Some FAQs about PCs you wish you knew before you bought it!

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Q: What are some of the terms used in digital video, conversion, and so on?
While it's not possible to provide a comprehensive list of terms used in VCD/SVCD and video in general, it is possible to give a short definition of the most often used terms.

ASF = advanced streaming format, a file format from Microsoft in the Windows media family that is optimized for streaming. See "stream".

AV = (1) Audio Visual (2) Analog video, usually refers to camcorders that has only 3 RCA plugs (1 video, 2 audio for left/right). Also see "DV"

AVI = Audio-Video-Interleave, a popular video storage format on Wintel platform. AVI files are limited to 2 GIG in size.

bit rate = amount of bits per second, a measure of quality of a stream. In general, the higher the bitrate, the better the stream quality, assuming the same codec is used. See CBR, VBR, encode.

Capture = ability to "record" a stream digitally. Usually refers to AV, like "capture the Camcorder output". Sometimes called "digitize". See AV, stream, encode, digitize

Capture card = an expansion card (usually PCI bus) that is built specifically to capture AV

CBR = constant bitrate. It means the encoding bit rate is constant for the entire stream. Also see bit rate, stream, encode, VBR.

CD = Compact Disc, an optical disc format

CD-R = recordable compact disc, can be written to ONCE with a "CD-R burner". It comes in various sizes, from 74 to 99 minutes, and is rated at different "speeds" as well for high-speed burners. See CD-RW

CD-RW = Compact disc, rewritable. Can be written to, then erased and rewritten with the proper burner (which is sometimes called CD-RW drive). It comes in various sizes, from 74 to 99 minutes, and is rated at different "speeds" as well for high-speed burners. See CD-R

NOTE: CD-R and CD-RW are known as "media", the PHYSICAL medium data are written on. It has nothing to do with the format of the data, or the actual data itself.

Codec = shortened form of "encoder/decoder", it is sort-of-a "driver" that allows the program to understand the special encoding the stream used or will use. See Stream.

convert = transform one file format to another.

NOTE: convert can mean encode or decode depending on the formats involved. For example, to "convert" MP3 to WAV, you will need to use a decoder.

CVD = short for China Video Disc, a variant of the SVCD format with resolution of 352 x 480 (NTSC). See VCD, SVCD.

decode = to decompress a "stream" with a specified codec so the result can be played. Usually used like "Let's decode this MP3 to WAV so we can edit it." A program that decodes is "decoder". See stream, codec, MP3, WAV, convert.

demultiplex = to separate video and audio streams from a single file

demux = short for demuliplex, see demultiplex.

digitize = to turn analog signal into digital format. If you have AV (see AV / Analog video), you will need to digitize the video in order to capture it. See "capture".

DIVX = (1) a new codec that is based on MPEG4 compression [See MPEG] that results in smaller files than previous compressions (2) a "rent-to-own" video standard that tried to supplant DVD a while back. Also see MPEG, XVID

DV = usually short for "digital video", usually refers to camcorders that has direct digital output like IEEE1394 i.e. Firewire (tm)

DVD = technically it does NOT stand for anything, though most people settle for "Digital Versatile Disc". It is a storage format that is same size of a CD, but with possible dual-layer and different laser wavelength. The technical innovations allow DVD to store 8x-15x the capacity of a CD, depending on format.

DVD Drive = a computer optical disc drive that can read DVD discs.

DVD Player [Standalone] = a video DVD player that can be hooked up to a TV or similar audio-visual system. Some may be able to play VCD/SVCD or MP3-CD as well.

DVD-R / DVD-RW / DVD+R / DVD+RW / DVD-RAM = different standards of recordable / rewritable DVD.

encode = to compress a "steram" with specified codec so the results can be smaller. Usually used like "let's encode this AVI into MPG at _____ bit rate". A program that encodes is "encoder". See stream, codec, AVI, MPG, convert, bit rate.

Firewire = a name Apple used for the IEE1394 port standard. It is a very high speed port (up to 400 MBps) that is great for getting data from digital video camera to a computer. Sony calls it I-Link.

frameserve = the ability to feed a video stream to a different program, one frame at a time. Usually used as a part of conversion process. Used as "let program X serve as frameserver and take the output in program Y". See stream.

Indeo = a set of audio/video codecs originally developed by Intel, later transferred to Ligos

lossless compression = compression that can reproduce the original data EXACTLY. No data was lost at all. Not as efficient as lossy compression. See lossy compression.

lossy compression = compression that loses bits of data that is not likely to be missed in order to achieve higher compression ratios. JPEG and MP3 are examples of lossy compression. See lossless compression.

MOV = a 3-letter suffix common used on Wintel platform for Quicktime files (see QuickTime).

MP3 = MPEG Layer 3 Audio, an audio compression standard / file format that has gained notoriety in recent years. Achieves high yet lossy compression.

MPEG = Motion Picture Exports Group, pronounced Em-Peg. It is actually a group that recommends video compression standards and file formats, but term also came to mean the standards and file formats themselves. There are THREE different levels of MPEG, namely MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. See MP3

MPG = the 3-letter suffix commonly used on Wintel platform for MPEG files.

