Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why Matroska (MKV), and not AVI?

I got question from one of the readers to explain what Matroska format is, and how it is different from AVI, you used to, while playing compressed video files. And also, how to convert files to MKV format.

Matroska (MKV) is not entirely new video format on the Web of multimedia, however, until recently, it was not well known to the users, except for countries of the former Soviet Union (MKV was developed in Belorussia). Due to its certain advantages over AVI, it fast gains global popularity.

What is MKV?

MKV stands for "Matroska Video". Matroska is a container file format, capable of holding unlimited number of video, audio and subtitile tracks, along with any metadata. Practically this means that it is possible to put entire movie with multiple sound and subtitle tracks, chapters information and movie thumbnail into single file. Being open and patent-free Matroska gained broad support recently and quickly becomes de-facto standard for storing movies.


Matroska file format (and Matroska video in particular) has a number of advantages:
1. MKV is open and free. No one holds patents or licenses and anyone can implement it freely. As a result nearly every software player and many hardware devices support it. The best software players out there (VLC, MPlayer) have full MKV support and are absolutely free.
2. MKV files do not have evil features attached.
* You can play them on any capable hardware. No need for HDCP-certified video card or any "trusted" environment.
* You can copy them to your laptop and watch anytime, even if your laptop lacks DVD or Blu-ray drive, or any drive whatsoever.
* One file is one title. If you don't want to watch dozen trailers before the movie, you don't have to. And fast forward button always works, too.
* There are no restrictions where to play the file. There are no region-based restrictions. You have control over the content you've paid for.
3. MKV files are easy to change. Want to remove unneeded audio track from the file? Thought about converting MPEG-2 video into H264 to make the file 5 times smaller? All of it can be easily done with free software.
4. MKV files are compact. For exactly the same content MKV files are about 10% smaller than DVD files and roughly 40% smaller than Blu-ray files.

Why MKV is better than AVI?

The AVI container was originally introduced by Microsoft in the early 90s, and was designed as a very flexible A/V container format for the video and audio compression formats of those days. It is necessary to understand that AVI is only one (but important) part of a complete multimedia framework called 'Video For Windows' (VfW), offering programmers not only a container but also a complete set of API commands to be able to program their own video and audio codecs, using either the VfW or the ACM interface.

Unfortunately this VfW framework cannot support many of the more advanced features that modern audio and video compression formats will offer, such as Variable Bitrate audio encoding (VBR), or Variable Framerate video encoding (VFR). Although AVI was extended with an additional standard called 'Open DML AVI' in the mid/late 90s, overcoming most of its very annoying limitations like the 2 GB file size limit, there is still no proper and spec compliant way to support modern compression formats like the excellent, opensource Ogg Vorbis audio compression format.

Matroska has overcome all those limitations and can support all known audio and video compression formats by design. To make sure it will also be capable of coping with the future standards it is based on a very flexible underlying framework called EBML, allowing to add more functional features to the container format without breaking backwards compatibility with older software utilities and files.

Free software to Convert to MKV

MakeMKV is your one-click solution to convert video that you own into free and patents-unencumbered format that can be played everywhere. MakeMKV is a format converter, otherwise called "transcoder". It converts the video clips from proprietary (and usually encrypted) disc into a set of MKV files, preserving most information but not changing it in any way. The MKV format can store multiple video/audio tracks with all meta-information and preserve chapters. There are many players that can play MKV files nearly on all platforms, and there are tools to convert MKV files to many formats, including DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Additionally MakeMKV can instantly stream decrypted video without intermediate conversion to wide range of players, so you may watch Blu-ray and DVD discs with your favorite player on your favorite OS or on your favorite device.

* Reads DVD and Blu-ray discs
* Reads Blu-ray discs protected with latest versions of AACS and BD+
* Preserves all video and audio tracks, including HD audio
* Preserves chapters information
* Preserves all meta-information (track language, audio type)
* Fast conversion - converts as fast as your drive can read data.
* No additional software is required for conversion or decryption.
* Available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux
* Functionality to open DVD discs is free and will always stay free.
* All features (including Blu-ray decryption and processing) are free during BETA.

