The Big Bear Computer Club Online Newsletter
— Volume 8 — Issue 1 — Bearly Bytes Online is Published on the First of Every Month —

January 2008

President’s Message

cleary3.jpg2007 was a good year for me as President of the Big Bear Computer Club and I hope that 2008 will follow in the same footsteps. The club had a strong board making good decisions for the members and the same board has agreed to continue for 2008. I am delighted to have such talent on-board.

Our webmaster has expanded our website to include an online bulletin board whereby if you have a computer problem, you can post it and anyone who has the answer can help you solve the problem. This is a great resource to get answers for in-between meetings. You do have to register to access the bulletin board but it is a couple of simple steps. If you have problems registering, contact our webmaster, Bill Flanagan at bill • bigbearcc.org

The board now has their Big Bear Computer Club personalized email; mine is yomar • bigbearcc.org

Let's have a great 2008 year of exploring different ways in which we can help all our members develop their computer skills. You can help us meet our goals this year.

Happy New Year!!

Yomar Cleary

New Online Forum for Members!

Our club now has an online forum (bulletin board). Our meetings are a month apart, but now if you’ve got a computer problem that needs some immediate attention, would like to comment or inquire about club activities, or just chat about stuff, posting to the new forum gives you an opportunity to be heard at any time. It’s a way to have the club’s resources available to members on a daily basis. The forum is a good idea only if you get involved. Registration is required to participate in the forum, so at least register even if you have nothing to contribute at this time. Think of it as an easy way to demonstrate that you have an interest in, and are an active member of the BBCC community.

The forum can be accessed here or with a tab in the navigation bar atop the club’s main website pages.

Election and Installation of Club's Officers
at January Meeting

Thanks to Carole Allen for overseeing the Nomination Committee and providing us with the following nominees for 2008:

President — Yomar Cleary
Vice President — Karen Tangeman
Secretary — Rosemary Lloyd
Treasurer — Barbara Moore

Director-at-Large — Rick Edwards

Word Tip: Creating a Drawing Object

word.gifWord allows you to create drawing objects in your document. These objects (such as an oval, rectangle, line, or AutoShape) are positioned on what is termed the “drawing layer,” which is separate and distinct from the text that appears in a document. In versions of Word prior to Word 2007 you generally create such objects by using the tools on the Drawing toolbar. (Display the Drawing toolbar by clicking your mouse on the Drawing tool on the Standard toolbar.) If you are using Word 2007, then there is no Drawing toolbar; you use the Insert tab of the ribbon, instead.

If you are using the Drawing toolbar, notice that on the left side of the toolbar are several tools used to create basic shapes. The line, arrow, rectangle, and oval tools are easily identifiable. In addition, the AutoShapes tool displays a menu of more than 125 different symbols, banners, and callouts.

If you are using Word 2007, you’ll find that all of the drawing objects (lines, arrows, etc.) are all available on the Insert tab of the ribbon by clicking the Shapes tool in the Illustrations group. Doing so presents an organized palette of shapes that you can select-almost 140 of them.

Regardless of which version of Word you are using and the tools available, you can follow these steps to place a drawing object in your document:

  1. Click on the tool that represents the type of object you want to create, or select the object from the AutoShape or Shape tools. Once a tool is selected, the mouse pointer changes to crosshairs, or a plus sign.
  2. Click within your document at one corner of where you want the shape to appear.
  3. Drag the mouse to the opposite corner for the object.
  4. When you release the mouse button, the object appears in the document and you can manipulate it as desired.

Tip applies to Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007

Excel Tip: Using Dynamic Chart Titles

excel.gifThere is a very cool way, apparently not well known, of adding 'active' or 'live' titles and other text to charts. In this way you can make a change in a worksheet and have that change reflected in a title in the chart. Follow these steps:

  1. Create your chart as you normally would.
  2. Add whatever titles, data points, axis names, etc. are desired.
  3. Select the title you want to modify. Small handles should appear around the title.
  4. In the formula bar enter the address of the cell you want to use for the title. For instance, if the title is in cell A1 of the MySheet worksheet, you would enter the following in the formula bar: =MySheet!$A$1

That's it. Now, whenever the contents of A1 are changed Excel updates the infor­mation in the chart's title.

Applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007

Product Review: ULead Photo Explorer 8.5

naoum2.jpgULead has a DIGITAL CAMERA WIZARD; you can import images from your Camera, from camera drive, or Card Reader or an image folder.

After you import, you can copy images to-existing folder, new folder, custom folder, or folder by date.

Next you decide to delete files after successful transfer, renumber images to ensure unique file, or add a destination folder to your album.

Ulead has TWAIN which is not supported by Windows Vista, so I could not use it. Also has CAPTURE Video which I could not use, I do not use video. But there is a window for live viewing and saving, also notes duration and file size.

Available are 7 thumbnail sizes, from 64×64 to 256×256 and a list mode for name, size, type, date and description. This is a nice feature for we who need to see things larger than those iddy biddy little thumbnails.

WORKING WITH AN IMAGE is user friendly, easily being able to move forward to the next image or back to the previous image or automatically move to next image. You can zoom in or out, fit the image to full screen size to make it more workable and then restore it back to the original size.

