Youtube Prefers HTML5 Video to Flash – But What About All That Old Stuff?

Flash is one of those necessary evils.  It was like Java, reflexively installed onto computers that weren’t really quite up to the task of running it. Just checked, nope, I don’t have Java – and you should not either.

The computer would bog down, act cranky, and even crash when Flash was running.  Flash also has persistent cookies that you had to remember to delete.  Some people would have those cookies for years.  Security is a bear.

But there is one more nail is in Flash Player’s coffin.  Youtube is now preferring HTML5 over Flash when you watch videos there.

Why is that important?

More and more Flash had been the target of people wanting to hijack passwords, insert viruses, and track your movements with those persistent cookies.  Adobe had put more and more patches into it and it became a joke.  Start the computer, patch Flash, restart the computer and do your work – every single day. 

Worse, some people that I supported would simply tell the update check to go away and never come back.

You are getting closer to the day you can do that for good. Many of us already have.

My Linux computer, currently Xubuntu, is not even supported on current Flash Player, and I did an uninstall of it a couple weeks back.  I didn’t see the value of keeping an old piece of software on something that was running well without it and I almost never used.

My windows computer will get the same treatment.

About the only thing I ever do with Flash is to watch videos on Youtube.  The few games that I have kept over the years will get deleted.

That’s about the only problem that I see with this.  Videos can be streamed using “native tools” but the content that was created in Flash will simply go away.  Quite a lot has been created in Flash over the years, even a few Broadcast TV Programs, and many commercials as well.

After all, when was the last time you played a video tape?  Beta?  VHS?  Vinyl Records?

That is the kind of problem that Librarians have.  Content on a platform that is unsupported.  Music on Cylinder Beeswax Records from the Edison era.  78 RPM records.  Heck, I even have a few 45s floating around here.  Silly looking 7 inch donuts.

For most of us, it’s simply easier to find the track elsewhere and save it on something new.  But for librarians, especially archival libraries, they have to worry about that sort of thing every day.

Anyone still have and use a zip disc?  Nope?  Didn’t think so!

So the net result to you is that if you are running one of the four major browsers in one of the top four major operating systems on the desktop/laptop you’re fine.  Just make sure your browser is up to date.  Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Opera all work with HTML5.

See, that’s easy!

The iPhone and Android based phones will typically use the Youtube client or the browser will take care of it.

One aside though, with Android, it’s usually recommended that you do not use the base browser and go out and grab either Firefox or Chrome.  The reason is that if you are on an older version of Android, Google is not going to support the old “Browser” browser.

So it’s just safer that way.  Listen to big brother even if it is a bother.

Ok?

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The Trainer Got Trained

I recently had the chance to sit in on a class.  If it is computer related, my own training kicks in and I quickly get things done and have the luxury of watching other people manage through things at their own paces.

I’m the one that trains the trainers when it comes to most computer software.  I’ve been lucky enough to have the experience of working with people of all levels but mostly the people I would work with in Corporate Education had a certain “floor” of knowledge.  

The test I ask is “How do you play a game of solitaire on this computer?”.   A bit misleading, but the idea is you have to know first how to turn the thing on, then find your way into the computer, then find the program. 

If you can play a complete game without a lot of trouble, you probably are able to be trained. 

Mind you, now people are playing solitaire on a tablet, iPad, Phone, or Android Tablet.

Different story, we’re talking about a “computer”.  Maybe call those a Tablet vs a PC…

Being in a general audience class I was wondering why for 8 people there were three volunteers and one teacher, but I saw quickly why.

Some of you folks simply have forgotten how to use a computer.

We all surf, if you’re reading this, you are surfing.  Some do it on that generic Tablet.  But those tablets simply fall short when you are working with what they call a “Data Driven” website.

If you have to type in “stuff”, use a PC.   If you just occasionally click, a tablet is fine.

This was a professional website designed to do some very specific job search exercises.

We had people in the group who didn’t think they would need to save their user ID.   Others that didn’t understand that they were already inside of a browser on some distant website.

