Monthly Archives: March 2004

Bloody ear

I started this story from the emergency room, using the hospital’s wireless network and my handheld computer(a Sharp Zaurus).

I had woken up in the middle of the night, with a strange feeling in my ear, and when I touched it, my finger became wet.

That’s strange, I thought. So I go look in the mirror, and I had all sorts of blood running out of my ear. Quite unexpectedly, mind you. I’ve never had an experience like this before.

I cleaned up as much as I could and went to research this on the net to see how serious it was. Long-story-short, I went back to bed, and went to the hospital in the morning. At the hospital, they decided that I had not ruptured my eardrum, but instead had some other site where I was bleeding. By the time the doctor looked at it, the bleeding had stopped, so he wrote me a Rx for anti-biotic ear drops and I went home.

Alas, I couldn’t actually write this story at the time, because my handheld computer doesn’t have a robust enough javascript engine to drive Epoz.

epoz

I’ve done some significant work on the blog-engine, to incorporate a management page for myself, and to integrate Epoz.

While this is working (I’m using it now.), there are some serious debugging issues to be done. Also I need to build authentication and authorization modules.

But this should make it much easier for me to actual add stories. And to format them.

plant thieves

One of our neighbors wasn’t home when she had an arrangement of flowers delivered, and the delivery guy didn’t want to leave them outside, so he dropped them off at our house, and left a note for the recipient saying that she should come by our house to pick them up.

We have a rosemary plant in the shape of a small christmas tree on our front step which is completely dead. It’s just dried sticks. We were waiting patiently that night for the neighbor to show up and claim her flowers – eventually we got impatient, and Suzette tried to deliver them.

To their mutual bewhilderment, the neighbor asserted "But I already got the delivery!" And Zette saw she had taken our completely dead rosemary bush, thinking it was hers.

I’m going to have to add images to the blog just so readers can appreciate the humor of this. You have to see this dessicated stump of a rosemary bush to appreciate how funny it is that someone would think it was a gift.

video on linux

I have a newborn, which means I have a burning need to take video that no one wants to look at. I have a digital video camera that make it possible to fulfill this fetish.

Like most digital video cameras, the one that I own has a firewire (ieee1394) port on it. I have an Apple Powerbook that also has said port. I have a DVD burner attached to my Linux server.

So I’m figuring that I can use iMovie on the Mac, capture my home movies, edit them, and make DVDs to torture my family with. Alas, not so easy!

Capturing video from the camera with the Powerbook was very easy. Hook up the camera, and OS X automatically offers to start iMovie, which has a friendly button on the display labeled "import" or somesuch. Boom. Trivial. I was pleased to note that it even automatically divides the project into clips where there is a break in the footage.

I then spent many hours with iMovie editing my masterpiece: adjusting brightness/contrast, fixing colors, adding effects/transitions, cropping out the boring parts, creating a soundtrack, etc. It was great. Eventually, I declare success, and am ready to master the DVD image… Except that iMovie doesn’t do that, it only offers to export to iDVD. Which I don’t have installed.

So I turn to my trusty aide, the IN TAR NET, and summon a copy of iDVD. Of course, now that I’ve got a zillion gigabytes of video on the laptop, I don’t have room to install it, so I set up an NFS server just so I can run iDVD from the Linux box.

iDVD, however, refuses to run without a DVD burner installed. Apparently it’s not designed to create ISO images. I had expected to be able to create an ISO image, which I would then go burn to DVD on the Linux box where the burner is installed. No such luck.

But I really want to be able to make my own home-movie DVDs, so I wasn’t deterred at that point. I then bought an external firewire enclosure, and a firewire card for the Linux server. Once these things arrived, I was able to easily swap the DVD burner between the Linux server and the Apple Powerbook G4.

Except that iDVD still wouldn’t start up, again claiming that the appropriate hardware wasn’t installed. A little more research on the IN TAR NET, and I determined that iDVD only works with the Apple Superdrive; my third-party device will not work with the software. Apple sells a product called DVD Studio Pro that would work but for big bucks. Sure, I could probably find a copy "somewhere" but I’m don’t approve of pirating software, which is one of the reasons that I run open source software in the first place.

So… after a week or so of gnashing my teeth and swearing at Apple, I start looking into Linux based software. After all, I bought an ieee1394 card for the Linux machine when I bought the external enclosure. This should allow me, I reckoned, to connect the camera and the DVD burner to the Linux machine and to Hell with the Powerbook. With hardy any effort I installed Kino which pretty happily captured the video from the camera, and gave me some minimal editing capability. It’s not iMovie, that’s for sure – it has only the bare essentials, but it imports DV (Digital Video), and provides a GUI to export into MPEG files suitable for DVD authoring.

Annoyingly, there apparently is not currently an easy Debian package for mjpegtools, which is a project that Kino uses to do the MPEG encoding. I found a debian package, but it was dependent on some other package, which I didn’t have either, and couldn’t find. I have years of experience building things from source, and that took no time at all.

MPEGs having been built, I used dvdauthor to covert the raw MPEG files to the DVD format, which is a great piece of software with a completely arcane interface. I then attempted to use dvdrecord to burn the DVD. This caused another world of pain, because the Linux ieee1394 implementation is somewhat unstable, and trying to send raw-SCSI commands to an ATA drive over an ieee1394 interface was just one transform too many, and I was able to lock up the operating system very repeatably. I posted the error to the Linux Kernel Mailing List, but like most lurkers with obscure bugs, was ignored.

There’s another program for Linux that will create DVDs called growisofs which worked. This program does not use raw-SCSI, but instead works through the kernel cdrom driver (sr_mod instead of sg).

As an aside, I also looked at Polidori which is a nice idea, but not ready for anything. I’m tempted to contribute to the project, but I know I don’t have time to do so.

I burned my movie to DVD+R media, and my set-top player rejected it as unreadable. I tried again with DVD-R media, and it worked! But the audio sounded somewhat like chipmunks gargling. As it turns out, mp2enc, the audio encoder from mjpegtools, defaults to CD-quality audio (44.1kHz), but DVD’s are recorded at 48kHz. So when played back, the audio on the DVD I created was about 10% too fast, but the video was playing back at normal speed. This caused everything to be higher in pitch, but to then stretch out the audio to maintain synchronization, there were tiny gaps inserted into the sound. Hence, gargling chipmunks.

This can be fixed by adding the ‘-r 48000′ option to mp2enc in the ‘export’ tab of Kino. At last, I have created a DVD that plays correctly.

This process really highlighted to me how far the user-interface problems with Linux have to go. On the other hand, at least I was empowered to do what I needed to do – the open source software made me spend hours figuring out how to make it work, but they were solveable problems. The proprietary solutions (iMovie and iDVD) are undoubtedly more powerful and easy to use, but they did not accomplish the task, because a business manager and a copyright lawyer don’t want to make things easy.

Given the choice, I’ll take the free software. I like freedom.

lost interest?

So, have I lost interest in my blog?

Apparently, since I haven’t made an entry in over a month. I’ve been busy and stressed. Megan has been sick, I have a new boss at work, etc. Not really though; I do think about adding things periodically. And I still want to build an engine to maintain it. Time is fleeting, however.

We went to visit my sister Tracy and her family yesterday. Zette will probably post pictures to Megan’s web site soon.

I think I’m getting sick. Which is why I’m awake at 0700 on a Sunday, and have been up for 3.5 hours.