Video Tutorials

It’s very rare that I RANT about something vehemently, but I will do just that on this occasion. I apologize in advance for the heavy use of all-caps, but I need to STRESS how ANGRY I AM.

I CAN’T STAND sites that use VIDEO TUTORIALS and don’t have some sort of TEXT-BASED INSTRUCTION or TRANSCRIPT along with them.

In the past, I could Google some question I had about some program I was using, some programming language I was writing in, or some computer configuration task I was trying to do. I would navigate to a promising result listing, skim the text, and either find what I was looking for, or go back and try again. Quick, easy, no problems, and it gets the job done.

These days, more and more frequently, I’m finding sites that think everything has to be explained with a VIDEO TUTORIAL that has screen-capture of someone’s monitor while he is talking conversationally and meandering his way to the answer I was looking for. This is INCREDIBLY PROBLEMATIC!

For starters, I’m not always at a computer with SOUND or in possession of a handy pair of HEADPHONES. Considering these videos are RARELY CAPTIONED, I’m out of luck! If I were DEAF, I would be FURIOUS. I can’t get at the information if I don’t have sound! Moreover, the video takes time to LOAD. Plain-text is much faster! The narration is almost NEVER TO-THE-POINT. The speaker TALKS LIKE I’M STUPID, and fills the presentation with conversational (“So we’re just gonna”s and “Why don’t you”s, etc.). Plus SEEKING is a BLIND operation, because I can’t guess when in the video the real content begins.

I will admit that tutorial videos are useful in cases where a program has a convoluted menu system, or in cases where you’re trying to illustrate a workflow or process that takes time or several steps to complete. In a good number of these cases, though, wouldn’t a screenshot suffice?

If you are considering putting a video tutorial up, make sure it’s for the right reasons. PLEASE put a text transcript up, either below the video, or linked off to another page. STOP WASTING OUR TIME!

Thank you. :-D

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Yes, I’m me, and I intend to prove it!

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As my final project for Physical Computing, I created a simple Flash game that uses the Nintendo Wiimote (four of them, actually) as an input device. The screen shows a grid of squares. Each Wiimote is associated with a color, and players point and press buttons to flip the squares to their individual colors. Whichever player has the most squares of his color at the end of the game wins.

It was interesting to work on this project because of the multi-user aspects. Handles for the different user actions needed to be abstracted so as to be associated with different users.  I also created two sets of handles so I could choose between Wiimote and mouse control when debugging – rather than having to hook up the Wiimote every time – and for systems at school where I don’t have privileges to install a bluetooth stack willy-nilly.

This project also served as a testbed for future interactions. Working with the Wiimote as a user input device for the RIT Collaboritorium project  is more pheasible now. I created a set of four different IR beacons to be centered underneath each screen of the DOME. The IR beacons serve as anchors so the Wiimote knows which way it is pointing, and also (because each one is different) at which screen it is pointing. The pointing gesture is not literal, but suffices enough to trick the user into being happy.

Single-Player Mouseable Tile Game

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Another project was a brief excursion into the world of electric motors. In this particular (short!) project, we were tasked with creating something simple with a motor, stepper, or servo.

I had originally wanted to do something through Flash with the servo, but found that to be too difficult for the scope of the project. The main reason for this is that Flash is rather atrocious when it comes to controlling time precisely. The PWM calls to the servo motor required mili- and micro-second accuracy, something Flash just doesn’t have.

As a substitute, I scaled things back to just using that cute volume slider from the Blink project to control the rotation of the servo: all the way left, all the way right, and everywhere in between.


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It’s only been, what, 9 weeks since I finished the Blink project for Physical computing? *sighs* I didn’t do myself any favors this Spring quarter at RIT. Seriously.

Anyway, as a “Hello, world!” with the Arduino, our task was to modify the basic LED Blink program to do something somewhat more interesting. For mine, I used the volume slider from an old walkman, and a bend sensor to modify the blinking pattern of a series of LEDs. The volume slider controlled how many LEDs were lit, and the bend sensor affected how quickly the blink occurred.

(could’ve sworn that image was around here somewheres…)

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Cleaning the SPAM…

I just did the whole Askimet SPAM filter thing. I kinda feel behind the times on a lot of things, SPAM detection being one of them.

I let my moderating go for a little over 3 weeks, and come back to find 8429 comments in moderation. That’s fine with me, because none of them made it to my visible pages. It was not fine, however, because that many posts cannot be edited all at once (the page times out before they are all loaded, and the moderate button is at the BOTTOM! of the page), nor is it desirable to go through them 20 at a time.

Fortunately I’m a New Media student, and New Media students know MySQL. I went in to my database and removed all comments received since the last time I moderated. It took about 3 seconds.

Askimet requires comment-makers register. On your first comment I approve or deny you, which affects how your subsequent comments are handled.

I apologize if you had made a legitimate comment during the last 3 weeks. Your comment was a casualty of SPAM. The future is brighter, though. (spam Spam SPAM spammity SPAM Spam spam spam *operatically* Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam… )SPAM

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Bull Rider

James Alexander and I worked together on “Bullrider” for our Physical Computing class. Our assignment was called “Project Runway.” Our task was to create a wearable project that had integrated sensors.

Jim had an inflatable bull riding costume from a previous Halloween party that was perfect for this project. We placed an Arduino in the hat, which took readings from an accelerometer. We also attached terminals to a grip-strengthener exercise thingamajig that would sense when it was held closed, and topped that piece of hardware off with a reset pushbutton.

The goal was to simulate a bull ride for the user wearing the costume. To begin the ‘game’ they close the grip-strengthener (simulating a tight hold on the rope) and keep it closed. On screen, there are two fields above and below a graphic representation of the bull. When the user jumps, it moves the graphic of the bull up and down accordingly. The fields gradually move apart, and the user must jump higher and higher to touch both of them. If the user fails to maintain a steady grip, or fails to touch the fields at a certain interview, he has fallen off the bull.

Below I’ve included the on-screen portion of this project. It differs only by means of user input. Instead of holding the grip-strengthener, the user must press the spacebar. Instead of jumping, the user must move the mouse up and down repeatedly.

Keep an eye out for photo and video of the actual project, as well as the link to a case study!

Bull Rider

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AS3 and Arduino

It took some doing, but we got the Arduino to talk to Flash CS3 in a neat way. I’ve compiled that information here because I think it is useful and not explained well anywhere else.

First, you need to get Standard_Firmata.pde onto your Arduino. This is done just like any other Arduino sketch. Firmata provides the framework necessary to have read/write access the ports of the Arduino over the Serial connection. You can use any number of different programming languages to talk to the Arduino board without having to upload a different program to the board’s memory. Firmata rocks!

Second, (at least for Flash) you need to have a Serial Proxy running in the background. SerProxy functions as go-between for Arduino and Flash. Arduino speaks Serial messages, Flash speaks Socket Connection messages, and SerProxy acts as the bi-directional translator. SerProxy rocks!

Third, you need a Socket Connection in Flash. AS3Glue is a library of AS3 classes designed with this in mind, and includes built-in methods, properties and events for communicating with Arduino over the Socket-to-Serial path. The people over at protolab have adopted AS3Glue for their work, and have made a bunch of neat .fla files using the library.

At the end of this post, I’ve provided a screen shot of the base setup working, as well as a zip archive of the software you need to get started. It includes a quick readme to get you up to speed! Enjoy!

Flarduino ScreenShotFlarduino Archive

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Oh Ohm’s Law, How We Love Thee

The last time I seriously messed with anything electrical was my 10th grade “Project Lead the Way” course in Digital Electronics. Coincidentally enough, the course was accredited through RIT – college credit for high school work is not too shabby at all.

Glossing over Ohm’s Law in class brought back some happy memories, as did breadboards and multi-meters, circuit diagrams and wire strippers, LEDs and resistors. *sigh* Those were the days… we’ll see how much I actually remember.

What was it? Bad beer rots our young guts but vodka goes well? Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet, Grey, White!

Ha! I still got it. :-)

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Well, the quarter’s over. What do we have to show for ourselves?

Final critique went amazingly well. I’m fairly certain we impressed a great deal of our classmates with the Asteroids3D project. In addition to that deliverable, we’ve added a case study to highlight the major parts of our project.

Illustrations coming someday.

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