Archive for Entertainment and Leisure

Half Off Corel VideoStudio Pro X4 Video Editor and DVD Maker

For longer than I can remember, I have been using and recommending Corel’s VideoStudio Pro package for excellent, affordable, and easy-to-use editing of digital video and for making your own DVDs.

Corel never rests in their efforts to keep these product competitive, modern, and up-to-date with the latest home video standards. The latest version, VideoStudio Pro X4, is no exception.

At its regular price of $100 it is still a great buy, but currently you can acquire this software for half that, $50.

VideoStudio Pro X4

VideoStudio Pro X4

Corel VideoStudio Pro X4 is the powerful, creative and easy way to take your video footage from shoot to showfast. Quickly load, organize and trim SD or HD video clips. Easily cut together your production from templates and get creative with amazing effects, music, titles, transitions and more. Explore new Stop Motion Animation and Time-Lapse tools, then export to 3D! Share anywhereon iPhone and other mobile devices, disc, your favorite website or your TV. …

Iron Man 2 on Blu-ray and DVD today

Iron Man 2 Blu-ray

I used to read comic books. Admittedly, I still pick one up and flip through the pages to see what’s going on with some of my favorites.

One favorite has always been Iron Man.

I loved the first Iron Man movie. I probably saw it at least 6 times in the theater. I bought the DVD shortly after it came out… and I was waiting for it to come out, too.

I didn’t think the second one was as good as the first. The first one was good enough to make up for it, I guess. I was concerned the filmmakers wouldn’t work so hard on the second one. It’s easy to do when then first was so successful.

Regardless, Iron Man 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD today. Both can be bought with digital copies for your computer or laptop. You can use the links here to take advantage of the great prices at

Iron Man 2 Blu-ray

Iron Man 2 Blu-ray

Iron Man 2 DVD

Iron Man 2 DVD

DIY Green Screen Photography (Save 20% from Skylarking)

We’re all aware of the use of computers and blue-screens to add backgrounds in the movies and television shows we watch, and — thanks to low-cost digital computers and cameras — now anyone can add fantastic backgrounds to their own photos, and the key is Green Screen Wizard. This software is great for the hobbyist or the professional.

Green Screen Wizard is a software and photo package that makes it easy for you to do professional Green Screen Special Effects (also known as “ChromaKey Effects”) with your camera and computer. And, as they say, it’s as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Take a picture of someone against the provided 5’x7′ portable green screen backdrop
  2. Transfer the picture to you computer
  3. Match the picture to a provided background, and Green Screen Wizard does the rest.

Green Screen Test Drive. The basic trial package of Green Screen Wizard costs $79 for the next 4 days. But Skylarking readers can take 20% off ANY PURCHASE at GreenScreenWizard, where it’s easy to get started producing green screen effects for photography and video! Enter GSPP20JUNE during checkout.

The 20% off code expires on 6/30/10.

Green Screen Lite includes:

  1. 5×7 Popup Screen
  2. 20 Magazine Covers
  3. 120 Backgrounds in six collections

Magazine BackgroundsUpgrade. Maybe you’re a professional or semi-professional events photographer. If you decide you like the trial package and you want to do more, you can apply $50 from your trial package purchase towards an upgrade. The full package is available as a digital download for $99, or you can have the physical package shipped to you for about $170.

Their standalone photography software runs on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. They also sell Photoshop Plugins that run on Windows and Macintosh computers.

Affordable Digital Video Editor and DVD Maker

With all the personal digital video recorders available today from cell phones to Flip Minos to digital camcorders and cameras, you’ll eventually wonder if there’s a simple way to edit your videos, and maybe even share them on a CD or DVD.

Learn more about Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2

My personal favorite for editing digital video and making DVDs and editing video on my T-Mobile G1 and iPhone has been Corel Video Studio series. Truth be told, it’s called Video Studio Pro, but don’t let the word “Pro” make you think “difficult to use”. Corel’s VideoStudio Pro X3 is very easy to use, and as verstaile as you’d want it to be. Futhermore, it’s very reliable and Windows 7 compatible.

With VideoStudio Pro  x3 you can:

  • Import video from camcorders and DVDs.
  • Edit and convert to all the popular formats such as MPEG, Windows AVI and WMV, and MP4 which works on iPods and iPhones. This makes it easy to carry short home movies on your video capable iPod.
  • Edit and convert video for sharing on YouTube.
  • Burn to DVD and CD in standard resolution or high definition (HD).

Download your 30 day free trial version of Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 today! Give it a try!

