Contents tagged with Off-Topic

  • Google AdSense: You suck

    Like a lot of Web publishers, I depend pretty heavily on AdSense to generate revenue and pay the bills. A good server isn't free. So imagine my horror when, on Thursday, the numbers dropped between 50 and 80%, depending on the site. Something is horribly wrong.

  • Adventures in HVX200 workflow with my MacBook Pro and Final Cut Studio

    The week before last I spent some quality time in the field with my HVX200 doing simple ENG work, and a little bit of editing. I didn't have any time to really play with settings or experiment. It was a media event to preview a new amusement ride. These are my impressions.

    First of all, P2 rules. When you're trying to get stuff online quickly, I can't imagine a better way to record than using P2. Tape is dead. I bought the camera in part because I needed something quality to shoot HD for the Web (yeah, you could call me an early adopter), and it didn't make sense to me to buy a DVX100 at this point.

    The camera itself performed as expected, and like a pro camera. Save for the non-shoulder-mounted nature of the camera, it did everything I expected. I have an Azden AZ-200UPR receiver and a Vidled that I had mounted, and both worked great with the camera, provided it was on the tripod. It gets a little heavy with that stuff if you have to go without.

    We shot interviews in 480/30p anamorphic, so we had plenty of space with a pair of 4 gig cards. There is little reason to go to a higher resolution for talking heads. I was doing the interviewing, so the guy I had shooting for me made some mistakes hear and there, especially with focus, but nothing was totally unusable. The overcast skies made for some goofy white balance at times too, but again, it wasn't horrible. Using Compressor to squash the video to H.264 worked as expected, and without issue. The images were a little on the soft side.

    I shot some stuff in 720p as well of the amusement ride. First I tried 24pn, figuring I'd go for that "film" look, and I knew immediately that was a bad idea. All of the tips and suggestions you read on this forum about capturing fast horizontal motion became evident, and having no experience in that area, it looked pretty bad. I tried again doing 60p, and it looked fabulous, even using the camera handheld. This compressed really well to H.264, but needless to say, it won't playback at speed on most computers.

    In every case, I was unhappy with the black levels in the compressed video, especially when viewed on a Windows machine. That's something I need to figure out. Playing back on an actual HD monitor via Final Cut Pro's full-screen function, it's still not great.

    I'm not at all happy with a lot of the images I shot, but I don't blame the camera, I blame myself for not spending the time with it I should have. It reminds me of the crap I used to shoot when I first got an SLR camera. With time, I'm sure I'll figure this out too. As is the case with most things I do, I can't really learn unless I can apply what I'm learning. I have to fail at something worthwhile, I can't just come up with some artificial situation and work from there. :)

    Getting this stuff to DVD was a lot more work than I expected too. Exporting cuts out of FCP sequences did not preserve the aspect ratio. Using default settings in Compressor, we didn't get good quality MPEG-2 for the DVD we wanted to send to the park either. Ultimately, I ended up telling Compressor that it was 4:3 instead of 16:9, so it wouldn't cut the resolution down to 720x404. Even then, it was coming out as 640x480, which someone in the Apple forum assured me was still 720x480 internally to QuickTime. Even more weird was the way it treated the 720p stuff when I wanted to compress it for DVD. I ended up having resize it first to an uncompressed Animation movie at 720x480, then compress that to MPEG-2. Going without the intermediate step introduced all kinds of interlacing artifacts that I couldn't account for.

    So overall it was a chance to do some experimentation, and as is the case with most first attempts, the results weren't great. You can see the product of some of this experimentation here:

    And yes, I know the images aren't great. :)

  • The good and bad of Microsoft

    I was thinking today about Microsoft, and what it means to me specifically. Oddly enough, I have no stake in the company, but it has a stake in me since I buy its products and its products have largely been the reason for my financial success.

    First off, Microsoft has done a lot of things right. The Xbox 360 is the crown jewel of the empire right now, and it demonstrates that careful thinking and passion can create something truly great. I don't think you'll find a single person who owns one that will say it sucks. It's easily the most impressive piece of consumer electronics I've ever owned.

    Then there's Visual Studio and ASP.NET. It took a few years to get there, but the 2005/2006 products are everything I've ever wanted in a development platform (well, as long as you don't count the embarrassing state of the Web unit testing that I bitch about frequently).

    But on the dark side of things, they've been stumbling around. Windows Vista has become a nightmare with the constant slipping ship dates. As a recent convert and believer in OS X, Vista is a much needed step in the right direction, but it feels as if it will never ship. Seeing as how the OS (and Office) are what really pay the bills, it's not comforting to see this downward spiral.

