Yearly Archives: 2006

MacSanta and Wii Transfer 1.5

“Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ is now listed as part of the “MacSanta promotion”:http://www.macsanta.com/. Only $7 through Christmas day!

I also released Wii Transfer 1.5 late last night. The major change in this version is support for automatically backing up saved game data files from an SD card. The Nintendo Wii by default does not save games to SD cards, but it’s easy in the Wii settings interface to copy your saved games to an SD card or restore later. If Wii Transfer is running when you insert an SD card into your Mac, it will automatically copy the saved games to your hard drive (in Application Support), organizing them by date. Then there’s a simple UI for restoring the games back to an SD card. “Here’s a short screencast”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/screencast_backup.mov if you are curious what it looks like.

One neat part of this that I was able to do — and this is consistent with the whole point of Wii Transfer, improving the experience of transferring Wii data — is to show the real game names in the restore list. The data files actually use a 4-character code, but “WiiSave.com”:http://www.wiisave.com/ is maintaining a list of codes to real names. I’ve baked a portion of that list into Wii Transfer 1.5, and the application also automatically downloads an updated list from the Riverfold web site so that as new games are released, Wii Transfer will know about them.

Now head over to “MacSanta”:http://www.macsanta.com/ and pick up some great Mac applications, all 20% off.

Re-introducing Wii Transfer

I guess it’s a sign I’m not blogging very often when I don’t even announce my own product! A big thanks to “Dan Benjamin”:http://hivelogic.com/ and “John Gruber”:http://daringfireball.net/ for linking up “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/, a little application I quietly rolled out last night. (I’d thank the other links too but I’m still sorting through referrers for today. Maybe it’s time to buy “Mint”:http://www.haveamint.com/.)

Wii Transfer started as a weekend hack to make the process of converting QuickTime movies to more Wii-friendly codecs much smoother. Not many hours into it I realized there are a bunch of useful features I could build around the Wii. Rather than work on it for a few months leading up to a big 1.0 release (all the while not knowing if it would be well-received), I borrowed a little “less software”:http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ch02_Build_Less.php and brought it to the point that it was generally useful and worth paying for.

This kind of quick iteration is great because it means tonight I can announce version 1.2. There are a handful of minor improvements, but the two big new features are AppleScript support and an interface for quickly opening video podcasts from iTunes.

Overall this has been a really fun process and I’m interested to see where it goes from here. I will write more about Riverfold, the company, in a later blog post.

Nintendo Wii purchase

If you’ve talked to me recently about video games or read my post about trying for a Wii pre-order, you know I have become obsessed with getting a Nintendo Wii at launch. The high scores that the new Zelda was receiving last week pretty much sealed the deal for me: I had to have one.

Thursday and Friday if I was out doing errands and passed a store I would inquire about their launch plans. It wasn’t looking good, with mixed messages from employees about how many units they would be receiving. Saturday afternoon I stopped by Wal-mart at around 2pm and already there were 22 people in line for the midnight launch of only 29 systems for that store. They urged me to stay, but I couldn’t. I had a whole day planned already, and it didn’t include video games.

Saturday evening I made a list of a half dozen possible stores and called each one. It was clear right away that if I wanted a Wii on the launch weekend, there was only one choice.

Wii line at Target   Wii sunrise   Wii ticket

I arrived at Target at about 9:30pm Saturday evening with a chair, blanket, Nintendo DS, and book. They would open ten and a half hours later at 8am the next day, but tickets would be passed at around 7am. Early line campers who had arrived at 3pm in the afternoon had a sign-in list to ensure there was no confusion. I was number 33 out of 60 confirmed Wii systems. By midnight, all the consoles were accounted for, and everyone who arrived afterwards was turned away.

I had a great time talking with other line waiters. It was an interesting mix of people, from John next to me who worked at Apple here in Austin, to a set of young gamers who pulled up with a truck and unloaded two couches, a rug, and a coffee table.