I guess they didn’t play solitaire on the PC any more.

Having had to train people on software I wrote holding Executive Director’s Titles as well as a clerk in Accounts Payable on more than one occasion, being exposed to someone who managed to become “over 40” and not know how to use a computer was an education for me. 

Being a Webmaster, you have a choice.  Make it work for the PC or make it work for the Tablets or Phones.  Those second websites being Mobile, it presents a host of other challenges.  Since most people are typically a bit lazy, they will to the “80/20” rule, make it work on the PC, then come back for the Mobile site for the Tablet/Phone later.

Hopefully they will come back later.  It’s not always granted.  After all, those Tablets have a real browser now, don’t they?  Can’t they just use the “real website”?

My website/blog is looked at 88 percent of the time on a PC, the rest are on some sort of a Mobile device.  I’ll put my time on making sure it looks readable on the PC/Mac/Linux/FreeBSD…

You get the picture.

But you folks on the iPad/iPhone/Android Tablet/Android Phone… If it looks weird, that may explain things.

Now you know why mobile shopping sites look so strange.  It’s a matter of effort, and just don’t get me started on the mobile Wikipedia site.  Yuck.

So if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed when you are trying to get some work done online, if that whole concept of a Mac or a PC is too much for you, there are some really basic things to try to get comfortable with it all.

First, play a game.  Doesn’t have to be a card game, but they’re good for this purpose.  They teach you how to actually use a mouse.   I suggest on Windows Spider Solitaire using one deck.  It’s dead simple and real good at that drag and drop stuff.  I know that the Mac has a couple good games like that since I have them installed on my own Mac. 

Second, use a laptop or a desktop.  Put the tablet aside.  Actually train yourself on how to use it again, call it a refresher, but your boss will appreciate it.  They may even remember that your skills got better next time Layoffs come around.

Third, you need to know how to do some basic office “stuff”.  Write a basic letter with a couple different fonts.  Bold, font size change, paragraph indenting.  Basic stuff.  Print it out to your printer.   Do the same with a spreadsheet.  Enter a column of numbers and calculate the sum.  Change the colors, make it pretty.  Print it out to your printer.

No, I’m not fond of wasting paper, but if you can do all the above, you can find your printer, you can do basic office operations and you have gone from being passed over for that entry level job to being qualified.

But no matter what, set the tablet aside.  The websites aren’t there yet… yet.  Unless you work at Apple of course and most people don’t.

Fourth and most importantly, open your mind to knowledge.   Once that closes up, you’re stuffed.  After all, while playing Angry Birds may be fun, it won’t put food on your table, and what you “learn” in flinging cartoon birds at things won’t work when you have to post things to your General Ledger.

The iPhone Bamboo Speaker Dock that Ate My Kitchen

Last Bulk Trash Day, a neighbor had sent me on a month long trip of woodworking joy.

I had seen a project on Kickstarter called the iBamboo Speaker and thought that it was so simple that even I could build one.  So after mulling it around in my head, I decided that I would try it if ever I came across some suitable bamboo.

It turns out that suitable bamboo was growing in a neighbor’s yard and when they cut some of it down to throw it out, I grabbed two six foot lengths of the stuff and took it home.  What you need is bamboo that is roughly the size of your wrist.  You also need time, a miter box, some hand tools, and you can build one of these things in about an hour or two. 

I suggest if you really do want to try this, cure the bamboo either by air drying or in the oven at 212F for at least 4 hours.  That will harden the bamboo lumber.  If you get cracks, it will be before you invest a lot of time in your work.  One of my tablet sized docks split lengthwise so that one will remain mine.

By the time I ran through all of my bamboo, I had made these four plus a couple of failed projects and some variations on the theme like a “supersized” one for my tablet.

iPhones have only one speaker on the bottom plus a microphone port.  It doesn’t require separation of the channels, so I built my phone sized docks out of the smooth center of each “joint” of bamboo.

