Webcast cameras

Dear layzweb, what's the state of the art in cheap, low-light video cameras and/or switchers?

If you've been watching the DNA Lounge webcasts over the last decade, you may have noticed that the picture is kinda dark and grainy, nightclubs being what they are.

I'm wondering whether the available tech has advanced to the point where I could improve low-light performance and/or resolution without spending a fortune.

I strongly suspect the answer is no, but I figured I'd throw it out there.

About half of the shots you typically see on the stream are coming from that same batch of camcorders that I bought back in 1999, all of which are Sony TRS17 or similar. They are indestructible. They're "nightshot" camcorders, meaning they have IR, but we don't use that. They just happened to be pretty good in low light without IR. The rest of the shots, especially for shots of live acts on stage, come from a pair of Panasonic WV-NS324 pan-tilt-zoom cameras.

All of them feed analog SD NTSC to a video switcher, and from there to the webcast. Details.

So, one option would be to replace them all with whatever the lowest-end HD camcorder is, re-cable everything for HDMI-over-Cat5, and get an HDMI switcher. This would mean getting rid of the panning cameras and replacing those with fixed-position fixed-zoom shots, which is probably fine. But, even if the camcorders are only a couple hundred bucks each, that would still probably come out to over $5k, which is kind of steep for something that makes us no money whatsoever. It also couldn't easily be done incrementally, due to the switch from composite coax to HDMI.

You'd think there would be an easy way to deliver video from the cameras to the switcher as MPEG streams over Ethernet, instead of going through uncompressed HDMI and a bunch of Cat5 converters, but if there is, I'm unaware of it.

Please note: before you suggest a camera or camera system, bear in mind that most "security systems" are designed to be used in environments that are as bright as the surface of the Sun. Most non-camcorder video cameras eat shit in less than 7 lux or so. What I have now are lower than 1 lux. If something says "0 lux" that's a lie (that means "it comes with an IR spotlight, and will give you a goofy-looking black-and-white image.")


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Dear Lazyweb, why do Google and friends think I'm not in the United States?

The server that hosts my web sites has the IP It is located in Santa Clara, California. But based on the weird behavior I get when retrieving URLs from there, I infer that Google, Youtube, Myspace and Facebook think it's not in the United States.

I assume this means the IP block is mis-listed in some database somewhere. Who runs that database? Since they all have it wrong, they must have gotten their data from the same place.

I don't even know what country it thinks it's in... But it's not here.

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Benefit Corporations

Businesses seek state's new 'benefit corporation' status

A dozen companies committed to maximizing social good while turning a profit have filed papers with the state to become California's first "benefit corporations." It was the first business day they could register under a recently approved state law that gives companies a way to legally structure their businesses to consider social and environmental efforts as part of their missions.

While that may sound like marketing hype, it's important from a legal standpoint because it helps shield benefit corporations from lawsuits brought by shareholders who say that company do-gooding has diluted the value of their stock.

California becomes the seventh state to adopt this relatively new corporate structure. Until now, California corporate law mandated that shareholders' interests trump those of all other parties. Entrepreneurs who wanted to incorporate green initiatives or social causes into their businesses were often forced to become nonprofits, limiting their ability to raise venture capital.

California's new category allows corporations to officially adopt policies "that create a material positive impact on society and the environment" as an integral part their legal charter. The Huffman legislation also expands the fiduciary duty of executives and board members to include the interests of workers and the community.

The Rise of Benefit Corporations

When America began, the states chartered corporations for public purposes, like building bridges. They could earn profits, but their legitimacy flowed from their delegated mission.

Today, corporations are chartered without any public purposes at all. They are legally bound to pursue a single private purpose: profit maximization. Thus, far from advancing the common good, many for-profit corporations have come to defy the law, corrupt the officials charged with enforcing it and inflict harm on the public with impunity. The consequences are visible in the wreckage left by BP, Massey Energy, Enron, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Blackwater and Exxon Mobil, to name a few recent wrongdoers. Profits rule; anything goes.

We need a new business model inspired by the old one. Corporations should again come to bolster democratic purposes, not thwart them. To be sure, there will be no return to the legislative short leash, especially now that the Supreme Court has invited corporations to spend treasury funds electing pliant and obsequious lawmakers. But socially minded businesses should at least have the right to operate outside the straitjacket legal requirements of Delaware Code profit maximization. [...]

This is an important shift in law. The fear of shareholder litigation has driven many public-spirited businesses, most famously Ben & Jerry's, to take the high bid rather than the high road in a corporate takeover fight. Becoming a Benefit Corporation declares legal independence from the profits-ber-alles model. [...]

