Vote For Viddler in the Open Web Awards


The second annual Open Web Awards (hosted by Mashable) are on again! Nominations are over, and it’s time to vote in round 1!

Just enter your e-mail in the widget to the left and click Vote Now. You’ll then need to check that e-mail and click a link in a confirmation e-mail you receive from mashable@polldaddy.com.

You can vote for one company in each category daily during round 1 until the 3rd of December. Then the final round of voting will commence and you can also vote daily in that round until the 15th of December.

You can also vote here for companies in other categories.

See here for more rules, the nominies, sponsors and more.

Flip Mino HD or Something Else?

Nov 21, 2008: UPDATE at the bottom with reviews of the Flip Video MinoHD from people who have used them. In short, the reviews are just as I expected; pretty horrible.

August 16, 2009: The Flip Ultra HD was announced a few months ago and it still doesn’t have an autofocus lens. Even the iPhone 3GS has autofocus/tap-to-focus. The Flip is DEAD!

April 12, 2011: As predicted: The Flip is DEAD!

I don’t own a Flip Video camera, but I know many people that do. The videos created with it (example) look fantastic! Especially on Viddler. I’ve held a couple and it’s quite different to a traditional camera; you hold it in a vertical fashion rather than horizontal. It’s great if you need to capture a quick video an upload it to the web. But that’s where its use ends.

You can’t take photos. There’s a very limited menu system. There’s no expandable memory slot. It doesn’t have an optical zoom. The lens isn’t wide angle, thus when creating self videos (by holding the camera in reverse at a distance) you’ll have to stretch your arm farther to get a medium closeup. As of November, 2008, it costs about US$230 [check current price].

I’m a video guru and professional. I’ve been creating videos since I was born. So I’d like to share my thoughts on why you probably shouldn’t get the new Flip Mino HD. Over the past couple of years I spent many hours trying to decide on what kind of high-definition video camera to buy. Every couple of months a new model would be released with features such as a new sensor, more memory, and a smaller body. I could never find a model that met all my needs.

When I came to America in June, I continued to look for a model that would suit me. I still couldn’t find something that was perfect for me though. Then, in August, Jan tweeted about her new Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 [Review / Buy on Amazon]. I researched this point-and-shoot camera and concluded that it was the right camera for me right now. Not perfect, but for the size and price it’s great! I bought one. Here’s the first video recorded with it:

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 records in HD 720p 30fps (same as the Flip Mino HD, but the Panasonic has a larger sensor and better lens), takes photos at 9MP, and records to SD/SDHC cards.

Note – The TZ5 also records in the following formats:

4:3 aspect ratio:
640 x 480, 320 x 240
30 fps, 10fps
16:9 aspect ratio:
848 x 480 – 30 fps, 10 fps
HD: 1280 x 720 (aka 720p) – 30fps, 15fps

I am always amazed at the quality of video that is recorded with my TZ5! It saves the files as .MOV. I compress them down using these settings and upload them to Viddler where they look stunning! I guess I’m a little biased because I own the TZ5. Though, from what I’ve researched, it’s honestly the best value. Did you know it’s currently the same price as the Flip Mino HD or less?! Check Amazon’s price. Let’s talk about some other similar options that are out there. The Flip Video’s direct competitor is the Kodak Zi6 [Review / Buy on Amazon]. Here’s some quick specs on it:

Storage 128 MB internal memory*, SD/SDHC card expansion slot
Focus modes normal, close-up
Video capture H.264 (MOV), AAC LC
Video quality HD60: 720p at 60 fps—16:9 HD: 720p at 30 fps—16:9 (default) VGA
Still format JPEG
Picture quality 3MP (stills, interpolated – the act of taking a smaller image and resampling it as a larger image; it is not actually taking 3MP images.)
Microphone mono
Speaker yes
I/O interface USB 2.0 (high-speed); component output; AV output
Tripod mount 1/4 in. standard
Power (2) AA batteries (Ni-MH recommended)

* 128 MB internal memory/approximately 30 MB available for image storage. BAM! Pretty neat, but not quite as jam-packed as the TZ5.

