Archive for Musings

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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Technorati Blog Claim

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

Technorati Profile

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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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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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Squeaky Clean Compy…

It’s just about the end of the quarter here for me. Since I’ve now gotten all my major coursework out of the way, this morning was time to clean my hard drive and start fresh. Windows runs much better if you start from scratch every 6 months or so. :-)

While doing just that is nothing to write home about, I tried something different this time. I’m now running a dual-boot system. On one partition is my reliable XP 64-bit Edition workhorse, supporting a full 8GB of RAM. On the other, shiny new Vista Business Edition.

After a day of playing, I really can’t find much to complain about with Vista. In all seriousness, the only reason I’m not switching over entirely just yet is my current installation DVD is only the 32-bit edition of Vista.

Granted, I do have a pretty awesome machine – so the graphics and transitions and nice things on Vista run the way they were intended to. What most people complain about is Vista running slow, and the whole “Are you SURE you really want to install this?” prompts are a little aggravating (but you CAN turn them off if you choose to!).

Considering all the bad hype Vista’s received, I was expecting a POS OS. Instead, I’ve got something that looks really pretty, functions no better or worse than Windows ever did, runs peppy, and makes me wish I could support all my RAM.

Windows Vista is a next generation operating system. If you don’t have a next generation computer, don’t complain if it doesn’t run the way it’s supposed to.

Next week’s goal is getting my hands on a copy of OS X to try and install on the third, currently vacant, partition of my hard drive. We’ll see how that goes…


SignWriting with Sutton US…

As part of my Deaf History course, I’m doing a research paper on ASL Illustration. One of the particular illustrators is the late Frank Allen Paul. He was the go-to guy back in the day for ASL illustrating!

Trolling the web for information before going to the library tomorrow, I happened across SignWriting. SignWriting is the practice of writing out American (or other) Sign Language on paper. Michael Everson went and created a TrueType font, which, upon finding, I promptly downloaded.

If you know ASL, or AS 3.0 (preferably both), you may find this picture interesting:
Sutton US ASL AS3

Yes, I did. I’m thinking about keeping it that way. It’s not like anyone else needs to read my code! :-P Besides, their own machines will use their own preferred font.

For more information on SignWriting and Sutton US, go to:

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Theoretical Laser Tracking…

I’m currently developing a laser-pointer and webcam pointing device for a 3D game. One of the issues one runs into with this situation arises when you’re setting up the webcam. What happens if the webcam does not have a direct angle on the surface it’s looking at? What you get is this weird quadrilateral that can’t be used to directly map the laser to the mouse.

I’ve written a test program in Processing to address this problem. The white squares define the edges of the usable area. The little red square controlled by the mouse represents the laser pointer, and the larger red circle represents the cursor as the final program would interpret it. The goal is to pretend the area in the box and the area of the program are two perspectives of the same element. Every frame, the program tries to track down the x and y position of the laser dot. It follows a guess and check algorithm, and each guess is shown as a line within the box.

Note that you may click and drag the white boxes to change the shape of the usable area. Check it out!

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Circle Solver…

In preparation for a logo animation involving circles, I did some fun math for solving the intersection of two circles. Here’s a rough guess at what the logo will look like:


And here’s a link to my math work in proce55ing / processing – however you want to spell it.

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  I crossed a line today. :-)

I’ve opted to brush the dust off of my old PC (you know, that one I was using freshman/sophomore year of college, before upgrading to this shiny new Core-2 64-bit 8-Gig-o-RAM system I built for myself) and turn it into a Linux server.

Why? Because it’s something completely new and foreign to me, and I had some time and ambition to do so. My ultimate goal is to create a (slow but working) Red5 server. Red5 (FREE!) is the open-source alternative to the Adobe Media Server ($$$$$.$$!) – both of which allow users of my various flash programs to communicate with other users. In other words, I will be able to host my own multi-user apps, instead of relying on for this technology.

In the past few hours, I have learned more than I’ll be able to convey in this entry and the subsequent entries to follow on the same topic. I will summarize to give those who know Linux a chance to laugh at my newbieness, and those who know as much as I did yesterday a chance to gape at my newfound uber-geekdom:

Read the rest of this entry »


Consensus Final…

The day of reckoning has come. Here’s a link to the final piece:

All things considered, I’m marginally pleased with my work on this project. I know the “finished” site is lacking transitions and mouse-over states. Functionally, however, it’s pretty sweet. The biggest issues are a matter of re-skinning and tweening.

This piece was an experiment in ActionScript 3.0, and the more I learn about the language, the more I like it. Please feel free to leave your opinions in the comments here, or even post them to the flash project!


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