Christmas Vacation and Buster Keaton: The Frame is the Universe

The world is the frame

Anyone who had been following my visual deconstruction and film theory posts over the years should have noticed that I have not written anything in the past two years. My friend and mentor in the art of visual rhetoric, Scott Eric Kaufman, passed away after a long illness, and I decided to take a year (or two) off, in deference to him. - Jeff

This is a moderately quick deconstruction of a particular comedic element in a “new classic” Christmas movie.

Written By
Jeff

Nostalgia Films: A New Breed of Film

Defining the nostalgia film as a sub-genre.

Amidst a raging torrent of smarmy self-aware postmodern / post-postmodern film, a new sub-genre has been emerging in recent years: that of the “nostalgia” film. I posit that “nostalgia film” is a distinct sub-genre and can be separated from both postmodern / post-postmodern film and reboot / franchise film.

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Jeff

Photography: 13 Days of Unusual Shots with Vintage Glass

Trying to expand my photographic range over thirteen days.

As part of a project to force myself to expand my artistic horizons (as well as my technical competence) in the field of photography, I’m forcing myself to try to use one of my vintage manual lenses – without the aid of focus assist or peaking of any sort – to take pictures which are out of my standard comfort zone*, and to get at least one “keeper” shot to exhibit for each day, starting on the Fourth of July. I am updating this post with both copies of the photos, as well as meta-data and links to the originals on Flickr.

* “Out of my standard comfort zone” is a subjective measurement. Hopefully these captures won’t be subjects or framings which I’ve heavily relied upon in the past, but as everything is derivative in some sense, I guarantee nothing.

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Jeff

Exploiting Flaws in Vintage Glass

Learning to use the characteristics of vintage glass for fun and (hopefully) profit.

Modern lenses (glass) have been manufactured in an increasingly flawless way, attempting to achieve optical perfection. I’d like to delve into the potential of using older “vintage” glass specifically to exploit the inherent imperfections present in those lenses.

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Jeff

Downton Abbey: Camera Stabilization as a Storytelling Tool

Looking at camera stabilization in Masterpiece Theater's "Downton Abbey"

The acclaimed BBC/PBS Masterpiece Theater series Downton Abbey has been lauded for its period-accurate settings and for a heretofore unseen look at the non-affluent parts of historical life around the English aristocracy. I’d like to look at Downton Abbey’s use of camera stabilization as an effective storytelling tool.

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Jeff

Opensource Contact Sheets for Photographers

Creating contacts sheets using opensource software

One of the disadvantages to being a pretty active photographer is trying to handle archiving old shoots and being able to quickly locate a certain shot amongst thousands of directories of RAW stills, which may not be present on your local media. Enter the humble contact sheet.

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Jeff

Why "Gotham" Succeeds Where Other Prequels Fail

Looking at why Gotham does prequel better.

I have been known to outwardly hate prequel films. This is, in no small part, due to them tending to be terrible. It should come as little shock that I was extremely reticent about watching Gotham, DC’s attempt at a prequel story for the Batman franchise. As I have defended in past, the Batman origin story is the greatest origin story in film, and attempting to undertake it in a way which would not result in extreme disappointment for aficionados of the canon seemed dodgy, at best.

I was very, very wrong – and I’d like to examine why.

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Jeff

Layers of Canon and The Batman

Examining the concept of multiple layers of canon using The Batman

One of the concepts which has been intriguing me over the last few weeks has been the concept of multiple layers of canon existing over many works in an overarching canon.

The Batman mythos comprises more than 70 years of collective canon built on a foundation of comics, films, television series, and other works of fiction; as it spans multiple mediums and auteurs, it seems an ideal system to examine for the phenomenon of nested canon.

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Jeff

The Monomyth, Saving the Cat, and Consistency

Why do we seem obsessed, as a culture, with films heavily designed around pandering to the Campbellian Monomyth?

Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” wasn’t intended to be a blueprint to create stories or films, but it has become that for many auteurs. Why the Monomyth?

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Jeff

Review: Ace Jackson is a Dead Man

A review of Sean Weather's blaxploitation film "Ace Jackson is a Dead Man"

Ace Jackson is a Dead Man, which I was recently asked to review, is an interesting experiment in contrasts and seems to offer a takeoff on traditional blaxploitation films; there remain questions, however, revolving around how it was executed.

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Jeff

The Usual Suspects: Mirroring the Outer Story

The inner shot mirrors the outer story in Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects

One of my favorite thematic plot devices in the medium of film has been “inner story mirrors outer story” (especially across epistemic layers). Bryan Singer’s 1995 neo-noir classic The Usual Suspects is told through a series of flashbacks – and manages to use this thematic device to great advantage.

WARNING: There be spoilers here. If you’re one of the small group of people who haven’t actually watched The Usual Suspects yet, go watch it, then read on. Seriously. Don’t spoil this for yourself.

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Jeff

The Rise of Crossover and Mashup

Examining the rise of the culture of crossover/mashup in comics, television, and film.

“The ability to generate novel, high variance outcomes is based on the availability of ideas. Idea availability can be constrained by local search, in which a limited set of options is considered according to confidently held beliefs. Broader search results in more idea variety and can identify ways to combine knowledge that challenge the belief that constrain innovative behavior. The paradox is that innovative experts also search locally to determine what rules to break, while nonexperts search locally and conform to those rules.” - Taylor, Greve (DOI: 10.230720159795)

The concept of story and character crossover/mashup to mix epistemological systems between comic, literary, and film universes is hardly a new phenomenon, but there has been a precipitous rise in its prevalence in popular culture over the past decade; I’m looking to explore the reasons behind the increase in popularity.

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Jeff

Revisiting Past Work: The Argument for Artistic Immutability

An argument for film to be immutable after its completion.

“A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it or offer your own version in return.” - Salman Rushdie

Whether it be for the sake of temporally relevant cultural mores, attempting to refine or “reimagine” an existing work, or for other miscellaneous reasons, the act of changing existing artistic work has extended itself into the artistic medium of film.

This posits that it is destructive to the nature of the medium and the art inherent therein to endorse these kinds of changes.

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Jeff

Pi: Using the Medium of Film to Externalize a Concept

Examining thematic elements exposed through the physical medium of Darren Aronofsky's "Pi"

Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage famously posited that the way something is presented to us is as important if not more important than the information itself. Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film, Pi, offers an excellent example of an auteur using the physical medium of film to help tell a story, rather than be hindered by it.

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Jeff

Post-Mortem: 2015 Providence 48 Hour Film Project

Analyzing and documenting our entry in the 2015 Providence 48 Hour Film Project

My 48 Hour Film Project team, Shoot the Moon Films, participated in the first Providence 48 Hour Horror Film Project last year, but had never entered the regular 48 hour festival in Providence, so we decided to give it a shot. This is my critical analysis of the processes used to create “Buck’s Bed & Breakfast” (IMDb).

WARNING: There are some details of the film which may function as spoilers, so don’t read below the fold if you haven’t seen it yet.

Written By
Jeff

Why Batman Begins is the Greatest Origin Film of All Time

A logical argument as to why "Batman Begins" is the greatest origin film of all time

This argument originated in a rather unconventional way: it was dropped in my lap. The AV Club’s Scott Eric Kaufmann (or “SEK” for short) dropped this on me in a particularly interesting Facebook thread; in his words:

Because I just can’t with today anymore, I’m just going to say that Batman Begins is the greatest origin film ever, and let the brilliant Jeff Buchbinder defend my position. Did he ask me to do this? No. Did he want me to do this? Probably not. But can he do it? Without a doubt.

Challenge: accepted.

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Jeff

Orange is the New Black "Trust No Bitch": Relationship Dynamics

Outer camerawork mirrors inner relationship in Orange is the New Black's "Trust No Bitch"

The Jenji Kohan series “Orange is the New Black” has been lauded for its portrayal of a Connecticut womens’ prison, including a cast of diversified characters. Less attention has been given to its excellent and intricate camerawork. I’m going to examine a scene from the last episode of the third season, entitled “Trust No Bitch”.

Warning: There be spoilers here (albiet relatively small ones).

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Jeff

Mad Men "Severance": Misleading Expectations

Using expectations and camerawork to mislead in Mad Men's "Severance"

Mad Men’s highly anticipated final season’s second half began with an interesting sequence which uses the expectations we have about the kind of man Donald Draper is to set up one of the best paraprosdokian scenes in the series.

(Apart from potentially spoiling this single sequence, this writeup does not give away any plot points from the last season.)

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Jeff

Daredevil and Falling Down: Character Descent

Comparing similar character development in Marvel's Daredevil and Falling Down

I wouldn’t normally associate the 1993 Schumacher film Falling Down with the Netflix/Marvel Daredevil series, especially since Schumacher didn’t astound me, given the source material he had to work with. However, there is a common thread between the two properties besides their antagonists’ initials – the descent of their characters and how they perceive themselves.

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Jeff

Differences Between Film and Theater

What makes theater and film different for actors and viewers?

Before film became possible through Edison and the Lumière Brothers’ fantastical inventions, theater had reigned as the primary dramatic performance artform for thousands of years. Though sharing much of the same lineage, there are fundamental differences in the way that film and theater are conceived, planned, acted, and consumed.

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Jeff

Starter Pro Cine Rig on a Budget

Putting together a first rig on a budget without sacrificing quality

Whereas it it true that gear matters much less than a good eye and a good set of camera skills, a decent rig can help that good eye translate into great output. People spend thousands of dollars on their starter rigs – but a great professional rig can be had for under $1500 if you have a few decent photography lenses laying around. It also includes a great audio capture solution.

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Jeff

Post-Mortem: 2015 Boston 48 Hour Film Project

Analyzing and documenting our entry in the 2015 Boston 48 Hour Film Project

For the second time, my 48 Hour Film Project team, Shoot the Moon Films, decided to enter the Boston 48 Hour Film Project for the 2015 event – along with 89 other teams. What follows is my record of both the timetable/process we used and a post-mortem analysis of the flaws and potential improvements in our processes in creating “Acceptance”.

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Jeff

Backing up Footage and Digital Negatives using Cheap Cloud Storage

Cheap backups for footage and digital negatives

If you’re like me, you churn out a pretty hefty load of both digital film negatives (camera RAW images) and film footage (RAW or ProRes for me, but you may use a different format). This has always posed an issue for backing up original footage and photographs.

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Jeff

The Virgin Suicides: The Loss of Innocence and the Illusion of Normality

Examining The Virgin Suicides for visual clues

Sophia Coppola’s freshman feature film, The Virgin Suicides, initially struck me as a very disquieting film. Using the guise of average suburban life and teenage maturation rituals, Coppola delivers an interesting viewpoint on innocence and normalcy.

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Jeff

Batman: Examining the Introduction of The Batman as Three-Act Gothic Horror

Tim Burton’s stylized 1989 Batman film was responsible for bringing the masked vigilante back onto the movie screen in a more serious light than Adam West’s comedic portrayal of the caped crusader. He brought many interesting elements to the introduction of The Batman, which I would like to examine in detail.

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Jeff

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers: Interweaving Epistemological Layers and Being Other People

Exploring character through layered epistemology in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

Peter Sellers was an enigmatic enigma – at least, if we are to believe the 2004 biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. This film combines a fascinating biographical picture of Peter Sellers the man with the relatively unused technique of sliding effortlessly between not only epistemological layers, but also expository styles and even points of view. Peter Sellers effectively retcons his life.

