Archive for the Web tag


Google Hangouts, Maybe now it will work?

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Update: Just after posting this, I opened the app and was greeted by the ‘Get started’ button once again. So the only difference in the latest version is that I haven’t gotten a pop-up telling me the app crashed or forcing me to re-install. Progress?

Google Hangouts for iOS was updated yesterday. This is the 3rd or 4th version of the app. It was first released in May during Google I/O. My fingers are crossed that this one will actually work.

I was really pleased when Google finally announced Hangouts (the expanded chat version, Hangouts was already an awesome launch feature of Google+). I’ve been waiting forever for a chat service that would work seamlessly between desktop and mobile, have group chat, and be something that my friends would actually use. Google had a bunch of different messaging platforms going at the same time and they didn’t work well between platforms and there was no first-party app for iOS.

The short overview is that everything is saved by Google. So wherever you load the service (web or app) you have access to all your conversations. So you can start on one platform and continue on another without having to do anything else. Group chats work exactly the same. You can also share pictures and join Hangouts from the app. It’s built in to Gmail and Google+, so a lot of people will have access to it without any effort.


The web version has worked well since it launched, but the iOS app, not so much. When actually using it, I didn’t have any major problems. The notification counter on the app icon was never correct, but that was tolerable. The problem was that every few days I would open the app and it would tell me it crashed. It must have crashed in the background because I never had it crash while using it. I’d have to login again after the crash, which was pretty annoying, especially with two-factor authentication. After a few rounds of that, the crash message would tell me that it couldn’t recover and I had to reinstall the app. I pretty much gave up on it a month ago. This one hasn’t given me that issue, although it’s only been a day. It does linger on the splash screen long enough for the ‘Get Started’ button to appear, but then it loads the recent conversations.

On the web I’ve found the best ways to be through Gmail or Google+. I liked the Google+ version a little better. It has a larger font and it’s much less likely that the chat window will interfere with something I want to see on Google+, because there is so little to see there. That’s also why I haven’t used it much, there isn’t enough on Google+ for me to always have it open in a tab.

In Gmail, it works just fine. I’d recommend the Right-Side Chat Lab in Gmail. It does what it says and puts a column to the right of your Gmail window with your recent chats. I like this a lot better than just having a few contacts listed in whatever space is available on the left side.

There is also a Chrome app that gives you a buddy list-like view that is detached from the main window. It might be an option if I used Chrome.

Google Hangouts


To the Cloud: Podcasts

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All this talk about the cloud but there isn’t much that seems to work correctly at this point. It’s sad that I’m going to have to use iCloud so I can have something that will let me cleanly edit documents across my Apple products when Dropbox has served me well but is limited by what Apple lets it do.

It seems that music in the cloud is the popular topic recently, especially with Spotify finally launching in the US. I don’t see what the big deal is as it is not much different than a bunch of services that are already out there. I’ll have more on the topic soon as I spent a month with a Slacker trial and currently trying a rdio trial. No Spotify trial means rdio has a good shot at winning out. Again, more on that later.

All these music services have struggled to deal with the labels before than can do any innovating. Hmm, if there was only some sort of audio product where there wasn’t much worry about licenses. How about podcasts?

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who still listens to multiple podcasts across a couple of devices at the same time. I’m tied to iTunes to sort of keep things organized and sync’d. Evey that is tricky. iTunes podcast syncing was broken for months earlier this year and they didn’t seem to really care as it went a few updates without a fix. What I mean by broken: I’d listen to part of a podcast on my computer, then sync my iPhone and it would reset to the beginning of that podcast the next time I played it, instead of starting where I left off. For a while I had to be very careful of when I could sync and started listening to certain podcasts on certain devices. I looked for an alternative, but no luck.

The closest a product has come to being useful in a podcast management system was Odeo. It kept track of everything and would stream the podcast. I don’t think it remembered where you were in a podcast if you stopped listening in the middle and there was no downloading, so it wasn’t good for mobile. If you haven’t heard of Odeo, you might want to read up on your internet history as Twitter was dreamed up by the team while working at Odeo.

So what do I want and how does this so-called cloud work?

  • Podcasts streamed or downloaded to devices
  • Podcast management – subscriptions, new episodes, what has been listened to, etc. all kept track of
  • Syncing – Which podcats need to be downloaded and where you left off listening to each episode.

That’s it. And the podcast hosts handle almost all the bandwidth because they freely distribute. All this cloud has to handle is all the status information. Podcasts don’t even need to be tied to music, so something could easily be developed outside of iTunes. Really all that’s needed are mobile apps because the desktop could be just a web site with streaming at the start. This even solves a problem I had considered too much to hope for: syncing between desktops. I have my own computer but then another computer at work. When I’m at work, I will just listen to podcats on my iPhone because who knows when something will pop up and leave me in the middle of a podcast.

