Category Archives: geekery

Finally! Closed Captions in FCPX

You might have read my complaint that Apple, the tech leader in all things accessibility, somehow had managed for nearly two decades to not bother with Closed Captions in their media software for professionals. While adding in tools for effects, for color grading, key, multi-cam, and so many other useful tools, we all were stuck waiting for good captioning tools. 

With the release of Final Cut Pro 10.4.1 we have Closed-Captions for everyone!

Having friends who are deaf or hearing-impaired, I have been making sure that as much of my work as possible was captioned because it’s important. It was not, however, easy. I was using Moviecaptioner, which works ok but isn’t ideal as you’d still had some failings when it came to final output. Most of those failings could be laid directly at the feet of Apple. Moviecaptioner would make CAE-608 compatable .scc files, but Apple’s Compressor wouldn’t always accept them, and the error codes Compressor generated were mind-numbingly useless. You could usually spend a bit of time (hours) and find the issue, resolve it, and get it working, but it took forever.

The other option was using MacCaption, which is what most production houses would use. It was what all caption houses used, and it’s a fine piece of software that worked slightly better, but not much better than Movcaptioner. It cost SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS back when I first had to do captions, and I see that Telestream, which bought it at some point in the last few years, has reduced the cost to a still unreasonable $1,750. For one seat. Without most of the functions you really need. Gee thanks.

For comparison, that’s more than the entire Adobe Creative Collection, which includes a video editor, Premier, a print publication tool used by massive institutions, InDesign, and stables such as Photoshop and Illustrator. Oh, it also includes After Effects, which is in use at 100% of the effects houses producing little-known movies like Black Panther and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Yet somehow a piece of software that literally just encoded text at timecode, with some metadata about color and position, costs several times more than this bundle. There’s a damned bargain for you.

Anyway, so back to captions in FCPX. Check out this screen[1]. 

Those purplish lozenges above the video track are captions. Attached to timecode. And when you click on them, you see this:

That’s the caption window. Then in the panel on the side, you can add text and set the styling you want. 

That’s bloody amazing. And super easy. Import from a text file, or just type them as you go, and it’s really just option-c to create a caption at your playhead position.  It’s attached to that time, and you can drag it’s beginning and end to the exact timing you want, and you’re done. Nothing hard about it.

Currently, you can only make CAE-608 and ITT captions. ITT are the most common type requests as most modern systems can use them, so that’s the default. YouTube, Vimeo, etc., can import those directly. CAE-608 are the broadcast standard closed-captions that we all see when we are watching with the sound off because we’re at the gym and they don’t let you blare the latest episode of Jessica Jones over the loud speakers. These are generally white on black text, and sometime they cover things you’d like to see because people don’t set them right.

Currently FCPX doesn’t support the newer CAE-708 captions, which gives you more formatting control than the 608 captions do, but considering that most systems can’t yet display 708 captions, even though they’ve been out for almost a decade, this gap is understandable. And not a deal breaker at all, since you can use all the advanced settings of 608 captions, which include color and position controls that do most of what you need.

Is it perfect? No. It’s it worlds better than what we have been dealing with? Yes. Yes it is. And it’s so easy to do that everyone should be doing captions for everything[2].

Pick a Card, Any Card

Much hay has been made about the removal and consolidation of the various ports of the old MacBook Pros to the USB-C-only setup of the newly announced MBPs. A ton of it presumes to know what “professionals” use and need, and some has been close, but most of it conflates photography with video professionals, and frankly, I’ve heard so many outdated assumptions that I felt I had to speak up. So here goes.

No one in video cares that the SD slot is going away. No one. NO ONE.[2]

Yes, it’s a bold statement, but here’s a very basic list of the types of storage used to record and deliver video to editors:

  • SD Cards (yay, I don’t need to use an adaptor 🙄)
  • microSD Cards (in fact, my latest two 4K cameras both use this format, so I get to use an SD adaptor)
  • SxS Cards (because Sony hates everyone)
  • RED Cards (which are a type of SSD, but they have a weird connector, because of course they do)
  • SSDs (via mSATA connections or sometimes eSATA)
  • AJA Pak Recording (yet another type using SSDs)
  • CF Cards (which most pro still cameras used at one point)
  • CF 2.0 Cards (because Blackmagic needed another type of storage for their pro cameras, maybe?)

The list goes on and on and on. There are USB 3.0 drives, or Thunderbolt Drives, and just a mind-boggling plethora of things we need to connect to our Macs to ingest footage and get to work.

While I love the idea of a wireless future, currently it’s impossible for us to do our jobs at all via any wireless solutions because even the fastest WiFi is not going to cut it for video.  For the foreseeable future, we’re going to need a way to connect these drives, and while we used to use a cable that had USB-A on one end, we will need some with USB-C on one end, and whatever madness on the other. No big deal.

Is the SD card really that useful for video editors like me? Currently I have a still camera, one video camera, and an audio recorder that use SD cards. So, yes it’s useful, but I also have two cameras that use SSDs, and two that use MicroSD cards[1], and they all need adapters of some kind, so it’s not useful enough to worry about its loss from my next machine. I’ll need to get an SD reader, and my CF reader doesn’t do CF 2.0, so I need a new one of those anyway, and the microSD cards need a reader, or I need the micro-to-standard-SD adaptor, that I have approximately 17 of littered about the office, of which I can generally find one when I need it, and that will be sorted. My SATA connector just needs a USB-B-to-USB-C cable and I’m good to go there. The readers I have for the RED, AJA and some other cameras, again, just need a B-to-C or a MicroUSB-to-USB-C or they can use the A-to-C adaptors.

As USB-C/Thunderbolt is delightfully fast, the fact that it’s an external adaptor for all my cameras instead of just most of my cameras is really a benefit. The adapters work and they aren’t that expensive.

But wait, don’t you want the HDMI port?

I honestly forgot my MacBook had one, and I bought the Thunderbolt-to-HDMI adaptor anyway. It honestly never occurs to me that it’s there.

But Apple’s making you buy new adaptors!

Yes, as soon as I get a new MacBook Pro I will need a stack of new adaptors to use with all my stuff. Yes, it’s a bit of money, but it’s not terrible overall, and guess what – I actually use my adaptors constantly and they do wear out. I need to get a new set every year or two anyway, so that’s on cycle for me. In fact, that Thunderbolt-to-HDMI wore out recently, and, again, forgetting that I have an HDMI port, I replaced the dongle immediately.

But what about the RAM?

What about it? It’s 16GB for heaven’s sake. Right now I edit 4K video, from cameras as light as the Phantom 4 drone and Osmo system from DJI, to the extreme density of the ProRes HQ files of the Blackmagic Design cameras, to RED raw and CinemaDNG using the 8GB ON. MY. FOUR. YEAR. OLD. LAPTOP.

The speeds when I’m working with the original media are abysmal, but they are on the Mac Pro (no shock there) and will be on the new MacBook Pros as well because if you’re cutting with multiple 4k streams, especially ProRes & CinemaDNG streams, the amount of data you’re trying to move can easily exceed the bandwidth inside the computer, let alone the RAM. To be quite honest, it’s just ignorant to work with uncompressed, original media like that, on almost any system available today. Create and use Proxy Media, and if you don’t know how, spend the $35 on Lynda.com and learn how. It’s good business anyway.

As for actual editing on a 15″ screen? Meh, it’s not bad.[4] I do it daily. It doesn’t feel cramped to me, but it probably took me a little bit to get used to it, honestly I don’t recall. The reason that I edit on a laptop is that I do a lot of field editing, it isn’t an option I can avoid – I have to do it, so I get it done. Even at my desk, tho, where I can easily attach a huge monitor, I don’t. I just edit away on my 15″ retina screen, no second display at all, with my trackpad of all things, and I’m probably faster than 90% of the pros out there. I scream through my edits, and I’ve had other editors watch me work and they are dumbfounded at what I do. I’m not the only one who works this way.

I do wish I could see my 4K projects in pixel-for-pixel perfection, but I’ve had exactly 2 projects be finalized in 4K. I can and do connect and play those back from 4K sources, usually a Roku[3], but sometimes from YouTube[5]

Having three 5K monitors floating in front of me, one with pixel perfect views of my canvas, another with my timeline, and the last with my coloring tools, will be awesome, but do I need them to get through my job? Nope. That I’ll have that option is awesome, but it’s not make or break for me. For those who can’t work with one small screen, these new MacBook Pros are beyond compelling, because almost every video editor these days does some road editing. Additionally, the touchbar, with its ability to let me go hands-on with my timeline is incredibly compelling to me.[6]

I know that I’m just one guy, in Montana of all places, but this is my livelihood. I do just fine with what I have, and I’m looking forward to getting a new MacBook Pro with the touchbar because I want the overall increase in speed and processing it offers, and because the ports are all cleaned up to just USB-C. In fact, that’s a huge win for me.

If All Birds Could Fly

twitter-logoTwitter has been both an amazing service and an incredibly frustrating company nearly it’s entire existence. From the beginning when the founders made a service that they knew they liked but somehow didn’t understand, to the point where the company had more Fail Whales than hours of uptime, to when they decided that those who actually knew the service best should be strangled out of building on it, to today when they have no permanent CEO, a founder wants to come back, even though it’s not apparent what he’s going to do differently than his first go around, their stock is sinking, their goodwill is nearly burned through and the passion for the service has died off. How did we get here?

Hindsight being 20/20, we can easily answer that, and in doing so, we might find a solution to what can fix things.

I’ve been a twitter user since early 2007. I found I liked its concise communication, and more importantly, I liked the people I found on the system. Twitter wasn’t particularly about who you knew, it was about what shared interests you had and who else had them. It was the social network not for your real life, but to improve your real life. That was, and is, revolutionary.

More importantly, Twitter fulfilled a niche in our culture that accentuates what Facebook, Friendster, MySpace et all couldn’t do, because Twitter was ‘now’. Every other social media is the past. Things we’ve done. Things we’ve seen. Things we used to care about. Twitter, while still maintaining an archive that allows you to venture into the past, wasn’t and isn’t focused on the past. It’s focused on the now. That, too, is revolutionary.

