Monday, March 21, 2016

How to legally RIP a DVD without any watermark or other restriction

Although most people now prefer to watch movies of private parties such as birthdays, weddings, etc. on their computers or mobile phones, those who shoot and edit these movies almost always give the customer a DVD that isn't in a format that computers generally recognise. It's a legacy thing; way back in primitive times, people used to watch movies using a DVD in a DVD player, a thingamajig that plugged into a TV.

What's worse, people may want to edit these movies, removing content that isn't relevant or adding subtitles for those who don't understand the language spoken in the movies.

Of course, providers argue that you should update your movie-playing software so that it plays DVDs but that's just chalk to your cheese.

So how do you convert a DVD into an editable  and watchable movie?

Well, search on the net and you'll get plenty of software that promises to convert your DVD into an editable movie but they are all "bait and switch" items. They convert only a few minutes of the DVD and/or insert a huge "watermark" (that's actually an obscurer of the video) so the video is pretty much unwatchable. They, of course, want you to buy the software so you can convert the movie but there's no guarantee it'll do the job even if you pay.

Believe it or not, there is a perfectly legal way to convert a DVD to an editable format without a watermark, for free! It is a time-limited way but it works if you need to convert just a DVD or two in one month.

First, download Sony Vegas Pro, the latest version, and install it. You will get access to a trial version that works for about a month but if you need to convert (rip) just a DVD or two, it's a good deal.

Once installed, start Sony Vegas Pro and open the VOB files on the DVD. Lay the files end to end in the timeline and export to avi [File-->Render], saving the avi file in a location you can remember.

To learn how to lay files in Sony Vegas Pro, see the following:
http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/basic_editing_in_vegas_pro

Once you do that, you can import the file into Windows Movie Maker and add transitions, subtitles, etc.

If you need screenshots please ask and I shall oblige.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Remove noise - or hiss - from recordings with Audacity 2.1.0 AKA Audacity 2015

I had written a tutorial long ago about how to remove noise (hiss) from recordings using Audacity. Audacity has grown since then and my last tute may be confusing to those who are using the latest version of Audacity, so here's a tute on using the new software.

First, open your recording in Audacity. There are two ways to do this, no matter which version of Windows you are using:
  1. Open Audacity. Go to File--> Open. Navigate to the folder where you've stored the audio file and double-click the filename.
  2. Use Windows explorer to navigate to the folder where you've stored the file. Right-click the filename, select "Open with" and select Audacity from the droplist that pops up.
The second method, though faster, may not work if you haven't opened an audio file in Audacity before. If you don't see Audacity in the droplist, simply abort the operation and try the first method given above.

Once you open the file in Audacity, it'll look something like this:

Those squiggly lines you see are the parts of the track that contain sound. In this particular track, noise was heard mainly when the person was speaking. Fortunately, there was a small section that had noise without the person's voice. Look for such sections of the track and click-drag to select one such section (all noise, no voice):

Your screen should look something like this:

Next, click Effects--> Noise Reduction:


The following screen will appear:

Click "Get Noise Profile".

You will be taken back to the track with your selected part highlighted, like so:

Hit Ctrl+A (holding down Ctrl, hit A on the keyboard) to select the entire track. Now your screen should look something like this:


Now go to Effects--> Noise Removal again:


You will be presented with the Noise Removal dialog again. This time, click "Preview":



If you are happy with the noise removal, OK your way out and export your cleaned file. If there is still a buzz, move the sliders a wee bit to the right and listen to the preview again. If you find that there is distortion of the audio track, move the sliders a wee bit to the left. Keep experimenting until you find the right balance and then OK your way out and export to wav or mp3.

Some recordings may be really too terrible to be completely cleaned. In such cases, work to a best solution.

All the best,
Deepak



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Enable Bluetooth in Windows 10

My computer upgraded seamlessly to Windows 10. Or so I thought. Then, when I tried to send a file from my PC to my phone via Bluetooth, it didn't work. I tried re-pairing the devices. I went on the net and looked for solutions. Most sites said that Windows 10 automatically configures Bluetooth so your device, if paired with the PC on Windows 8.1, will be recognised by the PC  after upgrade and vice versa.

Well, didn't work.

My PC stubbornly refused to see my phone and I simply couldn't send files from my phone to my PC or vice versa. All I got was a "send failed" message.

Then I did this:

First, I clicked the "Search the web and Windows" window on the bottom left of my screen:


There, I typed "Hardware" (without the quotes)


I got the following window:

I clicked "Device Manager" and got the following window:


I clicked "Bluetooth"



Bluetooth expanded to show all the devices connected and drivers installed:

I right-clicked each driver and selected "Update Driver"

That was it! Windows searched on the net for the latest driver, updated it on my PC and now my phone and PC can talk to each other via Bluetooth!


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How to create a password that's hard to crack yet easy to remember

It's a good idea to change passwords often. Some sites even force a password change after a period of time or after a certain number of logins.

The problem is that it's tough to think up passwords that are tough to crack but easy enough to remember and use over a number of devices such a desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet (and probably many other variants of devices being invented over the next few years). One easy-to-use method was to use ASCII codes to generate symbols that look like English characters, such as Σ for the letter E. However, laptops and smartphones generally don't have keyboards that can generate such characters and attaching an external keyboard is just blech.

With a little ingenuity, though, you CAN generate a password that's easy to remember but tougher to crack than the usual passwords, and which can be used across devices.

The trick is to use a simple technique that lets us associate characters with letters of the alphabet.
For example, can you pronounce the following word? D@vvg.