TigerDirect Deals

Skylarking is gearing up for Black Friday, but you can get an early start with these home entertainment and computer specials from TigerDirect.

SONY BRAVIA HDTVs w/FREE Blu-Ray Player.- (11/9 – 11/16/09) or while supplies last!

sonyset1SAVE $545 – FREE SHIPPING – Sony Bravia II 40″ LCD HDTV KDL40V5100 w/ Sony BDP-N460 Network Blu-Ray Disc Player Bundle $954.98. I’ve been wanting to get one of these network blu-ray disc players. Hook them up to your home network to stream movies, videos, music, and more right off the Internet from Netflix, YouTube, and more. Plus you can also play and upscale your standard DVDs to near high definition with this player.

sonyset2SAVE $650 – FREE SHIPPING – Sony 52″ Bravia V LCD HDTV KDL52V5100 w/ Sony BDP-N460 Network Blu-Ray Disc Player Bundle $1,599.98. One more foot of viewing space on your screen with fantastic Sony Bravia features. Too many to list, and, once again, the same great network Blu-ray player as before.

sonyset3SAVE $750 – FREE SHIPPING – Sony 55″ LCD HDTV KDL55V5100 w/ Sony BDP-N460 Blu-ray Disc Player Bundle $1,799.98.

BEST SELLERS.- (11/9 – 11/16/09) or while supplies last!

  • SAVE $40 – FREE SHIPPING – AOC 20″ Widescreen LCD Monitor with 1680 x 1050 pixels of resolution, a 3000:1 Dynamic Contrast Ratio for crisp images with sharp black and white. Has a VGA connector for use with any PC or notebook. All yours for $109.99.
  • SAVE $20 – FREE SHIPPING – ACER Aspire Desktop with an AMD Athlon 2.6GHz processor, 2GB of DDR2 RAM (memory), a massive 320GB hard disk drive for storing all your files. All powered by Vista Home Premium. $249.99. This computer is eligible for a free Windows 7 upgrade, too.
  • SAVE $200 – FREE SHIPPING – HP Pavilion dv2 Notebook with an AMD Athlon Neo 1.6GHz processor, 2GB of DDR2 RAM (memory), a 250GB hard disk drive (storage) with an external DVD-RW (rewriteable DVD burner). The screen measures 12.1 inches. Comes with Windows Vista Premium $549.99 after $50 MIR, rebate expires 01/16/2010. Plus you can get a Windows 7 upgrade for this machine.


    Gateway Win7 Notebook $700

  • SAVE $90 – FREE SHIPPING – HP Pavilion G70 Notebook with an Intel Core2Duo T6500 processor with a 2.1GHz clock speed, 4GB of DDR2 RAM (memory), and 320GB of hard disk space. A large 17 inch screen tops it off. With Windows Vista Premium (64-bit) This is a refurbished unit for $579.97. Upgrade it to Windows 7 while you’re at it.
  • SAVE $150 – FREE SHIPPING – Gateway Notebook Intel Core2 Duo T6600 2.2GHz processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM (memory), a 500GB hard drive for storage, and a large 17.3 inch LED screen. Equipped with the Microsoft Windows 7 Premium 64-bit operating system for a mere $699.99.

Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Shop Pink Ribbon products from!For the entire month of October, has set up a special Breast Cancer Awareness Store. If you buy any of the 2 dozen or so products, a portion of the sale will go to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. I’ve highlighted a few items here from companies that are making the highest contributions. Additionally, Skylarking, Skylark Webworks and Skylark NetWorks will be donating 10% of its proceeds for October to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation at the end of the month. Click the links or the photos, and you’ll be taken to’s Breast Cancer Awareness Store. The links also let them know you came from Skylarking.

Buy for the Cause! Shop for Pink Ribbon products from’s Breast Cancer Awareness store! Expires 10/31/09

Verbatim 320GB USB Portable Hard Drive - Pink
Verbatim 320GB USB Portable Hard Drive – Pink
: $8 of each sale is going to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. This small lightwight portable hard drive holds more than some computers do, and its just a little bit bigger than your cellphone. Compatible with Mac OS 9.x, Mac OS x10.1 or higher, Windows 200, Windows XP, Windows Vista. With Nero Backitup 2 Essentials for Windows. It’s yours for only $81.24, and shipping is free.
New Era Anaheim Ducks Hockey Fights Cancer Women's Adjustable Hat
New Era Anaheim Ducks Hockey Fights Cancer Women’s Adjustable Hat
: 10% of the hat proceeds go towards Hockey Fights Cancer (HFC) and the National Hockey League (NHL) is matching 10%. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hockey Fights Cancer, and this hat is officially licensed by the NHL. The hat is yours for only $15.59 including shipping.