ADJUST IMAGE (I found this to be very useful, much easier thanPhotoshop). In ADJUST IMAGE you can rotate or crop which has a nifty auto control.

CONTRAST has a nine square of thumbnail variations from which you can select the image you feel has the proper brightness or contrast. Or there is a choice of auto selection which switches around the nine views so you can preview each before you choose which is a simple matter of clicking on your preference. You can also invert the image here, may be useful if you have a negative and need to invert it to a positive image. After any changes you are asked if you want to overweight the original file.

Also at the end of the folder you are asked if you want to go back to first image, return to browser, or go to the next folder or stay on current image.

BALANCE also has nine thumbnails, and a variation slider which allows you to shift the overall color balance of the image towards a particular color. This can be very useful for photos taken on a grey day or to add warmth to a complexion. The same applies to HUE, with controls for hue, saturation and lightness or an auto correction choice. I did not see much change in the AUTO which I thought ran for a long time, but I work with high resolution and that may be why.

The FOCUS CONTROL was good and bad. Good was the ’softer or sharper’ slider, bad was the lack of being able to zoom in and get a really close-up of where the focus took you. I also tried the AUTO BUTTON and it ran a long time, but any difference I saw was moot.

The HISTOGRAM has great control and use. Your choice of master, red, green or blue channel, directions on how to use the white, gray and black levels in the image and most importantly a zoom in and zoom out control, and your choice of original size, fit to screen or center in the window control.

TONE allows you to easily create sepia, duotone and monochrome effects with just one click, or to adjust to any of these effects to any degree with sliders.

EFFECTS can be fun, with lot choices available for the right type of photo. It is similar to filters, in that you can apply a CHARCOAL effect to any image, EMBOSS is available, noise can be added to any degree, an effect for which I have never found a use but someone who works with graphics will probably like this feature. MOSAIC can be interesting, the size of tiles is determined by you and your image can be manipulated back and forth until you are pleased with it. OIL PAINT is another choice, but the controls are only for stroke detail and level, so it tends to look more like looking through a wet pane of glass to me. I have used Oil paint and watercolor on other programs and know that the more you work with them, the better you become. Most Effects take time to bring out the best you can do, practice, practice, practice here is important, just like in actual painting. PINCH, RIPPLE, WHIRLPOOL AND WIND do what they say, and there are times a small distortion may improve an image, you decide. And you can have fun while you are deciding.

TILE is something worth spending time doing. There are good controls, including a random choice, and the background color is changeable. This produces some very interesting effects, and more fun here, too.

Most of the ADJUST IMAGE choices have zoom in and zoom out controls, original size, fit in window and center the image controls, which make them easy to manipulate.

ULead Photo Explorer 8.5, I believe, can be a very helpful program to manipulate your images and to arrange them in an organized manner so they can be availible and useful to you. Nothing is worse than having pictures and not being able to find them or use them.

Also, the ability to alter your images not only opens your mind to being more creative, but should lead you to improving your photo library by knowing what to “see” when you take the photos because now you have corrected them in ULead.

Thank you, ULead, for allowing me to have this exposure to a useful program.

ulead.jpgULead Photo Explorer 8.5
Price $29.99
Ulead website

System Requirements

  • Intel® Pentium® III processor or above
  • Microsoft® Windows® 98SE, 2000, Me and XP
  • 64MB of RAM (128 MB recommended)
  • 45MB of available hard drive space
  • CD-ROM drive or CD/DVD burner (for slideshow disc)
  • True Color or HiColor display adapter and monitor; 800×600 display resolution
  • Windows® compatible pointing device
  • Internet connection (recommended)
  • 16-bit or better sound card and speakers (recommended)
  • DirectX®8.1 or above

Irene Naoum

Having been raised high in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, I was more than thrilled to relocate to the pine forested peaks of Big Bear from the hub-bub of life in Los Angeles ten years ago. My husband Georgio and I commuted weekends until we retired the year before last and now look forward to the planning of our next adventure by blending what we love: travel, photography, and sailing.

Joining the Big Bear Computer Club has been a plus in my life, besides helping me to understand what goes on in cyberspace; I have met such lovely and helpful people through the club.

Product Review: Pinnacle Studio v11

Video Editing Software for the Novice, Prosumer & Expert

jlloyd.jpgPinnacle Systems has been in existence since 1986 with its "Studio" line of editing software for the consumer & "prosumer" (professional consumer). Pinnacle is known for two major computer products: (1) Their "PCTV" hardware & software combination allowing for watching (and eventually recording) broadcast television; and, (2) Their "Dazzle" line of capture solutions which allow composite video recording, especially from camcorders and VCRs. Their website home page is here.

In 2005, Avid Technology purchased Pinnacle Systems. Avid has been in existence since 1987 with video products directed toward professional video, broadcast and film production. Avid’s website home page is here.

Introduction:

Anyone who is moderately comfortable working their Windows-based computer will be able to become familiar with this product and make satisfying final products in a reasonable amount of time. I say reasonable, because video editing is very bandwidth demanding on all aspects of your computer. It is no exaggeration for me to say that you will benefit from the newest, fastest motherboard and processor combination you can afford, as well as on the video card. I suggest at least 2GB of system RAM for XP (3GB for Vista) and 512MB on the video card (Pinnacle says 256MB). The fastest drive you can afford to put into your system will greatly improve the overall system response time and performance, making your editing experience that much more enjoyable. A large capacity drive, 250GB or more, is highly recommended. Remember that the final product will consume over 16GB per hour, and you will need probably 3 times that space for the editing process. I will give my system breakdown at the end. For screen shots and video examples, I highly suggest you go to the Pinnacle site and check out the links. This article is going to be long enough without my adding screen shots. And, this is video! Nothing speaks more than seeing the video demonstrations.

