Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks

The Art Of The Sale

Posted by tomwiles at 6:32 AM on April 1, 2011

Since the advent of the VCR, the adage has been to look to the pornography industry to see what would happen – which formats would take off, what business models might work, etc., etc., etc. While the pornography industry did seem to be the first on the block to figure out how to make e-commerce work, do they still lead the way today when it comes to the future of video?

While there is a certain profession that perhaps lays claim to be the oldest, right up there with it is the art of the sale, and the pastime of shopping. The shopping experience itself if done well can be a pleasure.

QVC, HSN and other home shopping channels excel at making the shopping experience itself the content. They make no pretense – they are right up front with the fact that their channels are all about advertising.

Many people claim to hate ads, but I’d contend I that it’s really bad ads that most people despise. Advertising that is well done is informative and entertaining and can even be enjoyable. Watching QVC, HSN, ShopNBC, etc. product presentations (particularly electronics, gadgets and sometimes cooking) can for me easily fall into the guilty pleasure category. These people are masters at the art of the sale. Who doesn’t enjoy (or cannot learn from) watching a master ply his craft?

So how are the home shopping channels handling their all-important online presence? QVC and HSN both have iOS and Android apps that make it possible to watch their current live video streams, as well as easily search their catalogs, as well as place and track orders. The ShopNBC app is a fail in that it doesn’t allow you to watch the live video stream. I’d give the nod to QVC’s app as being the most advanced and usable overall.

PowerPress Podcasting Plugin Updated

Posted by geeknews at 8:38 PM on March 7, 2011

My team at RawVoice this morning released version 2.0 of the PowerPress Podcast plugin for WordPress. The work committed to this update was well over 1 month of coding. I have been running the beta here at Geek News Central for several weeks, and many of you have already commented on the new video player experience as being superior to what you have seen on other podcasters websites. Now that the update has been made available to the 80,000 podcaster worldwide we are excited to watch the implementation across the web.

Folks making video will want to check out the new HTML5 video player, WebM support and Embeds feature! PowerPress 2.0 provides an optimized viewing experience for the widest spectrum of hardware/software including  web browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari), mobile devices (e.g. iPhone, iPad, Android), and TV’s (e.g. Google TV, Roku, Boxee).

Some of the new features and enhancements include:

  • HTML5 video player
  • HTML5 audio player
  • Embeds your audience can take with them just like YouTube.
  • WebM video support
  • Ogg audio/video support improvements
  • MP4+WebM (for mp4/m4v video, a new alternative WebM URL field is available. This is ideal for supporting all browser based HTML5 video players)
  • Flow Player Classic can now play m4a audio and mp4/m4v video
  • New Video Player settings page added
  • Settings pages enhanced with new options such as location, frequency and T.V. options
  • Episode Entry box enhanced with new ‘isHD’ option when video entered into Media URL box
  • Episode Entry box now includes option to configure video player width/height on a per-episode basis
  • Upload image option added to supplement the video poster image field. Images are uploaded to the built-in image gallery in WordPress.
  • Plus a number of improvements

I have created a short video on some of the coolest features and hope you will take a few minutes to overview the update. Please note that the video embed below is from the actual posting on our official PowerPress site. No longer do we need Blip or YouTube we can share our content from our sites with the embed feature.

Make sure you Upgrade today!

Sorenson Squeeze 7 Review With Webm

Posted by geeknews at 6:20 PM on March 6, 2011

One of the challenges with creating video in this day, is that you have to encode several formats of video to cover all browsers and devices. I have worked very hard to minimize the number of encodes I need to make each week due to the time involved. While there are several online services that I could upload master media files to for encoding, it is generally very expensive, and who wants to upload a 6gb file, just to get the media into their encoding queue.

Over the past couple of years my media work flow, required my master file to be re-encoded so I would have distribution files, that would be optimized for the web and viewing on devices like the Apple TV, Roku, iPad, iPhone, Android etc. All was well with my process until several months ago, when Google pulled the rug out from under everyone, and said that the next version of chrome would not have native HTML5 support for H.264 encoded media.

This posed a dilemma as I wanted to be able to support HTML5 at GNC to the fullest. Also in part because I am sick and tired of having YouTube and Blip video embed files on my site. video embed playback performance has been crap. The videos that I push to YouTube seem never to be as nice as I want them to be after YouTube has had their way on the uploaded file.

When Angelo my CIO at RawVoice, put in a provision in our PowerPress 2.0 plugin that not only made our player 100% html5 capable across all browsers and mobile devices, but also made it so that we would support .webm as well. I had to figure out how to start providing a .webm file for browsers that are supporting the format.

Finding a .webm encoder is like finding a needle in a haystack. Note to Google, you better make available a good encoder for Windows and Macs if you want this format to take off. Of those available I tried Miro, it was a piece of crap with no way to adjust settings, and it simply could not handle big master files, the plugin for Firefox, while free was so slow that it would take 2-3 days to encode one of my show files.

So as I was searching, Sorenson Squeeze 7 kept coming up and was reportedly the best commercial .webm encoder on the market. Seeing that I am not a command line Ninja anymore, and the thought of having to waste 2-3 days dealing with the command line using  ffmpeg to come up with a solution, was not the stick in the eye pain I was willing to endure.