It seems that two revolutions might be causing confusion, because somehow the people that founded it didn’t get this. There used to be a saying: “Facebook is the people I know and already hate. Twitter is the people I wish I knew in real life.” The really amazing part of Twitter in the early days is that if you followed people who you liked that happened to be on Twitter, they could follow you back, and you could create a relationship with them. That relationship could lead to many interesting things, up to and including actually meeting these amazing people in real life.

This didn’t just happen to me, it was common. I say “was” because something stupid happened inside Twitter that was the first of many clues that the corporation doesn’t understand the product they produce: they made it so that when someone replied to a person you weren’t following, you didn’t see the replies. Why? Twitter claimed it was to keep your timeline clean.

Do you know why I’m following the people I follow? I follow them because they have insights into the world around us that I lack, and those insights are freely given and awesomely on display in their tweets. Free! Open to the public (mostly)! And Twitter thought they were clutter! No, people, they are not clutter. In fact, they were and remain the easiest way to find smart people who are passionate about the same things that you’re passionate about, and I can’t see them in my stream without going to look for them.

What’s worse, Twitter included a mechanism to override the hiding of the reply, and everyone has seen this. The dot-lead tweet is a miasma of idiocy for one very real, tragic, reason: the people who use it shouldn’t, and even they don’t use it when they should. I follow a couple of people who constantly use the dot-lead to show their blistering wit or to enlist help in a flame war. I’ve been stupid enough to jump in and play along a few times, until it got through my head that it’s a waste of time and no one really cares. Those are the wrong moments to engage your entire following, yet it’s the only time people think to do so (again, I’m guilty of this).

When people are calm, lucid, and tweeting through a discussion with another person on Twitter, you see magic. Reasoned thinking and collaborative, concise, back-and-forth leads to amazing things, and that always, always, happens without the dot-lead because the participants have two things happening – they are conversing about something that they are both engaged in, and it’s not about anyone else. They never think to open the discussion to the wider world because they aren’t there to give a speech or hold a public debate, they are simply chatting.

Yet Twitter allows the rest of us to see it. This is magic. I can see a fantastic conversation happening between two of the leads at Pixar as they discuss a working environment that produces some of my most beloved stories. A work environment that I have little chance of seeing, much less of occupying in a professional capacity, but that I get to understand from some of the people who not only work in it, but who helped to make it a reality in the first place. In public. For free. It’s a thrilling reality, on display many times a day.

While over on Facebook, I get a funny cat picture. That’s nice.

Somehow Twitter is failing. Its stock is down below its IPO. It’s leaderless, and it’s managed to alienate the people who gave the service the power it had to change the world. When you send a tweet, you’re using the terminology that was developed by the team at The Iconfactory, not at Twitter. The Iconfactory came up with Ollie, a little bluebird of happiness, long before twitter even called their messages tweets. Even putting the @ before a username wasn’t a convention that Twitter came up with, but they adopted that one almost immediately. It was a tweet directed @ev that caused that, and it was integrated immediately. Hashtags are very much Twitter-centric, and again, weren’t something that Twitter invented. Twitter acquired a third-party search tool, integrated them, and hashtags were then a part of the system. And now, the world.

All the innovation for how people used Twitter came from people using Twitter and developers building things for people to use Twitter. All of it.

Naturally, a company that didn’t understand its own product and didn’t like that others appeared to not only get it, but got it well enough to invent things and make money on top of it, decided to do the only thing that would make things worse for everyone: cut off third-party developers from the API and bring everything in house. In-house development had made Twitter, but not most of the reasons people loved using Twitter. They brought in a CEO that didn’t use the product and didn’t understand its magic, and didn’t believe in anything but business school, money, investors, and the valley. Last time I checked, business school teaches you about things that have happened. Twitter is truly something new, so business school might not yet have a semester on its particular magic.

Regardless, Twitter has to figure out what it wants to be, and I have a suggestion: be Twitter. And be everywhere. If it’s everywhere, everyone will want to use it, because it becomes the one thing it’s really amazing at: What’s Happening NOW.

I want Twitter everywhere. I want to be able to have it in my car, read to me by Siri via Twitterrific, telling me that the polls show that Trump’s dumped, that the middle east is enjoying a turmoil-free day and that JC Penney is having a sale on fat pants and I could swing in and get some. Yes, I want the service to succeed and that means I have to deal with it making money somehow, and that probably means ads. Fine, just make them not suck.

A quick digression re: Advertising not sucking.

There’s a premise out there that people hate ads. That’s a lie. People love some ads. People hate plenty of them, but here’s the secret: people generally hate an ad for its delivery, not its product. Remember pop-up ads? Think hard, and I bet you realize that now you love Netflix, but if you ever see another pop-up or pop-under ad for them you’ll think of canceling the service. If you’re annoying me and shouting in my face, I’m probably not going to enjoy it, and that disgruntlement transfers to your product as a lost sale. If you’re nice, clever, cute and endearing, or even just clean and simple, I’m far more likely to engage with your ad and become a customer. The best example of this is The Deck ads. I’ve been a fan since I first came across them on Daringfireball in 2004. When Twitterrific launched, they had a free version that included showing ads via The Deck in the stream. I immediately bought a license and then didn’t activate that license because I enjoyed the ads from The Deck enough, and they weren’t intrusive and they were for products and services that, over the years, I’ve come to appreciate.

