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August 21, 2002—In this issue:
1. GETTING CONNECTED
- Importing Analog Audio to the PC the Easy Way (Part Two)
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Xbox Live Gets a Live Date
- Zip Finally Gets Updated: Is It Too Late?
- Video Games Don't Kill People—People Kill People
- Coming Soon: US Phone-Based Photo Albums
- Planning on Getting Certified? Make Sure to Pick up Our New eBook!
- Real-World Tips and Solutions Here for You
4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Owning an HDTV
- New Poll: Using Internet Telephony
- Tip: Creating and Sharing Photo Slide Shows
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Create an Online Photo Album
- Enable Covert Surveillance
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. GETTING CONNECTED
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]
Last week, we looked at using analog lines to record audio sources to your PC. In such cases, the source you use is usually analog (e.g., a turntable or cassette player) but it doesn't have to be. You can also record audio from other sources (e.g., DVD players) that support analog Audio Out. In fact, I discovered that sound-card Line In recording works amazingly well: I couldn't tell the difference between a professional MP3 rip of a particular song and the version I recorded from an analog-connected DVD. Of course, your results could be different because of several factors, including the quality of your sound card, cables, or source material.
The tools I chose for Part One of this article series were free or low-cost because you don't always have to spend a lot of money to get the job done, especially if, in this case, you want to record only a few analog-based songs. However, if you have different needs, other options and far more professional tools are available. So this week, let's look at other options, some of which are based on reader feedback.
Nik Simpson noted that he recently went through a similar experience recording analog audio so that he could import music from LPs. In this case, the turntable had options for Phono Out and the standard Line Out, so he used the Line Out connection to hook up the component to his PC's sound card. But Simpson says that many turntables support only a Phono Out port, which will require a connection to a receiver/amplifier that can handle phono connections (you can then connect the receiver/amplifier to the PC). Of course, these days, turntables are increasingly rare.
Simpson added another important tip, one that I should have included in last week's article. When you record from the Line In port, be sure to disable anything on your PC that might make a noise, such as an email message or Microsoft Outlook Calendar notification. Otherwise, you might hear the notification sound in your recording.
Stephen Stoops recommended making one large recording for each side of an LP or cassette, rather than several smaller recordings, as I recommended. Live albums, in which there often isn't any dead space between songs, is one situation in which this style of recording is preferable. I recommended individual recordings because of hard disk space limitations and performance: The resulting files can be huge, especially if you're using WAV format, and you'll need a fairly modern PC to make such a recording. But if you are, in fact, recording entire albums and have the capacity, you can save disk space by removing the original WAV files after you convert them to MP3 or Windows Media Audio (WMA) format.
Stoops recommended two commercial software packages that several other readers also raved about: Roxio's Easy CD Creator and Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge 6.0. Easy CD Creator ships in two versions: Easy CD Creator, a basic version that often comes free with CD-RW drives and new PCs, and Easy CD Creator Platinumretails for about $100 (basic users can upgrade for $70). If you want to do analog recording with Easy CD Creator, you'll need the Easy CD Creator Platinum, which includes the SoundStream application that accomplishes this task. SoundStream is particularly good for cassette and LP recording because it includes automatic sound cleaning and pop-and-click removal, crucial features for these types of analog sources. I played around with SoundStream and its Spin Doctor utility, comparing the recordings with the ones I had made last week. Although the quality was similar, readers with extensive LP and cassette libraries will appreciate SoundStream's automated approach. Other nice features include a track splitter, which can auto-detect periods of silence, and auto-stop, which lets you set timed recording or stop recording after a defined amount of silence.
I don't have as much experience with Sound Forge, which is a professional audio editor. However, if your needs go beyond any of the basic techniques we've examined here, and you don't balk at its $350 price, this product is worth looking at.
My experiments with USB-based audio recording were surprisingly poor. I'm sure someone makes a good USB device, but my trusty Belkin Components' Belkin USB VideoBus II just wasn't up to the task. I tried to use this device in both Windows Movie Maker and Easy CD Creator's Spin Doctor utility, but in both cases the quality of the resulting files was unsatisfactory, with a lot of distortion. I'm not sure why the results were poor; movies I've recorded with the VideoBus device have acceptable sound. I'll keep looking into USB-based audio recording.
I don't have much to say about Macintosh-based analog audio recording because my two Macs—a Apple Computer's 2001 iBook and a flat-panel iMac—lack Audio In capabilities. Interestingly, Apple has corrected this situation with the eMac and the new Power Mac models the company introduced just last week. These products are the first Apple systems in quite some time to include Audio In ports, so other Mac owners will have to purchase some type of third-party add-on. I selected Griffin Technology's iMic, which is supposed to be excellent, but I haven't had a chance to test it. I'll report about this product in the future. The iMic also works with PCs, and I'm interested in getting a handle on USB-based audio recording.