The heart of the Pinnacle Studio functionality is the same in all three versions, but there are big quality differences for those moving into high definition (HD) recording. For some background, here are some basics of video resolutions, to help understand them. In this case a larger number means more video clarity, and larger amounts of information to work with. Video images are composed of horizontal lines, each of which have a number of points of resolution (now referred to as pixels). The more points of resolution on a line, the more detail the image has. Likewise, the more lines used to produce an image, the higher its resolution. The more pixels and lines used to comprise an image, the clearer it will appear. Even though this comes from analog days, the analogy can be applied to digital, and is. It turns out that in digital, lines are just a row of pixels.

lloydtableb.gif

These are generalized to understanding the amount of information needed for each resolution. Making the jump to a 480 line recorder from an older 240 line one makes an amazing difference in video quality. The movie industry has found that most consumers who have purchased new HD TVs and upscale DVD players enjoy enough of a video quality improvement to not desire either of the new HD formats (HDDVD & Blu-Ray). Editing at this level needs about a quarter the computer power for editing than full HD. You probably won't have to buy a new computer (maybe a hard drive), the camcorders are cheaper, and the final DVD will play on most any standard DVD player.

In the next sections, I will first cover the features of the "basic" version of Studio, which is common to all versions. Then, I will cover what is added with "Plus", and finally what you get with "Ultimate". Then, I'll cover my "Pros & Cons" with the product. I was able to find reviews on the Internet that did a lot of copy from Pinnacle's site. I'll cover how I actually used the product to make videos.

The Studio Basic Review (MSRP $50):
Studio's interface looks the same across all the versions.

The application has three major tabs on the top.

The first tab is video capture. This is where you import digital video (DV) content from your DV playback device, usually a camcorder. The interface is fairly straight-forward. Select the input format, which "basic" is limited to a maximum of 480 lines.

The second tab is the edit screen. You will spend the majority of your time in this tab. It is split into an upper and lower section.

  • The upper section has the video playback window on the right. The left side has multiple functions. It shows the video files you want to edit and insert into your project. The left side also switches to transition affects, title menu for text-on-screen, insertion of still pictures, injection of voice over, insertion of music, sound effects, and even selection of DVD menus.
  • The lower section shows your project layout. It is comprised of multiple views:

The first view shows you video clips in little boxes, called the storyboard view. This layout makes it easy to place multiple video clips in and move them around because they are all the same size equally spaced little blocks representing an entire clip.

The second view is a timeline view that shows the videos on a row by their time length, the audio track on another for volume changes, your title overlays on another row, your inserted music on another row, and another row for the Pinnacle generated MIDI music.

The third view is a tabular list of your project elements by name, duration and where they start in the video. This is great for those who really want tight control over their project layouts.

From either the storyboard or timeline views, you can drag and drop video clips into the order you want. You can select where and how to crop and slice you're your videos. By double clicking on a video, a panel pops up that allows you to cut off the beginning and end of a video. By playing into and pausing playback (or sliding the timeline indicator in timeline view) you can cut a video into two videos with the razor blade icon (or right clicking on the video and selecting "Split Clip". If your project is long, you can stretch out the timeline width and get very finite time markers to make precision cut points. There is also a time counter under the display panel where you can step the video by frame for even more precision.

From either the storyboard or timeline views, you can drag and drop transitions between clips giving options from hard switching between scenes. Putting in text overlays can be done in either view, but timeline view allows you to insert text at precise points in the video, as opposed to just the transition between scenes.

Timeline view allows for a high level of control in all your video and audio inserting and editing. For those who decide to endeavor into making more critical videos, you can spend many hours fine tuning the audio and video, including sound EQ and noise reduction, video brightness/contrast and how the transitions actually work from their default settings. With time and effort, you can make a video rivaling anything you have seen on television, short of special video effects.

The third tab is for compiling your final product to hard drive or DVD. This is where you choose the quality of your video and destination. For those who need low resolution content for a web site, the output resolution can be very low and formatted for various players. You can even burn your project directly to DVD from Studio. Included formats are: DivX, Mpeg-1/2/4, Real Media, iPOD, AVI, Windows Media, and Sony PSP. Chances are very good you can get an output format you can use.

The Studio Plus Review (MSRP $100):

Along with all the above features, Studio Plus adds the ability to natively edit high definition video (HDV) and AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition). If you plan on buying a camcorder that records in 720 line or 1080 line mode, or at least editing in this format, you need to purchase either Plus or Ultimate.

Also included in Studio Plus is the ability to use "Picture-In-Picture" (PIP). This is great for showing a smaller video frame of say someone talking while the main screen shows some video of what they are talking about. It makes a dramatic difference in the presentation.

