Tag Archives: quicktime pro

My blog’s existential crisis … sort of. :)

I have the lamest (yet valid) reason for not blogging in over a weekΒ  now: I didn’t know what to say. For the first time in awhile, I felt thoroughly jaded about writing yet another how-to or kvetching about the latest software/hardware fault. There are a ton of sites that I’ll defer to when it comes down to the technical nitty gritty of things, but I hope that my scribblings may have made sense of someone out there. It’s been over 2 weeks since I moved back to Vista and I must confess that I have forgotten what Ubuntu feels like. That sounds like a betrayal even to me, but some context is in order.

Before throwing up my hands in despair and wiping off Windows fromΒ  my laptop, my laptop had a lot of experimental (beta quality) software on it and had witnessed scores of uninstallations that clog disk performance. My computer was rapidly becoming as sluggish as my 3 year old XP desktop PC and I didn’t know how to fix it. I was not infected with any virii or rootkits that I knew of, but I had a lot of programs installed and I experimented a lot with my laptop. The final straw was when some of my personal files became corrupted after running a couple of diagnose-and-repair programs and I threw up my hands in defeat. I’d experimented a lot with virtual machines and was becoming rapidly enamored of the Ubuntu/Linux distribution. I backed up my personal and professional files in two places and said “hasta luego” to Vista. Imagine my giddiness when my computer booted up & was ready to roll in less than 1 minute! However, Ubuntu’s “downfall” at my hands came because of a single issue.

Fast forward to mid-March when I restored my laptop to its factory conditions with my recovery DVDs. I installed my essential programs which are:

  1. Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 (everything except the Business Contact Manager or Office Accounting 2008) :- I love Office 2007. Eye candy and extremely functional.
  2. Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 :- I paid for this and it is worth its weight in gold! Of course, this was an educational version so it was less than $60.
  3. Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.1
  4. Acronis True Image 2009 :- Worth the money I’ve paid for it. I would purchase it again in a heartbeat!
  5. Acronis Disk Director 10 :- A master at slicing and dicing drives i.e. partitioning, etc
  6. Microsoft Expression Studio Suite :- Got this for free at Microsoft DreamSpark; The included Microsoft Expression Encoder 2 is one of the best converters for .AVI files i.e. AVI to WMV in high quality. I love it!
  7. Ultraedit Text Editor :- Fast and killer at handling huge text files. It’s mostly a Notepad replacement for me, but I wanted the best of the best and Ultraedit was the unanimous victor.
  8. Norton Internet Security 2009
  9. Secunia PSI :- For keeping tabs of programs that need updating or that have reached the end of life period.
  10. PC Wizard
  11. Fraps :- For high quality capture of games I’m playing or simply for recording the entire desktop by monitoring the desktop windows manager. Well worth the dough I dropped for it and it comes with free upgrades for life!
  12. Gizmo5 :- I love this program although the call quality could do with some work. I use this to communicate with my folks in Nigeria by buying Call Out minutes. I get the most bang for my buck that way.
  13. Imgburn :- this program lets the user be awesome as Kathy Sierra would say. It’s so easy to use that a cavewoman like me can use it without tearing out her hair!)
  14. Wireshark :- I fire this baby up whenever I’m out of my home network to monitor HTTP traffic leaving & entering my computer. I always use my SSH tunnel whenever I’m on public wifi or on an insecure/hostile network so I try to inspect my HTTP packets for any cleartext passwords, etc. Yes, I’m a tinfoil hat wearer. πŸ™‚
  15. Nmap :- I haven’t fully gotten the hang of this, but I know that I intend on tapping into its power.
  16. Camtasia Studio 6 :- THE name in creating awesome screencasts and I won a license of this fantastic program via a contest on Gottabemobile.
  17. Snagit 9 :- THE name in taking awesome screenshots of whatever you’re doing. πŸ™‚ I’ve paid for this baby twice because it’s that good.
  18. Netalyzer :- Every computer needs one of these. ‘Nuff said.
  19. 7-zip :- For unobtrusive unzipping & zipping needs, 7-Zip is the program to beat.
  20. FeedDemon :- I would be very lonely in the world without FeedDemon. πŸ™‚ I kid, but this program is a desktop RSS reader that backups up my subscriptions and has handled my feeds with minimal hiccups.
  21. Filezilla (and/or Winscp) :- The masters at FTP/SFTP/SSH connections.
  22. Putty :- For making SSH tunneling on my laptop possible. I heart you, Putty.
  23. Xobni :- the Outlook plugin
  24. Firefox :- bestest browser EVAR!!
  25. Cyberlink Youcam 2 (for whatever reason, this program won’t receive updates and I’m in the market for an alternative webcam program like Logitech’s Quickcam software for the Logitech Pro 9000)
  26. Speedcrunch :- This calculator is faster than the built-in calculator in Vista and has even more functionality. I love that it saves all calculations for me so it gives me a reason not to buy the latest shiny thing that catches my eye. πŸ™‚
  27. WinDirStat :- This nifty program tells me which folders are hogging up all my hard drive space. It’s thanks to this program that Nero 9 is not on my laptop anymore. I discovered several GBs in some folders created by Nero 9. I had no idea what those folders were for and I was too scared to delete them.
  28. TheSage dictionary :- Free dictionary that can search online (Wikipedia, Google, etc) from the application’s interface. I debated long & hard about replacing Wordweb Free with this program, but now, I have no regrets. The Sage is just as fast (if not faster) than Wordweb Free.

