Google Translate

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wireless encryption/security hassle

It took me over three hours, but I finally got my mum connected to our home's wireless network. Ordinarily, I wouldn't blog about something as mundane as this, but because there were no obvious answers in Google or Yahoo! searches, I thought that I'd do a public service favour and write down the solution.

The main point is this: third-party encryption solutions, e.g. Odyssey, can cause you to be disconnected from a wireless network that uses built-in security features, e.g. WPA. Keep that in mind.

Read more

So there it was: Odyssey + WPA (+ Linksys?) (+ Windows ME?) = no wireless network connection. I don't know if this is limited to Linksys devices or Windows ME or even Odyssey. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

--

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"You don't speak English?"

Overheard from a salesman on overseas calls:

Conversation 1:
Salesman: "You don't speak English? But you're speaking English now!"

Conversation 2:
Salesman: "You don't speak English? Chia lat lah, like that how?"

--

Technorati tags: , ,

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

StarHub i-mode trial offer

StarHub i-mode trial offer

I've been chosen to participate in StarHub's i-mode offer.

Aside 1: As far as I can tell, for all intents and purposes, i-mode is similar to 3G, except that it could be proprietary. If my guess is correct, then i-mode is to 3G what the old AOL and CompuServe are to the Internet.

So here's the $(188+617.40) question: do I buy an NEC phone (which lacks Bluetooth data transfer!) and sign up for a new two-year contract just to enjoy free i-mode services for two to seven months? My current SingTel subscription runs out in seven months and I've had my mind set on jumping onto the 3G bandwagon just so I can surf the Web on-the-go (e.g. to check the online bus guide or find a map (assuming it works)).

Aside 2: For the life of me, I cannot figure out how 3G costs are calculated by SingTel or StarHub. At least M1 provides some nice tables.

After doing the math, I'm leaning more towards the "forget about it" side.

Thoughts from the peanut gallery?

---

Update (3 Nov): In the end, I decided not to get it. I just couldn't justify the two-year contract subscription.

--

Technorati tags: , , ,

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mobile phone price plan comparison

With competition in a field, you get more choices in that field, and that generally lowers the prices of the goods or services in that field. Right?

28 price plans to choose from.

--

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, October 22, 2005

"The 40-Year-Old Virgin"

The 40-Year-Old Virgin
After waiting nearly three weeks since it opened, I finally got around to watching "The 40-Year-Old Virgin". I watched it with Jeff and Angela. It was also my first time at West Mall up in Bukit Batok. It's not one of my common haunts because it's out-of-the-way, not that it's far, but it's in the wrong direction of where I want to go normally.

I was supposed to meet Jeff for dinner at 7:30pm, but he was running late, and the food court was packed (as was to be expected on a weekend), so I wandered around the mall. In the lobby, students from Yusof Ishak Secondary School put up a performance with cultural dances and precision drill (by the National Cadet Corps). I caught bits of it as I took the escalators up the five floors.

On the fifth, I found a favourite haunt, a bookstore, run by a not-so-favourite retailer, Popular. And lo and behold, there on the shelf, was a plastic-wrapped copy of "iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business". I contemplated buying it at a later date from a non-chain bookstore, but finally gave in and bought it.

Met Jeff at 8pm, bought the tickets, ate at the food court, met Angela, then went up to the sixth floor to watch the show. And it was hilarious! Well, at least the first half was, and then the second-half was more of a dramedy (drama+comedy). Overall, it's a typical boy-meets-girl love story. The twist is that he has to be egged on by three sex-crazed colleagues who somehow become his mentors.

Unfortunately, having so many mentors diluted the impact of their teachings. I kept feeling like I had to jump from character to character to figure out who was speaking the truth. And for a comedy, I don't want to be waylaid like that. I just want some mindless entertainment.

On one hand, I can relate to the main character, Andy. He says that he respects women so much that he stays away from them. He lives in his childhood (with his collectible toys) and is very much a geek. And he's quite a straight-arrow kind of guy. Yeah, definitely can relate.

