Tag Archives: Additional Software

Media Player Classic Home Cinema

media-player-classic-homecinema

One of the most common problems I experience when playing movies and videos on my home PC is poor lip syncing caused by the sound and video not marrying up perfectly. Rather than performing any degree of troubleshooting I always fall back to the trusty player ‘Media Player Classic Home Theatre’ which despite a complete lack of both bells and whistles always performs admirably.

The user interface for Media Player Classic looks just like the old Windows Media Player 6.4 which was bundled with Windows ME and early versions of Windows XP. I expect few users to know this specific version off the top of their heads so simply refer back to the version in your memory that could be described as looking ‘particularly primitive and dated’.

There are no fancy skins, no modern looking icons and no ribbon style interface; what you simply get is a blank screen along with play, stop, pause, rewind and fast forward buttons, a volume control and a series of options running along the top of the application in an old school grey drop-down menu.

The compensation for the primitive looking interface is that the 3mb application is capable of playing a huge number of audio and video files without the need for any additional software or codecs. Out of the box Media Player Classic Home Theatre includes support for MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, VCD, SVCD and DVD playback. It also has built-in codecs for LPCM, MP2, AC3 and DTS audio along with H.264 and VC-1 with DXVA support, DivX, Xvid, and Flash Video formats. Media Player Classic Home Theatre can also support Quicktime and Realtime formats with the use of additional software.

The player is based on the old Media Player Classic application which was being developed up until the original author ceased development back in 2006. In the last few years, asides from the name change, a number of new features have been integrated in to this new release including additional video decoders, several bug and vulnerability fixes and a 64-bit version for those with compatible versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7.

The main appeal to me has to be the sheer simplicity of the application; it will load in literally a second and rarely skips a frame or misses a beat. If I ever find myself in a situation where a more ‘advanced’ player is struggling then immediately I’ll load up MPC Home Cinema and on the same PC with the same video file the problems cease. The low resource requirement means that it’s suitable for use on low specification machines making it especially tempting for those that can’t run the latest version of Windows Media Player.

Downloading a copy will take literally a few seconds from https://mpc-hc.sourceforge.net/ and as with all good software it is free of charge and doesn’t include any advertising.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges including the Brother LC1100 at incredibly low prices.

Opera 9

opera-9

One would have thought that there was only a limited amount that could be done with an Internet browser but yet another alternative to Internet Explorer has just hit the market going under the name of Opera 9.Whilst not technically groundbreaking this new browser does offer a number of unique features that are not currently found in any other application which is why I thought it was worthy of inclusion in Click.

BitTorrent support: Opera 9 is the first mainstream browser to integrate BitTorrent support without any additional software.BitTorrent is a technology that uses distributed file networks to share large files such as movies over the Internet quickly and easily.Because you can download these files from multiple sources simultaneously it dramatically reduces your download times if used on a decent speed broadband connection.

Widgets: Opera 9 embraces AJAX technology by providing support for widgets which are tiny little programs with specific functionality.These small applications can include newsfeeds, games, multimedia applications and so forth.Time will tell quite how useful this feature will be in the long run.To download new widgets just visit widgets.opera.com.

The remaining features of the browser are pretty much standard to those used to using Firefox although current Internet Explorer users will still be in for a treat if they choose to upgrade as many of these features aren’t standard in IE.

Customisable search engine: Opera allows you to choose your default search engine should you choose to make a search directly from the browser itself.

Thumbnail Preview images: As well as including the fast becoming industry standard tabbed browsing Opera generates a preview image of all open tabs so that it’s easier to decide which one you want to switch to.

Pop-up blocker: Again, whilst this is pretty much standard in a browser nowadays Opera goes a little bit further by improving it to stop pretty much all intrusive content no matter how creative the advertiser is.

Site Specific Security – Opera can assign different security levels to different sites that you visit – Could be helpful to the slightly paranoid users out there but most home users probably won’t even touch this feature.

Using the browser is made slightly more unique in Opera thanks to features such as mouse gestures which allow you to navigate just by moving the mouse in a certain way, new keyboard shortcuts and voice control to access commonly used features in the browser.

As expected there is also a file transfer monitor and a password manager as well as the mandatory Opera mail, IRC chat client.The browser is extremely secure when compared with the likes of Internet Explorer which is an important consideration nowadays.

To summerise, Opera is an extremely competent browser and as well as being completely free of charge is only 4.6mb in size to download from www.opera.com.Whilst it is unlikely to win away many people currently using Firefox that doesn’t mean that it is any worse and those still using the hopelessly outdated Internet Explorer 6 should really consider giving Opera a try.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Kodak ESP C110 Printer.

Internet Radio

Whilst I was at Cardiff University last year, one of the only things that kept me sane whilst I sat in the computer room finishing of assignments was the good quality Welsh radio stations such as Galaxy and Red Dragon which I’d listen to constantly to keep me amused as well as a selection of songs stored on my laptop.

