Posts Tagged ‘Tech’

Really? Is it that hard….

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

I recently purchased the book (Beginning Python Visualization) because of my interest in Data Visualization and the want to learn Python. It is a great book, and I’m having a lot of fun going through it, but one of the first walls that hit me while walking through the excersices was the need to import modules to extend my programs.

Now importing a module (or code) is a pretty standard/common practice, it allows you to reuse existing programming snippits without having to write everything from scratch. A good example is the pySerial module. This provides functions to read data from a COM port. So all I have to do is import pySerial and I’m good to go. Except if your OS (like Mac Leopard) didn’t include it in the system modules, then you have to go out and manually install it yourself. I really wanted a simple installer like CPAN for PERL, and barring that, I was really hoping for a simple (single) file to download and drop into a directory, I tried searches like:

  • python modules install
  • python cpan
  • python mac modules

Over all the problems were:

  • There were custom installers for the module, or you had to compile/install by hand
  • You could install via Darwin Ports, but that had dependancies for Python 2.4 (I’m running 2.5) and I didn’t want to install a complete second (older) version of Python on my system.
  • There was no clear documentation on how to add a library of modules for your personal development.

Python’s own site quotes another wiki that says things like:

Python doesn’t have a CPAN.

Python comes with “Batteries Included”. The standard modules shipped with Python has a lot of good stuff, and for many common tasks you just don’t need the extra step of CPAN. Python’s standard library of modules is nothing to sneeze at!

I think Python shouldn’t have a CPAN. Basically, I think CPAN is too centralized a mechanism for finding modules, and the work to create a CPAN for Python could be better spent elsewhere.

…this isn’t very helpful if you aren’t a heavy coder and just need some unique functionality for your project, and you know that someone else has already built it.

Thankfully I came across easy_install, which seems like CPAN-lite for python. I was easily able to run easy_install pyserial and the correct module was found/downloaded/installed onto my system. No fuss, no mess.

I really think Apple and Python should make this more prominent on their sites.

Web 2.0 Expo (2009)…

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Just got back from my first attendance of the Web 2.0 Expo. It was pretty nice, but much lower key then the other conferences I’ve been to at the Moscone center (like Macworld or Linux World). I noticed the overwhelming theme was “Social Networking”. Basically offering social services (twitter, facebook, etc) but isolated within the customers own network, or offering some type of mashup/integration with the existing services on the web.

Here are some of the technologies I liked and picked up notes about:

  • Caspio – offers “Do-It-Yourself Database Apps”. Basically they have a service that lets you import data (from csv, excel, access, etc) and then custom tailor a web app/interface around it using easy WYSIWYG type tools. No database or web programming knowledge needed. Once the database, fields, forms, view, etc have all been defined, then you insert a simple block of javascript into your webpage, and when visitors goto the page, it links off the Caspio’s servers and it feeds them the data/tables/views. It’s a great and easy ways to quickly implement a webapp for corporation/small-medium business. Unfortunately they do not have a free service, but considering how much work has gone into the interface (no browser dependencies) and that all of the traffic and data is hosted on their servers, I can understand their business model. You get a special promo (first 3 months with 50% off) if you use the code “web2009”.
  • OER Commons – Is a non-profit that provides learning materials (lesson plans, syllabi, assignments, simulations, games, etc) that are freely available to use, adapt, reuse, or share.
  • Universal Mind – Is a web design and development company that seems to specialize in rich Internet content and data mashups.
  • Socialtext – Is a company that wants to bring the power of the social networking applications into your enterprise. They offer a service/portal that gives the functionality of Twitter/Facebook/Wiki’s etc, but contained within your corporate environment (which is great when you don’t want your internal projects being worked on/discussed on a public web site).

