Texts for October 2003

2800000000Hz legend

At last I'm blogging in my new computer, as I spent the last couple of days swapping hardware and readying for work, and in the end lost a whole afternoon trying to get the new graphics card TV-out to work properly, as the image I got on TV was too poor. Eventually I tried connecting the computer via a VCR and then it worked fine, which is quite strange, but I eventually pinpointed the fault to a dodgy S-Video/SCART converter that I bought for 1.50€ euro. Hardly gold-coated home cinema quality. Anyway, a tip: when you buy a new computer, don't ever forget to take a good look at the available cases, or else you get some hideous-looking monsters. Photos here soon, as well as a handy list of essencial free/open-source software I installed. Now excuse me, I'm going to play Vice City properly. At last.

Go have your bacon and eggs now

Rui Carmo finds out Windows Movie Maker is crap. Big secret there. The article, however, addresses all the problems of Microsoft's free video editing offering. It's idiotware. However, I don't think comparison to Apple's Final Cut Express is fair. FC-X is a medium-range video editor (the light version of Final Cut Pro), while Windows Movie Maker is a basic-level editor, comparable to Apple's iMovie (which is a just as poor piece of software). If you want a powerful (for basic use) and free video editor for Windows, there's AIST MovieXOne (although it has a hideous violet skin). Its makers made the unfortunate decision to pull off the free version and are now selling MovieXOne Pro for €39, but if you google around for it you can find some shareware/freeware websites still featuring the old free version for download (try here — although in Czech it's self-explaining).

CSS floats tutorials. If reading the official specs is too abstract, here are a bunch of nice practical examples so we can practice in case TABLEs are made illegal or something. Anyway, when a tutorial says "this will be ignored by IE" when mentioning a hard block width limiter which is commonplace with the Old Techniques, it gives it all away. I can't be conviced by techniques which aren't now-proof.

A very good critique of Lomography. Yep, we all know it's all about hipsters getting a few pretty photos by shooting at random their plastic renditions of old Soviet cameras (ok, you can get a medium format camera for €50, but when the kit includes electric tape to seal light leaks you can see it's no good — you better off looking for real ones in auction sites — I have a friend who found one at €80, which is nothing). For that kind of thing, I prefer the digital Benq1300 you see in action in the imagelog — did you, dear alternative-minded lomographer, know that the manufacture of film is one of the most polluting industrial processes? And then, it seems the über-cool Lomographic Society has a very big history of sending nasty letters to anyone who dares using the name Lomo. So, what we have? A trademark-fundamentalist monopoly selling flawed products to the pseudo-artists of the new urban youth, using Soviet mythology as a marketing tool. Marx wouldn't be pleased. (via a guy who really knows about photography)

I went to see Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things. It literally punches you in the kidneys. The director of High Fidelity (no shit!) delivers the engrossing tale of two illegal immigrants in London who get to see the dark side of living in the West. It deconstructs any demagogic anti-immigration propaganda, by showing the slaves that keep our nice cities running — a sadistic sociological experiment would be to kick all illegal immigrants out of the UK (or France or Germany or Portugal) and then look at our societies crumble to dust when there's no one to work in textile factories or in the fields or collecting garbage in hotels or (in Portugal's specific case) building our apartments and shopping centres. Besides, the lead character is one great actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor — look out for him!) that completely overshadowed Audrey Amélie Tautou. Five stars — if you have the stomach.

Is just pure almshouse a gwaan

Via Virulent Memes, the Rasta/Patois Dictionary. And if you scroll down, there's a Phrases and Proverbs section which is far more interesting than the dictionary. Lef mi nuh.

Also via ACB, Sine Fiction, soundtracks for books. I can't say no to free MP3s, can't I? No Type used to have some interesting experimental electronics (to be honest I haven't been visiting lately), which probably fit reading about fossil fuel powered spaceships roaming across the space 25 thousand years from now in Isaac Asimov's Foundation.

Kids play Pong and Space Invaders, think they're rubbish. Suddently I feel 20 years older. (via The Null Device)

A new-ish Asseptic.org. It's becoming more and more like a light (although actually heavier) version of this weblog — a gateway blog. Being someone who has made and maintained more than sixty different websites over six years (and over one hundred if you count complete redesigns), I can really tell weblogs conquer all. If Then Else has already absorved three other websites — and Asseptic.org is turning into the fourth; and Cafeína absorved the content which I used to place in five other websites.

