Developer Conference '99
A couple of weeks ago Kodak held it's Kodak
Developer Conference '99 in Boston and San
Francisco. I managed to spend some time at the
Boston session and saw a few interesting things.
This report covers the Digita operating
environment, DPOF, Meta data and
Obsolescence of data. In a second report
I'll look at Picture CD.
Digita is an operating environment developed for
digital cameras and printers. Digita is a product
developed by FlashPoint, and is included in two of
Kodak's current offerings, the DC260 and DC220. It
is also used in the Minolta Dimâge EX 1500
camera, and Epson has shown a printer that includes
Digita. Digita is accessed through the LCD panel on
the back of the camera and uses a simple interface
made up of icons and menus.
makes it possible to program the camera using
Digita Script, a scripting language supported by
the environment. Digita Script can be used to
control most features of the camera, including
adjusting focus, exposure, flash and lens position
and even taking the picture and processing it
afterwards. Both Kodak and FlashPoint claim that
Digita Script is an easy language to use, and if
you are a computer programmer then you'll probably
agree. However I'm not sure that the average person
would want to learn programming to write scripts
for their cameras. Either Digita or another company
needs to develop some kind of iconic system that
can be used to write these scripts.
will soon be selling Digita Desktop, an application
for use in controlling Digita cameras. This will
provide an alternative interface for working with
the camera and downloading images, but I don't
believe it will help in programming the
demonstrated a script that communicated with a GPS
unit attached to the serial port of a DC260 and
which added the position information to the image.
Kodak will probably offer this as a package along
with a GPS (they are finalizing which one.) As
another example of scripting, they also
demonstrated a script that zoomed the lens while
capturing a sequence of images.
are actually text files (though with a .csm
extension.) To add a script to a camera, you first
connect the camera to the computer. The
CompactFlash card of the camera contains a folder
labeled System. To add a script you drag the .csm
file to the system folder. One person asked if
there was a compiled version of scripts -- a way to
protect your scripts -- but that is not available
at the moment.
more information checks Kodak's developer page, and
FlashPoints web page.
in an unrelated note about Digital Cameras, a
person from SanDisk said that Compact Flash memory
would be $1 a megabyte in Q1 2000, and 50 cents by
the end of the year.
DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) is an ASCII
file that contains user print decisions for use by
a printing device. A user can create a DPOF file
that says "print this picture 4 times" and then
send both the image and DPOF file to a print bureau
or to a DPOF printer. The DPOF file is read to see
what the user wants done with the image
is currently still new and untried; interestingly,
there is no agreed way to handle the DPOF file
after printing; it might be deleted, or it might be
marked in some way. Kodak plans to support DPOF in
future cameras and printers. Interestingly, since
DPOF is a text file, you can use Digita to write a
information about DPOF can be found at this web
page: Digital Print Order Format Summary.
The lunch session (the lunch wasn't too bad!)
was a pitch for Meta data. Meta tags are used to
attach information (Meta Data) to a digital image.
This could be anything from Copyright data to a
description of the photograph, the location it was
taken, and the date, time and exposure information.
This idea is not really new, and APS (Advanced
Photo System) includes a magnetic track that
already records date and time of pictures, and can
be used for other information too.
this information should be saved at the time the
picture is taken. Some of this; date and time, the
camera can provide, but other information requires
user input. In the earlier demo of the DC260 and
Digita, they showed how text could be entered and
saved in a file along with the photograph. Since
the camera lacks any keyboard the interface for
entering text involved navigating through a
scrolling list of letters to select the letter(s)
you want to enter. While this method works, it's
not fast or convenient. Maybe cameras will need
detachable keyboards, or stylus input to make it
easier for users to do this.
speaker did say that Meta data was a horrible term,
and they were trying to find another term before
the word was used too much and entered the
obviously thinks that one of the selling points of
digital images is the ability to find, index and
search these images. The demo disc for Picture CD
distributed at the event sells this point showing a
video clip of someone trying to find images in a
shoebox of photographs.
was acknowledged how difficult it can be to get
people to enter this information, and wondered
aloud what would make people add this Meta Data. He
then went on to partly answer the question by
suggesting that this information could be gathered
when the user is performing other tasks. For
example, when you email the picture to a friend you
probably enter some description of the picture.
Similarly, if you went online using chat software
and were describing the image to a friend, saving
that idescription could be useful at a later
is using XIF for storing Meta data on Picture CD.
They have adopted the same standard for Picture CD
and Compact Flash cards. XIF (XML Interchange
Format) was developed by Microsoft and others as an
interchange format for meta data described by the
Open Information Model (OIM.) OIM itself is a set
of meta data specifications to facilitate sharing
and reuse in the application development and data
warehousing domains. OIM 1.0 consists of over 200
types organized in "easy-to-use" and
"easy-to-extend" subject areas (this is all quoted
from press releases!)
supporting the interchange of meta data across
multiple repository tools, XIF is said to provide
third-party vendors with an easy way to populate
repository databases with data.
Microsoft press release on XIF:
it was observed, people aren't going to put data in
unless there is software that makes use of that
information. Kodak has made a recommendation to the
JPEG 2000 standards committee (a wavelet based
scheme) to store Meta data. They said they don't
want to develop their own formats.
wants to use standards. As an example, Picture CD
uses JPEG, and even though it can contain FIX
information JPEG readers can still read the images
even if they doesn't understand the Meta data.
Kodak is trying to standardize at the file level so
that it is irrelevant what the storage medium
Meta Data Coalition also has an effort for
implementation and ongoing evolution of a meta data
interchange format and its support mechanisms.
One person asked about the obsolescence of
media. How long would CDs be readable by computers?
How long to CDs last? This is a problem, but the
speaker observed that you could copy to new media.
It was also suggested that if users stored images
on PhotoNet (Kodak and AOL's digital picture
network) then it became a problem for AOL and
Kodak, not for the user. I guess the question there
is; Will people want to save their images on a
WEEK: Picture CD
D. Murie has been a multimedia consultant and
developer since he first saw HyperCard in 1987. He
has written for New Media magazine and worked on
the CD-ROM The Jack Kerouac ROMnibus. He wrote the
books "Macintosh Multimedia Workshop" and
"Macintosh Multimedia Starter Kit" and was
co-author of "The QuickTime HandBook." He can be
reached at email@example.com.