#299 VidConvert, L5 Remote, Mail Act-On, Text Expander, Boom

VidConvert from reggieashworth.com, final episode of Georg from Tulsa’s lesson on using Gmail for Cloud Storage, L5 Remote from l5remote.com. Kirschen walks us through how to use Mail Act-On from indev software to more easily manage our email. Jane from Perth brings us the new version of gfxCardStatus from codykrieger.com. More Macworld interviews with Text Expander and Text Expander Touch from smilesoftware.com and Boom to boost your audio volume from globaldelight.com/boom. In Chit Chat Across the Pond we talk to Cheyenne Swenson from the Downey School District about her schools experimental use of iPads and iPod Touches for elementary school students.

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Today is Sunday February 13th, 2011 and this is show number 299. Can’t believe the 300th show is next week! I still have up the gorgeous (and giant) poster George from Tulsa sent me for the 200th episode. Whenever I tell people at work about the podcast, I point to the poster sort of as proof! I love looking at it to this day.

On Friday I did my usual ritual of sitting at Starbucks for a couple of hours sipping coffee and pretending to work on the podcast. Partway through my ritual, the woman sitting next to me asked the woman on the other side of her about her Windows laptop, that she was thinking about getting one. Poor Shelly, you know how this turned out for her, right? As soon as the other woman got distracted I jumped in and started telling Shelly how great the Mac is. There went 45 minutes of Shelly’s life while I blathered about Macs, iPads, podcasting, Ustream, Word vs. Pages…It was awesome! In all seriousness she really did seem interested, and said she’d even give the show a listen (perhaps this was just to get me to leave her alone) but if you’re listening, thanks for letting me bother you!

We have a HUGE show this week – we got a bunch of listener contributions that are awesome, we’ve got the last three interviews from Macworld, and I even did a review of my own! Remember that the interviews are available in video form over on podfeet.com if you’d like to see what we’re talking about.

VidConvert

One of my favorite developers in the Mac Community is Reggie Ashworth. Reggie wrote the fantastic application AppDelete, the application that deletes everything about an application when you’re tired of it. Over the years Reggie has tuned it and improved the information you get when you ask to delete. I’ve been a big fan for years.

Now let’s find a new problem for Reggie to solve. How many of us have video we need to convert from one format to another? I’m a big fan of the freeware Handbrake from handbrake.fr, been using it for years. But then Reggie created VidConvert and I had to give it a try. I decided to apply VidConvert to a very specific video conversion problem. We all have these cute little point and shoot cameras that take reasonably good video – at least they’re way fun at parties, right? So what problem is that causing? HUGE video files, that’s what.

These little point and shoots save the videos as .avi files and it turns out AVI is a really inefficient codec. By the way, if you haven’t played along with our home game, codecs are coder/decoders, the software that takes video and makes it playable on your computer. Some of the older codecs are really inefficient and don’t do the best job. There are better options these days like mp4’s with h.264 encoding for example that will create a high quality video that’s much smaller. why do we care about all of this? Well in the last two weeks I’ve had two people ask me how to regain disk space on their limited hard drives…and they both had tons of little videos, all in .avi format.

Time to give VidConvert a try. I decided to throw a video at it from Macworld from a couple of years ago. You see during the Cirque de Mac party this female acrobat came down on a trapeze…well you had to be there. Anyway, this little video avi file I took is 13 entire seconds long, and it chews up 26.3MB of disk space. It’s only 640×480 for cryin’ out loud! I looked back in the folder where I saved it and evidently I tried a few tools way back when to try and compress it. I had created an MOV file encoded with h.264 which cut it down to 15.7MB from 26.3 and looked about the same. This week I tried throwing the trapeze artist at VidConvert from Reggie, and it took that file down from 26.3MB to a mere 3.5MB as an mp4 with h.264. Now you’re thinking, this video must look like crapola, right? Nope, it looks BETTER than the original! I know, I wrote to Reggie and asked him what kind of black magic he’s employing that would reduce the file size by 87% and make a better video. he didn’t give me his secrets though.

Like any good video encoder there are lots of options to get lot in, but if you choose h.264 from the Advanced menu and MPEG-4 from the main menu you should be really happy. VidConvert is a whopping $8 over at reggieashworth.com.

I’ll give you one more reason to look at Reggie Ashworth’s applications AppDelete and VidConvert. This week Jesse Green, who happens to be blind asked me a video question and I suggested VidConvert (yes, he’s blind and doing video conversion!) Jesse decided to try VidConvert and AppDelete. They were mostly accessible, but he found a few areas where they didn’t work quite right with VoiceOver so he contacted Reggie. Reggie is working with him and actively modifying the code to improve the VoiceOver experience. Not promising to work on it, actually working on it. That’s the sign of a responsive developer!