The three of us agreed: the funniest part was the waxing scene. I think every guy in the hall felt the pain. The other little bit I liked: the two foul-mouth Pakistanis who were there mostly for laughs. (No, not because I have something against the Pakistanis, but because the characters are so way out there that it's humorously unbelievable.)

I wonder how much eBay sponsored. The name was mentioned a few times and its logo was plastered across a window. It must be significantly less than Circuit City, on which the fictional "Tech City" was based (the name and logo are similar).

I have got to try the "keep asking questions" trick one day.

--

Technorati tags: , ,

Friday, October 21, 2005

Say hello to Aperture

Aperture
So, Apple released a new program, Aperture. It's not meant for mere mortals. Just looking at its screenshot gallery, I'm already overwhelmed by the features. Take note: this is meant for hardcore professional photographers only.

But I read something about it that made me stop and think twice about this program. Apple tells us that the program doesn't affect the original image, but tracks what changes you make to it and applies them. You can then "step back" through the changes to undo them, or you can keep track of multiple versions of the same image, e.g. black-and-white, sepia tone, etc. And all this time, you do not create any intermediate, "backup" files.

How is this revolutionary? Kelly Turner, one of Macworld magazine's editors, wrote an announcement article about Aperture. Buried at the end is a point worth highlighting:

"By the way, there’s no Save command in Aperture. As you make changes, those changes are recorded in a SQL database."

What's so significant? Well, think about it. Consider how work is done in most programs:
  1. Start a new document or open an existing one.
  2. Make changes to it.
  3. Save the file (thus overwriting the previous version).
  4. Make more changes.
  5. Save again.
  6. Repeat a few more times.
  7. Oh drats, you need to undo an earlier change... but you've saved over the previous changes! Those earlier changes are now lost in the ether!
  8. (optional) Curse software developer.
  9. Make the best of what you have, or restart your work.
  10. Repeat the above process over and over and over...
The point is this: saving a document is destructive (to the original). And this doesn't even discuss the situation when you don't save a file that you really should have.

Aside: Incidentally, this problem doesn't apply to computer programs only. Even the humble video cassette recorders and more modern DVD recorders are prone to accidental recording-over's. I should know; I've recorded over shows I wanted because I didn't check the tape beforehand, and then it was too late.

From what i gather, Aperture's saving mechanism is different: it doesn't, or at least not in the normal sense that we're used to. Instead, whenever an edit is applied to an image, Aperture will note that edit in its database. The more edits you make, the more records are added to the database, where each record is an edit. If you need to modify or remove a previous edit, you track it down in the database, and either amend the record (thus amending the edit) or delete it (thus eliminating the edit). And all edits remain whether or not you consciously save them. In fact, Aperture does away with the common "Save" command because the edits are already saved in the database! A "Save" command would be redundant.

This is A Good Thing™ because it does away with the "Oh drats" situation. Imagine if you're typing in, oh, OpenOffice and realise too late that you changed your client's name when you shouldn't have. And horrors! You don't know how it's actually spelled! You can't call the client, because that would be embarrassing.

If OpenOffice had an Aperture-like method of saving documents, you would be able to search through the database of changes, find the record that says "You renamed the client's name to something idiotic" and delete it. Boom! Your client's name is back to what it was, and the rest of your document is as before.

And that is revolutionary. Yes, there is the "Undo" function in most programs, but these destroy the changes that you "step back" through. For example, if your mistake happened at change #10, you'll have to undo the last 10 changes, then reapply the nine changes that come after #10. What happens if you forget what changes you made those nine times? Good luck.

Unfortunately, I don't see something like this becoming more mainstream. Sad to say, a lot of mainstream programs are stuck in an innovation rut. But I hope that Apple will be able to extend this database-saving mechanism to the rest of its programs. Once other developers see how cool it is, then perhaps they'll also implement it.

And then the revolution will be complete.

---

Update! (22 Oct 05, 2:34pm) Holy crap! I got picked up by MacDailyNews! Thanks guys! *high five* And welcome, all MDN readers!

Update! (23 Oct 05, 12:36am) And now I've been picked up by Mac1.no, Norway's largest Mac-related website! Thank you! And hello, Mac1.no readers! Unfortunately, I can't read Norwegian, and there is no free online Norwegian-to-English translation tool, so I can't read what Mac1.no had to say.

