Month: April 2009

Roxio easy VHS to DVD Review (Computers)

Posted by – April 27, 2009

Roxio Easy VHS to DVD
What is it? Roxio Easy VHS to DVD available for £39 from Amazon UK, lets you “Create DVD movies from your VHS tapes and Hi8 or V8 home videos” or alternatively it lets you “Transfer video tape formats to your PC or DVD” – you don’t have to put them on DVD if you don’t want to, you can put them on your PC first and edit them or re-arrange them first.

What does it need? USB2 socket, video inputs: Composite video (RCA) and S-Video (mini-DIN), audio inputs: stereo audio (RCA x 2).

Roxio Easy VHS to DVD
In the box you’ll find: a USB dongle, a USB extension cable, USB audio / s-video / composite lead, software CD rom (with cd key), instruction manual, and warning card telling you to plug to dongle in first before installing the software.

PC minimum requirements: Windows Vista / XP with 1ghz CPU, 512mb ram, DX9 gfx card, sound card, DVD-rom drive, 2gb free HD space for install, Windows media player 10 or higher, CD writer for VCD, SVCD and DVD writer for DVD, IE7, one available USB2 socket.

Install: 15 minutes to install. Seems to go very slowly and seems like it’s crashed during the install – patience is a virtue as they say.

Roxio Easy VHS to DVD
Problems: Plugging in the USB dongle AFTER installing the software CD will cause problems. The USB dongle should be plugged in BEFORE installing the software. If you do it the wrong way round and the computer says “Driver not found”, then go to http://www.roxio.com/go/videousb and download the usb dongle driver – installing this should fix it.

Another potential problem you may get is the “Signal protected” error message even though the signal is not copy-protected. There is a fix for this from roxio available here (although so far I have not had to use this).

And some more problems I left the capture running, came back to find the video out of line, unplugging the usb dongle and reconnecting crashed the PC completely and it rebooted. Later I recaptured some more video went to close Roxio Media Import, and it crashed.

Roxio Easy VHS to DVD
Using the software The program starts with a friendly wizard with the following options: Capture video, plug and burn, digitize lps and tapes, burn audio cds, burn mp3 cds, capture audio from soundcard. You can also select additional menus from the left – the one I’ve been using is the Video – Movies menu. The program comes with a software manager that will let you know when any critical or important updates are available.

Capturing video using Roxio Media Import – Capture settings – You have various options – DV 720×576 (AVI), DVD HQ (720×576, MPEG2 8mbps), DVD SP (352×576, MPEG2 4mbps), DVD LP (352×288, MPEG1, 1.7mbps), VCD (352×288, MPEG1, 1.12mbps) – none of them say “VHS-PAL” which you would think would be the most suitable option so that you are using the most accurate and efficient capture method. This would also enable the most efficient use of hard drive space. Why encode it as DVD quality or higher?

Roxio Easy VHS to DVD
Making DVDs: After capturing the video you can: Edit the video using Roxio VideoWave and / or then turn it into a DVD using Roxio MyDVD. This is fairly straightforward, however, as soon as you start a new project in MyDVD, it automatically adds hideous buttons, background pictures, and music, and then everytime you add a video file to it, it uses the same horrible buttons, similar to “WordArt”. Changing it is thankfully quite straightforward – and results can turn out quit well (as can be seen above). After it re-encodes the video to fit the DVD, and writes it to the DVD, you can then use “Create labels” to create the DVD label, and print out a Lightscribe label.

Additional features / thoughts The dongle also lets you capture audio “LPs and Audio Tapes” according to the box. (Although your sound card probably already lets you do this, but I guess it’s a nice marketing sticker they can put on the box). You may already have S-video on your graphics card, which may have let you capture VHS / video without having to buy this dongle, assuming you have the right card / cable and software.

Overall: Roxio Easy VHS to DVD does what it says on the box, assuming you can get past the potentially numerous problems, or assuming you don’t have as many problems as me! Reviews on Amazon UK are mixed with some people having success, others much less. The price, at £39, is reasonable, with other solutions (Magix Rescue Your Videotapes also comes with a USB dongle) priced almost identically. It’s difficult to come to a succinct conclusion, it worked for me, but the number of problems myself and many others have faced make it difficult to recommend. I tested this with a high performance PC (Quad core, 4gb ram, 500gb hard drive etc), running Windows XP SP2, and would have expected slightly better performance.

A Guide to Digital Camera Memory Cards (Cameras)

Posted by – April 21, 2009

Memory Cards - DigiCamReview.com
DigiCamReview have published an extensive guide to digital camera memory cards of all shapes and sizes. From the large Compact Flash card to the ultra small Micro SD card. They let you know what the different symbols mean, how to get the memory card hooked up to your USB socket, and where to get the best prices from.

This robot needs your help…

Posted by – April 12, 2009

Robot
This robot needs your help to cross Washington Square Park. Tweenbots have made this cute little robot, left it in Washington Square Park with instructions telling passers by that it needs to get to the southwest corner. Will the public help the robot get there? Find out by watching the video on tweenbots.com. (via Gizmodo)

Ricoh CX1 Review at DigiCamReview.com (Cameras)

Posted by – April 9, 2009

Ricoh CX1
DigiCamReview.com have reviewed the new Ricoh CX1 – an update to the Ricoh R10 – it features a 9 megapixel CMOS sensor which allows high speed shooting at 4fps, enhanced dynamic range, and features a 28mm wide angle 7.1x optical zoom lens, high resolution 3″ screen, ISO1600, VGA videos, and is available in silver, black or pink for £292.

“The Ricoh CX1 may seem like other Ricoh cameras before it – however the new 9 megapixel CMOS sensor adds some important features – namely extremely quick continuous shooting. With 4fps at full resolution the camera can shoot quicker than most budget Digital SLRs! High speed shooting also allows Ricoh to provide an impressive Dynamic Range mode – this uses the speed of the camera to take two shots of different exposures – combines the two and produces an image with greatly increased dynamic range. The results are quick, clever, and very useful.”

Read the Ricoh CX1 Review

View the Ricoh CX1 Sample Photo Gallery

Samsung SyncMaster 2494HS 24" TFT Monitor Review (Computers)

Posted by – April 6, 2009

What is it? A full HD 16:9 1920 X 1080 (aka 1080p) 24″ TFT computer monitor with DVI / VGA and HDMI inputs and built in speakers for £195 including VAT from ebuyer.com. It’s sold as a 24″ monitor, but it’s actually 23.6 inches.

Is it any good? Yes – image quality is good with crisp clear pixels, and calibration using a Spyder 3 Pro (shown above in the first photo) made a slight change (making the image warmer, and slightly darker). It’s got a matte screen so there is minimal reflections from lights etc.

Why choose this over other monitors? I personally chose this one because I wanted 1080p for a PS3 using HDMI, plus the speakers are rated at a MASSIVE 😉 6w (2x 3w) – whereas some other similar (Iiyama) monitors deliver even less power from their speakers – the monitor has an audio jack in (for sound from the PC) plus a speaker / headphone socket (all the ports are at the back). Plus this was one of the cheapest TFT monitors with HDMI input.

Design / Looks: The black plastic casing is almost entirely matt – apart from a loop that runs all the way around the monitor including along the bottom where the touch sensitive “buttons” are. The speaker location is a little bit poor in that they point directly down, so in order to get the sound to your ears you’d really need to mount some deflectors or something to bounce the sound towards you, although saying that, I don’t know where else they could have mounted them without making the monitor appear more bulky.

Positives? Value for money, ability to take 3 inputs (including HMDI blu-ray, ps3, or xbox360), good screen. 5ms response and 50,000:1 dynamic contrast according to the specs. Comes with VGA / DVI and audio cables but no HDMI cable.

Any negatives? Quite a thick border around the screen compared to most Dell TFTs. The speakers seems adequate at best – poor for listening to music and probably not loud enough to be used in a living room. The touch sensitive buttons are practially invisible in low light – and difficult to use as there is no feedback when compared to normal buttons. Fairly small viewing angle. It would be nice if black was a little blacker – there is a tiny amount of backlight bleed. Base is a little small.

Overall: This is one of the cheapest 24″ TFT 1080p monitors available with speakers and HDMI built in. Not only that, but it offers excellent image quality, with zero dead / hot pixels. If you want a 16:9 aspect ratio then this would make an excellent choice.

More info and links: Gallery photos, ebuyer.com, Photos at ybnews.com, Dead Pixel Buddy (useful for testing TFT monitors), Forum Discussion (Whirlpool.net), HotUKDeals.

Update Nov 09: looks like the Samsung 2494HS is getting rarer to find (discontinued? / replaced by newer model?) – so you might want to look at the ASUS 24″ VH242H Wide Gaming LCD TFT Monitor (5ms, Full HD, HDMI, Black).

Nero 9 Mini Review for PC (Computers)

Posted by – April 6, 2009

£31 from Amazon UK – this provides Nero 9 + Nero BackItUp 4 plus a trial of Nero Home 4. It comes in a big box containing the usual size DVD case – so isn’t especially environmentally friendly when it comes to the packaging.

Installation attempt 1 failed at 2% with Nero installer crashing, and a reboot was required. (Although it did manage to install a Lightscribe control panel that now lives in the taskbar).

Installation attempt 2 was successful using the typical installation settings (although it appears you need to perform a custom install to get all the Movie templates – which are useful if you use Nero Vision). This seemed a little slow – taking around 20 minutes on my PC which has 2 500GB hard drives, a Quad Core processor, and 4GB of ram, so I dread to think how slow it would be on older machines! Installation did not require a restart of the PC at the end of installation, which was an unexpected bonus.

The installation put two icons on the desktop – one of them a Lightscribe icon – the other a Nero StartSmart icon, it also put the Nero and Lightscribe icons in the taskbar (the Lightscribe icon can be easily removed). Opening StartSmart gave me a wizard making it easy to choose what I wanted to do, and I was quickly and quite easily able to burn an audio CD from MP3s on my hard drive, and anyone familiar with StartSmart should be familiar with the way Nero 9 works. I also had no problems making a DVD from files on my hard drive – Nero Vision worked well and let me arrange the menu, and then Lightscribe let me print the disc label. Overall, apart from the slow install and initial glitches which seem to have been caused by me not restarting my PC, Nero 9 seems fine and does the job well. I installed this on Windows XP SP2. (from joshwaller.co.uk)