I decided to try to
update my Windows 98 installation to Second Edition using the update CD offered
by Microsoft. I went at this with a little anxiety, because I wanted to avoid a
problems that would require reformatting the C: drive and reinstalling Windows
and applications. As insurance, I tried two tricks: one I thought of, the other
I found when I read the instructions.
STUPID TRICKS 1
by Charles Grover
Rochester Computer Society, Inc.
First, I used an
extra hard drive as a temporary trial. I figured that if I succeeded then there
was less likelihood that I had hardware that could cause problems. I moved the
IDE cables around so that only a 515 MB drive was connected. After formatting it
with system files I installed, in order, Windows, the SR1 patches, and the SE
updates. I tested things out after each step. Before removing it again, I took
this installation far enough to connect to the Internet. After this trial I had
confidence to proceed. I removed the temporary installation from the old hard
I went through the
readme files on the SE Updates CD and discovered the recommendation for doing a
"clean boot" and how to do it. A clean boot is something like booting
into safe mode, though a few drivers are loaded. Every time I install an
application I get warned to shut down all other applications first. "Clean
boot" is a simple way to make sure nothing is running, as an anti-virus
program. One does a "clean boot" by running msconfig and then, on the
"General" page, clicking "Selective startup" and un-checking
all the boxes below it. Click "OK" and reboot and there you are.
Afterward, run msconfig again and put things back.
One other thing
that is suggested is to turn off any anti-virus program built into your BIOS. I
had already done that, on advice that such things don't do much good and can get
in the way.
After re-cabling my
drives to the original configuration and doing a "clean boot" the SE
update went smoothly. I did have to uninstall and reinstall Boot Magic, which I
use to get into Linux. If I had thought about the fact that installing the
update would affect the Master Boot Record I would have uninstalled Boot Magic
before doing the "clean boot."
I've heard most
people with personal video recorders (PVRs), such as ReplayTV and TiVo, end up
watching more TV than before. And just as PVRs start to catch on (sales are
expected to grow from an anemic 18,000 units in 1999 to 300,000 units by the end
of this year), the manufacturers of both devices are making it easier than ever
to worship at the television altar.
COUCH POTATOES REJOICE
Souped Up PVRs On the Way
by Bill Petitt
Southeast Virginia Computer Group
Up until now, TiVo
has had a slight edge in usability. But, ReplayTV is coming on strong and stands
to surpass TiVo's excellent set of features with forthcoming software
ReplayTV will be
the first to put its service on the Web. This October, with the launch of
MyReplayTV, you'll be able to control your unit from a Web browser -- be it in
your living room, your office or a hotel room. The portal is especially useful
for tasks that don't work as well from a remote, such as searching for
programming by actors, directors or theme.
Part of the
upcoming 3.0 software upgrade (a free download for current customers),
MyReplayTV will let you do remotely just about all the things you can do from
your couch. Working late? Just log on to MyReplayTV.com and delete those old
Real World episodes to make room for the three-hour Survivor finale. The real
power of MyReplayTV? Once you have a browser- based interface, it should be easy
to port it to all kinds of devices: cell phones and PDAs with wireless Net
The only catch: By
default your ReplayTV only connects to a server once a day (between 2 a.m. and 5
a.m.). So if you tell it to record something while you're sitting in your
office, it won't get transmitted to your box until the following morning.
ReplayTV says it will address this initially by letting users select the time of
day for updates and eventually allow for multiple updates. But long-term,
"always-on" connections (cable, DSL or satellite) will eliminate this
obstacle. Of course MyReplayTV is also a new way for the company to make money.
Tell the service to record a Martha Stewart Living gardening segment, and next
time you visit MyReplayTV you could find Martha offering to sell you plants,
pots and tools-along with a subscription to her mag. Precisely the kind of
future revenue opportunities that have networks biting their tongues every time
ReplayTV users hit that 30-second, skip-ahead button (the "ad
TiVo's a little
more vague with its Web strategy, but it has other irons in the fire. Both Sony
and Philips are expected to roll out combination DirectTV/TiVo receivers in
October -- at prices similar to today's stand-alone receivers.
The unit will run
you around $400, plus fees for the TiVo service and Direct TV programming.
Currently, TiVo owners have multiple pricing options, including a monthly fee of
$9.95, $99.95 per year, or a lifetime fee of $199; the company has not finalized
its pricing options for the combo units.
The most exciting
thing about these combo units? They're optimized for Direct-TV feeds, thus
tripling the storage capacity of DVD-quality video to nearly 30 hours. The new
units will have only a single setting, and that setting should mimic the quality
of the original DirectTV feed.
Also this fall,
TiVo will introduce via free download several new features, including
theme-based channels (sound familiar ReplayTV owners?) and the ability to pad
recording times for individual programs (which you really need for live sporting
events). So the next time Tiger Woods gets forced into a three-hole playoff,
your PVR won't come up short. (ReplayTV will introduce a nearly identical
Both ReplayTV and
TiVo like to position these services as "empowering" us, the
television-viewing audience. But inevitably, some people are going to complain
that these services just make a bad habit worse. Don't worry -- we'll just vote
them off the island.
Personal TV Receiver, the one I bought, combined with the TiVo Personal TV
Service, is designed to replace your VCR by recording television to an internal
hard drive instead of onto a tape. This is essentially the same idea behind the
ReplayTV 2001. But unlike the ReplayTV 2001, the Philips Personal TV collects
information about your viewing habits to automatically record shows it thinks
you will like. Unfortunately, this great concept is plagued by confusing
Poor Video Quality; Service
outstanding feature of Philips Personal TV is that you can both record and play
previously taped television shows at the same time (I'm still trying to figure
this feat out -- it always tells me it will have to stop recording to change the
channel). But while the recording capabilities of the Philips Personal TV are
exceptional, the video playback quality is not in the two slowest modes. The
$299 ($200 in rebates) unit I bought offered 14 hours of playback in low-quality
mode and 4 hours in high-quality mode. Though 14 hours of storage sounds
generous, I recommend that you skip the low-quality modes altogether, since
video recorded in even the next to best mode was somewhat pixelated. However,
the audio quality of the Philips Personal TV was excellent. Both units have
standard output to VCR so that you can record to video tape any programs you
might wish to keep in your video library.
output, another difference between the Philips Personal TV and the ReplayTV 2001
is service cost. The ReplayTV 2001's unit price includes service, whereas a
subscription to TiVo Personal TV Service will cost you $9.95 a month, $99 a
year, or $199 for a lifetime account. As usual, you get what you pay for: the
TiVo service is much more comprehensive than its competitor's. I just wish its
on-screen menu were easier to navigate.
