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May 2012 Archives

May 7, 2012

Just Mobile Slide Elegant iPad Stand

Just Mobile has a fascinating collection of accessories for portable devices that they view as "design objects." These include stands and chargers and styluses.

The Just Mobile Slide is a beautiful example of this approach -- simple, elegant, and functional.

The Slide is a stand for your iPad, striped to basics. It's made from a single piece of high-grade aluminum, with a cylindrical support at one end, which flows into a flat surface, with a lip at the other end to hold your tablet.

The magic comes from a rubber cylinder stowed in the tubular support, which you pull out and roll down the surface to position your iPad at the desired viewing angle.

The base is only around 5 x 3 1/2 inches, but with the solid metal construction and friction from the rubber cylinder it can hold the iPad firmly, and in both portrait and landscape positions.

The Slide is indeed a crafted design object, and is available for around $34.

See my Portable Accessories 2012 article for more on portable storage, audio, power, cases, imaging, and other accessories.

Find the Just Mobile Slide on Amazon.com

May 11, 2012

Just Mobile AluPen Pro Stylus & Pen

Fingers are great for sliding and flicking and picking, but when you want to do some more extensive or precise work (or really go to town in Draw Something), a stylus can be a real help.

But the stylus needs to be comfortable to hold and manipulate -- not too small or light or slippery.

So Just Mobile has another interesting and elegant design idea to offer (see previous post) -- the Just Mobile AluPen Pro Stylus & Pen.

The AluPen is made from aluminum, with a soft rubber stylus for the iPad and other capacitive touch screens. Its chunky design provides the bulk to hold comfortably and securely, like a solid pen.

The AluPen stylus is available in a range of bright colors for around $18. Or the AluPen Pro is a combination stylus and pen, including a retractable Pelikan ballpoint with twist mechanism for around $36 in silver or black.

After all, you don't always need a stylus when using your iPad, but when you do, doesn't it make sense to use a special tool for the job?

See my Portable Accessories 2012 article for more on portable storage, audio, power, cases, imaging, and other accessories.

Find the Just Mobile AluPen on Amazon.com

May 13, 2012

Streaming Media East 2012 in New York

The Streaming Media East conference is back in New York for the 2012 edition. It's held at the New York Hilton Hotel in the heart of the city (6th Ave. between West 53rd and 54th Streets). While there's lots going on -- this year's show has some 100 speakers in up to four parallel sessions, and 50 exhibitors -- at the same time there's also time to chat with other few thousand attendees, as well as the speakers and exhibitors.

The show kicks off on Monday with half-day pre-conference Seminars, on Streaming Delivery, Live Webcasting, Online Video Deployment for HTML5 and Flash, and Jan Ozer's annual update on Encoding for Flash, Mobile, and HTML5. As a bonus, several of the presentations are already posted online.

The main Streaming Media East conference then runs for two days on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 15 and 16.

The technical program opens with a keynote by Matt Frost, Senior Business Product Manager for Google Chrome. The presentations and panel sessions range from technical (HTML5, Flash, MPEG DASH, live streaming, encoding, video quality) to strategic (YouTube, Facebook, and social media, Internet TV, enterprise to higher ed).

On Tuesday, conference organizer Dan Rayburn from StreamingMedia.com will compare and demo connected TV platforms, and Jan Ozer is back to help with Encoding Video for HTML5 (see post and book from last year).

And the exhibits are open as usual on Tuesday from 10 am to 6 pm and on Wednesday from 10 am to 4 pm. This is a great opportunity to spend time with a broad range of the key players in streaming production and delivery.

See the StreamingMedia.com site for show coverage.

May 17, 2012

Streaming Media East Wrap - HTML5

The Streaming Media East conference has wrapped in New York. The buzzwords at the exhibition and presentations were similar to last year -- content management, mobile, playback on any device, live streaming -- but with even more emphasis on integrated offerings, going beyond generic storage and delivery to offer value added services, customization of offerings, integration with outside services (as in educational applications), and better reporting of what the users are doing.

As a microcosm of this extension of streaming media beyond just playing video, a new theme at the show was the revitalization of digital signage. Companies from AT&T (network services) to VBrick (media appliances) demonstrated how these ideas of media management and wireless distribution can deliver much more compelling and useful digital signage. In applications from business to schools, offices to lobbies, these displays now can present dynamic information in multiple windows, including real-time updates, news feeds, and, of course, streaming video.

