Archive for the ‘Macs’ Category

MacBook Pro into Camcorder Hack

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

I scrambled this week to try and figure out a way to record Alex Jacobson speak about HAppS at the last BayFP meeting. At the last moment, it occurred to me that I could at least capture it using a rather baroque hack:


  • MacBook Pro with iSight camera
  • Screencasting software (I use SnapZ Pro, $69) w/Audio recording
  • iMovie (or something that can do a flip)

Note: Apple has made this much easier if you have a recent version of iLife (I don’t):

iLife ’08 makes even more of the built-in iSight camera. It’s simply another camera source for iMovie ’08, but that opens up another world of creative possibilities. Record a short clip with no extra hardware. Just MacBook Pro.

The Hack

The basic hack is quite simple:

  1. Bring up Photo Booth
  2. Get the computer really close to the presenter
  3. Capture Photo Booth on-screen display using screencasting software & record using MacBook Pro mic
  4. Flip the movie in iMovie
  5. Profit!

The Details

Turn it to 11

In watching recorded presentations on Google Video & elsewhere, I’ve decided that sound quality is the most important part of any video that you’re hoping to learn from. As long as the presenter has released their slides and aren’t using the blackboard much, you need very little picture quality to sync your own copy of the slides (hopefully readable) to the video’s unreadable version. However, if you don’t have good (or at least loud) audio you’re up a creek. It’s amazing how many of the Google Tech Talks, for example, have reasonable audio quality, but no where near enough volume to be understandable.

To ensure that you’re getting the best possible sound using this hack, make sure you’re putting the laptop as close to the presenter as is practicable. After that, boost your mic’s volume under System Preferences→Sound→Input. You’re looking for your Internal Microphone’s Input Volume (maybe using “Use ambient noise reduction”, though it’d really be much smarter to make everyone shut up and hope the AC doesn’t kick on). After boosting this volume, just watch for a couple of seconds to make the Level meter isn’t spiking. Even in the best conditions, the laptop will probably be far enough from the speaker to not have this be an issue.


This one is obvious, but make sure you’ve struck a balance in ambient light levels between annoying the audience, illuminating the speaker, and keeping the projector visible.

The Flip

Once you’ve recorded your presentation, you’ll notice that the resulting video is “backwards” (flipped) horizontally. If you load the file into iMovie you can fix this using the Mirror effect (under Video FX) with the Horizontal slider all the way to Left, Vertical at Top, and the Effect In & Out settings unchanged.

Want darcs? Well, install these too…

Friday, December 1st, 2006

How could darcs possibly have this many dependencies?

[background: installing darcs using fink on OSX so that I can then build from source to get to the current version.]

The following package will be installed or updated:
The following 31 additional packages will be installed:
docbook-xsl gd2 gd2-shlibs ghc ghc-dev
ghostscript ghostscript-fonts gmp gmp-shlibs latex2html
libcurl3-unified libcurl3-unified-shlibs libgmpxx4-shlibs
libkpathsea4 libkpathsea4-shlibs libmpfr1 libmpfr1-shlibs
libtiff libtiff-bin libtiff-shlibs libwww libwww-bin
libwww-shlibs netpbm-bin netpbm10-shlibs openmotif3
openmotif3-shlibs t1lib5 t1lib5-shlibs tetex-base tetex-texmf
Do you want to continue? [Y/n]

A Whole New Worldview!

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

For those of you on a Mac, please press cmd-option-ctrl-8… it’ll change your life!

Via: Tim Smith on Rubytalk (sorry, no link right now)

Firefox 2.0 Tabs Waste Space

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

I downloaded Firefox 2.0 RC3 this morning to see if it would keep GMail from being so totally wasteful with RAM (see: RAM Hogs). Not sure on that. What I did notice was that they’d implemented the “X”-on-each-tab feature (from Opera and Safari), but did it in a pretty wasteful way in terms of vertical space. As more people move to laptops, even with bigger monitors, we’ve slowed down on the advancement to bigger screens. My silly iBook, for one, can only drive 1024×768, so I really care about screen real estate.


Opera tabs
Safari tabs
Firefox 2.0
Firefox 2.0 tabs

RAM Hogs

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

I’m getting pretty annoyed by the performance of my year-old iBook these days, mostly due to my DSL not working properly and running out of RAM (neither of which is really the fault of the hardware persay). After noticing that I was has 870MB of RAM “Used” (of 1GB total) according to my iStat Nano widget (basically a wrapper to top or Activity Monitor), I started trying to quit stuff to get that back down. With everything closed, I was using 697MB.. Blech.

I shutdown, restarted. Here’s my startup log:

Action Used (MB) Difference (MB)
Startup 224 n/a
Thunderbird 267 43
Firefox ( 314 47
FF to 324 10
Adium 341 17
Finder (new window, browsing) 351 10
Terminal 365 14
Teminal–3 new windows 378 13
Firefox–two new tabs, sites 378 8
Azureus 446 68 (!!)

Blah, I thought life should at least be decent with 1GB RAM?!

Update: This document from Apple helps explain why only some of the columns in Activity Monitor are interesting.