Friday, December 20, 2013

Random Post, T-Minus 4 days til X-Mas Eve!!!

So with a week of using my refined Xubuntu PC set up, i have determined a couple of things. 1. for most every capture i want to do with my Easycap, i want to use SVideo, and so i ordered an SVideo Cable kit for the 360 (i also ordered a new fan for my computer, as my one died, and i have the computer elevated and a small 110v fan is keeping my computer cool for now). I also have this cable for my hacked 1st Gen Xbox (can't call it the Xbox 1 because... well, you know...)so i can do capture on there of retro systems etc via emulation. 2. i need to get a 3.5mm stereo splitter, so i can capture my own commentary live while i am recording, so i do not have to record one in post. this will not be hard, it just involves a trip to the store, and about $3 for a decent one. 3. My IBM Model M is a much better keyboard to use for my day to day typing as it is solid and very responsive, which is better than the Maxell Backlit Chicklet styled one (which wasn't all that bad, really) and my IBM KB8923, which packed some 'oomph' for a stock IBM rubber dome keyboard (built quite well, but i prefer Buckling Spring Switch-based keyboards as a whole). i type on this computer more than i use my other Windows computer (which is only really used for gaming, and i use a controller and remapped controls via Xpadder for games like Fallout 3/New Vegas, which require WASD) so i now have it on my Xubuntu PC. I will also be hooking up the tablet/mouse set-up i was using on my tower that is currently in storage, and when i take it out of storage and hook it up, it will be using a Mircosoft Wireless mechanical Keyboard and MS Classic Design Optical Mouse. 4.When the other items i have in storage are available, i will be taking an IDE DVD-RW Burner i have and making a small set up where i can use it with an IDE to SATA adapter and related PSU i have laying around. The DVD drive built into the laptop died a while ago, and until i can afford a replacement, i will just use this with another powered hub, and have a small enclosure , with a cooling fan and the hub built in, to keep the computer running cool as a cucumber. The tower i mentioned earlier is a stripped down Windows 7 Ultimate 32 bit computer, used primarily with my Toshiba 27" 480i (w/SVideo & Component) CRTTV for gaming and media playback, as well as capture via it's Gamebridge 1410, but it uses proprietary drivers geared towards Windows XP, and will not run on a Linux-based distro, or Windows 7 64 bit onwards (Windows 7 32 bit will recognize it, but you have to set every install-related EXE to run as Administrator, and for the best results, these EXE files should be ran in Windows XP SP3 mode for the best results). i may set this computer to be a dual boot Windows 7/Xubuntu Linux based machine for gaming and general house use. As for the capture device working like i want it to, i have determined that the Easycap DC60 is a decent Composite/SVideo capture device, but it's audio capture is for the birds, with low quality capture, so i just use my mic input. I have found that by using VLC for the capture, and running some de-interlace settings (i set it to Film NTSC) in the preferences, and enabled the Dshow access instead of live-caching, which lags due to the buffer not liking anything lower than 250 ms without noticeable crackle. i did this by going under the Show More Options are when setting up the Easycap in VLC, and then under Edit Options, go to the end of the text in the white bar, and change "live-caching=300" to "dshow-caching=10", and towards the beginning of the text, find "v4l2-fps=0" and change the value 0 to 30 if you are using an NTSC Device to capture footage from (for PAL, use 25 fps, and for other regions, such as SECAM, PAL-M, etc. Google can easily find you framerate, as well as you set it to the region in the drop down menus you navigate when setting up the Easycap for use with VLC). The one fault of VLC recording video, is that is records in a rather uncompressed format, which is why i recommend a small usb hard drive (250 gig is fine for a half hour of uncompressed recordings). This both allows for less resources used when recording, and allows your main drive to work without recording footage on it. After i record and i proof the video to ensure there was no audio video lag, i then open the file in Handbrake and tweak a couple of things before i compress/transcode it. Firstly, for some reason, my videos end up in a roughly 3:2 aspect ratio after i do my initial recording, so i correct it with changing the resolution in Handbrake to a roughly 820x472 pixel resolution. Things look less 'skinny', and less awkward on the eyes. I also run further deinterlacing, using what is called the 'slowest' setting, which allows for less artifacting and higher quality video. In addition to this, i also run some Denoise on things, to clear up color bleed due to the mixed signal you find in Composite (hence my changing over to SVideo when the cables arrive). Besides this, i change the audio format to MP3@160mbps for decent audio (not an audiophile, and many songs people download are around this bitrate. After this, i export it, proof it, record a voiceover, make the thumbnail and title card, toss all of that in Openshot for a trimming and sync of my voice with the processed gameplay, i export it and then upload it. all in all, i start out with a raw 5.8 gig file from the initial capture, and after all of that, and a 23 meg mp3 voice file, everything ends up being an H.264 220 meg 720p file (i upscale it to 720p for ease of display, and it will look better once SVideo capture begins). I do this all with an Open Source operating system, and the only non-free part was the agreement i clicked for the MP3 compression stuff, which is licensed out to everyone from some group or some junk (i had to click on a checkbox when in installed Xubuntu on this computer, meaning i gave my yes/no to using something, which means it wasn't free in a technical and software sense - if you have to click Yes/I Agree or No/Cancel, it's not 'free'). Other than that, it's free, and i never had to use either paid/cracked Windows software like Sony Vegas-OpenShot is like a simplified Vegas, but a bit more easier to use, and not as limited as something like Windows Movie Maker. I use a nice simple program called Audio Recorder to record my voiceover (click on/off recording and no preset to screw with), and VLC is also Free and is a great capture program, much simpler than Virtual Dub (also free), Pinnacle (not free and pretty frustrating), the software that came with the EasyCap for Windows (it asked me for a key that they never gave me!!!), or other Windows-specific programs. With all of this, i am tempted to do an article as well as a video detailing on how to do this in a similar manner for prolly $150, including the computer. Any Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why i am (More Or Less) a Full Time "Linux User"...