Both the Philips
and the ReplayTV have an onboard modem that sets them apart from VCRs. Philips
Personal TV uses the modem (and your telephone line) to make a nightly call to
update its program guide, without interrupting your phone service. Philips
Personal TV also uses the modem to gather information about your viewing habits
in order to customize your TV viewing. It does this by automatically recording
shows it thinks you will like. For example, Philips Personal TV may record a
science fiction special because you watch a lot of Star Trek. Philips Personal
TV claims to keep your preferences anonymous, but we found this practice mildly
intrusive. Fortunately, you can block Philips Personal TV from gathering
information about your viewing habits. Philips is the first company to make a
receiver for TiVo technology, but I expect a slew of electronic manufacturers to
follow suit. Panasonic and Sony have already announced units.
ReplayTV and TIVO
will forever change the way you watch television. It sets you free from those TV
schedules that are never where you left them. It pauses live TV. It records
shows without videotape up to 60hrs, depending upon the model you buy! It lets
you skip over the boring parts. It searches and records shows with the touch of
a button. It gives you control over live television. ReplayTV is the only
digital video recorder on the market that won't charge a service fee. You'll
enjoy the great ReplayTV Service, free of charge, including periodic software
upgrades and nightly programming downloads.
Win a Free ReplayTV!
Go to http://cgi.zdnet.com/slink?53362
and sign up for a chance to win a free unit, check out their interactive demo,
and, of course you can order your very own ReplayTV right there online. For a
limited time, save up to $200 and more!
I could not find
out what kind of "power outage" protection either unit offered as it
pertains to keeping the list of shows to record. I guess I'll find out
From the October issue of The
Ken's Korner NewsByte
Are you fed up with
the seemingly endless barrage of commercials crammed into your favorites TV
shows and sports events? If so, join the club! But relief may be in sight,
according to Electronic Digest (Sept. 5, 2000 issue).
RELIEF IN SIGHT FROM BARRAGE OF IRKSOME
by Ken Fermoyle
reports that sophisticated new integrated circuit controllers will improve
performance of Set-Top Boxes and Personal Video Recorders (STBs/PVRs). The new
ICs will make the devices less expensive and more versatile. This should
eventually change their status from novelties with appeal to a limited market of
"early adopters" to appliances that gradually will take the place of
also notes that the new controllers "can be used to manage arriving and
departing data streams, into and out of set-top boxes, storage devices, digital
TVS. PVRs," from a variety of sources, including broadband cable,
satellites, terrestrial, and IP (Internet Protocol) networks.
What does this have
to do with computers? PVR technology is digital, like computers, not analog like
VCRs, and data is stored on a hard drive, like computers, not on magnetic tape.
A PVR will do everything that a VCR can, but with significant improvements.
For example, I have
about given up on watching a lot of TV when it is aired, especially movies.
Instead, I record them on a VCR and play them back later, fast-for-warding
through commercial breaks. This scenario works even better with a PVR. You can
record a program in real time but pause it at any point, at a commercial break,
The PVR keeps
recording the program while you get fresh coffee, go to the bathroom or
whatever. When you return and hit the Pause button again, the recorder picks up
where it left off, playing the program back from the hard drive. Now you can
fast forward quickly through the commercials and enjoy what you really wanted to
You will also be
able to do your own instant replays; just rewind, then replay segments you want
to view again. You can also preprogram a PVR to record favorite program
automatically, just as with a VCR.
If you currently use a PVR and service like TiVo, Ken Fermoyle would love to
hear about your experiences with these technologies for possible use in a future
article. E-mail him at kfermoyle@earthlink .net.)
How About a Free Voicemail Box
FROM THE DEALSGUY
Greater Orlando Computer
EchoBuzz by Blue
Diamond Software Inc. was supposedly the first free voicemail service to be
launched. EchoBuzz will be completely toll-free to users nationwide using speech
recognition technology. It is ad supported and targets 12-24-year-olds who don't
have their own phone line. EchoBuzz members can pre-register for their private
voicemail box by logging onto [www .echobuzz.com] and completing a brief
personal profile, after registration. This allows the service to personalize
three-to-ten- second ads to the specific interests of the caller. Members will
hear approximately one to three ads per call, depending on the number of options
It's FREE, it's
private and it's easy to use according to the CEO of Blue Diamond Software.
"It's also the first voicemail service made available to consumers outside
the business community without the bar-riers of separate phone lines and access
or usage fees, and should be useful to the younger set."
To use EchoBuzz,
callers dial a toll-free number, 1-877-EchoBuzz (1-877-324-6289), to send and
retrieve messages. That number always seems to be busy, so it needs work.
Besides the traditional method of menu- driven touch-tones, EchoBuzz will employ
speech-recognition technology, permitting hands-free navigation of the voicemail
system. EchoBuzz, now used in Southern California, begins nationwide in
September, just in time for students heading back to school. Let's hope this
helps free up your phone line if you have kids.
A Tune-up For Your Windows by
The following is
their words: "Keep your PC running faster, cleaner and error-free. Even
speed-up your Internet connection by as much as 300 percent with 'System
Mechanic's' full suite of 15 powerful tools! These powerful tools allow you to
find and fix problems with your system, ensure reliability and speed, and
properly maintain your PC so problems don't occur.
(NEW!) Tweak and
customize almost 100 undocumented settings in Windows. Clean and optimize your
system registry. Hunt down and remove junk and obsolete files. Maintain privacy
and security by eliminating tracks left behind while using your computer or
surfing the Web. Properly remove such items as browser cache, cookies and
other history files. Find, fix, or remove broken Windows shortcuts. Find and
remove invalid uninstaller information. Find and remove duplicate files.
Securely delete files and folders.
