It started with a subscription and a email…

I started subscribing to the Dyslexic Advantage, as I have gotten much benefit from the book and decided it would be good to digest much more.

After looking at their premium section, which has a lot of media I started thinking there is maybe too much and they are adding more to it all the time. I started thinking if they have RSS, I could subscribe and get updated media without having to go to the site to check.

Looking at their RSS it was the generic one for the blog no matter which page I went to. There was a note at the end of the podcast section saying if you have troubles or would like it another way ask.

So I did and got into a discussion with Dr. Fernette Eide and Dr. Brock Eide the researchers and writers of the dyslexic advantage. I talked about the advantage of RSS and explained you can have http authentication on RSS to keep their premium content secure.

They were using some other system which was costing them a bit and there was extra step of uploading content to the other system from their dropbox drive, which they nicely shared with me.

Dropbox drive I thought… sure I saw a service which will take a directory of files and generate a RSS feed? I remembered it was called Justcast.com

I set up a account and tried out Justcast for myself and was impressed with how easy it was to get up and running. The one thing which seemed to be missing was authentication on RSS feeds. So I ping them a support request.

Josh from Justcast wrote back pretty quickly… They were on it!

Thanks so much for your suggestion and interest on JustCast, and you know what, we are actually going to work on implementing this Authentication to the feed feature in July. I will definitely keep you in the loop on our development progress.

Following that email we went back and forth and he showed me what it would look like. Then a day ago (29th June) a email

Adding authentication to the feed feature went live. You will able to find the config under the Settings > Advanced. Please give it a try.

I did and it worked exactly how I specified previously. https://user:password@www.justcast.com/mypodcast/blah/index.rss

Perfect…  and the Justcast team have so many features, check out their blog. If I was creating podcasts not on archive.org. This would be my number one option now.

In the meanwhile I was equally impressed to see the dyslexic advantage team had taken my advice, converted their whole premium content to Justcast and were asking me to test the RSS feed.

Dyslexic advantage rss podcast with justcast

It worked perfectly, no need to have access to the dropbox anymore. I was able to subscribe to the RSS feed (theres a button called subscribe which gives you the full RSS feed link). I was able to add it the feed to my complex setup.

I was impressed with both sides and everything seems so much easier for all now. It reminded me how important it is to take advantage of those opportunities.

Justcast got a new client, dyslexic advantage cut their costs and time to upload and share new premium content. I got my RSS feed(s) with a automated drip of new content as they come.

Another nice unexpected thing came out of the whole thing. The dyslexic advantage team wanted to know my story and may turn it into a recording…!

#covid19 has affected the way I see TV & Films

 Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Where’s your social distancing guys?

It didn’t take long for the impact of Covid-19 to totally affect the way I see films and TVs. I can’t help but think every time a character touches another character or even comes within a couple of meters.

Where’s your physical distancing!!!

Government says stay in doors, how I make it work

Working from home
Me on my Dell XPS with that hinge camera

As the UK tonight goes into police lockdown, I reflect on staying in my flat.

I have been working at home since last week Tuesday, a few days after most of my colleagues at BBC R&D. Like most of the country/world who could work from home, we work from home in the middle of Covid-19 pandemic.

For a lot of people working from home is very challenging, for a number of reasons including having kids, job which requires access to specialist equipment, trying to separate work and personal life for a long time. Theres also the mental, social and physical health sides of this all.

So I thought I’d share how I’m managing with staying at home most of the time. Of course take from it what you think is useful.

Work wise

I now switched to my natural working time of 1030-11am till 7pm. I do get up and do all the things I usually do when going to work including getting dressed, having breakfast, playing podcasts, etc. Where usually I am in a rush for the door, I now relax playing a few podcasts in a row and across my flat.

Physically working I switch between using my standing desk in my bedroom and the sofa in the living room. I also have my dinner table but haven’t used that yet.

I take breaks when ever I want rather than a lunch break as such. It makes sense to me but I’m sure others will disagree

I’m using my Dell XPS 13 to the maximum memory wise (if I could add another 16gig to it I would, but it tops out at 16gig). Because of that I have to keep opening and closing the virtual windows 10 machine to check email. This is actually quite good because I’m answering emails then closing it while I do other things like writing gdocs, a lot of zoom calls.