So i want to start this entry off by saying that, yes, i own a Windows Computer as well as an iPhone 3GS (which is old as dirt by current smartphone standards), but, for all intents and purposes, i am a Full-Time "Linux User", which means my primary computer use is on a computer that uses a GNU/Linux Kernal-based Operating System. I use Xubuntu 13.10 64-Bit, which is the XFCE-flavored version of Ubuntu, which uses the Unity Desktop Environment (or Gnome, if you like). I like it. The interface in general makes me think of both a workstation ala something like Sun would make, as well as nods to older GUI-based OS's out there, like GEM for the Atari ST line, and a Mac, which does make me think that 'yes it has a top of the screen toolbar, a nice dock, and a very stable operating environment', but it more speaks of both what i want and what i believe in as a computer user in general. It also appeals to me as someone who is fond of customization of things in general, as well as the ability to make it 'do what I want it to do'. I use this computer for most every task i need a computer to do on a daily basis. I can use it for my social networking, email, word processing, scanning images, cutting and editing high definition video, capturing video from my Easycap, photo/image manipulation in Gimp, Skyping, downloading, and a ton more! The whole part about how i had come to own this computer is a lil odd. I helped my sister to pick it out for her three sons about 5 years ago. Its an HP Pavillion dv6700 Entertainment PC laptop. It has 3 gigs of ram (increased from 2), a 320 gig hard drive (upgraded from 250 gigs after the boys dropped it and killed the hard drive), and the screen is a smaller one from a smaller profile model, so it was hardware- and compatibility-wise, it was a simple Plug N Play thing, but i had to glue the screen itself into the screen housing, as it is small enough to fit through the bezel. It's glued in using The Amazing Marine Goop, meant for patching rain clothes and rubber boots. The original screen was broken from another drop that resulted from the boys, and, as they had each gotten new laptops for Christmas that previous month, my sister asked if i wanted it, so i accepted, got a new screen for it, and then proceeded to make it a new hobby of mine. I had gotten myself a new laptop a month before, for Christmas as well, and figured i had no need for this new acquisition as a full-time computer. i was still playing around with GNU/Linux at this point, with Xubuntu 11.04 on an older IBM Thinkpad T20, but felt i needed something a little more 'up to date', as the T20 was from 2003, and ran a PIII 650 mhz processor. So i retired the Thinkpad, and then proceeded to make the new HP a Linux Machine like no other i had before. After replacing the screen and then glued it in so it held in fine, and then started playing with things in Linux on a much faster rig. I had two Windows computers (A tower and the new laptop), and they were set up in a battlestation configuration, with the laptops to either side of me, and the desktop in the center. This all changed when the new Windows Laptop had to be sent off for Warranty work, as the power in jack on it turned out to be loose from the motherboard, but i wasn't going to void my warranty. So after i posted it to the mail, all i had for a non-desktop was the HP, which i had now dubbed The Free PC. i became more and more familiar with Terminal, streaming and downloading media, and learning the more deeper 'nuts and bolts' nature of Linux in general. even when the Windows Laptop returned, it became the computer i went to for most everything. as it stands now, my Windows Laptop is folded up, in my entertainment center, with a controller and a tv hooked to it, along with a hard drive dedicated to videos and music, along with Windows Gaming. There are no files on there for personal use, like pictures, family video, resumes, personal media etc. To me, my Windows computer is just a glorified console. MY Xubuntu HP is a much different matter. With three USB ports onboard, it has a 4 port hub hooked to it for an HP all in one scanner i got for $2 at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, along with a PS/2 to USB Keyboard & Mouse adapter so i can use my vintage IBM KB-8923 keyboard (a rubber dome, but an IBM designed and built keyboard), as my IBM Model M (1992 Lexxmark-built International edition) is too noisey to do most of my typing on, restricting it to daytime typing, or when i know that none of my roommates are home, or at least cannot hear it. The Hub also hs a USB mouse (a retractable-cabe $3 travel mouse from Dollarama, which honestly works fine for my needs, but i may look into getting a PS/2 Trackball for s*its and giggles, and a multi-card reader for differently-formatted flash memory cards. The onboard