Around 4 in the morning I realized how unprepared I was. It was in the 40s that night and my blanket was completely insufficient. If I ever do something crazy like this again, I’m packing several blankets, a sleeping bag, and pillows. By 6am I considered the few hours of uncomfortable sleep I got a success and took a jog around the parking lot to get my blood flowing and stop from shivering.

The sun rose and tickets were passed out. The excitement of the night before was back as a Target manager confirmed that they would indeed have a full 60 copies of Zelda, and almost as many for other games. Not everyone is going to get a Wii the first week, but from where I’m standing Nintendo has done a great job of shipping out as many systems as possible and making sure the games and controllers are there to go along with it.

I’ll post again next week about my impressions on Wii Sports and Zelda, but so far I am not disappointed. I make no apologies for being a Nintendo fan, but the Wii is neither over-hyped nor a gimmick, and I think the system will live up to its original codename.

Happy Thanksgiving!

NaNoWriMo 2006 attempt

Last year I participated in NaNoWriMo and successfully “completed a 50,000 word novel”:http://www.manton.org/2005/12/50136_words.html in one month. It was a great experience, but when someone conducted an informal survey on 43things of who would be doing it again this year, I answered that it was just something I wanted to do once in my life, like running a marathon, and I wouldn’t be doing it again.

And yet, before November rolled around again, the idea for a novel started growing in my mind. I had pretty much decided to go for it again. On the 1st of the month I wrote the opening and started organizing notes for the characters and plot.

But that same night I was sketching with friends at a coffee shop instead of writing. “Paul Adam”:http://www.untameduniverse.net/ and I talked about 24-Hour Comic Day, NaNoWriMo, and side projects. That conversation made me realize that I have a bunch of stuff I want to work on right now, and writing a novel which I have no immediate plan to publish just can’t fit into my schedule right now. NaNoWriMo is an all-consuming thing — you have to drop everything to finish it.

The story and characters I came up with have some potential, though. Instead of cramming it into a month, I may work on it a bit over the next year or two.

The 50-state strategy

I started writing this post yesterday afternoon. Worried that I would jinx a victory, I wrote two versions: one for a narrow loss and one for what really happened.

Two years ago, after Kerry lost, “I wrote”:http://www.manton.org/2004/11/after_almost_winning.html: “We almost won, and all the hard work of the last 18 months will pay off big in two short years.”

Well, it’s two years later, and we did it. DNC chairman Howard Dean’s “50-state strategy”:http://democrats.org/a/party/a_50_state_strategy/ worked. The media will tell you that the election was just about Iraq and Bush, but it goes deeper than that — voters are sick of Republican corruption, tired of half-hearted attempts at health care, and longing for a real vision for public education. You can see the patterns by looking at the progressive wins in state races and on local propositions too.

There are “20 posts in the politics category”:http://www.manton.org/category/politics.html of my blog, and they include some of my favorites from the last 4 years. It’s nice to be on the winning side again after too long. The next part of the job is for Democrats to show everyone in America that real progress can be made in Washington. Deliver. Then keep organizing and make it all happen again in 2008.

Midterm elections matter

I voted today. Here’s the scene for my precinct today. Not too crowded, but a steady flow of people.

Voting

Yesterday Traci and I called voters as part of “MoveOn.org’s Call for Change”:http://www.moveon.org/. I’m always nervous about calling complete strangers. I did this for the first time for Howard Dean’s campaign and it’s easy to get disillusioned with answering machines and hang-ups. But almost everyone we talked to was planning to vote today, and I think there’s definitely a sense that this election matters. Sometimes a simple reminder is the difference between voting or skipping it, so if you only reach a handful of people it can make the difference in a close race if thousands of other people are doing the same.

I’ll be up late tonight watching the returns. Polls close early in some places and may get crowded, so don’t wait any longer if you haven’t voted yet. For location info call 1-866-MY-VOTE-1.

