MD5 Broken

This is absolutely huge and devastating news. A weakness in the MD5 hashing algorithm presented today allows for spoofing hashes by creating a “collision”, ie a different message that hashes to the same thing as a target message. What does that mean to you and me? That means that this weakness can allow SSL certificates to be forged that will be recognized as valid by your browser. This is a “holy crap” moment for everyone that depends on these, such as say anyone that does banking online or ever uses a credit card online. Also excreting bricks I’m sure is Verisign, who rakes in large amounts of money by minting these certificates.

It’s a shame this came out during the holidays because I have coworkers who spend all their time thinking about and working on these kinds of issues. I’m looking forward to talking about it with them on Monday. For now, I’m curious how quickly certificates can be reissued with non-broken hashes.

Update: My second paragraph doesn’t make much sense. Rereading the abstract, it seems like the worst risk here is that phishing sites will forge SSL certs that verify, and state that they are the organization they are impersonating. So, you follow a phishing link and when you click the lock icon, it says that it is from Bank of America, or whomever. The risk is not in existing certificates, the risk is that new ones can be forged at will.

In comments, Andrew links to Verisign’s response. As I read their response, it is all about the security of currently issued certs, and does not address the future where validity of a cert can no longer be treated as validity of the site. I wonder if the next step is for Mozilla and IE to explicitly deprecate all certs that use an MD5 hash and only validate fully if SHA-1 is used? I’m not sure at this point what the remediation is. After sleeping on it, it still seems huge.

New Frugal Nation

I don’t want to demean or dismiss America’s new found love affair with frugality. I think it is good that people have arrived at this point, where preserving their cash seems more important than owning as much flashy crap as can be accumulated. I have to feel a sense of smugness at this. I was converted by my significant other from a wastrel spendthrift to plain thrift a long time ago. It’s great that the news and intarwebs are full of tips of frugality and articles extolling the value of living within your means and building your savings, but seriously, where have they been the last decade? This is always a good idea, and was in the high flying times too.

I guess what I’m saying is that I welcome the influx of tourists to Frugality Town, but I’ve been living here a long time. Hope you stick around.

The Spirit Movie from an Alternate Reality

I am dreading the film version of The Spirit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to go see it in the theater. Whatever problems it has, they won’t get better on the smaller screen. It’s just that I fear it will be miserable experience. Everything about it that I’ve seen so far makes it look heavy on the Frank Miller and light on the Will Eisner – exactly the opposite of what I’d be looking for in this film.

Here’s an interesting story of an attempt to make an animated Spirit film in the early 80’s. I wish I lived in the alternate reality where this attempt succeeded, a good film was made from his character while Eisner was alive and Brad Bird’s talent became clearly evident a decade earlier. It’s nice to think about, isn’t it?

Bonus link: Here’s my mid 90’s interview with Will Eisner from my Reality Break podcast. Boy, I miss that guy. He was a wonderful writer and artist and a cool dude.

Saul Griffith on the Wattage of a Lifestyle and Energy Literacy

Perhaps my favorite presentation ever on IT Conversations is this session from ETech with Saul Griffith (presentation hardcopy here). He discusses some assumptions on how carbon dioxide levels could be stabilized at non-catastrophic levels and then what the energy requirements of the maximum average lifestyle would be. Interestingly, he analyzes his own lifestyle in terms of the wattage it requires to sustain it, which is a unit I’ve never really thought about for applying to ones life. For example, if you have a drink and discard one 20 oz plastic bottle every day, that works out to 90 watts sustained when you take the amount of energy in the bottle divided by seconds in a day. It’s a really interesting analysis.

In the latter part of the presentation, he discusses the amount of new clean energy that would need to come online to meet his projected energy budget. He talks about the distressingly large but not impossible capacity that needs to be built. For example in terms of wind, he says that a dozen 3 megawatt wind turbines will need to go online every hour for the next 25 years, which is one 100 meter turbine every 5 minutes. He points out that such a creation may be beyond our government, but it is not beyond GM + Ford + Chrysler. I heard this a few weeks ago at the height of discussion of bailouts of the same big three automakers. All I could think was “hell, let’s not have the American public bail out the big three – let’s buy them and retool them into wind turbine and solar thermal turbine factories.” How much industrial capacity in the USA is sitting idle right now? Hell, about 30 miles from me in South Carolina there are factories upon factories sitting dark with unemployed workforces ready to be rehired if someone were to light them back up.

