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Web Content Development primer for iPhone [Part 2] : Media

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[Find the Part 1 here.]

First obstacle you will face to develop content for iPhone – there is no Java or Adobe Flash support (not yet, but we can always hope).
In videos iPhone supports .mov, .mp4, .m4v, and .3gp. iPhone uses the native video player application to playback video when video is embedded in your webpages. Video automatically expands to the size of the screen and rotates when the user changes orientation. The controls automatically hide when they are not in use and appear when the user taps the screen.

Creating Video for iPhone

In landscape orientation, the iPhone screen is 480×320 pixels. Users can switch the view-mode between scaled-to-fit (letterboxed) and full-screen (centered and cropped). You should use a size that preserves the aspect ratio of your content and fits within a 480×360 rectangle. 480×360 is a good choice for 4:3 aspect ratio content and 480×270 is a good choice for widescreen content as it keeps the video sharp in full-screen view-mode. You can also use 640×360 or anamorphic 640×480 with pixel aspectratio tagging for widescreen content.

The following compression standards are supported:

  1. H.264 Baseline Profile Level 3.0 video, upto 640×480 at 30fps. Note that B frames are not supported in the Baseline profile.
  2. MPEG-4 Part2 video (Simple Profile)
  3. AAC-LC audio, upto 48kHz

The best tool to encode optimize videos for iPhone is Quick Time Pro, the iPhone video export is set as a default option there.

Creating a Reference Movie
A reference movie contains a list of movie URLs, each of which has a list of device sniffer. When opening the reference movie, a playback device or computer chooses one of the movie URLs by finding the last one that passes all its tests. Tests can check the capabilities of the device or computer and the speed of the network connection.

If you use Quick Time Pro to export your movies for iPhone, then you already have a reference movie. Otherwise, you can use the Make Ref Movie tool (Free) to create reference movies.


Embedding Movies in Web pages

iPhone does not decode video until the user enters movie playbac kmode. Consequently, when displaying a web page with embedded video, users see a ugly gray rectangle with a Quick Time logo until they press the Play button. To avoid this, use a poster JPEG as a preview of your movie. If you use Quick Time Pro to export your movies for iPhone, then a poster image is already created for you.)
For example, if you are using an <embed> HTML element, provide a preview image that is displayed in the web page by specifying the image for src, the movie for href, the media MIME type for type, and myself as the target:
<embed src="poster.jpg" href="movie.m4v" type="video/x-m4v" target="myself" scale="1"...>

Configuring Your Server

HTTP servers hosting media files for iPhone need to support byte-range requests, which iPhone uses to per form random access in media playback. (Byte-range support is also known as content-range or partial-range support.) Most, but not all, HTTP 1.1 servers already support byte-range requests.

If you are not sure whether your media server supports byte-range requests, you can open the Terminal application in Mac OS X and use the curl command-line tool to download a short segment from a file on the server:

curl --range 0-99 http://example.com/test.mov -o /dev/null

If the tool reports that it downloaded 100 bytes, the media server correctly handled the byte-range request.
If it downloads the entire file, you may need to update the media server.

Ensure that your HTTP server sends the correct MIME types for the movie filename extensions shown in Table

That’s all for media. Coming up next, primer for dynamic web content on iPhone.

[Cross posted at Macchiato]

Written by anol

December 29th, 2008 at 5:38 am

Web Content Development primer for iPhone [Part 1]

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20081219-ms8diah4fq3wnwa8ys52isk7pm.jpg

At GetIT we are working on a web content development project for a client. The learning curve was steep, ’cause we never did mobile content development before and the resources are scattered all over the places. Here goes a primer of web content development for iPhone.

Quick Fix

iPhone’s Safari browser able to display the ‘real’ Internet, but you can make your site more accepting of the mobile browser. as a quick fix, add a <meta> tag that lets the iPhone know how wide to display the initial page.

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=808” />

Every browser besides MobileSafari will ignore this information, apart from iPhone, it optimizes the viewport for your content. Since the iPhone displays the entire site zoomed out, specifying a viewport width means that the iPhone will zoom by default to that size, leaving less unused space around your content. In order to find the right width for your site, you’ll need to engage in a little old-fashioned trial and error.

