HTML5 audio / video and mp3 / H.264 is the future of new media but does not replace Flash

HTML5 is the future of new media (also known as downloadable media and podcasting). Anyone who has used an iPad or Google Chrome and watched a video knowing it was through an HTML5 video element knows what I’m talking about. Playback is instant, smoother and is much more responsive than via Flash. It is also very easy to develop in your web pages, removing a level of complexity that was previously much more involved and relied upon Adobe Flash.

The remainder of this post explains everything in detail, why use one format over another, what Flash is still good for, and where the media can end up.

Note: An update to this original post may be found at the bottom of this page.

What is HTML5 and what’s the deal with audio/video?

HTML5 is a new version of HTML (markup that creates web pages that you see in your web browser) that adds a number of new elements (special tags that do things in your HTML, e.g. <p> tag indicates a paragraph of text). HTML5 adds two new elements called audio and video. These new elements allow for web developers like myself to easily add an audio/video player in a web page. Without the HTML5 audio/video element, a web developer needs to implement more complicated HTML utilizing the “embed” tags to include a Flash developed player in the web page. In this case, the Flash player is required to be installed on the end user’s computer in order for the audio/video to playback.

What audio and video formats should I use?

Audio: mpeg3/MP3 (.mp3 file extension) is, for the most part, the most ideal audio format. As of current, all but Firefox have/will have support for mpeg3 audio. AAC audio (.m4a) may also work, but if you are looking for a format that will work in absolutely every situation, mp3 is the best bet.

Video: H.264 (.mp4 or .m4v file extensions) is the most ideal video format. As of current, all but Firefox have/will have support for H.264 video.

Why is MP3 and H.264 recommended for audio/video?

MP3 is the audio format of choice because it is the most widely playable audio format. Nearly every media player application, portable media player, and automobile/car stereo can play mp3 files.

The MP3 format became widespread in 1997 when the Windows application WinAmp was released. Created by Justin Frankel, WinAmp made it easy for music enthusiasts to exchange and listen to audio on computers. The small size of MP3 files enabled widespread distribution initially via file sharing applications such as Napster and on wide-area networks such as university dormitory networks. It was such a popular format that Apple included support for MP3 in it’s first release of the iPod in 2001.

H.264 is the video format of choice because it is the most widely playable video format. Though not as widespread as the mp3 format, H.264’s common denominator is that it can be played on the most popular portable media players, MAC OSX, Microsoft Windows, Internet connected TV’s and smart phones. You can thank Apple for making H.264 the standard in its portable hardware (iPod/iPhone), which has dominance in the portable media player market.

What can Flash do that HTML5 audio/video cannot?

Live streaming! Many sites such as Qik and UStream.tv provide live online content, their use of Flash will not change due to HTML5 audio/video.

The difference between “downloadable media” and “live streaming” is the “live” part. Downloadable media is not live, which has an advantage to providing the consumer the ability to save the media and play it back at their convenience. Live streaming on the other hand, is real time audio/video playback that cannot be paused/played without the help of a device to record the content. For this reason, Flash may not be as important but still has the purpose of providing a means to stream live content.

As far as downloadable media is concerned, Flash is perceived as dead, but Flash will play a key role on portable devices such as Android phones in providing live streaming content over the coming years.

The Flash Video Secret

Though most know that Flash is used to play audio mp3 files, many web developers are not aware that Flash can play H.264 video. Since Flash version 9 released in the Winter of 2007, Flash has the ability to play .mp4/.m4v video. Before Flash 9, Flash could only play Flash video (.flv file extension) files.

As far as video is concerned, this solidifies the H.264 format as the most widely playable video format. It allows a web developer to alternatively allow its web visitors the ability to play H.264 video in the event the browser itself cannot play the HTML5 video format.

Google Chrome / Apple Safari

Both Google Chrome and Apple Safari web browsers support mpeg3 (.mp3) and H.264 (.mp4/.m4v). Safari has one glitch though, it will auto download the media files linked in the audio/video tags, which does bring up a challenge for web developers to deal with.

Internet Explorer

Currently, Internet Explorer (IE) does not support HTML5, but the signs back in Fall of 2009 were obvious that they were planning on supporting it in the future. With the recent blog post announcement for support for H.264 video in IE9 and past blog post announcing MP3/AAC audio support, it looks like the next version of IE is on its way of being HTML5 audio/video friendly. There is only one problem though, IE9 will only be available for Windows 7 and Vista, Windows XP will not have IE9 as an upgrade option.

Firefox and the OGG format

Firefox supports a niche audio and video format called OGG. The reason for this is simple, it doesn’t cost Firefox anything to support OGG formats. Since Firefox is essentially a free foundation and not a real company selling products/services, it does not have the money or resources to purchase licenses to include support for the H.264 video format. From the last post I read about the subject, Firefox would have to pay a 5 million dollar license fee in order to use the H.264 video format and it would still be limited to which versions of Firefox could include H.264 (source based compiled versions distributed through different versions of Linux would not be included in the license for example). It is a bit more complicated than this, but you get the idea why Firefox doesn’t support H.264. Read why Firefox does not support H.264.

The OGG format is a combination of a number of formats, two of which are supported by Firefox. The OGG audio format, also referred to as Vorbis (.ogg or .oga file extensions) is a truly open source audio format. The OGG video format, also referred to as Theora (.ogg or .ogv file extensions), is a free video format based upon a patent by On2 Technologies. As of current the patent behind Vorbis is not enforced, allowing the format to be used with out paying any royalty or fees. Example of a potential Theora problem.

I should point out that both Google Chrome and Apple Safari support the two OGG audio and video formats mentioned above. Internet Explorer, Apple iPod/iPhone/iPad/TV and most other portable media / TV hardware most likely do not support OGG, limiting this format’s reach in the market.

