String camera mount / stabilizer

stand on the string and pull up to stabilize your camera

you might look at some string and say, “that will never make my camera more stable!” but it can. and with a bit of tinkering and practice you’ll find that it can improve your chance of getting a shot in crummy lighting conditions compared to a hand held shot. the length of string you need will depend on how tall you are. hold the ball of string letting it out until it hits the floor, double it, then add 2-3 feet more. next tie two loops into the ends. put those loops on the bolt with a washer, add another washer then use a nut or wingnut to tighten it down. attach your camera.

to use it step on the string using both feet then pull up to make the camera more stable.

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Bottle Cap camera mount

testing it out

bottle caps are all the same no matter how large the bottle is. some energy drinks have a larger cap that supposedly makes drinking faster. either will make a neat universal camera mount.

1/4″ bolt 3/4 to 1 inch long
1 washer
1 nut

put a hole in the cap from a bottle. it doesn’t matter if it’s came from soda, water, juice or tea. all the caps are the same size. you want the hole so the bolt fits snug. if you make the hole too large use another cap. once you have a perfect hole install the bolt, add a washer and tighten it down with a nut. use your fingers to tighten it and when it won’t move anymore your done. you don’t have to get this super tight to work.

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you can put the cap on a bottle that’s full then twist the camera on. DO NOT over tighten the camera to the mount. to avoid wobble and vibration from pushing the shutter use the cameras self timer to take the picture.

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Last call for Kodachrome

it’s now or NEVER!

there is only one place to develop film left and December it’s over
a year ago less 1% off Kodak film business came from Kodachrome
but it’s been “being turned off” for the better part of 20 years!

what is so special about Kodachrome

it’s the only film of it’s type
developing is an additive process
most BW film removes particle from the negative
archival stable
blue has a 10% loss after 185 years.
think “steam punk”
it looks different from anything else I’ve seen
you can look at a slide and KNOW that it’s Kodachrome
because of the additive development process you can see it
looks like textures
part of it’s beauty is that
it’s slow film
you have to project it
it’s a bitch to make a print from
very forgiving film
it has a range of 8 stops
meaning you can botch the exposure and still get a good looking image
what about OLD film?
it has a room temperature shelf life of 8 months
most photographers froze their stock
old film as long as it was store properly will work today
reports of stock from 1991 reported to look great
the song
mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
simon and garfunkle
this came out when I was kid
I was 8. that was 1973
guess it has been uneconomical that LONG!
I stopped shooting with it because it was expensive to buy and develop
E6 was something you could do in your own dark room!
it was slow
I was kid, I was impatient.
took weeks to get rolls back
what’s next?
there are still some very pretty film alternatives
list goes here
where to get your last rolls
your local camera shop
check your bag.
old film is stable. don’t pay too much though.

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essential apps for a new Mac

we got a message which came from google voice that read:

what the hell is an America Pro? it certainly isn’t anything running in DC (or AC)! meaning the robo knows something we don’t or it completely lost the translation. fortunately the robot captured the voice allowing everyone to understand the question.

as the caller stated, there are hundreds of “essential” lists of software that you should run on your Mac. but before I get to the list I want to suggest that you just use the Mac like it came out of the box. don’t add this or that and the other thing until you know what it does by default. it turns out that you can do lots with a Mac without adding a single application, do-dad, hack, or enhancer.

below is the list of stuff that we have to have on a Mac otherwise it feels like we’re missing an arm. keep in mind that this isn’t really a list of everyone’s essential. while Craig and Kenji like password managers John doesn’t. Kenji uses TextMate while John prefers Text Wrangler. so have a listen to the audio and follow the links below as they are in the order of the show.

turn on spaces then install hyperspace to make it even better.

move the dock from the bottom to the right or left. of you like the screen bottom get rid of the shiny dock using this command:
defaults write no-glass -boolean YES; killall Dock

some people like Craig have a hard time with the Finder either because it’s clunky, it’s weird or it’s missing functionality. pathfinder is an alternative that overcomes many of Finder shortcomings.

