Publishing Panasonic HD Videos to YouTube

panasonic-sd9 Last year we bought a Panasonic HDC-SD9 high-def camcorder and have been extremely impressed with the camera in general. The picture quality, size, stability, and SD Card form factor have perfectly suited our needs. The major weakness is management of the video files. Panasonic includes some software with the camera, but it is useless for doing anything but putting videos onto a DVD, which defeats the purpose of recording in HD. They also included some movie-making software, but is extremely cumbersome, and still did not manage high-def videos in Windows XP or Vista.

Thankfully there is Windows 7. Panasonic and Sony selected the AVCHD format for their videos, but previous versions of Windows were not able to manage this codec. Not only does Windows 7 include native support for AVCHD, but the new Windows Movie Maker, a free download from Windows Live, can easily publish these files to YouTube.

In order to publish one of the SD9’s videos to YouTube, one must first move the video files onto the computer’s hard disk drive. Insert the SD card into the card reader, and navigate to that drive using Windows Explorer and look for the folder: X:\PRIVATE\AVCHD\BDMV\STREAM  (where "”X” is the drive letter for the SD card). Each scene recorded by the camera will appear as a .m2ts file. (These files include the video and the audio, by the way.). Select all of the .m2ts files, and move them to a temporary folder location you’ve created on your hard drive. (I set up \Users\Public\Videos\UnprocessedVideos as mine, and put a link to it in the SendTo list).


Next, open Windows Live Movie Maker and drag all of the .m2ts files of interest into the workspace in the right half of the screen. Drag the scenes around to put them in order. Then, for each scene that begins with a transition, put the cursor at the beginning of the scene and select a transition (by going to Animations and selecting a transition.)

To publish the video, click on the Home tab, and select the YouTube logo in the Sharing section of the ribbon. You’ll have to enter your YouTube account name and password for each upload. After a few minutes you will be notified of the publishing success with the option to view the video in YouTube. It will take YouTube a few minutes to complete its transcode, and the job will be done.

ScanSnap S510 Finally Gets Windows 7 Driver

185149[1] Fujitsu has finally released an updated driver for their phenomenal ScanSnap S510 sheet fed scanner. The update comes 76 days after the release of Windows 7, and 246 days after Windows 7 release candidate was officially released.

In order to obtain the driver, U.S. customers must call (800) 626-4686, hit option “8”, and give the service advisor the scanner’s Part # and Serial #.

The ScanSnap S510 scanner is a football-sized masterpiece that unfolds to reveal an excellent sheet-fed scanner. The S510 works at about 3 seconds per sheet, and scans both sides of the paper into several formats. The scanner comes with a copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard 8, so obviously .pdf outputs are a snap.

Beware, though. Adobe does not support Acrobat Standard 8 in Windows 7, and I have had mixed results installing it on two different machines. Adobe says that Acrobat 10.2 and up are supported in Windows 7.

Nevertheless, the scanner is a workhorse. I have used it for two years, now, scanning every receipt, bill, dental school notes, and daily logs that we used to keep in large notebooks.

Picture This: Organize A Large Library of Digital Photos

pics_MC7Oh, the joy of the holidays, a special time of year where we take tons of photos and actually have some downtime afterward to get organized. With that in mind I thought it might help someone to offer my system for handling my digital photos. We have over 15,000 digital photos, which is great, but only as great as our ability to go back and access them easily.

There are dozens and dozens of tools out there designed to help people organize and display photos, so there are many organization schemes, some excellent. When I was inventing my wheel, I defined two high priorities: quick access and cheap price. I’ve been extremely happy with this system after over a year, and hopefully others can integrate it and enjoy it as much as I have.


Being able to find that specific photo is made easy by a great system. Was that photo I love of my daughter on the boat at the beach in 2008 or 2007? Was it the May trip or was it the June trip? We had a yard sale a couple of years ago. Did we have that in October or September, and do the photos of the unsold items include the old popcorn popper? Where is that early construction photo of the RBC Center? Where are those favorite 15 photos from Disneyworld? These types of questions can be answered quickly with a good system in place.

