What Characters Are Not Allowed in File Names?

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What Characters Are Not Allowed in File Names?

Xah Lee, 2009-06-03, 2010-07-10

This page tells you which characters are not allowed in Windows or Mac.

Mac OS X uses HFS+ file system, Windows use NTFS. Both encode file names using UTF-16, although the encoding scheme is a bit different. Both also allow a max of 255 unicode chars in file name.

Chars Not Allowed On Windows

Windows's NTFS does not allow the following chars:

 / \ : *  ? " < > |

Chars Not Allowed On Mac

In Mac OS X, you cannot use the colon “:”.

In practice, this means, when you have files with a lot of these chars, you'll have problems transfer it from Mac to Windows. Depending on what tool you use to transfer the file, the tool may stop dead, or change the file name in different ways.

You may think that these weird chars doesn't happen in practice. Actually, they do.

For examples, Adium chat client, save its chat log's filenames like this:

233598025 (2004|10|29).html

Note that the “|” char is not allowed on Windows.

The chars ? / " * may also happen often, such as arbitrary webpages you saved from online over the years, some math files names may use the asterisk “*” and the slash “/” as part of the math formula in the file name, your mom may saved files with question mark and slashes in them, etc.

You may think a few file name screwup is ok. True. However, some critical places matters. For example, saved html files have local links that relies on correct file names. And, for programing systems to work (database, language libraries, code repositories, etc), correct file names is critical.

Unprintable Chars, Chinese, Unicode Chars...

For some other practical issues, see: Mac and Windows File Conversion.

For Perl Scripts that lets you know which files have bad names, see: Perl Scripts For Mac/Windows File Moving.

Safari “.webloc” File

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Safari “.webloc” File

Xah Lee, 2010-07-09

Discovered that Mac still uses resource fork in a major way.

Open Safari, go to a website, then drag the url to your desktop. You'll get a file named like this: “site title.webloc”.

  • Double click the file will open the website in a default browser.
  • Dragging the file to Safari or Firefox will also open the url.

The “webloc” file is a binary file. The file also contain resource fork.

Deleting the Resource Fork

If you delete the resource fork, the file won't work properly.

  • In OS X 10.6.x, double clicking the file still works, but dragging the file to Safari or Firefox won't open the page.
  • In OS X 10.4, double click does not work anymore, nor dragging the file to a browser.

For how to delete resource fork and other tips, see: Mac OS X Resource Fork and Command Line Tips.


Whatever You Like (Gossip Girl)

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Whatever You Like (Gossip Girl)

“Whatever You Like”.

「• Patrone = Patrón is a luxury brand of tequila produced in Mexico and sold in hand-blown, individually numbered bottles. Patrone
Stacks on deck
Patrone on ice
And we can pop bottles all night
Baby you can have whatever you like
I said you can have whatever you like
Late night sex so wet so tight
I'll gas up the jet for you tonight
Baby you can go where ever you like
Yeah you can go where ever you like
「• Bentley = A brand name car. Bentley
Anytime you want to pick up the telephone
You know it ain't nothin to drop a couple stacks on you
Wanted you could get it my dear
Five million dollar home, drive Bentley I swear
Yeah I want your body, I need your body
Long as you got me you won't need nobody
You want it I got it, go get it I buy it
Tell them other broke brothers be quiet
「• Shawty = ?」
Shawty you the hottest, love the way you drop it
Brain so good coulda swore you went to college
Hundred K deposits, vacations in the tropics
Cause everybody know it ain't trickin if ya got it
Ya need to never ever gotta go to yo wallet
as Long as I got rubberband banks in my pocket
Five six, rides with rims and a body kit
You ain't gotta downgrade you can get what I get

My chick can have whatever she want
And go in every store and buy anything she wants
I know you ain't never had a man like that
To buy you anything your heart desire like that
I want you body, I need your body
Long as you got me you won't need nobody
You want it I got it, go get it I buy it
Tell them other broke brothers be quiet
I'm talkin' big boy rides
and big boy ice
Let me put this big boy in your life
Whatever you like (Whatever you like)
Whatever you like (Whatever you like)
You can have whatever you like (Whatever you like)
Whatever you like (Whatever you like)
You can have whaver you like (Whatever you like)
Whatever you like

“Whatever You Like” is a song originally by rapper T.I. (Clifford Joseph Harris Jr; b1980), but it was made popular in a teen drama TV show called Gossip Girl, sung in a sultry way by Anya Marina.

Here's a clip of the show with this song.

The original song by T I. whatever you like by T.I.


Intro to Video Streaming and Video Audio Codecs

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Intro to Video Streaming and Video Audio Codecs

Xah Lee, 2010-07-04

This page provides a survey of the current video/audio codecs, file formats, streaming tech, for streaming multimedia.

