PC Video Encoding

I blew up my main video machine. Too much crud on it. So here is the fresh installation:

# Sony Vegas Platinum. I only have v6, but it is up to v8. While Adobe Premier might work for the real afictionados it is too complicated for me. The tricky part is making anamorphic standard definition come out. You have to set it to DV NTSC Widescreen and then *uncheck* do not letter box. You then use it to produce DV format in AVI containers. These are very large. 1 hour of video is 14GB!
# “VLC”:http://videolan.org. This is the best player out there that I can find. Nice thing is that include automatic codec installation and also with the Wizard, it will automatically transcode from say any format it can read to MP4 as an example. So you get media player and transcoder.
# “TMPGEnc”:http://www.mediachance.com/dvdlab/dvdsc.html. Still probably the best MPEG-2 encoder out there. DVD Labs has a $12 deal with them. Main thing is that it allows variable bit rate encoding. 4Mbps for MPEG-2 is very high quality. For one hour of video, you’ll need 2GB.
# “DVD-Labs”:http://mediachance/dvdlab. This is the DVD titler that I use. Mainly because so much is automatic. Take the MPEG-2 from TMPGEnc and make a DVD with DVD Labs.
# Handbrake. I’ve used this on the Mac too, but it is the easiest way to encode DVDs or MPEG-2 into MPEG-4 (aka H.264) for playback on computers, iPhones and iPods.
# “Videora iPod Converter”:http://www.videora.com/. Actually it converts any AVI file into iPhone or iPod formats that is h.264 that is correctly encoded. Typically an iPhone h.264 is about 400KB for 1 hour running at 768Kbps. If you want movie quality, 1536Kbps is what you need which you can also get with it. One confusing thing is that Videora is a completely different product that does bittorrent downloads. And there are zillion Videora Converters, but they are all the same software. One will do iPod Video up to iPhone, but they name them differently.
# “PSPVideo9”:http://pspvideo9.com. The way to encode for Sony PSP and you need this because Sony has some strange naming requirements. It doesn’t work just to drag an MP4 over into a MemoryStick.

Wallpaper Changer

I love how Mac OS X changes the wallpaper automatically. With Windows XP, there is a “Creativity Fun Pack PowerToys Wallpaper Changer”:http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=ce1d596b-6851-4948-ab76-b5ff22d37d69&displaylang=en that does the same thing essentially.

Like the Mac one, the main drawback is that it won’t search through lots of directories to find lots of wallpapers, so everything has to be in a single folder. Too bad!

Also it doesn’t scale correctly if the wall paper isn’t quite the right size.

Camcorder for casual use

Jim asked me, what’s a good camcorder for someone who isn’t a serious pro but who wants good pictures. It can’t be too big. There is really just one afictionado choice right now, the “Canon HF-10”:http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Canon-Vixia-HF10-Camcorder-Review-34711.htm and “Pricegrabber”:http://cameras.pricegrabber.com/camcorders/m/62668226/ has it for $830 or so right now.

The reviews have been very good, it is high definition, uses 16GB of onboard flash (that’s an hour of HD video) and can take SDHC cards. It is small and is very good in low light and has good picture quality. It uses the AVCHD codec which let’s it get very good compression. The main drawback is that it doesn’t have a viewfinder which pro’s like. Also, with current cards (32GB SDHC), it has storage for about 3 hours of HD vs. the bigger Sony SR-12 that has a 120GB hard drive. OTOH, flash cards won’t crash like hard drives.

“Camcorderinfo.com”:http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Canon-Vixia-HF10-Camcorder-Review-34711.htm has a good comprehensive review. And you can now get 32GB SDHC cards for not much. “Pricegrabber”:http://computers.pricegrabber.com/flash-memory/p/152/st=filter/popup2%5B%5D=15:207/popup1%5B%5D=215:105 shows the Adata 16GB Turbo at $80 for instance. So you can get a set of these. These are so called class 6 SDHC so it writes at 6MBps which is plenty fast.

LED Light Bulb and CFL Reviews

There are so many brands of CFL (Compact Florescent Lamps) and other energy efficient LEDs that it is hard to know where to start.

h3. “Consumer Reports”:http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/home-improvement/hardware-building-supplies/lightbulbs/compact-fluorescent-lighting-10-07/overview/bulbs-ov.htm?resultPageIndex=1&resultIndex=2&searchTerm=light bulb

They have done the most intense study including running the bulbs to see how long they last. It cost $26 per year for a subscription to their site and another $26 for their magazine. I’d recommend it as they do great work and don’t accept ads. I use them religiously for buying cars to check reliability. And they’ve done CFLs too! The did note that they really did a full stress test of these bulbs and all were OK except that 7 of nine Feit Ecobulb ESL13Ts failed after 3300-3900 hours so you want the Fiet Ecobulb Plus ESL13T/Eco which is working through 5000 hours. Others were GE 8000 Long Life 41525 and N;Vision 423-599 which still worked after 7600 hours (despite reports from many that ehse were no good). Ecobulb Plus and N:Vision claim they have half the mercury (2.5mg vs 5mg).