A quick note on batteries — In my experience, I find that most consumers prefer digital cameras that take AA batteries because if you run out of power, you can just go to the nearest shop and buy some. I prefer to have at least 2 Li-ion batteries made by the manufacturer of the camera. This way I have one in the camera and one in my bag (charged). They’re also rechargeable which means you won’t be spending a lot of money on batteries. Rechargeable batteries eventually loose their highest charge, but by the time they do you’ll have a new camera. The fact that the Kodak Zi6 uses AA batteries is one factor why I wouldn’t consider getting one.

My friend Brandice has a Kodak Zi6 and likes it because it’s like the Flip Video cameras, but has an SD card slot. She also said it has an issue with image stabalisation as the Flip does. This image stabalisation could be fixed in the Flip Mino HD’s new software (Pure Digital Video Engine 3.0), but I haven’t used one. (Please let me know in the comments if you use one and find it good.)

Check some test videos Brandice recorded with her Kodak Zi6:
Macro/Closeup

Driving/Movement
Ambient music

Next!

Most of Kodak’s current range of point-and-shoot cameras offer HD 720p video. I’ll list another and then tell you a little bit about video in DSLRs. The Kodak EasyShare Z1285. Afif just bought one and he has some an example video from it on his Viddler. It has captures 12MP photos, records HD 720p video (Kodak displays the words “True HD” on images of the camera, but that doesn’t mean it’s Full HD: 1080p), has 5x optical zoom, and can bake you a try of moist cookies in less than 4 minutes. [Auuhhhhh! Just making sure you’re still with me. ;)] It does all the other standard things you would expect from a point-and-shoot. It has a nice SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH VARIOGON lens too!

Who cares about the lens? I want MEGApixels! — In short, it’s a mix of the lens and the sensor. You can have a millions of pixels (a megapixel), but there’s no point if it doesn’t have nice, crisp glass for the light to flow through. You know photography is painting with light, right? Generally, larger the surface area of the lens, the better quality image you’re going to obtain; especially in low-light. For the average camera enthusiest, 8MP is high enough to print large posters of your photographs!

Onward!

On August 27, 2008, Nikon released their D90 [Review / Buy on Amazon] model: the first Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera that records video. When I heard this announcement I was appalled; you can’t force the mirror on a DSLR to stay open and record video. I guess I’m traditional; I started SLR photography in a darkroom, with chemicals.

Then… I saw the video that Justine recorded with her Nikon D90 and I was amazed because of the ability the photographer has to zoom in and out so quickly (far quicker than I’ve seen any camera under $10,000 zoom). I’m still indifferent about video in a DSLR, but the DOF and zooming would definitely be a plus!

Canon retaliated less than a month later with the 5D Mark II [Review / Buy on Amazon]. It captures video at Full HD (1080p), takes 21MP photos, HDMI video output, and a microphone socket (for external mics). Those DSLRs are in excess of $1,500 right now, so that’s not an affordable option (for most) if you just want HD 720p video.

The following is what I would recommend you have a look at for affordable HD 720p video:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 [Review / Buy on Amazon]
– Any point-and-shoot Kodak camera with HD 720p
Kodak Zi6 [Review / Buy on Amazon]
Sanyo Xacti E2 [Buy on Amazon] (Not HD, but waterproof and great 4:3 video!)
– Any of the cameras above plus the Flip Mino HD so you can use the good camera to record yourself melting down the Flip Mino HD into a gooey substance.

Articles I’ve read about the Flip Mino HD:
It’s Official: Pure Digital Launches the Flip Mino HD by NewTeeVee
A Camcorder Insurgent Goes HD by The New York Times [via Daynah]

Here’s an interesting site about the differences between CCD and CMOS image sensors.