Firefox, H.264 and MP3

Firefox will most likely not support H.264 without help from Apple/Microsoft/Google. I predict by years end one of those companies will sponsor Firefox’s H.264 five million dollar license to include H.264 support in Firefox. There could also be a plugin for Firefox that provides H.264 functionality. More interestingly, Apple/Microsoft and Google hold patents related to H.264 so it is possible they could come together and influence MPEG LA (folks who enforce the H.264 licenses) to give the Mozilla Foundation (Firefox) a special license for using H.264. Who knows what will really happen, but it is definitely to Google’s best interest with it’s YouTube property that all web browsers can play back its video content.

I have no idea why Firefox does not support mp3. Mp3 and Ogg video are identical as far as having patents that are not enforced (no one is asking for royalties for using these formats). As far as audio is concerned, I think it is hypocritical of Firefox not to support mpeg3 but support OGG Theora.

Apple iPod/iPhone/iPad/TV

All of Apple’s products/hardware support both MP3 audio and H.264 video formats.

Android/Blackberry/Palm WebOS

The other remaining popular smart phone platforms support both mp3 audio and H.264 video formats.

Other Internet Connected TV Hardware

Other Internet Connected TV hardware (also referred to as OTT TV/Over The Top TV, Set-Top boxes, and IPTV) such as the Roku add the icing to the cake as far as picking audio/video standards are concerned. All of the Internet Connected hardware devices that are planned or that are already available support MP3 audio (.mp3) and H.264 video (.mp4/.m4v).

Conclusion

I am sure this post will upset some folks (Flash developers, Linux/open source enthusiasts, etc…) and I apologize. I love Linux and open source, but I’m sorry to say OGG is not going to become the standard for media. As for Flash, there is still a lot of cool stuff you can do with Flash including live streams, but Flash as far as downloadable media (new media/podcasting) is concerned, Flash is dead.

Update on March 25, 2011:

It appears my prediction may have been wrong about H.264 being sponsored by another vendor for inclusion into Firefox. Over the past year, Google has acquired On2 Technologies (OGG Video) and has launched a new project called WebM which is completely royalty free. This is a game changer both for the WebM video format, but also for OGG Vorbis audio. It also means that Flash is not dead in the short term for downloadable media and can be used to fill in the gap for when a specific audio/video format is not supported in a given browser.

WebM the Game Changer

WebM is significant for a number of reasons. First, it’s important to note one of On2’s past clients, Adobe. One of On2’s older video codex is used for Flash video (.flv). With the launch of WebM video format (.webm), Adobe has promised to include WebM support in future versions of Flash, and seeing it’s past relationship with On2, I don’t see how there would be a problem. In addition, Opera, Firefox and Google Chrome web browsers also support WebM playback. Ogg Theora is essentially replaced by WebM, though the OGG Vorbis audio format that is packaged with OGG Theora and WebM may be the other winner in this HTML5 media tug-of-war.

Also important to note that anything Google related will include WebM support, this means future versions of Android, YouTube and the new Google TV video platform.

Google removes H.264 from Chrome, adds WebM and Launches Google TV

Since the Google acquisition of On2, Google has decided to no longer include H.264 (.mp4) support with the Google Chrome browser, opting instead to include WebM as the supported HTML5 video format. Four significant changes have occurred, which warrant noting:

  • Chrome browser can no longer play H.264 video
  • Chrome browser can no longer play AAC (.m4a) audio
  • Chrome browser can now play WebM video
  • Chrome browser can now play OGG Virbis Audio

Along with Firefox and Opera, this now means that 3 of the 5 major web browsers require WebM for video and OGG Vorbis/Mpeg3 for audio. Also important to note Firefox 4 still does not support Mpeg3 (.mp3) audio, which I think is a major letdown.

With this new WebM format, we can assume that the older OGG Theora video format is no longer a player in the HTML5 video wars. OGG audio on the other hand, is another story.

What will be significant is if future versions of Google TV (also packaged in Sony high end TV’s and Blu-ray players) will be WebM exclusive. If this happens, along with adoption on Android based phones may have enough impact that WebM could quickly become an important video format.

M4a Audio growth stalled, OGG Vorbis Audio growth continues

With the HTML5 Video Wars between WebM and H.264, it means that the AAC (.m4a) Audio format growth is now stalled. Looking at AAC last year, I would have thought by now almost every device and hardware out there would support the format. Important to note video hardware vendors include AAC support mainly because it is required for  H.264. As devices come to market that do not have H.264, it is only natural for those devices will also not support AAC (.m4a). AAC almost had the capability to play almost everywhere, but now it seems the Mpeg3 (.mp3) format will continue to still have wider distribution.

Flash will continue to Bridge the Gap

Many of the TV devices like Boxee rely upon Flash for audio and video playback. These devices may be the winner as things play out since Flash can play mpeg3 (.mp3), H.264 (.mp4), AAC (.m4a via the video player) and WebM (.webm). I also suspect that once WebM support is added, it would only be natural for Flash to then also be capable of playing OGG Vorbis (.ogg/.oga) via the WebM player.

What I recommend as of March, 2011

For Video, I recommend creating H.264 (.mp4) and WebM versions of your video. This way you are able to harness HTML5 video on all five web browsers as well as support nearly every video playing device whether it includes one format or the other.

For Audio, I recommend Mpeg3 (.mp3), it still plays on devices and in applications. Though AAC (.m4a) is a close second, if your not using any of the Audiobook features found in m4a (which by the way only work on Apple hardware and software), there’s no real significant advantage to using m4a over mp3.

Weber Porcelain-Enamel Cast Iron Cooking Grates #7526 fits Spirit E-320 / S-320

If you are shopping for Cast Iron cooking grates for your Weber Spirit E-320/S-320 grill and found that web sites such as Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com and find the documentation says the Cast Iron Cooking grates #7526 fit only the Genesis Silver B and C and Spirit E-310 gas grills, then this posting is for you.

