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All posts tagged "software"

Friday, December 19, 2008

IE7: What's With This Dysfunction?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 12:41 PM

I've been an avid user of Firefox for quite a while now, and the above stupidity of IE7 is one reason why I use only use IE for quick browsing, or for IE-specific things that Firefox doesn't do so well (such as Outlook Web Access). Let me decode that above screen shot for you to illustrate my point. I went to looking for some new wide-screen wallpaper, using IE7. I found an image I wanted, and after selecting the resolution I wanted, the wallpaper loaded in my browser. OK, fine so far. But when I right-clicked on the image and selected SAVE PICTURE AS, the only option it gives me is a BMP (bitmap), which makes the image into a huge 11.7 MB file. I should be able to drag and drop from the browser to the desktop, but that function won't work either. IE6 had the same problem, and they didn't seem to address it with IE7. I wonder if IE8 will be any better?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mobile Media Mixing with trakAxMobile

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Pocket PC Software" @ 08:00 AM

"Introducing the revolutionary features of trakAxMobile, the ultimate multimedia editing and mixing suite for mobile devices. Harnessing the power of new devices with great camera and video functionality, trakAxMobile empowers you to be creative with your media on the go. Be as ambitious as creating video mashups for an audience of thousands or as intimate as creating a photo slideshow to share with friends. Buy Now for only $12. trakAxMobile for VGA devices has advanced features such as photo effects and cropping, the Ken Burns (Pan & Zoom effect), advanced video transitions and more!"

Wow: colour me impressed! That's a lot of cool functionality to bring to a Windows Mobile device, and the price of $12 for a VGA device (and only $8-$10 for other devices) is very reasonable. Being able to create ring-tones on the device itself isn't a new trick, but creating video slideshows from still photos complete with Ken Burns pans and zooms? Wow - that's a new one to me! If getting your mix on sounds good, they have a 7 day free trial to check out. And I should point out that they have a free program called trakAxPC that offers audio and video mixing on the desktop. Sweet!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Corel's Black Friday Software Sale

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Events" @ 11:00 AM

Got the itch for some new software? This is a good week to buy it - Corel is offering some steep discounts on some of their software - most notably 50% off on VideoStudio Pro X2, making it only $49.99 USD - I've tested it before and it's some pretty darn good software! And they're offering free shipping to boot on any order over $49.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Official Word on FolderShare Becoming Windows Live Sync

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 12:00 PM!1646.entry

"We want to let you know what's next for FolderShare, and to make you aware of some important upcoming changes. In December, we will release a new product called Windows Live Sync. You can think of it as FolderShare 2.0...A huge part of Sync's success story depends on FolderShare users like you. When Sync releases, FolderShare goes into retirement. That means your FolderShare software will stop working and will ask you to upgrade to Sync. Once you do, Sync will automatically rebuild your personal folders. We expect a lot of new users when Sync is released, so if you can't sign in right away, please give it a little time."

Well, we knew this was coming, but I was hoping for something a bit more interesting with this all-new version now dubbed Live Sync. Here are the features they listed:

  • More folders and files - sync up to 20 folders with 20,000 files each.
  • Integration with Windows Live ID - no more extra sign-in stuff to remember.
  • Integration with the Recyle Bin - no more separate Trash folder to fiddle with.
  • New client versions for both Windows and Mac.
  • Unicode support - sync files in other languages.

Moving to Windows Live ID is nice, and the integration with the Recycle Bin is also very slick - but because I was already a professional user (migrated over from the Byte Taxi days) I already had the 20,000 files per library limit. This is huge news for all the people who were previously limited to 10,000 files. So what am I complaining about? Well, I have just over 21,000 files in my Pictures folder, and I've been using FolderShare to sync that folder. You'd think it wouldn't have worked once I broke past 20K, but it did...and now I'm rather scared that it will stop working. I was really hoping that by the time they launched this new service they'd have a professional offering ready to go - because this is certainly something I'm willing to pay for.

There's also the prevailing question of Live Mesh - how long can the Windows Live team have two products that are nearly identical?

