April 2002 Archives

I am proud to present two videos from my ancient archives, these videos represent the rise of the Macintosh Computer, and Apple's downfall in the office market. When these videos were released, they were the latest marketing materials I used daily in my job at the largest Mac dealership in the US, but I suspect these videos have not been seen in public for nearly 15 years. I am presenting these two short videos in their entirety, I am claiming Fair Use since these materials are of no current commercial value to me or Apple, I present them for historical interest and to stimulate scholarly analysis of the current state of the computer market. Those who do not learn from History are bound to repeat it.
I expect this presentation to incur the wrath of Apple Legal, and I beg them to be nice. I am streaming these videos so that they can be viewed but not be copied or redistributed, in order to preserve Apple's copyrights along with preserving my Fair Use rights.
Tech Notes: QuickTime required. If you have trouble seeing the streaming video, read this document. This server has only limited bandwidth and only a few available streams. If this clip is popular (as I expect) there will surely be times when the server is overloaded, so please try again. Please be kind to my tiny little server, don't slashdot me or I'll have to shut down temporarily. We Apologize For The Inconvenience.

Apple's Golden Age: The Birth of Desktop Publishing
Apple first attempted to explain Desktop Publishing and the Laserwriter with this video released in 1985. This crude video is a low budget production, but the excitement of the product shows clearly through the testimonials of designers. We are treated to a vintage computing demonstration of Pagemaker 1.0 on an original Macintosh 128 with 2 floppy disk drives. Aldus (the producer of Pagemaker) provided demo disks to dealers so we could perform these exact same demonstrations to customers. The effect on customers was astonishing. Nobody had seen anything like it, it was the killer app. Macintosh sales exploded.

Apple truly had a revolutionary product with the Laserwriter and early Postscript-based programs like Aldus Pagemaker. We take DTP for granted now, it is quite a shock seeing its early state and remembering that this used to be impossible. One of the reasons this marketing campaign was so successful was its tight focus on a specialized, expensive, labor-intensive market. Designers responded to this video due to the intimate presentation of the voices of individual users, and their knowledge of how to directly apply the Mac to their work. This was much in keeping with Apple's new Macintosh GUI philosophy, of focusing on users' interaction with their work rather than focusing on interaction with the computer. DTP programs used real-world metaphors familiar to designers, they could work like they always had, but quicker and more simply.
But Apple had a problem with the roll-out. Apple would only sell Laserwriters through advanced dealerships, which meant you had to sell and support the Lisa in order to get the Laserwriter. I spent months arguing with management at my dealership to convince them to make this investment. Finally we bought a Lisa, shoved it in the corner, and put the Laserwriter in the central position in our store. They flew off the shelves, we couldn't keep them in stock. The Laserwriter didn't really take off nationwide until more dealers got access to the product, when dealership restrictions were relaxed.
Eventually the Laserwriter got up to speed in the market and became one of Apple's most profitable products. Since the Laserwriter was such an expensive item, it tended to be shared in workgroups with Appletalk networking. Many offices reorganized their networks and work processes around Mac DTP systems, it was Apple's entryway into corporate offices nationwide. It truly was Apple's Golden Age.

Apple Loses Its Focus: The "HeloCar" Desktop Media Campaign
Apple and their dealerships had grown fat with profits over the few years that have passed since our first video. It is now 1988 and the Mac II is the top-end product. Apple wants to move into new corporate and creative markets with innovative products like Hypercard, Illustrator 88, scanners, and new color displays. The 1988 video is very polished and professional, it was obviously produced by Apple's advertising agency, it was released in coordination with a massive national TV ad campaign. It looks beautiful, but became notorious as one of Apple's worst marketing blunders.
The video ran into problems immediately. The support materials for this campaign were excellent, but when we showed it to customers, nobody could figure out what the campaign was actually selling. Some people who saw the ad on TV actually thought the HeloCar was for sale. But this confusion was only natural, there was no core product, even Apple didn't know what they were trying to sell. Apple seemed to be on the right track by focusing on how a product could be presented in different media; print, color slides, Hypercard animations, etc. but nobody understood it.