Studio Plus also introduces "Chromakey" affects. You see this on the news when the weatherman seems to be standing in front of the dynamic weather map, but is really standing in front of a colored screen. This is usually something not likely to be found in the desired image, like bright green. By recording someone or something with a unicolored background screen, you can introduce a video behind the subject making the subject appear to be in another place.

Studio Plus allows for "keyframes" to be dynamically adjusted. These are the frames at the beginning and end of a transition or effect. You can find more on this at Wikipedia

The Studio Ultimate Review (MSRP $130):

Studio Ultimate includes the above features and is mostly a compilation of additional video and audio affects. Pinnacle includes a film-looks and special effects add-on that gives the user the ability to make their video look like a certain type of film stock and resolution one would expect from film of a specific age and quality. This includes effects like star bursts on light reflecting off of water or rays of light emanating from behind text or objects. For those interested in more serious video production, this feature will be worth the upgrade to Ultimate.

Surround 5.1 channel mixing is included in Ultimate. There is an easy sound position tool where you can move the audio to play from any speaker combination.

Ultimate also includes an audio cleaning tool, called BIAS Sound Soap. It has a simple set of adjustments to sample and reduce unwanted noise in an audio track.

Another Ultimate addition is a "Precision Pan & Zoom" tool, called "Moving Picture" (by StageTools). This tool allows you to take a still image and traverse it as if you were videotaping it. You can zoom into the image, pan across it and even rotate the image. Again, this tool is worth the upgrade to Ultimate if you want to do this type of editing.

Another Ultimate addition is an add on called "ProDAD Vitascene". This feature allows you to make special effects on your videos and text overlays from simple sparkles and shimmers to complex light diffusions swirls and distortions. You can spend hours just in this feature making dramatic effects.

For those who have an HD movie player, but not an HD writer, Studio Ultimate 11 allows you to write an HD content video onto a standard DVD-R disc. It will only play in an HD player, but allows for the inexpensive creation of content. Videos are limited to about 20 minutes for a 4.7GB single layer disc, the same as with standard DVD content. This is possible because HD content is encoded with MPEG-4/H.264 compression, instead of MPEG-2. There is less than a megabyte difference in file size at full length. Standard DVD players cannot decode MPEG-4, while newer software players for the PC will. This allows for PC-based viewing. If you have a computer plugged into an HDTV, you can play your HD content in the high definition of the material.

Included in the Ultimate box was a demonstration DVD. For those who don't like to read, and the Ultimate manual is just under 300 very informative pages, this DVD is a great way to get introduced to Studio and how it works. In fact, I used it to learn the "Moving Picture" tool, because I just couldn't translate the manual and make anything useful. The Ultimate box includes a green screen for making chromakey videos. But, remember that the software feature is also in Studio Plus. This is just the cloth to hang behind the subject.

My Overall Impression:

Anyone who has the desire to edit videos at any level will be interested in one of the Studio products. As long as you feel comfortable working a Windows PC and feel reasonably confident navigating standard applications, like Microsoft Office, you will be able to gain basic knowledge of Studio and produce a product with minimal frustration from becoming familiar with a new application.

Anyone who is planning on moving into HD format editing will need to purchase either the Plus or Ultimate version. Anyone who thinks they want to have the ability and diversity to do as much with creative alternatives in video editing, and doesn't mind spending the extra time to achieve results, should really plan on purchasing the Ultimate version.

In personal use compiling hours of video into smaller presentations, I have found that the application will benefit from the fastest computer you can afford. This will reduce the time you will be waiting for video rendering. Studio version 11 benefits from a multiple core CPU system. A 3.0GHz Pentium 4 processor with two cores will choke on 1080 content, but will be fine for 480 editing. A "Core 2 Duo" processor is highly recommended for HD. Video files are much larger than just audio files. Editing a 15 minute 1080 video could easily require 30GB of drive space, especially if you spend hours in the application. It will hold up to 5 edits of history, by default, making backing up a snap. But, that means the old edits are kept on the drive.

Pinnacle Studio processes in the background allowing you to keep working in the application. Some transitions take a while to compile. Making changes in the middle of a project can cause Pinnacle to recompile transitions all over. It can take as long as the project length to complete. And, the timeline changes color over the transitions and effects to show it is recompiling. I managed to hang the application by becoming impatient or continuing on after recompiling had begun. I now keep the Microsoft Task Manager up so I can see when the CPU starts loading down.

In one of the videos I created, I used only the MIDI music generation without voice over. When I did this, I could drag a music clip into the voice over row of the timeline allowing me to overlap and cross fade the music. This is exclusive of the video track. It is a subtle but dramatic advantage to video production. I quickly found I could split any audio track I overlay, bring the split into the regular track and record a voice track. It sounds complicated, but it is really easy to do.

One thing that was initially annoying was when I decided to edit a video clip that I had already placed a voice over or music track to. The audio file would get chopped, but I found it is easily re-stretched by double-clicking on it. However, I have not yet found where my voice over ends up. Maybe I haven't found it, yet, but I have had to recreate them, so far.

Another thing that has not worked well is an addition in the Studio Ultimate bundle, the BIAS Sound Soap sound editor, for noise reduction. I have had no reasonable luck filtering out the sound of my car from videos I've taken while driving. The end result has always been less desirable then road noise. I can see it would be a great advantage for basic background noises. Several times, I have launched Studio Ultimate to have BIAS Sound Soap prompt me for the license key, which is separate from Pinnacle. I kept a text file with the long key in it, for when this happened. But, I grew tired of this and finally removed the application.

