Category Archives: Web

Internet related

Amazon Mturk Dying?

Ever since the recent increase in pricing for requesters, its been harder for me to find decent work. And by work, I mean surveys. Ive recently discovered Mturks as a nice way to make coffee money on my downtime and I can barely break $5/day where I use to be able to pull in $15-$20 with half the effort I do now. В Lets look at the politics of Mturk and the recent drama. Continue reading Amazon Mturk Dying?

Amazon MP3 Store and Cloud Player: Not Ready For Primetime

Amazon MP3 Store

It seems like every major tech company is trying to make a buck selling you music in some way. We have subscription-based services like Pandora, Slacker Radio, Last.FM, etc. Then theres downloading services like Apples iTunes, Google Play, Amazons MP3 Store just to name a few.

 

Amazon was the clear choice.

I purchased a 1 year subscription to Pandora One and it has been good. The higher music quality is nice and having no ads is great but the hourly 5 skips per station is still annoying. I still wanted to listen to specific songs at any time so I looked into Spotify but they didnt support my mobile phone. I ruled out iTunes and Google Play because I didnt want to get into either ecosystems. Amazon was the clear choice.

 

Ive been an Amazon customer for years and have even purchased their Prime membership. Ive never had a problem with shipping and customer service has always been excellent. The main selling point for me was their Cloud Player. If you purchased and downloaded an album or song, they would be available on Amazons Cloud Player which can be access through a web browser. You can pretty much stream your songs from any computer with a net connection. I had high expectations.

 

Bad Downloads and Terrible SyncingВ 

Since I wanted the MP3s stored locally on my phone, I went ahead and purchased 2 albums through my BlackBerry Bold. The first time I purchased an album, they asked me if I would like to save my accountВ informationВ so I can turn on one-click shopping. I though, Sure, Im buying another album anyways. Why not. My albums downloaded to my phone and I was able to listen to them right away. I went ahead and checked online to see if they were in my Cloud Player. They were not. At the bottom of the page was a customer service contact link and I opted to speak to a call center representative. The representative was a native English speaker and was very helpful. He got my 2 albums loaded into my Cloud Player and I asked whether this will be a problem in the future. He assured me that it was a technical issue and it wont happen again. He was wrong.

 

I enjoyed my albums on my phone and on the Cloud Player up until I decided to buy two more albums. When I purchased my third album, I had trouble downloading the songs to my phone. IВ receivedВ an error. The error said the file size was 0kb. What the hell? I guessed maybe that the file could not be delivered to my phone or perhaps there was a delivery issues since the album had explicit lyrics. Whatever the case, I wanted it fixed. I logged into Amazon and manually downloaded the album to my computer, then transfer the files into my phone. I decided to purchase one last album and downloading them to my phone went without problem. This(fourth) album, however, was not available on the Amazon Cloud Player. Im beginning to see aВ patternВ here. I opted to email tech support this time since it was late at night and got a reply the next morning. They told me since they needed more information to solve the problem they went ahead and refunded my money.

 

Not What I Expected

Thats pretty much the end of our journey. Ive since stopped buying from Amazon MP3 Store. Their service is spotty. When I make a purchase in a digital product, I expect a 100% delivery rate. I eventually got the album on my phone but I had to jump through hoops in order to get it. Another major problem I have with them is the way they handled cloud syncing. Once my albums were loaded into the Cloud Player, everything went smooth but getting that done was a headache. It seems like I had to bother someone over the phone to put the album I bought into the Cloud Player. This defeats the whole purpose. Why advertise this as a feature when it doesnt even work? Im not sure if its my platform(BlackBerry), their service, or a combination of both. All I know is, there are other competitors out there that delivery what they promise. This experience is surprising. Ive never had a problem buying from them until now.

 

I could have went with the cheapest route and downloaded these albums oppa pirate style but the convenience and knowing that my songs are available in the clouds lead me to try them out. Some problems I have with having GBs of music isВ transferringВ them to other devices/computers and dealing with hard drive failures. Will I be buying from Amazon MP3 store again? Actually, maybe. Ive had many positive experiences with Amazon that I might give them a pass here and see if things iron out. On the other hand, competition is great and maybe delivering music isnt Amazons forte. Take my experience with a grain of salt. Your results may vary.

 

Amazon MP3 Store and Cloud Player

With hiccups downloading songs and problems syncing your albums with the Cloud Player, I cant recommend using this service when theres plenty other competitors out there. This comes somewhat of a shock considering my previous experiences with Amazon. On the plus side, their customer service is great. I just wish the product matched it. 1 star for eventually getting the MP3s and another 1 for customer service.

Rating by Set Sar: 2.0 stars

5 Reasons Why You Shouldnt Overlook Sound On YouTube

Mic check! Wait a second. This isВ YouTube. Why should I care about sound quality? After all, isnt video quality what the Tube is all about? Most people know sound quality is important but they still tend to focus more onВ HD videos. Technically, YouTube is all about video but dont overlook the importance of sound. There are plenty of reasons why you shouldnt pass on sound quality, especially if you are making or thinking about making videos. We are so spoiled byВ 1080pВ videos that sound quality is an afterthought. We dont usually place an importance on sound but there are plenty of reason why it shouldnt be overlooked. You may not know it, but audio quality can determine whether you finish watching a video or whether you click somewhere else. Im going to list 5 of them. Ill bet my money that if you visit YouTube daily, you will relate to all of these reasons. Lets get to it.

