Monday, September 29, 2014

Fake It Show: Episode 3, with Brian Lee

This week on Fake It, I chatted with Brian Lee about success, being a small fish in a new pond, and making it on your own as an artist! Enjoy the episode!
Fake it Show #3: Artist's Life with Brian Lee

Future Sci Chat #9: Transportation

This week on +Future Chat, the topic was transportation. We talked about dream modes of transport, went into the science of engines, and got way off track talking about exploding party balloons.

We also had our first aftershow, which was REALLY fun!
Future Sci Chat #9: Transportation

Friday, September 26, 2014

Attrell Update - The Growing Media "Empire?"


Here's my +Attrell Update for the week. In this video, I get awkward and talk about my desire to upgrade my equipment and be able to commit more time to my media work. You can head to http://patreon.com/RobA to find out more, and you can see everything I have going on at http://robattrell.com! Thanks for keeping up!

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

I miss you Steph! Looking forward to your video this week!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ottawhat #19: Kevin Kennedy

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
This week on Ottawhat?, we chatted with Kevin Kennedy, a PE and drama teacher who plays football, directs plays in his spare time, and is an all around great guy!
Ottawhat #19: Kevin Kennedy

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fake it Show #2: Celebrity Encounters (with Damien Broomes)

After months of teasing my good friend Damien Broomes on my other podcast (Ottawhat?) without having him as a guest, I decided to have him on this show right away. Turns out he's actually got some really interesting stuff to say! Enjoy the episode!
Fake it Show #2: Celebrity Encounters (with Damien Broomes)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Little Design Thing that Irks Me.

So I've noticed this for a while, but getting a new phone, and a new iOS version, I thought I'd write about it today. When Apple first came out with a music player, it changed the way most of us listen to music forever. Being able to "reach out and touch your music" as Steve Jobs put it, was a thing that many of us had never done on a computer before.

At that time, the iPhone had a 3.5 inch screen, and one of the neat things that you could do to control your music was to scrub through the alphabet on the right hand side of the screen, which would let you get through your music much more efficiently than the click wheel that preceded it would allow. However, the screen at that point wasn't tall enough to be able to display the whole alphabet, and so they had dots in between groups of letters in the alphabet to save space (see the iPad screenshot below, click to enlarge):


As iPhones have gotten bigger, one of the things you can see is that the iPhone will now show you every letter to scrub through in the music app, because there is enough room for it. However, as you can see in the iPad screengrab, even though the iPad has almost twice the height of the iPhone, it still replaces every 2 out of every 3 letters with a dot. This means it is very finicky to try to scrub through your music on an iPad, and I just don't understand why they don't show you the whole alphabet. 

I'm not saying the Apple device lineup is perfect, but they make enough good design decisions that every time they take such obvious mis-steps, and every time these design decisions remain way past their intended usefulness, it irks users who have to deal with looking at it every day (just ask me about 1st-of-the-monthgate...actually, don't).

Future Tech Chat #23: Computing

This week on +Future Chat, we talked all about some of our favourite things about computing. We talked open source software, fanboyism, and the pitfalls and awesome things about early adoption. Enjoy!
Future Tech Chat #23: Computing

Friday, September 19, 2014

Future Rant - Touch ID


In this video, I talk about how on the iPhone 5S, for the first year I've had it, the Touch ID sensor (Apple's fingerprint scanner) hasn't worked right for me. I'm really hoping the iPhone 6 will be able to help me out with this, but just know that there are people out there in the world around you for whom fingerprint scanners just aren't an effective security solution.

Post iPhone 6 purchase update: Well, so far the iPhone 6 fingerprint scanner is working a lot better! It's fairly consistent, we'll see if that changes over time.

Attrell Update - Rob Asks Himself


Here's my +Attrell Update for the week. In this episode I give a little look into my new video series, Ask Rob. To demonstrate just how Ask Rob will work, I give some food for thought about questions that are constantly on my mind. I'll be taking questions from anybody on the internet, by email, comment or by going to this link. I'll take one question a week and give as thorough an answer as I can. So ask away!