The video does have a few good points. It begins with a demonstration of animated Hypercard storyboards for TV commercials. Everyone could easily comprehend that these simple animated black-and-white images became the TV commercial with Wilford Brimley. Advertising agency workers who saw the video in my shop asked to buy the storyboard software. We had a difficult time explaining, no, this really wasn't a product, it's Hypercard and you make your own storyboard software, it's easy. But Hypercard was too nebulous a product to push in this manner.
The video continues with a corporate executive from Arco explaining the cost savings using the Mac for producing complex corporate documents. The cost savings statistics are riveting, and customers responded positively. But they go off on a tangent about how they have produced thousands of customized maps to show their truck drivers precisely how to drive through each unloading zone. I suspect that these maps were completely ignored by the drivers and regarded as unnecessary managerial interference. There are demonstrations of Hypercard presentations using an overhead projector and LCD panel, this was the only product available for doing serious presentations. Even the LCD projection system was a novelty and very costly at this time. However, I also see an early sign of where this product was headed, when a manager goes to his secretary and says "Make sure each department has a different effect, like a barn door or a wipe." Style is beginning to triumph over substance. The entire concept of DTP is beginning to lose its focus, under the direction of corporate drones that want glitzy presentations to dress up the same old boring useless information. Welcome to the Dilbert Zone.
But most baffling of all was the interactive training demonstration. Now this was an area I knew well, I'd worked developing computer instructional software since 1975, and Apple's product was perfect for this application. Apple wanted to push into corporate training markets and I knew that if anyone could market this, I could. But the demonstration was completely incomprehensible to my customers. A trainer from GTE explains how he uses Hypercard to train engineers to analyze air pressurized underground cable conduits. This example application was beyond comprehension, nobody could wrap their minds around it and see how this applied to their own corporate training needs. It was a complete flop in the market. Yet at the same time, Apple's own training materials were top rate. We usually showed Apple's own training materials as an example, and customers were even more afraid of it, they feared they could never come up to the level of Apple's documents.
The video ends with a charming little segment about a woman living on a remote island, she publishes a small newspaper for the few dozen island residents. Perhaps more clearly than the other segments, it presents the essence of what a Mac does for a single computer user. And perhaps this is not surprising since it most clearly represents what was so great about the original 1985 Mac DTP video. But perhaps Apple inadvertently marginalized themselves with the image of the lone old woman on an island publishing a newspaper read by nobody.
I may seem overly critical of this second video and Apple in general, but I am only reporting how it was received in the marketplace by my customers. My store was the largest Apple dealership in the US and the flagship of a large chain, we tested and rolled out many marketing campaigns and it was considered crucial to a campaign's success that it first succeed at our group of stores. It seems like this second video should have been a smash success, it had all the advantages the first one did not. It was prepared by professionals, it was tested by focus groups so it would appeal to new corporate markets, and backed by the best high-powered ad agency analysts that money could buy. And it was a huge flop. Especially compared to the first video, which is just some people sitting down in front of a camera and saying "hey check out what I can do with Pagemaker."
In retrospect, I can see that Apple was beginning to lose its focus under an expanding professional management system. I recall hearing a lecture in about 1988 from an Apple VP, he spoke about "predictive reaction." He asserted that with new complex machines like the Mac II, it was taking up to 3 years to get a new machine to market, so machines needed to be designed to compete with the other machines that other vendors could ship in 3 years. Apple was truly chasing ghosts.
What Apple really needed was to try to understand its own strengths and run with them, instead of presenting itself as an unfocused jack-of-all-trades. Apple actually ran a competition called "The Apple Advantage" to see if successful dealers could create presentations that showed what made the Mac so insanely great. I used this as an opportunity to teach Apple what they had been missing in the design market. I showed what my media-industry customers cared about most: presenting a visually consistent image in every media they produced. Companies like CocaCola and McDonalds spend billions annually to assure their logos on their products connect visually with their advertising media with a consistent appearance. Now this power was available to everyone, and every document a company produced could be a high-impact point of visual contact with the customer. Apple loved the presentation so much they adopted most of it for their next DTP campaign (but that is another long story). But by then, it was too late. Apple's short-term loss of focus allowed other aggressive competitors to consolidate the office market. It would be a long, dark time before Apple found its true way again.

Special thanks to Nate for help compressing these videos on his nice new Quicksilver Mac. And Steve, I know you'll read this (and if you don't, your people aren't doing their job). Mail me, we should chat. You could use a guy like me.

Who Ate Apple's Lunch?


