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Irregular Injection of Opinion
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 Saturday, June 06, 2009
My Audio Kit for working with my 5D MkII in Video mode – Zoom H4n + Rode

So I’m looking to do a bit more video work with the 5D MkII and so I’ve been putting together a decent solution around audio. I’ve just finished getting all the bits I need.

Mostly purchased in Singapore. Getting the GST back on stuff purchased in Singapore is really rather nice too. Been flying through here once a month or so recently.

I'm running
1. A  Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder (SGD $428 from Hung Brothers in Sim Lim Square or  Amazon looks to be as cheap as anywhere in the USA USD$325 at Amazon) . To be honest I didn’t really look at any other options when it came to the recorder. This one was really well priced with features that worked.
Key drivers for me getting the H4n were;
a) It'll do Phantom power for external mics
b) It'll do balanced inputs for external mics
c) The internal mics are surprisingly good so interesting things can be achieved using both internal and external mics together in 4 track mode.
d) You can plug it into your PC and suddenly you got a pretty decent quality Foley rig including stereo Mics
e) Simple level control with a nice easily readable LCD screen showing VU meters
f) It’s easy to do simple monitoring of the recording audio through the headphone jack
g) All the audio just ends up as WAV files on an SD card. These are cheap and plentiful and easy to work with (contrast with say memory stick)
Sure it has plenty of features I’ll never use- the Multitrack with the overdubbing or any of the guitar amp simulators. People have also been mounting the H4n to the top of their cameras- see this pic from Cinema5d.
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2. Red Head H4n wind jammer direct from http://www.redheadwindshields.com for USD$25 inc. shipping. I know people grumble about the colour. I like the color. I wonder if @iamaKalaniPrince could make me a YellowHead :-)

I got all the below from World Wide Sound Centre in Sim Lim Square. Hung Brothers only had K-Tek boompoles and mounts and wind jammers which put the price WAY up. I paid $SGD595 inc GST (Refunded at the Airport later I hope) for the below.

3. A Rode NTG2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone . Having looked at a few Mics in this price bracket (and above) including the AudioTechnica and Sennheiser Mics I settled on the Rode as being ideal in terms of price performance. I was sorely tempted to get the NTG-3 when I was in the store today but that would have blown my whole budget on just the Mic itself. The NTG-2 will work either with phantom power P48v or will also support putting a AA battery inside. I chose to get the NTG2 because it was going to give me the added flexibility of self powering and actually also because it was quite a bit longer than the NTG-1 and therefore easier to fit a windjammer AND a shock mount on.

4. A Rode Microphones Boompole
This is a BIG pole running to about 3 meters. It’s heavier than most, but then so am I so I think I can manage holding it. It’s not a cabled boompole but you can take the end caps off and run a cable through it. Feels really well made and will last a lifetime I think.

5. A Rode Microphones SM4 Shockmount. Again this was really well priced so made sense.

6. A Rode Microphones WS7 Windscreen Cheaper and almost as good as a Rycote Softie

So for well under USD$1000 I have a full audio setup for my 5D MkII. Of course recording to a 3rd party device means having to sync audio so I’m hoping that the folks from Singular software get a Windows version of their PluralEyes product out sometime real soon.

Photography | Video and Film|Saturday, June 06, 2009 11:06:29 AM UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Intercontinental The Lalit in Mumbai: It has a great gym

So I think that the Intercon Mumbai (The Lalit) has a pretty decent gym. A bunch of late model Technogym cardio and strength equipment. They also have free weights here and decent amounts of weight! Not sure if they have a squat rack though- don’t remember seeing one. Probably the best ‘in hotel’ gym I’ve been to this year. The Venetian and the Holiday Inn Issaquah both have access to great off site gyms: Canyon Ranch and Sammamish Club (checkout the cool Bing search results for it)

Had a hard cardio session today – Training Effect 4.4 on my Suunto t3c. I’m really getting to know how my body responds to exertion now. It’s really interesting working at anaerobic threshold because you can quite literally feel when your body has switched into aerobic mode: less puffing, high heart rate.

Booked in for a massage this afternoon at the hotel spa and then will probably have the day off tomorrow- or a VERY light spin.

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49% of my workout today was in my top heart rate zone. So it really was a hard threshold workout!

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Gettin Fit|Wednesday, June 03, 2009 5:51:08 AM UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Doh! I Broke The Recumbent

So my 1hr of solid exercise on the recumbent went a bit pearshaped this morning as I broke it half way through. Note to hotel owners: Kitting your gym out with rubbish equipment is never a good thing.

