Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kino is keen! dvgrab is <bang head> keen too!

Kino, the digital video (dv) non-linear editor on open source platforms (but notably Linux) is really keen. It will find your camcorder if it's plugged into firewire and start using it for capture.

This pretty much "just works". Life is good.

Perhaps you decide you need to be using dvgrab--after all, you're just recording the video--not really trying to edit or view it (after all the image is already displayed on the back of the camcorder....)


dowdberry@longplay:~$ dvgrab grabname
Error: no camera exists

Okay, specify the camera....

dowdberry@longplay:~$ dvgrab -card 0 grabname
Error: no camera exists

(Do that about a dozen different ways. Try it as root. Pass in /dev/raw1394 try to stdin /dev/raw1394... still nothing. Read the manpage for dvgrab. Re-read the manpage for dvgrab. Re-re-read the manpage for dvgrab. Google for about an hour. Look at the strace of kino and dvgrab... nothing. Learn about testlibraw. Re-read the dvgrab strace. Re-read the kino strace.)

Finally, closely reading the kino strace shows this CLUEFUL snippet:

write(2, ">> Starting Capture", 19) = 19
write(2, "\n", 1) = 1
write(2, ">> AV/C ", 8) = 8
write(2, "Enabled", 7) = 7
write(2, "\n", 1) = 1
write(2, ">>> Using iec61883 capture", 26) = 26
write(2, "\n", 1) = 1
open("/dev/raw1394", O_RDWR) = 6
write(6, "\1\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\4\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0"..., 52) = 52

<Cluebulb illuminates!>

Hmmm, I saw something about "avc" in the dvgrab man page....

dowdberry@longplay:~$ dvgrab -noavc -card 0 junk
Warning: Cannot set RR-scheduler
Warning: Cannot disable swapping
Capture Started
^C"junk002.dv": 8.81 MiB 77 frames timecode -1076813608:-1076813816:-1209659343.195702400 date 2008.11.29 12:15:43
Capture Stopped

medberry@longplay:~$ file junk002.dv
junk002.dv: DIF (DV) movie file (NTSC)


Now... what was I going to do with that video? Oh yeah, dvsource to dvswitch to dvsink

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trick or Treat Early

I live in a contested state--Colorado. This year, for the first time ever, I begin to understand what New Hampshire or Iowa must be like during the primaries. We've had pollers call. We've had push-polls call. We've had city party offices call. We've had county offices call. We've had state party offices call. And of course, we've had national parties call. None of this is really that out of the ordinary, just an increase in call volume over years past.

However, this year has seen something new. Door-to-door canvassing by the presidential, senatorial, and congressional candidate parties. No--Barack, McCain, Palin, and Biden haven't made the rounds themselves, merely their faithful. So, this isn't really the same as New Hampshire or Iowa. The presidential tickets have all been in the neighborhood though (and Barack is in town today.) However, we've had our doorbell rung sooooo many times this year we had to put up a notice on the front porch to cease and desist. It was just like Halloween--almost as soon as I had re-focused after one doorbell ring, another would occur.

Perhaps we should just have made two buckets of campaign pins and held them out for the trick-or-treaters to take one of their choice. They do all come in costume of course (well, with lapel pins, hats, etc.)

Kids, don't dress up as any politician this halloween and expect to get the prized chocolate candy bar--we're tired of that already. Do something far less scary--come as a chainsaw toting villain, blood-dripping vampire, or blood-curdling, screaming banshee. I can't take another politician.

Friday, July 11, 2008


in·fal·mi·ble (ĭn-făl'mə-bəl)
  1. appearing to be infallible but only in appearance as there are corner cases where failure is inevitable
  2. a mumbling of the word infallible, see: infallible
  3. a misread of the word infomumble a portmanteau of information and mumble, where mumble is frequently used as regular expression meaning "match whatever makes sense beyond this point."

Friday, June 13, 2008


A second post today--woot, it's a twofer.

I was asked to play a game this morning, a very simple word ladder. Go from FOUR to FIVE in 7 steps (6 in-between words). It's a pretty straight forward puzzle.

And that got me to thinking--I love solving puzzles like that and lots of other related mind games. And everyone at work knows it. They can get me distracted sooooo easily. Good thing I'm not a teacher or I'd never make it through a lesson on time.

Recently, I was asked (not really as a puzzle but....) "How would you test this software? It's a command line oriented program call randy that is supposed to take as input the size of random data to produce on stdout." I thought about it for a few minutes and at last a light bulb went off: Compress the results. If they are incompressible, it's evidence leaning toward the randomness. (Now that's not exactly true--even all zeroes could be random.)