My hero Buckminster Fuller did much of his work in the 40s and 50s with an eye towards solving housing shortages with excess capacity of the American WW II era aircraft factories. HIs Wichita house was designed using the idea of being able to built by aircraft factories with the minimal amount of retooling. This same type of thinking is needed today. We have multiple problems in our economy and our environment and they can all fix each other at the same time. Let’s put people back to work, let’s put our tax money to work, create new energy sources with less environmental impact. Everyone — and I mean everyone — wins on this.

This needs vision and leadership. I pray to R. Buckminster Fuller every night that John Holdren and the Obama administration will see this truth and make this happen. If we don’t do this now, my backup hope is that disaster holds off just long enough so that society doesn’t completely fall apart until after I’m dead. That’s not much of a hope, so let’s do the other thing, please, America.

San Francisco Trip Recap

I suck at trip reports. The fact that I have yet to complete mine from Dragon*Con in August points to that fact. I’ll make one quick hit at the San Francisco trip and be done with it.

We flew out Sunday the 14th. For the first time in recent memory, none of the 4 flight legs there or back had any issues with delays. Nothing was cancelled or even late. It was entirely drama free. How beautiful. This is the first cross-country trip I’ve taken since I began working sudoku puzzles. I picked up a pocket sized book of 123 puzzles for $2.99 in the Charlotte airport, which is easily the best travel investment I’ve ever made. That kept me busy for at last 3 hours of the 6 hour flight to San Francisco. Strong headwinds, you see. I was just trying to figure out which of 2,3 or 7 could fit in that row.

We arrived at SFO around 8 PM and took the BART into downtown. We checked into the hotel without incident, and then headed over to the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square for a late dinner. Freakishly, at 10 PM on a Sunday night there was a 20 minute wait. Un-frigging-believable. It was not the best CF dinner we’d ever had, but it was open and there and a known quantity at the end of a long day.

Monday we both went over to the Moscone Center. My wife got her registration packet for the AGU fall meeting and registered me as a guest. It’s a good deal for me, since the guest registration doesn’t get me into a lot of stuff so I had no choice but to wander the streets of SF. After getting my badge, I walked over to the Mevio offices in the SOMA area to have lunch with Michael Butler. We went to the Chinese diner he talks about, and got a quick, good and cheap lunch. He forgot his immodium but it all seemed to work out alright.

After he went back to work, I kicked around for a while, walking down 2nd Street. I walked by the CNET/CBS Interactive building and other sights that I had no idea were right there. I ended up doing some fishing through the 3/$1 comic boxes at Jeffrey’s Toys and Comics. I didn’t get anything I collect regularly there, as they deface these comics with a Sharpie. However for things I was curious to try out, getting it for $0.33 is a cheap way to sample new series. I wandered around a bit, including a trip to the Apple store where I played with an iPhone for the first time. (Unimpressed.) After this, I was ready for a nap. Hey, I was on vacation!

For that evening, we went out with our friend John out to dinner. We tried to go to Mela Tandoori Kitchen, underneath Marrakech Morroccan, a restaurant that we’d eaten at before and enjoyed. They seemed to be out of business though, so we ended up settling for Naan n Curry, which was a weird and smokey (tandoori smoke, not cigarrette) dive buffet restaurant. The food was OK and plentiful, and we had ample opportunity to sit and talk which is what we wanted anyway. We walked around Union Square a little and saw the holiday sights. Afterwards it was time to crash.

Tuesday, my wife did conference things all day while I did my traditional trip around the Mission District. I took the BART to Mission and 24th, and walked over to Valencia. From there I started at Dog Eared Books where I got an Armistead Maupin book and some Max Allan Collins mysteries. Next was Borderlands Books where I got the Vandermeers edited Steampunk anthology and a couple of old Pulphouse hardcovers on clearance. I went into a couple of thrift shops and the Mission district T-Mobile store where I tried out a G1 (more impressed than the iPhone – used it to check out my position on my map.) From here, I walked up to Al’s Comics on Market and shopped for a while. Al was really nice to me and we chatted a bit. He’s kind of legendarily grumpy so that was not what I expected, but it was quite fun. Next I walked the couple blocks over to Isotope Comics and shopped some more. I asked for Lynda Barry’s What It Is which the guy said is the kind of book they carry but just sold out at the time. After all this, I calculate a few miles of walking and a few hours of shopping, I got on the light rail and headed back to the hotel. We ended up eating Thai food at the joint right by the Moscone Center and called it a night.