Media beyond the news

Talking about media, I am currently playing podcasts as theres lots of podcasters recording from their homes, just like the mainstream media. At some point I will start listening to some of the audiobooks I have saved.

Been watching a lot of films and may start watching more TV shows but generally its audio in the morning and videos in the evening.

I have also ignoring most of the news media because I hate that news cycle and there is so much good stuff out there. For example Mydata just upload their videos, the Singularity University did a summit about Covid19, There was a activitypub conference with videos on peertube. This is just in the last few weeks.

I had also planned to do some training by watching and listening from Linkedin learning and other sources.

I’m very happy I opted for the 1gig bit hyperoptic fibre link, its paid for its self massively over the years and being able to share my media with friends is fantastic. I’m also considering using my icecast server to maybe put up a live web broadcast every weekend as its been a while since I did a mix.

The Manchester futurists which I’m a part of are considering podcasting while events are not allowed. So look out for those. I did float the idea of techgrumps again but no dice yet.

I’m also considering getting more into gaming as I’m not much of a gamer, but do have a Xbox 360 and Playstation one classic. I actually do have a steam account but never used it so theres something I might explore. I’m also looking for a good gaming site for casual gaming which can be played together with my partner or friends, but is respectful of my data? Any ideas do drop a comment…

Staying in shape

I’m lucky to have a communal garden so can sit outside with minimal risk to myself and others. Its also where I’m going to start doing the diabolo now its getting warmer (thankfully). I have been outside a few times, mainly to get food, post letters and go riding in the pennies on the scooter. I am planning to do some more serious walking for shopping and exercise.

Been wondering if now is a good time to order those Rollerblades to go with my skateboard?

Staying connected

I don’t live with my partner but we are talking everyday. Its good and we find new and good ways to do things together over the phone and videochat.

I have always been in regular contact with my parents but also connecting with my sister more. Been thinking about the massive family I have and I should reach out to them more too.

I’m also making a very conscious decision to everyday get in touch with people I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Think about it, everybody is at home and likely will be very happy to hear from an old friend. Its not like they are out or on holiday. So far its been great and I expect it brings delight to others too.

Keeping my mind in gear

I have a large task list of things to do, not only because of covid-19 but generally. So I can slowly work my way through that while at home. Some of it is computer based, some internet based, some hardware and some physical DIY type things. Been thinking I should physically take up the art of motorcycle maintenance with my scooter.

Taking a look at the list, there is always something I could be doing and I ordered that raspberry pi 4 before this became a pandemic.

I’m taking time out to practice self-care, relax and sleep longer than usual which is helping a lot with my mental health. I’m avoiding the news cycle as mentioned previously but also avoiding lots of the facebook nonsense as I don’t need to use it now volleyball is off for the foreseeable future.

Moi? Pocket’s top 5% reader?

pocket badge
Ian, you read a ton this year and made it into our top 5% of readers. That’s an impressive amount of knowledge gained.

Well this is quite a surprise I got when Pocket sent me a email saying I was in the top 5% of readers for last year.

Its not because I haven’t consumed lots of written word content but because I have mainly been listening to pocket while on the go (although I can’t quite do driving the bike and listening to pocket or podcasts). Pockets text to speech is pretty sweet as its cloud based not on the device like wallabag. This of course has good (better voice) and bad points (when out of wifi/4g, privacy considerations, etc).

Talking of wallabag, I tend to run pocket from wallabag with a nifty IFTTT recipe. I’m not the only one it seems.

The 2010s: When the Media Lost Their Gatekeepers

Reason’s video post is spot on and charts how the 2010’s started with such promise but ended on such a low. However there are options on the horizon if we can get our heads around decentralised and distributed technologies.

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s work best explains how the world changed in the 2010s—and what we can expect in the decade ahead.

I’m doing what I can to fore-fill that mental shift in the 2020’s by focusing on trust, transparency, accountability, data ethics, etc.

Computational photography is just the start

Tree scene with sunlight
Far Cry 5 / A Run in the Park

I found it interesting  to read how Virtual Photography: taking photos in videogames could be imaging’s next evolution. A while ago I mentioned how computational photography was pretty stunning a while ago when using my Google Pixel 2’s night sight mode.

Theres a project BBC R&D have been working on for a while, which fits directly into the frame of computational media. We have named it REB or Render Engine Broadcasting. Like OBM, Object based media theres a lot of computational use in the production of media, but I think theres a ton of more interesting research questions aimed at the user/client/audience side.

Its clear computational media is going to be a big trend in the next few years (if not now?). You may have heard about deepfakes in the news and thats just one end of the scale. Have a look through this flickr group. Its worth remembering HDR (high dynamic range) is a early/accepted type of computational. I expect in game/virtual photography is next, hence why I’ve shown in game photography to make the point of where we go next.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice / Up There

Its clear like every picture we see has been photoshopped, all media we will have to assume has been modified, computed or even completely generated. computational capture and machine vision/learning really is something which we have to grapple with.  Media literacy and tools to more easily identify computational media are what is missing. But the computational genie is out of the bottle and can’t be put back.

Theres also many good things about computational media too, beyond the sheer consumption.

While I cannot deny that my real world photography experience aids my virtual photography through the use of compositional techniques, directional lighting, depth of field, etc. there is nothing that you cannot learn through experience. In fact, virtual photography has also helped to develop my photography skills outside of games by enabling me to explore styles of imagery that I would not normally have engaged with. Naturally, my interest in detail still comes through but in the virtual world I have not only found a liking for portraiture that I simply don’t have with real humans, but can also conveniently experiment with otherwise impractical situations (where else can you photograph a superhero evading a rocket propelled grenade?) or capture profound emotions rarely exhibited openly in the real world!

Virtual photography has begun to uncover a huge wealth of artistic talent as people capture images of the games they love, in the way they interpret them; how you do it really is up to you.

Its a new type of media, with new sensibility and a new type of craft…

Of course its not all perfect.

https://twitter.com/iainthomson/status/1165755171923587072

Plex’s future, without its server?

halt and catch fire

Plex recently announced they were making major changes and that we should be excited about Desktop AF. What wasn’t said was the media server is being killed?

Years back, the most common Plex implementation was to attach a home theater PC (HTPC) to a TV to stream media. With the proliferation of cheap streaming devices like the Chromecast, Apple TV, and Fire TV, almost no one bothers with HTPCs anymore. Thus, Plex is retiring the TV interface with the launch of its new desktop app. This will, no doubt, upset some Plex fans nonetheless.

dates

Upset? Absolutely and its now in direct competition with Kodi too.

I’m now in the market for a alternative to Plex. Originally I was looking at Emby a long while ago but frankly I don’t want to switch to another freemium product.

Jellyfin and Triton look good but its early days.

Jellyfin is a personal media server. The Jellyfin project was started as a result of Emby’s decision to take their code closed-source, as well as various philosophical differences with the core developers. Jellyfin seeks to be the free software alternative to Emby and Plex to provide media management and streaming from a dedicated server to end-user devices.

TRITON is a media pipeline that aims to go one step further than services like Jellyfin and Plex provide. Media is fetched from a magnitude of supported protocols (HTTP, S3-compatible, Usenet, etc), converted into multiple different quality levels, and then uploaded to a S3-compatible storage provider. This enables cheap storage and ensures that buffering is never a problem.

Lots more research is needed, including a look at what others are doing with the Plex announcement. Although I did find Ampache and Airsonic which could be useful for my mixcloud issues. Imagine if they were federated too?

Climate disaster is just around the corner

I have nothing but respect for the people who are taking part in the Extinction Rebellion, its about time! I had hoped Al Gore’s inconvenient truth would be the start of this? But it wasn’t. You can blame the media, trump, etc but the fact is we are running out of time.

Extinction Rebellion - Rebel for life
Its unbelievable and downright scary to hear mainly older peoples views on “kids” truanting from school and blocking London. I understand the worry about legal and illegal protest, however each and everyone of them understand how much of a knife edge humanity is on.

