Category Archives: commentary

Iterating a directory in command line Tika

Apache Tika is best used as a library to wrap your own code around. Its GUI application is a toy, and its command line version isn’t all that great either. The command line can be improved with a little scripting, though.
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The FLIF format

flif logoNew image file formats keep turning up, taking advantage of advances in compression technology. One of the latest is FLIF, Free Lossless Image Format. It claims to outcompress PNG, lossless JPEG2000, lossless WebP, and lossless BPG. Though it has only a lossless mode, it claims that “FLIF works well on any kind of image, so the end-user does not need to try different algorithms and parameters.”
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The coming of WebP (or not)

The WebP image format has been around for about five years, but till recently it’s been mostly a curiosity. I last blogged about it in 2013, when it didn’t have very wide support. Since then most browsers have adopted it, and now Google+ is making more use of it (no surprise, since Google is the format’s principal backer). It promises smarter lossy compression than JPEG and smaller file sizes for the same image quality.
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A sock puppet mystery

The SourceForge repository for JHOVE (which is, by the way, obsolete; here’s the active repository) includes three short reviews which give it five stars and make very generic and identical comments. They’re dated on three successive days. Those are clear signs of sock-puppet accounts.

I can understand why people post glowing but fake reviews to their own project sites, but really, I’m not responsible for these, and I was the only person working on JHOVE at the time, so I can’t imagine who else had an incentive to promote it. Checking on one of these accounts, “rusik1978,” I find similar reviews on many other SourceForge projects. If they linked back to something it would make sense, but they don’t.

I’ve learned from this that sock puppet reviews don’t necessarily prove that the project owner is faking praise. Maybe that’s the point, to make it harder to identify the actual paid reviews?


The PDF Association and TWAIN Working Group have announced a partnership to develop a specification called PDF/Raster or PDF/R. It’s described as “a component of TWG’s TWAIN Direct™ initiative, a language/protocol that eliminates the need for users to install vendor specific drivers as communication between scanning devices and image capture software applications.”
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McCoy on the future of PDF

Bill McCoy’s article, “Takeaways on the Future of Documents: Report from the 2015 PDF Technical Conference,” offers some interesting thoughts on the future of PDF. I can’t find much to disagree with. PDF is in practice a format for reproducing a specific document appearance, and that’s becoming less important as the variety of computing devices increases. He makes a point I hadn’t thought of, that the “de facto interoperable PDF format” is well behind the latest specifications, which may explain why I haven’t seen complaints that JHOVE doesn’t know about ISO 32000 PDF!
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Course planning: File identification tools

My current main project is creating a course to offer on Udemy on file format identification tools. As currently planned, I’ll cover file (the command line tool), DROID, ExifTool, JHOVE, and Apache Tika. Covering more than five tools in one course would make it too big, though I might consider changing the list. If I can keep my schedule, I’ll have it out in December for early feedback, giving me a chance to clean it up before MIT’s Independent Activity Period in January.

Right now I’m occupied with the mechanics. The course insists on 1280 x 720 pixel video, so I need a new camera; a friend is selling me a Canon Elph 520 HS cheap. Screen capture software is proving interesting; I’ve looked at three different Macintosh applications so far.
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Adding DRM to JPEG?

EFF has posted a strong critique of the proposed addition of a DRM option to the JPEG format, but it mostly misses the point.

The article addresses the JPEG Privacy & Security Abstract and Executive Summary of September 10, 2015. JPEG icon JPEG stands for both the Joint Photographic Experts Group and the eponymous image file format. To minimize confusion, I’ll refer to the group as J.P.E.G. and the format as JPEG, even though the periods are non-standard. Continue reading

PDF forever?

Distant galaxiesThe PDF Association has an article on its site titled “What’s unique about PDF? and why PDF will live forever.” The article claims PDF is “a format of such flexibility and power that it will define the essential ‘electronic document’ concept forever.”

Forever is a long time. No one will think they mean that the last object left as the universe succumbs to entropy will be a disk with a PDF file, but what scale of “forever” gives sense to their claim? In a tweet responding to my skepticism, they offered a clarification:

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PDF/A as OAIS SIP container?

A proposal to use PDF/A as a Submission Information Package (SIP) under the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) model has generated a small stir on Twitter.

The aim of a SIP is to deliver a collection of documents in a form suitable for ingesting into an archive. It needs to have enough metadata to create a proper Archive Information Package (AIP). The model doesn’t specify what SIP format(s) an archive should accept. XML files following well-known archival schemas such as METS for the overall package and PREMIS for preservation information are popular.
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