Software Reviews

Magix Rescue Your Videotapes 4.0

SCART connector, photo taken in Sweden

Image via Wikipedia

by ECM Plus Labs

ECM Plus +++ When it comes to valuable digital assets, few would argue that old family videos and precious moments from our cultural heritage, birthdays, Christmas morning, family weddings, first steps, proud father, Mother’s Day, and so on and so forth, are those moments that many families have made Olde Worlde tape-based videos of, but are in large part, currently languishing in a dusty box in the garage or in the attic.

Which is, of course, sacrilege.

The digital age, despite its benefits of convenience and clever graphickery, has been a disaster in terms of cutting families and people off from their memories. Few of us still retain VCR machines or cassette decks, and yet over twenty years of our heritage was trapped on that erstwhile technology.

Enter the White Knight.

Magix Rescue Your Videotapes! 4.0 is the latest version of a godsend of a hardware/software solution that changes all of the above into a veritable Second Coming of all your lovely old memories. Indeed, the footage of granny in the egg and spoon race will soon be splashed in all its glory not across that crappy old Decca CRT tube, no, instead it will festoon the latest HD 1080p LED TFT big flat screens. Time warp? Indeed. And what’s more, it works.

Installation

Our Windows 7 test machine loads the installed DVD full of drivers and apps quite transparently.

The cable pack includes everything needed to interface the old VCR interfaces with the current USB 2.0 digital port. The cables boast SCART – both in and out via an onboard switch on the SCART cable – as well as composite SVHS and phono coaxial video (yellow), audio left (white) and audio right (red) female connectors. It’s as easy as it gets.

The user is asked whether the want to utilise the MPEG-2 format or the MXY proprietary format. We opted for the latter.

The registration process was fairly straightforward, which unlocks the program and the user can then move on straight to connecting up their VCR or other analogue source to commence the transfers.

And that is pretty much all you need to do. Within minutes, your precious videos are streaming across the analogue to digital converters into some nice, safe digital format.

Conclusion

Magix is becoming quite a market mover and shaker in the digital media and content space, and even has a professional division called Magix Pro which caters for all manner of pro audio and video users, so the legacy of the firm suggest tech support and after sales care would also be of a high standard. For those who have assets, libraries of memories, old footage of film, other content on tape, this Magix solution is for you. And it just works, a sure sign of satisfaction.

Pros: One of the few systems on the market that actually do what they claim, without glitches.

Cons: None

VERDICT: 5/5 – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


MediAvatar Media Toolkit Ultimate

Mediavatar’s Media Toolkit Ultimate is the Swiss Army knife of modern multimedia convertibility.

Billing itself as making it possible to enjoy ‘media anytime anywhere’ the software is indeed a veritable smogasbord of must-have’s for media in all its forms. Media Toolkit Ultimate boasts a Five Knuckle shuffle of apps within its box – the five being: Blu-Ray Ripper, DVD Converter Pro, Audio Converter Pro, Video Converter Pro, and last but not least, for all the narcissists out there, YouTube Video Converter.

Installation:

Installation comes on 2 discs, one for PC, one for Mac. In our case review, the test machine was a standard Windows 7 PC installation, which, due to no fault of MediAvatar’s software, initially balked due to a shortage of disk space on Drive C. Despite pointing the installation files to Drive E:, the installer seems to force the installer to transfer files into a temporary directory on the user’s local file directory on – yes, you guessed it, Drive C. There appears to be no way to alter this forced files transfer, so this required us to halt the installation, cancel out of it, and go to Disk Cleanup and Control Panel to clear out other applications already installed. Again, this isn’t a criticism of the app, per se, more that the installation procedure really ought to be more controllable as to where exactly it puts its temporary files.

After the requisite disk space had been recovered by removing other apps installed on Drive C, the intallation proceeded smoothly until the point at which the registration procedure began. In fact, registration procedures, plural. There are five in total, one for each of the main apps in the suite.

This was rather cumbersome in our view, given that most people would be buying this suite for all the apps, there seems no need to have to go through five separate registration processes just to uncripple the trialware versions that come on the installer CD.

That said, the registration process is fairly quick, despite the fact that the accompanying paper card that comes in the box would very easily get mislaid on the normal user desktop space, so would render all the apps un-installable, or un-reinstallable if the user wanted to install the apps at a later time.

We began with the YouTube converter app, for no other reason that there are a lot of freeware apps out there that do, or claim to do, the same thing. So why would anyone bother to buy an app that can be had on the net in freeware? Well because, probably, MediaAvatar’s version of such an app is quite frankly brilliant.

And we take no big credit for bigging it up just for the sake of it. This thing is awesome. Why? Well because it does just what it says on the tin. There are no messy menu items to hunt down, no fancy graphics that confuse and offer no help, this app just rocks. We had our first few videos flying down the line onto our machine within seconds and all of them rendered perfectly, first time. How cool is that? Job’s a good ‘un.

The other four apps in the suite, Blu-Ray Converter, DVD Converter, Audio Converter and Video Converter are each simple and straightforward format converters that doubtless do what they do, but, and there’s always a but, these apps were particularly difficult to use, not because they are particularly complex or convoluted in their GUI or in their layout, but because the software developers decided in their infinite wisdom to force a bright white colour scheme on the user, without any discernable way for the user to customise it with either a skin or with another contrast in colours. For users with visual impairment, as per the W3C accessibility protocols, this forcing of a white background when used with white text on a high contrast system colour scheme, renders all these apps useless. They are simply impossible to navigate as it is impossible to see what you are doing or where you can navigate to in order to customize the colour palette.

Conclusion

That said, for those with no visual disabilities, the apps do as they claim and as a whole, the suite is a handy addition to any arsenal of software tools particularly in this multimedian age.

Pros: Good at what it does,

Cons: Excludes people with accessibility issues such as those with visual impairment

VERDICT: 3/5


Undelete 2009

Probably one of the most understated and indeed under-rated pieces of software utility is the ability to recover files inadvertantly deleted by users when they’ve either not been backed up, or have been updated in different versions, and then somehow, usually due to human error, the deleted digital asset needs to be recovered but has sometimes been permanently wiped and no longer exists, as far as the user is concerned.

Enter Undelete, one of those operating system utility apps that you hopefully never have to use, but nevertheless, sits quietly doing its thing on your hard drive ready to save your bacon when the unthinkable happens.

Replacing the Recycle Bin with a RecoveryBin in Windows, Undelete is a breeze to install and then just hides in the background with some rather nifty additional capabilities over and above the usual undelete functions of Windows.

Probably one of the most significant extensions to the standard undelete features of Windows is Undelete’s ability to surpass the standard file size deletion and recovery size with the old Recycle Bin, in fact, any file can be recovered no matter how large, so for those huge video files or other rich media megafiles, Undelete’s RecoveryBin extension is de rigeur.

Apart from backing up such megafiles on other media, such as CD or DVD blanks, or even copied over to other HD media, the ability for Undelete to save and restore such files on the same drive they were deleted on is a godsend for most.

In all, Undelete is one of those understated apps that one hopes one never needs, and so it should be, but on the off-chance something goes awry, Undelete is one of those software programs that is priceless to have around. Available in both standalone and server versions, Undelete is due for an update later this year, but for the time being the 2009 version is far and away one of the most handy apps to keep installed no matter what else comes and goes from Control Panel.

VERDICT: 4/5 STARS – RECOMMENDED

Pros: A lifesaver for those of us who tend to delete files and then wonder where they are.

Cons: None that need worry anyone unduly.


Diskeeper 11 Professional

As storage and content volumes surge, the need to manage content and keep it in tip-top condition from a search and retrieval perspective rises commensurately.

Consequently, disk drive performance becomes vital to enterprise and workflow productivity.

Enter then the disk defragementation software tools, that help to tidy up the big mess that normal day-to-day use engenders.

One such recent arrival on the scene is Diskeeper 11 Professional, and update in a long-running series of established apps to do just that.

Despite the fact that operating systems these days routinely tend to come bundled with some functional basic defrag app, the fact is that they tend to be fairly simplistic and apparently, not able or equipped to do all of the IT housework that users might expect.

Diskeeper’s eleventh outing is a easy-to-use standalone app that not only defrags on demand, but also has settings to defrag in the background whilst users get on with their core business work – hence making full use of the processor power during idle time – a nice feature.

We ran Diskeeper after having run Auslogic’s freeware Disk Defragment app, and despite the fact the SATA drives had been optimised, the Diskeeper 11 app still managed to reorder the files and data on each of the drives to make them even better organised than before.

Installation was a breeze, with the programme running automatically on setup. Where users have multiple drives, the window opens one on top of another, which threw us initially as it wasn’t immediately clear whether the process had started or not, but once this was apparent, the windows could be spaced apart. The progress indicator was also somewhat obscure at first, and instead of having a standard progress bar in the centre of the screen, the Status Bar in the bottom of each drive window shows the percentage of data defragged thus far, and indicates ‘Done’ when complete.

A full set of two terabyte drives and a gigabyte drive took about 15 minutes to complete with no other activities being attempted in the foreground. That said, we had already run Auslogic’s app the previous session, so one would expect Diskeeper to take upwards of an hour or two to complete a full defrag on an unoptimised drive.

For an activity that is ostensibly tedious, using Diskeeper was painless and the speed of bootup seemed to be a tad faster, but this always depends on what other apps get loaded automatically on startup.

Worth a try, despite the fact that there are other freeware defrag apps out there, Diskeeper seems to offer something more and has been designed for both small businesses and enterprise drive users alike.

VERDICT: 4/5 STARS – RECOMMENDED

Cons: Drive window layout confusing at first, aesthetic but confusing to new users.
Pros: Fast, does good defrag job over competition.


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