Manage the programs
that start when Windows does. Track and report on changes made to your system
when installing programs. (NEW!) Consolidate critical system maintenance into
one easy step. (NEW!) Automatically keep System Mechanic up-to-date with its
self-healing WebUpdate feature. Log statistical information and quantify
benefits of all above tools. A fully functional 30-day trial version of System
Mechanic is available from iolo technologies Web site [http://www.iolo.com]."
arrangements were made to obtain a discount for readers of this column. Purchase
System Mechanic directly from their secure order form [http://http://www .iolo.com/order/]
ONLY between November 1st and December 31st 2000 using the Coupon Code "DealsGuy"
and get a $10 discount off the $59.95 retail price. Alternatively, you can call
their toll-free sales number 1-877-239-4656 and quote the same coupon code. I
have not tried this product yet.
ClickBook Is Back
(Prints Double Sided Booklets) offers 20+ new features. It is a powerful yet
easy-to-use printing utility that automatically rotates, reduces, and realigns
files to print double- or single-sided books, business cards, day planner pages,
wallet booklets, brochures, greeting cards, catalogs, microfiche, and more!
User Group members
will receive 20% off -- $39.95 (retail $49.95) at: [http://www bluesquirrel.com/scripts/orderpage.asp?skey=cb2000&ASCID=633].
Due to it's length, the ordering URL is supposed to be changed to: [http://www.bluesquirrel.com/
usergroup] At this writing the new URL didn't take you to the discounted price
yet, so check them both. For more product information, go to [http://www.clickbook
That's it for this
month. Meet me here again next month if your editor permits. This column is
written to make user group members aware of special offers I have found or
arranged, and my comments should not be interpreted to encourage, or discourage,
the purchase of products, no matter how enthusiastic I might sound.
Cheapskate) Click [dealsguy @mindspring.com]. Visit my Web site at [http://
www.dealsguy.com] for past columns and this column in its entirety if your
editor does not print it all.
NORTON PERSONAL FIREWALLVersion
by Donald Rosenfield
North Orange County Computer Club
I tried out the
one-month demo before getting a copy of the full program. As soon as I saw its
value, I alerted everybody I correspond with via e-mail. The program comes with
a one-year subscription for updates after which further subscription is
Norton's Personal Firewall (NPF) do? Do you need it even if you have Norton's
Antivirus operating?" Yes, Alan, you do. NAV doesn't protect your system
from attacks by hackers. (For those using McAfee's Antivirus product they offer
a similar firewall.) This program gives you the peace of mind that comes with
knowing that your credit card numbers and other personal information is safe
from nefarious automated hacking systems.
NPF has a
continually updated (which is why you need the above noted subscription) file of
sites that unceasingly probe and test Internet users, looking for victims en
masse. That applies whether you use a dial-up connection or whether you use a
cable modem and thus are always on the Internet as am I.
"How do you
know it is working, Donald?" In a 24-hour test it found and blocked several
Trojan attacks on my computer, it blocked 28 security accesses while allowing
9751, and it blocked 969 privacy browser accesses, allowing 1882 of them. That
is, the blocked accesses are those from known rogue sites.
I contacted my ISP
about the Trojans. They checked them out and found that most of the attacks were
coming from a fellow @Home user. Hmm. That took care of him/her. Another Trojan
came from a differing address. @Home gave me the ISP address on that one.
easy and can be changed as needed. You choose the level of protection and which
sites can access your computer. You can control (or lose) your cookies as you
please. :) Active content blocking stops Java(tm) applets and ActiveX(tm)
controls from being downloaded on a site-by-site basis.
When you check out
the URL: www.symantec.com, you should choose which of the suite of programs best
suits your needs. As I already had NAV operating, I chose NPF. Norton's Personal
Firewall 2000, Version 2.0 is intended for use with Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000
and sells for $49.95.
From the October 2000 issue of Orange
Bytes, newsletter of the North Orange County Computer Users Group.
VideoWave III, a
video editing program for the personal computer, is a comprehensive package that
includes real-time edit and playback functions with the ability to save your
work in a number of formats. The finished product can then be viewed on your
PC's monitor or a television set, or sent to a VCR for videotape recording.
Depending on the capabilities of your PC's video capture card, your source of
video files with which to work can be a large, full-size VHS camcorder, a VCR,
or the newest DV (digital video) camera.
by Chris Cooper
Tucson Computer Society
With the update to
VideoWave version 3.5, you may now use .jpg and .tif still image files in your
videos. The upgrade, which is free from the web site , also includes the new
ability to use the very popular mp3 audio file format for your video's audio
tracks as well as the traditional .wav format.
The manual that
comes with the software is very helpful to beginners at video editing. It
explains every detail of the process when viewed from a novice's perspective. It
explains each step of the capture, edit, production, and display process. It is
very easy to follow along using the book.
It does take a
while to learn each of the icons which are presented to you on the main screen
when first starting out. Each icon relates to a specific action that can be
taken with a video clip. A clip is defined as a piece of video footage that
hasn't been edited yet. Upon editing, the combined clips are known as a scene.
To create a scene, one must gather various clips from any source that your
capture card will support, then assemble the frames of the movie together with
sound into a product that can be viewed on either computer screen or TV screen,
or copied out to a videotape if you have video-out capabilities. Another
possibility is to send it out to a website for Internet use.
The best playback
and editing is achieved when using a fairly fast computer. The book mentions
500Mhz or faster for smoothest response. Also, the faster your hard drive and
system bus, the better the results will be. For instance, my 450Mhz Pentium II
computer will play the videos but it's a bit choppy. I am using an ATA/33 hard
drive on a 100Mhz system bus with PC100 RAM. I would have to upgrade my system
to an ATA/66 or higher hard drive to get much better results.
They also recommend
a faster RPM drive since it can keep up with the demand for frame rates better.
I am using a 5400 rpm drive, but 7200 rpm or faster would clean up the playback
noticeably. For me to upgrade, I would have to purchase a newer, faster hard
drive which would require me to purchase an ATA/66 controller card to make it
all work. This would improve my overall system performance as well. Everything
would run faster and better.