All year round eBags contributes 10% of the retail sales price of qualifying products to the Denver affiliate of Susan G. Komen For the Cure.

Knomo Siena 15.4

Knomo Siena 15.4

Baekgaard Laptop Tote

Baekgaard Laptop Tote

Baekgaard Mini Notebook Checkbook Cover

Baekgaard Mini Notebook Checkbook Cover

Nike Reversible Gymsack SMU

Nike Reversible Gymsack SMU

Roxy Girl pepper

Roxy Girl pepper

American Tourister iLite XL 21 Rolling Expandable Upright

American Tourister iLite XL 21 Rolling Expandable Upright

Diane Von Furstenberg Studio Jacquard 25 Wheeled Suitcase

Diane Von Furstenberg Studio Jacquard 25 Wheeled Suitcase

Royce Leather Leather Garment Cover

Royce Leather Leather Garment Cover

Mobile Edge

Mobile Edge is a proud corporate partner with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Mobile Edge donates 10% of the retail sales price of each Komen Laptop bag sold back to the Foundation.

Mobile Edge Komen Paris Computer Backpack - Backpack - MicroFiber - Black

Mobile Edge Komen Paris Computer Backpack – Backpack – MicroFiber – Black

Mobile Edge Komen Pink Faux-Suede Tote

Mobile Edge Komen Pink Faux-Suede Tote

Komen ECO Tote for notebooks up to 16 to 17 screens

Komen ECO Tote for notebooks up to 16 to 17 screens

Mobile Edge Komen Milano fits laptops with screens up to 15.4 (Pink Faux-Croc) - MEMCXS

Mobile Edge Komen Milano fits laptops with screens up to 15.4 (Pink Faux-Croc)

Komen Geneva Microfiber Tote for up to 15.4 (black/pink leather trim)

Komen Geneva Microfiber Tote for up to 15.4 (black/pink leather trim)

Mobile Edge Komen Pink Suede Tote Case

Mobile Edge Komen Pink Suede Tote Case

As if that wasn’t enough, here are three more items for you to consider.

A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors
A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors
: Fifty cents of each book sale will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This book contains the stories of 50 breast cancer survivors. Covering tales of diagnosis to chemotherapy, facing hair loss and possibly the loss of a breast. Support the cause with this book for only $9.59. Stories are medicine for the soul.
Susan G. Komen 4GB Portable USB Flash Drives (2 x 4GB)
Susan G. Komen 4GB Portable USB Flash Drives (2 x 4GB)
: Portions of the proceeds of the sale of these flash drives will go to the Susan K. Koman for the Cure Foundation. These drives from PNY are USB 2.0 compatible for your PC or Mac. The great thing is the caps are integrated, so you don’t have to worry about losing them. Yours for only $27.49 with free shipping, or pay and extra $5.49 and get 2nd Day Express Shipping. They could be in your pocket next week.
Nathan Quickdraw Plus - Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
Nathan Quickdraw Plus – Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
: 5% of proceeds go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This 22 oz bottle is great for short runs or hikes, working out, or for running errands. It also has Scotchlite reflective trim for visibility. It has an adjustable handstrap, and a zippered pocket. The side of the pocket is adorned with the symbolic pink ribbon for the cause. Yours for only $22.11 including shipping.

There are more items to choose from, so Buy for the Cause! Shop for Pink Ribbon products from’s Breast Cancer Awareness store! Expires 10/31/09

What’s with External Blu-Ray Drives?

Grammatically speaking, I am not too certain about that headline, but subjectwise I’d like to thank “Reel Advice” from the “Reel Advice Movie review” blog for commenting on my Sept. 4 post about the Portable DVD and CD Drive for $40. They said:

Pretty nice deal for a portable drive but I will wait for portable Bluray drives before buying one of my own!

For me, Blu-ray wasn’t a consideration because I don’t have any Blu-ray discs — data or video — except for one or two accidental purchases, Superman II and Iron Man, which I have long since sold on eBay. Additionally, I bought the Lite-On ETDU10896 External Slim DVD ROMicon from purely for installing software and transferring files to computers other than my own. The other consideration was price. I didn’t want to spend more than $60 including tax.

But Reel Advice’s comment made me go back and search for portable blu-ray drives all the same. The results were interesting… for a while.