Design web content ‘made for iPhone’

The safest way to start is to download a framework / webkit and design/code around that. Here are few useful ones:

  1. iui : User Interface (UI) Library for Safari development on iPhone, download from Google Codes. Based on Joe Hewitt’s iPhone navigation work, iUI has the following features:

    1. Create Navigational Menus and iPhone interfaces from standard HTML
    2. Use or knowledge of JavaScript is not required to create basic iPhone pages
    3. Ability to handle phone orientation changes
    4. Provide a more “iPhone-like” experience to Web apps (on or off the iPhone)
    5. Download the 0.13 release from the Downloads page.
  2. UiUIKit (Universal iPhone UI Kit) : My favorite! It’s a collection of HTML examples of what can be done with CSS3 and Safari’s Webkit. The framework is based on 1 stylesheet and several HTML examples, also, it contains original artwork so you can edit them in Adobe Photoshop CS and adapt it to your projects. Download UiUIKit-2.1
  3. jPint : If you want your iPhone web content to look very similar to an app, use this. Only problem, everything needed to be on one page, i.e. not suitable for multi page content and not scalable. Download jPint from here.
  4. iWebKit: iWebKit is great because it is very easy to use, extremely fast, compatible & extendable. It is simple html that anyone can edit contrary to some other more complicated solutions based on ajax. Simplicity is the key! Only problem – when user press the Safari back button, the screen shows a blank page. Little bug – big consequence! Download iWebKitv 3.01

Test your iPhone Content

To try out your iPhone content use iPhoney. iPhoney gives you a pixel-accurate web browsing environment—powered by Safari—that you can use when developing web sites for iPhone. It’s the perfect 320 by 480-pixel canvas for your iPhone development. And it’s free. iPhoney is not an iPhone simulator but instead is designed for web developers who want to create 320 by 480 (or 480 by 320) websites for use with iPhone. For more accurate depiction, use iPhone Simulator by Apple, which comes free with the iPhone SDK (free, but registration required).

Redirection for iPhone Friendly version
If you want your users to be redirected without any message add this to the head section of your homepage:

<script language=javascript> <!– if((navigator.userAgent.match(/iPhone/i)) || (navigator.userAgent.match(/iPod/i))) {location.replace("iphone-version.html");}–> </script>

Make an webclip-icon for the content
when you click on the + sign in safari you can bookmark your page on the homescreen of your device. To create a webclip icon you need a a square PNG file that is at least 57×57 pixels of size. You don’t need to make it rounded. It will automaticly be resized on te ipod. Call the PNG file apple-touch-icon.png and put it in the root of the website with the index.html file. If you need to override the bookmark on a specific page, Use a different icon for a specific page, it’s possible by placing a rel link between the “head” tags of that page like this:
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="[ICONNAME].png"/>

That’s all for this round. In Part II I will discuss about

  1. Media contents
  2. Integrating with native iPhone apps
  3. Blog for iPhone and more

Stay tuned..

More resources:

  1. CSS iPhone Gallery for iPhone design inspirations.
  2. Put Your Content in My Pocket by Craig Hockenberry at A List Apart; (Part II)
  3. Apple—Developer Section
  4. iPhoneWebDev.com—A resource for more advanced information on the iPhone.
  5. John Allsopp’s CSS3 support on iPhone
  6. The iPhoneWebDev Google Group

[Cross posted from my company blog]

Written by anol

December 19th, 2008 at 5:28 am

Sub-Prime, Credit Crisis, Impact on SMEs in Simple English

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If you are not a Rip Van Winkle impersonator, you must be hearing (and unfortunately, feeling!) a lot of heated, depressing news about Sub-prime crisis, credit crisis and the financial melt down. If the ambiguous and jargon based headlines about the financial crisis still fly mostly over your head, you are not alone, most of us are on the same boat of ignorance.

But this crisis is too important for all of us, and might have a drastic and prolonged effect on every facets of our personal and professional financial life. Following is a list of resources I gathered in last few weeks, which explains the current financial turmoil in comprehensible format.

What is Sub-Prime mortgage crisis?