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Jeff

Bamboozled: Narration and Racial Power Struggles Through Camerawork

Examining the way Bamboozled narrates and details racial issues and power struggles through effective camerawork

Spike Lee’s 2000 film Bamboozled was seen by many (including the late Roger Ebert) as being too shocking to effectively convey the social message it had wrapped in its unusual satirical bent, steeped heavily in elements of Lumet’s Network. I’d like to examine some of the more subtle camera angles, movement, and composition to dig deeper into the way Bamboozled tells its story.

Written By
Jeff

Deconstructing Harry: Discontinuous Editing as a Narrative Tool

Examining discontinuous editing as a narrative tool in Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry

“All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it.” - Harry Block

Although film scholars tend to focus mainly on Woody Allen’s early body of work, especially films like Annie Hall, many of his later works can teach us an impressive amount about the subtle craft of creating a film. Deconstructing Harry, made twenty years after Annie Hall, can teach us about the power of discontinuous editing to further a narrative.

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Jeff

Unbreakable: Isolated in Plain View

Examining how Unbreakable shows a character being alone in a crowd

“Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world, to not know why you’re here.” - Elijah Price

How do you isolate a character in a crowd of people? How do you film an entire train scene with only three actors? M. Night Shyamalan managed to pull this off in his second collaboration with Bruce Willis, the superhero / drama film Unbreakable.

*If you haven’t watched the film yet, this is your warning that THERE BE SPOILERS HERE.*

Written By
Jeff

Smoke: The Art of the Long Take

Examining 1995's Smoke and its use of the long take

“I’ll tell you what – Buy me lunch, my friend, and I’ll tell you the best Christmas story you ever heard. How’s that? And I guarantee, every word if it is true.” - Auggie

Smoke is Wayne Wang and Paul Aster’s first collaboration on a serendipitous independent film, to be followed up by the less-successful Blue in the Face. I’d like to examine an extremely long take in the third act of the film, and the way it helps tell the film’s story.

Written By
Jeff

They Live vs Buckaroo Bonzai: Exposing the hidden truth

Comparing the exposition of hidden truths in They Live and The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the Eighth Dimension

If you were asked what John Carpenter’s They Live had in common with the campy 1980s sci-fi pastiche The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the Eight Dimension, the first answer to come to mind might have something to do with aliens; I’m going to examine the way that a hidden truth, or additional story/film layer is exposed to some characters within the epistemic system of a film.

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Jeff

Mother Night: You Must Be Careful What You Pretend To Be

Examining the intersections of perception and reality in Mother Night

I suppose the moral here is: You must be careful what you pretend to be… because in the end you are what you pretend to be. - Howard W Campbell, Jr

There are many interesting facets of the film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel about the fictional Howard W. Campbell, Jr, a self-described American spy who functioned as a Nazi propagandist during World War II; I’m going to focus on one particular series of scenes during the third act of the film.

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Jeff

The Departed: Introducing Costello and Life in the Shadows

Examining the introduction of Frank Costello in The Departed

Scorsese’s The Departed netted the venerable director his second “Best Director” Academy Award and only his first “Best Picture” Academy Award in his entire 20+ year career, despite being a remake of another film.

Many film critics and scholars have examined the film’s themes and visuals, but I would like to concentrate on a single character’s introduction and early visualization on the screen: Nicholson’s Frank Costello.

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Jeff

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: Gilliam and the Art of the Reveal

Examining Gilliam's reveal shots in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Terry Gilliam is, in my opinion, one of the great distinctive film directors of the latter part of the 20th century. Books have been written – literally – about his techniques and his rather unique style of filmmaking. I’m going to focus on one of my favorite films of his, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, to study Gilliam’s artful reveal shots.

Written By
Jeff

Layers, the Inner Film, and Reality

Looking at film within film; stories within stories.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. - Macbeth, Shakespeare

We’ve become accustomed to viewing film, whether consciously or subconsciously, as a separate world with its own intrinsic epistemology. It represents a false world constructed within our own world – much like a play or other piece of narrative fiction.

Certain films exhibit a layering of realities – a “film within a film”, or “mise en abyme” – which can be used as a powerful narrative tool or as a metaphor for some larger concept. By interweaving stories within stories, a more complex tale can emerge which can be more intricate than the stories would be if told separately.

Written By
Jeff

Narrative Exposition in Film

An exploration of the way backstory is brought to light in film.

Narrative exposition, or simply exposition, is the insertion of important background information within a story; for example, information about the setting, characters’ back-stories, prior plot events, historical context, etc. (from Wikipedia)

Within the confines of the skeleton of a film work (the script), there are many ways to impart information which would not otherwise be assumed by the viewer or implied by the filmmaker. I posit that the way in which expository information is imparted to a viewer via the medium of film is as important if not more important than the information which is being imparted.

As with any other aspect of film as an art form and medium, there isn’t a single “correct” way of doing anything. There isn’t one particular correct framing which needs to be used for a shot, not only a single focal length lens or camera brand which would have to be used to get the only valid shot possible – and in much the same vein, there are many different more-or-less-equally-correct methods of imparting that information. I’d like to explore the mechanisms and caveats of each of them.

Written By
Jeff

Film Epistemology

Film as a self-contained universe.

I’d like to take a brief look at film epistemology. In order for that to work, I’m going to be positing that for our purposes, each film is its own self-contained universe with its own rules and knowledge both known and unknown.

(As a disclaimer, I’m no Scott Eric Kaufmann; I’m not going to be using visual illustrations, and precious few (if any) citations. There are also bound to be spoilers of every variety, so if a film is mentioned, avert your gaze if you don’t want to learn important truths about its ending.)

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Jeff

Whom do you root for?

Exploring the prevalence (and causes for) sports fandom.

A friend’s son asked me which Superbowl team I would be rooting for during the big game – and I didn’t have a satisfactory answer for him. Team sports have always held a “red tribe/blue tribe” quality to me, even from a fairly early age. A great deal of that has to do with how we become associated with team sports, among other concepts.

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Jeff

Experts vs Relativism

Trying to make sense of what constitutes the opinions and expertise we listen to.

In the larger search for guidance, justification, or confirmation, we tend to weigh different opinions – especially expert opinions – based on how they relate to our trust “weighting” of them, by association. That being said, there are two, drastically different, models of weighted opinions: experts, or everybody (which can be understood through the concept of “universal relativism”).

Written By
Jeff

Exposure

A primer on consistent and effective exposure techniques in cinematography

This is my workup on effective exposure practices for cinematography. It’s an attempt to provide a fairly effective set of practices for ensuring the best consistent image.

Written By
Jeff

The Fine Line Between Confidence and Hubris

The contradiction inherent in artistic self-assessment

I’ve been trying to make sense of two necessarily contrary positions in regard to skill, art, and aesthetics. This is something of which I’ve been trying to make sense for quite some time.

Written By
Jeff

The danger of the shortcut mentality

Why you shouldn't always be looking for the easiest solution.

In “Skill in the Age of Instagram”, I had opined about the lost value of skill sets, and how the modern approach to skills is to “approximate” them with shortcuts like Instagram, Autotune, and Photoshop.

Even though these tools offer the quickest and shortest “path” to the immediate goal, being your current project, they retard your potential growth by limiting your skills and knowledge about what you’re doing. If the pseudo-magic time-saving software is taken away (or encounters a limitation), how will you continue to be able to function without it?

Written By
Jeff

The Importance of Failure

Failures are as important, if not more important, than successes.

Failing is a terrible thing, we are taught. As a result of inherent cognitive biases and our own illusory superiority (look up the Dunning-Kruger effect, if you’re curious about this), we believe that we are right the majority of times, that we are more skilled than those around us, and that we have nothing of import to learn from not succeeding.

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Jeff

Winning a 48 Hour Film Project

Lessons learned from winning a 48 hour film project

My team, Shoot the Moon Films, won the 2014 Providence Horror Film Project’s “Best Picture” award, as well as scoring a “Best Actor” award for Nicholas Magrey, a “Best Writing” award for Natasha Darius and Nicholas Magrey, and a “Best Sound Design” award for Aaron Theodore Berton for our short film “The Carving” (IMDb).

I’m used to doing post-mortem analyses on failures, so this is a fairly unusual task ; why did “The Carving” win against other films – especially against some very strong contenders?

Written By
Jeff

Another 48 Hours

Yet another 48 hour film festival...

Almost six months after the Boston 48 Hour Film Festival, my team (Shoot the Moon Films) is entering the 2014 Providence 48 Hour Horror Festival. Along with seventeen other teams, we’re going to try to make a 4-7 minute horror film in 48 hours.

This is pretty far out of my wheelhouse, as I haven’t made a practice of making horror films, but my team and I are excited, and I’m going to keep track of both our successes and our missteps here.

Written By
Jeff

Ways To Keep Your Work From Appearing Cheap

Tips for cinematographers to prevent your work from appearing cheap

Okay; so you’ve got a DSLR, a RED, a Blackmagic Cinema Camera, a GoPro – what’s next? The internet is littered with all sorts of tutorials aimed at trying to reproduce the “Hollywood look”, but where to begin?

Over my time as a cinematographer, I’ve learned quite a bit about putting together things that don’t look terrible. Unfortunately, I’ve learned most of these through the painful process of trial and error. If there’s an item listed in this article, I most likely ended up screwing up in that particular way at one time or another.

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Jeff

Modifying Computar 12.5mm C-mount lens for M4/3

For whatever reason, there seems to be a serious dearth of information regarding lens modification on the C-mount Computar 12.5mm f/1.3 lens. I am going to share my experience modifying this lens, in the hope that it will prevent other people from having the same issues which I have encountered.

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Jeff

DIY $7 Film Slate

A cheap slate for seven dollars

I can’t claim credit for this one – my extremely talented and resourceful production designer got the idea to use an inexpensive slate “prop” and modify it slightly to allow the use of erasable whiteboard markers. These are usually a bit more than seven dollars, and we didn’t have the time to wait for one to arrive in the mail for the shoot in question. There are only two pieces of “hardware” which are required to make this, along with a few pieces of duct tape, a sharpie, a ruler, and whatever whiteboard markers and erasers you are planning to use on the finished slate.

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Jeff

Boom!

A quick guide to capturing boom audio

There are quite a few guides, tutorials, videos, and other resources on how to capture usable boom audio. Most of these have a few usable sections with a bunch of fluff or useless information accompanying them. This is my attempt to compile a “quick guide” to capturing usable boom audio, assuming you don’t have a competent audio engineer in your employ (which I highly recommend). Audio is half of your deliverable product, as a cinematographer, so you should make sure that you capture the highest quality audio possible.

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Jeff

BMPC4K Workflow with Premiere and Resolve

Overview of my basic Premiere/Resolve workflow

There are a number of “accepted” workflows for going between Adobe Premiere (as an NLE) and Davinci Resolve (for color correction/grading) for BMPC4K footage. I am going to detail the workflow I have been using, which should be useful both for the BMPC4K camera, as well as the BMPCC and BMCC cameras. Preparation. Make sure your camera is producing footage at the 23.98 fps frame rate, rather than 24 fps.

Written By
Jeff

48 Hours with the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K

This year, my team (Shoot the Moon Films), entered the 2014 Boston 48 Hour Film Festival for the first time. It’s an interesting experience, going from genre and parameters to fully formed script, to planning and preproduction, to shooting and execution, to editing, scoring, grading, and full post-production in a single weekend. I’ve learned a lot about working with the BMPC4K camera in that time. I am going to iterate over some of the more important things that I learned over the weekend.

