And now… the rest of the story
In the last post I had to leave out a couple of details on using the iPod, specifically, the internet and importing and watching video. There’s a good reason. Only one iPod can do this: the iPod touch. The iPod touch, as the flagship iPod, is the most capable iPod and the only one to come with WiFi (unofficially stands for Wireless Fidelity). WiFi gives it access to the same internet you use for your computer. Surfing the web, email and watching YouTube are just a few of the capabilities. With the inclusion of applications available from the App Store, you can chat with friends on Skype, Yahoo! and FaceBook, just to name a few. There’s a marketing slogan that says “there’s an app for that.” At 300,000 applications and counting, there really is. So let’s hit a few highlights about the iPod touch.
More than ever email is becoming a preferred means of communication. Setting up email on the touch is fairly simple, especially if you are using one of the big three: Gmail, Yahoo! or Aol. For these all you have to do is enter your username and password and the setup is essentially done. For smaller providers like Comcast, Metrocast, etc., you will need to find some additional information like the incoming and outgoing server names. Finding these names should be a quick and easy accomplishment by simply searching your internet service provider’s website. After the account is set up, using the Email app is straightforward. Open, read, reply, repeat. 🙂
HD Video Recording
A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. What about video? Priceless. We’ve discussed HD video before so I won’t get into the specifics, except to say the iPod touch can record at 720. The videos captured are pretty impressive. An example on Apple’s website shows some unedited footage of a nature scene. Like any camera, lighting is always of concern. The better the light, the better the video will turn out. Usually, you will not have any issues until you do evening shots indoors. These tend to be a little darker than you’d like but in the end, you’ll still achieve better quality than a consumer video camera from 5 years ago and at half the cost.
Putting Video on the iPod
This can be pretty simple but can also get complicated pretty quick. The simple is: if you have puchased video before (whether it be music videos, TV shows or movies) syncing the content to your iPod touch is the same as if you wanted to sync a song. After plugging in your iPod touch you select the corresponding tab (let’s uses Movies in this example) and select what you’d like synced. But what if you have home videos that you’ve imported or other formats that aren’t necessarily supported like .mkv or .wmv? (Don’t worry about the specifics of those two formats, they are just examples.)
I suggest using a program called HandBrake. You will first need to download VLC for it to work. Both programs are very small and best of all, free! (Once you install VLC, open it to make sure there are no errors. Then install HandBrake, which uses VLC to read all other formats. Think of it like Microsoft Word. You need to have the operating system installed on your computer before you can use MS Word.) When opening HandBrake you will be presented with a window asking for the source of video you would like converted.
Let’s use homevideo.mkv as the example. The easiest way to do this is have homevideo.mkv in an easy to find location like your desktop. Once you’ve selected it, HandBrake will read the file to determine some information like the name, length and audio information. Now all you have to do is select from some presets what you want to output to be. If you’re not sure, select the Universal preset under the Apple tab. This will ensure the new video will play on all of Apple’s devices from touch, to classic, to iPhone. The only required step before hitting start is to determine the name and location of the new file. Again, I suggest an easy to find location like the desktop. (BTW, don’t mess with the file extention, .m4v. This is specific to iTunes and allows the file to be immediately recognized.) Press start and go make a snack because it may take a while. On average it is a 1:1 ratio. It’ll take about an hour to re-format an hour long video.
Importing the video to iTunes is a simple task. Once the encode is complete, double-click on the new file and iTunes will immediately open and import the video. Then you can change/add/modify the displayed information about the video i.e. adding a genre, year the video was recorded, even add a “Album Cover,” which is the picture you’ll see when you select the file. After that, you sync the content to the iPod just like you would any other content. This may sound overwhelming at first, but once you do it once or twice, you will quickly get the hang of it. Promise!
The Safari application, Apple’s desktop and mobile web browser, give svery nearly the same browsing experience achieved on any computer. Pages load exactly as they would on a computer! And with a recent upgrade to their screen technology, dubbed Retina Display, it looks pretty amazing. To move around one simply “swipes” their finger in the direction desired and the screen immediately obeys. To get a closer look at an area on the screen you can either double-tap, which automatically resizes to fit the whole screen, or you can do a gesture opposite of pinching (put both fingers on the screen and spread them apart) to zoom in to the exact level desired.
There are two limitations to the internet browser, however. One is the size of the screen. At 3.5 inches it isn’t exactly huge. Some folks will have a bit of difficulty simply because they can’t get used to the size. But if you can use your cellphone, you can get used the screen of the iPod touch. The other limitation is the lack of support for Flash technology. Flash (from Adobe Systems) is an animation and video software designed during a time when there were few methods of having animation and video on a web page. The problem is, it hasn’t evolved very much over the years and takes a lot of processing power to run. The required processing power has a major impact to battery life, reducing it by up to 50%! Most web pages have converted over the years to other ways of displaying video such as HTML5 and h.264 (I promise I won’t bore you with the details of those technologies… yet:)) so the likelihood you’ll see an empty space where video should be playing is dwindling. But it is still annoying at times to head to a webpage only for a message to pop up that says “Sooooooorry.” This has been an ongoing battle with both CEOs weighing in. One slightly more mature than the other. My opinion is that Flash, while it was immensely useful for a time, has outlived it’s usefulness. Kind of like propeller airplanes used for intercontinental travel. A necessity until the jet engine came along.
All in all the iPod touch is a magnificant example of a “convergence device;” a single piece of electronics that can do a multitude of functions. Address book, web surfer, emailer, note pad, voice memo recorder, etc. The only thing that outclasses it is the iPhone, which has all of the touch’s capabilities, but with the added feature of cellphone abilities as well. (If you’re on AT&T or Verizon, I suggest taking a good hard look at it.) For much, much more on the iPod touch, check out Apple’s website.