if you squint you can see that the three programs that make up iWork ’09 are actually the same program just retooled to do specific tasks. which the trio does very well. if you have a hate affair with Power Point than Keynote will be your new best friend. Numbers will roll very nice looking things that won’t much resemble spreadsheets at all even though it’s the way it works. and Pages does layout for ink on paper documents.

find out what app is phoning home with little snitch
who’s hogging the CPU? istatmenu will tell you.
get backed with cronosync, super duper, backblaze, and dropbox
Wacom Tablet
Shuttle Pro 2 Black
text mate
text wrangler
css edit
cyberduck or transmit

type and creator utility for Snow Leopard. there are two: LaunchCodes and Magic Launch

flux looks like something we will have to talk about in the future.

a batch renaming tool is better handy to have around. these can help organize your pictures, help you with animations, hard code dates or times to file names and other things you might need to rename. there are lots of renamer programs: renamer4mac, renamer, ABetterFinderRename, namemangler.

don’t forget that automator can do lots of renaming for you and it works well. it does most of the common renaming tasks. you can even stack renames to get more complicated renames. an example using it is to the right.

QuickTime 7 (for OS X 10.6) or update to Pro for other places

password managers like Password Wallet or 1Password can help your brain get around having to remember very secure passwords.

hashapass helps you make master passwords.

snap and drag is a screen shot tool that Kenji likes.
or upgrade the default Command Option 4 by setting a specific folder for screen shots to go to using this Command Line incantation:
defaults write location /Full/Path/To/Folder

xscope is a “tape measure” for the screen.
layers is a screen shot tool that captures every element putting each into a distinct Photoshop layer.

ROT13 use to translate:

guvf vf na rknzcyr bs EBG13 va npgvba.

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these are Jordan’s RAW notes. we’ll see if we can get a regular article out of all of this as a follow up.

from the E3 trade show floor

3D Games – What's not to love? Plenty.
    Sony moving toward a full lineup of 3D games
        Killzone 3 – Very impressive.
        Gran Turismo 5
        Crysis 2
        Tron Evolution
        NBA 2K11
        Sony's Master Plan
            Downside? Those damned glasses.
    Microsoft – no announced 3D?
         So if it can do it, then why didn't they talk about it?
    Nintendo – The clear winner?
        3DS. No glasses on a handheld!? Astounding.
        Odd(poor?) marketing strategy with the DSiXL…
        Remake of N64 titles in 3D.
            Star Fox 64
            Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
            Mario Kart 3D
        New games
            Kid Icarus: Uprising
            Pilotwings: Resort
            Animal Crossing 3D
            Paper Mario 3DS
        No Pikmin 3 announced?

Your body: The new controller
    Nintendo leads the way, years ahead of its competitors. But is the wii better?
        Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword using 1:1 with Link's sword.
    Microsoft renames Natal to Kinect
        Lots of launch titles, no controller.
        People definitely look silly playing it.
        Voice recognition.
        Kinectamals. Reminds me of Seaman for the Sega Dreamcast. Even used the voice feature to issue commands.
            Fun Fact, Leonard Nemoy voiced the narration for Seaman.
            Where is the playing with the kid demo? Is that what Kinectamals is now?
    The Playstation Move
        Lots of integrated games
        Similar to the wii motion plus
    Lots of new dance games and Fitness games.
        Kinect isnt compatible with your couch. WHAT?!

Sequels Sequels Sequels.
        The Force Unleashed 2
        InFamous 2
        Crysis 2
        Portal 2
        Trine 2
        Super Scribblenauts
        Fable 3
        Gears of War 3
        Killzone 3
        Dead Rising 2
        Dead Space 2
        Kane and Lynch 2
        The list goes on.
    I wanted to see more new IP's. Nothing innovative comes out of sequels (usually)
            "Burnout with Guns" – "Bulletstorminess"
        Twisted Metal
            Yeah its a reboot but whatever it might as well be an entirely new franchise

Arcade titles looked very good.
    Downloadable games under 20$.
    Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
    PixelJunk shooter 2
    Blacklight: Tango Down
        Particularly good looking multiplayer only arcade game (FPS) with a 15$ price tag.
        It had a very interesting emp grenade mechanic that was essentially a fog grenade.
        And if it hit you you saw a blue screen because goggle computer had to reboot.
Sony announces "Playstion Plus".
    Subscription fee, similar to xBox live. This is after they said they would never charge for online access.
Some good quotes of the week:
    Shigeru Miyamoto talking about Nintendogs + cats:
        "So you know, cats are interesting.  They are kind of like girls. If they come and talk to you it's great. But if you try to talk to them sometimes it doesn't go so well."
    Kevin Butler had an amazing moment in the Sony press conference. Hes very funny.
        "Being a gamer means to have a huge TV in an one room apartment."
        "Staying up till 3am for a trophy that isn't real…. but it is."