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

If you missed it, on Monday, Steph let me know she will be dropping to making videos once every two weeks :( Looking forward to two weeks from now though!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ottawhat #18 - Rena Jaroszewski

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Ottawhat #18: Rena Jaroszewski

Starting a Media Empire

This entry is not so much a gripe session as it is a telling of the story I've gone through in making digital entertainment and putting it on the Internet. We'll call it part one of perhaps many:

VIDEOS

YouTube: I have been making videos and putting them on YouTube since around the beginning of 2013. It started out very simply, and I've been getting better and better as the technology and know-how in my life has very deliberately grown. I am now producing 2-3 videos a week for YouTube (usually 4-5 minutes each) on various channels. I have made music videos, done interviews, talked into a camera about myself or the things I'm interested in, it's been really fun. The thing that I love most about YouTube is that it takes something REALLY hard (getting video onto the internet and then into the hands of literally billions of people) and removes absolutely all of the hard work from it. If you have a camera phone and the internet, you can create a video that has the potential to be seen by a billion people. YouTube does absolutely all of the heavy lifting for you. Yes, obviously you can put more work into the video itself, but that is the easy part of making a movie.

Distribution has been the hardest part of interpersonal communication since the dawn of time, and with the internet, and YouTube, we've absolutely cracked it. I can now chat in real-time with somebody across the world instantly, and when I post a video on YouTube, Australians can see it just as fast as Canadians can. It's a beautiful service, and Google has taken huge steps towards making it even better since they bought the company in 2006. Getting your videos seen is absolutely another hard part of the process, but Google also takes lots of steps to help people like me get their videos seen, as I'll get to later.

AUDIO

I made this video the day the podcast died (story below).
Podcasts: I'll call this entry podcasts, but really, as you'll see, it is a LOT more complicated than YouTube is for videos. I first did what you'd really call a live video podcast (what I call a webcast) in February of 2014. Now, with the help of YouTube, Google+ and Hangouts on Air, doing that was very easy, simple, and trouble-free. Later, when I decided to take that video series and turn it into an audio-only podcast for people on the go, is when things started to go downhill fast. I now run 3 different podcasts (a feed of audio conversations with accompanying text descriptions that you can subscribe to, and find on a website on the internet) and they have mostly been a nightmare, logistically.

You see, there is no YouTube for podcasts. The great thing about YouTube is that it is absolutely free to use. Anybody on earth* can put up a video or series of videos, and everything just works. For podcasts, which are basically just videos but without the picture, things are almost infinitely more complicated unless you want to pay quite a bit. Logically, this doesn't even make sense. Audio is about 1000x smaller** than video of a similar quality, and technically speaking, it doesn't make much sense how expensive podcast storage is when YouTube is free.

How YouTube Works

It will probably help you to have a little backstory at this point. Every type of media has to be stored somewhere. Back before the Internet, they kept TV and movies on tapes and stored them for broadcast, distribution, and archiving. Like with tapes, you can't just have a digital file living ON the internet, it has to be stored somewhere. Luckily for us, whereas you would have to go and get a tape from a storage locker, or Blockbuster, or your cabinet, when you have a digital file, you can store it digitally on a server (this serves files to you the same way a server at a restaurant would serve you your meal).

So what YouTube does (and keep in mind that in 2014 they get about two hours of video uploaded every minute) is take your video, put it in storage, and keep it for you forever, for free. I don't even really understand how this is possible, but that's what they do. All the time, for the last 10 or so years. For free. They actually also take many steps to do things like stabilize shaky footage, fix things about your video, and store separate versions of your videos in HD and non-HD formats to play them on any phone, tablet, computer or TV as fast as possible. Not to mention that they also store copies of all of these files in multiple places around the world so everyone can access them quickly, and they cut all of your videos into short clips so that if your connection suddenly slows way down, the video won't pause, it will just become a lower quality stream, and you don't have to start the download over again. And it does all of that completely seamlessly. And again, it's all FREE.

How Podcasts Work

So, back to podcasts. The majority of podcasts are between 20-100 MB (around 1 CD of music, for comparison), but no company has a really good free solution for hosting these files (hosting is the verb used for a server keeping your files for you; computer scientists are REALLY good at physical metaphors, seriously). I should point out that most podcasters do not make a lot of money, and so having a free solution to this problem (or at least a cheap one that actually works) would be super helpful.

I will now chronicle for you the time I am having trying to host music files online, in the order I've been trying them. If you haven't heard of any of these storage solutions, they are all very good in their own right, I will include links where I think it's appropriate, although each different service seems to have its own reason why it just won't work to host podcasts.

First up, Dropbox.