Yes, I appreciate not only the design and style of the ads, but the delivery was clever and clean and not only didn’t bother me, it added to my day and my work in subtle ways. And I spend a lot of money on products from The Deck.

When Twitterrific on iOS was released, same deal. I used it without restoring my purchase for months, right up until I needed to use a second account, and then that option went away. But I chose to see the ads, actively, for as long as I could.

Why? Because the products are relevant to me, and were presented in a way that didn’t disrupt my enjoyment of Twitter.

Again, the Iconfactory has already figured out what Twitter needs to do, and given them a map.

Everything about my usage of Twitter is available to Twitter. They can mine my access, my words, my times of day, everything. They have it all. And they can use that to create targeting for advertisers to tap into to deliver to me clean, crisp, concise, advertisements that show up in my stream and are easily digested and incorporated into my day. No disruption. No muss. No fuss.

And Twitter should be everywhere. The API should be re-opened so that third-party clients can do all the amazing new features (Quoted Tweets are the best!) directly, and Twitter should just design a simple way to create clean ads. Yes, they need links. Yes, they need images. Yes, they need to be awesome, but you can do that with a good team that says no to hideous and horrible and awful with a passion matched only by the users who will enjoy getting to see art in advertising again. Find a modern day Don Draper and make it happen.

Twitter should be everywhere. Everywhere. That should be the goal. On my phone. On my computer. On my watch. In my car. At my bar. Let me see everything that’s going on in the world in the cleanest, crispest way, using a tool that best matches my life. Some people want Tweetbot. Some want Twitterrific. Some want Tweetie back so bad they cry when they think of it. Let’s have them. Let’s access Twitter from whatever we choose, however we choose, because here’s the thing; Twitter has a choice to make: It can be a website that becomes part of history, or it can be integrated into our lives completely.

I look forward to the day that Twitter is back, integrated in my life in an awesome way.

And so it begins

andsoitbegins

We’re just getting started, but it’s now time to get you involved. If you live just east of Helena, from East Helena, Winston, the Silos, all the way to Townsend, and you’re looking for true broadband, we need to chat!

Fiber-to-the-Home and gigabit speeds in Montana are not the stuff of dreams any more. We at TSI are actively working towards that ideal, but it will take all of us working together to make gigabit internet a reality in Montana.

East Helena is the first stop. It’s the test bed for our new ideas. We are deep into the planning phase of the East Helena network, but we need you for the next step.

In order to secure the required financing, we need to show that there are enough customers who are willing to pay for higher internet speeds.

The goal: 1,000 signatures.

Sign up here, now!

Visual Revenue [UPDATED]

Ok, so I was thinking about the whole “Apple is getting a cut of AT&T’s revenue” thing, and I’m calling bullshit. It’s not what people think – at least, not that I can find anywhere. So again, bear with me.

Let’s check the facts:

And that’s where we come upon the real interesting bit: Visual Voicemail is a patented feature of an Apple product. It’s the only part of the iPhone that falls outside the GSM specs and it’s the only part that AT&T had to specifically build out for. AT&T built out for it because they wanted the iPhone, but can anyone imagine those assholes paying out over 24 months for the privilege of letting their customers use the iPhone? AT&T doesn’t care about their customers, and they never have. Look at the rest of their restrictive, expensive crap and tell me they care. Call them with a problem, and then, no, don’t call me, because I already know the rant you’re going to spew.

A fairly steep, rumored to be 10% of the revenue stream is paid to Apple. And given that Apple strong armed AT&T into unlimited data plans for effectively $20, I’m going to guess that Apple worked on the implementation tools for the AT&T Visual Voicemail servers after getting AT&T to agree to this payment. But what is the payment actually for? Use of Apple’s patented technology, that’s what.

And it’s why, even when the iPhone gets unlocked, it won’t ever work just right unless the carrier is paying out the ass to Apple for the patent rights to give users Visual Voicemail.

This idea isn’t the only way that the AT&T deal could work now, and I have no insider information on that at all. However, given the rumors that are coming out of the EU about how it’s going to launch there, you better believe that the only way Apple is going to let those carriers have the iPhone is for those carriers to license the Visual Voicemail technology that Apple has invented, patented, and developed.

Patents make the whole mess make sense. Crazy times, indeed.

[UPDATE]
I just read Paul Boutin’s article on Slate (tip via Gruber) comparing the Blackberry to the iPhone, and about halfway through he states, “The iPhone’s Visual Voicemail feature lets iPhone users scan a text list of all voicemail messages in their inbox and jump to any of them in any order. AT&T won’t let me do that on a BlackBerry. Neither will anyone else.”