Friday, November 14, 2008

FolderShare To Be Re-Named Windows Live Sync

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 10:00 AM

"Apparently the shroud of secrecy that surrounds Windows Live and Wave 3 doesn't extend to help files, as our friend Picturepan2 at discovered as he was snooping around doing some investigative reporting. While Microsoft has maintained that FolderShare would continue on, even in the face of what seems to be redundancy with Live Mesh, those outside the company have been wondering what would become of FolderShare. FolderShare was acquired when Microsoft bought ByteTaxi in 2005, and offers file and folder synchronization between computers with a web interface component. Folder synchronization between Windows and Mac computers is possible. However it does not offer "in the cloud" storage, or work on the FeedSync RSS underpinnings that power Live Mesh (at least in its current configuration)."

Live Sync? Meh. I'm not feeling that name - FolderShare is a descriptive name that Joe Average can understand - it's something that allows you to "share folders". Sync is a geek work that has virtually no meaning in the realm of non-geeks. Names aside, what I really care about is whether or not FolderShare is going to continue to survive. As Live Mesh improves faster and faster, and FolderShare seemingly stays the same, I worry that FolderShare isn't going to be allowed to survive much longer. Of course, if Live Mesh reaches feature parity with FolderShare, it might not matter.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Xbox 360 Video Support: It Still Sucks

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 05:06 PM

I'm a big fan of the Xbox 360, but it sure is frustrating trying to use it to access all of my video content - I'm fighting my way through the transition from capturing and editing standard-definition video to high-definition video, and it's a bit of a struggle. I think very highly of H.264 as a compression format and have been using it to archive my content over the past year. Today I decided to put some effort into figuring out why my H.264 videos aren't showing up in my Xbox 360 when I browse for videos. At first I thought it was a matter of the H.264 videos I was creating not being in the right format - when you start digging into the guts of H.264 settings, you find a dizzying array of options, mostly around profiles. I found an Xbox team blog entry that said that H.264 support was limited to profile 4.1, and I'd encoded my H.264 test video as profile 4.2. But as I kept reading, I found the ugly truth: because my videos are stored on my Windows Home Server, the Xbox 360 will not play them back. What? Yeah, exactly. Read more...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Windows 7: New Desktop Slideshow Support

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 06:00 PM

"Curious as to what else was under Microsoft's elaborate lock, key, and duct-tape protection scheme mentioned earlier, I had my friend Chris Holmes run a scan of his 7 system, as I'm still babying my laptop's SSD drive. What we found were ties into system files littered across the entire operating system. Post-analysis revealed another feature tucked away in the corner - Say hello to (what I think should be called) Desktop Slideshow. If your memory is sharp, you'll remember Long Zheng found mention of this very feature on MSDN first, of which was quickly sanitized by Sinofsky's secret police."

As someone who enjoys vibrant and colourful desktop backgrounds, and who changes them on a regular basis, I'm excited about this feature - essentially it allows you to select multiple deskop backgrounds and have them rotate on a timed basis. More importantly, it's not just limited to backgrounds on your computer - you can subscribe to RSS feeds and use these feeds as photos sources. With most photo sites providing feeds, it wouldn't be hard to imagine a scenario where you could have a constant stream of images flowing to your desktop from a variety of sources - especially if you got creative with merged feeds with Feedburner. Want grandma and grandpa to have desktop backgrounds of your family photos? Looks like it will be easy with Windows 7!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Windows 7: "Impressive At Every Turn"

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 08:00 PM

"With the Microsoft PDC recently wrapping up, excitement has been building for Windows 7. I wonder, will it be able to live up to the hype? There's only one way to find out: install it and see for myself. This is by no means a complete analysis of the OS, rather my observations from the first few days of experimenting with it. The Aero interface has been refined, and it's leaner and meaner than before. Visual effects look superb and are silky smooth, even on less powerful hardware like a Celeron M520 laptop with Intel integrated graphics. Even with all the Aero Glass effects enabled, battery life didn't take a substantial hit (I noticed anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes less on a 5.5 hour battery). Need to move a full screen window? Just click the title bar and start dragging - no need to click restore first, it will automatically resize. The reverse works as well: drag a window to the top edge of your screen, and Windows will maximize it."