George from Tulsa on Gmail as a free encrypted cloud backup

Anyone else attend MacWorld 2011 virtually by following highlights on Twitter? Missing cables. Discharged batteries. Allison’s broken lens, Katie’s nearly broken ankle, Victor’s medical confinement, John F. Braun’s bad weather and delayed flights. Even unflappable Rose had an anxious moment when the MiFi I loaned her locked up, rendering her incommunicado.

So thanks to those of you who did risk and survive MacWorld. All those Podcasts and Videos are great for those of us who can’t, or won’t, travel.

Maybe MacWorld should go virtual. It was pretty close this year, though the reports I followed suggest it should be renamed to iPadCaseWorld. But if MacWorld is to stay in the real world, my friends at the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce would sure enjoy the opportunity to bring it here. A nice central location, brand new convention facilities, and all the steer sushi you want to eat. A much bigger deal for Tulsa than San Francisco, and I would at least be close to my own doctor.

Back in #296, before MacWorld, I described how to use Gmail as a free encrypted cloud backup. Here’s the conclusion of that topic. Google rents extra storage to regular Gmail accounts, but not yet to Google Apps Accounts.

20 extra Gigabytes in the Google Cloud costs only $5 a year. Because I am backing up more than 20 Gigabytes of Photos into Picasa, I chose the next step up, 80 Gigabytes for $20. Need 16 Terabytes? Only $4,096. If your credit card can handle the load, so can Google. Though I’d think your year would expire long before you could upload 16 Terabytes.

Added storage is shared among services connected to your Gmail account. Gmail itself, Google Documents, and Picasa Photo Albums, and more. With 20 Gigabytes, you can upload large videos to Google Docs, and share them out with a YouTube like interface. Photos can be uploaded to Picasa, or to Google Docs, and shared from there.

Google provides its own uploader, but you can also use CyberDuck, Transmit 4, and others. Last summer Picasa added a batch uploader for photos and provides the option to reduce file size or upload originals. If you do set up Gmail as your cloud backup, remember not to share files from that account. Keep it secret. What the bad guys can’t find, they can’t hack.

In my Google APPs domain at work, I use Google’s “Two Step Verification,” a BIG SECURITY ENHANCEMENT. Google is rolling out “Two Step” to regular Gmail accounts, so watch for it. To log on, you need your User ID, your password, and a code sent to your cell phone. With “Two Step Verification Enabled,” even if the bad guys find your account and guess your password, they still can’t get in without physical access to your phone.

Links:
Extra Storage: Google Storage
Two Step Verification Described: Two Step Verification Described
Google on Two Step Verification: Google on Two-Step Verification
YouTube Intro to Two-Step Verification: Two-Step Intro on YouTube

I’ve had it on my to do list for weeks to actually try this George, I have to give it a try now, it sounds pretty cool! I’d especially like to be able to share out big videos!

L5Technology

Let’s hear another Macworld review next:

Using a Screen Reader? click here

L5 Remote is available at l5remote.com

Kirschen on Mail Act-On

Hi Allison and fellow Nosillacastaways… Kirschen from Cedar Rapids here with a review of Mail Act-On from indev software. But first, as always, there’s a problem to be solved…

You like to be able to triage your e-mail inbox in your quest to attain inbox zero nirvana. My problem always has been that in order to get that inbox to zero, I had to move the e-mail to a folder to file it away. This of course meant either dragging the mail item to the appropriate folder – many times inadvertently filing into the wrong folder.

Alternatively you could use the menu command Move To or Copy To and scroll down to pick the folder – not terribly useful if you had several bills to file away and you had to pop the menu, scroll, and click to select the same folder.

Of course you could create rules to automagically file the items away but for me, that meant “out of sight, out of mind” and I didn’t get to look at that e-mail anyway. And what’s more you’d have to tweak the rules time and again when new e-mails need to get categorized.

So here’s the deal, Mail Act-On from indev software is an add-on to Apple’s Mail app which lets you use the keyboard to select the folder to file the e-mail (amongst other things) – click-click whoosh!

Pressing the Mail Act-On’s Main Menu function key F1 brings up a translucent panel which lists a number of single key commands – type A to Apply Act-On’s rules (more later), M to move the message to a folder, C to copy the message to a folder, or O to open a folder.

