All posts by Dave

How To Convert An Old Flash File Into A Video File In 2019

This blog post is about how to convert an old Flash file (.fla) into a video file (.mov/.mp4).

This blog post is NOT about how to convert an old .swf file (compressed Flash video file). I have left a small note about that at the bottom of this blog post.

Summary for the TLDR people

  • You will need to download and install trials of Adobe Animate and Adobe Media Encoder.
  • Open the old Flash file (.fla) in Animate, then click Export > Export video. This will then automatically launch Adobe Media Encoder (on an older computer be prepared to wait 30 seconds to a minute for Media Encoder to open!).
  • Choose the Format and Preset you want in Media Encoder, and then press the green triangle play button to encode.

Introduction

I had an old Flash file from 2003 I wanted to share with my friends. Given Flash is deprecated now I knew I wanted to convert the Flash file to a video file. Here is how I did it…

What you will need:
You will need a computer which you can install applications on. If you can’t do that on your computer, you will need someone to install the following trials on your computer for you:
Adobe Animate
Adobe Media Encoder

(Note: Once you install one of the above, Adobe Creative Cloud manager will be installed along with it. Creative Cloud has a one-click install functionality which is super handy).

How to convert an old Flash file into a video file

  1. Open the .fla file in Animate
  2. (You may get a warning like I did about the fact that your old .fla file uses ActionScript 1.0 which is no longer supported. In my case the ActionScript the Flash file used was so minimal that this didn’t stop me from being able to successfully export the file to a video file.)
  3. (If you have music in your Flash file it may not play when you export it to a video file unless you take the following steps…
  • Click on the first keyframe of the layer with the audio:
  1. Click File > Export > Export video
  2. Choose your Export video settings. I chose to increase the Render size because screen resolutions are much better since 2003! (Make sure ‘Convert video in Adobe Media Encoder’ is ticked). Click Export. On an older computer be prepared to wait 30 seconds to a minute for Media Encoder to open.
  3. What happens now is Animate will make a uncompressed .mov file of your Flash file, but you will still need Media Encoder to compress it into an .mp4 file.
  4. Once Media Encoder launches you will see your .mov file in the Queue. Before pressing the green triangle play button to encode, you will probably want to choose a Preset for your .mov file. Click ‘Custom’ under Preset which will launch Export Settings. Then click the drop-down next to Preset under Export Settings. Because I wanted to upload my video file to YouTube I chose the Preset ‘YouTube 1080p Full HD’. Click Ok.
  5. Click the green triangle play button to encode.
  6. Test your video file.

Converting an old .swf file (compressed Flash video file) into a video file

As I also had the .swf file as well as the .fla file, I did try converting my .swf file to a video file first. Truth be told, I tried a bunch of search results specifically for this (some freeware options, some dodgy-looking options that I would have rather not tried!) and none of the results were satisfactory for me. Some were able to convert the visual part of the Flash file but not the audio.

There is an official Adobe article on importing .swf files into Animate but there are a lot of limitations. But give it a try if you are desperate and you only have the .swf file.

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Best Browser Extensions In 2019 For Chrome, Firefox, & Brave

Writing a list of best extensions is a little fraught because they get discontinued or superseded at a pretty quick rate. But here are the browser extensions I recommend:

(If you spot any good extensions I’ve missed please let me know in the comments.)

Chrome/Brave

  • Decentraleyes: Privacy protection. Protects you against tracking through “free”, centralised, content delivery.
  • Fakespot: Find out if an Amazon product’s reviews are legit.
  • HTTPS Everywhere: Online security. Forces websites through HTTPS if it is available. A good one to set up on your parent’s web browsers.
  • IDN Safe: Online security. Spots spoof domain names.
  • LastPass: Password security. The best free password tool IMO.
  • Location Guard: Privacy protection. Protects you from giving away your exact geographic location to websites.
  • Mercury Reader: Distraction-free reading. Instantly transform long articles into a reading-friendly format. Useful when saving articles as well.
  • PixelBlock: Privacy protection. Blocks people from tracking when you open/read their emails in Gmail.
  • Privacy Badger: Online security and privacy protection. Blocks online trackers.
  • Push to Kindle: Send articles to your Kindle to read.
  • BONUS = The Signal Messenger in-browser version (Chrome App) is pretty great too.