Apple has a serious problem, someone is taking food right out of their mouth. In a slow economy, CPU sales are slow even though users want to upgrade to new powerful machines. What is the problem? The lack of MacOS X drivers for legacy peripherals is strangling CPU sales. Mac owners are forced to replace perfectly good peripherals because there are no MacOS X drivers. Limited hardware budgets are being consumed by replacement peripherals, when people would much rather spend their money on a new PowerBook or a dual-1Ghz desktop machine.
My own situation is perhaps typical. I have an original B&W G3/400U2W, it has excellent SCSI disk performance that rivals even modern machines so I've kept competitive even though my CPU is a bit slow. I also have a SCSI Mitsubishi 4x CDR, a 9" serial Wacom tablet, an Epson 636 SCSI scanner, and an Epson 1520 wide format inkjet printer. None of these peripherals were initially supported in MacOS X. Official SCSI CDR support only arrived with version 10.1.3. My SCSI scanner worked with Vuescan, but the software is very poorly written and definitely not suitable for professional work. My Epson 1520 printer has no drivers. My serial Wacom tablet must be almost 15 years old, but it works fine (except in MacOS X).
Apple knows their partners need to make money too, and Apple has allowed their partners (like Epson, Hewlett-Packard, Canon, etc.) to make a few bucks at their expense by allowing them to grab these lucrative replacement peripheral sales. But now these partners are exploiting Apple by stalling on legacy driver releases. Apple needs to put more pressure on these peripheral vendors to support a wider variety of legacy peripherals. If the vendors will not support Apple, Apple will have to stop these vendors from eating their lunch.
Vendors like LaserSoft are vital to fixing this situation. LaserSoft quietly released their SilverFast drivers for SCSI scanners from Epson, Microtek, Polaroid, etc. I called Lasersoft a few months ago, their rep said that after Photoshop 7 shipped, they'd release new OS X plugins almost immediately, and they sure did, right on schedule, with new scanner support being added almost daily. Silverfast is a graphic artist's dream, it would be almost impossible to improve upon it. It comes in a simple $50 version and an advanced version that can be used with an ICC sample target to generate incredibly accurate color profiles. You can even download a demo and see if it works with your scanner before buying online. I would much rather use this advanced software on my old scanner than purchase another new scanner from a company like Epson that has already shown its unwillingness to support me. But LaserSoft has shown that they intend to support advanced MacOS X features, so I will support them.
And this is how Apple can apply the pressure. When 3rd party developers fill in the gap, these "forced" sales of new peripherals are slowed down. Apple should take this money away from their greedy "partners" and support the 3rd party software developers that will help them. Every $200 printer and $300 scanner that can be salvaged by a $50 driver is a big chunk of money returned to the CPU fund. Perhaps Apple recognizes this. I read a recent report that Apple had licensed the open source Common Unix Printing Environment (CUPS) for use with a future MacOS X update. I hope that it comes soon. CUPS is a universal printer driver environment that comes from the BSD/Linux world. Just about every inkjet and dot-matrix printer I ever heard of is supported. I tried compiling and running CUPS to run my Epson 1520 over a serial port, I was able to get the printer to print random characters, spitting ink off the edges of the paper. After about an hour cleaning ink off my printer platen with a Q-Tip, I decided I could wait until Apple debugged and released CUPS.
So now I only need Wacom tablet drivers. Wacom recently announced that they would not release serial tablet drivers for MacOS X, but offered an upgrade instead. You can send in your serial tablet and they will replace a circuit board and convert it to a MacOS X compatible USB tablet for about $170. Unfortunately, this offer only extends to 12" tablets and above. My tablet is a 9" tablet, I paid $600 for it back when that was real money. And it still is real money. The nearest replacement is the 9" Intuous tablet, for about $450. I suppose I will have to continue to live without a tablet.
Perhipheral manufacturers had better wake up and realize they will be irrelevant in the Mac market unless they get busy and release more drivers. Apple had better wake up and realize they are on the open source "release early and often" system and should get CUPS out the door soon, before it is too little, too late. And while they're at it, maybe Apple could find a nice BSD or Linux driver for Wacom serial tablets and port it to MacOS X? Please?

Bill Gates is a Criminal

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Bill Gates has testified before US District Court for the first time. His direct testimony has been described as an infomercial for Microsoft's business practices. Gates argues that what's good for Microsoft is good for America. He argues that the proposed penalties will cripple Microsoft's business practices. Excuse me Mr. Gates, do I need to remind you that you lost and the penalties are specifically intended to cripple your illegal business practices? Gates' megalomania is so great, he continues to scoff at the Law in front of the very judge who is about to sentence him.

In cross-examination, Gates was forced to admit he was a criminal. Gates finally admitted to taking illegal actions against competitors like Apple, Netscape, and Sun. Microsoft must not be allowed to continue to profit from its prior illegal actions, and should be forced to distribute QuickTime, Java, and Netscape with all Microsoft OS products. Ultimately, Judge Jackson's original remedy was correct, nothing short of the "corporate death penalty" of breaking Microsoft into smaller companies will stop this monopoly. Microsoft should be forced to divest itself of assets in other crucial technologies, and prohibited from future investments that could allow it to create new monopolies in areas outside its core business. Microsoft must not be allowed to use its hoard of cash to control the future of the computing industry or any other industry. Microsoft's monopoly does nothing to promote innovation or economic growth, it stifles that innovation and growth until it can figure out how to make it profitable for Microsoft. The reason you don't have 100Mb Ethernet broadband to your home is that Microsoft hasn't figured out how to make a profit from it. The reason you don't have 3rd Generation portable phones is because Microsoft hasn't figured out how to profit from them. The reason you don't have TV on-demand via broadband is that Microsoft hasn't figured out how to monopolize and profit from it. Microsoft will attempt to monopolize every future technology unless the the Government stops them. Bill Gates once boasted he was more powerful than the US Government. It is time to teach him a lesson. Some have argued that divestiture is traditionally considered inappropriate for monopolies that were not created through mergers or acquisitions. But this is precisely how Microsoft gained its power, by assimilating smaller corporations and promoting their technologies as "Microsoft innovations." And this is precisely why Microsoft must be broken up and forced to divest.
I once won a contest that sought the best plan to break up Microsoft. I said that initially, I thought that Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and all Microsoft employees and properties should be broken down into subatomic particles with high-energy radiation beams. However, on second thought, I figured that Gates and Ballmer would absorb the energy and like the Borg, assimilate that energy and become even more powerful and indestructible. So I decided to consult Federal Regulations and see if they had any guidelines. And I found just what I wanted.

choking hazard label

I proposed that in accordance with the regulations of the 1994 Federal Child Safety Protection Act, all Microsoft properties should be broken into the smallest possible pieces but no smaller than 1.75 inches in diameter, so that those pieces would not pose a choking hazard to children. For my proposal, I won the Grand Prize in the contest. The award was a t-shirt with the word "Microsoft" in graphics that looked like the Monopoly board game, with the little Monopoly man with the top hat and cigar poking out through the "o." I never received my prize. I would have worn it proudly.

BlogTV Japan: Otaku Syndrome

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One of the great reasons for studying foreign languages is to see and hear new things from new lands and new people that you could never have encountered before. Once in a while you see something positively amazing. And once in a while you see something that makes you want to gouge your eyes out with red hot pokers.
When I first saw what I am about to show you, I told people about it and nobody believed me. I don't blame them, I wouldn't have believed it. Now, almost a year later, I have captured a followup show, and am providing it on Quicktime streaming video. So now you can see it. And you still won't believe it.

Note: Some people are still reporting trouble viewing BlogTV streaming video, mostly people behind firewalls or NAT routers. I am working on the problem, some solutions can be found in this document. We Apologize For The Inconvenience.

Of all the series running on FujiTV News, one of the most astonishing (and certainly the most revolting) is the series "katazukerarenai onnatachi," literally "women who can't clean up." The show offers these women a deal, in exchange for the utter humiliation of subjecting their disgustingly sloppy lifestyle to intense scrutiny on national TV, they will clean your house. I don't know why any woman would ever agree to appear on the show, but they all seem quite cheerful when admitting the announcer and camera crew into their repulsive homes. Most of the women are disguised with mosaic and voice distortion, but some women have no problem showing their faces or even using their real names. The male announcer always appears in an impeccable grey Armani suit, shin-high rubber boots, and heavy white cotton work gloves. He comes to the door, is greeted at the genkan and admitted to the space, and plunges into these astonishingly untidy places with his camera crew.

Now I'm not talking about your average slobs here. In one segment that does not appear in my online excerpt, the announcer (wearing a mask and goggles) starts scattering a pile of garbage bags piled 4 feet high, and when he gets to the bottom, he finds a discarded, moldy food container with a sell-by date on it: 1997. The room is stacked everywhere with plastic bags full of garbage, the only clear spot is around the futon, it looks like a nest with white trash bags surrounding it like a crater. The announcer presses forward to the kitchen. Now it is getting really sickening. He opens the refrigerator, which has been turned off and not opened for years. Then.. no I really cannot go on. It is too repulsive. I could not even watch it myself, and it takes a LOT to shock me. But anyway, the cleaning crew arrives behind the announcer, and removes everything disposable and cleans the entire house until it is just as obsessively clean as it previously was obsessively dirty. It must take days to finish the job. When the room is finally cleaned, it is immediately obvious that this woman is a Snoopy otaku. Everywhere you look there are Snoopy rugs, wall hangings and posters, figurines, stuffed toys, etc, none of this was visible until the mountain of trash was removed.

But let us move on to the star of our show. "B-san" is a 36 year old female otaku. She is obsessed with collecting manga. She lives in a tiny 6-mat apartment. A year ago, the FujiTV crew visited and found her 6jo room entirely filled from top to bottom, wall to wall with stacks of manga, there was only a tiny tunnel near the door where she slept. There is nothing for the camera to explore, the announcer cannot even get in the door. The cleanup crew comes and observes the walls of the room are bulging, good thing this is a ground floor apartment or it would have collapsed under the weight. A brave workman wearing a hard hat and breathing mask enters the passageway and lies down to demonstrate where B-san slept, there is hardly any room for the camera. He can not lie down, the cavity is formed around the shape of the short skinny woman. A larger crew will be necessary to clear this rubbish pile, several heavy trucks are summoned, and eventually they haul away several tons of manga. First the entryway is cleared, the camera scans over the top of the pile, the entire room is filled to the ceiling. Household furnishings like a bed are gradually unburied. Eventually the house is cleaned, right down to the lowest layer where the camera lingers on the mouse droppings and bugs underneath the mouldering stacks. But everything is restored to squeaky clean, there's even a nice TV and some furniture under all this crap, although the building owner will have to take care of those dangerously damaged walls. Oh dear, how will she ever explain this to the landlord?

Now it is a year later, and the same announcer revisits B-san. We get a quick review of the situation last year, and even in some photographs taken at 6 months out, the camera shows the room mostly clear and empty. But there is a troubling sign, stacks of boxes neatly lining two walls. Now fast forward another 6 months. Today her room is once again stacked floor to ceiling with piles of manga, just like before. As the segment closes, B-san bemoans her inability to change her habits. Even the humiliation of showing her year-long descent into disorder on national TV could not motivate her to change her ways. But perhaps she can serve as an example to others. The video ended with a discussion of obsessive-compulsive disorders, like the people you hear about who are raided by the SPCA for having 200 cats in their house. That otaku with the obsessive Pokemon or Transformers collection on his shelf is only different in quantity, not quality.

Free Spam Filtering For MacOS X:

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I've just released instructions for setting up spam filters in MacOS X. It's free, and uses existing software already installed in MacOS X. All you have to do is configure the filters and your spam problems are over. I went from 50 to 100 spams a day, down to 1 spam every few days.

George W. Bush is visiting our area today. In a few hours he will be here. But nobody knows quite when. Or if they do know, they're not telling. Security is tight. But not because of the War on Terrorism. It's to keep the protesters away. If nobody knows where he's going to be, there's no way to show up and yell right to his face. Ever since Bush stole the election, the Secret Service is keeping protesters far away where the President can never see them, in violation of their rights to Free Speech. But the protests continue, they will not stop until His Imperial Majesty George II hears the angry voices of The People.

The People have a right to petition their Goverment for redress, even by means of mass protest. If they do not, that government is not for the people nor of the people, and the people must overturn it. We won't forget what you did, George W. Bush, when we vote next election.

More Old Photos

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Here's a nice black and white photo I took way back in the late 1970s when I owned a Hasselblad. Kinda creepy, kinda goth. It's an urn. This is a flash exposure in total darkness. As a photographer I am always attracted to darkness, it is the most challenging condition to photograph.
Notice the nice straight vertical lines, I did a subtle but important perspective correction in Photoshop. I always wanted to reshoot this image with a view camera to fix the vertical convergence, but now I don't have to, it's perfect.


If anyone likes these photos, feel free to contact me. I am a professional photographer, you can buy a museum quality print of my work. I mean, real archival photo prints on conventional photo media, not an inkjet print or some rubbish like that. I have a BFA degree in Photography and everything. It's real art that will last for centuries, not a cheap imitation.

Old Photos

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I found another nice photo I took a long time ago. There is nothing particularly remarkable about this vacation photo except for one thing, I developed the color negative film and printed the color RC print in my own darkroom when I was about 13 years old. I was experimenting with photographing different light conditions with the Zone System, which is pretty hard to do with color negative film, it has very little latitude. But I thought it was a pretty good job. I tried to improve on the color and curves in Photoshop and couldn't really do any better. I wasted a lot of time on trying to color correct the highlights on the railing, then I realized the tiles really were aqua blue.


Traction Avenue

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I found an old Polaroid photo of my art studio on Traction Avenue, in the center of the downtown LA artist's district. Notice the tall ceilings with huge beams, this place was gigantic, about 2000 square feet. I used to ride my skateboard around inside my studio, turning figure-eights around the support columns. This is just the one small corner of the studio I used for preparatory painting. I used to work on bigger paintings on the other wall and I could stand back 50 feet from my paintings and get a good look from a distance.

My Old Art Studio

I liked to paint preparatory works on paper tacked to the wall, looks like I've started an underpainting. My pallette and brushes are on top of an old hospital-bed cart, which seems to be the preferred pallete table in art studios everywhere. Down in the lower right corner are some high powered track lights that I never finished installing once I discovered how hot they got.
This studio is legendary for many reasons, it was one of the most hotly contested studio spaces on Traction Avenue. I went back to visit a couple years ago, the whole area is now gentrified. My old studio is now a used CD store.