Press M and you are presented with a list of folders, with the last few used folders near the top. Just press the number corresponding to the folder, if it was recently used, or scroll or use the cursor keys to select the folder. Better yet, press the spacebar and then type a sequence of letters, and Mail Act-On brings up a list of folders with that sequence in the name. Cursor down and press return – and its filed! Neat huh?

Pressing F2 brings up the Mail Act-On rules panel – just as you would have done by pressing F1 followed by A – thus saving a keystroke. Mail Act-On rules are like Mail rules – you create and edit them in the Rules section in Mail Preferences. In addition Mail Act-On also adds Outbox Rules, so sent messages will automagically get filed based on the rules you define. Pressing F3 brings up the Move messages panel – just like F1 followed by M – yet another shortcut.

Now, where Mail Act-On shines is in its customized “Move To” folders panel. Clicking on Mail Act-On in Mail Preferences brings up its preferences. Now click on the Menus part of the segmented button to bring up Mail Act-On’s menu preference pane. Finally, click on the “F6 – Move To Preferred Folder” and the right hand pane changes to a list of 10 folders. Use the pop up menus to select a folder to be used for each number. The next time you press F6 – your list of folders comes up – and all you have to do is to press the number corresponding to the folder you want to move the message to. What could be easier!

These Mail Act-On actions will work on one message or several selected ones. In addition, you can keep the panels up by pressing the function key twice in a row.

Mail Act-On’s website says “Reduce the effort required to manage your e-mail” – and indeed it has done that for me. You can get a 30 day free trial of Mail Act-On from indev software’s website at www.indev.ca. If you like it, it only costs just $24.95.

But wait, there’s more – indev software also makes Mail Tags, and what problem does that solve for me, do you ask? Stay tuned!

see captionPressing F1 brings up the Mail Act-On Main Menu as a translucent overlay – press any of the keys to bring up a sub menu panel. Note that Add Keyword and Set Project are only shown if you have Mail Tags installed.

see captionPressing the A key from the Main Menu or F2 if no menu is displayed brings up the Apply Act-On Rules Panel.

see captionMail Act-On Rules are configured in the Mail Preferences Rules panel. Mail Act-On also adds Outbox Rules to filter outgoing messages.

see captionPressing M at the Main Menu or F3 by itself brings up the Move Messages to Mailbox panel. Use the mouse or cursor keys to select the menu. What’s nice is that the recently used mailboxes are shown.

see captionNow if you press the space bar at the Move Messages panel, you can type a filter string and the panel will show only those mailboxes / folders with that string in their name.

see caption Finally, pressing T at the Main Menu or F6 brings up the Move Messages to Preferred Folder panel. Just type the number corresponding to the folder you want to move the message into.

So Kirschen, you’re saying that there’s a better way than leaving thousands and thousands…and thousands of emails just sitting in my inbox and having to come up with complex ways to do boolean searches to find my emails? Wow. Who knew? By the way, there’s another indev software with a .com domain, don’t be fooled, the REAL one is at indev.ca as Kirschen said! If you like Kirschen’s work, check out her blog at freerangecoder.com

ScreenSteps

Last week I started telling you about a cool new free feature of ScreenSteps called ScreenSteps.me. With ScreenSteps you often want to send someone a lesson but you don’t want to post it on a website, you just want to send someone a link, say in a message board or an email. With the more recent versions of ScreenSteps, if you select a lesson and click on Share, you still have the options to copy the lesson to as a pdf or html to the clipboard, but you also have a third option of sending it to ScreenSteps.me. You’ll be prompted to create a free account, and then boom, your lesson will be posted online. You’ll get three choices after it’s posted – you can see it in html, styled html, or images only. Styled has inline CSS, while Basic HTML had no styling so it would just inherit the styling of your blog or forum. If you already have ScreenSteps, you get all of this for free, if you haven’t got ScreenSteps yet, maybe this is just the kind of incentive you need. Check it out at ScreenSteps.com and don’t forget my coupon code, NOSILLA for 25% off the purchase price of ScreenSteps Desktop Standard or Pro.

Jane on gfxCardStatus

Now the more alert of you (ConnorP) might remember that I talked about gfxCardStatus back in December, but I played Jane’s review now anyway because of a very important update to the product. She mentioned that you can set gfxCardStatus to change your graphics GPU based on whether you were on battery or the mains. I had written to the developer, Cody Krieger to tell him back in December that the option was greyed out for me. He explained that on some of the older machines like mine it didn’t work, but when that version 2 of gfxCardStatus would support those older machines.

