The President's Message

November 2009

Rick Curry


We all know about the big events coming up shortly. Be sure to drive safely when you are out visiting family and friends and cook your turkeys thoroughly. I added a note on our calendar about the yearly Dia de los Meurtos celebration at the Ventura museum. Sometimes I know that I will not have a chance to tell you at the meeting about an event, so the calendar is my best bet for letting you know what is happening in and around our city. I'll mention a couple of December events early: the Parade of Lights in Oxnard is going to be celebrated on Dec. 12, and the Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights will be Dec. 18 and 19.

We had a very full meeting in October. It ran a little bit into overtime, it was very interesting, and we all learned a lot about Windows 7. It turns out there is a good reason that talk went as well as it did. Toby and Michael worked into the wee hours on Saturday morning making certain that they were hitting all of the most important highlights that could possibly fit into one meeting. We are all very fortunate to have them donating their time to our club.

Next meeting we will have more on Windows 7 as Gene Barlow shows us how we can keep our Windows XP while trying out Windows 7 through dual boot.

I have a smattering of technical topics I wanted to touch on this month. We do have machines to update club flash drives. Toby and Michael have been so busy with preparing for Windows 7 that they have not been able to simultaneously produce a shareware update for the drives. Bring your drives to the next meeting and we will try to have some new software for you.

If you have purchased one of the great new LCD video monitors, treat it with care! They do not tolerate being poked at anything like the old glass monitors, and keep ammonia based cleaners away from them. Tepid water, a little mild soap, and a soft cloth are the ticket for cleaning them. Elbow grease is definitely a bad idea. One of the best bets is to do your eating in a different room.

There were some questions about video editing, and since I have a bully pulpit, I'll throw in my two cents worth. I like to use a really simple program to get the video from my camera onto my computer. Sonic.com has a product called MyDVD that does very little with your camera beyond burn the video to a DVD. I don’t use their package to make DVDs, but I like to use their transfer software to get the movies from the camera to the computer because it is not capable of doing anything beyond the transfer.

Some software packages want to reformat your video as it is imported, and every time you reformat your video you lose quality. Other packages want to put markers in your camera, then only pull in the part of the video they are working with at the moment; this wears out your camera. Give me the simple downloader.

Most of the video packages you will encounter do their best work in producing video clips. This is a single piece of an event that you have recorded: the presentation of the birthday cake and blowing out the candles; the wedding ceremony; one of the school performances. I am not recommending any particular package for this; there are a lot of good ones. But these clips will usually not fill a DVD, so you will want to put several of them together, and use some sort of packaging software to produce menus that let you play these individual clips. This is called "authoring," and I like to use DVD-lab Pro from mediachance.com for this step.

And there will be times that you get home movies on a DVD from someone else and would like to take clips from it and repackage them along with your clips into a new DVD. I like to use VideoReDo (VideoReDo.com) to grab the clips from an existing unencrypted!) DVD, because VideoReDo does not reformat the video in the process. That means it works quickly, and you have no loss in quality because of an unnecessary reformat.

When I talked last month about video cards I forgot to mention something. I did talk about the number of pipelines (the equivalent of multiple processors). There used to be a trick you could do with some of the cards. To save cost, manufacturers would use the same chips on all of their cards, then use software to turn off some or most of the pipelines on a card. That way they could sell a number of products to different customers with different priorities. For the technically savvy, there were tricks we could do to turn those pipelines back on.

I found during my misadventures that this trick is not very likely to work any longer. The manufacturers have gotten more adept at disabling features in a permanent way when they manufacture a card that they want to sell for less without undercutting their more expensive cards. If you have read instructions online describing ways to dramatically improve the performance of an inexpensive card, don’t count on that trick working any longer.

Until next month, Happy computing!