HOW-TO: LED-like links using CSS

I got lots of positive feedback about those sexy LED-style sidebar links, so here's how these are done, so you don't have to view the whole source to find it. Unordered lists seem the best way, so let's start with the HTML code:

<ul class="sexylinks">
<li>
<a href="http://www.eduardomorais.com/blog/">Normal (white) LED</a>
</li>
<li class="redlink">
<a href="http://www.eduardomorais.com/blog/">Red LED</a>
</li>
</ul>

Of course, I did place the unordered lists inside a TABLE to get the two collumns you see in the sidebar. Now, to the CSS file! I start by defining the basic character of all unordered lists:

ul {
 font-family: "Lucida Sans", Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
 font-size: 10px;
}

And of course, the basic character of all links:

a {
 color: #DDDDDD;
 text-decoration: none;
}

a:visited {
 color: #BBBBBB;
 text-decoration: none;
}

a:active, a:hover {
 color: #FFFFFF;
 text-decoration: none;
}

Now we will specify how the class 'sexylinks' — when applied to an unordered list — will look, which will complement the basic UL definition — and override some attributes in case we define them again (which I didn't):

ul.sexylinks {
 list-style: none;
 margin: 0;
 padding: 2px;
}

You may want to set the padding to zero, I set it to two pixels because every item in my sidebar is slightly indented in relation to the block title. I also added:

ul.sexylinks li {
    margin-bottom: 1px;
}

So that we don't end up with a long vertical bar when we style the links. Now, to the links:

ul.sexylinks li a {
 display: block;
 width: 100%;
 border-left: 3px solid #666666;
 padding-left: 5px;
}

ul.sexylinks li a:hover {
 background: #555555;
 border-left: 5px solid #FFFFFF;
    padding-left: 3px;
}

We already defined the text colour and decoration earlier and I decided not to override these attributes — but you may want to override the text colour. We set to display a 100% width block so that the entire width of the list is treated as a link (not just when you mouse-over the text) and lights up (somehow IE doesn't require this attributes, but Mozilla does). And then the trick: the use of a smaller padding that compensates a thicker border when we mouse-over. Never forget that margins work outside the border (and by default it is zero in links) and paddings work inside. Now, since we set up specific classes for different colours:

ul.sexylinks li.redlink a {
 border-left-color: #660000;
}

ul.sexylinks li.redlink a:hover {
 background: #660000;
 border-left-color: #FF0000;
}

We just override the relevant attributes, and voilá! Enjoy your LEDs.

Pickle pods



I went to the college today to attend a session of last year's best video works. Among these, the moderately crowded room watched my documentary O Zero. It wasn't a big event, and most people attending were colleagues and professors. However, it was the first time I ever watched something I directed in a big screen (I once sent a couple of experimental movies to a video festival but I wasn't there when those were shown). And I can tell you it feels horrible. The thing is, I hadn't watched my documentary for a couple of months, and now I saw it in perspective, as a flawed documentary full of mistakes. What was I thinking when I wrote that part of the voice-over? Why did I use that poorly composed shot? Cuts completely out of sync. Bad splices. You notice the camera shakes a bit during a pan. And I felt shame. It's totally different from showing people your work on a TV set, and commenting while they see it, trying to justify every glitch. When the screen is big and the room is dark, your heart races fast, you are sitting deeper and deeper, and people are judging your shitty little documentary. Strangers will see your name in the credits twice (as producer and director) and will think you are an egotistical self-centered arrogant git. Luckly, my documentary was followed by an experimental video that finished with a 3 minute long shot of its director smoking while wearing Raybans.

Some people told me this website now looks broken in IE5 (I'd be happy if someone could mail me a screeshot). I haven't had the chance to test it in older browsers yet so I'm not making any changes, but this might be a good example of what I consider the technical wrongness of relying too much in CSS. I even went across sites showing how webdesigners could explore some IE5 bugs to load specific corrections to the stylesheet. Is this what modern webdesign came to? The dark ages of losing hours of sleep while trying to make things look the same in Netscape4 and IE4? Web-standards are a goal for the future, but don't work in the present. Can anyone criticize a designer who uses fail-safe techniques to prevent a few headaches, even if these don't validate or conform to modern protocols (I don't think they should even be called standards as that's a lie)? And I still believe in the artistic merit of TABLEs — just because the web isn't paper, it is, for now, a form of two dimensional design featuring text and pictures (static or not), and I believe the use of a grid makes as much sense. And by the way, I like that strong pink. It's the opposite of green.

I should be working with the new computer I ordered by now if it wasn't for me living in the rear end of Europe. I selected some pretty specific components that apparentely will take ages to get here (computer shops are not good UPS clients). So I was expecting to go pick up my new computer today, instead I got a phone call asking me to select other components since the motherboard and graphics card are unavailable — anywhere in Portugal according to what they say. I never believed computer stores in this matters, but there, I browsed the net a bit, then went to the store and selected a bog-standard Chaintech GeForce FX5200 (apparentely any videocapture GeForce cards are unavailable here) — I'll keep using the PCTV card for the odd capture from VHS (I was just trying to save one PCI slot) — and a MSI Neo2 motherboard. Both items are available. The trouble is, they also had forgotten to tell me that S-ATA hard drives are unavailable (bullshit — I considered buying an HD-less computer and going to find the drive myself, but I'm not that desperate), so I'll have to wait until next week. I hope. It seems in this country you just can't buy good value for money electronics, you either wait a lot of time or you get the shitty overvalued components they place in their readymade computers — or worse, you buy a branded PC. Do computer stores need to resemble mechanics or public contractors this much?

