belindasmilne

A Day in the Life of a Media-Junkie

In Uncategorized on March 11, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Media Diary – Thursday 3rd March 2011

media usage chart

Summary:

I am a self-confessed Media Junkie. I love it, I live it. I can’t even eat without reading or watching something. At over 11 hours, music is my primary means of relaxation. Typically, it plays all day while I work. Thursday was also a heavy day for TV at 5:10hrs. DVDs, PVR and time-shifting mean all my shows are set to recorded between Sunday and Wednesday, ready for viewing, by Thursday. My bills, banking and shopping research is done online and I rarely watch live television or TV advertisements. I don’t listen to the radio or buy newspapers or magazines and the Internet has now become my main source of information, news and current events. In particular News.com.au (3:06hrs) allows me to access the latest news, as they happen. I’m not a big user of social media and I don’t use Facebook; however, I do use Twitter (42min) although mainly as an aggregator to share and keep track of my favourite blogs, post articles and follow current events. At the moment, other interests include exploring Flikr (1:20hrs) and browsing the Mac AppStore (33mins).

Diary:

6:10am Wake up to the sound of silence. I do have a clock radio but I don’t like the radio or alarms so I only use it to tell time.

6:31am Get up and go to living room/study and put some music on. The first song is “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. Today I am using the DJ feature in iTunes to automatically generate a continuously updated playlist of randomly selected songs. All songs are sourced from my personal file of ripped, purchased and downloaded music. I don’t listen to the radio any more (who does?) Instead, I use an old iMac PowerPC G5 as a ‘jukebox’ by connecting it directly to the TV sound system.

*iTunes DJ is a set-and-forget feature, similar to the shuffle found on iPods and nanos, which allows me to play music in the background as I work.

6:32am Prepare and eat breakfast while listening to music. I also check my email on the laptop. Most emails are deleted (I also use the iMac for email storage and file back-up).

7:06am Arrange and sort back-log of emails on the iMac. Save and sort some and delete the rest. I do this about once or twice a week.

7:14am Recheck laptop email and delete annoying spam. I boot up my main browser Safari and go to my favourite news site News.com.au. *Since updated to 5.0.4. I have several different browsers, on my computer, including Firefox and Chrome, mostly kept for web testing purposes. Checking over the main headlines, a story about the release of the iPad2 catches my attention. I read the article but it is mostly about Steve Jobs health.

7:18am I look at an iPad2 photo gallery and then move on to search for other iPad2 related articles from various news sites. I settle on an article in The Australian.

7:30am First tweet of the day. A retweet about iPad2 using Tweetmeme.

7:33am Return to News.com.au to look for other interesting articles.

7:36am Read and Retweet an article about banking and social media and an amusing article about the Pope announcing the Jews were not responsible for the crucifixion.

8am Read a blog post about smoking in public places. Read comments.

8:12am Check Mac App store for updates and browse for cool free apps. Download Opus Domini, a free diary/planner app.

8:21am Take Opus Domini for a test drive but find it buggy and confusing. Set it aside to await an update and bug fixes. Write a review for the Mac AppStore. I love the little “puff of smoke” thing the Mac does when I drag Apps off the dock.

8:40am Submit review at the Mac AppStore for Opus Domini. In the end I gave it 3 stars. Promising, but needs work.
*Update: as of the 10 March 7 out of 7 users found my review useful.

8:45am Open Tweetdeck to check for new tweets. I mostly use twitter as an aggregator to gather and share information. Not surprisingly, today’s thread is mostly to do with the iPad2 launch. I tend to follow tech stuff: Wired, Mashable, Ars Technica and Smashing Magazine. By following tweets I can keep track of the latest news and events, share and read articles and view linked images and videos.

8:55am Email a blog link (from twitter) to a ‘non-tweeting’ client. The article is on why long sales letters are more affective.

8:57am Back to Tweetdeck to finish scanning the tweets and articles.

9:15am Transfer copy of a song to the iMac via the iTunes home share feature. Played the track on iMac twice. The song, “Shipwrecked” by Shane Alexander) was purchased yesterday from iTunes Store. I heard it on an old episode of Bones I have on DVD and ran a couple of lines through LyricSearch.com to find the name of the song and the artist. The rest was easy.
I use the iMac to play music but use the laptop to download as it is faster and has the latest software. I don’t yet play or store music on a media server or external hard drive as I only have the two computers and it doesn’t seem worth it.