It may take a while to displace the rent-seeking leviathans that get rich off lobbying, power plays, pyramid schemes and defense contracts. Then again, a lot of those companies have relocated their operations abroad in search of cheaper labor, while the Benefit Corporations are taking root and blossoming right here in America, restoring the bonds of community while doing honest commerce. This is what economic recovery looks like.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

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Bill Would Ban Using Human Fetuses in Food, Just in Case Anybody's Thinking of Doing That

Bill Would Ban Using Human Fetuses in Food, Just in Case Anybody's Thinking of Doing That

Oklahoma state senator Ralph Shortey is concerned about the possibility that some nefarious person or entity is using aborted human fetuses in food, and has introduced legislation to put a stop to this. Or, to keep it from starting, because he isn't exactly sure that anybody's really doing this, or how or where they'd be doing it if they were. Still, can't be too careful.

SB 1418 is, at least for the moment, just this one sentence:

No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients.

[...] "People are thinking that this has to do with fetuses being chopped up and put in our burritos," Shortey said, something no one had been thinking until he said it. "That's not the case," he went on. "It's beyond that." That's right -- they are also in our chalupas.

[...] According to Shortey, there are companies out there "using embryonic stem cells to research and basically cause a chemical reaction to determine whether or not something tastes good or not." He said he read last year that a pro-life group was boycotting an unnamed company for this, and I guess if you've read someplace that somebody is upset about something that might be happening somewhere in the world, that's really all you need to know before writing a law banning what you believe that thing to be.

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The latest Twitter nonsense

So, Twitter changed their policy from "if anyone in the world issues a take-down, we take it down globally" to "now we only take it down in the country that issued the take-down."

I guess you could see "we support tyranny in each country individually" as an improvement over "we treat the whole world as the least common denominator of the world's most tyrannous country in which we want to make money" as an improvement. If you have very low expectations.

"But," you may say, "They have no choice but to obey the law in all the countries in which they have offices." That's true, but I must have missed the article about someone holding a gun to their head and forcing them to open offices there. So they chose to make themselves an uncomfortable bed to lie in. How about that.

When you're in the business of providing a communications medium -- or, if you happen to have a moral compass of any kind -- there are some people you just shouldn't do business with, because it makes you part of the problem.

They said:

One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user's voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can,
and omitted,
...unless that interferes with our ability to make a buck.
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Origami Masks


Q: "Are they each from a single piece of paper?"

A: Yes -- by far the most frequently asked question, and the easiest one to answer (I wish they all were simple yes/no questions). But it is usually followed up with "...because some of them look like they're woven..." which is not actually a question, but an observation, and an implied invitation for me to elaborate on the masks' construction. So I elaborate. It's a technique that is both structural and ornamental. Parallel folds make pleats that open up to form the convexities of the face and intersect with each other around the face. Where they intersect, twist folds are formed on the back of the piece which help to keep the pleats closed. The pleats get pretty tightly packed together, and where they run parallel to each other, the space between them looks like an individual strip of paper from the front. Where twist folds occur on the back, it appears that the "strips" of paper are crossing under and over one another.

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Parliament for Vendetta

Polish Politicians Don Guy Fawkes / Anonymous Masks To Protest ACTA Signing

There's been lots of talk today about how various EU governments are agreeing to sign ACTA (which still needs to be ratified by the EU Parliament). It's gotten the most attention in Poland, where there were mass protests -- but the government there still signed. Of course, not everyone in the Polish government agreed. Amazingly, officials from the Palikot's Movement held up the famed Guy Fawkes/Anonymous masks in Parliament to protest the vote: Of course, we should note that, from the picture, it sure looks like those masks are "counterfeit" copies of the official Guy Fawkes mask that Time Warner holds the rights to. Good thing ACTA is coming into force to stop such blatant "counterfeiting," huh?

Previously, previously, previously.

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Choi Xoo Ang

The Wing:

I have not found the artist's official site, but "Image Search" is a nightmare factory.

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Bay Bridge SAS Main Cable

Construction update, Jan 26, 2012:

Workers have installed the first of 137 strands of the nearly mile-long main cable. Each strand is comprised of 127 individual wires.

The SAS's cable is anchored into the east end of the roadway, traveling up and over the single tower to wrap around the west end before traveling back up and over the tower to anchor back into the east end. The cable features 118 miles of 2 1/2-inch steel strands and more than 17,000 5mm wires. The cable weighs 5,291 tons or nearly 10.6 million pounds.

Previously, previously, previously.

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On behalf of the People of Earth, please accept our unconditional surrender.

Malgorzata Dudek:

Kamila Gawronska:

See also.


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