Thursday, September 26, 2013

The perils of freeware

Over on LinkedIn, I recently posted a link to a post from Amped's blog in a group dedicated to audio and video forensics. One of the group's members, after accusing me of being an Amped employee (I'm not), went on to note that he's been doing everything that FIVE does for years, using freeware tools like Virtualdub and Pmod. So, I thought, can I work on .pqz files with Virtualdub? Here's what I found when I went to the main Virtualdub web site:

"It lacks the editing power of a general-purpose editor such as Adobe Premiere, but is streamlined for fast linear operations over video. It has batch-processing capabilities for processing large numbers of files and can be extended with third-party video filters. VirtualDub is mainly geared toward processing AVI files, although it can read (not write) MPEG-1 and also handle sets of BMP images." Thus, I'll need to either find or write filters to extend the capability of Virtualdub to work with proprietary file types like .pqz. So I clicked on the third-party video filters link, which displayed the following: "I've decided that I don't have the time or energy to hunt down and maintain a list of all the current video filters available for VirtualDub, so I've appointed Donald Graft as honorary filter website maintainer. You can find his own filters, and a comprehensive list of other third-party filters, at: http://neuron2.net/"(don't go there unless you want to be attacked).

There's lots of links to choose from in no particular order. But, I discovered a big problem on the A/V Links page (other tools and filters), the site tried to load a java script exploit to compromise my browser and gain access to my computer. Thankfully, I have a decent firewall and AV solution, so it blocked the attack.


Therein lies the problem for me. I'm not the greatest when it comes to scripting on my own, nor do I have the time to attempt the many different things I do with a scripting approach, so I'll have to find these scripts on the web. Like searching for codecs, searching for scripts from unknown sources is dangerous. If you're not familiar with scripting - you're launching a program or extending the functionality of a program (script) on your machine. Heck, just getting to the page with the list of scripts was problematic for me - the page automatically launched an attack on my computer.

Thus, I don't like the hassle - so I choose commercial software. As I need to be able to reproduce other experts' work, I tend to have a copy of just about everything from the horribly expensive (MATLAB) to freeware like ImageJ.


So just because its free, doesn't mean it's without cost. Make sure you're well protected before going off into freeware script land.

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