My final annoyance came when I tried to contact Pinnacle's technical support using their live chat assistance. They offer one free phone call, then the rest are chargeable. The live chat was a joke. With 15 to 30 minutes waiting in queue, I got bumped when it was my turn, switched to Italy, and dropped because no one was available. I called to complain, gave my name and email address and that was my free call! So, I gave my two issues, neither of which is resolvable. I hope Pinnacle changes their policy on this in the future. But, I don't think this is a show stopper for anyone considering this product.

As a marketing tool, Pinnacle inserts a number of transitions and effects (both audio & video) for you to test, but not effectively use. They are either crippled with a Pinnacle logo or preset with a pirate's chest indicating you can buy this feature. It is a good way for them to market these add-ons. They are either an extra $50 or $100, which means you can spend another $600 to get them all. Remember that these add-ons bring Pinnacle closer to a professional editor's capabilities. So, you can slowly buy your way into a better overall package.

I personally think that the Apple platform is best suited for serious video editing. Without moving over to the Apple platform, Ithink Pinnacle is the most cost effective, usable and stable Windows application for video editing without spending at least 10 times more for professional software. Their closest competitor, U-Lead, has downloadable trials. The one that excels for them is their "Pro" version, which runs at about 3 times the price ($400).

For those wondering, I decided against using Vista, just to keep the OS overhead down. In 2009, when Vista is 3 years old and XP retires, I expect Intel and AMD to have some noticeably faster processors than they do today. I am sure Vista will be no issue with overall computer performance by then. When XP first came out, Pentium-II 400MHz processors were pretty much top-of-the-line.

The Computer I Used For Ultimate & HD:

Before I make this hardware list, keep in mind how intense video editing is on a computer. In 1998, I did 16-channel audio recording. A Pentium-III 600MHz processor, 512MB of RAM and two drives mirrored to double through put was state-of-the art. And, it still took the same amount of time to save a session as it took to record it. Today, computers can be good enough to do the same with HD video. But, be prepared to spend a good $1,500 for a serious PC. $1,000 can get you a decent PC that won't be frustrating and can be upgraded.

The list (minus the operating system):

lloydtablee.gif

NOTE: I personally prefer ATI video cards over nVidia. But, I have an issue with Studio 11 and the one I purchased - Gigabyte's ATI HD 2600 Pro with 512MB of DDR2 memory and 400MHz dual RAMDACs. Some of the transition effects did not work unless I went into thr troubleshoot tab of the video properties and dropped the hardware acceleration by three notches. But, other effects would not work. The ones that didn't work in preview also did not work in the final mix down. Pinnacle had not history on this issue, and could not help.

I had a 2-year-old nVidia GeForce 6600SLI card, made by Rosewill. Although this card is slower and has less total RAM, it performs perfectly for video editing. nVidia has replaced this generation card with the GeForce 7600, which supports HD. It is the same price. I have not seen Rosewill cards for a year, but there are plenty of other brands using the chipsets.. The nVidia 7600 series may perform the same, but I don't have one to test. I do have an ATI Radeon 9600 Pro card with 256MB of RAM that runs Pinnacle Studio v10.7 without issue on an older PC.

I know a little trick to make Windows XP do software RAID-5 with 3 or more drives. Putting 4 250GB drives in a RAID-5 array gives me just over 700GB of space that is protected from data loss in the event a drive fails. This is called fault tolerance through redundancy. To do this with a hardware drive controller, I'd easily have to spend another $300 to $500 more for a RAID-5 solution. For a lower-performance solution, I'd suggest two large drives mirrored together in RAID-1, which XP Pro natively supports. The data transfer rate is not as fast, but it does give a level of protection in case a drive fails. It is not as good as RAID-5, but a lot better than using one drive.

Conclusion:

From the novice to the semi-professional, a version of Pinnacle studio is a great tool to develop video content in the new age. At $50 to $130, this is a great tool for the price. With time and diligence, I believe a dedicated user will be able to create premium content rivaling that of what we see on television every day.

To put history down and quell the Pinnacle version fears from those who remember, like me… Versions 10 & 11 are nothing like version 9 was. I bought Studio Ultimate 9 in early 2005, as an upgrade from Ulead version 6. Studio 9 had issues, and I never was able to make a decent video from it. I went from making some videos with Ulead to making no videos with Pinnacle. Then, I read I was better off finding an old version of Studio 7 somewhere. In early 2006, I heard that Avid purchased Pinnacle and that Studio 10 was again a greater video package than Studio 7 ever was. And, it is true, as far as I am concerned. After visiting a few user forums and getting the same response, I bought into Studio Ultimate 10 and haven't looked back. The incremental upgrades to version 10.7 put it in line with Studio 11 without the HD part and either the Stage tools or ProDAD add ons. I now have Studio Ultimate 11, and a new computer, and am making HD content video with minimum difficulty. You shouldn't have reservations about moving to Studio 11 for any of your personal and semi-professional video editing desires. Forget the nightmares of Studio 8 & 9. With Studio 11 and the right computer, reasonably easy HD editing is in your grasp.

