Computer Users’ Group

September 17, 2003

Inputting Audio:

Most computers have mini jacks for audio input. Normally there’s a group of three input jacks with one marked with a microphone, one with an earphone and one with an arrow pointing inward. That’s the line-in jack. Connect a cable from your tape player line out (if there is one) or phone jack to that jack. You may need an adapter or a male to male mini-plug cable depending on what your tape player output connections are. Go to START, PROGRAMS, ACCESSORIES, and Find SOUND RECORDER under ENTERTAINMENT or COMMUNICATIONS depending on the version of windows that you have. When the SOUND RECORDER opens, click on EDIT and then on AUDIO PROPERTIES at the bottom. That opens a box that shows what devices you have for playing and recording sound. In the middle under SOUND RECORDING click on the VOLUME box. When the multiple volume controls show up, make sure that the SELECT box under LINE IN is checked. That will uncheck boxes under any other inputs. Set the BALANCE and VOLUME control to mid range.

If you have positioned the tape you want to record to the place where you want to start, then click on the RECORD button on the SOUND RECORDER and then start the tape. When you’re done, click on SAVE AS and provide a name you want to save it under. It will save it as a WAV (Wave) file. As you record it, monitor the height of the recorded wave as it shows in the SOUND RECORDER window. Adjust the VOLUME CONTROL up or down until the height is nearly maximum but does not show signs of flattening off (clipping). Play back what you recorded and if it sounds ok note all of the settings to use as a starting point for the next time you record.

Now you’ve got WAV files, what do you do with them? If they are clips of your family that you’re going to put into your genealogy then you don’t have to do any more. But if you have music CDs that you’re copying, then there is a lot more that you can do. I played a CD that had 131 songs on it and still had 119 MB of disk space left. Music files can be compressed (ripped) to make smaller files so that more of them will fit on a disk. Windows media player will create .WMA files from WAV files and Real Player and Jukebox can create MP3 files as well. Windows media player comes with Windows; the others are free downloads. You can play these WMA or MP3 files through your computer but many CD and/or DVD players in your car or home can play them as well. Check out that capability if you’re in the market for a new player. The compression is about where you can put 10 music CDs on one CD. But there is a trick; if you rip them to MP3 files and put them on a CD as music files, the process uses the playing time to determine how many files can be put on a disk and you end up with what you started with. You have to record them to CD as DATA files and you can get a 10 to 1 reduction. But remember that the copyright fair use doctrine extends only for your own personal use.

Inputting Video.

You’ll need a means of getting the video into the computer and most computers don’t have one. But there are devices that are available that can connect to your USB port or your Fire Wire port. If you don’t have either of these, forget about trying to record video. Also, if your computer is slow, you may drop so many frames your video will look like an old Charlie Chaplin movie. I don’t know what the slowest acceptable processor speed is but 500MHz would seem to be on the margin and anything slower be unacceptable. Rendering (converting the recorded video into the proper output format) is processor speed dependent. A 12 ½ minute video can take up to 45 minutes to render on a 2.4 Ghz computer. Having enough memory is also a consideration but in recent tests having more than 128 MB did not improve performance.

There are two types of video to be concerned with. The older VHS or 8 mm or super 8 tapes are all analog and have to be converted to digital to be recorded. Newer video cameras may be digital and create tapes in the Digital Video (DV) format. Those digital cameras connect directly to the computer’s Fire Wire (IEEE 1394) port.

Were were concerned with recorder from older analog tapes. I used an Intel Video Camera designed for Internet video phone calls but it has a video input. It connects to the USB port. You can also use most Digital Video Cameras to input analogue video and convert it to digital video and send it to the Fire Wire port. Other video capture devices exist and they all come with some type of recording software.

It also takes software to manage the process and to allow editing of the video. Windows XP has a built in Movie Maker that will get the job done (barely) but there are other programs that generally run from $70 to $170. One is Pinnacle Studio and I used both Windows Movie Maker and Pinnacle Studio. Note that some software can do the job consideraby faster than others. See the October 1, 2003 issue of PC magazine, page 107 for a table of rendering speeds.

I connected an analog video camcorder output to the input of the Intel Video Cam and opened The Window Movie Maker. I made sure that the input was from the external video in and not the built in camera itself by going to FILE and then RECORD and selecting the input device and its properties. I started the camcorder and clicked on CAPTURE and we captured some video. Had I let it go a bit longer, the software would automatically detected a new scene. Each start and stop that the camcorder did in recording starts and ends a scene. Scenes are displayed on the story board by the initial frame of the scene. Scenes can be moved in relation to each other and titles and transitions between scenes can be added. There video can also be displayed on a timeline where each scene can be clipped to show exactly what you want. But that’s all video editing and it takes time and patience. Our chore here was to record some video and save it to disk.