The person who asked the question hollered and nearly fell out of her chair. You know why? That's not what she was worried about. She didn't think anyone could determine in white box format whether or not something was generating random data--she never even considered the possibility. (She merely wanted someone to send gibberish input to see what happened and to ensure when you asked for x bits, you got x bits.) But I saw it not as an interview question or quality assurance question--I saw it as a brain teaser. And brain teasers have brain teaser answers.... and if you want to measure for random, the brain teaser answer is to measure the results for compressibility. (At least in my mind.)

This is perhaps the geekiest posting I've ever blogged. I suspect I've been inspired by my cohorts and reading literature. Just for Fun by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond is the book I've just finished. I'm trying to teach my son how to do fractions (including complete factorization) and I work with people who send me puzzles--at least one a week and oft times more. Thanks HP.

Get Firefox 3

Download Day - English

Anyone who has ever asked me to work on their computer in whatever way has heard me eschew Internet Explorer and recommend Firefox. Now, Firefox has been updated to version 3. Well, that will occur on Tuesday June 17.

On that day, Mozilla Foundation (the makers of Firefox) would like to set a Guinness World Record for the most downloads in one day. This could be a really self-defeating goal as it may saturate the Internet. I've agreed to participate though and will be grabbing 3 or 4 different varieties of Firefox that day: Windows XP version, Linux 32 bit, and Linux 64 bit for certain. Additionally, I'll have a raft of Ubuntu machines that will be doing "automatic" updates to the final release version of Firefox 3 that day. (I've been running the beta and release candidates of Firefox 3 for some time.)

FF3 has a variety of enhancements and improvements over FF2. And it is vastly superior to Internet Explorer. If you are running Opera 9.5, I've got no comment--you know what you're doing.

Download Day - English

And holler if you ever want to try Ubuntu -- or grab it here:

ubuntu logo Get Ubuntu

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dorothy, Dorothy

I've been dwelling on the recent tornadoes that hit our area last Thursday and the tornadoes of my youth.

I grew up in southwest Kansas. As you can see from Tornado Alley, I was smack dab in the lane. Southwest Kansas is a flat, somewhat barren place. You can see forever as a result. One summer, I forget which, a girl came to town for the summer to stay with relatives. I don't recall her name or the particular summer at all. I do recall having a crush on her. As we were walking to the ballpark that summer, I commented that there would be a storm and the rain would hit in about 45 minutes. She scoffed. "How can you possibly know it's going to rain in 45 minutes?" she asked. I pointed to the southwest sky and said, "You see that storm front? That's 45 minutes away from here. The prevailing winds are always from that direction and when you can see it in that direction, you know you've got 45 minutes." You can use that time to a) walk home from the ball field, b) bring in your laundry from the line, c) dry off and walk home from the pool, or d) get to the edge of town for a better view of the storm. Actually, none of those things really take 45 minutes as the town was about the size of Berthoud, CO. And, I let my mom take the clothes off the line. Typically, these storms--especially those based off of supercells--bring a storm of dirt just ahead of the rain. This makes for very mud splattered clothes.

But back to those tornadoes. I saw tornadoes, and supercells as a kid--mostly in the distance or sometimes only second hand--my vision wasn't very good in those days. My folks would talk of the storms and their destructive power. After one such tornado (in the late spring, early summer, but it seems school was still in session), we drove over to see a trailer house that had not moved an inch--well, the base of it hadn't. This particular trailer house had been sealed up--likely no one was at home. Consequently, it over pressured and exploded. The air speed of a tornado causes a significant vacuum to form. The contents of that trailer were strewn around locally and the tires that were in place on the roof of it (and the roof itself) fell neatly onto the floor of ths structure. The walls--exterior and interior--were unidentifiable from the rest of the debris.

During our recent storm, the Thompson school district (along with the Poudre and Weld county districts) held "tornado lockdowns". I'm not entirely sure why they call this a lockdown--though it probably refers to not switching classrooms or leaving the building. The children were kept inside and moved to interior rooms (without windows) in the school. When I was very young, K-2, we frequently had tornado drills and when we actually had tornado warnings (usually after a sighting) we'd resume the tornado drill position--lined up in the hall facing the west wall and crouching/bowing to some imaginary goddess of destruction. Our hands over our head in the "kiss your crotch goodbye" position. I'm not sure if the school districts here in Colorado still use that position or not.