If you read that as Dawg, you get the way in which you can generate a password that you can remember but which a hacker can't really crack that easily. That word actually contains a capital d, an "at the rate of" symbol, two v's and a g. Yet you can easily remember it as Dawg.

Let's see how to apply this technique to create a password. Let's say you met an interested person named Abigail recently and she's been on your mind enough to make you use her name as a password. So is she @b1Ga1L or aB!g@i| or A81g@il? The human mind can clearly see these as Abigail but computers, being mere number crunchers, can't. So software-driven password hacking systems, even if directed by human hackers who know something of you, can't really crack such passwords.

Some symbols that can be used as letters are:
1 for i or I
2 for s or S
! for i or l
@ for a
# for h or H
$ for s
^ for n
^^ for m
& for S ( for C
/ for l
vv for w
VV for W

Mix up the letters and symbols, use random lower case and upper case letters and your pet's name becomes an unforgettable and hard-to-crack password!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bookmark a page / section in Adobe Reader and find it again

Technically, you can't bookmark in Adobe Reader, that feature being available only in the Adobe PDF creator, a paid piece of software.

However, you CAN use a feature of Adobe Reader (I'm talkin' the latest, download it from here) to mark a page / section in  a PDF and return to it, much as you'd use a bookmark.

To create a bookmark (I'm using the term loosely), click the comment icon, top of the Adobe Reader window. It looks like this:




The pale yellow icon is the one you need to click. Clicking it will open the comment dialog box. Type a random comment. I generally type "bada bing" because it really doesn't matter. Click the "-" icon top right of the comment widow. Your comment will be saved.

Close the PDF. You will be asked if you want to save the file. Agree. You'll be asked if you want to replace the old file. Agree.

Your sneaky bookmark will be saved.

To go back to where you stopped reading:

Load the PDF file in Acrobat Reader.

Go to View --> Comments --> annotations


Click Annotations.

On the right side of your screen you'll see the list of comments you've added. If you're smart like me, there'll be only one. Anyway, click the most relevant comment.

You'll be taken to the comment you've made.

There ya go, that's how you bookmark a page in Adobe Reader and get back to it for free :)

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Beware of scams at job search sites

Recently I registered at a job search site, looking for freelance work.

I was surprised to receive an email from Hyundai Motor India Limited, saying I had been shortlisted for a senior position in the company and asking me to confirm my attendance at an interview to be conducted at the company headquarters in Delhi. As I read the attached PDF of the call to attend, all sorts of alarm bells went off in my head.

First of all, the email header (the 'from' field) indicated that the email had come from a company in Brazil. Now, why would Hyundai India send me an email from Brazil?

Secondly, the email asked me to send a mail confirming my attendance to an email addy: hr-hyundaimotor@gmx.co.in

Now why, I asked myself, was Hyundai not using a hyundai.in or hyundai.co.in domain name for email? A company as large as Hyundai can easily afford the domain names and the staff to monitor mails to them.

The clincher was a paragraph asking me to pay money in advance as a cash security deposit since, it claimed, a large number of people had taken their air tickets and absconded. Whenever I'm asked to pay to a company that's supposed to pay ME, I get suspicious.

So I googled "hyundai scam" without the quotes and found this:
hyundai scam notice
In case you can't see the cautionary text, I've pasted it below:
Notice 
It has come to our notice that some fraudulent agencies/imposters/ external agencies asking gullible candidates through mails/correspondence to deposit money in exchange for recruitment service/employment in Hyundai Motor India.

Please be warned that these are fake persons/ agencies, engaged in fraudulent activities. Hyundai Motor India does not deal nor adopt these practices nor collect any money for employment.

Person receiving such mails/correspondence are requested to lodge complaint with the local police authorities and also bring it to the notice of Hyundai Motor India

You can also write to njp@hmil.net or contact the recruitment team Navin Joseph / Kirubhakaran K / Ramesh Babu or Suresh Kumar G @ 044-4710-5101 / 5117 / 5832 / 5892. 


Be careful, people are out to use your vulnerability to make money off you. Always check before paying anyone any money.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Computer Starts Very Slowly Under Windows XP

Okay, so your computer, running Windows XP, suddenly takes a loooong time to start up.

Here's a quick fix that won't jigger up your computer but will get it up and running in a few minutes. You might want to print this post so you can refer to it as you restart your system.


  1. Start your computer.
  2. Hit the F8 key on the top of your keyboard repeatedly. Don't hold it down, hit it repeatedly.
  3. If you get anything other than a black screen with white text, hit Esc (the "Esc" key top left) and continue to repeatedly hit the F8 key.
  4. When you get the black screen with white text, use the up arrow key to go to "Start Windows In Safe Mode With Command Prompt".
  5. Hit Enter.
  6. Make sure the next screen highlights "Windows XP". If it doesn't, use the arrow keys to highlight "Windows XP".
  7. Hit Enter.
  8. You will see C:\>something\something (don't worry about that, just go to the next step).
  9. Using your keyboard, type C:\ (just type c, then shift+;, then \) and hit Enter.
  10. Type cd windows\prefetch
  11. Your screen should show C:\WINDOWS\PREFETCH
  12. Type del *.* and hit Enter.
  13. Windows will ask if you're sure. Type Y and hit enter.
  14. Type c:\windows\temp and hit enter.
  15. Type del *.* and hit Enter.
  16. Windows will ask if you're sure. Type Y and hit enter.
  17. Restart your computer. It will start in under a minute.
Have fun!