Showing posts from June, 2014

software to record time-lapse video (garden/nanny cam) under windows xp

There are lots of reasons you might want to use a webcam to record time-lapse video. In my case it was to figure out what pest was eating my butternut squash and tomato plants in the garden. I used a 33 ft usb extension cable so I could place an old webcam outside near the plant, and connect it to my old netbook inside the house. In SoCal it never rains so I didn't worry much about the equipment getting damaged, but I didn't want to leave my laptop outside just in case.

I tried several programs. So far all have issues, so I'm open to suggestions. Here they are, sorted in descending order of usefulness (to me).

AVS Video Recorder (Free) worked very well for 30fps video recording with sound, but doesn't have any options to record video without sound, and at a slower frame rate. Mp4/AVC was supported, so the file sizes were manageable if I recorded at 360x240, but it was really hard to see what was going on at that resolution.

 Webcam/Screen Video Capture (free) looks real slick, and was able to detect my camera correctly. But it doesn't offer any way to change the fps, and the video formats it can record to are somewhat dated. Plus, the installer was very eager to install ad-ware, though if you read carefully it all could be bypassed.

NCH Debut Video Capture ($40) claimed to be free for home use, but actually only a 3-day limited time demo, and is useless after that period. If it weren't so buggy, this might have worked the best of what I tried, in that it supported arbitrary resolution, frame rates, and even time lapse (10 frames a second, 1 frame a second, or slower, all recorded to MP4/AVC). The killer, however, is that it seems to occasionally write corrupted video to disk, such that any attempt to read the file after the corrupted frame fails. A bit of a show-stopper, that. I think it had to do with dropped frames, but the demo expired before I could fully investigate. I tested version 2.00, maybe they will fix this someday.

Weeny Free Video Recorder - only supports windows media (8/9) and though it advertises custom frame rates, no matter what I entered it recorded at 30 instead. It did support my webcam, but the interface was very buggy, at least under WinXP. I'd avoid this one.

One meta program is ManyCam, which allows you to combine multiple webcams into a single virtual camera. But it didn't work with my old Intel USB Video Camera (failed with no error message). So I can't recommend it.

Pale Moon: an alternative to the FireFox 29 interface mess

Like many, I recently rebooted my computer only to discover that FireFox had updated itself once again. This time, the changes were, at the very least, cosmetic. I don't mean they were small, however; rather, the browser looks quite different (uglier) and more important to me, it forces the use of tabs, something which I've managed to avoid for the last few years. Force as in the tab bar is always open whether you want it or not.

My options: downgrade to Firefox 28 (the old interface) knowing that security holes would no longer be patched, or look for another browser. Chrome is a great alternative if you like tabs, but my goal was one window per webpage, so I looked farther afield. Or closer, perhaps: I found Pale Moon, a browser based on Firefox 24, with (some) security fixes back-ported.

The Pale Moon advantages:
  • The same look as Firefox 28 (and older) - yay, I can avoid tabs again!
  • Optimized for more modern processors
  • Features I don't use have been removed, so it should be somewhat more lightweight
Sadly, the experience hasn't been that positive.  Most notably, I've found Pale Moon to be unstable - in two days it has crashed hard once, and misbehaved to the point of needing to be restarted another time. Make that three times - it crashed again while I was composing this post (Of course, that might have been an attempt at self-preservation).

Now to be fair, I've only used it on one machine - WinXP 64. Maybe it is more stable on another setup. But I'm not going to give it another chance. In part that's because of another issue: Pale Moon is based on Firefox source, so Firefox bugs are also PaleMoon bugs. Thus, while no malware is going to target PaleMoon specifically because of its minute market share, anything written to target older versions of FireFox will also hit Palemoon (because it's not updated as fast as Firefox).

In the end, it's a shame. The interface and the web page rendering engine should be entirely separable, so that you can choose the best renderer (which presumably would be the same for pretty much all users) and the best interface (according to your personal preferences, which will likely differ from other people's).  Then it would be easy to keep the renderer up to date, and still be perfectly safe using an obscure interface. Perhaps this is how things actually are in some low-level sense, but there's no way for me to drag and drop a new rendering DLL into the PaleMoon app folder and thus have the latest and greatest security fixes.

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