Other Review URLs:
PC Magazine
C-Net
Digital Camcorder News
Video Maker
Camcorder Info
Trusted Reviews

Jim Lloyd

The Author: I have been immersed in various aspects of electronics since I soldered together my first crystal radio in the very early 1970s. I have always been electronically inclined from building analog circuits to CB radios and the Commodore 64 to electronic field service and various jobs in aerospace in the 1980s. I was a hobbyist black & white photographer in the 1970s and 1980s, and an audiophile DJ in the 1980s and early 1990s. I have been involved with IBM PCs (and Apple Macs) since the late 1980s. Currently, I am the Microsoft network administrator at a bank, in Big Bear Lake, California.

Club Member Product Review Program

tangeman.jpgInstead of listing a few review programs that are available, I would like to inform you that any program you are interested in and would like to install on your computer is probably available for review. All you have to do is ask for it and review it. The program could be on landscaping, any kind of crafts, digital photos, video, any kind of home decorating, games, office or accounting programs, gift cards, label, and printshop programs, any program you are interested in having. All you have to do is let me know which program you would like to review. I will then contact the vendor and it takes about 10 days to receive the program. Sometimes the vendor will grant the reviewer a license online and all the reviewer has to do is download the program. Reviews are not hard to write; in fact they are quite easy. You are given instructions on how to write a review plus I have many samples you can look at. Also if you need any help all you have to do is e-mail or call me. Writing a review is like telling someone about the new program you just received. You tell them what you like about the program, what you don't like, and how the program could be better, that's it. There's your review. And you can review books, also.

Karen Tangeman, Review Editor

Born to Lose: Netscape vs Microsoft

flanagan1.jpgToday the number of web pages in existence is measured in the billions, but just fifteen years ago that number was only a few hundred, accessed primarily by academics and research institutions. In 1993 a web browser named Mosaic, developed by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, was released which, for the first time, allowed graphics to be displayed inline with text. The Mosaic browser became Netscape Navigator in 1994, and is credited as a major contributing factor to the internet boom of the 1990s.

By mid 1995 the World Wide Web had caught the imagination of ordinary folks and Netscape was the dominant browser. In that same year Microsoft released its own browser, Internet Explorer 1.0, and thus began the first so-called browser war. Initially over 80% of those browsing the web used Netscape, but Microsoft, able to bundle Internet Explorer into its Windows operating system in over 90% of the world-wide computer market, had an advantage that could not be overcome, and Netscape’s popularity dwindled until 1998, when America Online purchased it for $4.2 billion dollars and incorporated it as the AOL browser.

Recently AOL announced that it would cease development and support of the Netscape browser in February 2008. It suggested that AOL users adopt Mozilla’s Firefox as their browser.

Mozilla began as the project name for the development of the original Netscape Navigator. Shortly before its purchase by AOL in 1998, Netscape formed the Mozilla Organization to develop a suite of internet applications. Eventually AOL’s interest in the Mozilla project waned, so in 2003 the Mozilla Foundation was created as an independent entity.

Mozilla released Firefox 1.0 in 2004 as a free, open source browser which meant that its code could be viewed by all, and anyone could contribute to its development. Firefox has been popular since its initial release and continues to eat into IE’s market share. This is known as the second browser war. Essentially it’s the Child of Netscape vs Microsoft.

How well is Firefox doing in this war? Based primarily on the 12,000 or so hits on Bob Kopolow’s review of Norton’s Ghost in the October 2007 issue of our club’s online newsletter, it looks to me like Firefox has around 24% of the browser market share, whereas IE has around 71%.

Does this mean that IE is the better browser? This is not a fair question. If a Federal court hadn’t secured Microsoft’s right to bundle IE with Windows, then we’d all have to choose and download a browser to use with our new computers. In an open market Firefox’s features might seem very appealing to a majority of folks, and it could be the top dog. Perhaps more folks would discover Opera’s appeal. Who knows? The point is that IE is already on our computers and most folks simply ‘dance with the one what brought ‘em’. As a result, any browser that tries to compete with IE is born to lose if dominance in the market is the goal.

I use Firefox because I believe it to be the better browser, and it has many add-ons that are handy when developing websites. Were I not such a fussy ‘informed’ computer user, I could probably be content with IE.

These ‘browser wars’ are a good thing, keeping developers on their toes, and as a result all browsers continue to evolve with new features and sometimes even improved performance.

Bill Flanagan, the BBCC website mechanic.

Fake Check Scams on the Internet Explode

Ira Wilsker
APCUG Director; Columnist, Radio and TV Show Host
Iwilsker@apcug.net

You may remember the recent case of a local woman who responded to a “work at home” opportunity where she would accept payments from the customers of a business, deposit the checks, deduct her generous commissions, and then wire the balance elsewhere.

Recently, in my High Tech Crime Consortium (HTCC) listserv, an investigator posted the following inquiry (redacted): “Is anyone working a case involving a fraudulent check from XXX Bank on the account of YYY Financial Trust Company, a supposed winner of a drawing scam? My victim received this letter and check, deposited it and XXX BANK told her it was good so they put the money in her account. Turns out it was not. She of course was told to wire “taxes” in the amount of $4425.00 to a subject XXXXX in Houston, Texas, but the money gram was picked up in XXXXX.”