Another thing I remember from my youth was in a particularly bad storm, moving from our house (which had no storm shelter nor basement) to the church. We didn't go to the closest church, but rather a couple blocks to OUR church. However, our neighbor who to my knowledge never attended church went with us. As a child, I struggled to understand why we could invite a "stranger" to our church for protection from a storm but that we weren't fit to go to the closest church ourselves to seek shelter. I suspect it was a parental pride issue though I've never discusssed this with my folks.

Today we do have a basement--however, it's not clear how we'd ever know to descend therein. I've heard there was some reverse 911 last week--but not with enough warning prior to the descent of the storm to be effective. Back-in-the-day, we watched a lot of TV. The thing was almost always on, sucking our will to live. So, when the stormcasters noted that there was a tornado watch in effect or more pressingly, a tornado warning, we'd almost always know about it. The Emergency Broadcast System would kick in and make the pronouncement and the news would typically scroll along the bottom of the screen the areas effected and any sightings. Today, we don't watch TV. Moreover, we seldom listen to the radio. The radio stations at any rate are rarely locally operated so its not entirely clear what effect they would have even if we had them on. I have heard an EBS on NPR/KUNC, so perhaps that would be of some value. Our time is spent watching canned (DVD, VHS, Youtube) video and surfing the net. Perhaps I should add that at least one child spends every waking moment playing MMORPGs. None of these are conducive to early warning. My in-laws, bless their souls, have a NOAA radio. And, if I were truly concerned, I'd be sporting a NOAA in my kitchen as well. Surely, it would have been non-stop emergency radio excitement on that device last week.

Last week, I was able to contact my eldest son via cell phone and tell him to "duck and cover." He thought I'd blown a head gasket but apparently enough other folks got similar phone calls the kids (who had only had a half-day of school and were goofing off) finally took it seriously and went to the basement.

I seem to be done rambling--I've made no links to tornadoes, tornado alley, home towns, EBS, nor stations. I mostly just wanted to stream of consciousness this thought out. I guess I'll tag this melancholy nostalgia. A quick check shows that wikipedia is familiar with tornadoes and their ilk--for more info, head there.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I wear a T-shirt on a regular basis--I have two and rotate through them. I was asked in the lunch line at my cafeteria if Google is open-sourcing their entire codebase. Erm, no, or at any rate, I seriously doubt it. They do contribute a great deal to the open source community though.

However, I did explain that google is indexing all open source code bases and making them searchable at on the other hand is a portal about using Google's APIs and related activities. However, one of the coolest things (on the planet) is Google's Summer of Code. The Summer of Code is an opportunity for students to write code for open source projects. Google will fund more than 900 students this summer in the 2008 SoC. You should definitely check it out if you are a student looking for something useful to do with your coding skills this summer--the open source community always needs new blood.

One of the hottest API's of course is Android. Check it out.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Being an Article

I experienced a little notoriety today as I was the subject in an article on ewaste in the local paper. Anyone that's been to my basement knows I'm a bit of a packrat. But, I'll let you read the article and be assured that I will only dispose of my ewaste via a recycler--not the county dump--though this by no means assures good things will happen as this cautionary tale relays.

But I did want to talk to you a bit about being the subject of a news article. I volunteered for this, so there was no big surprise in the article. The newspaper solicited people willing to talk about their collection of obsolete electronics and I was happy to take part. Shortly after volunteering on line, I was contacted by Hallie Woods via email and she arranged to call and interview me. I assumed she'd be talking to a number of people and take a variety of pics for the article--bad assumption. She sent Rich Abrahamson over to shoot my electronics last Saturday. He showed up and re-interviewed me, filling in some background about ewaste, why I had so much equipment, etc and then we descended to our basement (which I jokingly call "The Pit of Despair".) I didn't stage anything--there are "spare parts", obsolete computers, keyboards, CD drives, etc scattered throughout my basement, but Rich settled on the "monitor table" as being the best photo-op. This is a table full of old CRTs that either aren't working or are so archaic that they have no value--and in fact are pretty expensive to operate. He then had the idea of working me into the picture....

This morning, I check the newspaper, and voila..... I'm an article. It's kind of a surreal feeling--and I'm quite happy that I didn't get into the newspaper some other way.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

English Toffee

I've been considering a series of blogs about the coffee shops in Loveland. Loveland, Colorado, my home base, has a wide variety of local, regional, and national coffee shops. And, of course, their specialties and qualities vary.

I've been prompted to initiate this investigation by one of the newest shops in Loveland, DazBog in downtown (or are we calling it Old Town now?)