Mobile gaming not a big presence at the show. Mostly consoles/PC.

Random things that I forgot to mention:
    Portal 2 Portal 2 Portal 2.
    The new
Jordan's top 5 Game related things he saw:
    The 3DS really was impressive beyond belief. A must see.
    Bulletstorm – Finally a FPS that doesnt take itself seriously.
    Portal 2 – GLaDOS is back with a vengeance… huzzah!
    Star Wars: The Old Republic "hope" trailer
        Don't tempt me to return to MMO's!
    End of Nations – The first MMORTS that I've seen.. and it looks amazing.

Jordan's top 5 general convention highlights:

    A squad of "chinese" troops marching through the lobby.
    Capcom's zombie cage, with both a tattered zombie man and a skimpily clad zombie woman.
    I saw Verne Troyer (mini me from Austin Powers) playing Madden 11'
    I met Gabe Newell in the Valve room.
    Racing babies in the new Babysitting Mama game… truly weird.


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H3J (aka HTML5 CSS3 & Javascript)

HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript is a promise that the industry is embracing right now with the idea that these “standards” will help deliver content in a better way. by better way it should be said, “without Flash.” or something like that. because of that mindset H3J would be a better name. pronounced “hedge”. mostly because the world is hedging a bet about how wonderful it’s going to be compared to Flash.

H3J goes beyond markup. and it’s more than layout, pretty fonts, and slick animation. those features are all part of making a better user experience. a more workable “application” can drive business, readership and loyalty. it’s a lot of features that we’ve seen before in technology like SVG, Shockwave and VRML. what comes around comes around.

here’s a summary of all the H3J features in a handy “power point like” slide show that was in fact made with the very technology.

one of the powerful things about “web” compared to “application” is that there is nothing to install by the user end. they somehow find the page and start using it after making an account then logging in with the password “password”. it’s been a while since we’ve heard the cries of “I don’t like plug-ins”. mostly because developers have stopped making them. instead “web applications” have gravitated toward what the stock browser can do with add-ons that can come from permitted code running in Javascript.

do I have to use Javascript? ugh. hurt me you say! for a developer the early days of developing using Javascript was heinous. it wasn’t easy ways to debug the code you were writing. sure you could leave yourself bread crumbs or push results to a gather script on a server. but it wasn’t much fun. but these are not an excuse any longer. in fact, it’s such a an old outdated cry that it usually it comes from somebody who hasn’t touched any of today’s modern tools have all of these functions. so get over it already. we will cover tools in-depth in future conversations. blow up water slides

there was a discussion about how open or not open H3J really was in the blogosphere. it was interesting backlash about the Apple HTML5 demo because it was specifically targeted to demo using Safari. while others found ways around this requirement to find that other browsers faired okay when running the pages. but this will always be a problem just like it’s been with supporting IE, FF and Safari for years.

so H3J is about video, audio and other content that is open right? and killing Flash? so before you torch up to march against you have to ask what’s not to love about Flash? just because it doesn’t run on that thing doesn’t mean it’s crap. Flash still has a place. there’s possibly more games available that run in Flash compared to any other player. and lots of advertising demands the programability of Flash for reporting stats and behavior. so just like how Windows XP won’t die Flash has a long, long life left.

the discussion of video and audio being close/open is a whole talk. in fact we did that for Video Compression. but it boils down to one thing: if content producers are extorted money because they used a specific CODEC they will re-encode their content into a different format post haste. because ultimately the person watching the video doesn’t care what format it’s delivered in any more than they care what studio is distributing a movie or show.

