3 Tips for getting old films converted to your Mac

If you’re getting your old 8mm films converted to movie files, here are some tips from my recent experience.

  • Ask around for some recommendations (your local Mac User Group may be a good place to start). Get a few quotes. Mine ranged from AU$800 to AU$247 for converting 37 rolls of 8mm film to avi files. Not sure how much the quality of the experience differs.
  • You may want to prefer a Mac shop if you can find one. This will mean that if the three USB drives you give them don’t mount under Windows they won’t say something along the lines of “it’s got Mac germs”. Of course most video professionals I know use Macs with Firewire.
  • Make sure you know what codec they’re going to give you the files as. Get a sample file to test you can do what you want with it on your preferred platform. For example I got AVI files using a DV codec. Unfortunately I discovered they were using a Canopus DV codec (CDVC), which then required transcoding to Microsoft’s DV codec in order to be viewable on the Mac (although VLC could play it back). Fortunately I found some downloads still out there by googling ‘dvcodec.exe’ and ‘Canopus_DV_File_Converter.exe’. Installing these under Parallels then let me convert the files
  • If you don’t want to have to stuff around with getting iDVD to create a DVD that can be played on any DVD player (we are having some difficulties, not sure if it’s because we’re being too ambitious trying to burn a dual layer DVD), I recommend that you get the shop to burn the movies straight to DVD as they’ll probably use some PC software that works
  • When it’s all over, make sure you’ve got a backup of the files, and there is a copy stored somewhere else (and somewhere else to the original films!)

Sit back and enjoy your old memories, without having to thread the projector!

Using FireWire to hack your PC, Mac

A recent article on Slashdot about using FireWire’s direct memory access (DMA) capabilities to rewrite memory on a Windows box reminded me a lot of the 1st place winning 2002 MacHack hack “FireStarter” perpetrated by Quinn, which wrote a QuickTime movie of burning flames on the screen of any Mac you plug in via FireWire. As mentioned on TidBITS at the time.

Some of Quinn’s hacks are here.

New Mac Pros on Apple Store

Apple have released new octocore Mac Pros 

  • Up to 3.2GHz x 8 cores (0.2GHz = 20% faster in some application)
  • PCI Express 2 (add 4 video cards to drive 8×30 inch displays (1 core each :))
  • 5xUSB slots, 2x FireWire 800, optical and analog Audio I/O
  • 2 x 4 slot memory card risers so you can populate the slots outside the machine! (I hope those contacts are good!)
  • Tool-less PCI bracket

Leopard’s new features

Apple have posted a list of some 300 new features in Leopard.
Looking through them, the interesting ones that I haven’t noticed being mentioned before (well, mainly) are listed below. Notable absence of mentions go to Java, iTunes and QuickTime.

