Size is relative in video files

So, I have a video file from a presentation by one of our faculty. It’s a video recording in the Apple Quicktime .mov format. Quicktime is not always available on Windows PCs unless the user goes out and gets it.

And it’s big. Over 14 GB.

So, I can’t get it to save to a catalog record for downloading in Sierra, and it’s too big to burn to a DVD. Yes, I tried both, even though I didn’t have much hope. It’s only 17 minutes long, but MOV makes for a big file.

So, I tried VLC player to convert it to .avi format which would work on Windows Media Player and on VLC, but VLC is erratic in conversion results – I kept getting the video with no sound with various settings.

Next, I checked the web, and the free websites that convert wouldn’t do a file that large for free.

So, I tried VideoGrabber. Had to download a piece of software, but that got a file that is still too large to save to the catalog record (485,427 KB) but would burn to a DVD. I threw in the PowerPoint presentation with it on the disc and burned it.

I don’t expect much use off campus, so I didn’t catalog it on OCLC. It’s an interesting presentation, though, and gives some original insight into Beethoven’s work. We are glad to be able to keep material like this in the library.

I also make a point of saving such files to our network drive so they will be backed up elsewhere. Just in case.

Prezi-tations

[updated 2010.11.4]

I’ve been trying out something suggested by one of the librarian bloggers I read, called Prezi.  It’s an alternative presentation software, with a few different features than PowerPoint.

I think it would be a really good brainstorming method for presentations.  However, I’ve been trying it out with the ebooks presentation I’d already created on PowerPoint, just to see how I might do the presentation differently.

For starters, no sequential boxes or templates.  You get a big blank space, and you are intended to start throwing things on there, and eventually move them into groups, and bunch them by topic or whatever, and work down to frames from there.

Finally, you create a path from point or frame to the next, and you still show it sequentially, but it lets you at least appear less rigid than a stock PowerPoint show.

You can do cute stuff like taking a giant E for ebooks, and then zoom down down down to one place on the E’s top bar until you can clearly see the detailed frame there you want to show.  And then zoom out again, and back in elsewhere, and so on.  I did “Tip One” with the detail in the “O” of the “One” being the actual text for the tip, and a few like that.

Too much of that, and you give your viewers motion sickness, however, which the programmers acknowledge and warn against.  Still, it’s an eye-grabbing visual to use one in a while to pull viewers back in.  Wake up, you in the back!

You have a little controller gadget with the functions arranged around it.  When done with a function, click further into the middle of the gadget to move back to regular mode.

Prezi is web-based, but you can download a copy with the viewer built in, just as with PowerPoint, so you don’t need a separate program to run it.

Prezi Tips

So far I’ve learned a little that’s not exactly in the basic online info.  Here’s some of it, for whatever it might be worth:

* Log-in — if you have an .edu email, on the sign-up page look for the special link for educators and students.  That lets you bump up a level in privileges while still using it for free, and you can keep it private or restricted to just your students.  Otherwise, everything you do is in regular free mode, and is visible to everyone.  The education level also has more storage.

* Make the main title BIG, really BIG.  Then you can shrink everything down around it.  Some graphics just don’t shrink down past a certain point while looking good, and you need the title much bigger than that so the graphics won’t dwarf it.  You have loads of space.  Use it.

* Bear in mind that this is limited to only web-based graphics like .jpg, .gif, .png and so if you’re changing sizes a lot, use the better graphics for that rather than a gif.  The maximum size for imported images is 2880 by 2880 pixels.

* Path lets you click on each one in the order to show, and it puts a line to that with the order number.  Paths are touchy.  They seem to be all or nothing — you can do one, but you can’t UNDO a part of it once it has been saved.  So, save your Prezi to a copy, then use the copy to do the path.  Maybe even do a copy with only half the path saved.  That way, you can start all over or from the half-way point if you need to change anything.

* Frames are important.  They determine what shows up in each screen view.

*  Round frames work for groups, like a group of ideas or steps in a process.

* The other frames are good for grouping things, like a graphic with text.  Otherwise, the path just goes to one or the other, so if you want both to show up, frame them in a shaded or invisible frame and have the path go to the frame.

* Frames are handled like graphics.  They do not actually do much more, so if you drag a frame, the contents are left behind.  You can tilt a frame, change the size, etc., just like a graphic.

