Friday, October 29, 2010

Employee, Interruped - Internet use in Today's Workplace

Employee Internet Use in the office, why more companies are using computer monitoring software

Are you reading this blog at work? It's a fair question when you look at the statistics of how many "cyberslackers" there are out there: a new breed of employees who use company internet connections for personal use.

The internet has completely changed the business landscape over the last 10 years, and with it, the day-to-day roles of employees. As more and more of us have begun engaging with the internet’s information playground on a daily basis, there is the increasing temptation to get your Facebook fix before you hit those spreadsheets. With all the benefits the internet affords businesses, the trade-off is a loss in employee productivity which, in turn, can result in a loss of company profit. To combat this potential downturn, many businesses are taking measures to keep tabs of their employees on the clock, monitoring computer usage, emails, phone calls, and even keystrokes, all in the name of retaining employee productivity. When you think about the potential losses (upwards of $350,00 per business), it begins to make sense, even though if you listen closely enough, you can hear George Orwell crying somewhere far, far away.

In the interest of putting employee internet usage into perspective, we've put together the above infographic. If you're interested in the potential benefits of monitoring your employee's computer use, then take a look at FlexiServer attendance software and download the free trial to test drive the computer-use monitoring features.

Now get back to work!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Scary Halloween Tutorial: Make a Howling and Haunting Halloween Soundtrack

5 easy steps for making your own Halloween soundtrack

Last week we showed you how to spookify your screen saver in 3 easy steps using VideoPad. This week we'll help you prepare for that Halloween party you have planned, or for setting a spooky atmosphere for your trick-or-treaters with a haunting halloween soundtrack.

NCH Software Sound Effect Library1. Using WavePad audio editor, download three sounds from the sound effect library, found under the Tools menu. We recommend Ambience SciFi 1 for the background, and Nature Weather Lightning 3 and Human Scream 1 as accent sounds. Save them in a location you can remember. To download more than three sounds, upgrade to the WavePad Master's edition, or record more sounds of your own.

2. Open your downloaded sounds in WavePad. For the basics of using WavePad, view the WavePad tutorial series.

3. Copy your background sound and paste at the end of the file one or two times, so the length of your soundtrack becomes a few minutes long.

WavePad Audio Paste Mix 4. In this step, you are going to add your accent sounds to your background sound. Copy the entirety of one of your accent sounds, then go back to the window with your background sound. Place your cursor in a random location, then select Paste Mix from the Edit menu and click OK on the dialog that appears. The accent sound will be pasted over the background sound. Repeat this process as many times as you want for each accent sound throughout the duration of the background sound file.

5. Save your finished background file with the added accents to a format suitable for your CD player or portable device. When you play the soundtrack, make sure you loop it so the sounds play continually throughout your Halloween night.

With Christmas around the corner, you can get a head start on personalizing Christmas songs with reindeer noises, elves cheering, and bells ringing using the same steps given here. Feel free to share your creations, and we'll feature you on our blog!

Friday, October 22, 2010

User Spotlight: First Time Success Making A Music Video

Bart Bryars recently purchased PhotoStage Slideshow Software and put together his first video. The opening number for their musical, Joey, is a take on everything New York City.

"It turned out so good and has had such a positive response, I thought I'd send it to you so you could see what's possible for a first time novice like me, who has no training whatsoever in video arts or production. We don't even have a camcorder. The action parts were shot on a regular Sony digital camera that happens to have a basic recording feature.

Thank you so much for your product. Very simple and easy to use."

– Bart Bryars

As we've mentioned in the past we strive to make all of our software easy to use. So it is great to not only hear that we are doing a good job, but to see the results as well. We really enjoyed watching the musical number they put together with the help of PhotoStage Slideshow Creator and wanted to share it with all of you fine readers:

We hope you enjoy their video too. Maybe it will inspire you to put together your own musical video montage after seeing what couple of beginners were able to do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Scary Halloween Tutorial: Spookify Your Screen Saver

3 Easy Steps for Making Your Own Halloween Screen Saver

With Halloween on the horizon, you might want your screen saver to reflect a serene cemetery scene, or a haunting moonlit evening. Follow these easy steps and we'll show you how to create your own personalised screen saver free.

1. Create a short Halloween movie or slideshow using VideoPad video editor and your favorite Halloween images and video clips.

If you're new to VideoPad or video editing see our VideoPad tutorial to help you get started.

Save videos as WMV files to use as a windows screen saver 2. Save your movie as a wmv file in its own folder. To do this, click the Save Movie icon in the toolbar, choose the Computer / Data output format, and then select the wmv file format. Click the Browse button to choose the save destination. Don't forget to create a new folder for your screen saver movie.