Tougher shaders

I see many fellow bloggers were busy redesigning this last weekend, so I took the extra few days before college begins (I was expecting classes to start yesterday but I got an extra week vacation) to work in this weblog a bit. I kept the same layout but got rid of a few redundant tags (as always, I kept TABLEs as grid markers) and added some CSS tricks (read: sexier links). It probably doesn't validate, but it works — at least on IE6 and Mozilla.

Vintage calculators

Satan's Laundromat. One of the most interesting photologs around. Some photos remember me of Portugal no Seu Melhor, but thankfully the website has no Hot or Not? bullshit.

According to some Tibetan Buddhists, your hard disk drive can be a religious relic — a Prayer Weel — if the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is in someway stored in. The thing is, the faster the prayer weel spins, the greater the benefit, so it seems 10000RPM SCSI hard disks are also better than laptop 4200RPM IDE drives in religious terms. Madness.

Some impressive figures about weblog abandonment, numbers backing my claims blogs (most of them) are hype.

Addicted to butter

Lackluster, a finnish IDM musician ofter compared to early Autechre, has a new EP out via Monotonik. And it's rather interesting to notice Monotonik (as well as a few other internet labels) has been included in Archive.org. I never expected to see that 'Monotonik and friends' logo featured in the Internet Archive when I was asked to design it. It's funny to see such a simple logo is probably my farthest reaching piece of work.

Pretty inevitable, a weblog about Microsoft patches.

The new version of the portfolio is done, sort of. It's still missing a showreel, and I still haven't got a copy of some of last year's works at college. I hope I'll add those items soon.

Oh nonsense!

If you can read Portuguese, I put together a Weblog Glossary, so that people don't say I have a destructive perspective of the weblog community (it's only 99% destructive you know). Plenty of weblog tech jargon there, without the nonsense of postmodern definitions.

Bruce Sterling's Ten Technologies That Deserve To Die. Agreed.

Legal Abandonware. And I was talking about my new computer...

Bizarre things happen: Seen at Rua do Almada, downtown Porto, a Russian/Ukrainian immigrant supermarket called CCCP International, full of colourful communist imagery. What would Lenin say if he knew his face would one day be next to a piece of lettuce with the words "Promotion! Only 0.99€!"?

Bizarre things happen: Just before I ordered my computer I checked another shop, and I there was a obnoxiously geek-looking teenage kid with his angry father, trying to explain how he fried his computer while testing a very ugly looking water-cooling system. The thing on top of the desk looked like a cross between a badly damaged PC and the engine of my mother's old FIAT 127.

I've finally ordered a new computer that shall replace the venerable 450MHz PentiumIII that served me for the last four and a half years — probably the best, most stable computer I ever had. As it goes into retirement — that is, word processing duty at my father's office — I'm replacing it by a 2800MHz PentiumIV. Since my budget was tight (considering the ambicious uses I have planned for it), I managed to put together a computer under 1000 € (no monitor needed) that features a ASUS P4P800 motherboard, 512MB of DDR400 RAM and a 120GB S-ATA hard drive. My toughest decision was on the graphics card, and since the money was tight I took the less powerful ASUS V9180VS, that while being a GeForce4MX (that is the same chipset as my old computer's) has a lot of bells and whistles, such as TV capture and dual monitor outputs, quite nice for video editing (I might put the old 15'' I have lying around to some use). I'll then add my old computer's 40GB hard-drive (until I find an external Firewire box for it) and Firewire ports. And the onboard soundcard will do for now, until I pickup one of these things.

A messy black desktop

However, the Canon EOS 300D is the toy that really turns me on right now.

Somehow I found this weblog amongst my referrers. It seems the BenQ1300 is becoming a legendary camera. I wonder, is it the Lomo of digital photography? All my sources say yes: it's nearly impossible to compose a shot in this machine, so you end up shooting from the hip. It will only work nicely under intense sunlight, and it rewards you with intense colours. You take a lot of photos so that one or two look good. And it looks like a nice bright plastic bar of soap, like those neoLomos.

Oh well, the match against Real Madrid started nicely with Costinha putting FC Porto up 1-0, but then Helguera and Solari (not again!) put it 1-2 before the halftime and Zidane put an end to the struggle with the 1-3. Well, some Porto players performed quite badly (what's with Ricardo Fernandes in the starting line-up? this ain't Championship Manager! and what happened to the Ben McCarthy that played in Porto two seasons ago?), and Real beat us swiftly even while performing at 50%. That's Real anyway. Porto didn't put up a fight after we scored, but then again the merengues are the one club that can easily win an away match by two or three goals difference against any other club in the world. And we know they'd do much worse to the host in any other portuguese stadium.