What Is Multimedia?

What Is Multimedia?

The term multimedia describes a wide range of applications that are in popular use today. These include audio and video files such as MP3 audio files, DVD movies, and short video clips of movie previews or news stories downloaded over the Internet. Multimedia applications also include live webcasts (broadcast over the World Wide Web) of speeches or sporting events and even live webcams that allow a viewer in Manhattan to observe customers at a cafe in Paris. Multimedia applications need not be either audio or video; rather, a multimedia application often includes a combination of both. For example, a movie may consist of separate audio and video tracks. Nor must multimedia applications be delivered only to desktop personal computers. Increasingly, they are being directed toward smaller devices, including personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cellular telephones.

For example, a stock trader may have stock quotes delivered in real time to her PDA. In this section, we explore several characteristics of multimedia systems and examine how multimedia files can be delivered from a server to a client system. We also look at common standards for representing multimedia video and audio files

What Is Multimedia?

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Media Delivery

 Multimedia data are stored in the file system just like any other data. The major difference between a regular file and a multimedia file is that the multimedia file must be accessed at a specific rate, whereas accessing the regular file requires no special timing. Let's use video as an example of what we mean by "rate." Video is represented by a series of images, formally known as frames, that are displayed in rapid succession. The faster the frames are displayed, the smoother the video appears. In general, a rate of 24 to 30 frames per second is necessary for video to appear smooth to human eyes. (The eye retains the image of each frame for a short time after it has been presented, a characteristic known as persistence of vision. A rate of 24 to 30 frames per second is fast enough to appear continuous.)

 A rate lower than 24 frames per second will result in a choppy-looking presentation. The video file must be accessed from the file system at a rate consistent with the rate at which the video is being displayed. We refer to data with associated rate requirements as continuous-media data. Multimedia data may be delivered to a client either from the local file system or from a remote server. When the data are delivered from the local file system, we refer to the delivery as local playback. Examples include watching a DVD on a laptop computer or listening to an MP3 audio file on a handheld MP3 player. In these cases, the data comprise a regular file that is stored on the local file system and played back (that is, viewed or listened to) from that system.

 Multimedia files may also be stored on a remote server and delivered to a client across a network using a technique known as streaming. A client may be a personal computer or a smaller device such as a handheld computer, PDA, or cellular telephone. Data from live continuous media—-such as live webcams —are also streamed from a server to clients. There are two types of streaming techniques: progressive download and real-time streaming. With a progressive download, a media file containing audio or video is downloaded and stored on the clients local file system.

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As the file is being downloaded, the client is able to play back the media file without having to wait for the file to be downloaded in its entirety. Because the media file is ultimately stored on the client system, progressive download is most useful for relatively small media files, such as short video clips.

 Real-time streaming differs from progressive download in that the media file is streamed to the client but is only played—and not stored—by the client. Because the media file is not stored on the client system, real-time streaming is preferable to progressive download for media files that might be too large 20.1 What Is Multimedia? 717 for storage on the system, such as long videos and Internet radio and TV broadcasts. Both progressive download and real-time streaming may allow a client to move to different points in the stream, just as you can use the fast-forward and rewind operations on a VCR controller to move to different points in the VCR tape.

 For example, we could move to the end of a 5-minute streaming video or replay a certain section of a movie clip. The ability to move around within the media stream is known as random access. Two types of real-time streaming are available: live streaming and ondemand streaming. Live streaming is used to deliver an event, such as a concert or a lecture, live as it is actually occurring. A radio program broadcast over the Internet is an example of a live real-time stream.

 In fact, one of the authors of this text regularly listens to a favorite radio station from Vermont while at his home in Utah as it is streamed live over the Internet. Live real-time streaming is also used for applications such as live webcams and video conferencing. Due to its live delivery, this type of real-time streaming does not allow clients random access to different points in the media stream. In addition, live delivery means that a client who wishes to view (or listen to) a particular live stream already in progress will "join" the session "late," thereby missing earlier portions of the stream.

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 The same thing happens with a live TV or radio broadcast. If you start watching the 7:00 P.M. news at 7:10 P.M., you will have missed the first 10 minutes of the broadcast. On-demand streaming is used to deliver media streams such as full-length movies and archived lectures. The difference between live and on-demand streaming is that on-demand streaming does not take place as the event is occurring. Thus, for example, whereas watching a live stream is like watching a news broadcast on TV, watching an on-demand stream is like viewing a movie on a DVD player at some convenient time—there is no notion of arriving late. Depending on the type of on-demand streaming, a client may or may not have random access to the stream. Examples of well-known streaming media products include RealPlayer, Apple QuickTime, and Windows Media Player. These products include both servers that stream the media and client media players that are used for playback.

Characteristics of Multimedia Systems

The demands of multimedia systems are unlike the demands of traditional applications. In general, multimedia systems may have the following characteristics: 1. Multimedia files can be quite large. For example, a 100-minute MPEG-1 video file requires approximately 1.125 GB of storage space; 100 minutes of high-definition television (HDTV) requires approximately 15 GB of storage. A server storing hundreds or thousands of digital video files may thus require several terabytes of storage. 2. Continuous media may require very high data rates.

Consider digital video, in which a frame of color video is displayed at a resolution of 800 x 600. If we use 24 bits to represent the color of each pixel (which allows us to have 224 , or roughly 16 million, different colors), a single 718 Chapter 20 Multimedia Systems frame requires 800 x 600 x 24 = 11. 520, 000 bits of data. If the frames are displayed at a rate of 30 frames per second, a bandwidth in excess of 345 Mbps is required. 3. Multimedia applications are sensitive to timing delays during playback. Once a continuous-media file is delivered to a client, delivery must continue at a certain rate during playback of the media; otherwise, the listener or viewer will be subjected to pauses during the presentation.

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Operating-System Issues

For a computer system to deliver continuous-media data, it must guarantee the specific rate and timing requirements—also known as quality of service, or QoS, requirements—of continuous media. Providing these QoS guarantees affects several components in a computer system and influences such operating-system issues as CPU scheduling, disk scheduling, and network management. Specific examples include the following:

 1. Compression and decoding may require significant CPU processing.

 2. Multimedia tasks must be scheduled with certain priorities to ensure meeting the deadline requirements of continuous media.

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 3. Similarly, file systems must be efficient to meet the rate requirements of continuous media.