There are several output formats that most programs can output. Pinnacle Studio offers 5 formats. One is tape which is the format that a Digital Video Camera would produce. In fact, the output needs to be sent to a Digital Video Camera in order to record it. The second format is AVI which is an older format but is the only one supported by Windows 3.1. It is a compressed file and not uncompressed as I may have said at the meeting. MPEG is a better compression format than AVI and is supported by all recent versions of windows. In addition, there is a format for streaming video if you want to put it on the Internet and a format for emailing to others. What we did was press MAKE MOVIE in Pinnacle Studio and select MPEG and we created an MPEG file. We then saved the file to CD and played it back. Like all computer projects that seem complex, it’s just a series of small steps that can be mastered one at a time.

Perhaps in the future we can take up video editing. Now we were just getting analog video into digital form in anticipation of next month’s video tape on putting multimedia into your genealogy program. That program will provide more on what we covered here.

Section added 9/21/03

I handed out a printout from Circuit City that described a $399.95 eMachines computer that had a detailed listing of it's specification. The purpose was to get members to understand what each item in the listing means. Items of importance are Processor Speed, System RAM (Memory), Hard Drive Capacity, Type of CD or DVD drive (RW can create disks), USB Ports and if you have legacy printers (Parallel Port) or devices using a Serial Port, then those can be important. But there are USB to Parallel and USB to Serial Converters and most newer hardware doesn't use those old port types. To upgrade an old computer you'd have to pay a buck a GB for a Hard Drive,($40 to $80), $20 for a CD-RW drive(on sale), $45 for added USB ports and $59 for a Network card, $100 for Windows XP and perhaps more RAM and a faster processor to come close to what the eMachine computer does. But there are plenty of others as well. So if you're in the market for a new one, try to determine what you need and then check them out in ads and on the Internet.

Conducting a Search on the Internet:

This will more nearly cover what I wanted to do at the meeting than what I actually did. When I start any search or do any research, I first open Notepad and then my file called Genealogy Notes.txt. When I open that file, it automatically adds the time and date it was opened so I’ll know when the notes that I add were taken. I can paste anything into it so if I find a paragraph or two about an ancestor I just copy and paste it in. You initially create the file by opening Notepad and creating a new file by entering .LOG (that’s a period and capital LOG). Then do save as and enter the name you want. Gen Notes.txt works and Gen Notes 2003.txt lets you create a new one every year. Notepad will add the .txt for you so you don’t have to enter it. Close the file and then open it and you’ll find it headed with the present time and date.

Once that was done, we went to the Internet and navigated to Pastfinders’ Home Page and then to Library and then to Library catalog and the to On Line Data Bases. From there we selected GALE and from that page we selected GALE again. That led us to the Sign In page for GALE and we were able to show that page and the password required. But beyond that we didn’t get to present much because it hides beyond the Password and saving for viewing offline is not supported. But after you enter the password for GALE, you can page down about three pages until you come to Ancestry Plus. Click there to enjoy what would normally cost you about $80 a year.

We entered Peregrine White in the name search box and found about 1405 people knew something about him. He was the first white person born in New England aboard the Mayflower. It’s amazing how so many people can list him as an ancestor and not know where or when he was born or who his wife or parents were. My point here was if you’re searching, don’t bother to look at people where all of the fields are blank. Move on until you find an entry where all of the blanks are filled in. Then click on that person and immediately go to the bottom of the page. If there are no references or the only references are another genealogically challenged person on the Internet, keep going.

If we had gone back (using the BACK button) to the first page of Ancestry listing for Peregrine White we could have found Mayflower Genealogies and Plymouth

and Histories that would have been a more reliable source of information.

Normally, I would have clicked on the word Notepad that is sitting in the system tray at the bottom of the page and reported my results. Then I would have opened and second copy of Internet Explorer and gone the FamilySearch and repeated my Peregrine White search there. When I was done I’d report my findings back to my Genealogy Notes file in Notepad. I then would have opened a third copy of the browser and gone to Rootsweb. There I would note search for Peregrine because that’s the same data base I just searched in Ancestry. I would have gone to State Resources and tried to find some data about Plymouth County, the town of Plymouth and the Mayflower and Pilgrims in particular. And I would look for vital records, church records, cemetery listings, wills, probate and land records. And if I found something that I’d like to check on one of the other sites that I visited, they’re only a click away in my system tray.

And I would have put it all in my Genealogy Notes File so that I wouldn’t have to do the same search every year. Every year. Every year.