How we used Google Hangouts to fix the live web chat for the live show, and how a Kiwi discovered Kiwi IRC as the solution. How the Uber Car Service smartphone app from uber.com solves our public transportation problem in LA. Steve Sheridan returns with his annual Christmas Poem, Terry Austin tells us how he used Clarify to save his students money and in Chit Chat Across the Pond we have Chad Johnson, aka OMGchad to explain why everyone is so upset about YouTube requiring Google Plus accounts.
Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday December 22, 2013 and this is show number 450. I’m kind of proud of the fact that you’re getting a show this week, so many podcasters take a break, or they rehash the previous year, but I know that a lot of you might have long drives or airplane rides to go see family or friends, so this is when you really need the podcast. I’ve got a couple of fun tech stories, Steve has an annual treat for you, and I’ve got a really fun and interesting interview with Chad Johnson from TWiT, where he explains to me what the big kerfuffle is about with YouTube comments requiring a Google Plus login. Chad is simply delightful and I had a fabulous time with him. Be sure to go over to the shownotes to see the screenshot I captured of Chad. First of all he has flaming red hair, and he’s wearing adorable PJs for the interview. Ok, let’s kick into the show.
Hangout to fix Live Web Chat
You’ve heard me talk a lot about the live show before and you’ve probably heard me refer to the live chat, or sometimes IRC chat. IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat, and it’s actually a VERY old technology – invented back in 1988. Having an IRC chat service allows the viewers of the live show to easily chat with each other and holler at me to remember to save, and to tell me if my audio is getting borked up or if I boogered up a name or a date, which hardly EVER happens. The downside to IRC chat is it’s pretty geeky. You need to know the server where the chat is being hosted (in our case irc.borgchat.net) and you have to know the ROOM on the server as well. Donald Burr hosts our chat on his borgchat.net server, but he has other chats going on there so we each have our own room – and our room is called #nosillacast. Even that # (pound or hash) symbol is super important.
I didn’t know a darn thing about IRC chat before I started the live show so I had to depend on others to educate me. Once you get a boost up into IRC by someone it’s not that hard but it’s so different than modern applications that it can be intimidating at first. IRC gets way easier if you use a third party client like Textual, Colloquy or Adium and luckily we have some great IRC Setup Tutorials linked over on podfeet.com/live to get you started.
But what if you’re a semi-geek, or a geek in waiting, a wannabe geek? what if you want to watch the live show but this sounds too hard? Well a while ago Donald Burr gave me a bit of code to embed over on podfeet.com/live that was supposed to give us a little login screen where people could join the live chat to have some fun. The idea was that if you went to podfeet.com/live you’d just make up a nickname (no password, no registration) and tell it the room to go into, then you could chat and play with the big kids.
Steve and I tested it, and it worked great so we were super happy. But then we started hearing reports of people having trouble with it, of it being hinky, something being wrong. These reports always came in while I was running the live show, which is essentially equivalent to juggling 2 chainsaws and a rabid badger, so I had no bandwidth left to be able to figure the live chat out at the same time. All I knew was it wasn’t working for people.
Donald and I decided to have a Google Hangout to work on it together and to invite people to come bang away on the web chat as we made changes. We scheduled it for 6:30 on Thursday night, I went into G+ and created the event, and then I spammed everyone who had joined the NosillaCast G+ community and all my followers on Twitter asking them to come.
Now fast forward to Thursday night. I find out from Donald that he’s been held to a meeting late at work, and because his car was in an accident he was forced to take public transportation (which is awful in Southern California), then he fell asleep on the bus, and so he missed his stop and had to walk an extra mile and a half back to his house. Needless to say, he missed the 6:30 time slot.
But that almost didn’t matter because I was entirely unsuccessful at actually getting the Google Hangout to start. After a lot of swearing and grinding of teeth, I think I figured out why, but if I’m right, it means I’ll never be able to create a Google Hangout on Air. Perhaps I should step back a second and explain the difference between a plain old Hangout and a Hangout on Air. In a Google Hangout, you invite people to jump on video and audio with you in a session that’s visible to everyone in the hangout. If you declare it to be On Air, that means it’s visible to everyone looking at your timeline AND it’s recorded to your YouTube channel automagically. It’s very cool.