Hair High at Alamo

Plympton sketch Bill Plympton was in town tonight for the Texas premiere of Hair High at Alamo Drafthouse downtown. I’ve been lucky enough to see each of his films in the theater, and this is definitely his best yet. It has actually been finished for a while. I posted about it back in 2002 when he started production. Before the showing I asked him about making an appearance at STAPLE! this coming March but it doesn’t look like his schedule will allow it. He’s one of about 4 animators I hoped to approach about showing their films at STAPLE!, in addition to some great local talent we’ll have speaking and showing their work.

The Prestige

I saw The Illusionist when it came out a couple months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love magic. The film was well told, the ending a surprise for me. Edward Norton was really good in it too. I re-watched Fight Club a week later, for the first time since the theatrical release.

Last night, I saw The Prestige. How lucky are we to have two movies about magicians in the same year? The Illusionist was really good, but The Prestige sidesteps direct comparison and just creates a new league for itself. My head was still buzzing an hour after the film was over, unraveling the different layers of the film, what it all meant for the characters and their actions. It was one of those rare works that inspires, both from the flawless filmmaking and the dedication of the fictional characters as well. I was literally on the edge of my seat and completely captivated.

Even as the credits started to roll I wanted to see it again. It’s that good.

Wii pre-orders

Two weeks ago I casually showed up to EB Games 5 minutes before they opened, hoping to luck out with a “Nintendo Wii”:http://us.wii.com/ pre-order. Unfortunately the last slot was taken by someone who was there over two hours earlier, and at least a couple dozen people (including me) were turned away before the store even opened.

I’m determined to get one of these consoles, and there’s something interesting about trying to get one at launch. Every day new reviews flow in to gaming blogs. I don’t see myself as a hardcore gamer, but the Wii looks like an innovative system with several fun games available at launch or shortly after.

So I called Toys R Us last night to inquire about pre-orders opening up today at 10am. He said they had 10 Wii and only 3 PS3s. Furthermore, mall security wouldn’t let anyone on the property until 4am. This would seem to limit the opportunity for all-night campers, so I was pretty hopeful as I left for the store shortly after 4am this morning.

Yes, you read that right. I have become so obsessed with this that I was willing to spend 6 hours in line. Luckily, the weather is beautiful this weekend. I packed a book, iPod, and sketchpad into my bag and left feeling pretty good, that at the least I would have some time alone to read or write or listen to music.

Wii line from phone There were already at least 20 people there when I arrived. Several in line were hoping to reserve both Wii and PS3. One made the comment that they would be selling the PS3 on Ebay, but keep the Wii for themselves. There was even someone waiting for the new Elmo doll, which made the whole scene even more bizarre.

Apparently some of the folks had been there well before 4am, probably closer to midnight or earlier. The details are sketchy, but the story I heard involves a bewildered security officer, two police cars, threat of jail time, and a mad dash at 4am to the front door. By the time I got there, the last Wii pre-order slots were being decided by a foot race across the parking lot. Seriously. Meanwhile, a second line at the exit door was setup in a futile effort by those too stubborn to admit defeat.

I finished the banana I had brought for breakfast, played a little multiplayer Nintendo DS, and left before 5am with a “good luck” and a wave to those crazy enough to get there before me. I guess I’ll try again at Best Buy or Target next month. Rumor points to “as much as 120 units available”:http://gonintendo.com/?p=7517 at some stores.

I didn’t go to C4

C4 was last weekend and looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately I was about travelled-out this year with RailsConf and WWDC. Perhaps next time.

Daniel Jalkut was the first I saw with nice write-up. He provides “a speed-through of sessions”:http://www.red-sweater.com/blog/213/c4-abridged and closes with what is probably the biggest draw for attendees:

“As inspiring and as much fun as the scheduled speakers were, the unstructured social time both between sessions and in the evenings were just as much fun, and probably just as educational.”