H3J extends what has been missing from HTML and offers features that will go beyond “a really cool demo.” H3J has lots to offer. we think there is lots to like here in a way that make sense. here’s a list of all the functions that you might enjoy coding someday. don’t try to learn it all at once!

Canvas Text
HTML5 Audio
HTML5 Video
Multiple backgrounds
CSS Animations
CSS Columns
CSS Gradients
CSS Reflections
CSS 2D Transforms
CSS 3D Transforms
CSS Transitions
Geolocation API
Web Workers
Input Types
Input Attributes

HTML Music Notations


google Font directory
drum kit
graph kit
canvas clock
New Canvas Examples
Body Copy Examples
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Video Compression

Video compression is an art as much as it is a science (and a lot of math). the rules change with each CODEC. this means the tweaks and setting that worked for Cinepak did not work with Sorenson won’t work at all for H.264. we’ve had to to reinvent our settings with each new technology.

rules of compression

    GIGO or in other words always compress from the best source possible
    don’t automatically make your settings BEST or LEAST
    try the default settings first before making other changes
    set minimum system requirement and stick with it.
    better audio will help very compressed video “look better”
    you have to test it and look for errors
    it will always take a long time.
    never point out compression mistakes to other people.
    no whining about how bad it looks

it was to the compressionist to find the sweet settings for the specific content. and sometimes theses settings were counter intuitive. for example Cinepak worked better at higher data rates with virtually no keyframes Sorenson actually had improved image quality as compression increased (to a point) with software determined keyframes. compression tools often work differently when dealing with specific compressors. they may have settings that will help an image for one CODEC but not another. this was always true of previous version tools.

some things never change about compression. video that doesn’t change significantly from frame to frame will always look better compared to fast pans over grass. video that has lots of short cuts will look soft compared to long takes.

modern compression tools like HandBrake, FFmpeg, MPEGstreamclip, QuickTime Export, and Microsoft Media Encoder will do a remarkable job using default settings. in fact the tweak controls are hidden by default. you don’t get to change the temporal or visual compression settings. and maybe this is a good thing because it used to take days to dial in perfection.

video will always take a long time to compress. and maybe it will never get faster. compression complexity increases because CPUs can handle the job. meaning its still a good idea to setup automation for handling your compression. this forces you to use settings templates which in turn increases consistency. and it means you aren’t baby sitting a machine waiting to cue the next job.

hardware helpers can help speed your compression along. there has been a solution for every CODEC from Cinepak to MPEG1/ MPEG2. it’s a fact that you can never have it go faster enough. for H.264 the Elgato Turbo264HD can significantly speed up your work. it won’t be instant but it will be significant reduction in time. this is especially true for old hardware. in fact you would see similar performance if you compared notebooks 2006 with 2010 as the brains are in the dongle freeing the CPUs to do things like editing. of course there are tradeoffs. video that is compressed quickly may not look as good as video that is compressed more slowly because it has better scalers or uses multi-pass compression. but this has always been the tradeoff in doing compression work. and while we can recommend possible solutions it’s ultimately to you to discover if the workflow is a solution or a bug.

Andy Beach wrote a book called Real World Video Compression which covers all the tricks to get the best looking video that goes beyond selecting the Export to Web… function in QuickTime Pro. you can read the blog about it and you can buy it here.


Push Eject needs a new MacBook Pro because his old PowerBook is old. he wants to know how he can sabotage it so it looks like is borked, kaput, done in a way that is hard to fix. the fix cannot be “sink it with your coffee” because then it’s intentionally damaged. 

note from John: this is all in fun. but here’s the thing. old hardware is old hardware. there’s a point at which it needs to be upgraded. it’s costing everyone time. and we all know what time equates to. but even more important is that new hardware makes employees happy. that thousand dollar MacBook or HP Envy is lots cheaper than giving raises. and new things are taken care of while old things are just the target of abuse. run a happy company and stuff doesn’t “just break.” just sayin.

most of the time the company you work for won’t upgrade your computer as long as it’s working. never mind that you’ve used it for the last 5 years. never mind that it’s 3 versions back. hell Vista has come and gone since you got your last computer! the problem is that you’ve tried to justify a new shiny but your “they” won’t budge. so you’re stuck with it until it just doesn’t work anymore.

