Connected Home EXPRESS
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July 31, 2002—In this issue:
1. GETTING CONNECTED
- Copying Analog Video to the PC, the Hard Way (Part Two)
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Recordable DVD To Get a Standard
- Intel Announces Handheld PC Advances
- Handheld Computer Shipments Slow
- Apple: Don't Steal Music. On a Macintosh. With an iPod. On Windows
- Xbox and PS/2 Sales Skyrocket
- Enter the Windows & .NET Magazine/Transcender Sweepstakes!
- Win a Free Digital Video Recorder from SONICblue!
4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Sharing an Internet Connection
- New Poll: Movies on a Handheld Device
- Tip: iPod Now Available for Windows
- Featured Thread: Someone Please Help Me! (Setting Up a Home Network)
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Powerful Portable Storage
- New HP Copier-Printer
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. GETTING CONNECTED
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, I presented the first part of my look at converting video from a DVD home movie to the PC. As I mentioned previously, I wanted to find a PC or Macintosh application to convert the DVD video directly into AVI or QuickTime format (or MPEG-2, if required). If that approach didn't work, I'd try to route the DVD through the digital camcorder, by using FireWire, or settle for an analog copy by using Dazzle's Digital Video Creator II device.
After experimenting with several tools, I finally came back to the first utility I'd tried, DVD2AVI. As I noted last week, this application created a soundless AVI file, so I'd originally dismissed it. However, after failing miserably at converting the video by using other tools (or, in some cases, achieving some success with low-quality MPEG-2 rips), I returned to DVD2AVI (see the first URL below). I'm glad I did.
DVD2AVI does convert the audio, as well as the video; it just creates a separate Wave (.wav) file for the audio. I usually wouldn't be too keen about this approach, but Windows XP's Windows Movie Maker (see the second URL below) makes short work out of reincorporating the separated audio and video into a high-quality AVI file. Here's how I did it.
First, I copied the Video Object (VOB) files from the DVD movies into directories (i.e., DVD_1, DVD_2) on my hard disk and proceeded to process each file, one at a time. DVD2AVI features a deceptively simple UI that resembles a bare-bones media player at first. After launching the application, I selected File, Open, and chose a VOB file. Note that DVD2AVI will automatically select a series of related VOB files. (For example, if you have files called VTS_01_1.VOB and VTS_01_2.VOB and you select one file, DVD2AVI will automatically select both files.) I elected to override this behavior and process one VOB file at a time because the resulting files are so large. After I loaded the VOB file, the application window expands to the size of the video you're converting (702 x 480 in my case) but doesn't change otherwise.
Next, you select the audio options (you select the video options during the next phase). I chose to accept the default audio options—a 256Kbps .wav file, single channel, in stereo (the source was monophonic). Next, I selected Save AVI from the File menu and chose a name and location for the resulting files. DVD2AVI creates two files: one for the video and one for the audio. If you start with a file called VTS_01_1.VOB, DVD2AVI will name the resulting files VTS_01_1.01.AVI and something like "VTS_01_1 AC3 T01 1_0ch 256Kbps 48KHz.WAV," depending on which audio format you choose.
At this point, the Statistics window opens to display progress information while DVD2AVI converts the file. Also, a Video Compression window opens, which gives you a chance to choose among the following compressor types: Microsoft MPEG-4 Video Codec V1, Microsoft MPEG-4 Video Codec V2, DivX 5.0 2 Codec, No Recompression, and Full Frames (Uncompressed). For quality reasons and compatibility with Windows Movie Maker, I chose Microsoft MPEG-4 Video Codec V2. If you click Configure, you can select among various video smoothness and crispness settings and the data rate. I left these settings at the defaults and was satisfied with the results, but experienced video users might want to experiment here. After you've selected the compressor type and set the configuration settings, you click OK and DVD2AVI goes to work.