What about those times when there are guests in the house? The last thing you want to do is lug them into your liar and have them huddle around the computer screen while you search and search for a photo. That’s why we really enjoy accessing photos through Windows Media Center (pictured above). With our setup we have the den TV directly connected to the central Media Center PC, and all of the other TVs have Media Center Extenders. This allows us to access our entire photo collection from any TV in the house, which is a huge convenience, especially when guests are in the house. This isn’t a requirement, but makes the system far more powerful.


Whether one is browsing through pictures of a lost pet or searching for a photo of a specific place, a collection of photos that is efficiently tagged will save loads of time and add a tremendous amount of value to a photo collection. The key is file tagging.

What is “tagging”?

In the old days we took a developed photograph and placed it into an album, usually arranged chronologically and/or by subject. With digital photos one can tag a photo with as many organizational tags as they wish, and the single photo will appear in any number or applicable search results. For instance, if I have a photo of my nephew, my daughter, and my cat taken on the dock at the family beach house during my sister’s birthday party, I can tag the photo as “Drew”, “Lindsay Anne”, “Maddie”, “BeachHouse”, and “Kim’s 35th”. When I use software that can quickly display all of the photos tagged “Maddie”, the party photo appears in the collection. When I look at the “Drew” photos, the photo will shows up as well. So not only is tagging great for finding a particular photo that has known qualities, but also it is excellent for putting together “virtual” photo albums.

There are many tools for photo tagging, but I’ve found that Windows Live Photo Gallery is the best. Not only is it a free download, but it also writes the tag information in the .JPG file itself. Most other photo programs, like Picasa, store this tag information in a separate database file, making the database only usable in that one particular piece of software. If the tags are stored in the photos themselves, however, one can transport a collection of photos to another computer without losing all of the tagging information.

pics_tagsWPGOnce one installs Live Photo Gallery and points the software to a folder structure containing photographs, the next step is to create a set of frequently used tags. The second big asset for Live Photo Gallery, is that it allows tag hierarchies to be formed. I created five top-level tags under which all photos fall: Events, Objects, People, Places, and Other. (literally entered as “ZOther” in order for force it to the bottom of the alphabetical list.) Under People, I have a hierarchy of tags: People:Family, People:Famous, People:Friends. Under People:Family, I have these tags: People:Family:Immediate, People:Family:McCall, People:Family… Under People:Family:Immediate, I have a tag for each of the 4 family members (including the cat).

pics_tagsWPG3A major problem with Picasa (and several other software programs), is that it does not allow hierarchical tags. Therefore once tagging is complete, one will find a list of tags that are not organized. Unrelated tags like “Beach”, “Ballpark”, “Ben”, and “Beerfest” will all appear together in a giant list of tags. While a hierarchical tag structure requires a viewer to drill downward through three or four layers, typically, it is still extremely manageable and efficient.

Going through thousands of photos, tagging each for the relevant people, places, and events shown is not a quick process, so I recommend only doing a couple hundred at a time, depending on the size of your collection. The good thing is that this is not a particularly intellectually challenging project that requires 100% focus, so it can be done during football games with great ease. Remember, too, that these because the tags are written to the JPGs themselves, this project can be done across a network, so it can be just as efficient to sit at a laptop in the den as it is sitting at a desk at the house’s main computer.

File Location

So, the virtues of tagging should be clearer by now, and that leaves one question: how to I physically organize the JPG’s themselves on the hard drive? I once tried organizing the photos by the event or main subject of the photo, and it was a disaster. Tagging serves this purpose much better. So if we are dealing with, essentially, a database and search system all the time, I ought to be able to just dump all of my photos into one giant folder, right? Not so.

There are two problems with a blind dump. One is that cameras create filenames usually based on a sequence by that particular camera. What if a family has more than one Canon camera, all using the same numbering scheme? What if a camera’s numbering sequence accidentally gets reset? In both cases there will be filename duplicates, creating an unacceptable situation in any operating system.

