Tuesday Mar 11 '14Popcorn time and the simplicity of pressing play.

The main title selection screen
Title detail page
Downloading/Buffering playback
Title playing

There's a new way to bootleg feature length movies online and its gotten massive media attention in the past few days.  Actually, it isn't exactly revolutionary in how it gets films to folks but makes the process amazingly simple.

Popcorn Time is a desktop app that you can download for free from http://getpopcornti.me/ and get up and running on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer in minutes. 

What it does

Simply put, the app lists available movies from BitTorrent and then fetches them in the background when you press play... or rather 'Watch It Now.'

How it works

The app basically tracks the latest films released through BitTorrent by YIFY, one of the Net's main film bootlegging groups (read about them here) and then mashes them up with information from a few 3rd party APIs - so the interface brings together artwork, film details, a rating and the all-important 'Watch it Now' button.

Once you start up a film in Popcorn Time the app downloads enough buffer to begin playing and then continues in the background - you'll notice that scrubbing forwards or backwards in a film is extremely fast (assumedly because these films have a lot of seeders.)

Playback is generally smooth and you can choose to watch video files in either 720p or 1080p (HD); so they'll look great connected to your TV.  The app also ties in whatever closed caption files are available to torrent and lets you load them in its own player (which you can open full-screen) and choose your ideal text size.


Downloading and opening the app is legal but using it to watch films is most likely illegal in the largest part of the world due to copyright infringement as these films are not generally licensed to be torrented freely.

Lessons Learned

Ignoring legal and moral concerns about using this app, what makes the experience of watching films through Popcorn Time so wonderful is how easy it is. 

  • New Films = Simple Choices - Because the selection of titles is so new, most people won't need to research them to figure out what they want to see - so you can simply click a genre you feel like watching, scroll through the cover images and select something. of course, because the titles are recent, finding trailers and reviews elsewhere online is a cinch, so they aren't missed within the app itself.
  • Background Processes make Life Easier - The end user never feels like they are downloading anything - asides from the message telling you this is happening when you click 'Watch It Now,' the file is temporarily stored on your desktop and then automatically deleted when you close the video... so you don't have to worry about storage space when you jump in and out of titles, unlike renting on, say, iTunes.
  • Reviews are Unnecesary - The app only shows a 5 star rating per title; unlike a lot of VOD services you don't get bogged down by what other people on the service, or Rotten Tomatoes, or IMDB think before choosing to watch.

The app certainly has its UI failings as well (the search just looks for film title and doesn't return suggestions, the pager displays when not relevant etc...) but the points above make using Popcorn Time an addictive experience and something all VOD services should think about.

Thursday Feb 20 '14Vimeo's new player: A global money making machine for quality producers.

Somehow this news doesn't seem to have been picked up as widely as we thought it would; Vimeo's got some new features which should make any producer of high quality video excited, and we thought to share.

The included video doesn't really sell this excitement, so here goes; you can now use Vimeo to sell and rent your videos!!! Okay, you may have heard this already but we've been testing out the service recently (as a PRO member) and are thrilled with its potential - both because content can be monetized through their new On-Demand website as well as through domain-locked embeds.

That latter reason is particularly groovy - Vimeo is now a credible service to consider launching your own pay-per-view platform to sell/rent your catalog of video content (assuming the 'you' here is a content producer.) You can literally upload a bunch of videos to Vimeo, set a price for them individually or for the set, and then embed them on your existing website where your audience can pay to watch them within the actual video embed.

Add (finally) closed caption file support and boom, you can now start making money from people all over the world who want to watch your videos.

How We're Using It...

... There are a number of reasons why Vimeo may not be itself the best way to launch a Netflix-killer but for small production or distribution houses wishing to make some money off of digital viewings, we think Vimeo's just perfect, and are working on a few incubated projects to develop a conventional CMS around Vimeo to help content producers easily promote their Vimeo content through a simple-to-setup website (stay tuned for more on that!)

Get In Touch!

If you'd like to discuss setting you up with a video-centric website powered by Vimeo, or anything else, drop an email to qasim@designguru.org

Tuesday Jul 23 '13Automatically Replacing Relative Links with Absolute Links in Textareas

Our WhyDrupal? RSS feed just got published to the main Planet Drupal feed aggregator and it made me answer a question I've had for years - "How can I easily override the relative links in wysiwyg editor textareas and replace them automagically with absolute links?"