Recently, (October 3), the Reuters news service ran a story “Spamscam crackdown nets $2 billion in fake checks”. The story goes on to explain, “An international crackdown on Internet financial scams this year has yielded more than $2.1 billion in seized fake checks and 77 arrests in the Netherlands, Nigeria and Canada, U.S. and other authorities said on Wednesday. The scammers, often West African organized crime groups, use ploys such as “spam” e-mail offering to pay recipients “processing fees” for depositing checks, which later turn out to be phony, and sending the ostensible proceeds to the scammer, authorities said.” Demonstrating how prevalent this scam is, the Reuters article goes on to say, “Two-thirds of Americans said they received at least one potential scam contact per week, and 18 percent said they or a family member had fallen for one, in a survey conducted for an alliance of banks, consumer groups and the U.S. Postal Service. Grant said complaints to her group about fake checks have risen 60 percent this year, and the average victim loses about $3,000 to $4,000.”

In a parallel news story at Fox- News.com (October 3), “Postal Service Declares War on Nigerian Scam”, in discussing the same seizure writes, “So far this year, an average of more than 800 people a month have filed complaints about such scams. Hoping to stem the losses, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced an international crackdown Wednesday in which more than 540,000 fake checks with a face value of $2.1 billion have been seized.” The financial and emotional impact of being a victim can be disabling, “Retired people have lost their nest eggs and young families have been defrauded of their savings for a home.”

If 800 people a month report losses to the Postal Inspector, one may wonder how many other victims are too ashamed or embarrassed to report the crime which victimized them.

You may have noticed some TV commercials warning about these scams, another indication of the degree of the threat. The commercials are promoting a consumer education website, http:// fakechecks.org, a creation of the National Consumers League, and sponsored by groups such as the American Bankers Association, American Express, Capital One, JP Morgan Chase, Visa, Western Union, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. The meat of the website is a curt warning that says, “There is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check or money order and ask you to wire money in return.”

The major types of scams that use these methods are foreign business offers, rental schemes, love losses, sudden riches, overpayment, and work at home scams. The common thread in all of these is that in response to an email, phone call, or letter, the victim received certified or cashiers’ checks, or money orders, and was directed to deposit them in their personal bank accounts. Immediately after depositing the instruments, the victim was directed to deduct his commission or fee, and then wire the proffered balance (often via Western Union) to the crook. The checks and money orders would bounce as they were typically counterfeit, forged, or otherwise phony, leaving the victim with the financial loss for the amounts wired to the crook. The proceeds of the wired funds are often picked up overseas, and not at the address stated in the original offer.

Many of us have received the ubiquitous Nigerian 419 scam from the relative of some oil minister who was killed in a plane crash, and the widow needs help in investing the money. In the original scam, still circulating by the millions, the victim is to wire money to Nigeria or some “barrister” in London in order to pay the taxes and fees to release the funds, for which the victim is to receive a generous commission. In a new iteration of the scheme, the victim receives an email or letter that alleges that the crook claims to have a check which can be used to pay the taxes and fees, and in exchange for depositing the check and wiring the net proceeds to a third party, the victim can withhold a generous commission. Of course, the check is worthless.

In another version, also distributed in the millions, the victim receives an email, letter, or fax claiming that they have won an international lottery. In the past, the victim had to come up with the taxes and fees on his own, and wire the money to the crook in order to collect the winnings. Now the scheme sends the victim an authentic looking check which is to be used to pay the foreign taxes and fees on the prize winnings. The victim deposits the check, which may also include a small percentage of his winnings, and wires the taxes and fees to a third party. The check bounces, and the victim is out the proceeds, often in the $3000 to $4000 range.

I have actually had students who advertised their cars online, and received a call or email from a barrister in London representing a client who wanted to buy the car for the full asking price. They would then overnight a certified check to the seller for more than the selling price of the car, and ask the seller to wire the balance back to London, sometimes after deducting a generous fee or bonus. A bonded courier will be by to pick up the car. Of course there is no courier, and the check is no good, leaving the seller with his car plus a several thousand dollar loss.

Another student recently brought me an email where she could make hundreds of dollars a week by accepting checks and money orders from a seller that needed an American presence, asking her to deduct her 20% commission, and then wiring the proceeds to some distant place. The scam is obvious.

Greed and gullibility can affect all races and religions. The website, http://fakechecks.org/prevention.html, may provide a valuable warning to those who might fall victim. If the Postal Service can seize 540,000 fake checks worth $2.1 billion, one may wonder how many were not seized, and made it to the victims. One can only wonder how much more was lost by the victims, often those who can least afford it.

Ira Wilsker is A member of the APCUG Board of Directors, Columnist for the Examiner, Beaumont TX, and Radio (KLVI 560AM 1-3pm Saturdays) and TV Host and may be reached at iwilsker@ apcug.net.

The New, the Best, and the Worst

Collected by Pim Borman
SW Indiana PC Users Group, Inc.

Disruptive Open Source Programs

The prestigious British weekly news magazine, The Economist, carries a 14-page special report on Innovation in its October 13th, 2007 issue. As you might expect it is about innovation in entrepreneurship, not the kind associated with the name Edison and symbolized by a light bulb. Besides, Edison did not invent light bulbs but only improved them to make them practical and marketable.

