Another home video edited with Blender

The other night I put together another video using a bunch of Flip videos I took of my daughter skiing. I’m getting more familiar with Blender now and it took me only about an hour to slice and dice together 9 clips, add start and end titles and some music (The concept of fair use is not dead in my mind if you care to ask). I think Blender has definitely turned into my video editor of choice. Expect more screencasts on this topic.


Skiing At Hockley Feb 01-09 from Richard Querin on Vimeo.

Ole’ Faithful – The Pentel P205

p205While almost all of what I post about here involves techy matters like Linux or more creative subjects like graphics and photography, I am by profession a structural engineer. And like many engineers (structural and otherwise) I value my mechanical pencils.

I’ve tried all kinds both expensive and cheap, but I always keep coming back to Ole Faithful: The Pentel P205. Today I picked up a two pack after muddling along with a three pack of very similar looking (but very different acting) Staple’s house brand Metrix pencils. They looked very much the same as the Pentels but broke off leads with alarming frequency.

It turns out that the P205′s have quite a good reputation. Doing a quick search, I found a very interesting site for fellow mechanical pencil afficionados aptly titled: Dave’s Mechanical Pencils.

The niche-ness of the internet never fails to amaze me.

Increasing my productivity in 4 clicks

Little did I know I was only 3 or 4 clicks away from a big increase in my productivity…

1. Open Google Reader.
2. Select “Digg” from my list of subscribed feeds on the left.
3. Click Feed Settings at the top.
4. Click “Unsubscribe”.

It’s surprising how much time I have gained for other things by doing that. Don’t cherish your big RSS subscriptions. They ain’t going anywhere. Turn one off and see if you miss it.

Facing down a perfectly blank Moleskine alternative

We spent a few days down near Buffalo (Cheektowaga to be exact) just prior to the new year to do a little swimming, resting and shopping. Now when I say shopping, that means my wife and her mother hunt down various bargoons (at least 80% off or fuhgeddaboutit) for several hours at a time. For me (and my daughter) it just means a quick trip to Borders and maybe Barnes & Nobles to have a look around. It all amounts to about 15-20 minutes of shopping time for me. Which is plenty. I grabbed a copy of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a copy of Car magazine (what the hell did everybody do with the latest version of TopGear anyway??!!), a word search book for Emily and on the way out I spotted some Picadilly notebooks at Borders. Hmm.. looks like a Moleskine, but costs significantly less. I picked up a plain medium notebook (5″x8.25″) for a little over 7 bucks I think.

Now I know nothing about Moleskine notebooks, never owned or used one. But when I have seen them, they always seemed a little too overpriced to me. At least these Picadilly things are a little more reasonable. And they seem to be perfectly capable competitors, at least thats what these guys think. And they seem to know a lot more about notebooks than I do.

Anyway, I’m now sitting with a nice pretty notebook with absolutely nothing in it. I’m almost afraid to sully it. Maybe I should have bought a ruled version instead so I could at least jot some semi-important notes. Ahh.. but I guess I bought this thing for doodling (y’know, logos, graphics and the like). We’ll see if it fills up with anything substantive in the coming weeks. I hope so.

Time is ticking…

Sad to say, but there are officially now exactly 3 more Christmas lights on this blog than there are on my house thus far this season. Let’s hope my daughter and I can find some sliver of spare time this next weekend to change all that. :)

Astronomy trumps Sharks and Dinosaurs

This one’s just for posterity. A week or so ago, my 6 year old daughter completed her first ever school project. Her subject of choice was the origin of the universe. Needless to say there was not one right answer, but she’s darn interested in explaining to me (and anyone within earshot) that our sun is one of billions of other stars, and that we live in the Milky Way galaxy. Sadly, that was news to my Mom. ;)

Personally I spent my elementary years doing projects on basically two things: sharks and dinosaurs. But hey, astronomy is a-ok with me too. :)

I Might Even Be A Rockstar

Someone decided on Sharpay / Hannah Montana for this past Halloween. I thought I’d spruce up the original pic using.. you guessed it.. Inkscape. :)

I dare not show her the final product or she’ll be wanting to dress like that every day! :P

Here’s what I started with:

For the Love of It

Episode 266 of The Linux Link Tech Show promised to be a very interesting show, and it didn’t disappoint. Why was it interesting? Because Bryan Lunduke of the Linux Action Show came on to discuss his plans to introduce a couple of closed-source commercial applications on Linux. Talk about lots of fodder for discussion! Here are some of my initial thoughts, for what it’s worth.

First a caveat or two. I’m not a huge fan of the Linux Action Show. It’s always been a little too bombastic for me. Maybe I’m just too old, or too mellow. I listen to it every once in a while, but not on anything resembling a regular basis. But you know, I found Bryan to be an excellent listen on TLLTS. He had a lot of interesting things to say and some interesting viewpoints on things. I didn’t agree with everything he had to say, but that also made it very enjoyable. I highly suggest listening to the episode.