External Blu-Ray Drives

External Blu-Ray Drives

It turns out there are only two External / Portable Blu-Ray drives out there under $100 from “major” manufacturers: The LG BE06LU10 Super Multi Blue and the Panasonic UJ-120, but, for the most part, they are not available for “retail” sale; they’re pretty much “OEM”. OEM is “Original Equipment Manufacturer” which means they are for purchase by computer manufacturers. So if you are not an equipment manufacturer, and you buy one of these drives, and something goes wrong with it, you won’t be able to get any support from the manufacturer. (I had that happen once with an OEM motherboard I bought. There was a retail version available, but the OEM version was cheaper. Sadly, when I had trouble with the motherboard, I couldn’t get any assistance. I lived with it. Buyer beware, etc. I should have known better.)

So you can’t go to Best Buy and get any of these drives now, but they are available through other sites online.

One such site,, had a nice list of requirements for the Panasonic UJ-120 to work properly on your PC. Here’s the run down from their site:

  • Required software is not included.
  • This will function fine with your existing DVD and CD viewing and recording software.
  • To watch Blu-Ray movies, you will need HD capable software such as PowerDVD 8 Ultra, PowerDVD Suite 6 or ArcSoftTotalMedia Theater.
  • To use the drive as Blu-Ray player, your system needs to meet the following requirements:
  • Operating system: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or better or Windows Vista
  • CPU: Core Duo or Core 2 Duo systems are generally compatible with Blu-ray disc drives. If your PC has a single processor (e.g. Intel Pentium 4), it should be at least 3.2 Ghz or have an AMD Athlon 64 FX games model, or an Intel Pentium EE Edition.
  • Memory: At least 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics card: This is the important part! You will need an nVidia GeForce 7600 GT or higher or an AMD/ATI X1600 or higher. You will need at least 256MB graphics memory and your card should support HDCP. Contact the manufacturer directly or visit their site for video adapter specifications if you aren’t sure whether your graphics card is HDCP enabled. You may also want to confirm that you have a graphics adapter driver version which supports Blu-ray discs (AMD/ATI Catalyst 6.7 and higher or nVidia ForceWare 93.71), and download the latest driver if necessary.
  • We know this list of requirements is intimidating. You’ll often be covered if your computer is a fairly recent model. We attached the USB 2.0 Blu-Ray drive to our Dell XPS M2010, installed the PowerDVD 8 Ultra and had no problem at all viewing a Blu-Ray movie.

Good points.

Vista System Properties

Vista System Properties

If you’re interested in seeing if your Windows (XP or Vista) computer meets these requirements, do the following:

  1. On the desktop, right-click on “My Computer”. A list a ppears. (Alternately, you can go to the “Control Panel” on your Start menu, then double-click “System”.)
  2. Click “Properties”. A system properties dialog box appears.
  3. On the screen you will find information for your computer’s “Operating System”, the “Processor” (CPU), and “Memory (RAM)”.
  4. Click the “Hardware” tab (XP) and/or “Device Manager”.
  5. Double-click “Display adapters” to see what graphics card you have. (You may have to do some research here to see if your card meets the requirements on the list above.)

And if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me here at Skylarking.

Play your PC’s Music, Photos, and Video on your TV

I don’t know about you, but I am still waiting for the TV and the PC to come together without having to go out and buy a new television. In earlier articles I have discussed ways to connect your PC to your TV, and though wireless is popular, I prefer wire whenever possible.

WD TV HD Media Player

WD TV HD Media Player

Photos and Videos naturally lend themselves to television, but how, oh  how, to get them from the computer to the TV without having to burn a new DVD? And, as earlier, without having to buy a new TV with some of this capability already built-in.

Enter the “Western Digital TV Hi-Definition Media Player” or the “WD TV HD MediaPlayer” for short, and is selling Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player – Refurbished units this weekend for only $85 with free shipping! Regularly this media players goes for $125 new.

HDMI Connector

HDMI Connector

Composite A/V

Composite A/V

This little box connects to your TV via HDMI (left) or Composite A/V (right). If you have an HDTV you may already have a HDMI connector. HDMI allows you to connect audio and video with one cable. If you don’t have HDMI, then you can always use the Composite A/V connections on your TV. Most TVs sold in the last ten years have this connector. You’ve probably seen a composite audio-video cable before with its familiar yellow plug for video, and the red and white plugs for audio sound.

Next you can take an external USB drive with any digital music files, digital photo files, or digital video files on it, and connect it to one of the two USB ports on the WD TV HD Media Player. If you’ve got more than one USB drive, then go ahead and connect one to each of the USB ports. If you have more than two, then you can always switch drives at will to access the content on each of the drive. Western Digital says the media player works best with their own ‘My Book’ and ‘My Passport’ external USB drives, but will work most any USB storage device for that matter.

screen-videoOnce you turn on the media player (and your TV, too) then you will be presented with some beautiful navigation screens to access the media files on your drives. Thumbnail images are shown of your files as shown in the picture at right.