The next bottleneck
would be my RAM. Faster PC133, VC133, or RAMBUS RAM would be needed but my
motherboard doesn't support it. So I would have to also get a newer, faster
motherboard. At this point, I would be getting close to being able to purchase a
new computer for the same cost as the upgrade.
issues aside, the program performs as advertised. It takes a little while to
associate all the icons with their functions but once learned, it is relatively
easy to edit from any source. I had a moment of shock when I realized how much
space one needs to allocate to video to produce anything over a minute in
length. We're talking 4MB per second of recorded video. This is at 30 frames per
second mode at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels, in MPEG-2 capture, which
compresses the saved file to a size that is somewhat manageable. Assuming you
have a 5-minute video you want to make, you would need a total of 1.2GB free
space (4MB/sec x 60 seconds per minute x 5 minutes).
This is perhaps the
single most intensive thing your CPU will ever do, as the video is laid down at
320 pixels x 240 pixels x 30 frames per second, or 2.3 million pixels per
second. The better your video card, the less work your CPU has to do. Most of
the faster video cards being offered today can achieve rates much higher than
this, but older cards would struggle to keep up. My Voodoo3 card supposedly does
eight megapixels per second, but my CPU can't keep up with that rate. The result
is that the playback is not as smooth as it might be.
supports digital video (DV) input and output. Usually, this is accomplished via
the use of a Firewire orIEEE1394 or iLink card in your computer, which lets your
DV camera plug directly into the very fast 400MB/sec transfer bus and get your
work done in a hurry. When producing a video, usually each frame must be
rendered separately. When using a DV camcorder, VW III lets you produce your
video much more quickly if it hasn't had any transitions or edits done to it by
using the footage as-is, with no rendering needed. This can save much time and
Sound input to a
video is in .wav format. The newest version supports using .mp3 file types as
your input, which is then converted to .wav format. This takes a lot of CPU time
to do the conversion but it does it very nicely. Don't mind the grinding noise
as the .mp3 gets expanded to ten times its normal size as it becomes a .wav
Up to six audio
tracks can be incorporated into a video production. The quality of an audio
track is determined by its sample rate. Higher sample rates use more storage
space, but sound excellent. A sample rate is how many times a second the input
is measured for differences. The highest quality available here is 44,100
Hz/sec, used for stereo music from a digital source. The lowest quality is
11,000 Hz/sec, used for speech and is usually a single track. An intermediate
range is 22Khz, either mono or stereo.
The higher quality
the source material, the higher quality your output can be, with space being a
limiting parameter. The audio sample size in bits determines the audio's dynamic
range and signal-to-noise ratio. For music, 16-bit is preferred; for speech,
8-bit is fine. VWIII supports fade in, fade out, repeat, and mix functions for
audio. There is a volume slider to adjust the level, and a left-right signal
meter shows relative volume levels per channel in your work of art.
With a bit of
patience and a lot of reading, you can quickly master this program to produce
your own movie. The book is well-done and easy to read. The binding on my book
broke but it took quite a beating. Overall, the ease-of-use is quite good and a
novice can get up and running in about two or three days. Most of the time is
spent figuring out the icons and the time sliders.
A person with some
experience could easily produce their own movie in a few hours. It is similar to
the Ulead Video Studio program which does the same thing. Digital Video using a
Pinnacle card would probably work the best with VideoWaveIII. I recommend this
product highly. Watch for great deals on it at CompUSA or when it is bundled
with a DV camcorder or capture card.
From the October 2000 newsletter of
the Tucson Computer Society.
The modern concept
of having a darkroom means being able to manipulate images on your computer and
make good-looking prints on low-cost inkjet printers. And the introduction of
megapixel digital cameras and true photo-quality inkjet printers has made this
capability much more attainable.
ARE YOU READY FOR A
by Beverly Rosenbaum
Houston Area League of PC Users
But that means
you'll need to add a few new terms to your technical vocabulary. At the heart of
all digital cameras is a sensor, the electronic chip that takes incoming light
and converts it to a digital file. The density of the sensor determines a
camera's overall picture quality. So if a camera has a 1-, 2-, or 3-megapixel
sensor, that means it has millions ("mega" in megapixel) of
light-sensitive photoreceptor cells or photosites that take the incoming light
from the camera's lens and convert it to a digital file. More photosites on a
sensor mean better image resolution and a larger final printed picture.
cameras today use a charge coupled device (CCD) sensor, while low-cost
"entry-level" cameras use a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS)
sensor. CMOS chips are easier and cheaper to make, but they don't match the
picture quality of a CCD.
to the number of pixels in a picture. Pixel stands for "picture
element," the smallest part of a recorded image. VGA digital cameras are
typically the least expensive cameras, because their small sensor captures just
300,000 pixels. These pixels are arranged in rows and columns, so a VGA image
has 640 rows and 480 columns of pixels. The resulting 640 x 480 resolution image
will look good on your computer or a web site, and it will print a very nice 4 x
6-inch print. But if you try to enlarge the print, you're going to see image
degradation, because there just isn't enough information in a 300,000-pixel
image to enlarge the photo beyond 4 x 6 inches.
XGA and 1-megapixel
cameras capture between 700,000 and 1.3 million pixels. A photo with this
resolution can be enlarged to 5 x 7-inch prints without degradation. Capturing 2
million pixels, 2-megapixel cameras have a resolution of 1600x1200 or higher and
their images can be enlarged to produce a quality 8 x 10-inch picture.
cameras capture 3 million pixels and can produce quality 11 x 14-inch prints.
While most people aren't printing out such large photos, having all that
resolution allows them to crop them and still maintain a high-quality image.
Cropping is selecting part of the original photo to keep and discarding the
rest. If you crop out one-third of a photo taken with a 3-megapixel camera, you
would still have 2 million pixels left, enough resolution to make a high-quality
8 x 10-inch print. But if you started with a 2-megapixel image and cropped
one-third of that picture, you'd only be able to make a 5 x 7-inch high-quality
The lens is in many
ways the most important part of the camera because any subject that a camera
photographs must first go through the lens. If you have a poor-quality lens, the
picture will be poor no matter how many megapixels or other good features a
camera has. Many inexpensive digital cameras use plastic lenses that are softer
than glass and tend to scratch easily. Since plastic is not as optically
transparent as glass, the photos can look as though they were taken on a foggy
day. More expensive digital cameras use aspherical glass lenses, which produce
better pictures by reducing the slight distortion often caused by circular
A fixed-focus lens
is OK for close-ups, normal shots, and landscapes, but it can't be manually
adjusted to bring an object in the foreground into focus and to leave the
background out of focus. A fixed-focus lens gives you fewer creative
possibilities with your photographs. Autofocus, on the other hand, means the
lens system is motorized, and it automatically adjusts itself to take the best
photograph. An autofocus lens determines how far away an object is from the
center of the camera's lens, and automatically adjusts its optics to lock onto
the subject and bring it into sharp focus. Sometimes you may want an object in
the foreground to be slightly blurred and the background to be in sharp focus.
