The Flip Video Recorder

For my wife’s birthday, she asked if I could get her a device called the Flip Mino Video Recorder. Since we already have a relatively new video camera (which we practically never use), I was a bit reluctant to spending money on another one. But, it was my wife’s birthday request so I decided to check it out at the manufacturer’s web site (www.theflip.com).

We currently own a palm-sized Panasonic video recorder which we purchased when my son was born (about 4 years ago). After using the recorder on-and-off for the first 6 months, we hardly used it because it was a bit bulky and difficult to use (too many buttons, options, etc). Charging it was a pain, and we needed to deal with a DAT tape (rewinding, fast forwarding, erasing) and then transferring from video tape to digital format on my home computer. As such, we never used the video recorder.

My wife fancied the Flip Mino because it was a very small video recorder that was very simple to use. It stores the video in FlashROM and can record up to 1 hour of video. It also had just a few buttons, making it very easy to use. In addition, the built-in USB connector allows you to quickly connect the Mino to a PC for downloading the video files (AVI format). Continue reading

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Vacationing With My Portable DVD Player (a.k.a., Zune 80)

For the 3rd year now, my family goes on a 4-hour drive to a friend’s beach house on the Washington coast. It’s a nice short vacation where my wife, son, and two nieces have fun playing in the ocean and visiting the shops and arcade at the local beach town. Being in such a remote location, the beach house doesn’t have good TV reception or cable TV service, so we’re stuck watching DVDs on a 2nd-hand DVD player that is not quite working right (it seems that all “beach houses” or “cabins” have such defective equipment).

This year, I came prepared with my trusty Zune 80 and AV cables in tow. I knew that my nieces like the TV show Family Guy, so I recorded a few episodes along with the movie School of Rock for us to watch during the evenings at the house. When I converted the DVR-MS video recordings (from my TV Tuner card) to WMV format for my Zune, I had the DVRMSToolbox software remove all the commercials to avoid the need of skipping through them. I also converted the videos to these specifications:

  • Audio and Video: CBR (Constant Bit Rate)
  • 30 fps
  • Video Rate: 700 kbps
  • Audio Rate: 128 kbps, 44 kHz

For the Family Guy episodes, I used 320×240 screen resolution, and for the School of Rock video I used 640×480.

To watch the videos on the TV set at the beach house, I connected my composite AV cable to the headphone jack on my Zune 80, and connected the other end of the cable to the RCA inputs on the TV set. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my wireless Zune remote control so I had to do all the video selecting, volume, etc. on the Zune device itself (not a big deal).

As it turned out, both the 320×240 and 640×480 videos looked very good on the TV set. In fact, I would say they looked just as good as any of the DVDs we played on the attached DVD player. Aside from the fact that my nieces thought it was pretty cool to play videos on the TV from my Zune, using my Zune as a portable DVD player actually worked out great. So, I highly recommend using a Zune in this capacity if you’re traveling on vacation with your family and need a small DVD player device to keep the kiddies entertained.

Happy 4th of July!

I haven’t been posting much for various reasons:

  1. Busy with work and personal matters
  2. Not much new Zune news to report
  3. Enjoying the use of my Zune!

I have, however, been answering comments posted by readers on a daily basis, so I am trying to stay active with this web blog. Most questions are regarding videos not converting correctly, etc. Again, the usual culprit to videos not converting completely or missing/out-of-sync audio is bad or conflicting video/audio codecs on your system. If you’re having such problems, do a search for “codec” in this web blog for past postings on the topic.

So, everybody have a nice 4th of July weekend.

Zune Applications Appearing Everywhere!

It seems that once the game developer SDK was released for the Zune, lots and lots of people began creating unique applications for the Zune devices. Not only games, but other nice utilities (clocks, calendars, etc) are available. ZuneBoards has a list of games and applications available for download from this link. Definitely worth checking out.

The only bad thing, is that you must install Visual Studio Express (a Microsoft developer package) to install these applications on your Zune. Since I have other software development packages already installed on my desktop and laptop systems, I’m a bit reluctant to installing VS Express for fear of it conflicting with my other development environments. I guess some day I’ll be brave and bite the bullet and try installing a few Zune games and apps.