David Artiss

Author: David (page 63 of 125)

Editing a Flash Video

I’ve had a recent need to edit a downloaded Flash video (.FLV extension). However, my usual editor of choice, PowerDirector, wouldn’t import a file in this format. And, it would appear, editing choices for Flash videos are few and far between.

First of, I used the online video editor, JayCut. It imported and converted the video. However, it had two problems – first, if it’s a large video you have to preview it first before you can edit it. Second, the conversion process had put the video and audio out of sync. I therefore abandoned using JayCut.

Next, I came across an Adobe Air application named RichFLV. Installation is quick and easy. Unfortunately, when importing the video it hung on “99% analysed”. It was still consuming CPU cycles, so I left it. Over 2 hours later, I gave up. Looking at comments on the applications website it would appear that others have had this issue.

Lastly, I came to Moyea FLV Editor Lite, a downloadable application. Because it’s the free version it’s restricted but for the use I wanted to put it to, it was fine. It installed easily and worked quickly. There’s an option to output as a Flash video or Shockwave – the latter gives you the HTML code to embed the result into a website.

I’d loved to have hosted it myself, but I use a fair proportion of my available bandwidth just hosting this site each month as it is.  As I don’t wish to use my own bandwidth I simply saved it as a flash video and uploaded the file to YouTube – again a conversion took place, but the result is excellent.

Replacing a Nintendo DS Case

I’ve recently become the proud owner of a Nintendo DS – it used to belong to my older daughter and has seen better days. In particular, the hinge was broken. It was also quite mucky (under the plastic, so not easily cleaned) and had various chips and scratches. Oh, and the battery compartment was missing.

To have sent it away to Nintendo and had the hinge fixed would have cost at least £30, so I decided to investigate alternatives. And on eBay I found a UK seller who supplies completely new replacement cases, along with installation instructions. All of this is for the princely sum of £13.99. Oh, and I also had to buy a “Nintendo” screwdriver to get out the pesky “Y” screws. None-the-less, it was far cheaper than a repair, and would resolve the grubbiness and missing parts issue as well.

It arrived last week and it was immediately obvious that this isn’t a genuine Nintendo part, as the case is obviously not the same. The original is white plastic with a thick transparent layer on top. The new was simply a glossy white plastic. It also didn’t seem to be of the same high quality. The installation instructions were also rubbish – thankfully I found a 3 part video on YouTube on how to swap over the cases.

So, at the weekend I sat down to follow the videos. I’d like to say it was easy and went well, but sadly it didn’t. Here’s what I found…

  1. The new case comes with its own screws (and none of them Y shaped screws). Sadly, nothing says which screws are for what and the plastic posts they screw into aren’t particular good quality – I would often find that none of the supplied screws would easily work, so I had to use some brute force to get them to “bite”.
  2. One of the screen screws on the original case wouldn’t move and I had to break the case apart to get into it 🙁
  3. The shoulder buttons are a test of patience, which I very nearly failed. They are a nightmare to put back, involving metal posts and springs.
  4. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get the power switch to drop into place when fitting the new case together. In the end, I put the switch from the old case in and it worked first time.
  5. The new Start and Select buttons are awful – you really have to push them down with your nail to get them to respond.

But here are the two big problems…

  1. The final fit and finish leaves a lot to be desired. In particular, the part of the case in front of the bottom screen doesn’t have anything to hold it together and therefore “gapes” quite considerably. I ended up using Super Glue to hold it together.
  2. The 3 part video on YouTube suddenly ended stating to continue to part 4. Sadly, no part 4 has been added, so it leaves you at the tricky stage of adding the shoulder buttons. Thankfully, I managed to find another video that completed the instructions. However, for a while I was panicking!

At the end of it, I’m not sure if it was worthwhile. £30 would have got me a guaranteed repair – a mucky case, but I could have got a replacement battery compartment. Instead, I’ve spend £16.49 (including the screwdriver) and have a clean, usable DS now, but sadly of much poorer quality build.

Commercial Breaks – the Death of Imagine

I came across this today. It’s a BBC programme from the 80’s which documents the computer game business. Of particular note is the death of Imagine Software – all recorded for posterity as the bailiffs turn up.

Dropbox hits version 1!

Dropbox 1.0.10 has been released – 10 months after the last release, 0.7.110, it’s finally past that important version 1!

Dropbox, for the uninitiated, is an excellent online file synchronisation service. Simply install a program on your desktop and drag files to your Dropbox folder. It will then be synced with any other computer that has the same software installed, and is also accessible via their website. You get 2GB of storage for free and you can pay modest amounts to increase this. There are also mobile phone applications available too.

And what a cracker of an update too – less resource hogging and able to cope with open documents , it has a plethora of new options too, including the ability to only sync certain folders on particular computers.

Get the full low down on the changes from The Dropbox Blog.

HP Mini 210 Netbook

Last night I spent a few hours with my bosses nieces Netbook, as I’d been asked if I could cure it of a virus.

It was an HP Mini 210 in “Sonoma Red”. The dark red paintwork is not only on the lid, but extends to underneath as well – and very nice it looks too.

It runs Windows 7 Starter (which I hadn’t tried before – indeed, I’ve not tried Windows 7 on a Netbook at all) and has an N450 Atom processor (1.67Ghz) with 1GB memory and a 250GB hard drive.

The keyboard is a “scrabble tile” style, again something I’ve not tried before and, because of the width of the HP, is a good size. It was nice to use, unlike the touchpad which many other reviews have commented on. Rather than have separate buttons, the HP trackpad has it so that you click down the pad itself in the corners. It doesn’t work very well, particularly when I was trying to right click. Maybe playing with the trackpad settings would have helped, but I didn’t get an opportunity to try.

It’s a pretty standard 10.1″ 1024×600 resolution screen, but thanks to the “LED HP BrightView” it is extremely bright – even on mains I had the brightness turned down.

Windows 7 Starter worked really well and moved along at a good speed – and none of the performance-sapping features had been turned off (such as menu animations, etc). It’s a shame that this isn’t available after-market – if I wanted to upgrade my own Netbook to Windows 7 I’d have to buy Windows 7 Home Premium, as even Home Basic isn’t available retail. Yet, I’d not use (or turn off) the extra features that Home Premium would give me. £70+ Windows upgrade for a Netbook that cost me £200 a number of years ago? The maths doesn’t make sense.

Back to the HP, it has all the standard connectors, including VGA, 3 USB ports and a card reader. However, it had a side mounted power switch on which the power light was mounted – this makes it awkward at first glance to see the power state of the HP when the screen is blank. Similarly, they’ve out the HD activity light on the other side – again difficult to glance at. There’s a VGA webcam and, unlike many netbooks, Bluetooth is present as standard (although I couldn’t see any switches or lights related to it). There are also no “hatches” underneath for upgrading the miserly 1GB memory BUT, unlike other manufacturers, HP have made it easy to do just that. Behind the battery are buttons which release the whole of the coloured underside and allow direct access to the underside of the components, including the hard drive and single memory slot. This means that the memory can be upgraded to 2GB and without even taking out a screw.

Speaking of the battery – this is a 6 cell which light tests have shown to give over 8 hours of life. It sticks out the bottom quite a way and, in the model I was looking at, seemed a little loose. None-the-less, the size doesn’t get in the way and the battery life is excellent.

Additional software I didn’t get a chance to try out, but it appears to come with the usual manufacturer software plus some additional branded software – Microsoft Works, Cyberlink DVD suite and Arcsoft webcam, for instance. It also comes with a fair share of trials and crapware that you’ll just end up uninstalling anyway.

The specific model I tried no longer appears to be available, but others are. For instance, the Mini 210 WR430EA is £280 at play.com.

[review]The price puts the HP Mini 210 in the higher price band for Netbooks and you can see why – a long battery life and excellent build quality make this an easy to use and speedy Netbook. If I was in the market to buy another, I’d look seriously at the HP.[/review]

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Emulating Sticky Notes on Windows XP & Vista

Windows 7 comes with a very nice looking Sticky Notes application, although it is rather lacking in features. Personally, I prefer Stickies, although it looks a little outdated (and I can’t find a “skin” for it that is any better).

Instead, I created my own variation simply by changing default options and style.

First of all, you’ll need the Segoe Print font – this comes (as far as I can tell) with Office 2007, Office 2010, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Now, go into the Stickies options and change the following options…

  • In “General”, select “Drop Shadow” amd change the text width to 181 which is,  from what I can tell, the same default size of Sticky Notes. Personally, I prefer 255.
  • In “Appearance” click on Font Style and select “Segoe Print”, “Regular” style and a font size of 11pt. Sticky Notes don’t go opaque, but I prefer to have Stickies with an opacity of 90%.

And that’s it – you can see the result in the image on the right (both types compared).

The developer of Stickies tells me that if I get into creating my own theme I can drop the top toolbar and create something that’s even more similar to Sticky Notes. I’m not sure when (or if) I’ll get the chance to try it, but if someone else does in the meantime, please let me know.

SPEEDLINK Cue Mouse

For over a year Apple owners have had the Magic Mouse – a traditional mouse, but with a touch sensistive top for multitouch use, similiar to a laptop’s touchpad. It’s not without its disadvantages, and running it on a PC can be problematic.