To achieve special effects like that, you'll want a camera with manual-focus
A telephoto or zoom
lens lets you adjust how close or how far a subject appears in your picture.
Many cameras have optical zoom and digital zoom capabilities. In optical zoom
mode, the camera uses motorized lenses that move back and forth to bring the
subject of your photograph closer or farther away, and most digital cameras
today have a 2x- or 3x-zoom lens. With digital zoom, the camera takes a part of
the picture the lens captures, enlarges it, and throws away the rest. So the
resulting "cropped" picture is actually lower quality since it is
based on just part of what the lens and the sensor can capture. If you
"digitally zoom" with a 1-megapixel camera, you'll get photos that
have less resolution.
the file size of a captured image down to a more manageable size, and most
digital cameras use some kind of compression. An uncompressed image can be very
large (between 8MB and 16MB), and that is not practical (except on very
expensive professional digital cameras). The most universally accepted
compression algorithm is joint photographic experts group or JPEG. This
algorithm analyzes an image and throws out data that it thinks is nonessential
to the picture. It doesn't throw away important details like buildings, people,
or landscapes, but it does throw out the data that can't be perceived by human
JPEG is a "lossy"
compression algorithm, and that means some information is thrown away forever
when the file is compressed. Most digital cameras have three types of JPEG
settings: fine, normal, and basic. The fine setting is visually lossless (the
image is compressed to one-fourth its original size) and when the photo is
printed out, it will still look pretty good. The normal setting compresses an
image to one-eighth its original size, so if you zoomed in with computer
image-editing software, you'd see pixelation and other artifacts in the photo.
The basic setting compresses an image to one-sixteenth its original size, useful
for viewing only on a computer, and that would make a terrible print.
Some cameras allow
you to save in both the JPEG and TIFF format. The TIFF algorithm, which reduces
images to about one-third of their original size, does not apply as much
compression to a photo as JPEG does, leaving your images with more digital
information. TIFF photos require more storage, but they are higher quality, and
you would need this kind of file if you plan to have your photos professionally
cameras use removable media, small cards that fit in a slot in the camera and
hold many megabytes of photos. Those cameras typically come with an 8MB or 16MB
memory card. A 16MB card holds roughly 32 pictures at 1600x1200 resolution using
normal JPEG compression. However, not all camera manufacturers use the same type
of memory in their cameras. Most digital cameras use either SmartMedia or
CompactFlash cards. These cards require no power to hold the data, and they are
only slightly larger than a quarter. SmartMedia cards are thinner and cheaper,
but CompactFlash cards have higher capacities. The highest-capacity SmartMedia
cards hold 64MB, with 128MB cards coming soon. The highest-capacity CompactFlash
cards hold160MB, and an improved version of CompactFlash, called Type II, holds
up to 250MB.
cameras have used neither SmartMedia nor CompactFlash, instead using a standard
floppy disk that can be removed from the camera and put right into any PC. This
simplicity made the Sony camera popular. Unfortunately, while SmartMedia and
CompactFlash cards have increased in capacity, floppy disks are stuck at 1.44MB.
As Mavica cameras
increased in resolution, they were able to hold fewer images on each disk. Sony
tried using a heavier compression, but this resulted in degraded images. In an
effort to accommodate increasing image resolution and compete with SmartMedia
and CompactFlash cards, Sony developed a proprietary storage format called a
Memory Stick. Memory Stick media is about the size of a stick of gum, and it can
hold up to 64MB of information. At this time, Memory Stick works only with Sony
cameras and Sony peripherals.
IBM calls its
Microdrive the world's smallest hard drive. Unlike SmartMedia and CompactFlash
cards, Microdrive cards actually have moving parts inside. Microdrives are
incredibly small, fitting in a CompactFlash Type II slot, and currently hold up
to 340MB. In the near future, IBM expects to release a 1-gigabyte Microdrive.
cameras depend on battery power to operate, and a lot of it. Some things, such
as the LCD display and the camera's flash suck batteries dry very quickly. You
can easily run out of battery power after only a few pictures if you have the
wrong batteries or don't conserve power. Also, batteries eventually wear out. To
keep battery costs low, you need rechargeable batteries and a battery charger.
An AC adapter is also useful because it lets you plug the camera into the wall
when the batteries run out. It limits your range, but lets you keep shooting,
and it's very useful when playing back images on the TV set or uploading images
to the computer.
When selecting a
digital camera, be sure it will operate on longer-life nickel cadmium (NiCad),
nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), or lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. NiMH (Nickel
Metal Hydride) batteries are the most popular digital camera batteries. They are
rechargeable, non-toxic, relatively inexpensive, and designed for high-drain
applications, so they will give you more pictures per charge than any other
battery type. In addition, they don't have the "memory problems" that
NiCad batteries have. They run 30% longer on each charge than NiCad batteries of
equal size. They are also more environmentally friendly because they are made
from non-toxic metals. If they have any weakness, it's their overall life;
lasting only about 400 charge and discharge cycles. NiCad batteries are the most
widely used type of rechargeable battery. They charge quickly, last
approximately 700 charge and discharge cycles, and perform well in low
temperatures. Their only drawback is their memory problem that will eventually
reduce their total available charge.
batteries last about 2 hours, twice as long as NiMH batteries of equal size.
They also don't lose their charge as quickly while in storage. They have the
same life expectancy as NiMH batteries, about 400 charge and discharge cycles,
and do not suffer from memory effect. Single-use alkaline AA batteries don't
last very long, so it's not worth it to use them on a regular basis, even though
most cameras will accept them.