I checked online when I got Jane’s review and sure enough, gfxCardStatus 2 is out, and I now have the full capability of the tool. It’s kind of disconcerting, when you plug into the mains your screens turn blue for a second and then it comes back with the discrete graphics running the show. I’ll have to get used to that, especially since I’ve been having that weird blue screen/log out problem lately, this will scare me for a while!

gfxCardStatus is really a terrific application and I encourage you to try it out and be sure to push the donate button at codykrieger.com to show your appreciation of this product. Like Jane says, in the big scheme of things, it’s not THAT big of a deal to log out and back in, but if you don’t have to it’s a huge relief!

If you liked Jane’s review, you can see more of her work at her newly revised website macstrings.com (formerly known as galacticstrings). I hope we hear more from Jane in the future, I love her reviews!

Smile Text Expander

Time for another interview:

Using a Screen Reader? click here

Text Expander and Text Expander Touch can be found at smilesoftware.com

Boom

As you heard, we saved Smile for our last interview at Macworld. But then, out of the blue Guruparasad from Global Delight came running up to us and said he was so glad he caught us – he had something new to show us! Guru and I got to know each other 2 years ago working on his screen capture software, Voilà. I enjoyed working with him and it was a delight (a global delight?) to meet him in person last year at Macworld. I’m so glad he found us, partly to say hi, but also to learn about an awesome new tool they’ve created. Let’s listen to the interview:

Using a Screen Reader? click here

I’ve been testing Boom for a few days now and it’s amazing. It absolutely does what they say it does, it boosts the volume and you can even shape the equalizer to make the sound perfect for your ears without distortion. I never had the need to crank Boom to full volume, I find myself almost hoping I find something to play that’s too quiet so I can test it! This is all amazing for a $5 application, but they go one step farther, if you’re a little worried about dropping that much coin, they have a 7 day free trial! Check it out at globaldelight.com/boom

Honda Bob

While we were at Macworld, someone told me that they really really wished they lived near by me for two reason – one so I could wax their cars, and two so they could use Honda Bob. They were so sick of having to drive to the dealer, lose their car for a day, having to arrange rides back and forth, and not even being sure if they were being ripped off or if they’d get the right repairs done. Like Katie they’d experienced that annoyance of having to go back several times for the same problem. If you’re lucky enough to already live in the LA or Orange County area, and you are smart enough to drive a Honda or an Acura, then give Honda Bob a call at (562)531-2321 or send him an email at hdabob@aol.com. HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is not affiliated with Honda, Acura or Honda Worldwide.

Chit Chat Across the Pond

This week onChit Chat Across the Pond we have Cheyenne Swenson, a 2nd grade teacher in the Downey School district. She’s been participating in some interesting experiments using Macs, iPads and iPod Touches in the classroom, and we’re also going to talk a little bit about new math.

iPad Classes for Teachers
So this all got started when you went to a full day of training on the iPad at Apple – how did that come about?

  • I was approached by my principal in September about going to “Apple training” I didn’t know what to expect and almost forgot about the training entirely.
  • It’s called Apple in Education Learning Tour Including myself there were 4 teachers that went from my school.
  • Upon arrival we all received an iPad, laptop, and iPod touch.

What Kinds of things did they teach you would be beneficial in the classroom vs. traditional tools?

  • We learned about a TON of apps that we can use in the classroom. Apps for every subject and every grade level.
  • Apps from a company called K12 for reading fluency and counting coins. Flashcard apps for math facts, Math BINGO…
  • Some high school and upper grade apps as well. We got to play with an app that focused on the periodic table, which would be awesome for high school.
  • Traditional tools are always useful. Like when learning about money, it’s helpful to feel and touch actual money when learning about it.
  • Using real rulers and measuring tapes are a must as well. But, with the way the world is going it’s beneficial for students to get their hands on the available technology.
  • The thing I like the most is that I have closets and cupboards FULL of manipulatives. Half the time i forget I have them. With the iPad/iPod they’re all in one place and easily accessible.

After a full day of training, what do you think of the iPad? (by now you may have answered this!)

  • I want one!
  • I want 26 of them for my classroom
  • I want 700 of them for my school
  • It would be amazing for each child to be able to have access to this tool.
  • In the state Maine they are 1 to 1 with laptops for students in the upper grades.

iPod Touches for the Classroom
They’ve seeded your classroom with a bunch of iPod Touches – what’s the purpose of this program and how did you get so lucky?

  • The head of the tech department and the district wrote a grant for 20 ipod touches. I went to the initial training in the beginning of January and our school was selected to “pilot” them.
  • My principal asks me to do EVERYTHING.
  • I try to say yes to as much as I can, but I like to keep my focus in 2 areas, math and technology.