 4. Network protocols must support bandwidth requirements while minimizing delay and jitter. In later sections, we explore these and several other issues related to QoS. First, however, we provide an overview of various techniques for compressing multimedia data. As suggested above, compression makes significant demands on the CPU.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ans: Requirements of Multimedia Kernels As a result of the characteristics described in Section 20.1.2, multimedia applications often require levels of service from the operating system that differ from the requirements of traditional applications, such as word processors, compilers, and spreadsheets. Timing and rate requirements are perhaps the issues of foremost concern, as the playback of audio and video data demands that the data be delivered within a certain deadline and at a continuous, fixed rate. Traditional applications typically do not have such time and rate constraints. view more..
Ans: Compression Because of the size and rate requirements of multimedia systems, multimedia files are often compressed from their original form to a much smaller form. Once a file has been compressed, it takes up less space for storage and can be delivered to a client more quickly. Compression is particularly important when the content is being streamed across a network connection. In discussing file compression, we often refer to the compression ratio, which is the ratio of the original file size to the size of the compressed file. For example, an 800-KB file that is compressed to 100 KB has a compression ratio of 8:1. view more..
Ans: Networking Windows XP supports both peer-to-peer and client-server networking. It also has facilities for network management. The networking components in Windows XP provide data transport, interprocess communication, file sharing across a network, and the ability to send print jobs to remote printers. view more..
Ans: What Is Multimedia? The term multimedia describes a wide range of applications that are in popular use today. These include audio and video files such as MP3 audio files, DVD movies, and short video clips of movie previews or news stories downloaded over the Internet. Multimedia applications also include live webcasts (broadcast over the World Wide Web) of speeches or sporting events and even live webcams that allow a viewer in Manhattan to observe customers at a cafe in Paris. Multimedia applications need not be either audio or video; rather, a multimedia application often includes a combination of both. For example, a movie may consist of separate audio and video tracks. Nor must multimedia applications be delivered only to desktop personal computers. Increasingly, they are being directed toward smaller devices, including personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cellular telephones. view more..
Ans: CPU Scheduling We distinguished between soft real-time systems and hard real-time systems. Soft real-time systems simply give scheduling priority to critical processes. A soft real-time system ensures that a critical process will be given preference over a noncritical process but provides no guarantee as to when the critical process will be scheduled. A typical requirement of continuous media, however, is that data must be delivered to a client by a certain deadline; data that do not arrive by the deadline are unusable. Multimedia systems thus require hard real-time scheduling to ensure that a critical task will be serviced within a guaranteed period of time. Another scheduling issue concerns whether a scheduling algorithm uses static priority or dynamic priority—a distinction view more..
Ans: Disk Scheduling we focused primarily on systems that handle conventional data; for these systems, the scheduling goals are fairness and throughput. As a result, most traditional disk schedulers employ some form of the SCAN (Section 12.4.3) or C-SCAN (Section 12.4.4) algorithm. Continuous-media files, however, have two constraints that conventional data files generally do not have: timing deadlines and rate requirements. These two constraints must be satisfied to preserve QoS guarantees, and diskscheduling algorithms must be optimized for the constraints. Unfortunately, these two constraints are often in conflict. Continuous-media files typically require very high disk-bandwidth rates to satisfy their data-rate requirements. Because disks have relatively low transfer rates and relatively high latency rates, disk schedulers must reduce the latency times to ensure high bandwidth. view more..
Ans: Network Management Perhaps the foremost QoS issue with multimedia systems concerns preserving rate requirements. For example, if a client wishes to view a video compressed with MPEG-1, the quality of service greatly depends on the system's ability to deliver the frames at the required rate.. Our coverage of issues such as CPU- and disk-scheduling algorithms has focused on how these techniques can be used to better meet the quality-ofservice requirements of multimedia applications. However, if the media file is being streamed over a network—perhaps the Internet—issues relating to how the network delivers the multimedia data can also significantly affect how QoS demands are met. In this section, we explore several network issues related to the unique demands of continuous media. Before we proceed, it is worth noting that computer networks in general —and the Internet in particular— currently do not provide network protocols that can ensure the delivery of data with timing requirements. (There are some proprietary protocols—notably those running on Cisco routers—that do allow certain network traffic to be prioritized to meet QoS requirements. view more..
Ans: CTSS The Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) (Corbato et al. [1962]) was designed at MIT as an experimental time-sharing system. It was implemented on an IBM 7090 and eventually supported up to 32 interactive users. The users were provided with a set of interactive commands that allowed them to manipulate files and to compile and run programs through a terminal. view more..
Ans: MULTICS The MULTICS operating system (Corbato and Vyssotsky [1965], Organick [1972]) was designed at MIT as a natural extension of CTSS. CTSS and other early time-sharing systems were so successful that they created an immediate desire to proceed quickly to bigger and better systems. As larger computers became available, the designers of CTSS set out to create a time-sharing utility. Computing service would be provided like electrical power. Large computer systems would be connected by telephone wires to terminals in offices and homes throughout a city. The operating system would be a time-shared system running continuously with a vast file system of shared programs and data. view more..