A liquid crystal
display (LCD) is the color, television-like display on the back of a digital
camera that allows you to preview and review your pictures. With an LCD display,
you see how your shot's going to come out before you snap the picture. One
downside to an LCD is that it requires quite a lot of juice to operate, which
causes your batteries to drain faster. But the optical viewfinders on most
cameras aren't as accurate as LCD displays.
have a wide array of connectivity options. USB is by far the fastest and easiest
way to connect your camera to a computer and transfer images to its hard drive.
The TV video-out port on a camera lets you view your pictures on a television
set. Before USB, there was serial -- the slow way to connect your camera to a
computer and transfer images; however the main benefit of a serial port is that
all PCS have one. An AC adapter helps conserve a camera's battery life by
letting you plug the camera into a wall outlet.
report U.S. shipments of point-and-shoot digital cameras reached 1.06 million in
the second quarter of this year, a 55% increase over the first quarter. They
believe that the outlook for the digital camera industry is extremely promising,
and as the price of imaging technology continues to drop and cameras become more
user friendly, the base of potential users will get larger.
No digital darkroom should be without
Beverly Rosenbaum, a HAL-PC member, and a 1999 and 2000 Houston Press Club
"Excellence in Journalism" award winner. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Several years ago Consumer
Reports magazine reported on a new automobile, saying, "This is the
best car we have ever tested."
SCAN AND PRINT BOOK
Sandee Cohen and Robin Williams
Peachpit Press Berkeley CA (1999)
($19.99 + s&h at
by Byron Davies
Big Blue & Cousins, Victoria
I feel much the
same about this book; it is certainly one of the best discussions and
explanations of a complex subject that I have ever picked up. I can not say
"read," because, while it progresses logically from Introduction to
Colophon, it's more of a reference or cookbook full of choice tidbits --
specific answers to particular questions -- than a series of lessons.
The authors have
been designing, producing, and teaching courses on graphic and associated text
material for about forty years between them, and this collaboration has a
no-nonsense style that shows their collective experience. We reviewed another
Williams book, The Non-designer's Design Book; the present work goes
further into the hard-nosed details of what the desktop publisher of (say) a
newsletter actually from the starting point with some text and pictures to the
end where the printer points to a pile of boxes saying, "There's your job
There are even a
number of suggestions for minimizing the bottom line on the invoice the printer
will hand you.
black-and-yellow...for Dummies guides are usually at the beginner level;
the Visual Quickstart Guide series (also published by Peachpit Press) are
aimed at an audience who want fast answers but at a somewhat higher technical
level; the Cohen-Williams book's cover states that it addresses "Beginning,
Intermediate, and Advanced" levels. While not a tome, it's quite
comprehensive, with 263 pages. There are references when appropriate to screen
previews and web output, but this book's emphasis is on printed copy, whether on
your own inkjet or laser, at the nearest copy shop, or at a commercial printer.
An old bromide
states that the best way to choose a computer is to decide what you want it to
do for you, choose the software that does it, and only then select the hardware
that will run that application. Probably knowing that no one ever was actually
that sensible, our authors begin with a parallel suggestion, "Before you
begin to create your printed project -- before you type a headline, or take a
photo, before you even turn on your computer -- you have to know your final
The first chapter
specifies the questions the user must ask, the answers may come from a client
(perhaps other volunteers in your club, including the Treasurer), various
resource providers (the friend with a colour printer, or the format of an
existing graphic that's required), or often simply from one's knowledge of
what's possible or not. We are reminded that many jobs need nothing more than a
word-processor and a desktop printer, and perhaps a copy shop if we need many
includes elementary things such as kinds of paper, kinds of folds, signatures,
covers, binding, colours; Chapters 2 and 3 continue with discussions of desktop
printers and their differences (there is a practical discussion of the
PostScript language), printshop equipment such as imagesetters, drum-scanners,
and print shop production processes (some quite esoteric).
The amateur doesn't
have to remember all those details, but it's very helpful for an amateur to know
that explicit explanations are readily available.
The next several
chapters cover computer applications, computer colour, raster and vector images,
resolution, and file formats. There are delightful bits like "Do not scan
as grayscale any lineart images that need to have smooth edges," and
"Windows has a BMP format that's just as stupid as the PICT format on the
Mac...Don't use BMP files in documents that will be professionally output."
Such statements are
always supported with a "why" or with a graphic example, so we're not
left with mere dogma.
Those chapters are
almost worth the price of the book because they include excellent discussions of
image size, file size, dots-per-inch, lines-per-inch, compression algorithms,
compatibility (or lack of it) among image-editing and vector-drawing
applications and their native formats et cetera.et cetera et cetera. The next
major section covers colour, particularly when preparing document for a print
shop, with sections on process colour, spot colour, Pantone and colour-matching,
and the like; it's all there.
Following that we
return to the input end, with chapters on scanning, digital cameras, stock
photos and clipart, and fonts. Like the first chapters, this section is worth
the price of admission. First up are Principles and types of scanners, Scanner
Software (resolution, colour mode, scaling, sharpening, coping with different
art forms, even some legalities we must know). Then come digital cameras,
high-end and consumer-level, and how they're best used, and more information
than I knew was necessary about clipart and stock photos, again with regard to
the legalities involved. Most of us are familiar with the royalty-free clipart
that is included with programs like CorelDraw, but we must not forget that many
other graphics providers are in business for profit.
The Fonts and
Outlines section is predictably excellent, with details of styling, paths and
similar hands-on stuff. There's a Bottom-line Rule: If it works on your desktop
printer and it Makes You Happy, then Do It; but if you send your material to an
outside printer you must abide by their rules or you won't get the results you
There's a plug here
for two other Williams books: How to Boss your Fonts Around, 2d Ed. (Mac)
and The Non- Designer's Type Book (Mac or Windows).
The last major
heading is "Getting Your Work Printed;" there are five chapters, the
last being a pre-flight checklist. I won't comment on them specifically; they're
all good nuts-and-bolts material, perhaps best summed up by "Know your
printer." In that connection, there's even an interesting bit on the
development of the Service Bureau.
Our Authors finish
up with a genuinely helpful quiz, an appendix on resources, another with the
quiz answers (and reasons when necessary) and a good Index.