Written By
Jeff

CAME-06 Blackmagic Cage Review

A review of the CAME-06 Blackmagic Cinema/Production Camera cage

As part of setting up the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K, I have been trying to put together a solid, fairly low-cost set of accessories for the camera body. I became aware of a low-cost Chinese cage for the BMCC/BMPC4K bodies manufactured by an outfit called “Xiamen Came Photographic Equipment Co., Ltd.”, which are available sporting both top and bottom 15mm rail mounts, along with the normal mounting options and handles present with most cage designs.

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Jeff

First look at the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K

Reviewing the BMPC 4K body

I was lucky enough to be one of the early people on the waiting list for Blackmagic Design’s new 4K “Production Camera” body, which I received last week. It boasts a global shutter, Ultra 4K resolution, ProRes/RAW recording at 1080p/4K resolutions, a super 35mm sensor, EF mount, and around 12 stops of dynamic range – among other features. I took it out for a test spin with a fellow cinematographer, just to see how far I could push the image.

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Jeff

Lens Selection for Cinematography

Choosing lenses for cinematography

The lens of your camera is arguably one of the most important parts of the camera ; it has the job of controlling light, adjusting focus (and focal length in variable focal length lenses), controlling depth-of-field through the aperture, and adding character to the shots you have lovingly framed. (It should be noted that the sensor of a digital video camera body is also very important, in terms of sensitivity, resolution, size, and other factors, but it is out of the scope of this article.

Written By
Jeff

Dynamic range

Dynamic range, both as a literal and figurative concept.

As a photographer or cinematographer, I’m sure you’ve come into contact with limitations in dynamic range. I have run into limitations with dynamic range in both the visual and audio field, since anything that involves “real world” signals is going to potentially run up against the ability of the digital mediums on which we rely to properly store the entire gamut of available analog data that we are able to perceive with our eyes and ears.

Written By
Jeff

Signal to noise ratio

To quote the venerable Wikipedia: Signal-to-noise ratio (often abbreviated SNR or S/N) is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. This has a number of applications in engineering, but it also nicely encapsulates a basic truth of dealing with equipment, people, and works – there is always a certain amount of background noise. (For more information on the concept, check out this article.

Written By
Jeff

Checking for deprecated Wordpress functions

A script to help make Wordpress development a little less painful.

One of the major pains involved in Wordpress development and work (and one of the reasons why this isn’t hosted on Wordpress anymore) is that of their quickly changing API. I’ve encountered issues where plugins have suddenly (and quietly) stopped functioning, due to a deprecated function call being removed from the Wordpress API. I’m sharing my “solution” to this issue, which is a script (which can be integrated into a CI system), which scans your plugin and/or theme code and gives you a list of the deprecated functions you’re using, as well as where they exist in your code.

Written By
Jeff

Building Ganglia for OpenBSD 4.3

Building the Ganglia monitoring system for OpenBSD 4.3

I recently had to build a modern version of the Ganglia monitoring system for an OpenBSD 4.3 firewall, which hadn’t been upgraded to a modern version of OpenBSD in quite some time. I documented the process, which I’m sharing here.

Written By
Jeff

Preparing for and recovering from disaster

When things go wrong...

One of the greatest nightmares associated with digital cinematography and photography is that of the specter of data loss. The very notion that your carefully planned shots or footage could disappear in a single instant can be Earth-shattering, since it may not be possible to reshoot (or may be prohibitively expensive). The best defense is to be prepared, not only for the possibility that you may lose data, but also to safeguard against that possibility through preventitive measures.

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Jeff

Composing for Aspect Ratios

Making decisions about aspect ratios in cinematography

Aspect ratios, simply put (for those who are unaware), are the ratios between the width and height of a single frame of video. Television has had a 4:3 ratio (4 units of width to 3 units of height), until the popularization of “HD” television, using a “widescreen” ratio of 16:9. I’m not going to go through the entire history of aspect ratios in cinema, as there is a great retrospective available on vimeo.

Written By
Jeff

On Documentary Filming

I recently had the pleasure of shooting for a documentary down in Birmingham, AL, about one of the people involved in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in 1963. For those who don’t know, that event was one of the most important parts of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. The 50th anniversary of the bombing was this September (2013), so I had gone with a small film crew to cover the event, and interview some of the people involved.

Written By
Jeff

Are you a cinematographer or a camera operator?

There’s only a slight difference in the textbook definition between a cinematographer and a camera operator. Besides the slight variance in responsibilities (a cinematographer/DP can be responsible for several camera operators), there are some additional skills and aptitudes which play into the decision to try to be a cinematographer. None of this is meant to downplay the skill and experience which make a great camera operator. Knowing your equipment, being able to choose the proper lenses and camera settings, being able to operate that equipment, being able to interpret the direction of both the director and the cinematographer, and being able to hold together a cohesive shot – these are all the hallmarks of a great camera operator.

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Jeff

Prime Lenses and Proper Depth of Field

Depth of field is a massively misunderstood “side effect” of iris size, and an ultimately useful storytelling tool (when used properly). DSLR photography has spawned a large group of cinematographers who are dealing with largely light-insensitive camera sensors (usually producing fairly unacceptable noise when used at greater sensitivies than ISO 800). This has created a need for “fast” lenses, which are lenses which have very large maximum apertures, featuring maximum f-stop ratings like f/2.

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Jeff

To post or not to post

Even though a good portion of the work has been completed when you press the shutter button, or stop rolling, since all of your planning and execution has been completed, there’s still a final step (or series of steps) to bring that artistic effort to a presentable format. Many people shoot with default (or very close to default) settings on their camera or videocamera, and do simple “post production” by simply cropping or cutting whatever comes out of their camera body.

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Jeff

Skill in the Age of Instagram

I had started a post a few months ago, which I had tentatively titled “Approximating Skill”. It was a fairly scathing indictment of what I had refered to as the “Instagram generation”. As anyone who has been following my recent posts here knows, I attach a lot of importance to the notion of “skill”, especially in relation to art forms where there are popular misconceptions regarding the ability to “buy” your way into a particular skill-set.

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Jeff

The Age of DSLR Cinematography

DSLR cinematography (the practice of cinematography using relatively inexpensive DSLR camera bodies, which were originally purposed for still photography) has been enjoying a sort of minature renaissance over the last few years. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Shane Carruth’s new movie, Upstream Color, was shot entirely on a DSLR body. The information I’ve been reading indicates that he used a Panasonic GH2 DSLR body, with a few lenses, including the Rokinon 85mm f/1.

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Jeff

Stabilization

Cinematography is, first and foremost, an artform. That being said, I’d like to also emphasize the caveat that it is a technical artform, and requires a certain degree of skill and/or technical proficiency to be able to consistently create artful work. It could be argued that no, this isn’t the case, based solely on the promulgation of iDevice and consumer-grade video device footage. This type of footage does not require a modicum of skill, or even practice.

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Jeff

Gear vs Skill

I remember a conversation I had with my brother, a few years back. He was talking about the amount of photographic equipment which he had been dumping money into purchasing, in the hopes of improving the output from his camera. After months, if not years, of ordering and collecting equipment, he thought that one more thing would make some difference. He then had an epiphany, after viewing a photo of a sunset taken with a $12 disposable camera.

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Jeff

Heading to the 2013 Boston International Film Festival

I’m heading off to the 2013 Boston International Film Festival opening ceremonies this evening, where the first short film which I directed, edited, and shot is being screened/premiered. It’s called “Heroin; A Love Story”, and centers around a friendship in the midst of addiction in South Boston, and was written by my partner in filmmaking/crime, Brian Farmer. I’m planning on posting some photos and information about the opening night and film screening as soon as I have them available.

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Jeff

Migrating to Octopress

After much hemming, hawing, and gnashing of teeth, I’m migrating my years of sporadic blogging from Wordpress to Octopress. It seems to integrate a little bit better with both my “command line ethos” and my workflow. I’m sure (for anyone keeping track) that there are probably going to be some weird formatting issues, potentially broken pages, and other incidences of oddness in some places. Please excuse the mess, we’re remodeling.

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Jeff

Election 2012 Summary

It’s the day before the 2012 Presidental Election. I’m disappointed, as usual, by the choice of far right and center right “choices” that we have. I again am forced into the decision of either voting for the preferable third party candidate, with whom I share views on the vast majority of issues (Dr. Jill Stein, for anyone wondering — I still think Ron Paul is a complete crankcase, and Gary Johnson is way too “fuck Federalism” for my taste) and effectively helping to elect an out-of-touch sociopathic plutocrat butt-munch, or vote the “lesser of two evils” and probably end up with a Democrat who is going to “Grand Bargain” away the Great Society programs.

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Jeff

Imaginary Horserace, 2012 Edition

So, the 2012 United States Presidental Election is effectively between Barack Obama and Willard “Mitt” Romney. I don’t think I can stress how little this registers on my “give-a-fuck-o-meter”, although I have been inundated by dire prognostications regarding the end of our “American Way of Life ™” (whatever that is) and a lot of scare-tactic advertising campaigns unleashed by the virtually unlimited flow of corporate money (or as Constitutional Originalist fuckwads like Antonin Scalia would say, “free speech”) into the current election cycle.

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Jeff

FJM Treatment of Charter School Argument

This is an argument I had with someone publicly a little while ago. I was fighting the concept that the entire educational system was a complete failure, and should be replaced with Michelle-Rhee-style charter schools. Jeff I’m sorry, I don’t care what is going on outside the school. That’s pretty myopic. Teaching isn’t a daycare, nor is it a panacea — if you have external positive or negative influences outside of school, it’s going to affect their educational outcome.

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Jeff

Money well spent

I caught a piece on NPR this morning, regarding Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed educational budget for Connecticut. Most of it was the normal policy discussion, but there was a part of it where they discussed increasing funding in some of the neediest municipalities in Connecticut. There, it was revealed that Litchfield had expressed concern with the governor’s plan to deallocate money which was designed to bring their students together with other kids for the purposes of “racial diversity”, citing that it wouldn’t foster “racial understanding”.

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Jeff

The Dangers of Over-Simplification

I was listening to an FM talk-radio host (I know, I know, when will I ever learn…) this afternoon, and caught a peculiar rant. He was complaining about how terrible the public sector (and government in general) was compared to the private sector, based on two events. The first was that he had bought a large amount of classical music using Amazon’s “one click” service, which he had “downloaded to a cloud driver [sic]“.

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Jeff

Just a theory

I’ve been trying to keep up with the education reform battle in Connecticut, since it’s my home state. The people pushing for reform (along with such “luminaries” as Michelle Rhee and The Walton Foundation, who incidentally would privatize everything up to and including the ocean) are pushing for publicly subsidized yet privatized “charter schools” and the breaking of teachers’ union protections. One of the first things you read in the wikipedia article about charter schools is that:

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Jeff

Expanding Ganglia RRD files

I figured this out trying to resize RRDs for Ganglia in a rrdcached-enabled environment, since expanding initial RRD parameters in gmetad doesn’t affect existing RRD files. Essentially you simply have to declare the RRA index and the expanded size, and this does the rest. rrdtool unfortunately doesn’t make it particularly easy to do this on a large scale, hence the scripting. One-liner to expand RRDs: /etc/init.d/gmetad stop; /etc/init.d/rrdcached stop ; find .