The conversion process, predictably, takes a while. A 7-minute clip, for example, took 20 minutes to convert on my Pentium 4 1.8GHz machine with 640MB of RAM. After the process finished, I loaded Windows Movie Maker 1.2, configured the application not to create video clips on import (which would be unnecessarily time-consuming), and imported the two resulting files. Say what you will about Windows Movie Maker, but it handles this part of the project with aplomb, and you can't beat the price—free! Simply drag both files into the Timeline area, line them up, and click Save Movie. I chose DV-AVI as the format, naturally, for the best results. Again, the 7-minute clip took about 20 minutes to convert into one AVI file; it occupies about 5GB of space. And you'd never know that the resulting video was once liberated from its audio track; the two blend seamlessly. I repeated the process for all of the VOB files.
Interestingly, after you complete this blending process, you're left with a lot of raw video on your system, and this is where the fun starts. To save disk space, I elected to delete all the VOB and .wav files. However, between the two DVD movies and 2 days of converting, I'd racked up more than 35GB of space dedicated to the AVIs I'd created. But I still had to edit these files down into cleaner copies that I will convert, yet again, to finished DVDs. I've already discussed this process in earlier Connected Home EXPRESS columns.
Video work, as always, is time-consuming and often frustrating. But amazing tools are now available to us, often for free. DVD2AVI is great at what it does, and I highly recommend it if you need this sort of functionality.
Microsoft Windows Movie Maker
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
(An irreverent look at some of the week's Connected Home news, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)
Today's confusing array of recordable DVD technologies might be resolved by 2003, when all the major hardware vendors are expected to adopt one standard. Today, we have DVD-RAM, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-R, and DVD-RW, with little media interoperability and much confusion. However, massive price cuts and new hardware that works with multiple formats will clear up this situation. First, companies will push write-once media such as DVD+R and DVD-R over rewritable media, especially for home movie-making, resulting in super-cheap DVD media in these formats, with DVD-R media selling for as little as $1 each by the end of 2002 (compared with an average of $5 each now). Then, consumer electronics DVD players will boost compatibility with DVDs made on PC-based recordable DVD players, lessening the second most obvious problem with this technology today. However, one true standard will emerge: A next-generation recordable DVD format, based on the so-called Blu-ray Disc technology, will increase capacities to 20GB per side. And because all the major players have adopted this technology, Blu-ray will finally spell an end to today's recordable DVD nightmare. It can't happen soon enough.
This week, microprocessor giant Intel announced that it's developing a set of technologies that will enable small portable devices, such as handheld computers and portable video players, to store up to 70 hours of video programming on tiny hard disks and display the video on the devices' screens. "It's an MP3 player for video," said Bryan Peebler, market-development manager for Intel's Emerging-Platforms Lab, which just unveiled a prototype device. Intel says the device can transfer up to 4 hours of video every 3 minutes from a PC or TiVo-like device and will have 4 hours of battery life. Regarding product release, Intel says it's in discussions with various companies to sell products based on the technology, and a device with a 20GB hard disk, costing about $400, will be available next year. Sign us up.
Maybe Intel's announcement (see above) is just the boost the handheld industry needs. According to a recent International Data Corporation (IDC) survey, shipments of handheld devices from Palm and other companies have slowed dramatically in recent months, down 16.5 percent when compared with last quarter, and down more than 10 percent when compared with the same quarter a year before. Palm remains the number-one handheld maker, although its market share has fallen from 40.6 percent to 32.4 percent. Coming in at number two with 18.6 percent of the market is Hewlett-Packard (HP), which now makes the Compaq iPAQ. But the big surprise this quarter is Sony Electronics, which leapt into the number-three spot with 9.6 percent of the market. The reason for Sony's sales surge: The company's CLIE devices use the most popular handheld platform (Palm) and have fun, leading-edge features not found in the competitors' products, including high-resolution screens, digital-media compatibility, and stunning industrial design. Go Sony.
The recording industry's battle against computer and software companies that sell products that facilitate copying music and video content apparently doesn't include Apple Computer for some reason. Despite the fact that Apple sells software (e.g., iTunes) and the popular iPod hardware device, which make stealing digital music easy, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has embraced Apple because the company includes a small tag line, "Please do not steal music," in its digital media-related advertising. Maybe Napster should have posted "Please do not steal music" pop-up ads on its application. In a related announcement, Apple recently announced new iPod models for Windows users, which will exponentially increase the number of users who can steal music with Apple technology. Go Apple.
