Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Podcasts

What’s a Podcast?

Well firstly, its a downloadable piece of audio or video that's consumable at any time that is convenient for you.

Secondly, just because it has “Pod” in the name doesn’t mean it works with just iPods. It can actually work with any device that says it has podcast support, that includes Apple’s iPod as well as Microsoft’s Zune and Sony’s Walkmans.

Thirdly, Podcasts can be viewed on a computer as well and don’t actually require a portable media device at all.

To Start

Firstly, you need to get an program to manage and download your podcasts for you.

Apple’s iTunes is a good choice, but there is also Microsoft’s Zune Media Software, as well as Miro and Nullsoft's Winamp.

Media Players like iTunes and Zune have a built in Podcast store where you can simply browse and subscribe to many podcasts, some video, others audio. Many are usually free although there are the paid for podcasts.

To Subscribe

For applications like Miro and Winamp, you would need to go to the podcast’s official website and get the official RSS link from there and enter it into the Podcast manager to subscribe.

(Subscribe basically means that you wont need to go and manually download a episode every time a new episode comes out. The podcast management software will do it for you automatically.)

For instance, go to Revision 3's website, and choose a show, for instance “Tekzilla,”

Capture

There you will see the subscription area.

rssChoose “RSS” and then the format you would like to subscribe in, in my case its the “WMV Large” because i know it will work with Windows Media Player.

When you do, there will be another page that comes up.

link Here, you simply copy the URL in the address bar, as indicated in the above picture and paste it into the podcast manager of your choice.

In the case of adding it to your manager, look for a button labelled “subscribe” or “add” and paste the acquired link there.

Following suite, the Podcast manager should start downloading the newest episodes of the podcast you subscribed to.

Now you’re all done. Get entertained ppl, its podcast time.!!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

PS3 Slim with a side of PSP-2?

Consider this, around the midlife of a Sony platform, Sony likes to introduce a redesign and its successor not to far after; hence the PS1 was released at the midlife of the original PS and the PS2 Slim was released at the midlife of the PS2. Also, around these midlife redesigns, Sony likes to debut or release the successor to the console. The redesign of the PSP has been made public (the redesigns are usually pretty major, all the previous updated were minor), the PSPgo. So it come to mind that the PSP 2 is not far off. I would go as far as to say it will debut around the same time in either Q3 or Q4 of this year, probably when the PS3 Slim is debuted.

image If you ask “why not at E3?” it is because if they had announced it that far ahead of release time, the announcement would have cannibalized sales for the existing platforms, meaning anticipation for the PSP 2 and PS3 Slim would have caused sales to slump as people held off buying in order to get the newer models.

This is just my opinion, but if you check the dates and their usual strategy, you will see, I'm not far off.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Update: -

Sigh..... well there was no release but i still have my hopes up for a real PSP 2 some time soon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Windows 7’s Windows Media Player 12 (2010 Update)

Windows 7

Windows 7 seems to be the next best thing to sliced bread as of lately. Everyone can’t help but comment on how great it is and how wonderful it seems to interoperate with everything. For the most part this is true, but 7 isn’t without it’s jagged edges. There are the minor things that still take away from the full picture. The addition of the ability to increase the size of the fonts on screen to 125% or 150% is an amazing feature (not that it wasn’t there before, its just really easy to do now), especially for people like me that have high resolution monitors. However it breaks the functionality of some applications such as Encode HD and Xvid4PSP.

Why? well for the most part the reason the program doesn't play nice could be because the developer didn’t write the application to a specific standard which would give it the ability to be properly manipulated by the operating system.

Never the less, there are other areas such as the decision to recreate the Paint and Control Panel Icons among others. The new Icons are nice but they don’t seem to match the overall visual style of Windows Vista’s Icon set which was brought over to Windows 7. In addition, I don’t know what it is exactly that’s causing it, but Windows 7’s Icon set somehow the colouring reminds me of the Windows XP icon set; a little too yellow i guess.

Explorer

(Windows Media Player 12 is worlds apart from 11 that was shipped in Vista) WMP 12Much cleaner in terns of interface, it plays songs back snappily with very little delay, however when moving between libraries such as Video and Music or from one library to a playlist, there is a noticeable lag to load the items. Overall performance may be improved but WMP 12 still manages to hiccup now and again causing serious detraction from the overall experience. To add to this, the new “Now Playing” view returns to the days of Windows Media Player 9 with the “Mini View Skins.” Now really and truly, most people don’t use the “Now Playing” view much unless that like to watch the visualisations or the album art.