Firefox

  • Decentraleyes: Privacy protection. Protects you against tracking through “free”, centralised, content delivery.
  • Facebook Container (if you are still using Facebook!) : Privacy protection. Isolate your Facebook activity so Facebook doesn’t follow you around the internet. A good one to set up on your parent’s web browsers. I wish this existed for Chrome TBH.
  • HTTPS Everywhere: Online security. Forces websites through HTTPS if it is available. Another good one to set up on your parent’s web browsers.
  • IDN Safe: Online security. Spots spoof domain names.
  • LastPass: Password security. The best free password tool IMO.
  • Location Guard: Privacy protection. Protects you from giving away your exact geographic location to websites.
  • Privacy Badger: Online security and privacy protection. Blocks online trackers.
  • Push to Kindle: Send articles to your Kindle to read.

(Notable omissions: I have chosen not to include any persistent personalised advertising-blocking opt out extensions. There are some available if you want to block that sort of thing.)

My letter to my MEP representative opposing flawed updates proposed to 2001 Copyright Directive

I am contacting you in advance of the committee vote regarding the proposed updates to the EU 2001 Copyright Directive to express my opposition to parts of it as they are currently being proposed.

It is my understanding that Article 13 of the proposal would see websites become responsible for filtering for any copy written material posted to their site. A complex process that thus far has not been solved perfectly at scale by any company e.g. YouTube. All I can see this doing is stifling start-ups and small websites through an approach to copyright which would seem to be contradictory to the founding ideas and spirit of the internet and World Wide Web which has seen the internet flourish in the way that it has.

I don’t agree with the unreasonable burden Article 13 places on companies. Would Wikipedia exist in its breadth, depth and accessibility today if it had been created under such a regulation? I personally doubt this.

This is not the only article that sounds problematic. According to vice.com, Article 11 of the process is also misguided. To quote from Karl Bode’s article (https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/a3aa5b/europes-new-copyright-rules-will-be-devastating-to-the-internet-as-we-know-it): ‘Spain’s implementation of this concept resulted in Google News shutting down in the country entirely, resulting in publishers actually seeing a notable decline in overall traffic.’

Thank you for hearing my concerns and I hope you will agree and express the same concerns to the committee, and vote against these proposed updates if they make it through to a parliamentary vote.

Yours faithfully,
Dave Underwood

What To Do If Your BiLiPro FootMouse Buttons Stop Working

Ok, let me be upfront first that this blog post may not solve the specific problem you are having. This is a description of the problem I was having with my BiLiPro FootMouse and the solution I discovered. If this doesn’t help you, I’m sorry and good luck with your search for a solution!

“Stop waffling and tell me how you fixed it”:

There is a small circular yellow button on the left side of the buttons panel (officially called the ‘FootButtons’). See the small yellow button on the left side of the FootButtons in this photo:

The button has the words ‘Push in To Define All Buttons’ above it. I found that when this was pressed in the Left Click, Left Double Click, and Right Click buttons all stopped working. Simply press it to make the button pop out and the buttons should start working again

Notes

This solution worked for me on a PC running the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (Windows 10 version 1709).

How To Get Great Long Form Journalism Sent To Your Kindle Automatically

Update April 9, 2019:

Since I first wrote this post Instapaper, the company that makes the product I recommend using to get long form journalism sent to your Kindle automatically, have made their product subscription-based. In short, getting the digests sent to your Kindle is now no longer free. However, if you are willing to pay for an Instapaper subscription, the advice below should still work.

Original post:

Introduction

These are my instructions to get great long form journalism regularly delivered to your Kindle e-reader. Fair warning: there is some work involved to choose the articles that you would like to read on your Kindle, so you will probably want to be a fan of long articles to justify the time doing this takes.