After installing these 28 programs and installing their updates, I slowly “rolled” out more program installations while carefully monitoring the Performance Information and Tools monitor for any problem programs. One software tool is conspicuously absent and that is Nero 9 which I used to swear by. The reason I have kept Nero 9 off y computer lies in the fact that it is overkill for my purposes (as I’ve learnt the hard way). I don’t want this post to become a screed, but Nero 9 has actually gotten in the way of doing stuff instead of making stuff drop-dead easy. So, I went with Imgburn for its simple 1-click options.

As of today, I’ve added a lot more programs to my computer, but I’ve been discriminating in what I put on my laptop. These programs see less usage than the 21 above, but they are on my laptop because I want them there. They are:

  1. Windows Live Writer
  2. Microsoft Streets & Trips 2009 (with GPS)
  3. DVDFab
  4. ConceptDraw Professional 7 :- A worthy alternative to Microsoft Visio Professional 2007. For making neat drawings that would take forever in Word. πŸ˜›
  5. ConceptDraw MindMap 5
  6. Microsoft Math 3.0 :- Don’t ask. It’s not worth the 20 bucks I paid for it because it’s slower than molasses. I recommend SpeedCrunch if a vanilla calculator will suit your needs.
  7. GPG4Win :- Every now and then, I get this bee in my bonnet that I need to encrypt my email conversations. I’m not in cohorts with evil people so my paranoia is largely unjustified. However, if I did encrypt all my email, no one would be able to get in touch with me because my contacts are not tinfoil hat wearers like me!
  8. Quicktime 7 Pro and QuickTime MPEG-2 Playback Component :- I went Pro over 2 years ago and it’s definitely worth it. I purchased the MPEG add-on because at the time, I needed that capability. Worth it? Meh.
  9. Spacejock software :- You can’t beat free & high quality software. yBook is an e-Reader that simply works OOB (out of box). It is my alternative to the ~ $300 Amazon Kindle. Eat your hearts out, suckers! πŸ˜›
  10. Woopra :- A web analytics program
  11. Skype :- I have about 2 contacts on Skype (my husband and a friend of ours). πŸ™‚ However, I need Skype on the laptop because I can make video calls to my husband and when my husband is jamming with his friend (my 2nd contact), they call me via Skype and I can listen to their music.
  12. CCleaner :- This program is not on my must-have list because I already do a lot of the tasks it performs manually. I’ve been burned by mediocre “clean up” software (*cough* TuneUp *cough*) so I’m leery of such applications. However, CCleaner has a very good reputation so I’m comfortable with running this program once a quarter. πŸ™‚
  13. Bulk Rename Utility :- a free program by Jim Willsher for bulk renaming. It does what it does simply and fast. Tons of options to satisfy any needs (extension changes, sequential numbering, etc). A specialized tool, but not essential. It also has a dedicated 64 bit version.
  14. ColorPic :- Another specialized tool for when I’m optimizing my Adsense ads and I need to pick matching colors. πŸ™‚

Right now, my computer is humming right along with me when I click to open things, etc. I haven’t had the Performance Information and Tools monitor tell me that any issues have been documented by the computer. I haven’t had the computer bluescreen (BSOD) on me yet *knock on wood* although my experience with Windows tells me that even BSODs happen to the best of us.