 

1. Clarity

This one is easy to understand. When audio is clear, you dont have to work to understand or decipher it. A good microphone will eliminate background hums and white noise. These noises are stressful and distracting. When you are watching a bad or distracting video, its easier to minimize or look away compared to muting or lowering the volume. If youve ever worked a third shift job, you will understand the significance of background noise and the effects it has on your body. Noise is louder during the day than at night. This may not seem like a big deal to those with normal schedule, but these noises can result in low-quality sleep and added stress. This is the same reason houses near highways are generally cheaper to rent/own. While you probably wont lose sleep over a YouTube video, background noise will annoy you. Keep background noise down with a good mic. No one want to hear hums and hisses. Think about this. When you are watching a YouTube video and you can barely hear the person speaking, what do you do? Most people will turn up the volume. What if background noise is present? Most people will just leave the video. Having clear, accurate audio is just as important as having clear video. Some would argue more so.

 

2. Alt-Tabbers

When I am on YouTube, I often have multiple tabs opened. Having multiple tabs open helps with multi-tasking. Lets sayВ I am looking for a headphone review. I would have one tab opened on YouTube and another on Google or Bing looking for written reviews. While I am listening to a video, I would read or skim through a written review. This goes for research too. I would look for information on YouTube while browsing through Wikipedia. Unfortunately, others do this too. In fact, I would bet that you have done this at one point or another. An engaging video becomes a podcast and the HD video quality becomes a nonissue. Now, you only have sound to connect to the video. Good video quality helps engage viewers and good sound quality helps engage listeners.

 

3. Music When Youre Doing It Right/Wrong

Everyone loves music but not everyone loves your music. If you like country and thinking about adding music to a video, dont count on your viewers having the same taste as you. A common mistake people make when they are making videos is adding over-played or annoying music. One great example is 009 Sound System Dreamscape. This song is un-officially known as the YouTube National Anthem because so many people use it for their videos. Its a bad joke that wont die like Chuck Norris and In Russia jokes. There is a time and place to add music. Dont put up skateboarding compilations using Drowning Pool Bodies. Bad music will make viewer leave in 3 seconds. Good music will have people asking Whats the name of the song? Another thing to consider when adding music is correcting the levels. Dont blast the music in the background if you want to talk. No one will hear you. If you hurt your viewers ears, you will get a big red bar of dislikes.

 

4. Entertainment

People are on YouTube for many reasons. To get information, to learn, to connect with others, and to be entertained. Sometimes, a good, well animated voice will be enough to get you subscribers. Even if you have a great voice, you may be shooting yourself in the foot with a crappy mic. A bad mic can make you sound monotone and boring. A good voice is something you cant really help but you can at least get a good mic to keep your voice clear and your viewer engaged. Its strange at first but you have to pretend like you are talking to real people. You cant talk like youre reading a script. Thats boring and people can instantly tell. When you have guests over, do you talk to them like a robot? No, so why would you do that in a video? Good audio quality creates a more personal experience with your viewers. This will help increase comments and activity. Maybe even more likes and favorites. People love to be entertained and poor sound quality ruins the mood.

 

5. Patience

The last reason why you shouldnt overlook sound quality is patience or rather, the lack-of. People are impatient. Most people will decide to watch the rest of your video after the first 5 seconds. Long pauses or spikes in sound levels test this patience. It is easy to find clues of this. Throughout YouTube, you will see top rated comments saying 3:12 to skip the boring part or You wasted 45 seconds of my life. People have busy lives. They dont want to be bothered with crap and although this is not solely a sound issue, if a viewer watches your video and has to work to hear you, youre in trouble. No one wants to increase the volume when they dont have to. No one wants to hear background noise. And no one wants to listen to head-banging music on a video review. Dont test a viewers patient. More often than not, you will lose.

 

So thats it. These are 5 quick reasons why you shouldnt overlook sound on YouTube, especially if you are making videos. Clarity is about reproducing your sounds accurately. Audio quality becomes most important to Alt-Tabbers who turn from viewers to listeners. Music can make or break your video. Entertaining voices can keep viewers. And finally, everyone is impatient. Probably the simplest way to improve your videos audio quality is investing in a good mic. Usually, the stock microphones that come with digital cameras suck. Most people would rather watch through a video with good sound and bad video quality than one with good video quality and bad audio quality.

 

Bing Rewards Gives Users A Reason To Switch From Google

Bing Rewards

Since May 10th of 2011, I officially made the switch from Google to Bing. I was using Bing as my main search engine ever since the Panda update that changed Googles search algorithm. This was an unofficial switch as I spend some time reviewing the alternative. Surprisingly, I liked using Bing. I find the home page to be more modern andВ pleasant but looks isnt everything, of course. TheВ search quality is whats important. With Google, what use to take me 1-2 pages to find what Im looking for now takes me 3+ pages. There seemed to be an increase in web spam on Google over the month before my switch. В Ive found more relevant search results with Bing during the Panda update compared to Google and Ive used it ever since. On May 10th, I made a Bing search and made Bing my official search engine after a pop-up invited me to earn credits that IВ canВ redeem for goods and gift cards.