Another problem with a blind dump is every operating system’s inabilities to efficiently display a folder containing thousands of files. If you like watching hourglasses and throbbers, be my guest and create large folders.

The most efficient system I have found is to rename each file as it is being put into the file structure. First, move the files off of the camera’s data card into a designated temporary folder with Windows Explorer. The folder I created for this is:


To save time, I placed a shortcut to this photo in my “Send To” context menu (see post about editing the SendTo list). By selecting all photos on the card, and Shift-selecting Unprocessed_Photos using the Send To shortcut, I can move photos to a designated spot in one quick action.

The next step is where the magic lies. I use a small, free piece of software called DIM.jar to move the photos to their final destination. (DIM requires that Java is installed). I use DIM to read the date of the photo, rename it based on a YYYYMMDD-XXX.jpg format, and copy it to a folder hierarchy in Public Pictures that corresponds the year and month of the photo.

DIM_setup Go into the DIM settings and change the output filename code to “YYYYMMDD-%2c.jpg”. The result will create a file with the year, month, and date in the filename. Because one may do a quick series of photos that takes 2 photos in the same second, I don’t feel the timecodes of HHMMSS are worth the bulk they add to the filename. Instead, I prefer an arbitrary 3-digit number that is assigned for the photo in the batch. A photo called 20081225-134.jpg is the one from Christmas in ’08 with an arbitrary 134 attached. (That three-digit number gets reset each time DIM is launched)

Once you have verified that the photos copied correctly, then go to UNPROCESSED_PHOTOS and delete its contents. I do not recommend having DIM “move” the files, as sometimes there are glitches (ie. date setting was wrong on camera, some setting in DIM setup wasn’t quite right).

One important thing to remember is to NOT touch your files before sending them through DIM. This especially includes rotating the file in Windows Photo Viewer! Any time a change like rotation, cropping, contrast, etc is made, the JPG file is rewritten such that the metadata reflects the editing time as the time the photo was taken. This create inaccurate filenames and can result in photos being in the wrong folder on the hard drive.

This sounds like a big endeavor, but it really isn’t. I’ve trained myself to follow this sequence every Sunday:

  1. Insert photo card into computer’s card reader
  2. Open Windows Explorer, and move the photos to the Unprocessed folder (Shift-select Unprocessed folder in the SendTo menu)
  3. Open DIM from Start Menu shortcut
  4. Quickly double-check DIM’s settings
  5. Hit “Process”
  6. Verify that photos are in the correct month folders
  7. Erase contents of Unprecessed

Occasionally (and I mean once or twice a quarter), I’ll sit down with my laptop in the den while somewhat paying attention to a sporting event, and tag photos across the network.

The result is a system that is very easy to navigate from all over the house. If I want that photo of us from the tailgate party before the 2002 hockey playoff game, I can go to the “RBCCenter” tag and quickly peruse the couple of dozen photos from there. If I want to copy this photo to a website like Flickr, I’ll simply note the filename and easily find it using Windows Explorer. This is a snappy process given that any one month folder only has, maybe, a couple hundred files.

Having an organized, accessible photo collection is a giant luxury. I certainly realize this when I look through old family photo albums that only have a few dozen photos. They are hard to find, in small collections, not backed up, and organized using only one method. Ironically the amount of effort with the system described takes less time and effort than it did in the old days.

Dentrix, Dexis, and CAESY Enter the Windows 7 Era

Over the past year I have had some old machines in the office that were having extreme difficulty with lack of speed and driver instability in Windows XP. With all of the "problems" with Vista, I delayed purchasing new equipment and upgrading my version of Dentrix for a couple of years. With the arrival on Windows 7 and several "final straw" events, I decided to replace two of my machines and upgrade my server with Windows 7.

