Archive for August, 2007
Here’s an interesting development. A company called DisplayLink has come up with a technique to send video over a USB link, rather than the conventional VGA or DVI. It doesn’t require an extra graphics card – it’s all done in the device driver.
Samsung’s SyncMaster 940UX 19″ LCD is the first monitor to use the technology, although competitors are sure to be hot on their heels. A couple of good reviews of the 940UX can be found here and here.
The video quality over USB is not quite as good as DVI, but it’s apparently a lot better than you might expect. It’d be fine for office apps, web browsing, etc, while you could still run full-screen video on your conventional DVI monitor.
A lot of people around the net are shrugging their shoulders and saying “so what?”. Just add another graphics card to your PC and you don’t need the fancy/expensive monitor, plus you’d get better performance.
I think they’re missing the point. This isn’t for the knowledgeable desktop user. It’s a simple way to add a second monitor to an office PC without needing to open it up. It’s an easy option to add a second external display to a laptop. It’s a way to add a second monitor to small-footprint PCs that don’t have room for another graphics card.
The DisplayLink site has more information that promises some very interesting future products. Using the same techniques as the USB interface, they can send video over ethernet, WiFi, and wireless USB. FireWire wouldn’t be hard, if they found a need. A really interesting product idea is their USB-to-DVI dongle – you wouldn’t need a monitor that supports DisplayLink, as the dongle would convert the USB signal to standard DVI for display on the monitor.
A wireless version of this would be fantastic for conference room projectors. You’d just plunk your laptop on the desk and display stuff on the projector without any messing about with cables.
I’d love a dongle that could convert from wireless USB or WiFi (or even ethernet) to a standard TV signal. Then I could output video from my laptop on the lounge to the TV across the room without having to drag a cable across the floor. Nirvana!
The DisplayLink USB interface currently supports Windows XP and Vista – no word yet on an OS X driver, so Apple users will have to wait to see what develops. This does now look like the most likely way I’ll get to run a second external monitor from my MacBook, though.
August 29th, 2007
As much as I love WordPress as a blogging platform, the plugin, theme and upgrade mechanisms have always seemed a little kludgy to me.
There’s too much diving into the filesystem, unzipping downloads, FTPing files and directories to specific locations, and in the case of upgrades, futzing around disabling and re-enabling plugins, backing up the database and files, taking care not to overwrite a few critical files, etc.
With 7 WordPress sites to look after, it used to take me all evening to upgrade them whenever a new version came out.
Enter the WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin.
This thing is sweet. Once the plugin is installed, it’s just a click to upgrade your site. The plugin will backup your database and all your files, download the latest WordPress distribution, disable your plugins, install the updated files, and re-enable your plugins. It then gives you the link to click on to upgrade your database, and you’re done!
The whole process takes just a couple of minutes per site.
All WordPress needs now is a way to upload plugins and themes via the admin interface.
August 9th, 2007
I listen to a lot of podcasts and audio books on my iPod – while driving to work, jogging, doing repetitive jobs, etc. But I’m a bit of a packrat, and the audio has been piling up faster than I can listen to it all.
Here’s a way to get through more audio: play it back faster!
I didn’t know it until recently, but the iPod supports speedup of audiobooks. Unfortunately, you can’t speed up playback of other audio file types. So you have to trick it into thinking your file is an audiobook:
Step 1: Convert the track to AAC if it’s not already. In iTunes, simply right-click on it and choose Convert To AAC.
Step 2: Turn the new AAC track into an audiobook. For this, you’ll need the Make Bookmarkable script from Doug’s Scripts. Install it as per his directions, then highlight your AAC track in iTunes, and select Make Bookmarkable from the Scripts menu.
Sync the files to your iPod, and you’re good to go.
While listening to one of these tracks, click the iPod’s center button 3 times to bring up the playback speed options, then scroll to the right to set it to Faster. The iPod keeps the pitch the same while speeding up the audio playback, so it’s still very understandable.
The main drawback with this method is that you don’t get much control over the playback speed – it’s just Slower, Normal or Faster. I’d love it if I could speed it up in increments – 1.1x, 1.2x, 1.3x, etc. Some talkers are naturally very slow, and some are fairly fast, so they need different playback speeds.
If you know of a better way to speed up audio playback on an iPod, please post it in the comments!
August 8th, 2007
Have you ever seen a video on YouTube.com and wished you could keep a copy to watch again later? Or perhaps you’ve wished you could transfer it to your phone or iPod to show others?
TubeTV by Chimoosoft is what you need!
TubeTV is an app for Mac OS X that downloads the Flash .flv movies used by many video sharing sites and converts them into H.264 .m4v video that can be viewed on other devices.
August 7th, 2007