The downside of the new Now Playing Feature is a variety of things. To get to the now playing screen, you have to press a button on the bottom right of the Player (really… who is even going to look there?). However to get from the now playing screen to the library view, the button to back isn’t on the bottom right, its actually on the top right…? Now to add insult to injury, you have to right click on the now playing screen for user access to the Equaliser and SRS WOW effects and video adjustments etc. There is no direct way to access the equaliser from the Library screen like you did in Windows Media Player 11. Lets add one more scalding point… say you decided to go through your music folders and play random songs as you browse, every time you double click a song, window media player comes up, and you have to minimise it…. EVERY TIME!!!! Back in WMP 11, if you enabled the taskbar mode when you played a song by directly double clicking the file WMP 11 would stay in taskbar mode minimised, and would be not up in you face. The Zune software… interestingly enough, actually still has a taskbar mode. Odd but true.

WMP NP Context Menu

(As you can see from the screen shot, accessing the equaliser requires the use of a context menu which can get really old, really fast.)

(Also, the classic list view is still there but even when enabled, still does not provide a direct way to access the EQ and other enhancements)

WMP NP List View

To add insult to injury, the Now Playing and Media Library view are not position independent. So if you wanted to keep the now playing window in the upper left of the screen, and you moved the library window to the bottom right of the screen, when you go back to the Now Playing window, the window ends up approximately in the middle of the screen instead of the upper left. Annoying?… most definitely.

For the most part, Windows 7 has been exquisitely refined and polished, but these few quirks have permanently move me off Windows Media Player to Zune and Winamp for music and KMPlayer for videos.

Someone, please kick Balmer and the team that developed WMP 12 in the NUTS!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

I have to Rename all of that; WTF?

The Problem

So you just went on that vacation, and you just got carried away taking lots of gorgeous and not so gorgeous photos. You went through them and sorted them out, all you have left to do is rename them. Hold on, don't you have 600 photos from that vacation left?

The Solution

Well an easy solution to that problem is a tiny yet powerful program called A.F.5 Rename. This little wonder can let you rename however you want. Start with a “string” such as [My vacation photos] and end with a “counter” that will number all the photos. Simple and easy.

Hey you know that anime series with 500 episodes that you downloaded from 12 different fan-sub groups, each with its own style of naming the files, this program can also rename those files and make them presentable and organised.

Cheers    ^_^

Monday, April 20, 2009

XVID4PSP + .AVI & DIVX - The essential combo.

Yeah bbe!!! time for the follow up.

So i discussed the differences between containers and formats in my previous post now I'm going to get into actual transcoding/encoding.

Firstly transcoding is when you have a video in one format and you need it in another, so you are “transferring"/transcoding” the video to another format.

Encoding is when you have RAW video fresh form a camera and it is uncompressed and need to be compressed to some easily distributable format. You therefore have to encode it into a format.

The most popular format combination at the moment is the DIVX/XVID encoded video in a .AVI container. This is because several DIVX certified DVD players and game consoles can read these files off of data discs. It allows you to fit 3 hours of video on a 700 MB Compact Disc (CD) with no visible loss of quality when viewed on a standard definition TV.

Now concerning the names, YES! XVID is DIVX spelled backwards. XVID is actually an open source, free, reverse engineered version of DIVX. I highly recommend it.They can both be used interchangeably.

To do the encoding the best application I have ever used is Winnydows’ XVID4PSP application. As the name indicates it was originally a application for transcoding videos for the PSP but it has become far more than that since then. This application has a multitude of features including DIVX and XVID!!

To begin with download the application XVID4PSP. Now remember that it needs Microsoft’s .NET Framework 3.0 to run. So on Vista it will run perfectly, on XP you are out of luck, you will have to head on over to Microsoft's site and download and install the .NET 3.0.

For the rest of us who aren't afraid of change and switched to Vista, install XVID4PSP and run the application.

