Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Muggers commit crimes 'for kicks'

Having seen a bit of the youth-justice system in action recently (my eldest boy was mugged for his cell 'phone by a gang of older youths) I was interested to see this article on BBC News. The quote that really made me sit up was;
It would be really sad if this report got translated as a bunch of young people robbing for fun. It is not about that.
"It is for 'kicks', but you've have to understand what the 'kick' is. The 'kick' is people who are victims for prolonged periods of time developing a cycle of revenge so that they then get a high from victimising someone else.
Camilla Batmanghelidjh, founder of the charity Kids Company.

It's staggering how every social problem in Britain can be laid at the door of the middle-class - the fact that people like this assume that the under-class can NEVER be held responsible for it's actions is very prevelent.
I did calm down reading the closing comment;
One of the things that kept emerging in our work was that... this was an extension of traditional bullying. That motivation of dominance, of proving that you were tough in the eyes of other people was a very strong theme.
Marian Fitzgerald, professor of criminology at the University of Kent

So much of this is about being the man and about respect and bling - when is youth culture going to grow up? You don't this kind of engrained hatred with good old rock'n'roll!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Buy Nothing Christmas

Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites who offer a prophetic "no" to the patterns of over-consumption of middle-class North Americans. They are inviting Christians (and others) all over Canada to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a Christian lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people less-privileged.
Giving gifts at Christmas is a good thing to do - it's a small re-enactment of the incarnation of God's love. Gift-giving, as we know from other occasions (like birthdays, weddings, housewarmings) serves as a kind of social glue that keeps us together. It shows affection, thoughtfulness and love. While gift-giving is a good thing to do at Christmas, that doesn't mean we have to go overboard at Christmas.

Monday, November 20, 2006

More Vista thoughts

One of the biggest challenges... is to fight that perception that old versions of software are good enough,
- Chris Capossela, Microsoft.

I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions and how you might paraphrase that particularly insidious bit of marketing speak! Anyhow - having decided I'd lay off Vista until at least SP1 (good advice with any Microsoft product!) I heard Paul Thurrott's most recent Windows Weekly podcast where he put to rest some of the fears over licensing and even suggested that on most hardware the Vista experience was a good one. My five month old MacBook seemed too under-powered (having motherboard graphics) to be a candidate but he reckons he's tried it and it's all good. Then I caught last week's Security Now! with Steve Gibson who had a totally different take on things. Oh well - I don't anyone who has build 6000 (the final RTM version) and so I can't get any real advice.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quartz routers RS422 problem

I love Quartz for routers - they are a small English firm (now owned by Evertz) and they really pay attention to detail - like MurrayPro and Crystal Vision you can talk to the designer/programmer and get sense. I see their routers in more OB trucks than most and having put in a few they seem more reliable than Probel et al. The control system and programming tools are very straightforward (Leitch could learn a thing or two!) and the fact you can download to the master level from even a control panel hundreds of meters from the mainframe is fantastic. At MTV last year it saved me lots of shoe-leather!
Now - I put in a simple SDi/RS422 system at five and they had this problem that was hard to replicate - When one of the editors assigned a VTR to one of the Final Cut workstations another VTR route would drop (only on the RS422 level). This meant that in effect they could only use one VTR at a time. I couldn't replicate the fault. Quartz suggested;