Flip Video MinoHD reviews:
Obsessable Flip Mino HD Review
Andy Inhatko’s Flip Mino HD vs Kodak Zi6 Review
Flip Mino HD vx Kodak Zi6 vs Flip Ultra Video Cameras

Deinterlace Your Online Videos

Deinterlace your videos!

Here are FOUR simple steps to remove interlacing when you export your videos in Quicktime Pro, iMovie HD, iMovie ’08, or Final Cut Pro.

****See original size****

1. File > Export

2. If you want this to be DEAD SIMPLE choose ‘Movie to Apple TV‘ (.m4v – playable on iPod, Zune, any computer, uploads to Viddler). DONE. If you need a Quicktime MOV, then choose ‘Movie to Quicktime Movie’ and move on to Step 3.

3. Choose ‘Size…’ (The last dialog box will open.) — You can find more information about tweaking window 3 here.

4. Tick ‘Deinterlace Source Video’.

Giddy up!

Want to learn WHY you should deinterlace your videos before you put them online? Okie dokie!

(I will use NTSC (30fps / 525 interlaced lines) as an example because most online video is played at 30fps. Discover PAL here.)

Back in the days of (analog) television, video was interlaced (a technique to improve the picture quality of a video signal primarily on CRT devices without consuming extra bandwidth). This meant your television alternated between odd and even lines of light beaming out of the monitor 30 times every second. It moves so fast our eyes can’t even tell. Sweet!

Technology has changed though. First there was HD 1080i (i = interlaced), then that was superseded by HD 1080p (p = progressive). Progressive scan is a method for displaying, storing or transmitting moving images in which all the lines of each frame are drawn in sequence. First being a low quality image and progressively improving. Remember, this all happens at 30 frames per second.


This animation shows the difference between progressive and interlaced video.

Web video is progressive. If you upload a video that has been interlaced, then it won’t display properly and you’ll end up with video that looks like Justine’s My new show on Pluggedin! or Lisa’s Mostly Madonna.

Note: I know Justine and Lisa are both very experienced in video production, so I assume it was the companies that they each work for that exported as interlaced (who knows why…) and the girls just uploaded *that* file to the web.

Go deinterlace your video now and put it on Viddler.

Update! Here’s a list of programs (thanks to Miro’s blog) that can deinterlace video on Windows operating systems:
Editing Suites:
Adobe Premiere (Windows, Mac ~ $$$)
Sony Vegas (Windows ~ $$$)
Windows Movie Maker (free)

Video Processing Application Guides/Tutorials/Manuals:
VirtualDub (Windows ~ free; open source)
MPEG Streamclip (Windows, Mac ~ free)
mencoder (Linux ~ free; open source)
FFmpeg (Linux ~ free; open source)
VLC (Windows, Mac, Linux ~ free; open source)

BarCamp LA 6

Bloggin’ from BarCamp, baby…

I’m relatively new to the PodCamp/BarCamp (tech meetups) scene. It’s only really started to start in Australia this year, and it’s been going on in many international locations for a few years now.

A week ago Chris Darbro asked me if I was going to BarCamp LA 6. I didn’t even know it existed. The next event I was gearing up for is PodCamp AZ.

I’m really excited Chris told me though because it’s been another educating experience for me! I’ve been learning a lot of stuff about business ethics that I knew very little about, but I can definitely use in the near future.

During dinner the popular meme IT’S PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME reveled itself with some awesome dance moves!

After that all the giddy geeks continued watching hilarious videos via the projector. Many of them I hadn’t seen before.

Another new thing to me was Powerpoint Karaoke (CC) in which you’re given a randomly chosen Powerpoint slideshow to present, and people watch how well you do. Pretty funny.

OH! And Chris also gave me the Mother’s Cookies I won on Twitter last week! Yum yum WOO!

Here’s a short recap video of BarCamp LA 6:

Thanks to all the sponsors and organisers that made it a great weekend!