The crew at Dazbog, like any chain upscale coffee shop, is inconsistent and full of quirks. They do however know how to make an excellent English Toffee latte--or better still, sugar free English Toffee. Depending on who is behind the counter--you might get perky, professional, business-y, or personable--will determine your "experience" but they all make a tasty beverage.

The site is also "inconsistent". Their wifi, though free, is not fully open. You have to ask the barista for the passphrase (though it may still be "coloradorockies" unless they change it because of this posting.) You can also find a variety of other "free" wifi signals in the store from the surrounding apartment complex--several generic "linksys" sites appear to be wide open.

The owners have thoughtfully provided an enclosed meeting room for groups of 6-10 people at no cost--other than a few cups of coffee. Each of the four northern Colorado Dazbogs are decorated differently--though you should be able to find a "cushy" section and more "worky" sections in each of them to suit your mood or purpose. I was impressed and satisfied with their handling of the espresso equipment and, as a coffee novice, confused by their treatment of my coffee mug--they pre-heated it with hot water prior to filling it with delicious English Toffee latte. The prices are a bit steep--more like that other big chain. And, one especially eerie aspect of Dazbog, speaking of that other chain, they pump in Starbucks XM Satellite radio cafe channel during the weekdays.... Huh?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Theirs vs Theirs -- Throwing Arms

Okay, there is a new throwing arm video on the net that you should see. No, it is not a trebuchet. It also isn't made of timber. Take a look here.

and yes, I'm also doing this to test embedded links.

Contrast that video with this one I shot a couple years ago:

as you can see the principle is the same, but the implementations are vastly different. (Neither of these throwing arms were made or contributed by the Dowdberry clan but we did shoot the 2d video.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Political Perspective

I'm not known as a very political animal, and at 45, I'm not going to start being political now. But I am 45, so I can say a thing or two about Political Perspective.

The perspective I'm speaking of is not a candidates political point-of-view, nor is it my political point-of-view. Rather, it's the physical point of view involved in a candidate's website. I've spent this evening reviewing the "ISSUES" addressed by each of these candidates:
  • Obama
  • Clinton
  • McCain
  • Huckabee
  • Romney
  • and very briefly Duncan Hunter
and I can now say, without any hesitation or ambiguity, that Mitt Romney has the least readable website. I'm 45--did I mention that? And I had LASIK 8 years ago (maybe 9 now.) I'm also diabetic (yes, full disclosure). The age, the LASIK, and the diabetes have contributed somewhat to mild case of far-sightedness. I don't like wearing reading glasses (as my far-sightedness is mild) but I do frequently bump up the font size on any web page I'm reading. This is a simple matter of Ctrl-+ in Firefox (the only browser I use on a day-to-day basis.)

Unfortunately, when browsing to Mr. Romney's website, I find that all of the information is shifted and distorted. He apparently can't find someone that can properly build a useful web site. No, I don't expect the candidates themselves to be masters of CSS--but is it too much to expect them to hire someone that can?

I've put no links in this document (though there are many obvious ones possible) as I've not made up my mind on what candidates to support--you could call me an undecided. But I have decided that Mitt needs a new geek.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Geography Quiz

We have been consumed this week (especially this weekend) with this geography game:

Know Your World

Matt Fischer sent us the link and Joy has been striving to master it. I pretty much stink at it (in comparison to Joy.) Admittedly, she's invested a lot more time in it.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Pastor Dave,

I took a quick look at the Computer Science department curriculum at Colorado School of Mines (Mines) and at Abilene Christian University (ACU). In my examination, I compared their coursework with what I would expect an undergraduate degree in CS to provide/require for graduation. In each case, a sample four year program (as specified by the school) was reviewed.

I find that the ACU coursework is fairly typical of any college or university—it provides the standard core classes and has an additional subfield of study—software engineering. The “non” software engineering is more what I would call a traditional CS undergraduate coursework list. The software engineering variant trades off Calc 3 for Web Development and more applied software skills. Both seem prudent and effective. The student's interest should guide his selection in one area or the other (with the advice of faculty of course.)

I was a bit dismayed in Mines' CS undergraduate curriculum. They route all students through a common first year—basically an introduction to engineering. There would be no CS at all until the sophomore year (though clearly, you may need/want to write some software to aid in the calculus and physics courses required during the freshman year.) Additionally, much more applied science and engineering is required throughout the Mines' four year schedule. I can't honestly recommend this CS school for someone solely interested in Computer Science. If the student is interested in doing applied mathematics, engineering, and computer science then Mines may be the right school. If interested more in the “pure” computer science, this probably isn't the right school.




Tuesday, January 1, 2008