"some kid pressed buttons 1 through 100,000"

Perth in race for lift rides into space
Perth, Australia is one of two spots in the world being considered for development of a space elevator, [...] NASA has given HighLift Systems $960,000 in seed funding plus another grant of an unknown sum for the project, which has been given momentum by the Columbia shuttle disaster. [...] HighLift's preferred venue is west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean but initial investigations have found the Indian Ocean off Perth could be more suitable. [...]
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DNA Lounge:

Friday was the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA's double helix.

Also on friday, I think I finally got the webcasts behaving again. You may have noticed that it's sounded like ass for most events in the last month or so. Apparently something changed that caused the signal going from the main room to the webcast computers to be way, way hotter than it used to be. We have a compressor in front of them that's supposed to compensate for this, but apparently it was so loud that the compressor was throwing up its hands and letting it clip anyway.

Perhaps this is what went wrong with our last compressor, too? Though there was at least a month in there where everything was fine: we got a new compressor, and the problems went away. Then a month later, a different set of problems began. I don't have any idea what changed to start causing the second problem. One theory is that it was only happening when the DJ was on the stage and not in the booth (and using a different mixer than we had been using) but I'm pretty sure the problem was happening when the DJ was upstairs too.

So, because we've been unable to get any help on this from our sound company, even though they designed the system (...250 word rant on this and related topics omitted...) I finally crawled under the stage, found the little inline amps and relays that go to the webcast, and started turning screws until I figured out what they did. Then Jason came over and fixed the compressor settings. So, it sounded pretty clean on friday and saturday. Let's hope it sticks.

Anyway, the right way to fix the webcast problem permanently is for the webcast feed to come out of Soundweb instead of splitting off from the mixer directly. (Soundweb would then internally simulate the necessary chain of compressors and expanders digitally, without being subject to the kind of limits we're experiencing with the hardware implementations.) But, we're out of channels on Soundweb, so to do that, we'd need a second Soundweb. Which we'd kind of like to have anyway, because right now the stage speakers aren't going through Soundweb, which is kind of a mess: to adjust the overall room volume, we not only have to adjust it through the Soundweb controller up in the booth, but then also run into the back room and turn knobs. Barry's getting tired of making that hike through the crowd every night.

But Soundweb is really expensive, so we can't afford it yet.

Only eight more years until we're in the black.


the iDVD nightmare continues

One benefit from this exercise is that I've been disabused of the idea that things would be systematically better were I to ditch Linux and switch to MacOSX. Macs seem to be approximately as finicky and fragile as real Unix systems, except that they like to fail silently instead of giving you obscure error messages. I've already developed a deep and abiding hate for that hidious little spinning rainbow disc that means "something has probably gone horribly wrong, but I'm going to protect you from knowing what."

E.g., I was using an external Firewire hard drive, and Firewire kept going away and taking all file access with it. Disk Utility would lose the ability to even see the internal drive! I was having flashbacks to trying to get USB working on Linux. I finally just gave up on using that disk at all.

I also find it infuriating that window-management is done in-process: that means that when a program is stuck, you can't drag its windows out of the way to wait for it to un-stick! You can raise other windows above it, but you can't drag it or (I think?) iconify it. Macs still seem to have this "users only ever want to run one program at a time" legacy that just doesn't work for me; I've always got 3-6 things going at once, and I switch between them while waiting for the computer/network to catch up. It had never occurred to me before that you really need window management in a separate process for that to work at all.

So anyway, here's some more things that suck about iDVD:

  • When you've exported from iMovie to iDVD, it saves pathnames to the raw DV clip files in iMovie: so you can't rename (or delete) the iMovie project until you never want to burn that DVD again.

  • When you burn a DVD, it first spend ~30 minutes creating the data (swelling the iDVD project to 4.7G, the disk image). You can write as many DVDs as you want in that session, but if you ever quit iDVD, it starts over from the iMovie files, even though the disk image is still there. I'd like to just keep the 4.7G files around to be able to write more copies later, but no, to do that, I'd need to keep the ~27G iMovie files around instead. I guess when I want more copies, I'll just use Toast or something to dup the already-written disc. But it's stupid that iDVD can't do this.

  • Disc-burning success rate is currently running at 22%:

    • Disc 1: for some reason, it ejected the disc while the dialog said "17 minutes left." iDVD was hung, had to Force-Quit it.
    • Disc 2: it wrote the whole disc; but when I put it in my PS2, it wasn't able to read it. I later discovered that this disc works fine -- after you've waited five to eight minutes for it to load.
    • Disc 3: works fine (loads immediately.)
    • Disc 4: (my second project) it ejected the disc while the dialog said "22 minutes left." I'm sensing a pattern here.
    • Disc 5: ejected at "4 minutes left."
    • Disc 6: wrote all the way; 5+ minutes to load.
    • Disc 7: "1 minute left."
    • Disc 8: works fine.
    • Disc 9: (third project) "9 minutes left."

    Maybe the media is bogus, but it's the Official Apple Media. This would be less irritating if DVD-R media was essentially free, like CD-R media is. But, well, it's not. Also: an average of over ten hours to get a good disc (at three tries each) is somewhat less than optimal performance.

And I'm not even going to try and list the plethora of hair-pulling bugs and stupidities in the iMovie UI, since I've learned to dance around most of those mines ("first select a different clip, then try to move the play head." "Always click-release-wait before trying to drag anything anywhere." etc.) But man. Bug level Smithsonian.

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Daredevil micro-review

Well, it didn't suck as badly as I expected, in fact, it was kinda ok. Not as good as Spider-Man overall, though better in some ways. It wasn't played for comedy at all, which is always a danger with these things.

The Matt/Daredevil character was reasonable; you could tell he was just a deeply angry guy, not a split personality like Batman, or a goofball like Spider-Man.

Bullseye was excellent! Absolutely perfect.

Kingpin was acceptable; I'm glad they kept him smarmy. Urich and Foggy were also pretty faithful.

But as predicted, Elektra makes the baby jesus cry. She was just totally wrong in every way: not only physically, but character-wise as well. She should have been built like a T2 Linda Hamilton, instead she looked... completely malnourished. And instead of being a sociopathic spoiled brat who worked as an assassin for kicks, she seemed like she was about to burst into tears at any moment.

The plot seemed rushed; I think the origin story, plus Elektra, plus Bullseye, plus Kingpin was just too much to fit in a single movie. Especially Elektra; they really should have just left her out (but then there wouldn't be a Love Subplot, and every action movie must have a Love Subplot, right? Sigh...)

The Dare-o-vision effect was handled pretty well, though his ability to "see" seemed to fluctuate pretty wildly through the movie without much explanation.

There were a few really bad CGI moments. There was one where DD basically runs up a wall by hopping off window ledges that looked totally fake -- and the thing that struck me most about that was, the fakeness of it made it look like this impossibly ridiculous maneuver, but I've seen Jackie Chan actually do it! Less CGI, more stuntmen, that's what I say.

The Graeme Revell score was cool as always, but the Requisite Corpo-Rock Hits were especially intrusive this time around. Is there a genre name yet for that particular brand of whiny, nasal hard-but-not-too-hard rock that half the radio sounds like these days, you know, all the fucking Perl Jam wannabes? Make it go away.

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