The Weber Porcelain-Enamel Cast Iron Cooking Grates #7526 fits Weber Spirit E-320/S-320 and E-310 grills as well as all other Spirit 300 and Spirit 700 series grills as noted on the product box.

Weber Grates for E-320

For some reason the information that all of these web sites are using specifically quotes the E-310 model, even though the product box says otherwise. If you’re like me and have an E-320 and were worried about ordering the wrong grates, the #7526 is the right part for your grill.

Melanie got a Sandbox!

Melanie got a new sandbox! We were going to get the green Turtle Sandbox (I remember having one when I was young) but found this red Clam held twice as much sand! The sandbox barely fit in Heather’s Prius, luckily it did fit! It can hold up to 6 – 50lb bags of sand (The green turtle sandbox holds 3 – 50lb bags).

Heather had the great idea of putting the sandbox on the deck that way he sand doesn’t kill the grass.

For those who may be concerned about animals using the sandbox, it also came with a lid. 🙂

Dell Studio 17 with i7 Intel Processor Shipping/Delivery Delays

On October 20 I ordered both my colleague and my wife (for her birthday which has already passed) Dell Studio 17 laptops with the new Intel i7 mobile processors.  The laptop is equipped and priced comparably to other 17″ laptops made by Toshiba, Sony and HP. Both my colleague and my wife are accustomed to Dell laptops so the decision was made to order the Studio 17’s from Dell rather than change to other brands.

Note: The only difference between my colleagues Studio 17 and my wife’s Studio 17 is the processor. My colleague opted for the faster Intel Core i7-820QM Quad Core while I got my wife the Intel Core i7-720QM Quad Core Processor. As you read on you’ll find out why this is an important detail.

The Order Process

I ordered the laptops in the late evening of October 20th. When I was in the check out process, the expected “ship” date for the laptops was November 10th. My first frustration came after ordering both laptops and finding that this date was moved back to the 11th on both during the checkout process. Okay, one day, I can deal with that.

The second part of the order that got me frustrated was how the pricing of shipping is calculated. I first ordered my colleagues computer, shipping overnight was going to cost $40, where 2 day was $24 and 3+ day was going to be $16. At the time I ordered the laptop, I figured the laptop would just arrive in time (Thursday, November 12) for the conference we were attending that weekend. With the changed shipping date after checking out, this meant I should have selected the overnight option for $40 rather than the 2 day that I did.

Then when I purchased my wife’s Studio 17, shipping totals were way different, $24 for 1 day, $16 for 2 day and $8 for 3+ day delivery. I then decided to do 1 day since the price difference wasn’t that big. That’s when I started wondering how the shipping total was being calculated. My colleagues order had a mouse added to the order that cost $14. Adding that item nearly doubled the shipping. Had I known that, I would have not ordered the mouse from Dell and just went to Microcenter and got a comparable mouse. It wasn’t till after I placed the second order, then re-assembled the 1st order in their shopping cart that I confirmed that Dell increases the shipping based on each item added. If you don’t watch the shipping line item in your shopping cart, you would never know the factor one other item puts on the total shipping.

Changing Shipping Method of my Order: Not Allowed

What’s more frustrating was calling Dell and trying to change the shipping method on the first order. I will not even talk about how rude the call center folks are but you can definitely tell Dell is still using call centers outside of the United States. I won’t even get into my opinion of that, but lets just say if you want to do business somewhere, put your support staff in the same place please!!!! At the time I was willing to pay more and even expected to have to pay some sort of order modification fee. Instead I got a cold reality that calling for support really meant calling to hear someone tell you no.

Expected Ship Date Came and Went

As November 12th (the date Dell switched the ship date for the order to upon checkout) came and went, no status changed on the dell.com web site for both orders. The next morning, I got separate emails from Dell that both orders have been delayed exactly one week. After passing on the bad news to both my colleague and wife, I decided to just wait till next week.

According to the email from Dell, both computers will now be shipped on or before November 18th.

Conclusion for Studio 17 with the i7-820QM Quad Core Processor

On November 16, my colleagues computer was finally shipped and he received it on November 18th. Sadly, no apology letter or any token of appreciation for waiting was included in the shipment.

Current Status of  Studio 17 with the i7-720QM Quad Core Processor

This computer has been delayed another 12 days and is now scheduled to be shipped on or before November 30th.

Customer Satisfaction

The emails I’ve received for the shipping delays included a new phone number I can call to talk to customer service for customer satisfaction. This is where the last straw has been pulled by Dell. If you tell me to call a number and wait on hold while being transferred 3 times to find out the person I end up talking to cannot do anything for me, then why waste my time? Where’s my satisfaction coming from with this pointless call? The way the email is worded, I fully expected to call this new number and have someone say sorry with an explanation and give me something, if not something of value, like a token gift by mail such as a mouse pad that says Dell on it or even just a formal snail mail apology letter. If Dell was really on their game they would give me a substantial discount on my orders for the inconvenience. If they have any intention of maintaining a reputation, they should discount the orders to the wholesale value of the parts. Yes, Dell would loose their profit and cost of labor on my order, but I think that would be fair for missing customer expectations and is a common customer service solution in other businesses.

Why the Delay? Dell Will Not Tell You But I Can

If you search forums, in particular Dell’s forum as well as other PC forums you will find a number of threads of folks complaining about their delayed orders. I’ve found threads for the Studio 17 as well as for the Studio 15 and Studio XPS 16. What they all have in common is the i7 processor. I wasn’t going to blog this as the reason because technically, it’s still not enough evidence. Well thanks to my colleague wanting the slightly faster i7 processor, I’ve now confirmed that the processor is the reason for the delays.

