\ Leveraging Darwin, a MPEG 4 media server, to deliver content from your Mac Server
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Leveraging Darwin, a MPEG 4 media server, to deliver content from your Mac Server

By Matthew David

Apple's iPhone is here. It is selling in the millions. To deliver content to the phone, the video format mush be in MP4 format. This means Flash and all the others will NOT work. In this article you will find out what you need to deliver video using the Open Source server called Darwin.

Video Streaming Using Macs
It is not common knowledge that Apple has a series of server products that companies can use and leverage in the same way they are UNIX, Linux and Windows Servers. The core to all Apple Servers is the UNIX operating system. Server products enable processor intensive solutions, such as online stores, to be managed by a single machine. The Apple Servers are powerful machines used by large groups such as the University of Hawaii.

Additionally, another area that Apple has not been given much credit is for its support of open source projects. Much of Apple's work is based in Open Source projects, including WebKit for Safari Web Browsers, MacRuby, a modification of Ruby that supports Objective-C, and Darwin Streaming Server, the core to Apple's QuickTime Streaming Server.

Video and audio streaming is a method of delivering media over the Internet in small packets. For instance, a typical DVD quality movie will be around 800MB for 90 minutes. There are two ways to view this file: the first is to download the whole document and then watch the movie (depending on your Internet connection speed this can be at least 45 minutes); the second method is called "streaming." With streaming, the media only needs to have a fraction of the entire document download for the user to start playing back the file. The rest of the media downloads as the movie is playing. You can think of it like this: you have a room of thirsty people and you can go to the well, fill up a bucket with water and then fill each person's glass with water from your bucket, or you can have a pipe from the well with a faucet on. Each time you open the faucet you can fill up each person's glass. The end result is that you can achieve a constant stream instead of small bursts.

Streaming servers also allow you to deliver live content, too.

The Darwin Open Source Project
Apple is a pioneer in media delivery. The main solution Apple will encourage you to use is the QuickTime Streaming Server. The QuickTime Streaming Server is a good tool, but if may support too many features for your needs. The foundation to the QuickTime Streaming Server is the Apple Open Source Project "Darwin Streaming Server."

Darwin leverages the open standard RTP/RTSP for delivering live or recorded content over the Internet. In addition, Darwin has incorporated Apple's patent pending "Instant-On" technology to allow content to start playing as soon as you click play.

As you might expect, Darwin is built on open standards. MPEG-4, 3GPP and H.264 audio and video standards are fully supported. What this means is that you can deliver content to any player that supports these industry standards. This includes the following programs on your Mac or PC:

  • iTunes
  • QuickTime
  • Windows Media Player
  • Real Player
  • WinAmp

In addition to these tools, you can also deliver content to a new range of devices, in particular mobile phones. As you might expect, the iPhone and iPod Touch both support all of the streaming services delivered from Darwin. Likewise, Apple's Apple TV supports services delivered from a Darwin server - this is how you start viewing rented videos on iTunes before the whole movie has downloaded.

The next bold evolution of video
The first attempts of streaming media over the Internet began in 1996. Even though this technology is 12 years old, it still has not gained much momentum. There have been several reasons for this:
1. Technology
2. Connectivity
3. Receivers

With server solutions such as Darwin, you can argue effectively that the technology is at a point where it is both useful and easy to use. Broadband connectivity is also essential to deliver video and audio. Today, many users would state that Cell technologies such as EDGE are slow - but they are still 3-5 times faster than dial-up and more than capable of receiving rich media. The final hurdle is the receiver - that magical device that allows customers to easily gain access to content. This last step has still not been adequately crossed. The iPhone is the first of many devices that will come out allowing you to access "moving pictures" over the Internet. This is a great solution for 1-to-1 entertainment, but you can expect to watch an NFL football game on your iPhone with your best friends. The next step that needs to be completed is delivering Internet video to your HD-TV. This will happen sooner rather than later and the support for Internet video will be standards based. This means now is the time to become familiar with how Darwin Streaming Media server operates so that you can be ready to embrace the new way to broadcast video and audio when it happens.

Darwin Streaming Media Server will herald the next bold evolution of how we watch video. 

Matthew has written four Flash books, contributed to a dozen Web books, and has published over 400 articles. He is passionate about exposing Internet's potential for all of us. Matthew works directly with many companies as a business strategist coaching IT architects and business leaders to work tightly with each other towards common goals.

Related Keywords:streaming media, Darwin streaming server, MPEG-4 media server

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