On Wednesday we got up and took the train to the California Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park. It seemed like a good idea to go on the free day of the month, since we were there and able to attend at that time. 10 minutes in, the strategic misstep was apparent. It was so crowded that if I could have paid $50 admission to make 3/4 of the people go away, I’d gladly have done it. We spent a little time, fought through the aquarium area and went up to the living roof. We looked at the Andy Warhol paintings of endangered species and the global warming exhibits. Interestingly enough, some of the word up there was by a guy that Darlene was going to see speak later that afternoon. When we’d had enough of that, we walked back to the train pickup, shopping at some little shops on the way.

For the afternoon, after a lunch at Noah’s Bagels we split up. She went to hear James Hansen speak about climate change and I went to the Cartoon Art Museum. About half the museum was taken up with an exhibit for Our Neighbor Totoro, about which I could not care less. Despite multiple attempts to convert me, I’ve never seen any Miyazaki that didn’t completely bore me. However, why I was there was the Gene Colan exhibit, which was fantastic. It has sketches and original artwork from throughout his career, with a concentration form that wonderful 70s period when he was doing Howard the Duck and Doctor Strange. Looking at those pages in their full size and in person, they were so beautiful as to make me verklemmt. When I’d had enough, I went to the gift shop where they did have the Lynda Barry book, so I bought it there.

For dinner this evening, we met up with some of Darlene’s friends and ended up going to Alioto’s at Fisherman’s Wharf. The guy putting it together wanted to have seafood, so we went there. However, I found it a little too pricey for the amount of wonderful they brought. I don’t mind dropping $45 a head for dinner, but I’d like it to be significantly better than an Applebees if I do, which I didn’t really find from this place. The cab ride there was an adventure, with crazy woman cabbie and 5 of us jammed in there. The return trip was much more sedate.

On Thursday I pretty much wound it down. I went out to Haight Ashbury to meet up with Butler again for Ethiopian lunch at Massawa. I found this a fantastic meal, and one I had really been looking forward to. It was tasty, a lot of food and really a fun time. We sat around and bitched about new media and got a bellyful of okra and chicken and spongy bread. Afterwards, we shopped at an army surplus store just for fun. I considered farting around a little in the Haight on foot but since I saw the #6 bus coming right as I walked to the stop I just got on, opting to just strike while the iron was hot. At this point, it was a blur. I had pretty much done everything I was planning on doing. We ate a a local pizza joint whose name I forget. It was just down the street from the Orchard Hotel, at the top of the hill. It was a decent meal.

We had to get up at 4 AM California time in order to get on the BART and make our 7:30 AM flight. We got there in plenty of time, checked in without incident and flew home without incident. We got back around 5 PM, stopped at Red Robin for some home town comfort food and went home, where we napped most of the evening and most of the following weekend. It was a fun trip but almost exactly the right length. By the time it was over, I was ready to go and wasn’t really jonesing to have done any more stuff than I already had. It’s good to be home.

Hack an Instamatic

I really like this project for converting instamatic cameras into trippy psychedelic photo takers (also to use 35 mm film for easier availability.) I think these sorts of projects are perfect for those of you looking to get kids involved in making. Find a bit of outdated but still highly available (and cheap) technology, and treat that as the raw materials for the project. You get some detritus off the shelf, you teach kids to not be scared of manipulating their tech, and everyone has fun. Mutual benefit for all!

Winding it Down in SF

Our San Francisco trip is almost over. We have just one ugly early flight out to make and it is all over. I’ll make a big linky summation later, I don’t have the energy to assemble it all right now. It turns out this length of stay was just about perfect. We did everything we wanted to, and now are ready to get back home and get back to our dog. I got to have several lunches with Michael Butler, hang out at museums and sight see and walk the streets. Oddly, this is the closest I’ve ever stayed to Chinatown and this time I didn’t even cross the border to it.

I’ve felt very little pressure to do anything specific, and that has made this a damn enjoyable trip. Good things happen when you lighten up. I’ll try to remember that lesson.

The Return of Where’s George

For years and years, I was a devoted user of Where’s George. I georged pretty much every bill I could, and I tried to keep them separate in my change so I knew which bill was which for date entry since I liked to enter the venue from which I received it in the notes. It was fun, but eventually the drag of the scut work wore me down. That, and living in small town South Carolina meant that my hit percentage went way down and it got less fun.

I did revive it some for this trip to San Francisco that I’m currently on. Because of the tech hipster density, bills I’ve let go in the bay area have a hit ratio approaching 50%. I georged every bill in my wallet before we left. A few went into the Charlotte airport and I’ve taken in new change since. I’m guessing now that every original bill I brought with me is now circulating and its all new bills now.

Coincidentally as I was doing all this, I got a mind-blowing hit yesterday. This is one of the bills I entered and stamped very early in my career as a georger. It was hit this week, 7 years and 51 days after I first put it in the system. It’s hard to imagine a $1 circulating that long, since compared to other denominations they tend to get used hard and have short lives.

I don’t imagine I’m going back to entering every bill that passes through my hands again, but now and then it is fun to return to this and prime the pump a little more.

US Airways Explores New Ways to Annoy

One of the big downsides of residing in the Myrtle Beach area is that most of the air flight out of MYR is handled by US Airways. This flight, at least, we left on time and so far have been without incident. However, I’m not particularly happy about paying for a ticket for a flight that is in the high 3 digits, and then getting charged $5 to pick my seat to Charlotte, $15 to pick my seat to San Francisco and then another $20 to check my bag. Then, when you get on the plane they charge your $7 for a cardboard sandwich and $2 for a coke.

I’ve already dropped a fairly large amount for this flight, and I really hate getting nickled and dimed. If the flight was $50 more, it wouldn’t really matter at this point. Making me pay 3 separate transactions just to get on the plane and charging me for every little bit of food and drink begins to wear on me. Really, what happens over time isn’t that they pick up lost revenue on these transactions but that the airlines convince me not to make trips I can’t drive to.

Gravatars Engaged

For no real reason other than that I felt like it, I added the single line of code to my WordPress theme to make gravatars show up. I’ve had an account at Gravatar.com for a long time but I’ve really been underutilizing it. In fact, although I had uploaded my logo as my avatar, I had not correctly selected it as the primary picture. I was surprised when I first enabled the gravatars as many people’s showed up immediately but mine never did. That’s all rectified and now all is well.

I like the effect of seeing these pictures in the comment page. Because a lot of people seem to have the same picture as their gravatar and FriendFeed logo, it actually ties together the native comments with the imported FriendFeed comments. It makes it look like more of a coherent conversation, particularly when the same people are commenting in both places.

Let me know what you think. And of course, when you do let’s see your picture!

Dollhouse Paper Dolls

I’m weird about Joss Whedon. I loved Serenity/Firefly and I really don’t like Buffy/Angel. I did enjoy Dr Horrible, so if that’s the tie breaker then I’m willing to give him a little more slack. When Dollhouse hits TV, I’ll watch it and see how I like it. I did decide to be a geek and print out the Dollhouse paper dolls that are up so far. I don’t know why, I’m just feeling nerdy. If I end up liking Dollhouse then maybe I’ll say that I’m a Whedon fan and the Buffyverse is an anomaly.

WordPress 2.7

I upgraded this blog to WordPress 2.7 tonight. It took me literally 3 minutes, and that includes downloading the backup files. I was using the WordPress Automatic Updater plugin, but apparently this is the last time I’ll need that because the functionality has been rolled into WordPress itself. This is all to the good. It’s not like WordPress upgrades were ever that burdensome but being able to do this all with a click or three really gets rid of all the procrastination possibilities, which is really helpful when security fixes come out.

I’ve only had 20 minutes of run time with version 2.7 but so far I’m liking it.

Tina Fey in Vanity Fair

My wife pointed to me out this Vanity Fair article on Tina Fey. I really enjoyed the thing. I hadn’t intended to spend most of my lunch hour reading it but I did. What I enjoy about Fey’s success is that it brings up something that occurred to me a long time ago – smart chicks are sexy. Also, people who can experience hyper-success without becoming narcissists are very strong people that should be commended for that. That Tina Fey remains normal and phones up her manager’s assistant to see if he wants a latte when she goes to meetings says a lot about her. That impresses me more than achieving fame, the ability to have it without changing your core mode of dealing with the world. Good for her, long may she wave.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for December 7, 2008 – “Gentle Readers Fiesta”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for December 7, 2008. I play songs from my friends the Gentle Readers, and then I do it again and again until the clock runs out. Really, that’s enough.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Ballast

The other day listening to The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell, I heard his interview with the director of the independent movie Ballast. Between the interview and seeing the trailer, I am sold. This seems exactly like the kind of movie I like. One of the downsides of living in Myrtle Beach is that even last week when the town was having a film festival, it’s highly unlikely that a film like Ballast will be shown here.

Listening to the interview with director Lance Hammer, he talked about how they chose to distribute the movie themselves. He said the deals that indie movies are getting nowadays are so bad that it is effectively free on the front end. His statement was “We decided that if we were going to be working for free, we can do that ourselves and then not have to pay out a percentage of the back end.” OK, fair enough.

However if they are distributing this thing themselves and control all aspects of that, what reason is there to not make a day and date DVD release available? I’m enthused enough about the thing that I might be willing to drop the cash on the DVD right now if I could. Hammer is doing publicity for the film and I heard it and it worked on me. However right now if I’m not in Omaha or Portland this week I can’t see the movie. There just aren’t that many screenings of it. However if they had the DVD ready to go concurrently, they could be selling it at the screenings for those people who really loved it, they could be getting people adding this to their Netflix queues from the Treatment interview, etc. It seems a risky play to bank on people in this busy world to remember to look for this movie in 6 or 12 or 18 months when it is available outside of the screening areas.

It seems like they are doing about 85% of what needs to be done and missing the last 15% that might actually get it into people’s hands and get their money. I am at this moment enthused about this movie and it is top of mind. I can guarantee that in a few months that won’t be the case. Strike while the iron is hot, kids. There is no reason not to get your DVD and maybe even iTunes/Apple TV/whatever other online movie services versions ready to coincide with your national release. Particularly when you are only ever screening in a handful of cities at a time, put yourself in a position to capitalize on whatever buzz comes your way. Otherwise you are just squandering it.

PS – for a movie set and filmed in the Mississippi delta region, why is the closest screening to where it was shot in Shreveport? How about showing a little love for the people of Mississippi and have a screening near there?

How I Would Have Merged Twitter and I Want Sandy

I’m not a brilliant internet entrepreneur or much of any kind of entrepreneur, really. I’m not a strategist or business expert or pundit or guru. All I have is guesswork and barely healed stubbed toes and a general feeling around of my way in this online world. However, even with my lack of chops it is hard to imagine a worse way to deal with the purchase of Values of N by Twitter and how they dealt with the aftermath.

I can understand that mostly what Twitter wanted out of the deal was Rael Dornfest. I have been part of acquisitions where one company bought another mostly to get an in-place development team. However, this was at the height of the dot-com boom when hiring was difficult and people were expensive. I sure don’t understand how that makes sense when there are a lot of people looking for jobs, the labor cost is under downward pressure.

What really fails to make sense for me though is why Twitter would acquire a company with working, extant and deployed products and get zero value out of them. Sure, they bought Values of N to integrate the team into Twitter but I Want Sandy and Stikkit are already out there. How does just shutting them down help anything? It creates a lack of trust in cloud based services in general, if a solid and useful service like I Want Sandy can just disappear with a few weeks notice. I’ve already posted about how the only defense ever offered is that the service was free, which I think is insufficient a defense. Being a free service does not relieve a company of its responsibilities in being stewards of their users, particularly when like Sandy they asked to be an essential portion of the workflow of ones life. To say “Hey it was free, what do you expect?” is exactly akin to saying “Hey, you were stupid enough to trust us. What do you expect?”