Dell.com Ship Estimates for New Studio 17 Orders with i7 Processor Questionable

What’s the most disturbing is the estimated ship date Dell posts next to their products when you’re customizing your computer. I’ve gone back to Dell.com and observed ship dates that don’t line up with my experience. If my estimate is right, if you order a Dell Studio 17 today with the faster i7 820QM, you may just receive it by Christmas. If you’re ordering the processor with the i7 720QM and you expect to get your laptop on 12/8/2009 as Dell estimates, good luck. I’ll tell you right now you will not get your computer by Christmas unless something seriously changes with Dell. Remember, It is now estimated for orders placed on October 20th that they will be shipped on November 30, so how can an order being placed now with the i7 720QM processor be delivered by Christmas, let alone the date they promise? Dell needs to catch up all their October orders, then all their current November orders before yours is shipped. If you want some advice, take a look at a Toshiba, Sony or HP 17.4″ laptop.

What is Intel Doing About the Shortage of i7 Processors to Dell?

I have no clue if there Intel has a shortage on their processors, but what is obvious is Dell has a shortage of Intel i7 processors. For me, the buck stops at Dell, I blame them completely for offering a computer that they cannot deliver timely. But I am curious, is the issue between Dell not ordering enough for their demand or is Intel having issues producing enough of the processors?

Dell Phone Support Suggestion

Eliminate phone support all together or move it back to North America and empower the support staff. I was upset when I learned that the phone support was outsourced to India many years ago. I’m even more upset when I call and the script they are given to read always ends with “I cannot help you sir”. Why even have a phone support line if they can’t provide support? I say eliminate it completely and pass on the savings to us customers. I honestly believe that after this Holiday season you’re going to need to provide substantial discounts on your products in order to keep what customers you have after this delayed ordered fiasco you’re having.

I wouldn’t have a problem paying $50 more for a computer if I knew I could talk to someone on the other end who lives in the same part of the world I do, who appreciates the same television shows, experiences the same holiday shopping season and just knows the difference between talking to someone from Texas to talking to someone from Ohio (for example Coke/Pepsi is called “pop” in most of the Midwest). There’s a part of the customer service that is personable that is completely lost by Dell. When I call up my cable company for example, sometimes I talk to someone from Toronto, sometimes someone from right here in Columbus. Either way, part of the conversion is defused by talking about hockey or college football.

The other part of the customer service equation is to empower your staff to be able to help the customers. Give them the ability to send apology letters, send small apology tokens like a mouse pad or some other dell corporate swag, or even give them the ability to give customers a discount for their dis-satisfaction. Let them change the orders to some degree. I understand that once an order is placed we shouldn’t be able to change the processor or major components, but it should be easy to change other things within a 3 day window before assembly. Go ahead and charge an order change fee along with that, folks will understand and it gives you a new revenue stream. Lastly, don’t BS folks like me that the shipping method cannot be changed, I’m smart enough to know you don’t print out the shipping labels till the package is ready to be shipped.

Some interesting links on related Delayed Dell Shipments

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1562314/dell-shipping-i7-studio-xps-laptops

http://en.community.dell.com/forums/t/19300240.aspx

http://en.community.dell.com/forums/t/19301350.aspx

http://en.community.dell.com/forums/t/19305046.aspx

Are you still waiting on a Dell laptop with an i7 processor? Please leave a comment, tell me about your experience!

UPDATE: November 23, 2009

My colleague’s Studio 17 currently does not work. When he finally got to turning it on Thursday evening, it was beeping an error code. The Studio 17 came DOA (Dead On Arrival). At present he is waiting for Dell to come and replace both the processor and the system board. I will be posting a separate blog post soon with an update on his Studio 17.

I’ve subsequently canceled the Studio 17 on order for my wife and promptly ordered the HP Pavilion dv7-3080us from NewEgg.com. It is comparable 17.3″ notebook computer with the i7 processor. It is nearly identical feature to feature except the HP comes with a twice as large hard drive (500GB), additional 2GB of memory, media remote control, and a blu-ray player/reader.  As far as cost, this machine is about $200 more than the Studio 17 I had on order. The only feature it does not come with is the back-lit keyboard. Her computer will be arriving anytime today.

One year with Google Android G1 compared to 6 months with an iPhone 3GS

I’ve had my Google Android G1 phone for over a year now, and I have a lot of good and bad things to say about it. I’ve had my iPhone 3GS for just over 6 months now and have come to a number of conclusions why I don’t like the iPhone and prefer Android.

In a nutshell, G1 hardware sucks, Android OS and applications rock. iPhone hardware is rock solid, iPhone OS, though easy to use, is very limited and applications do not seem to be as innovative, most likely a result of the limited OS. Lucky for Android users, there are now more than a 1/2 dozen better Android phones to pick from with more available in the coming months.

I got the Android G1 phone back in October of 2008, about a week after it came out. The first 24 hours with the phone was frustrating. Once I read the manual that came with the phone and watched a couple videos, I quickly understood how the phone worked and went from frustrated to enlightened. I’ve met a number of other folks who had a G1 for a few days and then quickly returned them. I suspect if they just spent the time to read the manual their experience would have been a better one.

I got the iPhone 3G S this past summer, essentially a week after the 3G S phone was released. The 3G S is provided by work. Being in the podcasting and new media business, it was important that I have and use a iPhone because it makes up such a large portion of the podcasting market share. It was easy for me to start using the iPhone, I never had to refer to a manual to get started. Coming from Android though, I quickly came to the realization how limited the iPhone is. I will get more into that shortly.

My Analogy of iPhone vs Android: An iPhone is like a desk, it can handle lots of work, but the only way the work gets done is if you do it. An Android phone is like having two desks with a secretary; one for you and another with a secretary working 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You still have to do your work, but it is nice to have your secretary tell you when you get new email, future appointments, Facebook reply, Tweet message or if there’s a flood warning.

