Zamzar Converts Your Files

Zamzar LogoA few days ago a friend asked me how to embed YouTube videos into a powerpoint presentation. I assumed it wasn’t possible but I went searching anyway. I didn’t come away with a miracle but I did come away with a new tool for my arsenal. Zamzar will convert any that you either upload or send it a URL to. Zamzar is also smart enough to convert embedded items such as YouTube and MetaCafe videos. They have a whole slew of other sites that are supported in a similar fashion. Don’t think Zamzar is just for videos though. Oh no, they support word processing conversion, compression type conversions, image conversions, video conversions and music conversions.

Zamzar is your one stop shop to convert your files.

The way it works is really quite simple and eloquent. You fill out the from on their main page (shown below), click ‘convert’ and wait for the E-mail. The E-mail will contain a link to the downloadable converted file(accessible by anyone who has the link, so feel free to forward it to friends or whatever).

Zamzar Convert Form

Be careful the converted file is only available for 24hrs. That’s probably how they keep their costs low. If you’re interested in storing your converted files on their system, they do have pay plans available with pricing for just about everyone.

Disclaimer: Like everything these days, the service is in ‘Beta’ and as such it might come with a few bugs. I also know the site has some pop-up ads so don’t turn off your pop-up blocker.

Goodmorning from Hulu

I finally got into the Beta at Hulu last week. I am very excited about the service which, if you’re not aware, is a new web video service that offers network video content over the internet. It’s free of charge, developed by the big networks and is ad supported just like regular network television. The reason I’m excited about this service is that it’s one step closer to the video entertainment of tomorrow.

The future of TV will be an on demand service. You watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it. Some people might say we’re already there with DVR’s. I say no, a DVR is nothing more than a carry over from old video tape technology and thought process. Sooner or later all your television will be streamed over the internet directly to your TV and that means you can select the specific show and episodes you want to watch (or even categories or tags if you so desire) rather than channels which sometimes have shows you want to watch on but mostly just have garbage.

Removing the need for a person to know what they want to watch before they watch it is a huge benefit of streaming. You can go back weeks, months or even years to get back to the beginning and watch all the episodes of a particular show. It also opens up the door to a feed system similar to RSS in which you get notified when a new episode is available so you can have a list of shows in your queue. Another benefit is the space limitation is now gone you stream the video when you want to watch it as opposed to watching it from your own local copy.

I can’t wait for the day that all movies are available online on demand. I’d love to have a paid premium service that removes the ads. I’m hoping that Hulu will add a premium service eventually that removes the ads all together for a nominal fee. If they were to do that and build the content into Media Center or some other interface that is easily adapted to the television then I would immediately switch over to paying for the service and drop Cable all together.

Thus far my only complaints for the Hulu service deal with their interface. The idea is solid but their UI needs a little bit of work. For starters I’d like to see playlists that contain entire seasons of episodes. I’d also like to see feeds that contain only the episodes of the subscribed show not video clips.

One really neat and brand new feature built into Hulu is the ability to select portions of a video to share. I’ve selected a fitting section of the latest Family Guy to demonstrate below:

All in all I think the cable and satellite companies have some new competition and if they don’t adapt quickly they might be in trouble. If I were Time Warner I’d be working on ways to getting online versions of the same content to my subscribers as quickly as possible.

Yelp for Rochester

Yelp LogoA true Web service is only as good as it’s users make it. I just recently discovered Yelp and luckily they have a Rochester page. I have recently been trying to find a website that lists local restaurants along with ratings. Yahoo and Google business results return too many chains that aren’t of interest to me since they’re available anywhere. I’ve been looking for results that are more locally oriented such as the listings found within a Frommer’s guide.

Fortunately Yelp provides everything I’m looking for in restaurants and even has lots of extra categories such as Night Life, Beauty and Spas and Shopping. I was interested to find they also have a list of romantic restaurants which is always difficult to find in Rochester. In order of highest ratings these are the following Rochester romantic restaurants on Yelp:

  1. Rooney’s
  2. Oasis Mediterranean Bistro
  3. Tapas 177
  4. Lucano Ristorante
  5. 2 Vine
  6. Max of Eastman Place

The only one of these that Rachel and I have been to is Tapas (which was excellent and I’ll be sure to rate it thus). We haven’t even heard of any of the others. There are a few missing from this list, like the Triphammer Grill, that we have been to but it’s always great to find new ones.

If you’re looking for new restaurants or shops to check out, look no further than Yelp.

The 2 Billionth Flickr Photo

It’s interesting to see the 1st or a significant nth item posted to any service. So often though they turn out like the first youtube video. A waste of space. It’s nice to see when a milestone is actually something worthwhile. That’s the case with the 2 billionth flickr photo. It was posted a while ago I just haven’t had the chance to post it yet. Here it is:

Originally uploaded by yukesmooks Just in case you were wondering how to find the Nth Flickr photo simply use the following:

Simply replace the X’s with the photo number you want to take a look at.


