Video editing PC

Upgrade

We used our standard PC & GoPro Studio for our smaller videos without a hitch so were hoping we could get by without a Video editing PC. As the videos got larger, Studio would hang periodically.

Building a Video editing PC

We  hoped to build a Video editing PC without breaking the bank.

We built the PC back in October 2017 but only recently ironed out some of the kinks with MSI and memory.

AMD or Intel

We have historically stuck with Intel but you can get a lot more bang for the buck with AMD processors. Key to video editing is multiple cores and AMD is tough to beat in that regard.

We built our video editing PC with a AMD Ryzen 5 1600. This 6-core CPU was much more powerful than a comparably priced Intel CPU.

System Board

Once we had decided on a CPU, we looked for a compatible system board. The MSI -350M Pro-VDH fit the bill.

None of the newer system boards were without issues and we had no intention of gaming.

We had numerous issues rebooting the PC until recently. BIOS updates for our system board and SSD M.2 drive have been key.

Current BIOS

E7A38AMS.AB0

Memory

We wanted the fastest memory we could fit into our budget. Team DDR4-3000 was considered a bargain for the price so we decided we would give that a try.

Note that any memory speed above 2667 MHz is not officially supported by AMD and is considered over clocking (OC). Historically we have been wary of over clocking anything but it’s pretty common with AMD.

Additionally, you should use memory that is on their approved hardware. When our memory performed less than expected we tried more expensive memory that was on the list. That memory did no better than ours so we stuck with our original choice.

Through a series of BIOS updates we are currently getting 2933 MHz which is great but it hasn’t been easy.

Up until the latest BIOS update, the max we ever saw was 2800 MHz. We still can’t use MSI A-XMP but Try It works fine.

Our Memory

Team – T-Force / Night Hawk 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 Memory – THWD416G3000HC16CDC01

SSD M.2 Drive

These days you need a SSD drive for your operating system but there are many to choose from. The M.2 version is much faster so this is the route most take.

It’s a breeze installing software from a fast USB thumb drive to a M.2 drive. There were issues seeing the M.2 drive on boot but we sorted that out without too much difficulty.

More disturbing was issues with restart. There was almost zero chance that the PC would boot on a restart. We found that entering BIOS (delete)  seemed to allow the system to find the drive. Even exiting (F10) with no changes was enough to get the system to boot.

This was not critical to our operations so we lived with this for months.

Recently we got a firmware update from MyDigitalSSD and the PC reboots without issue.

Our SSD drive

MyDigitalSSD – BPX 512GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive

Graphic Card – GPU

We opted for a GPU that was solid without being too pricey. We haven’t had any real issues with it other than downloading huge drivers for NVIDIA GeForce Experience.  I am not sure we even need those since we don’t do any gaming.

The GPU works fine even running dissimilar monitors. Currently we are running a 4K 32″ monitor (Display Port) & a 1K 28″ monitor(HDMI).

Our GPU

EVGA – GeForce GTX 1050 2 GB ACX 2.0 Video Card

 

Is it Worth the Effort?

We are now able to edit videos without too many issues. GoPro Studio has been left behind for Premiere CC and we are editing 4K videos.

We definitely like the speed of our video editing PC but it has not been without some headaches and it cost around $900 in parts & Operating System (Windows 10 Home). That didn’t include the recently acquired 4K monitor which is another story in itself.

 

4K Video Editing, Premiere CC & YouTube

The Perils of 4K Video Editing

We have uploaded hundreds of videos to YouTube so we had high hopes for 4K Video Editing. Mostly we used our GoPro Session 4 to shoot the videos and were pretty pleased with the results. The newer Session 5 was reasonably priced so we decided to take the plunge with 4K videos.

Software & Hardware

Software & Hardware

Initially we used GoPro video software and a standard Windows 10 PC for 1080p (1K) video editing but had to upgrade the PC when videos became longer.

Look for an upcoming post on upgrading PCs for video editing.

Premiere CC

GoPro Studio became problematic freezing up on long 1K  (1080p) videos so we reluctantly migrated to Premiere CC. Premiere CC is an awesome program but  very complex with a steep learning curve.

We did have issues with panning  1K videos. There was significant lag between the pan and the edit window.

PC Upgrade

Our upgraded PC was geared towards 1K video editing (1080p) but we figured we would give it a try before upgrading to faster PC that could handle 4K.

Here’s our benchmark tests from October 2017.

Research revealed that editing 4K videos in Premiere was not that much different than the 1K videos we were currently creating so we were hopeful.

