I shot another video interview this week at work, in less than optimal conditions (about 3 hours of advance notice, overcast weather) and it turned out pretty well. I’m getting the video portion dialed in, having practiced a lot on my own and helping my friend Dave shoot an event last week. The audio is the thing that’s bugging me. I’ve got the subjects miked up correctly, feeding into a high-quality recorder, but the results aren’t what I was expecting.
The audio I got today was low quality. So bad, in fact, that I was afraid I’d made a technical mistake and was pulling the audio in from the built-in mic on the recorder and not the lav mic on my subject. (In order to boost recording levels on the Zoom H4N, you have to select the input device before changes will stick, and I was afraid I’d switched the inputs). I futzed with the levels in Final Cut Pro but didn’t like the results, and brought the original clip into Audacity to boost the levels, clean the garbage out, and split the signal. Once I’d done that the results were much cleaner and I was ready to sync it to video.
So, I’ve got to run some tests on my recorders to see what the issue is. I have a Roland R-09 as a backup, so I’m going to do a 1-1 comparison on recording levels to see what’s what.
I got an email a couple of days ago about my Flickr Pro account. It’s time to renew my account, which is fine; I’ve been a member for nine years and I’m very happy overall with Flickr as a service. In years past I’ve been able to renew it with no problem, but 2014 is different. Apparently they’ve gone to some kind of “wallet” construct for their payment services, which means they want to store your payment information (um…OK) and tie it to your account. Mind you, this is a Flickr wallet. Here’s the issue: There’s no way to apply my card to the bill. When I enter my card information (correctly) into the wallet, I get the cryptic message: “There was an error.”
So, tell me what I’m supposed to do, Yahoo. Do I put my credit card in again? (Did that. Twice. Didn’t work).
Do I click on the Order History links? (they don’t do a fucking thing).
Do I go to Yahoo and log in there and attempt to find my billing information and clear it up there? (Ha, that’s a goddamn joke. I can barely find the “Log In” button, let alone any billing information. And when I did find a link to the billing page, after a goddamn Google search, they had all my old invoices but not the new one).
Here are a couple of entry-level, UI 101, common sense suggestions to the wizards at Yahoo:
- When there’s an error, tell me clearly what the problem is.
- Don’t fuck with best practices, especially when it comes to important stuff like payments.
- Give me some information about what I can do to fix it so that I can give you my money.
So I have to call someone and sit on hold and try to clear it up tomorrow. Stupid fucks.
The site was up and down intermittently late this weekend for reasons I still haven’t been able to understand. At first I’d get either a timeout or a page that only contained
<html> <head> </head> </html>
Which is about as helpful as a blank sheet of paper. I was able to connect via FTP with no problem and looked over the file structure, but found no problems, so I turned off all WordPress’ plugins and changed the theme back to the default, with no change in status. After replacing the database via phpMyAdmin, I still got nothing, so I contacted the support team and waited. After several hours I got bumped up to tier 2 support, and a man wrote to me in broken English that he couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but restarted HTTP service, and suggested I look on my end. Magically, the site came back up at some point after that. I have no idea what was wrong, but my desire to leave that hosting provider and move to my favored company has gotten ever stronger.
I’ve been using a plugin called WordPress Database Backup, which saves a SQL dump of the database and gives you the choice of emailing it, saving it to the server, or downloading it directly to your computer. I’ve got it emailing to our server weekly, and it’s come in very handy at times like this. I’ve also got three other sites I maintain backing up the same way–just in case. As for site files, I’ve got an Automator script running a weekly file synchronization via Transmit, which keeps everything up to date.
The Mac Pro I got a few weeks ago was having some reliability issues. I was getting about 18 hours of uptime before it would decide to crash and reboot itself, so I dug around the Console and found that the memory was throwing errors constantly. I put some new memory in this evening and we’ll see how well it performs now. I also dug out a second 2TB drive and filled the last drive slot with it, so there’s a total of 5.5 TB of space on board. Let’s see how fast that 2 fills up.
Update: Uptime is 22 hours and counting, and the scheduled sleep/wake cycle is working.