This is my biggest frustration with the iPhone. I’ve been told by some iPhone users that the phone can be hacked to do what I can do with my Android phone. But that’s not quite how things work in Android. Not only can multiple applications run at the same time on Android, but all push type notification for things like Twitter, Facebook, Weather alerts, etc.. all funnel into a single stream of notifications that are easily accessible at the top of the screen. Even with a hacked iPhone, the user has to load the specific app to see if anything has changed.

I’m indifferent in opinion if the iPhone should evolve to be a multi-tasking push notifying device like Android. Referring back to my original frustration with the G1, I think there will always be a market for a simple one task at a time, only work when I tell you to work phone. I have a feeling that Apple did this on purpose so users can start using the phone quickly without frustration. Keep it simple works for most.

Unfortunately for Apple, I’m not most people. I have a lot of work to do all the time. Android, though it is initially more complicated than the iPhone, simply does more.

Hardware wise, the iPhone is definitely a well built phone. I am not at all worried that something will break or fail on the phone. I cannot same the say about my HTC G1, after 1 year of use it feels aged.

Some specific features missing in the iPhone found in Android:

  • Multi-color LED light: Applications in Android take advantage of this. I setup my twitter app to blink cyan when I have new tweets for example.
  • Desktop Widgets: I never have to load the calendar or weather applications, I can see what my next appointment is and the weather simply by looking at my home screen.
  • Micro SD card: Comes in handy, I’ve actually downloaded documents on my G1 then plugged the SD card into my laptop.
  • Notifications Bar: Applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Weather Bug, system updates, etc.. add little notifications in an easy to access list available by pulling down the top of my screen with my finger like a curtain.
  • Google Voice: iPhone doesn’t have this functionality, not because it can’t, but because they didn’t allow it. Sad because Android has 2 applications for Google Voice, one made by Google and another called GV made by Evan Charlton which is even better than the Google version.

Some things about the Android G1 phone I don’t like:

  • Hardware on the G1 seems weak. I’ve seen other G1’s where the sliding mechanism feels very sloppy. Since I’ve seen that I’ve been very careful when I open/close my G1. The plastic clear cover over my camera lens has cracked and I find the plastic used on the phone to be of a poor quality.
  • Camera is slow – I thought this was a problem with Android, but I’ve seen the Hero take pictures faster and they’re much more crisp compared to my phone.
  • Touch keyboard in Android sucks – It can be improved, the only thing I do like is the short vibrate on button touch feature. I haven’t seen Android 2.0, reportedly the touch keyboard is much better on it.
  • No 3.5mm audio jack – I have to use a Mini USB to 3.5mm adapter in order to plug headphones into the phone.

Applications noted with an asterisk* are applications I highly recommend.

Applications I use on iPhone (besides what comes with the phone):

  • NPR News* – If you like NPR, this is a pretty good app.
  • WordPress 2.0* – App made by Automattic.com for working with your WordPress blog. Prefer the wpToGo but moderating comments with this app is superior.
  • Bump* – Exchanging contacts by bumping phones
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • PogoPlug – Works with your pogoplug account.
  • Pandora – Streaming radio
  • NASA – Keep track with NASA missions
  • WeatherBug

Applications I use on Android (besides what comes with the phone):

  • KeePassDroid – Android version of KeePass
  • ShopSavvy* – scan bar codes while at the store and get both regional store and online compared pricing
  • TasKiller (Free/Pro) lets you kill tasks that run in the background, useful if you want to extend battery life
  • AndroZip File Manager – Handle/create Zip files on the phone.
  • Bluetooth File Transfer – Exchange files with other Android phones
  • AndFTP – FTP client
  • Wifi Analyzer* – Analyze all the Wifi signals so you can determine the best channel for your wireless access point.
  • Key Ring Reward Cards* – Scan all your grocery store and box store cards into your phone. More abou this app below.
  • wpToGo* – similar to WordPress 2.0, works better for writing posts, but the WordPress app for the iPhone moderates comments better.
  • Listen* – Podcatcher (audio only at present) that runs in the background and downloads any size media. I’ll write more about this app near the bottom of this post.
  • T-Mobile Visual Voicemail – just like visual voicemail on iPhone. I prefer the interface better tahn the Voicemail on iPhone actually.
  • Pandora – Streaming radio
  • WeatherBug* – Way better than WeatherBug on the iPhone becuase it has a desktop widget and adds notifications to my notifications bar in Android. Other than that, it’s similar to the WeatherBug app on iPhone.
  • httpmon HTTP Server Monitor – Monitors web sites.
  • Barcode Scanner – Alternative to Bump, all your contacts have square barcodes you can use this to scan in or give out your contact information easily.
  • Voice Recorder – Simple application for recording.
  • FxCamera – Camera app that lets you add effects
  • Tuner – gStrings – lets you tune your instruments with the phone
  • Qik* – Stream video from your phone’s camera live on 3g or Wifi (unlike the iPhone)
  • Snap Photo Pro* – Camera app with a lot of options (default camera doesn’t have that many), it is worth buying this application.
  • PogoPlug – Works with your pogoplug account.
  • T-Mobile My Account – Get account usage and also monitors battery life
  • Facebook for Android
  • Scoreboard – Follow sports teams
  • ConnectBot – SSH client
  • GV* – Google Voice application, works better than the one by Google
  • Bubble – Level application
  • iTweet* – Twitter application, more about it below
  • ToggleWifi– Toggle on-off Wifi from a desktop icon.
  • ToggleBlu – Toggle on-off bluetooth from a desktop icon.
  • Rings Extended – Use any audio on your phone as an audio setting for any application that uses notifications.

