Newsletter #169 - Sept 29, 2007
Windows Live Photo Gallery for XP
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Microsoft's Windows Live Photo Gallery is an enhanced clone of Vista's Photo Gallery... for use in XP or Vista. WMPIt's in the beta stage at the moment; here's the link to get it... 
Windows Photo Gallery Beta
I'll check it out on my XP laptop, and compare its features to the app that comes with Vista. If you're already a user of Photo Gallery in Vista, you have the option of installing the beta and running two versions of it.

One of the things I like about Photo Gallery is that it includes a built-in image/video player that doesn't rely on the standard Windows Media Player (WMP).
WMP is an audio, image, and video player that stops the music when I open a video clip to preview, or watch a finished rendered movie or story. More annoying than the stopping is it not returning to the music at the point it stopped when I finish watching the video.
I had all but given up listening to music with WMP during movie and story working sessions.
Looking quickly at the image below, you might think it's Windows Media Player... but it's not. It's the player that comes with Photo Gallery. As I view pictures and video clips on my hard drive, I'm listening to URGE on my Windows Media Player.
Viewer with Video
Here's the main working window, camped on a folder of video files.
View - Details
I'll go through the installation and operation on my XP laptop, and note difference between it and Photo Gallery in Vista. I have two Vista systems, an Ultimate SP1 version and a Home Basic one. Before getting into it, here's...
a couple notes...



I installed the beta version of Vista's SP1 over my Vista Ultimate desktop system. The download and installation went flawlessly. It overwrote the previous install completely as the option to do more of an incremental update was grayed out. The Photo Gallery app in SP1 hasn't changed, and I didn't see any changes to Movie Maker and DVD Maker.


Reading posts on the > microsoft.beta.vistasp1.beta_program newsgroup, I could have opted for an incremental update rather than blasting the previous install for a totally clean new one. Too late now!! Maybe that would have let me keep my registration key rather than being in 30 day trial without a key to continue.


Support Space calls are coming in routinely. I'm up to 13 so far and find myself turning off my availability signal when I need to get other work done. Each support request has been unique, interesting, makes for great conversation pieces, and has been very helpful to the customer.


.... back to the main topic...

Windows Live Photo Gallery
Installation and Setup... XP
As the name implies, the app in the XP environment has a strong connection with Windows Live. And it brings some of the latest software developments from Vista to XP. For example:
The default installation is to c:\Program Files\Windows Live\Photo Gallery, where six new executables and 31 DLLs are, ready for geeks and hackers to explore.

I had one issue... a routine and frequent enough to be irritating error message from Outlook Express. The Windows Search and Indexing features get installed with Photo Gallery. When they work in the background, which they do constantly, I get somewhat random but pretty frequent error messages from Outlook Express. 
Outlook Express Error
I can usually open Outlook Express to get and read my email before the first one pops up. I can spend hours writing this newsletter without getting one, provided I open the draft and then close the main Outlook Express window.
As Vista doesn't support Outlook Express, I know it's just a matter of time until I'm forced to use something else as my email client. I try each option but don't like any of them near as much as Outlook Express. It's probably that I'm just used to it and see no reason to change.

The slideshow button at the bottom of the Photo Gallery main window starts a slideshow of the selected pictures.
Video clips are not included.

Let's go through the main menu options...
Files and menu options
You can include any folder on your hard drives. The supported files will show as thumbnails and others will be ignored. Some file types you won't see are:
Some show with generic or real thumbnails, but don't preview in the Photo Gallery player. The file types include:
In Vista you can drag/drop or copy/paste from the Photo Gallery to Movie Maker 6, but you can't do the same in XP with MM2.1.
An option under the File menu is to use the Photo Gallery as screen saver images... shuffle contents, select the folder used, even use all photos and videos from the Gallery.... it says that, but it won't let me use a folder with only video clips. On the other hand, the animated GIFs that won't show in the Gallery can be used as screen saver images. I'm not a big user of screen saver slide shows so I won't check these options further.

NEF - needs a codecRAW Camera Files...
Here's the message Photo Gallery gave when I first tried to open an NEF file (RAW) taken by my Nikon D40x.
I opted for 'Download' and ended up getting the Nikon codec, one that the Vista Photo Gallery had issues with for a long time. This was a newer codec and worked fine on my XP laptop.
Hope this means the issue with Vista's Photo Gallery and the codec are also resolved with this release.
You can view the NEF files with the Gallery, but not 'Fix' them.

Adjust ImagesFixing Pictures...
You can fix pictures but not video clips. This XP version has a much expanded set of fixing tools and settings than its original Vista counter-part.
When you 'fix' a picture, Windows saves a copy of the original in case you later want to undo the changes.
There's a setting to use if you don't mind deleting the originals to save space.