3. Under the Screen Saver settings in Windows, select the Photos option, and click Settings. Browse for the folder where you saved your movie, click Save, then click Apply. Next time your screen saver comes on, you'll be spooked!
Set your new movies as your windows screen saver

Now that you know how easy it is to make your own seasonal screen saver you can add easily add a little fun and flair to any occasion.

Check back soon for another Halloween tutorial: Make a Howling and Haunting Halloween Soundtrack.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Assistive Technology

Recently I stumbled across an article by Luke Hsieh, an assistive technology advocate, about building a low cost electronic magnifier with a webcam and Debut video capture software. This was not only a nice example of how versatile our video recording software is, but it got me thinking a bit about assistive technology, which doesn't always get its due.

A lot of technology is designed with a somewhat constrained image of the typical user, and as a result can sometimes be very difficult or even impossible for people with various disabilities to use. Assistive Technology, on the other hand, makes it easier for individuals with disabilities to access information technology, which is extremely important in the high tech world we live in.

I have heard from customers in the past complementing our software applications because they have found them to be very accessible. While I am thrilled that they have found our software accessible, I have to admit this is more the result of our efforts to make our products as intuitive and user-friendly across the board than anything else. It makes sense that software that it easy to use is also more accessible, and as a result, we hope everyone will find our software easy and accessible.

Some examples of how our software can be used as assistive technology include Verbose text-to-speech software to convert a document to an mp3 file to listen to latter, or as a screen reader; and as Hsieh pointed out you can use Debut video capture software to make a custom electronic magnifier, or when you're making your next YouTube video. We will continue striving to make all our software easy to use for everyone, and hope that everyone finds our software accessible along the way.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

To Droid, Or Not To Droid?

Update: Express Dictate for Android is now available. You can Get Express Dictate for Android from Google Play or Amazon

Whether or not to make any of our programs for Android phones and if so which ones has been a big question floating around NCH for a while now, and one that we have been going back forth on. And after the release of WavePad for the iPhone the question is at the forefront again. As the debate rages in the company I want to know what you think about having NCH applications for your Android phone.

No matter how you look at it, it is a significant commitment to begin development for a new platform. We do have a strong desire to have a full range of products, especially in areas like our dictation software where we are already offering a breadth of so users can choose what works best for them, which makes Android development seems like a natural addition. But on the other side of the coin there is concern that there won't be enough demand to justify the development expense.

Some projections estimate that Android will be the market leader by 2012, but the growth has been so fast it is hard to know if it will really have the lasting power. Is it possible that Android will fall out of favor given time and become only a minor player like Palm is now? Or is Android really here to stay?

I would love to see a developer begin work on Express Dictate for the Android, but I do have to admit it is hard to know if there is enough demand for that, or other NCH Android applications, to make it worthwhile. And with early evidence suggesting that Android users are even less willing to pay for applications than iPhone users, it is sadly just that much harder to justify the development commitment with potential returns such a question mark.

So I want to know. Would you use or even pay a small fee for a new version of Express Dictate for your Android phone? Would having WavePad on your Droid make your world more complete? Since demand is one is one of our biggest concerns I can't help but ask, who out there is just itching to have dictation software for their Android phone?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Helping or Hindering Users

software usability I can't stand it when a software program like Word decides it knows what I want to do better than I do. In their efforts to be user-friendly they seem to actually gone past helping me do what I want to do, and have started making some incorrect guesses that make it harder for me to do what I wanted in the first place. While I applaud the effort to remove some of the tedious work of formatting out of the hands of the user so that they can focus on the content I find some of the formatting changes disrupting. While on the other hand automatically correcting obvious typos like changing 'teh' to 'the' for example actually was an absolutely marvelous idea.

Sometimes we as developers think we know best, but it is a question worth considering: Where do you draw that line between what you do for the user in the name of usability and what you leave for the user to do themselves?

At NCH Software we strive to make our software as user-friendly, and easy to setup as possible, so we need to think a lot about what the default settings for programs should be and make as many educated guesses as possible about what will work for the most users. Whenever there are options you will never be able to pick settings that will actually work for everyone but you want the defaults to work for as large a majority as possible, and make it easy for the few that need to change them to do so.

If there are too many question marks as to what will work best for the majority of people that is often when we introduce a setup wizard for programs like Axon PBX Software which allows us to ask questions to help us set default values for the user instead of straight out guessing how many phone lines the user will have on their phone system. By carefully choosing the questions we ask we can get all the answers we need to help the user get their customized system ready as quickly as possible without them needing to hunt down every option on their first run, even though all of those settings can easily be changed later.

It is a fine line to walk trying to help the user along the way but not get in their way of being able to configure options for themselves, but it is one we are doing are best to get better at in our ongoing effort to make our applications user-friendly.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The WavePad Audio Editing iPhone App

Pocket WavePad Audio Editing Software iPhone AppEvery month our flagship product Wavepad Audio Editor has more than 400,000 downloads. That number continues to climb, adding to the millions of WavePad users worldwide already using our award-wining sound editing software on their PC, Mac or Pocket PC. And now our popular audio editing application is available for iPhone and iPod Touch as well.