Of the different kinds of entrepreneurial innovation the articles discuss, a particular one caught my attention. Referring to Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma - When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, The Economist writes: “… even successful firms can get into trouble by trying to please their best customers. Because there may be only a handful of highly profitable, highend buyers who want and can afford more features and better performance, firms can invest heavily in trying to deliver what this elite group wants, even though the resulting products may end up being beyond the reach of the majority of customers.” That opens the door to producers of “inferior” but perfectly adequate, lower priced products to compete successfully and to delegate the incumbents to market niches. Christensen calls this “disruptive” innovation, as opposed to innovation due to product improvements or novel marketing techniques. As examples he mentions how personal computers took over most of the tasks of IBM’s mainframes and Digital Equipment’s mini-computers and how Nucor’s highly efficient mini-mills outdid US Steel’s blast furnaces.

Another such disruptive innovation that comes to mind is the development of Open Source software in competition with expensive, overly elaborate programs currently in use by the majority of computers in the Western world. Most users of MS Word never use, or even know or care about, its many arcane features and could save themselves a lot of money by using the free OpenOffice.org’s Writer that has most of the same features. Even simpler, but perfectly adequate text processors are available for free, such as Abiword. The OpenOffice suite also includes perfectly adequate offsets for most users of MS Excel spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentation manager, Database, and Drawing programs. Recently IBM announced that it would open up its Corel Office suite, and in particular the powerful Lotus spreadsheet program, to the Open Source community and participate in Open Source program developments.

Firefox already has taken over a large corner of Microsoft Internet Explorer’s browser market, based on its simplicity, ease-of-use, and the perception that it is less susceptible to virus attacks. The Thunderbird email program is giving MS Outlook Express a run for its money with easy plug-in access to spell checkers in multiple languages and the expectation of greater safety in everyday use.

Most of the powerful image manipulation features provided by the expensive Adobe Photoshop program are available for free in The Gimp, another Open Source program free for the downloading. Many free programs are available to convert documents back and forth to PDF format, long the carefully preserved domain of the expensive Adobe Acrobat program. There are long lists of other Open Source programs capable of performing just about any function required by users, including an excellent simple checkbook and bookkeeping program, GNUCash and a good genealogy program, GRAMPS. Interestingly, almost all Open Source programs run just as well in Linux, without the need to invest in the performance-hogging, malware-susceptible, expensive MS Windows operating systems, Vista in particular.

Open Source programs, including the Linux operating system, are making only slow inroads in the Western world, especially the USA, due to the overwhelmingly strong marketing legacy exerted by Microsoft. The rest of the world, in which the USA seems to occupy an ever-diminishing niche, is less overwhelmed by Microsoft and mostly can’t afford its expensive, excessively complex products. Open Source programs are widely used in Asian countries like India and China, and stand to gain further in features and reliability due to inputs from highly capable local programmers. Those countries are only now entering the computer age with literally billions of potential computer users about to acquire their own systems. There is no question what software those new computers will use. Meanwhile, in the Western world Open Source programs have found early adaptors amongst government offices at several levels with limited financial resources for software, that have growing needs for use in computers that are already available at low cost.

It may take some time, but the advance of Open Source software is unstoppable because it makes perfect sense. Smart major computer companies, such as IBM and Sun Microsystems, recognize this and have decided to switch, rather than fight. Microsoft, mostly dependent on software sales, may well end up being disrupted like the lamplighters of long ago. Tux, the Linux mascot, might paraphrase the Borg, the StarTrek cyborgs that “assimilated” whole planet populations: “You WILL Be Disrupted… Resistance is Futile.”

(Thanks to Louis Ritz for The Economist)

Thermal Color Printing

Thermal printers, still used in cash registers, have been around for about 50 years. They print in blackand- white on special paper using rows of heaters to activate the ink. They are sturdy, small and inexpensive since the only moving parts are there to advance the paper.

Scientists at Zink Imaging have developed heat-activated inks in the three complementary colors, cyan, magenta, and yellow, needed to generate full-color images. The dyes used are expected to be stable over time and are still being improved. A hand-held printer will be available by year-end. 2×3 inch sheets of paper will sell for about $2.00 per 10-pack.

Expensive still, but a promising development. Over time the prices are certain to come down.

(Chem. & Eng. News, 9/10/2007)

©2007 Willem F.H. Borman. This article may be reproduced in its entirety only, including this statement, by non-profit organizations in their member publications, with mention of the author’s name and the Southwestern Indiana PC Users Group, Inc.

Miscellaneous Mentionings

There is a way to legitimately download licensed commercial software, free, with only a few strings attached. The website GiveAwayofTheDay makes available for download a fully licensed and legal version of a commercial software title each day, but only one title per day, and each title is only available for download for 24 hours. Once downloaded, the commercial software is usable for a typical license term, usually for a year or for whatever the normal duration of the license for that software title. Be sure to follow the included instructions to register and activate the software. While licensed and legal, this commercial software does not offer technical support or updates under the terms of the free license.

Thanks to KIPCUG

Don’t Discard Your Used Printer Cartridges

Bring your empty printer cartridges to the meeting. The printer cartridge program is a BBCC fund-raiser that helps us purchase supplies and pay for Big Bear Computer Club expenses. Thank you for your participation.

BBCC December 2007 Cash Flow Statement

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