  • Re-load the router config in case of corruption
  • Move one of the VTRs to an unused port and re-programme to reflect the change - in case a cross-point had gone faulty
I tried both of these, but since I couldn't provoke the fault before I started (neither could Stuart, their senior engineer) I felt like I was going through the motions a bit. Stuart even went as far as to suggest it was finger trouble! In the end I saw it happen and it was thus - The editor routes the VTR to the FCP and then he routes the FCP back to the VTR - this is sensible as he doesn't want to have to go back to the control panel when he does his layback. I hadn't appreciated this and had always just routed a VTR into the FCP only for testing. It did seem that when you route a VTR in AND out of an FCP and then do it with another VTR/FCP combo it drops the first route. Everyone at five's reaction was that the RS422 level was having trouble treating each device as a source and destination but this is bogus - even though a VTR is only one hole on the back of the router all P2-protocol devices know about Tx/Rx swaps and that wasn't the answer.
Thinking back to the first or second series of Big Brother I rememeber a similiar problem - it all comes down to the fact that the Quartz control software makes the serial port router look like a set of sources and destinations by using a two-pointer buffer. If you fill that buffer with two routes that refer to the same device you run the risk of subsequent routes breaking that relationship. The solution is to re-sort both source and destination tables so that all RS422 port definitions are in exactly the same places in the tables for the same devices - something you'd never have to worry about for other signal standards. By doing this the buffer never gets monopolised by a single device and the problem is solved.
Now Quartz told me this (reluctanty) back in 2001 and to my suprised it's still an issue - it's also still not documented!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Telephone Preference Service

Under Government legislation introduced on 1st May 1999 and replaced on 11th December 2003 by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, it is unlawful to make unsolicited direct marketing calls to individuals who have indicated that they do not want to receive such calls.

Before we registered with this lot we used to get two or three unsolicited calls every evening - kinda inconvenient when you're reading with the kids or trying to eat your tea - my thoughts are that you should have to opt-in to unsolicited 'phone calls - why should I have to tell someone I don't want to be continually disturbed? My family time is way more important than someone trying to con me into buying second-rate double-glazing.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Not one, but two webcams at the workshop

Yesterday I found another old Logitech kicking around and pointed it at Tony D's bench (he's better looking than me or Stuart!).

See the handsome chaps here!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A tale of two podcasts

I did my degree in the eighties and after an abortive start on a Physics Bsc. I switched to a maths and programming course (ironically the maths was easier!). I came across an old paper I'd written on the two branches of artificial intelligence - commonly refered to as the strong AI model and the weak AI model. I don't know if I'd read it somehwere (this was more than twenty years ago!) but I'd made a rather insightful comment;
....It shows maturity within a discipline when valid sub-sections become vibrant and recognisable to external observers.....

I think that can now be said of podcasting - gone are the days when every podcast you listen to (and The Daily Source Code is probably the worst offender!) was about everything and nothing (and actually mostly about podcasting). Two shows that I've recently discovered that relate to this industry are;

  • VFX: The Visual Effects Show - Ron Brinkmann, Alex Lindsay and friends review visual effects of the latest movies while discussing the challenges and technologies of today's visual effects pipeline. In a recent episode they talked about the effects work on Flyboys which caught my ear because I knew it had been shot on the Genesis digital film camera. We'd had some rushes at work and I was amazed at the clarity of the images. They had only bad things to say about the grade of the finished film, which is a shame because digital cinema cameras are really starting to shine. They also talked at length about the green-screen/gimbal rig work and how all of the part-models were static and the tracking shots had to work as if they were shot from one moving plane looking at another moving plane. I'd have loved to see the automated cameras movements swinging around the model to achieve that look.
    All in all a really interesting podcast if you have any involvement with digital effects.

  • The Schubin Report - Technologist and engineer Mark Schubin looks at the past month's digital television news and events - He's an old-school engineer who has very much kept on top of current developments. This month's podcast has a great section on why every HD television currently available is a bad buy! Rupert put me onto this one and initially I though he was a bit of a schill for JVC - but if you ignore the adverts he really is quite balanced.
So - my recommendations for new listening.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My boy Dan and The Boss

This is a picture from March - It's at St Luke's LSO - my middle boy is behind the drums. I also recently posted a clip of Springsteen that I snagged of BBC4 from when he played St. Lukes - here it is on YouTube;

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Staff who have a nap make far fewer mistakes

Napping at work is one of the best ways of increasing productivity and reducing human error, according to psychologists, who have found that most employees already sneak off for a quick sleep during the day.

I remembered seeing this article years ago - and guess what, The Independent archives go back a long way!