Late 2008 MacBook Pro “First Touch” Review

Today I went in to an Apple Store and touched the latest model of the MacBook Pro. I’ll begin this by noting that I don’t own the new MacBook Pro, and I only spent about 37 seconds with it. Thus, most of the following will be about the design of the new model.

I must admit, any new model of an Apple product is sexy. The removal of the plastic bordering from the old model makes the new ‘unibody‘ look of a much better build and thus stronger.

The first thing most people will notice is the new keyboard. It’s in the style of the MacBook keyboard and the keys are black. I’m used to the [previous generation] MacBook Pro keyboard, but I think I like this new design better.

MacBookProearly2008-keyboard

MacBookProlate2008-keyboard

One of the most exciting things I find about the new design is the latch-less opening. It’s much more simple than trying to fiddle with that silly button on previous generations. The MacBook seems to have had a lot of the good ideas from the start. Why not the MacBook Pro?

There’s a new trackpad on the latest model made completely from glass. Apple has also removed the trackpad button making it bigger, and turning the whole trackpad in to a button. The feel of the trackpad is different than the previous model too. I noticed that on first-touch. It’s not a lot different, but I noticed it. I like the feel.
I like the feel much better than previous model MacBooks and especially compared to most notebooks running Windows. My mom has an HP notebook. The trackpad is tiny and very slippery/glossy; it’s very hard to get a good ‘grip’ on the cursor.

MacBookProearly2008-trackpad
MacBookProlate2008-trackpad

For the most part, I’m all for the latest technology. Therefore, the fact that the FireWire 400 port was removed and there’s only a Mini DisplayPort doesn’t bother me at all. (If you have a device that uses FireWire 400, you can get cables that are FireWire 400 to FireWire 800.)
All the ports are on the left side of the computer. I’m not sure how I’d feel with both the USB ports being on one side. I like being able to plug USB devices on either side of my [previous model] MacBook Pro. Especially if you have a bulky USB device; it may block other ports on the latest model design.

MacBookProearly2008-portsright

MacBookProearly2008-portsleft

MacBookProlate2008-ports

The Superdrive (disc drive) is on the right side of the body. Just like the previous/current model of MacBooks. I feel the disc drive in this location makes more sense. Especially when the MacBook Pro is on your lap; in previous models the disc drive was at the front and the user would have to make sure there’s room for the disc to escape when ejecting it.

MacBookProlate2008-superdrive

I don’t know how well this new model fans heat away from the CPU because the gap where the air blows out looks much narrower than previous models. Although this could just be an optical illution due to the black hinge attaching the screen to the body. (As I said, I didn’t spend much time with the computer.)

The drilled holes above where the speakers lay are smaller yet more abundant than on the previous model.

MacBookProearly2008-speakers

MacBookProlate2008-speakers

The battery indicator lights have been moved from beneath the computer to the front-left side; making them more noticeable.

MacBookProlate2008-batterylights
Thanks to Corey for this image.

Besides the internal workings, there’s very little difference between the new MacBook Pro and the new MacBook; the MacBook is now also made from recyclable aluminum.
Due to the smaller footprint of the MacBook, it doesn’t have speakers on either side of the keyboard. I couldn’t even locate the speakers during the even more brief look I had of it.

I only got my [previous generation] MacBook Pro May 2007, so I won’t be upgrading to the new model. I may wait for the next big model upgrade. By then SSDs will be much cheaper and larger capacity.

A big thanks to Blake Helms for letting me use his MacBook Pro images on Flickr.

Australia follows USA with tree-killing iPhone bills

iJustine's 300-page iPhone billWe all remember Justine’s first iPhone bill [video] totaling 300 pages in August last year. It resulted in every website imaginable writing something about the story, and AT&T removing itemised data from their bills and allowing customers to opt-in to e-billing/paperless billing.