The tablet I have, Samsung Galaxy 2 7.0, has two speakers on the bottom, so the larger tablet docks are all built so that the tablet sits on the joint giving proper stereo separation.  Since tablets are larger, the extra length helps the dock stay upright because of the added mass of the bamboo.

These things actually do add amplification through resonance.  If you doubt that, find some music on your phone and put it speaker side down in a small bowl or large glass and you will see the result.  In this case, the bamboo just looks nicer.

The people at www.ibamboospeaker.com will sell you their speaker docks online.  Theirs are more polished, using lasers to cut the holes and so forth.  I used an old hack saw, leatherman tools and built them out in my back yard giving a “shop class” look.  The ones I’m going to keep will get finished and stained. The ones I’m planning on giving as gifts I may not stain, I haven’t quite decided yet what I will do there.  My friend who will get one has Android phones, and the speakers are not all in the same place. This means the mount hole for the phone may need to be widened “on site”.

A bit of Sunday fun in the back yard with sharp tools.  No, I did not run with scissors.

A Little Simple Security Makes an Android Go Further

Android is a strange beast.  

It’s produced by Google, an advertising company, so you know that has it’s own pluses and minuses. 

It’s widely used, and widely rejected since many people get their first experience with Android, are confused and send it back for something like their kid is using. 

It is more configurable than anything Apple produces out of the box for the most part.  My phone announces that “You’ve Got Post!” by Joanna Lumley whenever my Yahoo email account gets something.  Can’t do that without jumping through hoops and installing special software to do that on an iPhone.

It has about the same amount of free software as you would find on an iPad or iPhone.  Plus or Minus.  Roughly.

This is just my personal experience.  I have both Android and iOS here.  I’m currently listening to a Funk and RnB channel on an Android tablet using TuneIn, and that is available on your iPhone or iPad too.  Highly recommended.  In fact I was setting up a Linux Server and wishing TuneIn was there.

It’s that new software thing that can be a wrinkle.  With anything with that half eaten Apple logo on the back running iOS, you have one place to get your software, iTunes.  Your software has been analyzed and is therefore expected to be safe from snoops and trojans and viruses.   Although it isn’t warranted to be so, it is a pleasant little walled garden that has few of those weeds.

On the other hand, Android is more like a Nature Preserve.  You can install software pretty much from anywhere you like with a few clicks, you can unlock the device, “root” the device to gain full and complete control like a Mad Scientist (Boo!) and generally run wild.  Think “Jailbreaking” on iOS.

I will say that when I had Jailbroke my iPhone, shortly thereafter I installed an app that grabbed hold of the phone and began to do wonderful things for me like serve out spam.  It’s unlocked but no longer jailbroke.

Every one of my Android devices are rooted.  It gives me complete control and allows me to use a program called Titanium Backup to completely back every last bit of that device up to a chip.  In fact I spent last night upgrading my tablet in order to have the latest software because it was nagging me to do so.

Am I on that proverbial Tightrope without a Net?  Why hasn’t my tablet become a server for Russian Marital Aids?

I am not completely sure but I do practice some very basic security measures.  Those Security Measures are basic and form my safety net.

  • I have a scanner on the thing called “Lookout Security“.  It will even tell me where the machine is if lost and completely lock it down if stolen.  There are others, such as Sophos Mobile Security.  Check them both out and see which one is for you.

  • I only install software from the Google Play store.  Think iTunes, but it is all web based.  There’s a little shopping bag icon with a couple of abstract triangles that you tap.  Once launched, there goes a half hour as I’m looking for new “toys” and shiny objects to play with.  Amazon also has its own software library.  I’m avoiding that one since there are problems with changing devices using Amazon.

  • I always, let me repeat this, ALWAYS check the reviews on the app.  If there are few reviews or the reviews are all positive I skip the app.  Here is a place it is best to step back and let “the other guy” take the bullet for you by testing the software out first. 

