How to Convert Videos for iPad, iPod, Apple TV and iPhone

A common issue that most iPad, iPhone and iPod users face is playing videos in formats not supported by iOS devices. It would have been best if VLC was available for iPad, but it is not. The best way to deal with this is to convert videos into supported formats. iPad supports .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats. In this tutorial I will show you how to convert videos for iPad, iPhone, Apple TV and iPod.

Why Converting Video for iPad is Better Option

I tried a couple of apps available in the app store that claimed to play different video formats. Most of them did not work, the ones that did work were not as good as the default video player in iPad. Apart from converting videos the other option was to stream videos but it was difficult and did not work for all video formats. From now on when I am downloading videos from the internet, I make sure that they are in supported format so that I can play them on my PC as well as iPad. However, if the video is not available in supported format then I prefer to convert them iPad supported format. This takes a little more time, but the viewing experience is much better.

Using FFmpeg and WinFF to Convert Videos for iPad

There are plenty of video converters available online. Some of them free and others are paid. Really good video converters are mostly non-free. However, thanks to open source software we have ffmpeg utility which can convert many video formats. It is basically a command line tool but there are also some free ffmpeg video converters for Windows too. One such tools is called WinFF, which is an open source software available for Windows and Linux based operating systems.

To convert a video to play on iPad, Apple TV or iPod, the first thing you need to do is download and install WinFF. After the installation, open WinFF. and click on the Add button to add the movie / video file you want to convert.

Choose a video / movie file from your computer to convert to iPad

WinFF is a GUI for FFMpeg which supports most popular video formats. So you don’t have to worry about whether or not your file format is supported. After selecting the video you want to convert the next option is to choose a conversion option and a preset.

Conversion option in WinFF can be selected from Convert To menu. You will see that it has different type of platforms, devices, and tools listed there. Since we are trying to convert our video to iPad, iPhone or iPod supported formats. We will choose iPod-iTunes.

The preset settings are a predefined set of settings for your video. These presets will change when you select iPod-iTunes in the Convert To menu. For iPhone devices you will choose iPhone widescreen. For iPod devices you will choose from rest of the options. To convert your video for iPad you should choose iPod TV Out Widescreen. Lastly, choose an output folder.

Choose convert to iPod-iTunes and preset options to convert your video

Click on convert button to start converting your video. You will notice that a command line window will pop-up showing you the progress of conversion.

Lastly there are a few things that you should know.

You can select multiple videos of different formats to convert at the same time. However, do remember that video conversion takes time and more videos means it will take more time to finish the job. I hope this tutorial helps you save some time and money as well.

Microsoft Excel: Print Gridlines and Borders

In this quick tutorial we will show you how to print gridlines in Microsoft Excel. These gridlines are the default separators or cell borders you see when you are working on an Excel spreadsheet. A lot of people don’t want to spend unnecessary time formatting borders and rows/column separators. This neat feature comes built in with Excel. However, it is surprising that not many people know about it.

We have made a video to show how to print gridlines and borders in your Excel spreadsheet. Below the video, you will also find step by step instructions with images.

1. Open the spreadsheet or worksheet you want to print with gridlines or borders.

Excel Spreadsheet without formatted borders

2. Go to “Print Preview”

Excel Print Preview

3. This is how your worksheet would look like in print preview.

Excel Print Preview without Gridlines

4. Click on “Preview” and then click on “Page Setup”. This will open the page setup dialogue box.

5. Go to the “Sheet” tab, check the “Gridlines” option and then click “Ok”.

Microsoft Excel Page Setup

6. Now your spreadsheet would look like this in the print preview.

excel spreadsheet with print gridlines cell borders

You can now choose to print your spreadsheet or close the print preview.

In the default view, you will notice that your spreadsheet is as it is and no formatting has changed on it. But it will print with the gridlines when you send it to the printer.

Also note that if you want to print a sheet without gridlines you can always go to the Page Setup and uncheck the gridlines option.

Howto Quickly Download Search Results to Excel Spreadsheet

How to download Google, Yahoo, Bing top search results to Microsoft Office Excel, spreadsheet or in a csv file format?

One way to do that is to manually enter data into your spreadsheet, which seems simple if you are only preparing a list of top 10 search results. What if you need to prepare a sheet showing top 50 results? Thankfully, it is not that difficult to do. You can download top results for any query to a CSV file and then import that file to Microsoft Office Excel or Open Office Spreadsheet.

Requirements:

  1. Latest version of Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome web browser.
  2. SEOQuake addon which is available for both Firefox and Chrome.
  3. MS Excel or Open Office

Install SEOQuake addon for your browser from SEOQuake website. Firefox users may need to restart browser to finish installation.

Go to Google, Yahoo, or Bing and search for the keywords you need to get results for.