While I was fooling around with that, I wiped the drive on an old iBook I had and set it up with a clean install of OS 9.2.2 so that I can run legacy software if need be; it was a challenge to dust off the cobwebs in my brain to remember how OS X worked with Classic, and it took some research. At some point maybe I’ll dust off the old hardware and do another laptop lineup.
Sadly, all of the laptops in that picture are gone; the Powerbook 100 and the 520 died years ago, the Pismo died after about 10 years of frontline service, and the iBook was sold to help fund a 17″ MacBook Pro.
So the Mac Pro I wrote about yesterday looks like it’s a done deal. Tomorrow I drop off a check and roll out a 44-lb. hunk of aluminum on a hand cart. I spent my short lunch break flattening the drive and installing 10.6 from a thumb drive, and updated that to the latest point release. Then I went to put Mountain Lion on it, but got stymied by its age; it’s too old to support 10.7 in any form, apparently. Which is kind of fucked up, because it was the most powerful machine they sold at that time. There is a workaround to install it, involving a new graphics card and some bootloading trickery, but I think I’ll pass on that for now.
Either way, it’s a better solution than the G5s we’re using now; it has 4 internal drive bays so I can consolidate a handful of external drives into one enclosure. It should be much more stable than the current machine and I’ll bet iTunes is actually functional in 10.6 (the one we’ve been using liked to corrupt its own database like a baby pooping its diapers), which means reliable audio streaming might be a reality again. We were using the G5s as print servers, because everything past 10.7 doesn’t support AppleTalk. This workaround allows us to talk to our ancient LaserWriter 4000N, which doesn’t support IP printing; I’d never thought of using HP JetDirect before.
Right now we have a 1TB and a 2TB drive working as file storage and backup, respectively; I’d like to buy a new 4TB drive and consolidate files spread out all over creation, as well as have some room to put our burgeoning video library.
And, with aluminum prices being what they are, I can gut one of the G5s and make the purchase price back by recycling it.
I received a medium-sized box in the mail this afternoon with a new Rickshaw messenger bag inside. Ever since pressing the “BUY” button last Wednesday I was nervous that I’d ordered the wrong size, especially after my blunder buying a large Timbuk2 messenger bag on eBay (large is huge, what I really wanted was a medium) now that I have a 13″ MacBook Pro for work.
The verdict: I think this is going to be perfect. It’s just big enough for the laptop, a Moleskine or two, my iPad, and the few other things I carry on a daily basis. It looks like it’ll also hold a DSLR lens-down without a problem, and the fit is just snug enough that a camera won’t bounce around in the bottom. I chose waxed black canvas on the outside (for a nice weathered look in the future) and what they call Saffron–a shade darker than primary yellow–on the inside. Because it was 40% off, I splurged on a waterproof liner (hidden between the outer and inner layer), the smaller interior organizer, and a laptop case. I passed outside clips, because I never use those on my Timbuk2 bags, and I hate having lots of dangly nylon straps swinging around everywhere. I like the way they integrated the strap with outer flaps so that the bag doesn’t fold in on itself when filled with weight; everything feels sturdy and solid. The shoulder strap is a little lighter than Timbuk2’s but I like the buckle mechanism better on the Rickshaw.
Plus, it’s custom-made in San Francisco.
At work, I inherited a gaggle of older Canon point-and-shoot cameras from the middle aughts, which are mostly useless for serious work. Recently I read a news item about CHDK and the gears started whirring. CHDK is an open-source project to extend the abilities of older Canon gear by loading new software via firmware update, including RAW support, scripting, motion detection, and manual control. I’d read about it a long time ago when I was still using my Canon G3 regularly, but was sad to find I that camera’s wasn’t supported. A quick scan of the list showed me I’ve got three viable cameras, so I followed the directions, had to use a workaround, and loaded one up. Within minutes I’d shot a RAW image and was editing it within Photoshop. It’s a wee bit clunky, but just to have RAW support and a way to script event triggers opens up some interesting possibilities. I’ve got a vague plan for a large box kite carrying a camera rig for the beach this year; we’ll see if I can pull it off in time.
I used a different utility, called Stick, to format the card and install the latest version of CHDK as bootable firmware, and it works flawlessly in the camera. More experimentation to follow.