Audiobooks and paid podcasts could easily follow a similar model. Audiobooks are even more crucial when it comes to remembering the position in the book. I can only assume Audible has not come out with their own app because they make too much off of iTunes.

This really doesn’t seem that hard. If I was solid on iOS development and had a few free days, I feel like this could be quickly dealt with.

Oh, and as for making money. You have a podcast directory like iTunes. Again, the hosts do most of the work setting up their accounts. Then you just have podcasters looking for attention to advertise on the site.

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Hulu Desktop

Mike, Tech No Comment

I’ve had Hulu Desktop on my machine probably since it came out a while back but never really used it. They haven’t really figured out a good way to navigate around all the content they have. It is designed to be able to be used with just a remote, but you quickly get lost in layer and layer of menus.

So why did I try it out tonight?

I have my MacBook hooked up to a 20″ LCD. It sits on my desk, closed unless I take it for a trip. I decided tonight that I wanted to watch Hulu on the MacBook screen while I do stuff on the LCD. It kind of works but the Hulu video is always so small. I attempted to put it in full screen on the MacBook. It works if you have no desire to do anything else with the computer. As soon as I click anything on the monitor it jumps out of full screen mode. With dual monitor setups becoming more and more common I can’t believe this simple feature hasn’t been figured out.

I remembered having Hulu Desktop around and figured I’d give it a shot. It doesn’t solve the full screen issue but comes pretty close. The video fits to the window and you can resize the window. So I have the window maximized, which is 95% as good as full screen. It also solves some of my other issues with Hulu, such as always having to select 480p and it shows the buffer without having to pause.

Now that I’m aware of this I think Hulu Desktop will be how I Hulu. I just haven’t found how to get embed code from inside the application. After using it, hopefully I’ll get used to the interface and see what the designers were going for.

Update: Actually fullscreen does work for Hulu Desktop. I just had to find it.


Embedding Hulu

Mike No Comment

I put up the Triumph at The Belmont video that was on Conan on Thursday. When I saw it, I knew it was something I wanted to share. When I went to Hulu it was available as its own clip.

I still would have been able to share it since whole episodes of Conan are on Hulu. When you choose to embed or share you can select the start and end point of your clip. I think this is a really great feature. I’m sure I’ll become an expert at sharing segments of Colbert. I’m not sure if there is a different in time available between clips and episodes. The episodes may expire more quickly than the clips. Maybe clips don’t ever expire? I’ll have to keep my eye on it.

Another very nice feature is that the video is widescreen. That’s great for widescreen shows such as Conan. The problem I see with this is, say you want to share a Family Guy clip. Family Guy is not widescreen. It can’t be that difficult to provide different sized players. Still, I’d rather have the widescreen and lose the horizontal space.

My biggest issue is that when I clicked play on the clip it rolled a 30 second commercial to start. I don’t mind the commercials when I’m watching a whole episode of something on Hulu but if the clip is only 4 minutes long, a 30 second commercial to start is a bit much. In my opinion, with any embedded clip a commercial to start is a bad idea. If its not something I’m very interested in, I’m not going to keep watching. Plus, with NBC being part of Hulu, isn’t just the clip from Conan itself an advertisement to watch Conan?

I’m a big fan of Hulu so far and now that they have The Daily Show and The Colbert Report I’m not as worried if my DVR decides to skip things anymore.

The one question I have left is, how long will this clip be active?


Original Content

Tech No Comment

Lately I’ve found that in my internet travels I read the same story on twenty different sites. Most of these blogs just wind up linking to each other. Maybe one site will have a little more information or insight, but not usually. The other difference would be in the comments, but that’s not really my thing. Why do I continue to go to all these sites on a daily basis? On the off chance that there is something new or different. Most sites I check out once a day, others that I like a little more I will check out multiple times. My favorite sites that don’t update a whole lot I have added to Google Reader so it can let me know that there is something new. Google Reader has come in very handy. I forget about sites that only update occasionally since I get out of the habit. Now I’m on top of things.

Don’t get me wrong, I often repost things. I try not to do it too often, but then that leads to weeks with me posting nothing at all. I try to find a balance and will post if I have something to add.

These are some of the sites that I think really put an effort in.

ESPN – For all the reasons I hate ESPN the channel, I love ESPN the web site. All of the random stories and editorializing is perfect for the web since I can ignore most of it. Just look at baseball: Jason Stark and Buster Olney alone are great but you get to add Gammons, Neyer, and others. My home page is actually SI. The main reason for that is I just want the sports news and not all the other clutter on the page, especially video. Other than the basics I only like SI for their rumor coverage on Fan Nation. Don’t get me started on Peter King.

