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August 26, 2002

Remember those anti-drug ads about supporting terrorists

Well, here is something along the same lines, but a little more accurate and thought provoking. I found this through kottke.org and I kind of agree that it would be very amusing to see thousands of those stickers appearing on gas pumps around the US. I guess around Canada would be ok, too. Mind you, I'm not advocating any law-breaking here.

August 24, 2002

Here's to flat-rate long distance

I guess Kerry taking a week in Norris Arm with her grandparents is like a trial run for this fall when she'll be in Halifax and I'll be in St. John's. She borrowed my laptop and is getting on the net by dialing in to the university modem pool long-distance. That's where the flat-rate long distance comes in.

Anyway, tonight was a fun diversion. She learned how to use IRC (using the Chatzilla client included in mozilla) and then I helped her update her blog over IRC.

August 23, 2002

This is how to support

So many companies these days seem to want to nickel and dime their end users. MA Lighting goes against the flow and demonstrates how to win more customer support and loyalty. MA makes theatrical lighting equipment, mostly computerized lighting controllers. These controllers basically PCs with a powerful software package and a really customized interface. Most companies in this very small and pricey niche market have what they call 'offline editors' available. An offline editor is essentially the software for the controller tweaked to run on a standard PC so that lighting designers can learn how to use controller without spending $40k US or more. In most cases you can also setup and program parts of a show, and transfer the files to the actual lighting controller. This saves time and money.

Most companies offer these offline editors for free download over the net. Unfortunately, without a warehouse with a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of lighting equipment, you can't really see what you're doing with the offline editor, so it's usefulness is limited. Most companies also make a complementary program called a 3D visualizer. This program is a simple CAD package with a 3D renderer. The user can draw the stage, place lighting fixtures, and see how the set will look. The program receives the serial data stream that the lighting controller normally sends to the actual fixtures, and renders the simulated movements and changes to the fixtures. Exciting stuff. The catch is that other 3D visualizers are pricey add-ons, sometimes requiring additional PC hardware to run. MA Lighting, however, offers their visualizer for free.

So, if you want to learn to program intelligent lights, head over to the MA lighting website, download the Grand MA off line editor(2.5 MB) and the Grand MA 3D visualizer (15.1 MB) and enjoy!

I may become a SuperTramp fan

Well, I probably won't, but I was certainly very, very impressed with their concert at Mile One Stadium this past Tuesday. I think I've mentioned my friend Tommy Dunphy, the freelance lighting designer. He was a spot op on the show, and I wanted to see the lighting and PA rig, so I went down to the stadium with him early. I got in through the crew entrance, and once I was in I really wanted to stay and see the show. I'm sure glad I did!

This concert was the first stop on the North American leg of their world tour, and they are carrying production with them. Not many acts come through here with production, and the different was noticable. Not to disrespect the local companies, but it was really impressive to see a concert with all of the lighting cues timed exactly to the music, and everything so well put together. I heard that the band crew felt it was a substandard show, but I couldn't tell, and I'm pretty musically inclined. They obviously pleased the crowd, and they even added a fourth unplanned encore. I know it was unplanned because the lighting tech didn't have any cues programmed, and the lighting didn't change for nearly the whole song.

On to the gear report. The provider was Upstaging, though I've never heard of the company (shows my ignorance I guess). On the audio side they had a V-DOSC PA with Midas boards. I think FOH was an XL4, and I could clearly see the meter bridge from my perch with the spots way up in the ceiling. The audio was very, very good, and pleasantly not too loud for a change. I was really excited to hear a V-DOSC rig for the first time, and Supertramp's audio crew used their tools well.

Lighting wise the show was run on a Whole Hog II, with about 14 Mac2000s and 25 HES Studio Colors, some blinders, strobes, 8 or 12 source 4s and maybe two dozen ETC Pars. The hang was simple with a front, mid and rear truss. There were two FOH spots, and one spot truss upstage. The front truss had the source4s and pars, and two Cyberlights that I think were only used to project a couple of gobos on the stage floor. The mid truss had 9 Studios and 7 2ks. There was a vertical truss coming down from either end of the mid truss with a Studio and 2k on the bottom. The mid truss had about 8 dataflashes, a dozen egg strobes and a dozen smaller blinders on it as well. The upstage truss had 7 studios, 5 2ks, plus some blinders and egg strobes. There was a Par with a scroller on a tripod on each side of the stage, and 6 studios and 5 blinders along the upstage edge of the stage behind the band. There were also some footlights downstage.

