Codec Roam Away...

Hello, my intended...

You may be wondering where the Angel of Death... MOST... EXALTED... had been these past few clicks of the cosmic clock... Maybe not. But since people seem to think me going through shit and then carping about it is kinda funny, I suppose I'll tell you. You're here already, right? Okidoki, then...

First, I've been having MAJOR troubles with my girlfriend's tiny little problems that she seemed to expect me to fly in and make stop... That's in another rant, so I'll let you scan that in case you care, and spare those of you who don't the recap. Suffice to say it's been taking a large portion of my free time, which I generally used to use to go through shit and then carp about it for your amusement. I work eight hours a day, as most of us do, and sleep for at least six, which leaves ten... Add in an hour each way to the job and back, and we're at eight hours left. SIX of which were spent dealing with what amounted to OTHER people's shit, which left just TWO for mine, and I pretty much just used them to try to calm down enough to get to sleep and start over the next day.

Believe it or not, these things don't write themselves. It takes between two and ten hours to jot down; another few to edit so it's somewhat concise and on topic, saving some choice bits of ramble that didn't fit the topic as well as I hoped to build another rant around later, and then shuttle it through the FTP to you so you can have a chuckle at my tough cheese.

And that's why I've been a bit behind on my semi-regular rants... Sorry.

Now to business... Being the tinkerer I am at heart, I've been piecing together this humongous beast of a computer until I got it 'just right' to handle what I figure I might want to do with it. She's a beauty, too. Parts are seated in a full tower case as follows:

  • 800 MHz Pentium III
  • ASUS P3V133 Motherboard
  • D-Link Ethernet card for DSL and home networking. ISA type.
  • ATI's All in Wonder Radeon (32MB) for graphics, TV, and video capture. AGP type.
  • Creative Sound Blaster LIVE, MP3 version.
  • Creative Modem, pretty much just for faxing.
  • Maxtor/Promise ATA100 Drive Controller
  • 10 GB 7200 Maxtor as System Drive
  • 40 GB 7200 Maxtor as Assorted Data Drives, partioned as  6GB Text, 22GB Music Backup, and 12 GB Games
  • 30 GB 7200 Maxtor as Video Capture Drive
  • 60 GB 7200 Maxtor as Video Edit Drive
  • ZipCD 4x4x24 CD-RW
  • Digital Research 24x10x40 CD-RW with Buffer Underrun Protection.
  • 384 MB of PC-133 RAM
  • USB Scanner, Laser-Mouse, Camera, and Gamepads.
  • So as you can see, it's got alot of horsepower, even a year after I first assembled the basics... Seeing that this was so, I decided to try to actually do something that REQUIRED as much 'oomph' as I had carefully assembled. Windows ME may be a mess, but it's more supported than Linux by hardware and software makers, so it gets the OS nod for now. It's minimum system requirements are much more than Linux, sure, and if all I did was mess around with these web rants it would be all I needed for years to come.

    But it's not. I need more.

    Don't ask me why. I just do...

    I'm a guy.

    Sadly, except for typing up these things, drawing the odd picture, and playing the odd game there really wasn't anything I actually DID with the darn thing. I had a racehorse and was parking him in the petting zoo! So I decided it would be better to do something productive... Something that needed as much 'oomph' as I had, but not so much that 'baby' had a hernia. Then it came to me...

    Video. Mr. Fiendish could make movies! Hell, he could even use his dual CDRWs to burn them to digital discs and play on most DVD players - replete with fancy menus and such! Woo-hoo!

    Feeling the euphoria us technocrats usually get when we've decided to use our fancy machines for something, I dusted off the video editor that came with my ATI All-in-Wonder and installed it... Ulead's Movie Maker v4.0. This is bliss, I thought, as I snagged various bits for use - pretty much just dumbass TV commercials I was going to make fun of like those little TV robots... How happily I tossed about the tiny video clips and overlayed a music track from my CD collection... Trouble was, for some reason the audio and the video refused to synche. Ever. So I checked their websites, and as per FAQ directions, I closed everything else and defragmented my hard drives and tried again.

    And then I crashed.

    Ulead's 'mp3' support is apparently not quite as much as it let on, so as per FAQ directions, I tried a different bitrate... I got a different crash. Feeling somewhat befuddled, I checked Ulead's website... It seems I have the Special Edition of their product, which I suppose explains why it's working like someone that rode in on the short bus. However, according to the FAQ, I can upgrade to the full version for $50; and if I wanted could even get version FIVE (naturally MUCH better than the v4.0 I have) for $75...

    I suddenly became aware of the fact that FAQ spelled "Fah Cue"...

    Feeling perplexed, and already somewhat leery of the 'update' fleece-job, I decided to look around and find something that would do what I needed at a reasonable price. After all, I saw what I got for 'free' and frankly it sucked the donkey, so I was willing to spend some money. I bought a 'medium range' video editor for about $50, mostly because it had the added feature of 'remastering' old VHS (basically an RGB slider to adjust color levels back to 'normal' on old/multi-generation tapes). It was called Magix Video deLuxe, and it was gonna be the SHIZNIT. I danced home and dug out one of my old EP cartoon tapes with dreams of watching the Galaxy Rangers and such in restored, never again fading glory on my DVD darn soon! So I hooked it up and started it up, and things were peachy! I tested it by copying an old Marine Boy ep, color-fixed it, and saved it in commercial divided segments for use with my Nero VCD burner to make nice menus out of and generally rule my little earth.

    Well, that was the plan...

    The reality was that my painstakingly modified to 'normal' colors appeared REVERSED when I played the file - and just so I couldn't compensate and repair the color in reverse so it would be okay on playback, they added a giant textblock in the upper left quarter on my video saying 'Colors Reversed Due to Incorrect Version ID'. So I checked the program for a version ID, and none was found. Then I checked the software to see if there was some way to INPUT this number when I DID find it, and was similarly thwarted. I scratched my head in consternation... The software was messing up my video because I couldn't ENTER some number I didn't even HAVE. So I called CROSS-COUNTRY to Magix's Customer Service to see where my ID was, and the lady said that I needed Tech Support. I told them that all I needed was my damn ID number that the thing was demanding, and that was Customer Service as far as I was concerned, and I'd be DAMNED if I was going to call a 900 number for tech support when all I needed was the number the program says I should already HAVE - which didn't come in the box! The lady said she understood, and she would get someone to help me if I held on, and was it okay? Feeling better about the whole thing I agreed - and they put me on hold FOR AN HOUR before CLOSING THE OFFICE and BAILING.

    Without any other option, I checked their FAQ, and found out that my brand spanking new Radeon All-in-Wonder videocard used the brand spanking new Windows Digital Medium (WDM) capture format, and my software wanted the old Video for Windows (VfW) format. After poring over their FAQ, I noted their explanation for this was that 'some card makers won't support a standard format like VfW so that they can't use anyone else's standard programs, just the ones of their subsidiary companies and partners'. Personally, I'm all for the little guy and normally would rail against such tactics, but they could have said it on the BOX before I dropped half a C-note and pissed away an hour of my LIFE on hold LONG DISTANCE.

    I suddenly became VERY aware that FAQ spelled "Fah Cue".

    Without much of my previous enthusiasm, I asked around a few places and was assured I would have much better luck with  the de facto 'standard' for PC video editing, one 'Adobe Premiere', and I almost had a heart attack at the $550 price tag! I mean, honestly, if I was gonna spend dough like THAT it would be so I could make it back later - which I doubted I could. The only real audience for me being a goof on camera is me; and I wouldn't sell that sort of thing to myself even if I was buying. Luckily, I could download the 'trial' version and check it out myself for thirty days. So I fired up the DSL, snagged it, and installed the darn thing... Then I ran it, and it turns out - surprise - that it ALSO uses the VfW format. Well, that saved me 5 1/2 Franklins, so I didn't take it as hard as I might have if I found out the hard way... On reflection, I figured if I did go the hard way, I'd be up on a water tower in Silicon Valley with a high powered rifle, but I digress...

    So I looked around and finally settled on MGI's Videowave... Everything from capture to edit to production, and it would even burn the stuff to CD with snazzy menus all for just $130! Woo-hoo! So I march it home and hook it up, and then - you guessed it - Crash Bandicoot! It corrupted my system to the point that my CD-RWs weren't even visible to my OS - even as regular CD drives! My CD burning software was a smoldering ruin well befitting the Nero name, and I couldn't even fix things with a System Restore going back a month!

    Apparently, MGI is an acronym for Many Go Insane...

    More than a little bit worried, I booted up the laptop and checked MGI's website which, of course, had another FAQ. So I plumb through it for a few hours trying to see what went wrong, and it seems that the problem is with my 'outdated' ASPI drivers, which I could easily download and install from Adaptec and go back to being a garage DeMille with minimal fuss and bother. Well, that was the THEORY, anyway... So I gathered up my tattered hopes and staggered over to get the files that would save me and my dreams of being the next Tarantino.

