Podcast From an iPad

Podcasting has long been a multistep process for the majority of podcasters. There have been a few pieces of software written over the years that attempt to bring all of the podcasting tasks into single pieces of software, with varying results.

Most podcasters have a physical mixer to plug their mic(s) into, an application that records audio and can spit out an MP3 file, some way of editing the ID3 tags, an FTP program to upload the file to their server, and then post it to the back end web interface of a blog such as WordPress to generate their podcast RSS feed. None of these steps are really that hard, but because they are broken up they can be quite time-consuming. It reminds me of people who write paper checks to pay their bills each month and then send them off in the snail mail. The excuse is that it doesn’t take much time. The reality is that writing out checks to pay bills, putting them into the envelopes, making sure the envelopes are properly stamped and finally mailing them at the Post Office is quite time-consuming.

On the Mac I use a now-defunct podcasting application called “Ubercaster” that stopped being developed shortly after OS/X Lion came out. Ubercaster, which runs really well on non-updated Snow Leopard, can record audio with real-time audio effects, play interactive audio, record from Skype or other audio chat applications, edit and even upload via FTP. There is no other OS/X application I have found that can do all of these things the way Ubercaster can. Therefore my Macs will remain forever on Snow Leopard since Ubercaster will not run on newer versions of OS/X.

For some time now I’ve been periodically attempting to podcast from mobile devices, such as an iPad, a Nexus 7, and my Galaxy S3. While it is possible to record, edit and post from these devices, the process has been convoluted and more difficult than it needs to be. Also, the audio quality has been compromised.

I recently came up with a hardware and software combination that enables extremly high quality, no-compromise recordings on an iPad using a high-quality microphone like my Heil PR-40 that has an XLR connector. The piece of hardware is an iRig Pre and sells on Amazon for around $40 dollars. The iRig Pre (not to be confused with numerous other iRig models that offer other functions) runs on a 9-volt battery and can work with either dynamic microphones or microphones that require phantom power. The iRig Pre has a variable input gain that allows you to amplify its output signal so you can have more than adequate output volume. The iRig pre output plugs into a standard headset/microphone input jack on the iPad or even a smartphone such as the Samsung Galaxy S3. The audio quality coming out of the iRig Pre that records onto my iPad is excellent.

The iPad software app that I came up with to record podcasts with is called Bossjock Studio, a universal app for sale in the iOS App Store. It has the ability to load multiple carts, enabling interactive audio. It can render MP3 files. It works with many other apps including Dropbox. Bossjock even has built-in FTP functionality.

Bossjock’s audio quality is absolutely top-notch.

There is only one downside to Bossjock Studio — the MP3 file rendering process is slow. I contacted the developer about this and they say it renders slowly on the iPad because the MP3 rendering process cannot use the GPU and must use the regular processor. On an iPad 2 exporting to an MP3 file is pretty much real time. An hour long file will take about an hour to export to MP3.

However, the good news is on a new iPad Air the MP3 rendering time seems to be greatly sped up, likely due to the processing speed of the new A7 chip versus the A5 chip in the iPad 2. An hour long recording will render to an MP3 file on an iPad Air in about 15 minutes or so. That’s still slow compared to a tradtional computer, but easier to live with than real-time rendering on the slower A5 processor.

Getting a complex interactive MP3 file recorded and uploaded to the server is most of the battle. This leaves only the step of posting the file to a blog such as WordPress. If one is making the blog post via logging in to the backend of WordPress through a browser, posts can be made, but the process is way more clunky than it needs to be. Posting to WordPress through a touchscreen via a broswer is a rather torturous process. If only I could attach a mouse to my iPad… Sorry, not allowed by Apple.

So on the rare occasions I find myself going to a motel room, I leave the laptop behind in favor of increasingly-capable mobile devices that require only a fraction of the space. The process is much easier and more steamlined than it was, but still has some needlessly clunky aspects to it.

