This site is the online companion to my book, "The Macintosh iLife '06", published by Peachpit Press and Avondale Media. If you like this site, you'll love the book. Learn more.

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Sell It on eBay: A Guide to Successful Online Auctions, Second Edition, by yours truly and Toby Malina.

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Friday, November 19, 2004
Posted 8:37 AM  

Listen to My Interview with "The Cult of Mac" Author Leander Kahney

On November 10's edition of Point & Click Radio, a weekly computer radio show that I cohost here in the wilds of Mendocino County, I interviewed Leander Kahney, author of The Cult of Mac, a fabulous celebration of Mac zealots and enthusiasts. We talked about his book and about what's special about the Mac and its users.

I've posted our 15-minute interview as a 3.5MB AAC file (what, I should use MP3?!). To download it to your hard drive, Control-click on this link and then save the file. After it has downloaded to your hard drive, drag its icon to your iTunes library and enjoy.

And while you're shopping: Did you know that there's a two-hour instructional DVD packed with tips and tutorials on all five iLife '04 programs? There is, and it's included with my book. It's the only computer book of its kind, and it's $20.99 on

Thursday, November 18, 2004
Posted 3:56 PM  

Using Digital Camera Movies with iMovie: Why Bother?

Yesterday, I shared a tip for converting MPEG-format movies created by Sony digital cameras into DV streams compatible with iMovie.

The task is generally easier with other camera brands. For example, I can import AVI-format movies shot by my Canon S-50 by simply dragging them into the iMovie window.

But let's step back and look at the greater question: why bother? Compared to the quality you get from a miniDV camcorder, the movies from most digital cameras look genuinely awful.

And yet there are some good reasons to consider using a digital camera movie in an iMovie project.

It's all you have. If you don't have a camcorder but you want to include some video in a movie project (as opposed to still photos and Ken Burns clips), use your digital camera. Adjust its menu settings to get the largest frame size and highest quality your camera is capable of. iMovie enlarges the video frames to fill the screen, so you'll get better results from larger movies.

For a special effect. Video producers often spend big bucks to get video that looks pixilated and has jerky motion. With digital camera movies, those "effects" are standard equipment. Have a camcorder? Shoot some footage using it and your digital camera's movie mode. Then cut between the two for a cool effect.

For the sound. When I was in Paris last month, I wanted to capture the sound of the many street musicians that play in Metro stations. I shot digital camera movies, then brought them into iMovie and extracted their audio tracks. (See page 178 of The Macintosh iLife '04 for instructions.) Then, I added still photos of the street musicians to the timeline and applied the Ken Burns effect to the stills. The result: a montage of still photos with an authentic soundtrack.

Those are just a few of the reasons why you might use digital camera movies in your iMovie projects. Can you think of more? Write to me and I'll share your ideas here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Posted 8:48 AM  

Using MPEG Movies from Sony Cameras with iMovie

A reader writes: "I have a Sony digital camera that takes small movies in MPEG format. I'd like to use these with iMovie, but I get an error message when I try to import them. If I use QuickTime Pro to export them as DV streams, I lose the sound. Please help!"

As an owner of a couple of Sony digital cameras, I feel your pain. Fortunately, pain relief is free. Simply grab a copy of MPEG StreamClip, a free utility from Squared 5.

MPEG StreamClip can slice and dice MPEG-format video in a variety of ways. Peruse the utility's home page, and you'll see it's designed primarily to decode and process video saved by personal video recorder products such as El Gato's EyeTV. Working with some types of MPEG files can be technically tricky, but it's a cinch to whack movie files from Sony digital cameras into a format compatible with iMovie.

Start by dragging the MPEG movie into MPEG Streamclip's window. If you want to convert just a portion of the movie, use the Select In and Select Out commands in the Edit menu. For example, to lop off the first few seconds of the movie, drag the movie controller to the desired in-point, then choose the Select In command.

Next, glide up to the File menu and choose Export to DV. You'll see a variety of options in the Export dialog box, but the most important is the Standard pop-up menu: use it choose between the NTSC standard (for the United States, Canada, and Japan, among others) and the PAL standard (for much of the rest of the world; link to list of world video formats).

After you've chosen the desired video standard, click the Make DV Stream button. Type a name for the converted movie, stash it on your desktop for convenient access, and press Return. MPEG Streamclip will do its thing, demuxing the MPEG video and creating a DV stream in which iMovie will be happy to splash.

