Not so Christmas technology whining

First of all – Merry Christmas (and eventually Happy New Year considering my last blogging pause) to you all. I’m sitting in my living room, son is ill and sleeping sooner than expected (mid-day) and wife is cooking something for the evening. And I decided to report about just a few technology problems I met recently – and I think it’s shame that I had to. Often I just ask “how this can happen in 21st century?” But it probably will again in 22nd too – in a way.

I’m just listening to Christmas songs and I realized I started to like them recently – not sure if because I’m getting old or what – or because I sing them occasionally at a music school. Probably both. So let’s see my little stupid technical issues in random order:

Amazon restrictions (not only, and maybe Amazon is not to be blamed)

And we’re getting to the first problem I encountered lately – today actually. Amazon wrote me previously that I have some free credit to download some songs for my previous shopping. Nice, I grinned. Today I really wanted something – The Priests and their Little Drummer Boy. But Amazon said “sorry, but it’s not available in your country”. Yeah, no wonder, who would sell music here – to Slovakia where we still live on trees or what. Whatever. Of course I will listen to that song today. There are alternatives.

Skype is so annoying (no news here)

I wanted to download Skype client for my mom and was lead through Czech page (which was OK), but needed do log in on web before I could get the client itself. Never happened to me before, it’s annoying and stupid. I want direct download link! Is it really your mission to annoy your users recently? (Automagic ebay related toolbars and stuff, window open after start in Windows 7… what’s wrong with you guys?) Of course: “Just don’t use it!” The trouble is my family does.

I reported part of it via some Skype support form and after submitting I saw: “Thanks so much. We’ll learn a lot from that comment.” Well, I hope so. 🙂

Google Calendar sends notifications, Google Mail puts them into Spam

Title says it all! For this I missed my last football game with friends this Wednesday. It was different day than others Wednesdays and our son got fever too and in all that mess I forgot and there was nothing to remind me. My new HTC Wildfire wasn’t set with alarm yet… but back to the problem. Isn’t it ironic? Google sending emails from their service just to end up in Spam of Google mail? So you rather want to white-list notification address.

HTC Wildfire difficulties with answering calls

I carry my phones in pockets – actually as most people around me. Otherwise you have to have it in some bag or on your belt (I don’t wear belts). Soon I noticed that my new HTC Wildfire has real problems with answering calls very often. Googling revealed many other people have the same problem – and many others don’t believe them. 🙂 (“When I don’t have the problem, you can’t have it either… you’re stupid and don’t know how to use your phone.” Or similar.) In one thread there was that idea that it somehow relates to carrying the phone in one’s pocket. And indeed – it always happened when I pulled it from my jeans. It was easy to demonstrate it. Now I’m in talks with HTC support. I’m curious how will it end. (And for those curious – it’s vanilla HTC Wildfire, no branding, Andorid 2.2.)

I could go on with many other issues related to Android or this phone, but funny enough – I just like it enough to adjourn these for some other post. But as you probably agree answering calls is kinda essential feature. And “don’t carry it in your pocket” is not the right answer.

Another wannabe spammer – Kongregate

After 9 Dragons also Kongregate network showed how NOT to it. It’s funny that big corporations (where my subscriptions is much more important and often related to my profession) can live with direct unsubscribe links and obscure sites (I sometimes register to for whatever reason) starts sending their newsletters often after some longer time, I have no idea what the hell the site is about and I have to log in to fix the situation. But I think it’s fair to let them know. So I wrote them on their support form:

Please include Unsubscribe link from email that works without login. I had to renew my password after you started to send me emails after a few months. I can’t understand why some can’t do it properly. So often notifications start to pour from service I hadn’t hear about for months (often years) and when I need to stop them, I have to spend more time than I wished to to do so. Please, for the sake of other random users of your service, do it better.

And some positives?

There are many, we just don’t notice them so easily – because they don’t angry us, right? Not sure since when, but YouTube now allows for unlisted videos. Exactly what I wanted to share videos with my family. You can’t imagine how difficult it is to instruct mommy how to register and become my friend on YouTube. This made my day.

And as we started we will end: Merry Christmas however you like it. 🙂


Beginner’s misfortune with home video

After first two days spent with our new HD camera and Sony Vegas I was ready for therapy. So many codec troubles, so many setups that refused to work… I have a habit to reinstall K-Lite Codec Pack when some other application messes up my settings and Media Player Classic stops to play some files. Generally good habit, but mine has one flaw. While I progressively downloaded new version (4.7) I forgot to place it into my install directory hence I always reinstalled older one (3.x). This was just fine for Media Player delivered with K-Lite, but it was also the root cause why Sony Vegas refused to use some codecs for rendering.