I was listening to Episode 127 of TeamHuman “All Hands On Deck” Extinction Rebellion with Gail Bradbrook and Clare Farrell. Although I thought they were interesting its their pulling people together which is most important. Always reminded of Eric Nehrlich’s find the others post.

I found this cartoon quite powerful by the way.

 

Did Netflix scorched the earth of interactive digital narrative?

Netflix - Black mirror
Bandersnatch

Everyone is talking about Black Mirror Bandersnatch, and to be fair after watching 5hrs 13mins of it seeing every version/variation. Its quite something. But even before it launched there were problems.

I agree its slick but its also very interesting to read Charlie Brooker’s thoughts on the experience of creating it.

Creator Charlie Brooker told The New York Times that he won’t be making more interactive episodes of the Netflix series – so no more difficult cereal choices in the future.
Asked what advice he had for anyone attempting to make interactive TV, Brooker added: “Run away. It’s harder than you think.”

I wonder if Bandersnatch will ultimately cause people to avoid IDNs (Interactive Digital Narratives) or adaptive narratives. It would be a real shame if it did but as Tom says in reply to my thoughts earlier today

I do wonder if Netflix has slightly done some damage by doing something so extreme? Something of a firework which everyone saw and caused a fire as it rained on peoples head?

Maybe James is right along with Tom? Explicit Interactive Digital Narratives has been done to death. You only have to look at the stuff Marian was doing in the mid- late 2000s with shapeshifting media.

I can predict in a year or so time, people will have forgotten Bandersnatch (packed away on a top shelf as James says) but this isn’t good news for all those other productions and experiments which may not be as smart but genuine a pleasure to be part of.

Would funding for IDN dry or boom because of Bandersnatch? Hard to tell at this stage.

What I would like from Netflix is some data/numbers on repeat viewings, paths people take, etc. If I was writing a paper, this would be a good experiment to be in on.

This is not Plex on your GPU

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nvidia/30153594058/

I hadn’t really thought Plex Media Server could massively benefit from a GPU, to be fair its not really a thing you put in a headless server? But after reading about it, I gave it a try by borrowing a Nvida Quatro PCI-express card and after some small issues getting the propitery drivers working gave it a try.

I thrown together a shell script to log the CPU and GPU heat to a text file called heat.txt

while true; do date >> heat.txt ;
 nvidia-smi -q -d temperature |
 grep 'GPU Current Temp' >> heat.txt; sensors |
 grep -e 'CPU Temperature' -e 'CPU Fan Speed' 
-e 'MB Temperature' >> heat.txt; sleep 10; 
done

I know theres a better way but it was quick and dirty.

From the short tests I did, it seemed the CPU kicked into high gear for a minute or two before it hands off to, what I thought was the GPU. However… During a stream encode of 4k h.264 content to 1080p h.264, while directly streaming at the same time. I got these results.

Thu 20 Dec 20:23:51 GMT 2018;
> GPU Temperature: 33.0°C
> CPU Fan: 1650 RPM
> CPU Temperature: +71.0°C
> MB Temperature: +34.0°C
Thu 20 Dec 20:24:01 GMT 2018;
> GPU Temperature: 33.0°C
> CPU Fan:: 1599 RPM
> CPU Temperature: +68.0°C
> MB Temperature: +34.0°C
Thu 20 Dec 20:24:11 GMT 2018;
> GPU Temperature: 33.0°C
> CPU Fan: 1261 RPM
> CPU Temperature: +59.0°C
> MB Temperature: +34.0°C
Thu 20 Dec 20:24:21 GMT 2018;
> GPU Temperature: 33.0°C
> CPU Fan: 1167 RPM
> CPU Temperature: +54.0°C
> MB Temperature: +34.0°C

A while later once the transcoding stops

Thu 20 Dec 20:37:40 GMT 2018;
> GPU Temperature: 33.0°C
> CPU Fan: 725 RPM
> CPU Temperature: +37.0°C
> MB Temperature: +35.0°C
Thu 20 Dec 20:37:50 GMT 2018;
> GPU Temperature: 33.0°C
> CPU Fan: 724 RPM
> CPU Temperature: +37.0°C
> MB Temperature: +35.0°C
Thu 20 Dec 20:38:00 GMT 2018;
> GPU Temperature: 33.0°C
> CPU Fan: 725 RPM
> CPU Temperature: +37.0°C
> MB Temperature: +35.0°C

As you can see with proper testing it was clear the GPU isn’t being used for transcoding (unless the CPU magically is doing something else, but looking at Htop, its clearly Plex transcoding). This was confirmed when doing more research on the issue.

Seems the problem I got is the AMD processor and if I was to swich it to a Intel one it should work with the Nvidia GPU?

So this brings me to the idea of maybe changing parts of my server.

Si pointed me at PC part picker which is alright but I don’t really understand why some Linux operating systems are not listed under operating systems? I listed most of my parts here and to be fair changing the CPU, motherboard, case and of course getting my own GPU might be a good idea?

More gender issues I’ve spotted

http://nobaddatesjustgoodstories.tumblr.com/post/173444153673

I had planned a series of blog posts about different gender items I’ve seen in blog posts, the news , etc but never got the time. Instead I kept adding them to wallabag and tagging them to blog.

So think of this blog post as a series of micoblog with little comments after each link.

No baby slings or bananas: are these the new fragile masculinity rules?

This one sums up so many things I hear and can’t stand. Shes right, how fragile is masculinity that eating a banana in a certain way can cause idiots to worry. Its frankly so stupid I can’t bring myself to say anything more that what I’ve said before.

We can’t want gender equality and still expect guys to pay for the first date and Viewpoint: ‘Why most men should pay on first dates’

Dare I say anything more…? To be fair its been a long time since I mentioned who pays on the first date. But to be fair there is arguments and tensions, which is why it keeps coming up. For example if you take the massive gender pay gap and then exercise it in who pays for the bill. Most heterosexual dates would have the man paying 20-33% more for the bill. This was noted to me and I pointed out the minority pay gap is pretty awful too making things even more tricky on a first date.

How thrillers offer an antidote to toxic masculinity and Flirting and you’ll be called a rapist? Oh please grow up, Superman

Lessons in how to be a good man? Maybe? Not so sure as the old-fashioned view from Superman actor Henry Cavill says it all. Generally the men in  thrillers I’ve seen, might be better than the toxic masculinity you see now but not exactly enlighten to feminism.

What Do Men Think It Means To Be A Man?

So this is very interesting research. I originally heard the love, sex and money issue a while ago, but didn’t dig into the survey till recently.

When I read,

Pop culture was a source of inspiration for an understanding of manhood for younger men (42 percent of those age 18 to 34), while only 17 percent of men 35 to 64 and 12 percent of men 65 and over said the same.

My instant thought was something of a worry, as I’m not seeing the best examples in pop culture (although I have to admit I don’t spend much time in pop culture so maybe I’m automatically biased).

The society pressure and daily concerns was another key one, which I’d love to have similar results from a decade ago and a decade before that.

The question How would you say it’s an advantage to be a man at your work right now? Blew my mind…

59% of men surveyed didn’t think Men are taken more seriously, Men make more money, Men have more choice, Men have more professional development opportunities, Men generally have more support from their managers, Men are explicitly praised more often?

This is delusion at its worst, even Even with the movement making this super clear. But it is consistent with a conversation I had in my barbars a while ago to be fair, when I mentioned going to see the Guilty Feminist live recording in Liverpool.

All of the survey data is on Github, which feels like could be more data to add to the Modern Romance reddit data. Some of this may appear in my book one day.

Fuel 2018 was fantastic

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cubicgarden/40970033904/

What happens when you put a firestarter in the middle of a load of fuel? Only good things right?

The thing about FUEL which surprised me was how massive the conference was. The production values were huge too. It makes sense from Belgium’s biggest commercial broadcaster. Usually when conferences say 1000 people I expect it might be closer to 700 but FUEL was  either 1000 or very close to that. The conference in its 2nd year was a mix of their clients, invited guests from the broadcast industry and 200 broadcast students. All single track with Q&As broken out over 30mins during lunchtime allowing for deeper questions and answers without using up valuable time.

FUEL 2018

The speakers were great, really interesting talks and great people. There was a speakers dinner the day before the conference which really helps gel the speakers along with the rehearsals. I don’t usually like rehearsals but it was good to see the converted slide deck and also get the superstar dj walk through on the massively long stage. If only they had customised sound tracks, because prodigy’s firestarter would have been perfect.

FUEL 2018

Most of the event was captured in a live blog but heres a few pointers from the speakers

Dietmar Dahmen made some quite compelling points about creative disruption and getting too comfortable with the status quo. I liked the analogy to superman facing a new world with no grounding. The climax involved sawing a chair with pillows in half on stage with a chainsaw. This simply wouldn’t happen in the UK, I thought as I filmed from my phone…

Simon de la Rouvière confirmed my thoughts about using Blockchain & Smart contracts for music. Also made me consider the dating site/app I talked about in the past.

Cathy Hackl is a xR (VR/AR/Mixed reality) expert who taught herself how to code joined HTC vive as a evangelist. Now shes a xR Evangelist and is one of a few people who has seen Magic Leap but of course didn’t say a single word about it (I hear their NDA is deadly serious). Such a passionate woman and it was a joy spending sometime with her the day before talking about diversity.

Rana June talked about creating and generating emotional human data for better experiences. It was interesting especially with some of the quantified self work I’ve been involved in. Loved to have talked to her more and its a shame I will miss her while in London.

I can’t do justice to all the speakers who made Fuel 2018 incredible, all were great and the format is well thought out and executed. Like Futurefest 2016 I was pleasantly surprised by the pretty much everything. The only down side was Brussels traffic, which the organisers have no control over.

Halt & Catch Fire Season 4 looks super good

Halt & Catch Fire
Halt & Catch fire has been one of those shows I’ve raved about over and over again.

This seems to be the final season and I have to give AMC credit for the great cinematography. Season 4 episode 1&2 was something you would see on breaking bad. Episode 3 was also good too, there are too many good things to say about the show really…

Someday all content will be made this way…

Lego Bricks

This is adapted from the BBC R&D blog post, but I felt it was important enough to repost on my own blog.

Object-based media (OBM) is something that BBC R&D has been working on for quite some-time. OBM underpins many media experiences including the one I keep banging on about, perceptive media.

I’ve spoken to thousands of producers, creators and developers across Europe about object-based work and the experiences. Through those discussions it’s become clear that people have many questions, there has been confusion about what OBM is, and other people would like to know how to get involved themselves.

So because of this… BBC R&D started a community of practice because we really do believe “Someday all content will be made this way.”

A community of practice brings together people and companies who are already working in the adaptive narrative field. BBC R&D do believe that the object-based approach is the key to content creation of the future, one which uses the attributes of the internet to let us all make more personal, interactive, responsive content and by learning together we can turn it into something which powers media beyond the scope of the BBC.

There are three big aims for the community of practice…

  • Awareness: Seek out people and organisations already interested in or working on adaptive narratives through talks, workshops and conferences
  • Advocacy: demonstrating best practice in our work and methods as we explore object-based media and connecting people through networks like the Storytellers United slack channel and helping share perspectives and knowledge..
  • Access: Early access to emerging software tools, to trial and shape the new technology together.

These aims are hugely important for the success and progress of object-based media.

As a start, we’re running a few events around the UK, because conferences are great but sometimes you just want to ask questions to someone and get a better sense of what and why. Our current plan is linked on the BBC R&D post which is being update by myself everytime a new event is made live.

Liverpool Life talking about Perceptive Media

I have recently spent a quite a bit of time in Liverpool, mainly for work but also slightly for pleasure . There were a few lectures/talks at FACT and Liverpool John Moores University.

Most of the presentations are on slideshare, as per usual but I also had joy of being interviewed as part of a podcast talking about object based media.

Of course most was edited out but there’s a big chunk of the interview, mainly focused on the experience of perceptive media, which sits right on top of object based media.. They described it as on the verge of a revolution, no less.

You can listen to the whole thing online at the Liverpool life audioboom channel from Feb 24th.