Trygve.Com > Diary > JournalWeblogDiaryWhatsis - January, 2001
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World Conquest
January 2001
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wind, sunset

because ... well ... why the hell not ...?

it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Monday, January 29th


Typos for our time?

Death. Taxes. Link Rot.

Maybe a website can escape the first two, but the third is guaranteed. Building a set of useful links and resources on the net is worse than trying to draw up a map of Europe. This past weekend I discovered that a lot of the educational and reference links I'd collected in the past had found their way onto the casualty list. The local library system, for example, used to maintain a very useful and broad-ranging list of online reference materials...which they've now removed and, after a bit of poking around, it appears that they've replaced it with a far less extensive list of subscription-only databases you could find general facts on if only you had an account. Instead of their "homework help" section, they also have a list of links that will only work from a library terminal.

Other resources I'd liked in the past have been replaced with permanent "our website has been taken down so we can update it" sign (why?) or the ever-popular "this site has been moved to the following broken link" page. If the web is like a giant interconnected network of cybernetic nerve cells, half of them are already senile.

Stepping back and taking a more philosophical view, I guess it's all part of the great cycle of life; websites grow, flourish, and then die. Bytes that once spoke of the installation and operation of last year's models of networking equipment, or of the birth and death of elements in the hearts of supernova explosions, don't really die with the websites that once hosted them, but are instead born anew as edited pictures of naked starlets and banner ads with animated monkeys.

It's all part of the same grand plan that has made any book ending in "for Dummies" an automatic bestseller.

Bytes that once spoke of the installation and operation of last year's models of networking equipment, or of the birth and death of elements in the hearts of supernova explosions, don't really die with the websites that once hosted them, but are instead born anew as edited pictures of naked starlets and banner ads with animated monkeys

Getting back to the emboldened subject with which this particular rambling began, I was looking for some new, functioning links and references and just happened to start out with a search on one of the theories that I'm admittedly a little biased towards, namely inflationary theory, originally proposed by Alan Guth. So, I popped up Google's advanced search page[1] which did cooperatively return 820 hits for "guth inflationary theory" but helpfully suggested, "Did you mean, 'gut inflationary theory'"?

Hmmmm. I haven't tried that search; I guess Google might have been thinking "Grand Unification Theory" rather than the pondering of ponderous effects of too much holiday feasting, but I tend to doubt it. (Okay, I tried it; I got several good matches, but less than half as many as I did when searching with Guth instead of gut. No sign of Cosmology of the Early Universe for Dummies, though.)

[1] (Force of habit; most sites' "advanced search" is easier and more useful; except for Sony's professional division, where the "advanced search" is pretty much limited to helping you find what accessories for their lastest consumer products you could buy on the online Sony Store--I guess they figure that most people who merely think they're looking for details on the command interface for their broadcast editing gear are really secretly much more interested in whether they can get a car adapter for their Walkman in the lastest hip-and-trendy colors.)

Wednesday, January 24th


Sartorial, Equatorial, or Editorial?

Kicking off the new year was an article on the front page of the Denver Post "Denver and the West" section which had referred to me only as a "Denver Entrepreneur," unfortunately neglecting to find space for my name in the article; Westword had my name misspelled my name in their issue, and now the March issue of Black Belt is on the stands with a trimmed-down version of an article I'd been told was going to be out in the February issue, which at least has Julian and Dragon and the Hawk mentioned, but everybody else involved got cut.

'Course, in the movie business, I guess one just has to get used to that. Sport fishermen get to talk about the "one that got away" and actors have at least as much right to rhapsodize over their extensive and dramatic contributions to the cutting room floor.

The other day, I'd blurted out a remark that I liked well enough to add to my "quotes" file: "What's the point of being world-famous if nobody knows about it?"

It suited my sense of humor at the time--but I'd still prefer it if I didn't have quite as many occasions where it seemed so appropriate.

Tuesday, January 23rd


IRQ Irk: the tune of the "Mickey Mouse Theme":

F - I - C . . .
. . . I - R - Q . . .
. . . A - R - R - R - G . . . !

Okay, a little background. I was reviewing some of the behind-the-scenes footage that was done with the Canon XL1 during one of the shoots down at Colorado Studios and I wanted to pull a couple of stills off the DV tapes. This should be easy enough--hook the XL1 up to the firewire port and go to it.