  • Transparent overlay of DVD playback in DVD player (ala TransLucy)
  • Screen sharing from the Finder (sort of a poor man’s Apple Remote Desktop?)
  • Share any folder (just like in the days of System 6,7,8,9…). The cool part is that you can authorize people in your AddressBook to use the shared folders
  • Braille support (presumably external Braille ‘displays’?)
  • DVD playback in Front Row
  • 20 new CoreImage Filters, CoreImage enhanced for multicore processors, support for colourspace information from EXIF tags
  • iChat – Recording, Screen Sharing, Low Delay AAC-LD codec, iChat Theatre, SMS Forwarding
  • Image Capture – More tethered camera support, more Canon and Nikon models supported, Wireless image importing, Sharing of scanners over Bonjour.
  • Instruments – (Originally called X-Ray I think), lets developers analyse performance metrics and record and replay user interface events.
  • Mail.App – Data Detectors – Another System 8 technology back from the dead. Photo Browsing of your iPhoto Library. Sync Mail Notes via .Mac. Archive your Mailbox.
  • International – Russian, Polish and Portugese, better multilingual Spotlight indexing, Pinyin and Zhuyin input methods, Russian and Danish Spell Checkers.
  • Networking – New Airport Menu, Automatic TCP buffer size adjustment
  • Parental Controls – Set time limts for kids, violate their privacy by logging websites and applications used, list people who have chatted and keep a transcript (I hope nobody uses it on adults!) Control parental controls remotely, and filter profanity from the Wikipedia (That should prove amusing).
  • PhotoBooth – Make video clips, add backdrops, export animated GIFs for use on your website.
  • Preview – Better leverage of Core Animation. Add better annotations, including links to websites or other pages inside the PDF. Highlight text. Save your annotations (really wouldn’t be much good without that last feature would it?). Relevancy ranking of PDF searches. Automatically add your name to annotations for collaborative work. Remove Alpha background or select irregular shapes. Adjust white and black levels automatically. Re-order PDF pages. Perform batch image operations. Send images to iPhoto. Use GPS Metadata support to open a photo’s location on a Map or in Google Maps. Woohoo!
  • Printing – Simplified by making common settings presets (Yay!). Kerberos authenticated printing. Location-aware printing (so it doesn’t print your home porn to the work IP printer over the internet 🙂 Support for printer driver updates via Software Update.
  • Safari – Presumably you’re already using the Beta 🙂
  • Screen savers – Arabesque, Shell, Word of the Day, Clock Overlay, Collage or Mosaic from your Picture screen savers.
  • Security – Downloaded applications are tagged and you’re prompted when you open them. Apple Applications are signed (Hmm… That could make modding stuff more difficult!). Application specific firewalling. 256-bit AES encryption (previously only 128-bit) for disk images. VPN client supports Cisco Group Filtering, DHCP over PPP. Sandboxing of applications (Bonjour, Quick Look and Spotlight indexer are sandboxed) to restrict what they can do. Multiple user certificate support. Smart cards to unlock FileVault volumes and the keychain. Supports PIV standard for Feds and contractors to them. I hope FileVault is finally ready to use without hosing your files! Library randomisation to frustrate hacking attempts (and cause developers to find more bugs :). Windows SMB packet signing.
  • Spotlight – Search any Mac on your network (woohoo, great for those of us with big numbers of documents on a central server). Now understands boolean searches, dates and category labels. Also (like Google) does dictionary definitions and calculations). Recently visited web pages are indexed too. Search by Filename (ala System 6, etc.). Search system files.
  • System – Icon mode in open and save panels (Yay!). iLife browsing from open panel. Live partition resizing in disk utility (assuming you’ve got space 🙂 Auto-purging guest accounts (Yay!). Grammar checking. Scroll non-active windows (yay! Although we move ever closer to focus follows cursor). Empty Trash button (Yay!) Eject some or all partitions of external USB or FireWire volumes.
  • System Preferences – Hot corner for sleep display. Control click accounts for advanced (ie dangerous, unixish) account options (User ID, login shell, home directory)
  • Terminal – International character support (Use vi on your Mandarin 🙂 Save multiple terminal window locations and settings as a workspace.
  • TextEdit – Autosave. Open Document and Word 2007 formats. Hyperlinks. Go to Line. Print header and footer. Smart quotes. Smart copy and paste (meaning it now confirms to Apple’s HI Guidelines?)
  • Time Machine – Asks you if you want to backup to a drive when you connect it (My, that will get annoying when you want to copy one file and disconnect!). Automatically stops and resumes. Browse other time machine disks. Use Migration Assistant to move users from a Time Machine backup. Manual Backup if you can remember to hold down the control key and cilkc the Time Machine icon in the dock.
  • Universal Access – Braille support during OS install. Support JAWS and Windows-Eyes numeric keypad commands. Portable VoiceOver prefs via flash drive (Hmm… I wonder if that could be parlayed into a security problem). Notification of changes in screen hotspots. Drag and drop via keyboard only. Audio misspelling alerts. Audio positional cues. Enhanced VoiceOver accessibility in new Leopard Apps.
  • UNIX – AutoFS to mount/dismount network filesystems, Separately threaded (Yay!). Wide Area Bonjour. Streaming IO (Is this TCP streams?)

Mac Backup options

A lot of people ask about Mac backup options, here are some of them. First, you may wish to read The Tao of Backup.

Currently I use ShirtPocket Software’s SuperDuper to clone hard drives to external drives, which are kept offsite. Although just this week my backup has failed because the sparse disk image I was backing up to was full, and I haven’t worked out how to expand it past 160Gb yet 🙂

Other options include

  • Retrospect – the Mac version seems to be in ‘maintenance mode’, and I don’t really expect to see any significant updates, so it would be difficult to recommend it anymore.
  • Tolis BRU – Last time I tried installing this I didn’t manage to get it working, but probably a strong candidate to replace Retrospect.
  • Amanda – An open source backup solution originating from the University of Maryland. Another strong Retrospect replacement, but installation seems to currently be a bit of a challenge as IIRC it requires creation of a backup user on each machine.
  • CommVault Galaxy – We use this at work, so probably a good choice if you’re looking for Enterprise level solutions. Java admin client is a bit un-Macish though, but still quite usable.
  • .Mac online backups – I haven’t used this so can’t really comment, but it seems that my machine would generate a lot more data than I could afford to upload every night, but it might be good for the home users (I guess they’ll be using Time Machine once Leopard’s released)
  • Mozy online backups seem to be being talked about by a lot of people. US$4.95/month
  • Bandwagon – only for backup of iTunes