--

Technorati tags: , , ,

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dead squirrel

There used to be a squirrel that would spend the day within the bushes along the road to my house. In the early morning, it would run down from the nearby forest, across the two-lane road, and into the bushes to feast on the fruits there. In the late afternoon, it would scamper back to its home in the forest. It was the only wild animal in my area and I enjoyed seeing it dart about.

Given a chance, it could have lived a long life.

Given a chance.

This evening, while walking home, I saw a flat, brown, furry mass on the road. Without a doubt, it was the squirrel, run over by a vehicle. While the rest of its body was intact, the area where its head should have been was instead a mass of red flesh and blood. I couldn't find anything that resembled the head anywhere.

Goodbye, dear squirrel. You were a carefree, wild animal, just living day to day. Only to have your life cut short by a mechanical beast of human invention.

Are you morbid?

--

Technorati tags: , , ,

Saturday, October 15, 2005

eBay Singapore experience

eBay
eBay, that venerable e-commerce site, has been in Singapore for a while already (more than a year, I think) and over the past month, I sold two items. During these two experiences, I learned that there are differences in the mindset of Singaporean buyers versus American buyers.

Some background: I bought two iPod minis over seperate periods, both times with the intention to keep them.

For the first one, I held onto it for almost a month. Then I noticed that my bank account was pretty low on cash, so I chose to sell the player. But I procrastinated again until the iPod nano was introduced. And since the nano replaces the mini, that meant that the one that I was holding onto may depreciate quickly. So I listed it on eBay quickly.

Aside: I wanted to sell it on sgselltrade, but I need to give my bank account details to the moderators. Now why would I want to do that???

I then bought a used iPod mini, but the bank account still didn't look good. This time, the kicker came from the introduction of the new video iPod. Without a doubt, the mini's price would go down even faster now, so I listed it pronto.

And no, I don't plan to sell another iPod mini.

Back to eBay Singapore. I had sold things before on eBay America, and I thought the procedure would be the same here. Here's how it's done in eBay America:
  1. Seller lists item.
  2. If buyers have any questions about the item not mentioned in the listing, they email the seller, and the seller replies.
  3. Buyers either buy item at the fixed "Buy It Now" price or start bidding.
  4. Auction ends.
  5. Winning buyer pays seller at the auction's final value price.
  6. Buyer sends money to seller.
  7. Seller sends item to buyer.
  8. Both sides leave feedback for each other.
  9. The End.
Easy peasy, right?

Now here's the Singapore version:
  1. Seller lists item.
  2. Buyers email seller, asking either or both of these questions:
    1. "Can I meet you to see the item?"
    2. "Can I buy it from you now?" (with the implication that the seller will cancel the auction)
  3. Seller responds to buyer.
  4. Buyer haggles for a better price
  5. Seller may or may not relent.
  6. Buyer most likely buys item at a price fixed outside of eBay.
  7. Seller and buyer meet to exchange item and money.
  8. Feedback may or may not be left.
  9. The End.
So what's my problem? It's in step 6. According to eBay's policies, the seller is not allowed to make an offsite sale, i.e. a sale on the item outside of eBay. Also, let's say the seller agrees to sell an item to a particular buyer at a certain price. If the auction's price goes above the agreed price due to third-party bidding, then the buyer has to outbid in order to secure the sale (though he won't be bound to it by the seller). This may be viewed as shill bidding, i.e. bidding by parties to push the price higher for the seller's advantage.

If the seller is unscrupulous, he may agree to the buyer's price and ends the auction early. That's in step 2(b). Then eBay does not register a successful auction and both the seller and buyer have no chance to leave feedback for each other. Both parties' reputations do not increase or decrease. This will affect how they are perceived by others at future auctions. It may seem like a minor issue, but in eBay, trust is built through positive feedback. No feedback means you have nothing to show that you are trustworthy.

I would advise eBay Singapore to step up its education efforts for buyers and sellers. For buyers, they should be made to understand that they have to follow whatever is stated in the auction. For sellers, they must be made aware of the negative repercussions of violating eBay's policies.