* Frames and paths — if you want to go back to the same frame you already have in the path, put a slightly larger frame around it and click on that when you get to that point.  It will treat the larger frame as the next step.

* Links will work if you copy & paste them from, say, a web page, into text.

* One catch — you don’t get the notes for your speech as in PowerPoint.  If you want to do notes for anyone reading later, you can do them off to one side and leave them out of the path, or make a copy and put the notes into the path.  There is a print to PDF capability but I haven’t experimented with that much yet.

[update: I’ve tried this by using the Print option while a presentation is open (in the upper right).  It lets you export to a PDF file.  The results will be one page for each step on your path (so do the path before you print).  If you then use a PDF editor, you can put in a text box and add your notes in that, before you print out your own copy of the PDF. ]

* Sound is clunky.  You have to add sound to a graphic outside Prezi, then import the graphic.  See the instructions.  Don’t plan on adding narration easily at this point.

I’ll probably try this out on the library staff here eventually, and see if they think it’s worth using instead of PowerPoint.  If you are doing something other than step-by-step instructions, something more like sharing concepts, this would be very useful.

UPDATE:

The presentation is now available online and my PDF file with my speaking notes is also available through links in the library catalog record for Ebooks on Your Own Terms. I’ve opened these up so anyone can view them.

Please remember that this info will outdate quickly (the way things have been going, I had to update this at least once a week or more often), so please don’t contact me to “update” me.  I’m going to leave this alone; it’s too time-consuming to keep it up to date!  However, it may still serve as an example of a Prezi-tation, as well as some of the points to make in discussing ebooks.

Enjoy!

The Burro is back — sort of

[updated 2009.9.10; 2011.12.6 see at bottom for updated version]

The drawback to upgrades is that you may improve one thing while breaking another.

Case in point: going from Firefox 3 to 3.5, I lost the BookBurro addon.

Now, BookBurro is a really nifty (and judging from posts, popular) addon for Firefox, which looks on pages for ISBNs and when you visit a page with one present, it offers a small block which you can click on to dropdown (or delete if you don’t need it).

The dropdown will show you a number of vendors and their pricing, to compare to whatever you’re looking at.  Example: I could look at something on a particular online store, it would give me prices at Amazon, Alibris, Half.com, Barnes & Noble, and several other online stores that can be selected in the options.

It also allows you to check WorldCat and a number of library OPACs which are searchable by ISBN.

There are links to the relevant pages on those sites.

Obviously, invaluable for librarians and other booklovers, especially those of us doing the ordering.

And it hasn’t been updated — despite a personal unanswered email request from me to the author, and a number of forum posts and tweets from others — for Firefox 3.5 as of Sept. 9, 2009.  It’s a freebie, after all, and perhaps the talented and clever author Jesse Andrews (stroke, stroke) just hasn’t had a spare moment to get back to it.

HOWEVER — there’s a (slightly) risky workaround hack for this.  Basically, it consists of turning off the compatibility check in 3.5 for addons.  Lifehacker provided it in one of their posts which was originally intended for Firefox 3 Beta, but works for 3.5.

This means that you can now install addons which may or may not work reliably with 3.5, without warning, and some things on BookBurro may not work completely or properly, but that’s the price of the hack.  So far, I think it’s worth it.

I dropped a strong hint to an Alibris rep today that they look at it, and encourage the author to update it.  Alibris isn’t working perfectly now anyway, as they have multiple (used and new) prices, so they need two lines or something arranged.  Any other reps that anybody sees, please suggest they ask/help to pay for this to be upgraded.

[update 2009.9.10]

Jesse Andrews kindly DID respond to my email just after I posted this, and commented to it as well.  Check his comment.  Looks good for an update!  I’m glad to hear it!

[update 2011.12.6]

This has been updated for Google Chrome as Book Burrito.

Backup from the wiki

I adapted my Backup Tutorial from the staff wiki and made it a child page of the Security page. There’s a link there.

I hunted for software that would be

(a) free

(b) free

(c) easy to use

(d) works with our network drives

(e) “set and forget”

(f) available for individuals to use at home once they learn to use it here (and vice versa)

and Cobian Backup filled the bill. The author has given it up for open source, but it seems to be actively progressing towards the next version, and it works up through Vista, so it should be around for a while.

Anyway, it’s here.

It’s not the only such software out there, but it works here on our network, it’s tested here, and I can teach it.

[posted revised with wiki link 2008/2/16]