But being the astute and insightful reader you are, you've already guessed that it didn't work out to be quite so simple. It's not like I hadn't been making considerable use of the firewire ports on "Roo" (that's the computer that does the multimedia input and output, MIDI, CD mastering, etc.; "Kanga" is the one with the main drive arrays and CPUs--got that straight so far? "Eeyore" is the gateway/firewall/router between the main treehouse subnets, "Owl" is the electronic librarian, and "Pooh" is the print server, which is a relatively undemanding task, so "Pooh" is a machine of very little CPU); however, heretofore, I'd mostly been using the betaSP decks as source material and running everything through an external hardware transcoder, and thence into Roo's 1394 port. That all worked fine.

Someone really needs to let the folks in Redmond know that Douglas Adams' descriptions of the user interface options found in the Heart of Gold were satire, and should not used as product design specs.

But as soon as I plugged in the XL1, everything just slowed to a halt...for about ten seconds...and then it worked fine...for about thirty seconds...and then it locked up again for ten seconds (and so forth).

So, there may be an interrupt problem. I don't know if you've looked through the actual code behind Microsoft's Plug-and-Play management (I haven't), but based on my best attempts to reverse-engineer their interrupt-assignment algorithms, I believe the guts of their plug-and-play handling algorithms look more-or-less like this:

tabulate available interrupts
after system resources and integrated
peripherals have been allocated
poll AGP and PCI slots high-to-low
(or low-to-high if specified in bios)
develop list of expansion card IRQ requirements,
initially offset by PCI slot priority
assign all expansion card interrupts to IRQ #11

At least that's my theory.

Now, the actual math behind assigning interrupts in ways that would work is very simple; you can do it on your fingers easily enough--the secret is simply to skip over step number four above. In case you do feel like exercising your third-grade-or-higher-level of mathematical ability, Windows 98SE does feature a provision that gives the sophisticated user the ability to briefly fool himself or herself into imagining that this problem can be solved without requiring the purchase of a new computer.

To do this, you go into the setup menu, select "system," select "device manager," highlight the device whose interrupt you wish to reassign, select "properties," select the "resources" tab, deselect the "use automatic settings" option, select your desired configuration profile, and highlight "interrupt request."

At this point, the "change settings" button will surface and become clickable; clicking on "change settings" will then bring up a message box stating, "This resource setting cannot be modified."

Someone really needs to let the folks in Redmond know that Douglas Adams' descriptions of the user interface options found in the Heart of Gold were satire, and should not used as product design specs.

Just as an aside to any other software developers out there, omitting or disabling basic features that are necessary to be able to use a product for its intended purpose is a Bad Thing[tm] and will make busybodies like myself complain about you in public.

Adding a perky animated character to the error messages is not an upgrade.

And neither is having it blank out all the other windows open on your system and replace all the standard Windows menus and functions with a simulated 3D image of a rusty car fender with clickable bird droppings--or whatever metaphor the marketing department thought would be minimally comprehensible to anyone intending to use the product.

With most mainboards of recent vintage, you have some ability to foil the operating system's efforts to prevent your system from operating. ABIT, for example, has done a good job of making a wide variety of options selectable through the bios, maximizing the tweak-to-screwdriver ratio in troubleshooting or optimizing one's hardware. FIC takes the opposite tack, designing their products so that changing settings involves moving jumpers around or, occasionally, minor physical modifications of the circuit board that can be performed by any competetent electrical engineer using only a pencil-tip soldering iron, a hacksaw, and a small semiconductor fabrication plant.

Unfortunately, Roo has an FIC SD11 mainboard. The manual that came with it gives you a pretty clear indication that the SD11 is, in fact, a motherboard, but shies away from mentioning any more detailed information about the hardware.

Fortunately, FIC does have additional documentation online, including a FAQ/troubleshooting guide for the SD11. [ ] They don't really give you a lot of help about fixing problems, but they're pretty up-front about telling you that they know about them already. For example, if you'd downloaded their bios upgrade and were wondering why following the instructions that came with it wasn't working:

There is few SD11 board was shipped with Flash ROM MXIC bios chipset which is not allowed user to update bios by any AMI flash utility, it must update with a 12V charge instead of 5V on SD11, please stay with NC608 which available to support up to 1Ghz AMD Athlon CPU already, or you must reach a local EPROM WRITER to program new bios in.

As far as I can tell, there is no provision in the bios or in hardware to influence the IRQ assignment for expansion cards; there's also no information from FIC about how their boards even resolve the IRQ assignments when left, ahem, to their own devices. So, I used the brute force method of removing everything and then reinstalling the cards in various orders until I hit on an ordering of the cards that abruptly caused it to reassign some of the expansion card interrupts to some of the interrupts that had been left vacant through all the previous iterations.

With the interrupt conflict thus resolved, the Cannon XL1 and the firewire interface worked great.

Except that it turns out that if you tell ULead's capture software to export video without audio, it will chug away for an hour or so, and then crash at the last moment when it's converting the temporary files into the non-temporary versions. As long as you export audio tracks with the video, it works fine--even if it's just two tracks of 48KHz 16-bit sampled stereo silence.

So I got what I needed off of one DV tape, then switched back to the transcoder to pull some clips from one of the betaSP which point the Sony betacam deck decided it didn't like the reel tension and refused to function in any way, including ejecting the tape that had aroused its errorsome ire.

Have I mentioned lately just how bad Sony's documentation for their professional video products is?

Sunday, January 21st


Ninja Mall II - The Final Markdown:
Ninja Mall II - The Final Markdown

"Prices slashed - and so much more!"

"When in doubt, add Ninjas" - with that in mind, it was off to Southwest Plaza mall yesterday for a series of exhibition bouts put on by Warrior Quest International [ ] This time, the focus was on the Japanese arts and I usually do more European-style forms, at least in any recognizable sense. (When doing a fight scene on film, if you're not portraying a martial artist, you don't necessarily want to be following a specific and identifiable style anyway--at least that's my excuse today and I'm sticking to it.)

However, my special photo-jutsu technique (which looks pretty much like anyone else's, except the camera is up higher) makes it easier to film over the heads of the spectators, so I still managed to make myself useful.

One thing about circulating through the audience in a public martial arts exhibition--I think there's a requirement that at least a third of all boys under the age of twelve, upon seeing someone doing an aerial flip during a stage swordfight, have to announce to the world in general, "I could do that."

Wish I had that kind of native talent. I'm okay with some types of acrobatics (dives, flips, falls, rolls--the usual stuff) but I still can't do a springback, and what makes it really tough is that I don't look enough like an eleven-year-old boy to have one double for me. Well, I needed to do more stunt practice anyway.

Saturday, January 20th



Larry Lee (no relation to Julian--I think there are days when 40% of the people I talk to are all named 'Lee') got involved with the Computer Cottage only a few weeks ago, but he's been really plugging away at getting the systems put together and out to people. He came up Friday for a new batch and we managed to fit eight more systems, about half already set up, into his car.

I'd talked to one of the recipients earlier in the week who has a son with cerebral palsy. I'd worked with United Cerebral Palsy in the past and done more with other programs to get systems set up for children with special needs; I'm working largely with off-the-shelf hardware, but there's still a fair amount that can be done to accommodate different people's abilities without the cost of getting specialty hardware. In this case, he's got very limited arm mobility and finger movement, but I looked through my collection of touchpads and we're going to try a smallish touchpad with relatively large and easily-operated buttons that could be worn on the upper chest.

Mostly this week has just been a case of slowly plugging away at behind-the-scenes stuff that's not only pretty boring, but which doesn't even have a website to link to yet ("what? and you dare to call this a blog? sheesh!") except for Thursday evening when I spent a little quality time coming up with a new "get bulging biceps fast" plan [ ]

So, things are moving along with the Shanaka recording project (more meetings with Parks and Rec, working details out with the individual artists, etc.), my own album should be showing up in local stores in the next two weeks, and that kind of thing. One rather cool thing is that since I happened to be reviewing the log files anyway on Thursday, I ran a quick analysis on the hit count and showed 8,289 visitors to the treehouse that day with 137 instances of someone running Explorer 5 or higher bookmarking at least one page. (It's harder to tell with other browsers, but IE 5.x puts a little annotation in the log to let you know.) That doesn't include direct hits on the multimedia and graphics files, but those aren't a big percentage of total traffic, at least these days.