Multiplex = verb, to "merge" video and audio streams together into a syncrhonized stream. Also see demultiplex / demux

MUX = short for multiplex, see multiplex

NTSC = National Television Standards Committee, also the standard they proposed for TV signals for United States. The NTSC standard for television defines a composite video signal with a refresh rate of 60 half-frames (interlaced) per second. Each frame contains 525 lines and can contain 16 million different colors. Also see PAL

PAL = Phase Alternating Line, a different video standard, similar to NTSC, but popular in Europe. PAL delivers 625 lines at 50 half-frames per second. See NTSC.

QuickTime = a popular video format that works on both Wintel and Mac platforms, invented by Apple Computers.

Region = usually DVD region. DVD players and discs are "region coded". The world is divided up to 6 regions, and discs from one region will not work in players of a different region. There are certain unauthorized mods that will remove the restriction, but you'll need to find that on your own.

rip = tech jargon, it simply means "to extract digitally". For example, to "rip a CD" means to extract all the digital content of the CD (usually onto a computer's hard drive).

RM = Real Media, a file format used by Real Networks to store their various media files, could be video or audio.

Stream = (noun) a series of small blocks of data that is a part of a much larger file. Usually prefixed like "video stream", "audio stream", etc..
(verb) to "trickle-serve" a long file so it can be used AS it is downloaded. For example, "streaming video" allow you to view the movie within a few seconds of start instead of waiting for the whole movie to download first.

SVCD = "Super Video CD", uses MPEG-2 video compression for better video quality and higher resolution, (480x480 in NTSC format). Also see VCD, CVD.

Subtitle = the text that goes below the movie, usually adds explanations of the scene or prints out the dialog for the hearing impaired.

VBR = variable bit rate, a technique where the stream does NOT have a constant bit rate, but rather varies the bit rate depending on the content. For example, a VBR encoded stream, in high motion segments, the bitrate would be high, while the bit rate would be quite low in slow scenes. This in general produces a stream of better quality than CBR stream, but requires a compatible player that understands VBR streams.

VCD = Video CD, a stnadard that uses MPEG-1 video compression standard to fit about 60 minutes of 352x240 (NTSC) video. VCD can also contain PAL video. It is merely a storage "format". Also see SVCD, CVD.

WAV = a file format used often in Windows to store audio files. In general WAV file is not compressed and thus can be VERY big in size.

WMV = Windows Media Video, a video file format used in Windows. It is heavily compressed and has good video quality in general.

XVID = an open-sourced implementation of MPEG4 codec.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Q: When I visit a link/url I get an error message: "403 -- Forbidden". What does that mean?
It means that you do not have permission to view things in that directory. Usually, this is a bad configuration on the part of the server operator. It has nothing to do with you or your browser.

Q: How do I add more USB ports? My existing ones being used and I don't want to plug/unplug!
Buy a USB hub. They should be about USD$30 or less in local stores for a 4-port version. Look for "powered" hubs, which comes with its own power adapter. Usually that's optional, but it's better to have the option and not use it than not having it at all.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Q: Can you suggest a good "editor" that's better than NOTEPAD?
Try JGSoft's EditPad. The Lite version is free and can edit multiple files, do files of any length... MUCH better than Notepad.
Addendum: I've been since reminded that there are A LOT of Notepad replacements out there. MetaPad, SuperPad, and more. In fact, go to and search for "Notepad Replacement", and you'll get at least 40 choices.

Q: My current mainboard/PC uses SDRAM. Can I use DDR SDRAM?
Unless your mainboard ALSO has DDR SDRAM slots, no. The two have different memory slots. Some mainboards DO have both type of slots. However, mainboards usually only allow ONE type of memory inside at a time.

Q: I've seen a fancy equalizer display that fits in the 5.25" drive bay of a PC. Where can I get one?
You must be talking about the NewQ products... Click here. They make products that adds Spatializer 3D to 2-speaker setups and such.

Q: How do I remove the vocals from a song, say, MP3 or WAV?
Please see this FAQ from They know what they are talking about.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Q: How do I print my own business cards?
First, you need a printer (doh!). Any common inkjet or laser printer would do. Go to your local office supply store to buy matching "business card stock". Then you need to try out some business card templates. If you have more recent versions of Microsoft Word (Word 97 or later), you may have it already installed. Otherwise, go to Microsoft Officeupdate and click on business templates, business cards, and voila, you can download several designs. Corel may have a similar site for their product.

Print your design on plain paper first and see how well it works before you use it on your real stock. If you have color printer, you can print cards in color. If you only need like 10-20 cards, it's much simpler to print it yourself than go to a print shop. Of course, you don't get that PREMIUM paper feel and those raised print stuff, but then, most people wouldn't care...

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Q: When I try to shut down my computer, I get "Notification Wnd for RNAdmin" is not responding. I have to END TASK it for the computer to shut down. What is the problem?
RNAdmin is a part of RealOne player (RN being Real Network). Somehow your install was corrupted. Reinstall the latest version of RealOne (the free one is fine) should cure that problem.