Likewise, for buyers and sellers, especially those who are new to eBay, they should be aware of the policies and follow them closely. The policies aren't there to take up bandwidth. They protect buyers and sellers from bad transactions. eBay isn't just another pasar malam (night market) where you can haggle over an item.

So that's what I've learned from selling on eBay Singapore. BTW I made a profit from both sales. Where's the money? I gave it to my mum for her birthday. Happy birthday, mum!

--

Technorati tags: ,

Bad Sony Ericsson salesman!

Sony Ericsson Z520i
Sony Ericsson had a promotion over the weekend for some of its new handphones. One of them was the Sony Ericsson Z520i. I had been thinking of getting a new handphone, and when this model came up, I thought that I'd found the right one.

So I headed over to Suntec City, which was one of two locations of the roadshow. After angling through the crowds, I arrived at the booth. A salesman was standing there, so I approached him. For some reason, he looked vaguely familiar, like I'd seen him at school or selling something else.

Anyway, I asked him about the free DVD player that was bundled with the phone and he told me about it. Then I asked him how much I could get for SEZ, my current phone. He leafed through the folder of prices and I found the price: $100. Not bad, I thought I could only get $50 for it.

Then, just as I was about to ask him another question, he did the SUPREMELY STUPID THING that any sales-and-service person could ever do: he moved on. It's not like there was another customer demanding his attention, and it's not like he was the only SE person there. What was I, invisible??? Maybe because of my T-shirt and shorts, I looked too cheap for his $400+ wares.

Well, screw it. If he didn't want his commission, I didn't want to spend.

Anyway, at the counter, I saw various phones laid out. I picked up the Z520i and it's much smaller and lighter than I preferred. Then again, its target markets are women and teenagers, so I suppose the size makes sense for that. The lady at the counter saw me fiddling with the phone and said something that sounded unintelligible to me. I gave her a puzzled look. She said something unintelligible again. I asked, "Pardon?"

And then she asked, "Can I assist you?" It was then that I realised that she had been asking the same question in Chinese. Haha! But it was a crowded place and the noise was messing with my hearing. By then, I'd decided against the phone, not because of the BAD SALESMAN, but because it didn't fit what I was looking for. So I said my thanks and left.

On the way out, I passed another mobile phone shop and it had the Motorola ROKR on display. I tried it out, listening to the preloaded songs. Not bad, it sounded as clear as on the iPod. But I'm still not interested in it.

--

Technorati tags: ,

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"I know how to set up the World Wide Web!"

On the bus home, I was just minding my own business, listening to Pod! while SMSing away. At the stop outside NUS, three undergrads in their early twenties -- two guys and a girl -- boarded and sat near me.

The girl and one guy were talking about something that sounded like an introduction to tech support or something like that. (Pod!'s volume was turned low enough that I could hear their conversation because I don't want to get any more deaf.) So the girl said she knows how to do this and how to do that. And then she blurted:

"I know how to set up the World Wide Web!"

Instantly, I looked at her with a stupendous expression and mouthed the words, "Set up the World Wide Web?" She saw me but didn't respond. Not that I was looking for one. Anyway, her guy friend figured out that she meant setting up a website, e.g. configuring the web server, hosting pages, etc.

After that, their conversation drifted on to other things, like what she should wear to a party that night, so I just tuned out and focussed on my music and handphone.

To set up the World Wide Web, one would need to set up the underlying network, set up the various servers and routers, and then set up the protocols and rules and other stuff... Not easy.

--

Technorati tags: , ,

Irresponsible career consultant?

Evidently, even with the Straits Times online forum, its server disk space is still quite limited. They can't even publish in both paper and electronic forms the average of 70 letters that they receive every day. Meanwhile, Google and Yahoo! can offer 2GB of email space each for their thousands of subscribers. Go figure.

Luckily, I have my blog. And here's my unpublished letter:
I refer to the article, "Jobs that Singaporeans shun" (The Straits Times, October 9).

It was informative to read about the labour movement's drive to redesign many jobs to be attractive to locals. I applaud its efforts to attract more locals to fill job vacancies.

However, I gathered that the low pay offered for these undesirable jobs continues to be a bone of contention for job seekers. The average starting pay is around $1,200 a month, even for dangerous jobs at shipyards and demanding ones like healthcare provider positions.

Unfortunately, it seems that even career consultants do not understand what such a low pay entails. Ms Salwani Mahadi, an NTUC CareerLink consultant, is quoted as saying that job seekers should be content with earning enough to pay their bills "(e)ven if there's nothing to save for the future". I think that that is the most irresponsible thing for a career consultant to say!

If an employee earns enough to pay for each month's subsistence only, then the logical conclusion is that he will have to work until his death. This is because he will not have any savings to spend from in his old age.

Financial planners advise that everyone needs to build up his own nest egg for a comfortable retirement life. Such an egg can only be achieved through continued savings and, later, investments. Even the interest earned from bank savings alone is insufficient.

Depending solely on one's CPF allowance after retirement is also not viable. It is only enough for him to survive day-to-day. It is not meant to maintain his way of life. Fortunately, job seekers seem enlightened enough to understand this basic fact. No wonder then that they continue to shun these low-paying jobs!

I thus wonder how any career consultant can use such a line as a marketing tactic. She should understand that a job's pay must not only cover today's needs, but provide for tomorrow's expenses as well.
Unfortunately, I cannot provide the original article because
  1. it's very long (about a full page's worth of content)
  2. I'll be sued by SPH and I don't need that.
Maybe they didn't publish my letter because the writing is disjointed (I admit that). Or maybe it's because I slammed the Glorious Labour Movement (but I said I applaud their efforts!). Or maybe it's because I'm just plain wrong (am I?).

Whatever. Now I've published my letter.

--

Technorati tags: Straits Times, forum, pay, NTUC

Friday, October 07, 2005

State of Chinese

There've been a couple of students on attachment to the company recently. Currently, I'm working pretty closely with two of them on website matters. They're from a polytechnic (not saying which) and have taken a class in web design. There's also a graphic designer from Malaysia (not a student) who's attached to the company for a while.

The company has a few websites, and two of these are being revamped (so far). The students and the designer were tasked with conceptualising and implementing a new design for each of the two. One website is done by one student, the other is designed by the Malaysian designer and implemented by the other student.

Let me focus on the latter team, because that's the main point of this post. The Malaysian girl cannot speak Chinese, whereas the student is a guy who's more comfortable with Chinese. Therefore, that leaves me as the translator. Me -- the guy who scored C5 in "O" and "AO" Level Chinese. Fortunately, with my smattering of Chinese, I'm able to get her ideas across to him, and vice versa. And if I fail to do so, at least the design is on paper too, so he can refer to that.

But here's my beef: the student is a Singaporean (at least I think he is!) who's studied in Singapore all of this time. And Singapore is a land where English is still the language of business and most day-to-day affairs. So why in the world is his English so bad and his Chinese so "powerful"?

Mind you, the Malaysian designer's use of English is already pretty simple. No, I'm not belittling her, I'm just saying that it's not like she's using four-syllable words in hundred-word sentences. And she doesn't use overly design-technical words. Heck, I didn't study design, but I knew what she's saying. And I imagine that any school child would be able to understand her too.

He was so comfortable in using Chinese that he would use Chinese even in her presence. Meanwhile I would use English when replying to him so that she could at least follow along. But I felt bad for her. It definitely wasn't her fault for her to be excluded from the discussion just because we couldn't stick to one language that we all knew!

Finally, I put my foot down and told him point-blank to use English. He realised his error and used his broken English thereon... except for one moment when his English failed him. But there's nothing wrong there with the occasional lapses. There are times when my Chinese fails me and need someone to back me up.

Oh, it gets better. Later, I found out that he also spells "button" as "b-u-t-t-o-m"! No, it wasn't a typo, because he spelled it that way twice and didn't even know it was wrong until I pointed it out. WTF??? This is below primary school-standard!

On one hand, I shouldn't be surprised by any of this. After (30+?) years of "Speak Mandarin" campaigns, our Chinese youths would rather speak Chinese/Mandarin than English. The trend was already picking up steam when I was in school, which was slightly less than 15 years ago. I had classmates who preferred speaking Chinese over English, and I was from a school where Chinese is treated as a foreign language!

Chinese is so prevalent today that I think it has made Singaporean society the worse for it. Yes, China is a huge market, and will remain a huge market. But one shouldn't discount India too, where -- surprise! -- they speak English. And let's not forget the other powerhouse, the United States of America, which -- surprise! -- will not give a rat's ass about you if you can't speak English.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any general realisation about this language breakdown. If there is, it's been restricted to coffee shop talk, not government dialogues, where it should matter. Something must be done to re-elevate English to its rightful position. I don't care if you have to use Singlish. Chances are, between the local lingo and legitimate English words, any native English speaker will be able to figure out what you're saying. But at least Singlish is closer to English, and from there, Singapore can claw its way back to the predominant use of English.

Note: I'm not an English chauvinist. Is there even such a person? All I'm saying is that, given the nature of the world today and for the foreseeable future, our youths should speak and practise their English. Otherwise, we may end up with a society that is fragmented by the use of different languages. And then it'll be the 1960s all over again.

--

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Return to comics -- Crisis!

Some time back, I lamented the state of comics and local comic shops.

For the time being, I take that back. And the reason can be summed up in one word: Crisis.

Crisis on Infinite Earths
If you're a comic book aficiando, then you know the significance of that word. If you don't, then all you really need to know is that the word "Crisis" has become a tagline for any major comic crossover in DC Comics, usually resulting in some kind of major revamp, retcon or reboot. This began with the landmark 12-issue series, "Crisis on Infinite Earths" (Wikipedia reference), published in 1985.

Identity Crisis Identity Crisis (Turner variant cover)
I've become excited over this C-word because DC Comics is now publishing a series of stories tied to their year-end crossover. It kicked off in the middle of the year with the landmark crossover, "Identity Crisis" (Wikipedia reference). In it, the superheroes were portrayed as less than noble, primarily because they were willing to wipe the minds of villains in order to protect the formers' secret identities. Needless to say, once the villains became aware of these actions, they weren't going to take it lightly.

Countdown to Infinite Crisis Infinite Crisis #1
Hence, "Infinite Crisis" (Wikipedia reference). This six-month journey began with "Prelude to Infinite Crisis" and ends with the seven-issue "Infinite Crisis". In between, lots of things have been happening in the DC Universe, which has shaken the status quo. Government conspiracy. Wonder Woman killed a villain. Superman and Batman are no longer friends. Several superheroes are killed.

It is that exciting!

And to help me along the way, I've discovered a new comic shop. Actually, it's been around for a while, but I stopped by it one day just to check it out and I've returned there a few times over already. It's Comics World at Parklane Shopping Mall. Yes, Parklane is quite a sleazy place, but I don't go to the other parts of the mall, so it's okay.

I get pretty good service, i.e. the staff is helpful even if they seem unsure about what they sell. And the owner seems very familiar, maybe he was a part-time actor? The service is quite unlike my old haunt, Comics Mart. (You know, I was going to put a link to them, but screw it, they don't need my referral.)

The staff there was fine at first, but over the years, I guess success got to their heads. Whenever I enquired about anything, I got this "holier-than-thou" attitude, as if they couldn't be bothered to serve. Maybe because I didn't buy every comic on their rack or participate in their hosted games or drop by every week.

Well, it seems like they're earning enough money, so I'm taking my business elsewhere. And at a good time too, judging by the quality stories that DC Comics is churning out with "Infinite Crisis".

Ah, it's good to be back.

--

Technorati tags: , ,

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Top 10 songs

Sassyjan wrote about songs that define her mood. She quotes:
music is an ambiguous translation of one's psychological behaviour.
(BTW Sassyjan: you removed me from your link list! WTF???)

Here's my list of songs.

Disclaimer: Unlike her, I'm listing only songs that I own legally, i.e. I bought the CD that contains those tracks, or I bought the tracks from iTunes Music Store (yes, because I still have an American credit card, bwahaha!). And I don't link to any files. RIAS, IPOS, Big Brother -- stay away!

