Posted by Chris Gaither, Senior Manager, Global Communications & Public Affairs
This week, hundreds of newsroom leaders from across the country are gathered in Washington DC for the American Society of News Editors’ annual conference. The theme of this year’s event is “ideas,” and Eric Schmidt shared many of his as the opening speaker. He spoke about some of the big trends that are shaping the Internet, such as the rise of mobile and cloud computing, and some lessons he has learned about how to navigate the Web’s constant pace of change.
He also talked about the importance of journalism to functioning democracies and encouraged the group to work together — as well as with technology partners like Google — to find new ways to reach and engage audiences, tell important stories and build thriving businesses online.
You can watch Eric’s speech, which we’ve posted on YouTube, below. And if you’re interested in reading or contributing to the discussion about the future of news, check out the unofficial conference blog and #asne10 on Twitter.
Want to see what your website looks like on the iPad? Get a load of iPad Peek, a new web-based emulator that shows you how any site renders on the new Apple device.
Click on the black frame above the browser to switch between landscape and portrait modes. You can also test your web forms by mouse-typing on the virtual virtual keyboard.
iPad Peek has a few limitations. There’s no touch scrolling, ads produce pop-ups, and embedded Flash videos and objects will still render inside the emulator even though the real iPad doesn’t do Flash. So, it’s basically a Webkit wrapper set to a fixed width and height. But, it does give you a pretty close approximation of how your site will look on the new shiny.
Also, Mashable has instructions for changing your Firefox user input string to that of the iPad:
Type “about:config” in the address bar, click the right mouse button, select New – String, and name it “general.useragent.override”. Then enter the value “Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; U; CPU OS 3_2 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/531.21.10 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0.4 Mobile/7B334b Safari/531.21.10?.
The team behind the Miro project has released a new video converter tool that makes it dead easy to publish videos on the web that work in all browsers.
It’s called, appropriately enough, the Miro Video Converter, and it’s an entirely new and separate desktop software product by the same people who brought you the Miro open source video player.
The tool can convert just about any video format to Ogg Theora or H.264/MP4. It works with Flash video files (.flv) which is a huge bonus. It also works with DivX/AVI, MOV, Windows Media and MKV, among others. It uses ffmpeg and ffmpeg2theora to handle the conversions.
The experience is incredibly simple — just drag and drop a video onto the application window and choose an output format. You can get a file that will play in a web browser with native video support, or you can choose to resize your video for portable devices like the iPhone and iPod, Droid, Nexus One and PSP (There’s no iPad preset, but we should expect one soon).
Miro Video Converter is available for free from Miro’s website in Mac and Windows versions. There is no Linux version yet. Like the Miro player, it’s an open source project.
Given the state of video publishing on the web, tools like Miro’s are becoming increasingly important. If you’re putting your own videos on your website using HTML5 to embed the files directly into the page, you have to publish in several different formats. Safari and Chrome users can view H.264 — same with iPad, iPhone and iPod users. But Firefox and Opera can only handle Ogg Theora video. IE users, for now at least, can’t view natively embedded video, so you’ll need Flash as well.
Most people going the HTML5 self-publishing route are serving one of the two prevailing formats (Ogg or H.264) and offering Flash as a fallback. It’s not ideal, but it’s the way the winds are blowing right now, and site builders will be stuck dual-publishing with HTML5 and Flash until the messiness of web video is sorted out.
But cross-converting files can be challenging, especially if all you have is a Flash .flv file, so Miro’s tool is a welcome addition to any site builder’s quiver. It offers similar speed and quality to Handbrake’s popular conversion tool (there are also a gaggle of commercial video converters available for around $20 or $30). But Miro’s no-nonsense drag and drop user experience is much simpler and easier to use than anything else out there.
It’s also fast. I tested the app by converting a couple of MOV files I downloaded from Vimeo — one music documentary trailer from Medeski, Martin and Wood, and one short DSLR film shot around Maui by Helene Park. Both were in HD, and both took about five minutes to convert to Ogg Theora. The quality was better than I expected — not quite as good as the Flash/H.264 originals, but I had to lean in pretty close to the screen to notice anything more than simple motion artifacts. I also dropped a couple of FLVs into Miro and converted them to both Ogg and MP4 with equally satisfactory results.
Minor quality quibbles aside, the Miro Video Converter solves many of the headaches around dual-format video publishing. And, it’s free and open source, making it worth a download.
And why would Apple ever ease up? The more the web relies on open technologies, the more iPad buyers will be able to do with their shiny new devices, and the more satisfied they will be.
In the two months since the iPad was announced, Apple has been waging a campaign urging web developers to stop using Adobe Flash Player and to use HTML5 for video playback instead. But while the most forward-looking developers are rushing to optimize their websites for Flash-less mobiles and tablets, many are wary of embracing open video whole hog. There’s no agreed-upon video format for HTML5, and the support varies greatly from browser to browser.
Some are going the route of falling back on Flash for any users not browsing with Safari. But that path — coding multiple versions of a website for multiple browsers — is precisely what developers have been trying to avoid for the last decade. It also opens up a can of patentlicense worms.
It’s also important to note that HTML5 isn’t just for video playback. It’s a substantial redesign of the way web pages are assembled (with an emphasis on semantic markup), and it includes various APIs for building full-blown web applications.
Not to be overly critical of Apple — anyone pushing for open web standards deserves kudos — but the company seems more deeply concerned with digging Flash’s grave than it does with promoting semantic markup. The page on Apple’s website mentions HTML5 ten times, and nine of those mentions refer explicitly to video playback.
Apple has posted some technical guides at the bottom of the page to help “ensure that your website looks and works great on the iPad.” It also has a form you can fill out to submit your site for its gallery of iPad-ready sites.
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