I'm seeing something very interesting happening here: the praise for Windows 7, even though the software is still raw and uncooked, is almost universally positive. Is the impression of Vista so negative, that Windows 7 looks great in comparison? Or has Microsoft taken the criticism on Vista seriously and really dug down deep to improve Windows 7? I suspect the latter - Microsoft doesn't always make the right decisions, but they do seem to learn from their mistakes. I'm going to try slapping my Windows 7 copy onto my HP tx2500...I have no idea what to expect, but I figure I might as well give it a try!

PEGASYS Set to Release TMPGEnc Authoring Works 4

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 03:55 PM

"Pegasys, Inc., the company that makes digital video easy, announces the upcoming availability of its TMPGEnc Authoring Works 4 software. It's the perfect, all-in-one media authoring solution for any video enthusiast. It is easy enough for a beginner to understand, and sophisticated enough to meet the demands of an experienced videographer. The U.S. release date is scheduled for November 13th, 2008...With the capability to author the high-capacity Blu-ray format, users can enjoy high definition videos with menus without worrying about disc capacity. This allows the saving of high-definition videos taken with an AVCHD or HDV camcorder and keeping it in high definition. Add in support for high quality 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound or linear PCM audio (up to 192kHz/20bit) and the result is a superb audio/video presentation."

Aha - so this is the mystery product that they were teasing us all about a few weeks back. I have to admit that I'm confused by this product - it seems like it has a lot in common with TMPGEnc Xpress 4.0, and I'm not sure if you'd want to buy this if you have Xpress 4.0, because most of us have DVD burning applications already. I'm not alone in my confusion - our very own onlydarksets from the forums has posted a spreadsheet trying to make sense of how TMPGEnc products differ from each other.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

MediaMonkey 3.06 Allows iPod Synching Without iTunes

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 07:51 AM

"Ventis Media has released a new version of its award-winning MediaMonkey music management software that syncs with Apple's iPhone 3G and iPod Touch v2. For music lovers seeking an alternative to iTunes, it is the only application capable of syncing to the new iPhone 3G and iPod Touch. Until today, iTunes was the only software that could manage music on Apple's iPhone 3G and iPod Touch. With its new iPhone 3G functionality, MediaMonkey provides a free, powerful alternative for syncing with and managing music collections on these devices. Unlike iTunes, MediaMonkey also allows users to copy tracks from an iPhone or iPod to a PC, enabling users to backup music from their iPhones or iPods."

MediaMonkey is my all-time favourite tool for managing my music, specifically for correcting and updating metadata. It's also extremely adept at removing and embedding album art. Now, it adds a new trick: allowing users to sync their iPhone or iPod Touch without needing iTunes. And did I mention it's free? I sprang for the gold version because I want to support their work, but if you want to take it for a spin, the free version probably does everything you need. Download it today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Checking Out Windows Media Center in Windows 7

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 03:00 PM

"If you are attending the 2008 Professional Developers Conference you received a pre-beta Windows 7 build today (6801) which contains many features the Windows Media Center team has been developing over the past year. It's my pleasure to take a few minutes to outline some of these new features for you. If you install this build do keep in mind it's considered an ‘Alpha' experience meaning some features may not be polished or work quite as well as they will in the final product AND things may change (mostly for the better we hope) between now and beta and RTM. So let's jump right in..."

Microsoft employee Charlie Owen has published a bunch of screen shots from the Windows Media Center interface inside Windows 7. Lots of improvements are shown, but the one that really caught my attention was native h.264 support, including Media Center Extenders. Finally, using h.264 inside a Microsoft ecosystem won't be quite so frustrating. There's some good stuff here!