When did the Xbox become the Macintosh of the video gaming world? With just a percentage of the market share enjoyed by industry leader Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox seems to be in the dumps. But sometimes other statistics are more important than unit sales. Consider software, for example: Through June 2002, the Xbox sold more than 20 million software titles and became the first game system to have three titles that have sold more than 1 million units—Halo, Project Gotham Racing, and Dead Or Alive 3. Also, in the time since the big three game makers announced price cuts earlier this year, the Xbox has seen the biggest sales increase, with US sales jumping a whopping 131 percent. So, predicting the Xbox's premature death is a bit out of line; the device is doing quite well where it counts. Go Xbox.
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4. QUICK POLL
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Have you shared an Internet connection between two or more home computers?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 279 votes:
- 82% Yes
- 13% No, but I plan to soon
- 5% No, and I don't plan to
The next Quick Poll question is, "Are you interested in watching movies on a handheld device?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Yes, I can't wait! b) Yes, but I won't be an early buyer, or c) No, I prefer the big screen.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, email@example.com)
A few weeks ago, I mentioned Mediafour's excellent XPlay application, which lets you integrate Apple Computer's iPod portable music player with Windows Media Player (WMP) and the Windows shell. But Apple recently announced new iPod versions specifically for Windows users, and these models include a special version of MUSICMATCH Jukebox Plus for no additional cost. Head over to Apple's site to check out the new iPods, which ship in 5GB, 10GB, and 20GB capacities. Trust me. After you try an Apple product, you might find yourself thinking a bit more wistfully about that iBook or iMac.
Got a question or tip? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.
Kristi is a college student with two roommates. She wants to set up a home network so that all three users can be online at the same time, but she has a lot of questions about the process.
- We all have Ethernet cards. Can we use these in a home network?
- Can we have three people online at the same time through one dial-up Internet connection?
- What equipment do we need to set up a network?
- Is a network the cheapest method for connecting us to the Internet, or should we get another phone line?
If you can help Kristi with her networking questions, 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@example.com)
Pocketec introduced the Pockey USB 2.0 drive, a portable storage solution. The Pockey, which measures 5" x 3" x 1/2", offers 20GB, 30GB, or 40GB storage capacity. The device is USB 2.0 compliant and offers transfer rates as fast as 480Mbps—40 times faster than USB 1.1. The Pockey doesn't require an additional power source because all necessary power is drawn through the USB cable. The device is compatible with laptops and desktops, PCs, Macintoshes, and Linux machines. Plug and Play (PnP), hot-swappable, and hot-pluggable features make the Pockey easy to use. The 20GB, 30GB, and 40GB Pockey products cost $199, $299, and $399, respectively. For more information about the Pockey, contact Pocketec on the Web.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced the HP Digital Copier-Printer 610, a copier-printer solution for the small office/home office (SOHO). The HP Digital Copier-Printer 610 features a flatbed design with a legal-size copy surface, legal-size automatic document feeder, digital collation, and automatic duplexer for complete, unattended document finishing. The device also features HP's Copy Smart II technology, which enhances faded text and original light colors. With HP's PhotoREt III color-layering technology, the HP Digital Copier-Printer 610 produces 2400 x 1200dpi photo-quality color copying and printing. The device costs $499. For more information about the HP Digital Copier-Printer 610, contact HP on the Web.
7. CONTACT US
Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:
- ABOUT GETTING CONNECTED — firstname.lastname@example.org
- ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER IN GENERAL — email@example.com
(please mention the newsletter name in the subject line)
- TECHNICAL QUESTIONS — firstname.lastname@example.org
- PRODUCT NEWS — email@example.com
- QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR CONNECTED HOME EXPRESS SUBSCRIPTION?
Customer Support — firstname.lastname@example.org
- WANT TO SPONSOR CONNECTED HOME EXPRESS?
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