Before I completely step in it, let me give you my personal viewpoint on several key things, just so you know going in. I’m not a programmer (although I’ve done some programming). I’m a fan of the concepts of Free Software and Open Source Software, I run Linux at home and XP at work. I run a lot of commercial software for my job – structural engineering – on my work computer. I run very few if any, commercial desktop software applications on my home computer. I love Linux, GNU+Linux, or whatever you want to call it. And I think we all owe Richard Stallman a huge debt of gratitude, but I don’t share his views on a lot of things.

There were a lot of issues discussed during the 2 hour long show, but for the sake of brevity, I’d like to zero in on a specific issue that I feel is at the heart of a lot of commercial vs. free software discussions: whether or not free software developers should expect to make money at it. I honestly don’t think they should – expect it that is. If you’re approaching software development as a way to directly earn money, then free and open-source development is likely an avenue you should steer clear of – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I think the FSF’s four freedoms are fundamental to the success of the whole free software community. However, the four freedoms and the GPL itself don’t deny the right of free software creators to earn money selling the software. But clearly, selling free software isn’t practical when anyone can get the source code and build the software himself. So in today’s world we are left with a lot of Linux developers who earn money in their jobs developing in-house software for companies and/or commercial software. A lot of these same people work on free software projects in their free time for little or no monetary gain. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so.

There is something to be said for the word “amateur”. Looking at the French root of this word, it also symbolizes someone who does something for the love of it – not necessarily someone who’s skills were substandard. I think in many cases, the ‘for the love of it’ definition still fits. You have people who do things just for the love of it, and others who do things just for the money (and a whole hell of a lot of people in between). But I think getting a group of people together who are doing something primarily for the love of it (the money, as we’ve already discussed is not an option here) is a pretty compelling thing.

Maybe looking for the ‘commercially viable model’ for open source software that Bryan has yet to find is a pipe dream. Maybe end user software development is NEVER going to be a huge moneymaker if free software continues to expand and be successful. Maybe it’s something that Adobe or Microsoft can’t change even if they entered the Linux software market tomorrow.

Look at something like the GIMP image manipulation program. It’s about 12 years old (Photoshop is essentially 18 years old, by the way). And while you could say that the GIMP lacks some of the features of Photoshop, I would challenge anyone to say it doesn’t do far more than what 95% of users need. Remember, we’re talking about building perfectly viable tools that cost the user NOTHING. Lots of them. Don’t you think that at some point, at least some of these tools will equal or surpass their commercial counterparts? Don’t you think at some point people will realize that they can do every conceivable thing they need to do without spending that money? It’s happening now. Not on all fronts. Not all at once, but I have no doubt that it’s happening. And while this is great for the users, it just has to be all doom and gloom for those hoping to make a living creating end user software for money.

So what would we be left with? Maybe Eben Moglen is right. Maybe forty years from now, most software development will be done by young people in developing nations anyway, since the tools are becoming so cheap, easy and ubiquitous. Maybe we have to progress. Move on to other, bigger and better things. Maybe we make a business out of coming up with concepts and ideas while other developing nations do the grunt work. Problem is, we love some of the grunt work, and we don’t want to lose it. Maybe the only people left here doing development work are the ones who are doing it just for the love of it. Hmmm.

So you might ask, what the hell has this guy got against software developers? Nothing. I love free software and appreciate all the people who develop it. In fact I have tons of respect for commercial developers too. I can’t program (at least not in a way that wouldn’t be embarrassing), but I love to share knowledge and teach, so I do screencasts on Inkscape. I also contribute graphics to community projects whenever the opportunity arises. I do what I can. Am I making a living from it? No. Do I really expect to? No. Would it be nice to? Of course.

But we have to be realistic. It just may be that developing free software for the end user is not a money-maker. But that hasn’t stopped anyone so far.

Friday Afternoon Accident

Myself and a couple of other guys were getting ready to leave work yesterday at about 5:20pm. I had heard some passing firetruck sirens, but like just about everyone else, you just ignore them. But when I went out to my car, I saw the air ambulance circling overhead. It turns out a Ford Escort met up with a Volvo transport truck in the intersection right next to our office. Not a good situation.

Anyway, the air ambulance had to land on the street beside our office – something that doesn’t happen every day. So I decided to take a few phone pics. (My DSLR was in the car, but I was just too lazy to get it. Sorry for the crappy pic quality).  Click on the photos to see the larger versions.

The Accident As I Was Leaving

The Air Ambulance Just After Landing

Someone’s getting their crap together…

Ever since this post on September 1st, it seems Merlin Mann and his 43Folders have really decided to get their shit together. It’s pretty inspiring stuff which is distinctly different than something like Lifehacker which, to my mind, seems to be heavily diluted lately in the interest of growth and at the expense of value.

Anyway, I’ve got nothing nearly as inspiring as what Merlin is posting lately, but I wanted to point you there for a great read, some inspiration and motivation to create something meaningful if nothing else. Think of it as a no-nonsense meal: extremely few frilly bits but extremely filling.

Thanks Merlin.