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Great “Meet the Bloggers” event at Intel Software Network Island in Second Life yesterday

We had a great informal “meet the Intel bloggers” in Second Life yesterday. at the Intel Software Network sim/island in Second Life. Lots of people showed up, both Intel and non-Intel folks. Introductions were made, questions were asked and answered (most popular question from Intel people: “what do you guys want to see from us?” – most popular question from non-Intel people: “what can you do for us besides marketing?”). 57 Miles from metaversed.com was there, and wrote up a nice post about the event.

You can see a few of the screenshots I took of the gathering in my “Intel in Second Life” set on Flickr. Peretz Stein (Paul Steinberg in RL) is our main Second Life guru guy, and he’s in world a lot. Look for him if you have any questions. I’m Gadget Mandelbrot in world – the blue guy with big orange hair and orange crocs. πŸ˜‰ Feel free to friend me, IM me for teleport, or just say hi if you ever run into me in world.

We’ve got a few more in world events planned soon – a Compiler Q&A, time with one of Intel’s threading gurus (Clay Breshears), and a “hacking Intel” session from my cube neighbor and AJAX wizard Kevin Pirkl. Keep an eye on the Intel Software Network Events page for the details, and come join us!

We’re experimenting in Second Life – we realize that we’re n00bs there, and we’re trying to not suck. But one thing to remember is that Intel Software Network is about helping developers make Really Awesome Software, and our Second Life presence is part of that. Not marketing. Think of us as the little rogue team within Intel that gets to try cool new stuff like this, to see what works and what doesn’t. πŸ™‚

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My Google Reader subscriptions disappeared!

Ooh, this is scary. I got an IM from a friend asking if my Google Reader subscriptions had ever just, you know, disappeared. I replied that no, they hadn’t. His had, but I suggested he just wait a while and see if it was a hiccup.

A few minutes later, I switched tabs to read some feeds, and what do you know – they were gone. Actually, it was set to show “All” items, instead of just unread items, but there were no “Updated” items. My tags were there, but no subscriptions.

I sent out some feelers via my Twitter network, and sure enough, about 5 other people reported that their subscriptions were gone. Jason said that he restarted his browser (Flock), and they came back, which made me think that it was a browser issue. So I fired up Safari 3 beta on my Windows machine (in a Parallels VM, actually), which was the first time it had even been run. A clean, virgin browser. I figured if it was a browser issue (I use Firefox on Mac OS X), they would be fine in Safari on Windows.

Nope. They were gone. And people in my Twitter network continue to report similar problems. Something’s definitely going wrong with some people’s Google Reader accounts. I only hope it’s temporary, and that they fix it soon! Hurry up Google Reader team! I’m starting to twitch from withdrawal over here! πŸ™‚

BTW, now is a good time to mention that it’s a good idea to backup your subscription list (whatever reader you use) to OPML once in a while, just in case something disastrous like this does happen. In Google Reader, you can go to http://www.google.com/reader/subscriptions/export – you have to be signed in to Google Reader for that link to work. Or use the Export feature of your favorite reader. This will give you your list of feeds in a nice little OPML file you can backup (I Gmail myself a copy of it once in a while), and you can restore from it by importing if you ever need to. Important safety tip! πŸ™‚

I know that my feed list has been cultivated over years, and is the result of many hours of work. Besides my blog and my photos (both of which have multiple redundant backups), it’s probably the thing I’d feel worst about if I ever lost it entirely…

Update: My feeds seem to be back. There’s some coverage on this issue over at TechCrunch (thanks for the link, Mike!) and in this support thread on Google Groups. Stay tuned, and thanks for the comments as to the state of your own feeds. And many thanks to Google for the quick, transparent response to this issue. I’m curious to know the cause of it, and what’s being done to prevent it from happening again.

As an aside, this is an AWESOME example of the power of social networks like Twitter. This story developed and broke within minutes, using Twitter to gather information, corroborate what was happening, and then channel people to relevant updates to the situation. I love the intertubes! πŸ˜‰

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Why I won’t be getting an iPhone

I’ve been thinking about the iPhone a lot. The new commercials are extremely hot, and really show off what’s great about the iPhone – the interface and the design. But I’m still not convinced, and I’m not planning on buying one.

Here’s what kills me. People are acting like the fact that the iPhone is limited to 2G/EDGE/~120Kbps speeds is a limitation of AT&T/Cingular’s network. It’s NOT .

They have a perfectly functional, nationwide, faster-than-EVDO, UMTS and HSDPA 3G network in place. They have for months. I know, because I use it every day. So does everyone who has an HTC 8525 or Samsung Blackjack phone (among others).

I’m a wireless data junkie – I could care less about the voice network. A few years ago, I jumped ship from T-Mobile as a 7 year customer to Verizon, because EVDO was so fast (I averaged prolly 600Kbps), and T-Mobile was stuck on GPRS (hadn’t even upgraded to slow EDGE yet). Then, earlier this year, I dumped Verizon EVDO for Cingular HSDPA because Cingular/AT&T IS FASTER – I average about 850Kbps, and regularly test at over 1Mbps. And HSDPA/UMTS is backwards compatible, so on the (very) rare occasion I’m in a city with no 3G HSDPA/UMTS, it simply falls back to EDGE. No problem.

So it REALLY turns me off that there’s no 3G in the iPhone. The network is there. It’s backwards compatible. It’s fast. It works. Apple is even talking about integrating 3G into their next gen laptops, while LEAVING IT OUT OF THEIR CELL PHONE.