Tuesday, January 16th


Straightening the Blast:

Julian Jung Lee is bouncing between LA and Toronto these days, but found time to meet here on Sunday so we could go over some of the finer details of publicity and planning for the upcoming shoot for Straight Blast.

...and some of the rougher edges as well. Sounds like the shooting schedule may be delayed a bit (the more I heard about it, the more I thought that the February production date was overly ambitious). That's going to depend on everybody else's availability, of course--director Larry Riggins, fresh from Replicant with Jean-Claude Van Damme, has two other projects on the burners (but who doesn't?) and I don't know at this point about Dolph Lundgren's and Mako's schedule (or that of the female lead, whose contract negotiations are still in process).

Why does this make me think, once again, that I really ought to find out if anyone else has already created a film production company named, "Seat of the Pants Productions" and, if not, set one up myself or at least file it as a DBA for one of my existing production companies?

But I reminded Julian about getting me those all-important behind-the-scenes pics, so keep watching--I'll either get them up here or on Julian's official site, [ ]

Why does this make me think, once again, that I really ought to find out if anyone else has already created a film production company named, "Seat of the Pants Productions" and, if not, set one up myself or at least file it as a DBA for one of my existing production companies?


Ancient Voices return to the Garden:

The weekend began with the first organizational meeting on the Shanaka Music recording project. It all started some months ago with a casual conversation I had with Sandy Turcotte and Greg "Standing Bear" Aten. Bear had been playing flute that day and remarked that he was thinking of putting together and releasing another tape. Now, I'd just finished editing and mastering my own album and, in keeping with my usual way of doing these sorts of things, I'd figured I might as well put together my own editing studio, record label, and all that sort of stuff along the way.

Which probably sounds like the long way around the barn, but if the end result is that afterwards you own the barn, it's worth the trip.

So I suggested to Bear the technology and economics of recording these days made doing a higher-quality recording; doing the mixing, editing, and mastering in my own little digital studio; and issuing it on CD wouldn't be all that difficult and would give his product wider distribution.

But, as those of you who were paying attention to the opening sentence have undoubtedly guessed by now, it didn't end there, and that's really all because of Sandy. Sandy is an organizer and her talent is to inspire enough other people to go along with dreams to make them happen for least after she follows it up with a boatload of work and keeps on everybody involved to make sure it all comes together.

And Saturday was the first time we'd come together as a group to begin this recording project, not just Greg "Standing Bear" Aten's flute talents, but at least another eight Native American individual musicians and groups who have agreed to be recorded in Colorado's Garden of the Gods, performing traditional instruments and melodies. Everyone is donating their time and work for the project (including me--I'm the editor/engineer/producer/and the one with the equipment) with all proceeds going to programs to preserve Native American culture and heritage and to fund scholarships (which the Lone Feather Council has graciously agreed to administer and distribute).

We've already gone through the preliminaries with representatives from several tribes, gotten an introduction (with musical background) written and recorded by Choctaw historian Mary Little Deer, and met with a representative from Parks and Recreation. Fortunately I'm already thoroughly familiar with the permits and insurance side of location filming and soundwork--oh, yeah, I'll be bringing along the digital video gear and getting the event filmed for a video and documentary from the project slated to be worked on after the album gets into the mastering phase.

I should get a preliminary version of the cover art in within the next week or two, so I'll probably have a design for the cover and the poster before the main recording sessions even begin.

Friday, January 12th


"Less is ... less":

Once again, the rest of the computer world tries to copy whatever annoying, pointless, and/or actively counterproductive marketing idea Apple comes up with. First, everything has to be made in translucent jelly-like colors, even devices like scanners and cameras where case opacity is a highly desirable quality. I'd just butted heads against another of Apple's "how can we keep our users from being confused by features, options, and functionality?" techniques--this one being the clever idea of eliminating SCSI ports from the Mac G3 and G4 since, according to Apple, the simplicity and hot-swap capability of USB has made SCSI obsolete.

"I just hate being able to hook up my printer! Why, oh why, can't somebody make a computer that won't work with non-USB peripherals?"