Audio & Video Improvements Galore in Windows 7

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 02:30 PM

"Windows 7 will ship with a new version of the Windows Media Player. This is somewhat surprising, given Microsoft's complete neglect of the Media Player since Vista's release and its emphasis on the Zune PC software, which has its own playback and organizational features. But apparently Microsoft has realized that native playback of digital media within Windows is too important to force people to download an application separately. This is not the case with some other applications--for instance, Windows 7 will not come with Mail/Outlook Express, Photo Gallery, or Movie Maker--instead, users will have to download Windows Live versions of these applications. (Or PC makers will have to pre-bundle them.)"

It looks like there will be a lot of good things coming related to audio and video on Windows 7. Some of the highlights? Better Bluetooth support for speakers and headsets, a new version of Windows Media Player, native support (finally!) for h.264/MPEG video files and AAC audio files, improvements in networked music, intelligent routing of the right kind of audio to the right kind of device, and more. I think Vista is quite a capable operating system when it comes to media, but I'm definitely looking forward to the features in Windows 7 that will make the experience even better.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

eWEEK Has Short Windows 7 Walk-Through

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 02:42 PM

"Today at its Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft gave the public its first peek at the Windows client release that's supposed to make up for Vista. Based on our early tests of the new client, we're impressed with Seven's speed and polish."

The biggest news about Windows 7? Paint is getting an overhaul! I kid, I kid. Well, no, actually Paint is getting an overhaul and an Office 2007-style ribbon control - but I'm sure there's more to Windows 7 than that! Perhaps the most promising thing I've seen so far is that according to this New York Times article, Steven Sinofsky, the guy leading the development of Windows 7, is planning on showing Windows 7 at PDC 2008 on a low-priced Lenovo computer with only 1 GB of RAM and <cough> an Intel Atom CPU. If Windows 7 has been trimmed of that much fat and can run properly on such minimal hardware, then colour me impressed. About the only time I haven't liked Vista is when I've used it on a small devices like the Samsung Q1 Ultra, or on the HP Mini-Note 2133 netbook. Vista just sucks on those types of devices. On reasonably-equipped desktop PCs, even the $599 type, Vista runs quite well.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rich Online Imaging Tools From Aviary

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 09:10 AM

Aviary is yet another Web 2.0 company that I haven't heard of, but they have some very compelling browser-based image creation and manipulation tools. The first of these, called Pheonix, is an image editing program (pictured above). The biggest noteworthy feature is the support of layers, which are neccesary for the more complex photo manipulations. Next, they have a "Visual Laboratory" tool called Peacock. They have a colour palette tool called Toucan, and a vector program called Raven. The tools are all Flash-based, which when functioning in full-screen mode can be fairly CPU intensive.

Aviary is also trying to crack the tough problem of Web 2.0 companies making money: they have a pricing plan that involves access to their entire suite of applications. The two pricing plans are $79.90 USD per year and $149.90 USD per year. And here's the rub: if you're a consumer, you'll probably just use the free version, or use other free tools on the market. Or even commercial tools - if you buy a copy of Photoshop Elements 7, which has more features for photo editing, you pay $99 once and can use it for as long as you want. So what about graphics professionals? $149.90 is cheap for someone who does this for a living, but in industries focused around Photoshop and Illustrator, file compatibility is important. I wish the people at Aviary the best, but this is going to be an up-hill battle for them, and the products are going to have to not only match the offline tools, but exceed them in features, in order to gain traction.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lightroom 2.1 Released

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 11:00 AM

If you're a Lightroom user like me, you'll be interested to know that Adobe has released the first update to Lightroom 2.0. The 2.1 release is a 64.3 MB download that I installed quite quickly and easily. What does it add? According to the pop-up that appeared in the software when I manually checked for new updates:

"Additional camera support for the Canon 50D, Canon 1000D(Digital Rebel XS/EOS Kiss F), Nikon D700, Nikon D90, Sony A900 and more. Includes several corrections for issues introduced by the Lightroom 2.0 release."

So, nothing too exciting - unless you happened to be the owner of one of those cameras and you've been unable to process your raw files.

