Course planning: File identification tools

My current main project is creating a course to offer on Udemy on file format identification tools. As currently planned, I’ll cover file (the command line tool), DROID, ExifTool, JHOVE, and Apache Tika. Covering more than five tools in one course would make it too big, though I might consider changing the list. If I can keep my schedule, I’ll have it out in December for early feedback, giving me a chance to clean it up before MIT’s Independent Activity Period in January.

Right now I’m occupied with the mechanics. The course insists on 1280 x 720 pixel video, so I need a new camera; a friend is selling me a Canon Elph 520 HS cheap. Screen capture software is proving interesting; I’ve looked at three different Macintosh applications so far.

QuickTime Player has a little-known feature for screen capture, but it’s got problems. It doesn’t give much control over the specifications of the created video, and I don’t think it can create a video that meets Udemy’s requirements. I’m using a Zoom H2 as a USB microphone, and with QuickTime Player I get a weird kind of distortion, like a smeared echo of my voice, making the recording unusable.

Next I tried Debut from NCH Software. It’s considerably better than QuickTime Player, but it’s got too many bugs and quirks. To edit a video, I had to click Edit twice. The first time it brings up the VideoPad editor but doesn’t open the file; I had to go back to Debut and click Edit again to open the file. Worse, the colors in the video get washed out just by being opened in VideoPad. This makes the screen captures less readable. There are color manipulation tools, and maybe with enough work I could get something close to the original colors back; but if I cancel out of a color tool, I’m told that I have to either save my changes immediately or lose them — and if I save them, they include the change which I was just trying to cancel! Did I mention that NCH would like money if I use their buggy software for anything more than personal use?

Next I downloaded Movavi Screen Capture Studio. Its website has lots of cartoons and illustrations and a big “Download for free” button. It was only when I started the installation process and actually looked at the EULA that I saw it was a seven-day trial, would watermark its output and limit video sizes, and would cost me money to get an uncrippled version. That’s bait-and-switch, and I’m not biting. The web page does mention a price in small print if you scroll all the way to the bottom, but Movavi clearly hopes you won’t notice and that you’ll pay them after discovering that the free download is useless. It wouldn’t have taken any extra effort for the button to say “Download free trial,” just a gram of honesty.

Hopefully today I’ll find some adequate screen capture software, and I’ll follow up by letting you all know about it.

Update: I’ve just purchased IShowU HD, which is doing the job nicely for me. Don’t bother with the original IShowU. There are more expensive versions of the application, but I don’t need them at present. IShowU and IShowU HD are the same download; the difference is just which of its features are unlocked.

3 responses to “Course planning: File identification tools

  1. I like the sound of this course, will definitely sign up! Thanks for your hard work prepping.

  2. Sounds interesting. One possible modification I would make is to add FITS and briefly discuss the reasons behind identification conflicts.