July 2008 Archives
July 31, 2008
There’s a bit of a craze going on taking £280 Advent 4211 subnotebooks from PCWorld and hacking them to run Mac OS X 10.5. You have to open them up to swap out the WiFi card, and there are sound issues, and the screen is still small, and and and… Advice thread here.
Very tempting. I was playing with an early EeePC the other day and found the keyboard basically unworkable; the 4211/Wind looks like it’s much better in that department, though the battery life isn’t great.
I’d be entirely happy with a Linux subnotebook, but for two things: iPhoto and iMovie. Kvatch.
Lovely dinner last night with Rosie and George, the schedule for their new flat (woohoo!), their wonderfully expressive greyhound Neela, and exactly 391 pictures of Ecuadorian monkeys.
They’ve been in the rainforest for the last two months.
Not with the dog. The dog was being pampered with fresh linen sheets and fluffy towels in a dog hotel somewhere (that’s what they’re like, right?). And they didn’t take the pictures to show the monkeys in the monkey sanctuary, that would be pointless. The pictures came out of the…
Oh, look, they’ve been caring for monkeys. In the jungle. For a while.
I… may be a little confused.
Perhaps it was the 391 pictures.
July 30, 2008
This is just amazing:
(via Mike Sizemore, who has far more eloquent things to say about it than I could, so I’ll shut up.)
I just completed an online survey about my use of Final Cut Studio, for Apple software research. It doesn’t appear to be under any sort of NDA, so I guess I can pass on what I found interesting:
Most of the questions were routine profiling stuff - trying to get a picture of the range of uses to which I put the products. Describing myself as dissatisfied with Soundtrack Pro and Qmaster led to additional questions asking me why, that sort of thing.
But a whole batch of questions were about review processes, and how I seek feedback and signoff from my clients. Do I send them DVDs, put Flash video on a webserver, or send them tape? Do I get feedback via email, phone call, or annotations on the web video?
Oh, please please tell me that Final Cut Studio 3 — presumably coming next year, and a significant rewrite to Cocoa/64bit if it’s going to be Snow Leopard-native — will include some sort of work-in-progress review module. That could rock.
At the moment I’m cobbling together simple websites with Flash movies for my clients to view. It works, but I’d love:
- That process to be automated from within Final Cut.
- My clients to be able to scribble annotations directly on the video
- To be able to load those annotations into Final Cut as timeline markers.
That would be sublime.
Given an either/or choice between this and Soundtrack Pro actually, you know, working, I’d plump for the latter without hesitation. But would it be wrong of me to ask for ‘both’?
“I remembered to put sugar in it this time,” said my mum, as she handed a steaming mug of tea to Flossie.
Wait — yesterday Flossie drank a mug of tea with neither sugar nor complaint?
“Yes. I often drink tea without sugar, if I haven’t any to hand.” She confessed this in a remarkably matter-of-fact tone, considering my ensuing horror.
Every relationship is based on trust, on certainty, on specific immutables. In our case: how we, respectively, take our tea. And now I discover that Flossie has been lying to me all along.
If she’s deceived me about — of all things — tea, how can I ever trust her again? How can I be sure that she likes fish, as she claims?
And if tea and fish are in doubt… well, frankly, what’s left?
The key line, as Ben notes, is:
“Financial consultant Richard Bedard, who had handed her £127,000 to pay for “legal things”, insisted he still believed in her.”
This is key not because:
“He claimed a CIA agent had assured him the money really existed.”
No. That’s just gullible. We could all fall for that.
It’s key because he apparently believes she has $4.6×1033 per person on the planet.
July 29, 2008
Wait a second — the Guardian have a photo retrospective of Carol Vorderman’s career, and it doesn’t include anything from How2? For shame!
Every now and then, I like to start a rumour that’s entirely fabricated, in the hopes that it will turn out to be legitimate after all. Thus:
I hear on the grapevine that Wolfram are looking at building out an iPhone version of Mathematica. The idea of something the size of a pocket calculator being able to do hard-core algebra is exciting enough, but there’s a kick in the tail here — apparently, the front-end on the iPhone can be made to talk to a back-end running on a Mac Pro or indeed any Mathematica grid. Wooohaa!
One significant problem is that the App Store isn’t currently configured for products costing in excess of £2,000.
I ended up doing a whole bunch of sessions at the BIG Event last week, but undoubtedly the most fun was a bunch of us pratting around with a range of demos outdoors. My bit, with Elin, involved dangling my mobile phone off a kite in a valiant attempt to take a group photo. We failed, but somehow that ends up being less important than the attempt.
