Archive for the ‘DVD Authoring’ Category

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Just trying to get a job done

November 19, 2007

I’ve really neglected this blog!  Almost as much as I’ve neglected the Linux machine I’ve had sitting here since May.  It is a dust collector, largely because of issues I listed in the last post.  Namely, despite the hoo-ha of the community, Windows programs seem to work better.  Quality is defined as a combination of performance, speed, utility, features, availability and stability.  Only Windows has been offering up this sort of combo on a consistent basis.  And that is disappointing considering my enthusiasm for Linux was fueled by frustration with M$.

 

But that doesn’t mean that Linux has no place around here.  I still read and write extensively with my Zaurus, which is still the dandiest little gadget in my house.  I just never leave home without it.  But I demand more from my desktop machine or even a laptop.  And the following represents a case in point.

 

I had a need this weekend, and for awhile it looked like Linux might prove to be the answer.  This would be highly fortunate, since this would be a public presentation, thus turning others on to Linux or at least showing them an alternative.

 

I had downloaded a 13 minute video that I was going to show in my adult Sunday school class.  The video was downloaded and turned out to be only available in QuickTime’s .mov format.  And that is where the pain started.

 

My first idea was to simply burn this to a DVD and I would play it on the church’s DVD player.  But my DVD burning software choked every time I tried.  My old version of Nero was willing to burn, but the product would have no sound.  I then fiddled with downloading some conversion software to change the .mov to an avi or pretty much anything else.  Again, the programs I tried choked.  Keep in mind; I’m at home working over a modem.  I’d nabbed the video at work earlier in the week.

 

This is when I decided to try Linux, since I know some of these distros had DVD burning capability and just might be able to work.  It was worth a shot.  The only distro I’ve downloaded in the past 6 months is Puppy 3.01, so decided to try that.

 

This was my first go ’round with the newest Puppy and it was it’s nice and easy self, although the desktop seems to have gotten uglier since 2.15.  We were back to the 2.01 Win95ish theme.  But I persisted because we had a job to do.  Unfortunately, Puppy’s DVD authoring software had no more success with burning this video that my Windows programs. 

 

Okay, no problem.  I had my work laptop, and I would simply play it on there for the group that ranges from 5 to 25 people.  Right?

 

That work laptop is under IT lockdown, which means I had limited ability to change much on there.  And it didn’t have QuickTime.  Which means it would not even *play* the video!  ACK!

 

I pulled my Linux distros out again.  First there was Puppy 3.01, because it was the newest and fastest.  Gxine is the default player on this distro.  It played the video nicely except there was no sound.  Crap.  Okay, I’ll move on.

 

I reached for Ubuntu 6.06, next.  Dapper Drake was supposed to be the Big Deal, right?  The default player here is Totem.  However, Totem failed to play this video at all, saying it needed more codecs or whatever.  But since Ubuntu can’t spot a modem (we’ve been through THAT before!) it wasn’t going to get more codecs.  I needed something that could run off a live CD.  The video itself was residing on a 1 G memory stick and none of the distros had issues reading the thumb drive.

 

Next, I tried Mepis 6.0.  The default player here is Kaffeine.  And Kaffeine work *marvelously*!  So in this comparison of media players, Kaffeine clearly stole my heart.  And so I determined the Mepis would be a costar of this presentation, and was delighted at the prospect of showing off my nerdliness.

 

But I quickly discovered another problem.  The laptop LCD display was inadequate as you had to be right in front of it to see it.  While I could plug in a regular full-sized monitor, the thought of lugging that thing to church was prohibitive.  But no to worry, because I had bought a 19″ Polaroid LCD TV monitor that also had a VGA connection.  Unfortunately, Mepis was unable to show up on the thing.  I was stuck again.  Windows had no problems showing up, though.  Hmph.  Since there’s no Windows version of Kaffeine, back to square one.

 

I finally downloaded QuickTime Alternative and managed to miraculously install it.  Problem solved.

 

But this further highlights the twin problems of any Linux desktop.  Namely, software and hardware.  More recent versions of Mepis might have worked but I have no way of knowing.  Other distros that made an appearance in working with the monitor were SuSE 10.1 and Dream Linux 2.2.  The live DVD SuSE wouldn’t even boot up and Dream Linux looked dreamy on the laptop but never showed up on the TV. 

 

So Window$ XP wins again.

 

So here are issues that I’ve had to struggle with in my attempts at making Linux work:

– Printer/scanner support

– Modem support – even with a serial modem!

– LCD monitor support

– Media playback out of the box (DVD, QuickTime)     

– Lack of a usable Stepmania package

– Abiword’s lack of dictionary

– Lack of RTS games

– Various programs hang, and most distros rely on a command line kill.  Puppy does not, fortunately.

 

These issues could be overcome with more persistence and skill, perhaps.  But I, as an average Windows power user geek, am not going to invest a whole lot into fiddling with it much when I have a machine that more or less works fine running Windows.  There’s very little that I can do in Linux that can’t be done on Windows but the reverse is definitely not true.  If that machine breaks down, it will be nice to have the other as a back-up.  But Linux has not yet earned a spot in the first string. Many of these issues, like the printer and modem are the most basic of productivity issues.