For the most part I usually try and use Drupal's Media module to embed images in posts but thats not always the easiest workflow for quickly throwing images into copy areas.... and its not a sustainable solution to use absolute links within nodes (say you have to move URLs one-day when you forget to renew your domain, or are moving from a development server to the live client-URL?)

Well, it appears that there's a super easy solution - just install the "Relative Path to Absolute URLs" module and then add the filter (shown below) to the specific input filter you're using (d7 = "Text Format") et voila, the problem is taken care of on the public/display side whilst not over-writing your relative urls within the site database ;)


Monday Jul 15 '13Modules to Help Streamline User Experience & Improve Workflows

Here is the deck I presented at DrupalCamp Toronto 2013 this past weekend; a video of the presentation should be made available soon.

The overview of the talk:

Whether Drupal is used to create simple online publishing solutions or more robust web applications, developers often focus on implementing whatever a 3rd party designer has specified for the' front end' user interface and ignore the need for well designed interfaces to administer sites.

This session will take a macro perspective look at how Drupal out-of-the-box comes with general work-flow problems by relying on implementers to develop custom user experiences, and then jump into simple ways these can be facilitated through modules available from drupal.org

Ref: http://2013.drupalcamptoronto.org/sessions/modules-to-help-streamline-us...

Monday Aug 27 '12Moleskine and note-taking app Evernote team up

The Evernote Smark Book
See video

A great example of technology-sensitive everyday consumer goods has just been born - the 'Smart Notebook' from Moleskine is a physical notebook made of paper which has iconography that guides digitization using the Evernote mobile/tablet app's camera control.  So, you can essentially scan whatever you write/draw into your notebook and have it tagged and ready for use in Evernote, to be included elsewhere in documents or shared through email and social networks.

Asides from simply saving a photo of whatever you've got jotted into your book, Evernote will clean up the photo - removing shading and ultimately trying to flatten the image into 2D.

Wednesday Apr 18 '12Position Opening: Drupal Expert/Creative Technologist

We're looking for a full-time Drupal Expert to be responsible for website and software development for anywhere from 1-5 projects at a time and also play a role in working with and managing Junior Design and Development interns. We are specifically interested in someone who is comfortable with the entire cycle of web development, from configuring server setups, writing SQL/PHP, and developing Drupal modules to coding CSS/HTML and debugging cross-browser issues.

If you find that you're one of those special folk who have a love of good design and confidence in using custom code + Drupal to bring interactive designs to life then working at Design Guru in this role will be rewarding and exciting! :) Read more »

Wednesday Apr 18 '12Position Opening: Content/Marketing Intern

We need some help in the studio with a bunch of fun projects - this is a position that would give someone special an amazing wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience working in the realms 'social media' and online publishing/promotion.

Though perhaps ideal for students at one of downtown Toronto's Universities or Colleges, this part-time, unpaid position would be engaging and enjoyable for anyone with a flexible work schedule who has a capacity for learning and confidence in expressing themselves through a variety of media. Read more »

Thursday Apr 5 '12Google Announces Project Glass

See video

This new initiative from Google (http://g.co/projectglass) seeks to explore how new technology can liberate people from traditional device usage means - their promo video is pretty exciting in depicting what it might feel like to cruise around with all the geo-locational data and functionality we use every day on smart phones integrated into eyewear.

Tuesday Mar 6 '12Keeping Drupal Secure Infographic

If you've ever wondered how the security of Drupal's core software and contributed modules is regulated, it might be interesting to check out this info-graphic as well as the Drupal Security Report - a downloadable white-paper.

Wednesday Feb 29 '12What is Drupal? Watch this Video!

With the help of the Drupal Association, UK-based Drupal consultant Steve Purkiss commissioned a short film to be created explaining a little bit about how the community working with Drupal makes it attractive.

We totally concur with the message - since having worked with Drupal now for about 5-6 years, it has become our preferred platform for developing web solutions and with it, we've built all sorts of web sites and applications (check out our client projects and incubator.)

*The video in this post was shot at the 2011 Brighton Digital Festival as part of a Drupal Discovery Day organized by Steve Purkiss was produced by Larchmont Films.

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