Ended up doing the rest of my cardio workout on the normal bike. Training Effect of 4.0 on the Suunto. Polar profile below.

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Gettin Fit|Tuesday, June 02, 2009 5:17:53 AM UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Monday, June 01, 2009
Who Exactly is the ODF Alliance a Lobbyist For? Or Against?

So with all the brouhaha over the past few weeks following the Office SP2 release that supports ODF I found myself reading a ‘Summary of initial test results’ from the ODF Alliance. It’s piqued my interest somewhat. Here’s why.

One generally expects test results to be presented in a very objective way: something about the scientific method and all that jazz. Yet this document from the ODF Alliance includes such paragraphs as:

Microsoft has a rich history of implementing down-level versions of open standards; e.g., Java
in  Internet  Explorer,  where Microsoft  pre-installed an  incompatible version with proprietary
extensions and then to let it languish, failing to update it as the Java technology evolved.

There are indeed test results in the document as well and I’m happy to take those on face value- I’ve no doubt that as a first cut implementation on a de-novo code base the Microsoft implementation isn’t perfect, though I do note that they’ve been reasonably open about some ‘by-design’ choices not to implement proprietary extensions.

But back to the ‘Test Results’. For an organization that “seeks to promote and advance the use of OpenDocument Format” I would have expected a greater degree of objectivity in such a technical report. Didn’t seem like cricket really. None of the other implementers seem to have been singled out for a special series of tests and certainly none of the other implementers appear to have been singled out for rebuke of the sort I pasted above.

Time for a little more digging then. Who exactly is this organization?

They’ve got a pretty long member list but I couldn’t find any details on either a constitution of the organization or any sort of governance structure. They do appear to have some local chapters but these appear to be even less objective and more hostile than the parent organization: take a look at OpenMalaysiaBlog.com for an example thereof. There are big names among the member list too; Sun, IBM and Google were all there so it’s definitely got some vendor backing there somewhere- but were these active members? Is there some sort of governance structure here? Is the above what the likes of De Bortoli Wines (makes of Australia’s most famous sticky) signed up to?

About the only thing to go on was the Contact page- But even that was limited to an email address and a phone number (area code 202 so Washington DC). Back to Google then.

I Googled ‘Marino Marcich’ and at the bottom of the page found a reference to the Software & Information Industry Association ironically in a mailing list post noting his removal from the OASIS ODF Mailing List. Past job maybe? A bit more Googling led me to the ODF Alliance Wikipedia page. Now I know you shouldn’t  believe everything you find on Wikipedia, but, it makes for Interesting reading: highly recommended to interested parties.

It looks to be closely related to the SIIA; Sharing offices (reportedly  but hard to confirm), sharing PR companies and indeed the SIIA is noted as one of the primary founders of the organization. But the Wikipedia article also notes, as I have above, the paucity of information about the actual governance of the organization.

The ODF Alliance was a key lobbyist against OpenXML (ECMA 376 now ratified as IS 29500) which I guess is fair enough in so far as that rather ‘robust’ process was concerned. But, I struggle to see why they should not now be taking a far more objective and constructive approach to the Microsoft implementation of ODF?

One has to wonder just what sort of Lobbyist the ODF Foundation actually is? A Lobbyist *for* ODF? Or a Lobbyist against Microsoft?

Rants|Monday, June 01, 2009 6:17:20 AM UTC|Comments [1]|    

Elasticity is the Key For Early Cloud Adopters

Originally post on the Intergen Blog

I’ve been spending a bunch of time of late thinking, working and talking about Cloud Computing platforms. There’s plenty of smoke and even a little fire too.

If you’ve been listening to the IT media for the past 12 months: Cloud Computing means many things to many different people but I tend to list 3 key attributes of most Cloud Platforms.

  1. Elasticity
    The ability to turn capacity on and off as and when required
  2. Infinite Scale (or the illusion thereof)
    The ability to scale up/out your solution as much as you want. It’s illusory in that Microsoft or Amazon do have a limited data centre resource, but it’s unlikely your application will be able to come even close to saturating it.
  3. Pay for what you use
    In the cloud you only pay for the user accounts, or processor hours, or gigabytes of storage/traffic that you actually use. To a degree this goes along with elasticity- though the level of granularity is key.

From the various vendors there are Cloud Platform offerings with differing degrees of what I tend to think of as vertical integration.

  • Software as a Service
    These are the likes of the Microsoft BPOS offerings or Salesforce.com. They’re fully packaged services- rock up with your credit card and you can have a seat of Salesforce or an Exchange mailbox. Your unit of scale is basically a user account- have as many user accounts as you want for as much scale as you want.
  • Infrastructure as a Service
    At the other end of the spectrum are the big virtual machine clouds run by people like Amazon.com (EC2) or Rackspace (Mosso). Your unit of scale here is a Virtual Machine (complete with operating system). I also group things like Amazon S3 and Azure Storage in here. You can have as many virtual machines as you want in EC2- but, remember that scale doesn’t come for free, you’re still going to be looking after your operating system; keeping it patched and so forth.
  • Platform as a Service
    This is the greyest of the categories. We’re talking here about platforms that provide you with some sort of abstraction atop multiple servers allowing you to scale out (elastically). The sorts of things that fall in here are Windows Azure Compute, Google Gears and Microsoft Live mesh. Arguably Salesforce, CRM Online and SharePoint Online fit in here to a degree too. The unit of scale here is a more abstract concept- these platforms generally require you to build a scale ready application from the outset; by taking this hit up front you get the benefits of not having to worry about things like the underlying operating system management.

So if that’s our taxonomy why do I say that elasticity is the key for early adopters?

Elasticity is the one thing that the cloud vendors can do that you can’t achieve in any other way. Being able to efficiently support users who want to turn things off an on all the time requires both scale and diversity. Scale, because you need to have a large enough customer base that a user turning off a hundred or so machines represents a mere fraction of your total capacity rather than the vast majority of it. Diversity, because you want to have different workloads with different peak demands running on your gear.

The parallels here with more traditional utilities should be obvious. The reason that the electricity system works is scale and diversity. Save for some very large industrial customers, who tend to have different contractual terms, dropping 90% of the demand for a given customer really doesn’t make a big difference to a utility. Their scale is such that individual customer load changes tend to wash each other out. Yes there are national changes in demand over the day but your power company turns capacity on and off in large (and relatively efficient to start/stop) generating units. One of the reasons that this model works is that the utility customers are a diverse bunch- if their entire customer base were residential customers, all of whom cooked roast lamb every night and all at 6pm exactly then the model wouldn’t work quite so well would it?

We’ve got a pretty nice data centre setup at Intergen. We can run applications very efficiently- we have a PUE of 1.62. We can run applications at great scale- need 1000 cores on a 12 month contract we can do that. We can keep you going 24/7/365- we’ve not had an outage since we moved to our new Terrace premises. What I can’t offer you though is 1000 cores for 4 hours one morning because you’ve got a big online sale happening- we simply don’t have the scale nor the customer diversity to make that happen. I’d hazard a guess that there isn’t an internal enterprise data centre in the world geared up for this sort of request. This is the sweet spot of the cloud vendors, particularly the Infrastructure/Platform as a Service people.

It basically comes down to your periodicity and differential of demand. If your application needs 100 cores during working hours and 10 outside working hours you’re a good candidate for the cloud but other options might suffice. If your application needs 10 cores for 360 days of the year and 100 cores for 5 days in that period then my submission is that cloud is your only sensible option here. Highly elastic workloads can only be cost effectively delivered through cloud computing.

Windows Azure|Monday, June 01, 2009 6:13:51 AM UTC|Comments [0]|    

Isolation Before Compound – A Good Upper Body Workout in Bangalore

So I got a great workout in this morning in Bangalore today. My key focus was to really blitz my upper body.

To achieve this I focussed on using an Isolatio9n exercise followed by a compound exercise for each body part. With the Isolation exercise I focussed really hard on exaggerating the movement of the muscles I was targeting and worked hard on  not using the muscles that tend to kick in if I’m being less concentrated.

So for example- for chest I used a simple Pec Deck followed my machine press. The key here was to really exaggerate squeezing my chest together. I should hurt tomorrow all things going to plan.

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Really wishing I was in WLG so I could go running like @Pipssqueaks

Gettin Fit|Monday, June 01, 2009 6:06:28 AM UTC|Comments [0]|    

Bing. The Cool New Stuff is for US Eyes Only

Why oh Why oh Why.

All the cool stuff in Bing appears to be available in the US localized version only.

E.g. Here is the canonical ‘Ford Focus’ search

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With Locale set to New Zealand

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With Locale set to US. Note that the US version is a ‘preview’ and not a ‘beta’ and note the different links appearing on the left side of the page.

A few other gripes.

The travel feature doesn’t seem to be that discoverable yet.

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Flights from BOI to SEA in NZ locale

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Flights from BOI to SEA in US locale

The same search on Google makes the whole flight search feature visible immediately

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By actually going to the travel feature you can access this really cool functionality.
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But it’s implemented in Flash!

Rants|Monday, June 01, 2009 5:56:52 AM UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Sunday, May 31, 2009
Back to Bangalore, Back to Work, Back to the Gym: A ‘Make Do’ workout

So I’ve been horribly slack over the past two weeks. First I was sick. Then I was on holiday.

I managed a measly 36 minutes of exercise week of the 18th and I’ve managed just 2hr this week (week of 25th). But, I am back in action again as of this morning.

I’m back in Bangalore running the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Business Action Training Tour event. I’d never been tin India before the start of this year- this is now my 4th trip. Gets a little exhausting, SQ502 (the flight SIN-BLR) has to be my least favourite flight in the entire world and last night they put me 4 rows from the back in a middle seat… I was not happy.

But, that was yesterday. Got back to the gym this morning. Staying at the Monarch Luxur hotel, which despite being a ‘Jewel in the crown’ of The Monarch Group is what can only be described as a ‘good value’ establishment. The rooms are not too bad, once you flush the Naphthalene balls they leave everywhere, but the gym is a bit average.

So my workout today was very much a make do sort of workout. So here are a few tips for a make-do workout.

  1. Don’t be afraid to try a new piece of cardio gear.
    I used the rather decrepit recumbent bike here to good effect today: in fact I think I’ll try for a full on Cardio session on Tuesday morning using this machine.
  2. If there’s not enough weight on a particular machine then go unilateral and explosive.
    Today was leg day and the legpress machine here (part of one of those all in one Gym things) had a very limited weight stack. So it was a case of racking the entire stack and then doing unilateral (one leg at a time), high pace (explosive), high rep (15 per side +) exercises. Makes for a hybrid cardio/strength workout. Wouldn’t want to do it every week as it’s liable to consume a bit of muscle mass but for a first week back it was great.
  3. Use body weight exercises
    As above, you can get a good cardio/strength hybrid by using body weight. In my case this was bench step-ups. The bench here was nice and high which made this a good challenge and it was a good balance test as well.

Polar screenshot for the day
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Gettin Fit|Sunday, May 31, 2009 6:11:24 AM UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Monday, May 18, 2009
Struggling to make time to exercise

So once again, travel is getting in the way of fitness. Was in Sydney over the weekend and while I managed to get an 8km walk (and a 50m swimming race) in with Adam Cogan over the weekend I’ve not done a decent road ride for a week.

Got back from Sydney last night at midnight and on the plane to Dunedin again this morning then Dunedin to Hamilton tomorrow. Oh happy joy!

I did get a morning boxing workout in with Scott @ Les Mills on the Terrace this morning. My 3rd since I got back into it and my fitness is definitely improving.

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Gettin Fit|Monday, May 18, 2009 9:31:59 PM UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Thursday, May 14, 2009
The Making of our 48 Hour Film – All shot on the Canon 5D MkII

Roger Wong one of the people on our 48 Hour Film Comp team has posted up some behind the scenes photos. One of the things about shooting a full film with 5D MkII cameras is you inevitably end up with some great photos too.

We’re not allowed to post the video online until the finalists are announced. But I promise I’ll get it up here ASAP after that. Currently we only have a Standard Definition (stupid rules) cut but we’re hoping to remaster it in full HD too.

You might recognize ‘Dr Phil’ from 22 seconds into the new Air New Zealand Advert. What a tough job!

Horst and Carlos, our erstwhile directors.

D. McG. who composed our original score.

Collaborative editing.

Intergen | Photography | Toy Box|Thursday, May 14, 2009 12:52:04 AM UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Recovery Aerobic Session at the Gym

Did a recovery aerobic session at the gym today. On the RedEye SIN-SYD tonight so will probably try and bang out a decent length session on the spin bike tomorrow. Note to frequent travellers: The Intercontinental in Sydney has proper Spin bikes in their gym.

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Gettin Fit|Tuesday, May 12, 2009 12:09:28 AM UTC|Comments [0]|