Let me state it again: Apple owns this feature and technology, and licenses the patent to AT&T. Trust me, if AT&T could screw Blackberry out of more money by licensing this tech, they would. It’s AT&T’s way.

Post Gender Presentations

There has been a lot written lately about gender as it pertains to professional conferences on web technologies. First off was Jason Kottke presenting the question. Then I caught Eric Meyer, the Patron Saint of CSS, who responded with a resounding “meh” followed by John Gruber’s gender-fireball post, and a comment of clarification by Zeldman in the linked list. Truly Eric received the torment he knew he was setting himself up for. Ouchie. And so totally not deserved. I suggest reading those articles and comments, and then coming back here. I’ll wait.

Back? Good. I love discussing gender, because as a gay man in 2007, it’s certainly a topic that provides countless hours of amusement. And frustration. And a couple of attempts to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. It’s also a subject that, when taken out of context, is beyond frustrating, it’s insulting. And that’s where I think this discussion has gone.

If you look at what Kottke presented, yes, there is a dearth of women speakers at web conferences, and most especially those that focus on HTML and CSS. Kottke is particularly off when he says:

…it seems to me that either the above concerns are not getting through to conference organizers or that gender diversity doesn’t matter as much to conference organizers as they publicly say it does.

Gruber goes off into the realm of Title IX, which has, truthfully, done a world or three of good for women in all things. However, he misses the point of Kottke’s piece, which is that things are inequal in a professional setting. Title IX doesn’t really apply there, so going off into the studies of who got educated where and for what is off-topic. Interesting, and well worth reading, but off-topic none-the-less. And don’t think I’m against Title IX, nothing could be further from the truth. We are all improved when everyone receives an equal chance, which is what Title IX was designed to do. And amazingly, considering it’s legislation, it seems to do relatively well.

Notice that I said “everyone receives an equal chance” and not “everyone receives everything equally.” and for good reason. Title IX doesn’t mean that there will be a women’s football team at your local high school, but it does say that for every men’s sport there shall be an equally funded women’s sport. Don’t care what they play, but they get the game. That’s equality at it’s finest. Which is what Gruber was leading up to.

However, it’s not what Kottke was on about at all. Kottke is about specific equality for professional roles. Can’t, and won’t, happen. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because after giving everyone equal chances, what those people do with those chances will be quite unique to each individual, and therefore, we are unable to predict their results in such a way that we could ever guarantee that there is a 50/50 split along the sex lines.

Meyer doesn’t mind this situation, not because he doesn’t want women around or thinks they are inferior, but because he, quite rightly, sees that while there are fewer women there, overall the web is very well represented by both sexes. And, in this case, gender means less than nothing.

While I, having been discriminated against because of an external trait (e.g. who I have sex with) and have had professional roles given to others because of it, I still agree with Meyer. Kottke thinks that having a vagina attached to some of the speakers would improve the quality of the presentation. That’s thinking that a woman who happens to be a mom can only socialize with other moms if all are either a) not drinking, or b) if they want to drink, they must be chaperoned by someone with a penis.

I don’t see how being male, female, white, black, brown, purple, queer, asexual, cancerous, capricorn or a carrot would matter if you happen to also be a professional in the web-standards-meets-development world. I would, honestly, attend a speech given by a carrot if that carrot was recognized as a leader in the field. That’s what professional speeches are all about.

I have a huge problem with people getting so bent sideways in the effort to be politically correct that they lower the quality of the product. I know it’s rough, and I can’t say that I understand why people are racist, sexist, homophobic or just flat out fucked-up, but I do know that for a conference where people are going to learn about a specific topic, finding the best people, regardless of gender is more important than counting the number of XX’s versus the number of XYs sharing their knowledge.

I want more brilliant people, I don’t care who you are or how you fuck. I don’t even care if you do. I want you for your mind, and guess what, Kottke is wrong to reduce the talent and knowledge of the people involved with these events to their gender. Alas, I’m a bit chubby and have a decent set of tits if he truly thinks that physical traits make a shits difference.

[UPDATE] I see that Zeldman has joined the fray with more on his blog, but I disagree that it’s a fundamental part of the conference planner’s concerns. He thinks it’s important to include women, I think it’s more important to not exclude women, and those, truly, are completely different tasks. Oh, and I still think I’m right.

More Thinking on Accessibility

Jeff’s follow-on to his previous post is another must-read. And doubly-thanks for the shout out, Jeff, that’s always appreciated.

I have something else to add to this, and it’s part of the discussion that I don’t see defined well, and, the back of my head being the meandering/simmering kind, this took a skosh more time to finish, but it was another epiphanal moments for me:

When working to make something accessible, you have the core audience, the first marginal audience, second marginal, third marginal, etc., ad nauseum. However, those units most likely follow a half-life scale, getting below 10% by the 4th marginal, but never actually reaching zero. Very ‘radial gradient’ if you can visualize it.

Alas the world doesn’t work this way, and what works this member of the core isn’t what she’s used to because her child is deaf. Or his wife is blind. And so core people deliberately choose different ways in, to both share in the emotional side of life, granted, but to also try something new. Don’t think it’s happened? You’ve probably done it yourself by activating the built-in reader for a web-page to hear your structure, I have. (It wasn’t bad, just felt like I was on hold a lot.)

I can think of no site-design situation where I’ve sat down and heard anyone say “let’s define this in terms of the 5 senses.” (Insert your own lame ‘stink’ or ‘del.icio.us’ joke here.)

I could be wrong on this, but I just can’t imagine a group saying “our primary goal is to grant access to Group-Y” if only because, for example, having a site for the blind that is inaccessible to the deaf would raise too many hackles, and cut away the core of humanity. I would be very surprised if even the American Society for the Blind, or for the Deaf, think about how their sites are going to be used for the disability, but instead think about how it’s going to be used by ability.

Subtle? Yes. Too subtle? Just wait, there’s more!

You can’t plan for everyone who will reach your site, the potential audience is billions of people. You can plan for groups, but you’ll never know Person X. (unless your name is Dave, apparently, and then Ye Shall Be Known And Smote!. And that’s a good thing, too.

Why on earth would I think it’s a good thing to not know who is at your site? Because accessibility isn’t just about the ways we’ve delivered equal-access to members those of our society who need it. After all, that’s past-tense, in most ways. But we need to keep being creative, keep analyzing the problem, keep pushing the envelope and thinking up new ways. We need to keep learning to help others in our every day lives, keep building new tools and developing new ideas, because each one of those ideas is a building block for another, and another, and, again, ad nauseum. No one should get upset at altruism, but that’s not why it’s important. Society’s growth and continued semblance of well-being are at stake.

While the overall goal of accessibility is to grant everyone access, each person only needs one way. Once it’s found, it’s nirvana, but who finds it the first try? No one. And who stays with that tool for more than a few years? I don’t, and I don’t know anyone who does, either.

Usually because we found a better way, or designed one ourselves.

The devolution of this much-needed discussion to a flame-war is so sad. I don’t want to have to care for someone else’s disability, I want to create for their ability. I don’t want to think in terms of “these can and those can’t” when, by being creative and having a moment to think instead of hearing all the whining over and over about all the sad things in everyone else’s life and I should be grateful and… and … and I am. And if you’ll give me a moment, I may be able to find a common situation so ‘these’ and ‘those’ can all use ‘this’.

Personally I’m falling behind on my surfing as I’m eye-ball deep in django syntax (MODELS, and URLS, and VIEWS! OH MY!) that I’ve not been out on the rest of the web all day. Perhaps I’ll use another access tool and just dump the text into the vocalizer and let the sultry digital tones of the descendants of Maxx Headroom tell you about the day. Or just crank out some BT.

Parts of OS X are gay?

Ok, so that’s a bit inflammatory and out there, but I had to. Over on John Gruber’s excellent Daring Fireball you’ll find a discussion of voodoo and the various merits of “repair permissions” and the like. I enjoy just about everything that John writes, having learned a ton about the computers I use and about web standards and the frustration joy of doing web sites the right way.

Anyway, here’s the part that made me laugh:

Even if you “verify” permissions and it shows some that don’t match, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. They might be wrong, but they might just be different but still OK.

Yeah, so some of the permissions have changed since install, and while they are kinda punky lookin’ buggers, what with their mohawks and tattoos and the fact that the boys all kiss each other, and not in that ‘christian-greeting-another-christian’ way, aside from all that, they are still OK.

And they say diversity is hard to find.

Gruber, thanks for the giggle, although I’m sure you never intended it, it was most welcome.

Damn the Torpedoes! And the French!

Love this! The French are drafting a law to break up the supposed monopoly that Apple has with the iTunes and iPod Commerce-verse that’s grown up around these products. There are so many things wrong with this law that it will be nothing more than 2 seconds in effect before it’s challenged in the EU Court system, which, thankfully, has a habit of doing exactly the opposite of the French desire.

First things, we’ll do a bit of definition checking with the handy dictionary.com:

monopoly:
Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service: “Monopoly frequently… arises from government support or from collusive agreements among individuals” (Milton Friedman).
Law. A right granted by a government giving exclusive control over a specified commercial activity to a single party.
A commodity or service so controlled.
Exclusive possession or control:
arrogantly claims to have a monopoly on the truth.
Something that is exclusively possessed or controlled:
showed that scientific achievement is not a male monopoly.

And now that we’ve covered that, let’s look at what Apple really has – the iPod, a very well designed device used for both storing and playing gobs of music and it fits in your pocket. Handy that. And iTunes, a program that both catalogs your current digital music library by allowing you to import CDs you already own, and a service to sell you more music, television, etc., to fill up the remaining space on your iPod. The files that you download from iTunes are of a specific type and have DRM, Digital Rights Management, software embedded in the files. Big Brother is hiding out with Bob Marley, mon!

So where’s the monopoly again? Microsoft, the convicted monopolist, has Windows Medea the Slayer which is truly miserable software yet several different online music retailers use this as the basis for their iTunes competitor. As does Microsoft itself, of course. And other lost souls use the RealMedia monstrosity to attempt to accomplish the same goals – an online music store. Real and Microsoft are both vendors and competitors to the companies using these whackjob programs as foundations for their businesses. It’s not a wonder that they aren’t doing well, the basics of their businesses aren’t sound on top of having crap software. So iTunes can’t be a monopoly because there is competition, even if it’s weak and sad and pathetic. Like Bill Gates chin.