Most search engines are now showing instant results and by default they show only 10 results per page. In order to quickly download top 30, 50 or even more results you need to change your search prefernces.

screenshot-google-search-settings-150x126

screenshot: Google Search Settings (click to enlarge)

Google: Go to Google.com and click on the settings button on the top right corner of the screen and select search settings. This will take you to your search preferences page and here you can turn off Google Instant. Just below the Google Instant you will see number of results to be shown, as soon as you turn off Google Instant this section will become editable. Select the number of results you want to be displayed for your queries.

Yahoo: Go to Yahoo Search, Click on More and Then Select Preferences. On Yahoo you don’t need to turn off Instant suggestions to get more than 10 results. Simply click on Edit in Display and layout section and select the number of results you want to be displayed.

Bing: Go to Bing.com and then click on Preferences (located at the top right corner of the page). Select the number of results you want to be displayed per page.

Now search using your keywords.

You will see your search results differently now. Here is a screenshot of what your search results page may look like.

screenshot-download-results

Now click on the button Save to File. This will open a dialoge box asking you to save the file Farm Fresh Apples.csv to your computer. Save the file to a separate folder. Now download search results from all three search engines or just one. In this example we are just downloading Google Results.

CSV or .CSV means Comma Separated Values, this is usually a text file with each value separated by a comma. When you open this file with Microsoft Office Excel, it looks for a common delimiter. By default it assumes that your CSV file will have values separated by commas. However, the file you have downloaded with SEOQuake has values separated by a semicolon.

Before opening CSV file into Microsoft Office Excel, or Open Office Spreadhseet, we need to change semicolons into commas.

Open the CSV file in notepad.

Go to Edit > Replace

Screenshot: Search Results in Excel Sheet

Enter ; in the Find What field.

Enter , in Replace with field.

Now click Replace All.

This will replace all semicolons in your CSV file with commas. Press CTRL + S to save your csv file.

Open this CSV file in Microsoft office Excel or Open Office. Voila! you have your search results listed in a spread sheet. With lots of useful information about each link. If you don’t need that information you can delete those columns.

What’s the Difference in iPhone, iPad, and Android

Most people already know what iPhone, Android, and iPad are. However, I recently found out that there are some people who don’t really know what these gadgets are, what is the difference and which one of them they should buy. This post intends to cover this topic just a little bit and I hope this will help some people get started on the path of gadget obsession.

Smartphone:

A smart phone is a mobile phone with more computing power, Internet capabilities, multimedia enabled by camera phone and media players. A smartphone performs most tasks performed by a low end phone and it can also work as a portable digital assistant, a GPRS device, an Internet enabled device connection to the Internet via wi-fi or other options. These smartphones run on operating systems designed for mobile devices in general and mobile phones in particular.

iPhone:

iPhone is a smart phone designed and manufactured by Apple Inc. iPhone runs on iOS, an operating system designed by Apple to be used in the mobile devices manufactured by Apple.

iPad:

iPad is a tablet computing device designed and developed by Apple. It also runs on iOS, the operating system behind iPhone. iPad is considered to be a computing device designed to play multimedia files, browse the internet, or reading books. However, it can also be used for other purposes. It looks like a slate, with an on screen keyboard.

Android:

Android itself is not a smart phone, instead it is an open source Operating System designed for mobile devices. Google Inc. acquired the company that started the project, and since then Google is cooperating with the open source community on the development of Android. Google also collaborated with mobile device manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and many others to release smart phones and other devices that run on Android operating system.

What are Apps?

Apps is a short term used for applications or programs written and designed to run on specific platforms. Apple has their own App Store where users of iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad can download free and paid applications for their devices. Similarly, Android also has an online store called “Android Market” where users of devices running on Android can download applications.

I have also made a small presentation explaining the difference. If you find this helpful please share this post with friends.

FFmpeg Based Free and Simple Audio Video Converters for Windows

FFmpeg is a popular command line utility, commonly used to convert media files from one format to another. However most home users are not very comfortable using command line tools. This is why there are many Graphical user interfaces available for FFmpeg. It is a cross platform application so it can be used on almost any modern operating system including Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

Though there are many FFmpeg Frontend GUI applications available for free to be used with Windows OS. But I will review two most easy to use and very powerful tools. WinFF and Avanti.

WinFF – FFmpeg based Free Video Converter

WinFF is probably the most easy to use video conversion utility I have ever used on Windows. It is basically a simple FFmpeg GUI with a very simple but intutive user interface.
Winff FFmpeg Free Video Converting Tool
Usage:
Pressing the Add button you can add a file you want to convert. Then in the Output details you select the format you want to convert this file to, device preset and destination folder. Device preset allows you to set quality parameters for the converted video, you can define where you want to use this converted file for example you can choose web, iphone, mobile, etc. Not all device presets are available for all formats. For example if you want to convert a file to WMV you can not use iphone as the device preset. Clicking on the option button opens the advanced interface where you can set the advanced settings for the conversion.