That’s also the reason why I can rewrite my original desperate text. 🙂 Still – the truth is that working with codecs and video is simply way too complex. And probably also not cheap (or for free for that matter). What I want to do with videos? Nothing big actually:

  • to record myself talking to the camera (done, camera, MTS output file, …)
  • to record something on the computer (done via CamStudio)
  • to put both videos to the one (sequentially) and add some text… result should be tutorial of some sort.

First I tried Sony Vegas Movie Studio before I found out that output in the HD resolution (720p for instance) is actually not a mere codec setup, but it’s a feature. So you have to go for Platinum edition for ~$90. I moved to this SW (in trial of course – for the start). Vegas looks cool and I put both videos one after the other and played them. While the video from the camera worked just fine, the one from CamStudio did not. I’ve noticed that these videos have incredible 200fps, I tried also other settings with various codecs, but I came to the conclusion that I have to pre-process the video prior I put it into the Vegas. This funny investigation even resulted in my first YouTube tutorial test!

Now I’m luckily behind my first bad days with video processing. Many times I asked myself: “What have I messed up with this time?” Most of these questions were cause by aforementioned unlucky K-Lite mistake on my side. Trouble is that without some experiences all those error messages don’t tell you what you need to know. There is no “man, you have wrong codec version!” error, there is nothing that leads you to the problem cause. When I wanted to render with x264 from Sony Vegas it said “the selected codec does not support the current render settings”. Or it couldn’t open Lame MP3 codec – but it happily offered all these options I couldn’t use. Then you mess up with other things too and when you fix the root problem it might even not manifest properly! 🙂 Funny world of over-complex video technology with billions of various codecs.

Originally I also tried to find some free solution instead of Sony Vegas (or Adobe, Pinnacle, whatever). I checked a lot of software – SUPER, Any Video Converter, virtualdub(mod), avidemux, muvee, VideoSpin… but I will probably purchase Sony Vegas as my nerves also have some price (let’s say they are priceless for me ;-)). Good thing is that now I work more with Sony Vegas (or my camera or CamStudio) and spend less time on Google. There is actually a lot of people with similar questions but answers either don’t work or I was just “lucky” and haven’t tried the right ones first.

I feel ready to do some tutorial now, but it will take some time. It will be probably about home music recording with tight budget or something like that. But that’s another story. If you ever suffered through your own pile of problems related to video processing, I guess you understand how I felt during last few days. If not, you’re lucky. If it’s still before you, my fingers are crossed for you. And double check codec versions! 🙂

I can’t correct myself

I don’t often change my mind but sometimes I want to adjust my opinion a bit. To correct or clarify statements or to change rating or whatever. I tend to shift ratings on IMDB a bit roughly in one case out of ten. Plus-minus one star of course. No problem there. Recently I was on YouTube watching John Miles’ “Music” and I checked more videos. One of them looked like some studio-live video-clip (you know, it’s actually played like live on the stage, but in the studio without any crowd) but the music was for sure from album. I rated it 4/5 at first because at least the sound was good and video was fine too. Next click to related video – the same video with different sound. What the heck… this sounded more authentic, it was different version with the same video. When I clicked back to the previous one I realized that the A/V is out of sync! A wanted to shift my rating to 3/5 or maybe even 2/5 (out of sync?! blah!) but I was informed that I already rated the video and I can’t do it again.

It was a surprise for me and I can’t really understand why I can’t correct myself. I see no additional value in the system of one-time decision. Heck – I could even click the wrong star by accident (call me stupid ;-)). The same goes for forums although here I can understand missing edit feature. I don’t know if phpBB rules the world of on-line forums, but at least it’s pretty close to it. And it does have the “edit” option for your posts – for a reason. I rarely see edit to be misused by some user to completely change his/her post (can’t remember any case actually). Within proper community it can’t even work in the long term because trusted users with good reputation will notice, point it out and the bad user can be easily expelled (banned or removed). You can also use “quote” to include original post into your answer. Still edit is there so you can fix your typos or clarify some statements. Many people re-read their posts when they are already submitted (me too). And there is little note about last use of edit at the end of the post so the other users know anyway.

Google groups service doesn’t provide edit feature – but there’s a reason for that. Rather technical this time. It seems to work like news-groups – it’s based on emails – and you obviously can’t edit emails when they are sent. I can understand this. I could even live without edit feature on forum boards (some of them don’t have it anyway). But there is nothing inherently wrong with correcting yourself behindhand. Especially when we’re talking about clicking on stars (rating). Or am I wrong? Will I correct myself later? And – will it be allowed? 🙂