Now the interface is pretty simple: -

  1. There are the menus on the top row with the most advanced options. menu 1
  2. Below that is another row of simple commands that are required very often. menu 2
  3. To the left is a column of drop down menus with the simple settings for the video encoding; and little “E” buttons to adjust the advanced options. menu 3

Get a Video

  • The first thing is to get a video/DVD to encode to DIVX. For this “little” post, we’re encoding a video so that is compatible with the PS3. If you are working on a video hit the “open” button and select a video to choose. You will only see the video files the program is capable of converting. This includes .FLV videos from YouTube. If you plan on transcoding .MKV files so they play on your PS3 I highly recommend downloading and installing the Vista Codec Pack by Shark 007.
  • For DVDs use the “DVD” button. If you have a copy protected DVD you will need to copy the disc to the hard drive and remove the copy protection before you can do anything. "(Google “DVD Shrink”)
  • Some windows should appear and disappear as the video you added is analysed. DVDs however take a tad bit longer. As the DVD is added you need to choose the correct video stream and audio stream. For example, some Japanese animated films, have two videos on the DVD, one with the English titles and credits and another with them in Japanese. Then they have the English and Japanese audio tracks. Once this is selected the DVD will be indexed and then is ready for conversion to the dark side!!
  • With this done all you have to do is either choose a preset, or manually select a container, video codec and audio codec and hit “encode”. As we are doing a PS3 compatible DIVX convert, there are some minor tweaks.

Steps to converting: -

  1. Firstly set the container or as they have it labelled “Format” to either .AVI/.MP4. In the case you want this to work on a DIVX DVD player as well, use .AVI exclusively. format
  2. Set the Video encoding to “XVID HQ Ultra”
    1. Hit the “E” button next to the Video encoding preset.
    2. Set the “FOURCC” to “DIVX”. (XVID would work fine as its the default)
    3. Click the “Motion” tab and de-select the 3 options
    4. Quarter pixel search; Global motion compensation and Chroma motion estimation.
  3. Click “OK” and you are done with the custom configuration.
  4. The audio encoding should be “MP3 CBR 128k” if you are using a .AVI container. For .MP4 use the “AAC-LC ABR 128K” preset.
  5. With this done hit “Encode”, choose where you want the video to be saved and sit back for video compression goodness.
Doing conversions to other formats

If you would like you can try some of the different presets that are available such as the iPod 5.5 and PS3/XBOX 360 presets.

Just remember that the walk through/tutorial that I did used the DIVX/XVID codec to do the encoding and is relatively speedy. Presets like the PS3 and iPod 5.5 use the X.264 codec which results in even better video quality but takes significantly longer. Up to 3 times longer. So its your choice. Play around with the options and you will be pleasantly surprised.

For those interested, XVID4PSP is actually able to automatically detect the “black borders” around video and crop/delete it. If you would like to manually adjust something with respect to the cropping of the video and its aspect ration go to the “Video” menu in the topmost row of menus. Once there select “Resolution/Aspect”.

Now burn it to a disc or copy it to a USB stick and insert in your ps3.

For the inexperienced out there, if you never did this before here is how you do it.
  1. Go onto your USB stick on your computer.
  2. Create a folder and name it “video”. Capitalisation doesn’t matter but remember its “video” singular, NOTvideos” plural.
  3. Then, copy all your videos into that folder. You can create any subfolders in that “video” folder to organise your videos.
  4. Once done copying files over, insert the stick in your ps3 and the device will appear under videos with all the videos available in it.

That's it people.

Cheers!

Video Conversion… SUCH A PAIN!!!!! The basics

Alrighty, its been a while since my last post. However I’m going to delve into the world of video encoding/transcoding. This is a pretty lengthy and complicated topic so I’ll try and make it as digestible as possible.

To start with, everyone has noticed that at the end of video files are extensions like .AVI .MP4 .MKV .MOV .WMV. However these are not really the actual video formats. These are just containers that hold the actual video file along with an accompanying audio file and in some cases additional files besides audio and video. These two or more files are held in the container file. So inside the .AVI file one should find a video and audio file. The files were muxed together by a program into the .AVI container file.

.AVI is one of the oldest containers, having originally been developed my Microsoft, its full name is actually the “AUDIO VIDEO INTERCHANGE”. Within this container the video file and audio files can actually be a multitude of formats. The audio can be anything form .AAC to .MP3/.MP4/.OGG/.FLAC. The same goes for video which can be .MPG/.MPEG/.DIVX/.XVID etc.

With the .AVI container being as old as it is, it actually has some limitations to it. For instance, it can only hold two items in it, a video and audio. Say you wanted to have a video and 2 audio files, each in a different language, it would be impossible, and more so, if you wanted to add a subtitle file your out of luck. With .AVI it is also incompatible with some of the newest video formats such as H.264/X.264. As such its loosing its relevance slowly but surely.