So here’s my situation that I think makes this not work, and in Chit Chat Across the Pond you’ll hear me ask Chad how I can fix it. Steve and I have a YouTube channel for the NosillaCast. This is where he posts all of the video interviews and the video montages he does for shows like Macworld. Technically I set it up but he does most of the work. So far so good. Now I have a G+ profile called Allison Sheridan. This is where I post all of my content in G+ and It’s the profile that’s associated with our NosillaCast G+ community. Again, so far so good. Now here’s the problem. A few months ago Google decided that every YouTube channel had to be associated with a “page” on G+. If I’d understood the ramifications, I would have said to connect it to Allison Sheridan. Well Allison Sheridan isn’t really a page, right? It’s more of a profile. So I created a page called Podfeet, and tossed my podfeet logo onto it. Pretty quickly I realized that I didn’t really think I did that right but I buried my head in the sand and ran away. Well it turns out that the podfeet account, which has no personality at all, no posts, no one knows it’s there, is the only one that can post to the NosillaCast channel. Which means IT is the only one able to do a Hangout on Air. If I start in my Allison Sheridan account, it says, “hey, you should really set up a YouTube channel so this can actually be on air!”
So…Steve actually started a Hangout (not on air) right on the spot, and invited the NosillaCast G+ Community. During the hour or so we were hanging out, We had Timothy Gregoire from Louisiana, Guy Serle from somewhere on the East Coast of the US, Allister Jenks from New Zealand, Robert Lachman from Orange County in California, me and Steve and Donald Burr from Southern California, and Barry Fulk from Flemings Restaurant in Chicago! It was quite a nice little hodgepodge of talents and silliness, and I soon forgot how angry and frustrated I’d been at Google earlier. I did say that Donald came in, but he didn’t get there for pretty much the first hour, and yet we STILL discovered the root of the live chat problem and got it solved.
By having video of all of us chatting and being able to screenshare within the Hangout, we were able to determine the root problem. Yes, after how long I am NOW going to tell you the problem to be solved! When you went to podfeet.com/live, there was a section that said “Live Chat Room” and a very Windows 95 marries Open Source looking login window. It was entitled CGI:IRC Login and had a bunch of stuff like nickname, server IP address and channel to log into. Heck you had an advanced button too, as though you’d WANT advanced if you’re using web chat.
The ugliness of this interface and the confusion it offered still isn’t the problem to be solved. If you successfully navigated this interface, you would be able to join the live chat, and it looked okay. However, if you ever changed the size of your browser window, the live chat would actually shrink down to almost nothing. You couldn’t even get it back by refreshing the screen, Because you’d be forced to login again. I can’t believe anybody actually successfully used it in the first place!
Timothy eventually asked what plug-in we were using, And we explained that it wasn’t a plug-in at all. The live chat was using an html element called an iframe. We thought the problem was that the text was wrapping around the iframe, and as you changed the window width that was somehow messing it up. Allister started thinking about options of using a plug-in, but explained that all of the WordPress plug-ins you could find either had very few stars, or hadn’t been updated in well over a year (which is a very bad sign in a plug-in). Allister didn’t give up and eventually found the perfect solution. The tool is called Kiwi IRC, at kiwiirc.com/embedding. Kiwi IRC lets you put in the network address of your IRC server, In our case irc.borgchat.net, the default channel or room you want the people to go to, in our case #nosillacast, and finally, the format for the default nickname they’ll get when they go into the chat room. When you’re done selecting the options, you click a button that says generate my code, and the iframe HTML code shows up in a little box below. All I had to do next was copy that iframe code and plop it onto the Podfeet.com/live webpage, and we were in business.
It was cool that the participants could watch me doing this live, because I was sharing my screen to them. At the same time they could see each other in video while they were talking to each other. I had everyone refresh their screens and they saw our beautiful new web interface to the chat room. Sometimes the start button takes a little while to get started but once you’re in the live chat you can resize your window to your heart’s content.