When Justine’s video was released I’d been using data on my Nokia 6280 for a few months. I used it to access Twitter Mobile and Facebook Mobile while I was away from my computer. It worked for me, but I had a limit of 3MB. When I started going over that, and being charged excess usage by the kilobyte, I had to upgrade to a larger data option. I started paying $14/mo for 20MB of data; with daily access to the aforementioned sites, I could keep within that ridiculous data limit.

The more I used data, the larger my phone bills became. (Prior to my data usage my phone bills would be 3-4 double-sided pages; after I began using data: ~10 double-sided pages.) Yes, every darn kilobyte was mentioned on paper!

Justine’s video inspired me go paperless on all my bills. I rang my bank; they did it over the phone in seconds. I have an old account with 3 Mobile where I only pay for what I use and I never use it, so I get a bill every few months saying ‘$0 due’; I rang them and they did it over the phone in seconds.

Then I rang Optus — the company I have my mobile bill with. Now, I love Optus; I’ve been with them for over 7 years. They told me I had to go to my Optus online account and check a box to get my bill as an e-bill. No problem. I go to sign in and my credentials fail. Okay, so I ring Optus and they reset my password and send the new one to my phone. I try it. Nada; it doesn’t work. I ring them again and they say it could be due to their whole system and website being upgraded; try back later.
I ring back after about a month. Same deal. I have to do it myself. I get Optus to reset my password again. It doesn’t work. Again

I give it another month or two. Same deal.

This goes on for months.

As my trip to the USA got closer and closer, I picked up my game a little; yes, despite my lovely nature, I can get fierce when I want something done. It can’t be done. I tell them “I’m going to America. No one will be home to get my bills (a lie). I need them send to my e-mail!!” They respond with “… privacy act … blah blah … Let me reset your password … rah rah …” UGH!!!!
Okay. So now I’m actually in America and I’ve called them three times (thank you Skype!) only to receive the same old deal: sign in and you can do it. They ask me if I want to reset my password. While I have global roaming ON, the signal seems to suck, so there’s no way I can get the password on my phone.

I ask them why they can’t do this for me. Privacy. I’m on the phone. I WANT YOU TO DO IT. I don’t care if you see the password; rahhh! They can’t send the new password to any other phone number either. They can’t send it to an e-mail. They pretty much suck at life. Oh, and the system is still being upgraded (10 MONTHS LATER).

The other night I called them again about another matter, and decided I might as well see if
they can set up e-billing for me. Nope. Although, this was the first customer representative to actually say “Sorry” (he was sincere too! — I think his name was Melvin; good guy!) for not being able to set up e-billing on my behalf; he can’t break the privacy policy.

Optus, among other carriers, now have the iPhone 3G in Australia. (The original iPhone was never released in Australia, nor will Apple give support for it in Australia.) Wonderful! A year too late, in my opinion, but still wonderful. Optus has the best value plans; offering up to 3GB of data, unlimited voice calls, and unlimited texting for the largest plan. Cheaper Optus plans have between 100MB-700MB worth of data included; Telstra only offers up to 170MB of data; Vodafone charges a lot more for up to 1GB of data; Virgin just announced 5GB of data for $100/mo.

iPhoneTom Piotrowski's 16-page Optus iPhone bill

Back to the environmental issue at hand. My dad showed me this article describing large iPhone bills in Australia due to itemised data.
Who works at these companies? A bunch of narrow-minded twats? If you lived in Australia and even knew about the iPhone prior to it’s official release, you would have known about Justine’s bill-in-a-box. Now Optus and other companies are going to offer paperless billing for the iPhone.

You’d think they’d learn from America’s mistakes, but nope; we’re often just as silly!

Brainstorm: Maybe now that this has been an issue in the news down under, I’ll now be able to get a customer representative to setup paperless billing for my Australian phone (currently suspended and not in use); hopeful thinking.

If not, then I hope they find this post and call me. Bias.