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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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).

rTorrent let me down :(

For seeding the Fedora 10 release, I am using rTorrent on albaqarah & aalimraan (my two fastest servers), but I had to fall back to using the standard bittorrent client on alfaatihah because rTorrent isn’t available for its platform (RHEL3) – at least, not through yum nor up2date.  rTorrent is great, in general, but it really let me down when I was trying to seed on aalimraan, because it kept crashing.

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Blog almost certainly 100% compliant now

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah, after loading up all blog-post pages (i.e., going to the bottom of each page and clicking for the next page), I’ve fixed all old posts that had HTML errors (according to the HTML Validator Firefox plugin).

This actually is a relief for me because amongst the major reasons I enjoy using WordPress is the work the developers put into it to make it a clean & standards-compliant application.  I’ve avoided themes that are not.  So, alhamdulillaah, it seems that all the posts are fixed.  I haven’t bothered with the pages that I’ve created, though, because I’m likely going to redo those shortly anyway, in shaaʾ Allaah.

Note:  This refers to all pages that list multiple posts.  Apparently there is an error, possibly in the template that I am using, when viewing individual posts or pages.  *sigh*  More work ahead for me, but this is, at least, progress, alhamdulillaah.

That is all.

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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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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CHDK – Unleash the POWER in your PowerShot

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Alhamdulillaah, I’ve been playing around with CHDK, which is a free firmware add-on (note: it does not require flashing your camera’s firmware) that enables a multitude of features on your ordinary, run-of-the-mill Canon PowerShot digital camera. In short, it’s amazing. I haven’t had enough time to truly “unleash the POWER” yet, but I’m already amazingly pleased with what I can do so far that I was unable to do prior to this.

Amongst its amazing features includes the ability to save images to a RAW format, full control over shutter speed & exposure settings, fine-grained control over video quality settings, HDR photography, and an amazing BASIC-based scripting language that enables, among other things, time-lapse photography (examples in an upcoming post, in shaaʾ Allaah).

Expect myriad future posts relating to images & videos I’ve been able to capture with these new features, especially in combination with

Tapeless HD camcorders

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

I’ve been keeping my eye out for tapeless (e.g., hard drive or flash memory instead of tapes) HD camcorders for a while, because of the obvious flexibility of being able to transfer the recorded video directly rather than “recording” it via IEEE 1394 (i.e., “FireWwire”) – while an IEEE 1394 link is definitely fast, any tape-based camcorder usually only transfers the video at regular playing speeds by actually playing the video.

Having said that, here are a few that have caught my eye:

The important issue, of course, is how easy is it to work with the video once it’s recorded.  Most of the video formats are MPEG-4-based, usually the controversial AVCHD.  There are some advantages & disadvantages, of course, but ffmpeg really helps with most of the issues.  I’ve been playing a lot with it (ffmpeg) this past week, and the sheer flexibility of it is astounding.  I think the woes of multimedia flexibility under free operating systems is slowly going away, as even the GUI applications (avidemux, PiTiVi, Kino, etc.) are at a level of refinement I wouldn’t have expected.

Naturally, I am loath to use nonfree versus free solutions, so I am pleased to let you know that there are many free software codecs available through ffmpeg – that is the topic for another article, perhaps.

Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’m really excited to dive into open-source content creation!

Updated with relevant linking and a few spelling fixes.

Texas Dawah Convention 2007 Audio Project – overview

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Introduction

Alhamdulillaah, a few months back, I successfully wrapped-up the audio recording & production project for the Texas Dawah Convention 2007. This was clearly one of the most ambitious projects in which I’ve been involved in my life, especially given the degree of responsibility I was given and the amount of work I had to do.

The project for me was a great learning experience on numerous fronts – management, business, technology, work ethic, and team work are amongst a few of them. If it weren’t for the great support I received from my partner & friend (I’ll only mention him if he wants me to – knowing him, he probably would prefer I don’t by default), then the work would have never happened and would have ended-up a terrible flop.

Please read on if you’re interested in knowing the history of how I became involved with this project, how it was executed, some of the challenges I faced during it, and finally, and a part of which I am very proud, how I completed almost exclusively using free (as in freedom) software, particular that which comes with Fedora.
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Dearly Departed

Those that know me well know that there is one device in my possession that I hold high above all others – namely, my iRiver iHP-120 (renamed to the H100 later). When I purchased it in the Summer of 2004, it was one of the few products that had the features that I desperately sought in a portable audio device (PAD™). Roughly in order of priority, they are:

  • Ability to record to an uncompressed or losslessly-compressed format with reasonable quality
  • USB mass storage-class device (for drag-and-drop between the device and any computer with a USB port)
  • Ability to play, at least, MP3 as well Ogg Vorbis-formatted files
  • Reasonable amount of storage capacity

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