Roxio forgot to put the kitchen sink in Easy Media Creator 8, but it remembered everything else.
OK, this is only one of several programs for making your own CDs and DVDs, editing videos, making music disks, sharing photos and slide shows,copying disks, converting your music tapes and records into digital music files, etc. So why focus on this one? Well, it’s easier, that’s why, and it does all those things very well.
We needed to post a video on the Internet, for example, and it was long and in a strange format. In fact, it was in six different files and three formats. (Somebody else did it.) With a couple of clicks in Creator 8 we converted all the files to a format we preferred. A couple more clicks and we could post it to the Web. We used VideoEgg for that part (www.typepad.videoegg.com).
The original video files took up 879 megabytes. After converting them to a Windows media file, they were still at 139 megabytes. That’s too large to post for viewing on the Web or for someone to download to his own computer.You could do it, but you’d go nuts waiting for it.
So we used Roxio Easy Media Creator 8 to compress it to 15 megabytes. Then we used the program to break it into six two-minute segments, which is about as much time as you want to spend watching a video. (“Keep it tight” should be the universal rule.)
We finished the fun by moving three Cole Porter CDs onto a DVD. That occupied less than one-sixth of the DVD, but why worry? Blank DVDs are cheap. We popped the DVD into the TV set and it played; it even had its own menu. A good time was had by all.
Roxio Easy Media Creator 8 is $80 (all figures U.S.) from the Web site: www.roxio.com.
PLUGGING INTO THE HOTEL BELKIN
Belkin’s new $60 Wireless G Travel Router comes in a sleek black case that looks like a travel pack for toiletries. Inside are a tiny wireless router and transformer that weigh just a few ounces, plus a short Ethernet cord to go with them. It’s a handy thing for sharing one Internet connection with many computers.
Like all wireless routers, you use the Ethernet cord to connect the router to the cable box or a wall outlet. If your computer or handheld PDA is wireless-enabled, you can be on the Internet up to 300 feet away from the tiny router. If you’re holding a meeting (and this is a main reason for having the device), everyone who can receive wireless transmissions will be connected and can share files.
You can make any computer able to receive wireless Internet broadcasts by inserting an adapter card made by any of several manufacturers. They’re made for laptops and desktops, and you can find them on the Web for as little as $30.
You can also use the Belkin travel router instead. Plug it into the computer and you’re ready for wireless reception. Many hotels and a lot of restaurants and coffee shops already offer wireless Internet service. In short, it works in both directions: either as a broadcast source for wireless Internet or as a receiver. Check Belkin for more info: www.belkin.com.
GAMER’S CORNER: ALL KEYED UP
Zboard (www.zboard.com) has new keyboard sets for the latest PC games and a lot more.
Zboard is a keyboard base that can take any of a dozen or so keysets. When you buy a set initially, you get the base and a keyset that unfolds and fits onto that base. Those keysets can be changed, but a base is required for any of them. You only need one base, no matter how many extra keysets you buy.
At first it seems like it’s just for gamers, but there’s much more to this than meets the casual eye. For instance, for $50 you get a base and twokeysets, one suitable for playing any of several games: “Half-Life 2,” “Doom 3,” “Battlefield 2,” etc., and the other a normal Windows keyboard. Thoseand other keysets can be interchanged without rebooting the computer; they’re hot-swappable, so to speak.
This leads us to great things. For $20 extra you can buy other gaming sets, like keysets for playing “Age of Empires III” or the hugely popular “Call of Duty 2,” or for $25 you can buy custom keysets for Microsoft Office, Word or Excel. Like the gaming keysets, these contain keys dedicated for functions of those Microsoft programs. Instead of pulling down menus to select common commands like “save” or “print,” you just hit the save key or the print key. Dozens of commands are dedicated to single keys. For $50 extra you can buy keysets dedicated for use with Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Dreamweaver.
The specialized keyboard overlays have the usual 12 function keys and an additional 10. Nine of those are programmable and can be assigned any series of commands to be performed just by striking one key. All the keysets have two USB ports for attaching other devices to the computer.
And finally, a touch that reminds us of the dedicated Atex keyboardsused by some newspapers and magazine publishers, there are arrow keys onboth sides of the keyboard. That’s right, you can use either the left or right hand for moving the cursor.