And the iPod isn’t a monopoly either. Wildly successful? You betcha! The only game in town? No, but this is mostly like Internet Explorer for Windows isn’t the only game in town, but it’s the game most people play. Only unlike IE/Win, the iPod doesn’t have it’s own gravitic anomaly that is responsible for more sucking than a cargoship of Dysons could ever hope to muster. But still, ‘wildly successful product’ and ‘monopolistic device’ are not the same.

So what are the French really up to? Aside from wanting to be seen to make any decision that doesn’t involve corruption in Iraq, riots in their cities, or a rash of births of baby boys destined to be under 5’2″ tall and wanting to rule the world, they are trying to understand technology by reading the funny pages. And they are wasting their time, as this will probably have the exact wrong effect they imagine.

Here’s how I see the scenario playing out.

  1. France passes this Silly Law. Great. Woo. Yay. We. Are. Voters! But the law is passed, which is like lighting the fuse on a fireworks display. The one you knocked over by accident. The one that is now horizontal and facing the fine art and architecture of your city. Flame on, Froggy!
  2. Apple will appeal to the EU.Why? Because they have to. You will know that something is amiss, however, when Microsoft, RealMedia, and the RIAA or it’s EU analog join Apple in the appeal.
  3. The EU shall make rumblings about ‘zat damn buncha sheitze-knobbins’ or however the German’s will say it. Press conferences will be held, much will be ballyhooed, and the law will be technically in effect, but none of the software biggies will make software to remove the DRM’s from the files sold in France. That would be software that could remove all the DRM! Aha, first real problem!
  4. Apple threatens to shutter the iTunes:France store! Riots with the cities cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Cloris Leechman is hired to, yet again, lead the peasants in a revolt against the government. She punctures her breast with a knitting needle once again.
  5. The French Get a Clue! But alas, our heros are too late! People all over the world are looking at the members of the organizations like the RIAA and seeing the illegal businesses they really are, for the first time.
  6. Apple fires a salvo across the bow of the USS RIAA! Saying something like “We never wanted DRM in the audio anyway” (which is true) and perhaps,“Our customers have always wanted to own their music, we’ve been forced to add this crap to the tracks because of the RIAA and the MPAA. We’d rather not have to deal with it.” And the RIAA shall be caught with it’s pants firmly around it’s ankles.
  7. Poo Collides with Spinning-thingies! Now the real monopoly is exposed. The RIAA and the various European, Asian, African and South American analogs are exposed as The SongFathers they are, leading to serious investigations, new artist contracting, many hurt feelings and yet another instance of someone actually purchasing a Cockapoo voluntarily.
  8. STRIPPPED! DRM goes all Christina Aguilera on us!
  9. iPod sales go up! Why? Well the last of the reasons to not own a version of this device is removed, which is not being able to play the pirated crap you stole anyway. Which you can already do, actually, the iPod has been able to do this since the very first one. However, the myth that it can’t is the current problem, and that myth goes away here.
  10. iTunes sales go up, too! Huh? Wha… how?!? Oh, wait, the software is easy to use and I can now watch those music videos and tv shows iTunes sells on devices like, um, my PlaystationPortable or my DVD player, if I burn the DVD. OOOH, I can play the files on my TiVo, I think! Can I? Regardless, the store is a simple, fun, easy-to-use and well designed, and once you use it you’ll agree. Once the restricted rights crap is gone, so goes the myth that you can’t play the files anywhere, and iTunes sales go up.
  11. The French burn a soufflé. Tired after a long day of destroying Vivendi, the last of the truly World-wide French companies, the populace thinks about rioting, but instead torches a soufflé as a warning to others of their national just-not-happy-with-anything-ness. We are, understandably, doubled over in mirth.

Regardless of what happens with this legislation, the concept of being able to own what you pay for is core to humanity, and in turn core to democracy and our planet-wide society. It’s always a shock for people to find out they don’t own any of that fancy software they use, it’s merely licensed for their use. That license can be withdrawn, refund not included, too. We humans like to own things, and music has been for the last 100-some-odd years one of the defining ‘things’ for most people. We all know those people with amazing collections of vinyl albums, and you probably know people with 8-tracks, cassettes, or even 45’s or the old tubes from the Victrolas.

Regardless, those things, be they metal tube, vinyl platter, magnetic spindles or a pile of shiny plastic coasters of music, we own, and when it comes to the computerized pile of 1’s and 0’s, the digital versions of those tubes, platters, spindles or coasters are the files sold, not rented, but sold in iTunes. The sooner we rid of the DRM madness the better, but, the French cannot lead us in this battle. Charlamagne is long dead, and the charlatans of Paris lack the insight, foresight, knowledge, aptitude and balls to actually do this the right way, although they have fired the first, unwitting, volley.

Welcoming back a SupahStar!