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Jeff

The myth of moral hazards in health insurance

The entire “managed health” component of the privatized healthcare system which we now “enjoy” in the United States descended from the HMO Act of 1973, signed into law by the President whom Hunter S Thompson had famously claimed “could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time”. The insurance system we have today, primarily built on the foundation of the profit-inducing-but-patient-screwing HMO system, has built in something called a “moral hazard”, which ostensibly provides the conservatives’ requisite “skin in the game“.

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Jeff

Project Review 2011

I’ve been a bit lax in posting about my work here, mainly because Twitter makes you lazy. (Why write complete sentences when you can summarize in 140 characters or less?) Here are some of the projects I’ve been working on over 2011, with some links. I’m sure I have left some out. FreeMED – opensource electronic medical record/practice management system. Did a fair amount of retooling, including i18n, for the installation in Xela.

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Jeff

Xela Redux 2011

Better late than never, these are the blog entries I had put together from the Xela trip this year, which I had never gotten around to posting. Day One: Sunday November 6, 2011 I’m going to try to chronicle my time this year working with the POP-WUJ Clinic in Xela (Quetzeltenanga), Guatemala, as I did last year. Work circumstances, over-zealous customs officials, and simple bad luck contributed to some of the issues we experienced with the installation last year, so I have traveled back down to attempt to make this work better.

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Jeff

Wall Street, Occupied

Finally, there’s some sort of populist anger against the bastards who tanked the economy in 2008 to pad their pockets. It’s just too bad that there isn’t a cohesive set of demands to go along with all of that rage. For too long, media-created “populists” like the teabaggers have railed against liberal policies, diversity, and government in general to attempt to explain the uncontrolled collapse of the United States’ economy. I’ve heard explainations (discredited, of course), ranging from the Community Reinvestment Act to “too much regulation”, but I find it rather difficult to understand why the Occupy Wall Street protesters seem myopically obsessed with the Bush Tax Cuts and the Citizens United decisions — as if they caused this clusterfuck.

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Jeff

Unemployment Benefits and the Masters of the Universe

The Masters of the Universe seem to have a vested interest in the death of 99 week unemployment benefits, which I’m just starting to realize. There is a pretty substantial inverse relationship between the DJIA and unemployment rates. By “unemployment rates”, we’re not talking about the Bureau of Labor Statistics U-6 numbers, indicating our entire workforce, but rather the more limited U-3 numbers, which indicate “Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force”.

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Jeff

Xela Day Seven: Huevos revuelto con queso sin carne y adios

It was my last day in Xela, with all of the basic setup, wiring, and other on-site work having been completed on Friday. As I’m lousy at negotiating prices even in English, Jorge was kind enough to go from shop to shop with me looking for some gifts for my wife and keepsakes to take home with me, after I went out with Irv to find a whiteboard for the clinic.

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Jeff

Xela Day Six: Implementation

More than half our our crew parted ways to do a mobile clinic today, whereas Irv, Shelley and I stayed behind with Dr Christian and a few med students to attempt to get the EMR functional in a way which would jive with the clinic’s workflow. I hit quite a few snags in some of the UI implementation, since I have been pretty hands-off in the development of the UI over the last few months.

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Jeff

Xela Day Five: FreeMED, Finally

It’s day five of our trip to Xela, and we’ve come to the realization that the damn server isn’t going to clear Customs before I leave the country. That being understood, I got FreeMED up and running on the machine which was originally designated to be the secondary / failover server. The guy who set up the router which is being used by POP-WUJ is unfortunately in Spain, and has left no information on access, so I’m unable to appropriately set up port forwards for the server.

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Jeff

Xela Day Four: Aldea Pujujil

Today we left early in the morning, around 7am, to head out to the village of “Aldea Pujujil” in Solola, Guatemala to do a travelling clinic. We took two “micro buses” with ten to thirteen people in each with equipment tied down to the top, and left Xela heading back towards Guatemala City on the Pan American Highway. The local town had set up their central meeting building, which was a stone edifice with a grooved tin roof, as a sort of makeshift clinic.

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Jeff

Xela Day Three: Clinic

The clinic was open for the first of the two days it will be open during my stay in Xela. It was a pretty crazy scene — a line going to the end, if not around the end, of the block. We had Isabel, the local intake/registration person, working with my sister Shelley to do registrations, after which the patients were sent to Jorge, who war running triage. Dr Meg Sullivan treated the pediatric patients, while Irv and one of the local doctors handled the adult patients.

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Jeff

Xela Day Two: A Tale of Two Servers

I ended up passing out on top of the sheets in the hotel due to the tired state in which I arrived, but today was full of plenty of excitement and activity. We walked down to the clinic after breakfast from the nice people at Casa Mañen. The clinic is, to my knowledge, the only permanent free clinic in Xela, and has a few permanent staff members in addition to the volunteers who come down with the “medical brigades” (as Jonathan calls them).

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Jeff

Xela Day One: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

As part of setting up the POP-WUJ Clinic in Xela, Guatemala with an electronic medical record, I have headed down with a team of ten other volunteers to the city of Xela in western Guatemala. I’m going to document the trip and the work we’re doing down here by a series of daily blog entries chronicling our trials and tribulations setting up and installing FreeMED there. I’ll post pictures as soon as I get the chance to upload them to Flickr.

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Jeff

The Evils of Adjustable Rate Mortgages

I was talking with someone this morning about ARMs and the sort of financial havoc they have been wreaking upon a population who was assured that they would be able to refinance before the “adjustable” portion of the mortgage kicked in. During that conversation, I realized the reason why banks were so interested in getting people into ARMs, and it didn’t really have anything to do with trying to weasel houses away from people.

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Jeff

Designing applications for clustering

I have been recently been trying to redesign FreeMED (my opensource GPL’d EMR/PM system) in order to work in a “clustered” environment, so that I could support scenarios where multiple application servers were load-balanced to handle larger quantities of traffic. The latest piece of this has been to move filesystem-based storage into the database layer so that I don’t have to mess around with clustered file storage and replication. Some of the highlights of this have been:

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Jeff

Updated: Linux support for ADS DVD Xpress DX2

In 2007, I had posted a patch for the ADS DVD Xpress DX2 device to work on Linux, but it had been based on an antiquated kernel version, etc. Since then, someone was nice enough to post an updated version of the driver, but without DVD Xpress DX2 support. I put together a patch which ensures that the drivers now compile and use the new I2C and V4L2 APIs. I can’t guarantee that it works, only that it compiles the driver properly now.

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Jeff

Succumbing to the Camera Phone

I do not like camera phones in the same way that I don’t particularly care for flash photography; you can produce good results (or at least passable results) with either, but the majority of stuff that comes out of it is just pure crap. I recently moved to one of Sprint’s CDMA Android offerings, the HTC Hero. I just finished the flashing/rooting process, since I don’t particularly care for devices that try to lock me out of their own functionality.

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Jeff

JasperWrapper

I have just wrapped up (no pun intended) work on an initial version of a CLI JasperReports wrapper, based heavily off the work of jasperCall. It’s also quite similar to the work being done on RunJasperReports, although it was specifically designed to be integrated into FreeMED’s reporting engine, as it is put together as a fatjar. It currently supports PDF, XML, XLS and HTML output, and should theoretically support parameter passing, though I haven’t tried it out yet.

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Jeff

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension

I’ve decided to do a little feature on films that I liked for one reason or another, and to start out, I have chosen a scifi/comedy flick from the 1980s called The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. It’s a pretty funny send-up of scifi movies which take themselves too seriously. I think that after watching it, it’s pretty apparent that none of the actors were told that it was supposed to be a comedy.

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Jeff

OpenBSD pf states monitoring

The simple recipe is to add this to root’s cron: * * * * * /usr/bin/gmetric -c /etc/gmond.conf -n pf_states -v $(/usr/local/sbin/pftop -b | grep pfTop | cut -d/ -f2 | cut -d, -f1) -t int32 -d 120 2>&1 | logger -t pf_states and install the pftop package along with a gmetric binary and a working /etc/gmond.conf configuration file. It might be advantageous to check for the maximum number of states as well.

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Jeff

Backing up MAPI contacts and calendar from Exchange Server

I have a hate/hate relationship with Exchange Server. I hate it, and I’m pretty sure it hates me. Why someone would design a system to expose every bit of data for a system through a nice standard protocol like IMAP, then only allow certain things to be viewed through a piece of crap proprietary protocol like MAPI just boggles the mind. I’m sure it’s part of their “vendor lock-in” thing, but it just pisses me off.

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Jeff

IMAP Synchronization

I hate it. IMAP Synchronization, that is. In an effort to migrate users from one *shudder* Exchange provider to another (after getting shot down for proposing first Zimbra, then standard mail server stuff, then Openchange), I have been going through all of the available IMAP sync software that I could find. mbsync () – We use this for IMAP backup, so I figured it would be a good idea to try it for syncing between two IMAP servers.

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Jeff

Exposing SOAP Services with Apache’s ProxyPass

I have recently had cause to proxy a J2EE CXF service through an apache 2.2 instance, and thought it would be nice to share my findings. (This was all done on a Debian system.) First of all, the mod_proxy pieces have to be enabled using a2enmod proxy. A fragment has to be added with the proxying bits and some limitation: Order allow,deny Allow from all ProxyPass /EXPOSEDURL http://SERVER:PORT/URL ProxyPassReverse /EXPOSEDURL http://SERVER:PORT/URL Reloading apache configuration should enable the proxy properly.

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Jeff

Community projects and bug fail

I really like Ubuntu — I use it for all of my workstations/laptops, and have for the last several years. I do not, however, like it when people tell me that something that’s clearly and demonstrably a bug in a system [simply isn’t a bug][1]. Fie on your crappy PPA build system, I’m just not going to build more Ubuntu packages for things. I’ll just go back to only packaging Debian server packages.

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Jeff

Kill Bill

Kill that damn “healthcare” bill. Kill it dead. I’m as shocked as anyone else that I’m agreeing with morons who wear teabags on their hats and think that universal healthcare is some bizarre form of fascism, and that everyone is a Nazi. Not to fear, I’m not agreeing with them on *everything*, just on one thing: this “healthcare” bill sucks. We saw a 100 bump in the DJIA this morning after the Senate passed their bastardization of a health insurance industry subsidy bill.

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Jeff

US Healthcare Reform is Dead

Yep, that’s it. It has been dead for quite some time now. Unfortunately, it’s not always apparent *why* that has been the case. Warning: Political and healthcare-related opinions below, linked to various reputable sources. Public Option, Single Payer, Medicare for All? The most contentious part of healthcare reform has been the concept of a government run health care plan. HR 676 refers to the idea of “Medicare for All”, extending our Medicare program for seniors to cover all Americans, effectively creating a single payer system in America.

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Jeff

Tis the Season

It’s getting closer and closer to the big holiday of the winter season. Hell, let’s just call it the “Christmas Season” and get it over with; it’s the 900 pound gorilla in the figurative room. Christmas, or to be more specific, Christmas *shopping* is the most important time of the year. Economically, that is. Small shops and large chain outlets alike rely on the boom of Christmas present sales to create the bulk of their sales figures for the year.

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Jeff

Serial and Parallel Interfaces in Java

To sum up before I even begin: they *suck*. One of Java’s exceptionally weak points is serial and parallel interfaces, since it’s not within the normal bundled class library specification. In developing for Linux systems, I found that there are two basic routes you can take, being Java Communications API and RXTX, with the latter being a reimplementation/extension of the former. To say that these are painful to work with doesn’t adequately state the gravity of the situation.

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Jeff

A few observations about Android

I’ve been in the process of teaching myself the Google Android platform over the last few weeks, as my work has had a contest devoted to creating a mobile phone app, with a prize attached. I’m the only entrant who doesn’t work in the Engineering department, so this is a bit of a professional stretch for me as far as my job is concerned. I have found quite a few caveats in the development process which are worth noting, as I have spent a fair amount of time researching them to figure them out.

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Jeff

Metaphor du jour

For those who don’t know much about my life or daily habits, I have to commute into Framingham, Massachussets most days for work, which is about an hour drive from Northeast Connecticut, where I live. Unfortunately, this means spending a fair amount of time in traffic, as well as on the Mass Pike, which is the sorry excuse for mass transit across Massachussets. Americans think of mass transit as highways instead of rail and its compatriots, for one reason or another.

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Jeff

J2EE and “sane” application deployment

As I have been delving deeper into the J2EE Servlet specification during the rewrite of REMITT, I have been learning some very interesting, and sometimes very painful, lessons about trying to package something without requiring complicated installations. To get authentication working in Tomcat, the normal way is to define a Context and Realm in TOMCAT_HOME/conf/server.xml. A relatively undocumented file called META-INF/context.xml allows fragments to be distributed with war files. This would be a great solution if it didn’t mean that authentication was now deeply dependent on editing a file in the web archive, which kind of takes the advantage completely out of having one.

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Jeff

Rich People

I think one of the biggest things that keeps America from moving forward is the intellecually bankrupt notion that people exist independently of one another, and that each person is independently financially responsible for their entire life. It’s a horrible concept, which was promulgated, at least in part, by Ayn Rand and her followers. I quote: In answer to the question: “If a morality is not based on the common good, what is it then based on?

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Jeff

Rewriting REMITT, the J2EE Way

For those people who are unfamiliar with my programming ventures, I had written a three stage extensible billing system a few years back called REMITT (which stands for REMITT Electronic Medical Information Translation and Transmission). I had created the majority of the code in about a week and the XSL transforms required for it to function in another two weeks or so. Since then, the project has been somewhat languishing, due to it being written in Perl, which is a minor pain to get running for most people on a good day, compounded with it using XML-RPC with sessions as a remote procedural call dialect.

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Jeff

Sharecropping

I was flipping through radio stations on my way to one of the colocation centers I have to visit for work, and chanced upon a Worcester-area right wing talk radio station. I got fed up about 60 seconds into the broadcast, listening to a man with very poor English asking why the government wants to take small business’s hard earned money away from them and give it to people who don’t deserve it.

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Jeff

Mortgaging our lives for money

“Everybody here sells his time for money. It’s like taking a mortgage against your life.” – Dr Dick Solomon (3rd Rock from the Sun, “I Enjoy Being A Dick”) Although the quote “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” is an oft-malighed, often quoted Biblical “New Testament” passage which is used by quite a few bible-thumping born-agains, I started thinking about the reason why money would be such a powerful motivating force.

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Jeff

Performance Bonuses

I think that after reading things like this about taxpayer outrage at executive level bankers raking in performance bonuses for apparently tanking the world financial system, I’m starting to think that we’re wrong about the outrage. Not that we shouldn’t be outraged about funnelling money to jackholes who buy and sell people like me during lunch … more that they really should get performance bonuses if it’s based on *performance*.

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Jeff

Private health Insurace will damn us all

There has been, for some time, debate in the United States regarding healthcare “reform”, as our current system does not serve a fair percent of the population, and out of those served, many are “underinsured”. From Michael Moore’s Sicko to Howard Dean’s offer to present the issue in front of Congress, there is no doubt that the system is horribly, horribly broken. I believe the issue is a systemic one, hinging on the broken premise that “private insurance”, that is, pay-for-play insurance funded by either direct periodic payments or employer contributions, is a far superior method of providing healthcare.

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Jeff

Trixbox directory with Cisco Phones

In case anyone may want to use Trixbox with Cisco 79xx phones and wants to use a directory with it, I have put together a hack to deal with the directory services, which nominally require SugarCRM, so that they report simple extensions back in the appropriate format. 1) In the Endpoint manager, make sure that the services URL and directory URL are in the default configuration for Cisco phones, and restart any phones which are running to activate the configuration.

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Jeff

Congratulations! We’re finally an adult nation!

After an actor, a CIA spook, a Republican in Democrat’s clothing and a moron, we finally have a President willing to let us become an *adult* nation. President Obama just announced that he wanted to create a high speed rail system in the United States. Hell, even the cheese-eating surrender monkeys in France have had one of those for *years* … I’m sure that the trucking lobby, oil lobby, or some other lobby I haven’t though of, will stymie this and kill it somehow, but at least we’re trying, finally.

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Jeff

Dichotomy of the Human Condition

Why is it that we have such a strong built-in need to survive when we’re miserable most of the time? I guess that’s the biological imperative making sure that we perpetuate the species, in the same way that our genes fighting for dominance is most likely the root cause for our Randian inability to coexist with others without eventually trying to climb to new heights by stepping on them. I’m not really an Ayn Rand fan, if you haven’t gotten that from reading the last few sentences …

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Jeff

Who is getting bailed out, anyway?

I’ve been asking who we’re attempting to save with this bailout idea, and I’m not liking the answers I’m getting. Paul Krugman has some good insight into why Keynesian economics are the best way of attempting an economic recovery. I’m not disagreeing with him, I think he’s right on the money, so to speak, saying that pumping money into project work will circulate money in such a way that the economy is allowed to recover.

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Jeff

Gordon Bok

This saturday night I had the pleasure of going to see Gordon Bok, one of the finest living folk singer/songwriters, at the Connecticut Audubon Society location in Glastonbury. I’ve been a fan of his since his Bok/Muir/Trickett days, and haven’t gotten a chance to see him live since seeing him at The Sounding Board. And yes, his voice is just as awesome as it was back then, and his storytelling skills have improved with time.

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Jeff

I Hate Bowling

I really have come to dislike bowling as sport or pastime. I can’t figure out why, but I seem to forget everything I’ve learned at the immediately previous bowling experience. And it’s things like that which make me inclined to believe that it’s a “sport” more of either dumb luck, raw repetition, or some curious combination of the two. There’s also very little class ever associated with the game or those who champion it, much as the mullet-festooned NASCAR afficionados in their brightly colored baseball and feed caps, anxiously craning their necks to armchair jockey their favorite driver past the finish line.

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Jeff

Windows Mobile is a crapfest

I hate Windows Mobile. It’s a horrible, horrible operating system. Phones and devices based on it are just as awful. My Blackberry started exhibiting very odd behavior and disconnecting from the mobile network about every 30-45 seconds, so I flashed the firmware and shouted some incantations of the dockworker variety before giving up and pronouncing it dead. My job was nice enough to furnish me with a replacement, which unfortunately runs WinMo.

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Jeff

haproxy 1.3.15.8 and 1.3.16-rc1 for NSLU2

I have packaged up haproxy for the newest released versions as of today for the Linksys NSLU2. Stable: http://www.mediafire.com/file/bmhtdnzndu2/haproxy_1.3.15.8-1_armeb.ipk RC: http://www.mediafire.com/file/dmdynmtdjdm/haproxy_1.3.16-rc1-1_armeb.ipk

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Jeff

Bastards Watch

For anyone keeping track, I’ve been delicious-tagging any new story I come across which describes something awful going on today with the tag “bastards”. So, here is the link for that ever-growing list, if you’re ever bored and have nothing better to do than lose faith in humanity:

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Jeff

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The adaptation of my favorite graphic novel “Watchmen” is premiering tonight as a motion picture. I have mixed feelings about it, as the creator has disavowed all film adaptations of his work, and apparently Snyder changed the ending. You’d think after a travesty like V for Vendetta that directors would keep it in their pants and learn to respect good writing. Just because you can script Keanu Reeves saying “whoa!” for a few hours doesn’t mean you can out-write Alan Moore.

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Jeff

Why I Hate Banks

Another 30 billion ducats down the toilet. I’m not sure exactly what banks are supposed to do anymore, but I could swear it used to have something to do with loaning money to allow economic movement. Banks won’t lend money to anyone without sparkling credit, which means most people couldn’t get a loan. Why the hell are we giving these weasels money? Their primary job is to lend money, and they can’t do that, instead favoring the primary job of funnelling money to CEOs and wealthy investors.

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Jeff

Let’s hear that dirty word … Socialism

It seems to be the fashion for people to hem and haw about how the United States is spiralling downward towards (horrors!) socialism. I’m still trying to figure out what the big deal is. Capitalism is, by definition, survival of the wealthiest. In its purest, most unadulterated form, capitalism involves certain entities becoming very, very successful, while supressing others who would aspire to become as successful. It’s a very selfish philosophy in that it stresses the survival of the individual over the survival of the society, much as most Western religions stress the survival of the self (notions of individual souls) over the Eastern philosophy empasizing the sum total of everything over the notion of the individual.

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Jeff

My grandfather

I just came back from an impromptu trip to Fort Lauderdale to attend the funeral service for my grandfather, Israel “Irving” Liss. He was born in a small town in Russia on December 20, 1917, and survived a pogram, emmigration to Israel, and eventually moved to Brooklyn. He was a professional soccer player, playing for the New York Americans after coming back from decorated service in the 101st Airborne paratroopers. And I did not know most of this a week ago.

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Jeff

Front page fail

One of my pictures made it to the front page of the infamous “failblog“, consisting of a picture of a very disreputable looking van with “Little Angels Program” spraypainted on the side. I had caught that image earlier in 2008 in Willimantic, CT while I was walking through the hill section. It’s not Life or the New York Times or anything, but I’ll take what I can get. Probably should have color corrected that one before I sent it in …

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Jeff

Old Studio Recordings

I just posted 24 tracks (some are multiple versions of the same tracks) from the 2005 incarnation of the studio on mediafire. It’s mostly Jake, Natasha and I. A good deal of backing tracks provided by other musicians, featuring Bob Thurston on violin. Link: mediafire

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Jeff

BankerWatch 2008

I’m getting to the point where I’m actually starting to track the guys who are primarily responsible for this awful financial mess, and. though there’s a lot of bad news, there’s also a lot of not so bad news. I rate any story where a banker doesn’t give the proverbial finger as a “good” story. I’m not advocating violence against people in the financial industry, but I’m surprised when it doesn’t happen.

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Jeff

Ardour is awesome

I finally got around to upgrading the studio to use ardour 2.7.1, from the stock version which comes with the Intrepid Ibex release of Ubuntu Studio. It took minimal configuration to get my Behringer BCF2000 control surface working, and it worked amazingly well. Unlike in the past when I had to manually bind controls to their functions in ardour, pretty much everything was automated, so besides forcing udev to create a static link for it (so that I could plug whatever in whenever I wanted to without disturbing the actual location in /dev) everything just *worked* when I brought jack ardour up for the first time.

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Jeff

Are You Feeling Swindled Yet?

Apparently AIG, known mostly for its ability to go through large amounts of taxpayer money in order to cover outrageous bets, is reporting that it owes another 10 billion dollars that it hadn’t reported before, and which is not covered by the 150 billion dollars already allocated to it by the US government. If that weren’t bad enough news, AIG has been taking advice from other industries and is paying out large retention bonuses, even after they were given sweet, sweet bailout green.

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Jeff

House of Imaginary Cards

“Don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.” – John Dickinson I was astounded to read on Bloomberg news that, despite the lost of over 500 thousand jobs last month, and the current toilet-bowl rated economy, somehow the Dow Jones Industrial Average (and also S&P 500 and a bunch of other indicators) were going up as of 3:00pm EST.

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Jeff

Holiday Season Beaten to Death

It finally happened. The spirit of giving and wonder which is supposed to accompany the “Holiday” season has finally given way to the actual seasonal sentiment of unrequited greed. A worker at a Wal-Mart was trampled to death by consumers who wanted to bum rush a store for toy greed, and two people were shot at a Toys-R-Us. Look, this isn’t my holiday. I didn’t tell everyone to gussy up a bunch of chopped down trees, hang dangerous glass bulbs on them and blow money you probably don’t have on gifts that people probably don’t need.

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Jeff

Misplaced priorities

In case anyone has been living under a rock for the last few months, the economy is pretty well in the drink, and most respectible economists are predicting at least two to three years of recession. Where to start? We’ve fed massive amounts of cash into buoying institutions where I wouldn’t invest in as much as a taco which have made killings screwing the crap out of our economy. The latest institution to receive sweet, sweet bailout green is Citigroup, which received a shocking 306 *billion* dollars of borrowed money.

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Jeff

Ho Ho Ho

By even the most conservative accounts, the “Christmas Season”, otherwise known as the season of greed and overindulgence, where the majority of retail sales are supposed to occur, seems to have been foisted onto us a bit early this year. The strategy being employed by retail outlets, from rolling out the tinsel and sale items to playing every bad Christmas song ever written on their public address systems, seems to be an effort to push severely slacking sales by bringing the orgy of spending which supposedly accompanies the birth of some Jewish guy 2000 years ago (but actually just a co-opting of an old pagan seasonal ritual), a bit earlier than it is supposed to show up.

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Jeff

Let General Motors Die

Amid news of the overcompensated fatcat of General Motors heading over to Capitol Hill to prostrate himself at the feet of House Speaker Pelosi to beg for some of that sweet, sweet bailout money, without admitting that the pure capitalism he pimped to support his outrageous salary is now effectively dead, I see that Chief Financial Rape Artist Hank Paulson has just thrown another 140 billion dollars into the rabbit hole of non-accountability.

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Jeff

History

Well, that’s it. At around 11pm EST, Senator John McCain conceded the presidency to Senator Barack Obama. All of my fears of stolen elections and bigotry prevailing were unfounded. And I owe someone a lunch, but gladly so. After listening to a few pundits on TV and McCain’s concession speech, I have noticed that everyone keeps harping on Senator Obama’s race. I just find it difficult to believe that we’re so proud of our ability to not trip over our bigotry enough to elect someone who isn’t white.

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Jeff

Spread your cheeks, America, here comes the dud

I’ve been watching all available polling today after I hit the polls around 8:30 AM EST to cast my vote. I’m a little nervous watching the polling numbers, and everything is just a little too close for my comfort. Please, America, not the dud.

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Jeff

WRT54G Toolchain

I pulled the mipsel toolkit for the WRT54G from the 180 MB kit from Linksys for easy access. hndtools-mipsel-linux-3.2.3.tar.bz2 hndtools-mipsel-uclibc-0.9.19.tar.bz2

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Jeff

haproxy 1.3.15.3 for NSLU2

The only haproxy load balancer package for the NSLU2 is really, really old, and is installed as “optware” in /opt. With that in mind, here’s the 1.3.15.3 package, installed in root. Package : haproxy_1.3.15.5-2_armv5b.ipk Source : haproxy-1.3.15.5.tar.gz

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Jeff

We’ve been had

In case anyone was wondering, we’ve been had, in an awful, awful way, to the tune of around 70 *billion* dollars. And as pointed out on Cronytopia, US newspapers aren’t covering it. Why aren’t we burning people in the streets, right now? I mean, I understand that the bailout passed by an overwhelming majority, but why were we so glad to give such a large amount of money to people that we shouldn’t trust raking manure, let alone running financial institutions?

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Jeff

urlencode for NSLU2

Instead of having to deal with an entire Perl installation on an NSLU2, I compiled a readily available urlencode binary, which takes piped input and encodes it for use in a URL. Tarball : urlencode-armv5b.tar.gz

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Jeff

remserial binary for NSLU2

For all those fans of the venerable NSLU2 (or “slug” as we like to call it), I have another package for OpenSlug/BE. This time it’s remserial, a Linux equivalent to the BSD “netfwd” software, allowing serial ports to be redirected over TCP. Package: remserial_0.2000-1_armv5b.ipk Source: remserial.tar.gz For those enterprising people who would like to use my armv5b-softfloat-linux cross compilation toolchain, I have made it available on mediafire as well. It was compiled with Ubuntu 8.

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Jeff

Holy Crap

(Again, apologies to the people I stole the title from, the nice guys over at crooksandliars.com.) Every time I think I’ve heard the most awful thing done by religious people… In the same day, I’ve heard two stories coming from the Catholic Church. Yes, I know, the guys who did the whole “inquisition” thing. But they’ve been keeping their noses clean since at least the 1950s, so I’ll start this off by pointing out that I don’t have any beef with the modern day Catholic Church.

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Jeff

Us Against Them

Recently, you may have heard about certain alarmist crap being circulated in the guise of educational information to people in so called “swing states” in the upcoming 2008 election. Usually this crap doesn’t get an audience, but some of the kooks have been coming out of the woodwork, bitching at the top of their lungs about “islamic fundamentalism” and terrorist, and “oh! think of the children!” Some people already think that the September 11, 2001 attacks were false flag attacks, but regardless, it couldn’t have played better.

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Jeff

gmetric binary for NSLU2

Before a friend clued me in to the embedded gmetric project, I had needed to strip out just the gmetric binary for use in monitoring a process on the NSLU2 I was using. So, for anyone who is interested, I have posted both a binary ipkg package for OpenSLUG/BE and a source package containing all of the pieces I yanked from the ganglia 3.1.1 distribution to create it. (Graciously hosted by mediafire.

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Jeff

Cadillac Panders

There have been a number of truly awful and stupid things going on in the world, but I think I’m going to pick on a very particular piece of stupid. In case it was overshadowed by other, larger economic news, we just bailed out GM, Ford and Chrysler to the tune of 25 *billion* dollars. I’d like to believe that it’s all due to horrible economic conditions — but I’m starting to think it might have a bit more to due with having their heads up their asses.

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Jeff

Heads on Pikes

If you’ve been outside of a cave in the last few days, chances are that you’ve heard about Lehman Brothers, the latest of the investment firms to fail miserably due to the incredible sham that has been the American housing market. Early news today is showing that foreign markets are starting to fail, and it looks as though AIG may be the next major dropping point. I’m not sure exactly how low this goes, but my guess is that we’re going to pay for those crooked brokers and investment bankers.

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Jeff

JohnFest 2008 Recordings

I have just posted the first set (from the first two hours) of John Mayer’s summer music festival (here affectionately titled “JohnFest”) from 2008 here: The technical details … I used my trusty Thinkpad T61 with the Behringer UCA202 to pull sound off the board. As usualy, this means that the quality of the recording is based solely on the job of the mixing engineer. It was cut using mp3cut and normalized using mp3norm, as with most of the Stonewall Tavern recordings.

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Jeff

PERC Controllers and Why Dell Needs a Kick in the Can

This past week, I stumbled on a strange problem with Dell “PERC” RAID controllers in certain rackmount servers, where they would suddenly just stop working for no apparent reason. The nice people at Dell did actually have firmware available for the PERC 3 and 4 controllers to fix this problem, which was pretty nice. The part that *wasn’t* nice was that they were some stupid Windows binaries which required a floppy disk to be inserted.

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Jeff

The Dud and Forty Percent

“The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein America has at least a 30 year history of, more often than not, electing the dud. And by dud, I mean the absolutely least qualified or least desirable person for the job. Take a quick look at Saint Ron. That guy was an awful actor, sub-par governor, and an absolute crapbox President.

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Jeff

The God Bullshit Part Two

The last time I was ranting, it was about the joke that is the current seperation between church and state. But I think it’s time to take a look at the other part of this mess — us. “People of faith” seems to be a term which is bandied about an awful lot, which is meant to convey to other people that Jeebus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or your multi-armed deity of choice, is watching over them, and is ready to smite at a moment’s notice.

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Jeff

The God Bullshit

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” -The United States Constitution, Article VI, section 3

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Jeff

Is we getting more stupider?

Note: I’m skipping my usual pathos drenched birthday post about mortality, aging, and life still being exactly as awful in favor of the following… I’m starting to think that we’re getting dumber, as a nation of people. The causes for this, mainly substitution of conjecture for truth and dropping standards for academic excellence, are pretty well documented in these cases. As being dumber seems to make you happier, you’d almost think that a nation of happy cretins would be preferrable to a nation of intelligent malcontents.

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Jeff

Why the Olympics is a Sham

Maybe you’ve divined from the title that I’m not exactly a supporter of the Olympics. Of course, I have quite a few reasons why I don’t like them, and why I’m boycotting watching or having anything to do with the Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing. 1) Human Rights. Honestly, I don’t think I even have a leg to stand on with regard to this particular issue. It’s not like we torture people, stifle or censor the press, supress opinion or fundamental rights, or occupy a sovereign nation or anything.

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Jeff

What happened to the land of innovation?

I remember this great, wonderful feeling that America was a nation of innovators. That no matter what the problem is, we would have no trouble solving it with some good ol’ fashioned American “know how”. What happened? We have a pharmaceutical industry which in 1999 brought in around 100 *billion* dollars for the top three companies with profits usually above 20%. Yet when was the last time we actually *cured* anything?

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Jeff

Open Mic at the Stonewall Tavern

As a kind of public service of some sort, I’ve been recording the Open Mic night at the Stonewall Tavern in Eagleville, CT, which has been hosted by the terrific Blaney Brothers for the past few years. I have been putting the recordings up for anyone who wants them, arranged by date and artist on MediaFire, at . Enjoy… (But don’t complain too much about it. It’s all straight board-out to mp3 using this little gem: arecord -f cd -t raw -D hw:1,0 | lame –verbose -x -s 44.

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Jeff

Hating people for the wrong reasons, political edition

I just had a fascinating phone conversation with one of my more conservative friends. He proceeded to tell me how Obama is a muslim, Clinton let terrorists into the country, Clinton abandoned our valiant troops in Somalia (I think they call this “cut and run” now), and how McCain is a true compromiser with integrity in his beliefs. The best part was how he told me that he formulated these opinions himself, since five minutes and The Google will tell you otherwise.

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Jeff

Thank you, Metro North

I’m writing you, the good people of the MTA, to thank you for the ride on the Metro North train to New Haven yesterday. The complimentary sauna included with the train ride left me peeling myself off the seat, and the lack of any openable window compounded this. I think I’m a few pounds lighter for the experience. All kidding aside, this leads me to ask a simple, stupid question: Why aren’t we funding public transportation in this country?

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Jeff

Roving access point

I finally got around to getting a 12VDC power supply for the car (15 USD, cheap!), so my WRT54G3G-ST is mobile, and I got to enjoy trying out Skype while doing 65mph on the Mass Pike. There’s some sort of gee-whiz factor in all this, but I guess it’s just another way to become more and more endlessly connected.

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Jeff

NSLU2 based load balancer

Another day, another project … A few days ago I put together an NSLU2-based load balancer using haproxy to do the load balancing. If you don’t have an NSLU2, go get one. Those things are incredible, and ridiculously useful. I’m using OpenSlug/BE, but any distro is awesome on these things. Hint: It takes some manual hacking of the haproxy.conf file and the init script to get it working from the optware packages.

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Jeff

Booting an old machine

If you’ve ever been stuck booting an old machine with a bad CD drive, or worse yet, no CD drive and an old enough BIOS not to properly boot a USB drive, you’ve experienced the wallbanger I have today. (and no, PXE boot wasn’t an option) Fortunately, it appears that there is a nice boot floppy which allows booting via network or USB, which is available at … Direct link to the zipped floppy disk image is at etherboot.

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Jeff

Backing up a Motorola RAZR v3m with Ubuntu

I’ve had a Sprint Motorola RAZR v3m for a while, and when the time came to move to a Blackberry (for work), getting the information off of it would have been a horrendous process. Instead, I present a pretty simple way of doing this using the Subversion version of opensync’s sync-moto script. Note that I did this under Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon): • Get the id by using lsusb: $ lsusb

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Jeff

Surviving

I had a bit of a revelation the other day. Natasha and I had gone to pick up food to bring to a small dinner party, although it wasn’t a very formal occasion. She, on a lark, decided to grab one of those ridiculous celebrity tabloid-type magazines to read in the car on the way over. The cashier, who looked to be somewhere between her mid forties and fifties, reacted with much excitement, and started talking to Natasha about some of the celebrities mentioned on the cover.

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Jeff

Modding that old XBox

If you’ve got an old junky XBox around, and would like to put something, well, *useful* on it, like XBMC, then I’ve got a great link for you which allows soft modding without having a copy of any of the exploitable games. Patched xboxhdm 1.9 with exploits will allow you to boot another PC while hotswapping your XBox hard drive into that machine. It has all of the known exploits on it, I believe, so you don’t have to have your XBox connected to another machine or anything, nice and simple.

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Jeff

Deploying GWT Applications with Jetty

I’m not a big fan of tomcat, preferring Jetty where possible. Unfortunately there are a lot of catches involved with getting GWT applications working. I’ll try to break the changes down here. This assumes that you already have a GWT project built and made with projectCreator which you are migrating into Jetty. 1) Pull the start.jar, bin/jetty.sh script (which will be moved to the base of your distribution), lib and etc directories from your Jetty distribution, and put them in $DIST (your distribution directory)

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Jeff

Thanksgiving

There seems to be an almost delectable thread of irony heading through my life as I head into Thanksgiving Day. Strangely enough, a few days ago I could have spouted for what would have seemed hours at all of the wonderful things to be thankful for, but somehow enough things have happened to come to a head that the same time that it’s a bit more difficult to extract the wheat from the chaff.

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Jeff

Improved Film Noir rendering

Thanks to my brother, who is much better with gimp-perl than I am, there’s a vastly improved version of the original RenderFilmNoir.pl script, available here. If you get a chance (shameless plug), please patronize his Flickr page, as we does work very hard at being a great photographer …

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Jeff

Nokia 770 makes appearance in Hollywood

The Nokia 770 turned up as a prop in the summer movie “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”. Having read the actual source material, I can’t say I was impressed by the movie, but I really have to give credit to anyone who would feature a gadget like the 770 in anything. I saw a few livejournal entries on the same subject, but they seemed to like it. Well, if I’m going so far as to admit that I actually not only watched this particular stinker, but actually paid enough attention to see a Nokia 770 …

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Jeff

Linux support for ADS DVD Xpress DX2

I take no credit for this at all, but the maintainer of the go7007 linux driver recently added support for the ADS DVD Xpress DX2 (which until recently was conveniently available at Walmart and other retail stores) after I took a picture of the board and asked him *very* nicely. If you get any kind of mileage out of it and decide that you really *have* to send someone money, please send it to him.

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Jeff

Ebony

My dog Ebony passed away today at 8:00pm EDT (Thursday, June 21, 2007). He was sixteen years old. He lived a very well documented life. Natasha rescued him from being drowned along with the rest of his brothers and sisters when he was a month old, and bottle fed him until he was old enough to eat food on his own. It took me a long time to get him acclimated to me, since he never really had to get used to anyone, but I played the guitar and sang to him every day until he accepted me.

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Jeff

Respecting the Dead

It’s almost disturbing that after someone dies, many people seem to come out of the proverbial woodwork to mourn them. I suppose it’s natural that there’s a tinge of regret at not being able to express yourself to someone anymore, not being able to apologize for some real or even imagined transgression. But there’s also a line. When did it become nouveau chic to get choked up at a funeral of an acquaintance?

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Jeff

First stopmotion test

Our first few stopmotion animation tests were successful. As per everything else we do, everything was done with Linux and freely available opensource software. In this case, gphoto2, imagemagick and mplayer (with ffmpeg thrown in for the .flv conversion for Gootube. We used my Canon 350D mounted on a tripod with Adam’s fixed focal length 135mm lens, with fixed lighting and a green background for eventual chromakeying. There was a quick hack involved getting gphoto2 to immediately spit out a photo, instead of trying to logically process it, which was solved with:

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Jeff

Missing

I told a lie tonight ; I told it twice. I was asked by a stranger if I was “okay”, and I mechanically replied that I was. Not that I wasn’t “okay” in the physical sense, just that something seemed to be … missing. It seems that the very moments when we are the most contemplative and the furthest away from understanding our place in the universe are the very moments when we find ourselves the most desperately alone.

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Jeff

Rest in Peace, Mike

Most local musicians in Eastern Connecticut have heard of Mike Praytor of “The Sound Factory”, a local promoter and musician. He was found dead in his home this past Saturday, April 7th, 2007. There has been an enormous outpouring of support for his family, especially his two children, from the local music community. It’s strange, I’m not really one for writing eulogies or waxing rhapsodic about life accomplishments ; I’ve been more of the mind that there is a certain aggrandizement which occurs after someone dies.

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Jeff

The Ghost of Hunter S strikes again

It hasn’t been that long since the passing of the great [Hunter S Thompson](), creator of the so-called “Gonzo journalism”, and all-around lunatic. Apart from being eminently quotable, Hunter Thompson was deeply involved in politics; he especially hated Richard Nixon, whom he frequently wished malfeasance upon.. I’m unsure as to whether Hunter really would have approved of where his “Gonzo” journalism has gone. Glen Greenwald recently pointed out that so-called “blogger” journalists have been creating their own “facts”, and in some cases completely fabricating stories, in an effort to influence the news which they purport to report.

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Jeff

Cisco VPN Client with Ubuntu Feisty

I worked out a simple patch to get the Cisco VPN client working with Ubuntu Feisty, which I’m attaching here.

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Jeff

Slowly but surely

I’m still hard at work on FreeMED 0.9.0 ; it is turning out to be a very long and involved process. A ton of new functionality is making its way in, along with architectural improvements and porting old functionality. The majority of the codebase has been torn out and rewritten, mostly to allow for complete separation between UI and the data model. This entire process has been very educational, and I think I have learned more than I ever *wanted* to learn about UI programming.

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Jeff

Birthdays as Mile Markers

Not only is it a brand new year, but it’s also someone special’s birthday today. I’m not a big fan of birthdays, especially my own, for their tendency to appear as “mile markers” in the road trip we call life. I’m not going to say how old she is, mainly because there’s some awful stigma in our society regarding growing older. No longer is it treated as a source of venerable knowledge and experience, but instead a somber, inescapable conclusion — a dark, dismal fate.

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Jeff

Yet another end-of-year thought

Every year I end up writing some glib piece of trash about how much or little the last year meant to me, and how much better I hope/hoped to do the next year. Inexorably, I’m drawn towards the cliche of trying to constantly explain away my foibles and missteps, as though some imaginary jury is critiquing my performance. Perhaps I have been looking at the entire *concept* of the year in the wrong way.

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Jeff

Three down in a week

I’ve had three laptops bite the big one in the last week or so. Not software related at all. One stopped working entirely and won’t even turn on, another has a completely non-functional display, and a third ate a hard drive … completely (and has a shot power supply to boot). I’m finally back online on a fourth machine, as evidenced by this posting. The time away from a machine gave me a little time to reflect exactly how dependent I am on such incredibly fragile machines to be able to function in certain important ways.

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Jeff

Potential and Perception

I’ve never been one to take risks in any part of my life. Somehow, I’ve always taken the safe road, and unlike the Frost poem, I’m not the better off for having done it. Even small things, I seem unwilling to extend past a limited view of what is safe and comfortable — and now I can’t help but feel that I’m not living up to whatever potential I’m supposed to have.

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Jeff

Rumsfeld is gone, six years too late

President Bush (god, it still sounds so awful to say it) just gave the traditional sixth-year “we lost our majority” speech to the nation, with the addition of the announcement of Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation as Secretary of Defense. Many people will remember Rumsfeld as the jackass who condoned torture (or sought to redefine it), pushed the notion of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, and sought to push forward ideas like the “PATRIOT Act”.

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Jeff

Exercise your rights as a citizen

I’ve just done the one thing which I feel sets me apart from many more unfortunate people in other countries: voted. I got to go to a polling location and cast my single vote for whomever I feel would be the best person, or at least not the worst person, for the job. I mean, government can strip my rights to a fair trial or any civil rights and declare martial law at will, so I think voting to oust the bastards who passed this kind of constitution-screwing garbage is the least of my rights, no, *responsibilities* as a citizen of this country.

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Jeff

Time to Start Kissing Babies and Kissing Asses

With less than a month remaining before the midterm congressional elections, one could argue that not much has actually changed in the United States. I mean, we still are passing awful legislation (Military Appropriations Act of 2006, stripping habeus corpus at will) and still not making people any less poor. What has changed, as it does before every election, is the amount of rampant sucking up to the regular plebes of this country.

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Jeff

Acoustic Album and Site for evoke

We’ve been working hard in the studio again, and there’s more to see. Besides the initial launch of the new evoke site (evokeband.com), there’s a new acoustic EP, entitled “*Acoustic Autumn*“, which has just been finished. Keep an eye out on the evoke site, there’s a good chance the entire album will be put online for listening …

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Jeff

Why I Don’t Watch Fox News

I tuned in Fox News on the old “Radiation King” television on a lark around 4:30 AM Eastern Standard Time, out of some form of morbid curiosity. I’ve heard a lot of ranting and raving from both proponents and opponents of their reporting and the questioned quality of their reporting, but like anything else, it is best to see this sort of thing and make your own decisions. What I found was rhetoric and montage shots of soldiers and waving flags.

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Jeff

Partisanship dooms us all

Apparently, fear of partisan political reprisal trumps constitutional rights, decency, and a host of other important things in the lastest failure of the United States’ legislative branch to keep insanity out of our lawbooks. Both political parties seem to have failed us horribly. Republicans sided with a corrupt and out-of-control administration in an effort to bolster itself against possible defeat in midterm elections, while Democrats, afraid of being considered “light on terror”, only put up a limp-wristed struggle, with the bill in question passing easily.

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Jeff

No more hotlinking images

For those who use Apache 2.x, this is a nice trick to keep people from hotlinking your images. I’ve seen a few variants of it, but this one I picked up most recently from a slashdot comment, of all places. Make sure you have enabled mod_rewrite, then add this in your .htaccess file for any directory with images in it: RewriteEngine on RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?yourdomain.com [NC] RewriteRule .* /files/goatse.jpg [NC,L] to redirect to an awful image, or use my own personal variant:

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Jeff

War on Nouns

I’ve been watching a great deal more television, reading a great deal more papers and “blogs”, and listening to a lot more interviews these days. And though it’s extremely hard to do this without politicizing what I see, I try to look at it as objectively as I can, from as many sources as I can. I’m getting downright sick of this “War on Terror”. Not that global terrorism (as opposed to local terrorism?

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Jeff

One Missing Thread

I was sitting by myself a few days ago, and started to wonder about the value of a single person. Not in relation to society, or anything else that tangible, but in relation to the totality of existence. At first, I thought that the lack of a single person’s existence would irreperably alter the universe. Everything we do impacts others in thousands upon millions of imperceptible ways every day we’re alive, so wouldn’t one missing person somehow change the fabric of existence?

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Jeff

Something About Getting Older

There’s something about getting older. Things invariably change, life progresses, and eventually your perceptions begin to shift, ever so slightly. There’s also something of an Easter Bunny effect which happens at some point in your life ; for me, it was my birthday this year. As you grow up, you think of certain days as special, whether they be days which are special to you, like your birthday, graduation, et cetera, or days which are special in some sort of cultural significance such as holidays (religious or secular), vacation, even certain days of the week.

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Jeff

Stan at the Lake

I took Stan up to Crystal Lake, where he had a great time swimming and doing whatever it is that dogs do. Some pictures:

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Jeff

WRT54G Multiple External IP Trick

To assign multiple external IP addresses to a WRT54G/S, you have to push a multiline variable into the rc_firewall nvram variable (non-volatile ram): nvram set rc_firewall=" iptables -t nat -I PREROUTING -d x.y.z.1 -j DNAT --to-destination 192.168.1.x iptables -t nat -I PREROUTING -d x.y.z.2 -j DNAT --to-destination 192.168.1.x " nvram commit This will protect the changes against being lost when the router is reset.

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Jeff

Ubuntu Dapper studio patched kernel 2.6.17

I have compiled an initial 2.6.17 kernel for Ubuntu Dapper Drake, as described on ubuntustudio.com. It has the EVMS patch needed by Ubuntu as well as the realtime patch installed. This version is not usplash patched. Files : kernel-headers-2.6.17-rt7_1_i386.deb, kernel-image-2.6.17-rt7_1_i386.deb

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Jeff

WordPress 2.0.3 upgrade

I have created a wordpress “diff” which can be applied to easily upgrade WordPress 2.0.1 to WordPress 2.0.3 instead of going through the long and involved method on the WordPress Codex. Use diff and a grain of salt with wordpress-patch-2.0.1-to-2.0.3.gz.

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Jeff

Ubuntu touchpad annoyance

After more than six months of dealing with the Synaptics touchpad driver interpreting my hand brushing against the pad as a “click”, I found a small change to xorg.conf which will take away the sting of using a touchpad with Ubuntu/Kubuntu. Simply add the following lines in /etc/X11/xorg.conf in the InputDevice clause for the touchpad, and restart X: Option "SHMConfig" "on" Option "MaxTapTime" "0" Just had to share that, it took me so long to get up the resolve to actually look for a solution …

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Jeff

Moving on, moving on up?

Well, after many years of living in podunk cowville, I’ve moved back into a slightly more suburban area, complete with ridiculous historic figures. It’s a bit easier not having to deal with annoying power outages and other awful inconveniences. And now I don’t have to worry about my mailbox getting nailed by that plow driver who always seems to target it. Hooray for the benefits of modern civilization!

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Jeff

Creating TTS Prompts for Asterisk with Realspeak

I was playing around with using ScanSoft Realspeak for Linux, and finally found the “magic sequence” to generate the appropriate GSM prompts for Asterisk. Requires: Standard installation of Scansoft Realspeak 4 with American English Jill voice Debian’s libgsm-tools and sox cd /usr/local/ScanSoft/RealSpeak_4.0 echo " - TTS being performed on $1 ... " export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$LD_LIBRARY_PATH:/usr/local/ScanSoft/RealSpeak_4.0/api/lib export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$LD_LIBRARY_PATH:/usr/local/ScanSoft/RealSpeak_4.0/speech/components/common/ ./standard "American English" Jill ./speech text.txt echo " - Converting to 8000Hz WAV .

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Jeff

Straight from the horse’s … eyes?

Tasha and I went down to a horse farm in Hebron, CT, and took a bunch of pictures. I’m trying to get her to open her own flickr account… It was a good day, all in all, even though a few of the horse riders there got a little antsy with us taking their pictures.

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Jeff

Trending and Graphing

Latest FreeMED project has been trying to get graphing and trending working. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any GPL licensed graphing libraries that really fit the bill for doing this sort of work, so I started working on my own; pretty much all hand-rolled, with some tricks pulled from the PHP function guide.

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Jeff

Shutterbug Fever

Finally got my camera in the mail, and now all I seem to be doing is taking pictures of *everything*. As soon as I get back into the swing of taking pictures with a decent camera, I’ll post some more pictures to the photography section…

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Jeff

Older Material on Myspace

Man, I really don’t like myspace.com very much. Awful design, etc. But, it’s not my bandwidth, so two of my past bands are now up there for anyones’ listening pleasure: evoke and Maranatha. I’m hoping to get something new to post soon, but that means I have to spend less time working and more time playing … If anyone is wondering why I *don’t* have a personal page there, keep in mind that I *hate* myspace.

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Jeff

New Year, Caching, etc

Happy New Year, as well as happy whatever solstice holiday you choose to celebrate! Once again, I’m slacking in the “blogging” department. I recently made a few changes to the server, the most important of which will speed this up by fixing the memory map cache used to render pages, thereby removing the molasses from the page loading process. There are also a few new tracks under Artists and Projects on the site, so please feel free to take a listen.

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Jeff

Forms – Too Many Forms

I’m working on a new concept/feature in FreeMED to try to alleviate the persistent problem of providers not being able to create their own forms with custom data, without having an advanced degree in advanced something (besides being a provider, of course). This, coupled with the new packaging format for FreeMED modules that I’m working on, will probably be the next big features in the next non-bug release, which is currently scheduled to be version 0.

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Jeff

Slack

I’m slacking in keeping up this weblog-thing, but in my defense, I have been a bit busy. FreeMED released version 0.8.1 to the world, and I have been working in the studio a lot lately as well, working on both the Heirs of Centack audiobook and musical projects. Hopefully the BCF-2000 that has been ordered will get here soon, to make mixing less of a pain. I’m also halfway through a platform change to use PlanetCCRMA as the new studio platform, since the latencies appear good with the 2.

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Jeff

Pluggable Authentication for FreeMED

I finally mustered up the spare time to move from the old system of FreeMED authentication to a pluggable system. I have only coded up two plugins for now: a “Password” plugin, which uses the old system of authentication and password checking, and a “Basic” plugin, supporting HTTP Basic Authentication. I’m also currently considering writing an LDAP plugin to allow FreeMED credentials and basic ACL information to be stored on an LDAP server, to really allow for enterprise deployments.

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Jeff

Secure Data Warehousing

My newest project with FreeMED has been to implement a way to securely warehouse medical data offsite. This relates to Dr Gnu’s article about disaster recovery. I have been using SSL WebDAV with a slim C client built on neon to push gnupg-encrypted SQL dumps (both incremental and full) to the archive server, which is perhaps temporarily residing at https://archive.freemedsoftare.net/. In this way, whoever is hosting the archive cannot read the medical data without the gnupg keys held only by the provider who “owns” the medical records.

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Jeff

Lab HL7 Interface

I have been working on an interface with Quest Diagnostics to be able to automagically import HL7 v2.3 messages into FreeMED. They were nice enough to furnish me with some documentation, and I have an alpha-quality implementation ready for some beating in one of our alpha sites. Now that 0.8.0 is out, I’m working steadily on a 0.8.1 release, with mostly bugfixes, some rearchitecturing, and a few nice features like this one (hopefully).

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Jeff

FreeMED and REMITT released

I have released the FreeMED 0.8.0 and REMITT 0.3 combination, along with phpwebtools 0.4.5. I’ve found that Subversion rapidly decreases my development time, as it allows me to focus more on the programming and less on annoying problems. I have also been working on some of Irv’s ideas regarding secure data warehousing, and the next version of FreeMED should support that “out of the box”, without the need to configure anything complicated.

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Jeff

FreeMED Live CD

I’m currently finishing up the final touches on the FreeMED 0.8.0 release right now, as REMITT 0.3 and phpwebtools 0.4.5 are already “ready to ship”. I’m also touching up a nice FreeMED Live CD, based on the kubuntu “Hoary Hedgehog” live CD, so everyone will be able to try out FreeMED REMITT without having to make the commitment of formatting a machine. Thanks to B-MAS, Inc for funding (and helping out with) the development of this live CD.

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Jeff

Subversion

It’s final; I have moved FreeMED, a six-year old project with a CVS tree that old, to a new replicated subversion repository system. This should let me spend far less time fighting with sourceforge’s CVS servers, as well as provide an easier way to maintain the large number of files and directories in FreeMED. We’re less than a week from the launch of FreeMED 0.8.0, REMITT 0.3 and phpwebtools 0.4.5, which will be released together, and everything is in deep freeze, so I will be only committing packaging changes and extreme paper bag bug fixes over the next week.

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Jeff

POD, Processors, and Other Such Eccentricities

It has been a little while since I have posted anything musical here, so it’s about time to get back on that track. I’ve received two presents … from myself … a Line 6 Bass PODxt Live and a Behringer VX-2496 Vocal Processor. I have to admit, vocals and bass haven’t sounded that good in a long time. For those who don’t know, I have been an ardent bass player for years, and a Bass POD has been on the top of my list for years.

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Jeff

REMITT and Statements

I have been hard at work, getting our favorite medical billing engine to support generating patient statements, in addition to its current payer billing capabilities. In addition, I have been adding some rich font support for PDFs, while all font attributes are stripped out or ignored when generating plain text or other formats which do not support it. In addition, I was reading an article on building an extremely low-latency box for professional audio, when I was appalled to see a comment that “the most obvious choice of operating system for musicians is still Windows XP Professional”.

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Jeff

Ubuntu and Pro Audio

I have been starting to consider changing distributions for the studio machine, lulled away from the safe confines of the known to something which seems to be much nicer in terms of user experience. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite ready in the realm of low-latency audio, so I have been working at packaging up the most important applications, as well as putting together a nice low-latency kernel package for the 2.6.x series of kernels which Ubuntu uses.

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Jeff

Old Track, New Day

Over the last week or two, Jake and I have been working on a few older tracks from some long-gone group, including a few which were never finished or released. So far, three tracks have come out of this collaboration. Hopefully Jake can get his hands on the raw tracks from the original recordings so we can do a little creative editing and remixing which will provide a truer sound compared to the one captured on the last released CD of that group.

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Jeff

Violins never solved anything …

We’ve had the great pleasure of having Bob Thurston, a terrific violinist, in the studio to lay down some tracks for Natasha. He’s not only a great musician, but a terrific all-around person, and it was a pleasure to have him here. He laid down the violin tracks for four different songs, and we’re looking into scheduling more.

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Jeff