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Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’ Category

Apple Store Refresh?

Update @ 21:13 HKT: The US Apple Store returned. It appears that Apple updated its store to include Father’s Day promotions.

Update @ 21:12 HKT: The Hong Kong store has returned, but the US Apple Store remains offline.

The Apple Store appears to be offline today, after I logged on to check out the prices of some accessories I wanted to buy. We’ll see what changes Apple has made after their store returns.

Encoding Exports

After doing all the editing, the final stage of any videomaking process is to render the whole thing.

Adobe Premiere has a built-in Export tool, which allows manipulation of tens of settings that all change the final output of the video. I chose H.264, a common encoding format for videos, and used PAL DV High Quality at first, although switched to another preset later on.

What’s most interesting is the buttons along the bottom right of the user interface. There’s the standard Cancel button, a Metadata button that allows me to edit all the metadata included with the video (every single bit, which is thousands), and then there’s a Queue and Export button.

What’s the difference?

Export immediately creates the video, from anything that Premiere has on hand. It’s the fast, dirty option, programmed for quick results.

Queue, however, sends all the Premiere data to the Adobe Media Encoder and renders the video there. It’s much sleeker and efficient because the Media Encoder is better at creating the file type, and saves space. Unfortunately, the rendering takes several times longer.

After it’s all set, all that’s left is to hit Return, let the Media Encoder start, drain a tonne of Alex’s resources, and render the video.

I sat watching the Encoder go through the entire project for a full ten minutes, spending the first eight of those minutes rendering the first 5 seconds of the video and the last two minutes rendering the remaining 3 minutes or so. Apparently, Adobe Media Encoder is very good at rendering out video clips but takes painstakingly long on still images. I have not thought up a plausible explanation for why.

Still, Adobe’s powerful suite of programs is pretty good, I must say.

What do we know about the next iPhone’s design so far?

It seems as if nothing can be known about Apple’s products just before they are released.

I’ve come to trust the rumours, but take them with a pinch of salt — some of the things that people believe about the next Apple product is just too much, but some of it is actually smack-bang right what turns up. I remember a time when some theorised that Apple might do away with the Home button on the iPad after looking at their promotional posters for WWDC.

Turned out that the Apple posters were simply the iPad used in landscape mode.

Still, I do believe that the new iPhone — likely the iPhone 5, unless Apple pulls another S and makes it the iPhone 4SS — is actually likely to keep the original screen, and I trust that Apple might change their dock connectors.

However, I don’t really believe the rumours that Apple might change their screens to 4 inches diagonally — this sounds a lot like the previous rumours of Apple changing the size of their iPhone. I like the iconic design of the iPhone and think that the screen is definitely a part of it. It hasn’t changed through the iPhone 1, iPhone 2, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S — why change it on the seventh new release?

via What do we know about the next iPhone’s design so far?.

Your Feed is being Piped


Image representing Pipes as depicted in CrunchBase

The Yahoo! Pipes logo. Image via CrunchBase.

Yahoo! Pipes is a pretty cool thing that basically allows users to, as they put it, ‘aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web’.

The thing about Yahoo! Pipes is that it’s supposed to be a tool to let users take content from all over the place and then do interesting things with it, and reformat it so that it fits their needs. Like stock market information. Or… blog posts. Or… RSS feeds.

You see, I’m currently working on this website project that has a little tiny widget that is supposed to take my school’s online bulletin system’s built-in RSS feed and display it on the site. It’s a little feature that I like, and I’m hoping it’ll drive more student traffic onto the site.

Here's the little guy, displaying a poor error at the beginning of the project.

Now, this was set up over the holidays, when the RSS feed was empty and there was nothing on it. When I first saw it, I assumed that the error was a result of an empty feed. So I ignored it.

However, later, I soon discovered that the bulletin was being updated, and the RSS feed was, but this little guy was not. So I had a little search. The site is hosted on, and soon enough, I found a little line in WordPress’s support documentation:

Feed URLs that start with “https://” will not work on our RSS Widget.

And I was not even surprised to find out that the RSS feed my school provided was set by the server’s requirements to only send the feed over HTTPS. As a result, I was stumped. There was no way to directly get the RSS feed over to the widget.

Determined to fix the problem instead of just dropping the widget, I began to search for some options. As a result, I came across Yahoo! Pipes, which I soon discovered was just perfect for the widget.

I’m not a fan of Yahoo!, and I certainly use none of their products (preferring Google), but Yahoo! Pipes proved amazing. While the task I used it for (RSS reconfiguration) could possibly also have been achieved by Feedburner, Feedburner refused to load my school’s RSS feed and claimed my school’s server returned 400 errors. (Which is probably likely.)

Yahoo! Pipes uses a drag-and-drop programming method, not unlike Scratch. It’s really easy and intuitive to use and the only problem I ever encountered was that the ‘pipes’ I created occasionally refused to save and I had to duplicate-save my project six times to get it to work properly. Still, it’s a wonderful tool for anyone who needs to take information from all over the Internet and put it in one place, especially if you need to reformat that information into another form.

I haven’t tried all of it out, but I definitely will take a look at the other features offered by Yahoo! Pipes.

What really interested me was that Yahoo! allowed me to sign in with my Google account, through OpenID. I wonder why that is? Does anyone have any ideas?

Apple WWDC 2012 announced for June 11th – get your tickets now!

Hurray! Scholarship program! Too bad that I don’t develop apps… yet. Excited to see what comes out from Apple this year!

Google Announces They’re Developing “Augmented Reality” Glasses |

Okay, fine. In my experience, Google goes bonkers over speculative technology, and actually invests loads of resources into developing it. I know that they’ve been developing a self-driving car, but this is practically overboard. It’s something I want.

Augmented Reality Glasses are devices that I’ve been writing about for years, generally in fiction stories. They’re a dream of most science fiction writers — and a couple of days ago, Google announced their intention to develop some and asked their users about it.

It’s amazing. If this technology actually came to the commercial market (and knowing Google, it probably will… just in about 20 years), it’ll revolutionise accessing the internet again, after the iPhone did it by letting us go mobile. Plus, I can already think of a dozen awesome features that couldn’t be implemented on any other kind of device. 

But if Google is really to develop something like this, what would be the cost? And, judging from the video, how many sensors will be on that thing? What kind of battery would they use? (Knowing Google, again, probably a self-developed battery for this purpose). And how successful will it be?

Maybe the fact that Google’s posted this idea before any kind of technical prototype means that they’re trying to get ahead of the rest of the market. And I can think of no other company that might want to build this but Apple.

To be fair, Google’s a great company. It’s developed an amazing self-driving car (that I’m surprised isn’t on the market today). But perhaps Apple’s vision and history make it more suitable to develop such a product. Then again, Apple isn’t that into speculative technology like Google is.

I just know that I’m definitely buying a pair as soon as they’re a reasonable price. (Probably not in the foreseeable future.) Would you?

>> Google Announces They’re Developing “Augmented Reality” Glasses |

Goodbye, Skyler. Amazon Customer Service will take you.

Skyler, my Kindle, was officially pronounced dead this morning. RIP, Skyler.