Category Archives: Software

Telestream Captioning Products help you meet FCC Requirements



Telestream logoTelestream is the leading provider of digital media tools and workflow solutions. They have announced that their closed captioning software products meet the new regulatory requirements, including video captioning quality and accuracy rules set forth by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

On February 20, 2014, the FCC set new, improved, rules for TV closed captioning to ensure that viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing have full access to programming and to resolve concerns on captioning quality. These rules apply to all television programing with captions, and address quality standards for accuracy, synchronicity, program completeness, and placement of closed captions.

The products from Telestream are fully compliant with the new FCC rules. Those who use the products from Telestream can be assured they are following all the rules. This allows them to focus on producing content for TV, web, and mobile distribution.

Telestream’s closed captioning software products provide a full set of tools to help TV programmers and distributors address the new quality issues set forth by the FCC. Its strength is in fixing the difficult synchronous and caption placement issues.

Telestream also has developed new and improved versions of MacCaption (Mac) and CaptionMaker (Windows) products. The user interface has had a more contemporary facelift and there have also been functionality improvements. New integration allows Telestream’s Vantage customers to automate many types of captioning-related workflows including file-conversions.

Support for the latest caption formats and specs, including SMPTE 2052 and WebTT with full CEA-608 compatible formatting, plus CEA-708 digital caption authoring will be included in these new versions of MacCaption and CaptionMaker.


Unprotecting Excel Spreadsheets Without The Password



Microsoft Excel LogoSpreadsheets and Microsoft Excel in particular are great tools for any kind of numerical analysis, but they’re good for handling and storing other data as well. I seem to recall a survey a few years ago that Excel was the #1 database in the world with Access, Oracle and SQL Server lagging very far behind. Of course, it all depends on your definition of a database but the point is made.

Excel has useful features for developing forms and hiding information so that it’s easy to create mini apps which take user entered information, combine with data stored in the spreadsheet and provide an answer. Some of the spreadsheets are very sophisticated and Excel offers a “protect” feature that locks down a sheet (or workbooks) and prevents unwanted meddling or fiddling with the data. The protect feature even lets the owner set a password so that the more determined meddler can be thwarted and confidential data kept confidential.

Except it doesn’t. Any protected Excel spreadsheet can be unprotected in three steps. Here’s how.

With the Excel spreadsheet open,

  1. Press Alt + F11 (or go to View Code in the Developer’s Tab)
  2. In the window that appears, paste in this code (courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay)
    Sub PasswordBreaker()
        'Breaks worksheet password protection.
        Dim i As Integer, j As Integer, k As Integer
        Dim l As Integer, m As Integer, n As Integer
        Dim i1 As Integer, i2 As Integer, i3 As Integer
        Dim i4 As Integer, i5 As Integer, i6 As Integer
        On Error Resume Next
        For i = 65 To 66: For j = 65 To 66: For k = 65 To 66
        For l = 65 To 66: For m = 65 To 66: For i1 = 65 To 66
        For i2 = 65 To 66: For i3 = 65 To 66: For i4 = 65 To 66
        For i5 = 65 To 66: For i6 = 65 To 66: For n = 32 To 126
        ActiveSheet.Unprotect Chr(i) & Chr(j) & Chr(k) & _
            Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & Chr(i3) & _
            Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
        If ActiveSheet.ProtectContents = False Then
            MsgBox "One usable password is " & Chr(i) & Chr(j) & _
                Chr(k) & Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & _
                Chr(i3) & Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
             Exit Sub
        End If
        Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
        Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
    End Sub
  3. Press F5 (or click Run) and wait a minute or so…..hey presto, spreadsheet unprotected.

 

On my modest PC it takes about 80 seconds to crack the password and it seems to come up with a password such as AABBAAABBB^ which isn’t the original password but nevertheless works. Spreadsheet is now unprotected. Try it for yourself.

Shocked? Surprised? Worried about a .xls that you sent last week with confidential data in it? I’m sure lots of people would be very worried if they knew how easy it was to unprotect a sheet.

To be fair to Microsoft, the help page says, “IMPORTANT  Worksheet and workbook element protection should not be confused with workbook-level password security. Element protection cannot protect a workbook from users who have malicious intent. For optimal security, you should help protect your whole workbook file by using a password.” Personally, I think setting a password sets unrealistic expectations about the level of protection; in some ways it would be better if there was no password option as there would be no expectation.

Overall, it’s best to think of protecting an Excel spreadsheet as a way of making the spreadsheet more convenient to use and don’t ever think of protecting an Excel spreadsheet as a way to hide secret information.

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How To Succeed With a Mobile App



Smashing Magazine LogoGetting into mobile app development often seems like a path paved with gold, but the reality is very different with many apps failing to succeed. Good apps do not simply “get lucky” but rather their developers work hard at  planning a successful app. Smashing Magazine’s article “How To Succeed With a Mobile App” shows the elements needed to plan for app success.

Smashing Magazine identifies six areas to consider for a great app.

1) The Idea. Find a vaccuum or empty niche for your app.

2) Money. Plan the business model for your app.

3) Define. Write down what your app will do in one sentence and stick to it.

4) Design. If the user has to think how to use the app, you’ve failed.

5) Coding. Native, high-quality, robust code is essential.

6) Marketing. Make friends, build buzz, launch big, love your fans.

