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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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March 2004, Week 1 -- Getting the Jitters

 

 

Philips camera
Lipstick-size video camera

   Sometime in late Spring, possibly around mid-May, Philips Electronics is expected to start selling a video camera the size of a lipstick. The camera will be able to record 20-30 minutes of full-motion video and sound on built-in memory chips. List price is expected to be $250 or less.

   Such miniaturization is a fine technological achievement, entirely possible with today’s tools, but might have other problems. We recently bought a pocket-size Panasonic video camera, for example, which also stores sound and video on silicon instead of tape. The only problem is the jitters. Many digital video cameras have what is called “jitter control.” That is, the hardware and software compensate for the shaking of a hand-held camera as much as possible to produce a stable image.

  

   The trouble is, the smaller the camera the harder it is to hold steady. A camera is easier to hold steady if it has some heft to it. So light weight and small size, attractive as that is, carries its own problems, so to speak. Users often suggest mounting the camera on a tripod to solve the jitter problem, but carrying a tripod cancels the light weight  and size advantage of having a tiny camera. In fact, the Panasonic we bought doesn’t even have a tripod mount, and it’s unlikely the Philips will either.

 

   Experienced still photographers often solve the problem of holding the camera steady by having something to pull or push against. If the camera has a strap, the tension of pulling hard against it with one hand tends to steady the other. Pressing the camera hand against a wall or table helps. The two-handed grip favored in police action movies also helps.

 

   The Philips web site is www.philips.com, but they don’t provide any info on the camera yet.

 

It’s a Wonder

 

 

   When Ati’s “All-In-Wonder” graphics card first came out a few years ago it was, well, a wonder. You not only got a great full-color and fast display on your Windows monitor, you could watch TV at the same time. Well, they still make that card and now they’ve bundled it with faster graphics and some nice software.

   The “All-In-Wonder 9200” combines the television card with Ati’s series 9200 graphics chips. This is not their latest graphics card – the 9800 is the most recent, but it is a better graphics card than the one that comes with most new computers.

 

   Fast and sharp graphics displays tend to be particularly important for game players, but such displays are also important for artists, architects, layout editors and design engineers. If any one in those groups doesn’t need the absolute latest in displays there’s a lot here for relatively little money, and if you want to watch and/or edit video, there’s a ton here.

 

   The All-In-Wonder 9200 card lets you watch television or a video from tape, DVD or camcorder while working on a regular Windows program at the same time. The video image can be confined to a corner of the screen or viewed full screen as a pale background to the program you’re working with. If you’re using Microsoft Word, for example, the background can be the stock market, horse racing, a movie or whatever.

 

  In order to watch television on your computer screen you need to connect a cable or amplified antenna to the back of the card. You can also plug in a video camera or VCR. You can watch two programs at the same time, if you wish. Whatever video you see on your monitor can be captured as single frames or in its entirety. In other words, you can save a whole program or movie to your hard drive.

 

  The process works in reverse as well. Whatever video you capture, create or edit on your computer, can be output to a DVD, tape or directly to a TV. All the necessary sockets for this are on the back of the card.

 

   The All-In-Wonder 9200 comes packaged with Pinnacle’s Studio 8 software for editing video and Matchware’s Mediator 7.0 for creating interactive CDs and web sites. While Pinnacle 8 has had mixed reviews from users, Mediator is very popular with educators and others making interactive web courses. Mediator can also be used to create interactive catalogs on the web. List price is $149.

 

   Web sites to view: www.ati.com; www.matchware.net; and www.pinnaclesys.com.

 

Something useful

 

   “Registry Healer” is a very nice little utility for cleaning up your Windows registry. You think it doesn’t need cleaning? Think again. Every time you load or unload a program or download updates, changes are made to your registry files. These are essential to Windows’ operation and the more there are the slower the computer runs.

 

   We had over 2,000 registry entries in a Windows XP laptop we use and Registry Healer said 900 seemed to have no purpose. The utility informed us it could fix 875 of those.  Now comes the part that some people won’t like, but didn’t stop us:  The utility is free for downloading from www.fixregistry.com but will only fix 19 items. If you want more fixed you have to register the program for $20, which we did. There’s a fail-safe feature if you have Windows XP: you can create a “restore point,” a place to return to if the registry removal process created problems for your system.

  NOTE: Readers can search through any of our columns for the last four years at www.oncomp.com . You can contact Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Dee Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com
   
 

 

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