Sports Guy – Yes he is part of ESPN but it could stand alone so I’m putting it separate. Also, check out his podcast. I enjoy it for its content and the fact that I think my production quality on Inter-Dis Material is up to ESPN standards.

The Dilbert Blog – I might talk about this one too much. There is a new post everyday and just about everyone is quality and thought provoking. The strangest thing is I don’t even like the Dilbert comics.

Uni Watch – I had always glanced over the Uni Watch posts on Page 2. A few weeks ago I finally checked out the original blog and its really amazing. There is so much information on here. I love all these little details about logos and uniforms.

My Secret Public Journal – This one is rarely updated, which is why Google Reader is the greatest. You can also sign up for the newsletter to stay up to date. This is Mike Birbiglia’s blog, he’s a comedian. Usually its a story about something that happened to him. Usually its a very simple premise, but somehow always hilarious.

Those are the important ones at the top of my list. I’m always looking for suggestions.


TouchGraph – Visualize Facebook

Tech No Comment

Its been a while since Facebook has been all that addicting. When it first started my roommates and I spent about a week looking up people and finding groups. Every couple weeks you could do it again since a whole new wave of people had signed up. At this point everyone who is going to sign up has done so. There are a few holdouts that refuse to sign up for whatever reasons.

When Facebook first started they let you view an image with the relationships between your friends. Sometimes you could get it to work and it was interesting. Not too long ago I was looking into SVG, which is what Facebook had used, and remembered that feature that disappeared so long ago and wished they had it back in some way.

Today I found TouchGraph. It does just what I was hoping for. It displays all your friends and their relationships to each other. It uses friends as well as groups. People with more common relationships appear closer together. People are also color coded into cliques. It correctly setup my cliques. There are 3 major ones, which are my middle school friends, high school friends, and college friends. Then there are smaller ones for jobs or small school groups. The odd colored cliques, or only one person having a particular color, stand out and you can see which of your Facebook friends don’t know any of your other friends. When you highlight over someone or a group it shows all the connections. If you double-click you will get profile information and pictures. There is the option to upload a picture to Facebook, but to get any sort of detail you need a much larger image.

TouchGraph also has applications for Amazon and Google.

Now I just need to find a program that will do this with my own set of inputs. I want to map a particular set of friends that includes some that are not on Facebook. My friends in one group get confused by the relationships between people in my other groups.


Amazon Point of Sale Gimmick

Life No Comment

I love a good point of sale gimmick. I discovered a new one one just the other day while browsing on Amazon. I was curious how much Gillette Razors were on there as compared to any other store, not that I remember how much they are at other places. On the page there was an option to have them sent to you every month, 2 months, 3 months, or 6 months. Plus, you save 15%. Now I have no idea how often I would need these but I love the idea. On the info page it also shows coffee, diapers, and laundry detergent as items eligible for subscription. It would be great for someone to not have to think about ordering or running out without any extra on hand. Its also great for Amazon because people are lazy and could wind up selling Huggies on the black market because they forgot to cancel.

My all time favorite point of sale gimmick is at the KFC/A&W in State College where they offer you some sort of side at a discount for whatever amount will round you to the next dollar. You almost can’t resist that one.


Birthday Wishes

Life No Comment

No, its not my birthday. That’s still a few months away. A few friends have had birthdays recently and it go me to thinking about the wishing of Happy Birthday with all the various forms of communication available.

I used to keep on top of birthdays through a variety of methods. All of which left out a large portion of people. Still, it was better than nothing. My first line was my friend Matt, who remembers every birth date he hears. Its really quite remarkable. My other method relied on Away Messages. Either the person who’s birthday it was, posting a ‘Hey, its my birthday! Yay me!’ type message, or a mutual friend having a ‘Happy Birthday so and so!’ Away Message. So if people did not know Matt or did not go on IM, they didn’t get a birthday wish of any kind.

Then Facebook came along and would let you know, when you visited the site, which of your friends had birthdays coming up. The birthdays aren’t quite as obvious as they used to be on Facebook, but I’ve moved on from that method. It was very helpful to keep track or to look up a date if you couldn’t remember.

Currently I try and keep track of birthdays by adding them to my Address Book on my computer. I have gathered the dates from all the previous methods. This is part of a larger initiative of mine to try and keep email address, phone numbers, and addresses as up to date as possible in a single convenient location. Birthdays are part of the Mac Address Book. What makes that so great is that it also incorporates them into iCal. Then I found this amazing widget called Happy Birthdays! It lists all the birthdays you have in your Address Book. It tells you the date of their birthday, how many days away that is and the age they will be.

When the birthday comes around the question is how to handle the acknowledgment of the event.

To me Facebook is the lowest on the list of ways to wish Happy Birthday. While its simple to do and you can mean the best by your wish I feel that you get roped in with lesser wishes, thus weakening your birthday wish. For one, its possible the wisher didn’t know it was your birthday until they logged in and saw it. The larger problem is when this person is someone you haven’t talked to in a really long time. Now if they just wished ‘Happy Birthday!’ then fine, thanks for thinking of me. However, there is no reason to go any further. Any sort of ‘It’s been a while’ or ‘We should hang out’ has no place here. If I haven’t talked to you in a few years I don’t think you wishing me a happy birthday is suddenly going to turn us into best friends. Essentially you want to avoid any sort of exchange that would like similar to this:

Wisher: Happy Birthday! It’s been a while. We should catch up, what’s new?

Me: Thanks! Things are good. Let’s see … a lot has happened since we last talked. I got my driver’s license, graduated High School, went to college, graduated that, got a job and did about a million other things that I can save so we have something to talk about next year when you wish me a happy birthday. Sorry, but don’t expect me to post on your wall whenever your birthday is.

Get the point? Now I’m sure I’ve been guilty of doing some of this. I have since become aware and will try to control my actions in the future. Who knows, maybe I do want to be friends, and I remember the person being pretty cool, you know, when we were teenagers.

So without Facebook, what are my options?

My method of choice recently has been text messaging. Just a simple happy birthday, possibly with an additional message. No questions or reasons for the person to text me back anything more than a ‘Thanks!’ Personally I don’t even need the thanks. I just want to send the wish along but not mess with any part of their otherwise enjoyable day that I really have nothing to do with.

A phone call is an example of the messing with the day. The phone call will inevitably turn into a conversation and an awkward one at that. Some people do fall into the phone call realm. At this point that list is incredibly short. My phone usage level is at a 2 (out of 10) right now so its going to take a lot for me to dial someone these days. Dial means finding the person in your contact list and hitting Send these days, correct?

E-Cards are an excellent idea. I just haven’t gotten into the habit of using them. There are a couple of options and you can write whatever you want at the end to make it personalized. For some reason I’m more likely to send out E-Cards to a bunch of my friends on some obscure holiday than on your birthday. I think I’m going to start considering E-Cards from now on.

Here’s a throwback: A Card. No E in front. This means you actually went outdoors, picked out a card, purchased said card, signed your name, maybe included a message, located a stamp and that person’s address, and put it in the mailbox. These days I’m pretty sure that if you go through all that, and its not a family member, you are legally married to that person. I’m going to guess that its been almost a year since I mailed a birthday card. Who knows when or if I will ever send another.

Now you think you’ve got me all figured out. If you’re my friend you may now be offended if I post on your Facebook wall or that you didn’t get a phone call. This is just what I’m thinking today. Maybe on your birthday I will be in an E-Card mood or have some sort of other crazy idea. Perhaps you’ll get some land on the moon or a membership in the cheese of the month club. If I do post on your Facebook wall, maybe I’m being ironic and figure you will get the joke and enjoy it that much more. Don’t try and keep up, you’ll hurt yourself.


Back to

Tech No Comment

I decided to start using again. iTunes does a fine job of keeping track of how many times I’ve listened to songs and I have some ratings in there to keep track of my favorites and songs I never want to hear again, but don’t want to delete. lets me keep track of what I’ve listened to over the past week or month. More stats the better I always say.

The major reason I had stopped using it was that I don’t want it to count podcasts in my stats. The software lets you pick which directories to track. It took a little while to set that up to ignore my podcast directory and it didn’t work. This is a new version of the software, but I haven’t tested to see if it works now. I’ll survive by going to the site and manually deleting what I don’t want tracked. At least they give me that option. We’ll see if I get sick of it again soon. has all sorts of other cool ideas. Add a large user base and you can see why CBS bought them.

The recommendation or neighbor radio both sound cool if you are looking for something new. I’ve never used any of the radio features. I’m content with all the music I have to listen to. I have other ways of finding new artists. Usually by visiting Absolute Punk a few times a day.

I mentioned how much I love stats. Well, not only do they keep track of your own stats, but for everyone collectively. You can also have groups and see what’s most popular within your group. I was a little shocked when I looked at the Overall Charts. The Weekly Top Tracks have a lot of new stuff except at #7 where Oasis – Wonderwall sneaks in. Its a great song, but seems completely out of place on that list.

The feature that could be the coolest but turns out to be the scariest is the Neighbors. Based on what you listen to it shows you the most similar people. To me this is the best way to find new bands to listen to. Its just quicker than the Recommendation Radio. The scary part? My closest neighbor is a 16 year old girl. I should expect this, but I don’t like it being told to me. I’ve only seen music advertised on I’m thankful for that, I’m scared what sorts of ads I’d be getting otherwise based on my music tastes.

I’m going to go do my part to get Champagne Supernova into the Top 10.

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