 

Samsung Google Galaxy Nexus Smartphone Review

Samsung Galaxy NexusThe smartphone market is full of great phones running Android, iOS or Windows Phone. Regrettably none of them is running WebOS, so it was with much sadness that I decided to retire my HP Pre 3 and move on to a more current device. I tend to buy off-contract so as not to get locked in, but I don’t usually buy a top-of-the-range, just-released phone as they’re simply too expensive. With a budget of around £300, there’s plenty of choice depending on the age and features. Looking at Android phones, my main thoughts were around the Motorola Razr or one of the Xperias. But then I spotted that the Samsung Google Galaxy Nexus was beginning to be discounted with Expansys offering it for £299 and with its feature set, it’s an absolute bargain.

First impressions count and on unboxing, I couldn’t believe how big the screen was. It’s huge in comparison to the Pre 3, which in turn I thought was big compared to the Palm Pre. It’s also gloriously colourful and detailed and combined with the screen size, there’s definitely a wow-factor when I show it to someone who hasn’t seen either this or a Samsung SIII before. After a couple of days, I got used to the size and started enjoying the extra screen real estate available. It’s definitely worth it.

Secondly, although the Galaxy Nexus isn’t a new phone, it’ll update to the newest version of Android, v4.1 aka Jelly Bean. And it is sweet. The phone is very responsive, animations are smooth and everything that Google says about Project Butter is true. Combined with the lush screen, it’s a thing of beauty and a joy to use. In the few days, I’ve been using the phone, I’ve never had a slowdown, never had a crash and never had to reboot the phone. Being a Google Nexus devices, it’s pure Android without any OEM features laid on top, which in my book, is definitely a plus and I can expect regular updates from Google without having to wait for the manufacturers to revise

I haven’t found that many functional differences between Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean with one exception…Google Now. This runs all the time in the background, putting the smarts into the smartphone. Simply, it tries to help you run your life a little more smoothly using a set of cards which are like mini-apps. Here’s an example: if I have an upcoming appointment in my calendar and I’ve included the location of the appointment, Google Now will show me the place on a small map and it will tell me how long it will take to drive there. It will also alert me when it’s time to go. There are other cards available for public transport, flights, sports scores and I’m sure more will appear over time.

Other features of note…call quality is very good and a step up from the Pre 3. I can hear people clearly and by all accounts the person on the other end can hear me well too. The camera seems fine to me, taking photos up to 5MP, tracks faces, and there is a panorama mode for taking wide shots. I’m hoping that the lens doesn’t get too easily scratched as the camera seems to be located exactly where the phone rests on a flat surface. Jelly Bean includes the Face Unlock feature which works surprisingly well but I’m not sufficiently narcissistic to want to use. You may love yourself more.

On the downside…the battery life isn’t great, though it’s on a par with the Pre 3. To be fair, it’s a new phone and I tend to be doing more on the Nexus while I’m bedding it in, so I think it might end up being better than the Pre 3 once I get back to normal. I have ordered a larger battery anyway but it’s not arrived in the post yet. Another criticism is with the back cover that comes off to access the removable battery and the SIM card: it’s a bit flimsy but it is textured in the Nexus-style to make it easier to grip. I notice that there are replacement metal covers available but some come with warnings that the cover may interfere with GPS reception so I’ve not bothered. Finally, there seems to be only one speaker which is located in the bump on the lower back of the Nexus. Consequently, if the phone is put down on any kind of soft surface, the speaker easily gets blocked and can become quite quiet.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Palm, WebOS and what might have been. I bought a Palm III when I was a much younger man and have stuck with them ever since but when you can get as good a phone as the Galaxy Nexus, there’s no looking back. The only features I miss from the Pre is the wireless charging and the excellent multitasking app-card metaphor. Can’t have everything.

Overall, the Galaxy Nexus is an absolutely cracking phone and at £300 is a steal. Find one, try one, buy one.

Disclosure – this Galaxy Nexus was a personal purchase and not a review unit.

HP Gives WebOS To Open Source

HP WebOS LogoIn a surprise move, HP has announced that it will give WebOS to the open source community while continuing to support and develop the platform. HP believes that the combination of the superb WebOS platform combined with open source innovation and corporate support from HP, will foster innovation, creating a compelling user experience.

WebOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. “By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.

HP has said that it will work with the open source community to define the charter of the open source project based on four principles.

  • The goal of the project is to accelerate the open development of the webOS platform
  • HP will be an active participant and investor in the project
  • Good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation
  • Software will be provided as a pure open source project

No news was provided regarding other partners, new hardware or the specific handover timescale.

Undoubtedly more news will filter out over the coming days but it’s interesting move that may work out for HP and WebOS. HP gets to retain the patents it acquired from Palm to protect itself (and presumably WebOS) from attack, while hoping that the open source community and the homebrew scene will move the platform forwards. Future devices could appear from any OEM manufacturer, not just HP, but it will be interesting to see what the next WebOS product will be. Personally, I think it will be a printer.

WebOS App Catalog Revealed

HP WebOS LogoAnother week with no news from HP, another investigation by the WebOS Internals crew. This time they’ve directed their attention at HP’s App Catalog for WebOS to reveal everything you ever wanted to know…and probably some stuff you didn’t really care about.

– There are 8399 unique apps.
– There are 3514 apps that work on all WebOS devices.
– There are 5562 apps for the TouchPad.
– There are 6454 apps for the Pre 3.
– There are 6440 apps for the Veer.
– There are 7116 apps for the Pre 2.
– There are 6024 apps for the Pixi.
– There are 6761 apps for the Pre and Pre Plus.
– There are 1904 app contributors.
– There are 2642 apps that are free and 84 that cost $10 or more. 2638 cost 99c.
Accuweather is the first app in the Catalog.
Mayo Clinic High Blood Pressure is the largest app at 1.6 GB.
– It would cost $13,293.15 to download all the apps.
– It would take a 90 GB WebOS device to install them all. (Go on HP, let’s see a 128 GB TouchPad 2.)

Well, that’s probably enough for now. If you want to keep up-to-date on WebOS Internal’s work, you can follow @webosinternals on Twitter.

HP Still Thinking On WebOS

HP WebOS LogoHP has still hasn’t decided what to do with WebOS but appears to be taking the decision seriously. At an all-employee meeting last night with the WebOS team in Sunnyvale, new CEO Meg Whitman, reportedly said, “It’s really important to me to make the right decision, not the fast decision,” and “If HP decides to do this,we’re going to do  it in a very significant way over a multi-year period.

Setting this against reports coming out of Reuters that HP had engaged with Bank of America Merrill Lynch to sell WebOS for just hundreds of millions of dollars, rather than the $1.2 billion HP paid for Palm, it seems clear that Meg Whitman is seriously evaluating all the options for the future of the mobile operating system. She’s reportedly also said, “The question now before us is what do we do with webOS software and do we come back to market with webOS devices? It obviously will not be the same device but it will be version 2.0.”

What does seem to be clear is that any future thoughts focus on tablets rather than mobile phones. At the all-hands meeting, Whitman reportedly said that, “Things get more complicated if you add in phones.” While the TouchPad may continue, it sounds like Pre and Veer are dead as product lines whatever happens, but you never know.

On one hand, it’s easy to criticise HP for continuing to dither, but to me it appears that Meg Whitman is doing a proper evaluation of the options available, rather than taking the somewhat whimsical approach take by her predecessor Leo Apotheker. If WebOS is retained by HP in addition to the PSG group, it will be one of the biggest corporate turnarounds in history!

4.2 Million WebOS Users?

HP TouchPadOver the weekend, an amazing piece of detective work by the WebOS Internals team and some crowd-sourcing via Twitter has revealed that there approximately 4.2 million WebOS users, give or take.

Every WebOS phone or tablet user has to create a profile in order to use their device. Each profile has a unique identifier, a number that appears to simply increment by 1 as each new profile is created. Early Palm Pre adopters have identifiers typically in the 10,000s whereas those who started with the TouchPad are in the milllons. The profile identifier cannot normally be seen by the user but a Homebrew program called Impostah, developed by Rod Whitby and WebOS Internals, allowed this number to be revealed.