I intend to look up
the Williams font book.
Several months ago
I wrote a "what I did on my vacation" type article relating the
glories and tribulations of an extended vacation with a digital camera in a
foreign land. This article will point out the vast difference that additional
technology can have on the digital travel experience.
THE FUN SIDE OF LAPTOPS
NOT FOR ROAD WARRIORS
by Alex Dumestre
1960 PC Users Group
I have not been
able to repeat the extended foreign bit but I've had enough experience traveling
with a laptop in recent months to be able to realize what a difference it would
have made last year. My basic problem on that trip to France with a brand new
digital camera was the fact that, over a period of three weeks, I would end up
taking perhaps 500 photos and had no place to store them.
The relatively low
penetration of digital photography in the French provinces combined with my
inadequate knowledge of the language prevented me from finding a service that
would unload my camera memory onto CDS or Zip disks. My advance suspicions that
this might be the case led me to purchase a relatively large (at the time) 32 MB
memory card for my camera.
After only a few
days it became evident how woefully inadequate this would be. Three days of
clicking high-resolution pictures had eaten up a serious amount of my storage
capacity. I recognized then that in order to make it the ten days before
arriving at a large city (Nice) I would have to switch to lower resolution
photos. I had hopes that in Nice I would be able to find the unload-to-disk
service that I needed and therefore be able to start afresh for the second half
of the trip. No such luck. The only thing that salvaged photo-taking on the
second half was the purchase of a second 32 MB card (at twice the price of my
What a difference a year makes
If I were to make
that same trip today there would be several things that would make it a much
easier experience. The most serious problem of mass image storage could be
solved (for a few hundred dollars) with one of the several Zip or Microdisk
drives now available that can serve not only as external data storage drives for
PCS but can even function as stand-alone storage devices. Plug the device into
AC power (don't forget the transformer that is likely required in other
countries) and the camera into the device and store away. This is as expensive
as, but much more versatile than, simply buying more cards.
however, has been to acquire a laptop computer as a Christmas present. The high
price of laptops would certainly make this an expensive solution if camera
unloading were the only thing that a laptop was useful for. But given the
versatility of computers in general and laptops in particular, it has been easy
to find many other applications for this wonderful device. Since many of you are
road warriors this is like preaching to the choir, but many of our members have
never used a laptop computer and this is aimed at them.
Laptops on vacation
pictures to a laptop's hard drive is obvious -- what else is it useful for on
Staying is touch
with the folks back home via e-mail is one thing, and attaching a photo you took
that very afternoon on an exotic beach on Maui is the ultimate way to emphasize
that you are there and they aren't!
You get the idea....
- Surfing the Web is a great way
to stay current on weather, news and sports back home.
- You can have all of your
favorite applications loaded on your computer and use them as desired.
- If you are into photo editing,
you can adjust exposure, crop, and otherwise enhance the photos you took
that day. You can confirm that the pictures you took were of good quality
while you may still have time to return to the photo site for a second
- You can make reduced resolution
copies suitable for e-mailing.
- If you just can't stand any more
awe-inspiring scenery or life-altering experiences that day you can retire
to a session of Solitaire or Minesweeper. This is especially helpful if your
most recent life-altering experience was breaking your leg on the expert
- You can use your word processor
to keep a daily journal of your unforgettable experiences (yea!) or you can
use your spreadsheet program to keep a running, up to the minute and up to
the penny record of what your vacation is costing you (bummer!).
- You could use a road atlas
program to help find your way around. Add a GPS (Global Positioning System)
receiver to really wow the natives and the spouse.
All of this comes
with little or no change of routine if you are a user of one of the big national
or international online services such as AOL or MSN. Otherwise, plan ahead.
None of this
happens without some preplanning if your usual ISP is a local one. If this is
the case you must find a (preferably free) Internet provider that has access
numbers available in the regions of the U.S. or the world that you will be
visiting. Be sure to verify this later point before registering and be sure to
record the access numbers for each of the stops that you intend to make. It
could be an expensive oversight to arrive in Kenya and find that you forgot to
look up the local number in advance and have to call the Internet provider long
distance to find out. When you find one or more Internet providers that cover
your region then register and take the time to practice connecting to them from
your home to be sure that you understand how to use their services.
If you normally use
a local ISP for your e-mail then be sure that they provide some sort of Internet
access to your mail, else you will have to place a long distance call to them to
check and send mail! As an example, I use Houston-based PDQ as my ISP. If I go
to their Web site I can click into their QMail service to read and send e-mail
from my regular account. If your provider doesn't have such a service then you
should register for some free Internet e-mail service and remember to give all
of your friends the special e-mail address. Once you have solved the Internet
and e-mail access problems you are most of the way home.
One other area that
requires some preplanning, even for users of worldwide online services, is that
there may be information that resides on your desktop (or elsewhere) at home
that you have neglected to, or chosen not to, duplicate on your laptop. It is
frustrating to be ready to totally traumatize friends with a killer photo from
your vacation paradise only to realize that you can't remember their e-mail
addresses. So plan in advance to make address books, schedules, lists and other
needed information available either on your laptop or by uploading them to one
of the many Web sites that provide free, password protected, storage space to
Other Leisure Uses for Laptops
There are of course
many other uses for laptops that help justify their purchase. Many of you know
that I am active in genealogy research. My laptop is very useful to have at the
library. I can have my whole genealogy database with me for quick reference; I
can have my notes and to-do list in a more convenient form for updating than if
it were hardcopy; I can even use my digital camera to copy documents or book
pages and -- very important -- verify that the pictures are usable before
leaving the library. I recently had the opportunity to verify that most of the
vacation uses listed above (alas, not the beach part) also apply to a stay in
the hospital (double bummer!). Isn't technology wonderful?
Alex Dumestre has
been associated with computers since the mid '60's, most of the time developing
geophysical applications for use on mainframes, minicomputers, and work
stations. He is a bit of a nut about graphics but is a perpetual novice on PC's.
He is a member of the 1960 PC Users Group of Houston TX and can be contacted by
e-mail at DumestreA@PDQ.net.
More on DSL
The President of Copper Mountain
Networks details his views on the future of DSL at Ragingbull.com.