Support:

WinFF comes with documentation and support forums where you can go to get help if something goes wrong. It is also an open source application released under GNU public license which means you can freely redistribute and share it. It also comes in many languages.

Avanti – FFmpeg frontend for Windows

Avanti is an advanced Audio Video Conversion utility, with a Graphic User Interface for FFmpeg and with the option to insert Avisynth as pre-processor. It gives you more control over selecting the codecs and different parameters of conversion. It has many advanced options and more features than other FFmpeg front-ends. Avanti’s interface might look a little confusing, the installation is also a little complicated and you may not be able to understand few features. But still it is a very powerful tool to convert different media files using FFmpeg.

Avanti Installation:

Once you download the .7z file you will need to download 7-zip compression utility to uncompress the file you just downloaded. Uncompress it to its own folder and then open that folder, there you will see another folder ffmpeg. Since Avanti does not come with FFmpeg you will have to download FFmpeg separately and copy paste the FFmpeg.exe file to this folder. After that go back to main Avanti folder and double click on the file Avanti-Gui. This will open the Avanti interface.
avanti free open source video converter for windows

Usage:
In the source file section you can select the file you want to convert. In the Destination Audio Settings and Destination Video Settings you can define how you want to convert this file and into what format and container. For example in the video settings you can select the codec Xvid and container avi. Then click on the Start Process button, if it does not work then you need to press the Start process button again. Avanti also comes with its own help file located in the installation folder. Also you can get more help from videohelp forum’s Avanti thread.

Converting multimedia files into different formats is something that every home user comes across at some point. So your friends and family would really appreciate if you share this post with them on Facebook or twitter.

10 Steps to Maintain your Windows PC

So you are happy with your fast internet connection and all the content that you can now download. And you are also happy that the great tools that you have installed which help you create cool documents, videos and much more. This is good unless you are forgetting something.

We often forget that computers need maintenance for better performance. Otherwise after a while they will get slower and you might face some serious issues. Here is a quick list of things you should do at least once a month to keep your computer healthy.

  1. Run Disk Clean Up wizard once every month. (Windows XP | Windows Vista)
  2. Back up your files.
  3. Uninstall programs you don’t need any more.
  4. Delete unwanted files and folders.
  5. Organize your files and folders.
  6. Check your Hard Disks for errors. (Windows XP | Windows Vista)
  7. Open disk defragmenter and analyze your disks and then Defragment those who need to be defragmented. (Windows XP | Windows Vista)
  8. Run an anti-spyware program to scan your computer for internet threats.
  9. Run an anti-virus program to scan your computer for viruses.
  10. Make sure automatic updates are turned on.

I don’t do all of these things once a month. I clean up disks twice a month and defragmentaion once every three months. How you maintain your windows PC? Please share your tips in the comment box below.

Google Sites: Add a Mailinglist or Subscribe Link

Chris from “Sunclipies” asked me how he can add a subscribe box on his website which is created using Google Sites. Honestly, I never noticed that Google Sites lacks RSS feed as a feature. Since I had in my mind that Google Sites is a good place for small websites that don’t get updated as often as a blogs or news site. But what if the web site gains popularity? What if there is audience demand for more frequent updates to what ever that particular site is publishing?

Using Google Groups to create a mailing listThere are several ways for a webmaster to notify the users about updates on their website. There are even free tools available that can publish an RSS feed for a static webpage (I haven’t used any of these and have no idea if they work with Google Sites or not). But since on this blog we rely heavily on the free tools provided by Google, so I will talk about using Google Groups as the solution.

Go to Google Groups and press the Create a group… button. On the Create a group page fill in the information about your site doing so your group and site will have same title and description. Under the option Choose an Access level, select Announcement-only and press the Create my group button. You will be then asked to verify by writing the letters shown in an image to prevent spam. Again press Create my group button. You will be then asked to add a few members to your new group. If you have the email addresses of people who would like to subscribe your group then paste them here or Skip this step.

Now you will be taken to your new group’s homepage. Copy the link from the address bar of your browser. Now go back to your Google Site. At the bottom of your sidebar you will see a link Edit sidebar, click it. On the next page click on Add a sidebar item. A popup will appear showing a few types of items you can add to your sidebar. Select Text and press ADD button. Now you will see a Text Box in your sidebar. Click on the edit link. In the popup window, Give it a title like “Newsletter” or “Subscribe” or “Mailing list”. Below provide the link to your newly created Google group with text informing visitors about your group.

sidebar-newsletterThe picture on your left shows how we have used the textbox on our sample website Bashir’s pet shop and notice how we have provided the link to the newsletter. Running a newsletter is no big deal, you can keep your subscribers updated about the recent changers you made to your web site, you can tell them about new products, share something useful with them and they will love you. See this page for some general email newsletter writing tips.

