1st attempt at video editing with Sony Vegas Pro.

January 15, 2009

As I mentioned on FNPL, I’ve been teaching myself some new software.  Tonight I took the plunge and downloaded the Sony Vegas Pro trial.  Up until now, I’ve gotten by with using Windows Movie Maker.  The version that comes with Vista isn’t that bad for quickly editing video and putting it up on YouTube.

Vegas Pro is an entirely different beast.  The best part is that I can shoot video in HD and edit in HD (at least 720, my camera is only 720p).  Windows Movie Maker doesn’t let you work with HD.  So Vegas Pro is more powerful, but it is also much harder to use.  I’m glad they give you 30 days to play with it in the trial.  If I get comfortable with it, I’ll buy it.  It is not cheap, but I’m hoping you get what you pay for.

I’m posting my first project that I edited with Vegas Pro.  It’s an old video of me riding down a mountain in a gondola.  It’s not much for content, but it was a place to start.  So it’s my first attempt going from never having used Vegas pro to editing a 10 minute video with it.  I have a long way to go.

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Friday Night Party Line #38.

January 10, 2009

And we’re back with a record number of co-hosts!  Tonight features David, Ray, Scott, Rym, Viga, Timo, Jason, Luke and Thaed.  Here are the topics:

–What kind of pen do you use?  Do you write mostly in script or print?  Check out:  http://www.penaddict.com/

— Discuss one interesting side project you plan on working on in 2009.

–There’s a famous computer science lecture running around on the internet that says that you have to almost create a split personality in your head, devoid of any preconceptions, to properly learn programming.  The teacher calls this concept “radical novelty.”  Have you encountered it?  What are your thoughts. http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/EWD/transcriptions/EWD10xx/EWD1036.html

–Ask the Economist

Sites where you can find more information about Scott, Rym, and Viga:

http://www.frontrowcrew.com
http://vigatheotagal.blogspot.com/

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Follow Thaed on Twitter
Email Thaed at thaed@cox.net
Direct download: fnpl_38_final.mp3


Brain transplant for my flagship computer.

January 4, 2009

I’ve been agonizing over what to do about my dying computer.  Normally, I would put it out to pasture as a backup and build a new machine from scratch.  I did some Core i7 pricing tonight.  While the processors themselves are quite comparable to the Penryn chips, the motherboard and memory prices are out of sight.

So I got to thinking.  Is this the right time to go crazy on hardware?  I decided that it’s not. So I just bought a new motherboard, chip and RAM with a Zalman cooler.  I’m going to replace these parts only in my main machine and keep the video card and raptor hard drives and everything else.

I did splurge on the Q9550.  I think with the Zalman, I should at least get 3.6 GHz.  It will easily be the fastest computer I’ve ever worked with.  It will be faster than my kids’ computers and the upgrade cost me less than $600.  It would have been over $2000 building a new Core i7 system.  I think, for now, this was the smart way to go.


Computer Trouble.

January 3, 2009

Last night I tried to boot my flagship computer and had some weird trouble.  First, I got an overclock fail and then it just wouldn’t go completely into XP.  It also seemed very, very slow.  I tried resetting the factory defaults in CMOS, but that had the very undesirable result of knocking out the RAID zero boot disk.

So even though it’s back to factory defaults, I had to convince it to pick the RAID back up without trashing the windows partition.  This thing is old enough where you have to make a floppy to put the drivers on the system.  Around midnight, I remembered that there was a setting in the BIOS necessary for the RAID.  I flipped that back on and got it to boot (but very, very slowly).  Because the slowness starts with the post screen, I do not think this is a software problem.  I might try to flash the bios.  I also see that Norton has a program called Ghost.  I’ve never messed with imaging programs because I’ve always kept my data on a separate disk.  I’ve always felt that since I had program disks, I didn’t need to worry about programs.  Of course, now I’ve accumulated so much crap, I don’t even know what I have.  Plus, I’ve got a lot of codecs on this machine.  So, I want to try to do an image.

Something similar happened to two AMD boards that I had years ago before they died.  I fear this computer’s time grows short.  I detailed its creation on this blog.  You can see that it’s lasted a scant 2 1/2 years.  This is not typical for a computer that I build.  I usually get 3 to 5 years without any problems.  I think most would agree that it’s probably the overclocking.

