Saturday 16 March 2013

Official Google Reader Blog: Powering Down Google Reader

Official Google Reader Blog: Powering Down Google Reader? Yikes! So this is it then, the first crack in the ground that signals a new age of computing?  yes there are other readers, but none so elegantly thought out ... or as purpose-directed ... as Google Reader.  It's also perhaps a little frightening to read the part about Google being concerned, for the first time in history, that they are wasting manpower and seeking to consolidate their resources...

Friday 8 March 2013

Zero budget software suite for filmmakers

Now, says DeRose, open-source software like Blender can do almost everything Pixar’s software can do. Last summer, Pixar even open-sourced its subdivision surface code library. “We had a competitive advantage for ten years,” DeRose says, “but now we get more value by letting everyone contribute.”
Zero budget software suite for filmmakers:

Money is, by definition, always a difficult issue for the low budget filmmaker. The challenge is in getting as much of your meagre budget up on the screen as possible.  With that being the case do you really have the money to throw around on overpriced software packages? Luckily, by the wonders of open source development, just about every £500 software package has its freebie equivalent. These packages give you an entire office set up for every stage of the filmmaking process, from drawing up budgets and schedules, writing your script right through to advanced editing and special effects.  All for a most reasonable price.  Free.
Open Office – Equivalent to Microsoft OfficeMAC/PC/LINUXWord and Excel, absolutely essential in running your office but at an annoyingly high price.  Not to mention the need to buy it all over again to run on a Mac.  So why bother?  Open Office has all the features of the Office package in a nicely familiar layout.  As a bonus it’s compatible with Mac and PC and can work with Microsoft files.  So long Bill Gates.Get it here
Celtx – Equivalent to Final DraftMAC/PC/LINUXIf you’re going to get anywhere as a writer then you’re going to have to make sure your scripts are properly formatted.  Final Draft’s £200+ price tag mocks the penniless writer, whereas Celtx welcomes him with open arms.  Celtx’s range of features is very impressive, functioning perfectly as an intuitive screenwriting package and also offers a complete scheduling and scene breakdown solution.Get it here
KOfficeMAC/PC/LINUXAn impressive collection of software, the KOffice project is similar to Open Office in many respects but has a couple of extras thrown in too.Get it here
Skype – Equivalent to expensive international callsMAC/PC/LINUXIt’s a wonder anyone is paying the extortionate rates of international phone charges anymore.  Get Skype, talk cheap.Get it hereEDITING AND GRAPHICS
LightworksPC ( LINUX public beta released early 2013, MAC TBA)An incredibly powerful editing package that is head and shoulders above all other freebie editing packages.  Just take a look at their website to see some of the high profile projects that have used Lightworks.  Lightworks has features that even some of the big packages don’t have without the addition of expensive plugins.  With a strong community supporting it, this is only going to get better. Get it here
HyperEngine-AV – Equivalent to Adobe Premiere, Final Cut ProMAC/PCA decent editing package.  A step up from the likes of imovie though still not up to the professional standards of the pricey packages.  For simple edits though, you could do a lot worse.Get it here
AvidemuxMAC/PC/LINUXOne of the best free editing packages out there.  Avidemux allows you to do basic cutting, apply filters and work with a wide variety of different file types.  It gets better with each release.Get it here
windows movie maker, pinnacle videospinPCThese lightweight freebie editors should not be overlooked entirely.  For quick edits and changes there’s no need for the big guns.Get Windows Movie MakerGet Pinnacle Videospin
Avid Free DVMACThis was a great idea but has sadly been discontinued by Avid.  Avid Free DV is a free version of their high end editing software, preserving the interface but removing many of the advanced features.  Great for simple editing whilst also learning your way around Avid.  Copies are still floating around online, though now it’s unsupported it is just going to get more out of date with time.  Get it while it’s still useful.Get it here
MPEG StreamclipMAC/PCAnother powerful, professional encoding and conversion tool.  It accepts even the most obscure video formats and can even download YouTube videos.Get it here
ffmpegMAC/PC/LINUXA powerful encoding tool that can read and convert just about any video file format.Get it here
DCP Builder – Equivalent to taking your project to an expensive post houseMAC/PC/LINUXWant to screen your film at the utmost quality?  Modern digital projectors require something called a DCP (Digital Cinema Package).  Most post houses will charge you several thousands for the privilege, even for a short.  DCP Builder is free.Get it here