They have some good advice for types of fixtures, use spirals for lamps, flood CFLs for cans. Buy Energy Star certified (not all bulbs are!). Soft white or warm white look like traditional incandescents running at 2700K

For table lights, they tried the Bright Effects (Lowe’s) 70% efficient, GET Soft White 60, Philips Marathon 60 (Costco) 66%. These are 65-70% efficient compared with 14% for a typical incandescent. OTOH turn on time was 25-36 seconds for CFLs.

For recessed flood lights, they tried the GE Floodlight Soft White 65, 43% efficient and 131 second to turn on, Philips Marathon Energy Saver Reflect Flood 16 BR30, and the Sylvanid 16 watt flood 65 BR30

h3. “Popular Mechanics”:http://www.popularmechanics.com/home_journal/home_improvement/4215199.html

They didn’t test reliability, but mainly color and liked the Westinghouse Natural Light $6, Phillips Marathon $3, MaxLite MicroMax $4.50, Sylvania Daylight Extra $6, Westinghouse Soft White $6, GE Soft White $5 in that order.

h3. “LA Times”:http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/emeraldcity/2008/01/the-quest-for-a.html

They have a good compendium of quick reviews like the NY Times piece below.

h3. “NY Times”:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/10/garden/10lighting.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&ref=garden&oref=slogin


In summary, they liked the TCP SpringLight/Soft White, MaxLite SpiraMax and the GE Energy Smart for their colors, but didn’t test reliability.

They hated the TCP n:vision (also poor reliability noted in Popular Mechanics user comments). They also didn’t like the color of the Sylvania Bright White Designer Choice, GE Energy Smart Daylight 15, Sylvania Micro-Mini, MaxLite MiniBulb or the Greenlite Mini 13. There was also slight buzzing from GE Energey Smart, Sylvania Designed Choice and TCP Spring Light/Soft White.

They did like the light of halogens which last twice as long and require less energy by a little like the Daylight Plus, Sylvania BT15 and GE Edison 60.

The ones they liked in CFLs were nvision TCP Home Soft White, MaxLite SpiraMax had good color

h3. “Grist.org”:http://www.grist.org/advice/products/2007/12/14/index.html?source=rss

A environmental ezine did their own mini review as well. Short review, but she liked the Philips Soft White $3.88 14 watt

h3. “Greenhome.huddler.com”:http://greenhome.huddler.com

Does have user ratings. There aren’t too many reviews, but for instance for “LED Light Bulbs”:http://greenhome.huddler.com/products/category/led-lightbulbs, they show:

* “EarthLED”:http://www.earthled.com/cl3.html CL-3 and CL-5 are the most 8sued. The big deal is that they are much brighter. The CL-3 is 45w equivalent at 240 lumens, 50,000 hours (that’s 11 years in normal use!). It is $30 each though although you get a 10% discount off right now from “Store.earthled.com”:http://store.earthled.com/
* “EarthLED EvoLux S”:http://greenhome.huddler.com/forum/thread/227/new-earthled-bulb-produces-serious-light?replies=15 is going to be 75 watts. The main limitation is you can’t use it with a dimmer. It also costs $90! They have a good comparison video on “You Tube”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5ppqz6zGCE&eurl=http://greenhome.huddler.com/forum/thread/227/new-earthled-bulb-produces-serious-light?replies=15. It actually has a fan built into it as the LEDs get hot!

For CFLs, here are some of the top reviewed:

* “TCP n:vision 14W CFL” which actually in other reviews is called unreliable, so caveat emptor. It is sold exclusively at Home Depot.
* “Greenlite”:http://greenliteusa.com comes up second rated.

Cordless Drills and Screwdrivers

Hey I need one now that I’ve got a boat to mangle.

Some to look at are:

Panasonic EY6432GZKW $200 and the Ryobi P813 at $170 are really godo if expensive. The Makita BDF452HW $200 is only 3.5 pounds.

If you want to be really manly, then the Hitachi DS18DMR at $200 and 6 pounds is the way to go or the Makita BDF451 at $280 is nearly a pound lighter.