The lighting was really well done, with good use made of the color mixing in all of the moving heads. The guy liked using dimmer waves from the effect generator, especially on the ground row of studios. The flown lights almost always pointed down in straight lines, never cross patterns. He was spare with movement, though he did do a few crowd sweeps towards the end of the show. The way the intels were hung made for some really nice looks when he'd pick up a solist, especially at the grand piano. The lights on the mid and upstage truss were staggered, so the nearest 2k on the mid truss could pick up the soloist in open white, while the 2ks to either side and behind could make a triangle pattern in a darker color. He also had a nice look with the 2ks at the bottom of the midstage side pieces picking up the pianist.

Speaking of the piano, at the end of the show, they took the legs off the 9' grand piano and packed it in a massive road case. It's a good thing they had three semis with them. All in all I was really impressed with the show, and I hope that local promoters bring in more shows of this calibre. Someday, I'll be responsible for a show like that.

More news on the home front

I meant to post this yesterday, but the time just flies...

My mom heard from the school board yesterday morning that she has been granted her leave. The move to Qatar is finalized. I can't wait to go visit. The college over there is providing just about everything my parents need, including a 3 bedroom condo, so all I have to do is save up some money, and I'll finally get to do that Mediterranean tour while I'm in the neighborhood. Assuming Kerry wants to go as well...

It's actually a really good opportunity for my mother, but a crossroads for my family. My sister is just moving home and this week is the last week we'll all be together. Next week Christiane is moving into her new house. In three or four weeks mom leaves for the middle east. In two or three months dad will join her and I'll get moving to Halifax.

Soapbox item for the day

The real reason that the music business is tanking is not Napster, Gnutella and the 'mp3 revolution'. Instead of finding scapegoats and lobbying for legislation to protect their business models, the RIAA and the major labels need to take a good hard look at their own product and how they've lost touch with their audience.

August 19, 2002

Busy week

Wow, I don't believe it's been five days since I posted. A few days of schoolwork, then went out with some friends from Chi Alpha on Friday. Slept in Saturday and helped Kerry get some odds and ends wrapped up before she leaves. Friday was Kerry's last day at work, Saturday night we played a last game of Risk 2210, and yesterday she went home to Norris Arm South for a week. After Kerry left yesterday I went to the drive in service at Bethesda, and then went for a walk and some food with Glen, Adele and Tonya. Today I slept in again, and stayed around the house doing little bits of things related to YC, school, preparing to move and general house-cleaning.

Yesterday, several people asked about Kerry and our plans for the fall. She's starting her M.Sc. at Dal in a few weeks. I'll be driving her to Halifax and helping her move in to her apartment. I'll be in St. John's for Sept and Oct. I hope that by the time my thesis draft is finished I'll have a job ready and I'll head to Halifax myself.

August 14, 2002

Life update

Looking over the last few weeks posts I see that my website is devolving into a op-ed column. I promise for my two faithful readers that I'll move the political stuff back to the soapbox where it belongs soon. So, in real life, in the last few weeks I've seen my sister get accepted to med school, my parents buy a house and a second vehicle and then get offered a job in Qatar. Kerry is finishing work this week, and packing to move to Nova Scotia. Me, I'm left to watch the house while my parents are gone to Missouri to help my sister move back here.

The research is progressing slowly but surely.

I'm planning to take a 10 day break to help Kerry move at the end of the month. On Wednesday the 28th we leave St. John's with the Uhaul trailer, stopping overnight in Norris Arm and Corner Brook. We take the 0900 ferry crossing on Friday the 30th and arrive in Halifax about 1900 that evening. Ideally, we'll have everything unloaded that night. Counting a few days to unpack and settle in, we should have at least 3 or 4 days left over to relax a little, see the city, and maybe do some job hunting or apartment hunting myself. I am thinking of bringing a few papers to read, but you know how that usually goes...

More soapbox fodder

Two articles questioning American corporate accounting practices, and Microsoft in particular.

Diamonds are forNever?

Ten reasons why you should never accept a diamond ring. I was going to post this last night but I didn't get around to it. I have heard for a few years how diamonds are a bit of a scam, with prices kept artificially high by De Beers. I never bothered to really research it though. Yesterday, slashdot posted an article entitled Diamonds - Are They Really Worth the Cost?. The follow-up discussion was about the most active for any story on slashdot except for a few big stories about Microsoft's trial last year. The article referenced the Ten Reasons list I linked to above, but also an indepth story from the February 1982 issue of The Atlantic called Have You Ever Tried To Sell A Diamond? Looks like the cartel has managed to contain the market forces, because as far as I can tell diamond prices are as high as ever, the resale value is as low as ever. Mysteriously, everybody still believes that a diamond is the definitive eternal symbol of love, and a sound investment.

Sorry, Kerry. This isn't a hint, honest!

August 13, 2002

Think about it

It's about time that somebody intervened in the rogue states around the world to return them to peace-loving members of the international community.

Also, free_culture is another link that belongs in the soapbox section, really.

August 10, 2002

Software choice?