Key Ring Reward Cards

This has to be one of my favorite applications on Android. I used to have a half dozen of those cards on my key chain. Sometimes I would go to the grocery store with my other keys and not even have my reward card on me. Now both of my sets of keys are free of these stupid cards. There is also a cool factor when the person behind you sees you using a phone rather than your keys to scan in your rewards.

Listen (Google Labs Podcatcher for Android)

The Google Listen podcatcher is way better than iTunes on the iPhone. It does not have the 10MB limit on 3g like the iPhone does. It also has a pretty easy to use listen queue that allows you to organize the podcast episodes you want to listen to into a simple list. Anything in your listen queue automatically gets downloaded in the background. The application has a lot of potential. The only major downfall of the application currently is its search. You would think anything having to do with Search and Google would be brilliant, but finding podcasts in the Listen app is nothing but brilliant. The trick I’ve found is to search for episodes based on the episodes show notes. Searching for a podcast program is futile at best, but by episode notes typically works every time. You can add podcasts manually by RSS feed as well.

i Tweet (Twitter app for Android)

Not to be confused with iTweet.net, the i (space) Tweet app on Android is the best phone interface designed Twitter application I’ve seen to date. I was using Twitroid for a while, but found its memory usage  and clunky interface got to be quite annoying. i Tweet works in the same way and can run in the background to make use of the notifications features built into Android. When my phone blinks cyan, I know I got tweets waiting for me.

UPDATE!

I noticed I missed some other Android applications that I am using. Here’s the remainder of the list:

  • Toddler Lock – Locks the screen so toddlers can play with the phone. makes sounds and displays color shapes.
  • BistroMath – Calculate tips when dining out.
  • Compass – What direction is north.
  • ASCII Chart – Displays the ascii chart and its numeric values (for programmers)
  • GPS Speedo – can detect yoru speed when GPS is enabled.
  • Where – Find dining, shopping, etc.. based on your current location
  • Pick a # – Lets you randomly get a number based on a range you specify.

Here are some more apps suggested from Matt Gunn:

  • Movies – Display currently playing movies at nearby Theaters
  • SportsTap – Sports portal like Scoreboard
  • Foursquare – Explore major cities
  • Robo Defense – game

Blog World and New Media Expo 2009 Wrap Up

I’m back from Blog World and New Media Expo 2009. What a weekend! At first I didn’t know what to think of the weekend but now that I’m home going through all the swag and business cards I gathered, I think the  Blog World and New Media Expo merger was a good thing.

The trip started early Wednesday morning for me. Without even leaving Columbus, I ran into Lewis Howes at the Airport. What a great guy too! I’ve seen him at other events including this year’s PodCamp Ohio but never actually had the opportunity to talk with him. It was awesome to connect, it’s not every day you meet a book author!

Once in Las Vegas, I met up with the Blubrry/RawVoice team. For the rest of the day we hung out at the pool, figured out our plan for the weekend, and then had dinner. That evening most of us were up till 1am networking at the Tempo lounge/bar. We ran into a lot of folks that evening including Average Betty, Kosso, and Geekazine. It was also great meeting with the rest of the team (Rob, Michael, Jenni, Cathy, Todd, Barry, Jeff, Brian).

Thursday morning Brian (Bj) and I walked down to the Peppermill for breakfast to check it out. Bj pointed out that the parking lot was nearly empty, but the inside was packed! Before we ate we checked out the lounge room where the Blubrry Party was going to take place. I was blown away by how cool it was. I’ll get into more detail later in this post! Bj and I then had breakfast, which I must say was awesome!

Later that morning we went to the convention center to setup our Blubrry exhibitor booth. Somehow I talked Rob and Brian into folding the t-shirts, which became T-ShirtFoldingCamp.  Below is a picture of our show notes pad (swag), Blubrry Party invite with drink tickets, Blubrry sticker, PowerPress handout and our new Blog Louder t-shirt. Oh, and Ty wanted to be in the picture too!

DSCF4277a (Large)

Once we had the booth setup, we returned to the Peppermill with the entire team for lunch. After lunch we relaxed at the Hilton’s hot tub.

That evening the Blubrry/RawVoice team went out to dinner at the Les Artistes Steakhouse for dinner. This was our only real chance to get everyone together, so we made the best of it. I had an excellent steak and I can honestly say I did not need any Worcestershire sauce.

After dinner, most of the team went to the Tempo Louge to wind down. Unfortunately, I was dead tired and had to crash early.

Friday was the big day. I woke up early that morning to run through my slides for my session on Setting up WordPress for Podcasting at WordCamp Las Vegas held within the Blog World exhibit floor. We then headed over to the convention center pumped for the expo. Through the day traffic was heavy, I didn’t get to eat lunch until 2, and at that point all of the concessions were out of food. At 12:45 I had my session, which went ok except for the interruption by the exhibit hall speaker system. Promptly after my session I spoke with a number of interesting folks and exchanged business cards. Back at the booth traffic was still heavy. Unlike previous years, our podcast show note pads were not the most popular item folks were grabbing from our booth. Believe it or not, our hand outs were more popular than our swag. We handed out a lot of sheets about our podcasting communities, services and Blubrry PowerPress podcasting plugin for WordPress. The same was true for Saturday as well as Friday, folks were more interested in what we did than our t-shirts and show note pads.

Friday evening we had dinner at Casa Nicola. Company was great, but the food was awful. This was really the only bad meal I had all weekend.

Friday night was the Blubrry BlogLouder party! We arrived about 30 minutes early, which gave us time to figure out the place and down a couple drinks. Promptly at 9:00 pm, folks started making there way in and before I knew it the place was packed. Bj’s fiancee Aileen and Mat Luschek organized the party and they did an awesome job! For the first 2 hours they had 2 show girls greet guests as they came in and later in the evening Tiny Elvis and a Magician entertained guests. There was plenty of food and a live DJ as well. Here’s a link to Mat’s flickr page of party photos.

