2018-06-11

Optimizing Raspberry Pi time-lapse workflow

After having made 11+ time-lapse videos continuously by running over 70k JPEG files from the Raspberry Pi through several hardware and software, i did some further optimization. I removed the batch editing step, and let "ffmpeg" crop and scale all at once. This way i'm saving almost an hour of processing time, and a lot of energy too. But it was a good exercise in adding pieces to the chain.
After all, "ImageMagick" can do a lot more than only cutting photos to the right size. For example, select parts to be blurred for privacy reasons, or create animated GIF images for low-bandwidth users. And if i ever need some of the features, i can easily incorporate them to meet future requirements. Remotely related, so far, i have produced over 10.000 videos in my life, and since May 2008, i distributed them across multiple YouTube channels, combined with more than 12 million views.
Having the Pi running for a week results in a video length of around 6 minutes. The encoding takes close to 14 minutes and ends with a size of up to 500 MB. Since i let the headless "Zero W" run without any breaks, except at midnight for creating the zip file, the flow of clouds and stars feels much smoother now. To get this to work, without to crash the Raspberry Pi too often, i made "FreshRSS" only check for new updates every two hours, limited from 6 am to 10 pm. Because at night, the camera job requires a bigger portion of the very few resources of the Zero W, since the "exposure time" is set to be longer, and the ISO is higher. And to reduce noise, i adjusted the compression rate, which makes the file sizes larger too.
2018-06-06

Binge watching in mid 2018

As in the last two years, i got me a BitTorrent client "in the cloud" for a whole month again. During the past year, i collected movies and shows i want to watch, just like with a grocery list. Among them are titles that i have already seen some time ago, but i like to have them on my local drive anyway, since i rarely get the chance to have "full access". Especially after i cancelled my Amazon Prime subscription. Good things don't have to be new, and vice versa:I also loaded the latest seasons of all shows i follow. Among them are old titles from my childhood: "Roseanne", "The Simpsons", and "The X-Files". After having fast-forwarded some more recent TV series i wanted to like, i realized there is a lot of trash being released people seem to enjoy. They tell similar stories, just with fancier equipment each time. This is why i almost didn't get any new shows into my current watchlist. Thank you to Martin Noras for recommending "The Expanse" and many other titles to me in the past years:
12 Monkeys, Agents of Shield, Colony, Dark Matter, Doctor Who, Elementary, Game of Thrones, Gotham, Homeland, Jessica Jones, Killing Eve, Lost in Space, Orange Is the New Black, Outlander, Roseanne, Star Trek Discovery, Supergirl, The 100, The Crossing, The Expanse, The Simpsons, The Strain, The X-Files, Time After Time, Timeless, and Westworld.
2018-05-29

Switching from IrfanView to ImageMagick

After having spent a couple of hours to write and test several hundred lines of Perl code to block access from certain countries, because of "GDPR", i finally can sleep again, since i have done enough to keep the wildlife out. These people don't understand technology, by choice, to maintain the status quo. Because it can empower everyone, what these politicians don't want. It feels like they have only nightmares and a "Ponzi scheme" slowly falling apart, and no real ideas. This will not end well with these kind of priorities: Procrastination makes the hard things even more difficult to solve. Europe has too much overhead, and they love the lag. Especially these Germans with their faulty cars.
This is why i wrote some rules, combined with a "GeoLite2" IP geolocation database by MaxMind, to protect the last survivor of my purge after the burn out: My 10 years old embeddable "chat widget" with an integrated automated management system, without any need for moderators or admins since 2008. Everything based on Perl made from scratch by myself. And the best part: No "personal data" required, since there is no sign up process. I also stopped Apache logging IP addresses. But since i'm not making any money with it, i'm not going to waste time explaining. It's just something i like to keep alive on the internet for fun. Unlike these animals, i know how to create a hobby. And i have never run a web project for that long before. FYI, i'm not into math, but i like Google Analytics anyway.
While getting myself into more PowerShell, i found "ImageMagick" again, which i discovered around 15 years ago. But without a lot of experience with command-line interfaces, i did not much with it, back then. After having now worked with computers for twenty years, i see all these things as Lego bricks. In this year alone, for my time-lapse photography with a Raspberry Pi, i processed over 60k JPEG files with "IrfanView" and a Windows batch script. But now, i wrote the job in PowerShell, and switched to ImageMagick. The image quality is better, which gives "ffmpeg" more bits to work with, for additional details in the highlights and shadows. The performance is otherwise similar for batch editing around 8k photos each week.
2018-05-22

Watchdog for the Raspberry Pi Camera

My second Raspberry Pi is now running since more than 63 days without a break, also known as 24/7. It takes a photo at the window every minute, except when it has to do some other jobs, or goes down unexpectedly. But thanks to the built-in hardware "watchdog", the Pi Zero W goes up again automatically. On two occasions, raspistill and the "Camera Module v2" stopped working for no reason, but everything else was still just fine.
This is why i created my own software watchdog exclusively for checking the function of the attached camera: I wrote a "Unix shell script" looking for the latest photo every thirty minutes. And if the JPEG file is older than 240 seconds, the Pi Zero W will reboot to start fresh. I have scheduled this task in the crontab of the root user, as required by "shutdown -r now". Because of this, i did not need to touch the Raspberry Pi physically since at least one month.
2018-05-19

Watching my second Royal Wedding

In April 2011, i experienced my first Royal Wedding live in front of the Buckingham Palace. I went to London for seven days to cover the week around the wedding of Prince William and Catherine. I shot thousands of photos and had a lot of fun while doing it. Back then, i stayed at the St Giles Hotel, because this was before i discovered places like the Imperial College for booking an accommodation in the capital.
Seven years later, in May 2018, i got to watch the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan via live stream on YouTube, without any comments, just raw from the official source. As you know, i’m quite into the United Kingdom, and because of this, i prepared my Tablet PC streaming the whole event for my parents too. Although there was no kiss on the balcony this time, the two hours were worth it.
After watching it in person from the outside, live with the British people, many years ago, and now, from every possible viewing point through all the camera lenses, i like to say that i’m happy being on planet Earth at this moment in time. There is nothing like this coming any time soon again. Well done, England.
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