Like I said, Basic.  You can use a tablet just like your laptop, many do.  It just takes a little forethought to make sure that you’re doing so safely.  When you’re through you can relax, go play, and have a bit of fun with these things and not fret.  After all, making your life easier so you can have fun is what they’re all about.

Windows 8 Preview Hates Netbooks

Microsoft‘s next operating system, Windows 8, worked poorly out of the box on a netbook.

Ok, yes, that’s a lot in one line so let me do what I do well and simplify it all.

First off the Netbook thing.  A while back people were able to buy a teeny laptop with a 7 or 9 inch screen. I called them “Barbie’s Computer”. They were a great second computer since they were cheap but there were some limitations.  The screens were small, but that was partly because the bottom part of them were “shaved off”.  That meant they reduced the resolution from top to bottom by about a quarter. 

The video card inside was locked down in some cases to only be able to put out that one resolution.  The processor was a slowish for the time “Atom” processor and they came out with low memory.  1GB of memory and 160GB hard disc.   For a casual machine they were great, but they were limited. 

Those limitations meant that they were using “Starter” editions of Windows which removed functions in order to make them run faster.   They would also run Linux which might be better suited for the computer but fewer people have experience with Linux so it would scare off “Mom and Pop”.

These days the Netbook “category” is being replaced by tablets like the iPad and Android Tablets.  They do the job of the casual machine quite well, in fact they can replace the need for a computer for easily 90% of the people out there.

Next, Windows 8.  The version I tested was what they call “Windows 8 Release Preview”.  Microsoft have put the next operating system out so that you can download it and test it out on a computer. If you have a spare, great, have fun, but absolutely not for the “daily driver” or your critically important machine since you may lose your data and the operating system is set to “die” some time after Windows 8 actually ships in October 2012.

Really quite generous of them.  But don’t do it on your main computer.   If you are curious and download it and lose your data, well its on you.  That being said, you can find the link for download at the end of the article so you can see it for yourself.  Please be careful, I care for my readers, now be a good person and read on before you jump to the end and download.

Windows 8 is a game changer.  It is Microsoft‘s way of bringing the tablet to the PC by changing the familiar Start Button to a square mosaic of tiles.   Click on that and you go to the Home Screen.  Home Screen looks like you handed a child some colored construction paper and a white paint pen, told them to cut up some rectangles and write words on it.  I personally find it ugly but I have been told that it can be animated and set to put information like your weather app does on your phone or tablet. 

I say “I have been told” because I wasn’t able to use any of the apps that are installed on the machine.  You see, I went and installed it on an Eee PC, a Netbook which is clearly not up to the task because of that graphics issue.

Every time I clicked on one of the bits of construction paper, I got a message saying that I needed to change the graphics on the computer and that the app would not run.

Sorry, try again.

I did, and most of the apps that were there were tried.  I got frustrated after I found that Internet Explorer and the Desktop worked, I could explore the files on the computer but that was about it.  Since I can surf just about everywhere these days, I ended the experiment.

It clearly is not designed for a Netbook.   Netbooks are getting a bit long in the tooth at this point, and if you find one in the stores you are finding “New Old Stock” that has been leftover when most folks went and bought a tablet instead. 

Windows 8 is designed for “regular” PCs that ideally have a touch screen.  Desktop or Laptop.  You’ll do fine there, but that little netbook that you were hoping to bring along into the future may be stuck where you are at now.  It’s getting older anyway and may only have another year or three left in it but at this point not with Windows 8.  After all, this was a Preview edition and will change before October’s release.

It did run, did not crash on me, but I was so frustrated by the experience that I started installing Linux on it so it can be used as a PC for the user instead of a paperweight.

Sometimes you try something for a client who admits it may be the wrong thing to try but “hey it will be fun”.  Like slapping a V8 in an old VW Beetle, sometimes its just not worth the trouble.