GoPro Session 5

The GoPro Session 5 works as expected and does a few things better than its predecessor  including seeing video while shooting. Switching the GoPro Session to 4K mode at 30 fps was straight forward.

We now have 2 Session cameras so we can fire up our secondary camera when the battery runs down.

For those that are not familiar with GoPro  Session cameras, they are sealed units so changing the battery is not an option. The Session 5 will shoot videos while attached to a battery pack so that’s another option.

Our First Surprise

We tried editing the videos in Premiere & it didn’t seem that different from 1K editing.

Our 1st attempt to open a raw file (mp4)  from the Session 5 only in something other a video editor. We could hear audio in Windows standard software but no video. VLC would show the video but it looked awful. Our problem was that our monitor didn’t support 4K so we upgraded once again. Truthfully, it was well past time for a new monitor.

We set up dual monitors using our old 1080p monitor as our secondary monitor. Interestingly it now will open 4K videos now that is tied to a primary video. It doesn’t look nearly as clear as our 4K monitor but it suffices for mundane tasks like email & web browsing.

Premiere CC 4K & Proxies

Editing 4K videos didn’t seem to be much worse than 1K but we figured we would make it as easy possible for our hardware with proxies. With proxies, we are effectively editing at 1K and publishing at 4K.

Proxies require an additional encoding step so it makes our work flow a bit slower but editing is much easier.

It still doesn’t fix our original problem with panning 1K video but that’s to be expected.

YouTube & Our Second Surprise

We were anxious to see our 4K videos on YouTube and checked as soon as processing was done. The available quality was a mere 360 p so we feared something was amiss in our Premiere setup so started reviewing the mp4s we were uploading. Everything seemed in order and a little research showed that 4K could take a bit longer to show up as YouTube has to generate videos for every resolution.

Eventually our videos did show up as 4K  but you still need a 4K monitor to see them.

 

 

4K worth the extra trouble?

Our main goal with 4K was to have extra resolution, hoping zoom and panning would be clearer. The jury is still out on that since we haven’t processed enough videos to make a definitive decision.

We still have our Session 4 so we could shoot the same scenes with 1K & 4K for a one to one comparison.  However the Session 5 only shoots 30 fps (frames per second) at 4K while the Session 4 shoots 60 fps at 1K so maybe it’s not a foregone conclusion that Session 5 video will be better. I could always slow down the Session 4 to 30 fps but our goal was to have better videos than the Session  4 provided.

Perhaps the fps only applies to changing the motion of the video. If

Movies Word On Stage Shows Cinema And Hollywood

that’s the case, we won’t see many changes since we rarely adjust video speed.

Without a doubt the files are much larger so we have to make accommodations in cloud storage.

The proxy files are also large but we don’t store those permanently since they can be regenerated. We did the same with huge GoPro Studio AVIs.

Troubleshooting Your Laptop Webcam

Troubleshooting Your Laptop webcam usually requires some research on the vendor’s site.

Case Study

Dell laptop – Inspiron 3721 purchased September 2013.

The webcam worked when running Windows 7 but failed later on when it was upgraded to Windows 10 in October 2015.

Client is in a remote location so we don’t have physical access to the machine.

Laptop History

Laptop had issues with Windows 7 so it was an easy decision to upgrade to Windows 10. The assumption was that the laptop had malware.

Webcam had worked at some point under Windows 7 but the laptop.

It’s unclear how much time has passed since the webcam worked but the Windows 10 upgrade was done in October 2015 (8 months ago).

Teamviewer Remote Access

We were able to connect to the laptop remotely and review the problem as well as create a live USB drive to boot into Ubuntu.

Troubleshooting Your Laptop Webcam

As expected, the webcam was not found when running camera.

The unusual part was that it was not listed in Device Manager under Imaging devices and nothing was flagged as not working or listed in Other.

 

Vendor Site – Dell

Our 1st inclination was that we needed a driver but found no reference of drivers for the webcam on Dell’s support. Apparently the laptop uses Windows drivers.

We updated BIOS & chipset but that had no effect.

Live O/S

It’s usually wise to get a view of the machine from a neutral Operating System.

We could have created a live Windows 8 or Windows 7 disk but  this is not as simple to do as creating a live Ubuntu disk.

Ubuntu

What is a Live O/S?

Using a live Operating System (O/S) doesn’t require you to install anything but rather boot into the O/S on some sort of removable media.

In our case, we used a USB drive.

Ubuntu has a Try feature that runs off the drive without impacting your current O/S.

We often use live O/S to recover files from a broken Windows O/S.

Troubleshooting Your Laptop Webcam with Ubuntu Cheese

Within Ubuntu we could open a terminal window (CTRL-ALT-T) and invoke the webcam via cheese.