Now that I’m back in Paignton I miss these radio stations and so was pleasantly surprised when, upon visiting their respective websites I discovered that they offer the ability for you to tune in via the Internet to listen in live. Listening to the radio online is one area that I can see excelling when high speed Internet access becomes more widespread; rather than just listening to the limited number of channels in your local area you could tune in to a station based in New York and listen to their selection of music free of charge.

Just to give you an example, head towards www.reddragonfm.co.uk and click on the ‘Listen Live’ link at the top right of the page. This will launch a small window and after around 30 seconds of loading you’ll be able to hear the music several thousand Welsh residents are listening to now live. This requires no additional software and is just one method of listening to music across the Internet – It’s just a case of going to a search engine such as Google (www.google.co.uk), typing in the name of the station whose website you want to visit and then looking for a link on their page to allow you to listen live – even our very own Gemini FM (www.koko.com) offers this facility.

The other method of searching for radio stations across the Internet is to use a dedicated player such as Windows Media Player. The latest versions of Windows Media Player give you the ability of search for particular genres of music across the Internet and to locate radio stations based in a particular country or county. Unless you’re using Windows XP I’d recommend that you upgrade to the latest version of Windows Media Player first by going to the website www.microsoft.com/mediaplayer in order to benefit from the additional features relating to Internet Radio Stations.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed the updated program just click on the ‘Radio Tuner’ button – this will allow you to search for and select radio stations to listen to. Typically, after discovering a radio station you’d like to listen to, just double click on it, wait around 30 seconds or so whilst Media Player creates a buffer of the music to be player to avoid it skipping if your Internet connection slows down for whatever reason and then the music will begin to play through your computer as if you were listening to a conventional radio.

In terms of sound quality, most Internet radio stations sound quite poor over a 56k modem connection as the sound data has to be very heavily compressed to allow you to download the music at the same speed that you need to listen to it at. If you have a faster connection such as ISDN, cable or ASDL then the is usually the option to download the music at a higher quality. If you’re on a slow connection then it is usually best to avoid using the Internet for any other purposes whilst listing to the radio as this will mean that there is less capacity for the sound data to be transmitted down your phone line meaning that the music may start to break up.

Give it a try, search for radio stations local to the town you were born in, those in a city that you’d like to visit or even just use it for listening to Gemini if you don’t happen to have a radio in the same room as your PC.

Windows Media Player

Having been using Windows XP for as long as I can remember, when I installed Windows 98 on an old machine the other day I noticed the complete lack of multimedia support provided by the software supplied with the Operating System – Windows Media Player.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way since the update to Media Player is available for free from the Internet for all users of Windows 98, ME and 2000. Obviously the new features that you acquire via the upgrade vary depending on the version of media player that you’re upgrading from but this week I plan to show you the new features that you can expect to gain that make it worth the download.

By far the most improved feature is the ability to rip music straight off your audio CD’s and store it onto your hard disk in WMA format as well as then being able to burn it straight onto a blank CD, SmartMedia or CompactFlash cards via a compatible recorder without any additional software. You are also able to store onto other devices such as a variety of different Pocket PCs.

The encoder used to save to WMA has been vastly improved to deliver almost CD-quality audio using half the space of MP3 and the program also includes new effects and equaliser controls so that you can alter exactly how the music is reproduced. Video has also been given the same treatment, with support included for the MPEG-4 standards included.

The program allows you to choose from over 1500 Internet Radio Stations which means that as soon as you’re connected to the Internet you are able to tune into huge variety of shows from Country and Western in the United States to local music from the Czech Republic, all completely free of charge, excluding the cost of your Internet phone calls. This in itself is a very nice feature that I fully appreciate when using a fast connection. The new version of Media Player also allows you to access streaming data from sites such as www.skynews.co.uk and www.cnn.com which provide direct video and audio feeds on the latest news events or a variety of other sites such as www.vh1.com which offer music videos online.

The new Media Player is also a lot more customisable; you can download visualisations that play on your screen in time with the music you’re listening to as well as a host of new skins that allow you to change the way that the player looks to the user. These are all available free of charge off Microsoft or third party websites.

In terms of actually acquiring the product, if you head to www.microsoft.com/mediaplayer you are able to download the current version 7.1 or if you use Windows 95/NT then unfortunately the latest version you can use is version 6.4 which doesn’t contain many of the features I’ve listed above. You are also able to download versions for Apple Macs or a variety of different Pocket PC’s if needed.

To summarise, unless you have Windows XP which includes at least all the features above as standard, I would recommend that you take the time to update your version of Media Player, especially if you currently benefit from an Internet Service Provider which gives you 0800 access as this way the upgrade won’t cost you a penny.

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