If I come across another machine that is more “normal” then I’ll try Windows 8 again.  On the right machine I am sure it will be a wonderful experience.  It shows promise, if I can get past the rounded scissors home screen.  They call it Metro, I call it Art Class in Second Grade.  Maybe I can make it look like Windows 7… Hmmmm…

If you really do want to try the new Windows 8, and remember you do NOT want this yet on your main computer because you probably will lose your data on that machine, you can follow the link below.  At Your Own Risk.   It does work reasonably well but you do not want to use it as your daily driver.   As Microsoft says:

Note before you download: Windows 8 Release Preview is prerelease software that may be substantially modified before it’s commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here. Some product features and functionality may require additional hardware or software.
Link is at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/download

Is your Android Smartphone Serving Up Steaming Spam?

Ok, if you’ve got an Apple iPhone, this isn’t for you.  You have a product that is made within what they call a “walled garden”.  Basically one company controls the hardware and the software that gets onto the phone – Apple.   If you want your software to be on the iPhone, you the developer have to submit your software to a review by Apple so that it’s not going to do anything naughty.

You know, like serve up a steaming spam sandwich.

Android is a different beast.  Google isn’t really reviewing the software that gets put onto your tablets or your phones as thoroughly.  As a result, there is a lot of software that is written by “some guy over a weekend”.  That’s great, given the right guy.

The problem is that when you have a spammer out there who has a desire to make money through criminal methods, they’ll do all sorts of things.

The trick is that you really don’t want to be the first person to install a program.  Sometimes, you don’t want to be the 1000th person. 

There are a lot of apps on the “Google Play” store that are hacked versions of the real software.  That is how you get your virus installed.   You see two versions of an app and one says it’s the full version and its Free! so you install the app.  Open it and now you’re a spammer too.   If your device is a tablet computer using Wifi to get to the internet, it’s a nuisance.  If you are using a smartphone and have a limited data contract, it’s a very expensive nuisance.

So here are a few helpful hints:

  • First, make sure that you aren’t installing apps that are questionable.  
  • Read the reviews for the apps.  
  • If there are few reviews or there are a lot of low ratings (1 or 2 stars) don’t install it.   
  • Check the permissions and make sure that you’re not giving away full access.  Most free apps are actually paid by flashing ads on the screen and will require internet access.
  • Consider if you really do need that new game.
  • Remember, you are safest if you don’t install any apps, but if you do you have to take responsibility and do the research.

Furthermore, install an antivirus program and make sure it is updated frequently.  Just like on Windows, you need to make sure that your antivirus has the latest updates.   I use Lookout Security on Android because it was suggested to me by an Android Guru and I have seen reviews outside of the whole Google Play scene saying it was worth using.  Granted there are some bad reviews, but 23 to 1 in favor of the app.

You also should find where to check for your data usage.  On my phone, the T-Mobile app will do that for me, as long as I am not on Wifi Calling.  On newer operating systems such as Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” (or ICS), it is in your Settings at the Data Usage tab.  There’s a handy graph there that I miss when I go back to the phone.   It will tell you which programs are hogging up your bandwidth.   If your newest game is now your biggest data user, you have a problem there and consider removing that program via “Google Play” immediately. 

They just put out a newer version 4.1 called Jelly Bean, so now I’ll have to wait for an update if one ever becomes available.   Older devices will never run it, newer ones may or may not, it depends if the company that made it will support the older hardware.

For example, I expect “TuneIn” to have high usage since I leave it running playing music all day from a few select web radio stations.  I do NOT expect Solitaire to have high data usage at all.  It basically is a judgement call, it expects you to watch what’s happening and control your own data usage.

Remember that smartphone in your pocket is a computer.  It needs to be looked after from time to time, just like the desktop or laptop computer at home or work.

Looking Forward to Microsoft Surface with Windows 8

Recently, Microsoft brought out their “beta” version of Windows 8 for all to see.  You can download a test copy if you want to play around with it.  I didn’t link that purposely here because I know I would and someone would be thinking they’re getting a free upgrade – you aren’t, they’re timed to die shortly after the next version of Windows comes out and you’d just blame me.   Unless you have a spare computer around you may want to hold off.

