Computer-video tech challenges SOLVED (for now)

When it comes to using computers, I will admit a bias. For years, I’ve probably been a little smug about using what I believed was the coolest available operating system. When I first thought about using a computer, the market was dominated by a lot of really ugly operating systems that only a tech-head could love. It’s strange to think that DOS, Amiga, CP/M, Commodore 64, and even Atari ST all looked like they could be “THE KILLER SYSTEMS” by which others would be judged against, but that’s the way it was back in those early days of personal computers.

Then, there was the Macintosh. The Cadillac of computers. The over-priced operating system for folks that had too much money. Yes, it was sexy, had a wonderful graphic interface unlike any other personal computer, but DAMN… this stuff was pricey! Who could afford these things, anyways?

As it turned out, I had an ace in the hole that would make my decision so much easier. My brother had an old high school buddy named Roger that worked at Apple, and he could get me a really sweet deal on a reconditioned Mac. With a heavy discount, the Mac was the same price as comparable IBM-style computers. The fact that I would be getting a lot of free software with the computer was also a big bonus. I decided to make a plunge and buy one of these things, which, as the cliche goes…..”changed my life forever.” While other folks I knew were struggling to create really simple documents, I was able to create all sorts of graphicallly-charged publications with some very intuitive applications exclusive to the Mac. Even Excel, the big state-of-the-art spreadsheet from Microsoft, was first unveiled on the Mac platform.

This Saturday, April 1st, aka April Fool’s Day, Apple Computers will be celebrating 30 years of existence. I can say without modesty, I’ve provided this company with a considerable chunk of profit. I’ve introduced many former-computer-novice friends to the wonders of the Macintosh, and I’ve purchased quite a few Mac systems for my own uses over the years. In fact, less than two weeks ago, I purchased yet another Macintosh computer- a 17″ Powerbook with a fast processor and a DVD burner. I look forward to using this computer to edit video programs, and do more presentations …. wherever I happen to travel.

The path of the Mac user has not always been a smooth adventure. While Apple has provided an interesting roadmap to the future, it hasn’t always been easy. Apple may have been the first to utillize a lot of technologies now considered universal standards (mouse, 3.5 inch floppy disks, USB, Firewire, WiFi, etc.), but I’ve had to deal with my share of headaches configuring WiFi networks, USB cameras and other peripherals with my minority-operating-system computers.

I have no doubt that many companies have been rather deliberate about making sure that their products have built-in challenges. Tech support is a very big business, and shall continue to be so. There’s something to be said about job security….

One of the biggest nightmares has been dealing with the various oddball media formats that have been adopted by Windows users. I’ve struggled with all sorts of WMV, Real, and AVI video files. For many years, I used (Media) Cleaner to transform a lot of files into good old Quicktime, or MPEG files, but there were many files it simply couldn’t handle.

Luckily, there are companies providing some very affordable solutions. The latest version of Toast from Roxio makes it very easy to transform a lot of different types of video files into a DVD, for a very reasonable price.

Nowadays, the big buzz on the internet are the flash video files that folks can share via Google Video, YouTube.com, and similar websites. With the help of KeepVid.com, folks can download these videos (not always an easy thing to do), directly to one’s computers as FLV files. Up until recently, I couldn’t find ANY solution that would allow me to watch these FLV-files on my Mac computers, other than watching them online with the usual web browers.

I was quite thrilled to find a solution in a wonderful FREE piece of software called iSquint. It’s primarily used for converting clips to watch on an itty-bitty video iPod (as opposed to HD TV), but there’s also a setting for standard definition television. I’ve been able to extract MPEG-4 clips out of every FLV, AVI, and WMW file I’ve tried. It seems to work very well!

What I especially love is the “HELP” menu feature for iSquint:

iSquirt - the help file

When you try to access one of the HELP files, you will get the message “Help isn’t available for iSquint.” There’s also a lot of other really funny messages along the way. If you try to change the change the default settings, you’ll get something like “What, you think you’re better than me or something?”

If John Lennon* were still alive, I think he’d probably get a kick out of this very silly interface! This is an excellent piece of software that works better than many commercial products I’ve used. Just for the laughs alone, I was very happy to hit the PayPal button to make a donation to Tyler Loch, the developer of this fine application.

I have no doubt this application will continue to work as expected… at least until some other video format gets invented…..

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* Of course, if John Lennon were still alive, the world would undoubtably be a very different place….. but that’s another topic entirely.

2 comments to Computer-video tech challenges SOLVED (for now)

  • I’m reasonably techno-savvy, but I must confess, I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. Being on dial-up I’ve rarely had need to download any clips less than 15 seconds to 2 minutes, and more often than not, those clips involve a “money shot”.

    I make DVDs for my business on my computer and edit videos well with my Vegas Video software, which is about as high tech as I’m likely to ever need.

    Stickam.com is another one of those video files into flash files sites that is free and has lots of storage and free bandwith. I just can’t seem to figure out if any of the files I’ve added are “working”. Probably because I’m still on dial-up.

    Of course, if I were more techno-geeky I’d be way in to the info here. But even I can tell that none of it gets me any closer to finding software or hardware that will allow me to take video from a burned DVD and use it for my own purposes (people keep sending me footage from my shows on DVD & I can’t seem to steal the footage).

    Would like a Mac, but I LOVE my Vaio.

    Oh yeah…Louie Louie rocks!

    😉

  • EP

    Yeah… not much LOUIE in this entry, eh? I tried to balance it out with the Black Flag posting.

    It’s a liberating thing to figure out things that used to be hard to figure out. If only ONE person appreciates this techno-babble, then it was worth writing.

    More LOUIE news to come….

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