I subscribe to a couple dozen Mac developer blogs, and keeping an eye on Flickr and Technorati tags for C4 is another great way to see what developers are up to. Mr. Rentzsch himself has a “set of links here”:http://rentzsch.com/c4/zeroLinkage, and Mike Zornek just posted some “short videos of the room”:http://clickablebliss.com/blog/2006/10/25/c4_photos_and_movies/ that give another view of the show.

When I go back through my older Mac programming posts, I’m reminded that I don’t really blog about Mac development as much as I used to. Perhaps that is because there are so many other good Mac guys blogging now.

Da Vinci book, companion, and short film

The Da Vinci Code appealed to me and many others because it successfully mixes pieces of both art history and code breaking. The book captures in fiction the same fascination I had first cracking open Applied Cryptography.

A few months ago “Damon”:http://www.damonclinkscales.com/ completed a “companion to the book and film”:http://www.davincicc.com/, containing images and links to concepts organized by chapter. It uses the VitalBook digital book format, and is viewable in the software I helped write, “VitalSource Bookshelf”:http://www.vitalsource.com/. I’m working on some fun new stuff for Bookshelf at the moment that uses web services and “SSE”:http://msdn.microsoft.com/xml/rss/sse/, something I hope to post more about in the future.

In other Da Vinci news, story artist and animator Jim Capobianco has completed animation on his short film “Leonardo”:http://leoanimation.blogspot.com/. I saw a preview of this at “2d Expo two years ago”:http://www.manton.org/2004/07/california_adventure.html, and I can’t wait to see the finished product. Even in storyboards and rough pencil animation it was great.

Carcasonne

I picked up the board game “Carcasonne”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00005UNAX?ie=UTF8&tag=mantonorg&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00005UNAX/ a few weeks ago and have been enjoying it. It’s great to see some innovation in board games again, and it’s a relaxing change of pace from video games. Target and the other big box stores are still mostly packed with remakes of classic board games, which are fine, but if you seek out the more speciality shops there’s a range of good stuff available. I bought my copy at “Dragon’s Lair”:http://www.dlair.net/, a local Austin comics and games shop that I’ve been frequenting for about 15 years, but I’ve seen it featured prominently at other quality toy stores.

I originally sought out Carcasonne for play between adults, but I’ve found the game also works great for kids even younger than the 8 years recommended on the box. Just follow a few rule simplifications. First, no farmers. Next, as recommended by someone in an Amazon review, use the word “traveler” instead of thief. And finally, just score a single point for any completed castle, road, or cloister. Part of the charm of the game is in constructing the map anyway, so these simplified rules make for fast and enjoyable games for younger children.

Gameplay photo

Lost season 3

The 2-hour season finale for Lost last year was some of the best television you’ll ever see. I re-watched it a few days ago and it was great stuff. And yet, I had a feeling that season 3, which premiered this week, would reset the clock again. Introduce a few more characters, change all the usual assumptions, but leave more questions instead of answering the existing ones.

Turns out it was even worse than that. Frankly, the start of season 3 was junk. Clearly the writers are making stuff up as they go along, and that drives me nuts.

When I think of epic story, perfectively woven together from beginning to end, I think of JRR Tolkien. After reading the collection of original manuscripts and commentary by his son Christopher Tolkien, I was surprised that for the first half of Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien really didn’t know where he was going with it. It was chapter by chapter, and characters changed or story points were rewritten as he went along. But there came a point where I think the vision must have clicked for him, and at that point everything came together and the result was a work of fiction that will hold up for centuries.

The suspension of disbelief works on me better than many people. If I feel like the creator of a novel or film has a real vision I’ll overlook the small problems and fall in love with the story and characters. For Lost, the dialog and pacing of each episode is technically brilliant, but the overall vision is missing, and I don’t think it will resolve in any meaningful way. Instead, the ratings will slowly decline until the show disappears in the same pattern of X-Files or Alias before it.