The sub-prime mortgage crisis is an ongoing financial crisis characterized by contracted liquidity in global credit markets and banking systems triggered by the failure of mortgage companies, investment firms and government sponsored enterprises which had invested heavily in subprime mortgages. The crisis, which has roots in the closing years of the 20th century but has become more apparent throughout 2007 and 2008, has passed through various stages exposing pervasive weaknesses in the global financial system and regulatory framework. [Wikipedia]

Before you jump into the textual section, here goes the most simple and convincing explanation in a short whiteboard presentation by Marketplace Senior Editor Paddy Hirsch.

If you prefer a humorous approach to explain the dire situation, here goes your version:

The story begins with borrowers who have a poor credit history looking to buy a house and are prepared to pay a mortgage rate typically 2% higher than rates charged to people with good credit. Borrowers approach mortgage brokers or conversely get brokers to cold call them. Brokers match prospective borrowers with lenders who further lure borrowers with artfully crafted mortgages such as “no doc” mortgages, which do not require any evidence of income or savings. Big banks and wholesale lenders such as HSBC Holdings buy the debt, repackage them and sell them to Wall Street firms. Wall Street banks and investment houses further repackage these loans in mortgage backed securities (MBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDO). These structured products very often yield high rates of return and are sold to pension funds, hedge funds and institutions.

In a perfect condition : Sub-prime Mortgage

Things initially went very well for the financial institutions that made these loans because in the years that followed interest rates stayed low, the economy continued to grow, and the real estate market continued to expand causing the value of most people’s houses (including the sub-prime borrower’s houses) to go up in value pretty dramatically. This made it relatively easy for these borrowers to make payments on their loans as if they ran into financial trouble they in more cases than not could tap the equity in their home (which came from the increase in the house price) to refinance at more favorable terms or to make their mortgage payment.Because a relatively few of these sub prime borrowers were defaulting on their loans, the financial institutions which held these loans were enjoying the additional profits earned by charging these borrowers a higher interest rate, without many problems.

What happened in reality

As house prices dropped eventually, the equity value of home mortgages goes down, this creates an increase in mortgage defaults which will cause a further drop in house prices. This positive feedback relationship will simply create a snowball effect until the economy has reasons to believe that there are reasons for the reverse to happen. The snowball effect started from that point.

How Sub-prime became a worldwide epidemic?
When the analysts and experts talk about the current financial crisis, they often refer to “credit default swaps.” So, what exactly is a credit default swap? Marketplace Senior Editor Paddy Hirsch goes to the whiteboard for this explanation.

Aftermath

Sub-prime crisis impact timeline from Wikipedia
Who Is To Blame For The Subprime Crisis? by Eric Petroff at Investopedia
Paddy Hirsch explains how banks have gotten frozen in their tracks, awaiting a rescue.

Effect on Small & Medium Size Businesses and Startups

Most of the SMEs, all over the world, tend to finance their working capital by debt or loan or overdraft from banks. Due to the deep rooted and vastly spread nature of sub-prime crisis, banks from all over the world facing an unprecedented situation of asset reduction and lack of liquidity. A lack of liquidity means banks are being more selective and cautious about lending money. Banks often see small businesses as more of a risk, and due to the current financial condition, the level of caution is increased rapidly, resulting into both increase in interest rate (as in UK) and a higher number of refusals. Due to this tightened lending standards for commercial and industrial loans to small firms the access to capital for SMEs is getting reduced significantly. Due to the same reason, option of financing through equity for SMEs are getting limited as private investors are also either affected by the financial crisis or taking precautionary conservative steps.

The credit crunch and small business By Ian Mount, CNN
BBC NEWS | Business | Credit crunch ‘hits small firms’

Effect of the financial crisis already started hitting the technology market. Sequoia Capital, one of the biggest VC firm of Silicon Valley, gave a presentation to its portfolio company CEO’s last week. It’s a long, 56 slide Powerpoint message of doom and gloom in Silicon Valley which starts with “RIP Good Times”! Jason Calacanis, a veteran serial entrepreneur, calling this situation as (The) Startup Depression. In the same article, Jason shared some useful survival tips for startups and SME’s during financial turbulence. Singapore based tech-community evangelist and VC Bernard Leong shared his viewpoints in a blogpost Entrepreneurs and Credit Crunch. TechCrunch started tracking of layoffs from tech companies.

