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June 5, 2002—In this issue:
1. GETTING CONNECTED
- Digital Strategies, Part 3: Digital Video
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Is Microsoft Making the Xbox Connection?
- Handspring Treo Goes Color
- FireWire It Is
- Xbox Hacking: Not for Mere Mortals
- Raising Windows 2000 Availability—Free Webinar
4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Pocket PC or Palm?
- New Poll: USB or FireWire?
- Tip: Upgrading to Digital Photography? Consider a Film Scanner
- Featured Thread: Transferring Outlook 2000 Data
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Keep Track of Your MP3 Files
- 2-Megapixel Digital Camera Delivers Photo-Quality Prints
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. GETTING CONNECTED
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]
Of all the digital media migrations you might make, switching from analog to digital video is the most challenging. Digital video requires a much steeper learning curve than digital music or photos. Digital video also requires enormous amounts of time and hard disk space. However, few people have large collections of legacy video footage waiting for conversion to digital formats, which eases the transition.
If you have analog video that you want to archive and edit on the PC, you have two basic options. For those with small home-video collections—for example, a few home videos in a popular format such as VHS, VHS-C, or 8mm—the cheapest and least time-consuming option is to find a local video service to convert the movies to a digital format, such as DVD video.
If you have a larger analog video collection, you'll probably need some hardware. First, you'll need a video-capture device that can interact with analog video and audio. USB-based solutions are unacceptable unless you want to create video only for the Web; USB lacks the necessary bandwidth to acquire full-sized video and is limited to 320 x 240 resolution, whereas you would want at least 525 lines of horizontal resolution for TV output. Numerous video-capture devices are available for PCs, and I've reviewed products from Pinnacle ( see "Pinnacle DV500 Plus—Part One" ) and other vendors in the past. Analog solutions for the Macintosh are less prevalent, although Apple equips all modern Macs with the FireWire ports you need to acquire digital video. Mac users can purchase analog-to-digital video converters from Formac ( http://store.apple.com/1-800-MY-APPLE/WebObjects/AppleStore?productLearnMore=T3214LL/A ) and other vendors that convert analog video sources to FireWire.
An option available to both PC and Mac users is to use a digital camcorder, connect it directly to your analog video source, and record your images to digital tape. Then, you can connect the digital camcorder to the PC or Mac and acquire the video digitally. Note that most PCs currently don't ship with FireWire cards, but you can purchase FireWire units for less than $50 from Maxtor ( http://www.maxtor.com/products/externalstorage/pcicard.htm ) and others.
More so than with other digital media types, digital video also requires a modern OS that won't crash during lengthy video acquisitions or choke on the large data files that are common with video. On the PC, you can use Windows XP or Windows 2000; I prefer XP, which ships with a good video acquisition and editing package called Windows Movie Maker. Likewise, you'll need to use the New Technology File System (NTFS) on the hard disk on which you store digital video because NTFS has no file-size limitation. The more common FAT32 format has a 4GB limit.
On the Mac, you'll need to use OS X, which includes Apple's excellent iMovie 2 software, a Mac freebie that's better than most PC-based movie-editing packages. Recordable DVD-equipped Macs also include iDVD 2, which is an amazingly powerful DVD movie-making application.
Regardless of the software you choose, the process of saving and editing video is similar. You connect the video and audio "out" jacks on the video source (e.g., VHS player, camcorder) to your video/audio capture device's video and audio "in" ports or, if you're using a digital video source, you simply connect the device to the PC over FireWire. For XP users, I recommend using Windows Movie Maker for video acquisition. Windows Movie Maker lets you record in high-resolution AVI-DV, a format that takes up lots of disk space but that you can use as a master for DVD creation, and in the efficient Windows Media Video (WMV) 8 format, which offers stunning quality and very small file sizes. Personally, I prefer to keep a master copy of all video in AVI-DV format on the PC, which I can edit and resize as needed for various purposes, such as DVD movies or even Web- and email-based movies. The goal is to keep the original source video in the highest quality possible because you can always downgrade the quality later, but you can't improve the quality of a poor master copy.
On the Mac, you're best off using the built-in QuickTime video format that iMovie 2 supports. QuickTime offers very high quality but, like AVI-DV, takes up large amounts of disk space unless you compress the video during output.
Regarding editing, keep it simple: You could spend the rest of your life editing your home movies, adding professional-style transitions and titles. But the reality is that most people don't spend a lot of time viewing their own movies, and surely others outside your family will be even less interested in your videos. So don't waste time adding bizarre special effects. Instead, think of digital video editing as a process of removing the unwanted parts and smoothing the transitions between edited portions of video. Your final videos will be shorter and simpler than the original versions because you just remove content and add simple transitions so that the cuts aren't visually jarring.
For final output, you have a wealth of options, including recording back to tape, recording to DVD, creating Web and email output, and so on. Packages such as Windows Movie Maker and iMovie 2 let you output your edited video at various resolutions and quality levels, depending on your needs.
All this video work will require a lot of hard disk space, so I recommend investing in additional storage if you're serious about digital video. On the PC, opt for a newer 100GB or 120GB Western Digital drive ( http://www.westerndigital.com/products/products.asp?driveid=32 ), which features 8MB of cache, compared with 2MB on other drives; these new drives are specifically designed for storing digital video. Consumer-level Macs such as the iBook and iMac are difficult to expand internally, so an external FireWire-based drive, although a bit more expensive than internal units, will fit the bill. Many companies, including Maxtor and Iomega, make such drives.