So I may have to sign-off of Lost for a while. I did the same thing in the middle of season 2 when it got slow. Perhaps I’ll just read the synopsis and then join back in for the season finale every year. I’m afraid every time I watch it I’ll compare it to what it could have been, and only think of executives trying to milk the show for as many seasons as possible. I don’t want to be dragged along with them. Thanks anyway.

Enrico Casarosa interview

In my “San Francisco podcast”:http://www.manton.org/2006/09/san_francisco_podcast.html I mentioned Enrico Casarosa and “Sketchcrawl”:http://www.sketchcrawl.com/. I really wanted to interview him, but there just wasn’t time to contact him and arrange it. Luckily, Illustrationmundo’s Iconic podcast has conducted an “interview with Enrico”:http://www.illustrationmundo.com/audio/artist/85/ and they discuss Sketchcrawl at great length.

Also, check out Enrico’s ongoing watercolor comic, “The Venice Chronicles”:http://enricocasarosa.com/wordpress.1/?page_id=453. He just posted page 11 and 12.

Cars

There are a lot of computer animated films out this year. It was inevitable, with Disney shutting down its 2d division a few years ago and all of Hollywood getting on the 3d bandwagon. Some will be successes, some failures — just like their live-action counterparts — and that’s fine.

I’ve seen Cars twice now. Perhaps it’s because a certain 2-year-old I know says “zooma!” more than any word in his limited vocabulary, but this little Pixar film is really growing on me.

Meanwhile, it looks like “2d is officially back at Disney”:http://www.laughingplace.com/News-ID510530.asp. Can’t wait.

Five years later

I couldn’t let the 5th anniversary of September 11th pass without saying something. On Friday the Senate intelligence committee released a report showing that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. That isn’t news. What is news is the details: that Saddam actually distrusted Al Qaeda and tried to capture Zarqawi. The simple truth is that terrorist organizations are a threat to any government, even ones we have disagreements with.

If that doesn’t make you sick, here’s another one that I haven’t heard mentioned yet. Sometime next year the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq will surpass the civilian deaths on September 11th. (September 11th = 2973, Iraq as of today = 2661)

The level of incompetence in our President, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their advisors reaches new heights. What can we do? Five years ago we were uneducated and scared, and even two years later we could easily be led by fear alone. Now, just stay angry. Change starts in November.

San Francisco podcast

My third podcast is about San Francisco. Download it here or subscribe to the podcast feed in iTunes.

» Download (MP3, 16.8MB)

» Audio-only RSS feed (drag to iTunes)

I had a lot of fun putting this together, recording sounds in and around San Francisco. I used my MiniDisc RH-910 and Audio-Technica AT822 microphone. Turns out the MiniDisc was a pretty bad investment, though. It has been a real hassle to use, and I am eyeing the new Edirol R-09 as a replacement.

Go buy the music used in this podcast from Magnatune: Cargo Cult, Phoebe Carrai, and Arthur Yoria. They are building a great modern label that embraces what the internet is about instead of fighting it.

Also special thanks to the Marin County Free Library for permission to use a portion of the Arthur Giddings interview. Check out their site on the 1906 earthquake.

Other resources: Point Reyes, San Francisco Police 9-1-1 Tapes, 19th-Century California Sheet Music, WWDC 2006 Keynote.

Update: How could I leave out a link to Sketchcrawl.com? Also: Eadweard Muybridge, Enrico Casarosa, and Dorothea Lange.

Animation history, worth the wait

I received two great surprises this week. In the mail came the 9th issue of “Animation Blast”:http://www.animationblast.com/, Amid Amidi’s magazine on the art and history of animation artists. This started as a smaller quarterly magazine, but the latest issue has grown to over 100 pages. It’s an extremely high quality, ad-free book. I think I placed an order for Animation Blast #9 over 3 years ago, and it was continually delayed due to Amid’s other responsibilities. No worries, though, because the book is beautiful.