Ans: IBM OS/360 The longest line of operating-system development is undoubtedly that of IBM computers. The early IBM computers, such as the IBM 7090 and the IBM 7094, are prime examples of the development of common I/O subroutines, followed by development of a resident monitor, privileged instructions, memory protection, and simple batch processing. These systems were developed separately, often by each site independently. As a result, IBM was faced with many different computers, with different languages and different system software. view more..
Ans: Mach The Mach operating system traces its ancestry to the Accent operating system developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) (Rashid and Robertson [1981]). Mach's communication system and philosophy are derived from Accent, but many other significant portions of the system (for example, the virtual memory system, task and thread management) were developed from scratch (Rashid [1986], Tevanian et al. [1989], and Accetta et al. [1986]). The Mach scheduler was described in detail by Tevanian et al. [1987a] and Black [1990]. view more..
Ans: History In the mid-1980s, Microsoft and IBM cooperated to develop the OS/2 operating system, which was written in assembly language for single-processor Intel 80286 systems. In 1988, Microsoft decided to make a fresh start and to develop a "new technology" (or NT) portable operating system that supported both the OS/2 and POSIX application-programming interfaces (APIs). view more..
Ans: Access Matrix Our model of protection can be viewed abstractly as a matrix, called an access matrix. The rows of the access matrix represent domains, and the columns represent objects. Each entry in the matrix consists of a set of access rights. Because the column defines objects explicitly, we can omit the object name from the access right. The entry access(/,/) defines the set of operations that a process executing in domain Dj can invoke on object . view more..
Ans: Election Algorithms Many distributed algorithms employ a coordinator process that performs functions needed by the other processes in the system. These functions include enforcing mutual exclusion, maintaining a global wait-for graph for deadlock detection, replacing a lost token, and controlling an input or output device in the system. If the coordinator process fails due to the failure of the site at which it resides, the system can continue only by restarting a new copy of the coordinator on some other site. The algorithms that determine where a new copy of the coordinator should be restarted are called election algorithms. Election algorithms assume that a unique priority number is associated with each active process in the system. For ease of notation, we assume that the priority number of process P, is /. To simplify our discussion, we assume a one-to-one correspondence between processes and sites and thus refer to both as processes. view more..
Ans: Reaching Agreement For a system to be reliable, we need a mechanism that allows a set of processes to agree on a common value. Such an agreement may not take place, for several reasons. First, the communication medium may be faulty, resulting in lost or garbled messages. Second, the processes themselves may be faulty, resulting in unpredictable process behavior. The best we can hope for in this case is that processes fail in a clean way, stopping their execution without deviating from their normal execution pattern. In the worst case, processes may send garbled or incorrect messages to other processes or even collaborate with other failed processes in an attempt to destroy the integrity of the system. view more..
Ans: Atomicity We introduced the concept of an atomic transaction, which is a program unit that must be executed atomically. That is, either all the operations associated with it are executed to completion, or none are performed. When we are dealing with a distributed system, ensuring the atomicity of a transaction becomes much more complicated than in a centralized system. This difficulty occurs because several sites may be participating in the execution of a single transaction. The failure of one of these sites, or the failure of a communication link connecting the sites, may result in erroneous computations. Ensuring that the execution of transactions in the distributed system preserves atomicity is the function of the transaction coordinator. Each site has its own local transaction coordinator, which is responsible for coordinating the execution of all the transactions initiated at that site. view more..
Ans: Concurrency Control We move next to the issue of concurrency control. In this section, we show how certain of the concurrency-control schemes discussed in Chapter 6 can be modified for use in a distributed environment. The transaction manager of a distributed database system manages the execution of those transactions (or subtransactions) that access data stored in a local site. Each such transaction may be either a local transaction (that is, a transaction that executes only at that site) or part of a global transaction (that is, a transaction that executes at several sites). Each transaction manager is responsible for maintaining a log for recovery purposes and for participating in an appropriate concurrency-control scheme to coordinate the conciirrent execution of the transactions executing at that site. As we shall see, the concurrency schemes described in Chapter 6 need to be modified to accommodate the distribution of transactions. view more..
Ans: Features of Real-Time Kernels In this section, we discuss the features necessary for designing an operating system that supports real-time processes. Before we begin, though, let's consider what is typically not needed for a real-time system. We begin by examining several features provided in many of the operating systems discussed so far in this text, including Linux, UNIX, and the various versions of Windows. These systems typically provide support for the following: • A variety of peripheral devices such as graphical displays, CD, and DVD drives • Protection and security mechanisms • Multiple users Supporting these features often results in a sophisticated—and large—kernel. For example, Windows XP has over forty million lines of source code. view more..

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