So, those of you in the professional graphics/publishing business, just throw away those obsolete high-end film, sheetfeed, and flatbed scanners, and replace them with new, state-of-the-art shoddily-made USB models. Whatever you might lose in image quality, speed, and features will be more than made up for by the availability of new, improved fruity translucent case colors.

Okay, yeah; I know that Adaptec now makes a SCSI card for the Mac, but it was a minor inconvenience to get the equipment in and not be able to hook it up--and the new Macs are already suffering from a shortage of available PCI slots if you're planning on doing any serious sound and video editing.

I think the Apple philosophy is that computer users really should be bus riders rather than car drivers or even taxi passengers. Like a city bus, the computer should just have a designated series of tasks that it performs and the "operator" is there to push the "on" button and then enjoy the rest of the ride. Want to do something different? Just find another bus or buy another computer that's all set up to do that task instead.

But back to what set me off on this little tangent: I just got a flyer from Compaq where they're pushing their new, "Legacy-Free" line of computers. "Legacy Free"? Yes, that means they have removed all those annoying and inconvenient serial, parallel, keyboard, and mouse connectors, to "eliminate the challenge of supporting older technologies."

I'm sure that's a common complaint: "I just hate being able to hook up my printer! Why, oh why, can't somebody make a computer that won't work with non-USB peripherals?"

. . .

BTW, to further simplfy your life, Apple recently announced that putting a "business card"-style or other non-standard CD-ROM into one of their new G4 and G4 cube computers may damage or destroy the drive. Don't you just hate the confusion of being able to read different formats and media types?

I did stop by a store that had the new G4 cube on display and tested their new touch-sensitive, instant-off feature. Yep, if you touch the top of the computer, it shuts down instantly, no matter what you (or the person unlucky enough to be using the computer) might be working on at the time. Back in the old days, you had to rub your feet back and forth for ten or twenty minutes on a dry carpet to be able to bring down a computer just by touching it. Now, there's progress!

Wednesday, January 10th


The late "New Year's prediction" of the day:

  • Towards the end of 2001, the new trend in consumer electronics and computer peripherals and accessories will be to make them not only with translucent, jelly-colored cases, but also include flashing lights under the plastic, continuing the trend towards focusing design and marketing efforts on factors that are stupid, useless, or actually decrease the usefulness and quality of the product.

Just you watch; I bet it'll happen. By mid-2002, it'll be the hot trend and it won't be for at least another year before the general public finally realizes that it's as silly and tacky as a transparent telephone with a neon light the shape of a palm tree under its lucite cover.

Tuesday, January 9th


Day of the Dolph Fans:

It started out innocently enough; Julian Jung Lee [ ] is gearing up to start shooting Straight Blast with Dolph Lundgren next month (February) and with the promotional materials from some of his earlier films a bit harder to find on the net these days, he dropped off a few of the trailers for me to convert into forms suitable for web delivery.

...postmodernist/constructivist analysis of the nature of hypertext and the internet as a "physical manifestation of the collective unconsciousness" as embodied and expressed metaphorically through Arnold Schwarzenegger...

I was particularly impressed with the editing of the Tiger Street trailer. I'm prodding Julian for some pre-release publicity stuff on Straight Blast because, of course, the official movie site is still "coming soon." (Sheesh; am I the only techno-geek in the film industry?)

Tiger Street(1998):  [Real-2.3M] [Quicktime-4.8M]
My Samurai(1993): [Real-2.2M] [Quicktime-4.5M]
Fatal Revenge(1990)  [Real-350K] [Quicktime-1.1M]

Even scarier, in Straight Blast, Julian's character is supposed to be a computer expert. At least he did just go out and buy a computer a couple of weeks ago. It's a start.


Where was I...? Oh, yeah...

Now I've never actually met Dolph Lundgren, no matter how much I like Rocky IV, but as long as I'm checking into some of the things that should go into the Straight Blast website, I thought I'd do a quick web search on him and one of the first things that popped up was "Dolph Lundgren as the Prince of Swords" from the Hollywood Tarot [ ]


Okay, sure, why not? But on that site, there was a link to another far scarier, far more bizarre and unexpected:

"Dreaming Arnold Schwarzenegger" [ ] a postmodernist/constructivist analysis of the nature of hypertext and the internet as a "physical manifestation of the collective unconsciousness" (in a Jungian sense) as embodied and expressed metaphorically through Arnold Schwarzenegger and dreams involving him. Why Arnold?

We think that more than any other figure in late twentieth century culture, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the one who embodies in a very direct, physical way all the qualities of information culture that make it so intriguing to so many scholars.

Well, when you put it that way....

Saturday, January 6th


Search and Ye Shall Find:

I haven't been paying as much attention to weirdities in the log files lately, but I do check the error logs pretty often, just to make sure I haven't screwed up anything too badly--or, what's more common, that somebody out there has a misspelled/rogue pointer aimed at some filename I don't have on my site. This morning I did spend a little more quality time trying to figure out a new error (it turned out to be a modification in how one spider I was already familiar with operates which was actually designed to test how a server responds to bad URL requests).

our national borders are guarded by a crack team of mighty thong warriors

In 2001 (all six days of it at this point), the site has been getting an average of just over five thousand visitors a day (5077, not counting direct hits on the image and media files, in case you really wanted a more precise number). A big chunk of visitors come in from search engines and, though most searches that bring people over to the treehouse are pretty ordinary, some are more, well, ... imaginitive. I pulled up the tail end of the current log of where people are coming from and here are a few of the searches from the last three or four hours (and where they led to) that caught my eye:

Friday, January 5th


But, but ... what about Elvis...?

In Denver, Colorado, there may be some things going on besides a new football stadium and a few murdered children, but if you were relying on the local papers, you might never know about it. I think you could save a lot of trees just by giving all Denver-area residents a pair of sticky notes, one reading, "Jon Benet is still dead," and the other, "the Columbine High School students are too." That way, instead of reading the paper's daily updates on whether or not they're still dead, you could just glance briefly at those sticky notes over coffee in the morning and get on with the rest of your life.

In the event that there's a change in either of these situations, new sticky notes could be issued via bulk mail. Even then, we're still talking about some major savings in paper usage.

Just to demonstrate, if you go to the Denver Post website [ ], they list the following news sections:

  • Columbine
  • Columnists
  • JonBenet Ramsey
  • Legislature
  • National News
  • Obituaries
  • Politics
  • Stadium
  • World News

The Rocky Mountain News ], at least, is going for a somewhat broader focus. Their list of news sections reads:

  • Columbine
  • JonBenet
  • Election 2000
  • Homeless murders
  • Legislature
  • Special reports
  • Nation
  • World
  • Sci/Tech
  • Religion
  • Columnists
  • Opinion
  • Denver Square
  • Obituaries
  • Weather
  • Lottery

But they are careful to put Columbine and JonBenet at the top, lest readers baffled by abstract concepts like "alphabetical order" become confused and unable to get immediate at-a-click access to updates on whether or not they're still dead.

Children who suffer the misfortune of still being alive aren't nearly so newsworthy. If you're an honor student, you might possibly get one of your parents to drive around with a "my child in an honor student at..." bumper sticker, but that's about as far as it goes. Even in that department, living children are at a big disadvantage with about fifty times as many stickers proclaiming support for Columbine with all the sincerity and emotional depth that can be squeezed into a two-inch-square self-adhesive sticker.

It's pretty tough to compete against something like that; doubly so when you figure in that living children are more expensive and generally want more attention than it takes to glue something to the back end of your car. I understand that social services has been known to take a dim view of attaching kids to your car bumper, so you can see it's a lot more convenient to be supportive of the dead ones.

Sometimes it's a little frustrating to be involved in a few charitable and nonprofit efforts to provide assistance to families and children and see the public service announcements and press releases vanish into the black hole of the media circular file because they're only about food, shelter, clothing, and that sort of thing--most of the time, shooting and strangling get left off of their mission statements. There are big charitable organizations that have the staff and budgets to advertise like a regular business, but small charities don't have that luxury, especially not if they're busy doing charitable work--and that means that getting a little press coverage is a big part of how you can let anyone know that you're out there, whether they're looking for help or to give it.

Some of the best people I'm working with right now are with the Masaba Project, which operates without government funding of any kind. I'll let you know when they've got their own website up, but for the moment, I've got some background and contact info at [ ]

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