I just finished watching the documentary Room 237. This is not a review of the film, but I found it interesting enough to watch. It probably is something you should see if you’re a fan of the film it references – Stanley Kubrick’s, The Shining.
The basic content of the film is interviews with several people who analyze the film for hidden meanings and conspiracy theories. Some are interesting, and some are just plain wacky.
The one piece of information that has stuck with me has to do with numbers. Specifically repeating numbers. Mirrors play a big role in The Shining, and mirrored numbers play a large part as well. Specifically the numbers 12 and 21 and their doubles 24 and 42. What fascinates me the most is how big a role the number 42 plays (I don’t know why it fascinates me, but so be it). Here are the occurrences of 42 in the film:
When Danny is talking to Tony in the mirror, he has a shirt on with the number 42.
Danny and Wendy are watching the film “Summer of ‘42” while Jack is upstairs (supposedly) sleeping.
Room 237, when multiplied together equals 42.
The number of letters and spaces in “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy” – 42
When Jack visits the Gold Room and walks up to the bar, the stools are arranged four on the left and two on the right.
Mr. Halloran’s license plate of his rental car has an obvious 42 on it.
There are 42 vehicles in front of the Overlook at the beginning of Jack’s interview (not including the Sno-Cat).
42 is the number of times Danny says Redrum near the end of the film.
Most of the above information comes from this post about the numbers, though I did think of the 42 letters and spaces of “All work…” before I saw this site
Time to watch The Shining again and find some more number 42′s.
I am writing this post the day before the October 2013 Apple Event where new iPads, MacBooks, Mac Pros, and a new OS X version known as Mavericks will all be announced. Rumor has it that a new Apple TV (ATV) will be coming soon too, but may not show up until a bit after the event. There’s even some question as to what it will be. The important thing, at least to me, is that Apple keeps adding capabilities that hint at getting serious with their set-top box. For me, it is the most complete device based on my home theater ecosystem.
Until recently, there were a few things that were missing from the box. One was a good built-in radio service, ala Spotify or Pandora. Apple has “fixed” that with their iTunes Radio app which is now prominently displayed in the top row of icons on the ATV screen. Also, more and more TV network apps have been added to watch programming like ESPN (Watch ESPN), the Smithsonian Channel, Disney Channel, and Sky News. The ESPN and Disney apps require that you have a cable subscription and that you authenticate with your cable provider account. The question going forward is whether there will be more independent apps that WON’T require cable. There are other services that would be nice on the device, but you can always use an iPod/iPhone/iPad to Airplay the missing apps to your TV. I do prefer them built-in though. The other issue is that the home screen is getting crowded since Apple has been adding more apps. This may be addressed with an updated device and new interface.
The final piece to this puzzle for me (and the purpose of this post) is the ability to play my HiDef movies (Blu-ray in most cases) through the ATV. That is, I have Blu-ray discs that I’d like to “rip” and then play on the device, and since it doesn’t have a hard drive built in, it means serving them up via my Mac Mini and iTunes. Blu-ray copy protection was cracked almost from day one of the format’s release. I have been using a program called Make MKV (a free program in what seems like a perpetual beta) which will create a single HD video file from Blu-ray movies using the h.264 codec. The problem was (is) that the ATV won’t recognize the .mkv format (actually mkv “container”), even when the h.264 codec is used (most of the apple video out there – QuickTime movies – uses the h.264 codec). So the next step was to use something like Handbrake to re-encode it into an Apple TV friendly file. The problem with that workflow is time. To re-encode a file of this size takes, depending on the processor speed, many hours (like 4-8 hours or more). There’s two problems with that. The first is, who wants to wait 4 to 8 hours? The second is when you re-encode, you’re losing quality. Even though the x.264 codec that Handbrake uses is extremely good quality.
So the solution is a program that I discovered recently called Subler (free from Google’s code repository). What it does is “re-wrap” the file in an Apple compatible wrapper (like an .m4v file that iTunes recognizes). If you’re not familiar with re-wrapping, it essentially takes the files inside one “container” (like .mkv) and puts it in a new container (again – .m4v). The advantage of Subler is that it takes considerably less time to re-wrap than it does to re-encode. So even though the file is several gigabytes in size, it will take about 30 minutes to complete. Note – that is on top of the 30-60 minutes that Make MKV takes to rip your Blu-ray disc. So an hour and a half versus 4+ hours. You decide.
Once you have your .m4v file, just add it to your iTunes library and then if you are sharing iTunes, your ATV will see it. Subler also adds metadata so you can indicate that the file is a movie, in 1080p HD, and even include the artwork for the movie (a google image search for the movie will give you what you need). It will then appear in your list of movies with the artwork and an “HD” indicator. I can report that the video looks fantastic – and I have one of the 2nd generation ATVs that only does 720p (I also have a TV that is 720p). Obviously the 1080p files get scaled down, in case you were wondering whether a 1080p file works on a 720p Apple TV. On a new 3rd gen. Apple TV with a new-ish flat panel it will look, well, like a Blu-ray disc should.
Two final notes. First, 1080p, Blu-ray quality video is only half the equation. When creating the MKV file and then using Subler, you need to make sure to use the multiple channel information (i.e. 5.1 surround) to get the full glory of the movie on your home theater.
Second. You should know that Subler will only be able to re-wrap to an Apple format if the MKV file is using the h.264 codec. I have HD-DVDs that I have used codecs like MPEG 2, and VC1, so they will need to be “transcoded” to h.264 (or x.264 in the case of Handbrake). That means get ready to wait.
I’ll be working on some screencasts to show you some of this as soon as possible. Those of you who know your way around this stuff already can get started with moving your Blu-rays to your Apple TV right away. Enjoy the Apple Event tomorrow and here’s hoping that they have something truly new to show off.
I’m writing this simple (hopefully short) post to ask something of you. I want you to subscribe to the YouTube Channel known as UMW NewMedia. So far I’ve asked people to just do it, and with moderate success, the number of subscribers has increased. What I haven’t done is told you why. Hopefully, after that, you will be more willing to (if you already have, thank you most kindly!).
YouTube, well, you know what that is. I would waste your time explaining it. One part of YouTube that I’m very interested in is the Live service that they now have. You can now live stream using YouTube, but in order to use the service you need to have a certain number of subscribers. When it first landed you needed 1000 people. Now it is a more modest 100 subscribers. The UMW NewMedia account has 47 as of this writing. So I need your help (again, those who haven’t already subscribed). You DO need a YouTube account yourself. You then need to go to the UMW NewMedia YouTube Channel. Login, if you aren’t already, and hit that Subscribe button! Once we get to 100 subscribers that will enable our live streaming capability and we will bring you more live streaming events (from our own account) like the Minding the Future event we just held at the University of Mary Washington campus.
Now there is no reason not to subscribe. Really, NO REASON. And thank you!
We now have a place where UMW student media producers can go to get creative. Announcing 4 new iMacs at our Simpson Library (near the circulation desk)!
We’ve certainly had Macs available before to students, but they have been within specific departments. The Arts Complex – duPont (Theater and Dance), Pollard (Music), and Melchers Halls (Art & Art History) has long had Macs available for THEIR OWN students. However, when a student from an “outside” department wants to use a Mac, their weren’t many (any?) options. I wrote about these Macs at the end of last year and put forward the argument that Windows machines were mostly inferior for digital media projects. Now with these Macs accessible to any student (a UMW login is required), and software such as Final Cut Pro X, and Adobe Photoshop available to use, I can sleep better at night.
We still have some configuration issues we want to work out such as giving users a common “Dock” that has all of the software visible. I also am working on documentation for media production to help students who are new to this stuff. It’s interesting to see that these machines are being used, because more and more people are getting comfortable with them, and bringing them to campus. I have overheard student’s excitement about it.
Of course, all of this is a precursor to opening up the IT Convergence Center next Fall, and providing those spaces to work on digital media projects. Our library already offers up for loan some digital cameras as well as iPods and iPads, and more of this will happen in the new building. I also feel a bit funny still touting Macs over Windows machines, but I don’t think anyone can argue that Movie Maker is better than something like iMovie. And, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Final Cut Pro X is THE best video editor out there.
Finally, for you geeks out there, here are the specs on the iMacs as well as the software that is available:
21.5″ iMac w/ 3.1 GHz i7 processor
16GB of RAM
1TB Fusion Drive
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 512MB video card
Apple Mouse and Extended Keyboard
Apple Final Cut Pro X
Adobe Production Premium Suite CS6 – Photoshop, Premiere, Illustrator, Flash, After Effects, and more
Miro Video Converter
Evom Video Converter
Follow up – It should be noted that there are Mac’s (complete with Final Cut and Photoshop) in the Media Suite in Monroe Hall for students who are taking classes in the building.
I should also state how much I appreciate the Simpson Library staff for getting these up and running (in concert with our IT Support staff) and having the vision that this is a necessary addition to the library space.
The Internet is always on. Except when it isn’t. Except when you really need it.
OK. The Internet isn’t quite like water. It isn’t absolutely necessary for survival. But we’ve come to rely on it so much that we really miss it on the occasions when it’s not there. Over the last week, I’ve come to the amazing realization that Murphy’s law applies to the Internet – it is when you are about to hit the Publish button, or when you are right at your deadline, that your Internet will go out.
There are actually multiple points of failure, at least with my relation to the Internet. First there is the basic connection. I’m lucky because I have a work connection (that’s really fast) and a home connection (that’s really fast). So if things are down at one place, I can usually go to the other for those times when I really need to be connected.
The second point of failure is the places where I do my publishing. I’ve had several hosting “companies” over the years. I put “companies” in quotes because sometimes it has been university servers that hosted my sites. In my line of work, we have had lots of hosting companies that we have dealt with. Web hosting can be a lucrative enterprise, but it’s got to be stressful when customers are asking “where’s my site?”
So those points of failure happen. Not really that often on the whole, but 99.9% uptime still leaves a good portion of time when things are screwy.
So here’s two examples. I was recently working on some online documentation. As can happen with writing, you can get into a “groove”. When you get in a groove, you forget things, like remembering to save. This happened while writing documentation and when I went to save there was no Internet connection at the time. A few wrong moves later and I lost all of my work. I thought to myself “when will I learn”.
The second example is spurring me on to write this post. Right at the moment I can’t get to my host to write in WordPress. Bummer. I hope those Hippies are getting somewhere. I’m very grateful that they work as hard as they do. As I’m writing this I’m getting messages that they’ll be back up soon.
However, I’m realizing that writing offline and then posting is something desirable to me. I did it years ago with Microsoft’s Live Writer. These days, I write in Evernote. Constantly. When I say write, sometimes it’s “clipping”, as in clipping websites (blog posts, product reviews, wish list items). But I find myself formulating what I want to write in Evernote more and more. I want to publish to the web from Evernote. It does do it, kind of, by “sharing” notes. But the notes all have the Evernote branding and I’d like a little more control over the look and feel of the posts. You know, like I have with my own blog.
So what if I could publish my posts to a “Notes Blog” automatically. Type up my words in Evernote, make it live somehow and have my note synched to the web host.
Well, it’s here. It’s called Postach.io. It’s early days still, so I’m trying to temper my enthusiasm, but I’m excited nonetheless. Here’s how it works. You need to be using Evernote, which is another tool with a passionate following. Evernote is the place where I put all kinds of stuff. The short description is that you have notebooks and you can tag stuff and get organized. It has replaced Delicious for me because it saves the actual webpage frozen in time and it will save the link so you can return to it. Also Delicious has been a bit of a mess lately.
Once you’re using Evernote, you then need to establish an account at Postach.io. You then link your Evernote account to Postach.io and when you want to publish you write your note, save it in your notebook labeled Postach.io (or you can change it to another notebook if you like), and finally you give it a tag of “published” (you can change the tag you use as well). It’s a new paradigm of publishing. You move your notes into a shared area and then Postach.io does the rest. They have some very nice and simple themes that make it all look good.
In the past I have shared Evernote notes in the standard way here and here. But now I can post them in more of a blog setting so they look like this and this.
You can also get an RSS feed, so automatically publishing to a WordPress blog is a cinch (can you say FeedWordPress?). Which is where you get the redundancy part. Commenting is supported through Disqus which I need to look into further. There also automatic Tweeting and Facebooking, so there’s even more ways to get your message out.
So here’s to the experimentation. Hey, and look, my hosting “company” is back online!
It’s called the Information and Technology Convergence Center and every indication points to it being on-track for completion in the spring of 2014. Even though we are 9 (+/-) months away from opening, we are finalizing much of the AV technology going into the building. Those involved in many of the various meetings regarding the building are doing their best to specify the technology, furniture, and functions that will happen here.
It’s tricky though. There is always that uneasy balance between what we do now, in higher education technology, and what we want to do in the future. There’s even that variable of what we THINK we want to do, and what will ultimately make sense to do. Plus, there’s lots of different people involved and lots of different ideas. Like I say, it’s tricky.
There will be several different organizations in this building. There will be the Writing Center and the Speaking Center, most of the various IT divisions including the Help Desk, the data center, and the IT business office. The building will have “traditional” classroom spaces (albeit loaded with technological capabilities), “active” classrooms that will encourage collaborative learning, and even an “incubator” classroom that will encourage out and out experimentation in teaching with technology. My division, the Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) unit will be there thinking about the technological possibilities along with the pedagogical ones.
With all of the conversations that have taken place about this building, going on 7 years of realistic discussions, and more if you count the pipe-dream conversations of long ago – there is still a prevailing question of “what is going to happen in this building?” My knee-jerk reaction is to blame higher education’s lack of imagination for asking such a question. “Isn’t it obvious?” I want to scream! It’s a place where we will foster creativity! It will be a busy beehive of excited students, faculty, and staff who come into the space and imagine all kinds of new ways to contribute to an educational community. It will be, as the narrative on the webpage describes, an academic commons. “A place where a variety of technology, information, and teaching resources will come together.” It will literally converge with the library where the research and reference components will be added to the mix.
I actually prefer the “Commons” moniker as opposed to the “Convergence” one. The reason being is that I prefer it being a space where sharing is an integral part of what happens in the space. And that sharing experience happens because people are exposed to the space. It becomes an experience as soon as you walk on the grounds of the building, from its courtyard and amphitheater on the outside, to its video wall, collaboration spaces, and digital auditorium on the inside. DTLT envisions it as an extension of what we are able to do in our current offices – bring our ideas to each other in an open environment. The innovation that occurs happens because we all bring our good ideas (and our bad ones that get shot down) to a common space.
This building will have lots of possible activities – Lectures, Conferences, Teaching, Theater Events, Movie Nights, Receptions, Training, Consultations, Technology Production (to the nines), Art Exhibits (especially on the Video Wall), even Vending and Coffee Drinking. Who knows, maybe one day Weddings and Bar Mitzvah’s. The building has physical resources to get all of those activities accomplished. What I want to make sure of is that the activities of knowledge, ideas, and creativity are exposed as well.
So I’m not disheartened that people don’t know yet what this building will do, because people haven’t stepped inside it yet. When they do visit and explore, when they experience what is going on in and around the building, I wish for them to be transformed by it and “get” what can happen.
I could stop here and be self-satisfied that I have fully explained the Convergence Center to one and all. However to get people into the building, you’ve got to say more than “if you build it, they will come.” When we first started thinking about a building at UMW, many of us had Emory University’s Cox Center in mind. An interactive map helps begin to explain the space, but the closest thing to a mission is this statement – “flexible space with integrated technologies that enhance and encourage communication and collaboration among the Emory community.” OK. That’s a good start, but maybe I want a bit more.
Recently, the Hunt Library at North Carolina State University was brought to my attention.
This video gets at what I want the Convergence Center to be. A place that immediately puts you in a creative mood, with the context being scholarship. Statements like “we’ve got something great here”, and wanting the building “to grow and breathe with technology”. A building that is almost being treated as a developing child. I’m not a big fan of the “competitive edge” talk, but that will be used by the recruiters, I’m sure. However, they do further talk about the space being “an experience” and “having surprises around every corner.” Yes!
A knowledge environment, intellectual community, and information center with spaces, resources, tools, and support for teaching, learning, and study at the College … the developing Academic Commons helps to integrate the scholarly life of the campus.
They then take it another step:
Imagine … a premier scholastic environment that makes visible Oxy’s commitments as a 21st century liberal arts and sciences college. The Academic Commons at Occidental College is becoming that space. [emphasis mine]
So a “knowledge environment” that “makes visible” a commitment to a 21st century liberal arts and sciences college (or in our case University *wink*). Lest you be confused, I am not talking about a new curriculum with new programs that reflect the jobs of the 21st century. I’m talking about the traditional liberal arts, in a 21st century context.
To be recognized and rewarded as scholarship in the traditional sense, digital scholarship must do the work we have long expected scholarship to do: contribute, in a meaningful and enduring way, to an identifiable collective and cumulative enterprise.
That’s the Commons. And what should be called the Digital Commons. And it will function as an Academic Commons. One day we might even stop using “Digital” and “e-” in front of everything. The Commons will be physical as well as virtual. Online. Offline. Synchronous. Asynchronous. It will be shared. But like all Commons areas, there will also be the need for caretakers. Anyone who has heard of the digital scholarship work here at UMW knows that we have a solid group of caretakers ready to unleash the possibilities on the UMW community and beyond. It all starts with a place to gather.
Epilogue – I have much more to write about this building, and specifically the technology that will be available in it (which I am helping to specify). It’s what I do, and what I love to think about.
Now I don’t use Firefox generally (I know a few people who do), so I have it installed on my Mac JUST for downloading YouTube (and other web) videos. A while back I did a screencast about another web browser called Torch that had video downloading built in.
As I lamented in the video, it was for PCs only. Well recently I discovered that they have made a version for the Mac. Those of you who are familiar with and prefer Google Chrome might really like Torch. It’s based on the open source Chromium browser project.
Once you install Torch, there is nothing else to do. Video downloading is a part of the browser. When you visit YouTube (or most other video repositories) and click on a video to watch, you will see a Video button in the toolbar “light up” indicating that it is available for saving to your hard drive. Clicking that button begins the download process. No muss, no fuss. Once the file is downloaded (I recommend you watch the highest quality version and it will download that file) you can use it in your projects. Standard disclaimer for using YouTube and other copyrighted material applies.
Not a One-Trick Pony
So you might think that you’re installing a program that does just one thing – download videos from YouTube. You would be wrong. Now the other tools that Torch has available may be a bit geeky, but for some it will be quite welcome. It has a built-in Torrent client. At this point you’re either shrugging your shoulders, or I have just pushed you over the edge to try out Torch. From what I know of torrent clients, it works quite well. For those of you who don’t know a torrent from teapot, Wikipedia has an article on BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer file sharing protocol. Just a warning though. Bit Torrenting CAN be “other side of the tracks” stuff, if you know what I mean. Torrenting (sharing) files is completely legal, but sharing CERTAIN files might not. I’ll just leave it at that.
The other trick up TorchBrowser’s sleeve is the ability to drag and drop links to share and search. For example, let’s say you were browsing in Torch and you had a YouTube link you wanted to share on Twitter. You would simply drag the link in the address bar to the left side an drop it on the Twitter icon. You would then supply your Twitter credentials and your tweet is away. Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, and Linked In are other options. There’s a video with more information on drag & drop sharing and searching with Torch at their website.
So now that TorchBrowser supports both Mac and PC, I can recommend it whole-heartedly for downloading media. You might like it so much, you’ll make it your default browser. Just don’t get burnt (ooh, sorry, again).