You can donate dollars per day without
leaving your computer. Look at:
you earn money for any of 600,000 local and national nonprofits by keeping an
adbar running in the background as you surf the web.
One click at the
hungersite.com donates food to the starving.
Need something you don't have on hand?
Find something else that can handle the job at http://www.wackyuses.com/uses
President Joe Varga
convened us at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 10, 2000 and moderated Helps Half
PROGRAM MEETING MINUTES
October 10, 2000
Charles Grover, Secretary
At 7 p.m. we moved
into the business meeting. At the request of Treasurer Steve Staub, Tom Bowllan
explained that an Apple laptop with monitor and docking station is available for
club purposes. Tom also returned a copy of Power Quest's Second Chance program,
which he had won. He can't use it on his computer and wants another person to
have the opportunity to try it and write a review.
meeting is expected to be a Sound Bytes recording session for holiday
Our web site was
discussed, and the need for help maintaining it.
Drive and Classes still need some work, as in finding meeting places where 812
computers are available. One member suggested trying to set the classes up as a
school continuing education program.
suggested working through Senior Net at the JCC, where nine computers are
representatives presented the first program segment at 7:20. We were told that
more people in the United States own mutual funds than own houses. Computerized
financial services have enabled Merrill Lynch to offer a variety of detailed
information retrievable by customers. Data, analysis and educational material
are available. An overview of estate planning issues was offered for our
orientation, stressing the importance of wills, durable powers of attorney,
health care proxies, and retirement plans. The overall impression was of a blend
of prudence and expertise aided by technology. The questions indicated a variety
of interests. The Palm Pilot door prize was awarded to Chris Muller.
Frontier did the
second program segment, on Lightning Link, their DSL (digital subscriber line)
service. They described the technology and the services they offer, and how to
use them. The Lightning Link web site allows us to check for availability of the
service at our homes. Special rates are in effect at this time. Information
packets were distributed and registration cards for a drawing for DSL service
were collected. The Frontier team answered another series of questions before we
adjourned shortly after 9 p.m.
President Joe Varga
convened the October 17, 2000, Planning Meeting of the RCSi Board at 7 p.m. at
the offices of Heveron & Heveron, Rochester. Also present were Ron Matteson,
Larilyn Bauer, and Charles Grover, Secretary. Sally Springett and Jim McGrath
PLANNING MEETING MINUTES
October 17, 2000
Charles Grover, Secretary
We discussed the
October program meeting. Although the meeting was lengthy, feedback was
favorable on both programs.
Joe is working on
finding a program chair. We discussed possibilities.
As announced at the
program meeting, an assistant is needed to help keep the web page up to date.
Our president can make necessary software available to an assistant.
To satisfy our need
for a Communications/Software Chair, Joe informed us that Frank Howden will
communicate with software companies but needs one or more others to identify
software we should request for trial and review. We talked about the importance
of reviews being turned in by those who receive software and the need to hold
recipients accountable. We considered ways to get suggestions for software to
try to obtain for review. Jim McGrath is willing to run drawings, keep track of
from whom reviews are due, and see that reviews come in for publication in Monitor.
We brainstormed a
number of ideas for future programs, including aspects of data bases and of
The biggest holdup
for the planned training program is finding a room with eight to ten computers
shortly after 8:30 p.m.
Rent of equipment 85.00
Total Income $315.00
St. Stephens (2 mo.) $30.00
Rent of folding machine 85.00
Heveron & Heveron 100.00
Total Expense $219.89
Balance as of 10/26/00 $1,460.43
The Lighter Side
Blessings on this fine machine,
May its data all be clean.
Let the files stay where they're put,
Away from disk drives keep all soot.
From its screen shall come no whines,
Let in no spikes on power lines.
As oaks were sacred to the Druids,
Let not the keyboard suffer fluids.
Disk full shall be no more than
The memory shall not miss its parity.
From the modem shall come wonders,
Without line noise making blunders.
May it never catch a virus,
And all its software stay desirous.
Oh, let the printer never jam,
And turn my output into spam.
I ask of Eris, noble queen,
Keep Murphy far from this machine.
Once you start
playing with software you quickly become aware that each software package has a
revision code attached to it. It is obvious that this revision code gives the
sequence of changes to the product, but in reality there's substantially more
information available through the rev-code than that. This article provides a
guide for interpreting the meaning of the revision codes and what they actually
A GUIDE TO
1.0: Also known as "one
point uh-oh." or "barely out of beta." We had to release because
the lab guys had reached a point of exhaustion and the marketing guys were in a
cold sweat of terror. We're praying that you'll find it more functional than,
say, a computer virus and that its operation has some resemblance to that
specified in the marketing copy.
1.1: We fixed all the killer
1.2: Uh, we introduced a few
new bugs fixing the killer bugs and so we had to fix them, too.
2.0: We did the product we
really wanted to do to begin with. Mind you, it's really not what the customer
needs yet, but we're working on it.
2.1: Well, not surprisingly, we
broke some things in making major changes so we had to fix them. But we did a
really good job of testing this time, so we don't think we introduced any new
bugs while we were fixing these bugs.
2.2: Uh, sorry, one slipped
through. One lousy typo error and you won't believe how much trouble it caused!
2.3: Some jerk found a
deep-seated bug that's been there since 1.0 and wouldn't stop nagging until we
3.0: Hey, we finally think
we've got it right! Most of the customers are really happy with this.
3.1: Of course, we did break a
few little things.
4.0: More features. It's
doubled in size now, by the way, and you'll need to get more memory and a faster
4.1: Just one or two bugs this
5.0: We really need to go on to
a new product, but we have an installed base out there to protect. We're cutting
the staffing after this.
6.0: We had to fix a few things
we broke. Not very many, but it's been so long since we looked at this thing we
might as well call it a major upgrade. Oh, yeah, we added a few flashy cosmetic
features so we could justify the major upgrade number.
6.1: Since I'm leaving the
company and I'm the last guy left in the lab who works on the product, I wanted
to make sure that all the changes I've made are incorporated before I go. I
added some cute demos, too, since I was getting pretty bored back here in my
dark little corner. They're talking about obsolescence planning but they'll try
to keep selling it for as long as there's a buck or two to be made.