I have been using Dropbox for a good 4-5 years at this point, and they've been really great to me in a lot of ways. I don't really have to worry about losing any files to a computer crash anymore, because I just keep all of my files on Dropbox. They provide lots of storage for free, and give bonuses for being a student and for referring people to the service, they do a lot of good work. However, free accounts are limited to sharing only 20 GB of (hosted) files per day. This means that your typical podcast (~50 MB) would only need to be downloaded 400 times in a day before going over Dropbox's limit (at which point you get a warning and your account is temporarily locked).

Now, I should point out that even a moderately successful podcast can get those kinds of numbers (as I did back in August), and so now I can't use Dropbox to host podcasts. I should point out that you can pay to upgrade Dropbox storage (from 2+ GB free to 100+ GB) and bandwidth limits (to 200 GB), but that still only gives you 4000 downloads per day. Now, I may never get to that point, but having a file host that will disconnect your account automatically after only 1 warning if you become too successful is just a terrible way to do business, and there is no way to up your limit after that, for any price. Next...

Up next I tried Google Drive

While getting a link to download files in Google Drive is a little bit harder than it needs to be, this seemed to be a pretty good system for hosting files. You get 15 GB of free storage, and you can pay only $1.99 more per month to get 100 GB of storage. The problem here comes again when you try to share these files. In the case of Google Drive, you don't get cut off at a certain size of file, but rather when you hit 30 downloads of a file. This limit isn't posted anywhere, and so when I switched from Dropbox in August, for the first morning all seemed well, but by that afternoon the downloads had stopped, and I had to scramble to try to find a solution. Google Drive is great in a LOT of ways, but it doesn't work for podcast hosting.

That day brought me to discovering Archive.org.

Today is September 18th, 2014, but it shall be known to me as the day that Archive.org just stopped working. For about a month, all of my audio files were totally fine at archive.org. They make it really easy to add files in bulk, so even switching ~50 URLs wasn't very hard. And then today, all of a sudden, it just stopped working. None of the links work at all, including the one for the podcast I uploaded on Tuesday night and posted this morning. It has been this way for about 8 hours, leaving me again scrambling to post a Dropbox link to the file while I find another file host that will store my file without all of the issues I talk about above.

Here is where the story pauses, because we are at today. I have been using OneDrive, the Microsoft powered file service, for about 3 hours. It seems to be holding well, and so perhaps I will be able to follow up with some good news soon. I will say, right off the bat, OneDrive doesn't make it easy to get a direct link to a file, like Archive.org or Dropbox do, but it working once you have the link is the most important thing to me at this point. And it's possible that Archive.org will start working again and all will be well, but it will be hard for me to take that chance after today.

On that note, I am definitely looking into hosting my files elsewhere for money (such as SoundCloud), but that costs $150 per year, so I will need to find sponsors and/or funding to make that happen. I should point out at this time that if you're still here and are feeling at all generous, I am accepting donations right now at Patreon (there is also a button on the left side of the screen), raising funds for hosting. I have several levels of sponsorship you can give me, with various rewards/perks, and I'm currently working towards getting a camcorder (after selling my DSLR), a digital mixer and microphones for podcasting, as well as the aforementioned hosting for podcast files (such as from Soundcloud). I would really appreciate any help you might be able to give me, I know it is a lot to ask. I really care about the work I'm doing here, and I'll do everything I can to keep improving it.


Thanks again for reading guys, and wish me luck with Archive.org!

*Does North Korea have YouTube, I imagine not...
**This is a guess, it REALLY depends on quality and bitrate.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ask Rob, and Sharing

OK guys, I know you've been seeing a lot of stuff from me the last few weeks. I apologize if it's not all your cup of tea, but I hope most of the people reading this do get some enjoyment from all the added stuff (video and otherwise) on this blog lately.

I'm interested in launching a new video series from my own personal YouTube channel, which I am for the time-being calling "Ask Rob". At some pre-defined interval (more than likely on a weekly basis), I am thinking about taking some time out of my day to take a question (hopefully from one of you reading this) and answer it the best way I know how, with some curious research. I know there are a couple of you out there that read this blog with voracity, and so in some ways I'm counting on you to get the ball rolling with some good questions! I'm not too concerned about the topic, I'm willing to cover pretty much anything at this point. Basically, I want to find out what interests you, and to be able to learn more about what people care about and are curious about. I love science and technology, but I would be much more interested in hearing about what you like and want to know more about, so seriously, ask me anything...You can find a little form I've created right here, and submit as many questions as you'd like! You can also email me questions at askrob@robattrell.com if that seems easier to you.