In midst of this crisis of epic proportion, Paul Graham wrote an wonderful article – Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy , which starts with

The economic situation is apparently so grim that some experts fear we may be in for a stretch as bad as the mid seventies.
When Microsoft and Apple were founded.

Written by anol

October 22nd, 2008 at 3:14 am

Turn your Google Services into a Powerful Personal Knowledge Management Toolkit

with 10 comments

This is a long pending post. Harold posted his PKM process quite a while ago. My process and rationale are almost similar.

At first I thought of writing about my PKM work flow with the example of the tool set I work with, but my PKM workflow has been developed over long period of time, using different types of applications and services, by trial and error, and I got habituated to some tools – they are not necessarily the best ones – but it’s just comfortable for me. So my whole toolkit is haphazard, not integrated.

Now with all the Google services – you can create your own PKM work flow. To date, the only tool missing in Google – a Social Bookmarking tool like Del.icio.us! Everything else is available! Great thing about that is – you can work with a single dashboard and log-in!

But first check out the process used by Harold here. As he correctly mentioned – PKM is more about attitude than any given tools. Get that right first – according to your own method of PKM work-flow. Tool selection is easy.

1. To start with you need a Google / GMail account – these are not novelty any more; if you seriously don’t have one – drop a comment here – I will send you an invitation!

2. Get into Google Reader! Log in with your Google ID. Subscribe to RSS feeds of your favourite blogs and news sites! The best way to scan through lots of stuff in a short time-span is using Feed Readers such as Google Reader! [RSS feed explained in a great way - here].

Image representing Google Reader as depicted i...

Filtering signals from noise is the base philosophy of PKM. The next thing after scanning through lots of stuff from blogs /sites you are interested in, is to filter out what matters to you. You can either Star-mark or Share any post you like – for later reading.

I will recommend the Share function, as you will get a ‘Link Blog’ automatically. Although this post is about PKM tools, I believe being a node of a knowledge community too is a part of the PKM work flow.

You can also Tag those as your own classification format for easy searching later.

3. The next thing you need (and which Google crucially lacks) is a social bookmarking application. Nothing beats del.icio.us. You have to get a separate account for that. Registration is easy and quick – and del.icio.us is a super intuitive application to use!

Del.icio.

Here goes what you need to start the ball rolling -

Install the tools for saving bookmarks.

4. Online note taking – Google Notes not only allow you to arrange and organize and categorize your notes online – downloading the Google Notebook Firefox Extension gives you access to the mini Google Notebook feature, which allows you to:

  • Clip and collect information as you surf the web.
  • Stay in your browser window.
  • Organize your notes from the web page you’re on.

5. Start a Blog at Blogger.com. To me a blog is the most effective filter of your PKM to separate signal from noise. Also when you write a blogpost, even while writing a link-post to point out a good resource or article of your interest – you can wrap that with your personal point of view and context. On top of that a blog is search-able and Blogger has always been the easiest-to-use blogging software around, but it just got way more powerful in the new version. Now you can make a completely unique template that has just the color scheme you want, without knowing any CSS, make a private blog and most importantly Label your posts, to group related ones together. Search-ability and tagging / categorization feature of blogs – will enhance your PKM a LOT – specially over a long period of time.

6. Organize your documents and photographs with Google Docs & Spreadsheet and Picasa. In Google Docs – you can upload all your word docs and spreadsheets and share them too! Also the search and tagging feature help your document management much easier (searching and browsing). This post is written with Google Docs. And ya – Autosave is a nice feature to have, specially when you are working with Windows OS.