 

 

What Is Bing Rewards?

Basically, Bing Rewards is a loyalty rewards system much like the ones you find in most department stores. Think of it as a Stop and Shop card or GameStop Rewards card. Every time you use Bing to search, they give you an opportunity to earn points. You can then redeem these points for novelty goods like Bing Gear which are generic products that have the Bing brand on it. What got me interested was not these merchandise, but the gift cards. Each gift card seems to vary in points but they generally hover a little over 3,000 credits for a $25 card. For example, the $25 Best Buy gift card can be redeemed at the cost of 3187 credits. Thats 127.48 credits per $1.

 

 

 

 

How Do I Earn?

In order for you to start earning, you must have a Hotmail account or a Windows Live account. I choose to create a new Live account for this purpose. Then you can start earning points. Its not a fast process by any means. To earn 1 point, you have to make 5 Bing searches and you can earn up to 6 points this way per day. However, each day, Bing offers you little tasks that lets you earn instant points. Usually 6 credits. These are usually very simple. I earn 6 points by making Bing my homepage. They will also give you points by promoting some of their services. For example, I earn another 6 points by clicking a link that displayed video games. These little tasks are very simple and notВ obtrusiveВ at all. Some are even interesting. I even earned points by trying out Bing places which seems to be a competition to Googles local search. Even still, it can take a long time to earn anything significant. When you sign up, they give you a bonus 200 credits which is a nice touch. Im up to 321 credits at the moment. ThatsВ equalВ to $2.51.

 

 

Is This a Scam?

I highly doubt that Microsoft will scam us with this. In the past, I had a similar experience before Bing came into existence. It was a rewards system offered by Microsoft in partnership with eBay. Basically, you can find hidden treasures when you use Windows Live to search for products and sometimes, there would be an eBay promotion of that product. In my experience, I was looking for Bosch Fatpacks which areВ power-toolВ batteries. They go for about $180 apiece at the time but the promotion offered 30-50% off. I ordered 3 Fatpacks at 50% off which was $270 discount. Yes, Microsoft honored the offer. From this experience, I have confidence that when it comes time for me to redeem my credits, they will honor it.

 

 

The Alternative?

I could always use Google but Ive used them for over a decade and made thousands of searches. Maybe more. Never once did I ever thought I would actually get something from these searches. There is a catch though. As we grew wiser, we realize nothing in life is free and these points are no exception. When you agree to this program, you allow Microsoft to retain you search history. Whatever they do with this information is up to them. We are living in a time where privacy is a big concern. When we use Google search, they retain our information anyways so if you haveВ privacy concerns, maybe this isВ a lesser of two evils. And hey, at least you can get a $25 gift card in the process.В Bings search quality is comparable to Google in myВ opinionВ and the trade-off is worth it. These two corporation both retain our private information. At least with Bing, Ill get something back eventually. Ill report back when I redeem me credits.

 

 

Why Im Holding Off On YouTubes HTML5 Video

YouTube HTML5

Ive tested HTML5 and WebM on YouTube for about a month now and it isnt perfect. HTML5 video (WebM)on YouTube looks like the future replacement for Flash but is it really a good thing? I wrote a guest post talking about this on Konnessi if you want to check that out. Not faulting them completely, it is in testing and there are a few known issues. One of these issues is full screen playback. When you try to watch videos in full screen, it only maximizes to fill the window. You can download some extensions to fix this but seeing that this is in testing, I decided to wait full them to roll out a fix. I see no point in installing an extension or fix to have it work in the future. Besides a different playback control, there really isnt anything to brag about. On a good note, video ads are(currently)В not implemented on this new format. This is a Restriction but dont worry. Google say, we are working on this! Please guys, no rush!

 

 

 

As far as functionality, Its pretty much the same except video annotations are not supported. Playback has been fine for a while but then things got ugly. Apparently, there seems to be some sort of memory leak or CPU issue. I would have Chromium opened to a YouTube video and all of a sudden, my computer bogs at 60% CPU usage. VideoВ frame-rateВ then drops significantly and my computer responds just as slow. Killing Chromium doesnt solve this problem. I would have to restart my machine to get it up to speed. I am not used to a slow bogging computer since I left Windows. I have tested this on multipleВ occasionsВ and concluded that it only happens with the HTML5 trial running on YouTube. Isolating the problem, I have decided to leave the trial. Googles move to push WebM seems premature. The format is buggy and every video take about 5 seconds longer to load compared to the normal Flash counterpart. I decide to be fair and try it out but as of right now, its not worth it. I have to restart my computer after watching 5 videos and wait longer to watch them. Are you on the HTML5 trial? What is your experience? If you want to try HTML5 video for yourself, click here to enter the trial.