Of course now, I know a lot more about overclocking and I know how far you can push components.  The price of my knowledge has been this computer’s potentially premature death.  I’ve been joking that this is just an excuse for me to build the I7 rig that I’ve been thinking about (and maybe I will in the next few weeks) but for now, I’m mourning the decline of something I created.


Becoming an Adobe fanboy.

December 27, 2008

On of my goals over my holiday vacation was to learn Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Flash.  Later I might learn more about Premiere but I’m told that Vegas Pro might be the way to go.  I’ve been sick, so I haven’t made the progress that I’ve sought, but I have made inroads on the Dreamweaver book.

I want to take the blog that I do for work out of free WordPress hosting and put it into an environment where I pay to host it but where I also have more control.  I probably don’t need to learn Dreamweaver to do this, but I think it may be a good start.

Also, learning new software causes me to make mental connections that help in ways that I have never considered.  I think that this whole software learning project is going to take several months now.  If I decide to buy the software after playing with it for a while, it’s going to be expensive.  I want to be absolutely sure that I’m going to use these tools.

You might ask why I don’t stick to open source.  Certainly, there are some alternatives.  Everyone knows about Gimp, for example, instead of Photoshop.  I’ve been using Gimp for a while for quick photo editing.  I want to get past superficial editing, though and really learn about the layering aspects that Photoshop offers.  I think that’s going to be the most fun part of the project (along with video editing).

Doing this for fun is also a real motivator.  Just starting the Dreamweaver book has made me think of some unrelated server projects that might be interesting.  So there’s real value in this and it could be engrossing too.


Computer Vagaries.

December 24, 2008

I was reading this article on Slashdot the other day and I couldn’t help but think about how many times I’ve seen this before.  I had actually started writing a post on this back in July, but I didn’t have enough ammunition to make my point.  This article provides ample evidence of how a user’s experience with PCs is not uniform between individual boxes.  This is not just dependent on operating systems.  Time and time again, I have experienced this.  For example, I could not get iTunes to install on one of my Vista boxes.  On an XP machine, Twitter doesn’t work.  On my iMac, I can’t get Firefox 3 to install. My experience as a hardware fanatic is one thing.  But what I wonder at is the experience of the average user.  A non-geek could buy a computer with Vista on it and try to install iTunes and fail.  Another user might be banned from ever experiencing Twitter and never be the wiser that the problem comes from the vagaries of one machine.

The latest example concerns my daughters’ computers.  I bought identical parts for them to make my life easier.  The free Nero program that came with the DVD drives works on one of the computers but not the other.  I have reinstalled windows twice in trying to resolve this.  It simply won’t run.  Yet, it runs fine on the other one.  I have a workaround.  Sonic works fine on the machine that hates Nero.  So I use Sonic.  It’s no big deal, but it bugs me.  Again it is supposedly identical computers behaving differently.

Digital isn’t supposed to be like this.  This is analog behavior.  The OP from Slashdot was about how computers and cores really aren’t the same from machine to machine. Each box develops its own idiosyncrasies.  I’m frankly amazed that computers work at all given this divergence.

But from an AI perspective and from the genetic algorithm perspective, this is crazy.  You’d have to develop using several different boxes simultaneously to allow for the divergence.

I was talking about this with Jason, AI researcher and the creator of Underworld Hockey Club (and also a Friday Night Party Line panelist) and I thought his comments were insightful:

“[O]ne interesting thing with genetic algorithms is that they learn with the computer.  If I train a checkers player on the cluster in the lab, that player will not be as good when I run it on my own computer.  It’s not stupid, but it’s not as good.  It’s because it’s tuned to the specific compiler & floating point operations of the cluster.  This is why we need online learning.  Genetic algorithms simulate evolution, but there aren’t any mature methods to simulate learning during the life of an individual.  A common belief that I share is that evolution contains 99% of the knowledge we need to survive, but without the 1% from learning, it is completely useless.  Look at deer, for example.  Baby deer (and other quadrupeds) are able to walk within minutes of being born.  Clearly, the basic constructs of coordination are tied to DNA (baby deer don’t flail stupidly until they figure it out), but the deer need learning to make sure that their programming works with their specific bodies.  One student in the lab is looking at neuroplasticity, which is the study of neural networks that can adapt to their environment in realtime.  It’s really interesting stuff.”


Building computers for my kids.

