windows comments edit

I’m probably the only person who didn’t realize that if you hold down Shift and right-click a folder in Windows 7, you get additional commands that you don’t normally see. For example, holding shift down when you right-click a folder gives you an “Open command window here” option, which obviates the need for a “Command Prompt Here” power toy (at least for the basic prompt).

Thing is, I don’t want to have to hold Shift down. I just want it there all the time.

The “Open command window here” item is listed in your registry under HKCR\Directory\shell\cmd and HKCR\Drive\shell\cmd. If you look in those keys, you’ll see a REG_SZ value called “Extended” that is floating there without any actual value assigned.

The "Extended" registry

If you delete that “Extended” value, then “Open command window here” will always show up and you don’t have to hold Shift down. Conversely, if you add a no-value “Extended” key to things, they’ll stop showing up until you hold Shift down.

And don’t forget to look at both the Directory and the Drive registry keys as mentioned above or you’ll wonder why it shows up sometimes and not in others.

YMMV. This works for me, might not for you. I’m not responsible if you delete something important and your machine comes crashing down around you. You have to be extra careful when you muck with the registry.

media comments edit

In Christmas 2009 I got a Creative Vado HD camera. It’s a nice, convenient little camera and we use it quite a bit. The only real issue I’ve found with it is in editing the video it takes. On Windows XP, if you install the software that comes with the camera, the files play just fine but you can only edit them using the editor that comes with the camera. On Windows 7, the files play just fine without installing any additional software, and you can edit the files… in Windows Live Movie Maker and that’s about it. There’s something not-quite-right with the file format and I’m not the only person who’s encountered it.

I use Sony Vegas to edit my videos. It’s a nice program with a lot of power behind it, and while it’s not the easiest thing to figure out, it is certainly flexible enough to grow with you as you get better at editing and making movies. Problem is, when you drop a Vado HD file into Vegas 9.0, it sees the audio but no video.

I blogged how to add H.264 video support to Vegas once I figured it out - install the x264vfw codec. For Sony Vegas 9, that fixes it.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in Vegas 10.

I upgraded to Sony Vegas 10 because it’s actually noticeably faster in processing/rendering video and is far more reliable than Vegas 9. Vegas 9 would occasionally crash on me for no reason; 10 really hasn’t crashed… but now I see a different symptom.

Without x264vfw, Vegas 10 doesn’t see the video on Vado HD files… and while it sees that audio exists, it can’t interpret it, so you see a flat line audio track that can’t play. If you try to play it, Vegas hangs.

Adding the x264vfw codec, Vegas 10 sees the video, but the audio still doesn’t work.

Again, on Windows 7 with Windows Live Movie Maker, you can play and edit these Vado HD files just fine.

I submitted a support question to Sony and after a fairly lengthy delay, I got the following response:

Hi Travis,

Thank you for contacting Sony Creative Software. First, I apologize for the unusually long delay in responding to you. Our new Vegas Pro 10 has been well-received and as such, a high number of people are coming to us for support on this product.

Unfortunately, we (and other editing programs) have encountered issues with Creative Vado footage and are currently looking to correct it. I have found that this forum link has helpful suggestions for your problem (and includes links to codec packs that help the product read the files better):

These codec packs are not created by us and we do not do support on them, so any questions you may have regarding them I recommend you direct them to that forum.

We hope to include this codec in future versions of the software so that this extra step is no longer needed. Thank you for your report!

So it turns out Sony is aware of the issue but hasn’t yet addressed it. At least they’re aware of it.

In the suggested forum link (and in other forums), people have arrived at basically three solutions:

  1. Convert the Vado HD file to another format that Vegas understands and drop the converted file in.
  2. Split the audio and video in the Vado HD file into separate files. Convert the video part but leave the audio alone. Add the two separately into Vegas.
  3. Install x264vfw. That fixes it for Vegas 9 but not Vegas 10.

My solution went with option 1 - convert the Vado HD file to another format that Vegas understands. I use Windows Live Movie Maker (since it’s free) to do that conversion.

In Windows Live Movie Maker, create a new custom setting for videos. Use the following values, which will work for converting the high quality Vado HD files into something with no noticeable quality loss:

  • Width: 1280
  • Height: 720
  • Bit rate: 8500
  • Frame rate: 30
  • Audio format: 192kbps, 48kHz, stereo

Drop your movie into the Windows Live Movie Maker timeline.

Save the movie using the new custom setting.

Import the new/converted movie into Vegas.

Done and done. Not perfect, but better than nothing. Hopefully this gets addressed soon.

media, music, windows comments edit

Being the Family Tech Support Guy, I got a question from my cousin about sharing music in iTunes and rather than answer it in email (since it’s not a short answer), I figured I’d blog it since it is probably helpful to other folks out there.

First, you need to determine your requirements. The phrase “sharing music in iTunes” is actually pretty vague. Let’s walk through figuring out what you want to do.

  • Do you have multiple computers?This is important because you’ll need to make some choices about what you want to do on each of the computers.
    1. If you have multiple computers and you want your entire iTunes library (playlists and music files) accessible from each computer… You have a couple of choices.
      • Copy everything to each computer over the network. This will put a physical copy of the iTunes library and all of the music files on every computer you want to share with. You’ll need to use a program like SyncToy or Allway Sync to keep your iTunes library and music files copied over the network. Honestly, I don’t recommend this option.
      • Keep your music files on a central network drive and only copy the iTunes library file across computers. This is common and is way better than the “copy everything” option. Lifehacker has a nice tutorial that explains how to do this.
    2. If you have multiple computers and you want to manage iTunes on one computer and just listen from the other computers… the easiest solution is to use iTunes library sharing to enable sharing on the master computer and then attach to that shared library over the network from the other computers. You will be able to listen to the music but will only be able to synchronize devices from the master computer. There’s a decent tutorial about how to set up iTunes library sharing on
    3. If you have multiple computers and only run iTunes on one but need the music files on all of them (for whatever reason), you can store the music files on the network, no problem. Lifehacker has a tutorial on how to do that, just skip the bits where you set up something to synchronize the iTunes library file. At the time of this writing, that’s steps 6 and 7 on the tutorial that you can skip.
    4. If you don’t have multiple computers… continue on. Nothing to see here.
  • Do you have multiple user accounts? That is, when you sit down at your computer, do you “log in” as you or does everyone just sit down and start using the computer?
    1. If everyone uses the same account, your options are limited.
      • Live with one iTunes library. This is probably what you have now.
      • Create a separate iTunes library file for each person. Every time you open iTunes you’ll have to remember to hold down Shift when you click the link to start iTunes or it’ll just open up the last library that was used. There is an Apple knowledge base article about how to open and create alternate libraries. This is a big pain and I wouldn’t recommend it. If you do this, you have additional options…
        • Share your music files. Each iTunes library will use the same set of music files. This may be problematic because when you change certain things in iTunes (like the artist name or the song name), iTunes will actually modify the physical file and may even move it to a new location (if you’ve told iTunes to keep your library organized). That will mess up other libraries that assume the files stay in the same location.
        • Keep separate copies of your music files. This could eat up space really quickly, but hard drives are cheap. Doing this would mean that each time you add a file into one library, you need to create another copy of the same file and add the copy into the other library.
    2. If everyone has a different account, things open up.
      • Share your iTunes library and music files across user accounts. There is an Apple knowledge base article that explains how to do this. I have a tutorial on this as well and while it’s a little more lengthy, it’s my preferred way.
      • Each user has their own iTunes library but shares music files. The key here is that each user will fire up iTunes and create a new library – making sure the “Keep iTunes music files organized” option is the same for each user – and pointing each iTunes library to the same central location for music files (Edit –> Preferences –> Advanced and change the music folder location to the same place for each user). When you add a music file to one library, each other user will need to manually add the file to their library as well. Or not, as the case may be. Note, again, that if someone changes an artist name, song name, etc., it may move the files out from under someone else, so this may not be great.
      • Each user has their own iTunes library and their own music files. This is how it works by default when you have multiple user accounts. If someone adds music to their library, the other person can make a copy and add it separately, later, to their own library.

Things to think about…

  • You can mix and match. For example, if you want to keep your music on the network because you have multiple computers and you want to share iTunes across multiple user accounts on those computers, you can do that. It’ll take some work to figure out which parts of the various tutorials out there need to be fixed up, but it’s possible.
  • You will probably run into issues with iTunes Store purchased music and apps. As soon as you get into music sharing that involves copying things around, separate libraries, etc., you will most likely start running into problems where one user can play purchased music but another can’t. This is technically by design – one person purchases music and that person owns the music. That’s the problem with DRM (digital rights management) today. Other sources like Amazon MP3 don’t cause this problem because they don’t have DRM.
  • Have a backup plan. When you switch this stuff around, you have a chance of accidentally hosing things up. Make sure you back things up before you do anything.
  • Take your time. Especially if you’re a non-technical person, some of the stuff explained in the above tutorials may be a bit daunting. It’s not too hard, but it’s not fall-down easy, either. Set aside some dedicated time to work on this and if it becomes too much, take a break. Write down all the stuff you’re doing so if you have to undo it (or restore from backup, or ask someone for help – NOT ME), you can.

As always, all of this is AT YOUR OWN RISK and SELF-SUPPORTED. I haven’t actually tried every combination of all of these things so I can’t guarantee all of it works.IF IT DOESN’T WORK, YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN. I can’t offer you individual help on this. Sorry.

General Ramblings comments edit

It’s been a little over a month since Phoenix was born and now that December is coming to a close, with it comes the end of my paternity leave. I’m not really sure that I’m ready to go back to work, though. The first two weeks she was here were basically a whirlwind of people showing up, work getting done around the house, and general “settling.” The two weeks after that have been spent just trying to get a decent schedule down and learning how to manage some of the changes that come with a baby. I just now feel like we might sort of have a handle on things but I don’t really get to verify that before getting back to work. Hence, not quite ready.

To borrow a line from Scott Hanselman, who borrowed it from his friend Eli, “Kids go through three phases: Plant, Pet, Person.” Phoenix is currently in “plant” phase, where we provide sustenance and she sits for long periods of time. She’s not interactive at all, has no motor control, and doesn’t even smile yet. In a way, and I know this sounds bad/negative, I think “plant” phase should actually be “parasite” phase. Per Wikipedia, a parasitic relationship is “where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the host.” Right now, despite the “It’s so rewarding!” declarations to me from existing parents, there’s really no “reward,” just work. There’s not even “unconditional love” coming from her, just “need,” which is not the same thing at all.

I think I’ll have a more positive attitude and be less generally depressed once there is some sort of basic interaction possible. In my experience, women love babies. Like, baby babies. Men like older children that are mobile and more interactive. (Yes, that’s a blanket generalized statement and isn’t true for everyone, but this is what I’ve seen.) I find that to be true here, too, where my wife and her friends love how tiny Phoenix is and so forth, but I find myself strongly looking forward to a day when she can smile and I know it’s not just a gas bubble.

A friend of mine told me my perspective would shift and I’d learn to love everything, including the pain. I’m a month in and I don’t see that happening. I might, in the long run, forget how painful this stage is (and I think most parents do, which is why you don’t hear about it much) and possibly even look back and laugh someday, but I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy the painful moments. They’ll just exist in time and be something to bear through. “It’ll get better!,” something people (particularly grandparents) love to throw out there, doesn’t really help me right now, does it? “Sorry doesn’t put the Triscuit crackers in my stomach, now, does it, Carl?

I don’t think it helped that for the first two weeks we were home Jenn was pretty much on bed rest due to her C-section, which means I went to the hospital with my wife and came back with two babies to care for. Also during my leave, several home ownership items came up like a leaking toilet, a clogged kitchen exhaust fan, and so on. A perfect storm of “more work for me” that amounts to barely keeping my head above water. Oh, and the usual (and, now additional) stress of the holiday season. I’m sure all of that pretty well tanked my mood and it’s yet to snap back.

It’s important to note that this all has no bearing on Phoenix herself. She’s a wonderful little girl and I love her dearly. I’m glad she’s here and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s just a… severe adjustment period that has me down. Again, I don’t think expectations were properly set.

I could go on, but that won’t really help anything, either. Suffice to say, I am looking forward to the joy of parenting, whenever it decides to arrive. In the meantime, I’m headed back to work next week and I will be figuring out how to make all this work together.