Assume I was somehow involved with either Twitter or Values of N. This is what I would have wanted to happen with the acquisition:

Step 1: Before announcing the situation, I would have set up an exit path for the users. Dornfest put together some export tools only after public outcry and 1 week into the original 2 week notice. That’s weak tea.

Step 2: I would have informed the users before the general public about the situation. I would have sent it down the actual paths of notification, rather than posting it on the company blog. It should be noted that only today, 3 days before the original shutdown date, has any notification been sent to the users. That’s worse than weak tea.

Step 3: I would have said that effective January 1st 2009 there would be no more free versions of I Want Sandy. New users would get a 30 day trial, all users would effectively be on a trial until Jan 1. After that point, the service would be subscription only. Let’s say $10/month, $100 if you prepay for a year. That could be more or less, but within that general range.

Step 4: For any paid up I Want Sandy users who have a Twitter account enabled, I would turn back on IM access and track for that Twitter account. Both I Want Sandy and Twitter were more valuable when those features were in Twitter, so if you are a paid up user then you get those features back. This gives both Sandy and Twitter a basic revenue model. It might not be huge, but for every 10,000 users of Sandy flipped to paid users that’s $1M/year. I don’t know the user base of Sandy but because of the nature of the service, I’d suspect a higher than usual percentage of users would flip to paid, maybe something on the order of 30-50%. If Sandy had 100K users, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see 50K pay up. Rael cites the cost of maintenance of Sandy as rationale for the shut down, even if they do no further development. If it had paid users, you could hire cheaper admins and let them baby sit the site.

At that point, the conjunction of Twitter and I Want Sandy would have value above what either has alone. That’s synergy, used appropriately for the actual Buckminster Fuller definition, not the business wonk BS version that has been watered down to mean “anything I like”. The ecosystem of the two services would provide things the components do not. It would be monetized at the point of value creation. It would make Twitter more valuable even when not using Sandy. It would have prevented the hordes of angry users such as myself. I’m ceasing to use Twitter as protest of this stupidity. Once they’ve proven that they don’t care about the users and stewarding their data, I cannot trust them as any part of my communications infrastructure.

As I said, I’m not a business guru but it seems like all of this provides more value to everyone, keeps a valuable service alive in the Web 2.0 ecosystem, increases user satisfaction, and avoids buying a company and keeping the people but disposing of all its value creating assets. Am I just too stupid to see why scrapping I Want Sandy was a better move?

Tor.Com On the Thermals

I’ve liked the Thermals for some time, ever since the first time some of their music came down the Sub Pop rss feed. I’ve played them on this podcast several times now, and I’m sure I’ll do it again. Much for the same reason as I like Camper Van Beethoven‘s “New Roman Times”, I really get into The Thermals’ “The Body, the Bthelood, the Machine” album. These tales of near future theocratic dystopias get me going, because I desperately want to believe this is fiction and that we are not sliding to this outcome day by day. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Now I noticed Joshua Starr at Tor.com has recognized this album as a narrative work, a concept album of science fiction. Very cool of them to point to this very good work, and very appropriate to members of our SF tribe. I left a comment up there pointing to my playing of the band on this podcast. I like The Thermals and I like Tor.com. It’s two great tastes that taste great together.

Lessons I Learned about Hyperlocal Coverage

My coverage of the Conway SC mayoral election continues. Yesterday I posted at Grand Strand Bloggers the video of the mayoral debate. Today I emailed every newspaper and TV station that covers this area to let them know about its existence, as well as all four candidates. I’m desperately trying to figure out what else I can do to get the word out to my fellow citizens of the city of Conway. Today I figured out how to burn a DVD and created a few of them and am trying to get them distributed so that people can watch it before election day.

The short window between the debate and the election put some extra pressure on me, and let to a few mistakes I could have mitigated. I should have worked with iMovie more, particularly in the audio handling so I wasn’t learning on the clock. Same thing for how blip.tv works. I made a really bad mistake with it that could possibly have been avoided if I had worked with it more. The general advice is when you are working on this kind of timetables, try to not be learning anything. Take some time beforehand to do all the work you are going to later. It really sucks to be googling to figure out where to click in an iMovie project, all the while watching the clock tick and you still don’t have the work done.

I got home Monday night, got the video from the camcorder onto my laptop and started working on it. The audio needed some help and it took me a really long time to figure out how to extract it from iMovie 08. I thought at one point I’d have to get the video into the old iMovie to work with the audio. Turns out the Quicktime export has the ability to export just the sound as a WAV file, which was perfect. I ran it through the Levelator to get all the candidates to the same audio level. That worked fine but it also left the ones who were adjusted upwards with audio full of really loud room noise. I ran that through Sound Soap which cleaned up most of that.

At this point, I was ready to put on some minimal credits and go forward. Things were not perfect but since a perfect video that takes until after the election to be ready is worthless, I opted for a “non-perfect but good enough” version that was done. At lunch on Tuesday I finished all that work and then set about exporting the final video. This was a many hours process. I took my laptop to work Tuesday afternoon and left it on my desk doing nothing but exporting the video to Quicktime. When it finished, I opted to upload it from work, where it happens about 60 times faster than from my home cable modem. I pushed it up to blip.tv and let it start its flash conversion. By the time I got home from dinner, it was done and ready to go, and I made my post with the embed tag. Late in the evening I realized that I had made one error, putting up the wrong name in the thanks at the end. It’s a livable error but one that really sucked. I made the correction in my iMovie project and mulled my options.

This morning I emailed all of the news outlets and went to the day job. Since I had the correction in the end credit card, I just exported again and once more let it run on my desk while I worked. It finished around lunchtime, so I uploaded it again. This is where I really screwed up. It turns out that when I did that, I wiped out my embed until the flash conversion was done all over again. That mean for about 75 minutes from 11:30 AM to 12:45 PM today, my embed wasn’t actually working. I was really sweating the downtime and hoping this was not the period that the reporters and news directors chose to look at the video.

At lunch today, I also created an iDVD project and set it up. This too I should have worked with before. I got the DVD mastered in about 20 minutes while sitting at a Dunkin Donuts. It wasn’t wildly intuitive and what I have is actually kind of screwed up. The DVD works and plays in a DVD player, and autostarts the debate video. However, I couldn’t figure out how to set up the menu, how to not have a menu or whatever. Now, at the end of my video it rolls into an empty DVD menu that you can never leave. You have to eject your DVD and reinsert it to make it work. Now, this might not be a huge issue. We have 6 more days of relevance for this DVD, but I really should have figured all this out at my leisure weeks ago, instead of learning it all in a panic.

So, none of these tips are rocket science. Learn your tools when the clock is not ticking, think ahead, plan ahead, gather emails and do all this stuff as far ahead as you can. I’m really enjoying doing the hyper-local coverage and think both the online debate video and the DVD turned out pretty well but I could have done much better if I had prepared more ahead of time. Live and learn. I’ll be doing this again, so I hope to do more in less time for the next election.

Hyperlocal Coverage is Hard

I went to the Conway SC mayoral debate earlier this evening. I videotaped the whole event with the plan to put it online as quickly as I could. The problem is that the sound is kind of janky, and unfortunately in a way that makes two candidates much quieter than the other two. That’s enough of a problem of fairness that I really want to extract the audio and run it through the Levelator or at the very least boost it where necessary. iMovie ’08 is just useless for that sort of stuff. I had to use it to get the video off my camera but now I’m trying to get everything into the old iMovie just so that I can do anything with it. I believe that I shall not be fooling around much more and will pay for Final Cut Express if I’m going to be doing this sort of thing with any frequency at all.

The big bummer is that the event is so timely I just don’t have much luxury of time here. The debate was a few hours ago, the election is in 8 days and I need to get this posted as soon as I can. I had hoped for tonight but that isn’t going to happen. With any luck I can get it for tomorrow night. I didn’t expect this would be easy but I hadn’t anticipated how much pressure I feel to turn this around. I want to do this service to the voters in my community, to get this online and then publicized as much as I can. I might be having my personal laptop next to me at the day job, doing renders tomorrow while I work. I don’t have the ability to try and fail very many things before the clock (really, the calendar) ticks off more time than I have.

This is fun, but I really want to get some results and quickly. It’s time to Bring the Democracy, boyeeeee!