The camera was not found with cheese either so it appears that the camera is broken somehow. maybe a loose connection.

Conclusion

In our sample case, the Dell laptop was diagnosed as having hardware issues since it exhibited the same problems using another O/S.

Webcam Video

Our recommendations were to use an external webcam supported by Windows 10 or have the laptop repaired.

Since the laptop is a few years old it’s probably best to use an external camera. An external probably has better specifications and it’s designed specifically for Windows 10.

Keep Your Data Safe With Secure Email

Are you using secure email?

This post is focused on secure email but some aspects like SSL and encryption apply equally to data in general.

  • With all the breaches in the headlines, it behooves us to secure our email.
  • Breaches expose client data that can be used to access your accounts.
  • Even if a hacker has your email account credentials, he may be unable to read encrypted email.
  • Email can be accessed by the unscrupulous in a number of ways.
  • Sending email without SSL is like sending your mail on postcards.

Think your data is safe?

Our focus is finding solutions that work for our clients with minimal intervention and/or setup.

Recent Breaches?

Fraud

These high profile breaches are a reminder that our data is not as secure as we would like.

Anything shared on the Internet is vulnerable to various types of snooping and hacks.

Email is no exception.

With the information gleaned from breaches, hackers may have direct access to your accounts if they uncovered passwords that you use elsewhere.

That’s why we suggest unique strong passwords  for every account.

Let’s investigate methods to secure our email.

How Difficult is it for Someone to Hack Your Data?

With folks getting emails on their mobile devices via Wi-Fi, it’s more important than ever to use secure email.

The best defense is to use encryption but that is not as convenient as we would like.

SSL email helps in most cases.

Otherwise your email is open to anyone that can sniff it out of the air.

That’s easier than you may think using attacks like Man in the Middle.

Hacking Methods Used

Once hackers have your information there are a number of ways to access your accounts.

With enough information, a determined hacker can gain access to your accounts.

  • Phishing – acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication
  • Man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) – attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other.
  • Session stealing (cookie hijacking) – exploitation of a valid computer session (session key) to gain unauthorized access to information or services in a computer system. … theft of a magic cookie used to authenticate a user to a remote server.
  • Keylogging (Keystroke logging/keyboard capturing) –  recording (logging) the keys struck on a keyboard, typically covertly.
  • Social Engineering – psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information
  • Hacking your computer – malware planted on your computer allows hackers complete access to your data
    • If a hacker has access to your computer you need to have it cleaned.

Doesn’t  SSL Secure My Email?

Using SSL for your email provides security between you and your email host.

Prior to SSL (Secure Socket Layer) emails were sent in plain text from your email client like Outlook to the host server.

Google’s chart below shows that most email to and from Gmail in the America’s uses SSL.

Volume of email to and from Gmail

SSL is helpful but it doesn’t keep anyone with access to the server from reading your email or necessarily guarantee that it will be transported to the recipient via SSL.

Client-side SSL is a step in the right direction but encrypting you email is much more secure.

Using SSL and SSL Email Setup?

If you want to check whether you are using SSL you can use Comcast’s guide to interrogate various email clients.

If you need to setup an email account to use SSL you can contact your provider or Google setup “Provider Name” email.

“Provider Name” is the provider who sends you a bill each month.

Implementing Secure Email

Secure Email

We encrypted email for our clients back in the late 1980s but it was tedious to setup and use.

Consequently, secure email was not considered a priority and seldom used.

We need encryption to ensure that sensitive email is not compromised.

This requires some inconvenience on the clients but it’s the best way to secure our email.

HIPAA Compliant Email

With the advent of the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) companies have become more security aware.

If you send sensitive email or work in the medical industry you may be required to secure your email or face penalties.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), sets the standard for protecting sensitive patient data. Any organization dealing with protected health information (PHI) must ensure that all the required physical, network, and process security measures are in place and followed.

Paubox article on HIPAA compliance

sending receiving email

Is HIPAA Email Encrypted?

Some HIPAA email providers like GoDaddy do not necessarily encrypt email in transit.

There is some debate on whether or not HIPAA requires email to be encrypted.

GoDaddy encryption has an add-on for HIPAA email. It’s an all or nothing scenario so all your mailboxes either get encryption or they don’t.

Likewise encrypted email isn’t necessarily HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA compliance requires partners to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA).

HIPAA Compliant Hosts

GoDaddy and other hosts offer HIPAA compliant email.

Host

GoDaddy was the least expensive of the providers we found using Exchange email.