To deal with the situation, there are newer containers such as .MP4 and .MKV to the rescue. .MP4 is fully compatible with H.264/X.264 and .MKV having the ability to have multiple video files, audio files and subtitle files on one container!!!!! Basically more than two at a time.

.MKV created by the Matroska Foundation is a technological marvel and is completely open source (which means it was developed for free and is available to use for free) However the number of devices and programs that support it is near zero. However with the latest news from the format front saying that DIVX has chosen .MKV as the new container standard for their wildly popular video format due to it greater abilities, more devices will emerge with support for it.

Devices such as the PS3 and XBOX 360 that are fully DIVX certified will have to update their firmware to support the new DIVX standards and stay fully DIVX certified. So with time there will come support for .MKV on more devices, but for the moment all DIVX devices are only able to see DIVX video if it’s encoded in a .AVI container.

So in all there are way to many video formats and standards to cover in any one post. However I will cover the most useful and popular ones that are of the most benefit and the best programs to do the Video Encoding Job!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Linux, the future? (Updated 16/01/2010)

Alright, so we’ve all heard about Linux, its the great free operating system that charges you nothing and can perform miracles. Well that may be overstating it a bit, but the truth to the matter is its actually quite useable. I’ve been going into 2 main operating systems; Ubuntu 9.10 and Linux Mint 8 for some time now and I have been playing around with them. To be honest both are fantastic. The KDE4 desktop environment in Mint is really good, and it feels a lot like Windows in a very good way Gnome looks a bit homely. Gnome in Ubuntu is really customisable and it works really well espically after I tweaked it how you want.

Off the bat, Mint has more codec's than you can shake a mentos filled bottle of soda at. Even X.264 video can be played natively in the operating system and even preview thumbnail are generated. (I managed to do this without a video driver installed by the way) After i installed the restricted extras on Ubuntu, everything worked pretty well. Open office and some other apps are included along with an array of descent well featured programs.

So i got my new desktop and i put Linux, specifically Ubuntu 9.10 on my Vostro 1500. I was really surprised at how quickly files copied because on Windows Vista/7, files copied to my USB Memory Stick at 10mb/s, but on Ubuntu it was 25mb/s .I got rid of it after a week. But the real reason was beacuse, not that the system performed badly or was lacking, but the bundled apps like open office and the media player, were if anything functional, but not very good. They are not really well refined or interesting and Open Office seriously corrupted the Indents and bullet points in all my .docx files when i edited them. I find the fact that the Open Ofiice team is busy tring to emulate the ribbon UI of MS Office 2007 when they cant even get the interoperability of MSO O7 and OO as seamless as possible.

The OS is fine for the most part but Its when the drivers can’t install or a program gives trouble, what do all the help sites say? go to the TERMINAL. Nothing against the terminal, but who wants to use the command line in this day and age? In windows most problems do not require you to use the command prompt, however there are the rare few occasions where you would need to. For the most part, the Linux community is too confusing. At this point they should all get behind one interface and one platform and stay there. As it gains ground then branch off and introduce users to the different flavours. At this point the Linux community needs to create a eye-catching tasteful interface that will draw the user in. Both OS10 and Vista/7 have achieved that, now only Linux is left. PS why is right click drag and drop absent?

Its not that Linux is bad but more like its still lacking and needs work. I tried finding at least one app on Linux to replace each app i use on Windows….not happening. No apps were must have apps and usability and functionality are somewhere between Windows 2000 and Windows XP. It needs work and i hope things with the next release of Ubuntu.

Biggest thing, there needs to be a singular standardised way to install applications and drivers and it must be easy to run the setup with root/admin privileges without going into the terminal.

Peace Out

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WTF Winamp?

I remember the first computer i ever got, it was a Windows 98 machine running some odd AMD CPU with an awesome 56mbs of RAM and a whole 8 gig hdd. It even has a 52x CROM!!!

The first thing the happened was my uncle, the family tech guru came over and installed a tonne of software. One of the applications he installed was this odd application that had 3 parts and one of the parts was an equalizer like the one in my dad’s car.

AWESOME!!!!!

What made it even better was that we had a 2.1 speaker system with the computer so it kicked quite a bit. Winamp was a slick app; quick to start up and ready to blast tunes and let me turn the bass up wayyyy toooo loud.

WTF happened to it?