Product Placement Problems

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Back when I worked at a top LA graphics service bureau around 1990 or so, I got a job from one of our regular customers, an independent designer. He produced product packaging with Adobe Illustrator and he did a lot of expensive large format Iris inkjet output. One day I load up his new Iris job, and what the hell is this? I'm looking at detailed flexography stencils for 7up, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and Coke bottles. Except the logos in this comp are not placed on pop bottles, they're on baby bottles. Now hold it just a minute. I philosophically and morally object to putting a corporate logo 2 inches from a 1 day old infant's eyes. I wouldn't want a child's first visual experience when their eyes begin to focus to be a huge Coke or 7Up logo with a nipple on it. AND, at this very time, there was a huge boycott of Nestle over baby formula problems in third world countries, and soda pop bottlers were accused of involvement in widespread infant malnutrition. Mothers who couldn't find clean water to make infant formula were using 7Up and other soda instead of water. Infants were often fed straight sugary and caffeinated soda pop with the formula, and it had horrible health effects on the very young infants. And the more I thought about this job, the more reasons I could find to loathe it, I would not participate in producing anything related to this product. So I took this job-from-hell straight to the boss and showed it to him. I said I am NOT doing this job. He heard my objections, and he was pretty horrified when he stopped to think about it. So my boss called the designer and told him to get down to the shop, we wanted to talk to him. I ran his job up on my screen, brought him in to look at it (like we often did when customers watched Iris jobs run) and then I started yelling at him, what the hell is this? I told him that we had certain standards, we didn't work on porn, and we didn't do obscene jobs like this. I stated in no uncertain terms that this was the sickest thing anyone had ever submitted to our shop, and I told him why. He seemed astonished, the more I explained my objections to this product, the more horrified a look he got on his face. He took a moment, and then told me this was not for mass production, it was a one-off unique item, it was to be used as a prop in a movie scene, to poke fun at someone who would feed soda pop to infants. I told him I would hold his job and consider printing it if he was really telling me the truth, but still I thought he was lying. And besides, if he put this image in the mass media, it would probably influence people to want to purchase the real Coke and 7Up baby bottles. He said I should not worry about it, the film was crap and sure to flop, hardly anyone would see the bottle. I was not feeling any better about this job. I took it to the boss, who eventually made the decision to go ahead and print, but only after another long phone call with the client.
So about 6 months later, I am in the checkout line at some big department store, and standing right next to the counter, what do I see? A big display rack of 7Up, Coke, Dr. Pepper, and other assorted plastic baby bottles. Lying bastard designer! Fortunately about this time quit and I moved to San Francisco and went to work at a better prepress shop, with fewer scumbag clients like that, we typeset stuff like RE:Search books, Rainforest Action Network pamphlets, etc, I was a much happier graphics geek.

BlogTV High Bandwidth Experiment

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I am releasing a new 1-minute video clip, there is a film studies essay that goes with this clip, as yet it is unfinished so I thought I'd start serving the video now and get some feedback. This video combines fast action with long slow scenes with high detail, which makes it more difficult to find an optimum balance in the compression. I've pushed the limit on the 56k clip and it still is hard to capture all the fast motion, let me know if it streams well, maybe I could up the bandwidth a bit more. I've also produced a special extra high quality version for T1 users, one stream should use 10% of my outbound bandwidth so go and hammer on this box and see how it behaves under heavy load. If you have very high bandwidth connectivity, be sure your Quicktime Preferences>Connection Speed is set to T1.
Before you complain about this video clip, yes, I know the lip sync is off, the original film is like that. This scene was obviously redubbed in the studio, and badly. The whole scene before this is out of sync due to a bad redub, at one point you can see Zatoichi chewing and swallowing at the same time he's talking on the soundtrack.

I Want My BlogTV!

