Backing it up at the beginning.

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

A quiet saturday afternoon in the new year, and I’m sitting here savoring the back-room sunlight watching the winds pick up as we contemplate the threat of another city-paralyzing snow + freezing rain + ice event here in a part of the country that seems highly unprepared for even the mildest of winter weather calamities.

Our plans are to travel the very few miles up to my dad’s house tomorrow evening with a carefully-crafted portable Sammy dinner, but I guess we’ll have to see if that will involve firing up the four-wheel-drive vehicle and creeping back here as the aforementioned storm gets underway (it’s supposed to get bad after dark Sunday night.) Ah, adventures of the winter kind.

Otherwise, it’s been a mercifully quiet week or so after the start of 2011, and we’ve been fairly diligent about taking care of loose ends, small chores, financial recordkeeping, and so on, mixed in with the usual array of tech support questions I find myself fielding from family and friends.

I’m conscious during these arbitrary calendar boundary crossings that it’s a good time to make sure that our various digital assets are being backed up, preserved somehow the way one might expect.

So earlier this week I went out for a run to the twin mega tech merchants of Gwinnett County—MicroCenter and Fry’s—with my brother, mostly to offer moral support for his purchases, but damned if I didn’t end up buying one more 2 TB drive to, well, pile stuff onto. I mean, what future visionary could have possibly imagined that a mere $89 would give me yet another another gigantic data landfill, a virtual blimp hanger of unused space to pile stuff into/onto?

Yeah, if I do have a weakness for impulse purchases, it tends to be in this category. It’s probably much worse that I’ve lived through the entire progression of computer storage from the early days where a megabyte or two cost more than a house—so just forget it—through the early 1980s where I was willing to pay thousands of dollars for a 20 megabyte hard drive (thousands. of. dollars.) to the present where bits live throughout our cluttered home in little silver boxes, just waiting to disappoint me with a random data failure in the future, when I call upon the device to work its archival magic.

It really doesn’t help that the size of my average television project—the raw materials used in making a station package, let alone all the bits and pieces needed for a 3D NFL football game, way, way exceed the capacity of a standard DVD-R (4.7 GB)….and really, they take up more room than a BluRay disk, which is a tech that, nah, I’m not going to invest in.

So it’s big hard drives, which are dirt cheap. That is, unless I am concerned about the drives moving parts over the long run, and instead want to pick up a bunch of flash memory (hey, no moving parts!), which at the moment is, at best, $25 for 16 GB of storage.

And of course, there’s always “the cloud,” which, in theory, is infinite, but in the real world has its own very real costs and risks as well as the costs in time it takes to push all this stuff to and from wherever “there” is.

Which brings me full circle to the mental exercise that really underlies all of this: how much of this exercise is just plain hoarding behavior in high tech clothing? Am I really going to need that background for that station in Birmingham from years ago that has probably moved on to some other perishable design?

Bit of a ponderable, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Autumnal recharge.

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I’m sitting here watching sunlight drift into Sammy’s family’s Green Cottage in between moments of solar hide and seek in the abundant clouds over Big Manistique Lake. We’re listening to a scratchy FM radio signal and we have internet-via-iPhone, which means that the MacBook and iPad sit here sullenly with light grey wifi logos, craving packets, while the walled garden of the iPhone, as long as we hold it close to the south windows, serves as our tenuous gateway to the more connected world in a place where, most of the time, we’re comfortable not being all that connected.
I am happily recharging and resetting after my August of mostly nonstop work. On a tight deadline, I cranked out graphics in stereoscopic 3D for the first NFL football game to be broadcast in a way that, hey “the players come out right at you,” and, uh, you have to buy a really overpriced TV and still wear silly glasses.
As a design exercise it was a lot of fun and made me even more aware of the delicate dances of 3d coordinate systems as they contribute to what we call vision, seeing, and dimension.
But now, it’s nice to look at the world not through any kind of colored or polarized or shuttered glasses and just sorta enjoy the autumnal light, growing color (those maple trees are reddening nicely) and reset my visual context to something outside of safe title markers and render queues.

Current tools of my trade.

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Current tools of my trade.
See that Lee Filter pack with the rubber band? Very important.

I’ll say.

Thursday, August 19th, 2010


Hi, just checking in from the other side of the screen. I keep composing well-thought-out essay-length things in my head, but then my day job (is that what it is?) distracts me from actually flowing them into this site.
As many of you know, I’ve been working pretty much nonstop on a complete graphics package for a preseason NFL game, which wouldn’t be such a big deal except that this one’s in 3D. As in, yeah, dimensional. Stereoscopic.
So please excuse me while I get back to massive piles of left eye, right eye graphics that have to be designed well enough so as not to give people headaches. Not since my 1981 Braves Baseball open (aka ‘Disco Baseball from Outer Space’) have I had the health concerns of my viewers be a factor in design.
Me, I pump the coffee and ibuprofen.

Pampas Cat.

Friday, May 21st, 2010


Although I admire the developers who see algorithms painted, floating in mid-air everywhere they go, I am most certainly not one of those people. And yet I’m interested in the tech behind the apparent seamless experiences, and I have a sense of the powerful frameworks that spin together to create a user experience that is as visually smooth as it is powerful.

This is a (fragmentary) book review of a book I received on the doorstep (dead trees!) an hour ago. I’ve gone through maybe a dozen pages. I’m already in rapt admiration. This is a great approach for people like me. Apple developer/aesthete Scott Stevenson realizes (I’m paraphrasing from his introduction) that there are hard-core coders who bleed zeroes and ones, and then folks like me, designers who want to understand how to make the underpinnings serve their vision.

So he wrote Cocoa and Objective-C: Up and Running: Foundations of Mac, iPhone, and iPod touch programming, and so far, it’s filled so many of the gaps in for me in the mysteries of the C language, Objective-C, built on C, and Cocoa, the massive framework collection built on Objective-C. See? More clarity already.

April in a nutshell.

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Things have been, well, pretty close to the ‘normal’ baseline here at casa positively atlanta georgia through the month of April. I looked up and noticed that I hadn’t added to this fine collection of journal entries since the getting an iPad and enjoying it in the backyard post. So what’s been happening? Okay, in 10 seconds: Convivial meals with family and friends. Birthday fun. Hike in the north Georgia mountains with neighbors. Wandering through the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. Opening up and adding new RAM and storage to a Mac Mini from Seattle. Lots of rendering animation at 1920×1080 (that’d be HD 1080i to you.) helping a friend get a new water pump so she could return safely to Lexington, KY. And…more settling in with that semi-magical iPad device.

Writing amidst birds on a glare-y morning.

Monday, April 5th, 2010


I decided to start the morning out in the back yard with a cup of coffee and that device that I’ve been, well, anticipating seems like such an insufficiency…shall we say salivating over? Really, really wanting to get my hands on? That’s more in the ballpark.

As a specialized device, as opposed to a “replacement” for a laptop or netbook or phone, the iPad is wonderful and indeed gives me that same sense I had after I dragged the first Macintosh home. This is new, different, and it may not have all the answers now, but it certainly can serve as the container for those answers when placed out there in a healthy stream of developer creativity, a modern marketplace for digital ideas. And as you may have read, there’s some question as to whether the Apple-controlled system of app development and approval—give them $99 a year to be allowed to put stuff out there, and then only distribute your apps as approved chunks of binary through Apple’s own store, interface, and forbearance—is open enough, and for me, the jury is less out on that than it is on the question of being able to get your stuff in and out of the machine with (as the modern dev kids like to say) as little friction as possible. It took quite a while for my desktop machine to manipulate the thousand or so JPEGs i wanted in our photo library before it was willing to slide them over…and that felt like a lot of friction to me.

And then there’s the whole question of this fine, high-resolution led-backlit screen and whether this is indeed superior to, say, the Kindle’s approach that uses something fancily called ‘e-ink’ but basically is just a low power display that can be read out in glorious black and white in the bright glare of sunlight.

Which brings me back to this beautiful Atlanta spring morning, out in our back yard.

Serenaded by every bird sound effect on our yard’s library, invigorated by the smell of morning coffee mixed with flowers in bloom, I was able to read the morning’s news with the tablet perched in my lap, but when the time came to bat out these few paragraphs painlessly on this new device, well, the batting was painless (the onscreen keyboard supports my high speed hunting and pecking well), but the visual it presented was less than crystal clear. In order to type comfortably, I have to put the device down on our backyard table, and as the angle of pad surface to sky becomes more perpendicular, it becomes more problematic. As I type to you now, looking down at the table, I am also simultaneously looking up at the large budding tree that looms over me…because I can see its reflection quite clearly in the iPad’s very glossy screen. This certainly contributes to a feeling of being one with nature, but it does make it a tiny bit hard to read what I’m writing. Indoors, the screen is plenty bright to blot out that effect, but out here, Our Friend The Sun seems to have other ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an impossible task. And it’s way readable enough for me to, say, walk around the yard and catalog our weeds into a comprehensive database, but when the primary concern becomes angle of typing vs angle of seeing, then you get this kinda superimposition effect that as I sit here, I’m bemused to say I’m getting used to, a bit. Boy, we humans can be adaptable when we have a new thing to mess with.

Hmm…what are these..hey, little dots of pollen are falling on the iPad! Ah, springtime in Atlanta, when nature conspires to cover up all of man’s technological folly in a fine coating of yellow.

I came back inside and Sammy, looking at this very page, said “you may want to proof that a bit,” and sure enough, when I looked at this post on my large desktop screen, I saw a few ‘deVices’ and ‘i’s and other corrections to be made—and I should point out that I had to come in here to add the photos—taken with our iPhone—to the post. Would have been great to be able to just poke the phone and send them to the pad and from there drop them in, but I guess that breakthrough is for another day.

Counting down.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

On an evening where the embargo on talking about the iPad was lifted (and a great spewing sound was heard throughout the series of tubes), we have thus been inundated with reviews and screenshots and semi-childish squealing, I find myself waiting with quiet anticipation. They’re selling this thing on Saturday, perhaps you’ve heard?