The road over the past three weeks has been rocky, but as crazy as it may sound, it has been more rewarding finding out the caveats of new hardware and software than it was banging my head against a wall with the old equipment and abandoned, malfunctioning drivers.

The following is a guide based on the state of hardware and software as of Thanksgiving in 2009 (Windows 7 has been officially released for 1 month). I use Dentrix, Dexis, and CAESY as my main workhorses in the office. Hopefully the information here will help to guide you in purchasing or waiting to purchase specific hardware.

I’ll first begin with software, and how it performs on a myriad of both equipment and versions of Windows 7 in my office. Each software package has been installed on a 32-bit and a 64-bit machine. On the 64-bit machines, both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 have been tested. Remember, you can install a 32-bit version of Windows 7 on a 64-bit machine, but you cannot install a 64-bit version of Windows on a 32-bit machine.

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Overcoming Realtek Sound Problems in Windows 7

Back when Vista SP1 came out, I had trouble getting the Realtek sound on my Intel DG33BU motherboard to work. My speaker in the tray had a red “X” through it, but the drivers didn’t seem to have any problems. When I tried to automatically upgrade the sound driver, it told me that I had the most up-to-date driver available. I kept getting a message saying that the speakers were not plugged in. Lo and behold, as I have found in almost every case, the few problems I had in Vista have not been corrected with Windows 7.  Hopefully the Googlebot will pick this up and help others with Intel Realtek sound problems in Windows 7.

I was able to get the sound working in Windows 7 by disabling the front panel jack detection. The way you do it isn’t intuitive. First download and install the latest audio drivers from Intel’s website (here is the link for the DG33BU). Then:


  • Open Windows 7’s Control Panel (Start| Control Panel)
  • Open the "Realtek Audio Manager" (not to be confused with “Sound”). (In order to display this, be sure that "View By" in the upper right shows "Large Icons" instead of "Category"
  • In the navigation bar in the far right, there is a little yellow folder icon. It is just below “Device advanced settings” and above “ANALOG”. Click the folder icon.
  • Click “Disable front panel jack detection” so that a yellow check mark shows up. Hit “OK”, and close the Realtek HD Audio Manager. That should re-enable the sound.

Ultimate Install Contest Winner

Imagine living in this house! It is 17,000 square feet and features 13 zones of audio, 5 of which have full surround sound arrangements. The system uses Windows Media Center as its core, with Crestron distribution hardware.

Linking the Treo 650 and Ford SYNC

The Treo 650 by Palm has been around for a many years now, and has always had a quirky bluetooth profile. After about an hour of following Ford’s instructions and a little bit of research, we finally figured out how to connect a Treo 650 (Verizon) with the impressive 2009 Ford Explorer SYNC system.

For some reason the Treo doesn’t work out of the box with the SYNC system. We found that once the Treo is paired with another bluetooth device, however, it becomes smart enough to handle the Ford SYNC connection.

  • Pair the Treo with a different bluetooth connection first. According to a poster on a message board, the Jabra headset, with its “0000” security code, with do just fine. We were able to break-in the Treo by connecting it to a 2005 Prius Bluetooth system (using code “1212”)
  • Delete any previous instances of the Treo in the SYNC system, and delete any previous instances of the SYNC in the Treo’s bluetooth page.
  • At this point the Treo will work as described in Ford’s instruction manual. After entering the six-digit code created by the Ford into the Treo, select “Car Kit”.

We were able to make calls and answer calls using the Ford’s interface. We did not, however, get a successful download of the Treo’s phone book. I didn’t have time to experiment, but it is likely that only the Treo Contacts that have a quick-dial assignment will be downloaded to the Ford. I assume that in order to download newly added quick-dial contacts to the Ford, one will have to re-pair the Treo and SYNC systems (simply delete the existing profiles of each other, and redo Step 3 above).

MacBook Distracting Students from Acquiring Functional Systems

It’s back to school time, and that means it is time for college students to think about their computer arrangements. I was playing with a MacBook Pro the other day and generally liked it, but was astonished at the price. After a some contemplation I concluded that there are far more powerful setups that can be attained for a fraction of the MacBook’s lofty price.