Microsoft also showed off their “Alpha” hardware that will run it.   You see we’re in for a choice now.  That always makes things interesting.  I’d give you a direct Microsoft link but they’re changing things around for their next big thing.  You can see pictures of the hardware here at this blog posting on Tech Crunch.

What’s happening is that the move into the “Post PC Era” is fully underway.  There will always be people who demand the fastest hardware and the shiniest boxes.  Most of the people who I speak with don’t need that.  In fact, I’m writing this on my go-to PC which is a 2 year old laptop that was lovingly upgraded with as much memory as it will take when it was on sale.  When asked “Bill, what kind of PC do I need”, most folks would do very well with an iPad or just a refresh on their older machines.

But boy do those new machines look great.

You see we’re all being trained to want a tablet machine to play with, a home computer to sit in the corner, and far too many people are walking into street light poles while they’re texting on their iPhones and looking for current conditions.   We’re always on and always looking for things on our teeny little phone screens.

Not necessarily a bad thing, but if someone pulls out a phone while they’re talking to me, I’ll find a reason to end the conversation.

On the other hand, the way we use our smartphones are finally influencing the way we’re using our home computer.  We are beginning to ask the question “Why can’t I do that on Windows”.   After all, Microsoft still owns the desktop despite that we can have an Android Tablet, iPhone running iOS, and a Windows machine as our “daily driver”.

Microsoft will be answering that, and the hardware is interesting that they’re using to do so.  Basically it’s the same hardware as an Android Tablet under the hood but it comes with a really slick keyboard that is detachable.  They realized that there’s a very strong market for covers and detachable keyboards for the iPad, so if you can’t beat them, join them.   It looks just like I would expect it to for something that is supposed to get you to the next step past the iPad. 

That keyboard will talk to the new Surface tablet using Bluetooth and can be left behind if you want to hunt and peck on the tablet’s glass screen.  I’ve never quite gotten used to that, it always feels numb to this touch typist so that candy colored keyboard will be welcome.

The things you create on your tablet will be able to be used on your other computers since it will come equipped with an SD chip – think teeny little postage stamp sized memory stick.  So why lug a big heavy laptop or tether to a desktop machine?

Power mostly.  The Surface Tablets will be running low power ARM chips, just like an iPad or Android tablet.   Those chips will let you work almost all day on a charge, but they are a little short winded when it comes to the kind of things that Windows does well like running many programs at once.  Most folks won’t mind of course, power users will.

On the other hand, all your familiar desktop/laptop programs will make it there since you’ll be running “Real Windows” on a tablet.  Microsoft Office, standard browsers, and all the games we’ve come used to will run on that 10 inch screen on a light computer that can go anywhere.

It’s all about rightsizing your computing needs.  After all, how many homes really NEED that $2000 beast of a Desktop computer when all you’re doing is surfing.  I can do that quite well on a 10 year old laptop running an old copy of Windows XP or Linux.  If you really do need all that horsepower, it’s gotten pretty cheap in comparison to those old beasty Desktops that I built over the years when I thought nothing of spending $1000 to get a machine that would cost twice that “back in the day”.

There are two things I don’t care for in the whole Tablet marketing.

1) You’re locked in.  You can’t upgrade.  You may be limited to the current operating system you buy it with.  You may not be able to use it once the parent company decides they aren’t supporting it any longer.

2) They’re designed to be disposable.   That is why you get Apple Care on your iPad.  Hello Mr Genius, it doesn’t hold a charge, fix it.  Or something similar.  The latest Mac Books are glued together and that means that the parts are not recyclable nor reparable.   It’s a trend that will continue because it means that you’re locked into their production cycle.

I expect that those two things will never change since they’re in the “vendor’s” best interests to keep things the way they are.  After all, if it is a problem, I can spend the same money that I would on an iPad and get one very powerful laptop. 

You’re making a choice between portability and power and for once you actually do have that choice.