Every man and woman a star

Here’s the setup: You attach a Webcam to the top of your monitor. (Cheap or expensive Web camera; it’s up to you.) Then you load Vlog It! software and speak. You’re on! — ready to broadcast a video blog.

Vlog It! creates video blogs in real time. If you want or need a script, you can enter the words into the program’s “teleprompter” section. When you read that, it will look like you’re talking right into the camera. You can bring in video or still clips from your own cameras or some other source, and provide commentary on those.

If you use a green or blue screen behind you as you record your video blog, you can put in any background. This is a technique from the movie industry: Special effects, like Superman flying through the air, are done with an actor suspended from a harness in front of a green screen.

Later, any background can be used to replace the solid green color behind the figure, which acts as a blank screen. You can do the same thing. You can have a Washington, D.C., backdrop, so it looks like you’re commenting from the capital, or a video of Moscow’s Red Square, to look like a reporter on the scene. That’s how they do it on TV, too.

After the video blog is recorded, hit “publish” to create a Flash, Real Player or Windows Media file. The program automatically posts your “vlog” to PlayStream.com, which is Vlog It’s hosting partner for viewing. There is a 15-day free trial for hosting at PlayStream.

Vlog It! is cheap, but only on Windows. It will not work with Macs using a Windows simulator. You can get more info at the Web site: www.seriousmagic.com.

High Tech Org charts

There must be a dozen programs for making company organizational charts, but the most interesting one we’ve seen is the recent release of OrgPlus 6. This is a program used by 400 of America’s 500 largest companies.

As with other software that creates organizational charts, the program lets you put in color photos of personnel along with pertinent information drawn from a database. What takes it way beyond those charts is the ability to draft and change budgets.

The salary of each employee is part of the chart, which is password-protected, of course. When budgeting any project, personnel costs are automatically calculated and adjusted for annual raises. If any department is over budget, you can have a red line automatically appear around that department head.

To rearrange budgets to match tasks, personnel can be moved around the chart to fit. So someone who is over budget or short-staffed can be balanced by moving some people around to different departments.

An employee’s job in the company can usually be identified by color coding. Photos of salespeople can have a green border, for example, engineers a blue border, and so on.

There are lots of features here: A large chart can be divided into sub-charts with a mouse click. Charts can be saved as a PDF file, a Word document or a PowerPoint presentation. The full program can be obtained from www.orgplus.com. We searched further, however, and found that you can get a free version of the program that works with Microsoft Office, a sort of OrgPlus light, by going to www.orgplusexpress.com.

Professional labels for CDs

You can easily make full-colour labels for CDs and DVDs using any of the low-cost kits made by Verbatim, Fellowes, Avery or Memorex. We tried a kit from Verbatim and had great results and a moderately serious problem.

The starter kit is really cheap through www.verbatim.com. What you get is an assortment of adhesive labels and an applicator that allows you to exactly center the label on the disk. Indented edges on the paper lock with ridges on the applicator so there can be no mistake. Once you have the applicator that comes with the kit, additional labels can be purchased at a per hundred price.

The labels work with either inkjet or laser printers, but we had a problem with the laser. There are two labels to each 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheet, and they can be peeled off separately. Following Verbatim’s instructions, we removed the first label and reinserted the remaining half-sheet. It jammed our laser printer. The second time, we ignored those instructions. Instead of tearing off the used portion of the label, we just turned the sheet around and printed the other side. The results were great.


Creating Games in C++ by David Conger from New Riders (www.newriders.com; click on “bookstore”). This is the book to give to a bright 16-year-old who wants to create video games. There’s so much to learn that it’s best to start young, but Conger makes it possible for almost any computer-savvy person to follow along.

And for the US$30 price you get US$500 worth of software on the attached CD, which has a linker, compiler and debugger. If you don’t know what those are, you’d better get started right away. You do not need to know the C++ programming language. This unusual book teaches you the language as you invent your games.

The author has written games for Microsoft and Her Interactive, the maker of the Nancy Drew series of mystery games for young people.

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