Oh happy day! It’s been a while, and frankly, it’s about damn time – Johnny A Go Go has been resurrected!! One of the best blogs out there, with it’s insite and flair, wit, wisdom and wonder, J.Go covers his own life in a free and fun way, even when he’s talking about depressing things like trying to find a date in rural Maine.

The blogosphere is better just for having him here! Welcome back, kiddo!!

p.s. I’ve added his blog to the Bright Spots list on the right. Click away!

I love the smell of technology in the morning afternoon!

It’s not like Apple hasn’t been doing a ton of stuff recently, what with releasing a new version of iTunes just over a month ago alongside the new iPod nano. Nor can they really be considered busy as they sold over a MILLION nanos in just over 17 days. I mean, come on, they should have been up to something more spectacular. And they were.

New iMacs are out. Ahem. Moving on.

The new iPod does video. Big shocker there, since music and photos were done, the only thing left is video. For those of you watching the whole Apple system, you might notice a few ‘core’ technologies – CoreImage, CoreAudio and CoreVideo – that are part and parcel of OS X. It’s like broadcasting stepping stones for other developments.

What’s interesting, at least according to John Gruber at Daring Fireball, is that the video is 320×240, which, for those of you counting pixels on old analog TVs, is about half the resolution (or for the math geeky, one-fourth the area) of what is broadcast free over the air. He wonders who would buy them. And I kinda do as well, although I have bought 2 episodes already, the Season Premier of Lost and the series premier of Night Stalker. Neither of which I’ve found time to watch in my real life, but having a copy I can watch while I’m ostensibly doing work, and can pause, rewind, etc. without having to deal with a TiVo menu (which sucks balls) or the PVR of whatever cable company you’re stuck using. And it’s merely two bucks! How can I pass that up when I don’t have to THINK!?! And so yeah, I don’t have any desire to get an entire season right now, although that is an option for anyone who wants it as well. And while half-resolution is low for most things, I’m not watching epic movies – yet! The more interesting thing is that it’s the same cost per episode even if it’s a 23 minute or 43 minute show. Next month, when they release iTunes 7.0 and include movies in full HD at decent downloads and for reasonable rates, well, there it is. And I know what I want for Christmas. (hint hint)

Help!!

Unless you’ve managed to hide under a rock for the last week, you know that New Orleans has been sunk under several feet of water. You know that the entire metropolis is basically gone, that the roof of the Superdome was peeled back like an apple in the hands of a 5 year old, and that more looting/finding (the difference being black vs. white according to the AP, and yes, it’s a cached page at Google, Yahoo! locked down the original, go figure.) So my petty whining is going to take a back seat to some great needs that are out there.

I would recommend that you donate to someone like

And if you want to know more of what the rest of the bloggers around the world are doing to help, by all means, find out! (Thanks to Technorati for the tags, too!)

Next week I shall return with more of my usual bitching and whining. I will also talk about the wisdom of moving 10,000 people from the Superdome to the Astrodome while hurricane season is still in full swing. Houston can easily get a hurricane, too, and while it’s not quite as dramatic as New Orleans, Houston also has parts of the city under sea level. And I moved here voluntarily. Ouch.

Whither J.Go, I go, but no Yugo

Oh for the love of pete and all things wondering, J.Go has been reworking his blog, and because of some friends of his who could, if asked too early in the day, lead him wrong, he’s using WordPress which, as we all know, powers the Hammage-on-Wryness right here. And we simply love it, so I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t wrong in suggesting it to J.Go-Whom-We-Love.

I’ve been remiss myself because of a background update, and I’m still trying to finish off some video work for the OTO because, well, I did film them. And, as everyone in Houston is well aware, RED is launching this weekend, so it’s not like my life won’t have meaning again. And I’d really like to get over this friggin cough I have.

But it’s that time, Spring cleaning is over and the summer is about to hit us like a blast furnace, so I should redo the site. Expect many changes, my darlings!

Houston, we have a problem!

I was checking out the news online and found that Apple had released a new version of Final Cut, which is core technology for what I really want to be doing – film. And TV, but film is a good place to be. So I went over to the Final Cut Pro User Group Network only to find that the lovely pages haven’t been updated in quite some time. Like a year or so.

I realize there are many things in our lives that make having to deal with extra groups too much, and that especially with something like Film, where the competition is high and the playing field is anything but level, that sometimes getting together in these groups to share ideas and whatnot isn’t, well, productive to your business. Or it feels that way. I suspect it’s more of a feeling than anything else. But then I see that sites aren’t updated and that they are ugly to begin with, and I think, well, it’s pretty sad when this happens.

So I guess I have two points for this blog post – is there a Houston Final Cut Pro Users Group? And if so, what is the website for more information. I will be stopping at the Apple store in the Galleria to find out tomorrow, although if anyone has any knowledge on this, by all means, post a comment and let me know.

The other thing I want to know is, have any of these groups thought of using blogging software, like WordPress, which I adore, or Movable Type, which I admire but don’t use? Their sites could be much better if they did. Perhaps I will have to go fix this, and maybe have something new to do in Houston.