9:23amGo back to Safari to check the prices for online DVD rentals. I also visit eStore.com.au an online computer retailer, to check software prices for Microsoft Office for Mac 2011.
I also go back to iTunes/iMac) and switch the music back to iTunes DJ. After playing the new song it automatically continues on with the rest of the ‘Purchased’ playlist.

9:33am Go back to read News.com.au again. I look over a number of articles on various topics including sex addiction, racism, crime,religion, technology, and animals. 1xRetweet.

9:55am Switch to Firefox for Internet banking. I started using Firefox for banking as there was a bug on the bank’s website that didn’t allow me to print PDF payment receipts while using Safari. The bank suggested I use Firefox until they fixed the problem.

10:04am Download mobile phone bill from Vodafone site and pay rent and bills online. I then download receipts as PDFs from my records. I pay rent and receive all my bills as PDF downloads. I don’t print anything out as hardcopy as I don’t really like dead-tree-editions for everyday things and digital filing is quicker, easier and takes up less space. PDFs are easier to email to my landlord than a scan.

10:13am Email rent receipt to landlord’s email. She replies via email at 10:24am.

10:15am Open Mashable App for Mac and trawl through articles. Many of these I’ve already seen on Twitter. Read a few but mark the rest as “read”.

10:22am Return to Safari and News.com.au

10:38am Read and post a comment on a cute cat story in The Courier.

10:51am Check new email and recheck for Twitter updates on Tweetdeck.

10:56am Sync iPod (AKA: “the Relic”) to the Laptop and transfer new music. While iTunes does that I file the paid invoices and receipts from the desktop to my records.

11am Attempt to login to Oasis. Retry 5 times finally get in but then Blackboard fails another 3 times.

11:26am After much frustration Blackboard finally loads.

11:33am I turn off music on iMac and go to web507 and click on YouTube video “Future of TV”. No one has any business being that chirpy!

11:38am Return to Blackboard to check reading lists, assignments and discussion boards.

11:47am Turn iMac music back on and open and read the Mittel article.

I download/print all the readings for Uni as PDFs and read them onscreen using Adobe Acrobat Pro. By running the article through the OCR, I can highlight passages and attach notes without needing to print them out first. By keeping all readings on the laptop, I can quickly access a reading whenever I need it and don’t need to carry around huge files.

Safari 5 enables me to download and convert pages to PDF automatically. Some online and HTML articles, such as those from First Monday, I need convert using the “Reader” feature first. Similar to Readibility, it complies the whole article into a single feed, including all linked pages*. I can then download and print it as a PDF document.

* Last time I used Readibility it only did one page at a time, meaning I ended up with 4 or 5 separate PDFs that I needed to compile into a single document manually.

13.04pm Finish reading and notes and return to news.com.au. Check new email and delete spam. Check Tweetdeck for new tweets.

13:10pm Login to Flikr [link] to check response. I reset licenses to Creative Commons (attribution only) on most viewed images.

This is part of an ongoing personal experiment to see using Flikr will increase traffic and if Creative Commons will increase the response rate and get more views than the Copyright ones.

13:30pm Plug in mobile phone to laptop and import new photos from the phone to iPhoto.
The phone is a Nokia X6 so I use the special media sync tool from the Nokia site.
Once the photos are in iPhoto I then select and export a handful to the desktop to prepare them to upload to Flikr. I then open the images in Photoshop and crop where necessary and save back to the desktop giving each image a descriptive name rather than the numbers iPhoto likes to use.

* I don’t upload to Flikr directly from iPhoto as the resulting resolution is too low for print (see below).

2pm Upload new photos to Flikr. Once they are uploaded, I then add tags and brief descriptions and set licenses to CC for selected images, again to gauge the response.

I mostly upload images of the skies in various weathers. I don’t upload images of people without their permission and I feel skies are colourful and make good wallpapers.
My motivation for choosing these images come back to my work as a graphic designer. Working in advertising, I have seen the difference replacing a miserable overcast day with a sunny blue sky can make to an outdoor product shot. My aim is make useful ‘background images’ available to other artists and designers to use for their own work.

2:37pm Log out of Flikr and check Tweetdeck and new emails then I revisit news.com.au for updated news.

3:36pm Shut down internet and listen to music.

5:49pm Log back on check Tweetdeck and check the latest news.

6:20pmTurn off iTunes and put both computers to sleep. I then turn on the TV put on a DVD (Bones Season 3 disc 2) and turn on the subtitles as I am a little hard-of-hearing.

My TV only has one set of component inputs so I use a RCA switch box to switch between the PVR and DVD player. Technically the RCA switch is for composite inputs (Yellow for video and red and white for sound). I was going to buy a proper component switch box but the guy at Dick Smith told me as RCA is only analogue, the cables and switches are the same and can’t tell the difference between sound and video. So I went for the cheap one and so far he’s been right and saved me a bundle.

7:10pm I leave the DVD Playing while I prepare and eat dinner and do the dishes etc. After Dinner, I sit down to watch the rest of the disc.

9:10pm Once the DVD has finished, I turn it off and switch over to the Beyonwiz to watch some prerecorded episodes of my favourite TV shows. My TV is analogue so, the PVR also functions as a set top box. I watch time-shifted episodes of Bones I recorded on Sunday and Monday plus an episode of NCIS, I recorded on Tuesday.

I rarely watch anything live as I find adverts annoying and off-putting. Luckily, Time-shifting digital TV also records the closed captions as well, which is very useful if you’re hard-of-hearing, like me. It was something the VCR never did. In the analogue TV days I had Teletext, which was complicated and fiddly and meant I had to turn it off and on again every time I changed the channel.

These days I always skip the adverts. The Beyonwiz has programmable skip functions, which allow me to set the arrow keys on the remote as skips. I’ve set UP to 3 minutes (enough for most ad breaks, according to the Beyonwiz forum). DOWN is 1 minute backwards while RIGHT is 30 secs forward and LEFT is 10secs backward.

11:30pm I turn off TV and everything else and go to bed.

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The Interactive Web.

In Web Design on October 12, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Great Art comes to life on the Web.

As we are all aware, the Internet is all about copying. Images, text and video weave their way all over the Web, without ever leaving home. While this can create problems for some, especially producers of cultural products like music, games and video, it can also open up new opportunities for discovery and exploration through Interactive tools and technologies.

While media producers continue to look for ways to protect their business, it is worth noting the many benefits of the Web. Firstly, the Web allows content producers to reach vast global audiences. These audiences are now able to respond in any number of interesting and unique ways, through YouTube and other forms of Social Media. Instead of looking at mashups and Youtube Videos as a attack on producers, perhaps it needs to seen as a sign of the viewer’s willingness to promote your content by sharing their viewing experiences with others.

Powerful interactive and broadband technologies allow content producers to bring new and innovative experiences to the Web; experiences that would never be possible offline. Galleries and Libraries are already realising the benefits of the Web and are copying and uploading rare and valuable cultural items like paintings and books and making them available on the Web. This enables them to offer better protection for rare and valuable artifacts by reduce handling without limiting access.

Recently, the famous Uffizi Gallery in Italy has brought 6 masterpieces from their own collection and made them available in Ultra-high definition free of charge until the 29 January, 2011. Visitors to the Haltadefinizioni site are able to interact with these masterpieces, to a degree that would simply be impossible in real life.

As designers we can learn from their navigation. Although the main website is written in Italian, the site is made accessible by using familiar technologies and symbols, which make it easy to follow, regardless of the user’s language. Using a series of buttons, online Viewers are able to zoom in and study the finest details of Sandro Botticelli’s Birth Of Venus, right on their own desktop. Users can zoom in and study each brush stroke and examine small details, without any risk to the original painting.

In life, such a close examination would never be possible. First you need to fly to Italy, then pay to enter the Gallery only to stand behind a barrier and look at painting from a distance. By making these paintings available online Uffizi is able to reach a vast new audience of art lovers and generate public and media interest.

Effective using Interactive technologies allows users to interact with online content and each other in ways producers haven’t yet thought of. Our job as designers is to find innovative ways to encourage people to explore.

To Flash or Not To Flash

In Web Design on October 4, 2010 at 12:01 pm

The Flash Dilemma.