The other related surprise was a new episode of the “Animation Podcast”:http://www.animationpodcast.com/. The last one was over 2 months ago, but again, the quality is so high and the information so valuable that it makes my day when a new one drops into iTunes. The 17 episodes so far, if taken together, represent a huge wealth of animation history, rivaling most DVDs and books in my collection. They are probably the only podcasts I subscribe to that I would archive to audio CDs to make sure I always have access to them.

Copyright law

Copyright law is a major thorn in the side of creativity. Of course I knew this, and supported the work that “Lawrence Lessig”:http://www.lessig.org/blog/ was doing including the “Eldred case”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eldred_v.Ashcroft, but it wasn’t until I actually needed to _use copyrighted material that I realized just how horribly broken the law is. Several nights this week I’ve spent hours reading about copyright and making sure I have my ducks in a row, and the results are very depressing. Especially bad is that even very old works are automatically renewed. Some of the stuff I might want to use is impossible to find to begin with, so locking it under copyright with no revenue stream going anywhere is a huge disservice to society.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate that we need protection for our creative works — of course we do — but the retroactive nature of some of the recent copyright extensions means that content is unreachable even long after it has been left to gather dust in the internet byte bin.

Anyway, hopefully this concludes my short series of rants, started last week about the void of good digitized archives of historical documents. This all comes from a podcast or two I am working on. The good news is that today I received permission from a web site to use a small portion of their audio, giving me new hope that given a chance people will usually act sensibly. I am still maneuvering through what is acceptable “fair use” for other sources, but I think I am generally making reasonably defendable decisions.

Unfortunately I made a big mistake in my first podcast, using commercial music. At the time I didn’t think much of it, because I was experimenting, but as I start to podcast more I plan to go back and remix the old show with licensed music. “Magnatune”:http://www.magnatune.com/ has done a very smart thing here, allowing use of their music for non-commercial podcasts. I use three tracks from Magnatune on my next podcast to be posted this Friday.

Wrapping this up, I should point out that this weblog has always been licensed under the “Creative Commons Attribute License”:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0. This includes any text, images, or audio I might post, except of course those I include or link to that were not created by me. The license is extremely liberal, allowing pretty much unlimited use as long as I am credited, even for commercial purposes. Enjoy!

The web is incomplete

When we use Google everyday and mostly work with technology and related topics that are well indexed, it’s easy to forget the truth: the web is horribly incomplete. I’ve been doing some research for an upcoming podcast and it’s very frustrating to encounter huge gaping voids in the internet where history, audio recordings, and photographs should be. Somewhere out there is an audio cassette tape recording that I’d like to hear, but it will probably gather dust in an attic for the next decade instead. It needs to be even easier for anyone to put everything they have online so that it can be preserved and shared. Already I think the current generation raised on instant messaging and the web may not realize that there’s a whole world out there that is outside the reach of our keyboards. At least I know I sometimes forget.

The other part of the problem is linkrot. And not just 404s, but old links to obsolete file formats that can no longer be accessed. I can’t even count how many links to .ram files I’ve clicked that result in an error. When your content requires a special server (RealAudio streaming server software, in this case), it’s only a matter of time before that content itself will die.

Now, the good news is that a simple MP3 file and static HTML file with JPEG images will be around forever. It requires no special server software, no dynamic processing of any kind, and client software is so widespread and open that it’s a guarantee you can access it 10 years later. The only missing piece of the puzzle is reliable non-expiring domain registration and hosting.

The bad news is the rise of centralized web applications and data stores. What happens when YouTube shuts down? Remember they burn through huge amounts of cash for bandwidth each month and seem to have few options for becoming profitable. I feel better about Flickr, because they get it, but “Yahoo! has been known”:http://www.manton.org/2002/07/yahoo_mail.html to not treat data longevity seriously.