Finally, if you don’t like turning screws, then the Ryobi HP472K seems like the best choice at $30.

BTW, Craftman are only at Sears, Ryobi only at Home Depot. While Hitachi is only at Lowe’s. You can get Makita at Sears, Home Depot or Lowe’s.

What is an F/Stop?

Ever wonder what an f/stop is, well http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-number has a great explanation. This is essentially a way to express how wide open a lense is in a camera. It is a pretty simple idea. An F-number or F-stop or aperture setting of F/1 means that for a 77mm lense (as on my big Canon lenses), the thing is all the way open and lets in lights across the entire 77mm width. Similarly F/2 means that the lense is half open so lets in 77/2.

Now in a camera, every decrease of aperture by the square root of 2 (1.414) halves the amount of light the camera sees. Hence the strange sequence you see in cameras that are really just powers of 1.414. we sequences that show a doubling of light that looks like:

code. f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/22

Put another way, if you just double the size of the aperture, you get 4x more light, this is because the area is pi*radius squared, so this is a quadrupling of light each time:

code. f/1, f/2, f/4, f/8, f/16

Feel smart now?

Notes on using CFLs

Some great real world lessons here. They are in short, you can’t use them in a can, with a dimmer or where you are turning them on and off alot. (That’s a lot of limitations), but they do save 4x in power. Check out “1000Bulbs.com”:http://100bulbs.com and stay about from the $1-2/bulb ones. You have to pay quite a bit more to get quality.

The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Scientific Lab Test vs. Incandescent – Popular Mechanics

144. RE: The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: PM Lab Test
It’s me ben again on those Service brand full spectrum spirals. These are an industrial product and not sold in stores but are available in eastern Canada thru a company in Nova Scotia called “20/20 Electric in Sydney Cape Briton Island but are made in the US. Ben

143. RE: The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: PM Lab Test
I bought INDUSTRIAL spiral mini light bulbs in 9, 14,16Watt Floods, 19 watt Floods & 23 watts replacing my 40,60& 100 watt inc. bulbs. The brand is “Service Long Life” and my house has 57 bulbs. I have 6 in the basement and 8 outside that I never shut off and the rest are all thru the house. In 8 yrs I have changed 4 of the ones that are never turned off and 1 in the house. I have never had one smoke and the light bill just disappeared. At present time I use a 23watt in the kitchen and one in the wife’s bathroom. 2 16watt floods and 2 19watt floods & 4 14watt outdoors and all the rest are 9 watt. These are Full Spectrum which gives noon day light and is VERY easy on the eyes and easy to be in all the time. 100% no glare. My wife suffers from SAD and finds these lamps help her a lot in the winter time with the long dark days. They cost me $16.95 each and are well worth it.The power co. here sent us 8 GE’s free and so I put one in and then thru them in the garbage.When you buy cheap you get CHEAP. Ben

The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Scientific Lab Test vs. Incandescent – Popular Mechanics

Full Spectrum Solutions “BlueMax” CFLs? They have far superior Kelvin ratings and color rendition, electronic ballasts to prevent flicker, and a binding agent to reduce mercury danger. And they even offer a “soft” bulb for “warmer” colors, without sacrificing brightness or the other features, and dimmable bulbs and fixtures.

The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Scientific Lab Test vs. Incandescent – Popular Mechanics

Use them in fixtures that you keep on for a couple of hours at a time, like in a living room. Fixtures that allow air flow are better too. A CFL’s lifespan can be shortened when you put them in a fixture that’s totally enclosed. Above all else, do NOT use them in dimmers unless the package says you can

The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Scientific Lab Test vs. Incandescent – Popular Mechanics

Auto Cell electronic, brand bulbs have a dual phosphorus coating that allows them to last much longer. I really recommend people who are in the market for High quality CFL, to check out this company. The prices are great, the only catch is the minimum order is a case of 40 bulbs. Autocell.ne

The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Scientific Lab Test vs. Incandescent – Popular Mechanics

VERY BEST CFL on the market sold by Maintenance Engineering. Theirs are absolutely guaranteed for 2 years and produce a nice sunlight color

The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Scientific Lab Test vs. Incandescent – Popular Mechanics

Don’t use them in places where you turn the light on and off a lot. They do burn out quickly that way. Wait for the LED type to use in those places.

The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Scientific Lab Test vs. Incandescent – Popular Mechanics

I get my CFLs at 1000Bulbs.com. They take out a lot of the guesswork by offering quality bulbs at low, low prices.