When the conversion is complete, simply drag the converted movie into the iMovie window. iMovie makes a duplicate of the converted movie in your project's Media folder, so you can throw away the copy on your desktop.

"Ah, but Jim," you say, "most digital camera movies look pretty crummy once you add them to iMovie. Why bother?"

That's a different story, one that I'll share with you tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Posted 11:07 AM  

Tonight on the Radio: Firefox, The Cult of Mac, and More

I don't mention it here often enough, but I co-host Point & Click Radio, a weekly computer radio show that airs on our local public radio station here in the gorgeous boondocks of California's Mendocino County. We also Webcast live, and have a small but loyal audience of listeners around the world.

Point & Click Radio will never be mistaken for All Things Considered, but we have fun. And the Mac often gets top billing -- not only because Bob Laughton, my radio partner, and I are Mac guys from way back, but also because this is Mac country. Mendocino County was thinking different long before the phrase became a marketing slogan, and there are a lot of Mac users here.

And tonight, they're in for a treat. I'll be interviewing Leander Kahney, a reporter for Wired News and the author of a great new book, The Cult of Mac.

The Cult of Mac is a hard-bound, full-color tribute to Macheads -- those of us who have had Apple logos tattooed on their bodies, and those of us who would do so if our spouses would permit it. (A friend calls us "Mac Davidians," and I'm happy to say that I'm guilty as charged.)

In 268 beautifully designed pages, Leander Kahney introduces us to Mac zealots who wait in line for hours for the opening of an Apple Store; who trek across the country in an RV videotaping Mac conferences; who turn old Macs into aquariums and bongs; who customize their Macs with glowing colors; who pay $500 for an original 128K Mac's cardboard box; who make furniture out of Apple boxes; and much more.

It's a wild, strange trip to the heart of an enthusiast community that most companies would give their hearts to have, and Leander Kahney is an entertaining guide. And tonight, we'll talk to him on Point & Click Radio.

I'll also review Firefox 1.0, the newest browser to hit the Mac world. Is it good enough to replace Apple's Safari? Listen in tonight for the pros and cons.

Our Webcast begins at 7:00 pm Pacific time, and you'll need the RealOne Player to listen in.

Monday, November 01, 2004
Posted 8:26 AM  

Pixentral: Sharing a Photo Online Doesn't Get Any Easier

Sometimes you just want to slap a photo up onto the Web so that someone else -- a friend, a family member, a colleague, a prospective eBay bidder -- can take a gander.

There are photo-sharing sites aplenty, including the faboo Flickr, which is consuming ever increasing amounts of my time.

"But Jim," you say -- and sure, we're on a first-name basis around here, "photo sharing sites require registration and other hassles. Isn't there a way I can just plop a photo onto a Web server and be done with it?"

Yes, there is -- it's a new, free site called Pixentral, and it's hands-down easiest way to share a single photo on the Web. Click the Browse button on the site's home page, locate a photo on your hard drive, and click Send. (iPhoto users: to upload a photo from your iPhoto library, drag the photo from the iPhoto window out onto your desktop. This makes a duplicate of the photo on your desktop; upload this duplicate, then delete it after uploading is complete.)

It's that easy. No registration, no maze of screens, no work.

When the photo has finished uploading, a new page appears containing a hyperlink to the photo. Copy it, email it to your friends, post it in your eBay auction, publish it on your blog.

What's the catch? You can upload only one photo at a time, the photo must be smaller than 2MB (most are), and if a photo isn't viewed after 30 days, it may be deleted from Pixentral's server. For the convenience I get in return, I can live with that.

No, it's no Flickr, but it's one of those quick, convenient sites I'll be returning to again and again. Pixentral: highly recommended.

Speaking of highly recommended: A reader emails with this kind praise for my book/DVD: I bought my first Mac last month and purchased your Mac iLife book with [DVD video] tutorial a week later. Just wanted to say thank you -- thank you. I prefer visual learning with examples as opposed to reading manuals. Your DVD tutorial was so easy to apply and taught me so much in a short period of time.

Music to my ears! Find out for yourself why The Macintosh iLife is the top-selling book about iLife, and according to one reviewer, "the best computer book ever, bar none."


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