To be more precise, Process Explorer shows that the Silverlight version cost me around 73 billion CPU cycles to play the full clip while the Flash verion cost me around 107 billion CPU cycles. That means 720P Silverlight barely works on netbooks while Adobe flash doesn’t have a chance. Now the Silverlight player still takes twice as much CPU utilization as the native Windows Media player application so it’s as smooth as I’d like it to be, but it could easily be smooth if the video was encoded down to 1024×576 resolution which would be more ideal for 2 Mbps video streams anyways. Maybe the Microsoft team can do some more optimizations to make the Silverlight player closer to Windows Media 11 in terms of performance.

Our fellow blogger Charles Burns asked me if this was due to the different compression algorithm being used (VC-1 versus H.264), and I think that’s part of the reason but not most of the reason. The fact that Silverlight uses VC-1 is a built in advantage, but contrary to popular misconception, netbooks can play 720P H.264 just fine. I’ve done it with as little as 45% CPU utilization on a standard 945-chipset netbook so long as I’m using something good like VLC player. Apple QuickTime player chokes but that’s a whole separate topic. The bottom line here is that Silverlight is CPU/GPU friendly while Flash isn’t.

Larry Seltzer also made a great point to me that Silverlight has been out for 2 years now and there have been no security vulnerabilities it exposes you to unlike Adobe flash which is frequently exposing us to security vulnerabilities. I think this is a clear example of why Silverlight is winning so many customers, and Adobe better do something to optimize their software because netbooks are here to stay and their market share is growing. More and more people will expect to be able to view 720P streaming video on every computer they own and not just their high-end systems.

Here’re a native Windows-only Windows Media Player version that runs on Windows systems running IE, Firefox, or Chrome. It apparently runs about 2x faster than Silverlight and about 3x faster than Flash. If you’re on a netbook or low end desktop, this is the most CPU friendly solution. In fact, it plays with only 42% CPU utilization across both Atom processor threads.

Silverlight version of Photosynth working in Chrome

I was surprised to see that Microsoft Photosynth Silverlight edition was working in Google’s Chrome browser today.  It looks like Silverlight is shaping up to be an awesome universal application platform especially when it comes to video playback.  The video playback seems to be hardware accelerated and Microsoft’s VC-1 (Windows Media 9 Advanced Profile) is already very CPU friendly compared to H.264 video compression.  We’ve already had the 2008 Olympics and the Obama innauguration using Silverlight technology.

A new era for China and a new era for the Internet


Photo credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

With the 2008 summer Olympics upon us, 8/8/2008 marks the dawn of a new era for China and for the Internet.  As one commentator said during the opening ceremony, this is probably the most important event to date in China’s 5000 year history on the world stage.  The budget for this opening ceremony was ten times greater than that of the Athens Greece opening ceremony and it blended state of the art technology with classic Chinese artistry with 15,000 human performers.

For the first time, I get to watch all of the Olympics events that I wanted to see because it’s available on demand from the Internet.  In past Olympics, I either missed the event on TV or TV didn’t have the event I wanted to watch.  This time, just about every single event is being streamed live or on demand on http://www.nbcolympics.com/.  While the quality of the video is slightly below standard definition TV broadcasts, it’s good enough and I suspect many people will be taking advantage of this once they hear about it.

Another great way for Windows Vista 32-bit Premium/Ultimate owners to watch the 2008 Olympics is with the TVTonic download service which delivers pseudo HD quality video.  While it’s not nearly as good as 15+ Mbps NTSC broadcast HD, it’s still good quality.  Be prepared to have at least tens of gigabytes of hard disk space available and be prepared to have your broadband connection filled.  While the TVTonic service doesn’t require you to act as a peer-to-peer server, it does add a service and process to your Windows startup.  You can undo that with my crapware removal guide.

For office IT managers and administrators, you may want to block these video services from the desktop if you don’t want your business Internet connection slowing to a crawl because just two of these NBCOlympics.com streamers will fully saturate a business-class T1 line.  What you might do is designate one computer in some common area hooked up to a projector could serve as the dedicated Olympics streaming computer.  If your bandwidth permits, you can even set up that one computer to pull the pseudo HD service from TVTonic.  That way you’re only streaming the video once and not 50 different times with 50 times the traffic load.  You can put refreshments there and let employees take routine breaks from their work schedule to socialize and catch the festivities in higher quality.  This is an excellent way to compromise between office productivity and a friendly work place.

Scott Wasson noted that while their heart may have been in the right place, the mask antics of the American athletes was silly and embarrassing and I would have to concur.  I have not been back in China since 1999 and 2000 but I remember the air being horrendous and there is no question that China needs to get its act together on many things like pollution, health care, and building safety.  Most of the high rise buildings for example only have one stair well entrance to the top and if it gets blocked by a fire or earth quake (assuming you’re not already buried under the building), you’re probably not going to get out alive.

This is unfortunately the state of a developing nation.  Our own San Francisco burned down to the ground twice in the mid 1800s and in the 1906 quake.  The same is true of labor conditions and we only need to look at the misery of American child/adult laborers at the turn of the 20th century.  China is going through that state right now and they’re trailing the west in large part because of Communist oppression, which I and my parents are unfortunately all too familiar with, but they will get there.