TOP 10 Most Played (Digitally Purchased) Songs on my iTunes
  1. t.A.T.u. - "All the Things She Said"
  2. Liz Phair - "Why Can't I?"
  3. David Foster - "Love Theme From 'St. Elmo's Fire'"
  4. Jann Arden - "Insensitive"
  5. Sixpence None the Richer - "Don't Dream It's Over"
  6. Yanni - "Aria"
  7. Bee Gees - "Alone"
  8. Chantal Kreviazuk - "In This Life"
  9. Dixie Chicks - "Landslide"
  10. REO Speedwagon - "Keep On Loving You"
TOP 5 Most Played CD Albums
  1. Britney Spears - "...Baby One More Time" (okay, I admit it!)
  2. Various Artistes - "Favourites" (1980s and 1990s slow rock)
  3. Corrinne May - "Fly Away"
  4. Corrinne May - "Safe in a Crazy World"
  5. Various Artistes - "The Players" (modern instrumental)
What's my psychological behaviour?

--

Technorati tags: , ,

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Review: iMovie HD and iDVD

For this past week, I've been spending my nights working on a video (besides Tuesday and Wednesday nights when I was knocked out by the flu bug). I had been procrastinating on it for almost six weeks and I figured it was high time I got it done. And because of my self-imposed deadline of finishing it on Sunday, that left me with just a few hours for about five days to get it done.

Which meant that I would have to forego using the more pro tools and use something that's more cut-and-paste, i.e. iMovie HD and iDVD. These two programs had been sitting on my hard disk for a few months already, so it was about time they got some use to justify their bytes.

iMovie HD
iMovie HD remains the simple, easy-to-use video-editing program that it was since its version one days. My method of editing is:
  1. Import the video from the camcorder
  2. Lay the unedited clips (with footage that I want) in the timeline
  3. Edit clip by clip, splitting each clip at the point where I want to use the footage
Especially for (2) and (3), my workflow is different from what other people would do. For (2), most people would drag one clip to the timeline, edit it, then go on to the next clip. I guess that since I knew beforehand what clips I wanted, it was easier to find those and add them to the timeline first then do it clip by clip.

And for (3), the common technique as suggested by the manual is that for each clip, you select the portions that you don't want and press "Delete". I find this difficult to do due to the nature of the mouse. For me, it's harder to select something horizontally across about two-thirds of the screen. It's far easier to get to the point in the clip that seperates what I want/don't want and split the clip there. Of course, that means I have tons of subclips, but at least it's also easier to restore an incorrectly removed portion.

I also wanted to have portions where the audio track would continue running but the video would change, like voiceovers in documentaries. iMovie HD has a simple "paste over at playhead" one-menu method to achieve this. It worked... for the most part. I found to my horror that, at the point where the video changes, there would be a very noticeable "pop" sound or an audio break for one frame. One frame, or 1/25th of a second, may not seem like much, but when it comes to sound, you will notice it.

So that was what I really disliked about iMovie HD. According to the discussion boards, this is a known problem. There were several suggested fixes, but I didn't have time to try them on my end. I had already spent four days to trim one-and-a-half hours worth of raw footage to about half an hour of completed video. That left me with one day to prepare the DVD.

iDVD
Switching over to iDVD was easy-peasy. In iMovie HD, it's a one-button affair. iDVD was painless to use for the most part. All i needed to do was select the template that I wanted, type in the titles, and I was done. iDVD had intelligently picked up the chapter markers from iMovie and created a whole menu for chapter selections.

My only stumbling block came about because of my own silliness. iDVD has a panel that lets you control settings. I had used it to do things like selecting a template, choosing photos (I didn't use any photos in the end), etc. But it took me a trip to the manual to figure out that that was also what I should use to change text settings. Well, duh! It's a settings panel! *slap forehead*

The other thing I needed to learn is that, in iDVD, to add a new menu, you "add folder". I guess the assumption is that each menu "contains" other items, whereas a "menu" is something that points you in a certain direction. It's just terminology.

So, one week later, I had burned a pretty slick DVD using these two consumer programs. In future, I think I'll stay away from iMovie HD unless absolutely necessary, but I intend to use iDVD again and again and again...

--

Technorati tags: , ,