You’ve been using the iPod touches for about a week now – what do you think?

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE them!
  • The kids were soooo excited when I told them about it.
  • The first question was “do they have angry birds?” (they don’t)
  • All the apps on them are from the “education” category
  • Some are free some are paid for
  • Story Kit (fairy tales that you can edit, or write your own)
  • Scribble Lite (shake to erase, YIKES!)
  • Kid Klok (i requested this one)
  • time reading (fluency WPM)
  • Math BINGO (their favorite)
  • BrainPop (new video everyday with a quiz)
  • A bunch more I haven’t explored yet

Do you see places where technology can actually get in the way of learning?

  • Sometimes kids depend on it too much
  • There’s a reading diagnostic test that we take at school online. It’s not terrible, but it’s OK. A HUGE factor with that test is that quite a few kids don’t have computers at home so their not familiar with the ins and outs of what to do on a computer. Also sitting in front of a computer reading a story and not being able to look back is not good.
  • BUT with the books available on an iPad they’re more user friendly.
  • Technology is catching up but nothing can replace teacher/student reading and assessment

New Math?
So I heard you’re using a new kind of math in school these days, something about changing the way we do carryover?

  • I went to an in-service in my district, since I’m on the Math Leadership team.
  • Ivan Alba was the presenter, he’s coming back to our school in late February to do another in-service for our school
  • Mental Math
  • Emphasized decomposing numbers and it’s relation to algebra
  • 27 + 56 can be broken down to 27 + 50 + 6 then 77+ 6 = 83 🙂
  • It took me a while to figure out the subtraction but I got it. 56-27 broken down to 56-(20+7) which is 36-7=29
  • Parents need to know how we are looking at numbers in class so they can help at home and it will then make sense to the kids.
  • Some kids prefer “regrouping” (carrying and borrowing) while others think this way on their own
  • Learning both ways is important. Also memorizing facts is SUPER important or else adding 50 + 20 isn’t any easier than adding 56 + 27

How I was RUINED by New Math in the 60s:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_math

I had soooo much fun talking to Cheyenne, these are exciting times if your school is forward thinking! Well be sure to tune in next week for the 300th episode! Who’s baking the cake, by the way? Until then, keep your dumb questions coming, along with comments and suggestions by writing to me at allison@podfeet.com, and follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/podfeet. And heck, if you haven’t already made a comment in iTunes, head on over and give us some stars! Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

4 thoughts on “#299 VidConvert, L5 Remote, Mail Act-On, Text Expander, Boom

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by vidconvert and Reggie Ashworth, reggieashworth. reggieashworth said: Thanks to Allison over at my favorite NosillaCast for reviewing VidConvert this week! http://j.mp/gWDZAn […]

  2. George "from Tulsa" - February 14, 2011

    I just downloaded VidConvert, and dropped in a .3gp file from my Nexus One.

    Bam! A high quality .mov file

    Thanks, Allison, for alerting us to this excellent program, and, Reggie, for making it!

  3. Claus Wolf - February 14, 2011

    Hi Allison, you have the best show notes ever. Thank you!!!

    I finished the podcast this morning, while walking the dog, and found your “Chit Chat Across the Pond” segment so interesting I just had to come and check whether your Cheyenne had helped us all by providing links to some of the iOS Apps she talked about and she did!

    I really miss Bart and hope he’s going to come back to the show soon, but I also enjoy hearing all these different voices every week.

    By the way I was amazed about the “new math” approach, almost a bit amused to hear it explained as new. See I am German and to me that math was nothing new – “Kopfrechnen” (Mental Math) was something we had to do a lot in primary school, it is one of these things they really cared about. I never got as good at it as my dad, who was just a wizard, when it came to mental math. So when the math problem of 57+26 was mentioned I automatically did it in my head, but slightly different. To me the solution was this:

    26+7 = 33 + 50 = 83

    So why break the numbers apart this way? The way I remember being taught is this:

    You start with the small number and the small problem.

    So if you are adding two numbers start with the smaller one, in this case 26. Then add the small math problem, i.e. add 7. It is easier since the smaller the number the easier it is to do in your head and the easier the result is to remember, maybe because your “math facts” are more solid in the small ranges? Then adding the big problem is no longer a big problem and simple to accomplish.

    I wonder how other listeners learned to solve mental math. I now know what harm they did to you in school, but as you have such an international listenership, I wonder how others were taught.

  4. Reggie Ashworth - February 15, 2011

    @George – Thank you for the kind words and for using VidConvert! 🙂

    Reggie VidConvert developer

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