I need to setup embedded videos on my site as well sites i work for. So, today, i started a comprehensive study on video streaming. Here's some learning notes. (The last time i worked with video is in 1995-1997. At the time video streaming is still pretty much science fiction)

The technology involved for playing a video from a browser from a site, such as youtube, involves several separate technologies. Here's a summary of the basics:

  • video codec. The video file must be encoded into a standard format (i.e. sequence of bits). Usually this means using a praticular compression scheme. The encoding and decoding algorithm and format is called a codec. (examples are: H.264, MPEG-4, WMV, QuickTime, DVD-Video, ...)
  • audio codec. The audio part for the video must also be encoded, usually treated and stored separately from the video. (examples: MP3, AAC, WAV, AC-3 (Dolby Digital), FLAC, ...)
  • multimedia container format. The encoded video/audio file(s) is saved in in a container file format. That is, a file format that contains video, audio, and other items such as subtitle. (examples: QuickTime's “.mov”, Microsoft's “.avi”, “wmv”, Adobe Flash, DVD, mpeg, ...)
  • streaming protocol. The file must be served in a special network protocol, e.g. by a streaming server. Because, it's not a normal file. You want users be able to watch the movie as it start to download, and usually play/pause the movie anytime.
  • application support. The web browsers must have special code/plugin for movie files so that for example a movie file will display screenshot even when not playing, and show the play/pause buttons, view in full screen, etc. (popularly done with Adobe Flash plugin. Or Java, or HTML5's video tag.)

Video Codecs


H.264 (aka MPEG-4 part 10, AVC (Advanced Video Coding)). It is currently the most popular video codec. It is used in Blu-ray Disc, YouTube, iTunes, and many nation's broadcasting and other video related applications. See: List of video services using H.264.

First version of H.264 was completed in 2003-05.


A competitor to H.264 is the VP8. Currently owned by Google and released as open source. VP8 is endorsed by FSF.

The associated container format with VP8 is WebM. WebM format is also free, and is based on the free Matroska container format.

WebM file format, is competing to be the default video format for HTML5 video.

WMV (VC-1)

Windows Media Video (WMV), refers to several video codecs from Microsoft, but mostly the latest WMV 9 (aka VC-1). WMV 9 is released to standard body and standardized as VC-1, in 2006. It is widely supported, and is used in Blue-ray Discs, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3. It's a competitor to H.264.

Besides WMV 9, there's 2 other codecs: WMV Screen and VMV Image. The screen one is optimized for screenshots, e.g. tutorials on using a application. The Image one is optimized for slideshows.


Another widely used one is from Apple's QuickTime. (see below)


Sorenson codec

Sorenson codec refers to 2 proprietary codecs. Quote:

  • Sorenson Video (aka Sorenson Video Codec, Sorenson Video Quantizer, SVQ). Used by Apple's Quick Time, but is phased out in mid 2000s.
  • Sorenson Spark (aka Sorenson H.263). Used by Adobe Flash, but is phased out in mid 2000s.


Theora is a free lossy video compression codec. The technical quality of Theora is not as good as H.264 or VP8. It is based on VP2 format of 2002, then a proprietary format by On2 released as free. It is not widely supported. Theora is usually stored in the Ogg container format, together with the free lossy audio codec Vorbis.

DivX and xvid

DivX started as a open source project in ~2000 but became proprietary, and Xvid is forked from it. Both are usually used as the format from ripped DVDs. Both do not particularly define new codecs or container formats, rather, they are based on some subset of MPEG-4 standard and other container formats. It began as a reverse-engineer of Microsoft's MPEG-4 version 3 codec.


There are tens of audio codecs, some are lossy, some lossless. Here's some popular lossy ones:

  • MP3, from the standard MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. Most popular. Started the digital music era in late 1990s.
  • AAC, lossy. Used in iTunes, iPod, iPhone, etc. Much better than mp3.
  • Windows Media Audio (WMA). Microsoft's answer. WMA is part of Microsoft's Windows Media framework. WMA can refer to 4 codecs: WMA, WMA Pro, WMA Lossless, WMA Voice.
  • Vorbis. Open source. Typically used together with the Ogg container format. Superior to mp3, and probably inferior to AAC.

There are a number of free and lossless codecs for audio. Most popular is probably FLAC. Lossless audio codec typically compress a music file by 50%.

For audio file formats (not compresed), the most popular ones are: Microsoft's WAV and Apple's AIFF. These are pretty old, starting in early 1990s. Note that both formats actually support compression, but audio stored in these formats are almost always not compressed.

Note that 300 kilo bits per sec gets you CD quality audio (using a lossy compression). While a DVD quality video is about 5 mega bits/s. That's about 17 times more.

The need for audio codec research has past. Computer storage and processing power today can deal with audio no problem, and use of lossless codec for audio is increasingly popular. So, for issues of movie streaming, the video part is the primary concern.