The MacBook family offers screen sizes of 13”, 15” and 17”. The base prices for these units start at $1,200, $1,700, and $2,500. Unfortunately all these customers have is…a laptop. It is sad to see what people are missing by spending this much.

While college is a very mobile environment, it also is one that requires much efficiency and organization. Imagine being able to take all of your notes in class while you record the lecture, and have those notes and the recording tied in real time together. Using OneNote, the student can! Unable to fully recall the discussion when a cryptic diagram was drawn? Simply hit the musical note next to the diagram and that segment of the lecture immediately plays back.

When the student returns to his or her desk in the dorm room, they will want a clean, neat full desktop setup, so a 22 or 24” monitor is needed. For an extra $75 or so the laptop can be used as a DVR, so there goes the need to buy a full-fledged TV.

One of the most powerful tools a student can buy, however, is a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner. Instead of lugging around notebooks and syllabi, the efficient student uses this football-sized scanner to scan all notes and all syllabi. This way all notes are neatly organized, portable, and sharable on the network.

Theft is rampant on college campuses, so an external hard drive is needed at the desk for nightly archiving of notes and media.


Here’s is an option in the $1,200 range worth considering:

$550 I recently got an HP laptop with Vista Home Premium, 3GB of RAM, 320GB HDD, a/b/g/n wireless, and a 17” screen for $550
$400 Fujitsu ScanSnap S510 Scanner
$80 1 TB Hard Disk Drive (3.5” internal) – prices are falling rapidly
$25 Sabrent ECS-STU35K 3.5” HDD enclosure
$170 Pegasus Portable Notetaker – Digital pen that memorizes your notes
$1,225 TOTAL

plus $250 Samsung 233SW 23” Widescreen Monitor (If one were to get a little 13” MacBook, they would certainly need a large monitor at their desktop, so the monitor’s price is pulled out of the comparison.)

Now we have a powerful system. A fantastic laptop serves as the core. One can quickly scan all documents and enter notes directly into the computer, and archive all of this data. For leisure periods, the laptop can be used as a DVR.

I would mount the hard disk drive enclosure under the desk (out of sight), and buy an extra AC adaptor that stays installed in the desk setup for an almost “docking station” setup.


In the $2,500 market? Then we really have some flexibility. Consider a scenario that has the 23” monitor and backup system mentioned above, as well as the scanner. At the core, though, we use a Lenovo tablet PC. This allows the student to take notes directly on the screen in One Note while recording lectures instead of using the Pegasus pen.

$1,600 Tablet PC – Lenovo with 1.86GHz, Vista Home Premium, 2GB RAM, 250GB HDD, 8-cell battery, Microsoft One Note.
$400 Fujitsu ScanSnap S510 Scanner
$80 1 TB Hard Disk Drive (3.5” internal)
$25 Sabrent ECS-STU35K 3.5” HDD enclosure
$2,105 TOTAL

plus $250 Samsung 233SW 23” Widescreen Monitor

It appears that we have an extra $400. Instead of shipping it off to Steve Jobs, perhaps we could consider something more interesting. Let’s remove the portable HDD and put that $100 and the $400 towards a dorm room server. Something like a Windows Home Server or a stand-alone PC that runs Windows Media Center would be a fantastic solution. A media center PC in the room would always be available to record shows, and could act as a archival center for the documents on the laptop.

Another option is to take that $400 and conservatively invest it so there is seed money for the next computer the student will need (probably in two years). Imagine how out of date that 4 year old MacBook pro will seem compared to a fairly new computer in 2013.

The MacBook Pro is a nice computer, for sure. However its staggering price seems to be luring students away from a far more powerful armamentarium. It is leaving students with a tool that allows them to get on the internet and write documents. The MacBooks are only the seed to a fully integrated system. For that price, wouldn’t you rather just take the fully integrated system and be done with it?