And in the streaming world, the conference hosted several sessions on the promise of HTML5. In particular, Jan Ozer gave a nice update on the promise and reality of encoding and presenting video using HTML5 (the presentation is posted at his Streaming Learning Center site).

HTML5 certainly has great promise -- allowing video to play directly in the browser without needing additional plug-ins, with playback across desktop to mobile, and better interactive control -- as well as simplifying the work for video producers and web developers.

However, as Ozer explained, the promise is not quite realized:

- First, the platforms are not quite ready, as only some 60% of the browsers by market share currently support HTML5.

- Second, the browsers do not support a common video format -- The most recent versions of Apple Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer support the H.264 standard, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera support WebM (the former On2 VP8 acquired and open sourced by Google), and earlier Firefiox and Opera support Ogg Vorbis (also open source).

(It appears that the desire among end users for open source media formats has been blunted by the commitment by the MPEG consortium to not charge royalties for non-commercial use. However, the royalty structure still is inhibiting its adoption by the smaller browser developers.)

As a result, Web developers who want to reach a broad audience still need to support Flash video in addition to HTML5, and also support multiple video codecs within HTML5. At least for the moment, the code is getting messier, rather than cleaner.

There was goods news, however, from Ozer's annual update on his advice for doing H.264 encoding. It's now not so much which encoder you use, since the leading products are all quite good. And it's not so much about tweaking the encoding parameters, since you can generally get good-looking video by following general guidelines for resolution, data rate, and key encoding parameters.

For example, Ozer's surveys of how leading companies do encoding for their online sites show bits per pixel at around 0.1 to 0.2 for standard-res video (640 x 360), and down to 0.05 for HD (1280 x 720) as the codecs work even more efficiently at higher res.

Even better, Ozer sees Baseline profile H.264 (as required for mobile devices) now often delivering similar quality as High profile (as supported for desktop devices), which means you may be able to do most of your encoding with the single Baseline profile, and only need to encode a second version at High profile for particularly difficult video.

Then for the WebM format, Ozer sees it delivering quite good quality, similar to H.264, although with more variable support among encoding tools.

Ozer concluded by discussing DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP), a new standard being developed by MPEG that offers the promise of a common way to package video for true streaming directly over HTTP, from desktop to mobile, without requiring special streaming servers or clients.

However, DASH is designed as an open format, not only supporting multiple codecs, but also multiple formats for dividing the video into fragments, so video that works with the approach used by Adobe and Microsoft would not work on Apple devices (including the iPhone and iPad). DASH is still being worked out, and the level of support from key companies is not yet clear, so while it also holds promise, we well may well still have another case of multiplying formats.

See Jan Ozer's book, Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5, for much more on understanding these formats and how to good video compression (see earlier post).

And see his StreamingLearingCenter.com site for much more on streaming, including video tutorials, sample comparison images and videos, and information on his webinars, seminars, and consulting.

Order from Amazon.com

May 22, 2012

Yurbuds Ironman Inspire PRO Sport Earphones

Yurbuds makes "Performance Fit Sport Earphones," with product packaging featuring sweaty triathloners. In particular, the bright red Yurbuds Ironman Inspire PRO earphones are definitely not low profile, with a rather bulky and ungainly look featuring a swoop design that twists into your ear.

While at first glance this design might make sense only to help hold the earbuds secure for active use, the Yurbuds turn out to be amazing comfortable for extended wear, and with bright and clear sound. They're made from medical grade silicon that's rugged but flexible, with an extended 4 foot Kevlar cable, and are water-resistant and sweat proof.

Plus they include an in-line microphone and three control buttons, so you can adjust the volume, start and stop music, and switch to hands-free calls.

You insert the Yurbuds with a twisting motion to fit the scoop into the ear canal. It then rests comfortably and fits securely without requiring a tight fit, and still allowing ambient noise in from your surroundings.

The scoop delivers clear sound deeper into your ears, for clearer playback and very clear phone calls, although it's a bit disconcerting to apparently hear the other party speaking so crisply from the center of your head.

The Yurbuds are also great for listening to podcasts, although the clear sound does mean you hear more of the background sounds during less well-produced recordings.

The bottom line is that the Yurbuds Ironman Inspire PRO Earphones are a great fit for sports, and beyond, combining a rugged design and secure fit with great acoustics and surprising comfort. They're available for around $49, along with other related models.

Find the Yurbuds Sport Earphones on Amazon.com

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About May 2012

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in May 2012, listed from oldest to newest.

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