Here’s the rig and first attempt, from the ground:
And the result of that:
So here’s the second attempt, in which we were shooting video:
Anyone still interested can see our very first kite video attempt, shot last year, on SciCast: here.
July 28, 2008
The thing that most impresses me about the trailer for the next Bond film?
The colouring. Flat-out amazing, in every shot. Beautiful.
- No mic jack. Again. Gaaah. Wired lapel mics are less than £35 and allow you to shoot basically anything. Strap ‘em to a broom handle to make a cheapskate boom mic — background noise rejection and wind handling suck but everything else rocks. Without a mic jack you can shoot a single-person midshot only; anything else and the audio is pot luck.
- Shooting from the hip is often more pleasing than shooting from eye level. The Flip’s handling and vertical view angle preclude this. Looks like the Zi6 might have the same problems. Drat.
But here’s the biggie:
- low light performance?
The Flip excels here; my otherwise-brilliant Canon FS100 sucks in poor light. 720p from a device as small as the Zi6 implies very little sensor area per pixel, which in turn suggests rubbish low-light performance.
The genius of the Flip Ultra is surprisingly subtle. It doesn’t do anything brilliantly — it’s that it does things ‘well enough’, in a wide enough range of circumstances, that you don’t notice it and just get on and shoot video. The ‘wide range of circumstances’ includes, critically, low light conditions.
At the moment the only review of the Zi6 I can find is this largely content-free post at Crunchgear which says the quality is ‘pretty good.’ What does that mean? I’ve no idea.
I guess we’ll have to wait for Andy Ihnatko to review his unit, when it arrives.
Brilliant project. I was suggesting to the assembled (who mostly run science visitor centres) that they run this on massive screens behind their reception desks. Though I think to be really effective in that circumstance it’d need:
- Profanity filtering. Family audiences, folks.
- Scrolling view, à la Twistori.
…the latter because there’s something mesmeric about watching the world stream past you. Humbling, is what it is. Frightening, perhaps.
July 21, 2008
I’ve just heard Hamish Mykura, head of documentaries at Channel 4, on The World at One, discussing Ofcom’s findings following complaints about the film ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle.’ He was proclaiming that while Ofcom found the programme in breach of the Broadcasting Code with regards to reflecting a range of views, it did not find that it ‘materially misled’ the audience.
As Mykura well knows, that’s not how this game works. In fact, I’d suggest that it’s both misleading of him and a misrepresentation of Ofcom’s position to present its findings in those terms. To quote Ofcom directly:
Whilst Ofcom is required by the 2003 Act to set standards to ensure that news programmes are reported with “due accuracy” there is no such requirement for other types of programming, including factual programmes of this type.
That is: Ofcom haven’t ruled on the factual accuracy of the programme, since they don’t believe they have the power to. Which makes sense, actually — public service broadcasters have a responsibility (requirement, actually) to reflect the views of minority groups in society. Including anthropogenic climate change-denying scientists, I suppose.
The Code relating to misleading the audience is explained thus:
“Ofcom is required to guard against harmful or offensive material, and it is possible that actual or potential harm and/or offence may be the result of misleading material in relation to the representation of factual issues. This rule is therefore designed to deal with content which materially misleads the audience so as to cause harm or offence.”
To paraphrase: the test here is whether the film-maker was trying to offend the viewer. That’s a very high standard indeed.
It’s worth reading the Ofcom ruling in full, actually. It’s very subtle, and a lovely example of a regulator walking a tightrope between criticising broadcasters for being arses, and avoiding setting precedents that might have freedom of speech implications.
But their findings are not a vindication of the film, as Mykura appeared to be claiming. Ofcom did not find evidence that the film set out to cause harm or offence, but that’s all one can say.
My opinion remains that it was a nasty little film of twisted logic. Bad journalism; arguably good TV; wholly irrelevant to the wider global warming debate. I’m slightly surprised that so many people took it so seriously, particularly those who think it supports their position. What, they suddenly believe the rubbish they see on television?
That’s a bit selective of them, isn’t it?
July 16, 2008
This story reminds me why I left O2 in the first place, and went scurrying back to Orange. I’m far far far more keen on having an iPhone than whatever the current model of N95 is when my Orange contract is up in September, but I can’t begin to express how much I wish Apple had done the exclusive deal with anyone other than O2.
July 10, 2008
Bad: It’s larger than I’d expected. Dinky, but not truly pocketable. Performance in low light is poor to very poor; indoors during the evening, I’d wager on ‘dreadful.’ The lens is rather too long, so while the microphone actually isn’t too bad, by the time you’re standing far enough away for a pleasingly-framed shot it’ll be next to useless. There are also some bizarre quirks, like having to plug it into the mains while it’s connected via USB, and there being no way of telling it the USB connection has been broken.