MS 'Software Choice' scheme a clever fraud is a good article by Bruce Perens, the well-known open source evangelist at HP-Compaq. I just wanted to help give the story wider exposure.

Yeah, I should really start a blog in my soapbox section.

August 08, 2002

Change is in the wind

It's been a busy month since my sister was accepted to med school. I didn't post much about it last week, but my parents found a bought a house for my sister last week, on the same day that they bought a 1993 Pathfinder. My parents and my brother are leaving tomorrow in the Pathfinder to tow a Uhaul trailer to Missouri, pack up my sister's belongings and drive back in time for Med School orientation on the 21st. There is some other fun stuff going to too, with various family members applying for new jobs and contemplating changes. I'll wait until some of that stuff develops more fully before reporting here...

Along similar lines, I reserved space for Kerry and me to cross the ferry to Nova Scotia on Aug 30. I'll stay in Halifax for a week or so to help her settle in and get a feel for the city. If things are moving along especially well, I may even scout for apartments and jobs myself. Kerry only has three weeks left as a Newfoundland resident. I'll be sulking around here for at least another month or two trying to pick up the pace on my thesis draft.

August 05, 2002

Bug 17917 - kudos

Bug 17917 - kudos to John Keiser and Alex Savulov who announced a draft roaming profile architecture document in this newsgroup posting. This encompasses a lot of features that I really have been looking forward to seeing in mozilla: the ability to use a common bookmark file from several computers is the biggie, but eventually it may also allow cool things like sharing bookmark folders between multiple users. Imagine: your own personal bookmarks, your workgroup bookmarks, and your friends shared bookmarks all seamlessly shared and synchronized between local and remote profile locations. I can't wait!

Convicted Criminal Makes Amends

A convicted child molester awaiting final sentencing has voluntarily stopped giving cherry flavor lollypops to children. He continues to insist that prison time and losing his job as school teacher are unacceptable.

He further argues that it would be inappropriate for the sentence to place any restriction on his freedom to use candybars to lure children. While he admits he has used candybars in this manner, the district attorney got his conviction based on solely on cases where he used cherry lollypops. Candybar evidence was never presented in court due to budgetary constraints the complexity of the numerous brands and flavors of candybars involved.

(Taken from a slashdot comment)

In Other News...

Several news articles today report that Microsoft is planning to voluntarily implement some of the terms of the proposed settlement of the anti-trust lawsuit with the US Dept of Justice. Observers feel that this indicates Microsoft is really, truly a wholesome and honest company, and everybody should cut them some slack.

August 02, 2002

Definition of free software Attempt

Attempt at a simple (albeit incomplete) characterization of free software, for non-technical readers.

Free software must have source code that is available to you with more rights to use it than you would ordinarily get under copyright law. Source code that you can only access by accepting restrictions equal to or less that that allowed by copyright is not free. Software to which you cannot gain access to the source code is not free.

This doesn't describe what really defines free software. This is a neccessary but not sufficient definition. In other words, free software must meet this definition, and more besides. There is probably some software that meets this definition, but is not free. I guess it is possible to give away source code with more rights of use that ordinary copyright but still not reach the threshold to be truly free software. Hopefully the above is still a useful distinction.

This thought was stimulated by a slashdot article and discussion about software licensing.

Bounty Hunters may not be a good idea

If you read my last post, you'll know what I'm referring to. An obvious flaw of the approach of offering a bounty for Saddam Hussein is that it may simply cause him to be replaced by an equally undesirable person or group who would have the additional benefit of a cash windfall from the bounty on Sadam. I don't know what chance a military intervention has in establishing a desirable government in a foreign country, but a bounty on the undesired leader seems like a gamble at best.

You've heard the US is thinking of another war in Iraq, right?

I won't support that assertion since there are plenty of news articles and weblogs out there with all of the evidence. I'll just post this interesting example of good thinking: Do the Math! Let Free Enterprise Rid Us of Saddam. I haven't thought about the ethical considerations of such a proposal, nor do I necessarily agree with it, but I certainly feel that it merits equal consideration with the prospect of the US initiating another war in the middle east.

On a non-political note...

I'm allergic to grass. So says the result of my allergy test earlier this week. Fortunately, I don't seem to have multiple allergies, so there is hope that after a few years of immunotherapy, including allergy injections, I may be 'cured'.

I've noticed that my blogging has more closely resembled what my soapbox used to be lately. I'll have to make a bit more effort to stay up to date, and keep the op-ed pieces for the soapbox.

August 01, 2002

Sigh, more copyright badness

the case for copyleft - go EFF! Down DMCA! Down SBCEA! Don't know what I'm talking about? You should, especially if you're somebody to whom copyright is important, like an academic researcher, musician, author, librarian or just a music fan. Sure, those are American laws, but that stuff trickles down to Canada, too.