Thankfully, SPEEDLINK are soon to release their own PC equivalent – the CUE.

It’s available in 4 colours – red, white, black and silver – and uses a tiny USB dongle for communication. It can be used like a tradional mouse (but without any of the buttons physically moving), or with gestures to control your applications. Included software lets you customise it’s use.

Whether the CUE will suffer some of the same downsides as the Magic Mouse is yet to be seen, and the included software may “make or break” this as a worthy adversary. However, it doesn’t appear to be as flat as the Magic Mouse, which should make use easier.

The Magic Mouse will cost you about £50 from Amazon, whereas the CUE costs around £35. It’s due for release on the 1st December.

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Internet Explorer 9 Test Drive

Microsoft, always ready to introduce their own program naming, have introduced the concept of the “Platform Preview” for Internet Explorer 7, which you can download and try.

Basically, it’s IE but without the ability to change the URL or move backwards through pages – they want you to try it out, but without thinking this is anything like the end product. It can installed alongside your current IE version, however.

What it does do, though, is allow you to test “under the hood” changes – particularly around HTML 5, JavaScript enhancements and (snigger) standards improvements.

A Beta version of the full browser was available a while ago, though, but it was soon replaced with further Platform Previews.

They’re very pleased with their Acid3 score of 95% (compared to 100% for Webkit based browsers, although a lot better than IE’s current 20% rating) and their quick (but extremely dodgy) JavaScript benchmark. Time will tell how it pans out…

One thing that IE9 does add is the ability for sites to create their own jump lists in Windows 7. Here’s an excellent article on how to achieve this. Google Chrome already supports jump lists, and it looks like Firefox will have it after 3.7 is released.

Owl Aboard – HootSuite's Ow.ly API Launched

This news hasn’t been publicly announced but will be later today at TWTRCON by HootSuite‘s CEO Ryan Holmes.

The HootSuite App Exchange will launch December 15 and they’re inviting developers with an idea and resources to request access to the API to begin coding their ideas. To apply, simply fill out the form at: http://ow.ly/3btrl and the program coordinator will follow-up.

If you have any questions or comments about the App Exchange program, then you can contact Hootsuite via their email at app.review@hootsuite.com and/or follow them on Twitter @HootSuite_Apps.

Here are the details from Hootsuite…

HootSuite currently has close to 1 million SME users, 1.9 million social networks, and has recently climbed into the Alexa 200. As such, the HootSuite App Exchange will provide a significant way to build visibility for the brands and developers we partner with – including the potential for revenue sharing.

This new API creates an opportunity for unique mash-ups and extensions which users can add-in to customize their HootSuite dashboard experience. We designed the API to be easy to work with – if you have a working knowledge of Javascript and HTML, you should be good to go. In fact, some compelling apps have been created in under 4 hours.

Last Saturday, HootSuite hosted a hackathon at which we opened up the API to a few developers to a great reaction and great coding session. Additionally, noteworthy partners have already built out applications with several more currently in development.

We look forward to seeing the ideas and apps you submit.

8 Things I Really Disliked about Tesco, Beeston

The big new Tesco in Beeston is now open. Lots of people were against it (including knocking down a popular pub and the “Beeston Lads Club” building) but they’ve done their best with a wood-clad building, with a rear car park to keep people off the main road. It’s apparently environmentally friendly too (although I haven’t found out how). Never-the-less, it’s large, imposing and right in the middle of the town centre.

Now, I don’t live in Beeston and have lived with the Long Eaton Tesco for many years, with few complaints. However, I visited the Beeston store today and was not impressed. Here’s my initial impressions…

  • On entering the car park there’s a mini roundabout with just just exits. Most people would have put a simple bend in, but Tesco have turned it into a roundabout. Why?
  • The car parking spaces are tiny. Do they thin cars in Beeston?
  • There’s next to no signage in the car park. Where do you put your trolley? Where’s the exit? No idea to any of these.
  • There’s no pedestrian walkway through the car park so you have to dodge your way around the traffic to get to and from the entrance
  • I can only assume that there are few babies in Beeston. Certainly their pitiful attempt at a baby section would suggest so.
  • A lot of basic products were missing. A simple bath sponge? Sorry, none in stock.
  • Their in-store signage is rubbish – the aisle with butters and margarines has a sign over it that doesn’t mention either of these. Aren’t these pretty basic and popular product ranges?
  • The customers and staff were rude. I was barged, blocked and boxed in, in a store that wasn’t very busy. And the member of staff at the till didn’t acknowledge me other than to ask basic questions.

I’m sure the excuses of poor signage and stock will be down to the newness of the store, but this is something that should be sorted from day one. Sorry, Tesco – you were always going to be up against it in Beeston so I thought you would have tried harder.

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