I told this story, because it shows the power of the community, and the power of the awesome tools that we have to work with today. We learned some things to like about Google hangouts, and somethings not to like about them. I was sad to find out later that several people were waiting in the wings to come into the hangout but we didn’t realize they were there. Kevin Allder for example tweeted out how great it was that Allister solved the problem and with a tool that represented his New Zealand heritage. We had no idea he was watching. I think there’s a lot more for us to learn about Google hangouts and since evidently I’ll never be able to host one, Steve has taken on the challenge to learn as much as he can about how they work so we can use this cool tool in the future. And finally, if you’ve been worried that you wouldn’t be a able to figure out how to do IRC chat, its now as easy as thinking up a nickname and pushing the start button. I hope you’ll join us live sometime on Sunday nights at 5 PM Pacific time and you know the line, join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways.
Steve and I live in Los Angeles, the City of Angels, which should really be called the City of Cars. We love our cars in this city. Everyone has their own car, and 95% of us drive alone everywhere, no matter how much the city tries to bribe us with carpool lanes and cheaper rides on the highway. I’m fascinated by how public transportation actually works in other cities. Whenever we go to San Francisco, we’d never think of renting a car. We can walk, we can ride the subway (called BART by the way), there’s the cable cars down to the wharf, and if you’re adventurous you can even ride the bus around and of course there’s cabs all over the place. In LA, since we’re so spread out it’s much harder than in a dense and tall city. To give you an idea of scale, Los Angeles County is 1/3 the size of Belgium.
When I heard about a car service called Uber on Tech News Today and Sarah Lane was going on and on about how wonderful it was, I sort of dismissed it because she lives in San Francisco, so of course it’s awesome there. But then a few weeks back we were at a birthday party for the 4 year old across the street, and we were chatting with another guest when he pulled out his phone and started checking Uber for his ride home. Of course Steve and I jumped on him and made him tell us all about it (he pretty much REALLY wanted to get his ride home after our grilling). We were so impressed that we decided to try it ourselves.
So let’s get a problem to be solved here. Of course Steve and I have our own cars, so why would we want to have someone drive us around, other than maybe a trip to the airport? Well what if we want to go to a party and after 12 rounds of rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock we were still tied for who had to be designated driver? Or what if it’s summer time and we want to have an early dinner down on the pier but the beach traffic hasn’t left yet so we’ll never get a parking spot? That actually does happen – once we missed our reservations by 15 minutes when we were 30 minutes early getting there. So maybe we don’t need a car service all the time but there sure are times when it would be great to have.
Now I’m saying “car service” like I’m on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous or something here. What about a plain old taxi cab? Well let me tell you how many bad, disgusting, dangerous and horrific cab rides we’ve had in LA. Might be shorter if I told you about the good ones. Yeah, way shorter because I can’t think of any. Our taxi experiences range from disgusting to dangerous. Even when the experiences weren’t horrible, we’ve always lived in fear that they wouldn’t actually show up, which also happened once and we missed our flight to Hawaii. Another huge problem at least here is that the taxi drivers get super angry if you want to use a credit card, and they always lie to you and tell you that their card reader is broken. So yeah, there’s a problem to be solved here, that’s for sure!
Uber is a completely app driven service. When you first open the app on your iOS or Android device, it shows your current location and assumes that’s where you want to be picked up, but you can slide the map around to a new location or enter it by hand. Across the bottom you’ll see three options – uberX, Black Car, and SUV. uberX cars are small sedans, like maybe a Prius or a Camry. Black Cars are Lincoln Town Cars, or other nice luxury vehicles. If you have more than four people in your party, you’re going to need an SUV.
As you slide from uberX to Black Car to SUV, on the map you see these little cars moving around representing real vehicles that can come pick you up. At the bottom it shows you how long it will be till one of them can get to your location. Tap on Set Pickup Location and you’ll get a window showing your credit card, an option to get a fare quote and Request a Car. The fares are interesting, because you get a range of what it might cost. The rate, like a taxi, depends on how fast you’re going. You pay by time for when you’re under 11mph, and by distance for when you’re going over 11mph.
