Windows Movie Maker 2

Windows Movie Maker 2 (which comes in an update to Windows XP) is really not a bad movie making program. I have heard surprisingly little about it, so for a long time, I didn’t even try clicking the icon to see what it did. Once I finally decided to give it a whirl, I was surprised at its usefulness.

The project I wanted to do was just to take a folder of still images and create a video slideshow with music in the background. It turns out there’s a Wizard built in to do just that. Basically I just had to open the wizard, select the folder, select the song, select a style and click “create movie.” That’s it… it was done. Windows Movie Maker automatically creates the slideshow to the length of the song and throws in some nice default transitions.

Once it’s done, you can either save it and have a decent movie done in about 15 minutes, or go in and add from the impressive selection of transitions and titling effects to customize the movie.

There are however, as with most Microsoft programs, some caveats. Windows Movie Maker won’t even run on my Dell laptop. I tried some troubleshooting (updating my video card drivers etc) but it just keeps crashing. It runs perfectly on my MUCH older P II 450 Gateway desktop–even with such an antiquated processor, it is able to render the transitions in realtime.

Creating a similar movie in Premier or another, more advanced video editing application such as Final Cut would have taken much longer to get the desired effect. Between tweaking the length of transitions and the time pictures are shown on the stage, creating a simple slideshow (even using the storyboarding features) can become a much more involved process. I haven’t compared it to iMovie yet, but I imagine it has similar features.

If you have Windows XP and want to make simple videos, I suggest checking out Windows Movie Maker. If it doesn’t crash on your machine, you might just find you really like it.

For an example of the type and quality of slideshow it produces, check out this movie I created today (11.6mb wmv format).

Best Tool for Font Management

If you enjoy layout and design of any type, you’re bound to have wished for a quick way to preview text in several different fonts. Most graphics programs allow you to view only one at a time. Changing fonts over and over can be very tedious and often by the time you’ve gone through the list you can’t remember the ones you liked. Enter FontLister.

I’ve searched high and low and among both free and non-free software, FontLister is the best I’ve found. Even better is the fact that there’s an older version for free and the new version is non-limited shareware with a $5 registration fee.

Features include viewing both installed and non-installed fonts, installing fonts, viewing custom text and best of all, you can view many fonts as you want at a time. The user interface is great and it runs very, very fast. I highly recommend it. (Windows only).

OS X: Don’t hold down the Mouse

For some reason, when you hold the mouse button down in OS X Panther (and Jaguar), the processor usage goes up to 100%. It doesn’t matter if you’re clicking nothing on the desktop or the most complex of widgets, holding down the mouse takes up all your processor power.

So what? Well, here’s one example of when it might affect you. If you’re listening to online radio (or an mp3 in iTunes) and reading a website or document that requires scrolling and you decide to hold the mouse button down on your scroll bar, often your internet radio will cut out or your mp3 will skip. Especially using Safari for whatever reason. I’m sure there are other instances where this could be problematic, especially when rendering video or 3d.

I’m on a 1.6gh G5, so it’s not that I’m using antiquated hardware. This is, as far as I can tell, a fault in OS X.

Fitzgerald

I had the chance to read a couple short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald — “The Rich Boy” and “Head and Shoulders.” Of the two, I enjoyed Head and Shoulders the most. It’s a rather humorous story of a child raised to be a prodigy and how he’s pulled out of prodigy-hood by a beautiful (but not-so-smart) blonde girl. Fitzgerald does a a really good job of developing real characters quickly and effectively.

“The Rich Boy” was also enjoyable, but it’s look at a young man and the effect of being rich with ‘old money’ was slightly depressing; it was one of those stories where you really feel bad for the protagonist most of the time through. Again, however, the characters in the story are very well developed and easy to sympathize with. I recommend both of the stories.

Quick Links for Those Who Think

Today I added a quick links section on the left hand side of this site. It’s a separate blog that I can post quick, interesting links to as I find them without creating a whole new entry in the main blog. Inspired by WhatDoIKnow.

I need to sleep more and play less…

Plesk

Tonight I’ve spent several hours trying to back domains up in Plesk and restore them on another Plesk install on another server. Let me just say that it is not trivial. I’m not sure how good Ensim, cPanel or other similar web server software is at the process but if you’re going to use Plesk and potentially could have to move domains, prepare yourself for an adventure. Note: this only applies to Plesk 6. Plesk 7 is out and I haven’t tested it to see if the process is any easier in the new version.

The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyville

I just finished the short story “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyville” by Mark Twain. It’s about a man who is wronged in a small town known for it’s honesty who decides to ruin the entire town by ruining their reputation. In typical Twain style, the story is straightforward, easy to read and comprehend and very engaging. I recommend if it you have some time.

I also read a short Sherlock Holmes mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle called “The Man with the Twisted Lip.” It was pretty typical as well, interesting and a quick read. Sometimes it seems that when I’m reading I unwittingly find a common theme among a wide variety of authors. Last month it was France and everything French, especially the lack of morals there. This month it’s opium dens… strange how these things play out.

Hot Wheels Appeal

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If you’re a guy in the US (possibly elsewhere, and maybe if you’re a girl too, I can only speak for my own sex & country), and if you’ve ever had any tendency to collect anything at all, you’ve probably collected (or at least been tempted to collect) Hot Wheels. I’m not sure what it is about this toy, but it’s the one toy I haven’t been able to resist since I was 3 years old. Tonight at Target I bought one, and I have a secret stash in my closet (including some pretty old ones from when I was a kid).

I’m not positive why they’re so addictive, but from what I can tell, it’s a combination of these things (in no particular order):

1. Price – you can’t beat $.80 for just about anything.
2. They feel solid. They’re made of metal and they don’t break if you drop them. I think most people are generally attracted to things that feel nice and solid, like Hot Wheels do.
3. They’re universal. Everyone drives or rides in car or at least is around people who drive cars.
4. They’re marketed by Ford, Toyota, Ferrari and about every other ‘real’ car maker in the country. Not directly, but all that marketing hype transfers pretty well over to the miniature versions of their products; which brings me to the next step.
5. They’re small. Unlike model trains, transformers, guns or skateboards, you can keep a collection of Hot Wheels in a box under your bed and still have room for all the other stuff you have under your bed. Maybe that’s why people still collect stamps too :).

Now I’m going to set about planning my next entry, thinking of a product that will be equally appealing to the young and old alike for years and years and that will eventually make me rich :).

New Design!

Finally, I’m no longer using the default Movable Type design for the front page! This one is probably not going to last a long time, but it’s at least something a little more interesting.

The default Movable Type templates are all CSS and use only one table for the calendar. I’m not ready to spend the time to design the site without tables yet, but that definitely is in the future. I also have tons of ideas for future features… all in good time.