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Software and Technology20 Jun 2008 12:01 pm

Recently Lifehacker turned me on to an awesome hulu browser written in one of my favorite platforms Adobe Air. My Media Player works very well and as a great way to watch hulu on the desktop.

For those who haven’t had much exposure to hulu (as I really haven’t had yet) hulu offers free high-quality tv shows and movies streamed over the wire. Hulu was setup by NBC and News Corp (FOX) and is rockign the online video world. The content is pretty extensive and has many popular shows such as The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and tons of others.

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Software and Technology19 Jun 2008 12:38 pm

The Windows Media Encoder 9 application available free from Microsoft is a great free application for those needing to encode Windows Media Video (.WMV) videos.

Windows Media Encoder 9 supports many set encoding profiles as well as allowing custom settings and is available in 32 or 64 bit versions. It is pretty limited on input video file formats (avi, asf, mpg) it will encode from but the output is excellent and the application is free.

Microsoft’s newly released Microsoft Expression Encoder 2 is a much more powerful encoding program but alas is not free. They do offer a generous 30 day trial of Expression Encoder 2 so if you have a project you must get done on the cheap give it a try.

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Software and Technology10 Jun 2008 11:48 am

For a project I have been working on I needed to incorporate videos. I found perfect videos at my favorite stock photo site iStockphoto (although much more pricey than the good old days). Here is where my complete lack of video knowledge starts to come into play!

The videos I found I wanted to use said they included an Alpha Channel Mask or Alpha Matte which I had found from a few great tutorials would cut out the video from the background and allow me to use the videos as overlays or talking heads with the rest of the video background being completly transparent.

I downloaded the video and proceeded to import it directly into Flash (it was a FLV already after all) but alas not only was it just a normal video without the Alpha Channel effect there was this black and white cutout section after the video. Going back to my complete lack of video knowledge I was really lost. I figured it was just because I didn’t have the actual file and just a proof. So, I downloaded an original file and imported that using the Flash Encode Alpha Channel setting. Still no Alpha Channel and Video Transparency (just now better quality and without the iStockPhoto watermark).

Below is the final workflow I arrived at to turn iStockphoto Video comps with attached Alpha Masks into Quick Time (.mov) movies with alpha channels and ultimately Flash Video (.flv) files with the alpha channel. I will be using Sony’s Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Version 8 and FLV to AVI MPEG WMV 3GP MP4 iPod Converter to make the magic happen. I will also go through how to transform the Green Screen (Chroma Key) videos into videos with alpha channels along the way.

STEP 1: Find your video on iStockphoto. You can search for “Alpha Channel” “Alpha Mask” or “Chroma Key” to find videos that contain the attached Alpha Masks or were shot on a Green/Blue Screen.
STEP 2: Click on the Video and then Select The Download a Comp link.
MPEG Converter
STEP 3: Follow my previous tutorial on converting Flash Video files to MPEG or MOV files.
STEP 4: Open Sony Vegas Movie Studio and Create a New Project. In the project setup select to match the project a video file and select the video file you created in Step 3.
Drag Video to Stage
STEP 5: Using the Explorer Window (one of the tabs at the bottom of the screen) find the movie file you created in Step 3 and drag the video file to the Video Timeline (The 3rd One Down).
STEP 6: If your Video has an Alpha Mask at the end of the video we next need to pull that out to use it. Drag the PlayHead to the last frame that has the video and the frame right before the Black and White Alpha Mask Section. Then Press the “S” key or select Edit – Split. You now have two clip pieces.
Split Mask From Video
STEP 7: Drag the Alpha Mask Clip (the one on the right) Up to the Video Overlay Stage Layer (one above the Video Layer).
STEP 8: Click on the Double Green Box and Change the Mode to “Mask”
Luminance Mask Selection
STEP 9: Click on the Video FX tab at the bottom of the page. Select “Mask Generator” From the list box on the left. Drag the Luminance Mask Effect up to the Alpha Mask Clip (the one in the Video Overlay Stage) then close the Popup Window
Luminance Alpha Channel Mask

At this point you now have your Alpha Mask and background of your video is transparent. If your video was shot on Green Screen sometimes the mask is off a bit and the Green Screen can show through. At this point you can through in a Chroma Key to get rid of the Green Screen

Chroma Key Green Screen
IF YOU HAVE A GREEN SCREEN: On the Video FX tab Select “Chroma Keyer”. Drag the Pure Green Screen Chroma Key effect to the Video Stage (the one with the main video … and the green screen)

STEP 10: Render the Video. Select “Render As” from the File Menu. I extracted it as a Quick Time 7 (*.mov) and set the quality to best. NOTE: You need to make sure that your CODEC supports Alpha Channels before you export otherwise … you are back to where you started.

The video now includes the Alpha Channel and you can use it in your Project. I imported my videos into Flash. If you are importing them into Flash you need to make sure you select Encode Alpha Channel in the video import properties.

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Programming and Software and Technology19 May 2008 12:45 pm

When I first tried to get PicLens enabled on my website photogallery I could not get the PicLens plugin to recognise my pictures rss feed. I had created my pictures.rss feed and instructed by the PicLens webmaster guide and pointed the page to the rss file using the link call at the top of my page.

<link id="gallery" rel="alternate" href="photos.rss" type="application/rss+xml">

I double checked the format of my photos.rss page but I still could not get PicLens to recognize it, and instead kept getting the error:

“This site does not yet support PicLens.”

The Cause: I discovered was that my web host (GoDaddy Shared Hosting Plan) was not correctly serving the rss file.

The Solution: Rename the photos.rss feed to photos.xml. Since the rss file is an XML file I knew it would be correctly served and would be hopefully be discovered by PicLens. For me changing the rss file to an xml file extension solved my “This site does not yet support PicLens” Error.

The second issue I discovered was that the webmaster guide does not list the guid field in the spec yet it is seems to be necessary for PicLens to match images on your site to the declarations in the rss feed. The guid field is included in the example photos.rss fied that comes with the downloadable webmaster guide which seemed to work unlike mine was so it was my clue the rss guid field was necessary. The rss spec clasifies the guid field as a unique identifier. I chose to use the filename as the guid for my photos.rss (photos.xml field as is the case for my setup) since it is unique and change the isPermaLink field to be true since it is. I could have also used the ID field of that row in my Database but I figured the PermaLink provided me with more information.

<guid isPermaLink="true">picture_214_2_1211225557.jpg</guid>

Let me know if this solves your PicLens error or if you have any others I may be able to help with.

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Software and Technology28 Mar 2007 03:44 pm

Order Photos with Automator Screenshot
Problem: I had a directory of 115 photos which I wanted to upload to my picture gallery in the order they were taken but they were taken with three different cameras so the filenames meant nothing. With the Firefox/Apple finder you are unable to order by Date Created very easily in the dialog that pops up when you click to upload a photo to the web.

Solution: I created an Automator Action to first take Selected Finder Items then copy them just in case, then order the items by Date Taken, then rename the files in that order to 1-115.jpg. I also added a string so I could use this script for multiple directories I needed to order like this. You can download the action: Order Photos Automator Action.

To use this Automator Action, first select your photos in the finder, the double click on the Automator Script (after unpacking it from the ZIP). You will need to edit the location to save the copied items to to fit your needs and edit the filename settings if you don’t want _nc in your name.

This script is nothing special or perfect but hopefully it gets you thinking about harnessing Automator to quickly perform menial tasks on your Apple.

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Software31 Jan 2007 12:35 pm

Problem: A classic Contribute 3 Unknown Error message mysteriously disables a connection that was previously working.

“Contribute has disabled your connection to this website because an unknown error occurred. For more information contact this website’s administrator.”

Solution: According to Adobe’s Contribute Knowledge Base (Macromedia was bought by Adobe recently which can be a bit confusing) the error is caused by a corrupt hub file that resides on the server. Nifty huh? To fix this error you need to remove that hub file.

IMPORTANT: Removing this file is necessary BUT it will remove you as an administrator and all other users from the server’s master list. This is not a huge issue because all of their settings remain valid and they merely need to click “Connect” and then “Next” to reconfirm all of their settings and recreate their entry in the server’s hub file. This is important to remember, though, because if you are in a larger organization; you will need to do some preemptive education so your users do not panic.

To remove this file:
1) Connect to the server (through FTP, local, etc)
2) Browse to /_mm/
3) Locate the cthubXXXXX.csi (XXXXX is a random string unique for each installation) and back it up to your local drive
4) Now that you have a safe copy, Delete the hub file

This should take care of your “Contribute has disabled your connection to this website because an unknown error occurred. For more information contact this website’s administrator.” Contribute error.

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Software28 Jan 2007 09:25 pm

TMobile is currently offering a free trial of their HotSpot WIFI service for Windows Vista customers until April 30th. What! you say. Where is the Mac OSX love? Well it tourns out TMobile really doesn’t mean their trial is for Microsoft Vista users only…

Here is how to take advantage of the TMobile Vista Free Trial on your Mac running Firefox.

First we need to make TMobile think we are on a Vista PC running IE 7 instead of on a Mac running Firefox 🙂 Here are the steps to go incognito.

1. Download the Firefox User Agent Switcher extension.
2. Restart firefox
3. Select: Tools > User Agent Switcher > Options > Options…
3. Click “User Agents” and then “Add”
4. Fill out the window with following info:
Description: Internet Explorer 7 (Windows Vista)
User Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)
App Name: Microsoft Internet Explorer
App Version: 4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)
Platform: Win32
5. Click OK to save this new User Agent

Second lets put on our disguise and sign up for that trial.

1. Select Tools > User Agent Switcher > Internet Explorer 7 (Windows Vista)
2. Browse to http://hotspot.t-mobile.com/vista/
3. Sign-up at the page and enjoy your free WiFi until April while sipping a cappucino at Starbucks or browsing your favorite periodical at Barnes & Noble.

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Software14 Nov 2006 09:38 am

PROBLEM: Adobe Acrobat Professional 6.0 gives a “Adobe Acrobat has been updated. Please restart before continue” message every time on startup. Restarts do not remove the “Please restart before continue” message and clicking on Help -> Updates … gives an error that you must restart to finish installing previous update or just brings up the previous “Adobe Acrobat has been updated. Please restart before continue” message.

SOLUTION: You have to manually download and install the Adobe Acrobat 6.01 update from Adobe’s website. The link to the adobe updates for Mac where you can find the Acrobat 6.01 update is here and the Windows update is here. I also installed the 6.02 update, downloaded from the same website. After installing both of these updates, my “Adobe Acrobat has been updated. Please restart before continue” message was finally gone for good! Now you can use the normal Updates … menu item to download and install the next updates through Acrobat instead of having to manually download and install each of them.

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Software18 Oct 2006 11:24 am

I recently downloaded and installed CoRD (A Cocoa Remote Desktop Client) for my Mac Book Pro and I have been extremly impressed with this remote desktop app. CoRD remote desktop for Mac

It was a simple OS X drag and drop install and it was running smoothly with no crazy configuration. My only complaint is that there is no documentation so I was actually super suprised and happy when it worked so well.

Setup: to setup CoRD on my Mac I started the app and then entered the IP of the Windows XP computer I wanted to connect to and hit the Green Plus button to start the Remote Desktop session. That was it! Really! I have no idea how my XP box is set-up as it predates me so I could have gotten lucky but anyways that would be a Windows XP issue not a CoRD issue.

I have been using CoRD for about a week now and would recomend it for any Mac users who need to be able to remotely connect to a XP box.

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Software17 Oct 2006 05:49 am

After having receintly installed Parallels software on my Mac Book Pro I quickly realized that I needed to be able to share files between my OS X OS and the Parallels / Windows XP Pro OS if it was to be of any use. I found a couple of ways to accomplish this but my favorite by far is detailed below.

Step 1: Install Parallels

-This one is a no brainer. Just follow the installation instructions included with Parallels to install the app and then Windows XP.

Step 2: Install Parallels Tools

Here is a quick how-to install Parallels Tools

Step 3: Stop the Parallels VM

-Click on the Red Square on the right side of the screen if Parallels is running.

Step 4: Enable Shared Folders in Parallels

Enable Shared Folders in Parallels
-First Click on Edit at the bottom of the screen to edit your current Parallels VM
-Second Click on Shared Folders in the left view (if you don’t see Shared Folders, click on the add at the bottom of the screen and add that item in)
-Third Click the check box to enable shared folders and then add in your shared folder by click on the plus at the bottom of the box.
-Fourth select the directory you wish to share. I chose the full home directory but you could just use the Documents sub directory depending on your needs.
-Finally, Click OK.

Step 5: Map the Windows My Documents Folder to the Parallels Share

Map My Documents in Parallels to OS X
-First start the Parallels VM (Click on the green play button on the right)
-Second right click on the My Documents Folder in Windows XP
-Third change the Target of the My Documents Folder to the Parallels Share to map the Windows My Documents to any folder you wish in your OS X directory.

Notes:

-Some initially had problems with the Parallels Shared Folders but they have adressed those and I have had no issues.
-Windows WILL create its own directories for My Music, My Pictures, My Movies etc in whatever directory you map My Documents to.
-I kept everything simple by mapping My Documents on XP to Documents on OS X but that decision is up to you.
-You can set up Parallels to show your share on the Desktop or make sure the share is running through Parallels Tools, that you installed in Step 2 above.
Shared Folders

WARNING:

-You have now opened up your previously protect OS X files and directories to Windows XP. This means any viruses and spyware you may get now can potentially cross the Windows OS X barrier and cause unplesant issues. Proceed with Caution.
-It was my decision that without those files being accessible in Parallels, I had no real use for Parallels, so I set it up. Just remember to use protection 😉

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