Audacity 2.0 released!

Alhamdulillaah, Audacity 2.0 has been released!

As an audio recorder, producer, editor, and overall manipulator, Audacity is one of my most important tools (more on my whole multimedia workflow to come in a subsequent post).  I have been using it for so many years, I’ve lost count.  Before Audacity, Adobe Audition was my staple, as was Cool Edit (all the way back to ’96) before it was bought by Adobe.  I have come to miss very little from Audition in recent versions of Audacity, and since I’ve committed myself completely to free software, Audacity has been then to help me along the way.

I don’t really have much else to say, but I did want to go ahead and point it out, draw your attention to it, and, also, finally get back into blogging!  Look for more on the way.

Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium (a.k.a. Gong Badak Stadium) collapses

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah no one was injured in the dramatic collapse of the roof of the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin stadium in nearby Gong Badak here in Kuala Terengganu.  It is only about 10 minutes away from where we live here in KT, and in fact, it’s on the way from our place to downtown.  Therefore, I took the opportunity to snap some pics over a couple of days.  You can find more pics in the gallery, including several panoramas.  I’ve also taken some HDR pics, but they are not processed yet.  Patience is beautiful.  😉

March of the Ants!

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

As bugs are normal around the house here in Malaysia, I have just gotten used to them for the most part.  Yes, the wall next to me is a veritable graveyard for mosquitoes, but most other insects don’t bother me much, alhamdulillaah.

This includes ants.  Ants are usually very benign, they mind their own business, and they even are basically the bottom chain of clean-up around the house.  That is, anything biological that we failed to remove, they take care of for us.

So, it was only with a casual non-alarm that we regarded the increased amount of ant activity in our bedroom.  They were more apt as of late at finding our food and swarming it, but that’s just ants.  Until I came into the bedroom one day in the afternoon and found the following.

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Flock of Seabirds

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah, from our apartment in Alexandria, Egypt, we have an outstanding view of the Mediterranean Sea on clear days. On foggy days, we’re treated to an eery sight where the sea is ambiguously “missing”.

flock-of-seabirds-thumbnail

One of the amazing sights I discovered while looking over the sea was the hypnotizing landing sequence of a flock of seabirds that had chosen a rather colorful spot on the top of the one of the nearby buildings on the coast.  The video captures the beginning of the landing sequence, so click the thumbnail to check it out.

International Year of Astronomy 2009

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day featured an announcement for the International Year of Astronomy.  This alone would be noteworthy enough, but they also have a downloadable trailer (warning: contains some music, but it’s not prominent until the end).  This is great for geeks, and especially video geeks like Belal & me (him much more than me, of course).

Best of all, the content on the website is licensed under a Creative Commons license (albeit, including the non-commercial restriction, which is the worst of the available standard CC licenses).

From the South China to the Mediterranean Sea

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah, my wife & I arrived safely in Alexandria, Egypt this past Friday to the welcoming arms of my parents, whom I haven’t seen since I left the US back in June.  If you’ll recall, I originally departed on this journey because I could not bring my wife to the US yet, as the immigration process is still ongoing.  Needless to say, we are enjoying happiness upon happiness being with family that we haven’t seen for months, and, in the case of my wife, well over a year.

The last time I was in Egypt was in the Summer of 2001, and I didn’t have a blog, own a camera, or even have a website at the time (other than one through my university department, which is long gone by now).  The only way I kept people updated was via e-mail, interestingly enough!  Alhamdulillaah, now I have so many ways to keep people bored about my current goings-on!

I had forgotten just how big Alexandria is, and also how photogenic.  Our Internet connection is an order of magnitude slower here than it was in Malaysia, but at least it is stable, and we may be upgrading it, in shaaʾ Allaah.  So, updates will be forthcoming, in shaaʾ Allaah, but please be patient – since I’m sure you’ll on the edge of your seats waiting for more media from me…

In the meantime, I leave you with this treat – a view from our balcony.

Panoramic photo of the balcony from our apartment in Alexandria, Egypt in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea
Panoramic photo of the balcony from our apartment in Alexandria, Egypt in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea

Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah, though I am woefully behind in catching-up on my Planet Fedora feed, I do sometimes uncover gems in these old posts.  One such post includes a link to a TED talk by Ken Robinson, “Do schools kill creativity?“.  I found the video to be both enlightening as well as entertaining, as he brings to his presentation some very light-hearted humor.

I should be cautious by saying I do not necessarily agree with all of his points 100%, but that is rarely the case with anyone.  I believe most of what he says is, at the very least, beneficial food for thought, especially for anyone that has an interest in education of any kind.

Close Encounters of the Blurred Kind

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

While riding (on a scooter) to a nearby masjid with one of my brothers-in-law, I felt something flew straight into my eye despite the fact that I was wearing my glasses at the time.  I was unable to flush it out while on the bike, and I thought that, like most eye gunk, it would just migrate to the corner of my eye for easy extraction.