Printing Pictures...
The printing interface when using your own printer looks a little different.
Vista's Photo Gallery ties into 10 online printing services but the beta on XP only supports 3 of them... Fujifilm, Shutterfly, and Kodak. Interesting...

Publish to Live Spaces or MSN Soapbox...
The menu includes a publishing feature... pictures can go to Live Spaces and videos to MSN Soapbox.
Publish to Windows Live Space
Publish on SoapboxI didn't try the still pix as I don't use Live Spaces. But I selected a full one hour tape, a 13 GB DV-AVI file and told it to upload to Soapbox... here's the message about the limit.
It's maximum is twice the 10 minute limit of YouTube, and the uploaded file can be much better quality. I have videos on Soapbox so I didn't need to try it.

Photo Gallery offers options to resize images or send copies of the originals. Nice touch.
For videos, it attaches a copy of the original file... no interactive resizing option... these are the files that would need resizing the most. As you're into video, you don't need Photo Gallery to decide your compression option.
I have another operational issue... instead of opening an email with the file attached, I get the same Outlook Express error message I showed you before.... let me try closing this newsletter draft... that worked, but so did doing other things. Seems that I can't use the email option from Photo Gallery after I've gotten the pop-up error.

Make a Panoramic Image or Burn a Data CD...
I selected 18 images to try the panoramic feature. It wasn't effective at all... here's the composite I got.
Panoramic Image
Compare that to this image (reduced in size of course) from the same set of pictures, using Cool360, a feature of Ulead's PhotoImpact 12, one of the software apps I reviewed a couple weeks ago for BrightHub.
Cool 360
I burned a CD with 100 7 megapixel pictures... first I had to go to the properties of the drive and turn on the CD recording setting, as I had last used it to burn an iso file to a DVD. 
After inserting the new CD in the drive, a new option in the list is to open it with Photo Gallery... I went with it and the viewing worked well.

That gets us through the main menu. Let's go back and explore one of the features, importing videos from a camcorder, a bit more... 
Import Video SettingsImport Videos...
Look in File > Options and you'll see a window with settings to use when importing (Vista's word) or capturing (XP's word) video from a camcorder.
Settings include an option to create multiple files, something not in MM2.1. I'll go with it. Note there's no option to end up with a compressed wmv file. This is a DV camcorder to DV-AVI file feature.
Let's take if for a spin. Plug in the mini-DV camcorder using a firewire cable, and turn on in the VTR/VCR mode... up pops the options that now include Windows Live Photo Gallery (my Movie Maker choice disappeared long ago in the list... don't know why).
On the next window name the video and opt for either the entire video or selected parts. I'll go with the entire one and then stop it manually at some point, knowing it'll let me keep what's been captured up to that point.
Here's a screen shot of the 'import' session... from the size and duration so far, it's a good bet it's capturing to a DV-AVI file. Note the tallying of any dropped frames. I'm taking screen shots and writing this newsletter as it captures, and there are no dropped frames.
Import Session
I stopped the import after 8 minutes... still no dropped frames... then gave it the OK to process the footage captured so far, and got a crash of some sort, not a very elegant one.
That got me to looking for the temporary file that was captured up to that point. I found a 1.8 GB file named 2007-09-26 01.48.13 Newsletter 169.avi_temp_tmp (pretty impressive name, an avi double-temp!!!) and renamed the extension to .avi. I figured it was a temporary DV-AVI file but, in a pinch or to save recapturing, it would still work as a video file.
Here it is in Photo Gallery, where it played fine.
Imported File
DEP SettingsI imported it into MM2.1, previewed it in the collection, and did a right click to auto create clips. It made 31 of them.
My goal wasn't to get a good file, but to understand what was happening. My first retest without changing any settings used the first 4 minutes of the same tape... got the same crash but this time I paused things for some screen shots and head scratching.
One of the things offered during the crashing was the Data Execution Prevention list shown at the right. With the compatibility list of Movie Maker, we're used to such lists. In this list you need to check line items, not uncheck them. I checked 'Windows Live Import Video' to turn off DEP for the 3rd test.
The retest captured the same 4 minutes... this time without DEP protection. The process kept going and finished successfully, making multiple DV-AVI files from the single temporary one. 
Creating Files
The temp and individual files were DV-AVI. The processed finished and the folder was automatically added to Photo Gallery. 
Imported Files
If a full tape uses 13 GB in a temp DV-AVI file and the individual scene files use another 13 GB... be prepared with even more than usual free disc space.
This newsletter has gotten a bit longer than my usual one. I'll close it here...

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
The Photo Gallery for XP is a keeper for my video making toolbox.
Have a great week!!