    Then there's the mess in marketing. It started with the over-use of ".NET" on every product name, and it just keeps getting worse. Who the hell knows what they're even about anymore. It's so hard to understand as a consumer why Microsoft exists, and why it's good for me. It's not easy as a business customer either.

    It's funny though how there's such a stark contrast between the good and bad. The company is just so damn big. I hope they can get those smart people in the right places to save the parts that have been such a disaster.

  • What BootCamp really means

    John Gruber wrote what I think is the most common sense analysis on what the release of BootCamp for the Mac really means. I agree with everything he said. Apple certainly doesn't compete with Microsoft, they compete with hardware OEM's. The simple financial snapshot of Apple makes this very clear.

    I don't know if I'm typical, but I bought a MacBook Pro the day they announced BootCamp. I needed a good laptop, I love OS X, I wanted to edit video with Final Cut Pro, and of course, I need to make a living using Visual Studio. The machine does all of these things, and it does the Windows stuff faster than any other machine I've ever owned. To say I love that little box would be an understatement.

    Sadly, the more time I spend in OS X, the more I realize how much Windows really blows. It's not just that it's somewhat visually offensive, it's just that years of compatibility requirements make Windows more complex instead of more simple. The registry is a mess that "rots." Support code libraries get everywhere, and you never know what's safe to get rid of (DLL hell). Admittedly, if we could move to a 100% .NET world, along side of WPF, we could all sleep easier, but that's just never going to happen.

    For example, I had to uninstall something on my Mac. I dragged it out of the Applications folder into the trash. I found its support files (preferences and such) in the Library folder, and ditched that too. Gone. No trace of the app anywhere. Even the most simple app on Windows can't uninstall that quickly or cleanly. It's ridiculous.

    I'm not suggesting that the Mac is perfect. I can't get my Bit Torrent client to work, for example, but in the big picture that's not that big of a deal. But overall, I'm enjoying using the computer as both a tool and a lifestyle device, something that isn't as easy in Windows. But I can still write my ASP.NET applications on my Mac, and I've never had a machine that ran Visual Studio, SQL Server and Photoshop so well. I love it.

    I can't be a 100% switcher, but for life outside of writing code, I'm there.

  • More MacBook fun

    Last night I realized that my Windows partition on the MacBook really didn't need to be more than 20 gigs, so I started over since I didn't do much to install various applications. I had a weird thing where pci.sys disappeared, no idea how, so I had to do a repair install, which wasted about 45 minutes.

    Avid Xpress Pro HD, not surprisingly, wouldn't edit HD. I could see stills, but it wouldn't let me scrub through the video. Not that it matters I guess, since Final Cut is in the mail, but it's almost like I'm glad because I can move on. On the plus side in Windows, Visual Studio 2005 and Photoshop absolutely scream. In fact, reading some of the benchmarks that are starting to appear, the MacBook out performs most Windows laptops period, even with similar configurations. Well done, Apple.

    What I'm really having the most fun with though is the Mac side of things. For all of the crap Microsoft gets for bundling stuff, the critics fail to mention that the bundled stuff is generally crap.

    I started to play with iPhoto, and imported about 750 photos. It has camera raw support right out of the box, and does some light editing. And as Jobs said, it really is "like butter" in terms of quickly scanning through the library. I love the way it organizes to, a la iTunes with albums instead of physical folders. I may actually make this my dedicated repository for photos.

    I played with iMovie and iDVD as well. Windows Movie Maker is a joke by comparison, and there is no Windows DVD maker. PhotoBooth is mostly useless, but it sure is neat. There are so many cool things right out of the box that an average person can do with a Mac that you just can't do in Windows.

    Alex suggested a great IM client that I played with a bit last night. I'm really digging that even more than Trillian on Windows. Burning stuff is faster and more straight forward. Front Row is a very neat app, and I suspect I'll use it in the hotel (with remote) on my travel the next few weeks.

    More than anything, it's just so much more responsive than any computer I've ever used. I mean, the thing boots in a dozen seconds after POST (to OS X, Windows takes longer).

    I'm still happy to report that no Dell or HP with similar specs costs less, so all of the haters, take note. This is much better hardware, it costs less (for now) and you can run OS X. Did I mention the power connector is the coolest thing ever?

  • First touch in MacBook Pro

    With the release of BootCamp yesterday, Apple removed the last objection I had to owning a Mac, so I bought a MacBook Pro at the local Apple store. Ouch. Can you say purchase regret? This should be the last thing I need to buy for my video/film empire, along with Final Cut Studio, which is shipping by FedEx.