Bob and Joy Schwabach

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October 2007, Week 3  


Near as we can find, this is definitely something new. It's an underwater video camera, Sanyo model "Xacti VPC- E1."

Almost all cameras used for underwater photography are mounted in special waterproof housings. The cameras and housings are sold separately. This one is waterproof right out of the box. Joy tried it out diving into Lake Michigan andUnderwater Camera everything worked fine. She didn't see any sunken ships, so she pointed it at her own face while swimming and talking. Bob asked why she didn't smile, and she said it was too cold. It picked up sound quite well, however. It's remarkable how much noise there is underwater.

The manufacturer says the depth limit is 1.5 meters, which is about five feet. Bob has a general rule that most manufacturers' guidelines can be pushed to double the stated limits, because the lawyers told them to play it safe. That's so later, if the camera fails and you admit you took it a full two meters under, they can wag a finger and brush you off. Saltwater use is not recommended, as it's highly corrosive.

The camera weighs only eight ounces and easily fits in the palm of one hand. Video is stored on SD flash memory chips, just like those used for many still cameras. Video clips are stored as MPEG-4 files, which are handy for e-mailing and uploading. You can film for 10 hours with an eight-gigabyte memory card.

With the push of a button you can also take still photos, either separately or in the midst of shooting video. Video shooting uses image stabilization software that eliminates all but the worst shaking. Playback can be on the camera's own bright viewing screen, a TV set, your computer, a video iPod or saved to a VCR or DVD.

Picture and sound quality were excellent, whether above ground or underwater. We found the camera for $500 at and $432 at We checked around for user opinions and everyone seemed to lvoe it. We quite agreed and were impressed with the camera, despite the depth limitations.


If you're an experienced user of Microsoft Word and Office and recently switched to the new 2007 version, you're in big trouble. They changed the commands; much of what you knew before is now worthless. They must have had some great corporate meetings deciding on that one. But not to worry, we found a fix.

"Classic Menu for Office 2007" is a $30 program from AddInTools that lets you Classic Menuuse the new 2007 Office through the familiar commands of Office 2003. If you just want the part that brings back the old familiar commands for Microsoft Word or any of the other individual components of MS Office, the cost is only $16 for each.

The add-in programs also let you access the new commands if you want to learn them. You can decide to mix and match by keeping some of the old commands and using some of the new. You can get a free trial of all this at

Another alternative is to use the free OpenOffice word processor, which looks very much like MS Word 2003. You can get it at


The list of free photo organizers got a little longer. There's Adobe's free Photoshop Album, Google's Picasa, and now a new version of MediaOne from What these programs do is essentially create photo albums and some editing tools are thrown in.

To create a slideshow in MediaOne, you just drag and drop your photos from a photo tray into a "storyboard." Then click "share" to send it in an e-mail. We liked the free projects. Our favorite is creating imaginary magazine covers with your own photos. You can also make greeting cards, calendars and collages. The "plus" version of MediaOne is $50, but you get extra features including scrapbooks and video editing.

MediaOne comes with free trials of Muvee and Sharpcast. Muvee is one of our favorites for making video slideshows set to music. Sharpcast is a free program we use to back up and share photos. You have to pay $5 a month if you want the photos backed up online in full resolution. Otherwise, the backup contains two-megapixel catalogs of your photos, from which you can order full-resolution prints.

If you want a better photo editor, take a look at the new Adobe Photoshop Elements 4, $99 at A neat new feature lets you quickly isolate people's heads so you can switch them on to other bodies.


Pinnacle has a nice, free video-editing program called VideoSpin. They require the user to register the software to use it, but there is no charge.

Installation was slow, but once it was up there on our screen we found you can do a lot and it was all easy. Drop in your video, add titles and scene transitions, and click on the "Make Movie" button. You can add still photos and music tracks, which can make it look like one of those public television documentaries. When you like what you see and hear, you can upload the whole thing to Yahoo Video or YouTube, save it as a video file or e-mail it. You can get a copy of the software at

Here are some other free video-editing services: , , and .


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