Encoding Made Quick and Easy With TMPGEnc MovieStyle

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 07:00 AM

TMPGEnc MovieStyle ($39.95 USD) is video encoding software created for device-specific encoding. It has a slick, user-friendly interface that's quite easy to use - once you get it working. TMPGEnc MovieStyle, like its more expensive big brother TMPGEnc 4.0 Xpress, has an extremely irritating online activation security scheme. I won't repeat myself here - you can read about my dislike of this sort of software protection in my other TMPGEnc review - but I find myself especially irritated because I installed this software to test it while I was a passenger in a car driving back home after visiting some friends in the countryside, and I wasn't able to use the software because I didn't have Internet access. I thought maybe on this cheaper, consumer-focused video encoding product, they'd have a more relaxed approach. There's not even a graceful limited trial mode for the software when it can't be activated - it simply won't load until the license is activated online. These sort of heavy-handed, "treat your customers like thieves" tactics are frustrating to see. But let's get on with the review, shall we? Read more...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Microsoft Releases Pro Photo Tools 2

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 02:00 PM

"Microsoft Pro Photo Tools provides a set of tools for photographers allowing them to perform various tasks with their images-including RAW captures. The current version enables you to quickly geotag your photos, edit metadata, and organize your images by leveraging the power of Microsoft Live Local."

I haven't used this tool yet, but it looks like it could be useful - the geotagging stuff is cool, especially if it works in batch mode. And hey, it's free! Anyone taken it for a spin yet?

Friday, October 17, 2008

I've Got CPU Cores to Spare...Why Won't Somebody Use 'Em Smarter?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 03:39 PM

I was synchronizing music over to my SanDisk Sansa Clip today, and I configured Windows Media Player 11 to transcode the music to 128 kbps WMA files from the original 256 to 320 kbps music files. 128 kbps WMA files still sound pretty good for rock/pop music, and at the gym sound fidelity isn't quite as critical as is it at home. What surprised me was how poorly the Windows Media Encoder used my multiple cores. It did better than some programs because it was using two cores to transcode a single MP3 file, but what it should have been doing is multi-threaded encoding, where one core is assigned the task of transcoding one file, and have all four CPU cores transcoding the audio. Just like using FTP to download a bunch of files, even if you have restricted bandwidth or CPU cycles, efficiencies can be gained by processing multiple files in parallel.

The Swiss Army Knife of Video Encoding: TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 07:00 AM

Product Category: Software
Manufacturer: TMPGEnc
Where to Buy: TMPGEnc Web site
Price: $99.95 USD
System Requirements: The software will work on Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000. Since video encoding is a CPU-intensive task, the faster your CPU the faster the software will work.


  • A huge variety of video import and output formats;
  • Makes great use of multi-core CPUs;
  • Software is fast and responsive.


  • The cut/edit tools are confusing and limited;
  • Seems to have trouble with certain AVI files, no support for KV files;
  • Requires online product activation; EULA restricts you to one install (but see below).

Summary:If you're looking for the ultimate level of control when it comes to video encoding, TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress is one of the best tools on the market today. When you consider that you can purchase video editing programs such as Premiere Elements for $99, TMPGEnc seems fairly expensive at $99 - but if you're tired of the limited video encoding options that most consumer-level video editing programs offer, TMPGEnc is a breath of fresh air and well worth the investment. Read more...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Analyze EXIF Data With ExposurePlot

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 10:12 AM

"Although I use ACDSee Pro to manage my images and conduct key word search, etc., it doesn't allow for an easy way to view statistics on EXIF data accross all my images. I'm considering new lenses for my 5d, and anted to see how often I use certain focal lengths based on thousands of images on my hard drive. So....I found this nifty little FREE utility called Exposure Plot. It scans all your images (.jpg only) and creates all sorts of useful statistics based on EXIF data...So, what did I learn? The program anazlyed about 7,000 images (took about 2-3 minutes, fyi). I learned that over half of my shots were taken at 80mm (considering the 1.6x factor). That makes sense, since my 50mm 1.4 is used for so many portraits and kid shots. Overall, the vast majority of my shots were made at the 35mm equivalent of between 45mm and 144mm."

If you're curious about what sorts of exposures and focal lengths you use when taking photos, this program will transform the raw data into charts that will help you visualize the results.

Tags: software, EXIF

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