Picasa is still much inferior to Flickr, but the cool Desktop and Web album integration feature of Picasa can help you to keep all your photos organized!

https://www.google.com/accounts/pwapreview.jpg

7. Now all your tools are in place. All you have to do next, is to turn your browser into a PKM dashboard! If you are using Firefox (or Opera) that’s easy! First – configure your browser to open all the Google Services you subscribed for PKM in different tabs – when you fire up your browser. For Firefox – Just goto Tools >> Options >> General >> Home Page – Location(s) and enter the addresses you want to go to separated by a pipe (|).
e.g. http://www.bloglines.com/myblogs | http://docs.google.com/ | http://google.com/notebook/

Next – login to each service and use the ‘Remember Me’ feature for all sites – so that when you boot up all services are ready for you to use! For security – use the ‘Master Password’ feature of the browser (in Firefox : Tools >> Options >> Security)

Well that’s all for today. Next step – from PKM to becoming a node of the knowledge community. I am planning to write about that next (hopefully soon).

Also Read : Learning 2.0 and Learner 2.0

UPDATE: Harold pointed out another nice visual of PKM from Urs Frei.

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Written by anol

January 3rd, 2007 at 7:34 am

Learning 2.0 and Learner 2.0

with 4 comments

A while ago Donald Clark posted an excellent mini article on Gagnes theory and the shortfall of the 50 years old theory in todays context. Here goes my take on it

Gagne claimed to have found the Nine Commandments of learning. A single method of instruction setthat applies to all five categories of learning, the secret code for divine instructional design. Follow the recipe and learning will surely follow.

Donalds interpretations and my scribbles all mashed together

1 Gaining attention

Normally an overlong Flash animation or corporate intro, rarely an engaging interactive event.

Learning 2.0:
Cut the crap get to the point
Why I need to know this?

That reminds me of this pie-chart from Kathys post

Todays world is 100 times complex than just one generation before, information tsunami is sky-rocketing, multitasking is not an added attribute anymore life demands that! You better grab my attention fast! Boing Boing and Gizmodo are waiting for me in the next 2 browser tabs! My friends are pinging on my IM clients! 30+ unread mails! Do something;be proactive to hijack my attention in the midst of this chaos of MAD (Multitasking Attention Deficit) Syndrome!

UPDATED: Motivating others: why “it’s good for you” doesn’t work from Kathy again!

Motivation not enough

Question 1: What do we want our users to do?

And no, we don’t get to say, “know more.” That’s not an action. “Like us more” is not an action. Even my favorite, “kick ass” is not an action. How many people take a course in Design Patterns and then go right back to work and write the same clunky code, reinventing the flat tire? How many customers interact with a web app and then… just leave? How many people say they care deeply about a cause, but do nothing beyond bumper-sticker activism? How many people listen to a lecture on the dangers of smoking, but keep smoking?

There is nearly always an action (or set of actions) you’re hoping users will take, and most of you already know what that is. But we also know that this sometimes involves a change in behavior, something that’s extremely hard to do. So it’s really the next question that matters more:

Question 2: How do we motivate them to do it?

That’s where broccoli and optimism come in (I promise I’ll get there in a moment).

We all know we can’t simply slap motivation on another person. All we can do is design an experience to help them motivate themselves. If we get them to spend time on our web site, and they have a good experience, but then leave without doing anything–and never come back–does it really matter that they had a Good User Experience? Is a good experience an end in itself, or is it a means to something else? For much of what we design, what matters is what happens when the clicking stops (or for many web apps, just before the clicking stops).

So, we really have two levels of motivation… motivation to interact and motivation to do something as a result of that interaction. Motivation to interact is something we’ve talked about quite a bit here… things like the flow state, levels/superpowers, spiral experience design, painting a compelling picture with clear steps to getting there, blah blah blah.

2 Stating the objective

Now bore the learner stupid with a list of learning objectives (really trainer-speak). Give the plot away and remind them of how really boring this course is going to be.

Learning 2.0:
Hugh MacLeod said it all

3 Stimulating recall of prior learning

Can you think of the last time you sexually harassed someone?

Learning 2.0:
What I need? Where I can find it? Lemme search my blog / del.icio.us links!
Let me ask my friends /colleagues over IM or Skype, Google it; go to Wikipedia, Yahoo and Google Groups. Search the keywords in Technorati, del.icio.us

4 Presenting the stimulus

Is this a behaviorist I see before me?

Learning 2.0:
If the learning experience itself is not stimulating enough I would better watch TV or Play with my Xbox!

5 Providing learning guidance

Weve finally got to some content.

Learning 2.0:
Get into conversations.
OK fine let me tell you what I already gathered from Bolgs/ Wikipedia /Other web resources. Anything else you have in mind?

You have some more content? Not a courseware right? In case you missed the boat – courseware is dead! If you have some engaging, byte size content please let me know!

I have some doubts and questions can we get into Skype/ GTalk/ Yahoo and clarify those?

6 Eliciting performance

Multiple-choice questions each with at least one really stupid option.

7 Providing feedback

Yes/no, right/wrong, correct/incorrect…try again.

8 Assessing performance

Use your short-term memory to choose options in the multiple-choice quiz.

Learning 2.0:
For 6/7/8 :I have serious problems with this! Imagine a situation – You are the product manager of a new product of your organization. You arranged an e Learning program to train your sales force. Every user/learner really liked the program (at least they said so in the smiley sheet!). Tracking systems of the LMS show excellent results and so does student evaluation. Just one problem though – after 6 months of launching the product you havent attained even 10% of the sales target! Well there may be many other factors at work here, but the point remains- without proving business results, any other measurement of the success or failure of a learning initiative is useless.

9 Enhancing retention and transfer to other contexts

Never happens! The course ends here, youre on your own mate….

You said it Donald!

Learner 2.0

My friend Daisy got nothing to do with IT, she holds 2 masters degree in Genetics and Bio-informatics. Now she is preparing for Research Fellowship entrance exam along with her day job in a Bio-informatics lab in India. One day over IM she said something like I couldnt study the whole day due to power outage. I was taken aback. What power outage got to do with study? Then she clarified NO internet means No study!!! I requested her to write up her study methodology for me and she did it! Check it out- in her own language – the study process of Learner 2.0!

Thanks Daisy!

There are a number of good biology animation websites which Ii either bookmark on my computer or del.icio.us. Sites like http://www.dnaftb.org/dnaftb/ and http://science.nhmccd.edu/biol/bio1int.htm have a large collection of animation/audio/video/links on most of the common bio topics. After going through the animation with explanation/narration, the basic concepts get cleared and I proceed with reading about the topic either from the Internet or book. I prefer contents with diagram again. If the required information is available on books or easily searchable through google, its fine. If I’m not satisfied or need some more details, I generally search in the list of free and very good online bookshelf from NCBI (National Center of biology information). For example here if i search with keyword “Genetics”, see the number of hits I get :-)

It takes time to go through each of the books n search for the info needed, but by now I’m familiar with books.
For studying biology, a good illustrative diagram is very important along with the explanation. So, one more thing I do for uncommon topics is to search in Google IMAGE using the keyword, if the diagram appears to be good in the thumbnail, I follow that link and read from there. This works quite well for the uncommon topics and takes less time then normal search.
Every good site that I come across by searching or by accident ;) , I tag it in del.icio.us. So, whenever I need them later, I can simply check my bookmarks in del.icio.us. The tagging keyword for the bookmarks is be very useful; e.g. In my items tagged Genetics: view all, popular, recommendations….I follow the popular and recommendations links, and discover lots of interesting and informative sites. Most of the sites saved by a large number of people, are very good most of the time. I got this site of MIT OpenCourseWare saved by above 4000 people and webcast/courses (berkley). Each of these has a whole range of lecture archive with video/audio/pdf. I was like i found a treasure…lol

del.icio.us is for saving the links, but when i want to save a particular portion of a site n compile an online note along with the URL of the sites, I use the Google notebook. Here’s one of my notebook ….I can also search n peek into other user’s notebook if its public ;) . Again, I get to know new informative sites through this. I have installed the Firefox extension installed so whenever i find good notes, I just add the imp stuff from the website into my notebook.
Sometimes, I search blogs also with keyword n bump into good sites…
Whenever I don’t feel like studying seriously, i visit the online lab sites… One of the sites is very good…..here one can actually do the laboratory experiment, get the result and even analyse the result . Ofcourse this may be helpful for serious study too n for refreshing the procedures of lab…….

I forgot abt online communities’ n yahoo groups…for asking in case of doubts…

again – Thanks Daisy :-)

What’s your learning ’style’?

Written by anol

September 29th, 2006 at 7:39 am