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Archive for June, 2008

Eric Cheng’s FriendFeed page

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Yet another feed aggregator account: Eric Cheng on FriendFeed

It looks pretty well done. I liked Jaiku for this, but it is so bad at collecting my Twitter activity that I’ve removed it from my journal sidebar. FriendFeed integrates with Facebook, so you can get a glimpse of all my net activity from there. (thanks, Schrep)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | no comments » | Jun 30, 2008 18:53:09

It’s chicken, stupid!

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On the way back from seeing Vienna Teng perform at C. Donatiello winery in Healdsberg, Bill and I stopped to have dinner with Mandy, Elliot, and Aaron at a Mexican restaurant in West Portal. Halfway through dinner, we got to the bottom of one of the small baskets of chips, and I noticed something dark beneath one of the chips. I discovered a single rat turd.

The waitress came over, and I pointed out the turd to her. She removed the basket quickly and told us story about the chips being cooked on something where they also warm tortillas and cook chicken. “It’s chicken,” she said.

Now, I’m no chef, but I know what chicken looks like. More importantly, I know what chicken doesn’t look like. Specifically, chicken doesn’t look like rat turd. The poop piece was 100% a canonical rat turd — tapered ends and slight bend. And even if it was chicken (it wasn’t), we had two vegetarians with us at the table. It turns out that vegetarians don’t want chicken in their chips.

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 4 comments » | Jun 29, 2008 21:43:58

Eric Cheng: 9 out of 10 ain’t bad

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A couple of times a year, I feel the urge to do a search for myself on the internets. I just did a vanity search for “Eric Cheng” on teh Google, and I discovered that I have almost edged out the final rogue entry on the first page! (read more »)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 7 comments » | Jun 28, 2008 23:17:05

Alisa Weilerstein plays Dvorak Cello Concerto

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alisa weilerstein, cellist
from her website

Bill and Miki invited me to see Alisa Weilerstein perform Dvorak Cello Concerto tonight with the SF Symphony and David Robertson conducting. Strangely, I was offered tickets to the Thurs and Sat night shows within an hour of Bill and Miki’s call; someone wanted me to go to this show.

I’m glad that I have friends who call up to see if I want to go concerts; I’ve been so busy with non-music stuff that I’ve all but dropped out of the scene in the last few years. Between subscriptions to the SF Symphony and SF Performances, plus last-minute comps to shows that my friends play in, I was probably going to 2-3 concerts a month — and it was fantastic! These days, I’m lucky if I get to a few concerts a year, and the vast majority of them are SLSQ shows.

Anyway, back to Alisa and Dvorak. I met Alisa three years ago at the Green Music Festival in Sonoma. I had only heard her before in chamber music, and was very excited for the opportunity to see her play a concerto with SF. We sat third row center, which was the perfect place to observe and hear the nuances of every note. Cello concertos can be hard to enjoy live because it is often hard for the cello to project over an entire orchestra. I like to sit close… but it makes me feel like the music is washing over me instead of through me.

In any case, Alisa was AWESOME. As a cellist myself, I can’t play well enough to enjoy everything that goes into a well-executed, passionate performance of a concerto (I mean, with me playing), but I was able to at least get a glimpse of it again through her performance. I also really enjoyed David Robertson’s conducting. Mi-Parti by Lutoslawski was a good opening piece for its cool textures and funkiness, but it didn’t do much for me. The orchestra was really tight in Janácek’s Taras Bulba, Rhapsody for Orchestra, and I really enjoyed their performance despite not being familiar with the piece. I thought Robertson let the orchestra indulge a bit too much in the opening of the Dvorak, which stole a bit from the cello entrance, but Alisa’s raw emotion took control immediately, and I was hooked.

Thank you, Alisa, for the wonderful performance!

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | no comments » | Jun 28, 2008 00:44:08

Lessons in UPS usage, Mac Pro

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I’ve been using uninterruptable power supplies (UPSes) for a long time. I’ve got ‘em on my Mac Pro, on my two NAS boxes, and on pretty much every other computer in my place. But yesterday, the UPS on my Mac Pro went berserk and cut off power to my system. It happened again today.

When I moved, someone else actually set up my computer(s). Well, that’s not entirely true, but someone did actually place my computers in their respective locations and plug some of the stuff in. I didn’t bother to check to make sure that the right UPSes were plugged into the right devices… which is why I had two hard power-offs in two days.

It turns out that a 350VA UPS was attached to my Mac Pro instead of the 1400VA UPS (!). People on the forums recommend 1500VA for use with a Mac Pro (here is the one I’d get). The big desktop machine clearly draws far more power than a 350VA system can handle, and when my CPUs cranked up while doing some transcoding, the poor 350VA beeped its little cry of death and cut power to my system. I must be getting old and forgetful because it happened twice before I noticed what was going on.

What’s funny is that I was on the phone with Sea Shepherd advising them on website stuff, and my computer went down during the call. I’m sure that inspired confidence. ;)

So the lesson: always set up your own computer. Don’t trust anyone else!

UPDATE: I will be running dual 30″ monitors as well, which draw approximately 177W maximum, each. I ran this through a Watt to VA calculator, which suggested a 650VA UPS to drive the two of them. I’ll probably end up getting a 750VA model.

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 3 comments » | Jun 28, 2008 00:11:45

Streaming mpeg4 AVIs to Playstation 3 on Mac OS X

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Does anyone know how to stream Xvid mpeg4 AVIs to a Playstation 3 using suitable media streaming software on Mac OS X?

My ReadyNas box supports uPNP media streaming out of the box, which seems to work well for formats officially supported by the PS3. The only problem with the ReadyNas’s implementation of uPNP is that it does a full volume scan of whatever I’ve shared once every 24 hours. If I add a new file and want to stream it immediately, I have to go into the admin interface and kick off a manual re-scan, which can take a long, long time.

So now, I’ve switched to using Nullriver’s MediaLink, which is installed on a Mac Mini that I use as a backup server. The Mac Mini has the media volume on the NAS box mounted, and MediaLink shares that volume out to the PS3. So far, it has worked perfectly, except that video and formats not officially supported by the PS3 still don’t work.

The PS3 doesn’t support AVIs (or AAC audio files, for that matter), so the ideal media server needs to support realtime transcoding. The only product I’ve read about that seems to do that is Nero 8′s MediaHome, which is Windows only. MediaHome claims to do real-time transcodes to the following formats:

Audio: MP3 (MPEG-1 Layer 3), AAC (Nero Digital), HE-AAC (Nero Digital) Video: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, Nero Digital (MPEG-4)

This seems ideal! My AAC audio would be transcoded on-the-fly to MP3, and all my unsupported video files would be transcoded on-the-fly to MPEG-4. Music isn’t such a big deal because I’ll stream music to the system using an Airport Express, but being able to play more video formats through the PS3 would be nice.

If I can’t find a solution for the Mac, I may just take one of my extra Windows boxes and use it as a streaming media server.

Here’s where the Mac people in my life come on and say, “But Quicktime and MP4 are the only way to go! You shouldn’t NEED to deal with AVIs, ever!” I’ll preemptively respond to your comments by saying that you are not living in the real world. Or maybe you’re too old to realize how the new generation actually gets their media. ;)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 7 comments » | Jun 26, 2008 15:38:22

Updated MySpace page

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I don’t even know why I even have a MySpace page, but I do.

I just went into their profile editor for the first time in years, and the enormity of the crappitude involved in all things MySpace was impressive indeed.

Be my MySpace friend! (or not!) :)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 5 comments » | Jun 25, 2008 10:22:53

Scuba-diving cat

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Eli sent me a link to a video of a scuba-diving cat. I’m not exactly sure what the point was of taking a cat underwater, but it makes for funny video!

Now that I’ve branched out to shooting land mammals underwater, maybe I should volunteer to take some portraits of diving kitty. ;)

Stanford, CA | link | trackb | no comments » | Jun 24, 2008 20:14:24

Journal photos with SmugMug and PicLens

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After convincing Adam Tow to support PicLens, I’ve integrated a pre-release version of his wp-smugmug plug-in, which will let me inline SmugMug galleries into journal entries. Because it’s so easy to do now, I may end up switching to SmugMug for my main journal image hosting. I’ll probably continue to mirror content on Flickr as well.

UPDATE I’m still over at Adam’s place, and convinced him to enable Lightbox support in conjunction with PicLens. It’s just about perfect now. :)

As a test, I’d like to present some of the underwater photos I have hosted over at SmugMug. Enjoy!

Santa Clara, CA | link | trackb | 9 comments » | Jun 23, 2008 22:45:17

Journal is now PicLens enabled

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I’ve just enabled PicLens on this journal for certain photos. If you aren’t using PicLens, I highly recommend installing the FireFox plug-in; it’s a beautiful way to look at images on the web. Pretty much all photo sharing sites support it now, including Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, and SmugMug.