Using Twitter, WebOS owners were encouraged to come forwards with their identifier and the date they signed up so that a graph of identifiers against time could be plotted, showing the rise of WebOS and key moments in the timeline, such as the release of new devices. The graph, courtesy of WebOS Internals, is shown below and what you can see is a fairly steady rise reaching around 4.2 million. The most notable point is probably when HP had the TouchPad firesale and the graph climbs steeply. Click on the graph for more detail.

Graphing HP WebOS Usage

The number of profiles is slightly ambiguous when trying to convert to numbers of users or number of devices because while you can only have one phone per profile, you can have a phone and a tablet. For example, if you had both a Veer and a Pre 3 you would need two profiles, but if you had a Pre 3 and a TouchPad you’d only need one profile. Obviously, there are also accounts that have become dormant when the owner has moved to another platform.

In comparison to iOS and Android, both of which have in excess of 100 million users each, the 4 million-odd WebOS users are a drop in the ocean. Regardless, the graph shows that there was slow but steady adoption of a little under 2 million per year. Of course, HP continues to dither over the future of WebOS.

The WebOS Internals team are a bunch of hackers (in the best sense of the word) who created a whole Homebrew ecosystem under the Preware moniker that allowed Pre owners to add easily add patches and other software outside of the official App Catalog.  They’re probably WebOS’s best last chance.

Decision Time For HP and WebOS

HP TouchPad

The rumours continue to swirl around HP and WebOS but AppleInsider is claiming that the fate of WebOS could be decided today (11th October). Reports suggest that the initial bidding process is complete and that an annoucement may be made after a meeting today to confirm the next step in the sale process.

There’s been much speculation as to who the prospective bidders might be. At various times HTC, Samsung, Qualcomm and Facebook have all been in the picture, some more realistically than others, and one of the current hot favourites is Amazon. Looking back at when Palm was up for sale and HP purchased it, BusinessInsider claimed there were five serious suitors, suggesting Apple, Lenovo, Research in Motion (RIM), Google and of course, HP. Which of these would still be interested given the success that HP made of Palm?

Some were after Palm’s considerable patent portfolio rather than WebOS itself, and the famous “smartphone” patent in particular. Even HP were pretty upfront about this with Mark Hurd saying that HP wasn’t buying Palm to be in the smartphone business. (How prophetic was that?)  Ultimately the nature of the sale may depend on HP’s feelings towards WebOS. Do they want to simply get as much as they can of their $1.2 billion back as quickly as they can, or do they want WebOS to succeed, even if HP was unable to make it a winner. Only time will tell.

Read related articles at GNC for HP, Palm and WebOS.

Bigstar.TV Streaming TV Service Spans Multiple Devices

Emerald Brooke of Bigstar.TV (www.bigstar.tv) presents the Bigstar.TV streaming service, which has a lot of independent films and older TV shows available to stream to many different devices including iPhone, iPad, Roku, Palm Pre and Android devices.

Interview by Jeffry Powers of Geekazine and Esby Larsen of MrNetCast.com

Please Support our CES 2011 Sponsors

Get your 14 day Free Trial of Audible Gold to start Listening to great Books!
Save 25% on 4GH Hosting 1yr Subscriptions Save 25% Promo Code CES2.

Palm Pre Plus – 3 Months On

Picture of Palm Pre PlusPalm is definitely the uber-underdog in the battle of the smartphones with RIM, Apple and Android battling it out for supremacy.  Palm has been struggling for mindshare but with its acquisition of HP last month ago, it’s looking stronger ;-)

The Palm Pre Plus was launched in the UK on O2 back in May.  I have to confess that I already had a Pre that I’d obtained via ebay but as my contract was up, I renewed and got myself the Plus version.  I did seriously think about jumping to Android but in the end, I loved the underdog too much.

I’ve been using the Pre Plus now for about 3 months so I thought I’d give it a quick review for real-life usage rather than the feature-driven reviews that appear when devices first come out.

By far the best feature of the Palm smartphones is contactless charging using the Touchstone.  You place the phone on the Touchstone and it charges.  Simple and brilliant.  The Touchstone doubles as a desktop cradle, angling the Pre Plus so you can see the screen.

