Category Archives: geekery

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and some has been close, but most of it conflates photography with video professionals, and frankly, I’ve heard so many outdated assumptions that I felt I had to speak up.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.