    With a weary countenance, I go through the FAQ at the Adaptec site and I finally manage to find these mythical ASPI things that would fix me right up... Well, there's a TINY snag. (I even had the nerve to be surprised) These drivers are completely incompatible with Windows Millennium's included ASPI drivers, as well as the way Windows ME uses these drivers - and woe be to the poor schlub that installeth these to Windows ME, for it will verily destroy their entire OS.

    Remember what version of Windows I'm using?

    My computer didn't.

    Probably because of that lobotomy I just gave it with the MGI Videowave. I figure that fewer dumbas- er, customers would buy it if it was called MGI's Video: Wave Goodbye, but I still checked the box with a magnifying glass to see if 'goodbye' wasn't hidden there somewhere in tiny print as something else happened...

    I suddenly became INTENSELY aware that FAQ spelled "Fah Cue"...

    I stayed aware of it the whole time I was formatting my hard drive and reinstalling Windows to remove the foul taint of  MGI's Video: Wave Goodbye.

    So, basically, despite saying on the BOX that it will work with ALL versions of Windows from 95 on up, it WON'T. As I see it, that's false advertising. Therefore, I take the thing back to the store and tell them it's defective. They tell me that it's open. I tell them that was how I KNEW it was defective. So they tell me to get another copy. I tell them that another copy of the same program won't do, because it's the program which is defective. They tell me that they can't take it back because of the DMCA - that I can't return open software because of Copyright Law saying I probably made a copy and was trying to get over. I told them that a copy of software that didn't work seemed a tad ridiculous to have, and I would like to see the manager. Bobo is persuasive like that.

    The manager tried to take the same stance, and Bobo persuaded him to examine the store's records of how much business Bobo does in our favorite electronics store... The manager noted that myself, and members of my immediate kin had spent in excess of $30000 in that store in under 3 years. Bobo then smiled and said that if we couldn't come to an amicable solution, today would be the last day they would EVER see him or his family in their store. The last place that got excommunicated like that went out of business in five years, and Bobo was willing to bet it was just a coincidence if the manager was. The manager wasn't, and Bobo got a refund which he used to buy ANOTHER Video Editor, this time from Pinnacle...

    Well, having learned my lesson with Adobe, before I open it I check the website and snack the 'Trial' version to see if it will work with my card. According to their FAQ, which I scutinized heavily, my Radeon was fully compliant and should work fine, so I install the trial version and check to see if it will capture video from my Radeon AIW.

    And then the other shoe dropped.

    It always does...

    The trial version doesn't ALLOW video capture, but if I wanted to I could buy the full version and it would. I went back to Pinnacle's website for their FAQ, and I researched it extensively. I read the whole damn thing, paying special attention to anything remotely resembling my cards. It took TWO DAYS, counting the message boards... There were a few odd bits about DMA for my hard drives (which was enabled for maximum compatibility), some more about making sure all the drivers were up to date (another two hours to ensure compliance), and then I took some aspirin as a pre-emptive strike, and turned to the box.

    I stared for an HOUR at the unopened box while the aspirin kicked in. The chick on the front of it looked so happy. Like a movie star. I swear.

    I then opened the box and installed the software. Okay, so far so good, so then I rebooted like it told me, and booted it again. It's version number was out of date, of course, so I spent another fifteen minutes downloading the patch and rebooting (thank God for DSL, really). And then I rebooted and restarted. Again.

    And then the other shoe dropped.

    It always does...

    Seems that the Radeon, the Soundblaster and the Pinnacle Video Studio weren't getting along worth shit - and despite doing everything the FAQ said to fix it, they still weren't. I could record video, sure, but the codec that was the ONLY one the Video Studio let me EDIT wouldn't let me capture SOUND. So after all that money spent, I was still stuck with something I couldn't USE. On the plus side, it seems that it does work with my old AIW 128 Rage Pro, which I'd tossed into my mom's compy when I bought the badass Radeon 'upgrade' so she could have a nicer video card. Now she has a nice video editor to go with it, and I get off the hook for Mother's Day. I also hooked her up with the 60 GB drive on a removable tray so she can yank it out, bring it over, and slide it into the beast here so that I can burn whatever videos she's made with snazzy menus. She's even opted to throw me a bone and copy a few of my 'stupid cartoons' for me, so I can actually get the use out of the stuff that prompted me to buy it in the first place.

    It just takes an extra step or two, is all...

    You're welcome. See you SOON.