Using this approach, when you see a long form article online you will send it to something called Instapaper which will automatically send a digest to your Kindle once a week. In the Instructions below I suggest some good sources of new long form journalism for you to use.

Requirements

  • Access to Wifi internet
  • An Amazon Kindle that has been connected to the Wifi Internet
  • An Amazon account
  • An Instapaper account: https://www.instapaper.com. You may also want to download the Instapaper app for your phone/tablet, up to you.
  • A desktop/laptop computer that lets you click on bookmarks in your browser. A tablet should work as well but that’s just a guess.

Instructions

1. Firstly, you will need to find out your “send to my Kindle” email address. If you use Amazon.co.uk like I do, you should be able to find out the email address on this page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/mn/dcw/myx.html/ref=kinw_myk_redirect#/home/devices/1

2. Create an Instapaper.com account and log in to it. You may want to make your Instapaper Profile private unless you are comfortable with people being able to see what articles you are choosing to read: https://www.instapaper.com/user.

3. Get some good sources of new long form journalism. My preferred sources are the weekly emails from Longform.orgLongreads.com and Medium.com. Also by having an Instapaper.com account you can also choose to receive their weekly email which also has good articles.

Some other sources I like for good new long reads are:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Longreads
https://www.reddit.com/r/longform
https://www.reddit.com/r/indepthstories
https://www.reddit.com/r/Foodforthought
https://twitter.com/longform
https://twitter.com/Longreads
https://twitter.com/gdnlongread

Because the Instapaper digest is sent to your Kindle once a week, the weekly emails from Longform.org and Longreads.com in particular set you up with a good rhythm where those websites send you their favourite Longreads from around the web for that week and then you add them to Instapaper to read on your Kindle in your next Instapaper digest.

4. Add a ‘Send to Kindle’ button to your web browser. This is where things start to get a little technical but don’t worry, I’m going to step you through it all slowly. This button you are adding is technically a “bookmarklet”. Basically this means it’s like a smart bookmark. What you are going to do is create a bookmark in your web browser that, when you click on it, will send an article to Instapaper.

To set the scene, here’s approximately what it is going to look like on your bookmarks bar in your browser once you have set it up:

bookmarklet

To set up the Send to Kindle button, log into Instapaper.com and navigate to the ‘Settings’ page which is here: https://www.instapaper.com/user. Then scroll down the page till you see the button that says ‘Get Kindle Bookmarklet’ and click on it. You should then see the instructions to set up the button which will look something like this:

get-Kindle-bookmarklet

As the instructions say, drag the Send to Kindle button onto your bookmarks bar. If you can’t see your bookmarks bar you may need to make it visible. If you use the Google Chrome browser like I do you can make it visible by clicking the three vertical dots at the top right of the browser then clicking ‘Bookmarks’ and then clicking ‘Show bookmarks bar’ as shown in this image:

show-bookmarks-bar

In Microsoft Windows 10 you can also achieve the same thing by pressing Ctrl + Shift + B on your keyboard.

You should hopefully now have a Send to Kindle button on your web browser. To test it out, find a long form piece or a news article on the web and then click the Send to Kindle button. Once you’ve done that, navigate to this URL: https://www.instapaper.com/u and all things going well you should see the web page listed there. If you do, well done. Here is an example of my Instapaper homepage with some articles I have sent to Instapaper:

instapaper-screenshot

5. Set up Instapaper to automatically deliver a digest of your saved articles to your Kindle once a week. You may remember earlier in the Requirements I said you needed to have a Kindle connected to Wifi internet. You need this because this is how Instapaper will deliver its weekly digest to your Kindle. To set Instapaper up to send this digest navigate to this URL https://www.instapaper.com/user and scroll down the page to the ‘Kindle’ section.

In this section you will need to paste your “send to my Kindle” email address from step 1 of these Instructions into the ‘Your Kindle Email Address’ field.

Make sure that ‘Kindle Automatic Delivery’ is checked, like in the image below:

Kindle-automatic-delivery

Under ‘Delivery Frequency’ choose the settings which make the most sense to you. If weekly delivery appeals to you then set to deliver every week, the digest will arrive on your Kindle on the weekend.

