Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Video sound out of sync

A while back I ripped some art instruction videos and found that they had the sound badly out of sync with the video. Ripping a new copy got the same results (old one was ripped in Linux, new one in Windows).

I did some Googling and found this solution:

Download a free program called VirtualDub. No need to install it. The program runs without an installer by double-clicking VirtualDub.exe.

Click FILE>Open Video File... then choose your video.

Now to fix the audio, click the AUDIO>Interleaving. Under Audio Skew Correction, select the number of milliseconds of your audio delay. This is the difficult part, as it's hard to know exactly how many seconds of delay you have. My art videos were off by as much as 12.5 seconds (12500ms). Make your best guess and click OK.

Now to preview, play the video with the controls at the bottom of the window. Go back and adjust the delay, as above, until the video is in sync. When you're happy with the results, click FILE>Save As AVI, and choose a name and path to save. I don't recommend over-writing your original. The save process takes as little as a half a minute, or as long as an hour or more. Not sure why.

One more thing. You may want to check the compression settings before saving. Go to VIDEO>Compression, and make sure it is not set to save videos uncompressed. A single uncompressed video can take up hundreds of gigabytes of hard drive space, where it only takes about 600 megabytes when compressed. To compress, choose a codec from the list. It will only list codecs you already have installed, so Google "Free Windows Codecs" to get a full array.

While saving, a box will display, and indicate an approximate final file size. If that number starts to get too big, cancel the process and choose a different codec.

Hope this helps.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Download from Usenet

If you like downloading your favorite movies and TV shows, you've probably worried about getting in trouble for doing it. I have received the dreaded ISP emails alerting me to my alleged violations on more than one occasion. Showtime is especially diligent, and have nailed me twice.

Most forms of filesharing require you to upload as you download. That's where you run into trouble. It's usually the uploader who is considered the perpetrator of copyright violations. What you need is a way to download without uploading.

Enter Usenet. If you've never heard of Usenet, you're not alone (I recently called my ISP's tech support line, and their "expert" had no idea what it was). It's a dinosaur from the early days of the internet that is enjoying new popularity. It is a collection of discussion groups -- known as newsgroups. Or at least, that's what it was set up to be. But it didn't take long before people figured out how to use it for filesharing. People upload files to Usenet, where it is held on servers, and you can download at will. Ironically, the server often belongs to your ISP, who have chastised you for sharing material. We'll just turn the tables and let them be the perps now.

Enough chatter. Now for the HOW-TO:

1. Download and install NNTPGrab. This is software made just for Usenet downloading

2. Run the program, and click the Configuration tab, then click SERVERS on the left pane, then ADD on the right (look for a big plus sign).

3. Add a server. This is the only tricky part, since you have to have access to a server. Chances are, your ISP has one. Go to their website and look through their support pages. You want to find their instructions for setting up Newsgroups. Also look for the word Usenet, as the two terms are used interchangeably.

Here's a tip: See if your ISP has multiple servers. The more servers you add to NNTPGrab, the faster you'll download. I'm a Cox customer. They have three servers. (news.cox.net, news.east.cox.net, and news.west.cox.net). They tell you that your area is served by only one of them, but that's not true. You can use all three at once. For Cox, no password is needed, so I don't click the "Server requires authentication" box. Check with your ISP to see if you need to use a password.

Add as many servers as you can. Here's a list of free servers, but don't count on them working very well...


There are also pay servers, that claim very high speeds. I haven't tried them.

4. Now you need to find content. Click the "NZB Creator" tab in NNTPGrab. Search for the title you want. Wait for the list to load, then click the checkbox next to the files you want, and click "Import Selected File(s)". I recommend importing one at a time, since multiple selections will be downloaded as one large file that you have to wait a long time for.

That's it. If you have multiple servers working you'll be shocked at some of the download speeds you'll get. Sadly, those speeds often drop down to Torrent speed over time, but for a while I get consistent speeds of over 1MB per second, compared to 85k per second with Bittorrent.

This is a simplified version of the process, but it's all you need to get started. Google "NZB" to learn more about where to find content and how to download it.

Good luck.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I've given up on Linux

I won't go into great detail about giving up Linux, since this post is mostly about Windows. But suffice it to say that there's just more software available for Windows, and the software is also easier to install and has more features. Linux may be a better OS, but systems exist to run applications, and it's the applications I want, regardless of OS.

But Windows has given me fits in the past, The system gets corrupted by installing and uninstalling software (which I do almost daily). Also, spyware seems to be invincible sometimes, no matter how many removal programs you use. After years of dealing with this, I decided to come up with a plan for a bulletproof install of Windows.

I'm inspired by the IT guys at my office, who do not bother to solve Windows problems anymore (for the most part). We all have the same applications installed on our machines, so if anyone has a problem, the IT guys just ghost a new image onto our hard drive.

"To Ghost" is a term that comes from Norton Ghost, a program that copies the entire hard drive, including boot sectors and formatting, and creates a copy that can be restored on any PC with similar hardware. Unlike a new install of Windows, the newly ghosted computer has Windows plus all of the software installed, and configuration just the way you want it. Restoring the ghosted image is also easier and faster than re-installing the operating system. Plus, you can have disk images of other versions of Windows, so you can try Windows 7 as a full install, and then go back to your old Windows XP environment, just the way you left it. This frees me to install anything I want -- even risky applications -- and still return to my pristine system.

I'm not using Norton Ghost, though. I don't even know if they offer a free version. I'm using Macrium Reflect. Their free version creates a full-disk image. Their non-free version allows backups of individual folders, but I don't need that.

At this point, my entire system can be backed up to a single DVD. I can hang on to my older backup discs, and restore the PC to earlier states if, for instance, I need a clean install of XP without my applications for whatever reason.

To some this may seem like an unnecessary hassle, but I've been using Windows for only about two weeks, and have already restored my system several times. Not that I've had crashes, but it's so easy to restore everything, that I don't bother uninstalling software anymore. I install anything and everything, and see which applications are worth having. Then, rather than allowing them to potentially contaminate my system with leftover Registry clutter, I simply wipe out the hard drive and go back to my ideal system again.

This, of course, erases all the stuff you might want to keep, so it's important to do like they tell us at the office, and never save files to the system drive. Windows is installed on the C: drive, but I save all my files to the D: drive, which is unaffected by the above-described process, and can be backed up separately (use a separate physical drive, not a partition -- just to be safe). I also set the "My Documents" folder to point to the other drive, so now most applications will save there by default.

What I have now is a bulletproof Windows install. There will be further tweaking, to be sure, but I know that every time I make the system a bit more perfect I can create a new ghost image of it so I can preserve what I have, and I can also return to the previous state, should I find that it's not as perfect as I thought.

If you have an older Windows install, and like your apps, you can still use Macrium to back up your old buggy system and then install Windows afresh. If you miss what you had before, go back to it using the Macrium rescue disc.