Western Digital has also included some software to convert your photos and videos to a format that works best with the media player. Don’t worry about altering your files. Just connect your external USB drive, and have the software create optimized copies of your files on the external drive while leaving your originals untouched.

And its easy ot navigate through your files with the WD TV HD’s included remote control. And who doesn’t need more remotes in their TV room? … 😎

The box supports full high definition 1080p image presentations through the HDMI connector. When connected to your TV with the composite A/V cable you’ll get standard, non hi-def video playback. Plus, you can play non-HD digital content, too. (Digital and hi-def aren’t synonyms.)

As you can see the box is quite small, and can easily be transported from room to room or place to place, so you can take your media anywhere you go.

You can read more about the WD TV HD media player on Western Digital’s web site. Have I sold you on this device? then go to and get your Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player – Refurbished now! I’ll be there getting mine, too. Check back with me if you’re interested in my opinion.

And if you don’t have an external USB drive for your files already, then check out these USB drive deals from, too: Western Digital 320GB My Passport Essential USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive – Cool Silver ($80), or the Western Digital 250GB My Passport Essential USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive Refurbished ($60).

Video: Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party

A friend of mine shared this time lapse video link with me over the weekend. The video was posted on Vimeo, a video sharing web site.

The video shows a band of stars which make up one of the “arms” of the Milky Way galaxy — our galaxy. If you live in an urban or suburban area then it’s not likely you’ve seen it at night. Light pollution from street lamps, buildings, and homes wash much of the star light overhead, but if you are able to get far enough away from the cities (or find yourself in a massive night-time blackout) then you could see an arm of the Milky Way. I once saw it myself while camping at camp Epworth upstate in High Falls, New York in the Catskills, two hours outside of New York City about 30 years ago. Now there are two many lights even in that area for this sight to be seen. These photos were taken at Fort Davis, Texas which is about 8 hours from Dallas and 6 hours from San Antonio.

The video is comprised of a series of 810 photos taken with a modified Canon EOS 5D 12.8 MP Digital SLR Camera.

One photo was taken every 40 seconds over a 9 hour period. The shutter remained open for 20 seconds during each shot. The photographer, William Castleman, used a special “anti-alias (AA) filter” which allowed more red light to enter the camera. Specifically the type of red light emitted by stars and nebulas. He used a Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens which allows a wide field of view — 180 degrees in fact. He mounted the camera on a tripod and attached an external battery. Exposures were 20 seconds at f/2.8 ISO 1600.

Other equipment used by the photographer included:

He then processed the photos using Adobe Photoshop and created the video using Apple’s Quicktime Pro, and then editted the video using Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9.

Canon EOS 5D

Canon EOS 5D 12.8 MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Canon Fisheye EF 15mm f/2.8 Autofocus Lens

Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens

Canon TC80N3 Timer Remote Control

Canon TC80N3 Timer Remote Control


Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 (Windows)
Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 (Mac)


Apple Quicktime Pro


Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9 Platinum Pro Pack

Got a story to share? Have a question? Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with Skylarking’s email form.

Resounding Flop

Oh, well.  Last week’s free Netflix offer went exactly the opposite of what I expected. I’m not quite sure where it went wrong.

When I offered to send a coupon for a free month of Netflix to everyone who subscribed to Skylarking by email last week, I expected to be swamped with subscribers. Well, maybe not swamped, but I expected I would be quite busy emailing coupons out at some point over the weekend. Specially when I saw my offer being retweeted on Twitter on two separate days.

Sadly, I ended up not having to send out a single coupon.

In some cases people subscribed, but never confirmed their subscription when the validation email from Feedburner arrived. I emailed these people directly, and had some of the emails I sent out bounce back with a “user unknown” failure.

Overall, I was looking to get maybe 50 to 100 new subscribers to Skylarking. I figured some of those subscribers would cancel their subscription after they received the coupon, and I was okay with that, but I received less than 30 new subscribers who either never validated, or the address they submitted was “user unknown” by their email service.

Fortunately, my subscriber drive was not a complete flop. I did pick up a handful of new subscribers by RSS feed, and I did note an increase in clicks on the feed, too. I am thankful for that.

Anyhoo (not a typo), I will try again.

Got a story to share? Have a question? Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with Skylarking’s email form.