The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'howto'
A big list of useful shell commands for OSX. Some of these are generic UNIX shell tricks, but many are OSX-specific and quite useful; to wit, a few examples:
# Copy output of command to clipboard
grep 'search term' largeFile.txt | pbcopy
# display a Quick Look preview of a file; ctrl+C to kill
qlmanage -p photo.jpg
# converting an aiff file to 160kbps AAC:
afconvert track.aiff -o track.m4a -q 127 -b 160000 -f 'm4af' -d 'aac '
The Cartoon Cave is the blog of veteran cartoonist Pete Emslie, who also teaches a course in cartooning. It contains, among other things, cartooning tutorials (with a distinctly stylised 1950s/1960s feel), links to theoretical materials (such as the 4 Degrees of Anthropomorphism), and some pretty nifty-looking doodles.
Along similar lines: veteran cartoonist John Kricfalusi gives an insider's explanation of the decline of Hanna-Barbera's animation. What killed it was, unsurprisingly, directives from clueless management types. Some things, it seems, are constant across industries.
And now, a chap in an orange puffer jacket and plastic electro shades who goes by the name "Jetdaisuke" will demonstrate how to make a talkbox using only a Nintendo DS, a copy of Korg DS-10 and an ordinary drinking straw. It's in Japanese (with a few recognisable words like "sturo", "talkbox talking modulator" and "daftapunk"), but easy enough to follow from the video alone.
(via Boing Boing Gadgets)
Cory Doctorow, freelance writer and novelist, has written a short article on how to write productively in the age of ubiquitous distraction. The advice he gives is rather novel; he dismisses the usual advice about switching off one's internet connection, and is also scornful of the idea of ceremony, or of setting the right mood. (And understandably so; acknowledging the idea of there being a right mood or atmosphere for evoking one's inner muse could lead to finding excuses, consciously or subconsciously, for not actually doing anything.)
The single worst piece of writing advice I ever got was to stay away from the Internet because it would only waste my time and wouldn't help my writing. This advice was wrong creatively, professionally, artistically, and personally, but I know where the writer who doled it out was coming from. Every now and again, when I see a new website, game, or service, I sense the tug of an attention black hole: a time-sink that is just waiting to fill my every discretionary moment with distraction. As a co-parenting new father who writes at least a book per year, half-a-dozen columns a month, ten or more blog posts a day, plus assorted novellas and stories and speeches, I know just how short time can be and how dangerous distraction is.
Short, regular work schedule. When I'm working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal — usually a page or two — and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I'm working on it. It's not plausible or desirable to try to get the world to go away for hours at a time, but it's entirely possible to make it all shut up for 20 minutes. Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel per year — do the math — and there's always 20 minutes to be found in a day, no matter what else is going on. Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break (though this shouldn't become a habit). The secret is to do it every day, weekends included, to keep the momentum going, and to allow your thoughts to wander to your next day's page between sessions. Try to find one or two vivid sensory details to work into the next page, or a bon mot, so that you've already got some material when you sit down at the keyboard.
Leave yourself a rough edge. When you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you're in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you're in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down at the keyboard the next day, your first five or ten words are already ordained, so that you get a little push before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit of yarn sticking out of the day's knitting so they know where to pick up the next day — they call it the "hint." Potters leave a rough edge on the wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the night — it's hard to build on a smooth edge.
Realtime communications tools are deadly. The biggest impediment to concentration is your computer's ecosystem of interruption technologies: IM, email alerts, RSS alerts, Skype rings, etc. Anything that requires you to wait for a response, even subconsciously, occupies your attention. Anything that leaps up on your screen to announce something new, occupies your attention. The more you can train your friends and family to use email, message boards, and similar technologies that allow you to save up your conversation for planned sessions instead of demanding your attention right now helps you carve out your 20 minutes. By all means, schedule a chat — voice, text, or video — when it's needed, but leaving your IM running is like sitting down to work after hanging a giant "DISTRACT ME" sign over your desk, one that shines brightly enough to be seen by the entire world.
(via Where do you think?)
Wired has a guide on how to turn anything into a screenplay, which is to say, into a screenplay marketable to Hollywood:
- Create a protagonist
- Establish what the protagonist wants
- Be sure to have an antagonist.
- Decide what the antagonist wants
- You need a conflict to drive the plot
- Don't forget a beginning, a middle, and an end
How To Behave On An Internet Forum, presented in the form of a retrostyled pixel-art video:
(via Boing Boing)
This page has some interesting-looking tutorials on how to use Photoshop (or the GIMP, for the penguinheads) to transform your family and friends and/or random celebrities/supermodels into hideous, decaying ghouls.
(via Boing Boing)
The BBC News Magazine has posted a very informative article on ways of legitimately gaming Britain's byzantine train fare system to get the best fare. Most of these ways involve finding the right combinations of tickets covering various parts of the journey which, when put together, are cheaper than a complete ticket would be:
These are not "fiddles" but perfectly legitimate savings, because it is the customer's right to ask for any combination of tickets. However, it is also the clerk's duty not to advertise them, should he or she know they exist.
The only rule connected with the use of such a combination (other than the fact the tickets must be valid, of course) is that the train must stop at the place where the tickets join, although you do not have to alight.A few examples:
You have to leave London for Newcastle on the 0800 train and the open return costs £224. The train calls at Peterborough - and savers to the north from Peterborough are available any train, any day. So book an open return to Peterborough (£68) then a saver from Peterborough to Newcastle (£76.90) - that's £144.90, saving £79.10. Just make sure the train on which you return calls at Peterborough (most do).And another one, exploiting the fact that return tickets to London from Wales can be cheaper than single tickets from Chester (near the Welsh border) to London:
So buy a saver return FROM London TO Shotton and throw away the outward half. You are then "returning", resuming your return journey at Chester. That is all legal. The saver return is £59.70, £29.30 less than the full single.The reasons for this labyrinth of anomalies is a legacy of John Major's privatisation of British Rail, which left the pricing of different journeys along the network in the hands of different companies, thus ensuring that the exact start and endpoints of individual tickets have an arcane, almost alchemical significance.
I wonder how hard it would be to create a search engine for automatically finding optimal combinations of tickets.
Apparently it's possible to modify a digital camera to take infrared photographs, by removing the infrared filter and replacing it with one that blocks out everything but infrared (made from material obtainable from photographic retailers). It's not recommended that you do this to any camera you'd mind destroying if the procedure fails, but if you are successful, you get something that takes photos like these:
Following up from yesterday's post about the digital camera/Lomo hybrid, and its question about digitally simulating the look of Lomo photographs: Alec Muffett has pointed me to a Kottke blog piece on the subject, which also links to this Photoshop-specific tutorial. For the penguinheads in the audience, there is a Gimp Script-Fu script for applying the Lomo effect here. Now you too can make the output of your high-end digital camera look "authentically" lo-fi.
Freedom To Tinker has a tutorial on how to create "copy-protected" CDs, describing how the protection works:
Notice that the tracks are grouped into two sessions -- essentially two independent CDs burned onto the same disc. Unprotected CDs that combine audio and data files contain audio tracks in the first session and a single data track in the second. The only difference in the passive protected CD you just created is that the second session contains two tracks instead of one. ... This simple change makes the audio tracks invisible to most music player applications. It's not clear why this works, but the most likely explanation is that the behavior is a quirk in the way the Windows CD audio driver handles discs with multiple sessions.
For an added layer of protection, the extraneous track you added to the disc is only 31 frames long. (A frame is 1/75 of a second.) The CD standard requires that tracks be at least 150 frames long. This non-compliant track length will cause errors if you attempt to duplicate the disc with many CD drives and copying applications.It says that this only works on Windows. I wonder whether this is the same scheme as used by EMI Australia, circa 2004. Their scheme resulted in errors reading the table of contents under Linux, with tracks having anomalous lengths. Strangely enough, it only worked on some drives: a then-recent Pioneer DVD drive choked on it, but an old 24X CD-ROM (borrowed from a beige G3 Macintosh) had no problems.
Despite these limitations, who wouldn't enjoy finding a homemade copy-protected CD in their stocking? They're a great way to spread holiday cheer while preventing anyone else from spreading it further.
(via bOING bOING)
Blogging ambulanceman Tom Reynolds on how to tell if someone's faking unconsciousness:
The easiest, and quickest way to see if someone is faking unconsciousness is to lightly brush your finger against their eyelashes. If their eyes flicker, then they are almost certainly faking it. Also if they try to keep their eyes closed when you try to open them, they are definitely faking it. Another way of checking is to hold their hand over their face, and let it drop. People tend to be reluctant to let their hand hit them on the nose, and so the hand will instead magically drop to one side.
My favourite tale of how to uncover a pretender in a hospital setting was a doctor, who would loudly ask for the 'brain needle', to draw off some brain fluid from the unconscious patient via the ear. Of course, he would continue, the patient needed to be unconscious because otherwise they might flinch and the needle go into the brain itself. This was normally followed by the patient 'waking up' and asking, "Doctor, where am I?".
New Scientist has a survey of ways of optimising the functioning of one's brain, covering everything from the effects of diet, sleep and various kinds of mental and physical exercise to the possibilities of smart drugs and technological augmentations:
According to research published in 2003, kids breakfasting on fizzy drinks and sugary snacks performed at the level of an average 70-year-old in tests of memory and attention. Beans on toast is a far better combination, as Barbara Stewart from the University of Ulster, UK, discovered. Toast alone boosted children's scores on a variety of cognitive tests, but when the tests got tougher, the breakfast with the high-protein beans worked best.
Say you're trying to master a new video game. Instead of grinding away into the small hours, you would be better off playing for a couple of hours, then going to bed. While you are asleep your brain will reactivate the circuits it was using as you learned the game, rehearse them, and then shunt the new memories into long-term storage. When you wake up, hey presto! You will be a better player. The same applies to other skills such as playing the piano, driving a car and, some researchers claim, memorising facts and figures. Even taking a nap after training can help, says Carlyle Smith of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.
Neurofeedback grew out of biofeedback therapy, popular in the 1960s. It works by showing people a real-time measure of some seemingly uncontrollable aspect of their physiology - heart rate, say - and encouraging them to try and change it. Astonishingly, many patients found that they could, though only rarely could they describe how they did it.
A tutorial on how to make isometric pixel art, à la the pixelicious Eboy.com. It's pitched at beginners, though has some useful hints. From what I gathered, Eboy's system is somewhat more sophisticated, with modular libraries of elements (buildings, street scenes and so on) that they can plug together, and possibly some sort of Common Lisp-based compositing engine, but this should work.
(I was thinking that someone should do an Eboy-style streetscape of Brunswick Street. Perhaps, once I figure out the forking-into-infinite-numbers-of-parallel-universes trick, I'll do it.)
Interesting technical factoid of the day, from this page: (via /.)
Did you know your 10D and 300D run DOS? That's right. Embedded in the camera is DataLight's ROM-DOS. In fact, if you use the right tool such as s10sh you can see that inside the camera is an A: and B: drive. On the A: drive reside command.com and autoexec.bat, and most interestingly, camera.exe.And this page has a tool for getting a shell on your camera, and gives a list of Canon camera models known to work with it. Unfortunately, I left the USB cable for my PowerShot G2 in Australia, so I can't try it out.
A list of secrets of various occupations; small, inconsequential-seeming things which make a difference in the perceived competence of the practitioner: (via FmH)
Every actor eventually is called upon to act drunk. Most do this by slurring their speech, stumbling around, and perhaps drooling a bit. This is what a freshman drama teacher calls "indicating." A better way to appear drunk is to act very, very sober. Walk very carefully, and try not to let anyone see that you're inebriated. This is much more subtle and will register on a level the audience won't immediately recognize.
Always put copper grease on the battery terminals after servicing a car. The performance benefit is negligible, but when customers look under the hood they will immediately see that something's changed and thus feel happy to pay you.
In Australia, the butchers have a secret language called "rechtub klat" that they use to gossip about customers without getting caught. The code is formed by speaking words backward. Old-timers could have entire conversations in the language, but these days a core vocabulary of about 20 to 30 essential words are used...
If you can't think of a headline for a story, use one of these three magic verbs: "weighs," "mulls," or "considers."...
Instructions on turning an iPod and a radio transmitter into a pirate radio station. Not quite a latter-day Radio Caroline, but enough to pull various pranks, such as jamming obnoxious motorists' boom cars (hang on, don't most of those bring their own music; after all, if it's about showing what a mackdaddy you are, you want the beats you blast from your ride to be the absolute illest, and not necessarily what FOX-FM is currently playing) and transmitting bogus news reports over CNN at your local gym. It doesn't mention that, in this climate, doing any of those things could probably get you charged with terrorism, or at least ten kinds of crap pounded out of you by the gorilla whose boom box has suddenly started playing birdsong or Icelandic glitch-pop or the Village People or whatever. Not to mention that, in some jurisdictions (such as the UK, where an undeclared war between spectrum cops and yardie garage radio stations has been raging for years), unlicensed FM transmitters are actually illegal to obtain, regardless of their power. (via bOING bOING)
An article on how to reprogram your body clock, changing from being a night- to a morning-person or vice versa, for career purposes, romantic compatibility, or just to join a different time-zone tribe:
The body tells time with a master clock in the brain, a pinhead-sized cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus that takes cues from optic nerves that signal sunlight. By sticking people in isolation chambers, scientists discovered that most people's internal clocks run a bit longer about a half-hour on average than the sun's 24-hour cycle. That's why, for most people, it's easier to stay up later and compensate by sleeping in than to force yourself to sleep early and wake early, explains Dr. Eliza Sutton, an acting assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington. Morning larks are those rarer birds whose body clock is shorter than 24 hours, so they wake up raring to go.
If you're a night owl with sunrise envy, sleep doctors say you can reset your body clock by following these steps:
- Find out how much sleep you really need
- As soon as you wake up, get sunlight exposure for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
- Go to bed earlier (or later) each night
- Stick to your schedule
Local home-keyboard cabaret artist CasioNova on How to Make Music. Mostly ignores the use of computers and software in favour of budget hardware (such as Casiotone keyboards, asuming that their prices haven't yet been bid up to TB-303-like levels by a new wave of post-Ninetynine bands with major-label advances, that is). (via Rocknerd)
Introduction to Reverse Engineering Software; a big book on how to pick apart compiled programs (Intel-centric; mostly Linux-specific, though with some Windows info as well). For lawful uses only, of course.
Stencil Revolution has a lot of resources on stencil graffiti/art, incuding tutorials and EPS files of artwork.
Tips for recording live music gigs with the Archos Jukebox Recorder:
- Don't bother with the internal microphone, unless you like having the sound of hard-disk noise over the top of the recording every few minutes (perhaps if you're doing lo-fi glitch electronica or some form of sound-art it could add to the overall ambience). Yes, it's convenient, but it's also useless for anything other than voice notes and the like.
- As the Archos doesn't have a pre-amped microphone socket, you'll need an external preamp. The only pocket-sized battery-operated one I've seen that doesn't cost an arm and a leg comes with the Archos stereo microphone, so get that.
- Once you've got the Archos stereo microphone, throw out the cheap dynamic microphone that comes with it and, in its stead, plug a decent-quality condenser microphone into the preamp. Otherwise, no matter how you adjust the gain, anything recorded in a band venue will be distorted horribly.
I recently got the Archos microphone/preamp combo in the mail, and decided to test it this weekend. I tried recording last night's Ninetynine gig with the dynamic tie-clip microphone that came with the preamp, and ended up with a horribly distorted, and ultimately unlistenable, 60Mb MP3 file. This evening, I went to the Bidston Moss gig with the Sony stereo microphone I bought some years ago for my old MiniDisc and the recording came out sounding surprisingly good.
Charlie Stross has posted an interesting essay about the process of writing novels:
Don't get silly and try to write a multi-threaded novel straight off, you'll tie your own shoelaces together and trip over them. If you must do multithreaded, a better way to do it is to write a novella -- say, 30,000 words long -- and then write a second novella of the same length showing the same story from a different angle. Then intercut them chapter by chapter, like chunks of salami. The trick here is to find a story that has enough different angles to be worth looking at repeatedly.
One of the easiest and commonest character development McGuffins is the romantic engagement or "boy meets girl" plot. The conventional rendering is "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl". With or without variations -- in the case of my most recent novel, "boy meets six-armed alien penguin, boy and six-armed alien penguin have great sex, boy turns into girl, girl loses six-armed alien penguin ..." -- it's a handy tool because it gives your protagonist a goal to aim for and a yardstick for character development. By the way, people have been running riffs on this since the 16th century (and earlier); Shakespeare's comedies are a good source of ideas, notably "As You Like It", "All's Well that Ends Well", "Much Ado About Nothing", and so on. As somebody or other said, "if you're going to steal, steal from the best" -- there's a full run of synopses at http://www.bardweb.net/plays/ that provide a suite of off-the-shelf romantic subplots if you're not imaginative enough to work out the details of six-armed alien penguin sex with hermaphrodites.
And more along those lines. One day, I might give something like that a try (writing a novel, I mean, not hermaphroditic alien penguin sex). I keep coming up with ideas, timelines and scenarios, though not quite enough for a novel.
A tutorial on doing realistic blood-splatter effects in Photoshop, a skill no-one should be without. (via MeFi)
Null Device handy home hints: Do you have a bunch of old IDE hard disks sitting around gathering dust and waiting to take their place in the landfill because they're too small to waste case real estate on? Well, here's how you can use them as removable storage, backup media, &c.
For this exercise, you'll need:
- An external 5.25" USB/FireWire Mass Storage case:
Note that it must be one of the 5.25" ones (i.e., wide enough to fit a CD-ROM or similar), not one of the smaller ones.
- One or more mobile IDE hard disk racks.
- Some old hard disks, as mentioned above.
Open the USB mass storage case and mount the outer tray of the rack where the CD-ROM unit would go, connecting all the necessary cables.
Then mount a hard disk in the inner tray.
Repeat for other hard disks and racks.
Voilà! Now you can access your old hard disks as USB Mass Storage devices, and swap between them. (Note that you should switch off the case before removing disks, otherwise your machine will have a fit. And if it doesn't work properly, make sure the hard disk is slotted in firmly before switching it on.)
If you have spare IDE device space, you can of course forgo the external USB case.
Top Ten Digital Photography Tips; something to keep in mind for when I get my camera back from the repair place. (via Reenhead)
The Great Electroclash Swindle, or how to be electroclash in a few easy steps. (via Graham)
How to make dub. Righteous! Mind you, some of the sound ideas apply equally well to other sorts of studio-based experimentation and What Is Music-esque weirdness.
Open a digital watch and take out the watch module including battery and display. Connect a two phase cable to the microphone connector of a tape deck. Then pierce a needle through each phase of the cable at its other end. Press the Record button on the tape recorder and set the counter to zero. Now you can start touching signal lines on the watch module with your two needles. You should be able to hear some pretty interesting oscillations. Write down the counter value when you hear something interresting and sample it afterwards (I tried this as a twelve year old with my first digital watch after the display broke. I was very amazed by the sounds I heard - But unfortunately forgot to record..)
(via The Fix)
Extreme Thrift: A big compedium of tips for saving money. Some of these are sound ecological ideas (such as running "grey water" from showers to the toilet, or composting toilet paper tubes), and others are a bit more out-there (such as going to strangers' funerals for the free food, or serving weak coffee in a dark cup to make it seem stronger). (via Plastic)
Some technical details about how DVD-ROMs are made, from the authors of a free Linux-based DVD authoring tool. (via Slashdot)