|This month we look at:
Better sound on your computer
If you are playing games or watching films on your computer, then good sound does help. The problem with sound on the computer is that it gets mangled by the internal electronics and then finished off by the speakers.
Especially on laptops, it is surprising how even a modest set of headphones can improve the audio you hear. This also has the benefit that you can avoid annoying the person in the seat next to you.
Paying a bit more for some decent speakers can also be the most cost-effective way to improve audio. You will hear a lot about 2.1, 5.1, 7.1 systems and so on. These numbers refer to the number of speakers. 5.1, for example, has five main speakers arranged about you, with one sub-woofer for the bass.
So if you just want a set of headphones, a 2.0, two channel system will be fine. If you want to have a full installation in your lounge or office, look for more speakers.
But if you have the opportunity it can be worth improving the whole audio subsystem. Sound cards come in two flavours, USB which is the option for a laptop or internal cards suitable for traditional desktop computers. The latter have more space and usually quality, but as in most things, you get what you pay for.
photo-editing - the darkroom on your computer
Everyone that I meet is taking digital photos. They probably aren't any better than the ones that you took on film, but at least you don't have to have your own darkroom to make them look a bit better. Or in fact much money!
Just search online for 'free photo editing' and a lot will come back. Some are on-line, but uploading 12mb and waiting for changes isn't much fun. So it's better to download a package.
Google offers Picasa for free, which has the tools to offer basic adjustments to your photos (brightness, red-eye removal, crop and so on). It even offers an online album for you to share them with others. In fact, the latest version is so good that most people won't need more.
Even this package will allow you to resize images, which is great for popping on your website, Facebook page or whatever. Because they are smaller, they load quicker and the lower resolution is not noticed. However, making images significantly larger requires specialist software. There are a few free tools on the web, but these won't get you from A4 to a six foot banner.
If you do fancy getting your hands a bit dirtier, then Serif offers a free version of Photoplus. Now I've used the paid-for versions for years and they are great. The free one is usually the same but a few versions earlier and with a few features disabled. After all, they do want you to buy the latest one.
Staying free but playing with the big boys is GIMP, which does practically everything that the famous Photoshop does, but for free. And we are talking the full version of Photoshop, not the cut-down Photoshop Elements. Some rough edges but you do have over £500 still in your pocket.
So try out your own digital darkroom.
Keep your laptop going for longer
The whole point of having a laptop is to do work while you are out and about. So it is frustrating when the power goes. How can we get more time out of our battery?
First tip is to turn off WiFi when you don't need to be on a wireless network. That alone can almost double the length of time you get on a battery charge. It also helps your security.
Next, look at your power options. If you can make your processor work slower, turn the screen off earlier and turn off your hard disks faster, all this will save power. But don't let it get in the way of your work. Find the right balance.
Don't leave your computer on. There are several ways that you can put the computer into a doze so it wakes up fast but still saves you lots of power. In Vista and Windows 7, look at 'sleep' and in XP try 'hibernate'.
If you spend a lot of time in the car, try an inverter that plugs into your cigar lighter and produces 240v AC. You can use this to charge your computer. If you get a powerful enough inverter it is also possible to use the laptop at the same time.
Or, if you can buy a spare battery so that you have a spare powerpack (but keep it charged!)
Thought about video?
Video is a great way to enhance your website or to use directly on your computer as a sales tool.
Yet what effect will having a bad experience watching your video make on the viewer?
Here's a few tips for a better video show:
Understand directing techniques like storyboards, establishing shots, cut-aways. There are plenty of books available for home movie makers.
easy option is to put the video up onto youtube. That also gets you more exposure across the web. However, on your site you have the youtube branding, and more importantly lower quality. Do you want to appear amateurish?
Better to put the video directly onto your site.
The format most likely to be able to be played by your viewer is Flash, a format provided by Adobe. Flash isn't supported by Apples 'i'-devices including the iPad. They use formats called H.264 and MPEG-4. All is not lost as you can detect these devices and offer up the right format.
If your video is in a different format, then there are plenty of converters for you to use, such as Prism.
You want a smooth running video that reflects well on you. This is governed by the bandwidth of the broadband link at the viewers end. So the less data that your video sends, the less the chance of stuttering.
The bandwidth required by your video is a combination of the picture size and the frame rate. The smaller that you can get these, the more people will see a smooth video playback. So it is a compromise between getting your message across and technical issues. You will find that 10 frames per second is acceptable.
Use a video editor such as videopad, to load your video, change the frame rate and screen size, then output in the correct format.
Audio and subtitles
As a final thought, you can enhance the video. Use a video-editing package to add a new audio track, maybe explaining what is going on. Or with a package such as BB Flashback you can overlay a video track, with sub-titles in case people don't have sound, pointers and speech bubbles to make your point.
So have fun!
People that I'm working with
Recently I've had some web sessions with Basil Mienie to look at aspirations, building great sound-bites and visualisation of goals. Great fun and very useful to me.
Franchise partner opportunities
We've just released the next five territories for franchise partners to join the fleet using our proven business model to build a successful business.
The flying doctor is looking for enthusiastic individuals who enjoy working with computers. Whether they are the person that the family always turns to or already in the field, You can help them run their own business and turn their passion into a profitable business!
Tell the people that you know and ask them to call the flying doctor on 01865 748197 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org to to take the first step towards their success.