Saturday morning Brian, Rob and I had breakfast at the Paradise Cafe in the Hilton. I had really good buttermilk pancakes, another surprise as I was expecting mediocre breakfast.

After breakfast started day two of the Blubrry booth at Blog World. Traffic was lighter, even so we still did some networking and helped out a few Blubrry members. At noon they started setting up concessions with platters of different foods and a couple cash bars. I am not sure if that was planned or not, I had no idea they were going to do that. You would think they would have done that Friday as well as Saturday.

When the floor closed at 3:30, we spent the next hour and a half shipping all of the T-shirts, signage and swag. We carried all our packages to the The Fedex Kinkos on the north end of the convention center. We didn’t know there was a Kinko’s in the south end where we were. The Fedex Kinkos we went to refused to add insurance to our packages since they were being shipped ground rather than 1-2 day air. I can’t believe you can’t insure packages shipped FedEX unless it is air. Our main concern was our company signage, we just invested a lot of money into our banners, it would suck if they were damaged soon after the expo. FedEX, this is a real problem, you know you can ship ground packages with insurance with your main competitor UPS?

kinkos (Large)

Once the expo packages were sorted, everyone went back to their rooms to take power naps, showers, etc… I took the time to catch up on email and twitter.

That Saturday night Blog World hosted a BBQ poolside at the Hilton. At the last minute, we grabbed some stickers and t-shirts in case we wanted to do some networking. Once we got there we all came to a consensus that we should take a break and just hang out and have a little fun. I didn’t expect the BBQ to be any good, but I have to admit that the ribs were actually the best I’ve had in a while. I also had a Bud Light aluminum bottle, first time I seen them before. Following the BBQ was Tech Karaoke. A lot of the gang stayed later for that, unfortunately I was pretty tired and called it a night.

Some vendors that stood out this year were FatBurger, Ford, Healthy Choice, Adam Corolla and TechSmith. I never herd of FatBurger so it was great to hear about the company as well as sample some of their burgers. They gave all their burgers sizes similar to T-shirts except for their very large burger. Sizes are S, M, L, XL, and WTF. The WTF size is just that! Ford had a pretty cool booth actually, it was rather large and clean (not a lot of junk all over). It wasn’t until we stopped at the booth that we found out we could test drive some cars outside. So Bj test drove a Taurus SHO and I test drove a Mustang GT. Pretty neat cars, that Mustang was fast!  Healthy Choice was giving away samples of their food. I have to thank Healthy Choice actually, without their booth I would not have had any food on Friday. I’m a big Adam Corolla fan and was looking forward to the Top Gear TV show last year that unfortunately was canceled (stupid networks). I’m glad to see that he had a table at the expo. I think it was a smart move, it’s an indication that he is taking podcasting seriously. TechSmith also had a booth. They have a new mascot called Screennoms, which adds a more informal way for them to market their brand. Smart idea Betsy! Here’s a pic of some of the swag I got.

DSCF4281 (Large)

In my opinion, This year’s Blog World and New Media Expo was a success. I am rather baffled by how many podcasting companies were not present at the expo. Even if the attendance wasn’t what they expected, at least having a small booth would send a better message to the public that they support the industry. Either way, I can’t wait until next year and you better believe Blubrry will be there!

Babies R Us shadey pricing practices between online and in-store

This past August, Heather and I decided we wanted to get a play yard fence to use to wrap around the TV and upstairs in the office to keep Melanie from accessing particular parts of the rooms. We decided on the Superyard XT. The price was $59.99. This was perfect because it was also that price at Amazon.com. Amazon.com has free shipping, so even though the local Babies R Us is cheaper, it would mean that I would still be paying tax on the item at the store, making my purchase somewhere near $67, but I don’t mind paying the sales tax as long as  my purchases support the local economy. While at Babies r Us’ website I used the “Find it In Stores” option and found that the item was in stock at my local Babies R Us store. I did see the note at the top of the page “Pricing, promotions and styles may differ between online and store locations”, but I assumed that the note was there for Babies R Us locations in places such as Alaska or Hawaii where pricing is commonly slightly higher.

So that afternoon, Thursday, August 27, 2009 I packed Melanie in her baby car seat and headed over to the Babies R Us on Sawmill Road. When I got there, I grabbed one of the many Superyard XT they had in stock, grabbed a few other things that caught my attention, then checked out. That’s where Babies R Us started to fail in the customer service. First the cashier gave me a hard time off the bat that online pricing is never the price in the store. So I put the one item aside and just paid for the other items. I then proceeded to load up my iPhone to see if I could just purchase the item online then pick it up at the store. (You could do this in the early months Wal-Mart started their site-to-store feature, though now they are pretty strict with you waiting a few days before picking the item up) While I was on my phone the cashier had her manager visit me at the front of the store. The manager was very persistent, unwilling to just drop the price from $69.99 to $59.99. I even told her that I had a coupon for 15% off a purchase that expired yesterday and I have another 15% coupon that started tomorrow (see picture below). Her option was for her to put the item aside for me so I could come back tomorrow to use the coupon. Nice option, make me wait 16 hours to sell me the item cheaper. Smart, it gets me in the store again, increasing  the chance that I buying more side isle items.

Babies R Us Ads for August
Babies R Us Ads for August

The manager at Babies R Us used Kohls as an example of a store that has lower online pricing that in-store pricing. I know Wal-mart does this, and it pisses me off. I wouldn’t expect a specialty store such as Babies R us or Kohls to do the same thing. I think this practice is shady and intentionally miss-leading. What bothers me even more, is the web sites could just as easily include the store pricing, but they don’t. Why? Because I’m sure the decision was made at a board meeting after the thought came up that ‘Customers may just show up at the store and buy other crap while they’re there’, let alone pay the extra $5-20 to have the product right then. Now I can’t prove that this is the reason, but the latter would make more sense had a decision been made to include the different store pricing on the web to make sure ‘customer satisfaction is exceeded’. Some stores make decisions based on customer satisfaction and experience, obviously Babies R Us didn’t design their pricing online and in-store based on customer satisfaction and experience.