the computer can’t look like it was done in by the likes of you. it has to look like it “just gave up.” it’s old so it’s possible. but you also have to be aware that some companies can easily justify getting something repaired but getting something new is impossibly hard. 

there are two ways that this can go down and you have to pay attention to this because IT people are smart people. you may have enough computers in the company where people are on staff who’s JOB is to fix problems. or you may have a “computer guy” who does stuff who is really busy with lots of problems. he won’t try very hard to fix your machine so you won’t have to go to great lengths to get new hardware. but the other guys aren’t so easily tricked.

I had to deal with an employee that wanted a new PowerBook. the person complained about it being slow, it crashed for no reason and it was a constant problem. the problem was that when it was tested none of the problems seemed to actually happen. one day it showed up broken. the screen was separated from body. it was pretty clear that it had been intentional dropped. it might have been when he gushed about how a backup had just been made that gave him away. he used one of the desktop Mac’s while I figured out what to do. instead of ordering a new Mac I got parts instead. new screen clutches got purchased from eBay that day and I made the repair soon after. the screen metal on G4 PowerBooks is epoxied together rather then screen so it wasn’t a clean replacement. it required JB Welded to get it back together. but it matched the color of the metal so it wasn’t completely ugly. the Mac worked seemed to work much better for the person after that.

in either case you need to know one thing: what happens to the computer? is it is going away, away, is it used for parts, do machines get fixed instead of replaced. even if you might get to keep using it for something else don’t act too interested in it’s future. but knowing it’s future will help you determine how drastic you have to get with it’s demise.

you can start by complaining. show a clear case that against the hardware: it crashes, it’s slow, I can’t run XXYYZ, the version I need to run doesn’t run OS installed but the new OS doesn’t: support my hardware, video card, PCI bus. show that it’s costing the company money. or make a case that new hardware will help you do your job better. “I’d like to take an online class but my hardware doesn’t support it.” “if I had After Effects CS5 we could save 5 hours a week.” “I’m late on this because the render time is really long.” old hardware can cost your company money. so it’s in everyone’s interest to keep employees happy with newer hardware.

so let’s say that making a case for new hardware didn’t work. it’s time to consider more drastic actions. the worst thing you can do is show up for work after you’ve been bugging about a new something with a borked something. everyone will assume that you dropped it (like my story above) or some other intentional malicious action. you need to be smart about what action you do take. DO NOT try to take apart a computer if you’ve never done it before. DO NOT let somebody else try to do it for you if they don’t do “computers” for a living. you will do more damage than you intended.

a better option is to be invisibly careless with how you use it. plug it into the wall at a meeting even if the battery working. be sure to sit in place where everyone has to step over the power cord. eventually somebody will trip over that cord.

here are some non-damaging ways to make a Mac (or Windows) slow. there are few that we know.

    load up on Fonts with no manager. install as many as you can find. Word and Illustrator are two programs that load so incredibly slow when overloaded with fonts. so slow it will drive you nuts.

    make the hard drive 99% full. OS X and Windows use virtual memory for performance. it the disk is space starved performance will greatly suffer. the machine will run slower and slower and it might even kernel panic.

hardware hacks that to make your hardware look like its running but will make it go away:

    replace the hard drive with one that click, clicks.
    the power supply connector is always a weak link. especially on old notebooks. this can be bent off the circuit board.
    cut just one of the VGA lines.
    use clear nail polish to cover one of the critical connectors.
    super glue a bad battery. “yeah, it was falling out all the time so I did that.”
    make real kernel panics with bad RAM. but RAM can be replaced.
    make one of keys or more keys not work by cutting the rubber dome slightly. which key? try offing one of the keys in your assigned password.
    iron filings.

remember you are doing this for the greater good of the company. but you DO NOT want to get caught in the lie that you are trying to pull off. you could get fired. you might have to pay for the damage. it will go down on your permanent record. we do not condone damaging hardware intentionally that can still do real work. we did not tell you it was okay to damage company property. it’s not yours to destroy.

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