Magisto Might Really Be the Instagram of Video

Screenshot from Magisto website.
Screenshot from Magisto website.

Yeah, I know a lot of apps are trying to be the Instagram of video, including Twitter’s weird Vine attempt, but Magisto captures the feel in a way I haven’t seen with other apps. Instagram is Instagram because it’s simple, slightly cheesy, and easy to share. Magisto is pretty much that — only with video.

You don’t have to do any editing to make a cool video. In fact, you can’t do any editing at this point. You just shoot some video or choose one or more movies that you’ve already shot,  pick a theme, pick licensed background music, and let Magisto’s algorithms handle the rest. Once your video is created, you’ll get an email. Share your video on Twitter, Facebook, or by link. You can also export your videos to YouTube.

Here’s a simple video I shot the other day from my phone:

This came from a few minutes of video shot from my phone while my family went sledding. Note: I removed the background music because YouTube flagged it as licensed content. The original with music can be seen here, where Magisto allows comments or a heart-shaped favoriting button–just like Instagram.

 

Simple is good.

The problem with most home movies is that they’re at least twice as long as they need to be, and they look like they were shot by people making home movies. Video editing software has a heck of a learning curve, and it’s exhausting to make all those choices about edits. Magisto acts as the “easy button.”  Magisto, so far, seems to make very reasonable guesses about what parts of the video are important, and the resulting video is short enough to be interesting and easy to share.

However, if you don’t like the results, you’re out of luck. You just have to try again, because there’s no editing. There’s also no way to upload your own background music or specify that you don’t want a soundtrack. (Update: There is now an option to create a movie without a soundtrack. I referred to information on the Magisto FAQ that was outdated and has now been corrected.) The soundtrack does respond to human voices, though, so it doesn’t drown out your dialog. However, if you have dialog in a movie and want to transfer it to YouTube, you can’t just drop the audio after you get it there, like I did with the sledding video. You need a soundtrack-free option to avoid this. The company claims they’re working on more flexibility with the soundtrack.

Right now the free version of Magisto is limited to 16 hosting videos, and you’re charged  $.99 to $2.99 to download a video you made. You can use the Magisto website directly or download free apps for iOS or Android.  If you hit the max, you just have to download your files or export them to YouTube before deleting them from Magisto.

Make no mistake, this is not a high end editing suite. This is how you share baby photos. Or a video of your kids sledding. Or movies about your cats. It’s not going to win you an Oscar, but it is fun, easy, and maybe a little hokey.

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Can Your Fridge Make Hot Water? The GE Café Fridge Does

Image courtesy GE
Image courtesy GE

That settles it. I definitely need a new fridge. Not because my old fridge is broken, but because there are now way too many cool fridges out there. Remember when I told you about Samsung’s new soda making fridge? Well, GE wrote me to tell me that their Café fridge makes hot water. I now have a fantasy of Patrick Stewart standing in front of one demanding some tea. Earl Grey, hot. 

Just how much power is it going to suck out of your kitchen to have a fridge dispensing hot water where it also dispenses ice? Well, they managed to solve the engineering problem well enough to earn the fridge Energy Star status.

This is a French door style fridge with separate evaporators to keep your frozen foods frozen and your chilled foods chilled. (If  you don’t have separate evaporators, opening the fridge door actually lowers the temp in the whole fridge just a bit, leading to freezer burn and melty ice cream.) It’s also got a multi-purpose drawer, with color coded LED indicators to let you know if you’ve got it set to store meat, soda, citrus, or cheese.

I asked them to walk me through the hot water process. I can’t get my Earl Grey as fast as Jean-Luc Picard, but I can get it within a few minutes. I could also get oatmeal or hot cocoa that isn’t scalding.

First step is to tell the fridge dispenser that you want hot water and just how hot you want it. You can pick any temp from 90-185 degrees Fahrenheit.  (It does not make boiling water.) Or, you can choose from one of four pre-set temp settings, so you can have hot tea or warm baby formula. Sadly, you have to use buttons instead of your voice.

Once your water is the correct temperature, you’ll hear an alert. You then have to turn a knob and then push to dispense (so nobody gets a hot water surprise when they wanted ice water), and you’ll get up to 10 ounces of heated water (about a mug’s worth). I’m told that the process should take somewhere between one and six minutes, depending on the temperature setting and how cold your source water is, and that most of the time it would be in the one-two minute range.

If you’re ready to get out your Bodum cups and replicate yourself a cup of Earl Grey, the GE Café fridge will sell for a suggested retail of $3,199 sometime this spring.

Review: Python for Kids

 

mage courtesy No Starch Press
mage courtesy No Starch Press

Python for Kids is a book from No Starch Press that aims to teach kids ages 10 and up and their parents about the Python programming language. Python is a good candidate for kids and other programming newbies because it mostly uses natural language and avoids the more annoying things you can find in some programming language. There’s no need to end every line with a semicolon. Variables don’t need to be declared, nor do they need to stick with the same data type. And if I stopped speaking English about two sentences ago, there’s good news. Python for Kids can still help you learn.

I happen to have an 11 year old daughter for convenient review purposes, so we’ve been working through the book together. I’m bribing her with a Raspberry Pi and pink flexible keyboard, because the Raspberry Pi can be programmed with Python. Might as well use what you learn.

First off, the tone of this book is just about right. We tried Super Scratch Programming Adventure, and while the Scratch book is aimed at a slightly younger audience, it really feels like it’s aimed at a much younger audience. Nobody likes a book that talks down to them. Python for Kids author Jason Briggs manages to successfully describe programming to kids without sounding like he’s dumbing down the content. My one critique as an adult reading this is that the whole book had enlarged print, but if it actually helps struggling learners read, I suppose I can overlook it.

My daughter was able to work through most chapters on her own, but she did sometimes ask for help with global concepts, such as why you’d want to “recycle code” or what an if statement was meant to do. Once she understood the concept she was going to learn in the chapter, she was able to go through the exercises and excitedly brag about what she’d learned. “Mom,  I made a tuple! Mom, there’s a turtle in Python!”

She’s still only halfway through the book, but I’ve read ahead. By the time you finish Python for Kids, you’ll have completed two games and learned the foundations for programming with Python. The lessons are well-constructed and leave the reader with a feeling of accomplishment in each chapter.

If you’re looking for a book to teach your fifth grade or older child how to program, and you’re willing to provide a little guidance here and there, this book (and maybe a Raspberry Pi with pink flexible keyboard) makes a good investment.