With the growth of dynamic websites and social media, Adobe Flash has proven, at least for some, a godsend. Flash has allowed developers to create wonderful (and not so wonderful) animated content. However as the war between Apple and Flash continues some are now looking to HTML5 as the new direction on video and audio embedding on the web. Steve Jobs at Apple has perhaps controversially, put all his eggs in the HTML5 basket. To date Flash is still not supported in either the iPad or iPhone devices. From a users perspective, this certainly makes sense. 3G and now 4G can be very expensive and anything that reduces data-loads can only be a good thing.

So what this mean for web and video developers. Will developers still be using Flash to deliver dynamic and video content to the web? the answer is: probably. Flash is currently the best supported video format on the web. So, does that mean Apple will finally come to the party? Probably not. Steve Jobs is no longer the only voice in the wilderness. With Microsoft’s IE9 now promising both CSS3 and HTML5 support and both Youtube and Vimeo now offering support for the new html5 video there is no rush for Apple to change its mind.

Apple’s track record can’t be easily dismissed. It was partly Apple and the sheer buying power of the iPod that drove music companies to finally abandon their draconian Digital Rights Management (DRM) for digital music, enabling iTunes users to convert their iTunes Store music to MP3, so it could be used in a wide range of non-Apple MP3 players. Previously this could only be achieved by burning a playlist to CD and then ripping it back into iTunes, to remove the DRM and then converting it. A small change that was not overlooked, particularly by MS Windows users, who could now convert files and load them into Windows Media Player. The player of choice for many MP3 users.

Of course, Flash is not just used for video. It’s also used for slideshows and other dynamic web content. The main problem is not just the lack of support on iPad and iPhone devices, who are still a relatively small sector of the overall market. There are also many ordinary browser users who are choosing to disable flash for whatever reason. This can be done by downloading a plugin such as Click-to-Flash or Firefox’s Flashblock addon which hides Flash under an added level of interaction.

Click-to-Flash and Flashblock mean users must click inside each and every Flash box in order to display the content and they must click again to get the video to play. While this may seem annoying to some, it does offer a greater degree of control to users. It also means users can be spared irritating Flash-based adverts and expanding banners that seem to want to take over our browsers. Remember that search engines don’t really like Flash either. This leads us to those agonising flash-sites, those which are coded entirely or primarily in Flash. Well, sorry to say, Flashblock makes short work of those. Instead of all your stunning, spinning graphics all you get is this:

Flash-based Website with a Flash blocker

Great, isn’t it? an empty box. Not only is there no content, there’s no reason for me to want to click on it to find out what it is. I’ve got better things to do than guess what your website is. It’s like calling an unknown number on your mobile, you think it’s someone important only to discover it’s one of those holiday contests.

pizza hut website

Worse are those sites, which hide their navigation an/or content under a great big Flash box or even a series of Flash boxes. This is a big no-no folks. No one wants to play hunt the content all over your website, not even for pizza.

The key here is having a fallback, either as text or a still image. Giving users an indication what is hiding under the box is the key to successfully using Flash. Here is an excellent example of making Flash work by offering a fallback image underneath the Flash box. These designers have ensured their client’s site degrades gracefully. In fact, I would argue the fallback actually looks better than the flash version. Compare for yourself.

Rivervale Hotel WebsiteRivervale Hotel site

While HTML5 may well offer a simpler means of delivering video, it isn’t going to solve the question of codecs anytime soon. One thing is clear, whatever happens to HTML5, Flash will continue to offer a convenient fall-back position for video developers. Instead of offering the same video in three different codecs, it would seem reasonable to offer Flash first with an H.264 fallback for systems such as iPhone that are unable to support Flash.

Whether browsers will fall in behind OGG Theora, an open source codec, supported by Opera and Mozilla or the proprietary H.264 codec, supported by Apple and Google (the owners of YouTube), remains to be seen. Given OGG Theora is free and H.264 costs in at some $5 million dollars a year, the choice should be obvious; however the web doesn’t always play by the same economic play book as everyone else.

So what is the simple message. By all means, keep using Flash but keep it for video and web apps only. Avoid using Flash for navigation or anywhere important. Keep in mind, more and more people will see nothing but a big empty box, where your navigation or your content is supposed to be. Not a good look.