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I am working more with QTSS and preparing new files for presentation, and more comments are coming in about BlogTV. The server logs report over 850 views of the clip, yet some people commented that the file was 404 Unavailable. I suspect there was a brief cable modem outage this morning. Also, the hi-bandwidth T1 version of the second video clip will not stream. If you change your Quicktime settings temporarily to ISDN speed, you should be able to see the slower clip. I think I encoded the T1 version incorrectly and the server refuses to deliver it. I am still a newbie at video compression, I'll get these settings fixed up after a few more experiments, so your feedback is valuable. Remember this is a little G3/400 on a cable modem, I have an upload bandwidth cap set by the cable company, so I have limited the server to 10 simultaneous streams. Several prominent blogs have linked to this site, so probably there was a huge crush at about 9AM when everyone came into the office, read the morning blogs over coffee and saw the link and hit my server all at about the same time. Please keep banging on my server so I can test these effects. I am a bit concerned about running this all in the background on my main desktop machine. I use this machine to encode the clips, which drives the CPU load to 100%, so I don't know how this will affect background tasks like QTSS
I am preparing a 1 minute clip of a scene from a Zatoichi movie to demonstrate the use of QTSS in film studies. I'm producing the high-bandwidth version at extremely high quality, in an attempt to push the limits of resolution and frame rate, so I can test the server under the heavier load from serving these larger clips. But it hard to improve on settings for lower bandwidth versions, so most users will not see much difference. I've also noticed I've inadvertently been resizing these clips in an odd way, which might account for some of the fuzziness. I turned off various image "enhancement" features in Cleaner that could introduce any resampling fuzziness, but the optimal compression settings appear to be more of an art than a science. But then, I'm trying to preserve the subtleties of cinematographic technique in this Zatoichi film clip. I guess I better get the Cleaner manual and RTFM. It takes about 45 minutes to compress this clip, and I have to do it 3 times so compression testing is a long tedious process. With luck, I can find a few settings that work well in general and just lock them in.
I should also make it clearer that this particular QTSS trick is not something exclusive to any particular blog softare, it will work anywhere on the web. "Outsourcing" your video to another server is how CNN.com and all the big sites do it. Except in this case, your desktop machine is serving the streams, not a huge server farm like CNN has. You could just as easily put that chunk of HTML into any web page anywhere, on your local server, on your ISP's site, and as long as your desktop machine is up and running, you will be serving video. I wish Apple would publicize QTSS more, they offer similar (non-streaming) Quicktime support on the iTools websites, perhaps they should extend iMovie a little more to include QTSS encoding and management of the streaming folder and run it in conjunction with your iDisk site. Everyone with a cable modem could be running their own streaming server. I hacked this together in just one evening with the QTSS online help files, I just wonder how big this could be if it was streamlined for mass consumer use.
And that brings me to my last topic for the moment, something I call The Napsterization of Fair Use. On blog after blog, I see people commenting about something they saw on TV. But almost none of this content is accessible on the web. I don't want to read a description of the event, I want to see the event, and now my BlogTV gadget will do the job. Bloggers should be able to make Fair Use of short excerpts from almost any copyrighted source, so if I want to comment on something I saw on the CBS Evening News, I should be permitted to digitize a few seconds and restream it. But the media companies want to prevent this type of Fair Use by technological means, they are afraid of the "napsterization of Hollywood" and if Fair Use is eliminated in the process of fighting piracy, they don't care. Commercially released tapes and DVDs are already copy protected to prevent Fair Use, preventing Fair Use applications even by scholars who might use these protected materials in a classroom. Now broadcast TV is on the verge of going digital, new encryption standards will completely copy protect everything on video (except commercials, I bet). As a scholar, this loss of freedom concerns me greatly. Consumers must make a stand, and insist that the Government stop selling our intellectual freedoms to money-grubbing media conglomerates.
Now I better stop ranting and get back to work. Stay tuned to BlogTV for more postings, I should have the Zatoichi clip up soon.

BlogTV: The Aftermath

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My experiment in Quicktime streaming is a smashing success, the Desktop Streaming meme has taken hold in the Blog world, and the world of video has come to blogging. My short video clip has been viewed over 250 times in just a few hours and the load on my server is so small that I can't measure it. Unfortunately, now that I have committed to serving these streams from my desktop 24/7, I have to do some hardware repairs on my CPU. So these clips may be unavailable sometime in the near future while the CPU is shut down for maintenance. In the meantime, I have released a new clip that should stream more smoothly and with a clearer, brighter image. In response to the previous video, here is a statement by Prof. L. R. Gumby.

MacOS X BlogTV: How To Do It

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Setting up your own personal web streaming service to support any standard blog is simple, with off-the-shelf components available for MacOS X. You can post links in your blog pages to streams that serve from your desktop streaming server, no files are stored on the upstream server. You must be willing to put your desktop machine up and online 24/7 with a broadband connection (a cable modem is adequate) as a streaming server. I am currently serving these clips on an ancient Powermac G3/400 with a cable modem. Here's a summary of :
1. Put your MacOS X Apache server up on the net with an IP name. Use dyndns.org to set this up if you are a cable modem user or don't have a real hostname that resolves in DNS. QTSS requires you to have a real IP name, and to have the system and Apache configs correctly set to the hostname.
2. Install Quicktime Streaming Server 4, it's a free download. Install the package, go to your Applications folder and click on the QTSSAdminURL icon, the admin page will appear in your browser. Install the required passwords, and your streaming server is running! Click on the little circle with the question mark, the link will explain all about QTSS
3. Now we need some content. You can use any DV stream you can capture on a Mac. A camcorder with a Firewire port can import video using products like iMovie. I want to import from a variety of NTSC and SVideo sources that don't have Firewire like my DirecTV, TiVo and VCR, so I used the Canopus ADVC-1000 to capture video with Final Cut Pro. Note that the ADVC-1000, like many converters, will not work with Macrovision-protected tapes and DVDs. Copy protection rears its ugly head yet again! There are easy ways around this problem, but it would be illegal under the DMCA to say what they are. Ask your local video geek.
4. Now you need to compress the DV stream into Quicktime, and prepare different versions of the files for streaming at multiple speeds. You could do this entirely with Quicktime Pro, but that process is relatively difficult. I used Cleaner 5.1.1, which has a wizard for creating and compressing Quicktime files for streaming. Even using the Cleaner wizard, you will need to tweak the settings for each speed setting, to pick a compression and frame rate appropriate to each type of video you present. Go in and explore, you can set various Quicktime features like autoplay, play in browser/external player, etc. Be sure to set Cleaner's options to specify the IP name of your streaming server when you create the files. This will be important when the blog server remotely calls your server for the files.
Cleaner will produce two folders with compressed files. One contains a master movie and a text file with the HTML to access the stream, and another folder contains the compressed Quicktime files. One folder is labeled "Upload to HTTP server" and those go wherever you can serve web pages from, either in your root website or your ~/username/Sites folder. Copy the contents of the folder labeled "Upload to Streaming Server" to /Library/QuicktimeStreaming/Movies.
5. Now you are ready to test the stream! Remember that clip of HTML that Cleaner made and you put in your web server folder? Call it in a web browser and see if it runs from your local Apache server. Access it with your full IP name, like <http://hostname.dyndns.org/clipname.html> (I'm assuming you put the file in your root webserver, /Library/Webserver/Documents/) and see if it streams. If all goes well, when you click on the Play button, you will see "Negotiating... Buffering..." and you will know the file is being served as a stream, and is now accessible to the world.
6. So now that you can stream and have a working sample of HTML with proper tags, with a little editing we can use that same HTML in any other web page. Here's the chunk of HTML that will stream the file "gumby.mov" just like in my demonstration (I've cut it into shorter lines for readability)
<OBJECT CLASSID="clsid:02BF25D5-8C17-4B23-BC80-D3488ABDDC6B"
WIDTH="320" HEIGHT="256"
<PARAM NAME="src" VALUE="gumby_MSTR.mov">
<PARAM NAME="autoplay" VALUE="false">
<PARAM NAME="controller" VALUE="true">
<PARAM NAME="loop" VALUE="false">
<EMBED SRC="gumby_MSTR.mov" WIDTH=320 HEIGHT=256 
To make this file work on the blog server, you must change the master movie pathnames from relative to absolute, and point to your home server (I've marked the pathnames in red to make them easier to locate). In this example, I changed those instances of "gumby_MSTR.mov" to the full URL, like "http://hostname.dyndns.org/gumby_MSTR.mov" or whatever is appropriate for the originating server. I just take the HTML file generated by Cleaner and open it in BBEdit to edit the paths, or I could paste it into a new page in a web editor like GoLive 6 (that's what I use). Wherever I drop this chunk of HTML into my blog entry or web page source, the Quicktime streaming "badge" will appear. Now I can copy and paste that HTML directly into a new story window on my blog's html entry page.
This is a quick test of serving Quicktime from my local desktop machine through my MovableType blog. I can capture and compress Quicktime video clips of anything I record on my TiVo, VCR, or camcorder, and stream them from my desktop computer, the same system where my Movable Type blog runs. Frame rates and quality are optimized for different modem speeds, there are 3 levels, 56k, ISDN and T1, and you will automatically be served the stream matched to your speed. Click the Play button for a short message from Prof. Enid Gumby.

This should work OK on my cable modem as long as it doesn't get too many hits, which is likely since nobody reads this blog anyway. The public is invited to view this experiment and test the load on my QTSS system, but if suddenly this gets to be a bandwidth hog, I'll have to turn it off.
Update: A high-traffic blog linked to this experiment, I've gotten a few dozen hits in the last hour and my server barely feels the load. But then, this is only a 5 second video clip. I've received a few inquiries about how to do this. It's easy with MacOS X, Quicktime Streaming Server is a free download and very easy to use. I'll write up the tech details and post them in another story, it will take me a bit of time to put it together. In the meantime, I would appreciate feedback about how well the streams, image quality, data rates, etc. worked for you.