card reader will read most cards, but some have issues, so it's always good to have a backup. Besides the hub, i have my Acer 500 gig external pocket USB hard drive, that i use for recording footage i capture from my Easycap DC-60 (the usual one with the Composite and SVideo input and super-craptacularly awful Mono 8000 Hz sound input, which i do not use, bypassing this by using the laptop's mic input along with some wires and an inline headphone extension cable to manage the captured audio 'on the fly', negating the need for complicated scripts or linking functions to other applications. As well, besides the smaller screen i have glued in, i have a second monitor, as the dv6700 (at least this version) has a GeForce 7150M/nForce 630M Nvidia vid card, with 128 megs of ram onboard, and access to a total of 512 megs via Turbocaching. it's using official drivers, but the Legacy support for things like OpenGL rendering is much less up to date than its Windows drivers, but isn't a huge issue. The Monitor itself is a Sanyo 19" 1080i/720p LCDTV, connected via VGA and 3.5mm inputs, besides the HDMI, Composite/Stereo, Component Stereo and Cable/RF inputs, and the TOSLink out on the TV. throw in a desk lamp, and a desk that itself is made from spare parts, and you have one custom workstation. From the software side of things, the FreePC workstation i have gives me alternatives or Linux ports of software i was already using in Windows and other Linux distros i was using for the last few years. All of the usual ones were here for me: Chrome for my browsing (but in this case, i use Chromium, the Open Source version of Chrome with no proprietary Google code in it), Skype for my chatting (currently using 4.2, and have my Windows Messenger ID integrated), Thunderbird for Email, LibreOffice for my office suite needs (especially word processing), VLC for media playback (and recording, as i will talk about soon), Audacity for audio manipulation and even the ability to use Silverlight with a few Terminal commands! Besides the usual software, there is also some Open Source software that gives a person not only an alternative to what they may be used to in Windows or on a Mac, but as well, sometimes with a bit more flexibility, and no strain on the wallet, or even your beliefs. For example, i use Openshot for editing and encode the videos i upload for my youtube channel. It is a bit similar to Sony Vegas, with with interface and layout, along with its ease of use when editing. i have used KDEnLive in the past, but i have found OpenShot to work better for me, as i usually just use captured footage or video from my 1080p Kodak PlaySport ZX3 (think of it like a Flip, but from Kodak). when i am recording audio for voiceovers or similar, i use Audio Recorder, as all you do is start it up, hit Start Recording, say what you are going to say, and then hit Stop Recording when done. you can set it for quality of recording as well as the ability to change the directory on which it will record to. For video capture itself, i use the Open Capture Device selection under Media in VLC. When i do this, i negate the need to use any other program which may be clumsy to use or outdated and no longer supported (i'm looking at you, TVTime and Cheese..), and i can also pick alternate audio capture sources so i can bypass the Syntek DC60 Easycap's dreadfully low quality audio capture inputs.Once i record my footage, i then have to compress it to something smaller than 100 gigs for an average ten minute video (thankfully, the footage is recorded to an external 500 gig pocketdrive, so i wont run out of room when recording anything longer, as i do not have the 15 minute limit on Youtube), and VLC is rather awkward for this, so instead i use Handbrake, which is out for every operating system, but is not only great but also Open Source. I can also use VLC to stream in the same manner, allowing it to be streamed on sites like Justin.tv, Twitch, and Youtube via the Google Hangout area. I am rather impressed that something that is written off as a 'hobby OS' is so formidable, especially on 5 year old hardware. For me, the computer is a statement of who i am creatively, that even with tools that are not nearly of a 'calibre' like my peers, but i can certainly make an attempt at doing this 'freely', supporting and helping this concept progress as a whole. it also allows me to show that there truly is an alternative to the norm that one can rely upon. I will be continuing to blog, as i wish to show others my thoughts on things of this nature, as well as even random and unrelated things that i may want to talk about and enjoy. But for now, thank you and I'll be back soon! PS. for a view of my Instructables articles, click here: for my Youtube page, Click here: for my Instagram profile, click here: and for my Twitter, click here: