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Comment Re: Question (Score 1) 138

Slashdot is always at its worst this time of year. It's a seasonal thing, related to the start of the academic year and the great number of wannabee clever-than-thous who are suddenly thrust into new environments and forced into searching for new sources of ego food. It will get better around the Fall Quarter midterm exams.

Until then, us graybeards must suffer the little children and their antics. Some of them will mature into tomorrow's hope; others will drop out or flunk out.

Comment Re: A Clapboard (Score 1) 103

I've been trying without success to make sense of the post I'm replying to. My best guess is that the poster is unaware that he does not know as much about the tools available in Linux as he thinks he does. And that his reading comprehension was, for some reason, not very good when he was looking at earlier posts.

Blender runs on Linux and contains a very good NLE (and a fantastic suite of CG tools as well). Audio clips brought into Blender's NLE can be displayed as waveforms, which makes synching the spike of the clap to the exact frame when hands come together very easy. Blender can handle any reasonable number of simultaneous audio clips (think of separate voice-over, action, and background music), as well as any reasonable complexity of overlaid video clips.

Audacity also runs on Linux and is an excellent tool for removing background noises from an audio clip. I have also used it to shift the pitch of speakers, and somewhat to extend and/or compress parts of an audio clip to better fit a video sequence.

Combined with a $300 digital videocam and a $100 digital audio recorder, you've got everything you need to make good quality 720p videos. That is not good enough to get into the wedding market, but it is sufficient for real estate sales, vacation travelogs, news and views interviews, "how to" stuff for YouTube, etc.

One last point: any live-action audio, such as recording an interview, should be cleaned up in Audacity or a similar audio editor. Since the audio will need to be handled separately from the video, there is no particular advantage in going the extra expense of wireless mic to videocam recording. And I suspect it would be easier to handle two different streams from the start than to split a combined audio/video stream into its components (think splitting MPEG4 into its component H.264 and AAC). But of course this depends on the encodings the camera uses.

Rather than spending more on a fancier videocam, I'd prefer to spend it on a second audio recorder (boom mic plus lapel mic) and/or entry level videocam (one set up for head shots and the other at middle distance.)

Comment Re: A Clapboard (Score 1) 103

A wireless mic would solve a lot of problems.

I probably will not buy a wireless mic since I've got a method that works. Also there are occasions when I want the sound track of interview to continue while I splice in a different video clip, and I think that would be more difficult if I was recording the audio on the camera.

Comment Re:Sorry but you are screwed (Score 1) 103

This works well with speech, where the audio frequency shift is minor and much less important than the lip synch. I'm not sure how well it would work with music. As I think someone else has already mentioned, you might have to resample the audio track with Audacity to get a singer's lip synch right without screwing up their pitch.

Comment Re: A Clapboard (Score 1) 103

While I do have a good video camera that will accept a microphone, more than 90% of the time I use a separate device for audio recording. It is very rare that a microphone attached to the camera can be optimally positioned. A separate audio recorder is the answer to many vexing problems.

I don't have a clapper board and if I did, I usually would still not have an assistant around to do the "take 3 (snap)" bit. But asking your subject to hold up his hands in the camera's view and clap smartly works. They also need to slowly count silently to three after the clap before beginning their spiel (the better to isolate the spike--- also makes it easier to clip the leading junk).

I'm somewhere in the lower "pro-am" range with video production-- some work for charities but nothing I would attempt to sell. And no weddings! I do 720p at 24fps using the H.264 video and mono 128 mp3 audio, mp4 wrapper. I use FOSS post-production tools, currently mostly the Blender NLE. I hope to hear some more experienced videophiles chime in here with their thoughts on what works well for them.

Comment Options I have not seen mentioned yet (Score 1) 508

First Option: Search for a computer recycling center in your area. Free Geek in Portland OR was one of the first. These typically use volunteers to refurbish donated computers set up with FOSS software and provided to charities, churches, non-profits at no cost. I was one of their Build Instructors a few years ago. The volunteers would either contribute 24 hours of service to receive a free computer, or build up 5 computers from tested parts bins to earn a computer of their own, that would be their sixth build. Typically businesses that were upgrading would contribute bunches of used computers for the tax write-offs. Free Geek would sometimes get 25+ used computers coming in on a truck.

Desktop computers that would do what you want would probably cost less than $50 at a Free Geek refurbishing store, including a wifi card. It might not be too difficult to arrange some kind of free-to-deserving-students program, probably by triangulating through an Elks or Odd Fellows Lodge.

Second Option: Instead of providing computers, provide the students with their own personal thumb drives. Let them know that they can put their own music library on the thing, in addition to the school/homework folder, and they will be enthusiastic participants. They will find ways to plug in to somebody's computer, somewhere, whether at a library or a friend's house, or a neighborhood youth center.

These are not mutually exclusive.

I'd suggest talking with your IT people about whether they could put together a bundle of portable software that would handle homework requirements. I used a customized version of Portable Apps Suite several years ago, to provide clients of a workforce entry job training program with something they could develop their resumes on (and which also provided a number of useful reference files, including lists of community resources). Some of the advantages of this approach are that it encourages students to seek out community resources, and since all students are using the same software it is easier for the instructor to provide support. And again the concept that they could put their own music on the thing created instantaneous and enthusiastic buy-in.