 

I still have my eye out for the distro that can do the job.  Perhaps I need to make clear my criteria:

– Adequate support for my printer and other hardware

– Modem support

-Basic programs that are completely functional

– A working functional version of WINE

-Adequate multimedia support

– Relative ease of use

 

Mepis would be a clear winner except for the whole modem and WINE thing which is where Puppy fits in as the sole distro that has gotten me online.  Puppy’s other main advantage is speed, since it runs totally in RAM.  Mepis is heavy in the software and packages if one can get online to get them.

 

 

D.

 

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Mepis v Freespire

December 20, 2006

I had a task that I thought might be just the thing for a Linux distro.  My wife, Jane, is an avid picture-taker.  She nakes millions of digital pictures.  Millions and billions.  And she is over running our hard drive with all of her pictures of tress, butterflies, fish and kids. Mostly kids.  So we are trying to move them off, archiving them.  She has over 100 CDs crammed with pictures.

In the past, Windows has had issues with simply putting data and pictures on to a DVD.  In the past, I found it easier to burn files on to a DVD using Mepis and the K3b burning program.  In fact, it’s what I used to burn the iso images of Mepis 6.0 and Freespire 1.01.  Te problem today seems to be the media that I’m using.  My 8x burner is not liking the 16x media which is about all you can find in stores nowadays.  I’m looking into a firmware upgrade but in the meantime I still wanted to move Jane’s pictures.

Mepis 3.3.4 was the version I tried first since that is where I had the most success before.  Later versions of Mepis don’t put the drive icons right on the desktop like I like which is why I opted for this seemingly ancient distro.  When Mepis failed to do the job, I decided to boot up Freespire.

I had just found my misplaced copy of this distro and decided to give that a try.  Being newer, I thought there might be less issues.  Turns out that it didn’t like my media either.  However running these two distros in succession gave me a better feel for how both of these work.  And I came away feeling better about Freespire.  Jane was watching me and I could tell that the Freespire interfave was something she could deal with a lot easier than the Mepis interface.  It just “felt” better.

Both of these were run in Live CD mode and took quite awhile to boot up and took time to execute some commands.

So I’m going to spend $30 and get a new 16x burner as well as some 8x DVDs.  The old burner will be reserved for a second machine I’ll be putting together one piece at a time and Freespire just might be the OS I decide to use.  Heaven knows I won’t be buying Vista or XP!

In other news, I just tried to install WINE on my puppy machine (9.22 I think) and it still crapped out when I tried to configure the sound.  So that is a source of irritation.  I might like to play a game or two while Jane is fiddling with her pictures!  Something more sophisticated than frozen bubble.

dick

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Needs

June 24, 2006

 

Because I know a thing or two about computers, folks frequently ask for my advice when picking out a new one.  The first thing I always ask is, "What do you want to do with it?"

 

 

Same should go with this Linux business.  What do I want to do with it?  The answer might help determine how successful I feel about using it.  Can Linux really do anything Windows can?  Will it always do those things better?  I'm about to find out.

 

First off, I need to do all the stuff you all do with your computers: surf the web, write email, write and print documents.  That's pretty basic.  But I also have a couple of specialized needs.

 

I'm trying to finish up an advanced degree, so I need to write papers and annotate references.  Endnote has been great at making that a much less painful process.  I need to have something like Endnote and it would be nice if a Linux version could read my Endnote databases.  The Cite and Write feature is a real winner in that regard.

 

Part of my academic work involves making some charts and graphs.  I've gotten good at getting what I need from Excel, but Open Office has not been quite as handy for that.  I think if open source really made a concerted drive to make stuff for students, we are the real future of open source adoption.  We're not lazy, we're just poor!

 

On the other end of the spectrum, I have two young kids with family spread across the U.S.  Making DVD's has been a great way to share with relatives, plus the boys love watching themselves.  In addition, video modeling is an emerging technology for teaching new skills to students with exceptionalities.  I have an analog capture card in addition to a firewire capture card.  Since my DV recorder crapped out, I've been using our VHS-C and converting to DVD.  Now that Windows is crapping out, it isn't even able to capture from the analog recorder without dropping gobs of frames.  Finding something that will do the job in Linux is a high priority for me. 

 

In addition to video, my wife likes to make slide shows of still images paired with music to send to relatives. She's huge into taking pictures, but she gets lost in any editing that is too sophisticated.  Adjusting brightness, cropping and red eye are her main needed tools.  And ripping CDs provides the music for these little slide shows, so I need something that can handle that.

 

As far as games, our needs our few.  However, the boys do have some Reader Rabbit type games they like, my wife is addicted to spider solitaire and I like The Sims and a few other sim-type games.  These are not high power games, but we like to have a wide variety for both kids and adults.

 

I've been using MS money 2003 for several years to track our finances and I have been using software to do our taxes each year.  I do most of my banking online and it would be nice to be able to download statements from the bank and integrate them with some financial software.  We have the typical credit cards, home loan, car loan, student loans and  and loans to track.  Debt reduction is a major goal and Money has a few tools towards that end.

 

So there you have it; some very basic needs of a typical computer-literate family.  Can Linux meet these diverse needs the same way Windows has these past years?  Can Linux do it all better?

 

That is the challenge that I hope to document here.