Just like the desktop versions, the Pocket WavePad Audio Editing Software iPhone App provides an easy way to record and edit audio, voice and other sound recordings with all of the essential audio effects and sound editing tools you’ve come to expect. We think you’ll agree that Pocket WavePad is the ideal solution for professionals working away from a computer, from journalists and scientists to any other audio enthusiasts on the go.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Create Unique Sounds with MixPad and WavePad

MixPad is typically used as a multitrack audio recorder and mixer instead of spending 10’s of thousands of dollars for a professional multitrack mixing desk. However, I like to Sound Waveuse MixPad to create a variety of unique sounds I can use as sound effects or to play on my synthesizer. These sound effects can be used in commercials, movies, videos, music, audio programs, or by DJs on the radio. I still have a synthesizer in my basement midi studio that utilizes waveform oscillators to create sounds. One of them was advanced for the time and had 3 oscillators to create sound. With MixPad, I can create sounds with a virtually unlimited number of oscillators by loading snippets of sounds on the tracks and mixing them to create a new unique sound. MixPad has given me a range of possibilities I hadn’t had before.

To create your own sounds, once MixPad and WavePad are installed, all you need is a sound or waveform. You can get this from WavePad’s new sound library, NCH Tone Generator (another handy program from NCH Software), load an mp3 from your computer, rip tracks from a cd, or record a new sound with a microphone. I would begin in WavePad and play around with the sound. Listen to it forwards, backwards, apply live effects, etc. Once you have the fundamental sound, you can load it into MixPad to mix with other sounds. MixPad will allow you to stagger and mix the various snippets of sound you create. The result is a unique sound envelope that is yours and doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. Vanilla Ice could have learned a lot from this simple technique back in the early 90’s.

Do More With Audio - Blog Carnival October 4, 2010

I recently saw a great example of someone doing something just a little bit off the cuff with music and audio in this wonderful video: Violin Hip-Hop. The video is of two guys, one playing the violin and another mixing it up as a DJ, and is well worth a watch. Not only is it entertaining, but it is an a fun example of combining different musical styles and playing with all kinds of audio by making a mashup of hip hop and violin, which is traditionally more classical. When it comes to audio, the sky is the limit, and traditions aren't written in stone so why not do something new and make it your own.

Here are this editions entries to Do More with Audio:

Steve presents Tutorials | NI Massive synth patches & tutorials posted at NI Massive synth patches & tutorials Synth patches and tutorials for Native Instruments Massive.

Mike Vogt presents Top 10 Wedding Songs of All-Time posted at Christian Colleges Online.

vic mori presents How to Convert Mono MP3 to Stereo posted at Multimedia Software Tips.

Naomi Seldin presents 10 Rock Stars Who Went to an Ivy League School posted at Online Colleges and Universities Education Database.

peterselby7 presents Purchase your Digital Audio Speakers, Plans and factory direct speaker posted at Home Speaker Blog, saying, "Home Theater and Speaker building information for the beginner, intermediate and advanced enthusiast. Learn more about how home audio works."

mmrz presents Are There Copyrights On Downloaded Music? posted at Free Ipod Songs, saying, "Copyrights for downloaded music."

Jordy Clements presents loom Weaves Omaha posted at Omaha Arts and Culture, saying, "Loom: a hand-operated or power-driven apparatus for weaving fabrics. Or loom: one of Omaha's most respected dance parties. With the recent White Party, and the upcoming loom Weaves the Joslyn Sculpture Garden, we talked with loom's DJ Brent Crampton."

Carol Vertz presents 10 Most Popular Bar Songs of All-Time posted at Liberal Arts Colleges.

Corrine Smith presents 10 Must-See Fall Music Festivals posted at General Studies Degree.

Tom,C. presents Turtle Beach Wireless Review - Rating the Ear Force X31 Wireless Headset Audio posted at Shopping-and-Product-Reviews:Electronics Articles from, saying, "A review of the Turtle Beach X31 Wireless Gaming Headset"

You might also be interested in:That concludes this edition. Be sure to Submit your audio article to the next edition.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Slow September - Or Was It?

French Software, Fran├žais LogicelWe were a little bit low on our blogging quota in September, but not without good reason. We have very busy with some exciting projects that left us with little time for blogging. For example we have just been finishing up the artwork for some bilingual English/French boxes for our first software products that will be sold in Canadian retail stores that will be sold soon starting out at Staples Canada. And that is just one of the exciting things that we hope/plan to see come to fruition in the not too distant future. We'll do our best to keep the blog posts coming and we hope to have more exciting news to share soon, so be sure to stay tuned for more updates on seeing NCH Software in stores in Canada and more.
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