A No Holds Barred Review of Noah : The Movie (2014)

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You thought my Noah blog was nice, well I’ve got some news. This version tackles everything I didn’t go near. Well done!

Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

All right.

Up until yesterday, I had heard a whole lot of hype about the Noah movie and honestly, couldn’t care less.  It’s a Hollywood production and, like The Passion of the Christ, I thought it would be an attempt by some biblically illiterate celebrities (for example) and a theologically lobotomized director/producer (for example) to atone for all the trash that they’ve unleashed upon the world at 24 frames per second (or now 48).  There’s a huge difference between films made by Christians and films made by “Hollywood Christians” (the difference being a biblical  worldview vs. an explicitly pagan worldview hiding behind re-defined biblical terminology), and I generally ignore all the “Christian/religious” media that emerges from Hollywood.  To use a biblical term, films made by “Hollywood Christians” are generally moronic.  (For the sake of clarity, I use the phrase “Hollywood Christians” as a…

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Time to upgrade the Mac Pro 4,1 2009 with a GTX 770 PC card

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Hi,
It’s been nearly a year since I wrote this article, and for a while now, I’ve been noticing this is one of my most popular blog entries. I’d love to hear how this has or hasn’t helped you. Happy Upgrading! 😀
-Steve

Update: 2015/09/24
I’ve been getting a lot of hits to this post. If it helps you, or you have questions, please write below. I’m sure everyone can benefit.

Original post date: 2014 March 27.

For a while now I’ve been investigating purchasing a new graphics card for a while for my ‘ageing’ 2009 Mac Pro 4,1. (Mac Pro Quad Core 2.66 (2009/Nehalem))  Now, when I say ageing, let’s be honest… They aren’t a bad machine at all – in fact they are very good, but they just are not the newest or the fastest around, but they still come close.

I’d already updated my RAM so I’m sitting on 20Gig, and since that time it’s been a bit of a dream run, with minimal slow-downs. I’ve tried to fill it up constantly with things from Adobe, and yes… I can use 20G with some video renders – it is possible. I have Mavericks running on an SSD, and it’s quick.

This is the graphics card I went for. The Asus branded GTX 770. You can read more here: http://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/GTX770DC2OC2GD5/

So, why update the GFX card? Well for a few reasons. I’ve basically got the computer to it’s limits in terms of upgrades – RAM and storage space are pretty much at capacity. I’m never going to upgrade the CPU, although I’ve heard of people doing it. You can update the 4,1 to the 5,1 just via firmware hack, but I don’t want to risk that though in case it goes bad.

My only choice is the graphics card, and I’m doing it the difficult way. I could get a custom mac only card with a flashed BIOS, but I’m tight and don’t want to shell out the extra dollars. I like to be a pioneer… kind of.

The card that came with my computer as a GT 120 Mac edition. Have a look at the comparison. http://gpuboss.com/gpus/GeForce-GTX-770-vs-GeForce-GT-120-Mac

I’ve done lots of research on this, and I think I’ve got the best bang for my buck.

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Noah the movie

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I’ve just come back from watching Russell Crowe’s latest movie called Noah.

What do I think in one word? I can’t.  There are many words that can be used to describe this film, and I’m going to give it a go.

If you want to see a more Biblical account, go and watch the Hanna Barbera version.

Have a watch of this modern day trailer first.

It’s being hailed as “Big, Bold and Beautiful as the Biblical story that inspired it” and I would have to disagree.

There are going to be spoilers in this review too.

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SOX MP3 support

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So, you may or may not use SOX, a powerful audio editor, manipulator and all round great command line tool, but I’ve recently been using it for some scripting and batch files.

If you use the program, you may find that when joining MP3 layer 3 files of a high quality, say 320kbps with SOX, that it always outputs the files as 64kbps mono? It took me a while to track a solution down for this, but I found it in the end after various documents and posts on the internet.

Well, it’s a problem no more, and you don’t have to compile a win32, x84 or x64 port LAME version in to it. It should work out of the box. (Not sure about Linux, or Mac OSX but it should be the same).

Just use the program this way, and problem solved!

sox 1stfilein.mp3 2ndfilein.mp3 -C 320.0 fileout.mp3

I don’t know if the LAME files needs to be in the same path (I did), but the above code worked for me. I hope this helps all you “scripters” out there.

http://sox.sourceforge.net/

OSX Mavericks Likes and Dislikes and Gotchas AND ERRORS AND BUG

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Well, as like many people who have updated to the latest version of the new Mac OS X – Mavericks, I too have joined the ranks; but, only on one computer, and on a separate new drive.

This is my rant. I do like it, but it has caused some grief and I will explain – in short sentences and with bad punctuation, spelling and just bad grammar.

It took me 3 installs before I was happy with the install, and even then it still didn’t do many things it should have done and stuff didn’t get merged over correctly.

I decided to by an SSD drive to get the full speed out of the new OS. So, I saved a copy of the install file and then proceeded to install the OS.
Fortunately I did it this way and didn’t do a direct install over the top of my old Snow Leopard system.

The first install I did was basically a test. I chose not to use the migrate tool, as it said I could do it later. I formatted my old SSD of 64G, and gave it a go. This worked, so I could have a quick look at the system.
The next day I thought I was going to need a bigger SSD to I can get all my programs on the new disk.
I now have a 240G drive. So far so good.

I formatted it with Journal and Case Sensitive. That was my first mistake.
I then tried to run my favourite Adobe products, or at least copy those from the old SL install to my new drive in the Applications Folder. They copied ok, but they wouldn’t run.
I discovered I needed to install a new version of Java. That was fine. I got that, but still had issues.
Ok, I thought. Let’s run the install disk. Error… Adobe CS5.5 won’t RUN the INSTALL program on a computer that has the Boot volume with a CASE SENSITIVE filesystem… W-T-Frig???

So…. I reinstalled the OS again. Thanks Adobe.

I reinstalled the Java update, and migrated the Applications from the older SL install – of which I can still boot in to. That bit I like. 🙂

I turned off nearly all the notifications in Mavericks. Why? I don’t like distractions.
A while ago I swapped my iPhone for an S4. I haven’t looked back, so in doing that I also turned off iMessage. So. No iMessages in Mavericks.
Game Centre – Who uses that anyway????
Facetime – Yeah, that’ll work on a MacPro. No camera…
Mail – All of except sounds.
Safari – Off
Share Button – Off
Calendar – Off
iTunes – Off

I made the Dock small – yes, I have lots of programs I use.

Where did the application box go in my Dock? Hmmm… It seems to have turned in to a Rocket. Well… my mouse didn’t work too well in the rocket space – so I dragged my Applications folder on to the dock. There. Much better. 🙂

Viber is now my messaging tool of choice. The Desktop version wouldn’t work on SL, but it did now. And, it works on Android and Apple, so I can do group messaging between multi-platform mobiles.

Speaking of other things.
Finder. Yikes. Where is my new SSD drive? I can see all the other HDDs connected to the computer. Never fear. Use COMMAND-UP when on the root path of a drive and it will take you to your computer root path. There you’ll find your System HDD. I added that to the side Favourites shortcut bar on the site.

I still haven’t found a need for tabs yet.

My CUDA drivers needed updating. That was seamless.

There are several things I am getting very frustrated with since using it.

Saving MP3 Files – Error.
So I saved a file with the wrong name. Oops. I renamed it in Finder – no problem. I go back to Audition and then try and save it with the original name of the newly renamed file. I get an error: The destination file “XXXXXX” is currently opened for editing and cannot be overwritten. Please choose a new file name.
Hang on a minute. No it’s not. It was RENAMED!

Copying MP3 files.
I need to copy MP3 Files to folders so that they stay in the location with the current project. I preview the songs in iTunes, and usually then find the location, and then copy the songs to the project folders. What does Mavericks do to me? ERRRRRR. Error. “the operation cannot be completed because the item is in use copy”

Using Adobe Audition – Keyboard Shortcuts.
CTRL – SHIFT – DOWN.
This was a shortcut in use since Audition version 3 for mixing down multitrack audio. As I like a consistent workflow, I create or expect the shorts to have been there and move on. As it turns out, Mavericks has decided to implement this shortcut for – “Application Windows” – whatever that is. Turned that shortcut off – under ‘Mission Control’.

Mouse scrolling the wrong way. Yep, I’m using a computer – not an ipad. I fixed that straight away. Imagine if all pilots had their joysticks swapped to the different direction. Seriously?? Apple…? What were you thinking?

I like the top right corner to show me all the windows available to me – everything that is open. I figured out that change – in the end.
I have the following ticked:
“Show Dashboard as a Space”
with the top RH corner having “Mission Control” active.

Oh, my little once favourite program that lets me see and edit the full path of the current Finder window no longer works. That was called FinderPath.

I can’t find where to turn on hidden files yet. This is frustrating – especially when I use .git and or web .htacess files that you can’t edit – BECAUSE YOU can’t see them!!!

Let’s just say that muCommander is once again my friend. 😀

Search still sucks in Finder by the way. I love some of the stuff Apple does, but Windows XP (Yes, I Said XP) kills Apple in the search facility. (Not search version 4.0 – that sucked)

These are things I’ve found in the last few days. I’m sure I’ll find more.

So the question remains. Has it been worth it?
Yes, and no.
I still have many applications that have lost their settings, because I haven’t been able to merge my user profile properly because of space, so that has been a bit of work.
My Email didn’t merge correctly because of the first reason. I was hoping I could just import an “Account”, and have all the previous settings and things included, but nope, it wanted to just import that emails. Bummer.
I tried using Entourage and also Thunderbird to import “Mail” accounts, but instead, they just want to import existing “Mail” Accounts – not a path where a previous “Mail” Account used to live. There must be an easier way, but I couldn’t find it.
My contact details all came over correctly though. That was a nice surpise.
My previous calendar didn’t import though. When I did get them to import, I put all the ics files in one path and did a Select All, and then I choose CTL-O. Well…. That was a mistake. Calendar wants you to choose which calendar this new item should import to. So I have about 500 little “Choose your calendar to import” dialogue boxes to click on. Yeah… good UX there. Ooops…

It gets confusing to find some files and settings too. Some programs store them in the /Users/%user%/Library/Application Support/%Program%/

Others store them in the /Users/%user%/.%Program%/

You’ll just have to keep looking

Anyway, that’s the end of my rant. It’s long. But…. I’ve got an OS that I like, but I just have been frustrated with it.

Cheers,
Steve

An Introduction to Flying Machines – Part 1

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My dad likes remote control cars. My brothers like remote control cars. I like them too. As a family, we grew up playing with train sets laid out on the family dinner table. As kids we also used to enjoy playing with a “Thunderloop Thriller AFX Slotcar Set” and making things out of Lego. The things that typical boys enjoyed playing with.

So where do I begin with this flying journey? How about this last Christmas. It was the year of… strangely enough remote control toys – yet again. Some years it’s been remote control 4WDs with over-sized tyres, other times, there have been noise making cars, or ones that only turn when you reverse them. Well, cheap infrared helicopters were in this Christmas. We flew them around, bounced them off walls, hit light fittings and dented couches until the batteries ran out, before we would charge them for 10 minutes, use the small charge stored in the capacitor and do it all again.

A few months ago I came across some quadcopters on the Internet. Mmmm… These looked like fun. I was so impressed that I looked on ebay and searched around and found a DJI Phantom Quadcopter for about $300 – well within budget. I thought, that looks like a good deal (because others of the same thing were over $600). As it turns out I got stitched up on eBay. But, PayPal came through for me in the end. (Thanks guys).

It’s a good thing it happened this way though. It started me on a journey to find out more about what these flying machines were really all about and the vast amount that are truly out there. I got my money back, and felt like I had received a bonus $300. Budget now doubled!

I write this not as someone who is an expert, but as someone who has gone from knowing nothing, to some who has watched videos, read up and who now knows a little more than the majority of my friends. Why is this so? Because none of my friends have a flying machine quite like I do.

It seemed to me there are several different types of flying machines around. To keep it simple, lets just use the word copter, as the generic term. There are several types of these copters around – all with a prefix to tell you how many propellers there are. I’m not going to be talking about planes, helicopters, wheeled devices or tanks as this hasn’t been the focus of my research.

So, the common ones are.

  • Tricopter – 3 blades
  • Quadracopter – 4 blades
  • Hexacopter – 6 Blades
  • Octocopter – 8 Blades

It took me a while to figure out, but the more blades you have – the greater lifting capacity you have – in a basic sense. I like photography and the odd hobby filming, so I thought a hexacopter would be a good start.

As I mentioned, there are many different types, and I’ll try and break it down a little. DIY open source kits which you put together yourself, or; closed source proprietary systems which are generally purchased in a ready to fly kit. 

When I say drones/copters I’m not talking about military drones that cost a million dollars to fly, nor am I talking about a Cinestar 8 HL (or an Aus version), or the one used in a recent Top Gear Nile Special. I’m talking about a simple pro-sumer version with a minimum few features – such as GPS and waypoint controls. The ones you can get at a local electronic shop are the toy ones – these are not the ones I’m interested in.

The DJI unit I originally looked at is a proprietary system, though many people have modded them and done add-ons and hacked the frames to accomodate more things, but overall I felt these didn’t have the greater flexibility that their open source brothers have.

The OpenSource model however is a rather different beast. I somehow discovered it and found that there are many people out there all doing really cool things and I wanted to be a part of it. Why? Firstly, the OpenSource model is great because it’s a community collaborative thing, and updates are often regular. Secondly, the amount of people and active members I found at DIYDrones.com was massive. Theres’s a great source of material, and regular content.

There was a problem though. The more I looked at the different options, the more I got confused.

Many years ago, I remember looking at getting a satellite decoder box, because my house had a satellite dish on it. Why wouldn’t you? Free TV channels right? If you start looking up that kind of content of what to buy, how to find the right satellite you discover quickly that it’s a completely different language full of acronyms and words that are only in use in that field. Needless to say, I gave up.

Looking in to the world of these copters has been like that for me. I still don’t have a clue what half of the acronyms are that are dropped, and at the moment – I don’t really care. But, what I have found out, I’ve decided to share so that others won’t be confused like I was.

So, you want a flying copter but don’t know where to start? That was my position and you are not alone.

If you go down the DIY option, this image (source) (and many others like it) is probably one of the most helpful things you can have to understand the basics of what you need to get one working – at least of the electronics.

Electronic Layout

Basically you need the following: (for a quadcopter)

  • 4 motors with blades
  • 4 Electronic speed controllers (ESC) for each of the motors
  • A battery
  • A radio receiver (and transmitter)
  • A “computer/brain” (I went with this leading model)
  • A frame and wires to hold it all together

Once I discovered this photo much of it made sense.

I looked at some of the stuff on HobbyKing (a website with many remote control items) and there were heaps of cheap options. I started looking at the frames. If I was going to have a copter, I wanted it to look good. The next problem was figuring out which models worked with what, how the ratings of motors worked, the size of the blades, the frame, the bla bla bla bla. I nearly gave up – again.

Instead, I started looking at kits that where ready to be built. This was more up my alley. The hard work was done, and I just had to put it together… As Jeremy Clarkson puts it “How hard could it be?” – yeah right…

I chose a Hexacopter from 3DRobotics with the full electronic kit. This saved me having to know what an ESC was, and what kind of rating a motor had. (I still don’t know what the specific motors are that they sent me. I just know they are blue and go really fast.)

The reason I chose to go with the OpenSource system, was community support There was software available, new firmware updates, it looked really good. I’d chosen the ArduPilot box and after searching on the DIYDrones website, I finally found what I was looking for. The final piece in the puzzle was all about batteries.

Do you remember when Linux first came out? I remember compiling kernels many years ago, and people saying, “Yeah, this is the future”. The future? Yeah…Whatever. Make it friendly and don’t make it crash on me. These days, it is much more stable and there are more than a few consumers using it.

This was where I found myself in the copter world; scratching my head and trying to figure out a bunch of information that everyone knew, or just assumed that was already known. This was probably one of the hardest things to understand. That and trolling through the massive amounts of forums posts. There was plenty of good help available however. My questions: Post 1. Post 2. Post 3

Now back to the batteries… If you are looking at buying a DIY drone, there are 2 things you aren’t told. Firstly, about a transmitter/receiver (and a charger) and secondly, what type of battery you will need.

The 3DR Hexacopter will easily handle/need a 3C 2200mAh 11.1V. What is all this? 3C means it has 3 cells. 3 parts of a battery that make up the 11.1 volts required. The 2200mAh value is how much power is in the battery for how long it will run. There is another value and that is how much punch it has, but a value of 30 will work fine. All up, a battery like this, you will get 7-8 minutes from it. (Yep, that’s all unfortunately). This is what they look like and the approximate price.

I’d like to say 2 things about when ordering parts from the Internet. My intention was to have a flying copter and be able to be proficient at flying so I can take aerial video. I made sure I ordered months in advance. The guys at 3DRobitics in the USA, I can not fault. I ordered on a Thursday/Friday night Australian time, and it arrived on the Tuesday. I also made an order from HobbyKing at the same time. I ordered batteries and a radio remote controller and receiver from them. I still haven’t received the package and it’s still sitting in Hong Kong (apparently) – and this was back in mid May, 2013. Now to be fair to them, it could be the mail service they use – SpeedPost.sg. Correct me if I’m wrong, and maybe my expectations are too high, but I would expect that when they say a package will be delivered within 3-6 days, that it will be.

You get what you pay for. If you want items, get them local or from trusted suppliers.

Needless to say, I discovered a nice little RC hobby shop up the road from me. They don’t specifically have much tri/quad/hex copter gear, however there is plenty of other equipment. They have batteries, chargers, transmitters and basically what I needed. I should have gone there in the first place. I’m a fan of supporting small businesses, especially specialty shops like this. Needless to say, the friendly staff are very helpful.
http://www.mildtowildrc.com.au/

On another note, I have found the story on 3DRobotics very interesting:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1E_CPxR3LA (watch the whole 5 videos)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwH7w1vOlIs (another one)

Part 2 of the building phase will come next.

Thanks! Let me know if this article has helped you in anyway.

Making a small quid at car parks

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I had a thought the other day, and technically you could make it work.

Legally it may or may not work, but if anything you’ll probably just upset the car park owner in doing this exercise.

I’ve never been very good at being an entrepreneur before – so here’s my hypothetical quirky idea.

So… here’s the thing… the car park you’ve been using for using forever to park your car in in the morning, and then catch the bus to where you work has just put tolls and ticket machines everywhere which say the “first 4 hours free” limit. That sucks right? You work 8 hours, and so you need at least 10 hours to have your car stored for free… So now, your commute to work is going to have to change.

What if though… (queue the imagination music)

So you meet up with someone who sits outside the car park all day and charges you $10 to manage your car. You give them $10 and they park the car in the free car park. You go to work, via the bus/train. Then after work, you come back to the car park. That someone then gets your car, and you go home – doing what you’d previously done.

So what happens with your car during the day? Well, every 3 hours, that person moves the car out of the car park and finds a new spot for it, all the time keeping well within the 4 hour time block listed on the ticket.

It’s a win win for everyone. He makes $10 from you and although it’s a small increase to you from before, it’s better than the $40 (or however much) for parking 8 hours in the car park or parking in the underground car park in the city at an even higher rate.

So here’s the thing. Say someone was to do this “car management”, you’d only need to have 10 cars to manage. You could make $100 a day and keep 10 people happy.