If Babies R Us has the special on-line pricing to compete with other online stores, then why don’t they re-brand the online store as www.babiesrus-online.com and then taret the original www.babiesrus.com site for pricing and products that are only available at the local stores. Mixing the two just proves one of two things, they value online shoppers and in-store customers the same (which doesn’t make the different pricing in-store and online make any sense), or they value online shoppers differently than in-store shoppers, giving online shoppers benefits that in-store shoppers are unaware of.

Now lets turn this around, what if you could go to your local Babies R us and see the price if you buy it now and the price if you order it and wait a couple days for it to arrive. It would be only fair if they implemented this. Oh wait, technology has already caught up with that, I can look up pricing just by scanning the bar code with my Google Android G1 phone and see what local and online stores have the lowest price. Perhaps the Babies R Us board has no clue how us customers shop, and that explains why they don’t offer matching in-store and online pricing. Either way, they’re idiots.

Lets look at some on-line stores that do online and in-store pricing right. Lowes and Home Depot complete with each other, which may explain why they have taken steps to make it clear what the pricing is of items at their particular locations you pick on their web sites. They both do a good job with tying their online experience with their local stores. If your a board member of a large department store, take note of what they are doing right. Bestbuy.com also does a decent job of providing notes that the pricing is ‘online only’. Though I would give Bestbuy’s online experience a C for other reasons.

One other item that bothers me is when I got home from my bad experience, I tweeted @BabiesRUS and expected a response back saying ‘we apologize and we’re looking at the pricing difference’ or some cookie cutter response indicating they will get back to me. They ignored my tweet, which is another indication that they don’t have a customer service policy but a marketing policy when it comes to their on-line presence. Board members should take note of this as well, Twitter is a communication tool for customer service as much as , if not more so, than a marketing tool.

As for the expiring coupon on Wednesday and the new coupon starting on Friday, I have no clue what Babies R Us was thinking here. What is so special with marked up pricing on Thursday? I know in other businesses, Thursday is the 4th and sometimes 3rd busiest shopping day of the week. Is the timing of these coupons to target those folks who just happen to go shopping on that day? Did someone in upper management at Babies R Us see some statistics that showed Thursday is the most likely day you can get someone to over pay for an item, is that why they did this? I’m being sarcastic here, but for real though, what’s the reason? Maybe the graphic designer made a mistake, but it looks like their graphic designer makes this mistake often looking back at previous coupons.

That Thursday evening I ordered a Superyard XT from Amazon.com for $59.99 and we got it the following Monday with their free super saver shipping. That Sunday Heather and I decided we could use a second Superyard, so we returned to the Babies R Us on Sawmill Road with our 15% off coupon and purchased another Superyard XT at $59.49+ tax.

As for further purchases at Babies R Us online or in-store, there aren’t going to be any anytime soon. We’re doing the rest of our baby shopping at other local stores and online.

As for the Superyard XT fences, they’re great! Now North States (makers of the Superyard XT) need to sell ends that can be fastened to the wall so you can quickly connect/disconnect the fence to walls. At the moment I’m using velcro straps from Lowes screwed into the wall at designated spots to strap around the ends of the fencing. I’ll post a separate blog post about how we’re using the Superyards next week.

PodCamp Toronto Recap

dscf3885-largeI had a lot of fun at PodCamp Toronto! Made lots of connections and got to meet a lot of on-line friends including Whitney Hoffman of the LD Podcast. The PodCamp Toronto organizers did an excellent job putting on what I observed as a perfectly executed PodCamp.

For me, one sponsor stood out during the PodCamp. Molson Canadian hosted a Saturday evening party that was definitely worth remembering. PodCamp attendees were given tickets tickets to sample from the many beers brewed by Molson Coors company. I quickly became fond of the Molson White, which I thought tasted a lot like Blue Moon. I later found out that it is Blue Moon relabeled in Canada.

On top of the free beer samples, anyone who had a sample of Heineken received 6 free beer glasses. These are not cheap glasses either. Check out the attached photo.

Going to PodCamp Toronto This Weekend

I’m heading to PodCamp Toronto this weekend, I’m pretty pumped! I wanted to go last year but things didn’t quite work out with my schedule. This year though I’ll be there!

Link: http://podcamptoronto.wordpress.com

This will be the first PodCamp where I will not only be representing my company RawVoice/Blubrry and PodCamp Ohio but also my new Plugins WordPress plugins podcast.

sponsor_blubrrypodcampohiocardnoborderitunes_pp

So I just printed out directions, I’m looking at a 7 hour drive plus/minus traffic. so if you’re not doing anything tomorrow afternoon and you have my cell number, please give me a call I got some time to chat. 🙂

Converting URL to Local File Path in Batch MySQL INSERT Query Using SUBSTRING_INDEX() and CONCAT()

I wanted to quickly take a URL (e.g. http://www.compiledweekly.com/somefolder/somefile.ext) and translate it to the local path (e.g. /home/user/public_html/somefolder/somefile.ext) while inserting multiple records into a new table. My first thought was to select all the records, use PHP to trim off the path, then insert the new record in the new table. There’s a better answer, use SUBSTRING_INDEX() and CONCAT() with a INSERT INTO table SELECT statement.

INSERT INTO new_table
SELECT CONCAT(‘/home/user/public_html/somefolder/’, SUBSTRING_INDEX(s.url, ‘/’, -1)) AS local_path
FROM source_table AS s
WHERE …

It does the job with out having to write a single line of PHP code!