But don’t simply read the above and move on. Check out the original article by Jeremy Olson at Smashing Magazine as it has plenty of further information for would-be app coders.

 


KB Covers Keyboard Overlays



KB Covers offer specialised keyboard covers for Apple Macs and MacBooks. Rather than dust covers, these are keyboard overlays which re-label for foreign languages or show keyboard shortcuts.

KB Cover Keyboard Overlay

A good example for the former is a foreign language student who wishes to use a keyboard with the studied country’s layout and alphabet. Imagine the convenience for students of Arabic or Cyrillic languages. For software packages, the overlays highlight keyboard shortcuts to enhance productivity – it’s much faster to press “alt-f” than it is to use the mouse to select an item from a pull-down menu. All major software is covered – Photoshop, Final Cut, Media Composer, Sibelius, etc.

The overlays are a ultra-thin and made from high quality silicone. There’s a big selection of overlays for different countries and software packages. Prices are in the range $20-$40 and I think they’re great value.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Remote Monitoring/Home Automation



For several years, there has been a small but dedicated group of people experimenting in the world of what has been dubbed home automation. Until now, this field has been fragmented with clunky, often expensive products that don’t integrate well and often make the consumer jump through multiple hoops to even get them to work.

In a recent article I talked about installing a Nest remote-controlled thermostat in my house. The Nest thermostat has so far proven to MORE than live up to the promises made by its manufacturer. The Nest thermostat was remarkably easy to install and makes it amazingly easy to remotely monitor and control my home heating/air conditioning system via iOS or my Android smartphone. Once installed, the Nest simply works. The Nest is worth every penny of its $249 dollar price tag.

Now that I’ve lived with the Nest a while, I’m more excited than ever about the possibilities of remote monitoring, remote control, and home automation.

What I want next is a remote camera system that works with the absolute ease of the Nest thermostat and Nest app combination. The ideal remote camera system would offer at least 4 network-connected weatherproof cameras along with a controller/app system that could be set up with the no-muss, no-fuss ease that the Nest thermostat offers. I want to be able to open an app on an iOS or Android device/smartphone and have my remote camera views simply show up, perhaps with the ability to pan, zoom and tilt individual cameras if I wished right from within the app. Furthermore I don’t want to have to worry about firewalls or port-forwarding to try to get past my home router or ISP firewall

I would also like to be able to use my iOS device or Android smartphone to be able to remotely monitor my refrigerator.

Now that most of us are equipped with smartphones, I see a huge opportunity for a company or companies to step into the home automation/remote monitoring arena and fill the void. The standard to meet revolves around ease-of-use.


Happy 15th Anniversary, Download.com



download.com
download.com

Today we have application stores up the ying-yang. But 15 years ago, trying to find applications for your computer was a lot harder. We did have two decent sources: Tucows.com and download.com (a CNet company, now owned by CBS). Since then, these two sources have grown to better catalog Freeware, shareware, and paid applications. This week, we say Happy anniversary to Download.com.

While the domain was registered on February 24, 1996, Download.com will officially launch on October 23rd, 1996 (Reference via CNet article). Since then, the website sees almost 10 million downloads of software a week. The top downloads being AVG and Avast antivirus software. A long cry from Hey, Macaroni (the dancing macaroni meme), WinZip 32 and Duke Nukem 3D – which was the most downloaded in 1996. WinZip is still one of the top 5 download pieces of software on the site.

For 15 years, download.com has kept a great archive of software, weeding out the obsolete, malware producing items. They have been sued for some software downloads, most notably the free music download program LimeWire. While download.com did not promote the download of mp3 music or movies, the peer-to-peer software is another way to download legally shared items. Of course, this has always been the conundrum of file sharing.

In retrospect, TuCows has been in operation since 1994, offering the same services. Other services have come and gone, but download.com has stayed strong. So happy 15 years to a source that I’ve personally used many a time from my IT career.


Tweaking Google Latitude With Latify



Tweaking Google Latitude With Latify

Google Latitude is a nifty, fun add-on utility for Google Maps that can be very useful for tracking friends and family. With Latitude, it’s possible to share real-time location information from devices such as supported Android and iOS phones and tablets. Location sharing is by permission only – any mutual Latitude friends must specifically grant permission for location information to be shared.

I’ve been making use of Latitude for a few years. I’ve got a number of friends and relatives that follow my location as I travel around the country as an over-the-road truck driver. Even after all this time, I’m still surprised that some people are curious enough about my location that some of them will check on me multiple times a day.

One of the things I’ve long wished for in Latitude is much greater control over the sharing. Most of the time I want my shared location information to be as accurate and real-time as possible. Thus, it becomes possible for Latitude friends and family to track me as I drive down the road in real-time.

Recently I purchased a $2.89 program available in the Android Marketplace called Latify. The Latify program works in conjunction with Latitude to provide a lot of extra control over Latitude and its sharing capabilities.

With Latify set to push out the most accurate, real-time location information possible it does use more battery power, as it is making more intensive use of the phone’s GPS chip. This isn’t a problem for me, since most of the time I keep the phone plugged in when I’m in my truck. In those instances when the phone is going to be running on battery power for hours on end, I turn off automatic data synching. There are also a number of power-saving options available within Latify itself.

If you want a way to share the most accurate, real-time GPS location of your phone with Latitude friends, at $2.89 Latify is worth the money.