Q. I want to convert some video clips on my PC to play on my BlackBerry 8800. I have a program that converts files to different video formats, but what format and conversion settings are best for watching the clips?
The optimal video settings for the BlackBerry 8800, according to its manufacturer, Research in Motion, are clips in MPEG-4 format and saved with the AVI file extension. In the full-screen 4:3 mode, clips should have a screen resolution of 240 pixels by 180 pixels, while widescreen clips in the 16:9 ratio should have a resolution of 320 pixels by 180 pixels. Set the video bit rate to 400 kilobits a second and the frames-per-second rate to 24.
BlackBerrys running Version 4.2.1 of the BlackBerry Device Software can also play clips in the Windows Media Video format. A full list of supported audio and video formats for the BlackBerry 8100, 8300 and 8800 models is at snipurl.com/3my40. The page also has instructions for converting (called transcoding) multimedia files.
For BlackBerry owners who don't already have video-conversion software, there are programs like MediaCoder (mediacoder.sourceforge.net), a free open-source solution. Other options include Pinnacle Mobile Media Converter (snipurl.com/3my72) and Apple's QuickTime Pro software (www.apple.com/quicktime); both cost about $30.
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These types of programs can also convert video for the Portable PlayStation, the iPod, Zune and other media players.
Q. Is there any reason to get desktop publishing software for making brochures, or can Microsoft Word do it all?
If the brochure is a fairly simple document, Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect or a similar word-processing program might give you all the page layout capabilities you need, without having to buy extra software. Many versions of Word already include templates for various brochures.
Dedicated desktop publishing programs like QuarkXpress and InDesign from Adobe were created as full-fledged prepress tools for everything from the placement of text and photos over multiple pages and complex layouts to the precise selection of inks.
These programs can take a while to learn and are expensive (more than $600).
Desktop publishing programs aimed at home users and businesses, like the Print Shop (www.broderbund.com) and PagePlus (www.serif.com), are another option.