Probably one of my favorite parts of Uber is what happens when you request a car. As soon as a driver says they’ll take you, on your phone a picture of the driver pops up along with the license plate of the car. From there you can actually watch the car moving on the map as they drive to get you. I LOVE this feature. No more wondering where the darn taxi is and whether they’re actually going to get to you on time. You get a real time readout of their ETA so you know exactly when they’re going to show up.
My second favorite part of Uber is the payment. When you get to your destination, you simply get out of the car and walk away. All payments are taken care of through the app, including tip. It’s soooo nice! When the driver hits the button on his phone that shows the ride was completed, your phone shows a screen to rate the drive. But the driver also gets to rate YOU! When a driver agrees to pick you up, you can see their rating and reject their offer, but the drivers can reject you as well based on your rating. One of our drivers said that if they even get one 1 star rating it can get them delisted from Uber.
We tested Uber 4 times this week. We took an uberX from our house to a restaurant down on the beach, about 5 miles away, and it cost $11. The car was a Prius, and the driver was delightful and chatty, willing to tell us whatever we wanted about Uber. He showed up exactly when it predicted and we arrived for our dinner reservations on the dot. When we left the restaurant, again we got a Prius, which was actually cleaner than the first one. The ride back was $10 and we gave another 5 star review.
Next we had a dinner about 6 miles away but we had 5 passengers so we decided to use the SUV option. It was $49 one way. In retrospect it would have been significantly cheaper to have ordered 2 uberX’s than one SUV. We got picked up right on time in a giant black suburban – and the driver actually had on a tie! He treated it more like a limo service. When we got about 10 minutes from the time we wanted to go, I whipped open my Uber app only to find it saying that there were no SUVs available. Well that gave me some panic. The driver on the way down explained that the area where we were going (the base of the Palos Verdes hill) was a pretty rare place to find someone needing a car. He’d given me his direct number just in case I wanted to call specifically for him. I texted him, only to receive a message back that he had another passenger so couldn’t pick us up. the good news is that we kept trying from 3 different phones and after about 5 minutes the app showed us that there was an SUV available so we did get our ride home. Again a big black Suburban (with some really nice chrome wheels) and we gave our 4th 5-star review.
We got into a discussion about how to avoid getting stranded, and one suggestion was to start checking the app earlier, but that doesn’t really work. if the app says someone is 10 minutes away, you can’t call for them 20 minute before you want to leave. I guess over time we’ll get to know where we can go that there’s lots of Uber cars around. The UberX cars are more prevalent so I think we would have been able to get home even without the SUV ride.
Overall I’d say the Uber app method of calling a car is way way way better than calling for a cab, and unless you’re made of money, consider the uberX option before bumping it up to a bigger, fancier car. Oh one other cool feature after you call for the car, you get an option to split the fare with someone, so if you have a bunch of buddies going home from a party together you can split it right from the app.
Pros – the cars show up on time, they’re clean, the drivers are nice, they don’t drive like they want you dead, you don’t have to deal with money at all, and there’s an automatic feedback system if you ever do get a bad driver. Cons are you could get into a position where there are no cars available, but worst case you could revert back to the old taxi method, and taking an SUV or a Black Car will be expensive but not as expensive as renting a black car from a traditional car service. We’ve done that to the airport before and it was $35, while the Uber Black Car quote was $25. I will definitely being using Uber in the future instead of a traditional taxi service.
The Night Before Christmas
with an Ever So Slight Macintosh Bias
(with credit and apologies to Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston)
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a . . . track pad; (ok, work with me here)
The ear-buds were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that all things iMaker soon would be there;
The NosillaCastaways were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of iPads danced in their heads;
And podfeet in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cravat,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s Skype chat,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the keyboard to see what was the matter.
Away to the windoze . . . I flew like a flash drive,
Tore open the shutters and nearly did a nosedive.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of brushed aluminum to objects below,
When, what to my eyes seemed very bizarre,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny cars,
With a little old driver, with whom elves hobnob,
I knew in a moment it must be Honda Bob.