Comment Re:No good without internet (Score 2) 508

Somewhat wrong. Perhaps mostly wrong.

There are a large number of open wifi connections in the USA, and some students would be able to benefit from these.

Also, a student with a $5 thumb drive can do his internet research at the library, or on a school computer or a friend's computer, and sneakernet to and from his home computer. We managed this kind of thing in the 1980s and it is much easier to now, since floppy disks have been replaced by thumb drives.

Comment Re: tricks: Vaccum, wash the keboard, load linux. (Score 1) 508

Don't use a vacuum cleaner to clean the dust.


Take the computer outside, open the case, and use canned air to blow out the dust. When the can starts to get cold, do something else for a few minutes until it warms to ambient temperature (otherwise it will fizzle out before its time.)

Comment Re:The Arctic is NOT doomed (Score 1) 125

What a maroon.

NASA is much more interested in protecting its investment in near-sea-level infrastructure in Florida than in what might happen to Seward's Folly. No one else is doing these studies, not with the reliability NASA needs.

Florida was chosen as its primary launch site because there is a lot of empty ocean downrange. So how much will be the cost of the Cape Canaveral sea wall, and will it be more cost effective to put that money in a space plane that can launch safely from Area 51 and forget about the vertical launch engines? NASA has to do some of its planning decades out, and whether the sea will rise 20 inches or 20 feet by 2060 has a significant impact on its plans.

Any benefit to Alaskans and their hopes for a railroad bridge over the Bering Strait is secondary.

Comment Re: Programming (Score 1) 616

math is the manipulation of symbols in a formal language.

coding is the manipulation of symbols in a formal language.

Well said!

Critical reading skills, as developed through a conscious effort to become better at googling, are the manipulation of symbols in a natural language. This is a lot tougher than working in a more abstract formal language, but the skills transfer not only to formal languages but to a lot of frequently encountered natural problems. Such as decisions on which political candidates should get your support, or whether the latest "news" about Saint Hillary's email missives actually has any meaning.

Someone who is a self-taught programmer relying on Google for their course material is likely to be a much more interesting person than most basement dwelling geeks. Just saying.

Comment Re: Programming (Score 1) 616

If you want to learn to think critically, then learn how to use regular expressions effectively. No math involved, but rigorous exercises in analytics and logic.

Those who have developed the ability to think critically could easily pick up programming skills through web searches without any formal study of mathematics. The approach would rely on skills in assessing the value of various authorities instead of the skills developed in wading through proofs of theorems and other tediosities. This kind of assessment skill is not easily learned, but it transfers well to other aspects of life, such as evaluating political candidates, potential marriage partners, schools for the kids, etc.

Comment Accept the limitations of reality (Score 1) 146

Forget about backpacking with all the equipment you will need. It cannot be done yet. The technology is not that advanced.

Invest in a smaller 4WD or AWD vehicle with high ground clearance (critical!) and a 12 volt system. And a good power inverter-- although more and more now you can find electronics that will run directly off 12 V DC. You want a car that is small enough that you've got a good range without draining the bank account to keep the gas tank full-- plus something small can get you past tight spots where behemoth monster trucks cannot go.

While this approach will limit the places you can go, car camping can still get you as far from the madding crowd as you can get, and stay within reasonable Internet connectivity. You can day hike from base camp for delving deeper into the wilderness. You can carry more with you, such as coolers, stoves with more burners, decent dutch ovens. And you can be more mobile-- such as planning much longer trips with occasional stops at towns with grocery stores, showers, and the like.

Believe me, I have thought this through. However I ended up retiring before I figured out all the business angles. I wish you the best of luck.

Comment Re:They shouldn't have shown the images (Score 1) 43

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." Of course considering placing Jupiter in some kind of stellar classification is inconsistent and absurd. That was part of the point. But it is no more inconsistent and absurd than the current IAU definition of "planet". Which was the other side of the point.

The IAU has a number of hobgoblins it should really muzzle before their antics further erode the IAU's standing among international bodies of science.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this.

Comment Re:They shouldn't have shown the images (Score 1) 43

Agree fully with parent post.

Additionally, it should be pointed out that if the IAU was going to achieve any kind of consistency in their naming conventions, then Jupiter should not be classified as a planet, as it is either a "failed star", a "brown dwarf" or a "proto star". Which one depends mostly on your guess of what lies in Jupiter's future.

The IAU should really stick to astronomy and ask the experts to provide them with an appropriate classification scheme. Taxonomies are the proper subject of language arts, not astronomy. For proof, witness the mess the IAU has made for itself with its poorly articulated and badly conceived concept of "planet".

(The only valid definition of "planet" these days is the thousand+ year old definition still used in astrology: the visible wanderers, excluding the two luminaries (Sun and Moon). So Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn. Within its context, this definition is succinct and sufficient. Whereas those qualities are sadly lacking in contemporary astronomy's definition, no matter what context is in effect.)

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang