News for April 2002


22apr2002 - Gone fishing. See you in a few weeks.

19apr2002 - Posted another update to Wendy's adventures at Film school, 5th of the semester. See here.

18apr2002 - Installed games to my PC today .. following a complete system reinstallation from a couple of weeks ago. Had been reluctant to load the games, cuz once I do, the kids take over my computer. It takes the Jaws-of-Life to pry them away. They've been bugging me the last week.

They prefer online First Person Shooter type games, such as Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament and, their favorite, Counterstrike. When I ordered the new CPU, I also ordered a new gfx card: a Radeon 8500, cuz it offers both good 2D (for me) and excellent 3D image quality (for gaming) .. so I was curious to see how the 3D gfx were going to look with the new card.

Of course, I had to jump online and test a few games myself, just to make sure everything that was working okay. =) My favorite game is Rocket Arena, which is a Quake 3 mod with drop-dead gorgeous gfx. The only bad thing is that everyone who plays RA is good, and it's hard for me to stay alive very long. Once you die, you sit out until the next game begins. I do a lot of sitting & waiting. =(

If you already have Quake III Arena, you can download the RA3 mod for free here (90MB). It never ceases to impress me how good the gfx in 3D games look. Speaking of which .. I better get back to my, uh, testing .. before the kids get back. =)

17apr2002 - Saw Lord of the Rings last night. Hadn't been very eager to see it cuz Wendy saw it when it first came out and she wasn't crazy about it. But I should've known better cuz I loved it. The sceny was most stunning part of the film. Wow. Wish I could've seen it on a larger screen. I'd like to see it again.

Only problem I had with the story was when the guy is still killing hundreds of crazed Orcs with two arrows sticking in him. Found that a bit unrealistic. But I really liked the following scene where he dies. That was hard to do without getting corny, and I feel that they pulled it off remarkably well. Caught myself saying, "nice job."

16apr2002 - Wendy finished shooting her thesis project film yesterday. She came home at 2AM and went straight to bed. Photos from the final day of shooting are posted here. Three pages with each containing 6 thumbnails. Also posted a short update from some of the trials and tribulations of trying to make a movie.

The site set a new bandwidth record yesterday, using over 580 MB. I can still remember the first time we broke 100MB, and how remarkable that seemed. Mondays seem to be the heaviest traffic days. Site usage stats posted here.

15apr2002 - Posted photos from yesterday's shoot of Breakwater at USC's Zemeckis Digital Arts Center in Los Angeles. Three pages with 7 or 8 thumbnails per page. See here. Tania stoped by yesterday to grab some behind-the-scenes footage. Today is the final day of principle shooting.

14apr2002 - Posted photos from yesterday's first day of studio shooting .. at USC's Zemeckis Digital Arts Center in Los Angeles. See here. This is the cave screen, where the Breakwater crew used fake rocks with real sand & seaweed to create a cave inside studio 'E'. They also used a dry ice fog machine and other FX generators.

Seven pages, each containing 7 thumbnails. Each thumbnail links to a larger image. Each page containing a large image also contains a link back to the main Index page, for easy navigation.

They used 25 50-lb bags of sand, which cost $4 each. The green-screen allows them to replace the green background areas with special effects (like the dragon) that will be generated later. Two more days of principle shooting remain.

13apr2002 - Added drop-shadow graphics (like the ones located at the top of this page) to all stylesheet-based pages, such as the Ghost guide & the ASPI guide .. in an effort to establish visual continuity with the home page and lend a more professional look.

I've never been very interested in site design, preferring rather to focus on generating solid content .. so this is new territory for me. I like the way these graphics are clean & simple, yet lend the visual depth of a 3D look. I used Photoshop to generate them. Once I created the first one, it was simple to make the others.

12apr2002 - I noticed that the Rad Forums now have over 100 registered users .. even tho I disabled the requirement to register in order to post messages. I use open source software from YaBB, which stands for Yet another Bulletin Board. Uh, I also noticed that they just released an upgraded version: SP1.1 .. posted yesterday. Guess I ought to download & install it. So if you can't access the forums, you'll know something went wrong.

Had a little trouble, due to directories changing after I re-installed my system, but everything seems to be working .. except for the Poll mod.

11apr2002 - Posted another update to Wendy's adventures at USC Film school, the third of the semester. See here.

In other news, the much maligned Hollings' Digital Copyright bill was defeated. Here's a quote from the linked article: "In testimony before Sen. Hollings' Commerce and Science Committee last month, Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner accused technology firms such as Intel Corp. of profiting from digital piracy, and said they were not interested in working out a way to stop the problem."

Of course Eisner does not mention that Disney gave Fritz over a quarter of a million dollars in contributions over the last five years. Can our lawmakers be bought? You better believe it. See here for details, and also here. My coffee somehow tasted better while reading that article. One thing I know: you don't want to piss off the geeks. They will bring the whole mess down. I for one put in my two digital cents. I wrote:

"Dear Senator Hollings, In the interest of clarity, I will be both brief & blunt. Your bill is a steaming crock of excrement. It will remain so long as you allow copyright lawyers to craft your legislation. I suggest that you refuse any more 'contribution's from Disney and try to include the consumer's perspective (your constituents) on fair use."

I get a lot of mail on issues related to this. Try searching for cd ripping on Google, and you'll see where a lot of it comes from.

10apr2002 - Whipped up some Photoshop mojo and added the two drop-shadow graphics at the top of the page. The 'RADIFIED' gif is 5KB, while the one that says 'Indulge Your Technolust' is 7KB, for a total of 12KB extra. Trying to keep the design clean and simple, and the total page size (HTML + gfx) to less than 40KB, which equates to ~7 secs for someone with a 56kbps dial-up connection. That seems reasonable.

Also converted the archive page for April News to the new style-sheet formatting.

09apr2002 - Posted photos from the forth day of shooting (yesterday). Seven pages with 7 thumbnails on each page .. each linking to a larger image. See here. The crew is now half done shooting. An adorable little, 4-year-old boy came up to Lani yesterday, totally enchanted, thinking that she was a real mermaid. Lani played the part for him.

The site broke its daily usage record yesterday as visitors requested over 550MB worth of Radified bandwidth. I suspect that the lion's share of those requests were for photos of recent shoots.

08apr2002 - Notice anything different? I converted the home page to style sheet formatting. I've been wanting to do that for so long, but kept having trouble establishing multiple link color profiles. The color schemes of the links on the sides need to be different from those in the center, cuz the background colors are different in each area. I finally learned how to code this correctly at Patty's site. Until then, it was kicking my butt.

This new page contains ~1/3rd the size (22KB) of the old one (including gfx), and will therefore load ~3 times faster. Dr. Jakob would be proud of me. Notice that, except for the Google gif (2KB) and the yellow tri-blade denoting each new day (0.5KB), there are no graphics on this page (there are no gfx on the Doc's home page either).

I may add one or two more later, but for now, I want to see how people like the speedy load times. The site took a big jump in bandwidth usage last month, so I've become more conscious of it.

I used Dreamweaver (Macromedia) to make this page. The old one was made with Frontpage (Microsoft). Dreamweaver is much better. The old page is posted here. Perhaps you prefer red over blue.

The thing that pushed me to finally bite the bullet and make the conversion was when I used a service that checks the HTML code of your page. My home page was littered with about 50 or 60 code errors. It was easier to just make the conversion to Dreamweaver & style sheets than repair all the code errors in Frontpage.

Photos from the third day of shooting (yesterday) Breakwater are posted here. The crew is wupped, after a long day (15 hours) of shooting. They have revised the schedule to scale back today's shoot.

07apr2002 - Posted more photos .. these from the second day of shooting (yesterday) .. at 10th Street Beach, Laguna Beach .. also known as Thousand-steps Beach (actually, there are only 214 steps). Some cool images. See here.

06apr2002 - Wendy posted photos from yesterday's first day of shooting Breakwater: her thesis project film. Nine individual pages. Each page contains about 8 thumbnails .. linking to larger images. See here. One full-sized sample image posted here (490kB) to get idea of the camera's quality. Don't click on that link unless you have a broadband connection.

05apr2002 - Posted another update to Wendy's adventure's at USC Film school. Second of the semester. See here.

04apr2002 - Madness has descended as everyone is showing up for tomorrow's first day of shooting .. for Wendy's thesis project film. A crew of about 20 people will here for the next several days. Amazing how much work goes into making a film. A million last-minute details has Wendy oscillating between ecstasy & terror.

The living room is full of two truckloads of camera equipment. Lani showed up in a mermaid outfit that she designed & made herself, after driving down from Santa Cruz.

Alex & Despina are in the kitchen going over each of tomorrow's 150 shots. Wendy is reviewing tomorrow's scenes in the back bedroom with her lead actress (Jessica). There is enough food piled up in the kitchen to feed a small army for a week. Everyone has a different dietary regimen. Filmmakers don't eat regular food. More photos posted here.

03apr2002 - Burned my first compilation CD today, from songs ripped & encoded the last several days. Been a long time coming. It was back on the 11th of last month when I originally ordered the new drive (checked Rad news for March to verify), planning to use it to store songs compressed with a lossless codec.

Began having trouble almost the minute the drives arrived, which (after much frustration) eventually led to a new CPU for the venerable Rad rig, and new system install, which takes me a long time to configure, cuz I have so many software programs to install.

Figured that if I had to reinstall everything from scratch, I might as well do it with the new CPU & chipset I wanted. Fortunately, that venture turned out surprisingly well, rendering $600 performance for a measly $134 (P4 1.6A @ 2138 MHz). Actually, you can't even buy an official 533-FSB system yet, which is why I had to use the wire trick.

After ripping & encoding songs from ~500 CDs, the first thing I did was decode a bunch of *.ape files back to waves .. which was kinda weird. But that went fast, and before I knew it, I was building a new CD, using CD Architect (getting creative).

Those of you who've used this program know how sweet it is. And since I still have a ancient 8X burner, it's still supported by CD Architect, which has since been discontinued by Sonic Foundry.

I was starting to get burned out after ripping & encoding some 500+ CDs. If I never rip & encode another music CD, that'll be okay by me. I was even beginning to get cranky. But after the first compilation .. with cross-faded songs, it suddenly all seems worth it. Listening to it now .. on the home system. No skips or pops. Flawless quality, equal to that of the original CD (via lossless codec).

It contains all my favorite songs, with one song beginning just before the current song ends. Can't buy CDs like that in any store. I was just going to make a label for my new CD, but first Wendy wants to make a CD for herself .. after I did all the work ripping & encoding. =/

I'm surprised by how many songs you can store on a 120-gig drive .. even using lossless compression. If you figure that the average music CD contains ~600MB worth of songs, and I usually only like half the songs on average (some CDs more, some only have one good song).

And if you figure that lossless compression is good for ~50% reduction in file size, that means you can store the songs from ~800 music CDs on a 120-gig drive. If you were to use either MP3 or Musepack, or another lossy codec, you could easily multiply that number by 3 or 4, which means you could store the songs from 3200 CDs on a single hard drive. Amazing.

I feel that making custom, compilation CDs is one of the cooler things you can do with a PC .. and the quality that comes from using lossless audio compression makes it all the better.

02apr2002 - Laguna Beach high school is on Spring break this week, so Jahmar & I went to see Panic Room, starring Jodie Foster (review). Premise for the movie sounded boring, but everyone is talking about it, and it broke box office records for a film opening Easter weekend, so we decided to go see what all the hoopla is about.

Saw it at the Big Newport, a huge theater, with a huge screen. Surprisingly, the theater was comfortably full on a Tuesday night.

Movie contains only one glaring 'they wouldn't do that in real life' part. I liked how the story unfolded, and how it was presented. I especially liked how minor details supported the main story, giving it a nice sense of coherence and believability. The plot unfolded naturally, without being broadcast to the viewer in awkward ways.

Not much fluff. After only a brief set-up, things quickly get suspenseful. Without trying to spoil it for you, I'll simply say that I am definitely putting this one on my Recommended list. If you go, check out the cop. I found his performance so believable (even better than Jodie's for that scene) that I wonder if he wasn't a real NYC police officer.

Both Jahmar & I had trouble determining if the androgynous kid who played Jodie's child was a boy or girl.

01apr2002 - Posted site usage statistics for the month of March. See here. All measured stats recorded new monthly highs as the site served over half a million files for the first time. It appears that a million hits a month is now inevitable. The site also used more than 15-gigs of bandwidth last month. Who'd a thunk it?

My web guru buddies tell me that I can maximize the number of Pageviews by removing the posted PDF files: both downloadable and printable versions. For example, the Norton Ghost guide, which is the site's single most requested feature, contains 8 pages, but most people simply download or print out the PDF, and never bother with the other 7 pages. They also think I should put up some ads, but that would be sacrilegious. =)

Wendy posted a bunch of photos of her cast & crew on her site. See here. Each of the four thumbnails lead to pages with about 10 additional thumbnails per page .. which each lead to larger photos of the same image. She is getting ready to shoot her thesis project film, & stressing big time.

I'm still ripping & encoding music CDs. After about 500 CDs, I'm growing weary of it. I'm more than ready to begin assembling some compilation CDs. I even have labeler software that makes great-looking CD labels with my color printer using glossy labels. About 25 more CDs to go and I'll be done ripping. Then the fun begins.