Open DCPMAC/PC/LINUXAnother DCP package.  Personally I’ve had better results with this one than with DCP Builder.  But hey, they’re both free so give them both a shot and see what works best for you.Get it here
Black Magic DaVinci Resolve LiteMAC/PC/LINUXA good colour correcting job can make your budget movie look a million dollars.  Black Magic now offer a lite version of their powerful colour correcting tool absolutely free!Get it hereGimp – Equivalent to PhotoshopMAC(Requires X11)/PCPhotoshop is the worlds most pirated piece of software and for good reason.  It mixes an essential, practical and intuitive set of tools with an obscenely high price tag.  So if piracy is not your thing, then try out this brilliant, yet strangely named, free alternative.  Gimp’s impressive set of features rivals that of Photoshop and is expanding all the time.  The ability to open and save photoshop files also makes it very easy to jump back and forth.Get it here
Inkscape – Equivalent to Adobe IllustratorMAC(Requires X11)/PCWhen creating titles and logos, you are going to need to use vector graphics.  Once upon a time that meant the man from Adobe ransacking your pockets.  Not anymore.  Inkscape does it all.Get it here
SeashoreMACLighter on features than Gimp but a lot less clunky.  If you just want to do a basic image touch up then give this a shot.Get it here
AudacityMAC/PC/LINUXFor basic audio recording and editing give Audacity a shot.Get it here
FrinikaMAC/PC/LINUXThe perfect way to compose a score for your movie.  Frinika offers MIDI sequencing, audio recording and mixing.Get it here
Blender – Equivalent to Maya, 3DS MaxMAC/PC/LINUXThe big 3D modelling and animating packages will set you back thousands of pounds, a price that sets a solid barrier against the beginning 3D modeller.  How are people able to learn to use it?  The answer is Blender.  The results that Blender has produced are truly stunning and it has already been used to create effects for feature films as well as animated shorts.  There is a heavy reliance on shortcut keys which makes it a very steep learning curve for beginners.Get it here
MuvizuPCThis animation package takes a lot of the pain out of creating 3D animations, allowing you to construct environments and characters with ease out of thousands of customisable templates.  Perfect for practising animation or for creating previz for your film.Get it here
Synfig – Equivalent to FlashMAC/PC/LINUXWhether you’re looking to create simple web animations or looking for a program to animate film quality images then Synfig is for you.  Offering much of Flash’s feature set as well as tools entirely of it’s own making, Synfig provides an outlet for the budding 2D animator.Get it here
Jahshaka – Equivalent to After EffectsMAC/PC/LINUXYou’re heading into complex territory here.  Recently renamed CineFX, Jahshaka aims to be a one stop visual effects suite.  While Jahshaka does have an impressive feature set, it is possibly too unreliable and glitchy for use on larger projects, but for simple effects you can’t go wrong.Get it here
CinepaintMAC/LINUXPerfect for finalising your film.  Cinepaint allows you to do a careful retouch of your footage, frame by frame, or just clean up still images.Get it here
kompozer – Equivalent to DreamweaverMAC/PC/LINUXYou are going to need a website and you are probably going to want to put your own one together rather than relying on well worn template tools like wordpress.  Kompozer can do it all.Get it here
CyberduckMAC/PCAn FTP management tool for your website.  Sure, it’s not fun, but it is important.Get it here
ColorSyncMACYou may already have this one without even knowing it.  I did.  Try doing a search on your Mac’s hard disk.  This little utility can shrink PDF files down to minuscule sizes with very little drop in quality.  Ideal when sending out screenplays, press kits etc.
DVD FlickPCA simple DVD authoring solution that allows you to work with multiple formats, add subtitle streams and create menus easily.Get it here
HandbrakeMAC/PCRip DVDs at high quality.  A simple design and workflow gets the job done in a couple of clicks.Get it here
MediaInfoMAC/PCI only just discovered this one and am now not entirely sure how I coped without it.  Mediainfo opens any video file and tells you exactly what codecs and settings were used to create it.  Essential.Get it here
VLC PlayerMAC/PC/LINUXThe video player that plays everything.  Essential.Get it here
TelepromptingPCTurn your laptop into a teleprompter with ease.  Perfect when doing on the spot reports or perhaps dealing with a particularly forgetful actor.  The demo version is free and retains many of the essential functions.Get it here
It’s also worth noting that most of the big software packages offer free 1 month trials.  And with so many competing packages, you can easily jump ship from one to the next as your trial runs out. Total RRP of all the above packages is approximately £5780. Save your money.  Make a film instead!
Cinephilia & Beyond:

 Now, says DeRose, open-source software like Blender can do almost everything Pixar’s software can do. Last summer, Pixar even open-sourced its subdivision surface code library. “We had a competitive advantage for ten years,” DeRose says, “but now we get more value by letting everyone contribute.”

Wednesday 6 March 2013

All formations are impermanent

What a tremendous mess this is, and with it a cautionary tale for one and all on the stark reality of impermanence in the online world, an impermanence from without.  Here's how it all unfolded:

  1. my blog host of choice, was 'acquired' by Twitter in what was called a skills acquisition or some such, implying that it was the employees they wanted, not the product, and sure enough, a short time ago, Posterous announced all my hosted postings there would be cleared out end of April.  fin. 
  2. in a quest to find a new home for I did the usual survey and learned that while there are many free host options in 2013, only one provides import tools that will read from the Posterous export xml, Wordpress.  As much as I was nervous of WP after their infamous paid-article spam incident, I thought bygones and clicked them up, and sure enough, the export file imports to WordPress quite effortlessly and appears to be an answer.  I'll elaborate in a moment.
  3. WordPress is free, in the sense that they provide a very generous amount of space, allow for a generous amount of hosted images (not sure about pdfs and mp3s but I think those too) however they have an outrageous fee for parking your hostname on your blog; having built up a modest reputation for in the years since I began in 1998, I was wont to lose that juice, but it seemed an imbalance to spend more on the parking of just one hostname than the total cost of both that hostname's registration and  the DNS services to supply it.  Posterous provided this service for free and so I was accustomed to a fleet of blogs for myself and the family, and multiplying these fees across all of those sites?  Well, yes, I'm cheap, but it is also an important part of my self-publishing experiment that I explore what can be done by, as Bucky put it: "to see what a penniless, unknown human individual with a dependent wife and newborn child might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity" ... and that means no fees, offered at no charge.
  4. Blogger on the other hand, does offer hostname parking for free, and through the google-blog-converters-appengine implies that a blog can be imported from WordPress, and so the strategy emerges: to export Posterous, import into WordPress, export and convert into a Blogger file, import that and voila!
Only the online world, like the rest of tech culture, rarely fully explains its promises.  Hence this current mass of almost.  What happens first is the notion of export does not imply what we normally think of in having materials moved out of one location bound for another.  What a blog 'export' (carefully quined) really means is a transfer of the semantics ... but not necessarily the content.  Text is largely preserved, links to outside material is largely preserved (with a few skips here and there) but other content is only sometimes copied over, and sometimes not.
For the unwary, and for those who may not quite understand how the Internet works, the import to WordPress looks good: because it preserves much of the content as links, and because has not yet (at the time of this writing) shut its doors, many of the postings over at do look fine, properly formatted, seemingly intact.  This is an illusion: the posterous hosted content will appear as gaping holes (Posterous full-dump backups do give you your full content, so all that material is not lost, it is just, for the timebeing, homeless)
On the plus side, most of my imagery tended to be 3rd party citings of image and video material, and in that does a good job of preserving the illustrated nature of my blog posts; it is just unfortunate that with the loss of the address pointing to that material, I have to start from scratch in building my referral reputation, and a further thorn that as I do so, I am really building the reputation of wordpress, so in a sense, there is a cost here, albeit a mild and invisible one.
And so on to as the next candidate home.  It is Google, and so one hopes financially more stable than Posterous, but it is Google so one expects zero technical support, clunky outmoded acquired software (eg Google Sites that still uses pre-xhtml FONT SIZE tags).  So expectations are managed.
On a first try, not fully reading the warnings, I submit the exported WordPress xml to the online hosted converter -- the warnings say my file should be three times too big, and it returns a file twice the allowed size, but I import it anyway.  The import balks at a single posting from 2008 and skips a few comments but otherwise appears to be a success.
On inspection, however, the Blogger import has squashed all YouTube and Google Map embeds into odd looking BB-Forum (?) [T]tags[/T] !?  Now that is an anachronism, and a serious spoiler to a lot of postings.  Instead of being illustrated, my posts now present a puzzle, albeit a puzzle that can be solved, but the eye-candy is now elsewhere.
And there is another feature of that elsewhere -- where even WordPress had fetched and re-hosted image content, with the Blogger import, all images are links now, links back to WordPress! 
Hoping this might have been data conservation by the hosted converter, I downloaded the current revision of the wordpress2blogger python script and run that, resulting in a somewhat larger xml file, and I clear the blog and resubmit this new import -- hundreds of errors pruning hundreds of articles, and many articles duplicated; apparently the hosted script and the downloadable latest revision are not terribly similar.  Once again, I clear the blog and then re-import the earlier broken but at least more or less complete script.
There is a moral: All formations are impermanent - Internet formations perhaps especially so
This body is seen to continue for a year, for two years, five years, ten years, twenty years, fifty years, a hundred years, and even more. But of that which is called mind, is called thought, is called consciousness, one moment arises and ceases as another continually both day and night.  (SN 12.61)
So closes and re-opens another epoch in and for the moment I'm still not entirely sure which is the better venue, to transition to and abandon the hostname to WP's, or suffer the outrageous misfortunes of a life hosted by Blogger, but the upshot for you dear reader is this confusing tangle of now triplicated content between here and there and the old there that will linger until April 30th when we'll all start to really appreciate what's been lost.
 “Your body is like a dew-drop on the morning grass, your life is as brief as a flash of lightning. Momentary and vain, it is lost in a moment.” ― Dogen Zenji

Tuesday 5 March 2013

The Heart of London

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The London Stone, Cannon Street: For hundreds of years the small limestone block was recognised as the heart of the City of London and became a traditional site to pass laws, reclaim debts, swear oaths and make official proclamations.

WalkLondon adds that the stone may not currently be in its enclave; it was moved out for safe-keeping during the Cannon Street road constructions.