I’m using WP PicLens Plus and a Photo Mechanic export setting to get all of this to work. Currently, all of the image display code is just inlined into the body of the WordPress entry. I know that’s not ideal, but it was the best I could do without having to actually code. ;)

Here’s a demo of PicLens, using some photos I took of Jack last week. Obviously, you must have the PicLens plug-in installed to see it work. (read more »)

NYC | link | trackb | 7 comments » | Jun 21, 2008 23:38:35

Vienna Teng in the recording studio

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Vienna Teng in the recording studio

… taken on June 19 in New York. I spent a day in the studio recording with Vienna Teng, which was a lot of fun. She managed to assemble a fantastic group of musicians, who learned their parts pretty much in real time. Fun stuff.

NYC | link | trackb | 8 comments » | Jun 20, 2008 21:38:32

Yojimbo vs Evernote vs Bento, with side of Yep and Leap

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I have been a die-hard user of Yojimbo since they first released it. I cram all sorts of information into it: account logins, passwords (encrypted), pdf manuals, computer tips, etc. Also, Yojimbo syncs using .Mac so I can access my information using the native Mac OS client on both of my machines.

But today, Tony pointed me to Evernote, which is still in beta, but looks like a promising replacement because it synchronizes not only across machines, but also to a web interface (with optimized iPhone interface as well). It also features OCR for images, and promises to also support geotagging from supported devices (like the future iPhone). I still don’t have an invite for the beta, but I hope to get one soon.

I also found Webjimbo, which is a web app that syncs with Yojimbo. It looks pretty good, but I haven’t tried it yet. If Evernote doesn’t give me a beta invite soon, I will download Webjimbo and give it a try. (Thank you! I have been invited. – June 20)

Finally, there is Bento, which I downloaded when it first came out and abandoned because it seemed … more clunky than Yojimbo. Yojimbo is blazing fast and lets me find stuff almost instantly.

So does anyone out there have opinions on the best organizer for digital content? You know, aside from a bunch of stickies on the screen. ;) I’m most interested in Evernote vs. Yojimbo/Webjimbo.

On a side note, I have started using Yep to find PDF files that don’t life inside Yojimbo. The makers of Yep also offer an application called Leap, which looks really cool. The only problem is that I can’t think of a reason to use Leap. It lets you browse and search files based on type and filename… but I can find files using Spotlight in less time because I don’t have to launch a separate application. Still, if Leap can learn to incorporate more standard Finder-type browsing, it could be a great Finder replacement.

UPDATE I’ve been using Evernote for a day now, and I really like it! There are some weird beta bugs, but so far, none of them have been sever enough to really impact usability. I snapped a picture of one of Tony’s books with my iPhone and emailed it into my account, and the server-based OCR service tagged three of the four big words on the cover. Not bad…

NYC | link | trackb | 6 comments » | Jun 20, 2008 01:31:27

Facebook / Twitter integration working again

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To all of you who were using TwitterSync to synchronize Twitter updates with your Facebook status: it appears that the “Twitter” Facebook app is the way to go. It is much less configurable than TwitterSync is, but it has the great advantage of being an application that actually works.

(TwitterSync stopped working in late May because Twitter disabled their IM bot service)

NYC | link | trackb | 2 comments » | Jun 19, 2008 23:43:42

Evernote, anyone?

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Hello, readers. Does anyone out there use Evernote? And if so, do you have an extra invite? (Thank you! I have been invited. -June 20)

I am a long-time user of Yojimbo, a product I love. However, Evernote’s feature set seems to be better, and it provides web and mobile access to its data.

I used to sync notes between Yojimbo and my Blackberry, but after the switch to iPhone, I have been a bit lost (because the iPhone cannot sync Notes to anything — boo! hiss!). So… yeah. Evernote. Looks really cool. Please invite me. :) (Thanks, Tony, for the tip)

NYC | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Jun 19, 2008 23:29:19

New York bad

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San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Jun 18, 2008 00:51:28

.Mac sync problems: OMG teh Mac is so easy to use!!!

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Having problems syncing Calendar in .Mac lately? My .Mac sync has been screwed up ever since I upgraded to Leopard.

I found the fix I was looking for in this thread. Scroll down to a post by a user called forman that reads, “The inability to sync iCal in Leopard appears to be due to bad data in the SyncServices cache.”