I will be updating this post with links to the programs later so enjoy!

Editing video and the things they don’t tell you

In my blogging life, I’ve had the good fortune of having access to tools such as TechSmith’s Snagit and Camtasia Studio. The video output from these two utilities can be manageable i.e. low file sizes depending on video length and the output is compressed & ready for uploading to file sharing site like Youtube, Blip.TV, Vimeo, etc. However, you will have scenarios where you have no control over the initial video generated i.e. files straight from the video camera, etc. These files are usually several hundred megabytes and unfit for Youtube/Blip.TV as they are.

Thankfully, there are tools (free and paid) are available to perform these tasks of compressing the raw video date. Some of these tools include: (Quicktime 7 Pro, Windows Media Encoder 9 Series, Microsoft Expression 2 Encoder, Handbrake, etc). I have actually used all 4 programs listed for a variety of tasks mostly compression (using MS Expression 2 Encoder to compress large .wmv files generated from screen captures), conversion (Quicktime 7 Pro, Windows Media 9 Encoder and Handbrake). They work great out-of-the-box, but I had some trouble dealing with a .mpg video file that 2 popular tools were unable to assist me with.

Last week, I recorded some videos using Sony’s HD HandyCam and the file sizes ranged from 300MBs to 900MBs in size. At first, I did not think I would run into any problems because the file format was mpg. I was dead wrong. Right off the bat, Microsoft Expression 2 Encoder and Quicktime 7 Pro did not help me because they could not open/convert mpg files. I guess I should have read the manual because Quicktime Pro does have the capability, but needs a separate add-on (MPEG-2 Playback Component) to be purchased (for $19.99).

Microsoft Expression Encoder failed with error code 0x80131537 and was generally a little unhelpful in deciphering if it just couldn’t open mpg files or if my file was corrupt (which it wasn’t). I’m not even going to pretend that I’m knowledgeable about the powerful abilities of Microsoft Expression Encoder 2, but this article by Ben Waggoner did justice to the power of this tool. (Back to my story), I knew I was in trouble, but I didn’t despair yet. I turned to Handbrake which I’d used to handle smaller files. I started the conversion and let it run. I came back after ~ 1 hr and found that my laptop had the dreaded blue screen of death (BSOD). Wow. This simple task of compressing my large video files was rapidly turning into a huge pain in the butt.

Then, I tried Windows Media Encoder 9 Series. It did a good job of converting the files to the format(s) I’d specified, but little to no compression was present. However, this was most likely due to my compression options which I have yet to nail down. Below are some screenshots of the process to encode a file using Windows Media Encoder 9 Series:

  1. This page allows you to select your source file and designate a destination folder (and name) for your output file.
  2. The supported file types (for the source file section) are: asf, avi, bmp, jpg, mpg, wmv, mp3, wav, wma
  3. The supported file types (for the output file section) are: wmaΒ  and wmv.
  4. You are asked the question of how your content needs to be distributed because “using a distribution method that is different from what you specify may negatively affect playback quality.”

Choosing your input source and output destination
Choosing your method of Distribution

Choosing Encoding Options
The first option that is automatically selected when choosing to convert a file in Windows Media Encoder 9 Series is for high definition. This could have been because my source file was a high-definition file in mpg format.

As you will see also, the output for this first set of encoding options is 1280 x 720. That isΒ  huge and on my first try, my encoded file ended up being the same size (relatively speaking) as the original file. While high quality is a good thing, clearly the size of the generated file is going to be a problem and may make watching the streaming video a futile (or exasperating) experience. Thankfully, there are other options when you click the black arrow pointing downwards (under Video) as shown in the picture below:

More Encoding Options

For my purposes (hat tip to the IT guy at my place of work), I selected “DVD quality video (CBR)” and the obvious ‘menu’ changes are changes to the bit rate and the output size. See below:

DVD Quality

Another option that may be of interest is the VHS option, but be aware that the video quality drastically goes down. πŸ™‚ And that’s that for now. I’ll leave you with the last screenshot of the changes.

wme_9wme_6

Just in case you selected wrong encoding options, there is an option to start encoding your file immediately or not. Obviously, you should opt NOT to start encoding your file whereupon you will be taken to Windows Media Encoder 9 interface which gives even more encoding options. Enjoy!!