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2.26.2008

Convert your DivX, XviD, iPod videos to DVD with DVDFlick


Here's another cool little Open Source tool every videophile should have.
DVD Flick is a DVD authoring and burning tool. It can take almost any common video file format and create a DVD from it that is viewable on a normal DVD player. First things first, DVD Flick doesn't break copy protection. You can't use it to burn your iTunes or Windows Media DRM'ed movies to disc. It will however convert common file types like MPEG 2 or 4, DivX or XviD MPEG4 variants in AVI containers, iPod or iPhone converted files in M4V containers. DVD Flick is multithreaded / hyperthreaded, so if you have a dual-core CPU, it'll perform very well.

DVD Flick has a very easy to use no-frills interface. If you've used other DVD Authoring programs it should be very common sense. There is a very helpful "How To" guide included with the installer and accessible from the main screen using the "Guide" button.


To create a disc in DVD Flick:
  • Create a new project.
  • Hit "Add Title" and add movie files to the disc. (watch the meter to see when your disc is getting full)
  • Click Project Settings and make sure to set the Region correctly. If you in North America you want NTSC not PAL.
  • While you're still in Project Settings decide whether you want to output the DVD project files to a folder on your hard drive, or to just burn direct to a blank DVD.
  • Hit Accept.
  • Back on the main screen, click "Make DVD".

Now wait a few hours (depending on your CPU) and presto, you have a finished DVD that should autoplay in your DVD player. DVD Flick doesn't do fancy menus, the disc just jump straight to the first title and start playing.

I've been using DVD Flick to burn my recorded TV shows to DVD. I've used GB-PVR or Windows Media Center to record over the air broadcasts of TV shows to my hard drive. When I want to keep something for later, or to watch on my portable media players, I compress them to MPEG4. For my Zen Vision:M i prefer to use iRiverter to convert to XviD compatible AVI. For the iPhone, I use Handbrake to get H264 encoded M4V files. Either way I can smash the MPEG2 files my TV capture card records down to 1/2 or 1/3 their original size. It makes it much easier to keep memorable TV episodes or movies around. DVD Flick has been handy when I need to be able to watch these shows on a plain old DVD player instead of the computer or portable.

2.25.2008

This does not bode well for our heroes

We had a D&D session yesterday. Our party had to fight a bunch of
undead. Chris, our DM, cooked up a niece bit of terrain for this
encounter. You may recognize the "Cliffs of Insanity" from The
Princess Bride. Chris recently made this one for a Terragenesis
contest with a movie set theme.
Anyway it was a good game... wrongs righted, evil vanquished and all
that.

2.24.2008

Crysis system requirements aren't that bad

I keep seeing people complain about the system requirements for
Crysis. I just finished playing through it and I have to say I don't
think the requirements are that steep. Sure they require a relatively current machine. But it doesn't need to be top of the line. Just newer than 2 years old. This seems a reasonable expectation for a PC Gamer.

My first thought is that people are misunderstanding the detail
settings. Don't look at the requirements and benchmarks and write the
game off because it you can't run it at high detail. There is a lot of
room built into this game for upcoming video cards and multi GPU
systems. Keep in mind that even the low detail settings on Crysis are
better looking than the high settings for last year's titles. My system can run it on medium and it
looks georgeous. For reference I'm running on Vista (and taking a slight performance hit from the OS) using a Core 2 Duo 2.3 GHz, 2 GB of RAM and a Geforce 8600GTS. The CPU is probably overkill but the 8600GTS is a great budget gaming card. I found it on Newegg for $150 and it came with a free game and a $30 mail in rebate. They should be even cheaper soon with the new Geforce 9's shipping. We tried the demo at work with a 8600GT and it also could run at medium detail fine at 30FPS or more.

2.17.2008

How To Mobile Blog using an iPhone and Blogger

I've had a few people ask me how I'm doing mobile posts from my iPhone to Blogger.
So I thought I'd write instructions for you.

Option 1: Use Blogger Mobile. This service is actually geared for cell phones more than Smart Phones or PDA's, so it works via SMS (text messaging). To set up an account click here.
You can create a new mobile blog, or you can use the "claim token" Blogger sends you to link your mobile phone to your current Blogger. In this method, you'll just text your posts to the address Blogger provides, and they ID your phone from it's address and route your content to the right blog.

Option 2: Use e-mail posting. This is the option I'm using, because e-mail on the iPhone is free, and is a bit more feature rich than SMS.

The following steps should be done from your PC or Mac desktop using your web browser. You don't need to be on your iPhone yet.

1. Log into your Blogger account. Click on "Settings".
2. Under Settings click on the "E-mail" tab.
3. Look at the second option. "Mail-To-Blogger Address".
4. Fill in the blank section of the address. Blogger provides the first part. This should be something that is very hard to guess. The end result will look like. "BloggerUserName.SecretPostingPassword@blogger.com". Write this down.
5. Check the radio button for "Publish emails immediately".
6. Hit Save Settings.

Now get out your iPhone. (This will also work with other devices that have e-mail capability, but you'll have to adapt the instructions to fit the device.)

1. From your Home Screen, hit the "Phone" icon.
2. Inside the Phone app, hit "Contacts". (lower center of screen)
3. From the "All Contacts" screen hit the "+" button in the upper-right.
4. From the "New Contact" screen tap "First Last".
5. Name this contact "Blog Post" or something you can remember. Hit Save.
6. This takes us back to the contact screen for "Blog Post". Tap "Add new Email".
7. From the "Edit Email" screen, enter the address you wrote down above. Hit Save.