Battery life isn’t great and I’m seriously thinking about getting a second battery.  On quiet days, I can get through the day without charging but if I’m making lots of calls or using plenty of data, then I’ll get to mid afternoon before needing a charge.

Shape and construction.  The curved back and soft-touch rubber makes the Pre Plus feel great in the hand.  Apparently Palm were aiming for a water-worn pebble aesthetic.  The front is a bit plasticky and a metal surround would have been an improvement.

The slider mechanism has come in for criticism on the various Palm forums but I’ve had both a Pre and the current Pre Plus and neither have exhibited any problems.  If anything, it’s actually quite satisfying when you pop it closed.

The keyboard works well too.  Even as a man with biggish hands, I have no problems typing.  Ok, so you aren’t going to be writing “War and Peace” on it but for banging out some emails or text messages, it’s fine.

I’ve dropped the Pre Plus from waist height on two occasions, once onto concrete and amazingly, it survived albeit with a few dings in the plastic.  Thumbs up for overall construction.

Moving onto the operating system and software, WebOS is pretty good.  The multitasking of apps works seamlessly and on the Pre Plus, I’ve had over ten apps open at once.  This makes working with multiple information sources really easy – you can move between apps with a couple of flicks of the finger.

The other piece of brilliance is the Synergy technology which sucks in data from multiple sources into a single view.  For example, if I have a friend who is on LinkedIn, Facebook and in my Google contacts, I see only one entry for that friend in the Pre’s Contact app instead of three.  Genius.

The Pre lives in the cloud and I think it’s the way to go.  There’s no direct syncing with your desktop (unless you buy a third party product) but I have everything in Google – Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Bookmarks and Docs. Other clouds such as Yahoo! are also options.  I’ve never measured what data rate I get out of 3G but it’s fast enough for me to download podcasts without thinking about it.  Having sync’d via the cloud, I’d never go back to a wired solution.

The Palm App Catalog has the smallest number of apps (2524 in UK at time of writing) compared to iOS and Android but this ignores quality over quantity.  There are some deficiences which I will come to shortly but frankly, there’s pretty much all you need available.  The basics (calendar / diary, contacts, web-browser, music player, video player, picture viewer)  are all built-in.  There are also apps for YouTube and Google Maps.  I’ve listed some of the other apps I have loaded below.

Social Media – LinkedIn, Facebook, Tweed (for Twitter)
Media – Evernote, Feeds (for RSS), drPodder (for podcasts), pReader (for e-books), Flickr Addict
Tasks & Projects – ToDo Classic, Outline Tracker
Security – SplashID
Money – ClearCheckbook, AuctionMate (for ebay)
Games – Hawx, Sudoku, Min-Golf, Brain Challenge and lots of other little games.

The one major deficiency is in Microsoft Office editing.  There is a viewer app for Word, Excel and Powerpoint but it’s viewing only.  Most of the time it’s not a problem, but there have been one or two occasions where it would have been handy.

The App Catalog itself is pretty simple to use and it’s all too easy to splurge on a few apps and games.

Finally, Palm has embraced the developer community, both official and unofficial, which has taken on the moniker of “homebrew”.  There are loads of patches which customise WebOS and apps in little (and not so little) ways.  You want more icons on each page? – you got it.  Want to be able to download YouTube videos? – you got it.  The heart of homebrew community is over at PreCentral and there’s loads of general information over there too.

So what don’t I like about the Pre Plus?  As I mentioned earlier, the front is a bit plasticky.  The door that covers the USB slot is poor but fortunately I rarely have to connect physically.  There’s no Flash support though it’s coming real soon now.  And the lack of market share means that it’s often the last to get an app or support.  For instance, there’s no Google Latitude or StreetView support.  It also means that it’s rare to meet someone else with a Palm – I work in IT with a hundred-odd colleagues and no-one else has Pre or Pixi – so I never get to say, “Did you see that new app GeeWhizzBang?”

But these are minor niggles in the overall picture.  Would I buy again? Definitely.  Choosing your next smartphone is never easy but if you are thinking of getting a new phone, don’t just head straight for the iPhone – the Palm Pre Plus or Pixi Plus deserve a look.