Video work is complicated and potentially expensive, but you can get good results with a little work and the right tools. By using a modern OS such as XP or Mac OS X, you can acquire your home movies digitally, then edit them into a form that you can distribute by tape, recordable DVD, email, or the Web. In the future issues of Connected Home EXPRESS, I'll revisit some of these options more closely because each requires a different set of skills and tools.
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
(An irreverent look at some of the week's news stories, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)
Microsoft is reportedly researching a possible Xbox add-on that would make the game console an Internet gateway through which all other devices in a home—including PCs—would access the outside world. Microsoft would sell the gateway as an Xbox Connection Kit, which would include a remote control, special disk-based software, and a small hardware receiver that connects to a USB port on the Xbox and interacts with the remote control. Microsoft says that it's only testing the idea, essentially to see how consumers react, but we're always interested to see a PC company struggle with connected-home concepts. Our take on this development is simple: PCs are versatile and Xboxes are fun, but neither device should directly connect to the outside world through a broadband connection, especially not when cheap and viable solutions already exist.
Palm OS licensee Handspring has been quiet for the past few months, but this week, the company made a couple of exciting product announcements, both of which involve color, connectivity, and innovative design. Handspring's latest products include the Treo 90, a color-display PDA with a built-in keyboard and a compact design, and the Treo 270, which is essentially a Treo 90 with cell phone capabilities and wireless Internet access. And unlike Microsoft's Stinger phones—now called Smartphone 2002—the Treos are shipping today.
IEEE 1394 is a rather boring name for a cool technology that's used primarily to connect PCs with high-speed devices such as digital camcorders, CD-RW drives, and hard disks. But various companies have marketed this technology under their own brand names, including Apple ("FireWire") and Sony ("i.LINK"), leading to market confusion. This week, however, the 1394 Trade Association, which oversees the IEEE 1394 standard, agreed to adopt Apple's FireWire trademark, logo, and symbol as the official brand identity for this technology. And let's face it: "FireWire" is a much cooler name than "i.LINK."
The good news for software pirates is that you can use a recordable CD or DVD drive to copy Xbox games, assuming you have the know-how. The bad news, however, is that to make this copying method work, you also need to be proficient with a soldering iron and willing to make more than 20 soldering connections on your Xbox's motherboard to install a hardware "mod" chip. You can use a similar tactic to copy Sony PlayStation 2 games. You have to wonder why anyone would go to such extremes to copy a bunch of video games, most of which aren't that good anyway.
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4. QUICK POLL
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Do you use a Palm or Pocket PC PDA?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 321 votes:
- 36% Pocket PC
- 40% Palm
- 3% Both
- 3% Neither — I use another platform
- 17% Neither — I don't use a PDA
The next Quick Poll question is, "Do you use a USB or FireWire device in your home?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) USB, b) FireWire, c) Both, or d) Neither.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
If you've decided to make the move to digital photography but don't want to leave years of film-based photos behind, consider a film scanner, which can quickly convert film negatives or slides to digital photographs. Once the province of professional photo labs only, film scanners have dropped dramatically in price and probably will continue to do so; you can find good-quality units in the $300 to $600 range. Film scanners don't require the constant adjustments that standard flatbed scanners do, can scan as many as four photos at a time, and offer much better resolution than other types of scanners because you're using the original source (i.e., film negatives or slides) rather than a fairly low-quality print to acquire the original image. For anyone with an extensive library of photos, a film scanner is a must-have peripheral.
Got a question or tip? Email [email protected] Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.
The PC that Richard used for email and Internet access ran on Windows 98 Second Edition (Win98SE). However, he had to rebuild the PC after someone incorrectly installed a new application on the machine. Richard decided to use a new drive as C because the original hard disk's data files were in good shape. However, he needs advice about how to move his Microsoft Outlook 2000 data from the original disk to the new hard disk. To see responses or to lend a helping hand, visit the following URL:
Do you have a question about connecting the technology in your home? Do you have a tip for others? The Connected Home Online Forum is the right place to ask for help or share what you know.
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Jason Bovberg, [email protected])
Wizetech Software released Advanced MP3 Catalog 1.4, software that lets you keep track of where you've stored your music files, play them with a single click, and even print detailed CD covers. The Windows Explorer-like interface lets you catalog MP3 files on all local and network drives, including CD-ROMs, optical disks, and removable media. The product's multilingual interface includes 23 languages, and the company adds more interfaces each month. Advanced MP3 Catalog 1.4 costs $19.95. The Pro version, which includes a report generator and lets you export files, costs $29.95. For more information, contact Wizetech Software at [email protected]
Olympus America released the Olympus D-380 , a point-and-shoot 2-megapixel digital camera that provides a photo-quality image. The camera features a simplified menu system, USB Auto-Connect for quick and easy downloads without additional software, and built-in long-life battery circuitry. The D-380 comes with the Olympus all-glass 4.5mm f4 lens, multimode flash, automatic white balance, and digital electro-selective pattern (ESP) metering. Compatible OSs include Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows 98, and Mac OS 8.6 and later. The D-380 costs $249. For more information, contact Olympus America at 631-844-5000 or 800-622-6372.
7. CONTACT US
Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:
(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]
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