HIPAA COMPLIANT EMAIL

HIPAA requires health care providers to ensure that their business associates will safeguard Protected Health Information (PHI). If you are interested in emailing with your patients, or sending any patient data through email, you need to be sure that your email is protected in a HIPAA-compliant manner.

OFFICE 365 FROM GODADDY HELP

Exchange

Some vendors offer HIPAA compliant email with Exchange like features.

In some ways, these email services may surpass Exchange by encrypting email.

On the other hand, why not get a service that is like Exchange when you can have Exchange even if it isn’t encrypted.

Encryption

You need encryption if you want to secure your email while in transit.

Encryption Key

HIPAA email providers using Exchange email do not necessarily encrypt in transit.

There are, however,  encryption add-ons.

Encryption uses PGP key pairs.

One key is shared with the public and the other is private.

Without the private key, your message is safe from prying eyes.

Generating Keys

Part of the challenge of setting up and using PGP encryption is the generation and tracking keys.

Security Key

The nomenclature is a bit confusing.

Key generators typically import private keys and export public keys.

Some key generators will export both public and private keys simultaneously.

Kleopatra

GPG4Win’s Kleopatra Interface is a bit clunky but works fine once set up.

Kelopatra

We did have issues with some public certificates generated in Kleopatra not working with Gravity Form PGP Extension.

Interestingly the Kleopatra generated  public key did not work with Kleopatra but did work with Gmail Mailvelope extension.

Importing the  Kleopatra public key into Mailvelope and exporting produced a working certificate for our server.

Mailvelope

Mailvelope Chrome extension easy to install and use.

Mailvelope

After running into issues with Kleopatra generated public certificates, we tried generating keys via Mailvelope.

Unfortunately, the certificates didn’t install well on Gravity Form PGP Extension.

Gravity Form PGP Extension requires a matching email address for a notification email and the Mailvelope public certificates displayed none.

Symantec Desktop Email Encryption

Symantec Desktop Email Encryption was the easiest solution to work with but expensive.

It works with Macs & Windows but not Linux.

Once setup outlook emails are decrypted automatically with no intervention of the user.

Secure Email

ProtonMail and Gmail send encrypted email these days but you lose that

Secure Email

feature when you send to an outside account.

Gmail is not HIPAA compliant.

Google Apps business email is HIPAA compliant.

Web Forms

If your website asks for sensitive information you should use SSL and encryption to protect that data.

Installation instructions for Gravity Forms PGP Encryption plugin

Gravity Forms and their PGP Extension  makes it easy to setup an encrypted form.

Gravity Form PGP Extension requires public keys and matching email for notifications to be send.

Decryption

When you send encrypted email you must decrypt to read it.

The following table lists software that handles encryption/decryption.

Recommended Software

Gpg4win

Gpg4win is a free solution for Windows Outlook users.

  1. Import private key
  2. Certify you will be able to
  3. Decrypt messages
    1. Open message
    2. click decrypt

Mailvelope

Mailvelope is a free and easy solution to implement for Gmail and Chrome.

This is the easiest solution if you are using Gmail and Chrome.

  1. Install extension
  2. Import private key
  3. Emails are automatically decrypted

Conclusion

  • Use SSL Email at very least.
  • Make sure your computer doesn’t have malware.
  • Encrypt email if you and your correspondents want the most security.
  • Use HIPAA email if you deal with Protected Health Information (PHI).

Best Home Small Business Printer

Best Home Small Business Printer

Best Home Small Business Printer – where do I find one? The problem these days is that there are too many choices.

While a color laser printer used to be out of reach for home and small businesses they can be had for a reasonable price these days.

The initial cost of the Best Home Small Business Printer is just the beginning.

Keeping them in ink or toner can be expensive.

Bells and Whistles for Best Home Small Business Printer

Adding to the confusion of finding the Best Home Small Business Printer is all the bells and whistles that are available.

  • WiFi
  • FAX
  • ADF (Automatic Document Feeder)
  • Ethernet
  • print-shop-quality color prints
  • laser-sharp black and color text
  • high-speed prints
  • multiple paper trays
  • monthly duty cycle (pages/month)
  •  auto 2-sided print/copy/scan/fax.

Wireless Printers

Wireless printers allows printing from tablets (e.g., iPad) and

smartphones (e.g., iPhone). Not all printers make this easy.

Some printers may require mobile devices to print to the cloud (Internet).

While this can be useful we want our Best Home Small Business Printer to connect directly to.

Some may require you to print to their cloud or allow popular clouds like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

Printing to the cloud may not be a concern if you have high-speed Internet but it might be a problem if you depend on a cellular data plan to upload the files.

There are also security concerns for uploading sensitive documents to the cloud.

Downs Consulting recommends a wireless printer that doesn’t require printing to the cloud. We prefer our Best Home Small Business Printer to print directly via WiFi.

Printing to the cloud is a nice feature but we don’t want all our print jobs to go through it.

Wi-Fi

Wireless setup sounds nice. In theory you setup your Best Home Small Business Printer anywhere you have

Wireless Connection

power and WiFi reception and you are “good to go”.

The printer forums are littered with complaints about printers connected or rather not connected via WiFi.

It’s common for WiFi to drop the connections. It’s similar to mobile phone connections.

Dropping a connection in the middle of a big print job could cause problems. Maybe you would have to start all over again after waiting minutes for it to enter the print queue.

The reality is that WiFi is not as dependable as an Ethernet connection.

Our advice is to use a wired connection if at all possible. This requires an Ethernet connections which some models may not have.

Ethernet

This is our preferred method of connecting our printer. We

can still use WiFi to connect to our mobile devices.

Downs Consulting recommends a networked printer that is not tied to a computer.

Many printers limit their functions if connected via USB.

Some printers may not have this capability.

Footprint and Noise

A noisy printer right next to you in a small office is no small intrusion on

your space.

Likewise, a huge printer is not going to very welcome either.

While there are plenty of small printers they tend to skimp on some features.

A small printer may be better for a Home user that doesn’t need all the “bells and whistles”.

When we settled on our Best Home Small Business Printer we still had to convince our office that we had room for it.

Printer Maintenance Costs – Ink & Toner

A major concern is operating costs. It’s common to see the ink/toner

replacement cost more than the printer.

Printers often come with starter

supplies that don’t last as long as the standard capacity.

Usually, you can find high-yield supplies that are a better buy in the long run.

It also saves on the aggravation of running to the store for supplies.

Some printers may refuse to work at all if one of their cartridges are low. This is particularly frustrating if you don’t need that cartridge for the job you have queued up.

New Color Inkjet printers can be up to 50% cheaper to operate than a color laser.

Review Sites

Review sites are a good place to start looking for available features, costs,

and buyer or editor opinions.

Preferably the  site has lost of reviews so the overall score can’t be skewed one way or another by a few one-sided reviews.

If there are not many reviews you may not get an accurate assessment.

Likewise, the site should not have a vested interest in the sale of the product and reviewers should be able to post sincere remarks.

A lack of disparaging or complimentary remarks could be a sign of bias.

 

Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is a great resource for buying appliances like this but you need a subscription to see their reviews online. They compile statistics on the main categories including maintenance cost, print quality, photo quality, and speed.

You can usually get a free trial for online or magazines. The magazines come with a buyers guide and is a good resource in itself.

The Consumer Reports interactive video below offers some good advice.  You can click on the sections you are most interested in.

Other Review Sites

Some websites like PC Magazine have editor and user reviews.

Amazon has good prices and user reviews.

Bad Reviews

No printer is perfect in every way and we found bad reviews on the best-rated ones.

Some bad reviews may have been from lemons or simply technical errors. Some may have had issues with their networks. Some may have been malicious.

Laser Printers

Since some inkjet printers are cheaper to run than a color laser we would

not recommend a color laser as a Best Home Small Business Printer.

If you are only concerned about printing text then you may want to consider buying a monochrome laser printer.

Text quality has long been the domain of the laser printer but even here  inkjet printers are competitive with text print quality and speed.

Inkjet Printers

For us, all roads point to a Multi-Function inkjet printer which is somewhat disappointing.

Just when the costs of color laser have become affordable, inkjet

Inkjet printer – Downs Consulting

technology has become competitive in all respects.

 

We shouldn’t complain since keeping up with multiple toners for the color laser is not a task we would want.

Inkjet ink itself is expensive enough.

Compromises for the Best Home Small Business Printer

 

If you find a printer that is perfect in every way then it is likely a budget breaker.

Consequently, you have to decide what’s the most important features you need and what you can do without.

Our Best Home Small Business Printer requirements:

  1. Network connection  using our LAN (local area )
  2. Print laser-sharp text
  3. Print color and text
  4. FAX
  5. Scan
  6. Low Cost
  7. Reasonable speed
  8. Reasonable maintenance costs – Save on ink or toner
  9. Multiple Paper Trays

Nice to have features

  1. ADF – Automatic Document Feeder
  2. Automatic 2-sided print/copy/scan/fax
  3. Easy printing from tablets and smartphones – Android, Apple & Windows products
  4. Fast print speeds
  5. Stunning graphics and images