You're done. Now anytime you want to post to the blog, just start a fresh e-mail and send it to the "Blog Post" contact. The subject of the e-mail becomes the post subject, and the body of the email becomes the post text.

I've had success sending pictures as attachments too. To forward pictures, go to the picture you want to send. Tap so the controls come up on screen, and hit the icon in the lower left. It looks like a square with a rounded arrow in the middle. An options screen will come up. The option to "Email Photo" is there. Be advised, I've talked to some other bloggers who are using Blogger on custom domain names (like "mypersonaldomainname.com"), and photo posting does not seem to work correctly. For some reason the photo links are broken. If you're using a Blogger subdomain, (like "macrogeek.blogger.com") it works perfectly.

2.15.2008

Video Games Live


We went to see Video Games Live last night. It's a concert event that combines a live orchestra and choir with electronic accompaniment and video and lighting elements. It was a lot of fun, and I think the whole family enjoyed it.

The show opened with a classic games medley. It built up starting with the sounds from Pong, and then progressed through about 10 games by era. The video on the big screen was clips from these various games set in tune to the music. I remember seeing Pong, Joust, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Defender, among others.

The rest of the night was mainly arrangements of the themes from major series. They would show video from all the games in a series along with a composition of the major theme songs from that series. The lighting moved in sync with the video and music, and would change colors and patterns to match the tone of the piece. The longer "series" arrangements were: Metal Gear Solid, The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Medal of Honor, Kingdom Hearts, World of Warcraft, Halo, Super Mario Brothers, Castlevania (it was the encore piece).

There were a few audience participation bits thrown into the middle of the show. They brought out one kid who had selected by a local TV station. They told him he would have to play Space Invaders on stage. The catch was that they gave him a fire button and put him in a shirt with the Space Invaders tank drawn on the back. He had to run left and right underneath the giant screen to control the tank. He really was awful at it. Of course, I think they tried to pick younger audience members so that they wouldn't know the classics.

During the second act they did a similar game, but instead had two younger audience members play Frogger versus each other on the screen. They got to use normal controls, and as they played the orchestra adapted the theme to match the action on screen. Both kids stunk on ice at Frogger and won the consolation prizes.

I was suprised that they brought Martin Leung, the "Video Game Pianist". He's the kid from the YouTube "Mario Piano" videos. He played an arrangement of the Final Fantasy X theme, and came back in the second act and did his blindfolded version of the classic "Super Mario Brothers" theme. He then took the blindfold off and performed the more upbeat theme from "Super Mario World" and then halfway through did the "time's running out" sound and doubled the tempo.

The show closed with the "One Winged Angel" theme from Final Fantasy VII. (Sephiroth's theme). I honestly have never been that big of a fan of that song, but it was kind of awesome to hear a whole orchestra perform it. They then came back and did an encore of what they claimed was a new arrangement of the Castlevania series. That was really cool!

I was a little disappointed that they were not able to use any Square-Enix video due to copyright reasons. (SQUENIX - lighten up!)

It was a fun night. Even my wife, who is not a gamer, had a good time and recognized a lot of the music.

2.08.2008

Bonus feature

Every iPhone ships with the free Apple Screen Smudge Applicator
pictured below:

2.07.2008

Is that Sesame Street on your iPhone?

I have a confession to make.
I subscribe to the Sesame Street Podcast.
Yep, every time I show someone video on my iPod, I get that weird look when they see Sesame Street on the video menu. Wait, I can explain. I keep it on there for times when Marie is having a complete breakdown at a store, a restaurant, or in the car. Sesame Street always makes her happy. I think it's the Muppets that fascinate her. Maybe it's bad parenting, but it is educational...and it makes her happy.
I do love that Sesame Workshop has a handle on the "new media" market and sees the value in podcasting. I think it especially fits them since they're a PBS affiliate and Non-Profit organization. More groups need to see Podcasting as a valuable outlet for their media.

If you haven't had a chance to see the Podcast, it's titled "Word on the Street" and his hosted by a muppet named Murray. The episodes are only a few minutes long, and focus on teaching the meaning of one word. They feature a guest celebrity interspersed with clips from Sesame Street that relate to the word of the day. I find it's perfect for when your toddler is needs their kid's show fix, but you don't want to get them started watching TV for a half hour.

If you're not an iPod owner, you can watch podcasts on the computer too, or any video player, it doesn't have to be an iPod. You just need a way to download and convert the video. I'm using iTunes to download and watch on the computer, and the iPhone when we're on the go.

If you have kids, check it out at: http://www.sesameworkshop.org/podcasts/

2.06.2008

Obsession

She keeps gravitating back to the Guitar Hero controller. It doesn't seem to matter where we hide it, she keeps finding it and getting it out again.

2.05.2008

Lots of Watts

Doesn't this just seem like overkill? It's a 1000 Watt Power Supply that came with a Cooler Master case. Wow! I guess under max load you have to have this thing plugged into a 20 amp circuit breaker. Judging by the power rating and the fact it has so many PCI-E connectors, I think it's mainly marketed for people doing SLI or Crossfire setups.

photo: Just let me sleep for five more minutes...

2.03.2008

photo: Photogenic

I helped a family friend by shooting some photos for a children's
clothing line she works for. We figured since we had to shoot at the
botanical conservatory anyway, we'd dress Marie up as well and take
pictures of her while the other kid did wardrobe changes. It seemed
like a good idea at the time.

photo: Rock on

Marie plays Guitar Hero III with a little help from brother.