Before you go, I've also been thinking a lot about sharing.

This past week (and probably a lot longer in vaguer ways), I've been thinking about sharing and how I can get my interests and what I do online further out into the world. It seems obvious in retrospect, but one of the best ways to get your friends and acquaintances to spread your work is to ask them to do so. One of the easiest ways you can help me is to click a like button on something I've done (or retweet or +1, etc.) if you enjoyed it. This takes almost no effort but it means so much to people who put a lot of work into what they do, and because we're used to seeing well-funded entertainment these days, seeing one person put effort and time into something with basically no budget doesn't seem as important. A much bigger way you could help me out is that if you see something you like or enjoy on my blog (or on my projects' respective homes on the web), is to share it with the people in your social circles. I don't get a lot of traffic to my projects this way, at least as far as I know, but if you're reading this, I encourage you to think about the person who put work into something when you are watching/reading/listening. I'm not just referring to me in this case, but artists of all genres.

On that note, once again I am now accepting ANY questions you might have on any topic, right here, or by email at askrob@robattrell.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Future Sci Chat #8: Nutrition

This week on +Future Chat, we talked to +Anna On, a food scientist, all about nutrition. There's lots of misinformation out there about food, so we tried our best to clear it up for everyone!
Future Sci Chat #8: Nutrition

Friday, September 12, 2014

Attrell Update - How Food Companies Stuff your Food with Salt and Sugar


Here's my +Attrell Update for the week. In preparation for the +Future Chat episode on nutrition, I talk about some of the ways food companies can hide unexpected calories in your food without you knowing it.

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

If you missed it, on Monday, Steph introduced me to her very cute new kitten. Check it out!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rob's Listening Party - Week 2

I'm really enjoying this listening party, I hope you guys are too! My music and podcast recommendations of the week are:
Mumford & Sons: Babel - Music on Google Play
I'm sure I don't have to explain the awesomeness of Mumford and Sons to many of you, but do yourselves a favour and listen to this album again. So many great songs, and enjoy Hopeless Wanderer's music video.
Hello Internet
This podcast just finished its second "season" of 10 episodes, it's two very popular YouTubers chatting and it's so much fun! CGP Grey and I think almost exactly alike!

Ottawhat #17: Kim Scott

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Ottawhat #17: Kim Scott


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fake It Show: Episode 1

So I have started a new podcast, one that's just for me to talk with friends about things that are important to me. Weekly, biweekly, monthly? Who knows, but no matter what, I'm excited! I hope you like it too!

Fake It Show with Rob Attrell: Episode 1: Fake It (with Keegan and Amaan)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Future Tech Chat #22: All the Gadgets!

This week on +Future Chat, we talked about all the new gadgets coming out in September. Hopefully we helped get you excited for all the new technology we'll surely be playing with in a month or two. We had a lot of fun with this one!
Future Tech Chat #22: Gadgets Wrap-up

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ottawhat #16 - Liz Messner

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Ottawhat #16: Liz Messner

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Attrell Update - All About Podcasts!


Here's my +Attrell Update for the week. I have really gotten into podcasts this year, and I talk a little bit about what I like about them, and why I get so much out of them. You should definitely be listening to podcasts!

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

If you missed it, on Monday, Steph sang a beautiful rendition of Stay, by Rihanna. Pretty impressive!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

iCloud Incognito Mode


I recorded this video on February 6th, 2014. Seems almost prescient, and I still think it's a good idea. Maybe something Apple was already planning to announce? Only next week will tell!

Rob's Listening Party - Week 1

Sometimes, you find yourself wanting to recommend cool things to friends and acquaintances. At times like these, I like to blog about them. My music and podcast recommendations of the week are:
John Mayer: Born and Raised - Music on Google Play
I listened to this album again at work this week and it just reminded what an awesome guitarist/soloist this guy is!
The Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart | Comedy Central
This podcast is only 2 episodes in, so now is the perfect time to start listening! Also, great remixes of the Daily Show theme song every week!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Future Sci Chat #7 - Public Funding of Science

This week on +Future Chat, we tackled the super-important topic of public funding for science. We had a lot of interesting stuff to say about this, which will affect scientists across North America, possibly for years to come.
Future Sci Chat #7: Public Funding for Science