Saturday, May 16, 2009

Windows Photo Gallery

This is an excellent quick touch-up and printing program for your photographs and it comes with Vista. It works well with all installed printers and its response is quick. The tools for enhancement are basic -- crop, removal of red eye, exposure and colour adjustment, but it has a nice interface for printing on different sized paper and for different sized pictures on standard A4 paper. The only thing that it lacks is the ability to resize photos and to change the quality of images.

Making 2 VCDs into one DVD

Fed-up with having to remove the first and insert the second VCD of a very popular Disney movie that my grandchildren loved, I decided to combine the two VCDs into one DVD.
Well I read that VCD files have the extension .DAT and that you needed to rename this to .mpg before you could proceed further since most DVD burning programs did not recognise .dat as a video file. I tried renaming the two .DAT files that I extracted from each of the VCDs I wanted to combine into one DVD, but my Windows Vista would not allow me to do this and the renamed files looked like this filename.mpg.dat. This meant it was still a .dat file even after the renaming. Scouring the net I discovered that you had to use tools to change how Windows Explorer displayed file names. For some reason or other Windows Explorer by default hides the extension names when displaying contents of folders (at least it did on my machine), and I had to change this before I could effect any change of extension names. How to do so? Click on "Computer" then left click on "Organise" and go to the option "Folder and Search Options" then go to "View" and unclick the option that says "Hide extensions for known file types". Now you will see file names with extensions and these can be renamed easily.

The next step was simple: import the two .mpg files into a DVD burning program -- the one I used was Magix Goya BurnR which I got when I purchased the wonderful Magix Movie Edit Pro 12 for $50 at Challenger last year -- and burn your DVD just as you would your home movies. Just make sure that you burn the files in the correct order and this you can do by giving them the same file name except for the numerals 1 and 2 for example mymovie1 and mymovie2.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Canon iP4680 Printer

Having lots of fun with this printer. It cost $199 and its attraction is that it prints on CDs and DVDs directly. Printing on CDs and DVDs is as easy as printing on paper or photographs and the result is very good. The colour reproduction is close to the original in terms of sharpness and colour -- I would say about 85% accuracy. I suppose if I had a better scanner I would be getting something close to 95% accuracy. The only thing is that on original CDs and DVDs the printing covers almost the whole of the DVD surface but when printing my own using this printer, there is a larger non-printed inner circle. And this is primarily because the DVD blanks I buy at retail outlets have this larger non-printable inner circle. It seems that there are hub printable CDs and DVDs out there but so far I have not come across these in Challenger where I do my shopping -- mainly to enjoy the discounts as a member.

Disk with printable hub
Disk with non-printable hub

While printable CD and DVD blanks are easily available they come at a slightly higher cost than normal blanks. The Maxell DVD -R printables cost me $24 whereas the non-printables cost $20 for a cakebox of 50. I hear that in Australia I would be paying something like AU$17 for 50 printables.

Monday, May 4, 2009

PDF Files

Been playing around with PDF files this week. Mainly because I have this internet fax service that will fax out only files that are in PDF format. I have no problems with creating text documents and then saving them as PDF files because OpenOffice, that wonderful free software that emulates Microsoft Office, can convert or export text files to PDF with one click. The problem I had was with graphics. When I scanned a page as PDF to retain all the layout and positioning of the orginal graphics the resultant file was enormous... as big as 4 meg. Now, my Internet fax service will not allow me to fax out PDF documents that large, so I had a problem.

The software I used to scan and save graphics as a PDF file was software that came with my Epson which I bought several years ago. Rather than search for newer or updated versions of the software, what I did was to save the graphics as a JPG and then import into a OpenOffice document and save it as a PDF file which was very much smaller than the one created directly from the scanner. This I could fax out.

While researching on the Internet some solutions that other users employed, I chanced upon several interesting free online services that others were using to convert to PDF or from PDF to editable text. Many users were doing the latter because unlike DOC files or TXT files PDF files cannot be edited nor can one incorporate portions of it into text files.

If you are converting text files to PDF files or vice versa there is a free online service at which I tried with success. When converting text files to PDF the online software converts and emails you the link to your converted file. Fast and reliable. When converting PDF files to text (RTF) files the conversion is done online and there is no email for you to open. Why the procedures differ I cannot tell.

Another useful site is This has an online service to convert PDF files to editable text files as well as a download for converting text to PDF files. I tried this and found it easy to use, reliable and fast.

The third service I tried was ( Which claims to be able to do a variety of conversions -- from one format to another but I seem to have very little success with this one. For some reason or other it was fraught with error messages. Perhaps it is the configuration of my browsers or my computer that is the problem because there seem to be many testimonials extolling its virtues.

The last service I tried the one provided by This seemed to be a very popular site judging from the many mentions of it on forums. It worked OK for me but it sure took a long time for the files to be converted. Perhaps because it is popular, demand for its services is high and thus the delay.