BOOT CAMP 345 (28/09/04)


Shareware and Freeware part 3 -- multimedia


The subject of this week’s foray into the world of shareware and freeware -- software that is either very cheap or free  -- is multimedia. The programs we are looking at are all connected in one way or another with your PC’s audio and visual facilities. Recent versions of Windows comes with a basic set of multimedia tools but to get the most out of your PC and AV devices like digital cameras and camcorders you will need some extra software.



REAL ALTERNATIVE, freeware, 5.7Mb, Windows 98/SE/ME/NT4/2k/XP

As the name suggests this is an alternative to Real Player, without the intrusive add-ons and updates. Real Alternative plays most RealMedia files and formats (.ra .rpm .rm .ram .rmvb .rt & .rp) including BBC radio programs streamed over the Internet. It is very simple to setup and use, however, it is important to uninstall RealPlayer and RealOne player before loading Real Alterative. Otherwise you will find that it does everything you need and it integrates seamlessly with most browsers, including IE, Mozilla, Firefox, Netscape and Opera.




TOTAL RECORDER, shareware $11.95, 1.3Mb, $11.95, Windows 98/SE/ME/NT4/2k/XP

Total Recorder is a versatile general-purpose audio recorder that can record virtually any sound coming into or generated by your PC, including ‘streamed’ Internet broadcasts. It is compatible with most common audio formats, including .wav and mp3 and it has a built-in scheduler or timer to let you make unattended recordings at specified times.




WINAMP, freeware, 4.3Mb, Windows 98/SE/ME/NT4/2k/XP

Winamp was one of the first and is still one of the best media players for a Windows PC. It does just about everything the built-in Windows Media Player can do, including play music and videos in a wide range of formats. However the big selling point -- not that Winamp will cost you a penny -- is the huge community of users that continually work to add features and customisations, like the famous ‘skins’, which now run include several hundred eye-catching and interesting designs.



IRFANVIEW, freeware, 850kb, Windows 98/SE/ME/NT4/2k/XP

Irfanview is an old favourite and a must for anyone with a digital camera. It is an extremely well equipped image editing program with a range of tools that lets you rotate, flip, resize, switch negative/positive, adjust picture colour depth, brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness. It has a good range of effects (blur, oil painting, explosion, emboss, pixellate etc.), you can crop, copy, zoom, view as a slideshow or thumbnails, create ‘contact’ sheets and a great deal more. It is compatible with most common image file formats and can import images direct from your scanner. You can also download a huge range of free-plug-ins, including an EXIF data reader, which extracts and displays comprehensive details about the digital camera on which an image was taken. This may be the only image editing program you will ever need!



DVD PHOTO SLIDESHOW, shareware $29.95, 4.0Mb, Windows 98/SE/ME/XP

If you have a digital camera you probably now have hundreds if not thousands of images stored on your PC. Of course you can print out the best ones but there’s a better way to display your photographs and that is to use your PC’s CD or DVD writer to turn them into a slideshow Video CD (or DVD), which you can play on a DVD player and view on your TV. It’s also a great way to share your pictures with friends and relatives. Simply choose the pictures that you want to include then to give it a really professional finish add titles, background music, commentary and eye-catching transitions.


WINDOWS MOVIE MAKER 2.1, freeware,

Windows XP





ZWEI-STEIN VIDEO EDITOR, freeware, 3.3Mb, Windows 98/SE/ME/NT4/2k/XP

If you have a digital camera or camcorder and enjoy a bit of challenge then you can try your hand at basic video editing using Windows Movie Maker, bundled with Windows XP. The latest version (v2.1) is included with the new Service Pack 2 upgrade, which is now being distributed to Windows XP users. Movie Maker should be regarded is the first step on the video editing ladder and if you want to really do your home movie justice you should be thinking about buying a commercial application like Pinnacle Studio 9 or Ulead Vieostudio 8 (see Boot Camps 326 & 327) but there is a freeware alternative called Zwei-Stein. Be warned that it is not especially easy to use and the English user manual is poor, (the downloadable French one is better), but it has many of the features of more sophisticated applications, it can assemble up to 256 video ‘clips’, add simple titles, there’s a DV capture utility (requires a FireWire card/port on your PC), a timeline display, basic audio editing plus a range of tools, wipes and effects (including some unusually advanced options like Chroma and Luma Key).



As usual before installing any new software on your PC make sure that your backups are up to date and don’t forget it is good manners to pay the licence fee or make an appropriate donation for any freeware programs that you find useful and continue to use. Please note also that you install these programs entirely at your own risk; we are unable to provide any help or support; in most cases you will find the information you need on the publisher’s web site.


Next week – Shareware and freeware, part 4 -- MS Alternatives





Exchangeable Image File Format -- standard for storing data within JPEG image files, used by most digital cameras. Includes information about the camera, exposure, mode, compression settings etc.



Custom user interface for a program -- allows users to choose from a range of designs with alternate cosmetics, colour, shape and layout of graphical elements like buttons, menus and dialogue boxes etc.



(aka IEEE 1394) high-speed serial data connection system used to connect PCs and laptops with other devices including digital camcorders and high-end peripherals




PHOTORESCUE, shareware, $29, 820kb, Windows 2K, XP

The memory cards used in digital cameras are generally quite reliable however occasionally the data they contain can become corrupted, resulting in the loss of one or more images. Photorescue is a simple to use tool that recovers images from a wide range of memory cards. It is non-destructive so it doesn’t affect the contents of the card. To see if it can help you download the trial version, which will show you what, if anything, can be recovered. The licensed version will allow you to recover and save lost images.

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