That’s just messed up Steve Jobs reasoning right there, and it’s the main reason (along with the fact that it won’t sync with Exchange/Outlook over the air) that I won’t be picking up an iPhone. I don’t deny that they’re sexy to death. I don’t doubt they’ll sell like hotcakes, and make millions for Apple. But my expectations are higher, and until they’re met, Steve gets no iPhone money from me.

*grump*

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What a great time to be a geek!

Just some of the reasons:

iPhone Google Reader Gears Popfly UMPCs Surface ustream CamTwist Twitter Facebook Leopard Santa Rosa LOLCats S3 EC2 Second Life Parallels HSDPA EVDO Wii OLPC Classmate PC Eee PC WordPress Tumblr OpenID Akismet Wikipedia Mediawiki Lifehacker BoingBoing HDTV StreetView Flickr

*catches breath*

And that’s just stuff that I’ve gotten excited about in the last 24 hours! πŸ™‚

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Elgato is working on the image quality issues with the Turbo.264

I posted yesterday about some image/video quality issues I noticed with video encoded with the elgato Turbo.264 (bout time I started writing that correctly). Namely, I saw some jagginess and interlacing artifacts in video when compared to the same encoded with iMovie/Quicktime H.264.

Well, elgato is listening, because I got an email this morning from them stating that they’re aware of the issue, and they’re working on it. I got a link to a beta of the software, which I’m not sure if I can share yet (I’ve asked, and I’ll post a link if I can). So I’ll try that out, and see if it makes a difference.

Thanks to Lars at elgato for being web savvy enough to find my post, and contact me about the issue. THAT is how a company needs to do business, and my happiness/loyalty as a customer of elgato has gone way up. I’m even more likely to recommend them now. πŸ™‚

Update: Just did an encoding test on the same file I used yesterday, with the new beta Turbo.264 software, and the image quality is definitely improved. None of the interlacing artifacts I noticed were there, and it looks at least as good if not better than the one I’m comparing it, encoded with Quicktime/iMovie. The bit rate is higher, resulting in a larger file, though (38MB for about 3 minutes, compared to about 27MB for the original Turbo.264 version and the Quicktime version). But this is beta software, so I won’t count that against them.

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LOLFeeds can has automatic LOLCats

Came across this in one of my feeds, and it made me literally LOL (which hurt, because my muscles are still sore from throwing up when I was sick earlier this week). LOLFeeds takes a variety of feeds – news like CNN, BoingBoing, people’s Twitter feeds, or any RSS feed, and automagically combines them with pictures from the Cute Cat group on Flickr. The results are hilarious, sometimes non-sensical, sometimes sublime.

For example:

If you need a primer on the LOLCats phenomenon, see the Wikipedia article on it, I Can Has Cheezburger, LOLBots, or just read the internet for a while. Anil Dash of Six Apart also has a fascinating look at “kitty pidgin”, the language construct of LOLCats (it’s possible to get it wrong!). And if you don’t know why they’re funny, your funny might be broken. πŸ˜‰
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Good news and bad news on the Elgato Turbo H.264

I’ve spent a little while playing with my new Elgato Turbo H.264 hardware video encoder. There’s good news and bad news, so far.

The good news is that it does, in fact, add a profile to iMovie, so you can export/encode video directly from there without an intermediate step of exporting in raw DV format to then encode in the little Turbo H.264 app. That’s nice, and I was worried it would be a problem. I presume this is also the case with Final Cut Express and Pro, which are mentioned in the same light as iMovie in the documentation.

More good news: the encoding is fast. Noticeably faster than just using the CPUs in my 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo Mac Book Pro. 4x faster, like they claim? Unknown, but it feels possible. I’ll try to get some benchmarks and some numbers soon, to quantify this.

The bad news: the video file encoded with the Turbo H.264 is very slightly larger (filesize), and very slightly lower quality visually (seems jaggy/aliased – a problem with interlacing?) compared to the one I exported manually using similar settings in iMovie (Quicktime, H.264, same res, etc.). πŸ™

That’s not to say at all that the quality is bad – it’s not. It’s really quite good, and the differences are only noticeable upon close side-by-side inspection. The source footage I tested on was shot in HDV 60i (60 frames per second, interlaced). I’ll try some progressive footage, and see if that makes a difference. I’m not targeting anything higher than 30fps anyway, so it’s not a big deal to switch to 30p from 60i on my camera.

More to come as it’s available…

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Got an Elgato Turbo H.264 hardware video encoder

I’ve had my eye on the Elgato Turbo H.264 video encoder ever since they announced it. It’s a USB stick, larger than your average flash drive, that houses a hardware encoder for H.264 video. H.264 is a newish video codec that provides very high quality video at relatively small files sizes. But the downside to that is that encoding H.264 video (e.g., exporting from your original video source to the final video format and size) is VERY processor intensive. I do all of my video in iMovie and H.264 Quicktime, and it takes roughly 4 hours to encode 40 minutes of H.264 video at 640×360 or 640×480. According to the claims made by Elgato, this little USB encoder can do it 4 times faster. Not bad for a hundred bucks, if you do a lot of video encoding.

As soon as it became available for order, I got the OK to pick one up. It arrived yesterday. I haven’t had a chance to test it out yet – I want to get a reference video and do some benchmark tests. But it looks and feels pretty slick. It comes with an application (Mac only – sorry, Windows folks) that appears to be a simple “drop video files here” encoder front end. Not sure if it works from directly within iMovie yet, or if I have to export video as DV from iMovie, then drop it onto the Turbo H. 264 software (it would be nice if that extra step weren’t required).

I’ll update more as I get some time with it, and post some sample videos. Let me know if you have any questions about it! πŸ™‚

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