Feed CrierA few days ago a new webapp hit the streets. FeedCrier claims to keep you instantly alerted to any news from any feed you subscribe to using their service. It’s essentially a new feed reader that sends new items directly to your instant messenger account.

If you subscribe to a lot of feeds like I do I wouldn’t suggest putting all of them into FeedCrier but it is great for those few that you want to get immediate updates for.

A great thing about the site is there’s no account required. Simply provide your Messenger account (MSN, Jabber and AIM are all currently supported) and the feed’s URL.

Initially I was very cautious because I saw no mechanism for unsubscribing or maintaining your subscriptions. Luckily they explain it all here.

Iterative Development

Items Shared By I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I’m a fan of Google’s web applications. I make use of Google Notebook, Google Reader, Gmail and Google Docs daily. Every time I see they added some new features it makes me very happy. It also reminds me of just how useful Iterative Development practices are, especially in the Web world. It’s great to get a solid product out there and then update it routinely with enhancements.

Along with all the talk about Gmail 2.0 up and coming, along with their new push for Open Social, Orkut and now Android I’ve found a few other updates.

  • Items Shared By… Google Reader’s shared items now displays who shared the item within the first few lines of the item itself. This is great if you (like me) subscribe to many friend’s shared item feeds and group them all together.
  • Tagging Notebook Entries… You can now tag entries in your Google Notebook. This is great for categorizing and quick lookups. I think I’ll be permanently switching over to Google Notebook over my own wiki now just because of this one feature.

Web applications are the future. There is no comparison. The immediate feedback you get from releasing an update over the web is simply an undeniable advantage over client-side installed applications. Applications like Microsoft Office will become a thing of the past. Bandwidth will cease to become an issue and we’ll have all the same features but with immediate updates at our fingertips. As mentioned on JoelonSoftware a few weeks ago, spending money and time engineering todays software to utilize today’s hardware is a waste. Instead just realize that the hardware will handle it and performance will cease to be a problem

Never go to a doctor with dead office plants

Mike showed me two sweet websites that help with RSS feeds.

The first is Feed Rinse. Feed Rinse is a free website that will allow you to setup an RSS feed that filters another RSS feed. This means if you subscribe to an RSS feed that has a bunch of subjects that you don’t care about you can filter them out.

The second is Feed 43. Feed 43 (or Feed For Free) is a free website that allows you to convert any website that doesn’t have an RSS feed into an RSS feed. I haven’t had a chance to play with this yet but it looks like you need to write some sort of script to determine what on the site should be considered an article etc. I’ll post about it again after I play with it for a while.

When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time

Mr Light Blue

Yesterday Rachel and I went to go see the Puppies again. They’re getting Huge! I think we’ve picked out the one we want. Rachel and I both like “Mr Light Blue.” Maybe I’ll setup a poll to let people pick which puppy they think we should get. We still need to decide on a name. If you have suggestions let us know.

Matt showed a few coworkers and myself two cool things to fight off SPAM. A feature built into all E-mail servers and a new telephone service. Both of which if implemented properly will significantly reduce the amount of SPAM you’ll get.The following E-mail addresses are all equivalent:


Start only handing out E-mail addresses with +___ in them. This allows you to filter the incoming E-mails very easily, see where a lot of your spam is coming from (aka who’s selling it) and maybe take some actions in that regard.

Grand Central is a free telephone forwarding service that you can use as your own personal phone screener. One of my favorite features is the ability to send all incoming phone calls for anyone you don’t already know to voicemail. If you do want to take all phone calls, people you don’t know are prompted for their name and you are given several options before ever talking to them. The available options include recording the conversation, sending it to voicemail (and listening in) or simply taking the call. Check it out it’s really slick.

According to PC World the 50 Most Important People on the Web.

If you like to browse Blog’s In the WordPress development Blog‘s most recent post they listed the speakers of the SxSW this weekend. I started browsing a few of them. Some are very interesting, I’ll post my favorites later.

I’ve said for a while that the next car I buy is either going to have built in GPS or i’m going to build a computer (with GPS) to put in the car. It looks like BMW is getting it right. Check out their latest onboard computer, its pretty sweet:

I’ve always kept track of a lot of websites and with RSS it certainly makes it nicer. However I never found an RSS Reader that I really liked. Recently a friend alerted me to Google’s Reader. I’ve started importing RSS feeds that I like to keep an eye on and it’s pretty nice. However I found that it means there’s just another site I have to go to to see if anything new has happened. I did some googling and found a Google Reader Notifier Extension for Firefox. Seem’s to be exactly what I wanted.

I added a Wedding page to the site. At the moment it just contains a count down timer. We’ll add more relevent info later like time/date/place/photographer/dj/honeymoon/hotel suggestions/etc.

Rachel and I will be in Buffalo for St Patricks day. We’re going to see Piebald. They’re kicking off a new tour starting in Buffalo and Rachel’s friend Allison knows them. We’re tagging along and we might even get to meet the band. Pretty sweet. If you want to listen to some of their stuff take a look click here.