More rapid than 4G his vehicles they came,
And he tweeted, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Accord! now, Civic! now, Fit and CR-V!
On, Element! on Ridgeline! on, Pilot and Odyssey!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now drive away! drive away! drive away all!”
As dry leaves that before the reality distortion field endowed,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the cloud,
So up to the house-top the vehicles they flew,
With the sleigh full of Apple products, and Honda Bob too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard with a squeal
The skidding and sliding of each little wheel.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Bob came with a bound.
He was dressed in coveralls, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with oil and soot;
A bundle of SSDs he had flung in his Scott-EVest,
And he looked like a geek who was extremely obsessed.
A wink of his eye and a look not too pious,
Soon gave me to know he had a Macintosh bias;
He spoke not a word, but texted his concern,
And filled all the stockings; then hit return,
And laying his finger aside his levitation app,
A command to his iPad, up the chimney, ASAP!;
He sprang to his sleigh, and his autos, did they bristle,
And away they all flew as if shot from a missile.
But I heard him exclaim, as the poem prescribed,
“Happy Christmas to all, and please stay subscribed.”
Hi Allison and my fellow Nosilla Castaways, Terry Austin here with another GREAT use case for Clarify.
I’ll start with the problem to be solved. I’m a professor and am always on the lookout for a way for my students to save money on their textbooks. I teach three different courses using two main textbooks. The publisher offers a great deal on an eText but the students often find out about this after they’ve purchased a paper copy and then can’t return it since our campus bookstore uses a loose-leaf version of the books, already trying to save our students money.
The process of buying an eText confuses some student so I decided to make a Clarfiy tutorial. It’s easy enough, there are only six steps in buying the ebook. Well, when I had finished the first tutorial on purchasing one of the textbooks, I recalled that Allison had told me about the “image swap” button (not sure what it’s proper name is but in Clarify it’s the third icon over, looks like a camera with two arrows, one in, one out…This little gem lets you switch out the image on a particular step while keeping your notes, arrows, all of your annotations.
All I had to do was switch over to the web page for book number two, do a few quick screen grabs replacing the images for the first textbook tutorial and in under three minutes I had made the second tutorial. Ten minutes TOTAL and I’ve got instructions for buying both of these textbooks that will let my students save almost $90 on one textbook and over $60 on another. Pretty darned cool use of Clarify as I look out for my students! Even better, these tutorials themselves are saved, so if the prices change in the future I can easily update them!
Thanks for your time – and STAY SUBSCRIBED!
Terry – this is awesome! I have to say, you’ve caught the Clarify bug bad! By the way, the highly technical term that the fine folks at BlueMango Learning have chosen for that camera image swap button is the “Switcheroo Camera”. It’s priceless for redoing screenshots when the software or website you’re demonstrating changes a screen. Makes you so much more inclined to go back and fix it for a new version. I use this ALL the time. If you haven’t bought Clarify yet (I see the two of you hiding in the back row behind Kevin hoping I won’t notice), be sure to buy it from clarify-it.com, not the Mac App Store right now because you’ll get the new and improved Clarify 2 for free when it comes out.
Chit Chat Across the Pond
This week we have Chad Johnson, aka OMGcad from the TWiT Network. Chad is the Producer of MacBreak Weekly, This Week in Tech and This Week in Google. He’s also the host of This Week in YouTube with Lamar Wilson, and the host of OMGcraft, a podcast all about Mine Craft. You can find him on Youtube at youtube.com/omgchad.
I asked Chad to come on the show to talk about the recent changes to YouTube and commenting. Evidently there’s a giant kerfuffle going on with the YouTubers about this and I wanted to get Chad’s perspective. During our conversation Chad refers to a great post by Reel SEO which outlines the new features of YouTube commenting because of the Google Plus integration: eelseo.com/11-new-features-youtube-comments-creators-tip-117.
Merry Christmas to you all –
That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, Blue Mango Learning at bluemangolearning.com makers of ScreenSteps and Clarify. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on twitter and app.net @podfeet. Check out the NosillaCast Google Plus Community too – lots of fun over there! If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.