I’ll reproduce the content here in case it goes away on Apple’s forum:

The inability to sync iCal in Leopard appears to be due to bad data in the SyncServices cache. This problem is associated with the following error messages during a sync, as seen in the Console: 16/11/2007 10:39:19 com.apple.syncservices.SyncServer401 2007-11-16 10:39:19.389 iCalExternalSync403:10b ICalExternalSync NSException name:NSInvalidArgumentException reason:ISyncConcreteSession clientAcceptedChangesForRecordWithIdentifier:formattedRecord:newRecordIdentifier:: you can’t change the record identifier from 93301291-42E6-427D-B674-CF73BD49AF08 to node_SubscriptionCalendar/p4: it is already associated with a different record. This problem can be solved by clearing the cache out. 1. Quit all applications that use .Mac (Address Book, iCal, iSync, Mail, Safari). 2. Turn off .Mac syncing and unregister all computers in System Preferences. 3. Issue the following commands from the terminal: killall SyncServer cd ~/Library/Application\ Support mv SyncServices SyncServices-old killall SystemUIServer 4. Turn on .Mac syncing in System Preferences and click “Sync Now”. 5. When a dialog appears asking whether to merge or replace data on .Mac, select replace all data on .Mac with data from the computer. This information primarily came from the link below: http://www.listsearch.com/Yojimbo/Message/index.lasso?2511

Note that after doing this, Transmit failed to re-register in Sync Services when I re-launched it. Type this to make it shows up in the .Mac sync list again:

~/Library/Application\ Support/Transmit/TransmitSync.app/Contents/MacOS/TransmitSync –registerClient

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | no comments » | Jun 15, 2008 03:11:11

I give up

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Working right now = impossible.

Bonaire | link | trackb | 4 comments » | Jun 12, 2008 20:23:55

New article about Bahamas bite

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Tony Wu just sent me this article about the Bahamas shark bite and general shark tourism. It’s fact-based, and is worth a read. Unfortunately, I’m quoted in it; luckily, it is innocuous.

Jim does not want any media attention, so this is a private post.

That was Abernethy’s last post on the blog. But other divers swear they’ve seen the Shear Water out at Tiger Beach, a popular spot in the Bahamas for mingling with sharks. And on the website www.wetpixel.com, underwater photographer Eric Cheng has posted an announcement of an Abernethy-led “expedition” that departs July 19 from Palm Beach County. The eight-night voyage costs $3,870 and is open to only eight divers.

“We screen our passengers and accept advanced divers with shark-diving experience only,” Cheng warns. “I hate to have to say this, but please do not book if you are squeamish about using bait to attract sharks. We will absolutely be baiting sharks and do not want to fight with you about the issue.”

The trip is one of four coveted underwater photography workshops offered in 2008 by Alex Mustard, a British marine biologist turned award-winning underwater photographer. The website www.amustard.com proclaims that such workshops are run only in collaboration with “first-class partners.” The trip with Abernethy, Mustard advises, is sold out. He adds under the heading “News” that, even though a diver was recently bitten on a Shear Water charter, the July workshop is expected to ship out as planned.

In the wake of Groh’s death, hundreds of divers have flooded the Internet with messages of support for Captain Abernethy. Some people venture that, although they didn’t know Markus Groh, they recognize him as a kindred spirit who adored sharks and died doing something he loved. Surely, they argue, Groh would want the dives to continue.

They beg his family members not to allow their grief to morph into hatred for sharks. The divers attest to having been subject to stringent security measures while diving with Abernethy. They thank him profusely for having introduced them to the world of sharks. And they worry that they might never be able to dive on the Shear Water with the captain again.

Bonaire | link | trackb | no comments » | Jun 12, 2008 08:46:30

Berkeley White toilet

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Dan was just talking about going into a store and seeing a “Berkeley White toilet,” which was hilarious because Berkley White is sitting in the same room as we are right now.

It exists! Awesome. :)

Bonaire | link | trackb | no comments » | Jun 9, 2008 21:04:23

How to email big files from crappy connections

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OK, so here’s my problem. I’m in Bonaire on a connection that drops all a time, which makes it really, really hard to do things like upload big videos for use in our live shootout coverage. This is why I had to cut one of the larger videos into three chunks, which makes for pretty disruptive viewing.

Kyte’s show uploading supports web upload and e-mail attachments. Unfortunately, neither will resume uploading if the connection fails and then comes back. But FTP does support resume, so here’s what I’ve started doing:

  1. FTP the video up to temp space on my server.
  2. SSH into my server and e-mail the video to Kyte as an attachment.

The problem with #2 is that it is non-trivial to e-mail an attachment from the command line. Chris, my server admin, installed email, and now I can easily send attachments from the command line. It is tested and working!

Too bad it took a full day to figure out…

Bonaire | link | trackb | 2 comments » | Jun 8, 2008 20:48:11
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