As it turned out, I was unable to get it to move, and after returning home, I could still feel it.  I looked in the mirror and was able to spot, rather clearly, a small black speck in my right eye right between my iris and the surrounding white area.  I flushed my eye out with water, and, alhamdulillaah, I was able to get it out.  Surprisingly, it stayed on my finger long enough for me to show it to my wife, brother-in-law, and finally, to take a few pictures.

UFO extracted from my eye
UFO extracted from my eye

The object is roughly spherical in shape (though it’s hard to tell from the picture), and if I had to guess, I would say it was an insect of some kind, or part of one, given it’s semi-shiny appearance and the few features I was able to make out.

There are too many amazing things about this.  For starters, just the sheer size of the thing and how much trouble it was causing me in my eye.  Also, the fact that it was so easily flushed-out.  And, alhamdulillaah, my eye, though red immediately after I extracted the speck, was fully healed as if nothing happened within hours (and possibly minutes).

Alhamdulillaah for the blessing of sight and for everything else that we take for granted.  How easily could it have been that this would have turned out worse?  Alhamdulillaah ʿala kulli shayʾ.

Message Mastery by Belal Khan

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah, my good friend Belal Khan of Leechon Films fame has started (a while back, actually) a program called Message Mastery.  You should get the full explanation from the website, but the basic gist of it is that it is a training seminar focused on developing masterful messages through the medium of video.

He’s released a few videos that are freely available that are samples of what the entire program entails.  I found the one entitled “Three POWER Principles of Filmmaking” to be quite refreshing in how simple, yet effective, such techniques can be.  Even more beneficial is that the tips he provides, while framed around the production of video media, are general enough to be beneficial in almost any context.

Give his site a check-out and leave some comments as he’s very keen on getting & responding-to feedback from his visitors & members of his program.

Disclaimer:  Belal is just my friend – I am neither associated with Message Mastery nor am I enrolled in the program…yet.

Time Lapse Barrage

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah, I’ve been able to take an enormous amount of pictures during my stay here in Malaysia until now.  And while the actual yield of shots with any value may be low, the sheer volume of photos means that I have plenty I would like to share.

The sheer amount of work to upload these and present them in anything close to an appealing way through WordPress has made me decide that I am going to seek an alternative method for disseminating the videos.  I am hoping I can leverage my Gallery installation, in shaaʾ Allaah, but it’s support for alternative media types has not impressed me to date.  And don’t even dare suggest that I use a Flash-based solution…

Read on for the feature presentation(s)!  As usual, make sure to get a copy of the free-and-open-source VLC player if you don’t have it or another media player that can play Ogg Theora videos.
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Blog now completely Creative Commons-licensed

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah, after finding the wpLicense WordPress plugin on the Creative Commons website, I’ve been able to completely license all my work released through my blog under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.  This means such world-changing works as my essay on Social Networking & online projects, my tirade against anti-userism, a heart-warming story of love, loss, and & hard disks, the possible (at least, then) merger of Yahoo! & Google, natural sounds recorded with my H4, and many other things.

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ffmpeg from svn

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah, I have really been engrossed in using ffmpeg, one of the most amazing a/v command-line tools out there, for my various personal video projects.  However, recently I was experiencing a recurring bug where I could not work with some specific codecs when either the input or the output file was on a particular drive (!).  The drive in question happened to have only one FAT32 partition, so I suspect it may have had something to do with it, as using another drive for both input & output would generally work flawlessly.  The particular action I was trying to perform was to encode a sequence of rather large JPEG files (3072×2304) into a single video file using the outstanding (but still somewhat experimental and/or unstable) FFV1 lossless codec.

So, I visited the ffmpeg website and looked at some of their bugs, but didn’t see anything related to this.  Then, after seeing some of their pre-bug report checklist, I decided to check the version of ffmpeg I had on the system, and found it to be from March.  So, I pulled-down a fresh copy of their trunk via subversion and ran configure & make (I did not run make install).  Running the resulting ffmpeg binary from this compile run worked perfectly, alhamdulillaah.

The lesson is, if you’re running into a bug with either ffmpeg or any other package, then give a shot at running the latest code, if available.  It may seem like common sense, but I had underestimated just how easy it would be.  Surely, other packages may not work as simply, but it really was a piece of cake in this case.  Now I guess I need to learn how to package RPMs so I can help out the Livna project to get this latest code into their repository, which I also understand is not simple task, as many other projects rely on ffmpeg…

Time-lapse photography with CHDK

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

As I’ve already alluded to in a previous post, I’ve been using the CHDK firmware supplement with my Canon PowerShot A550, which on it’s own is an outstanding camera, alhamdulillaah. This firmware add-on, though, really takes the cake!

One of the features made possible by CHDK is the ability to run scripts which take the enabled features of your camera and do interesting things with them. One such script enables one to take a sequence of images of a fixed interval over a period of time – i.e., time-lapse photography! So, over the past two days, I’ve gone-ahead and played with this feature a bit by just collecting images from my office window while I diligently “worked”.

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