However: it works rather nicely with iMovie’08 (it ‘just works’), it has a microphone input jack (wooohoo!), and the trick with pushing headphones not quite all the way into the AV-out socket seems to work, more-or-less.
So… actually, I quite like it. Yes, it’s limited. The picture quality is roughly on a par with a Flip Ultra — a little better in good light, I think, but on cursory inspection noise seems less well-controlled as the light drops off. It’s more flexible, however, having a microphone jack and a proper zoom lens.
My current camera picks, then, are:
- ~£100: Flip Ultra
- ~£200: Canon FS100
- £500-£700: Canon HF10, HG10, HV30
There are compromises associated with each of these. But so long as you know what they are, you can still make a perfectly decent film with any of them.
I’ll shoot a proper comparison review in the next couple of weeks, putting the Flip, Busbi, and FS100 against my old miniDV camera and a PD150.
Back when ranting about wannabe editors, I noted the Newtek Tricaster, and said:
“$8,000? This is going to get killed as soon as hardware catches up.”
Looks like that’s next month: BoinxTV.
July 8, 2008
Clearing out some browser tabs:
Many moons ago, I did a summer job working in computational chemistry research. Here’s the abstract and catalogue data for the paper that came out of that work. Would have been nice if they’d got my name right. Tsk.
This is just lovely. I miss the days when computers booted into command prompts, and within half-a-dozen lines of BASIC you could be drawing dots and lines on the screens. Many happy hours were spent with my Amstrad drawing Sierpinski gaskets, for example.
iMovie’08 supports more cameras than I’d expected. Here’s the list.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a hoot. But if you’ve seen the film, you really should read this abridged version. Viciously brilliant.
In a similar vein, I thoroughly enjoyed playing my way through Bioware’s fabulous Mass Effect, and subsequently found this fanfiction skewering priceless. Though if you’ve not played the game, Bioware’s previous work, or watched a raft of mostly British SF over the years, the references might escape you.
Speaking of British SF: I finished watching Blake’s 7 last night. Blimey. It’s still astonishingly, dreadfully bad in so many respects, and yet… mighty fine too, in its own way. Bleak.
Pretty! Lots of lovely stuff about Kuler, also from Veerle. I never quite understand how the Adobe that came up with Kuler is the same Adobe that came up with the Creative Suite Update Installer Installer Update nightmare.
I’m a geek about many things, including aeroplanes. Flossie is also a geek about many things, including barnacles. Happily, there’s little overlap between our geekdoms, and hence little conflict. However, we did idly wonder what might happen if we found the mid-point between our geekeries.
/usr/share/dict/words, the mid-point of ‘aeroplane’ and ‘barnacle’ is ‘aortectasis.’ Handy to know: luckily, neither of us is a medic.
RelatedMail — plugin for Mail.app that shows you messages related to the one you’re reading. I haven’t yet been brave enough to install it, but it looks like it might be dashed useful.
That’s enough for now.
You know that scene in Shaun of the Dead, where Shaun walks to the corner shop and fails to notice that everyone around him is either dead or zombified?
I think that just happened to me in the local Co-op.
Glasgow can be a funny place, sometimes.
July 7, 2008
Apparently my previous post — a crass comparison of video editing to wood turning which singularly failed to ape the style of Comrade Coombes and was spectacularly poorly-punctuated — was last week reproduced on the back of a meeting agenda circulated amongst post-production staff at BBC Scotland.
Comments on the blatherings: none.
Luckily, the text wasn’t attributed. For once, I’m happy to have my CC license badge (right column) ignored and my material plain ripped-off, even by the BBC.
July 1, 2008
Sometimes editing video is rather like carving wood.
The woodcarver starts with a blank form, a lump of tree that suggests… something. They might see it, in their minds eye, as a suggestion: a shadow or ghost. Or they might, in a flickering glance askew, glimpse the finished article.
But it’s not there. Not yet. It must be revealed… or found.
So one sloughs away the outer layer, the detritus that has played its part, of supporting the essential internals. Sloughs and hacks and chops and lops and cares, hoping and trusting that the process will clarify rather than obscure.
Until… there! Do you see? No? No!
More. Invert. Rotate. Walk around, return.
There. Definitely there.
More digital celluloid sawdust hits the cutting-room floor, and the work is revealed.
And now we finesse, and polish, and seal.