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 discovered "ImageMagick" again, which i found 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.
2018-05-11

Time-lapse photography with Raspberry Pi

After some more tweaking, i got a reliable workflow for time-lapse photography with a headless Raspberry Pi Zero W and a Camera Module v2, while it does other things as well: It takes every minute one photo with quality specified at 7 and everything else set to automatic, which is suitable for daylight. From 11 pm to 5 am it goes into manual mode with shutter speed at 19 seconds, ISO at 800 and quality set at 9, which helps in low-light. The Sony IMX219 sensor is performing great. The Pi Zero W pauses once each hour for two minutes to get external updates. Once in a while, it is going to crash, because of some heavy multitasking in an environment with limited resources, but it will recover by itself automatically, thanks to the integrated watchdog.
Every day at midnight it takes a break for 15 minutes to create a large zip file of all JPEG images from the past day. After seven days, i download all archives via SFTP and FileZilla, unzip all files with 7-Zip, run them through IrfanView to crop the part i want at 3278x1844, and let ffmpeg make a 1080p 30fps H.264 video with all the edited photos at a CRF of 18. Most steps are automated in Windows batch script. I have been running this particular time-lapse photography for seven weeks, and the nicest thing is to see the motion of the stars at night. Years ago, this could not have been done at this price. Cheers to Eben Upton for the affordable hardware. And thank you to Tim Kosse, Igor Pavlov, Irfan Skiljan, and Michael Niedermayer for the free software.
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