Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Simpler Way of Converting and Uploading Videos from Canon to YouTube

I recently uploaded a video of the kids using our Canon Powershot SX210 as the video camera. Since Canon uses the Quicktime format, I had to do several steps to downsize it from its huge HD format into something that will load easily to YouTube using Microsoft Expressions. This involved several steps as described in my previous blog post.

Then I came across a free software that pretty much does the whole works at much fewer steps. Check out the Freemake Video Converter. It allows you to convert between video formats, while changing resolution at the same time. It even comes with a button that will let you directly upload the video to YouTube at a click of a button (no need to open your browser and go to YouTube).

Freemake even allows you to edit your video (ex. cut out un-needed portions) prior to conversion or upload. Very versatile. And to top it all off, its completely free software. Below is a video from Ethan's birthday using the same camera and Freemake to convert and upload it to YouTube.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Japanese Eat-All-You-Can @ Libis

We treated out my folks tonight at the new Japanese eat-all-you-can + smokeless grill along C5 in front of Eastwood City called Bono Yaki. Its similar in concept to the wildly popular Yaki Mix, except its about P100 cheaper per head. :) For a peak Saturday night dinner, we were charged about P550++/head. The kids did not really eat much, but they still charged us P350 for Caitlin (Ethan was free).

The food was ok. Not really fantastic. The sushi and sashimi selection was very restricted. The tempura shrimps are nothing to write home about. I thought Saisaki's ebi tempura's are even better. The food is a mix of Japanese, Korean (Jap Chae) and Chinese (sweet and sour pork).

The total bill came out to more than P3,000 for 5 adults and 2 kids. Its a bit expensive if you are not really a big eater. If you're into Japanese buffets, I guess you can give it a try, but I wouldn't really give it a two-thumbs-up recommendation.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ethan's 4th Birthday Party

From Ethan's 4th Birthday

We held a party at our house to celebrate Ethan's 4th birthday. Only immediate family was invited so it wasn't really a big gathering. Of course, the birthday cake had to be a special, customized Thomas and Friends cake since that has always been his favorite cartoon character. Ethan finally got to open his Tidmouth Sheds from Alvin. He's been excited about it for weeks.

This is the first time I've really used the Canon flash that I got from my brother-in-law, Leslie. He left it with me when they came home this summer, but I haven't really had a chance to use it as we haven't really had any evening event before this. I had a field day using the flash and bouncing it off the ceiling. The result is definitely way much better than using the built-in flash of the EOS400D that shoots direct to the subject's face.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Latest YouTube Sensations!

Cols recently bought a point-and-click Canon Powershot SX210IS digital camera. Among its many DSLR-like features, it has the ability to record high-definition (HD) video @ 720 lines. Its not really Full HD (1080), but 720 is pretty high already.

I shot Caitlin and Ethan singing Justin Bieber's song, Baby. Its a 3-minute-plus video. But at HD recording rate, that translates to more than a whopping 600MB+ in file size! To upload it to YouTube, I have to reduce the file significantly. I normally use the freely downloadable Microsoft Windows Media Encoder. There is just one problem in this case -- Canon records in Quicktime .MOV format and Windows Media Encoder does not support that format.

Media Encoder is actually a very old software. The latest equivalent software is the Microsoft Expression Encoder 4.0. Its also available from Microsoft as a free download. It requires .NET Framework 4.0 and Windows XP SP3 or better.

Expression Encoder is not as simple to use as Media Encoder. With Media Encoder, you use a wizard which leads you through a series of dialog windows to accomplish your task. With Expression Encoder, the plethora of options available on screen is daunting. It took me quite some time to figure out what I needed to do.

But I was able to finally reduce my video into 10mb -- by using only 12 frames-per-sec, reduced frame size, mono audio and much lower sampling rate. The result can be seen below. Go kids!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Not-so-sizzling Pepper Steak

Had lunch with Cols at Sizzling Pepper Steak along Katipunan. This is my second time to have lunch there. I wasn't too happy with my meal today. The rice that they served on the sizzling plate was regular, plain rice. It was not even "pepper rice". Service was a bit slow. There were only two people serving -- one was doubling as the cashier and the other seem to be doubling as a kitchen crew. The serving was pretty big though -- lots of rice. Couldn't finished it so I had it doggy-bagged for breakfast tomorrow.

I think Pepper Lunch at Rockwell Power Plant is way much better. Its a bit more expensive compared to Sizzling Pepper Steak. Sizzling Pepper Steak is part of the Pancake House group. Pepper Lunch is part of an international franchise.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Request.Redirect vs. Server.Transfer in ASP.NET

Which is "better" -- Request.Redirect or Server.Transfer? Both provide similar functionality, which is to send the viewer/browser to another webpage. But they way they achieve the task is slightly different. With Request.Redirect, the server basically goes back and tell the browser to go to a different page instead. With Server.Transfer, the server just returns a different page without notifying the browser. So the browser is not any wiser that it has already been sent to a different page. The url in its navigation bar stays the same (which is that of the original url visited).

Performance-wise, there is a difference. Because Request.Redirect is a request to the browser to go to another page, it involves an extra roundtrip. Depending on how fast or slow your Internet connection is, this extra trip can add a pause of a second or two while the browser fetch the new page. With Server.Transfer, the redirected page appears immediately in lieu of the originally requested page.

I have to admit, I'm beginning to be a bit of a fan of Server.Transfer. But most programmers don't seem to like it based on other blog posts. They say that its an old API that should not be used anymore. One of its disadvantages is that it will not allow the user/browser to bookmark a page since it does not know the actual url of the redirected page.

With .NET, passing parameters from one webpage to another using Server.Transfer requires the use of the Context objects. With Request.Redirect, the practice is to just use the more common Session object. Truth be told, I really don't understand what is the difference between those two object types. PayEasy uses a combination of both.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

BPI Call Center IVR

I've been having a hard time accessing BPI Express Online. When I click on the Personal Login link that will take me to the BPI Express Online login page, it keeps giving me this error message instead:

BPI Express Online has detected a response delay in your access request. You may try again later.

According to the same page, possible reasons are:
  1. A network problem has been encountered causing the slowdown in the transmission of request and/or reply of BPI Expressonline.
  2. BPI Expressonline facility is receiving huge transaction requests.
  3. The network where you are located has installed a firewall parameter which limits your access to send and/or receive requests to/from BPI Expressonline.
I encounter the same problem at home using a Bayan DSL and at the office using Mozcom's various links. So I decided to call up the BPI Call Center number listed there for assistance.

I blogged a couple of months ago about Citibank's phone system's Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) that takes you nowhere. Surprise, surprise -- BPI is another culprit. I kept going around in circles trying to figure out where to get help for BPI Express Online. Its simply not anywhere in the menu. If you choose "others", it will eventually take you to a submenu where there's really no other option that fits anything.

So just like with Citibank before, I went for the tried-and-tested "report-a-lost-card". That is always guaranteed to land you with a live operator. Sure enough, it did. Unlike with Citibank where the operator was still willing and able to assist me even though I was not reporting a lost card, the BPI operator insisted that she should transfer me to the concerned person. I told her that their IVR has no option related to ExpressOnline. So she gave me a tip -- when you dial the BPI Hotline (89-100), just hit "000" (that's 3 zeroes) the moment you hear the IVR starts talking. That will take you straight to a human operator!

Anyway, going back to my problem, the operator was pretty vague. She asked me standard questions like what browser I was using, etc. I can tell that she was just reading it off from her checklist. At the end, she gave me a reference number and ask me to call back in 3 days for a result in their investigation as other customers are apparently experiencing the same problem.