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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Random thoughts from a random mind

Karl Smith said it first. This first week of the new phillyBurbs truly has gone by in a blur of very long days.

We're still trying to stomp the bugs out of this new Web site of ours, so please bear with us. In the mean time, let us know how we can better serve you by using this online form.

For now, please accept these thoughts from what's left of my mind.


Want a TIVO but don't want to spend $200 plus a monthly fee?

So did I. That's why I recently purchased and installed an ATI Wonder VE PCI card for about $50.

Setting it up was easy and the card lets you connect a cable line directly into your machine. You can even watch the Eagles while you're doing office work on Sunday. (That's what I'm doing right now.)

Here's the real bonus: It doubles as a video capture card. You can record anything you want to watch in MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 compression formats. Those have smaller file sizes than the old AVI standard, saving you valuable hard drive space. They are also perfect for recording on a Video CD (VCD) for watching later on your TV's DVD player. (More on that later.)

Want to know what's on? The card's software comes with Gemstar's Guide Plus+, an interactive TV guide of sorts. You download it in minutes once a week. It then lets you see what's on and you can time your recording throughout the week with just a simple right click on the show's name.

Just do yourself a favor, leave the computer running when you want to record. The card won't turn your machine on automatically, its one main drawback.

This PCI card requires at least a Pentium II and Windows 98, ME or 2000. I would also recommend you have at least a 20-gig hard drive. Each hour-long program takes up about 625 MB.


So you just recorded that home movie or the last episode of  CSI on your computer. Now what do you do with it?

Of course, you want to watch it on TV and share it with other family members. If you have a DVD burner, that's no problem.

But if you're like me and can't afford one, why not make a VCD out of a cheap CD-R?

Think of VCDs as low-grade DVDs. Their quality lies in the middle between DVD and the old VHS tapes.

I won't kid you, this can be kind of complicated. It took me about six months of playing around with various freeware programs and reviewing the VCDhelp.com Web site before I finally got the hang of it.

Then I discovered Ulead's DVD movie factory.

This lovely piece of software takes the pain out of making VCDs. It even allows you to make those tiny little windows that let you jump around to various point in the show.

One word of caution: Unless your Steven Spielberg with a camcorder, don't try to sell what you make.


I hate having to delete all this spam from personal e-mail, but occasionally I come across some interesting stuff:

The first piece of unwanted flotsam comes from the Star Foundation's Buyastar.net. "No one wants to get Dad another dress shirt or Mom another cookbook," the ad says. "This season, give the gift that will last forever. Name a star after your loved ones as a unique and special gift they will never forget."

For $39.95, up to 25 percent of which goes to charity, you can do just that.  I assume the commitment papers Mom or Dad will sign later for you cost extra.

BTW, they're not the only ones selling where no man has gone before.  A Google search found more than 10 pages worth of similar sites hawking the galaxy.

Apparently, none of them have been registered with the SETI at home project.

Another piece of jetsam came from the electricscooterdepot.com which is selling motorized scooters for $99 a piece.

Forget for the moment that the scooter fad has come to a screeching halt. Here's a simple comparison:

  • Electric scooter, top speed 10 mph, $99
  • Inventor Dean Kamen's "Ginger," top speed 12.5 mph, $4,950
  • Walking, 2.65 mph (for an elderly woman) to 3.4 mph (young men), free.

Before you shell out any big bucks for stuff this Christmas, remember the fads of the past.

Finally, to consider some of life's imponderables, go to http://www.hintsandthings.co.uk/games/imponderable.htm

That's all for now. My brain hurts, but at least the Eagles have won the game. Guess I should have recorded it.

December 15, 2002 

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays.