ProPreseter and a Free Motion Background

Are you a Leopard user? You just got a free motion background for Pro-Presenter. We were sitting in production meeting last week and I had my laptop up and running. About midway into the meeting my laptop kicked in the screen saver and Stephen loved it and thought it would be a cool motion background. He asked if I could make it work for a song on Sunday. I started running different ways through my head of how to capture the screen saver to a video and make it into loop. I forgot about it until Friday night and then I started working on it. It took me a little while just to find where in OS X the screen savers were stored. I knew that OS X had started using Quartz Composer files for some of the screen savers and the one I was using, Arabesque, was a Quartz file. Quartz happens to be an integral part of Quicktime and the QT player can play Quartz files. Most of the time, if QT can play it then most likely Pro-Presenter can play it as well. Sure enough, I just dragged the file into the background library and it worked. Now we have a new background and it was under my nose all of the time. By the way, the screen savers are stored in /System/Library/Screen Savers.

Quartz Composer is a very powerful compositing and graphic creation program. What is even more interesting is that Quartz files are dynamic. Arabesque is a random composition and when you used in Pro-Presenter it is random as well. This could be good or it might not be what you intended. I’m very interested to learn a little more about Quartz and see how we can use it in media ministry. A few ideas that come to mind are maybe a news ticker across the bottom of an announcement loop or a countdown clock that is longer then 99 hours. Let me know if you come up with some Quartz Composer ideas.

Why do I like Safari so much?

To be honest I don’t have a clue.  Safari is fast, easy to use and well integrated into OS X.  Is it because I’m an Apple fan boy that it continue to use it?  When I first switched to a Mac I was a die hard FireFox user and it was not until Safari 3.1 came out that I got hooked.  But sometimes I just want to kill the thing.  Today, I was doing a little web development and trying to track down an issue that just turned out to be Safari page caching.  What a waist of time!  I jump over to FireFox and didn’t have any issues with page changes.

Safari has one major advantage, spell checking.  I can’t spell rikc (sorry Rick), so spell checking is a must.  Now on FireFox, I used to use the plug-in Spellbound, but it seems to be unmaintained and who wants to install Aspell and a plug-in to get spell checking.  It already comes with Safari and uses the integrated dictionary.  As someone who does some web development, Firebug or something like it is a must.  So having Web Inspector in Safari lead me to thinking I had the perfect browser.  Being that I own an iPhone, I have enjoyed the bookmark syncing as well.

At Sugar Creek we started using a new event management system that only works in FireFox or Internet Exploder (not a spelling error).  Now I’m having to run both browsers.  Not an Apple issue (come on ServiceU get your act together so I can use this in Safari and my iPhone), but just another reason that leaves me on the browser fence.  Safari is so close, just a little more and I will be a committed Safari user. Until then I’ll have to keep dancing between the two browsers.

Un-timely Necessary Projects

We all know that stuff breaks at the most inopportune times.  Currently, I’m flying solo in the production department and my favorite video switcher decides to go on the fritz.  I don’t know if you guys are like me or not, but I just can’t leave well enough alone.  Just not smart enough to follow the old “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” saying.  I decide that this was a prime time to clean up the video racks, a project that has been on the list for a while.  This turned out to be never ending project that ended up eating all of my week and most of my weekend.  As of tonight, I’m very happy with the results.

Most of the work that was done had to do with cables routed on the outside of the rack.  Yes you know what I’m talking about, the cables that get thrown in last minute with the intent of cleaning them up later.  The Video booth just seems to attract these kind of cable runs.  Most of the time I consider myself in the middle of the road on cable routing.  Definitely not the most anal person that I have ever met, but I do like clean cabling.  The cabling in these racks certainly made me understand how detrimental sloppy cabling could be.  I think that a root canal might be more fun then debugging issues in these racks.

So it is beautiful now, right?  Well not yet, but we made big headway and removed 99.9 of the poorly routed cable.  We also removed about 50% of the cables inside the racks.  Yes there is still much work to do inside, but we made it 100% easier to find issues in the racks.  Next week I think that I’m going to tackle underneath the desk at the front of the booth.  May the force be with us.

More pictures here

Stange Thing

I was driving through Austin yesterday and there appears to be a sign on top of the stop lights that face up. To thin to be a solar panel.  Are they for airplanes to see what road they can land on?  Just found it interesting.  If anyone has any insight let me know.


If you know me at all, you should have an idea of how this post will go. Let me also say that if are a Windows fanatic without a open mind you need not read any further. Let me give you a little history about myself and my history. Today I’m not as directly involved with IT as I was in the past, and I have been exclusively Mac for about 2 years. Before that I had been a network administrator and a software developer in the Windows world mainly and some Linux. In fact Linux and open source software lead me to OS X. In my new position, I had a need to get a Windows tablet to run some of the software we use in production. Don’t tell my Mac friends, but it was a little exciting to check out Windows Vista.

Not much has seemed to change in the PC world. I called a friend of mine to ask what the cool tablet PC was and he recommended an ASUS, so I ordered it. It arrived last Friday and have been using it this week. The pen interface on the tablet is nice and Vista graphics have improved, but I find myself nagged by the same issues I had before I switched to OS X or Linux. Over the years, I have had around five or six notebooks running Windows and none of them have been able to suspend and resume correctly. All I want to do is be able to close the notebook and resume it later. I didn’t think that it would be that hard, but it seems to only work about 50% of the time. All I’m going to say is DRIVERS are a nightmare. Some knock Apple for its control over the hardware, but I know that it adds to stability and tighter integration between the hardware and software.

Vista has had some visual improvement, but under the covers it seems to be much the same. I have not had much trouble finding my way around and the newness went away very soon. Now it is just another tool in the production arsenal.

Vista Training

Vista TrainingIn case people didn’t know I am a man. I state this fact only to tell you that I don’t read manuals.  In previous posts I mention that we upgraded our lighting console to Jands Vista consoles.  One of the reasons that I picked the Vista T2 was that the on site training was included.  Well, this week Steve Irwin came out and did some training for the volunteers and myself.

As stated before, we chose the Vista because it was easy to use and much more familiar to computer users. That being said, it is also a very powerful and expandable lighting platform.  While I was doing pretty well handling the programming needs of regular services, I was glad to get some expert training.

The best part of the training was seeing the volunteers finally get why I was so excited about the Vista.  Both JT and Greg each had their moments when they saw things that excited them.  At first I thought that I would get the training and then teach the volunteers. I t was much better to have JT and Greg learn from Steve because they asked questions that I would not have due to their different experiences programming.  JT for instance does more concert style programming for student events; where I do more cue to cue style programming.  With Steve’s vast experience in lighting and programming, he was able to show us how we could use the Vista in both scenarios.

Just this week, I have already applied things from training that are making me a faster and better programmer.  Steve was able to train on the console, but also extended the training by giving many general programming tips along the way.  At the beginning of this week, I was wishing that training was not going to take two days out of my crazy week but at the end of the week, I’m glad that it did.