MAKE SURE YOU CLICK ‘Save Kindle Preferences’ before you finish with this step!

6. Regularly add longform articles that you want to read on your Kindle by clicking on your Send to Kindle button. The articles will arrive regularly automatically:

Kindle

Enjoy!

 

Bonus advice

Q: What if the Send to Kindle button doesn’t work for an article?

A: If this happens here are three things worth trying:

1. On the Instapaper homepage, try clicking the ‘Add Link’ link at the top right and try adding the URL of the article you want that way.

2. If that doesn’t work, try entering the URL of the article into the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and once you have found the page in the archive try clicking the Send to Kindle button again.

3. If the first two suggestions haven’t worked, a final suggestion is to save the text of the article to a rich text editor, e.g. WordPad in Microsoft Windows, save the text to a .rtf file and email that file as an attachment to your “send to my Kindle” email address. You will want to use a .rtf file as your Kindle will then let you change the text size once you are reading it on there. To tidy up the text before you copy & paste it to WordPad I like to use the Mercury Reader extension in Chrome.

(Last updated: 15/April/2019)

How To Stop Windows 10 Collecting More Of Your Data Than It Needs To

Updated July 1, 2018: updated to reflect the slight changes to the Diagnostics & feedback settings following Windows 10 April 2018 Update (version 1803)

If you are someone who uses Windows 10, you may or may not know Windows 10 is sending a whole lot of data about your computer back to base including potentially your personal files.

In Windows 10, under ‘Diagnostic data’, is a setting for how much of your data gets sent back to Microsoft. To get an idea of just how much data Microsoft is grabbing, it is only on the lowest setting called “Security” that “No user content, such as user files or communications, is gathered“.

If you are a Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Professional user (you can find out what versions of Windows 10 you have by searching for ‘System Information’) you will not even get the option of setting the data grab to Security: for Home/Pro users the lowest setting you can go down to is Basic. What a lot of people don’t realise is Home/Pro both default to Full, the highest possible setting for hoovering up your data.

For Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Professional users, here are the steps to change your system privacy settings down to Basic:

1. Click in the search bar at the bottom left of your screen and type in “Feedback”
2. Click ‘Feedback privacy settings’ under Best match
3. When the ‘Diagnostics & feedback’ window appears, you should see a section called ‘Diagnostic data’ which has two radio buttons, one for ‘Full’ and one for ‘Basic’. Click the radio button next to ‘Basic’.
4. Nice job! You have now changed your system privacy settings. The section under ‘Diagnostic data’ should now look like this:

Capture

 

One Of The Central Problems With Facebook

A great post from John Battelle. (As Rand Fishkin commented: “I’m both afraid of the time suck & unwilling to subject myself to the obligation of the feed.”).

Excerpt from Hey Facebook: Put Your Users In Control:

But unlike me, most of my true friends put a lot of care and feeding into their Facebook pages. It’s become a place where they announce important milestones, like births, graduations, separations, deaths, the works. These insanely important moments, alas, are all interspersed with random shots of pie, flowers, cocktails, sunsets, and endless, endless, endless advertisements for s**t I really don’t care about.

Taken together, the Facebook newsfeed is a place that I’ve decided isn’t worth the time it demands to truly be useful. I know, I could invest the time to mute this and like that, and perhaps Facebook’s great algos would deliver me a better feed. But I don’t, and I feel alone in this determination. And lately it’s begun to seriously f**k up my relationships with important people in my life, namely, my…true friends.

I won’t go into details (it’s personal, after all), but suffice to say I’ve missed some pretty important events in my friends’ lives because everyone else is paying attention to Facebook, but I am not. As a result, I’ve come off looking like an asshole. No, wait, let me rephrase that. I have become an actual asshole, because the definition of an asshole is someone who puts themself above others, and by not paying attention to Facebook, that’s what I’ve done.

That kind of sucks.

Read the full post: Hey Facebook: Put Your Users In Control