Fixing the double-letterboxing effect in Windows Media Player…

To resolve the double-letterboxing effect when playing a widescreen (16:9) movie encoded as fullscreen (4:3) on a widescreen laptop: use Videolan.

Videolan is a freeware, open-source media-player that can help to resolve this problem by providing zoom and crop features that are easily accessible with a right-click while playing the video. If you have an older version, check out the newly released 0.9.* (Grishenko) release – it’s really cool!

Download movies to DVD

Just finished reading a Yahoo news story about how movie studios are finally offering download to DVD technology that will allow users to play downloaded movies on their TVs. As is usually the case, the Adult Film Industry is again taking the lead in this initiative – Vivid has signed up with CinemaNow to offer movies for download to DVD. CinemaNow already offers movies from major Hollywood studios as well but those are restricted to playing on the PC.

NYT also has an article: “Can TV’s and PC’s Live Together Happily Ever After?” where they analyze the 4 important roadblocks to this concept taking off:

  • limitations in broadband infrastructure
  • the degree of readiness among electronics makers to provide a product with mass appeal
  • the behavior of consumers and
  • the agenda of the players in the TV ecosystem.

The reality is that just as the MP3, i-Pod and i-Tunes trio dismantled the traditional way of music distribution, if the movie studios don’t figure out a way to offer movies for download, someone else will.

I can think of 2 ways that such movies can be distributed:

  • a commercial-free premium version which can be purchased/rented in the same way and for about the same price as a regular DVD.
  • an advertising-supported free version which would be supported by highly targeted ads which the viewer is obliged to watch. The studios would have the complete demographic details of the viewers and would place highly relevant ads. Viewers would have an “add to shopping cart” button on their remotes, thus queuing any items which they like for check-out after the movie completes. To take it a step further viewers would even be able to pause Top Gun and buy Tom Cruise’s aviator sunglasses (as forecasted brilliantly by Bill Gates 10 years back in his amazing book The Road Ahead)

The lawyer who insured his cigars :-)

Got this funny forward in my email today:

THE WORST INSURANCE
This is the best lawyer story of the year, decade,and probably the century. A Charlotte, NC, lawyer purchased a box of very rare and expensive cigars; then insured them against fire among other things. Within a month having smoked his entire stockpile of these great cigars and without yet having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the lawyer filed a claim against the insurance company. In his claim, the lawyer stated the cigars were lost “in a series of small fires.” The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason: that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion. The lawyer sued .. and won! In delivering the ruling, the judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous. The Judge stated, nevertheless, that the lawyer held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable fire, and was obligated to pay the claim. Rather than endure lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid $15,000 to the lawyer for his loss of the rare cigars lost in the “fires.”

NOW FOR THE BEST PART…
After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of arson!!! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine.

Recording MP3’s from online radio stations for free!

Here's an easy free way to record MP3 files from online radio stations using the fantastic free recording tool Boombox Internet Radio Player. The tool even cuts every song into its own MP3 file saving you from any messy splicing and dicing.

  1. Download and install the Boombox Internet Radio Player.
  2. You can browse for radio stations by category or search for a specific one using the manual search option:
    boombox radio search
  3. Double-click to select a radio channel from the results list. This will open it in your MP3 player (WinAmp recommended).
  4. Once the radio stations starts playing, click on the menu Recorder > View Recorder to bring up the recorder.
  5. Press Record to start recording the songs and you're all set! Each song gets recorded into its own MP3 file too!
    Boombox Recorder

Disclaimer: Please check for the legality of using this tool in your area.

Capture streaming video for free using Videolan

PCMag recently had an article suggesting using Replay A/V (a shareware tool for $50) for capturing streaming audio / video streams. I was left scratching my head why they didn't suggest a wonderful free tool like Videolan. Here's the lowdown on using Videolan to capture video streams:

  1. Download and install Videolan for PC/Mac/Linux.
  2. Click on File > Open Network Stream.
  3. In the dialog box click on "HTTP/HTTPS/FTP/MMS" and type in the URL of the network stream you want to record.
    Videolan Open Network Stream Dialog
  4. Select the "Stream output" checkbox and click the Settings button.
  5. In the dialog box select the File option and browse to create a file for the stream to be written to. Leave all the settings as they are.
    Videolan Stream Output to File
  6. That's it! Click on OK twice and the stream will be written to the file. You can stop anytime you want. For best results use Videolan when playing the file.

Tomorrow: recording MP3's from online radio stations for free!

WSJ: Judge okays surfing at work

WSJ has an interesting article on a NY Judge ruling on an employee taken to court for surfing at work. Judge Spooner ruled that “the internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for work.” And city agencies, he noted, let workers make personal calls as long as they don’t interfere with their jobs.

The Real Time column goes on conclude that:

“…it’s a mix of things, including the productivity gains of information technology substantially outweighing the losses of high-tech goofing off; the fact that the workday has always included a certain amount of goofing off; and the likelihood that workers aren’t any more slothful than they’ve ever been. If anything, perhaps they’re more efficient about doing whatever they shouldn’t be doing: Buying a book for your nephew almost certainly takes less time clicking around Amazon than running out to the mall bookstore on your lunch hour.

But here’s the thing that should give office workers toasting Judge Spooner pause: While the Internet has let us bring our personal lives into the office in new ways, it’s also let our office follow us once we leave. Witness your coworker ignoring his beer because he’s Blackberrying, or your spouse in bed with a VPN-connected laptop propped against her knees. And therein lies the other half of the emerging bargain. If surfing the Web is OK in the office, you’ve got no cause to carp when the boss wonders why you didn’t respond to that 8 p.m. email.”

🙂

Using Google to find stereotypes and prejudices

Based on the idea of The Prejudice Map of the World, I decided to localize it to India, specifically two of the vibrant castes within India – the Gujaratis and the Punjabis. Here are the findings (as of May 3rd 2006):

Gujaratis are known for:

  • grit
  • entrepreneurship
  • Dandiya and Garba
  • pickles and chutneys
  • hospitality
  • business and trade
  • entrepreneurial skills
  • sweets

Punjabis are known for:

  • hard work
  • carpentry
  • creativity
  • boisterous humour
  • rich foods
  • loud, opulent and flamboyant weddings
  • extroverted nature
  • incredibly laid-back, blase demeanour, but steely resolve

Another very interesting website to find out what Google thinks of someone is Googlism.

Original idea for this post by Google Blogoscoped [via Napsterization].