 

How to find a Good and Reliable Webhosting

This post is part of a series. To read more posts from this series go to “Creating a Small Business Website“.

There are thousands of companies out there offering cheap and affordable web hosting but not all of them are good. It is important that you go with a company that offers reliable and affordable web hosting. Then again, they all claim to be reliable and affordable, how do you find out?

I go for word of mouth. I was working on a small website for an NGO and my agreement with them included web hosting and domain name registration. Normally I go for DreamHost which has proven itself very reliable to me. But a friend of mine had used Bluehost recently so he suggested that I should give them a try. I did and I have found another reliable and cheap webhosting solution. But you shouldn’t just go for what your friends say, make sure that you do check out reviews and packages before buying them.

First of all you should never go for the advertising jargon most web hosting companies use on their websites. Instead, you should carefully monitor their offerings. Compare packages and read their descriptions carefully. There might be some words that would confuse you but don’t worry lookup for them in web hosting glossary or search the web. While comparing packages you should pay attention to:

  1. Bandwidth and Disk space. To make sure that it meets your needs. If you are going to upload lots of audio video files on your website than you need more bandwidth and disk space. But since hardware is becoming cheaper every day so all good web hosts offer quite enough disk space and bandwidth for a medium sized popular website to run swiftly.
  2. Do they offer you to add additional domains and subdomains. This is important because at some point you might want to add additional domains and subdomains. like for example you might want to add an extra customer services website under your main site. If they do not offer you to do that freely than they are a bad web host. Dreamhost offers me to add as many domains and subdomains as i want to my existing hosting package.
  3. How many email addresses they offer. You might need this if you start offering email accounts to your clients or staff.
  4. Do they run latest PHP/MySQL. Since you will be using a CMS and most open source CMS use PHP and MySQL and most web hosts support PHP and MySQL. But some lazy web hosts use older versions which might cause you trouble while installing or upgrading your CMS.
  5. What support options they offer. do they have help pages, do they offer email and phone support. You should make sure that help is available whenever you need it.

 

You can find answers to all these questions on their website but if its not there you should email them for the answers. I would say that you should email them any way because it tells you how quickly they respond to user queries. Ask them questions and make sure that they satisfy you with their answers. If they don’t then move on to the next web host.

After that you should check out forums such as Webmaster World and Ozzu Web Master forum. These forums have sections for web hosting related discussions where you can ask other web masters to advise you chosing the right host. Most probably someone has already used their services and you can hear from the users directly how they found the services. There are also many websites around that offer user submitted reviews of web hosts. Web Hosting Geeks is one such site.

Web Hosting and Domain Registration are two different things. There are many web hosts that offer free domain registration for your hosting period. But some times a Domain is not included in your web hosting package. I would say that you go for the web host that offers Domain Registration with hosting, but if your prefered web host does not offer this then you will have to register a domain name elsewhere and then redirect it to your web server. It is very simple and most of the time your web host will assist you with that.

Or if you want, I have connections with Dreamhost and I can talk them to offer you a special deal as an special Easy Life subscriber. Drop me an email if you want the details.

I have carefully handpicked a few webhosts some of them I have used personally and others are considered reliable in the market. But you are once again advised to review the offerings and package details to make sure that you are buying the right services.

  • DreamHost: This website is hosted with Dreamhost. We have used them and found them very reliable. They have great customer support with wikipages and user forums, you can also email them, or telephone them. They offer unlimited diskspace, bandwidth, add your own domain names and subdomains, unlimited email accounts.
  • Bluehost: They also offer unlimited diskspace and bandwidth and enough email accounts and mysql databases. They have good support options and I have used them for a client once and my clients are satisfied with their services.
  • Yahoo! Web Hosting: Yahoo web hosting for small businesses is just as reliable as it gets. It is a little more expansive than the previous two hosts but they have great features to justify the price tag.
  • AN Hosting: They are in the market since 2001, they offer you reliable installation and upgrades to many popular content management systems such as wordpress, joomla, drupal, b2evolution, etc. You add 20 additional domain names, 500 GB disk space, 5000 GB bandwidth and unlimited MySql databases.

 
All above mentioned hosting services also offer one free Domain Name registration with their hosting packages. Remember that you should do your homework before signing up with any webhost including those listed above. Let me know if you found some other reliable web host and we will add them to this list here.

This post is part of a series. To read more posts from this series go to “Creating a Small Business Website“.