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
(An irreverent look at some of the week's Connected Home news, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)
Last week, Microsoft announced that Xbox Live, the company's online gaming network, will go live on November 15, the console's 1-year anniversary. The network will debut much later than Microsoft had originally hoped; it was supposed to launch within 6 months of the Xbox's release. But on November 15, gamers will be able to purchase a $50 online kit that will include a headset microphone, a 1-year subscription to Xbox Live, and software that lets the console's built-in network adapter access a broadband Internet connection. In an attempt to preempt Microsoft, Sony will release a network adapter for the PlayStation 2 on August 27. The PlayStation 2 network adapter will let users play games online, but gaming-network development will be up to individual game publishers.
Despite rumors of its demise, the Iomega Zip Drive is apparently still around, and the company just announced an upgraded version that bumps up its storage space to 750MB. Iomega's popular floppy-disk replacement hasn't been in the limelight much these days because of low-cost alternatives such as CD-R and CD-RW drives, but Iomega hopes to regain the Zip drive's appeal with the new 750 model. The new product can read and write old 100MB and 250MB disks as well as new 750MB disks. The drive is available with a USB 2.0 connection and will support FireWire in the near future.
Thanks to a recent judicial ruling, people of all ages can continue to enjoy playing violent video games. Last week, a federal appellate court upheld a lower-court ruling that video-game publishers can't be held responsible for a 1997 Kentucky school shooting. Parents sued several video-game publishers because they believed that the video games inspired the shooting. But remember, folks, video games don't kill people—people kill people.
Just about everyone has a cell phone, but these versatile tools will soon serve yet another purpose: portable photo albums. Instead of keeping photos of your children in your wallet, you might soon be storing photos on your cell phone. Phones with picture-storing capabilities have been available in Japan for a while and are just starting to become popular in Europe. US cell-phone carriers are beginning to market the new phones, complete with the ability to send pictures from your phone to other phones. We have a suggestion, though: Simultaneously talking on your phone, viewing photos, and driving a car is strongly discouraged.
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4. QUICK POLL
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Do you own a high-definition TV (HDTV)" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 245 votes:
- 27% Yes - 40% No, but I'm planning to buy one - 34% No, and I'm not planning to buy one
The next Quick Poll question is, "Are you interested in Internet-based phone calling (Internet telephony)?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Yes, and I use it now, b) Yes, but I need to learn about it, c) No, I'm not interested, or d) Never heard of it!
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Windows XP and Mac OS X users can easily create fun photo slide shows to share with friends and family by using freely available tools. Here's how.
For XP, Microsoft has a free tool that lets you make cool CD-based photo slide shows. The CD Slide Show Generator (part of the company's Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP) integrates with the CD-burning capabilities of the underlying OS. Here's how it works: Insert a blank recordable CD in your drive, and select "Open writeable CD folder" from the pop-up window. Then, drag into the window any photos or other pictures you want to be part of the slide show. When you're finished, select "Write these files to CD" as you would to launch XP's CD Writing Wizard. But this tool's wizard gives you an additional choice that lets you add a slide show application so that you can share your slide show with non-XP users. After you create the CD, you can distribute it to friends and family: XP users will use XP's built-in slide show capability (through the Windows Picture and Fax viewer); other Windows users (Windows 95 and later) will see the auto-generated slide show.
In Mac OS X, you can create various types of photo slide shows with Apple Computer's iPhoto, the free photo application that comes with the OS, although no obvious way exists to make a distributable CD-based slide show. However, iPhoto does support other ways to distribute slide shows. For example, you can export an iPhoto photo album to the Web or a QuickTime movie, the latter of which you can easily distribute by using recordable CD-ROMs. Open iPhoto and select Share for more options.
Got a question or tip? Email [email protected]. Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Jason Bovberg, [email protected])
Email Memory Books announced email memory books, which let you email photographs in a slide show format, complete with personalized audio narration. You can select from a variety of design formats that are customized for any occasion. To produce an email memory book, you complete an online order form, record your audio narration over the phone, and send your photographs to Email Memory Books either digitally (over email) or physically (through the post office). Email memory books work in all email clients. In Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, the email memory book appears directly in the email pane. For information about pricing or to view a sample book, contact Email Memory Books on the Web.
American Innovations announced the Wireless Covert Surveillance system, a fully automated battery-powered motion-activated security camera that hides inside an artificial plant. Simply place your plant in an area that you need to monitor, and as soon as someone enters the area, the system begins transmitting video. The video image feeds to an event recorder within 300' of the plant. This plug-and-play system includes a battery charger with full-charge LED indicator, a Sony 24-hour event recorder that incorporates a receiver, a high-gain antenna, an intelligent chip, and a flip-up LCD monitor for live monitoring or event playback. For information about pricing, contact American Innovations at 845.371.3333 or on the Web.
7. CONTACT US
Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:
- ABOUT GETTING CONNECTED — [email protected]
- ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER IN GENERAL —[email protected]
(please mention the newsletter name in the subject line)
- TECHNICAL QUESTIONS — [email protected]
- PRODUCT NEWS — [email protected]
- QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR Connected Home EXPRESS SUBSCRIPTION?
Customer Support — [email protected]
- WANT TO SPONSOR Connected Home EXPRESS?
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