So I downloaded the 30 day free trial of Sorenson Squeeze Version 7, and while gasping for breath over the potential $800 price tag, I figured anything this expensive should be able to do one heck of a good job.

Now I will be honest this enoder lives up to it’s reputation, and I spent 4-5 hours testing a variety of encoding settings  and a whole host of its options. My computers 8 cores definitively got a workout, and I think I am dialed in on what encoding templates I am going to use for my show publishing.

The best part is that this software happily automates several processes I used to do by hand. Everyone that knows me knows I am into automation and saving time. Sorenson Squeeze is going to save me many hours each month, by not forcing me to handle the files a couple of times before I get the finished product uploaded. More on that in a moment.

Lets look at the Interface

As you can see you can Import, Capture or setup a Watch Folder. The Watch Folder is where the magic happens. When I finish my show, then edit the recording and created the master file I would usually have to do more steps by hand. Now when the master encode is complete that file is saved in the watch folder, Sorrenson Squeeze then goes to work automatically on my video. Through preset on the watch folder, I have it create two .m4v files, and one .webm. When Sorenson Squeeze finishes an encode the software through the preset automatically uploads the files to my cdn where they are ready for distribution!  This all happens, while I am asleep or doing other things. To top it off when the media files are ready for publish the software notifies me the job is complete by email or sms.

If you do not want to use the watch folder option, you can manually add the files, apply the encoding presets and let it encode.

The real power of Sorenson Squeeze, lays in the media encode presets options. If you are clueless on what settings to choose, they provide you with about a 100 presets on a variety of file formats or you can go to their website and download ones submitted by other users. I modified my own.

Typical Preset:

As you can see the preset lets you change a unusual high number of settings so that you can tweak your videos encodes, just the way you want them. Within the preset you can change, video and audio encoding settings, you can alter the media through a huge number of filters and even drop a watermark on your media, you can setup custom publishing locations and it will notify you by sms or email when the file has been published.

The Sorenson Squeeze encoder will take a source file and create .aac, .ac3. .swf, .flv, .m4a, .mkv, .mp3, .mpg, .mp4, .m4v, .ogg, .mov, .webm, .wmv format so it has you covered on what every media types you want to encode. I tried a variety of media files as the source file all with great results.

Is it worth the $800.00 price tag? Well until something else comes along that will do .webm easily yes. The software will pay for itself in simply not having to re-handle the encoded media.  Having that process automated cuts my video production time by at least 2 hours each week.

As you remember in the beginning of this review my goal was to create .webm files. Here is what I have learned about .webm so far. Encoding time is much higher than .mp4/.m4v on a scale of 2 to 3 times longer. Encoding video is never a super fast process, but it beats me why it takes as long as it does, as compared to other media types. File sizes are typically a little bit bigger than a h.264 encode. The video quality delta between the H.264 media and .webm media is not even worth talking about at this point.

Finally the folks at Sorenson have documented the encoder well,  even after a couple of years of heavy video encoding I am still learning, and some of the menu items had me digging into the help section of their website to understand what certain functions did.

I did break out my credit card and paid for the software, as it is a tool I need. While still very expensive for an encoder the software will pay for itself in under 6 months…Check out a 30 day demo yourself and let me know what you think of Sorenson Squeeze 7


Posted by tomwiles at 1:57 AM on February 26, 2011

For some time now, when it came to desktop and laptop computer hardware, innovation has seemed to be somewhat stagnate. After all, what more can be done with word processing software? How can spreadsheets possibly be improved? How can the browsing experience be made better? Can email be made more effective or efficient?

Form impacts function, but function often defines form. The popular form of the day is the smartphone and the tablet, both popularized thanks to Steve Jobs and his team at Apple. Today’s smartphones have processors that are as powerful as desktop machines were five years ago. However, the smaller capacitive touch input screens as well as always-on Internet connections have ended up making possible convenience, ease-of-use and sheer simplicity paramount features. That new software design/interface aesthetic is now traveling back to it’s larger computer counterparts.

Some time back, I downloaded the App store on my Macs, but gave it no more than an initial cursory look and promptly forgot about its presence. This evening while waiting for some files to upload, I noticed the Mac App Store icon and decided to look it over again now that it’s been around for a while.

I must say, the Mac App Store pleasantly surprises me. I ended up downloading a few free apps. The Mac App Store browsing and download experience replicates the iPod/iPhone app store experience. The process couldn’t be easier. By putting all of these apps together in one coherent place it makes it much more likely I’ll end up finding software that (a) I might never have gone looking for in a search engine and (b) gives me a place to look for specific types of software when I might need it. While it’s by no means a complete list of all possible Mac software, it is a welcome addition that will likely spur additional future software development.

Can desktop/laptop operating systems become more useful? There is always room for improvement. Basic business software – word processing, spreadsheets, etc. likely cannot be improved beyond what they are. On the other hand, other computer functions such as photo editing, video editing, etc. likely still have dramatic gains that can be made, particularly as hardware speed and throughput continue to improve.