ScreenCast Encoding…

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

For the longest time I’ve been trying to find the Holy Grail of encoding settings to get me decent sized screencasts. Most of the time, either the file size was too big, or the text was illegible. I had come across one screencast that was PERFECT. (It averaged about 2mb/min it was a full sized screen (1280×720) and the frame rate was 10 fps, while the data rate was 294 kbits/s)

The closest I’ve gotten was following the instructions from Matthew Pare on this Drupal post titled “Tips and Encoding Settings for Long Duration Screencasts“.


  • Encoding: H.264
  • Frame Rate: 10 fps
  • Key Frame: 500
  • Frame Reordering: Yes
  • Data Rate Limit: No
  • Encoding Mode: Multi-Pass
  • Quality: Medium


  • Encoding: AAC, 12 khz, Mono


Here is the formula that he proposes, I will attach his actual notes below:

  1. Start with the (original width) x (original height)
  2. Pick a (desired width) (the height will adjust accordingly)
  3. Divide the (desired width) / (original width) = (result1)
  4. Now multiply the (original heigth) * (result1) = (desired height)

(you want to round the “desired height” to the closest even number)


That explanation may be a bit confusing so let me give an example. I just have created a screen capture and my video has the dimensions of 1012 x 757. That’s way to big. My video is nearly two hours long, if I kept that size, my final video would be 250MB or even much larger than that. So I want to make this smaller, but still be able to read the text. I am going to say I want my final video to be as close to 800 x 600 as possible. As I have found that size still allows most text to be readable. So I am going to divide my desired output width of 800 by my source length of 1012.

800 / 1012 = .790513834

So now I need to determine the height for my final video. So I take the answer of the above equation multiply it by the height of my source video. So in my example I would multiply my source height of 757 by .79513834.

757 * .79513834 = 598.419

So I am just going to round this number off to 598.

My final video size will now be 800 x 598. Perfect!

Wii love it

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

I just saw an amazing hack for creating a 3D reality effect using the Wii, gaming is about to get another element:

I get knocked down …

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

… but I get up again.

WTF!!! I didn’t order any “kick in the teeth”! Yesterday, while working at a clients office location (in a building attached to a Church) I got into a discussion with the Executive Director about Projects we were working on. We continued the discussion in his office for about 30 minutes, after I got back, life got pretty sucky!!

I found that:

  1. My brand new MacBook laptop had been stolen ARGH!!
  2. I hadn’t billed any of my clients for November or December (my fault, I should bill more often), and all of my notes were on the calendar.
  3. I didn’t have a backup of the laptop because the backup software I own (SuperDuper) was still working on a Leopard compatible version that was “Due out any time”. So I was holding off (what’s an extra week … well, it adds up).

If you find me in either a quiet or grumbly state for the next few days, you now know why.

I’m following you…

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

After reading an interesting article on the perception of surveillance around the world and in Art, I can across these two great tidbits:

“Live” the Movie: There is an independent movie that is based solely upon footage from surveillance cameras (that I want to see):

“ACCESS” the Art Project: There is an art project setup (and on tour) in Germany at the Center for Art and Media, were, via the internet, you get to “…track anonymous individuals in public places, by pursuing them with a robotic spotlight and acoustic beam system.” At first, I thought the link was to a recorded movie example, but no, it was a live control system that you could play with. Since it is in Germany, you have to accommodate their business hours to play with the system (but try it out, it is a blast):

LINK: (Click on the big RED writing to take control)

Hours of access (already converted to PST):

  • Wednesday – Friday: 01:00am – 09:00am
  • Saturday – Sunday: 02:00am – 09:00am
  • (Monday / Tuesday – closed)

Good Hardware, Bad Documentation

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Just an FYI:

I just helped a friend with a frustrating problem and since I couldn’t find any answers on the internet (because none had been posted) I figured that I’d put something up for the next person with this issue:

If you have a “LG LHT764” home theater, dvd, 5-disk, divx, mp3, system, etc. And it ever goes into some type of demo or repeating track loop or mode, the “only” way to get out of it is to hold down the “STOP” button for 10 seconds.

Other messages in this mode: “opo-45” “write ok”