DVRMSToolbox for Video Conversions

May 7, 2009

video_conversionIf you’ve read my Zune Tips blog, you’ll know that I use a freeware product called DVRMSToolbox to convert my Vista Media Center recordings (from Cable TV) to WMV file format for my Microsoft Zune media player. DVRMSToolbox (Dtb) automates the entire process, where it monitors my “Recorded TV” folder for new completed files, and then does the processing and copies the generate WMV file to my Zune sync folder. It’s entirely automatic, so I just sync my Zune in the morning to my Desktop PC and I’m ready to watch my TV shows!

I had everything working just fine before the big Deskop PC upgrade, but I noticed that using the tool called DVRMStoWMVHD (to do the DVR-MS to WMV format conversion) didn’t work quite right on my upgraded system. For some reason, the audio gradually goes out of sync with the video while it is being played, to the point where after 45 minutes the audio is about 6 seconds behind the video. Really annoying to watch.

I ran a bunch of tests, and I can’t seem to figure out the problem. Usually this type of issue occurs with the installed Video and Audio Codecs on the Desktop PC system, but I was careful to only use known good codecs. I’ve also installed the AC3Filter application (as recommended by the maker of Dtb) but that didn’t seem to help.

My alternative solution was to replace DVRMStoWMVHD with using a two step process:

  1. Convert the DVR-MS file to MPEG format using the program ffmpeg
  2. Convert the MPEG file to WMV format using Windows Media Encoder 9 (WME9)

That seemed to work just fine, however, the Visual Basic script used to run WME9 bombed out under Vista with the message, “Console Based Script Host has Stopped Working. cscript.exe“. With some digging, I discovered that a protection scheme called Data Execution Prevention (DEP) was stopping the Visual Basic script from running. This “protection” scheme was designed to prevent malicious software from running on your system. The cause for this error, was a bug or improper compiling of certain DLL files used by WME9. To fix this, I had to follow the steps outlined by this Microsoft Hotfix.

Once I did that, the Visual Basic script running WME9 worked fine on my Vista system. So, I’d rather use the one-step approach with DVRMStoWMVHD, but it looks like I’ll need to use the two-step approach that I outlined to have audio-video synced WMV files.

Updated (8 May 09): I figured out the problem with DVRMStoWMVHD having the audio/video sync issue. It turns out version 1.0.1.0 works fine (which I was using on my old system before upgrading) and the latest version 1.0.1.4 has the syncing issue, so I think the current version has a bug. Since I still had the older version on my old hard drive, I switch back to using it and problem solved!

Advertisements

Sending Emails with Large Attachments

April 25, 2009

yousenditHere’s a neat tip that I got from www.howtogeek.com regarding a Microsoft Outlook plugin that allows you to send emails with very large attachments. In a lot of cases, IT departments limit the file attachment size to 5 or 10 MB (for both sending and receiving), so this nifty Outlook plugin lets you get around that issue by uploading your large attachment to their server and providing a download link in the sent email message.

The plugin is for a service offered by YouSendIt.com, where you can send up to a 2 GB attachment if you go with the “Pro” plan. YouSendIt allows you to attach a file with a max size of 100 MB for the free plan. There is also a 1 GB monthly download limit for the free plan, and all links to downloads are valid for only 7 days.

So, it sounds like a useful plugin if you need to send emails with large attachments.


Corral Your Desktop Icons

April 22, 2009

fencesOften times I need a temporary place to keep a file or document, so I simply put it on my desktop. As such, my desktop screen now looks like a graveyard of icons. I’ve got so many icons, that it takes me up to one minute to find the icon I’m looking for. What a mess! I try to group icons by category and function on my desktop, but whenever I plug my laptop into a docking station or connect to a video projector my screen resizes and the icons are moved around randomly.

Luckily, I found a very cool freeware application called Stardock Fences. It’s a great application that allows me to sort out and group my desktop icons into small bounded regions on my screen. The image below shows an example of what Fences looks like on your desktop screen:

fences_image

It’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing, and very easy to use. In fact, you can easily hide all the desktop icons by double clicking on the main desktop screen, and bring them back by double-clicking again. And best of all, it’s free!

So if you’re a neat freak and want to group and contain all your desktop icons, I highly suggest you give Fences a try!


Blocking Troublesome Pop-ups in Firefox

March 16, 2009

firefoxI use the Firefox web browser almost exclusively on all my computers and laptops, as I find it works much better for me than Internet Explorer. Although Firefox has its own built-in pop-up blocker, it seems that a few pesky pop-up windows appear in the background whenever I visit certain web pages. For example, I like to read the spoilers for Battlestar Galactica at this site, and when I do so I almost always get a pop-up window in the background for http://www.doublediet.org, http://www.double-diet.com, etc. So, it seems that Firefox’s built-in popup blocker can’t seem to stop this particular pop-up window.

As such, I’ve searched around and found a Firefox ad-on plugin called AdBlock Plus that is suppose to block specific web addresses listed in a file. You can either create your own list from scratch, or “subscribe” to a growing list of ad sites. I chose to subscribe to the “EasyList (USA)” subscription which contained hundreds of known ad sites, and so far the troublesome doublediet pop-up window no longer appears! In the Firefox statusbar you can hover your mouse cursor over the AdBlock Plus Icon, and a notification window will appear showing how many pop-ups were blocked on a specific page (see below):

adblockplus_1

Hopefully, this add-on plugin for Firefox will help with blocking ad sites and not block out the good ones! 🙂


ObjectDock – An Apple Dock Clone For The PCs

March 4, 2009

stardock_0
During the time I was investigating the Apple Mac OS X, one nice feature was the Dock Panel located at the bottom of the screen. The Dock was a convenient panel where you could launch frequently-used applications or bring into the foreground running applications. As it turns out, the company called StarDock has a similar add-on utility that does virtually the exact same thing (including the puff of smoke animation that occurs when you drag an icon off the dock area).

From the image below, you can see the Apple Dock as viewed on a Mac machine:

apple_dock1

(click image to enlarge)

As you move the mouse across the top of the various icons, they enlarge slightly with a title displayed above them. If you select the icon, they then activate the associated application. The freeware utility called ObjectDock (by StarDock) operates in the exact same fashion as Apple’s Dock, where you can have icons displayed on the dock for launching applications or for running applications. Below is a screen show showing what ObjectDock looks like on my Windows 7 Beta OS system: Read the rest of this entry »