Multimedia Container Formats

QuickTime (“.mov” or “.qt”) is Apple's container format. Widely used.

AVI is Microsoft's tech, fairly old, started in early 1990s. Widely used.

Advanced Systems Format (ASF) is Microsoft's container format, part of the Microsoft's Windows Media framework.

Matroska (“.mkv”) is free container format. Recently adopted by Google and re-branded as WebM, to be used together with VP8.

Ogg is another free multimedia container format. Its tech quality is often in dispute. It is used by Wikipedia.


Quicktime (QT) is Apple's multimedia framework. It supports audio and video, as well as interactive panoramic images, and including such things as midi. It supports many codecs for audio and video.

The file format of QT is “.mov”. Quote:

The QuickTime (.mov) file format functions as a multimedia container file that contains one or more tracks, each of which stores a particular type of data: audio, video, effects, or text (e.g. for subtitles). Each track either contains a digitally-encoded media stream (using a specific codec) or a data reference to the media stream located in another file. Tracks are maintained in a hierarchical data structure consisting of objects called atoms. An atom can be a parent to other atoms or it can contain media or edit data, but it cannot do both.[11]

QT 7.x is around from 2005 (OS X 10.4) to version 7.6 in 2009 (OS X 10.6). After that, the next version is QT X (10), which is supposedly completely rewritten for 64-bit computing and somewhat incompatable with past QT versions. Though, QT X relies on QT 7 for dealing with older codecs and other files such as MIDI.

Some more Wikipedia quotes:

QuickTime X is a combination of two technologies: QuickTime Kit Framework (QTKit) and QuickTime X Player.

... many Apple products (such as iTunes and Apple TV) still use the older QuickTime 7 engine.

QT Streaming

QuickTime Streaming Server (QTSS) is a server or service daemon built into Apple's Mac OS X Server that delivers video and audio on request to users over a computer network, including the Internet. Its primary GUI configuration tool is QTSS Publisher and its web-based administration port is 1220.

QuickTime Broadcaster is an audio and video RTP/RTSP server by Apple Computer for Mac OS X. It is separate from Apple's QuickTime Streaming Server, as it is not a service daemon but a desktop application.


FFmpeg and VLC

FFmpeg is a open source project on video and audio tech. Three notable component from FFmpeg are:

  • libavcodec, an audio/video codec library used by several other projects.
  • libavformat, an audio/video container mux and demux library
  • ffmpeg command line program for transcoding multimedia files.

One interesting thing about the project is that it has a command line tool “ffmpeg” that lets you convert one video format to another.

VLC is a movie player. Originally designed as a server/client for streaming multimedia, but now is just a single application the VLC. Was at one point used by Google at Google Video until they switched to Flash. VLC can also be used on the command line.

Streaming Technologies

The following are the most commonly used protocols for Streaming media. Each with a particular purpose:

  • RTSP. e.g. send the play, pause, request from client.
  • RTP. e.g. the streaming media payload.
  • RTCP. e.g. monitor transmission statistics and QoS information.

The above combo are usually referred to as “RTSP/RTP”.

Adobe Flash uses its own Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP).

Microsoft was using Microsoft Media Server (MMS), but is preprecated in 2003. Now Microsoft uses RTSP.

HTTP Live Streaming is Apple's tech, new in 2009 with QuickTime X. It is different than others because it is HTTP based. Proposed as a internet standard.

Some detail: apple.com.

Here's a list of video hosting services: Comparison of video services. Contains some detail of what protocol they use.

See also: Comparison of streaming media systems.

Some References

Besides Wikipedia, here's some other articles i used for this article.

Comparison of codecs:

  • First Look: H.264 and VP8 Compared (2010-05-20), by Jan Ozer. Source
  • The first in-depth technical analysis of VP8 (2010-05-19), by Jason Garrett-Glaser. (a x264 and ffmpeg developer; college student) Source
  • Video on the Web (2009-03), by Till Halbach. (comparison of Dirac, Dirac Pro, Theora, H.264) Source
  • “[whatwg] H.264-in-<video> vs plugin APIs” (2009-06-13), by Chris DiBona (google employee) whatwg.org

Comparison of container formats:

  • Ogg objections (2010-03-03), by Mans Rullgard (ffmpeg developer). Source
  • In Defense of Ogg's Good Name (2010-04-27), by Christopher Montgomery (ogg designer). Source

Audio codecs comparison:


  • Apple proposes HTTP streaming feature as IETF standard (2009-07-09), by Chris Foresman. arstechnica.com


emacs camelCase movement

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Want the cursor movement to stop between camelCaseLetters? Use “global-subword-mode” or “subword-mode”. (Thanks to Deniz Dogan for the tip.)

This tip is added to: Emacs Advanced Tips.