Lean And Zoom

Posted by Alan at 3:59 PM on February 9, 2011

In this video we take a look at ways to solve some quality of life issues for older or disabled people.  In particular, this is the Lean and Zoom which takes advantage of a person’s natural tendency, when at a PC, to lean closer to the screen if they are having trouble seeing what’s on it.

It’s a software product that can work with any built-in or external camera to sense the person looking at the screen and their position relevant to the screen.  It retails for the low price of $27.99.  Check out the video below to see how well this works and you will probably find a use for it for yourself or someone you know.

Interview by Carissa O’Brien for Geek News Central.

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WellDoc Medical Coaching Software For Better Patient Outcomes

Posted by tomwiles at 8:28 AM on January 24, 2011

Anand Iyer and Chris Bergstrom of Welldoc, Inc. ( present Welldoc Coaching Software for phones that helps patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes report their ongoing self-monitoring statistics and other relevant data to their physicians, thus helping the patient remain in compliance to their medical treatment program with an eye towards better patient outcomes.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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Where Are You & What’s Around You?

Posted by tomwiles at 1:24 PM on January 21, 2011

One of the most useful features/services of today’s smartphones is the ability to take advantage of the integrated GPS chip in combination with an always-on data connection, facilitating location-aware apps.

Priced at $1.99, “Allstays Truck & Travel” is an app that is available for Apple iOS and Google Android. It’s part of a larger suite of different types of location-aware mapping apps available at

The “Allstays Truck & Travel” app concentrates on showing locations for truck stops, truck scales, truck dealerships, truck washes, low clearance overpasses, Walmart locations, public rest areas and other places with truck parking.

The list of data points of interest seems reasonably complete, and the producer of the app seems to encourage as much user feedback as possible.

One potentially useful feature of the app is the ability to set up automatic alarms to give notification when one is within so many miles of an upcoming exit with specific types of favorited business.

Adobe Audition Mac Free Beta Download

Posted by tomwiles at 9:40 AM on November 13, 2010

Making the switch to Mac OS/X a few years ago as my primary computing platform was not without its sacrifices. Among these was Adobe Audition. Sure, I could use Audition in a Windows virtual machine, but it just wasn’t the same thing and entailed its own sacrifices.

Sacrifice no more. Adobe finally heeded the call for Audition for Mac OS/X, and has released a public beta that can currently be downloaded for free available at

After a cursory look at this new beta, I’m impressed. They seem to have succeeded in bringing the Adobe Audition user interface I love in Windows to OS/X. I’ll be buying the final product once it is released for sale to the public.


Posted by tomwiles at 10:55 PM on October 12, 2010

Before she retired, my Mom used to be a nurse. She typically would always keep around a few current medical books describing diseases and other books listing prescription drugs and their uses. While these sorts of books can make for rather dry reading, they can also be extremely interesting to thumb through from time to time. They can be particularly useful if you need to look something up.

The need to have printed reference books such as these has been rapidly fading over the past few years. A useful and interesting smartphone app to have installed on your Android phone is called “iTriage.” It contains an extensive list of medical symptoms, diseases, and treatments along with the ability to help find medical treatments and practitioners.

The iTriage app contains an extensive list of diseases and their related symptoms and treatment. Coming at it from the other direction, iTriage also contains an extensive list of symptoms and causes.

Mom may find herself wanting a smartphone.

New Version Of dtSearch Available

Posted by Alan at 4:16 PM on October 12, 2010

dtSearch recently distributed a review copy of version 7.65 (build 7907) which I have been using for a few days.  If you aren’t familiar with the product, it’s a desktop search engine on steroids.  It does, not just the desktop, but your entire network.  The idea is to make any text document available to you in a flash, not matter what drive, or even what PC, it’s located on.

It’s actually pretty powerful stuff and may not be necessary for the casual computer user, but the techie it’s pretty cool, and for business this type of tool is really a necessity.

For a single home user the price is $199, but volume licenses are available and the price goes down as the amount of seats in the business goes up.  Beginning at $160 for 5-24 users and going all the way to $60 for 2000+ users.

Let me take you on a quick walk-through of my experience.

The download was 42 MB which isn’t too bad compared to some bloated software that’s out there today.

Installation took only a couple of minutes.  There’s an option for a Custom Install for those who like to tweak.

It creates the usual Start menu entry.  As you can see from the below screenshot, it is 64 bit compatible.

Once you have it set up then your first order of business is to tell it what files you want it to index.  The first time you click on dtSearch Desktop you will be prompted to do this.  You can always go back later and easily add, remove, or change choices you make here.  You can also choose certain file types to include or exclude.

After that was done I did a test search of the word genealogy, which is a hobby of my family and appears in quite a few files.  Here is the start of a search.

And, the results.

The Preferences, which can be found under Options in the main menu, allow for a lot of customization.  Enough to make almost any IT department happy.

Since I have been using it for a home network I have not had occasion to test all aspects of what this program can do.  And for the average home user, a free product such as Google Desktop Search would probably be sufficient, but for business (which this is really geared towards) this product could be a real productivity tool and time-saver.