PapaJohn's MM2.1 Corner – Sub-Minimalist Testing

Some have the latest, biggest, newest, best computer and all the other equipment to go with it… but then there are zillions like me who have something less. Typically it’s not the leaders of the pack who are using Movie Maker; it’s many of the zillions. So I dusted off an older laptop for some sub-minimalist testing. I’ll summarize the results as I go.

Test Computer

6+ year old Dell Inspiron 3200 laptop. I got it new for a good bit more than $3,000… how time changes things for the better! Today it’s a test unit only.

Basic specs: 267 Mhz CPU, 144 MB RAM, 4 GB hard drive with 1.6 GB free. The minimums required by MM2.1 are 600 Mhz, 128 MB RAM, and 2 GB of free hard drive space… so I’ll be pointing to my below-minimal system as the core reason for any problems I experience during testing… until I learn more.

That’s fine. If I had the super system with no problems, I wouldn’t learn as much about limitations and work-arounds. I don’t know what I’ll bump into but I’m off and running.

Off and Running

To get off to a clean start, I reformatted the hard drive, installed XP Home from an orginal disc, then added the new SP2 to get to Movie Maker 2.1.

All of the installation processes went smoothly and the computer runs better than it ever did. The only extra thing I had to give it was a driver for a Linksys WiFi card. And of course added a couple basics like Norton AntiVirus and Belarc Advisor

A totally clean system, a minimal install and a good start… let’s see what happens from here.

8/17/04 – today’s testing showed that the whole system froze at certain points: put a BMP or JPG picture, or a DV-AVI video clip, on the timeline and try to preview the project (previews OK with just WMA files on the timeline). Trying to play the sample.asf file that comes with Movie Maker in WMP9 freezes the system. The consistent thing is that the freezes are so total that I need to press the off button and do a cold reboot…. shades of older versions of Windows.

The work-around is the same as it was with MM2.0…. turn down the hardware acceleration to the third notch, disabling Direct Draw and Direct 3D accelerations, as well as all cursor and advanced drawing accelerations…..

I guess the 6+ year old system isn’t up to handling those accelerations.

8/18/04 – today’s test was to make a project using a mix of some common file types….. DV-AVI, JPG and BMP files on the video track, and WMA and MP3 files on the audio/music track.

I rendered the project to a ‘best for this computer’ WMV file, and to a DV-AVI file. No problems rendering either file type or playing the saved files in the Windows Media Player (version 9). Today was a positive one in the minimalist testing corner.

The properties of the ‘best for this computer’ WMV file are a total bit rate of 1,660Kbps, and a video size of 720×480…. not too shabby for the sub-minimal machine.

8/20/04 – I don’t have anything bad to report… today I rounded up all the clips in the collections, put them on the timeline and tried to render a movie. The DV-AVI option said there wasn’t enough room on my hard drive. I agreed and told it to use the best quality for the computer.

With 4-1/2 minutes of video and still image clips in the project, along with 4 WMA audio files and an MP3 for good luck…. the overall project was 16-1/2 minutes… the visual stopped at the 4-1/2 minute mark and music continued for another 12 minutes beyond that. No editing, no special effects or transitions…. just a batch of clips.

After a few minutes of thinking about it, Movie Maker estimated the rendering to be done in another 132 minutes or so…. I turned my back on it and turned to my other computers for some higher priority work (playing with a new Creative Zen Portable Media Center).

A couple hours later, the rendering was finished and the movie played back perfectly.

I did note one tidbit for those who would rather read about problems. I had unplugged the PS2 mouse a few days ago as the computer was locking up with it…. I hadn’t installed the driver for it… figured I’d let XP with SP2 figure out how to work it. Today before rendering the test movie, I plugged it back in and it worked fine. But the mouse pad is diabled when the PS2 mouse is connected, and re-enabled when it’s unplugged….. but no crashing/freezing with the mouse. I assume that lowering the hardware acceleration the other day resolved the mouse clashing issues too.

I’m thinking about checking for a newer video driver to let me turn the acceleration back up…. not looking yet, just thinking of looking.

8/23/04 – I started another blog today about the Creative Zen Portable Media Center that I’m testing…. and I need another computer running WMP10 beta to test it across two computers. So I installed the latest beta on the old Dell laptop. The install went fine.

I plugged the Zen in and WMP10 and it offered the sync mode options, as expected… see my blog about the Zen for that story…. I didn’t accept either sync option, but while it was waiting for my decision, I copied one of the video files from the Zen to the Dell’s hard drive.