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General information about MKV:

Friday, September 13, 2013

SMPlayer – Media Player with Strong Ambitions

SMPlayer is a free multi-platform media player with built-in codecs that can play virtually any video and audio format, available on the market, with additional plug-ins installation. SMPlayer provides a graphical user interface (GUI) for the award-winning MPlayer, which is known for its performance and reliability. But apart from providing access for the most common and useful options of MPlayer, SMPlayer adds additional capabilities like the possibility to play Youtube videos or download subtitles.

One of the prominent features of SMPlayer that it is able to remember settings of all files you play. That allows to re-open the movie you watched before and it will be resumed at the same point you left it, and with the same settings: audio track, subtitles, volume...

SMPlayer includes many advanced features like video and audio filters, change of the playback speed, adjustment of audio and subtitles delay, video equalizer... and many more.

SMPlayer is free and open source software under the GPL license, so its use is allowed both in private and commercial purposes.


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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Greenshot –Professional and Free Screen Capture Utility

“Free” and “Professional” are two software definitions which rarely go hand-by-hand… Especially when “Free” should be extended to all purposes, including commercial…

 It took me several days to find software, which may fit my needs. I was looking for screen capture utility, which on top of the usual requirements (like being features-rich, fast, easy to use, and portable) will be free to use for all purposes, including business purposes. This requirement is mandatory, since I am planning to use this utility in the office.

After checking more than 10 different programs, I finally decided to give a priority to Greenshot. Time will tell, was my choice justified or not. So far, I can support the statement of one of the online program’s reviewers: “Greenshot is so easy to use, it will have you wondering why you'd ever pay for a screen capture utility”.

What is Greenshot?

Greenshot is a light-weight screenshot software tool for Windows with the following key features:

* Quickly create screenshots of a selected region, window or full screen; you can even capture complete (scrolling) web pages from Internet Explorer.
* Easily annotate, highlight or obfuscate parts of the screenshot with image editor.
* Export the screenshot in various ways: save to file, send to printer, copy to clipboard, attach to e-mail, send Office programs or upload to photo sites like Flickr or Picasa, and others.
 There is a portable version, requiring the computer to have the Microsoft .NET framework 2.0 or later installed. Otherwise, you can also use installer version.
* Greenshot is free in terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). You may use this program free of charge for private as well as commercial purposes.

Being easy to understand and configurable, Greenshot is an efficient tool for project managers, software developers, technical writers, testers and anyone else creating screenshots.


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Monday, September 2, 2013

Effective way to remember your wife birthday

The most effective way to remember your wife's birthday is to forget it once

It is not easy to remember all the important dates – anniversaries, birthdays, and other – in our busy stressful lives. Definitely, being a member of Facebook social network helps, bringing you important reminders for the upcoming dates. But, believe me or not, not everyone still uses Facebook, so you might get in the situation, when you forget, simply forget something you are not suppose to.

The simple, easy to use, freeware portable utility will help you to be on the top of all the important dates, time related responsibilities, and will offer you prompt reminders on everything you need in time.

Yes, Date Reminder will remind you of all important events you have logged, both recurring and nonrecurring. This program can be run from the Startup folder with an option to show only, if there are any alerts for this day. If Date Reminder is kept in the System Tray (optional), if will also alert you after standby or hybernation.

The reminders are listed in chronological order, with recurring events showing only once (the next one). This gives you an instant view of the alerts (at top), as well as a full list of all reminders. Other view modes: Alerts only, History.

Main Features

* Events may recur every year, month, week, day, or every 10 days, every 2 weeks, every 3 month etc.
* For monthly or annual reminders you can preselect a specific day (e.g. "first Monday") of the month
* Reminders can be marked "done", i.e. "dealt with". Past events will remain in the list until they are marked "done".
* An advance notice marker can be set a number of days before an event, as per your particular need.
* An extra calendar box, sizable for one or more month, always highlights the date of the currently selected line.
* Second text line with launching capability (shows in status bar). You can double click to load a file, program, website etc., or just use it for additional text.
* Date format according to the user's regional settings.
* The user interface is controlled by language files. English (default) and 20 other languages are included. Additional language files can be created.
* Unicode support.
* Utility is portable and does not require installation on your Hard Drive.
*Software is an ultimate freeware.


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Developer: Horst Schaeffer

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