Now its this bloated app with adds from AOL and excessive features that don’t really work well if at all. All the features seem almost like they were designed without Winamp in mind and were slapped on just to say they’re there. Interestingly enough after all this time it still doesn’t differentiate between videos with a .mp4 extension and audio with a .mp4 extension; freakin c'mon!!! Video playback still seems like an after thought even though its been there since Winamp 2. Windows Media Player, you remember that lil ole’ box from windows 95? Yeah that, is actually a better Media Player than Winamp now. While Winamp continued to slap on garbage, WMP focused on the main thing, allowing the user to effectively manage media on their PC. Now look at it, a major media player in the market. Right now Microsoft is refining the formula and making Windows Media Player 12 for Windows 7 which is shaping up to be a potentially lethal contender in the Media Player Market.

Some of the great things about Winamp revolved around 2 things, the plug-ins and the skins. The skins weren’t all that but some skins really made Winamp feel like a brand new application, MMD3 for instance,  Multi Pass and EMP/EMP2 were just amazing to use. The new Bento Skin just makes me want to rip my hair out. For heaven’s sake does everything from the last iteration need to fit into one interface? BLOODY HELL. One of the things that made the original Winamp popular was the flexibility of the interface and the free form factor. At this point i would tell Nullsoft that they should strip Winamp down to a core player leave it as is and develop Winamp 4/6/7 from scratch without any obligations to the previous player or accessories. Hell… why don’t the Nullsoft guys build a new Winamp on the WPF, like Blu did? Not only would they be able to do something unlike anything on the market, they could even return as the innovator and the market leader.

Another big factor was the plug-ins. Every kind of visualization and DSP program you could imagine was there. Sadly now, after windows XP, a lot of them got broke. Iconic plug-ins like DEE and a few others just couldn’t run onthe new OS’. Now we have to use DFX (yuck) and rarely does anyone do anything innovative any more. Yeah there are some equally, if not better plug-ins left; but still, i want the oldies i know and love to work. Maybe, just maybe they should have a hall of fame for plug-ins and the null soft guys should make sure all these oldie Goldie's work on the newest platforms? (Just a random thought)

Honestly, WTF Winamp? Once you were the cool kid setting trends and you were the Media Player everyone wanted to be. Even the haterz loved you. Now you’re fat and old, chugging ice cream on your couch in your middle age all saggy and sad.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Windows 7, Neutered?

After a lot of hardships and complaints by our European brethren, the ‘big M’ is finally making quite a few applications detachable in Windows.

This is a God-sent for some. The ability to remove a Windows application you don’t like is a change for the better with so many other applications on the market that can do the exact same job as the integrated Windows applications, but much better. Google’s Picasa rips past Windows Photo Gallery in terms of speed and capability. Firefox, Chrome and all the other alternative browsers give you so many reasons to leave Internet Explorer as a standby, on both security and speed.

So why then is Microsoft spending money to develop applications which people can get for free from the web with comparable or better features and functionality than the integrated widows apps, well its because the consumer expects a base level of functionality. For example, you say Microsoft is monopolising the web browser market by bundling IE with windows, but if there isn’t a web browser integrated into windows, then how will you be able to browse the net to get another browser?

It’s a sad day for good ole common sense, however unlike Windows XP, that sad hodge-podge Operating System, where the update system was tied into the browser and the DLNA stream services were a part of Windows Media Player 11, Windows Vista and 7 both have these systems untied from any individual applications, minus DLNA media streaming with was tied to Media Player in Vista. In 7 the DLNA system is linked to the Libraries System for data aggregation. Essentially any folder that is added to a library can be shared along with the other items through the DLNA server which can be enabled form the Network and Sharing Centre, and not Windows Media Player hence untying it from a application.

By untying these applications Microsoft can potentially distribute windows without any applications and have the hardware distributor choose a software suite such as the Google suite i.e Picasa GTalk and Chrome or the Windows Live Suite to replace the integrated apps that come with Windows. What happens next is completely up to chance and dumb luck if you ask me , but i will say this, when Microsoft released Windows Live Photo Gallery, I wanted to remove the Windows Photo Gallery and Fax and Photo Viewer in Vista but i couldn’t. Going into the future, for techies like me to be able to remove applications that we will never use and out clients will never use will be a great help. What would be more interesting is if Microsoft allowed us to easily add third party application to the installations disc. Now that would be interesting!

Oh well, Peace Out!!!!!!!