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Zoomify September 22, 2009

Posted by gordonwatts in computers, DeepTalk.

A bit of a technical post.

One of the biggest criticisms I get about DeepTalk (besides the fact that you can’t navigate using the arrow keys) is that it requires Microsoft’s Silverlight. There are two other options I’m aware of. First, to understand the problem that I’m working with, check out this simple conference that I’ve deeptalk’ed. Use the mouse wheel to zoom in/out and see how the display works.

For this discussion it is important to keep in mind the steps that a conference goes through on its way to becoming a DeepTalk:

  1. All the slides are sucked down from the internet, turned into jpgs, and then programmatically laid out.
  2. A rendering program reads the layout and all the images in and slices and dices the images into layers. These slices are stored on a web server with a decent internet connection.
  3. Code is downloaded to the browser that reads the layout and the slices and renders them just like any mapping website with zoom capabilities does.

First, raw javascript. This is an ideal solution. Every browser already has it installed and most modern browsers are pretty efficient. Indeed, all the mapping programs I use like live maps and google maps use this solution for terabytes of data. So why not me!? Well, the first requirement is I’m not willing to re-write the code, so I have to find it on the web. Actually, I did find one (are there others?) – from Microsoft and it can replace the Silverlight code. Ok! They I’m all set, right? Well, not. The code isn’t as capable as I need. For example, it can render only a single image at a time. For DeepTalk a single image is roughly equivalent to a single talk. I could render the whole conference as a single "image” however I do not have the memory on any machine I own to do that.

Second is a commercial Adobe Flash library called Zoomify. Check out their web page – very cool. It does exactly what I need. It requires Flash, which pretty much everyone has (even if they have to update – please do it – old software == hacker target!!!). Further, unlike Silverlight, Flash, works on Linux so – so this would be a big plus. Unfortunately, there are two problems. First, in order to automate the rendering you need the Enterprise version ($800 US – more than was spent on the server that is currently serving the DeepTalk content). Second, the project is well integrated with Adobe Flash – which is all great and fine for people who are used to Flash. But for the rest of us we need to learn a new programming language.

And finally there was the Silverlight version. This had the zooming built-in and the tools, including a rendering library I could link against, were all free. Further, the programming model for Silverlight is any .NET language – which includes C#, which looks a lot like C/C++ – something I can immediately start writing code in without having to buy a reference book.

So. That is why I’m using Silverlight for this project, and why, for the moment at least, it still remains the best choice for me for this project.

Now, as for the most popular criticism I’ve gotten about the project. I now have working on my desktop a version that allows you to use arrow keys to move around. Sadly, it still crashes due to bugs on about 1 in 3 conferences – which means it isn’t good enough to go on the web backend. You all will have to wait, sadly, for a little while longer: classes start next week, so a lot of my summer spare time is going to disappear!! Happy end of the summer!


1. Lisa Smith - September 23, 2009

I could be way off base here, but have you looked into Adobe Flex, or, would it work for what you are trying to achieve?

2. Magic Toolbox - September 23, 2009

Hi Lisa,

I take it you have not found Magic Touch yet.

It renders images automatically, you can move with arrow keys and loads images faster and smoother and it is easier to setup.It uses Flash.

You reference images on your own website, then we fetch them and serve the zooms using the Magic Touch platform.

Magic Toolbox

3. gordonwatts - September 23, 2009

David – thanks for the note – I’d not heard of it. I’ll check it out. Lisa – yes – flex is much more close to what I normally would want to use – at least, I think. But, like Magic Box, I need to look at more carefully.

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