December 7, 2008

This weekend I spent every waking hour building computers.  For me, this is as close as heaven on earth as it gets.  The time passed so quickly, that I am astonished that it is Sunday night already.  My hands are sore and cut up from the cases, but the computers are finished.  I wish I could do that every weekend.  Here’s a picture of the parts at the beginning of the build:

I used Asus P5Q motherboards because 1) I love Asus and 2) they were on sale.  I chose the ATI 1 GB Sapphire cards because they were also on sale and more importantly without rebates.  I hate rebates.  I’d rather not buy something with a rebate if I can help it.  I’ve never used G-skill memory before but it worked fine.  Both builds got 4 GB.  I saved money by using old hard drives I had lying around as well as reusing the XP licenses from the girls’ old machines.  I had one extra case and so I only had to buy one new one (and my daughter wanted pink anyway).

I had a little trouble with the first build.  It posted but then I had a grounding error on the USB ports.  I fixed that and it worked fine.  I bought Zalman fans because I wanted to overclock a little.  It turns out that the e8400 (which was also on sale) is an overclocking dream.  Here’s the 5 year old’s screen:

As you can see, her computer can do 4.05 GHz on air easily.  Crazy.  I remember the trouble I had 2 ½ years ago on my build and I used water.  It’s funny.  I’m still using that machine as my main rig, but my daughters’ new computers crush it.  I might spend some more money on a build for myself at year end.  We’ll see.

Another fun thing we did was to shoot a lot of video while the girls and I worked on the computers.  I’m sure I’ll put it up on YouTube after I get a chance to edit it.


Laptop Convertible.

November 30, 2008

As with a lot of ideas I have with video, this one sat in my brain for a few months.  Additionally, I had a few surprises.  Sometimes when I plan a project, what happens in reality is exactly what happened in my head.  In this project, that could not be further from the case.  I think that adds drama to the video.  It certainly created some consternation for me!  But I also got to learn an entirely new skill set in the process, so it was all good.

For your entertainment, I present Laptop Convertible:


Cabin pressure on commercial airlines.

November 23, 2008

I have a Casio Pathfinder watch with a built in altimeter. It works based on air pressure. I’ve worn it while I’ve been traveling a couple of times and I like to check it when the plane takes off and as the plane approaches cruising altitude.

Now of course it does not measure actual altitude. For that to happen, the cabin would have to be completely unpressurized. At the same time, one might think that the air pressure in the plane would stay the same throughout the entire flight. If my watch is to be believed this is not the case. This makes sense from a practical standpoint too because otherwise a person’s ears would never pop on the plane.

Here’s some of the data I took. Before they shut the door, the watch said 800′. At take off it dipped to 160′ then went to 420′, 800′, 1300′ and ultimately capped at 5940′ at 31,000′. So assuming a linear relationship between the reading on the watch and actual altitude, the ratio was 1′ on the watch to 5.22′ in real altitude.

On the way back, it capped out at 6280′ so I might have been higher at 32,781′.

I was kind of surprised that it went that high. If the watch is to be believed, spending time at cruising altitude in a commercial airline is like spending time in Denver, CO.

So did I feel like a geek when I was sitting there tracking this data from my watch? Sure, but if you’ve spent any time at all reading this blog, you know that that doesn’t bother me.


Friday Night Party Line #37.

November 22, 2008

Tonight’s hosts are David, Rym, Scott and Thaed along with newcomers Luke and Jason.  Here are the topics:

–Craigslist is destroying newspapers.  But is it really more of a question of the interface?  You don’t need the paper, you can get what you want online.  But what happens when we can receive information wirelessly directly into our heads.  What happens when the interface melts away?  You don’t need television, radio, phones or even computers assuming brain communication is two-way.  Moreover, if you can get sensory information this way with greater resolution than your five senses provide, what happens next?

–Carl Jacobi is known for using inversion to achieve insight and to solve problems.  The idea is that you look at a problem backwards or from another person’s perspective to work it out.  Have you tried this?  Does it work for you?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Gustav_Jakob_Jacobi

–In developing AI, where do self-teaching algorithm or genetic algorithm come into play?  Where is AI development going today?  What are the latest advancements?  How long before we all have robot
butlers.

–What is the future of theater, concerts, circuses, sports and other types of live performance entertainment?  Do people need to gather in meatspace and be entertained?  Is the economy (or the Internet) going to shut this down?  Is live entertainment doomed?

–Ask the economist.

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Direct download: fnpl_37_final.mp3